There have been a couple of times when I felt my life was just wasting precious time.
My first time was 9/11. I remember how many people re-evaluated their lives to see if they genuinely lived what was in their hearts. There were proposals, new endeavors, mended relationships, and divorces.
I had a divorce in the works by the end of that year. The shift in the world, the loss of lives, and the loss of security were cause for a closer look into my own life. My divorce, while painful, gave me a second chance to have all I had ever wanted. We were young when we married, we had two amazing boys, but even our love for them couldn’t keep us together.
My second time was when they found a parotid tumor in my neck about five years ago. The tumor was removed, and other than a badass scar and numbness on my right cheek, I’m good. My doctor encouraged me to leave a high-stress job, I started fishing, and my life completely changed direction.
This is the third time. This tumor on my brain is a new promise of change in my life, whether or not I want it. I can see this as a horrible thing happening to me, or I can think of this as my body and life demanding change. Each time a trial such as this occurs, you can push against it and refuse to change. Or you can see the difference it is physically making in your body, accept it, and move with the change.
As this tumor grows and changes, it pushes against the bone structure of my skull. It causes it to disrupt nerve impulses, motor skills, and abilities. It is making room where there is none. It forces other parts of my brain to compress and stop working correctly.
My tumor is in the frontal lobe area. One of the areas controlling my ability to walk, dance, solve problems, communicate, and express myself. I find it ironic how it can affect my ability to express myself and communicate since I have an English Degree from the University of South Florida and I’m a writer. But really, it ultimately makes sense.
I haven’t written much since I finished my degree a year ago. I haven’t been expressing myself; I’ve stayed private and to myself. COVID gave me the gift of being away from people and allowed me to recognize how much stress crowds of people cause me. It opened my eyes to acknowledging I’m an introvert, and I’m really good at it.
I guess I’m more of an omnivert, a person who looks like a natural extrovert in public, who can talk to anyone or even be the center of attention. But when they get home, they need time to heal and gain strength from the energy it took to be in that situation.
I love people, but they drain me, and I don’t know how to shut off all the feelings I feel from them. It hurts to think I can’t be who I once was when I was much younger, but my time in the Army took that from me. The VA diagnosed me with PTSD – High anxiety disorder and gave me meds and offered me therapy, but I think it’s where you fit in the world that needs to be addressed first.
I felt I didn’t fit in anywhere when I first got out. I never spoke of being a Veteran until my boys were in High School. When I did meet a group of Veterans, we all got along great. Eventually, I found I didn’t even feel comfortable around other Veterans. Many brought back some painful memories of my time in service.
The fishing community found me, and my life changed. They were very much like Veterans but with super cool fish. And I felt comfortable around them. I met a lot of incredible people in the last seven years. One of my favorites was my fishing partner for four years, Melissa Littlewood.
I could tell you some fantastic stories about how she was such an inspiration to me in all areas of my life. I will tell stories of our adventures another, but today is just about one of the things we did together.
After fishing with Melissa for about 3 months, she convinced me to enter the Sarasota Tarpon Tournament. This is the oldest tarpon tournament in the world, and I had never caught a tarpon at this point and, up until then, had only seen one in the tank at Mote Marine. I signed up. We saw many tarpon but didn’t catch any the first year. Somehow, Melissa convinced me to sign up again the following year. Still no tarpon.
We spent 5 days a week and 8-10 hours on the water, but we still didn’t catch one. Melissa convinced me to sign up for the third time. I hooked one, it jumped, and it was over in less than 15 seconds, but after three years of fishing, still not a single tarpon.
Melissa left us all almost a year ago on June 27th. The last time I fished with her, she wanted to try for tarpon. I didn’t know she had stopped her cancer treatment, and I didn’t think it would be our last time to fish together. I voted to log fish for the CCA Star tournament and not target tarpon.
If I could do it again, I would have agreed to fish for tarpon; I would have stayed out as long as she wanted to. We would have talked and talked until the sun was gone and until it came back up again. But that didn’t happen; the chance is gone.
Melissa always wanted me to learn how to fly fish. I started tying flies in October with Project Healing Waters. I joined Mangrove Coast Fly Fishing Club, and every Tuesday night, I tie flies with some of the most generous people I’ve ever met. The kindness they have shown me is incredible. I will treasure these people forever.
I have started to learn fly fishing. I caught my first fish in North Carolina a few weeks ago. I went out with a great guide with KS Outdoors in Maggie Valley- named NIck – this guy was so talented and he put me right on fish!
I know Melissa was smiling down on me. She was an incredible angler, both spin and fly. I hope to one day be that good and share what I know with others, as she did with me. To carry on her legacy.
She encouraged me to continue to write, which I have been doing again. She challenged me to learn to fly fish, and I can check that one off the list. But the one thing I still haven’t done is catch a tarpon.
I watched a great documentary at the Compound the other night, “Fly Fishing Film Tour,” a group of short films about fly fishing from 2021. It’s shown in fly shops, clubs, and venues every year. I watched the 2020 film at home the morning before going to Compound.
One of the short films was about this guy who had been trying to catch a permit for 12 years. His story ended with him folded over in tears with his closest friends, crying because he finally reached a goal he had struggled to reach for many years.
I thought about how long I’ve been trying to catch a tarpon, and I thought I’d been trying to catch one for six years. But then I remembered. I went on a tarpon trip on my honeymoon with my first husband, and the only fish caught that day was a catfish.
So, really, I have been trying to catch a tarpon for 28 years.
When I finally realized this, I was walking on the beach with my friend Jackie trying to catch snook on fly. We talked about my surgery and how long I might need to recover.
I decided at that moment that I would make it my mission to catch a tarpon before my surgery, just in case I never get the chance again.
I’m sure I will be fine; I have a great surgeon. I’m young.
But I need to do this.
Jackie didn’t take a second to think before she offered to split the trip with me. So, I have a plan and a partner to fish with. Next thing you know, I have two of my other fishing friends from IWFA, Amy and Nancy, filling out the trip.
My tarpon trip is scheduled for 7:00 AM on May 11th.
Hopefully, four fishing friends will end the day folded over in tears from their friend finally catching a tarpon after 28 years. Another wish will be fulfilled in honor of my dear friend Melissa.
The Tarpon necklace in the first photo was Melissa’s. I’ll be wearing it on our tarpon trip, so I’m bringing Melissa with me. I couldn’t imagine her not being a part of this special moment.
Before I get too ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning.
June 20th, 1994 – I was on my first tarpon trip with my ex-husband. It was our honeymoon, and all I caught was a catfish. I had never seen a tarpon; the guide said they were greenish-silver, and I would see them rise on the waves. But I never saw a thing, and neither did anyone else. That day was never thought about again until last week.
April 28th, 2022 – It’s two days before my birthday, and I have three days of birthday fishing planned on the other coast with 14 other lady anglers. I get a call from my neurologist; the tumor on my brain, which has been under watchful waiting for four years, decides she wants to come out and play now, so surgery will be in the next few weeks. I’m in shock as I drive home from the store. This is not great news for my birthday.
The minute I walk in the door, I get a text that the seas are 5-7ft, and the offshore trip for the next day is called off; it’s just too dangerous to go out. I decide to tell my friend Amy about my news and how maybe it’s a good idea for me not to drive across the state. I’m still in shock, so I go to bed. I’m upset because this is not the birthday weekend I had planned.
April 29th, 2022 – I decide to go to the Fly Fishing movie with friends from our local Fly Fishing Club – Mangrove Coast FF Club. Had a great time, won some hats and gave some things away. Saw some great films.
April 30th, 2022 – It’s my birthday, and I wake up deciding I’m not going to stay in bed feeling sorry for myself. So, I meet members from Mangrove Coast out on Longboat Key and try for some snook on fly. I meet up with my friend Jackie, and we do our best to try casting in 15 mph winds. We try not to hook anyone; I came the closest by wrapping a 10-year-old girl in my brighter than the sun yellow. It should be super easy to see, yellow line, and luckily my fly lands on her shoulder with the hook sitting next to her skin; not in it. Whew!
Jackie and I talk a lot about fishing; we swear we see a tarpon rise from the pass, and it starts a new discussion. I told her about the fly fishing film I watched yesterday and how this one guy had waited 12 years to catch a permit fish. I told her it had been six years since I first tried for a tarpon. Just then, my trip from 1994 on my 1st honeymoon raced into my mind, and I started finger calculations. It was the same year our oldest was born, so I stopped counting on my fingers. It had been 28 years since my first tarpon trip, and I had never caught a tarpon.
I told her it was my mission to catch a tarpon before surgery. I didn’t care if I had to beg friends because I know a few that are some of the best tarpon wranglers in town. (Rusty and Lori) Or, if I had to, I would sneak onto the Longboat Key Club golf course and catch a micro tarpon in the pond there. It could be the smallest Tarpon ever caught on record. But I wouldn’t care. I just needed a win after getting such bad news. I just needed a Tarpon.
Without hesitation, Jackie looks at me over the howling wind and the crashing of waves, smiles, and says, “I’ll split a trip with you.”
Okay, I was thinking about different scenarios for getting to a place to find Tarpon. Totally didn’t even think about a tarpon trip. Easy peezy. Man, talk about overthinking things.
So, now I go home, and I reach out to my friend Tim for advice on who to go with. I tell him my situation, and he suggests. Captain Brock Harner of Tarpon Coast Fishing Charter. I had never heard of him, so I stalked him on some social sites, and he looked too good to be true. Giant fish, big smiles from his guests, 4.9 stars. Oh, and Tim said he targeted Tarpon all year round. In Sarasota, I know a lot of captains who see a couple here and there throughout the year. Still, our Tarpon season here is usually just May and June.
For those who don’t know about Tarpon, they get massive, up to 300 lbs. They are very long, solid, sardine-shaped fish made of pure muscle. They are trophy fish, but you can’t keep them. And no, we don’t eat them. But, in other countries, I think they do. You don’t fight these fish for 15-20 minutes; okay, maybe the small ones like only 2-3 feet long. We all want to catch the 5-8 ft fish where you fight for 45 minutes to sometimes well over an hour. We all wish the bigger ones would come in a little quicker, so they aren’t so tired. When they are tired, it makes them more susceptible to being eaten by sharks. Sadly it happens a lot.
After having a large pool of outstanding women anglers and friends to pick from, Amy Lockhart and Nancy Llacuna, both from IWFA – International Women’s Fishing Association, completed the foursome of anglers for our tarpon trip. We started to plan this fantastic trip, and I suggested matching colored performance shirts. Then we just spoke about fishing and how I’m suddenly obsessed with floral prints. I had no idea what was being organized behind the scenes.
On the morning of the trip, Amy and Jackie said they had never received their matching shirts from Amazon. I shrugged it off, thinking, who cares, we would get to catch Tarpon! Little did I know when we met up with Nancy in Punta Gorda, the “Birthday” gift she handed me would cause so many tears. In the bag was a lavender fishing shirt like the one I picked out, but on the front and back were printed “#teamcorinne” with a beautiful tarpon. There was a matching buff and a floral headband. I was crying because they were so lovely and thoughtful. Then all the girls laughed at me as they took shirts out of another bag and started putting on matching shirts and buffs. I was so touched, and they understood this was so much more than just about fishing. I struggled with my health and needed to check off bucket list items before removing a tumor from my brain. A surgery that could change my ability to do the things I take for granted now. We hugged, cried, and laughed. We headed off to meet our Captain, who joined our cause by wearing all grey to support Brain Tumor awareness for May. I know he felt a lot of pressure to put me on a tarpon, but the weather would add a little more pressure. The moment we hit the water, the winds kicked up a notch, and the white caps started to roll toward shore. We started fishing in his usual spot, but not before we caught bluefish and ladyfish for chunk bait. We cast our lines in, and my reel went off. Attached to my line was a 5-foot blacktip shark. Definitely a bucket list fish for me! Although it wasn’t what we came for, I was grateful to have caught one. The winds picked up, and the white caps were now 2-3 ft waves. Brock wasn’t seeing the amount of Tarpon he was used to, so he started calling other captains to see how the conditions were in the pass. He heard all he needed to hear, and off we headed to Boca Grande Pass, the place of legends. On a calm day during the summer months, you can find over 200 boats within this one channel, all dead set on hooking and landing a tarpon. Having 199 other boats with the same goal makes it difficult to fish for Tarpon since they are large, strong fish known for their air jumps and acrobats even when they’re not hooked and being reeled in.
There are many other factors to consider when wondering if you will land or catch your Tarpon. The proper gear is essential, good strong hooks, line, leader, and a rod and reel ready to take a good beating for long periods. The bait of choice is a pass or blue crab, but size can be a significant factor; they don’t want the biggest ones. But then sometimes they do. They have to be just the right size, and they must be alive. How you present the crab can be freelining or can be floating under a popping cork.
The other boats are an issue since they are fighting against the same odds as you are. The boats get close enough to spit on and sometimes ride over the line you have a tarpon hooked on. Definitely not ideal conditions.
So, now you have a tarpon hooked, and you know this because it feels like a car has just fallen off a cliff and is attached to your line. They hit hard. From that moment on, you hold on for dear life. Your hands will go numb, you will use all of your weight to gain some feet of line, you bend from your waist to your knees and pray and bow when they jump. Then you lean back to almost lying down when they rest and stop running. It’s not for the weak of heart, mind, or body.
I feel I need to explain all of this because unless you’ve ever actually caught a giant tarpon, you have no earthly clue what is in store for you. Photos and videos don’t do it justice.
So, back to the adventure. We head into Boca Grande Pass to hunt for Tarpon. I have now checked off two bucket list items. Since the wind was blowing about 15-20 mph, the weak of heart or maybe the strong in mind stayed home, knowing it would be a rough day. There were maybe 40 boats, not the usual 200. So, we were lucky to have one thing in our favor.
Immediately when we arrived, we noticed there were about 3 to 4 boats hooked up with Tarpon. There were about 4 Tarpon hooked up every moment we were there. Still, for the entire 6-7 hours we were out there, we only saw maybe two other boats who successfully landed their fish and got them to the boat. Now the most exciting thing about this moment, is not only are you trying to catch a Tarpon, watch other boats catch Tarpon, but there are tons of Tarpon jumping and rolling in the surf to distract you. It’s just incredible!
Within a few minutes of arriving in the pass amidst the other boats, I was hooked up with nice Tarpon; it stayed on for maybe 5 minutes and was then eaten by a shark. Oh, I forgot to mention the sharks. The 5-foot shark I caught earlier was like a baby compared to what lives and eats within the pass. 14-16 ft hammerheads, bull sharks, and black tips live well on the Tarpon that run back and forth through the pass all day.
So, after we lose that fish, we have another hookup or two, but they break off or throw the hook. When tarpon jump, they also thrash around shaking their heads, most of the time, the hook comes loose, and they swim away while you are left fishless. You have to bow down when they jump and make sure to point the rod tip at them, or you will lose your fish.
We hook another fish; this time, Amy keeps it on. This fish, she’s a big girl! I call all big fish “girls,” which is usually true since the females grow bigger and live longer than the males. Amy fights the Tarpon for about 30 minutes; the fish’s many air-jumps and flips keep us in awe of her strength and size. During her fight, Amy offered for me to fight the fish, knowing while everyone wanted to catch a tarpon today, today was about me catching one. I politely declined; this was Amy’s fish; this one was meant for her and only her.
Amy lands the fish at the side of the boat; we all cheer and quickly take photos. I start tearing up. I stare into this big beautiful eye looking up at me. I see a million different colors reflect off the silver scales. I know at this moment this is something so special, and I’m grateful to be here. The odds against this happening are imaginable. I am soaking up everything happening at this moment. Our team, #teamcorinnesrq caught a tarpon.
I look at the time and realize it’s time to go in. The waves are now 4-6, and the winds have shifted, and while I’m disappointed I didn’t catch one myself, I’m grateful our boat caught one. We ride closer to the middle of the boats, and the Captain stops the boat and starts putting crabs on our lines. We’re not done.
We all drop the lines, and Nancy’s rod bends over within a couple of minutes. She immediately yells for me to get to the cooler on the boat’s bow and sit down. I look at her, and she smiles. She tells me this is my fish. Captain Brock turns on one of my favorite songs by Kenny Chesney, “How Forever Feels.” I don’t have time to get emotional, but all kinds of feelings happen. I have a massive tarpon on my line, and it will be a long hard fight.
It sounds cool to say you fought a tarpon for an hour when you catch a tarpon. But it’s not cool for the fish. When you exhaust any fish by fighting it for long periods, whether Tarpon or sailfish, you risk that fish’s life. They no longer have the strength to outrun a shark. If they haven’t been eaten while you’re fighting it, the odds of getting eaten increase the longer you fight it.
I’m battling this fish, doing my best to get her to the boat as fast as possible, so she can swim away, but that option is not within my power. She is far too strong for me to strong-arm her in like I do with a redfish or snook. I always try to get fish in as fast as possible, so they can swim away strong. This fish had other plans.
While I was fighting the fish, I noticed that I almost fell off the cooler into the water a few times. The waves are now 5-7 ft; it looks like a scene from the movie “The Perfect Storm,” and I’m holding on for dear life with my toes and butt cheeks. I had a rod in my hands, so there was no other way to hold on. I know hundreds of sharks are in the water below me, and they are close by because they are chasing my Tarpon.
I notice my Captain has put the boat in reverse, and we start heading toward the beach. The beach is about half a mile from where we are, so I keep reeling when she rests, and I hold on with all I have when she runs the line out from my rod. It’s a dance of give and take, which lasts about 45 minutes.
Waves are building, the wind speeds are increasing, and I’m not sure I can hold on much longer. I don’t want to lose this fish, but it’s all over for both of us if I fall in. I’ve never been so scared and so excited in my entire life. I’m praying to God and asking for help from my fishing partner, Melissa, who I lost last year to cancer. I fished the Sarasota Tarpon Tournament with her for three years and still never caught a Tarpon. Those were some great days spent well on the water, talking about life and appreciating the beauty right in front of us.
As we get about 50 feet from the beach, I notice we have other captains that followed us in to watch me land my fish. There are about 20 people now taking photos and videos from up on the beach. I’m trying to get her to one side of the boat, but I can no longer reel; my hands are numb, my back is in so much pain, and I have no strength to stand up and keep reeling when the boat is so unstable. Captain Brock quickly decides to beach his boat since there is no way his power pole would hold for this. He beaches the boat, jumps down to the beach, and waits for the fish. I hand the rod to Jackie to hold so I can stand and get my bearings. I walk a few feet to the side, she gives me the rod, and I bring the fish to the beach. I hand the rod to Captain Brock, and when I step off the boat, I fall right into the water and can barely stand. I’m that tired. Captain Brock helps me up, I grab the rod, and the fish is right at the beach. All of the girls cheer and laugh as we sit holding the Tarpon in the water for photos. The waves are hitting us as they break on the shore, knocking us over but giving the fish time to rest.
When the girls stand up, we then take a photo with our Captain Brock. Then we hear someone ask the Captain about his boat; it has now floated into the dark part of the water where the sharks are. He swims off to retrieve the boat, and I am left holding this fantastic creature with all of the care and love I have in my body. Tears are running down my face, but nobody notices. I’m soaked by each wave, but I still hold her.
God had carried me to this moment, with friends supporting me every step, new friends, old friends, crossing off more than just catching a tarpon of my bucket list. I wanted more than anything to have a beach photo with a tarpon, and I got exactly that. Brock said it was destiny that the fish wanted to go for the beach; she wanted me to have my perfect catch and photo.
So, this is the part of the story where I ask for some help.
May 24th, 2022 at 7:30 AM – I go in for surgery to remove a tumor on my brain. I will have a long recovery, and I will not be able to have much in the way of adventure unless I watch a movie, but what fun is that?
So, I’m encouraging you to get out there and have your own adventures! Whether it’s a new food, a new way to exercise, a new jeep, a theme park, fishing, looking for birds, skiing, scuba diving, anything that makes you feel alive … I want to see it! For you and for me! I want to live your adventures with you until I’m healed enough to experience them again on my own.
Can I ask you to do that for me? For any photos or videos, just use the hashtag #teamcorinnesrq when you post them, and I can see them all. Either on Facebook or Instagram. I can’t wait to see what you’ll post!
Until my next adventure and story!! Have a great life because it’s the only one we’re given.
This week, I was given a lemon in the shape of a tumor on my brain, which has unfortunately reached the perfect size for harvesting.
I knew I had a “lemon.”
They discovered it about 3 years ago. It was checked for growth, but it never showed the maturity needed for “picking.”
So we waited and checked it two years later. Nope, still not ready.
Well, it’s ready now.
My first visit with the Neurosurgeon was a little disenchanting. He said, “Your tumor … is insignificant.” I lost my breath for a moment and time froze. When I could finally speak, I said, “Well, it’s pretty significant to me!” He looked at me and tilted his head like a puppy distracted by a strange noise. He backpedaled a bit, apologized, and then recovered quite nicely.
There were months when I was still mad. I was angry at his insensitivity. He was cold. Detached. I thought he didn’t have a sympathetic bone in his body, and I repeatedly asked myself, “why am I seeing him?”
Bedside manner is something they try to teach in medical school, so I’ve been told. I worked in the medical field for almost 20 years, and I found many of the doctors I worked for must have skipped over “Bedside Manner 101” every semester it was offered. I would hear how patients were spoken to in the hall, but I always shrugged my shoulders and went about my business.
I was never on the receiving end of insensitivity at a time when I felt utterly helpless.
I had no idea how much it could hurt.
I know now what he said was to reassure me that it wasn’t something to worry about. Had I not been so scared walking into my appointment, I probably would never have felt attacked. I completely misunderstood his good intentions.
When I asked for a phone call to discuss the results this week, I didn’t want to wait until he was back from vacation, and I was sure it was just going to be the usual.
“It looks the same. No growth.”
“Yep, no change.”
“No change! Great! Thank you! I’ll see you in two years.”
That isn’t quite how it all went down. As always, he was so kind and careful with me. But this time he explained how it had grown, he didn’t like it, and he was sorry to have to tell me, it was time to take it out.
When I am looking for a doctor to do the job, the best it can possibly be done, I don’t care about bedside manner. If their skills are exceptional, the last thing I should care about is if they don’t hurt my feelings. When it’s life and death, you look at the facts.
Many of the best doctors have absolutely no people skills.
I have peace in knowing every doctor I’ve ever worked with, who lacked in the sympathy department, were some of the best doctors in their fields.
My Neurosurgeon is one of those doctors.
I am also happy to report that he has an excellent bedside manner. So, I beat the odds.
I won’t lie and say I’m not scared.
I am scared. Actually, I am terrified. And I wish this wasn’t happening to me.
I had been experiencing weakness on my right side. My balance is a little off, and my mood has been more than a little off. I think I knew this was coming. I’m still not entirely sure if I’m awake or if this is some terrible nightmare. But I know I’m in the best hands for what I need.
I know all of the specifics, from shaving 1/4 or more of my head, removing a piece of my skull, to cutting out the tumor. I know about the titanium screws and plates, taking seizure medicines, and possibly staying in the ICU for a night or two. I know about how the brain swells, and how I’ll need more meds like steroids for that and how there could be loss of motor functions or speech.
My fears are losing my ability to communicate, dance, walk, and fish. I know the fishing thing is silly, but fishing has never been silly to me.
But the biggest fear: Seizures.
I’ve been around to witness three full blown seizures in my life, all unexpected and each one just as equally frightening.
But, I have peace in my doctor’s abilities, and I have faith in my God.
I worry more about what happens here on this earth if there are complications than I am about not waking up.
I know where I am going.
I have lost many friends in the last two years, too many to talk about, and if it’s my time, I know there will be one heck of a welcoming party there to welcome me in.
I have incredible peace with that scenario.
I know I have a date/time stamp on my life, set before I was born, and no matter what I try to do to stay longer or leave sooner, it won’t matter. I don’t have that control. None of us do.
I have no idea what God has in store for my life with this tumor, this surgery, or my time after. I do know, if it’s I’m here or there, it will be a great adventure. God will make sure of that!
When life gives me lemons, I buy a coffee mug to remind myself to keep it light, find the humor and always look for the positive in every situation.
I buy many bright-colored floral items and surround myself with beautiful things.
I stay away from people and things that can steal my peace and joy.
I watch out my window at the birds on the bird feeder, or I watch my cat sleeping.
I hug my children, my family and I hold my husband’s hand a little tighter.
I lean in toward God for the things others can’t give me.
I’m sitting on my porch listening to the birds chirping. The sound of the water moving in my pool drowns out the hum of traffic not far enough away. My eyes are red and swollen. My shirt is tear-stained. The tears help clear my cloudy vision but leave a mark to remind me of this moment.
Otis Redding recorded “Dock of the bay” just two days before he died when his plane fell from the sky into an icy lake. The world was changing. He felt he was changing too but struggled with the fact he couldn’t please everyone, “So I guess I’ll remain the same.” And he tried not to change. When he died two days later, he left the memory of the man others wanted him to be and not who he wanted to be. He refused to change, and so changed happened to him.
Death can be so unexpected, and I think it’s completely different if you know it’s coming. You have time to say what needs to be said, do what you always wanted to do, and say goodbye to those you love. I’m by no means saying it is any easier to see someone you love falling further and further away from your grasp each day, and you are helpless to stop the suffering. I’m saying it’s just different.
Where my heartbreaks is when I can see both sides of the coin, and neither one is any better.
I remember having a conversation with one of my patients many years ago about loss. My husband of eight years had decided to leave me for someone else, leaving me with two small children. All of the effort I had poured into our marriage to keep the promise of “Till death do us part” was discarded before I could take another breath. This patient had just recently lost her husband to a 3 month battle with pancreatic cancer. My husband had chosen to leave. So, there was just this messy accident; none of us saw the train wreck of divorce coming; we couldn’t stop it or prepare for the impact it would have on so many lives. Her husband, against his will, had to leave. How is either one any better, and why do we have to compare? They are both equally terrible and painful; both cause suffering, loss, and change.
A very good friend I had known since I was in 7th grade left this earth a few weeks ago. He was a beautiful person, inside and out. He was funny and cool. He was smart and popular. Somehow he remained humble and was one of the kindest people I know. He loved everyone, all but one person, himself. I sat with him a couple of times after he tried to take his life. I was just there for him, trying to be enough of something that might make him want to live.
I never judged him. I was always there for him. I desperately wanted to fix him, we all did, but it wasn’t within my power to make him want to live. When he tried again, I quickly learned I couldn’t save him. It wasn’t up to me to decide for him, he had to chose life. I just continued to be there when he needed someone the most. I’m grateful to have been that person a couple of times; I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m grateful for the others who stood beside him until the end of his precious 53-year-old life. He is dearly loved and missed by so many. Sadly as much as he was loved, nobody could love him enough to save him.
Yesterday, the life of a beautiful wife, mother, friend, and angel left earth for her heavenly home. She was 33 years old, leaving behind two children under six, two step-children, and an amazing husband. I’ve known her husband for over 20 years, and he is also one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. They had a three-year battle with breast cancer, and they loved life and each other until the last moment. Today there is an emptiness to be felt more than just in our town, but everywhere. I know you feel it.
How can you compare which is worse, which is harder on the family and friends? One who chooses or one who is taken? I remember someone telling me about death; I’m sorry, I don’t remember who it was, but they gave me a new perspective on death and God “taking” them away. I was told God isn’t a taker, not of life or breath, but He is a giver. God gives life, and He gives breath, but sometimes for reasons we don’t know or understand … He stops giving. This gave me so much peace, knowing He’s not both giver and taker; He is life, not death.
No matter how much we try to control our lives, we are not in control any more than we are in control of what others think about us or what others do. We are not in control of the days we will live unless our attempts to leave are finally granted. I’m not sure if you believe in God, a supreme being, or the power of the universe, but there is something or someone in control of whether we live or die, and it’s not us. We don’t have that kind of power. If we did, more of us would be gone, or maybe more would more be alive? I think of many I know who left here never wanting to leave, and then I think of those who desperately fought to go, many times unsuccessfully. I know a few still fighting the choice to stay or go. I still feel the final choice is not ours; we don’t have the ultimate power over life, to create or destroy. I have peace knowing there is a purpose for all of this. I know it’s for a more significant reason, and I have faith God is in control, and He knows what He is doing.
Like Otis, I worry about what everyone wants, and I want everyone to be happy. I’m the one who watches you while we sit together watching a movie, to make sure you are enjoying the film. I want to make my parents, sisters, children, and husband happy and proud of me. I wish I could fulfill the wishes, expectations, and ideals all of you have for my life, but I can’t. I wasn’t created to live within the box any person wants to place me in; I was made with a unique mold made special just for me and for my purpose. Life is too short and too precious to be wasted on worrying if you’re living the dreams everyone else has for you. Will you choose the narrow or the wide path? The wide path allows for you to move through life with others, but the narrow only has room for one person. The narrow has room for the one life you were given to live … this life. Don’t waste it.
Life is changing. People are changing. I’m changing and continually need to change to be the person I was put on this earth to be. Both beautiful souls we lost fulfilled their purpose, both leaving a legacy and a message to those who are still living … to live fully and to love. I think the rest will just work itself out. So, try not to fear change because it will come whether you want it to or not; it happens to all of us. Embrace change, life, and love. Remember those we’ve lost, cherish the memories, and don’t forget to look for the lesson in every situation.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” —George Bernard Shaw
I’ve been through a pandemic, so have you. We’ve been stuck inside and forced to do things differently. Things are just different, very different, and we are all different too.
Here I am again.
I’ve been here before—many times. I’ve been all of the things for all of the people in all of the careers. I think that just about covers it. I’ve been back to this blog, time and time again, a love-hate relationship with photography. Hey, guess what? I’m back to fishing after 30+ years … but first, let’s try Mary Kay; oh, did I forget to mention Insurance sales? Oh, I really meant Real Estate … you get the picture.
Here I am again. Doing the only thing which has been constant since I was little—I’m writing. Maybe, in the beginning, it wasn’t on a Mac, or an iPad, or iPhone; in fact, I know it wasn’t, since none of those things were even a seed in the belly of technology at that time. Paper. The smell of paper and the sound of a pen leaving a trail of my thoughts on the page, and only time, water, and fire can make them disappear.
I’m back. After two years of school and a degree in writing and photography, I’ve come back to where I first sent my thoughts and writing out into the void of the internet to see what would come back. I have very few followers; you could count them on the one hand. Really, you actually can since I have exactly five followers. Surprisingly, what came back were very kind words from five people who stuck with me over ten years of trying to find my way.
I can’t believe I ever left. I’m sorry I left.
I decided to resurrect my blog; it has been waiting patiently in a shallow grave for the last two years. I missed telling stories, sharing my photos, some of my memories, and maybe there was even a response back from somewhere within the void. I forgot how important it was for me to tell stories. I am a storyteller. Whether it is with my camera, computer, pen, or voice, I was made to tell stories. I have always written my stories to have significant meaning, maybe not as important, as an epic poem, a fable, or myth. But they have always had a purpose, connected with the heart, and left the reader thinking about things differently. I feel we all could use something to connect us with our hearts in times like this.
So — I’m back.
This time I won’t pretend like I wasn’t destined to do this; I know I was. I have rekindled my love with photography, so I’ve even picked my camera back up. I’m ready to take some incredibly meaningful photos. I’m a little rusty, so if you need a portrait or headshot, give me a shout. I could use the practice.
I went back through every blog post I’ve written over the last 10 years, and I saw so many things I wanted to rewrite, change the phrasing of, the punctuation, and spelling. But then I got honest with myself, and sometimes we need to do that. I am only in competition with myself to make myself better today than I was yesterday. I left every misspelling, comma splice, incomplete sentence, blurry photo, and run-on sentence right where it was. If you want to see how technically flawed a writer and photographer I was, go ahead and read my old posts, there are some doozies. If you’re wanting to read some good stories, go ahead and read my old posts, there are a few I’m still proud of, even without the corrections.
I’m back, flaws in plain view, humble, and ready to step into shoes I’ve been tiptoeing around since I was 8 years old.
My name is Corinne Noel North-Fuller and I’m a storyteller.
I write sentences. I take photos.
I hope you’ll stay and see what happens next.
To my faithful five — thank you ❤️ and here we go again!
I’m sitting with my feet up on the big comfy couch in my living room. I stare out the window in front of me, and since I have the blinds pulled up to the top, I can see the grey overcast sky so thick with fog that I can’t find the sun. My cat is pacing across the top of the couch like a new father in the waiting room of labor and delivery. She sees a lizard doing reptile pushups. I read somewhere that it’s a mating thing, but I secretly think they are just showing off ! They probably watch me trying to do even one pushup, silent laughing (I’ve never heard a lizard laugh, so they must do it quietly.), Then they purposely sit on my windowsill, knowing I’m struggling, so they push out like 25 in a minute! Jerks! I won’t try to save them next time they get trapped in the house, I’m let my cat play with it, eat it, spit it back out and continue to play with it … all while I sit quietly laughing so they know it’s personal!
Well … that went in a totally different than I thought, but really it will make perfectly imperfect sense soon! Well, those that have followed along with me, know that I was a photographer for a long time and since I’ve had this blog for 8 years you know I like to write. Looking at the amount of posts in an 8 year period, you would think I hated it, now that I look at it. I don’t hate writing, I absolutely love it, just like the small bowl of cheddar cheese goldfish that I’m devouring! When I’m writing, it’s actually freakishly similar to eating these goldfish, because I do it so effortlessly, that I don’t feel like I’m eating an entire bag or writing a small novel!
If you’ve followed along on my blog posts, website, Facebook or even Instagram, you would see my love/hate relationship with photography. The art and act of Photography is a deep love of mine, it’s in my soul and no matter how many times I have walked away, run away or hid in a small closet from it … it still finds me, it knows my heart and knows how I cherish that gift. All that being said, I despise what has happened to the photography industry. Just like a an older women of incredible size and lack of balance, with no grace, rhythm or strength , it’s fine if she dances in her house, with family and friends, but … she probably (just a hunch) shouldn’t try out for “So you think you can dance?” Neither should someone who just picked up a new $300 camera on Craigslist last week, think that they should post an ad and offer their services as a “Professional Photographer” to poorly document and disfigure an entire wedding party with over editing each photo, all for the bargain price of $100! I’m all for starting out somewhere and I did many weddings and events for free in the beginning, until I was competent and consistent to charge for my services. I went through stages of trying to keep up with every new fad and dropping them as fast as they went away …by the way the black and white photos with just a spot of color, that has been gone for years, it wasn’t even that cool then, please stop! I love to shoot, to capture cool moments and feelings, but I hate to edit! I know I could hire someone else to edit, but really why, it’s my work, I feel editing your own work should be required to still slap your watermark on it and call it yours! I was taught, online by some incredible photographers, that you try to take a better photo and less editing in post processing. However, I like all the cool presets and filters, it’s fun, frustrating and exhausting! So, I’m not looking to carry my photography any further, unless it creeps into me while I’m sleeping and possesses my mind, which then I still haven’t conscientiously made the decision to move forward, so okay, there’s that scenario. I want to just use it when I want, for what I want, with no expectations or pressure. Well, we will see how long this last … this time!
I’ve been writing poetry and stories since I was a kid. I still have the first poem that I wrote my best friend Natalie when I was like 8 years old. Looking back, not bad for an 8 year old who grew up back then, as for an 8 yr old now … it would be total crap and a 4 yr old could wipe the pavement with me. I saw my love for writing and the ability to tell stories, woven like a fine silver thread through my life and now I feel I want there to be a greater concentration of silver in this part of the hand-made cozy blanket of my life.
Where was I going with all of this clown up on a soap-box blog post … to tell you that I have a hunch that you’ll see a bit more of my blog posts popping up in the near future. As for what you will find here, well, I can’t really be sure, I just want to write to get it out of my head. Sometimes I want to paint you a picture of something touching and beautiful and other times it’s something silly and pure brilliance! Either way, I hope that you will stick around to see how this all turns out. I’ve got my bag of popcorn out now and I’m waiting for the good stuff to happen now too, so lets see where this circus will stop next!
Below are some of my favorite images. I have many more sport, wedding and event images that are great as well, but that’s not the direction I intend to go in. I have come to an age where I want to produce authentic images that incite feelings and meaningful thoughts! I hope you enjoy
This…this is the face of joy, contentment and gratitude.
My journey started back in February when I found out that I had to have a tumor removed from my head. They failed to get a good sample in the biopsy, so until April when it was removed, we had no idea if I had cancer or not. To not know, but think you might have cancer, can really change the way you look at your life. It can completely change you and hopefully your circumstances if done right. Praise be to Jesus, there was no cancer! While we were waiting for the surgery, I decided to go with Heroes on the Water for an event at Robinson Preserve. They take Veterans out on kayaks to fish with their families for no charge…it was amazing!! Though I only caught one fish, it was enough to remind me of the great love I had for fishing as a child.I was in a tandem with a great guide, he paddled the entire time, which is great, because I’ve never been in a kayak before!
Bronson, my 15 yr old and I rented kayaks from Economy Tackle a couple of times and I heard about a fishing tournament sponsored by the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida – CCAFL, it was called the CCA Florida Star tournament. The tournament was for 108 days, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, all Summer long which was perfect for me, since I still wasn’t working. I had walked away from a position with US Senior Vets that I loved! I’ve never had that much passion for a job, but there were major stresses that took a toll on my health, so I had to step down. Bronson was out of school for the Summer and I feared he would spend the entire Summer on his iPad, so I thought this would be the perfect way to get him out of the house. After having a tumor, not sure if I had cancer or not, getting ill after the surgery, having suppressed autoimmune disease symptoms attack me and keep me in bed for a few weeks. I wanted out of the house and my renewed love for fishing was the way we would start to change our lives! I’ve wanted to move out of Florida since I was about 15, I’ve hated the beach, the gulf…everything about Florida, but all of that was about to change. I would learn that God could change a heart and that I would grow to love this beautiful state and how fortunate I have been all of these years to live where I do!
We started fishing in the kayaks we rented, we continually would ask the guys at Economy Tackle for fishing advice on lures, where to fish, best hooks…okay, really everything, because we had no clue! See, this tournament was an inshore fishing tournament, to catch a tagged redfish would bring the biggest prizes, but there were other fish in the Open category that had great prizes too. So, we were hunting, red fish, cobia, sheepshead, spotted sea trout and snook. Not a problem, except that neither of us had ever caught any of the fish needed for the tournament and we didn’t know how or where to find them! I fished a lot growing up until I was maybe 15, then maybe 5 times in the last 30 years and my sweet grandfather always took care of knotted lines or putting hooks and weights on the line, so I really didn’t know anything! I did watch him, so I think it may have helped a little…but I knew how to fish, he taught me that and I think you never lose that! We also were fishing out of kayaks which I will tell you, isn’t very easy and to make matters worse, the first time we rented one, was the first time I’ve ever paddled a kayak on my own and only the 2nd time I had been in one! So we were learning everything as we went, maybe not the smartest way to do it, but heck, we had 108 days…anyone could learn anything in 108 days!
I found a friend on Facebook that was selling like brand new Kayaks at a steal, so we bought kayaks of our own. We had only invested $60 for me to enter the tournament, my son since he was under 17, it was only $15 for him to enter. The Youth division was for scholarships, there were 2- $25,000 scholarships and 10-$5,000 available. It was enough of a motivator for him to get out and fish and I wanted to win a boat so we would continue to fish and because I personally was having a problem fishing in the kayak that I wasn’t sharing with anyone. I had developed a fear of sharks & what I can’t see in the water under me, when I was probably 4 or 5 years old. I never outgrew it, I fought it and tried scuba diving with them, no problem, but now if they can get under me or if I don’t know they are there…I get very anxious and I have panic attacks. However, I haven’t really told anyone, because I’ve never really had a fear of anything, no fear at all, until I came back from the Army. I wasn’t in battle, it wasn’t that, but something in me changed while I was in and now I get panic attacks. Anyway, the only person who was seeing me freak out was my son, but he just thought I was scared of sharks or that I was just being a girl!
Bronson had his 15th birthday celebration on the boat of my friends Tony & Shelley Ballam. He offered to take us out, they knew we were wanting to really do some deep sea fishing, since the closest we had been was the Flying Fish twice in the last 2 weeks, catching grey snapper and grunt.My older son was home on leave from Ft Bragg, so he went on the Flying fish with me too. It was more like a video game, not much to it.We would bring up 2 to 3 fish at a time and we would have a contest to see who would catch the most, so the Flying Fish is not really the type of fishing we wanted to do. So, going out that morning with Tony & Shelley the weather was rough, most boats never even made it out of the 10th street boat ramp, but we were with a real pro! Bronson caught a 4 ft barracuda, I caught a 15lb Jack Crevalle and we caught our limit of Red Grouper. It was a blast, we had the best time and they were amazing hosts! So grateful for that trip! Tony is a great captain!!
So, we fish our little hearts out for a month between the kayaks and the local pier…we bother Lt. Dan from Economy Tackle so much about these redfish, that I have still never seen after fishing for a month in the tournament, that he offers to take us wading in Lemon Bay. He jokes about it being a shark breeding area, but says the water is clear you can see sharks coming and says he and his wife, Toni will meet us down south on Sunday. I research every possible thing about what attracts sharks,how many attacks and deaths from people wade fishing and if wading gear is a deterrent . We show up on Sunday and it’s overcast, and the water is murky…he says if something bumps you, hit it with your pole! Panic starts to take over my body as we are wading to almost hip high, he’s concerned that we can’t see anything if it was coming for us…then I catch my firsts red fish and she is beautiful and all my fear is gone!! I let her go and then catch my first sheepshead. It turned out to be a great day, but the sheepshead was bleeding a bit and I could hear the panic in his voice to send it on it’s way before we called in the sharks. Still, an amazing day and a great friendship was formed. If it wasn’t for Dan, I think we would never have found any fish!
Two months into the tournament, we have become decent fisherman, mostly out of the kayaks and if no luck, we stop at the pier on the way home to cast under the pier and catch mangroves so we feel we caught something. The guys at Hart’s Landing Bait shop, said I bought more bait then anyone other than fishing guides…we were there A LOT!!! Bronson caught a redfish from under the pier one day, I was helping bring it up, the line broke…he will never let me forget that…I am putting it in writing just in case he forgets that he will never let me forget it 😉 We are fishing about 4-5 times a week, still no new redfish, but we are mastering seatrout, so we have entrees for the open division, so not all is lost. People are catching tagged redfish right & left, but they were never registered for the tournament, so they don’t win anything, all 5 boats were still up for anyone to win!
A friend from High school Tami Doutrich had posted a photo of a redfish that she had caught and after asking a few questions…we had a new spot to fish, said to be loaded with redfish! When you don’t know where to find a certain type of fish, everyone will tell you where and how they catch them and 99% of the time, it doesn’t work. I say this, because we chased unicorns for 2 months before we went to the spot Tami told us to go to. She was an angel sent to rescue me from going insane! The first day we went, Bronson caught almost 20 redfish, though all under 14 inches, we were excited, because they were really there! I caught a sheepshead that first day and we realized this was where we needed to fish for the last month of the tournament and we did almost every day for the last month! Tami sent me a message on Facebook one morning and told me her brother had caught one of the tagged redfish in the place we were now fishing that morning and released it. We were fishing in the right spot and now we were even more determined to catch a tagged redfish that would win us a $60,000 boat, motor and trailer!!! We fished in the rain, we fished in the heat, standing up the entire time, battling oysters, a huge population of mangrove snappers and we caught a lot of fish! We mastered sheepshead! I caught over 7 keepers in one day and I made it my goal each day to catch one to log and then try for the redfish. I caught a huge redfish, over 30 inches one day, had to have the park attendant help me bring it up, but my line broke 4 feet out of the water. It didn’t have a tag, so no big deal, but wow, what a fish!
The last day of the tournament, sister Beth’s boyfriend Jeff Weber, offered to take us on his boat with a friend who catches a lot of redfish.My sister wanted us to win the tournament too, so her and her boyfriend came back from their stay in Miami a day earlier, just to take us out on his boat! We are still blown away by their selflessness! Still wanting to win a boat…we drove down to Cape Coral went out into the storm on Labor Day, fished for hours, dodged thunderstorms, chased tarpon in the marina at dusk, but no tagged redfish. Bronson did catch a beautiful redfish and lost a 40+ inch redfish, and I caught a huge catfish! We did everything we could have, we went from no knowledge of fishing to being pretty good fishermen! I spent hours alone fishing, praying, singing, yelling and crying to God! I wanted a boat so bad, in the end, there were days where I fished 6 hours, came home and then went back out another 4-5 hours, it had become my job to fish! I was exhausted! I was so upset that I didn’t win a boat by catching a tagged redfish!I know that God isn’t Santa Claus or a magic genie that grants wishes, but I know that if you put in the work, that you will be rewarded. On the ride back in the boat on Labor Day, after the storms had cleared and all was calm, I noticed so was I. I had time to reflect on these past 3 months and I’ve come so far. I have battled my fears, I have fought for time with my boys making memories that will last forever and I have found a new life so far from the one before my surgery. In 3 months, we learned how to fish, and fish from kayaks, while in a tournament! I have found my love for fishing and want to do this professionally one day! I see many more tournaments in the future! I am so grateful for the people who have so selflessly offered there knowledge, their secret spots, their time, their money and their hearts! My husband is the most understanding and amazing man and he became a fisherman’s widow for the last 3 months. He let us fish, encouraged us to fish and cheered us on! None of this could have happened without him. He worked hard while I went off to fish every day. I am so appreciative for his sacrifices to allow us to live this dream! My faith in God carried me when I was ready to give up, His love carried me and He renewed my spirit every day that ended without a tagged redfish.He is faithful…it’s always His way and His timing, but in the end…He still gave me a boat 🙂 Bronson won a $5,000 college scholarship and I won a boat!!! I promised if I did win a boat that I would use it to help other women, kids and families to learn to fall in love with fishing, with the outdoors and make memories! I want to help others to learn to fish, so they can enter amazing tournaments like this one and win things that will change their live! Even if they don’t win…they will make memories that cannot be made in front of the tv or on the couch with your phone in your hand!
I don’t know everything about fishing, I’m a long way from that, but I know enough to be dangerous…to the fish! I’d love to help anyone who wants to learn to fish, maybe catch some, but mostly have some fun and not be judged by if you are afraid to touch a shrimp or a slimy fish! This is where the story ends, but our new journey is just beginning 🙂 By the way, I don’t know how to operate a boat or have a place to keep one, so give me a few days to figure it all out and then let’s go make some memories!
This is the first photo that I have of myself fishing. The fish was actually frozen stiff, but I didn’t really care, I wanted a picture with my fish. My grandmother had dinner ready so we put it in the freezer for just a minute and well…hours later we remembered him! It’s one of my favorite photos! The year was…ummm… a few years ago and I was about six. I was spending the summer with my grandparents down in Venice. My family moved to Sarasota, Florida and my grandparents lived close, so I would go stay with them during the summer while not in school. I spent most every summer down there until I was about 11 years old. Sometimes my three older sisters would be there or maybe it was just my cousin Christopher and I. Those summers we spent down there were some of the best summers of my life… but I forgot how great they were and how happy I really was.
Back in the 70’s…giving my age away… both of my parents were working a lot. I had older sisters who would watch me most of the time, but to go to my Grandparent’s house, that was the best!! They lived in a mobile home park, which to this day is still one of the nicest I’ve ever seen. They had two clubhouses with huge pools and many lakes. I would be lying if I said it was the most boring place for a six year old. Oh and I got to drive golf carts around everywhere, it was awesome! They had pairs of swans that patrolled the lakes they were super scary and they chased me home a lot, but it was still fun.
My grandfather, I believe, was one of the most patient men that had ever walked the face of this Earth. He had 4 granddaughters and 3 grandsons and we all wanted to fish. He taught his daughters and all of his grandchildren, because he knew we would love it as much as he did. He spent most of his time putting bobbers and hooks back on our poles after breaking our lines that were always horribly stuck in the rocks at the Venice Jetties. I don’t believe that I actually ever remember him fishing at all. He was always helping us and there were so many of us! He would go from one to the other and never stop the entire time we fished. We were very high maintenance, it’s a miracle he lived to 99…we must have really kept him in shape!
Most of the time I would fish in the lakes at the park. They had a beautiful clubhouse with a porch overlooking the lake with big wooden rocking chairs. I would gather a bag of old bread and a couple of hot dogs, and head over to the clubhouse porch to fish every day! They had thousands of blue gill that could easily be caught by balling up a piece of bread or ripping off a piece of hot dog. You would carefully put it on the hook and lower it into the water. Hopefully it stayed on long enough for a fish to get it and if you mastered the art of bread balls…you could pull up fish every minute, all day! They would feed like piranhas! Not much sport in it, but could be very competitive when seeing who could catch the most or the biggest.
Now the biggest fish in the lake were the bass, but the biggest was this one large mouth bass, “Big Daddy Bass.” He was a mythical creature that others spoke of, but few actually ever saw. In my years of fishing there, I saw him maybe five times and I caught him once! He was too heavy and broke the line, but it was an awesome day!! I loved fishing and it was hard to keep me away from the water back then. I don’t know really know what happened to me, but I guess I just discovered horses and boys, which left no time to fish.
As I look back, there was never a time where I loved living in Florida, I’ve always wanted to move to the mountains and be near lakes. I’ve truly hated living in Florida and as I grew older, I never went to the beach and definitely would not go in the water or fish. If it was a holiday that my big, crazy, awesome family would spent out at the beach I would go. I might fish, but it was just to pass the time, no real enjoyment. Then in March of this year I was contacted about a Heroes on the Water event at Robinson Preserve in Bradenton. They offered to take my family and I out in kayaks to fish for no cost, since I was an Army Veteran. Not many fish were caught, but I caught the fishing bug that day…my love of fishing returned and what happened next would change everything!
Shortly after that, I had decided to have a tumor in my neck/head surgically removed. I had ignored it for a few years, for the fear of having partial facial paralysis. I was having problems that left me no choice but to remove it. We tried to biopsy the tumor, but it was in such a tight area, they couldn’t get a good sample. So going in to this surgery, we had no idea if it was cancerous or not. I was under a great amount of stress from my job and my doctor said there would have to be changes made in my career and a lifestyle change with more fun and less stress! I spent every moment like it was my last, I fished a lot with my younger son and then I went in for the surgery. Praise Jesus that it was not cancerous! I realized there were many changes I would have to make in my life. When I was recovering, I realized how much I had truly missed fishing all of these years. I realized how much I LOVE where I have lived for almost 40 years. I realized that I have not been living, just going through the motions and I was ready to start the life I owed myself, my husband and my children. I was ready for joy, laughter, contentment and peace with who I am. For anyone praying for God to change a family member or friend’s heart…I’m proof! He completely changed my heart…it took 40 years, but it can be done, please don’t lose hope!
I know this was a long story, but I felt the need to bring you up to speed, to how I got here and why I’ve turned a photography blog into a fishing & lifestyle blog. I’ve been fishing non-stop since I recovered from my surgery back in May. I’ve searched for 2 months for the elusive redfish and finally caught one! I will have to tell that story another time, but know that it’s my favorite fish, so strong and gentle all at the same time! Don’t get me started on how beautiful they are! I try to fish 3-5 times a week and it still seems like I want to do more. When my son is tired and wants to quit…I’m just getting started. I would love to fish professionally one day, hopefully before I’m 60 or I won’t be able to get the fish in the kayak! I fish by kayak when weather permits, but it’s summer and highly unpredictable like a toddler. So lately, it’s been pier fishing, which is not my favorite, but please know how grateful I am to just be fishing, to be alive and to spend time with my husband and kids! Someday I’d like to have a small boat, maybe I’ll win one…maybe I won’t…but it won’t matter either way…because I’ll still be fishing! If you ever want to fish, I’d love to go! If you don’t know how to fish, I’ll teach you everything I know, which honestly isn’t a lot, but I’ll make sure we have some fun. If you know a lot about fishing, I’d love to learn anything you are willing to share.
I wish for you all…lines that are tight, bait that is lively, hooks that set & big fat beautiful fish that make you smile 🙂
Everyday we are faced with the decision to take what the day brings and stay positive or to allow trials to destroy us. I’ve had my share of trials and I admit there are some days that are more than I handle…I cry, I pray…I cry some more…I move on. Not everyone can do that, not everyone has somewhere they can turn, someone or something to look to for help, for comfort…for peace. I’ve made it this far, not on my own, Glory be to God for the peace I’ve received in my times of need. I think I’ve been through some tough times, but today I was blessed to share in a special day, a day of victory, a day of overcoming that most would bow in defeat!
Today was the entry day for all kids competing at the Sarasota County Fair. I remember as a young girl, my friends and I were in the 4-H horse club. We made and sold elephant ears at the 4-H booth. We were allowed to stay the rest of the day after our shift and see all of our friends, but the best part was that I got to hang out with my best friends from the barn. It was a great time in my life, those friends, those moments carried me through some hard times in my life. Now, the county fair brings back memories of rides that made you sick and food that made you sicker! I guess as time passes and the further you walk away from who you were, time muddies the memories and they start to look less like anything you would want to remember. Today, the mud was cleared by the tears from a video of a rescued bunny and a little girl and her calf! Today, I was brought back to the one of the many reasons why the fair was one of my favorite places when I was younger. I was reminded why cows, pigs, chickens, bunnies, goats and ducks were more than just farm animals, they are valuable in connecting kids with the outside, teaching them a sense of pride and accomplishment and most of all, helping them bond with real friends that will last a lifetime!
As I stood in the tent where the bunnies, roosters, ducks and chickens were, there stood an amazingly happy family. Todd and his beautiful wife Jessica were there with their two children, Bailey & Xavier. There were many families there today, all with children that were entering a furry friend into the fair to compete, but this family was different. This family not even 36 hours ago, lost every possession they owned and sadly 3 dogs in a house fire. They were renting and didn’t have rental insurance, so they lost everything! Todd & Jessica are both Veterans who fought for our country, they sacrificed their lives and now this amazing family of 4, have lost everything, but each other. Everything but…a miracle bunny named “Shadow” who was revived and rescued by the firefighters. Everything but…a hedgehog named “Sonic” that was found a day later, still alive!
This family was smiling and giggling the entire time I was there. The strength that Todd and Jessica have… to keep it together for their children, when there is so much loss…they are inspiring others…they know that they have each other and that is the greatest blessing. The parents are trying to keep the kid’s spirits up and being around the animals, the community and their friends helps remind them that there is so much good to focus on! I wanted to meet the family, take some photos to help them create some new memories, give back to my Veteran brother & sister and in trying to help them heal, they helped me remember a time of my life that was missing that I’ve desperately needed back.
Their daughter Bailey is showing a calf named “Snickerdoodle” today at 7 pm. She lost her show outfit in the fire along with her show boots and belt. I heard that someone had donated boots for her to wear today, but I would love to help Bailey have a beautiful shiny show belt to wear today…shiny like her smile, even in this terrible mess that their life has become overnight. I’m asking my Greenwood Stable friends, Hunt Club friends and friends that are still at barns, to donate to this family. We all know what it was like to show animals, we had our show clothes, our own jackets and boots, but what if we lost them in a fire? I can’t imagine how this little girl is feeling, how her little brother and her amazing parents, how they are coping. I CAN imagine that maybe giving her something to make her feel special, like a shiny new show belt, how that might make things good just for a day and I want to help give that to her! Her family has been given clothing for the kids and right now they are all staying at their parents house. I know it sounds silly to ask for just a belt when they need so much more than that. I believe that there are many people out there that want to help others, they want to really know who they are helping and they want to really connect. I wanted everyone to really know this family, not just see them as a family in need, this is more than a story of a bunny, a cow or a shiny belt. This is a family of Military Veterans, a 4-H family, a family in our very own community and they need your help. Will you please help?