Last week I was hired by an active duty member of the Air Force to photograph his wife’s Coast Guard graduation. It’s a gig I don’t always accept, but this one felt right. They’re stationed in Hawaii where I was sent after graduating from bootcamp. I always get a little nervous going back to the Training Center. So much of my history is wrapped up in the Coast Guard. Right under the surface is the ever present fear…am I going to get emotional? And the answer is yes, I will get emotional, the same way I do when I see a recruit walking around town or a new graduate at a local restaurant with their family. It feels like going home, like celebrating my family, like honoring the people who helped shape me and who, for better or worse, had the biggest impact on mine and my family’s life for the past 17 years. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to document this couple’s induction into Coast Guard life. They have a great adventure ahead and I’m so excited for them.
Beach Plum Farm is a 62 acre working farm in West Cape May, NJ. It’s about 4 miles from our home, and one of the more charming corners of Cape May County. We had a busy week and Margo was getting her booster shots later in the afternoon, so I kept the two little ones from school and we enjoyed opening day at the farm instead. The market has the cutest kid’s corner, and while I don’t love dropping $$ on more stuffed toys, they were impossible to pass up. In fact, we’re going back for more. It was adorable seeing Anna cuddle the spotted piglet only to meet the real thing a few minutes later in the field. The kitchen serves breakfast and lunch with ingredients sourced from the farm, and can I tell you, Anna has never ordered and devoured cooked carrots at a restaurant before. Never. We shopped a bit, had lunch, fed the chickens, said hello to the pigs, swung on the tree swing, and when we got in the car Anna said “we had a real adventure today”. And so continues our love affair with all things Cape May.
In 2017 I was allowed behind the scenes at the USCG Training Center (TRACEN) in Cape May. I had been there before in 2001 as a Coast Guard recruit. I served four years and met the girl’s Father while serving. He’s still active duty today, as a Company Commander at the TRACEN. I was on base this time as a photographer for a local magazine, which felt full circle in the strangest way. I joined the Coast Guard to become a Public Affairs Officer, but after being stationed on a boat I fell in love with navigation and living on the water. I became a Quartemaster instead and don’t regret the decision.
We’ve chosen to make Cape May our home, and although my time as a Coast Guardsman and Coast Guard spouse is over, this service will always be the biggest character in my story - at least the first 35 years of it.
Not to get political, but let me hit you with some politics. What’s going on in our country right now is disgraceful. This government shutdown and it’s impact on our active duty members and their families is the most tangible piece of evidence, during my adult years, that our leaders are failing us. I’m so proud of the men and women who continue to sacrifice each day, despite the government denying them one of their most basic human rights. I’m so impressed by the spouses who’ve stepped up to take care of each other. I’m so amazed by the outpouring of love and support from business owners and neighbors in Cape May County. Here’s a peek into the beginning of these young recruit’s career in the Coast Guard.
The Boardwalk is a little intense for me in season - the tram car, the bikes, the runners, horrible food temptations that I can’t resist. I avoid it when possible. The Boardwalk off season is a dream - abandoned, a little grimy in a throwback kind of way, and the kids can run and explore without stress.
We very patiently waited until a few days before Thanksgiving to decorate our tree this year. Yes, we still have pumpkins on the front porch and I respect not wanting to rush the holidays, but last year we moved between Thanksgiving and Christmas so the whole season was a bit of a blur. We decided to buy a bigger tree, purge our old ornaments in favor of fresh new ones, and go with a more simple look for 2018. I used to dislike these vintage, arguably tacky, glass ornaments but now they feel like a throwback. Michael’s carries the cutest selection, so we chose a few based on the things we loved this year. We made cocoa, turned on Michael Bublé, and even got a group photo at the end. I’m so thankful to be settled here and can’t wait to share more about life in Cape May, the new house, and these four humans.
The edges of off season in any shore town is the best time of year if you ask most locals. The visitors, who we love for their energy and hard earned vacation money, have all gone home. The streets are walkable, parking spaces are plentiful, and restaurants don’t require advanced reservations. This is our favorite time to explore and fall back in love with our charming little town. Being too small for most rides, Margo had a ball running freely on the boardwalk, buying her own pizza and shopping for souvenirs.
Recently, through my work with Cape Resorts, I had the fun task of following fresh bay scallops from boat to plate. I grew up with my Dad grilling bacon wrapped scallops on Sundays and still order them whenever they’re on the menu. Keith Laudeman’s crew and the Blue Pig Tavern are a dream team when it comes to fresh seafood cooked to perfection.
It’s rare that I get time alone with the twins these days and I’m suddenly fully aware of how little time I have with them before they go off to college. I can’t imagine my home down two kids. We wandered the empty streets of Cape May, stopped into George’s for lunch and picked up dessert at the Fudge Kitchen.