Sometime last year on Facebook I was contacted by someone I used to know up in North Georgia, Susan Davidson
Drake, when my children were small.
We went to the same church and she reminded me that she baby
sat for my boys. I remember her family and what good people
they were. Things she did and posts about her children would show up on
my Facebook page. I got to following and we became reacquainted. One daughter was a missionary in S. Africa
and Susan would go visit. She had some children that she
birthed and one adopted daughter from Ethiopia. Then she began
to show posts last March a year ago of her other daughter, Hayley, and
the 8 children for which she and husband Mike had just finalized adoptions.
Their arrival in the United States, but somehow I missed that
they lived in Tennessee, I assumed that since these were children from
Sierra Leon, Africa, that they must also be missionaries.
Time passed and Susan showed different things that were first
experiences like steaks for the first time. She had wanted
them to get to see fireworks but it rained all 4th of July a year ago
and all the fireworks were canceled. I asked when they would
be going back to Africa and was informed, oh no, they are not going
back, they live here. Then I really began to follow them as
soccer games were followed by school firsts, with one winning a
speaking contest with his first speech ever on "Courage". I
was hooked. I wanted to know more so I wrote Susan and asked
for the story behind the adoptions. I shared that with you.
But in November feeling very much in the spirit of
Thanksgiving and the coming Christmas season I had this big light bulb
go off one night and it just spilled out onto a Facebook Post on a
group I was a member of, the Amelia Island Fernandina Beach Network.
I said, "I have an idea why don't we bring this family down
here for their very first ever Family Beach Vacation." I was
amazed to find so many people say, "I'm in, just let me know what you
want me to do." I wrote down every name of everyone who said
they would help and then went on about my year. I enlisted
help of a beach friend of mine, "Beach Junki" Amy Wade, to assist in
all the planning and preparation. It was going to be a massive
In case you think you are seeing a very unusual bird with too many legs
look closely at the two brown spots that are the rear ends of her two
chicks. The way they hide for protection something like kids
when they run behind mom if they get in trouble with dad.
Lots of activity in my backyard while this Broad Head Skink lounged by
the water fall, I spent my days at the gallery and evenings at home
working on the computer getting the Jones Vacation together.
were made and then schedules began to take shape as offer after offer
came in via Facebook. We had meals from local restaurants,
activities enough to fill the days with fun. Enough money came in to rent the house that miraculously fell into our laps.
I asked Bobbi and Loren Lum, owners of P5 Productions, a local printing business, if
they would give us a good price on some caps with their names on them.
They did even better than that they offered T-Shirts and caps
and donated them to the family. We took some of my Fernandina photos to make the
collage for the shirts. We got some good people here.
With everything in place every meal and every day with scheduled
activities but also allowing them mornings to fix their own breakfast
thanks to local people who grow their own chickens and eggs, and
to Journey Church and David Neilson who made weekly runs to pick
up snack foods, cereals, and other food they could spare from their
food pantry and
other supplies we bought with donated food cards and money donated to
the fund. One of our sweet volunteers, Peggy Weinsier ran out
picked up some chicken for dinner and there was tons of donated baked
good already there as well as bowls of fruit, melons, and ice cream.
Chick-fil-a sent a beach picnic lunch for their first full day
with Robin Lentz and her family providing all the ingredients for a
cookout they could cook their own dinner on their own beach front
The night before their arrival I had scheduled a speaking engagement on one of the
cruise ships which came into town.
The sunset from the second story of the ship was pretty nice with the
abstract patterns of the sun painting it gold.
Outside the scope of the sun's trail was other pretty patterns
reflected on the calm surface of the water.
It was a pretty sunset and a nice chance to reflect on the beauty
around me every day that I sometimes miss by being too busy and too
This was an unusual clutch of originally 6 chicks but by now was down
to 4 but I was able to finally get a photo of all 4 in the same photo
along with mom. Usually they have 3 chicks less often 4 but
have 6 was quite a trick. Can you find them with their natural
color blending into the sand? Trust me there are 5 birds in the
We have also had some odd "ducks"? Someone stopped me to ask
kind of birds are those they look like ducks but have beaks not bills.
I had to do some research and ask others to find out they
juvenile Mergansers. There were two who stayed around for
while, different from the two ducks I usually saw hanging out on the
beach in that area. This was THE DAY!! The Jones Family would
arriving this evening but I had Turtle Patrol to attend to first.
A better photo to show the youngsters coloring and odd look.
looked for all the world like a duck when they waddled that cute little
I took note that there were some Least Terns in the area even though
they would not stay to nest as I had hoped. There was a
area of this endangered bird on the South end of the island.
By turning this photo upside down the perspective changes and makes
what are run off rivulet patterns into the opposite three dimensional
look. The runoff patterns now look like 3-D trees. I
discovered this quite by accident. I brought the color up a tiny
bit and it becomes a bare tree like landscape with possibly snow flakes
With Turtle Patrol duties done on June the 8th it was time to prepare
for the Jones Dozen's arrival later in the day. Getting this
house was a real stroke of luck or maybe it was more than luck. Amy (Beach Junki) had a friend Amy Bovill who
was caretaker for a beach house for a nice man, Simar, who lived in
Orlando. The Amy's decide to ask as all he could do was say
no...but not the case he said yes and at a price we felt we could raise.
People in the community donated all this food in preparation for their
visit. What wasn't used could go home with them. It was a
busy day of coordinating people and delivering stuff from boogie
boards, food, water, bags of fruit, and a last minute trip to the
grocery store to get some Chicken for them to have to eat that
evening plus we were starving too, and to do last minute shopping to pick up anything we might have
overlooked or not gotten donated. Looks like we were feeding an
army, well...we were.
With everything in place I realized I had not gotten coffee. I
ran a bag of coffee up there just in time to find them just getting
acclimated to the house. Weary but happy travelers. It was a
bit surreal. All the preparations and now it was a reality.
We had gotten enough money in to pay for the house and send them
some money to pay for their gas to come down and have for the extra food. It was all cool...LET THE VACATION BEGIN!!
A night's rest and an undisturbed morning and they were ready for their
first activity, a relaxing ride on the Amelia River Cruise, northward
past the end of the island around to view the fort, then across the
river to Cumberland Island, Georgia and the hopes of seeing some wild
Pajamadave was our fun boat Captain. He also owns the Pajama Life
Shop in Fernandina Beach so check it out when you come here.
Pajamadave believes you should always wear your PJ's
Several people who wanted to meet the family including my sister Susan
and Amy (Beach Junki) included took the boat ride too. I wanted
the people who had given of their time money and efforts to get a
chance to meet the object of all that attention.
Pajamadave Voorhees, our boat captain along with Kenneth Cain gave a
lively, educational, and entertaining dialog. Not so sure some
of our children understood the humor coming from another culture.
PJDave said this was a Redneck Truck Launch to get trucks back to
I-95 without having to drive through town or some such. Their
eyes were big but they did not laugh so not sure they knew the joke.
this is actually how they empty the trucks filled with wood chips
for the paper mill.
The Jones Dozen family really relaxed and began to enjoy the ride when
they found out this was used in the making of the Pippi Longstocking
Movie which they had recently watched. If the greenery grows much
more around the edge of the Spanish Plaza in front of the house we will
not be able to see it at all from the water.
Peggy, one of our special helpers with the project, gave all the
children a camera with which to take photos but I think most emptied
them trying to get photos of dolphins which were surfacing in the water
around the boat.
But we did get to see lots of beautiful Wild Horses on Cumberland
Island National Seashore beaches and marshlands, especially as we
traveled up the creek toward the Dungeness ruins.
Hayley was very patient and loving and Ken said it was the best behaved
and interested group of children he had ever taken on the trips.
Although we are partial we also believed that about them.
We never saw any kind of actions from them that were not kind,
considerate, and helpful. It was a joy to be around them and
their big, yet calm, family.
Being an unusual family, the largest single adoption ever I hear, they
were used to being photographed and loved to pose. Of course a
family photo was a must on this trip as on many other occasions which
followed during this special week.
Of special attention was our only girl, Gaberille. She had
severely broken her elbow playing soccer a few of weeks before she
was to leave for the trip, undergoing pretty complex surgery to put it
back together. Never crying during the ordeal she is one tough
gal. She was able to shed her hard cast and could even leave it
off some of the time so it did not spoil her week at all. She was
limited in some things. Her bones were so thin, attesting to a
decade without milk in her diet, when the doctor went in to do the
surgery he had to do some special pinning together to make it work but looks like a full recovery.
Pajamadave gave the helm over tot he boys giving them all a chance at
"driving" the boat. It's a serious job which requires lots of
While we had been gone this very colorful ship had come into port.
Once we docked we had a real special surprise for the children. A
special lady named Marina had gotten in contact with me a couple of
evenings before and had told me to take them to the "Pirate
Store"....who knew we even had one. Guess I stay stuck in my own
little space too much, got to get out more. She said let the
children buy themselves a souvenier from the trip to take home they can
spend anywhere from 10-20 dollars. WOW, what a treat, really
special people at that Espana Restaurant. You can imagine that
giving 10 children free reign in a dream store like this took a while
before they could make up their minds. They had fun but in the
end made their selections with Pirate Swords being the number one
choice but a water gun a good choice for the beach. Of course
Gabrielle being the alway feminine one, got some pretty stackable boxes,
which looked like birthday cakes to keep all her girl stuff in.
Even a stuffed Pelican one of our favorite birds was among the
treasures I saw heading to the check out line.
A pirate wig was a consideration and made one handsome looking pirate.
As they took their booty home to play with and have a great burgers and dogs on the beach cookout all
ready for them to do for some family time without all of hanger's on
around. There was still four more days packed with things to do
even though we did our best to give them a lot of time to just be
together as a family.