Noah

January 30th, 2018, was historic for this branch of the Middleton Family. 

For Anachemy, after nearly a year of pregnancy, 36 hours of active labor, midwives, doctors, drinking a full bottle of castor oil to make the baby come (never try this, btw), pain, exhaustion, and no epidural, Anachemy finally gave birth to our first child, a son, Noah Ezekiel Middleton.  I was amazed at Anachemy’s strength. I was amazed at how tiny and perfect Noah was. 

Since he has been born, there have been a number of times I’ve worried for Noah’s safety.  His first day was no exception.  I had to keep checking in his little crib in the hospital to make sure he was ok.  On the night he was born, when the dust settled and we were all finally in a room by ourselves around 2am each laying in our own bed in a dark and very cold hospital room, it was hard to sleep even though I hadn’t slept for nearly 48 hours.  Why?  Because there were THREE of us now.  How crazy was that?

We brought Noah back from the hospital to our home, a boat.  Not many babies can say that.  But considering his name, it was a fitting reception.  Jesus had a manger, Noah gets a bilge (sort of, he’s technically above the bilge).

In fact, I built Noah a custom sized crib and installed it into the port settee.  He needed a special size because the available space was smaller than the standard crib dimensions and also smaller than mini-crib dimensions.  On a boat, none of us gets much space.
 
Noah’s been sleeping in the same crib since he was born.  Knowing what I know now he probably should have had a bassinet to start with.  But herein lies the problem, I didn’t know what to expect.  Other than the warning of less sleep, which turned out to be true. 

It is hard to keep up with Noah’s new “tricks.”  As of yesterday he can climb into our aft berth.  Gracefully.  But him getting out is less graceful and more like falling on his head, which scares Anachemy to death.

Before Noah was born I envisioned this little cuddly baby who would fall asleep in my arms while holding him.  There is a picture of Seth reclining on a lazy boy chair with his daughter Kailee on his chest and they are both peacefully sleeping.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t been like that.  I can probably count on one hand how many times Noah has gently fallen asleep in my arms.  Maybe I can count that on one finger.  Since his entry into the world he has been like a heat seeking missile squirming, grabbing, energetically pulling, biting, head butting, kicking, tearing and chewing into everything he can reach.  And his reach is increasing.  One of his favorite targets is my beard.

Overall, it is a joy having Noah.  Yes, it’s lots of work.  Yes, he annoys me a lot.  But he is also super cute, and it is fun seeing him grow and develop and an honor to have a part in guiding that process.  It is humbling.  It is eye-opening when I see myself in his bad behavior.  Generally he is a very happy kid.  Also inquisitive and smart.  I guess I’ll keep him.

Overall, 2018 has been a whirlwind for us.  Caring for a baby.  Rehabbing the boat.  Challenging times at my employment since the owner unexpectedly died last December.  Anachemy building her Real Estate business.  Our family attending a new church (Faith Fellowship).

The end of the year is here and we are thinking about what 2019 has in store and what our goals should be.  Part of us thinks that if Noah had a sibling then the two of them could bother each other instead of bothering us so much, but maybe it wouldn’t work out that way. 

In no particular order, here is a “Noah photo reel”:

Day 1, Noah Arrives:

Birth

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25

 

(there were traumatic photos too from the first day, but my phone accidentally went in the swimming pool so we lost those, which is just as well)

 

Noah comes home to I-Dock (our boat is the one with the dinghy on the back):

Our Home on I Dock

April 1st, 2018, Easter Sunday:

Easter 2018

Hanging out with Dad while Anachemy hosts an open house:

Hanging Out

In the stroller in the woods:

Boyd Hill Nature Preserve

On the docks:

Noah on the Water

Crib on the Dock

What’s Mom doing?

Happy Wife Happy Life

Enjoying his crib:

Sleeping

IMG_0708

Making a mess and finding the maps:

IMG_2325IMG_2326

Happy Baby:

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Even happy when shopping:

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Sleeping Noah while we were out adventuring on our Christmas Trip:

Emmerson Point Reserve

Christmas Trip

From THIS to THIS:

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New Adventures

It has been 2 years without posting to Simple Follower. Up until recently, the last two years have been uneventful. I was living a fairly normal life here in Florida: going to work, coming home and going to my second job (mowing yards) and then having supper with my wife before going to bed and repeating the next day.

The main thing interesting was the mowing business which was documented on a YouTube channel (PartTimeMowingMan). I just received another $108 check from YouTube today, so those videos do get some views. In two seasons I built the mowing business from this:

mowing_start

to this:

mowing_biz

After working up to maintaining 20 regular accounts, I quit it all when life got in the way.

Marriage life has been great, and it was nice enjoying our first couple years of marriage together fairly stress-free as we got to know each other better. For our two year anniversary (May, 2017) we went on a 7-day Caribbean Cruise which was an awesome experience, and a great way to cap off this slow, calm period in our lives. Things started picking up soon thereafter when we found out Anachemy was pregnant! She is due at the end of January with a boy. That’s super exciting, if not daunting.

Then things really started picking up in July when we received notice our landlord would need his home back on short notice, within three weeks, due to pressing health issues.

The first of those three weeks we looked at options of rental houses and apartments and weren’t thrilled by the prospects. We applied for one home but were denied because of requested a shorter term lease than he wanted.

One evening we were searching listings on our phones as we lay in bed. My wife was fighting down vomit from morning sickness (even though it was evening, apparently “morning sickness” hadn’t got the memo). We had been trying to think outside the box for lodging options. A brilliant idea crossed my mind, “Why don’t we buy a sailboat and live on it?” I blurted this idea to my wife and – would you know it – she very enthusiastically gave me a thumbs up while jumping out of bed and running to the bathroom to throw up. When she returned she excitedly added, “Yes! Let’s do it!” I count my blessings for having found such an adventurous woman to share life with.

Our boat search lasted all of one week (our second week of three before needing to leave the house).

We started the search online, but I knew we needed to see boats in person. “Boots on the deck,” so to speak. Living in Tampa Bay there are no shortage of used sailboats for sale. We decided 30′-34′ in length would be a sweet spot for us between affordability and livability. We made appointments. Since this boat would be our home and not just a weekend pleasure vessel, livability was key.

Unfortunately, after driving to look at several sad, dilapidated vessels in our price range, discouragement set in (at least for me). Then it happened, we widened the search to nearby towns and the perfect deal appeared: a Hunter 31′ in “great” condition, judging from the few grainy photos. It had been used in a sailing school. “If it was used in a school, it must sail ok,” I thought, while naggingly wondering how many students had run it aground or into a dock.

We drove down and it was love at first sight. Maybe second sight. But she floated and was sea-worthy enough for a day sail with the owner. What an auspicious start. One of the previous boats we had visited was in a repair yard where we had to climb a ladder to get aboard, while yet another was – in my opinion – never moving again, unless down to the bottom of the ocean.

Anachemy seemed happy with the amount of storage, which was significantly more than other boats we had toured. I was happy it had systems, even if most of them were not necessarily working at the moment. It had central air that didn’t work. It had a Raymarine auto-pilot that didn’t work either. It had an expensive 12v fridge that wasn’t getting cold. It had a freshwater system that wasn’t hooked up. It had a toilet leaking effluent on the ground. But, overall, the boat appeared good to us, and after looking at each other and exchanging a nod of understanding, we put in a cash offer on the spot for $7,900 and…

… we were boat owners!

Here is how it looked when we purchased it:

boat_at_slip

No survey was done, both because we didn’t have time for such trivialities, and also because I could see for myself the boat was a floating pile of deferred maintenance without needing to pay hundreds of dollars for a professional to confirm the same. The cabin floor was caving in, hoses were patched with duct tape, the hull badly needed new paint, portholes were leaking, but worst of all there was a stink that would knock any landlubber over. “Nothing a little elbow grease can’t fix,” we thought to ourselves. Little did we realize how much elbow grease!

The first item of business was to remove all the previous owners possessions we had inherited for “free.” From antique, stained life jackets to stale cans of beer, it all had to go. We piled a dumpster high with things not worth saving, including the revolting marine toilet which was one of the first items to go. We also filled our pickup truck with stuff deemed worthy enough to save: a dizzyingly amount of line, bins of spare parts, gallons of new engine oil, swim flippers, hoses, hardware, a bosun’s chair, and much more.

Saturday came and it was time to move our home to its new slip, 25 miles away. Having found a marina with availability was in itself a miracle, as the waiting period for boat slips around here can extend up to a year. Some friends came along for the ride. We arrived early but were stalled by a terrific thunder storm. The rain and lightning came with fury as we huddled down below in the stinky cabin, waiting for the weather to pass so we could leave Twin Dolphins Marina for our maiden voyage.

The rain let up and we were off. But what was this? Our engine overheating? No wonder the owner had been so keen to cut the engine and enjoy the “wonder of sailing” the moment we had cleared the breakwater on our sea trial. The strainer wasn’t clogged, everything seemed ok, but above idle the overheat light would come on for the inboard Yanmar diesel. The ocean was glass, there was not a hint of wind, our sails hung limp. 10 hours later, after motoring 25 miles at idle, we pulled into our new slip!

Over the next week (our last week in the house) deep cleaning commenced in the evenings after work, including ripping out the floor, drilling holes through the liner and rinsing untold gallons of soapy water through the bilge, repeatedly flooding the boat and pumping it overboard until the black moldy water ran clear. Templates were made of the rotten cabin sole, vinyl flooring bought from Home Depot and new floors went back in. All this while packing up our possessions in the rental house and moving them to a storage unit.

cleaning

new_floors

Utterly exhausted, the end finally came: we turned in the house keys and moved aboard. Sort of. Since the floors weren’t done yet, the first two nights were spent in an Air B&B instead. But then we moved aboard, living the dream. That is, the dream of an overwhelming number of boat projects. 72 of them, to be exact. At least that was what our preliminary spreadsheet said.

Now, three months later, all the stinky smell is gone, the plumbing works, the new toilet doesn’t leak, the central air blows hot & cold, and the refrigerator stays cold. All in all, our boat is quite habitable. We have made new friends with other liveaboards at the marina and had the opportunity to visit their boats. In hindsight, I’m happy to say I still think we made a good choice. This Hunter 31 seems to have hit the sweet spots of big enough to live on, old enough to be inexpensive, luxurious enough to be comfortable, and seaworthy enough for coastal cruising or touring the Caribbean.

With a baby on the way, I have a feeling our new adventure is just beginning!

Transitions

Transition has been a key theme for us since getting married back in May. Transitioning into marriage. Transitioning into living together. Transitioning out of our jobs in Haiti. And now transitioning back to life in America.

After three years living in Haiti, some may wonder, “Why did you leave now?”  Some of the immediate reasons, for the curious, are that Anachemy needed to return to the States for the best chance of not jeopardizing her residency, we needed a better income (I was down to my last dollar), and we wanted to start our marriage off in a less chaotic environment, among other reasons.

Once we decided to move back to the USA, the question became, “Where?”  Anachemy’s family is in New Jersey and mine is in Kansas.  We decided to start off in a new place.  That left 48 options.

After much prayer, a number of surprising “coincidences” came together for us to move to St. Petersburg, Florida. Things fell into place: housing, a job, a vehicle. I remember one evening in Haiti, Anachemy and I got on our knees and asked God that if he wanted us to live in St. Petersburg to please confirm it by providing me a job.  Housing had already been provided.  Engineering jobs in St. Petersburg seemed sparce and I wasn’t excited about commuting to Tampa. The very next day I was contacted for a job interview from a company only minutes from the housing already provided!

The job interview led to a job offer and on October 18th I moved to St. Pete and began working the following morning. I was working in Haiti right up until the Sunday when I got on the plane.  The following morning was the first day at my job.  After four years without a paying job, I was back in corporate America.  Funny thing is, I’ve worked harder volunteering than I ever did as an engineer.

Anachemy joined me three weeks later after wrapping up her job responsibilities in Haiti. The time we spent apart for those three weeks was difficult, but neither of us seem worse for wear now and are enjoying starting this new life together.

Before Florida, we had been thinking of moving to Denver. I know Colorado would have been awesome, but I surely can’t complain about this balmy November weather, nor can I complain about living only 20 minutes from a top-rated beach! Yes, I can say we are both enjoying the amenities this country has to offer. It doesn’t feel so much that I am in Florida as it does that I am in AMERICA. To be honest, all of America has a similar look with the chain stores.  And because Florida is flat like Kansas, the topography looks similar too, except for the ocean 🙂

Being back in the saddle as an engineer has been a shock to the system, but receiving a paycheck is such a relief it makes the work worth it. And to be honest, this job is a good fit for me. I appreciate it is a small company where I get to wear multiple hats. Not to mention I’ve never had a computer with three monitors before.  They also gave me a flashlight for checking parts.  Any place that gives their employees a flashlight has to be a winner.

As we start this new chapter, I’m looking forward to all the adventures Anachemy and I will have in Florida. Heck, we’ve already started the adventures. For instance, my dear wife just learned to drive stick shift in the last two weeks. Helping her learn was an adventure, but now she’s doing great with it.

We’ve also been down to the ocean in the evening and watched the scudding clouds and crashing waves and the moon come out.  Life is always new and interesting.  We’re so thankful for all our many blessings and also for our good health, which I never take for granted.  Though I’m a complainer by nature, there isn’t anything I have reason to complain about these days.

(here are a few pictures from down by “öur” beach)Ocean Birds

At the Sand Castle Competition

A Wedding in Haiti

Someone told me that since now I’m a married man I need to change the title of my blog from simplefollower to complicatedfollower.  He especially noted there was nothing simple about two weddings.  I agree.

All festivities are now over.  May has passed, June is here.  The past month was full of both highs and stress. 

Since Anachemy is not from Kansas, our relationship involves travel.  This comes with stresses, but overall makes for great memories.

The travels began last month with a trip from Haiti to Kansas where all of our immediate families came together for the marriage in my home church.  I thought it was a beautiful wedding and so many people pulled together to make it possible.  Afterwards, the two of us drove to Colorado for a fun week of honeymooning in the mountains.  Then it was on to New Jersey, where we spent several days connecting with her friends and family.  Finally, back to Haiti, where we had a week to pull off another wedding.

As I look back over the last ten years of my life, I see so many changes in who I am as a person.  I’ve been molded by so many experiences, people, and situations.  I think one way I’ve changed is a greater willingness to spend money on experiences versus things.  A lot of money has gone through my fingers in the last few years, but when I look around there is not too many physical things to show for it (I’m still in a studio apartment!).  However, my memory is full of unforgettable experiences.

This past weekend was one such unforgettable experience. 

It’s one thing to visit Haiti for a week long missions trip.  It’s another to have your wedding in Haiti!  Yet that is what happened for Anachemy and I.  Guess what?  About 250 people showed up!  Even the president of the country witnessed our wedding.  (I don’t know why, but president Martelly came by the beach that day and watched a bit of our wedding)

Like any wedding (including ours in Wichita), making it happen was a team effort.  For one thing, we couldn’t afford the beach rental from Wahoo Bay Resort, but a generous donor (Mitch Albom) footed that.  Heartline stepped up to provide food and help with transportation.  John McHoul officiated.  A team of ladies came early to decorate.  Our friend Hope did the official pictures, and two other ladies (Beth & Tara) came with their super duper cameras for more pictures.  Wahoo Bay reserved about ten staff for helping with the reception.  Another friend (Yonel) loaned us his car and then it got creamed by a motorcycle while we were driving it.  My friend Troy wore many hats, from musician to Best Man to general-run-around-getting-stuff-done-guy.  My security guard even donated time to help us make cupcakes the day before.  Of course Patty helped deliver decorations from our Wichita wedding back to Haiti.  Did I mention two cooks volunteered about a week of their lives to food preparation?!

Yes, our wedding in Haiti was an act of love by so many people.

Now for the pictures.  I know Haiti is known for poverty more than Caribbean paradise. However, the beach we were married on was stunning:

Beach Wedding

Here are my guys.  John McHoul officiated.  Troy Livesay was the Best Man and Enochson was my other groomsmen.  I met Enochson in Ravine Seche and he’s become like a little brother to me.

The Guys

And the stunningly gorgeous and classy bride….

Bride Walking Down Bride

Anachemy’s uncle walked her down the aisle.  Her Dad couldn’t make it to the wedding in Haiti, but her Mom, sister, and brother were there.

Coming Down the Stairs

The children’s choir from Have Faith Haiti Mission led us in the song, Bless the Lord oh My Soul.  Anachemy’s sister Chrisline and friend Andrema were the bridesmaids.

Have Faith Choir

We said our vows.  Pierre (on the left) was a translator for John and he is really good.  Sometimes, for the fun of it, John spoke in Creole and let Pierre translate him back to English. 

Vows

After the wedding we were happy! 

Recessional

And they lived Happily Ever After?

Dipping Kiss 

Well, it would be presumptuous for me to predict everything will be happily ever after. Nonetheless, we have committed our lives to each other and I feel incredibly blessed to have Anachemy by my side, regardless of what life throws our way. 

We are enjoying married life so far!

Getting Married Soon!

I’ve been intending to write a stupendous blog post about how I met Anachemy, what all she means to me, and how much I’m in love with her. I didn’t want to write just “any old thing” though. It needed to be special. So special, in fact, that I didn’t feel up to the task of writing it.

Upon reflection, it seemed fitting the two of us write something together. So… together we wrote, “Our Story.” And we put it on a more visually aesthetic webpage to give it justice.

You can see it here!

http://simplefollower.com/ourwedding

TheTwoOfUs