International Day of Happiness – March 20

International Day of Happiness – March 20

Happiness: A State of well-being, contentment and joy

This is happiness. This was Jimmy: a twinkle in his eye, a huge smile, and windswept hair, still wet on the edges. He didn’t want to get out of the water for this photo shoot I had arranged with my photographer friend, Mary Pat Dorr. We had wanted to get some good shots of Jimmy and Jeff in the fall, for our holiday card. The kids were not excited about coming home from an Indian summer afternoon at the beach and posing in our back yard. As they sluggishly put on the “nice” outfits I had carefully laid out on their beds, I could hear them grumbling. I made them shower off the sand, peanut butter and jelly mustaches and cheetos dust on their faces, just for photos no-one would see until Christmas.

“Hurry up and come downstairs,” I called, not wanting to keep the photographer waiting. But she was happy, taking shots of our kitties and our late blooming sunflowers in the yard. As they slowly trudged down to the yard, I heard them talking about the beach and what a great day they had with their friends, boogie boards and picnic lunch.

We had timed the photo shoot for the light in the backyard and planned to shoot in color and black and white. As Mary Pat started to pose them on the benches, in front of the hibiscus plants, and running through the grass, I wondered why I had not thought to do the photo shoot at the beach. What was I thinking? The beach was our “happy place” and since we had moved from the east coast, the ocean called us daily. An hour went by, with so many pictures, and since nothing was digital, we would have to wait until we could see the slides to see how the myriad of poses and changes of outfits had turned out.

As I watched the two of them trying to muster up some enthusiasm for this process, I had an idea. “Hey guys,” I said, “what if we go back down to the beach for dinner as soon as we wrap this photo shoot up?” Since it would still be light, the water was silky and warm, and we had nothing else to do that night, it seemed like the perfect way to get a smile at the end of the session. Jimmy turned around with a gigantic smile on his tanned face, and that is when Mary Pat captured the moment. Going back to the beach! What could be better?

It gives me so much happiness and joy to remember this moment in time at 524. Two boys were in the backyard, counting the moments until they could return to the beach and the blue ocean that called them home.

I hope you have those moments on the International Day of Happiness and throughout your life. We didn’t have cell phones way back then. We had to wait a week or so to see the photo that I knew would be the winner. It was one of the last ones of the day. I hope you and your loved ones hold on to those moments of happiness and if you are lucky, you will have a memory to keep for the rest of your life.

February Love

February Love

The ocean was Jimmy’s first love and his life was a love story about chasing after that elusive wave that captured his heart and soul. This moment in time and space was captured in his beloved Puerto Escondido. Emerald waves, a sure line across the endless sea and a man at home on that thin line. He was graceful, determined, and smart enough to be fearless when he could. He loved deeply and was loved as a son, brother, friend, teacher, mentor, lover, traveler, writer, and truest waterman.

There is something about sudden death, especially when we grieve for a young child or someone in the “prime” of life. A common question we hear is “how old was he?” Is it easier when someone dies at the “end of their years? Helen Keller said, “ What we once enjoyed and deeply loved, we can never lose. For all that we love deeply become a part of us.” Jimmy and Kobe were deeply loved and will live on through their foundations, designed to help others through their beloved sports and personal philosophies.

“Sometimes, when one person is absent, the whole world seems depopulated. “*

Kobe was a hero for Jimmy and Jeff’s generation. He pursued excellence through his passion for his sport, his team, his family and fans. His death affected thousands, but his good works will live on, through the Mamba Sports Foundation and through every child who wears a #24. As a parent, he was a #girldad and one of the best and most visible symbols of what it means to be a father in 2020. Other generations had warriors, presidents and astronauts. Their generation had Kobe. Basketball was Kobe’s first love and the art of the game captured his heart and soul. His life was a testament to hard work, perseverance and unparalleled talent. We watched him grow from the most talented teen to the man he would become. A city welcomed him as a son and the world took notice of his spirit, talent and intelligence.

There is something about sudden death, especially when we grieve for a young child or someone in the “prime” of life. A common question we hear is “how old was he?” Is it easier when someone dies at the “end of their years? Helen Keller said, “ What we once enjoyed and deeply loved, we can never lose. For all that we love deeply become a part of us.” Jimmy and Kobe were deeply loved and will live on through their foundations, designed to help others through their beloved sports and personal philosophies.With the horrendous news about Kobe, his daughter and their family and friends, it seemed right to look at sudden death, honor his memory and offer the only positives I can share. The pain will never be as bad as it was when we learned of the passing of that remarkable man. It will never be as painful as planning the memorial or greeting loved ones who are often left without words of comfort. I would not have believed those words nearly 16 years ago, but it is true. In the wake of a sudden death, “normal “ ceases to exist. We weren’t ready to say good-bye. But healing will come in time. We can do it together. What we have accomplished through the work of the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation is a shining testament to the gift of healing.

February is a month for sharing love. Be sure to say, “I love you” to those in your life today. Forgive often and love with all your heart. You may never know when you won’t have that chance again.

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The Gift

The Gift

“If you know someone who has lost a very important person, and you’re afraid to mention it to them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them they died…you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift!
– Elizabeth Edwards-

This isn’t necessarily a holiday story, but it is about the power of a gift. And if there was one thing Jimmy enjoyed, it was giving (and receiving) meaningful gifts. Not that all the “stuff” we shared and bestowed upon family and friends at the holidays, birthdays, and other occasions wasn’t appreciated. It was!

I always loved thinking up small gifts that would touch the hearts of the recipients and would retain their meaning over the years. Jimmy carried on the tradition as he grew up and started his travels. This is his story.

The attached photo is one of my favorites. (I think I say this every blog)! Not just because all the “bros” and their families gathered at our home on 3rd street, but because Jimmy created a moment in time, that none of us will ever forget. If you ask most of the people in this photo, they will say they still have it framed in a special place in their homes. I often hear the stories of this day, retold with love when this group gathers.

When Jeff and friends graduated from high school, we had a party for his best buddies and their parents. We served up tacos, margaritas, and hilarious stories of all their escapades, in and out of the water. Mr. Lang, their favorite teacher and surf friend and his wife attended, along with assorted friends and neighbors. Jimmy had just returned from a long trip to Bali and was getting ready to start lifeguarding and working on the beach.

After many toasts and funny speeches, Jimmy got up in front of the assembled crowd. By the time Jeff’s gang had reached 12th grade, his friends and Jimmy’s friends had blended to become one big group of soggy, tan surfers who all hung out together at 3rd Street and on the road. Jimmy was the adored and much respected older brother to most of Jeff’s buddies. He had been their guide to surf travel, helped them through some wild times when there was no parental supervision and been an example how to care about grades and get into a good college, yet continue to follow his passion.

After some initial heckling, Jimmy reached into a bag and pulled out a sarong. He then called each of the guys up to the front of the room, one by one. As he opened each sarong, he described what was on each of the colorful large fabrics with exotic patterns. With each description, he found a way to connect it to the guy he gave it to. Sea Turtles for the guy who was slow and steady, dragons for one who chased after the impossible, and cool and calm colors for the one who managed to keep everything together most of the time. Nine sarongs and nine stories that connected all of us to our sons and our sons to each other. As he spoke, he had the most gigantic smile on his face and when he got to Jeff, that smile was tinged with so much love and respect. There they were, our “boys” who had spent their childhood together, getting ready to leave the soft cocoon of the beach and head out separately to start the next phase of their lives.

And there was Jimmy, graduate of Cal, world traveler, teacher, lifeguard and soon to be business owner, sharing small gifts that would have a long-lasting and cherished memory for everyone at that party. Somewhere, there is a similar shot with the moms. Probably in the same box with all of Jimmy’s surf articles for the Beach Reporter.

During this busy holiday season, as we rush around and stress about what to get for everyone, hopefully you can remember this story about Jimmy, the sarongs and the gift of making memories.

With so much love and light to all of you who take the time to read our newsletter and support JMMF. Our 15 years of collective memories and the photos of our Ocean Therapy sessions will inspire all who come to share the magic and healing of Mother Ocean.

Xoxo
Nancy

*Remembering with love, our friend Walt, standing next to our Jimmy

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Jimmy’s Articles

Hi friends:

As promised, I found some of Jimmy’s articles for you. I couldn’t find my carefully copied and preserved versions. They must be in a storage bin somewhere. Instead, I spent the day at the Manhattan Beach library, going through the hard-bound archives of the Beach Reporter. The article below is one of my favorites, for so many reasons. If some of the phrasing is a bit off, it’s because I couldn’t decipher what was squished in the stiff leather hard-bound pages. Any mistakes are strictly mine, not Jimmy’s.

I hope you enjoy this November story and if you have the time, perhaps you can take a “Hot Tip’ and head south for some great adventures. Happy Thanksgiving. We are so thankful for all of your support this year.

Reprinted from The Beach Reporter – April 1996

“The Hot Tip “
Getaways for Surfers
By Jim Miller

Go South Young Man: Surfing the Many Waves of Mexico

All right. Summer’s creeping up in the South Bay with its blocked south swells, red flags and frat-bros on mini-longboards. You know the entire southern hemisphere from South Africa to South America is pumping. Uluwatu, Reunion and Puerto Escondido. The names are starting to blend, but it doesn’t really matter. You are dying for a trip, but it doesn’t look financially feasible and busting out the Visa and going two grand in debt doesn’t quite work because you still have to pay for the round of tequila shots and the Bud you generously bought for the crew last Thursday night at Sharkey’s. But it’s time for a surf escape and I can feel it.

Time to grab a few friends, $40, lots of bottled water, peanut butter and take a trip to local Mexico. I’m not saying let’s go rage at strip bars and drink beer, or let’s go scam chicks, I mean a real surf trip. With a little bit of effort and a passion for adventure, you and your friends can find empty waves in beautiful surrounding in a three hour drive away.

The first good spot south of the border is Baja Malibu. Although the name draws thoughts of a long right point break, actually there is a hollow beach-break that can good a good imitation of Puerto Escondido. Many San Diego based surfers are tuned in and cross the border at dawn whenever the conditions are on, so it can get crowded. But plenty of wedging peaks go unridden, and if you are craving a thick tube-ride, this is the place.

South of Rosarito, the well-known right point-breaks at K-38 and San Miguel pump on both south and north swells. Both waves are long, rippable walls that occasionally barrel; and provide fun, racy sections. Long-boarders and Mexican locals usually crowd these spots, but if you find yourself in Mex on weekdays from late fall to early spring, you may pleasantly surprised and find the lineups nearly empty.

La Fonda is another well-known spot where you can camp on the cliff or stay at the eccentric La Fonda Hotel. Fun, challenging beach-break walls peak in clear water and break onto a nice, white sand beach. La Fonda may be the most consistent break in the area, and you can almost always get in a fun session, even after the onshore winds pick up in the afternoon.

Local Mex, from the border to Ensenada has so many nooks and crannies between the well-known spots that if you keep you eyes open, follow your instincts and pay a few bucks to pay a local to open a gate on to his property, you could luck into a session as good as any you’ll find halfway around the globe.

Over Thanksgiving this past year, a few friends, my brother and I ventured down to Mexico and rented a house south of Rosarito. There was a solid 4-6 foot swell sunny beaches and glassy conditions. We surfed at Malibu the first two mornings and scored some filthy barrels, despite the weekend crowd. On the second day we drove south and noticed good waves, but there were crowds at K-38 and La Fonda.

On our way home for a siesta, we spotted a point-break from the highway that was barreling with solid 6-foot sets and nobody in sight. I’d seen that point before, but never with anyone surfing it. It definitely looked good, so we went to check it out. The gate leading to the headland was locked and we were going to walk the half mile by foot, when a chubby man ran down the street. He had the key, and I offered him a few dollars and a Pacifica for his troubles. We drove to the top of the headland, bouncing down the dirt road and park atop a drop-off cliff. Jaws dropped as our suspicions were confirmed and a five-wave, solid 6-foot set pushed out of the deep water and churned along the reef. We mapped out a way to safely scale the cliff to a hidden rock cove below and paddled out. Kelp beds lined the glassy point. The late afternoon sun shimmered off the deep blue ocean faces. Overhead set waves broke out beyond a big rock and would push for 50 meters into the bay. Smaller waves sucked up and broke in a dredging hollow section right off the rock. The headland jutted into the lineup and formed a natural bridge where the surf and wind passed underneath and reminded me of Santa Cruz.

The five of us surfed for about three hours, hooting and yelling and getting the waves wired, while my friend’s girlfriend filmed us from the cliff above while standing on our ice chest. Some waves barreled and others left a big wide open-face to carve. The amazing part was that we could see other surfers bobbing around at an average beach-break to the south of us, and countless cars passed on the highway, but no one else clued in that this spot was going off. The session was all ours.

At sunset, we made our way back to the car, and saluted the day with some cold beers and cruisy Hawaiian tunes. Standing there with my brother and friends, watching a final set roll in and blend into the pink and orange haze of the sky, I realized I had found the session I’d searched the world over for, by plane, train, automobile, motorcycle, donkey, horse cart, boat, canoe and foot. I’d found good friends to share good waves, adventure and perfect conditions; and I’d found it all just a three hour drive away in Mex.

@Copyright Jim Miller 1996

Questions

Questions

When you lose someone to suicide, there are always so many unanswered questions. Fifteen years has taught me that sometimes there are no answers, and the questions become a deep part of your soul. Tucked away, but not forgotten.

In life, there are also so many questions about the prosaic and everyday issues, as well as the deep thoughts. I found this photo of Jimmy and a group of kids at Magic Mountain. I actually remember the day he was going to drive them all there in one of his crazy Camp Surf Vans. It was a boiling hot day, and they would be traveling with no air conditioning. They didn’t care! They were off for an adventure with Jimmy! As I look at this photo, I only recognize a few faces. Who were these kids and how did they end up with him? Hopefully, by the time I finish this blog, I will have some answers, but for now, it’s another question to ponder. From the smile on Jimmy’s face, he was loving his time with this gang. Here’s the thing: When you are a parent, you don’t always know your adult child’s friends. Such is the case with this photo! If you know who they are or anything about that day, please let me know: nancy@jimmymillerfoundation.org

News Flash…as I was writing this, Tommy responded to say it was a group of kids from a special CampSurf session based at Loyola College. Thank you Tommy!!!

Adventure is what Jimmy always craved. I remember reading a note he wrote to Jeff about making a walk home from school become an adventure. Side trips, cool places to skate and grab something to eat….Jimmy could make the mundane sound like an exotic adventure.

That’s why he started Pure Surfing Experience (Camp Surf). He wanted to share his stoke of finding the beauty in the waves and in the story-telling after a great set. And that’s why he traveled: to create adventures he could share. In the coming months, I will share Jimmy’s articles about his travels, discoveries, adventures, loves, losses, mishaps and triumphs. The articles are tucked away in storage trunks, but I promise, I will find them and share with you.

Not sure if any burning questions will be answered, but we will all get a chance to remember and perhaps find out something new about “our Jimmy.”

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Thanks for reading these blogs. For those who have volunteered with JMMF this summer, thank you for making this a stellar Ocean Therapy season. There were so many old faces, new friends, instructors, visitors, supporters and surprises. Now it’s back to school for the “littles,” quiet beach time in Manhattan Beach and a whole new project for JMMF in Coronado. I can’t wait to share more!

On this National Encouragement Day, please take the time to encourage your friends who may need some words of kindness and compassion.

Jimmy and the Paddleboard

Jimmy and the Paddleboard

August 25, 2019 will mark the 41st year of the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race. This historic 32-mile marathon, which starts at Catalina’s Isthmus cove and ends at the Manhattan Beach Pier, attracts paddlers from all over the world and is known as the ‘Grand-Daddy” of all paddleboard races.”

This teak paddleboard is what every finisher of the Catalina 32 mile paddle used to receive for finishing. The top five in each category got something a bit bigger.  Jimmy was in the top 5 a few times, but this is the one I could find.  He was 22, graduated from Cal, working as a lifeguard and teaching junior guards.  He was living in our house on Third Street for the summer, until the lifeguarding season was finished. Then, he would take off and travel the world.  It was so great to have both Jim and Jeff living with us. We loved the craziness and fun of having their friends from all over the world drop in and stay for days or weeks. It was a golden time for our family.

Jimmy trained hard for the paddle, but nothing like they do today. I remember he trained with Dickie O, Jay Russell, Doug Weems and a whole crew of others.  It seemed like a rite of passage for a waterman like Jimmy.  Our grizzled and great friend, Jim Walker, who had a 36-foot cabin cruiser called the SeaView, took Jimmy, Jim, Chris W and a few other crew members across to the Isthmus in Catalina.  The boat was supplied with scuba, food, Jack Daniels and other necessary supplies.  The SeaView was to be Jimmy’s escort boat and the crew would help keep him hydrated, fed and able to hear his music. Later, Jimmy was to live on Seaview Street in a tiny hole in the wall, owned by Walker. It was called “the cave,” but that’s for another story.

Every paddler had perseverance and grit: two of Jimmy’s strong points.  He always made things seem easy and fun, and this ordeal was no different.  With his earphones pounding his favorite music, and carefully measured liquids and snacks handed to him by Jim and his friends, he made the crossing in less than 6 hours.  I wish I had the exact time.  

While waiting on the beach, with a growing crowd of friends and supporters, I couldn’t help but to be a little anxious.  These were the days before most of us had cell phones and every now and then we would get an update on the ship to shore.  Those hours were long, as we watched the horizon for the lead boat to come in.  And then we counted the finishers, looking for Jim. 

I think it was a relatively calm crossing, with dolphins and an occasional huge tanker in the sea-lanes.  Jimmy’s slim size and paddle strength, honed from so many years of surfing and paddling with the lifeguards, always gave him an advantage in these competitions.  Although Jimmy loved to compete, he also really loved the fellowship of this elite group of athletes, who tested their bodies and souls during the crossing. It was not for financial gain but the satisfaction of working towards the goal of reaching the Manhattan Beach Pier, seeing their loved ones and finally sipping a cold beer. They challenged their physical endurance and paddling skills to be acknowledged as “true watermen and women”

 

I have a picture in my minds eye and I think it was memorialized in a Daily Breeze or Beach Reporter, of Jimmy coming out of the water, holding his giant board and hugging me at the same time, with the biggest smile on this face. Then, he was swamped with tons of other well-wishers, as a pink lai was placed around his neck and “atta boys” were exchanged by all.

He kept this teak surfboard in his room that year, and took it with him as he moved on to all his other homes around the South Bay.  He planned to be the family keeper of the memories, through his photos, mementos of sports and travel, paintings and writing. The day I gave him his first green journal, he said he would write about everything. And over the years, he did. And then, the journals were no more.

Today, this paddleboard is a “totem,” (an object symbolic or having spiritual significance or a symbolic representative of a cherished person or ideal) that is used at every Ocean Therapy session. It is passed to each person when they are sharing the topic of the day during the sharing circle. It’s a way of keeping Jimmy’s spirit alive and passing on his stoke and love of surfing and the ocean. Every person who touches the paddleboard is connected to a long line of watermen and women who persevered in attaining their goals.

Holding this totem brings everything back to me. We cherish every object that was dear to him.  Smooth, sleek, shiny, designed for speed but slightly delicate, yet strong! That’s what I feel when I hold this totem. Jimmy and the paddleboard.

It will be 15 years on August 7, that Jimmy took his life. For all of us who loved him, have learned about him and have honored his name through the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation, thank you. Please think of how he lived his life and not how he died. Jump in the waves, take a walk by the ocean with your loved ones, toss a fragrant plumeria or two, and look out for the dolphins that always dance at sunset.

“The surf will continue to roll in, kids will continue to learn to surf and old guys will continue to rule, but surfing will never again experience as pure a heart as Jimmy Miller.”