Live, Laugh, Love

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The beach is a happening place. People of all shapes, sizes, and ages walk past the dunes and let their hair down, and people watchers are guaranteed to see interesting sights, some that that make you smile and others that give you pause for thought.

Here are some things I heard, saw, and smelled within five minutes as I walked along the strand.

  • “Daddy, I caught one, the young boy said, holding up a tiny fish for his father to see. His dad laughed. I grinned.
  • A few steps further brought the smell of cigar smoke wafting my way, and instantly I saw its source—a middle-aged man sat in a beach chair, smoking cigar and fishing. Ah, the life of Riley, I thought.
  • And then there was a grandfather with frizzy gray hair walking along cradling his his sleeping blonde-haired granddaughter. The toddler was leaning against his chest and shoulder as he cradled her in his arms.

I realize the above might not seem that spectacular, but I jotted them down later for one reason: they all lifted my spirits. Love, relaxation, and joie de vivre were common themes of all three scenarios.

As I continued my walk along the beach, I began thinking about my hair and the hassle of coloring my roots every few weeks. Such a bother, I thought and wondered how much longer I would be willing to do it. Within seconds, I spotted a woman who appeared to be about my age or a little younger with no hair at all.

She was playing with grandchildren and talking with her adult children as though she were the happiest person on the beach. And it’s not like she was trying to hide her baldness. On the contrary, she was not even wearing a hat to protect her scalp. She wore large fashionable earrings in her lobes, and sported a lime green cover-up. Her message seemed to be live and love every day!

Embarrassed by my vanity and humbled by her appearance, I walked on. I observed people throwing Frisbees, football, darts, and horseshoes and soon forgot the grandmother. But not for long.

On my return trip I saw her from a distance as she stood in the edge of the water with several little children. The other adults, likely the children’s parents, sat in a semi-circle a few feet away. I looked from them to her and back to them again and locked eyes with one of the young women. She was taking a video of the bald woman in the lime green cover-up  who was laughing with the children in the surf. Mother and daughter? I wondered.

I backed up and walked behind the group rather than between them and the group in the ocean, and as I did, the photographer/video-taper gave me a thumbs-up. Sobered, I walked back to my spot on the beach. That evening, I shared that scene with some family members, reinforcing the fact that people and love and memories are more important than looks, money, and prestige.

“So does that mean you’re going to stop coloring your hair?” someone kidded.

“No, not yet,” I said. “I’m not as far along the path as she is.” They knew what I was trying to say, though. Live, laugh, love.

Six weeks later, I’m thinking of the little boy who caught a minnow, the cigar-smoking fisherman, the toddler-toting grandfather, and the grandmother in lime. Where are they today? Do they have moments when they recollect their moments by the sea and smile? I hope so, and I hope all will find a way  to rekindle the joy they demonstrated that summer day.

Roses and Thorns

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We sat in the breezeway between the Welcome Center and the gift shop at Brookgreen Gardens, Grandpa and I. While I don’t know for certain that Grandpa is what his grandchildren called him, that was clearly his role that spring afternoon.

I was holding a sleeping three-year-old, and Grandpa was watching the antics of his grandchildren as they scampered about in front of him. It was probably inevitable that we would strike up a conversation.

“Do you live in South Carolina?” I asked.

“No, Washington. But we have a place here, and we try to get together with our children and grandchildren as often as possible.”

After a moment, “Everyone’s so scattered about.”

“Tell me about it,” I replied. “Who would have imagined that little kids sitting around the dinner table would grow up so quickly and move so far away?”

“Yeah, imagine that,” he said, smiling wistfully.

We chatted about our former jobs, how we felt about retirement, our travel plans, and the joys of grandparenting. Like me, he saw his grandchildren in a condensed sort of way rather than a steady, everyday exposure. While sharing our experiences at the coast, I told him that I knew everyone was having a good time because of my oldest grandson’s request the night before.

“Hey, I’ve got a good idea,” he said. “Let’s go around the table and everyone tell what their most fun time was.”

After the sharing began, it soon became evident that choosing just one thing was well nigh impossible, so Braden changed the guidelines to one thing per day. Even that proved challenging because there had been so much seeing, doing, and sharing. They had searched for Easter eggs, flown kites, walked on a jetty over the sea, eaten specialty cupcakes, played with cousins, seen an otter, gone on a pontoon boat ride, and learned about the Gullah culture. And did I mention the Butterfly Exhibit?

Gramps listened politely and then shared his family’s version of sharing experiences, an ongoing tradition that began when his children were small. At day’s end, they sat around the dinner table and played a game called “Roses and Thorns.” Intrigued, I turned and gave him my full attention.

“The rules are simple. Everyone shares one highlight from the day and one “thorn,” something that didn’t go quite right. Like being scared of jelly fish or getting sunburned.”

I thought that was a splendid idea and made a mental note to incorporate the thorns aspect at some future date. As grownups, we all acknowledge that life is not all sunshine and roses, but it’s not something we discuss on vacation. But why not? It’s foolish to think that every single thing is going to turn out perfectly, especially when there are several people involved who have their own agenda. And the weather. Let’s don’t forget that.

Here are my roses from this past week: Easter dinner (lunch) with my extended family, including a six-week-old baby: cupcakes from Cocodots to celebrate several special occasions, including the opportunity to be together; walking a wide stretch of Huntington Beach with my daughters and grandchildren to get to the jetty; flying kites on the beach with my children, their father, and all eight grandchildren; seeing alligators, otters, foxes, and goats at Brookgreen Gardens; watching a feeding frenzy in the aviary at Brookgreen when the caretaker brought tiny fish for them to eat; and being with sweet baby Amelia on her first visit to the seashore.

My thorns? It ended all too soon.

Shining Moments

Nothing big or major here. Just a few observations on life.

I’m at the beach for a few days and have relished every moment of my time here thus far. Despite being overly fatigued, my daughters and grandchildren have added much joy to my life. Here are some thoughts, not too deep but worth considering.

On the way to the coast, I stopped in Conway to visit with an old and dear friend. One of the many things I’ve always loved about her is her ability to hear about a situation and assess it “spot on” without all of the emotional fringe stuff.  Then too there’s the fact that she’s wise, spiritual, philosophical, and practical. If that sounds like an interesting combination, well yes, that’s what makes her so special.

Before we had our conversation, I turned the corner (more like a soft curve) and spotted two women walking down the middle of the tree-lined street, and I recognized them as my friend and her expectant daughter. Immediately I recalled a moment that happened 35 (?) years ago when I saw her cross Main Street from Ninth Avenue cradling this same daughter in her arms. Catherine was a baby, and her mom was taking her to daycare before work. Those were the days—the crazy days of childcare and working that somehow we managed to get through.

Decades later there were two blond, beautiful women ambling down a Conway street, one expecting a baby in less than two weeks. So in a sense, I was walking behind three generations although I couldn’t see the tiny one’s face or form – yet. Plus, they were in Conway. Conway. A city with a lot of history for these two and many, many others. You could almost sense the spirits of their ancestors hovering about.

Early the next morning my daughters and grandchildren were up and about making preparations for a couple of hours on the strand. I was in beach attire, and Colton, the little five-year-old kept playing (best word here) with my upper arms. “Why does your skin shake like this, Grandmama?” he asked as he flicked it back and forth.

“Leave Grandmama’s arms alone,” his mother instructed. “Do you think she’s enjoying that?”

Ah, the challenges of getting older. It’s neither fun nor attractive to have flabby arms, but what are my choices? Some people have surgery, but then there are scars to deal with. Plus, there may be more limited use of movement and strength. My intention right now is to keep them covered and focus on the wonderful things my arms have allowed (still allow). For starters, hugging people. I love that. Also driving my car, picking up things, and chalk painting furniture. I started to say “typing,” but I know there are people out there who might remind me of stronger souls than I who have learned to type holding a pencil in their mouths.

That same day I went for a walk on the beach, and four older ladies (75?) stopped me and asked me to take their picture. Happily, I complied. I snapped about four pictures, and hopefully one will be flattering of all four. When I handed the camera back, one of the foursome asked, “Can you even see her face?” She was referring to one of the group who did not want to have her picture made.

“Yes, she’s trying to hide, but she’s there.”

“Hey, it’s a memory,” I said. “Y’all are gonna love looking at it later and remembering this beautiful day when you were together and happy,”

“Yeah, listen to her. She understands,” one of the women said as I turned away to continue my walk.

That little five-year-old is now on the patio with me—no more writing for hours—maybe days. But life is good. I have great friends, arms to embrace this little fellow, and some good beach memories.

Doing my best to “seize the shining moments.” What about you?

How Do You Feel About Love These Days?

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How you feel about love these days? That’s my writing prompt for today, and it’s just what I needed to get my muse mojo going. After the sights and sounds of love that I experienced this week, the prompt is perfect. Every day for the past several days, I’ve been privileged to look into the faces of people dear to me and to hold my grandchildren close to my heart. I’m fascinated with Ethan’s blond hair and Olivia’s steadily increasing vocabulary. And the Maseda grands who live near Savannah? Each one is remarkable and well-loved.

It’s easy to love my grandchildren and their parents. In fact, I love all of my family, including the extended ones and the ones I don’t get to see often. My friends are dear to my heart too. I’ve studied several theories of friendship over the years, and I must admit that they all apply to my friendly relations. Some of us have been friends since we were preschoolers while others arrived more recently on the scene. Still, I love them all.

But what about those “other people,” the ones who are “different” from you and me? Aren’t we supposed to love them too? I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit lately too, largely because of Independence Day and the huge variety of people I’ve seen. Honestly, at the Myrtle Beach State Park this week, I’ve seen just about every shape, size, race, ethnicity, and race that there is. I’ve heard several different languages and sniffed numerous aromas emanating from the picnic tables and grills at the state park.

And how do I feel about it? I LOVE it! I love the diversity of people, customs, language, and traditions, and I love the USA. It’s a land choice above all other lands, and thankfully at some time in the past some of my ancestors made the decision to immigrate here. So did yours, unless you’re a Native American.

Back to love. Love is the most important emotion and force in the universe. It motivates us to action, soothes our wounds, binds us together, helps us grow, and sometimes breaks our hearts. Love is much more important than all the silver and gold in the world although everything, including love, goes a little more smoothly with money. I’d like a little silver and gold too. It’s just that for the essence of life, nothing can beat love.

There are several definitions of love, but the one I’m thinking of this morning has to do with what Christ said when delivering the second greatest commandment. In case you’re like me and need a little reminder of what that is and where to find it, look in Matthew 22:39: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” He didn’t say, “Try to love this person if you can.” He essentially commanded us to do it.

He didn’t say love the people of your tribe, family, race, social class, or political party ONLY.  It’s funny how things you learn as a child stick with you, and yesterday as I walked along the beach, I saw such a diversity of people that I kept hearing the refrain of “Red and yellow black and white, all are precious in His sight.” It’s hard to do sometimes. Those people talking with the funny accents as I waited for them to finish rinsing their feet and chairs and buckets weren’t feeling too much love from a sandy-coated, hot me.

What I’m getting at is that it’s easier to love people that you’re related or who are in your friendship circle. It’s harder to love those who speak a different language, worship a different god, or have a different complexion. At the same time, is it okay to pick and choose the commandments we follow?

Tell me what you think, my fellow Americans. I keep thinking of examples of love I’ve seen this week, enough for another blog post. Stay tuned. I’ll write that one tomorrow.

Attitude is Contagious

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I really relish the time I get to spend with these three gals, and I’ve just figured out why. They’re all so “outer-directed.” Sure, they care about themselves and their own growth, development, well-being, health, appearance, and finances, but they care about others too. In fact, now that I think about it, all of my friends are that way. That’s why they’re my friends: I need them to “rub off on me.” Attitude, good or bad, is contagious.

Just think about your circle of friends, acquaintances, and family members. Would you rather spend an hour with a down-in-the-mouth, complaining, grumpy person or with one with an upbeat attitude? Had you rather be around someone who has a positive yet realistic attitude nor who feels like the sky is going to fall in tomorrow? Do you prefer the company of someone who feels that things will work out or with someone who just knows that the worst possible of scenarios is going to befall her/him/us.

The women in the picture above, including me, have all had her share of woe, heartbreak, and anxiety. There are actually several other nouns I could add to the list, but why do that? Why add to the negativity??? We all focus on what we have and not what we don’t have. We know enough about relative deprivation to know that we are indeed fortunate, especially when compared to the deprived and downright horrid conditions in which many of the world’s people have to live.

None of us are wealthy, at least not in the ways of the world. We all, however, understand that there’s a relatedness between all life on Earth and that we have an obligation to make life better for others…including ourselves. I added that last phrase so you’ll know that we aren’t completely selfless. Ha ha. That’s a laugh. If we were totally selfless, we’d be at home cooking up a savory meal, scrubbing the bathtub, or volunteering at our local soup kitchens.

We do our share of cooking, scrubbing, and volunteering, but we also take time to feed the inner vessel. In fact, that’s what we were doing that day. We were sightseeing at beautiful Botany Bay, a feast for the eyes and soul that was introduced to me by another “sister” who understands the power of ocean, land, and sky.  Doing it together enhanced our experience and deepened our bonds as sisters.

Love Letter on the Beach

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I took a quick beach walk before heading home Monday and an elderly man approached me with a smile, a folded piece of paper, and the words, “Here’s a love letter from your Heavenly Father.” A little surprised, I simply replied, “Thanks. I always like hearing from Him.” The exchange didn’t even take ten seconds. He went his way, and I went mine, and yet….

That’s what I put on Facebook early this morning as I was comparing my surroundings of today to those on Monday. Working on end-of-semester journals and portfolios in my little hideaway above the garage is just not quite as awe inspiring as “da beach.” Ah well, the sea and sand beckon, and I shall return soon.

In the meantime, let’s get back to the opening paragraph. A Facebook friend and writer whose work I admire said she wondered whether women passed out such letters to men who were walking alone on the beach. Truly, I got a good chuckle out of that one. The thought of it is preposterous (to me anyway). In no particular order, here are some reasons why I can’t see a woman, regardless of age, distributing religious literature to single men on the beach.

1. She wouldn’t be presumptuous enough. I might be overstating this, but generally speaking, women aren’t as anxious to solve all the problems of the world. Scholars who’ve written about gender differences in communication say that we womenfolk use language to forge relationships, to nurture, and to make things “all better.” Men, on the other hand, communicate to solve problems, offer solutions, and take care of business.
2. She’d be so happy to get a few moments of quiet solitude and reflection, a respite from cooking and cleaning that she wouldn’t want to spend it approaching strangers. Many (not all of course) men get up, get dressed, and head out the door. Women usually tidy up a bit, especially after preparing breakfast for the family or starting a load of laundry.
3. She’s probably at home ironing, washing the frying pan, or homeschooling the children. While this reason sounds a lot like the second one, it’s different. The second reason implies that the woman wants solitude so much that when she finally gets it, she doesn’t want to puncture it by approaching strangers. The third reason implies that a woman is too busy to stroll along distributing literature.
4. Women aren’t as well known for proselytizing. Yes, there are women ministers, missionaries, and spiritual leaders, but their roles are more restricted than those of their male counterparts.
5. She knows it wouldn’t be a good idea. Even on a public beach, there are sleazy folks.

Yes, my writer friend’s question gave me much pause for thought. I still don’t have the definitive answer of WHY. How about you? If you’re a woman reading this, would you approach a single man on the beach and give him a letter from his Heavenly Father? Why or why not? And to any and all, would you find it stranger to be given such a missive by a woman than by a man?

Dogs and Sea Birds

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I should be grading assignments. I know that. And yet, I just have to share some pictures I took when my brother Mike and I took an early morning walk along the beach a few hours ago. I texted him last night to say I’d pick him up at 7 this morning unless it rained, and this morning he wrote and said, “Je suis prêt.” I think that meant that he was ready and waiting. He’s not French, just unique. He can speak French and German. Nice having a polyglot for a brother. I’m exaggerating just a bit. His French isn’t that bon (bien?), but his German  is.

This morning when I picked Mike up, it was raining. Mall walking was a back-up plan, and I’m sure glad that by the time we arrived Myrtle Beach State Park, the steady rain had slowed to a drizzle. Within five minutes, it had stopped completely. Malls are fine, but there’s just something extraordinarily special in Mother Nature’s offerings, and this morning’s sights and sounds were no exception.

This morning we saw frolicking dogs, one of whom was turning around and around and around chasing a red cloth that he had in his own mouth. It was hysterical to watch, and we wondered aloud whether he would be dizzy after so much twirling. Farther along the strand, we spied two small figures out in the cold ocean, and Mike said, “Can you imagine going in the water this morning? You know they have to be freezing.” About that time, we saw their father watching from the shore and asked when he was going to join them.

“I’m not! That water’s so cold I can’t even keep my feet in it,” he said.

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Mike and I came to the area just beyond the Springmaid Pier where there’s often a swash of water so deep and wide that a person can’t cross over without getting wet. Anyone familiar with this stretch of shoreline knows this exact spot. We considered jumping from rock to rock but thought better of it. Can’t afford to break a limb at this stage of the game. No problem. We simply turned around and walked south for another 45 minutes.

Above and around us was the gray sky filled with white fluffy clouds. I used to know the name of them but have forgotten. Perhaps one of my grandchildren will let me know a nimbus from a cumulus. Beside us was the greenish gray ocean, roaring and pounding on the shore. And yes, it was flecked with foam. We walked out on the pier and observed the seabirds as they sat like sentinels keeping an eye on the ocean (and their next meal?). One of them sat hunkered down as though hiding from something. Humans with iPhones perhaps? We went through the gift shop on the way to and from the pier, and the gentleman there assured us that the weather would be nicer later in the day. The beach in any kind of weather is good!

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Mike and I talked about religion, blessings, America, family, and health. About the latter, we concur with the experts that prevention is better than any cure. We don’t know that exercise and attention to diet will solve all health issues, but we do know that a sedentary lifestyle and too many doughnuts can be hazardous to your health and longevity. About family, Mike said he knew for a fact that our youngest brother David was the favorite because his name has two syllables while the rest of us have names with one: Jayne, Mike, and Ann. Crazy, funny guy! The truth is that if our parents had a favorite, they hid it well.

Time to start reading assignments. It’s a great big beautiful world right outside of your window, and experiencing some of its wonders with a cool brother got my day off to a wonderful start. Mike also said that of the four of us, he thought I was the most “out there.” Hmmm. Good or bad thing?