A Heck of a Day

Jim Valvano says there are three things everyone should do every day. “Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”

I liked the advice the first time I read it and resolved to do these three things each day—and more, like exercising and expressing gratitude and spending time with family and/or friends. Getting out of Dodge to laugh, think, see, exercise, and experience life with special folks can double the fun. That’s what happened on a recent weekend when my sister Ann, her daughter Katherine, and my daughter Elizabeth went to North Carolina for a Vintage Market Sale and spent a few hours in Chimney Rock.

Just being in the car together was a treat. We sang, told stories, ate snacks, philosophized on life, and shared family secrets. Around and around the curvy road from Hendersonville to Bat Cave we went, impressed with Katherine’s driving and the gorgeous sights. I mentioned that an aunt’s husband, a policeman, had been killed chasing a speeding car along a mountain road, and the atmosphere became hushed as we considered Aunt Doc’s loss.

Someone asked about going to NC with grandparents, and I said I remembered making the trip many times, a lone little traveler in the back of their light green Chevrolet, probably a ’53 or ’54. Ann began singing “See the USA in Your Chevrolet,” and I joined in. One of our daughters remarked, “I knew they’d start singing,” and her comment was all we needed to continue belting out Dinah Shore’s jingle.

Soon we were in Chimney Rock and under its spell—again. Having climbed to the top of the Chimney one steamy summer day, we looked up at it with awe and appreciation, knowing that we’d conquered it. Katherine parked the car, and we hustled across the street toward a bridge.

The bridge was barely wide enough for one vehicle at a time, but there was plenty of room for pedestrian traffic so we started walking across it, the sounds of rushing, gurgling, bubbling water all around and below us. Loved that experience—the four of us connected by blood and love and memories standing in such a sacred place. We took pics of the place and of each other.

After crossing to the other side, Katherine and Ann turned left and began walking up a hill into a quaint neighborhood I’d often spied from afar. Our morning stroll on that street nestled between mountains and situated by a creek was marvelous. “What would it be like to wake up and see such a sight each day?” Katherine wondered aloud.

The small houses were unique and charming. Elizabeth took a photograph of one of the picturesque homes and the for-sale sign in front. “No worries, I could never live this far from the coast,” she said. I understood. The mountains and the beach are both “thin places” where a person can feel the presence of the divine. And yet, living near the edge of a continent is awesome, grand, and humbling.

We were in high spirits. We laughed, exclaimed over the beauty around us and the sweet charm of the houses. Takeaway: that beauty has been there just waiting to be seen and felt, but we had to cross the bridge to do it, something none of us had done on previous visits. Cross over and enjoy the journey.

 

After coming back to the main drag, we visited a couple of shops, and the younger set purchased a few treats including a pearl ring and a geometrically designed shawl. When we went into a shop of gems overlooking the creek, I scarfed up some colorful glass rocks that were free. They’re now in an Easter dish reminding me of those moments.

Next stop: Riverwatch Bar and Grill. We sat on the second story porch, and although we couldn’t see the water, we heard its ever-present roar and glimpsed the Carolina blue sky with its white puffy clouds. A couple of times, I got up and sauntered over to the edge of the porch for a peek at the creek. A young boy around twelve years old tried to go from one slippery rock to another. Eventually he was successful, but it made me feel kind of encouraged to see that he, like us, had to struggle a little.

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Lunch behind us, we got into the creek itself…or stood on some huge boulders, that is, joining about a dozen other people taking advantage of the setting for photo ops. Seeing and hearing the “alive” water wasn’t enough for Katherine, and before we left the area, she dipped her toes in the freezing, rushing water.

I think I can speak for the other three “girls” when I say it was a heck of a day.

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.

Shug’s Reminder

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If sappy isn’t your cup of tea, don’t read this. At the same time, we might have degrees of sappiness and different definitions. While you might think it means sentimental, foolish, or silly, I’ve recently learned that sappy can mean full of vitality and energy. That definition probably refers to plants, though; I’m not sure. I just want to tell a story!

When I awoke this morning, I immediately thought of something I’d read many years ago. I don’t recall the source and am paraphrasing a little. Perhaps some of my humanities buds can enlighten me/us. “Awake, the brain begins to burn like a coal in the dark” is the way I recalled the line this morning, a phrase that led to these thoughts:

What a powerful and marvelous organ the brain is! Without it, I wouldn’t even wake up! Once awake, I wouldn’t be able to sit up straight, walk across the floor, toast my bagel, or digest my food. And gee whiz, those are not even “thinking things” like remembering, planning, learning, organizing, or daydreaming.

Speaking of memories and thoughts, I then began thinking of the numerous good things going on in my life:

A walk on the beach with a brother and later seeing a movie with that same fellow (isn’t it mind boggling to realize that some people have never seen a movie or tasted popcorn?), shopping with one of my beautiful daughters, reading an informative blog post written by my son, eyes that enabled me to see frolicking dogs and skittering sandpipers on the beach, knowledge that my sweet husband would be going about town doing good deeds for various family folks today, the sound of birdsong outside of my window, memories of my mother who loved listening and watching birds, thoughts of my granddaughter Brooke who just won second place in the 400 at a track meet yesterday, and on and on and on.

I checked my iPhone and saw that the temp was 45, too chilly for me to go to church. I had no tights to cover chilly legs! But then, it hit me. “You’ve got an abundance of all the things that really count, Girl!” Knowing the source of the above and many more blessings too numerous to enumerate, I got gussied up and headed to church. Was I ever surprised when I turned onto 48th Avenue and saw the empty parking lot. Turns out there was Stake Conference in Florence today that I didn’t know about.

Do good intentions count? I’d like to think so. Yes, I definitely think so. And get this. When I got back home and started leafing through a local publication, I noticed that The Color Purple is being presented by Conway’s Theatre of the Republic through May 5.

I’m coming back here (to the coast) to see the production. And here’s one of the reasons. There’s a scene in the movie (and play and book) when Shug and Celie are walking through a field of purple flowers, and Shug tells Celie that she thinks God gets perturbed (her phrasing is much more colorful) when people walk by the color purple and don’t notice or thank Him.

I think Shug just might have a point. How can I not be grateful for so many gifts that I enjoy in this beautiful world? And how can I not be aware of the source of them all?

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?

A Pinecone, a Feather, and a Button

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I’ve been thinking about gifts a lot lately, mainly because of some of the books I’ve been reading. We’ve all been told that a gift doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to be meaningful and that it should reflect something important to the recipient, not the giver. Just thinking about this last phrase makes me feel a little uncomfortable. One Christmas, I gave my daughter Elizabeth a cool denim jacket with brown cording around the pockets. Taught to be gracious and grateful, she said, “Thanks Mama” before refolding it and placing it between the sheets of green tissue paper.

“You don’t like it?” I asked.”It’s so unique.”

“Yes, it is.” After a moment, “And it’s so you.”

“What does that mean?” knowing full well what it meant.

But I digress. Let’s just say that the following week, she took it back to TJ Maxx, one of our favorite shopping establishments, and exchanged it for something more Elizabeth and less Jayne.

In three of the books I’ve read lately, the characters gave meaningful gifts that showed care and thoughtfulness, and none of them cost a dime:

  • In The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Liesel regularly picks  up small gifts on her trips to and from school and brings them back to Max, a Jew hiding in the basement. A feather, a pinecone, and a button are a few of her offerings. Since he can’t see even a smidgen of daylight, Max is especially appreciative of Liesel’s thoughtful gifts.
  • In The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant, Cornelius leaves little presents for Judy Rhine, and later in his life, he leaves nature’s gifts for Oliver Small’s two young sons. Both Judy Rhine and the Smalls family reciprocate Cornelius’s generosity by nursing and caring for him.
  • While listening to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road on some recent travels, I realized that the father was constantly giving gifts to his young son. A cold can of Coca Cola, a can of peaches, some mushrooms, and “the fire” are but a few of these gifts, and in this situation the love that this man feels for the boy is so obvious that it’s just about heartbreaking. How can love be heartbreaking? Read the book and you’ll see what I mean.

Reading about these instances of gift giving in literature inspired me to be more mindful of the gifts all around me and to be giving, especially with things without a price tag. At our writing group the other night, one of the members brought me some delicate pale pink flowers from her yard. As I sat in the back seat of my daughter’s van the other afternoon, instead of getting impatient at the slowness of the traffic, I looked out of the window and enjoyed the scene to my right, the marsh (see above picture). Then I looked at Colton, the 4-year-old who wanted me to read a book about numbers and farm animals to him. I glanced at the front of the van and could see the tops of my daughters’ heads and catch snippets of their conversation, another gift.

Now that I’m more conscious of the power of gifts, I’m making more of an effort to give them. Sometimes it might be something I purchase that looks like the person and not like me. Sometimes it might be something from nature, and other times it could be a service, something I can do to help another person. My husband is really good at this and is always (yes, always) doing something for someone else. Back to me and what I can and will do, I can give more of my time and energy.

Today, not next week or some vague future date, I’m going to improve my gift giving. Yesterday I picked up some unique shells from the beach and have already given one away. Later in the day, I bought a birthday gift for a friend. Tomorrow, I’m going to make a call that will set the ball in motion for some volunteer work.

What about you? What gifts have you received that are particularly meaningful? And perhaps more importantly, what have you given?

Traveling South

The weekend travelogue continues. We checked into the Holiday Inn in Beaufort and were really impressed with the lodging. The only minus was the lack of a continental breakfast, something that used to be considered a frill and is now looked on as an expectation.  Still, the room was clean and pretty…loved the marble bathroom floor.

On the recommendation of the staff at the Holiday Inn, we went to the Dockside in Port Royal for dinner.  A little off the beaten path, the restaurant is on the water and provides a magnificent view of the harbor and the shrimp boats. We arrived right at sunset, and I took several photos of the beautiful setting sun and the surrounding area. During our wait, we chatted with a couple from Kentucky, and I enjoyed listening to their travel agenda for the next several days. I also enjoyed extolling the virtues of Savannah…love that place! I volunteered to take their picture, and they returned the favor.

The meal at Dockside was superb! We loved the ambience of the restaurant, the friendliness of the wait staff, and the scrumptiousness of the food. The prices weren’t that bad either. Truly, I’ve seen higher prices in other seafood establishments whose food can’t compare in taste, variety, or quality.

The next morning we headed out of Beaufort towards Hunting Island State Park and stopped for breakfast at the local Huddle House. What a microcosm of Americana!  A HH diner can always expect to be among the high and the low, the rich and the poor. On this particular morning, the noise level was deafening, and we soon determined the reason for it: two men trying to outdo each other with their stories. Finally one of them, the one dressed in his Sunday duds, got up to pay his bill, and we sighed a sigh of relief. “He can’t talk to himself,” reasoned my husband about the gent who was still sipping his coffee. WRONG! Not only did he talk to himself, but he also crooned a few melodies, and after a few moments we sort of succumbed to the situation and began enjoying the music. I also enjoyed seeing several mother/child combos sharing waffles bacon together.

Breakfast behind us, we drove to Hunting Island State Park, and I loved loved loved loved the scenery along the highway.  So green and tropical. At last we went over a very narrow bridge, and within moments we were at the entrance of the park. Ever since seeing a documentary on Hunting Island, I’d wanted to visit it, and we were both excited to finally be there.

Once inside the park, we first visited the beach. It was awesome! The beach was wide, the sand was white, and there were numerous dead tree limbs and trunks. People used the latter for hanging their bags, clothes, and other personal belongings. A few of the smaller limbs were decorated with shells. I loved it so much that not even the dozens of dead jellyfish dampened my mood. After leaving the beach itself, we walked a 1.4 mile trail through the maritime forest. The forest was on our right, and a lagoon was on our left. We were in heaven…or I was. I took picture after picture with my iPhone so that I could relive those moments in the months and years to come.

Although we were beginning to tire a bit, we couldn’t leave the park without visiting the lighthouse. I had read about it at the visitor’s center and wanted to see this special landmark “up close and personal.” In fact, I decided to climb to the top, and I’m so glad I did because the views were spectacular.  A young girl who was struggling for breath ran past me and declared that she was trying to beat the girls’ record of 15 times up and down in two hours. The boys’ record was 17 times. When I descended, she was still huffing and puffing. Hope she made a new record.

My hubby and I then decided to sit in the shade and eat a huge chocolate ice cream cone. It was divine, both the refreshment and the relaxing experience. Before leaving, we walked down once more to the beach. He says if you’ve seen one beach, you’ve seen them all. I say, “No way, Jose.” They’re all different, and the one at Hunting Island State Park is one of the most unique I’ve seen yet.

My friend Christy is looking for the perfect spot for a special weekend getaway. I hope I’ve convinced her to visit Beaufort, Port Royal, and Hunting Island. I know I’ll be back.

Low Country Getaway

In my next life, I’m thinking of becoming a travel writer or something. I love visiting new places and telling other people about it, not in a bragging sort of way but in an informative way. I want everyone to experience the same wonders that I do and avoid some of the pitfalls. In this blog, I’m going to tell you the best place to visit for a sunset and the hotel to avoid if you’re all about “free” continental breakfasts.

Last year we celebrated our 10th anniversary with a weekend in the Big Apple, and although we LOVED it, this year we wanted to stay a little closer to home. Trying to decide between the coast of SC and the mountains of GA was a difficult decision, and the #1 deciding factor was the price of gas. Gee whiz! It still cost a small fortune to do the little bit of traveling that we did, but it was worth every gallon.

We left Myrtle Beach and headed to McClellanville for the Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet. I’ve always had a hankering to visit that historic site, and reading about the events of the weekend in Southern Living gave me just the impetus I needed. We finally found a place to park, and as we were wondering about the shortest route to the water, a man who was directing traffic pointed to a short bridge and told us to follow the yellow brick road and that we’d end up in Kansas. Loved that. I saw it as a harbinger of good things to follow.

I wasn’t disappointed. Right away we fell in love with the little town beside the sea. The trees, the water, the houses, and the people all combined to make the experience a sweet and memorable one.  We particularly liked the booths set up under the trees, and we ended up buying a couple of cool t-shirts as souvenirs. Since jewelry is one of the traditional gifts for the 11th anniversary, my hubby bought me a beautiful bracelet from a woman selling creations of recycled sea glass. I’m wearing it today; it shimmers like the ocean.

Just about everything in life has good and bad, an upside and a downside, and the festival was no exception. The blessing of the fleet was nice, but the microphone wasn’t working, and we couldn’t hear anything that the three speakers said. It was kind of funny because no one told them. Everyone was too mannerly, including us. There seemed to be a reverence in the scene that prohibited anyone from yelling at the speakers who were standing at the end of a long dock. So basically we watched them and the numerous ships that went by.

The food was yummy, but skimpy. Sorry but it’s true. I know they were probably making money for the town, but festival-goers will be more inclined to come back if the food portions are generous. One of the highlights of the afternoon was listening to the band and watching people dance.  I’d expound on this, but it’s time to move on to the next leg of the journey.Suffice it to say that the various dancers reminded me that life is to be relished and LIVED.

We left McClellanville and, following the directions of the GPS, rode through parts of the Francis Marion Forest. At some point, we ended up on 526 and later the Savannah Hwy. The farther south we rode, the more obvious the low country foliage and “feel” became.

I just realized that this blog is getting far too lengthy so you’ll have to stay tuned to read about the hotel without the continental breakfast and the best place to view a fiery orange sunset.I’ll even recommend a lighthouse perfect for climbing.