Good Stuff

When my hubby left for work yesterday morning, I walked him to the door and went through the usual morning routine, including a quick kiss and “I love you” reminder. As he walked out into the frigid morning, I felt prompted to add, “Hey, I hope some good things happen to you today.” “Me too,” he said as he walked down the steps.

As I turned to walk back into the warm house, I thought about how several good things had already happened for both of us:

  • We woke up. Some people don’t; some are in comas or in drug or alcohol induced states…or perhaps they died during the night. In that case, one can hope that they’re in a better place, but that’s a subject for another day.
  • When we woke up, we were able to get ourselves up out of bed and start our day. My friend Joan Ella is a nurse who made me realize that some people wake up in hospitals or perhaps even in their own homes and they literally cannot get up. It could be their legs, but it could also be some other problem such as recovery from surgery, a stroke, or problems associated with advanced age. Those people have to wait for someone else to help them with going to the bathroom, bathing, brushing their teeth, dressing, and sometimes even feeding themselves.
  • While we sometimes whine about the proverbial 9-to-5 that we’ve done all of our adult lives, it’s great to have jobs, especially at this time when so many people don’t. It’s also great to be able to get in our cars and drive somewhere as opposed to being stuck in a hospital room or a recliner.
  • Speaking of jobs, we like them…another great blessing. It’d be horrible to live a life of quiet desperation that Thoreau described.
  • We like our vehicles and are grateful for reliable transportation.

The above are just things I thought of while DH was leaving the driveway. Here’s some more good stuff that happened:

  • Jim and I got to work early enough to fully get our ducks in a row before class.
  • Driving to Sumter, we saw the huge orange sun as it rose on the horizon.
  • As I was sitting in my office looking over some material, a young woman stopped and said, “Ma’am, I just stopped to say how pretty you look today. That’s a gorgeous coat and scarf.”  Nice, huh? I returned the compliment and told her how much I appreciated her sweet words. I also vowed to pass it on to someone else during the day. Just so you’ll know, I personally think the combination of the white coat and pink scarf is what turned her head.
  • The above mentioned attire kept me warm. I’ve been thinking of ways to help people who are cold without making a big deal over it…something simple like leaving gloves or scarves accidently on purpose where they can be found.
  • I met a new person, an psychology adjunct who’s bubbly and smart and interested in the psychology blog. Yay!
  • I got to see my sister for a few minutes. Love her lots.
  • Enjoyed Taco Bell for lunch. Variety’s nice.
  • I watched Whitney and Allie play with their new hula hoops.

Time to go to work. I hope lots of good things happened to you yesterday too. Let me rephrase that: I hope you paid attention to the good things that happened to you yesterday. I hope you took the time to realize that no matter what’s going on in your life, there’s always some good stuff too. Mmmm. I’m getting ready to take a warm shower, a treat that many don’t enjoy. I’ve got a feeling that today is going to be another day with blessings galore.

Pretty and Powerful

For the last several nights, I’ve braved the frigid temperatures to go outside and cover my Sago palms with cloth. In years past, I’ve been a little slack about protecting them from the cold and frost, and their green spiky fronds have turned brown and sad looking. A kind friend once told me that she thought they looked gold and hence added a unique and upscale look to the landscape. Yeah, right.

When I went out to remove the protective cloths from the palms this morning, I glanced at my pansies. Yellow, purple, garnet, and white, they were gorgeous. Their pretty little faces seemed a tiny bit turned down, and yet they were still so lovely and so alive. How can it be that something that appears to be so delicate and fragile can be so strong? Through snow, ice, sleet, and below freezing temperatures, their pretty little faces are upturned as if to say, “Bring it on. We can take it.”

I’m probably stretching things a bit here, and yet I can’t help comparing the pansies to some people I know. While they may appear frail, they’re really tough, resilient, and hardy. They’re like steel magnolias. At the same time, the Sago palms look robust and tough, but they’re really not…at least not in cold weather. A cold snap and their fronds are dead and brown.

In years past, we’ve cut the dead fronds and are always thrilled to see the new green life emerging at the base of the plant. I guess there’s a lesson there too (pruning and growing), but today I’m thinking about those pansies and their lesson. If something as lovely and delicate as they are can withstand winter’s worst, so can I.

Outer Banks Part II

Mural in Manteo

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After a tossing turning night of fitful sleeping, I was already awake when our alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. last Sunday morning. We quickly dressed and headed downstairs to grab a banana and juice on our way out of the hotel and onto to Kitty Hawk. Much to our surprise and pleasure, the hotel management had prepared bagged breakfasts for all race participants. It’s those little things that mean a lot to customers, and we both heartily recommend the Hampton Inn in Corolla, NC for anyone visiting the area.

We rode through the predawn darkness down a long, narrow, two-lane road surrounded by some sort of dense vegetation. It was spooky but nice, especially when coupled with the anticipation of what was ahead. By the time we left the two-lane road for the four lane one leading into the more populated areas of Kitty Hawk and Nag’s Head, the traffic was already becoming quite congested. DH dropped me off at the race start on Memorial Drive and headed out to meet our sister-in-law Becky. 

The pre-race moments are always awesome. It’s something I can’t explain. Listening to the banter around me, I love picking up snippets of conversation. There’s always a feeling of tense excitement—love it. I walked over to look at the beach and was delighted to see so many photo shoots going on. Fun. After that, I stretched a little and sort of ambled about amongst the crowd. To no avail, I looked for my brother and his son. Never did spot them, probably because they were in what was dubbed the first “corral,” and I was in the last. Then there’s the fact that there were 3500 people mingled there.

Time passed, and I heard the strains of the National Anthem over a loud speaker. The crowd grew hushed, and everyone turned to face a small flag flying from a beach house. It was an emotional moment, and I felt so thankful to be there with my “fellow Americans” to participate in a event that would take place at the absolute edge of our continent.

The gun fired three times before the slow pokes like me in the third corral were allowed to take off. I don’t have time or energy to write about all my thoughts, observations, or impressions of the morning. Suffice it to say that they were all good. Sure I was tired. Sure I thought I’d NEVER get over that darned bridge crossing over to Manteo. But still, it was memorable, every single mile.

Okay, some quick recollections include:

  • The way the entire community came out to support us with water, Gatorade, cheers, and enthusiasm. Even within the neighborhoods, people stood in their yards, some dressed in costumes. The most original group included some people dressed in black and white “chain gang” outfits holding signs warning that dropouts would be put in the stockade or forced to walk the gangplank. I needed a good laugh about that time.  In one driveway, I saw a little boy with a parrot next to him. Cool.
  • The awesome splendor of the beautiful day. Sunny but not hot. Cool but not cold. Breezy but not overly so. And everywhere I looked, it was blue blue blue blue blue. It was one of those mornings that makes you think, “God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world.”
  • The variety of people I passed and who passed me.  Young, old, in-between, skinny, chubby…you name it, they were there. One man with whom I paced myself was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Growing old is inevitable; growing up is optional.” Nice motto.
  • The little signs along the way that kept you moving along to see what was next.  One of my favorites was, “What do you call a fat chimpanzee?” 100 yards later, there was the answer: “A chunky monkey.
  • The well-marked route and the numerous water stops.
  • The local hospital and its clean restroom facilities.
  • Listening to my iPod. A week later, I’m remembering Barbra Streisand’s “Woman in Love” as I finally came out of the last neighborhood before getting to the bridge.
  • Coming into the last stretch listening to “Sweet Inspiration” when my brother David came sidling up to finish part of the last leg with me.
  • FINISHING at last and getting two bottles of water and a peanut butter sandwich. There were bagels, bananas, apples, and oranges too.

After soaking up the atmosphere and taking some pictures, we made our way back to the car. Problem. We couldn’t leave. The car was parked right near the finish which was good, and yet it faced the road where the walkers and runners were still coming in. Becky, John, and I sat in the car while David turned lemons into lemonade by cheering the finishers who passed in front of us. Otis went over to talk to the policeman about helping us get out when there was a gap in the finishers. I got out of the car to take some more pictures of the finish line and of the lovely town of Manteo.

FREE AT LAST, we freshened up and dined together before heading in separate directions. They had an hour and a half drive in front of them. We, on the other hand, had around seven. It was a long, long way home, and yet I have to admit that parts of the trip were pretty memorable. Like when he asked me to sing “Amazing Grace,” and then after two verses asked if we could listen to tunes on my iPod. That’s when the fun really began because we sang to most of the songs, and man did we belt it out!

Tuckered out, we arrived in good old Camden around 10:00 p.m., and I think a good time was had by all. Will we go back? I don’t know about the “we” part, but I will. It’s too beautiful of an area and too grand of an event not too. Maybe you can join me next year. At least think about it.

Outer Banks Arrival

This time last week, DH and I were already on the way to the Outer Banks for the OBX Marathon and Half Marathon. Although I LOVED every moment of the weekend, I can truthfully say that I’m content to stay right around town this weekend. Getting to and from the destination was a bit of a marathon adventure in and of itself. How many times have you been in a car for 15 hours??? As much as we enjoy each other’s company, after a while we felt a little cuckoo.

But I digress. The purpose of this blog post is to share a few highlights of the trip and spotlight some of the cool attractions of the Outer Banks area. Never having been there, I was like a kid in a candy store. For someone like me who loves a beach no matter where it is, I was in heaven. No matter where we were, there was water and sand. At some points, I could see it on both sides of us. Divine.

After a few stops, one for the best boiled peanuts we’ve ever tasted, we finally arrived in Nag’s Head around 3:00, and after many consultations with Jill on our GPS, we located the EXPO. Talk about high energy! Wow, I loved the atmosphere of the place. Everywhere you looked, there were locals dressed like pirates and other seafaring folks, and everyone seemed to be friendly and in a good mood. We picked up the race packets for me, my brother, and my nephew, and then we did a little shopping. My sweet husband bought me a race poster, and he convinced me to get a long sleeved shirt “in case” the weather changed. Good thing he’s so persuasive because what I bought was perfect for Sunday’s event.

Our room was in Corolla, a little town/village/hamlet just slightly north of Duck, NC. Can you believe there’s a town called Duck? There is…and it has a lot of charm too. One day I hope to return and shop in some of those quaint little shops and eat in one of the restaurants. On the way to Duck and Corolla, we passed through Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk, and I could see the Wright Brothers Memorial and also the biggest sand dune on the east coast. It was awesome to see. Next time I’m going to get out and walk on it. Locals say that there’s a miniature golf course buried beneath it.  All along our way north, I enjoyed looking at the storefronts and local attractions. While they were the same as probably any other tourist area (there was even a Wings), they didn’t seem so garish and “in your face.”

It was dark when we arrived at the Hampton Inn in Corolla, one of the nicest places where I’ve ever stayed. From the shell exhibit in the lobby to the soft towels in the bathroom, everything was Nice with a capital N. A definite plus was having WiFi. We freshened up and went out for a bite to eat. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but that’s a good thing because I couldn’t recommend it, and I don’t want to berate it. Let’s just say it was overpriced and barely adequate.

On Saturday morning after a scrumptious breakfast in the Hampton Inn dining area, I went for a walk on the beach. Awesome. It was sooooo beautiful, and I felt so exuberant and upbeat that I soon lost track of time. I was so into the exhilarating beauty and experience of it all that I walked 20 minutes or more beyond where I knew I was supposed to stop. Let me explain. The beaches there have HIGH sand dunes, and even if you walked up the steps of the accesses to get your bearings, all you’d see is beach house after beach house. They all looked alike. About this time, my husband called to check on me, and when I confessed that I didn’t know where I was or how far away, he gave me some great directions. “Walk towards the sun,” he said. Good advice anytime, but especially that morning.

After my walk and shell collecting, we headed to Nag’s Head where we met my brother David and his family.  The five of us spent the rest of the day getting caught up and taking in the sights. We went to Manteo to see where the race would end the next morning, and we ended up visiting a church bazaar where Becky, my sister-in-law, bought a denim vest for only $2.  We both love sweet deals like that. We decided to dine at Big Al’s, and that was a wise decision. The atmosphere was upbeat, and the food was fantastic. Plus, there were other marathon participants in there, and it’s always fun to exchange “war stories.”

Fortified by our French fries and sandwiches, we strolled through the quaint waterside shops of Manteo. I fell in love with that little community and hope to visit again someday.  We met some colorful characters, including a dog who was “working” in one of the shops. I’ve been on a sea glass search for the last couple of months, and Becky and I found an artist who collected it and made jewelry from it.  She also explained why it’s so hard to find these days. People use more plastic and other disposable materials now, so there simply isn’t as much glass being thrown overboard into the ocean. Plus, there are more people (like yours truly) who are searching for it, thus making it more scarce.

Leaving Manteo, we headed for Nag’s Head to do some shopping at a Tanger Outlet. I got some Christmas bargains, and Becky and I enjoyed looking at the beautiful orange sunset over the water. Shopping and browsing complete, we shared light refreshments before separating for the evening.

This post has gone on much too long, and I’m not even to the BIG EVENT yet.  It’s so important and memorable that it deserves a post of its own.

Counting Blessings

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Is it possible to have a crossover between psychology and religion? By jove, I think it just might be. In reading 50 Psychology Classics by Tom Butler-Bowden, I’ve discovered some happiness hints by Barry Schwartz. In addition to limiting your choices, Dr. Schwartz advises his readers to make their decisions irreversible and to constantly appreciate the lives they have.

It’s the appreciation concept that grabbed me.  Even downward comparisons that remind of us how fortunate we are compared with many others can be a boost to self-esteem and overall feelings of well-being. Instead of saying something like, “If only I had a newer, snazzier car,” instead say, “I’m so glad I have a car that gets me where I need to go. Lots of people in the world aren’t so fortunate.” Schwartz contends that not only are grateful people are happier and optimistic but they are also healthier.  I’m all for that!

So on this cool, overcast November afternoon, I’m thinking of the multitudinous things for which I am grateful. Dr. Schwartz’s advice was reinforced by reminders from church this morning, including the closing song in Relief Society, “Count Your Blessings.” Then there’s always Alma’s reminder to “Live in Thanksgiving daily.” Actually, there are beaucoup scriptural reminders of the importance of expressing gratitude; I just happen to like Alma’s.

While I’m usually pretty good at this anyway, this month I’m going to focus on the good in my life, ALL of it. In no particular order, here are a few things I’m especially thankful for today. I’m going to start with a dozen. Maybe you can add a few of your own.

*Living at this time in our history. I don’t think I’d be nearly so happy without indoor plumbing and electricity.
*My sweet, thoughtful, talented husband.
*My children and their spouses. Though I’ve read that pride is the universal sin, I can’t help it. I’m proud of the lives they’re living and the choices they’re making.
*My precocious precious grandchildren. Yes, I’m biased, and I hope you don’t have a problem with that.
*Family, including my sibs and their spouses and children. All of my in-laws and stepchildren are huge blessings too.
*Laughter. I laughed so hard at something 2-year-old Emma said the other evening that I was nearly crying. It ’s not so much what she was saying as it was her expressiveness.
*Music. All kinds. Right now I’m listening to Wanda Johnson, a blues singer that my friend Connie introduced me too.
*Friends, old and new. They have no idea how they’ve enriched my life, even the online ones.
*Health. God willing and the creek don’t rise, my brother David and I will be participating the OBX Half Marathon next weekend.
*My job and the many opportunities it provides.
*Mother Nature. Love those leaves and the cool temps.
*A loving Heavenly Father who so generously provided the above and much, much more.

Beach Day

  

Confession. Katherine, Elizabeth, and I didn’t go to church last Sunday, at least not in the traditional sense. Together at the beach on the day before school officially began for all of us on Monday, we decided to visit the strand itself. We told ourselves that we were going worship the Creator in one of His most beautiful and soul stirring “cathedrals,” the beach.

That’s what we did too. To assuage my conscience, I stuck two church magazines in my bag and read one of them cover to cover. As we traipsed along the boardwalk, Katherine suggested that we talk about how grateful we were for all of our many blessings, and right away we began enumerating them: the ocean, the sea birds, the sun, the pretty flowers along the sandy path, family, friends, sisterhood, jobs that we enjoy, energy to do our jobs, the laughter of children, health, the sound of music, their granny (my mother), laughter, and a long list of other things that we thought of. We also discussed how memory itself can be a blessing (depending on what you’re remembering), and we decided to store up the memories of our time together to take out and savor at a later time…when we were feeling stressed or sad.

After about an hour, I decided to go for a walk, and along the way I saw a couple of interesting sights that are still strong images in my mind. First, I spied a young pregnant woman wearing a white bikini. Yes, it was a bikini. What attracted my attention was her calm demeanor and the way she was sitting, almost in what I’d call a yoga position. Then she did the unthinkable. She lifted a cigarette to her lips and inhaled! Gee whiz. What was she thinking??? Doesn’t she realize that when she takes a little puff her baby does too? Feeling perturbed, I looked towards the ocean and saw another mother, this one middle aged. She was standing a few inches in the ocean holding the hand of her teenage son. As I got closer, I could see that he had some challenges, and her obvious love for him touched my heart.

Soon I turned back towards our chairs, and as I glanced to my right, I saw my niece Katherine. Walking briskly, she seemed so determined and intense that I almost hesitated to interrupt her. When I called her name, she turned to me with a relieved, grateful look and said, “Oh Aunt Jayne, I’ve been looking for you. I went walking to clear my mind, and I have no idea where I am.” She had asked two lifeguards and the cute Lemon Quench guy for help but was still “lost.” Finally, she’d prayed that she’d see me, and almost right away, she heard me call her name. Okay, I know some of you skeptics out there might say it was a lucky coincidence. Katherine and I know different.

Walking together, we spied Elizabeth calmly reading, unaware of the drama that had taken place. The three of us munched on Red Delicious apples and drank some cool, clear water as we chatted about the new beginnings all of us had in store the next day. Then reluctantly we packed up our stuff and left for home.  It’s not the way we usually spend our Sundays, but the three of us feel fine about it. More keenly aware of our blessings and of the power of prayer, we’re glad we spent our day at the beach cathedral.

Hiking Thoughts

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“Life’s journey is not traveled on a freeway devoid of obstacles, pitfalls, and snares. Rather, it is a pathway marked by forks and turnings. Decisions are constantly before us. To make them wisely, courage is needed: the courage to say, ‘No,’ the courage to say, ‘Yes.’ Decisions do determine destiny. The call for courage comes constantly to each of us. It has ever been so, and so shall it ever be.”
–Thomas S. Monson, “The Call for Courage,” Ensign, May 2004, 54

When I read this quote by President Monson, I immediately thought of my recent trip to the mountains of Tennessee.  We visited a little town called Erwin, mainly because we learned that there were some nice hiking trails in the nearby Cherokee National Forest. 

At first we sauntered along the trail listening to the birds, the babbling brook, and the rustling trees. The only other sounds were those of our footsteps and our occasional conversation. We were in heaven! All was well. Rested and energetic, we were even more invigorated by the beauty around us. There were campers too, and we enjoyed seeing their campfire smoke and smelling the breakfast bacon.

Soon the trail became a little more rigorous, and DH wondered aloud why we “had to do this.” Couldn’t we just sit on a rock and soak up the ambience? “No,” I insisted. “The deal was that you’d get to play golf and I’d get to hike up (on?) a bona fide mountain trail.” Not impressed with my weak argument, he shooed (sp.?) me ahead. “Go ahead. I’ll catch up.” Onward and upward I went. Soon I noticed another sound: the beating of my own heart! Should I stop? What if I passed out and took a tumble down the mountain?

There were times when the path was so narrow that I wondered if I had indeed wandered off the trail somehow. A couple of times, I had to cross a creek by stepping gingerly and carefully on some huge boulders. Then there was the log lying across the path. Should I go under it, step over it, or view it as a sign to go back down? A family passed me on their way down and informed me that I probably had another hour to go to get to the top. Huh? That couldn’t be. I looked ahead from where they’d come, and my solo status hit me. The trail looked even steeper than the way I’d already traversed, and the silence (except for my heart) was deafening. I asked the family to tell my husband that I was turning back and would be down in a few minutes. I went across another creek, and when I looked back, there was no sign or sound of human life. How did the family disappear so quickly? Feeling uneasy, I headed back, and after a few minutes, I was relieved to see DH and the family.

In my four mile hike (approximately), I was reminded of several truths:

*It’s more fun when someone shares the experience with you.
*When obstacles appear, you have to step over them.
*You meet a lot of nice people on life’s path.
*The view is different at the top…lonelier too.
*It’s easier to quit than to persevere, but then where’s the reward in that?
*There is beauty all around. Sometimes you just have to get away from civilization to be reminded of it.
*The human body is a marvelous thing, especially the heart.
*Nothing worthwhile is attained without effort.