Backyard Wedding

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I went to a beautiful backyard wedding last night, Carol and Randy’s.  On the way home, we talked about what made the event especially nice, and we finally decided that it was EVERYTHING. From the setting to the music and food and special combination of people, we loved it. Oh, and then there’s the fact that love was involved; that always adds the icing on the cake (quite a cliché, but still true).

It rained all the way to Sumter, and the closer we got to the house, the heavier the showers became. When we arrived, the bride’s son-in-law was standing barefoot in the drive, umbrella overhead, directing guests back to their cars to wait it out. The family had been closely watching the weather reports, and all were confident that the storm would pass by 5:00.  Sure enough, the downpour turned to a light sprinkle, and by the time we made it to the backyard, we put our umbrellas away. I loved the symbolism of the cleansing rain followed by the life-giving sun.

The back yard was beautifully decorated, and as we waited for the nuptials to begin, we watched as several close friends and family members wiped down tables and chairs, one of whom was Marna. She had come from Wilmington and at the moment, clad in her wedding attire and white tennis shoes, was working diligently to help sop up the rain with a thick towel. In case you’re wondering, yes, she later changed from the wet tennis shoes to a pair of stylish white sandals. (Marna, we miss you at CCTC!)

The music was provided by two of my co-workers, T-Bo and Jackson, and by Brent, a fabulous DJ; all three did a great job of adding just the right musical ambience to the evening. The co-worker duo played their guitars, and T-Bo sang a few of Carol’s favorites including “Love Remains.” It was beautiful, and I became quite emotional as I listened carefully to the words of the song. I think the setting beneath the trees, glistening after the spring showers, added to the sentimental feelings. And lest I forget, two birds soared high between the treetops during the vows, a sight that seemed to say, “We’re in love too!”

Vows complete, Carol’s brother, a minister who had conducted the service, pronounced them husband and wife, and everyone clapped.  As the afternoon and evening progressed, people chatted, danced to the DJ’s selections (each carefully selected by Carol and Randy), reunited with old friends, ate scrumptious barbeque and the fixin’s, shared stories, and laughed a lot. Everyone was happy for the couple and grateful for love, sweet love. I met a couple who met (or re-met?) at their 15th high school reunion a few decades ago and married not quite two months later. We chatted briefly about the importance of timing, but before I could hear more about their romance, my hubby snagged me to go to the drink table with him.

I must share this. While we were eating, Nancy, a friend and techno-savvy person, came to our table and asked each couple for advice to give Carol and Randy. It was impromptu, but I think we did “okay” in our brief videotaping segments. Rex and Patricia advice was to remember that each of them loved the other more than anyone else in the world. In their case, whenever either of them gets perturbed, they think, “No one loves me more than Patrica (or Rex),” and that thought quells acrimony or annoyance. Patricia went on to say that although he doesn’t drink coffee, Rex gets up every morning and fixes it for her. One day when he didn’t have time to prepare it (can’t remember the reason), he went to Baker’s Sweets, a local eatery and coffee shop, and bought her a cup. That’s love. The rest of us gave some pretty good advice too, but I don’t have time to write about it now. Maybe later.

People drank peach tea and wine, ate fruit and wedding cookies, and savored barbeque and rice. They thought about love and families and connections. “The sun comes up and seasons change, but though it all, love remains.” A good time was had by all, and I hope the Brileys have a long and happy life together.

Birthday Request

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There’s nothing like a birthday to make one pause and reflect on where she’s been, where she is, and where she’s going. Serious reflection is even more likely when the celebrant is crossing the line between middle and later adulthood. That’s right: 65.

Years ago I came across William Hazlitt’s pronouncement that no young man believes he will ever die. “True for young women too,” I thought. If young people truly thought about the inevitability of their own demise, they’d probably do things differently, with more gusto and verve. They’d say yes more often to opportunities, adventures, and experiences and no more often to obligations that involve drudgery or cause resentment.

What’s the meaning of life? Does my life have meaning? Are people and relationships and connections (even those across time and cultures) what make life rich? These and dozens of other questions crossed my mind last week. To be honest, I think about those sorts of things quite often. I think it was Socrates who said that an unexamined life is not worth living.

I’m not sure (is anyone?) about all of the answers to the above questions. I do know that people count and that relationships need nurturing. I know that everyone you see is, has been, or will be fighting a hard battle. Everyone needs a hand, a hug, or a smile from time to time. Sometimes people need a lot more.

Last week when one of my daughters-in-law and I were chatting on the beach pondering such issues aloud, I told her that Thomas S. Monson, President of the LDS church, always asks for the same birthday request each year: that each member do at least one good deed on his birthday. He needs no gifts, and nor do I (but don’t tell my husband or children that!).

Seriously, what I’d like for a belated birthday gift is for every one of my friends, relatives, and acquaintances to do something nice for another person. This could be paying for their meal in a drive-thru, giving a few dollars to a homeless person (even if you disapprove of what you think he might do with the money), spending time with a child, or simply paying someone a compliment. Mark Twain said that he could live for two months on a good compliment, and really, how hard would it be to give one???

About spending time with a child, this has one major qualifier. Make sure you give him or her your undivided attention. Put your cell phone away for a few minutes and really get to know the little one better. Recently I read about a person who said he could see a child’s internal light begin to dim when trying in vain to get his dad’s attention. The father was holding the child on his lap but was too tuned in to Facebook, a game, or a news report on his phone to even look at the child. Come to think of it, it’s not just children. It’s anyone we’re in a relationship with. Could you turn off the television for a few minutes and actually look at the other person while he/she is telling you something?

Enough instruction! You know as well as I do what constitutes something kind. Just go out and do it for my birthday. And me? When talking to my daughter Elizabeth, I told her that I was going to try to do 65 good things for people this week.

“Why not make it this month, Mom? A week doesn’t give you much time.”

So from now until the end of August, I’m going to commit up to 65 charitable (loving, nice, kind) acts. Later today, I’m going by a neat store called Coccadots and get some cupcakes on the way home from Myrtle Beach. I’m giving four of them to a special group of teachers, the Core 4, who teach at Aynor Middle School. And I’m counting this as four nice things instead of one. I have to get to 65 the best way I can!

What about it, Folks? What is something nice you can do to make my first chapter of later adulthood better? Will you accept the challenge?

Up, Up, and Away

“Are you going to blog about this?” my brother Mike asked as we left the marina.

“Probably,” I answered in reference to the parasailing adventure we’d just shared with his wife Lisa and daughter Sarah Beth.

We’d been talking about doing it for quite some time, but time and circumstances kept interfering. Then things came together for us since, lo and behold, we were all going to be at the beach at the same time. Plus, it was Mike’s birthday weekend, and we all wanted to commemorate it in a special way, something besides going out to eat or blowing out candles on a prettily decorated cake.

After researching the various parasailing businesses in the Grand Strand area, Mike decided on the Marlin Quay Marina in Garden City, and I’m glad he did. From start to finish, the experience was marvelous. Well, truthfully, I got more than a little airsick, but that wasn’t the fault of the crew, the boat, or the parachute. The young men who took us out and up were courteous, helpful, pleasant, and respectful in every way. By the latter, I mean that they didn’t act like we were just another group of those darned tourists that they had to be nice to.

After getting in the boat, one of the young men helped us into our harnesses and then we rode out into the ocean. It was lovely. Peaceful and serene, the sea and sounds brought a feeling of excited calm to all of us. Does that make sense? We were lulled into calmness by the sea and sky and yet eager to have our moments above it all–eager, not afraid.

Sarah Beth and I were first. We each held on to the ends of the long bar, and as we began to ascend, we grabbed the harness straps. Slowly and gradually we went up and out until we could no longer make out the people in the boat. I remarked to Sarah Beth that being up so high really put things into perspective. That is to say, earthly things like challenging relationships and pressing deadlines didn’t seem that important.

We talked about marriage a moment or two, and about that time, I noticed a slight queasiness (not because of the topic!). I think the combination of the earlier boat ride and the gentle rocking of the seat combined to make this gal feel as sick as a dog. A nurse, Sarah Beth suggested that I put my head back. I tried that for about five seconds, but I immediately became aware of every single sensation pertinent to my equilibrium, and it was all out of whack.

“Wish I had a cell phone so I could tell them to bring me down,” I remarked.

“I’m sorry you feel so bad,” Sarah Beth responded. “But hey, your orange toenail polish sure looks good.”

“Oh thanks,” I managed to reply.

“I think Mom and I are going to get a mani and pedi later at the mall. Want to come?” SB asked.

“I just want to get back in the boat and lie down,” I answered.

I’m beginning to sound like a spoil sport, and I need to clear up any misperceptions anyone might be having about parasailing. It is awesome with a capital A, Awesome. In fact, awesome in all caps, AWESOME. To be between the clouds and the ocean is an ineffable (hope my friend Martha likes that word) experience that I will definitely try again. Next time, I’ll just take something for motion sickness ahead of time.

After about fifteen minutes, we were back in the boat, and it was Mike and Lisa’s turn.

Excited and happy to be sharing this adventure together, they laughed and chatted until they were out of sight, and from what they told me afterwards, the lighthearted banter continued throughout the ride. They even saw some dolphins; we did too. Although they were far away, we could see them playfully dipping in and out of the water.

Mike and Lisa rejoined us about fifteen minutes later, and the captain turned the boat around and headed back to the marina. On the way, I again noticed a few people standing on what appeared to be a seawall built far out into the water. When I asked about it, the captain’s mate (getting tired of writing “the young men”) told me it was located at Huntington Beach State Park.

Throughout our experience, the captain and his mate answered all of our questions and volunteered some interesting information. FYI, if you’re interested, the best day of the week for parasailing is Saturday. Since it’s a turn-around day for tourists, the marina is too as busy. The four of us chipped in and bought a camera card with 131 pictures that the mate took throughout the excursion. I’d highly recommend this is you want to recapture the experience. The shots were so incredibly good compared to the few that I took with my iPhone.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! My daughter Carrie wants to try it, so the next time we’re together around a beach, you can guess what we’ll be doing…going up, up, up, and away.

To the Oceans White with Foam

This chronicle of our Fourth adventures might be getting a bit old so I’ll keep it short today. Besides, I’m here at the beach again, and the ocean and sky are calling my name. My brother and his wife and daughter and I are going parasailing in just a little while, something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time.

Back to the travelogue, from Friday the 5th through Monday the 10th, we savored every moment at the beach. Well, I did anyway. Otis doesn’t love the coast as much as I do, but he managed to stay busy helping an old friend with some renovations to his condo. Still, we both enjoyed dining out (Gulfstream and Salt Water Grill) and getting together with some old friends.

As usual, I did a lot of beach walking and reading and people watching. Just a couple of comments about those activities:

*Beach walking is good for body and soul, and evidently a lot of other people feel that way too because there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of us walking along the strand. Going from the hard packed sand and then into the edge of the lapping waves…well, it’s sublime.
*And the reading part. I’ve been re-reading two of Leon Uris’ books, Mila 18 and QB VII, and I just have to say that anyone who’s moaning and groaning about what a tough life she has in America needs to read those books, especially Mila 18.
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About the people watching, I enjoy watching the children frolic and build sand castles, the people sitting in chairs reading or chatting, and the young people playing ball (or catch or something). Yesterday a little toddler with a huge happy smile gave me a rock. I put it in with my shell collection as a reminder of the morning. One last comment about the people. I have to ask WHY? Why do so many people expose their jiggling tummies and derrieres? It’s painful to see. I know, I know. I don’t have to look, and yet unless I wear a blindfold or keep my eyes shut, there’s no way to avoid those sights.

Oops, time to get my bathing suit on and head to the beach for my adventure. Sure hope the reality meets the anticipation of this. To sum up our week of celebrating America’s birthday,

 “From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.”

From the Mountains…

Thanks to the generosity of some of my in-laws, we were able to spend part of the holiday week in the mountains of Tennessee. We arrived in Sevierville on the Sunday prior to the Fourth, and shortly after our arrival, the womenfolk went to the local Wal-Mart for provisions. Just gotta say that I’ve been in several Wal-Marts in tourist areas, but I’ve never been in one as crowded as this one. It was “craxy,” extra crazy.

Natrually, I don’t have the time to write about everything we did  and saw (and who would want to read it anyway?), but I do want to record some of our goings-on. So this post is going to be a cross between a journal and a travel diary. Maybe someone reading it will be motivated to go to the Pigeon Forge area and be better informed about what to see and what to avoid.

Before chronicling the events and area attractions, I want to put in a plug for exercise. Truly, there’s no better way go see an area than walking. Every morning we were there, I got up early and walked around Sevierville, and because of this, I saw things that no one else in our group did. I particularly enjoyed seeing the nearby Tanger Outlet come to life as the employees came in to work. I also saw pigs flying at Old McDonald’s Farm. Plus, I ate  ice cream and apple pie without gaining an ounce…carrot cake too.

Every day was unique in its own way, but Monday was probably my favorite because we went to the Smokey Mountain National Park and enjoyed some of that “purple mountain majesty.” While the rest of my party enjoyed a film in the Sugarlands Welcome Center, I walked to Cataract Falls and communed with nature. It was a short walk, .4 mile each way, and relatively flat. At the falls, I met some new friends from Florida, Maya and her grandmother and aunt. I took several photos of them posing on the rocks, and Maya took a couple of me.

I rejoined the group, and we then traveled through the park until we found the perfect picnic spot. And yes, I mean PERFECT. It even had the proverbial babbling brook (or creek?), and there were picnickers all around us. Although the temperature was around 100 degrees, we were shaded by magnificent trees that cooled us off a bit. After eating the sandwiches (complete with fresh summer tomatoes) and chips, Tammy and I walked out on the rocks (love her youthful spirit!) to join the other people enjoying the cool mountain water. That’s when I noticed my Florida friends approaching. They too wanted to walk out on the rocks. Naturally, I took their picture again, and they took ours.

We packed up the remains of our lunch and headed to Cades Cove. I just have to tsay that although I LOVE the beach, this is an awesomely beautiful area. Even though I took several photographs, none do justice to the peaceful, lovely spot in the Smokies. It’s an 11-mile auto tour with several stops along the way. Time prohibited a stop at all of them, but we did visit two old churches and a gift shop disguised as a general store. At the latter location, there were (are) several other structures including an old house and barn. Just walking on the property and absorbing the positive vibes of the place is an experience I’ll always remember. I didn’t want to leave!

If you’re fortunate enough to go to Cades Cove and are wrestling with which stops to make along the way, make sure that the churches are among them. The Primitive Baptist Church has the loveliest resting place (cemetery) that I’ve ever walked through…and I’ve been in my share of cemeteries! Inside, the church was hot as all get out, and I wondered how in the world those worshipers of long ago  kept that spiritual feeling going.

We also visited the Missionary Baptist Church down the road a bit. Originally part of the Primitive Church, its members spilt because of a disagreement about whether to do missionary work or not. The second church was a little larger and had wonderful lighting (from the large windows); it even  had a small vestibule, and I liked thinking about those long ago people stepping through it on their way to the sanctuary. As the icing on the cake, we even got a little religion that day since Tammy read some verses from John to Karen and me. Interestingly, there were several Bibles and hymnals in each church. Nice.

Even the exodus from the park was memorable. The trees, the deer, the turkeys, and the blue haze of the mountains all around us combined to make it an unforgettable ride. Too, being surrounded by my fellow Americans on every side added something to the excursion too! We all especially loved watching the antics of the little boy sitting in the back of the convertible in front of us. Full of life and energy, he kept us entertained.

Back at the resort, the men grilled chicken on one of the community grills. After a delicious meal, we watched the Olympic trials and made plans for the next day. Stay tuned for traveler information!

Take the Time

What am I saying? Connections are important. Things like parties and signings and dinner dates with friends take time, but they’re important. Take the time for them!

I was a little tired after Wednesday’s 180 mile drive to Rincon, GA to see Braden on his 9th birthday. His great grandmother and I went down for the day so that we could share a Dairy Queen lunch (Braden loves that place) and some birthday ice cream.  After a few hours, we hopped in the car for the return trip.

Then on Thursday, the weekend got off to a great start with a movie at the Nick with Melissa, Martha, and Brenda. We went to see Kid with a Bike at the Nickelodeon and then walked down Main Street to Hunters and Gatherers for a bite to eat. When Brenda asked if anyone wanted to do some hunting and gathering, I thought she was asking if anyone wanted to go shopping! I didn’t know about this cool restaurant on the corner of College and Main, a superb location to soak up the ambience of downtown Columbia. That night there was some mellow music wafting outside to our table on the sidewalk, and we loved it. Loved the huge orange sun setting in the west too.

Then it (the weekend) got even better on Friday with Whitney’s pool party followed by a dinner date with Connie and Tilara. Whitney is turning 7 tomorrow, and her parents hosted her party a few days early. Although I couldn’t stay at the celebration very long, I can still hear the kids squealing and splashing in the pool. I joined my buddies at Salud for a great meal as we commemorated yet another birthday, Tilara’s. To our delight, there was a band playing that night, and I recognized the keyboard player from the night before.  Mellow and relaxing, the music set the tone for some good conversation and unwinding.

On Saturday, there was the book signing at Nephi’s Books, and afterwards, I scurried off to Wal-mart to get some last minute provisions for a honeymoon shower that we were hosting for Chris and Angie that evening. It turned out to be a fun event with lots of good food, especially Cindy’s and Judy’s yummy desserts. Mrs. Bowers’ slaw and Karen’s baked beans were a big hit too. And just in case you’re wondering, my fruit tray from Wally World also got some praise.

Sunday morning’s services were especially enjoyable. The speakers were awesome, and today I’m thinking of Brenda’s humorous opening sentences and Zach’s well-organized and confidently delivered talk. His parents have every reason to be so proud of him. And Primary was enjoyable too. The little children are funny, sweet, entertaining, and “fresh.” Their leaders are caring and concerned, and it makes me even more convinced that Primary leaders just like the ones in our ward were instrumental in helping to teach, guide, and love my children into the people they are today.

Church behind me, we scooted over to Irmo for another birthday celebration, this one for Olivia Jayne who turns 2 on Tuesday. She danced, talked, put on jewelry, ran around with boundless energy, devoured a chocolate cupcake, squealed with delight when her Uncle Matt threw her up in the air, and in general, just held her grandmother in awe as she (I) considered how much she had grown and changed in two short years. Olivia’s parents had come to Atlanta with their two little ones to spend Memorial Day with Amanda’s brother and his family, so I got to see the whole gang. Loved it! It was especially gratifying to see Ethan, my youngest grandson, being held by his paternal great grandmother.

Back in town, I scooted up to the hospital to see my aunt who’s recuperating from pneumonia. As an added bonus, I got to talk to one of my cousins, Sue, and to look at some beautiful family pictures.

What am I saying? Connections are important.  Things like parties and signings and dinner dates with friends take time, but they’re important. Take the time for them!

Graduation Thoughts

I’m sincerely going to miss graduation tonight. Except for two years ago when my husband and I went on an anniversary to NYC, I’ve been to nearly three decades of them. I can’t state an exact number because in the early years, faculty attendance wasn’t required. As time went by, however, the event became bigger and of greater importance.  That was okay by me because I enjoyed the pomp and circumstance and the excitement of the graduates and their families.

The sure knowledge that I would have a full life without attending graduation was one of the factors that let me know it was time to retire. There were others that I don’t have the time or inclination to recount tonight. Suffice it to say that there were several. Okay, here’s just one. My daughter Carrie was expecting her fifth child, and teaching on a full-time basis would prohibit me from jumping in the car and driving the three hours to her house just because.

My  husband and I have often talked about how a person needs to know when to hold them and when to fold them, and last year when I took off my cap and gown, I know that it was time to fold them. So off we went to Myrtle Beach and had a midnight breakfast at a Waffle House. I still remember the young man working there that night. From Virginia, he shared some of his life story with us, and I gave him the big pep talk about getting an education.

This year we’re in Helen, GA getting ready to go out to dinner. It’s probably going to be German cuisine instead of waffles and bacon. We’ll be walking down the streets of Helen trying to find just the right restaurant about the time my friends and colleagues are sitting in their hot robes witnessing the accomplishments of their students and enjoying the ambience of the evening. I’ll be there in spirit (whatever that means exactly).

As my friend Martha said on facebook earlier today, lots of young people have overcome many odds to walk across that stage tonight. So have many older ones! To quote Martha, “Blessings rain on  them!”