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!”

Focus, Connie. Focus.

About five years ago, my friend Connie and I began coming up with a “Word of the Year,” something that would direct our thinking and acting throughout the upcoming year. Weary of making resolutions that bit the dust after a few weeks, we thought that a word that could encapsulate several goals would work better. Turns out we were right. Not only did we make most of our decisions based on our individual words, but we also found ourselves permanently changing our behavior. Well, semi-permanently. There are still times when I have to remind myself to have COURAGE, to BELIEVE, and to say YES more often.

After much thought and deliberation, Connie came up with her word last week. It’ s EXPLORATION. Curious, I asked her whether she meant exploration of other places, interests, and ideas or whether she meant inner exploration. Was she planning to take more trips, hike on the Appalachian Trail, take up painting, or discover inner talents? “All of it. Everything,” she answered. And guess what? She’s already started. If the fates are with us, we’re going on a road trip to Washington, DC with a couple of friends later this month.

Enough about Connie. What about Jayne? My word for 2012 is FOCUS. That doesn’t sound as exciting as EXPLORATION, but it’s something I definitely need to work on. Besides, I’m pretty good about the exploring part. I could stand some improvement in that area, but I need a huge amount of improvement in the focusing department. My husband often says, “You just need to concentrate on one thing at a time,” or “If you’d just pay attention and do one thing at a time, you’d get more accomplished…and maybe you wouldn’t misplace so many things.”

Then too, there are several projects I’m working on, and I know that I need to focus on one at a time. Should I correct the galleys for a book I’m self-publishing? Should I write a few paragraphs for a ebook that I’m writing about what every technical/community college student needs to know? Should I clean out the refrigerator? Should I mail the packages to Olivia and Carrie? Or maybe it’s time to clean out some closets. Or no, that can wait. What’s really important is playing Words with Friends with my brother. Then again, classes begin next week, and we’re using a new text for an intro class so I better get busy on that. But not until I start reading this new book I ordered for my Kindle.

See what I mean? I need to focus focus focus focus.

I knew my decision was a good one when I went to church today. During Relief Society, Michelle shared her enthusiasm for a blog she’d read about using a word to guide one’s thinking instead of making resolutions. She encouraged us to use verbs and then shared examples of some words that we might like. Several class members, including yours truly, participated by sharing their words.

Here’s what I found especially interesting. While talking to us about THE WORD, Michelle used some variation of focus at least a half a dozen times. Then Kitty spoke up and said that she needed a word that would help her focus. Another person said that she was trying to focus on gratitude, and yet another said that she was focusing more on being fully present.

So FOCUS is my word for 2012. I’ve already cleaned out the refrigerator tonight. I have my to-do list ready for tomorrow, and I’m going to focus on doing one thing at a time…and on being mindful of the tremendous opportunities and blessings that I enjoy.

What’s your word?

Lesson from Mama

 

The house is quiet tonight, almost too quiet. All of the Christmas company has gone home, the tree has been taken down, and the fireworks commemorating the new year are going off all around my house. As I reflect on yet another holiday season coming to a close, I’m reminded of another lesson I learned from my mother. Christmas isn’t just one day. Well, it is and it isn’t. What she meant is that Christmas is a season and a feeling and that it doesn’t have to be confined to one 24-hour period. When we spend so much time, money, energy, and thought into making the day one of unimaginable splendor and beauty, we sometimes miss the meaning and the magic.

So that’s got me thinking of when I first realized, “Oh, it’s here again!” Was it when I first saw the Salvation Army people collecting money at Wal-Mart? Or was it when I turned in the last grade for the semester? No, maybe it was the day after that when I attended a luncheon at our local CCTC satellite campus. Or no, I think it was actually when I arrived in NYC with three like-minded gals for a day of sightseeing and shopping in the Big Apple. If there’s anyone on earth who can see the Macy’s store windows and the huge “Believe” sign on the front of the block-sized department store and not feel the spirit, that person has some psychological issues.

I did a lot of fun things this season (including the above mentioned trip to Manhattan!), but when it comes right down to it, my most precious recollections have to do with people, the people I love…and some who are strangers too. In no particular order, here are a few sweet memories.

  • Seeing the Salvation Army men dancing dancing dancing in NYC. In front of Macy’s and at Rockefeller Center, these spirited men were entertaining the crowds and raising money for a good cause.
  • Seeing Santa sitting on a bench near Rockefeller Center. Jolly old Saint Nick happily posed for a picture with Kayla, the youngest of our group.
  • My husband’s children and their partners and children joining us on the afternoon of the 17th for food and fellowship. We were especially happy that Kacey could join us this year. And all of remarked on how much difference a year could make. Baby Charlie was walking all over the place, and last year he couldn’t even crawl yet.
  • Earlier that day, we had a Christmas get-together with all of my husband’s siblings and their families. When he and I first got married, these events were held in a home, but now that the family has grown so much, we’ve moved the party to a local church. Santa came. He was jolly and patient, but he couldn’t fool Whitney. “He’s not the real Santa,” she confided in me. “I could see the strap holding his beard.”
  • The night of the 22nd when I saw three of my grandchildren’s faces pressed up against window of the breezeway door. I flung open the door, hugged them tight, and then saw another sight for sore eyes: their other two siblings and their parents.
  • That same night around 11:15 when I heard a tentative “Mom?” It was my son Paul who had stopped over to spend the night on his way to Myrtle Beach where his wife and daughter were waiting.
  • Later that night seeing Paul and Carrie’s heads together as they discussed the merits of various laptops.
  • Watching and listening as the kids opened their gifts on the night of the 23rd. Need I say more about this? Everyone who’s been a child or been around a child can imagine this scenario.
  • The Christmas Eve brunch. I loved having my sibs(two of them) and their families, my Aunt Polly, my cousin Sue & her family, and of course my children here for a fun gathering. Thanks to help from my beautiful daughter Elizabeth, everything came together. We even played Christmas bingo…loved watching Brooke help her father play the game.
  • Following through with a Christmas Eve tradition of seeing a movie; this year it was Sherlock Holmes.
  • Sitting between Otis and Elizabeth in church on Christmas morning as we listened to the messages and the soul-stirring music.
  • Christmas day lunch at my mother-in-law’s house. After all of the feasting we’d been experiencing, we decided on a light menu, subs and cake. Loved that!
  • Monday brunch at Elizabeth’s home in Conway. More yummy food!
  • Having Olivia, Amanda, Paul, and Elizabeth come for a visit in Myrtle Beach and watching Olivia push her new pink grocery cart all over the house. She was wearing her black boots and chatting away. Later we went to Nacho Hippo for a farewell dinner.
  • Shopping for after Christmas deals with Elizabeth the next day. We love Target!
  • Naturally, I couldn’t include everything in the above. Who would want to read all of it anyway?

For some brief, shining moments, we were all together enjoying one another’s presence and remembering Christmases past. On Christmas Eve, I shared a toast with all who were present, and although you weren’t there, you’d like the toast. It was based on the end of a movie, Places in the Heart. My friend Martha had declared its ending to be the best of all movie endings so I had to rent it.

The scene takes inside of a church, and all the pews are populated not only by people who live in the small town but also by those who have “moved on,” either by death or change of location. They’re all partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and although there has been a lot of heartache and pain in the movie, in that final scene, everyone is there…everyone.

What I took from the church scene is that love is the most important and powerful force in the universe and that people who’ve once been a part of your life will always be there with you. You might not be able to see them, but they’re there. Oh and P.S., my mother was right. Christmas is more than a day.

Glassy Mountain Wedding

“Are you going to blog about this?” my brother asked.

“You bet I am,” I said.

What a whirlwind weekend. It was magnificent, mainly because I got to spend much of it with my siblings and their spouses in the upper part of the state. John, one of my young handsome nephews, was there too. It’s always a plus to have someone of the younger generation to keep us informed and up-to-date. Thanks to John, I now have a Dragon Dictation app on my iPhone that I’m thoroughly enjoying. Whodda thunk I could talk into my phone and that my speech could be immediately turned into text that I could send to anotherperson?

Back to the weekend, the primary purpose of getting together was to attend the wedding of Ben and Jessica Fowler. Ben is the son of my sister-in-law Lisa who’s married to my brother Mike. I could go on and on about the wonderful time we had and the memories we made, but that really isn’t the purpose of this blog post.

Okay, maybe I’ll say just a little about downtown Greenville. If you haven’t been in a while, you should. I went for a walk along the Reedy River Saturday morning and found myself caught up in a running event. Fun…as long as I kept to the side of the path. The scenery was beyond description, so I won’t even go there. We all loved the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, the foray into the Mast General Store, and our lunch at a quaint little andwich shop. An added plus was seeing all the little children dressed up in their Halloween attire.

On Friday night, we attended the rehearsal dinner at Larkin’s, and the food, entertainment, and company were all just perfect. My sister-in-law and her friend Elaine had decorated each table in such creative ways that I can’t do them justice with my writing. I won’t even try. Suffice it to say that we all took our burlap  cutlery holders home and that I’m going to tryto duplicate their design for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The holders, by the way, were just one of many extraordinary touches that made the evening delightful. The toasts, the laughter, and the overall ambience of the environment combined to make it memorable.

Later the next day, we went to the Cliffs at Glassy for the wedding. High on Glassy Mountain, there’s a chapel that overlooks the mountains and one of the most majestic views I’ve ever seen. That’s where the vows were exchanged, and I couldn’t help but think that if a person couldn’t feel the “spirit” there atop a mountain and on a level with the clouds, then he or she must have issues. After the beautiful ceremony, the bride and groom asked the entire wedding party to come outside for a group photo. With them at the front and the rest of the party behind them, the photographer stood atop a high hill and took the picture. Then we sipped hot apple cider and savored the chilly autumn afternoon while other photographs were made.

With reluctance, we left the mountain and rode around and around the winding road until we reached the bottom of the hill. At that point, we went towards Hendersonville while the rest of the party headed back to Greenville for the reception. From every account we’ve heard, it too was fabulous. The food, the band, and the beautiful setting were the stuff of memories.

Back to Mike’s question. Although I’ve written a little about the weekend itself, I have even more to say about marriage in general.Weddings always provide food for thought. When you see a couple preparing to love each other till death do they part and so on, it makes you think about what that’s all about. What does that stuff about “in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer” really mean?  Stay tuned for some answers that I picked up from wedding toasts and a little informal polling.