How Do You Feel About Love These Days?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Macy’s, Journey, and Westway

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Two months ago, I had the pleasure of taking a whirlwind trip to the Big Apple with four of my favorite people. From this experience, I was reminded that it’s not possible to do even a tenth of what you want to do in an overnight trip. I also learned that talk is cheap. Some people yak and yak and then yak some more about how they want to travel and that they’d LOVE to go to New York at Christmas to see the huge tree in Rockefeller Center, and the next year finds them saying the same thing. And the next year too. You just have to DO IT and stop talking about doing it. Here’s hoping that if I write some of my memories, you’ll be encouraged to “go for it” next year.

On the plane ride home from NYC that Sunday night, I re-read parts of a book entitled The Writer’s Book of Days by Judith Reeves. Towards the end of the book, she urges her readers to use “I remember” as writing prompt. While this is a simple idea, and certainly not a new one, it’s hard to put into practice sometimes. It’s easier to say, “Hey, I remember the summer morning when my oldest child was born” than to actually write about the event itself.

That night after reading Ms. Reeves’ suggestion, I challenged my sister travelers to go home and jot down some of the things they remembered. Although they looked at me as though I’d had too much eggnog or something, I hope that they followed through. I did.

I remember:

  • Watching the cab dispatcher at LaGuardia and admiring his ability to keep everything moving. I also remember seeing a yellow Highlander and wondering if we’d get to ride in it. We didn’t.
  • The wild taxi ride into the city. We were so close to other vehicles that, to Katherine’s delight, we could see their lunch and the books they were reading. When one person gets excited and happy about something, it’s contagious, and before we arrived at our hotel, we were all laughing.
  • Dancing to Christmas music in the lobby with Charles, a bellman at the Hilton Garden Inn, and knowing that this was going to be a wonderful trip. He later danced with Katherine and tried his best to get her to sing.
  • Eating lunch at the Westway Diner, something that’s become a tradition ever since the day Otis and I spied Brooke Shields in a booth there one May day. On the Saturday in December, we had sandwiches and fries, and Elizabeth and I pronounced the fries to be the best we’ve ever tasted.
  • Not being able to locate the Gray Line tour bus and settling for “the other one.” It was okay, but the plastic cover on the top of the bus was old and opaque. We couldn’t see the sights clearly; nor could we hear our tour guide unless we used ear buds. Using ear buds, however, cut out the city noises. It was a trade-off: savoring the sounds of the city or listening to the tour guide’s spiel. I did a little of both.
  • The hundreds and hundreds of Santas and elves doing a pub crawl. I’m still not certain about how and why this event was taking place, but wherever we went, we saw Santas and elves merrily walking up and down the streets and in an out of pubs and restaurants. We were told that they were taking part in an official pub crawl to raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know. I just know it was huge fun to watch them.
  • Katherine and Jeanita wheeling and dealing over scarves and pocketbooks in China Town. Elizabeth later got into the act and bought scarves for the Core 4, a group of work friends.
  • Dinner at La Mela in Little Italy, a high energy establishment with an “interesting” ceiling decoration. We all dined on something different, but I can remember only my choice, clam linguine with clams still in the shells.
  • Joining thousands of other people in Time’s Square after getting back to the city that night. We visited the Hershey store, gawked at the billboards, and bought scarves from what looked like a festive downtown city market, complete with Christmas lights outlining the red roofs.
  • Enjoying a scrumptious breakfast with Elizabeth in the hotel dining room the next morning as we watched the gray and overcast city come alive.
  • Walking briskly to Radio City Music Hall in the misting rain. Drinking in the sights along the way, especially the gigantic red balls and lights.
  • Standing in line at Radio City and enjoying the sights, including a man wearing a red corduroy hat and lots of little girls wearing their winter coats.
  • The moment when Ann realized that our Rockettes tickets were for the 23rd instead of the 16th. No problem. The staff arranged for other seats, even better than the ones we had purchased.
  • The Rockettes and Santa! Marvelous show! Later I told Elizabeth that witnessing such remarkable talent was almost a spiritual experience and that I thought I was going to cry. Trying to hide a smile, she said, “Mom, you did cry.”
  • Touring Rockefeller Plaza and having our picture made in front of the Christmas tree. I also offered to take pictures of other people, something I often do when walking on the beach. We oohed and ahed over the ice skaters and then hustled towards the M & M store. Loved it! Three stories high and fun.
  • Subway ride to and from Macy’s. A nice experience that made me feel that we were in a movie. The next time I go to New York, I’m going to learn how to navigate this system because it’s so much less expensive than paying for a taxi or riding a tour bus. However, I highly recommend the latter for people who are visiting for the first time. If it weren’t for the things I’ve learned on busses, I’d think Battery Park was in Times Square!
  • Buying a chicken shish kabob and roasted chestnuts from a street vendor. Yummy! We had seen the roasted chestnut signs from the taxi on our way into the city, and I remarked that I wanted to sample this treat that I’d sung about for decades—“chestnuts roasting on an open fire….”
  • Doing the Macy’s thing. Jeanita and I have this landmark on our Must-Do List every year, but this is the first time we had ever visited the shoe floor. We asked about Uggs and were directed to the second (if I recall correctly) floor. It was amazing! Shoes, shoes everywhere and not an Ugg in sight. No problem. We were sent to a store called Journey on the corner of 34th and Broadway where we were assisted by a peppy young man. Unfortunately, we spent so much time deliberating over shoes that we didn’t have time to visit the Museum of Modern Art, my favorite museum. Alas.
  • Eating at Z Deli across from the hotel after realizing it was too late to go to the MoMA. Great (tasty and substantive) pizza and interesting ambience. There were a couple of picnic tables in the front of the market/deli, and that’s where we ate as we watched the drizzling rain and enjoyed being together.
  • Riding back to airport through Queens and thinking of how dismal the sky was, yet how the little trees and lighted decorations glimpsed inside of apartment windows gave pause for thought.
  • Enjoying airport snacks while waiting at the gate. The Dunkin Donuts flatbread sandwiches taste better there than anywhere else.

In about an hour and 20 minutes, we landed in Myrtle Beach with memories of street vendors and China Town and Rocketttes and little girls in their winter coats. From start to finish, our adventure lasted less than 36 hours, but the time together and the experiences we shared will last a lifetime.

Okay, Ladies, what do you remember? And what about someone else who went to New York during the holiday season? Do you have a special memory to share?

Feed the Lambs

IMG_3462If you read Saturday’s post, then you know that I spoke on becoming a more Christian Christian in church yesterday. As always, I had gathered more material than could possibly be covered in my allotted 15 minutes, but since I’m pretty good at condensing and paring down, I stayed within my time limit. Though a bit nervous, as I sat on the stand and looked at the faces of those in the congregation, a feeling of peace came over me, and I knew that things would be fine.  

Yesterday, I stayed close to Robert D. Hales’ address found in the November 2012 Ensign. To me, the overall theme of his address was “Feed My Sheep.” If you want to be a follower of Christ, then feed His sheep. While I gave a few examples of how to feed the lambs, this morning I remembered several examples of showing love, compassion, and caring among the the people I’m fortunate to know. With some modification, I’m lifting all of these from Eve’s Sisters http://tinyurl.com/agsyetr.

Here’s a scenario shared by Valerie. She and her husband and small child were shopping in Target when they saw a young couple with a baby. She sensed that they were struggling with deciding what to buy with their limited funds. How could they make the proverbial dollar stretch? Compassionate and caring, Valerie sent up a silent prayer to her Heavenly Father asking that He help this young couple.

She walked on by, and after a few seconds, her little girl asked, “Where’s Dad?” They turned around and spotted him. Wallet open, he was giving cash to the couple. A lump in her throat, Valerie thought of how she had prayed, but her husband had acted. I’m certainly not dissing Valerie, one of the most loving people I know. I used her example to illustrate that at any given time there are people around us who need our help. We just need to be more mindful.

I once slipped a few dollars and a note into an envelope and gave it to a student with instructions to have her eyebrows waxed, something she had indicated a desire to have done. She sent me an email saying no one had ever done anything like that for her before and that she sat in the car and cried when she read my note. That saddened me. Why hasn’t anyone done anything like that for this lovely young woman before? Why don’t I do things of this nature more often?

What we do doesn’t have to be of huge magnitude. If we all perform small acts of service in our own little spheres, I think Christ would be happy. Here are some things that crossed my mind this morning:

  • Lib is the consummate baker, and she regularly bakes her special lemon pound cakes and delivers them to people  to welcome them to the community.
  • My sister Ann, a math teacher, regularly tutors church members and family free of charge.
  • The mother of my daughter’s former obstetrician knits hats for newborns. 
  • Several women of my acquaintance keep a stash of all occasion cards that they send to people who might need a    little encouragement.

We’re all different and should do whatever we can without feeling guilty about what we can’t do. Can you send a card? Can you find the time to just sit and listen to one of your children, a parent, or a friend? Can you pay someone a compliment? I think it was Mark Twain who said he could live for two weeks on a good compliment. How hard is that to do??

Peace and Love

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One of the reasons that I love the LDS church so much is we have no paid ministry. We do it all ourselves, and most of the time, I think it gets done fairly well. At least I’d like to think so. An added benefit of this is that members get to grow and develop their talents.

Lots of people like to go to church, sit there, listen to a sermon, sing a few hymns, and be uplifted and edified. Hey, I like to do that myself! At the same time, I believe in the law of reciprocity, and I think we should both give and take. I recall a quote from a Relief Society lesson many years ago that followed some complaints of women proclaiming that they got nothing from Relief Society. I recall thinking that any woman who says she gets nothing from this fabulous organization must have some loose screws. The response from a church leader was more loving, however, and was in the form of a question like, “My dear sisters, what are you putting into Relief Society?”

So this Sunday I’m speaking in Sacrament, and it’s going to be an awesome talk. Not because I’m a good speaker but because my assigned topic is a great one and because I’m taking the heart of the talk from a recent General Conference address. How can I go wrong? The topic is how to be a more Christian Christian, a better follower of Christ.

One of my brothers frequently tells me of his trip to the Holy Land in the hope that one day I’ll go there. I won’t. It’s too far, too expensive, too dangerous, and from the reports I’ve read, too touristy. What I’ve told him is that I care more about walking How Jesus walked than about Where He walked. I want to be more compassionate, kind, patient, nonjudgmental, and service-oriented. I want to be more like the Good Samaritan and help people who are different from me. I know for a fact that our Creator loves people of all races, creeds, and social classes. He doesn’t care about the size of your bank account but about the size of your heart.

In preparing Sunday’s remarks, Christ’s words to “feed my lambs” and “feed my sheep” keep coming to mind. I needed that reminder, and I’m wondering if Todd knew that when he nabbed me in the foyer last Sunday and gave me this assignment. Hmmm. I think he knew that we all need a reminder to feed His sheep. Sometimes those sheep might be the little children in our homes, and at other times, they could be our neighbors. I was thinking just yesterday of how often I had sheepishly (there’s that word again) skulked by the Salvation Army bell ringer outside of Wal Mart without putting even a dollar in the bucket. What’s wrong with me?? What would Christ have done?

I could go on and on. I just need to post this and get back to my talk preparation. Reading Elder Hale’s conference address inspires me to be a better follower of Christ at the same time that it makes me realize where and how I’ve fallen short. Just like you, I’m a work in progress. For today, I’m going to start practicing the Christ-like qualities mentioned my Elder Hale, Christian love and Christian caring. I’m going to throw in some peace and forgiveness too.

And P.S., If you want to learn more about becoming a more Christian Christian and feel the warmth of Christ-like love,  join us at the LDS chapel on Chestnut Ferry Road in Camden this Sunday at 11:00.

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.”