Grits and Ice Cream

I’ve been slack in the blog department lately. I haven’t been slack in writing, just in blogging. Now that the manuscript of my book is complete, I’ve been working on the not-so-fun stuff like getting all of the front matter components ready for submission, copy editing, proofreading, and learning about the Chicago style of source citation. Before I go any further with this, let me say a word or two about the book. It’s something I’m self-publishing with Inspiring Voices, a house associated with Guideposts. Does it bother me to go this route, the self-publishing one? Not at all. Sure, I’d prefer to have a contract with a major publisher, but well, that’s a subject for another day.

This morning I’m postponing my editing and jotting a few things down so that I won’t forget some thoughts and impressions of the weekend. If you’re interested in some ramblings of a regular person describing some specific events and revelations, read on. If not, then feel free to skip forward to the next blog. However, I can pretty much guarantee that something in here will strike a responsive chord if you stick with me.

Friday was what my husband described as a good day. He’s right. We got to do and see several things that wouldn’t have been possible had we been living in another country, say Libya, or if we’d made different choices in our younger years. For instance, if we had dropped out of college and taken a different career path, we’d probably have to work on and on and on and not had the freedom to have a play day on Friday. Our son-in-law Kacey remarked that he’d sure like to have a Friday off to do what he wanted to, and I glibly replied that if he worked another thirty years, then he could. Choices, choices, choices.

Before we saw Kacey, we had already visited Whitney’s school for Grits for Grandparents. It was a delightful experience. Not only was the breakfast tasty, but the ambience was energizing and fun too. Loved the ice crystals in the orange juice. Kids were laughing, holding their grandparents’ hands, and gaily greeting each other. I haven’t been in a school cafeteria in a couple of decades, and this one was especially nice.

Scenes of the Lugoff community were painted in murals all around the room, and we particularly liked the one of the old Pecan Station, a landmark that stood for years in the fork of two main highways leaving Lugoff for Columbia. Whitney’s favorite painting is of the bridge between Camden and Lugoff, and she took me over to get a closer look. Giggling, she pointed out the tiny mouse sitting in a float, chilling on the river.

We chatted with several children and adults while in the school, and every conversation, sight, and sound told me that while there might be some things we could improve in public education, there is also some excellent stuff going on. For instance, Aunt Brenda who works at the school, reminded us that it would soon be time for art, thus stressing the need for structure and schedules. There were people everywhere, big ones and little ones, and it was fascinating to watch the interaction between them. Being in school prepares children for what’s ahead in life, whether work or community service or being a stay-at-home-mother. A person has to learn how to interact with others.

Moving along, we then visited with Kacey at his restaurant and were amazed and impressed with the changes he’s making. With an hour before we were due at Sallie’s school for ice cream, we stopped by Lauren’s to see Baby Charlie. Lauren was volunteering at Hannah’s school that morning, and I thought of how marvelous it would be if more mothers could and would spend a few hours per week at their children’s school(s). Not only would it send a clear message to the children that education is important, but it would also help the teachers.

Jumping in the truck, we then headed to Sallie’s school in Blythewood for an ice cream party arranged for grandparents. Sallie seemed genuinely glad to see us, but as soon as she’d eaten her chocolate ice cream, she was eager to get up and run and play with her friends. It was delightful to watch all of the children run and play with such energy and joie-de-vivre.

Leaving Blythewood, we ran errands and then went to see The Debt. Two of six people in the theatre, we couldn’t help but note the merits of coming to an earlier show. We could sit where we wanted to, and it didn’t cost as much. Munching on popcorn, we sat back and enjoyed the show. “Enjoyed” might not be the exact word I’m looking for here. While it was riveting and suspenseful, it was also unsettling at times, and I still feel a little tightness in my chest when remembering the train station scene.  Helen Mirren was excellent; so were the rest of the cast.

Saturday was spent “homecaring,” writing, walking (training for OBX half marathon in November), shopping, and attending a birthday party for a two-year-old. His grandmother had invited me, and I rarely turn down a opportunity to celebrate, especially when cake and ice cream are involved. Luckily for me, there were some “sisters” there, and we chatted about girl stuff. Little Jacob’s sweet mama is in Charleston receiving chemo this morning, and my thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.

Sunday was great. Before, during, and after church, I picked up a lot of food for thought. For instance, I began the day by rereading some of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and was enlightened on why men should be the heads of families. It has to do with emotions and is too involved to go into this morning.  Although I was at first inclined to differ, I could soon see Lewis’s point. More on this later!

At church, what I primarily thought about was the importance of families. Neither years nor distance can completely separate us; we’re connected. For some reason, I felt especially near to my parents yesterday. It was almost as if their spirits were close-by. (If my sister reads this, she’ll declare that I’ve gone bonkers so let’s keep it between us).

After a pizza and salad lunch with DH, I worked on a photo journal book that I’d purchased from Living Social (great deal), read, and walked. Later we watched a Madea movie, and in-between the laughter, I kept thinking that it’d be so cool to have someone like her in charge of kids today. We both loved the part when she slapped the smart-mouthed, disrespectful child not once, not twice, but several times. He never had a problem saying, “Yes Ma’am” after that. It’s not that we advocate harsh physical discipline. It’s that we think children should respect their elders, mind their manners, and do what they’re told. If they don’t, they’ll have a tough row to hoe in the working world.

So yes, it was a nice weekend. I was reminded of the value of attending school and of the terrific job the teachers and staff members are doing. I got to visit schools, attend a birthday party, glean some gems from reading, rub shoulders with some of my favorite folks at church, create a photo journal about the beach, and view a couple of really good flicks. I also got to talk to Izzy and see Michelle’s pink sparkly shoes, things that wouldn’t have happened if I’d stayed home from church. And lest I forget, I got to walk under a full moon and while talking to my daughter and one of my brothers on the phone. It’s all good.

Hey Grandmama!

After eating our kids’ meals, we all got Dilly Bars, and at the children’s request, we toasted each other with them. “Here’s to summertime!” everyone exclaimed. Then, “Here’s to families!” Indeed. Here’s to families! Whether departed, separated, present, or distant, they’re awesome.

Nothing deep or ponderous today. Just a few recollections of the days I spent with Carrie and her family last week. As mentioned in a previous post, my daughter gave birth to Seth Michael a couple of weeks ago, and I went down to help her out with her other four children.  They range in age from 2 to 8, and they’re pretty typical children. By that, I mean that they’re active, inquisitive, busy, noisy, demanding (when’s lunch???), demonstrative (I got lots of hugs and kisses), entertaining, and distracting.

When I look back over the days and nights there, everything sort of melds together into one long day. So what I’m going to do is hit the highlights. Since Rich, my son-in-law, was off on Saturday, I seized that opportunity to go to the library to do some work. Anyone who’s ever tried to do any serious reading and grading knows it can’t be done (at least not well) in a noisy environment, especially if little people are crawling on you and trying to play with your computer.

Hence, off to the library I went. Two hours quickly passed, and I gathered up my “stuff” and headed to the car. It was so hot!!!  While hustling to the car trying to get out of the heat, I heard a precious voice say, “Hey Grandmother!” I looked up and there was blond haired Emma running towards me from the park. She and her dad were on a daddy/daughter date, and her request had been to have lunch in the park. Though he was HOT and miserable, Rich had agreed to her plan, and when I drove off, the two of them were sitting side by side, Rich listening away as she prattled on about something.

Sunday was an interesting day, nice and memorable but kind of slow. It rained, and that kept us all inside. The girls dressed up in my Sunday clothes, experimented with lip gloss, and posed for pictures. Braden drew and colored, and Colton, well Colton basically was his usual adorable little self. I love to hear him say, “I take nap.” Yes yes yes yes yes.  Later in the day, I put on my Susie Homemaker apron and made some snicker doodles, and they were a big hit. For dinner that night, we had bagel bites and cookies. Sounds good to me!

Every single night I was there, Emma would burst through the door at some point in the early morning hours and join me in the single bed in Seth’s room. It was a tight squeeze, but I couldn’t refuse the little imp.  On the last night of my visit, Brooke joined us. That was the evening/early morning when I gave up on the idea of sleep. I sat in the rocking chair and read my Kindle while watching the little princesses sleep.

Speaking of nighttime, I love the fact that 8-year-old Braden likes to read before going to sleep. Anytime to read is fine, of course, but there’s just something special about losing yourself in a good book before dozing off. Braden uses a flashlight; I use a book light.

Carrie’s birthday was Tuesday the 2nd, and one of her friends made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. As a birthday gift to Carrie, Cindy offered to keep the four older children so that Carrie, Seth, and I could go to Savannah for lunch and a tiny bit of shopping. We dined at the Olive Garden, her favorite restaurant, and although the air conditioning was on the fritz that day, we enjoyed our Italian cuisine and mother/daughter conversation. Seth is an angel baby so far and allowed his mother to eat without so much as a whimper. Our shopping consisted of Carrie going to Publix while I sat in the car with the sleeping baby. 

On the evening before I left to come home, Carrie and Rich went out to celebrate her birthday and left me with all five children! We all survived. Later we had cake and ice cream, and Carrie opened her gifts. I can’t wait to see her wearing the beautiful jewelry from Braden and Colton. I know that Germ-X from the girls will come in handy too.

If you’re still reading this account, you’re either a family member or a true friend. Interestingly, the more I write the more I remember. I won’t go into it all, however. I’ll just briefly describe our visit to Dairy Queen on my last day with the Masedas. It was wild and crazy and wonderful. After eating our kids’ meals, we all got Dilly Bars, and at the children’s request, we toasted each other with them. “Here’s to summertime!” everyone exclaimed. Then, “Here’s to families!”

Indeed. Here’s to families! Whether departed, separated, present, or distant, they’re awesome.

Making a Place

Today’s my last day of full-time employment with the state of South Carolina. It’s been a grand ride. I’ve met literally thousands of people who have enriched my life in the most amazing ways. I’ve had the opportunity time after time after time to feel the magic in a classroom, that moment when a student “gets it,” when he connects the dots and sees how the concepts actually apply to his life.

I’ve heard it said many times that if you want something to happen in your life, something new or exciting, you have to make a place for it. I think that “place” (I hope my friend Joey will overlook those quotation marks if they’re used incorrectly) could refer to both physical and psychological space. It could even mean time and energy.

That said, today is a most exciting day. It’s the last day of full-time employment with the state of South Carolina. It’s been a grand ride. I’ve met literally thousands of people who have enriched my life in the most amazing ways. I’ve had the opportunity time after time after time to feel the magic in a classroom, that moment when a student “gets it,” when he connects the dots and sees how the concepts actually apply to his life. Then there were the moments of laughter and pure unadulterated fun. Yes, that’s allowed in a classroom, at least in mine.

I’m not going to walk down Memory Lane this afternoon. I’ll save that stroll for another day. Today I just want to emphasize that it’s time for a new chapter to begin, and the only way for me to get there is to make some room. Hence, I’m freeing up some time to pursue other interests and explore different opportunities.

Yes, I’ll miss my work buds. I’ll miss my little office too. What I won’t miss is leaving home every single workday at 7:00 a.m. to drive to Sumter or Bishopville for an early morning class. Nor will I miss those night classes. Like Oprah said in her farewell show, “Been there, done that.” My husband and I have plans for Monday morning. We’re going to have breakfast at the local Huddle House, and I plan to sit by the front window so that I can have a good view of all the working stiffs racing by on their way to schools, banks, hospitals, and offices. 

Then I’m coming home to read, write, walk, and put some of my dreams into action. I might even take a real estate course. Yes, I know it’s not a good time to do that. I don’t care about getting rich; I just like looking at houses, and I think I might be pretty good at matching people with just the right home. I might help my sister-in-law Karen in her new business, and she won’t even have to pay me! I’m going to spend more time with my children and grandchildren. Atlanta, Conway, and Rincon (alphabetical order), here I come!

 We’re also going to do some traveling, and Otis has begun a travel fund for us. Alaska is first on our list. Maybe this fall we’ll go on a road trip to New England just to see the leaves. Why not? I’m making a space for it. Some of my friends and I love NYC, and I’ve started a little fund for that too. On my next trip, I’m going to see/hear the Brooklyn Gospel Choir. I’d also like to see where Abraham Maslow grew up. And I never tire of visiting Ellis Island, the MoMA, or the Museum of Natural History.

Between all the goings-on, I’m making a space for writing. I’m having a couple of pieces published in the next few months, and I have a half a dozen books on the back burner. I can’t get to any of those projects, however, unless I make a space for them. That’s why today is my last day.

Okay, let’s back up. It’s my last day of full-time employment, not the last day of employment period. When classes start again in a couple of weeks, I’ll be teaching a couple for CCTC and one for HGTC (online).  I’m excited about that and have already been collecting material. For instance, I just learned that obesity is the second cause of premature preventable death in America. Smoking is number one.  Can’t wait to share that with my Human Growth and Development classes.

In the meantime, my husband just stomped upstairs where I’m working and told me that I needed to make some space to walk around up here. All the office “stuff” is scattered about and is driving him crazy.

A Bride and a Baby

It’s funny how life goes along in a somewhat predictable way, and then BOOM, a whirlwind comes along and turns everything upside down. Knowing that not everyone in the world is interested in the goings-on in my family and yet wantingwith those who care, I’m going to hit some high points.


It’s been a busy, eventful, fun, exhausting couple of weeks. It’s funny how life goes along in a somewhat predictable way, and then BOOM, a whirlwind comes along and turns everything upside down. Knowing that not everyone in the world is interested in the goings-on in my family and yet wanting to share with those who care, I’m going to hit some high points.

First, there’s Jenny, a.k.a. Mrs. Kacey Carbery. She and Kacey tied the knot on the 15th of July after a busy few days of events. Actually, for Jenny, it had been a busy few months, but for the rest of us, many of the parties and celebrations occurred in July. They’re a much-loved couple, and their friends and family went all out to prove it. Because of their marriage, I met some truly interesting and delightful people, and I hope our paths cross again. In fact, we’ve been invited to spend a couple of days in Victoria, Canada next year on our way to Alaska.

Then one day last week, I started cleaning out my office. It’s too daunting a task to tackle in one day so I’ll be traveling to Sumter again soon to take the rest of the pictures off the walls and the books off the shelves. A friend asked me if it was hard, and I had to admit, “Not really.” My attitude is that I’ve had an office for a long, long time, and now it’s time to move on to whatever’s next. Luckily for me, we have a little room above the garage where I can read and write. It even has a skylight so that I can watch the changing sky.

Then my grandson Seth was born. What a precious baby! My former husband and Elizabeth and I spent last Wednesday in the hospital with Rich and Carrie, Seth’s parents, as we waited for his arrival. After the doctors determined that a C-section wouldn’t be necessary after all, we then had to bide our time until Mother Nature took her course. We walked, talked, snacked, dozed, read, and waited. And then we waited some more.

Finally, the moment arrived when it looked like the birth was imminent, and the doctor shooed us out of the room. A moment later, the door cracked open a little as Rich peeped out and asked if I’d like to come inside. I was so excited!!! I’d never witnessed a birth before and had been saying that all day in the hopes that the parents would take the hint. Having that experience was awesome and  unforgettable.            

As the nurses were cleaning the sweet newborn and putting silver nitrate in his eyes, I stood beside him and talked to him in my most soothing voice. Then the funniest and most marvelous thing happened. He opened first one eye and then the other and looked straight at me. I LOVE thinking that I’m the first person he saw and that perhaps the sound of my voice comforted him somewhat during his first scary moments of earth life. Soon Elizabeth and Frankie rejoined us in the room, and everyone got a turn holding the precious little fellow.

Elizabeth and I then went to Rincon, GA where my daughter Carrie lives and began caring for her other four children. They range in age from 2 to 8, and they kept their grandmother and their aunt busy and “engaged,” a word I’ve heard a lot over the last few days. I could go on and on and on about our special time together, but I’ll save that for another day. I just have to mention, however, that I love how Emma used a wet washcloth to subdue her blond curls so that she could make a good first impression on her new brother. She also took a pink purse to the hospital like a big girl.

That was last week. Now I’m back at home trying to finish the semester, and I’ll go back to Rincon later this week to help Carrie as her household adjusts to its newest member. Until then, end-of-the-term journals and assignments are calling my name. And then there’s the office thing. I wonder if Holly, the director of security, will make me turn in my key.

Braden’s Big Weekend

With every goodbye, there’s the promise of another hello. Of course, it’s also true that with each hello, there’s the shadow of goodbye. I don’t want to think about that right now though. I want to concentrate on the promise part. It was hard saying farewell to my children and grandchildren in the church parking lot in Rincon, GA earlier today, but knowing that I’ll see them again soon makes the time apart a little more doable

Carrie, Braden, Elizabeth, and Emma

With every goodbye, there’s the promise of another hello. Of course, it’s also true that with each hello, there’s the shadow of goodbye. I don’t want to think about that right now though. I want to concentrate on the promise part. It was hard saying farewell to my children and grandchildren in the church parking lot in Rincon, GA earlier today, but knowing that I’ll see them again soon makes the time apart a little more doable.

And my goodness, the memories are so special. I know that’s an overworked word, probably trite too, but it’s the best one I can think of to describe my recollections. For starters, at church today Emma probably told me she loved me five or six times and gave me at least that many kisses. She also sweetly asked me, “Why can’t you stop crying?” and then looked at me with great concern. I told her I was happy. She doesn’t understand about hearts being so full that a person’s emotions spill out …but she’s learning.

Then there was little Braden who turned 8 nearly two weeks ago. His father baptized him yesterday, and family and friends from as far away as California came to witness the event and be a part of his special day. Mrs. Crolley and I think it was the sweetest, most spiritual baptismal service we’ve ever attended. Brooke and Emma, Braden’s sisters, said the opening and closing prayers, and I especially loved it when Brooke asked that Braden always be guided to “choose the right.” Amanda, my daughter-in-law, played the piano while Paul minded their darling Olivia. At the moment, I’m recalling how Braden sat swinging his legs while looking up at his dad and doing his best to answer Rich’s questions.

After the service, a crowd gathered at Carrie and Rich’s home for a fun celebration. Braden’s had chosen a Mexican theme, so from the music to the Chicken Enchilada Casserole, his parents granted his wish. Four jumbo sized crockpots simmered with the yummy casseroles, and we had chips and mucho Mexican rice as sides. My niece Katherine helped with the kitchen duty, and without her sweet assistance, the Masedas might have been cleaning up until midnight! A giant piñata filled with candy topped off the evening’s fun, and although all the kids had a chance to whack it, Braden was the one who was successful in knocking it down to reveal the sugary treats.

Did I mention that my daughter and her mother-in-law, Linda, made huge colorful flowers out of tissue? I loved them! They hung from the back porch and sprang from the shrubs in the back yard. Tables were set up in the backyard, and it was cool to see my son and his father seated together at one of them dining and talking with the other men.  Linda also made three delicious strawberry pies, and since I had a challenge deciding between pie and cake, I had both…so did several others. I watched Otis and Fred, Rich’s father, chow down on a sample of each as they discussed golf, golf, and more golf.

This morning, I was in heaven. It’s been a while since I had the good fortune to be with all of my children and grandchildren at the same time in church. It’s not that I’m envious of people who have that experience every week. It’s just that, well, I miss it. It was awesome to watch Olivia stare at the strangers (to her) in the congregation and to see Emma share her My Pretty Pony with her. Olivia had never seen a purple horse with pink hair. Before Colton moved to my row, I watched his tiny fingers rub Linda’s neck. Sweet sweet sweet. Carrie bore her testimony and so did little Brooke and her grandfather Fred.

Rich’s parents will be in Rincon until Tuesday when they fly back to Atlanta.  Everyone else has scattered to their respective homes in GA and SC.  I’ll get to see them all again soon, but in the meantime, I’m thinking of Braden’s big weekend and how his decision brought us all together for a few brief shining hours.

Birds are Singing

I just got in from a hot morning walk, and my mind is abuzz with thoughts of other people and the trials they’re enduring today. For me, all is well. The sun is shining, birds are singing, my children and grandchildren are all healthy, and today is Braden’s 8th birthday. Except for maybe his Uncle Paul, no one can touch that kid in looks and charm.

Walking can be a form of moving meditation, for me at least. I just got in from a hot morning walk, and my mind is abuzz with thoughts of other people and the trials they’re enduring today. For me, all is well. The sun is shining, birds are singing, my children and grandchildren are all healthy, and today is Braden’s 8th birthday. Except for maybe his Uncle Paul, no one can touch that kid in looks and charm.

But other people aren’t having such a delightful day today.

  • When my daughter Carrie bakes Braden’s cake today, I know without a doubt that she’ll be thinking of Spencer, Braden’s older brother who never had the chance to crawl and walk and talk and go to school.
  • Then there’s my aunt who’s mourning the loss of her husband of nearly 60 years. It was a good marriage, but does that make her loneliness easier or more difficult?
  • I have a friend whose divorce is final today, and I know something that she doesn’t.  Nothing is ever really final. There are always after-effects, many of them some painful, that will continue for years and years.
  • I know a woman who’s happy that she has only two more radiation treatments for her breast cancer. The big C has awakened her to the realities of life and death and given her a new appreciation for each day.
  •  I have a beautiful friend whose husband is sick and frail, and her devotion to him is heartwarming.
  • Another friend is recalling a graduation of eight years ago when her handsome young son walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma. Little did she know that his life would end a few months later. Rather than succumb to pain and heartache with bitterness, she uses her grief to motivate young people to make good choices in their lives.

On the plus side, there are some good things happening to the people I care about too. I have a friend who’s beginning a new decade of life today, and I hope she’s focusing on the new chapter ahead instead of looking longingly at the past. It’s Sarah Beth’s birthday  too; she’s my beautiful young niece who has her entire precious life in front of her. Amanda and Olivia are safely back in Atlanta after visiting her parents in Salt Lake City.

My husband is playing golf with one of his brothers. He’ll complain about the heat when he comes home, and I’ll just smile and gently remind him that, “It’s all good.” If he doesn’t get the hint (to stop complaining), I’ll remind him of the people who don’t have a brother to play with or maybe of the people who can’t walk, much less play golf. He’ll say what he usually does, “You’re right. I have a lot to be thankful for.”And you know what? We all do. Even for those who are hurting today, the sun will shine for them again.

Lesson from Braden

Although only 7 years old, my oldest grandson can teach older and wiser(?) folks a lesson or two about gratitude.

I love little Olivia Jayne. She’s so little and fresh and pure. Her beautiful blue eyes just “pop,” and her chubby little cheeks invite kisses galore. She’s the youngest of my grandchildren. Braden’s the oldest, and I sure love that little fellow too. It seems unreal that seven years have passed since he was Olivia’s age and size.

Every time I see Braden, he surprises me with some new behavior or change. It might be that his hair is getting darker and thicker, or then again, it might be that his body is getting longer and leaner. At other times, it’s his actual behavior and personality development that delight me. Here’s an example. This past week, I heard him say several times, “you should be grateful….” whenever someone complained about something. For instance, when his mother was fussing about changing a particularly malodorous diaper of Colton’s, Braden said, “You should be thankful that you have a baby.” Carrie kind of chuckled and said, “You’re right.”

When I  remarked on Braden’s attitude, his mom said that she didn’t know whether he was just naturally that way or whether her persistent reminders about gratitude had finally taken root. Braden is just like other children (and adults) in that he wants things, and when he gets them, then he wants something else. Aren’t you like that? You might think that if only you had an iPad, you’d be happy. Or maybe if you had a Kindle with a Kate Spade cover, you’d be in heaven. Or if you could just have a new car, a steak, a new house, an exciting job, or a chic outfit, you’d be content. But would you? Not for long.

What I think is that being happy is related more to our attitudes than to our possessions. I used to drive a certain friend of mine crazy whenever I’d say, “It could be worse,” and she’d always remind me that it could be a lot better too. She was right, but then, why go on and on and on about how dire things are when you either can’t or won’t change them (at least not right away)? Another friend once asked me if my nickname was Pollyanna as a child because of my irritating (?) tendency to look for the silver lining. But honestly, of what benefit is it to whine and wail about our misfortunes? Okay, complain once or twice, but then either do something about it or keep it to yourself.

Or here’s a better idea. Follow Braden’s example and try to find some redeeming quality in every situation. When I see him again, I’m going to treat him to a big serving of ice cream. He loves the stuff! And even it’s not completely to his liking, he’ll probably eat it anyway and inform me that there are children in the world who’ve never even tasted the stuff. Yep, that’s my grandson! We don’t look alike, but we sure think alike on this issue.

In case anyone is wondering, YES, I struggle with this issue everyday. At the same time, if you have the audacity to complain about how much higher your taxes are on your lake house than your town house, don’t expect any sympathy from me. When someone mentioned that to me yesterday, I immediately got an image of a man I glimpsed from the window of a tour bus in New York City recently. It was about 35 degrees, and he was propped up against a building with his head down, brown paper bag beside him. Jeanita, Connie, Linda, Tilara, Mary, and I had all complained about the frigid temps that day, and we had coats, hats, gloves, and warm beds to sleep in that night.  The contrast between his plight and ours was stark.

 Lake house taxes, huh?

Laughter, Stars, and Other Specifics

What makes Thanksgiving different from any other holiday if you don’t take a few moments to reflect upon and share some of the things you’re thankful for?

 

The moment had arrived for the Thanksgiving feast.  Everyone stood around waiting, knowing that I’d be making a little speech. It was undoubtedly the least profound of my life. I think it went something like, “Well, welcome to Thanksgiving 2010.  We sure hope everyone has a great time, and now I think Otis wants to say something.” He looked surprised and said, “Amen to that” before asking Paul to say a blessing on the food.  

I wish I’d said more. I wish I’d said something deep and moving, something memorable that my children and grandchildren could ponder later. I wish I’d said something like, “As we celebrate this special season of the year, let us be ever mindful of our multitudinous blessings, things like our health, these beautiful children, our great country, our ancestry, our family, laughter, music, the gospel of Jesus Christ, love, stars, the sacrifices of our forefathers and mothers, the power of prayer,….” By that time, one of my children would have probably said, “Mom, we know. We know what you’re saying.”

As it was, I finished my pitiful speech, and we proceeded to heap turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and other delectable goodies on our plates. Using the alphabet as a guide, we sat around our bounteous table and took turns stating things we were grateful for. It’s a corny tradition, but one I still insist upon.  One year Paul tried to take a shortcut by saying, “Everything,” and Thursday I gently chided him about it and told him he’d have to do a little better than that. “What’s better than the truth?” he asked.

What’s better than the truth is specific truth. Specifically speaking, I’m grateful for Braden’s more grown up demeanor. He’s a second grader now and has become quieter and more cooperative. He told me that he wasn’t too good at math, but I’m sure he’ll improve. I probably had a challenge with subtraction too! I’m grateful for Brooke’s sweet little spirit and her motherly attitude with the little ones like Colton and Olivia. And Emma, crazy Emma. I love everything about that little blond tyke, and I enjoyed painting her fingernails and toenails a sparkly pink color.  I painted Brooke’s nails too, but Paul said NO to my offer to paint Olivia’s tiny nails. I’m grateful for Colton’s energy and determination. And Olivia…I’m thankful for her beautiful blue eyes and her serene essence.

I’m grateful that these five children are surrounded by love and that they receive guidance and encouragement every day of their young lives. When we went around the Thanksgiving table recounting our blessings, Rich said darling daughters when he was hit with D and kids when he ended up with K on his next turn. His children know how much their father loves them.  I overheard Paul say, “You’re awesome” to his six-month-old daughter, and she grabbed his face with both of her chubby dimpled hands and squeezed his cheeks.

As I enjoyed the days with my children and grandchildren, I couldn’t help but think of my parents and grandparents and days of yesteryear. My paternal grandfather worked for the railroad, and as luck (?) would have it, there was a train track on a hillside near the villa where we stayed in Asheville. It was the first thing I noticed as I looked out the window Wednesday afternoon, and as we listened to the trains ride by during our stay, I couldn’t help but think of my grandfather. Who knows? Perhaps he rode those very tracks where decades later his granddaughter and her family spent Thanksgiving, 2010.

Miracles Abound

While many people think of events such as the parting of the Red Sea and manna falling from heaven as miracles, I can clearly state that miracles occur every single day. Most of the time, however, we simply take them for granted.

Has the day of miracles ceased? While many people think of events such as the parting of the Red Sea and manna falling from heaven as miracles, I can clearly state that miracles occur every single day. Most of the time, however, we simply take them for granted. The electronic advances we enjoy are awesome and to me, miraculous. So are the physical, cognitive, and social advances my grandchildren are making.

Skype, one of those modern electronic miracles, brings my children and grandchildren into my home. They’re scattered, and I mourn the loss of moments that I’m missing in their young lives. Skype allows me to see the changes that take place from week to week. Their parents see these precious little ones every day, and although they’re quite observant, I wonder if they note the small, barely discernable changes that take place from day to day.

Beginning with Olivia in Atlanta, here are some miracles that I saw Sunday evening:

  • Three and a half months old, Olivia stared at the computer screen as if actually watching and listening to her grandmother. When her father got up to turn on a lamp, she followed his movements, and when he left for a meeting, she watched as he got up and walked to the door. Growing stronger every day, she sat upright in her mother’s arms, and within a couple of months, she’ll be sitting without support. Since the picture above was snapped, she’s opened those big blue eyes and become a more active participant in life around her.
  • A little later, my computer screen showed an image of the Maseda crew in Rincon, GA.  Braden usually has an exciting story or two to tell me, but Sunday evening, he sat quiety in the background reading Endangered Animals, a book I gave him a few months ago. Since he’s only in second grade, I’m sure he didn’t know all of the words, but he was able to recognize many of them. Another “miracle” is that he could sit so quietly and entertain himself.
  • A kindergartner, Brooke showed me how she can now put her hair in ponytails by herself, and this is a big help to her mother.
  • 3-year-old Emma sang “Nephi’s Courage” and pronounced the word “courageous” as if she were saying “candy” or some other easy word. I was spellbound. This is a child who normally makes funny faces instead of talking to me, and yet last night she sang every word of a hymn she had memorized.
  • Colton, almost 19 months old, waved to me a lot and kept coming back to the computer to hug Emma and his mother. The dark brown hair he had at birth has been completely replaced with a headful of blond hair.

This isn’t the most thought provoking post I’ve ever written, and yet I thinking that maybe I’m not the only one who needs reminding that miracles abound. You just have to open your eyes and ears  and maybe even your heart.

Ice Cream Sandwiches for Lunch

From food to clothing and everything in-between, life is lived differently at the beach.

I had an ice cream sandwich for lunch Friday. Or maybe it was more like an appetizer since I ate a Chick-fil-A sandwich mid-afternoon. I live differently when I’m here at the beach. It’s where I come to get away from my other life, the one with schedules and deadlines and demands. At the strand, I try to leave as much of that behind as possible, especially when it comes to behavior and attire.

My behavior doesn’t change drastically here at the beach. I don’t turn into some wild child who frequents clubs and bars. Nope. I’m the same old Jayne, just Jayne without the constraints of home. If I want to go shopping at the Myrtle Beach Wal-Mart at midnight, I will (and have). It’s an amazing place at that time of day/night. If I want to read at 11:00 in the morning, I will. For some reason, reading just for fun is something I see as sort of a guilty little pleasure when I’m in my “other life,” and I usually restrict times for fiction reading to early in the morning or late at night. Maybe it’s because I’m always in motion, always taking care of business.

I dress a bit differently too. Since any and everyone reading this probably does the same thing, there’s no need to elaborate on this. And yet, here’s one little thing. I’ve seen more exposed body parts on the beach that I ever cared to see. You know what I’m saying, right? Sometimes a person wants to yell, “Hey, cover that up, will ya?” But it’s fine. It’s really fine. Once a person crosses the line between sea oats and sand, it’s anything goes (almost). Most days I’ll don a bathing suit and hat, and at the last minute I’ll throw on a cover up. It stays on until I cross the line and then stays in my bag until I get ready to cross it again.

One of the things I’ve noticed this weekend is an increase in the number of families on the beach. Grandparents, parents, teens, and little ones are ubiquitous up and down the strand (had to use that word for Carol). Some are under tents and umbrellas, and others are right by the water. What they all seem to have in common is enjoyment of each other’s company for one last bit of fun in the sun. Seeing their smiles and hearing snippets of their conversations and laughter makes me happy and sad at the same time. Wish my grandchildren could’ve come.

Quick story. When I was reading Friday morning, I felt someone’s presence nearby, and when I looked up, there stood an adorable 15 month old little girl staring at me. Her mother and grandfather were chatting closeby. When I looked at her pretty little face and said, “Good morning, Sweetie,” she smiled adorably, pointed to my book, and said, “Buh.” She had blond hair and blue eyes, and I found myself thinking that Olivia would be about her size next summer. Will she be toddling along in a yellow bathing suit pointing at books and starting conversations with people on the beach while her parents hover behind her? Hope so.

Time to head to the beach for one last walk before getting together with Mike and Lisa. Hmmm. What book should I take this morning?