Top of the Rock

It’s amazing what a payoff can come from proper pacing and a little positive self-talk.

About Chimney Rock, it’s an awesome place. I’ve been there several times in my life, but it wasn’t until two years ago that I actually went to the top of the rock. That day we rode the elevator, and later we walked a trail at Hickory Nut Gorge. The waterfall was beautiful, just like everything else around us.

Last week when we visited Chimney Rock again, I was determined to walk the steps to the top.

 “You’re crazy,” my husband declared. 

“Yes, I already know that.  See you at the top,” I said.  “And don’t worry. If I feel like I can’t make it, I’ll turn around and get on the elevator.” He shook his head, probably wondering at my sanity (or lack thereof) and walked away.

Folks, it was quite a workout. I could feel AND hear my heart beating. Instead of being deterred by it, I tried to think of how magnificent an organ the heart is and how fortunate I was that mine seemed to be working so well. I met several people along the way up, among them a couple of young couples that I passed (loved that!). Okay, to be honest, one of the couples stopped to take pictures of each other posing along the trail, so naturally that slowed them down. I volunteered to take a shot of them together, and they were appreciative of that. Hope they like the way the picture turned out.

Heart working overtime, I paused to take some gorgeous pictures of the trees and birds and trail itself.  “A step at a time, Jayne. Just a step at a time. You can do it!” It’s amazing what proper pacing and a little positive self-talk can do. I also thought of something I learned from teaching Human Growth and Development: What most people in later adulthood say they regret are the things they did not do, not the things they did and failed at but the lost opportunities, the phone call never made, the hill never climbed, the trip never taken, the dance not danced, and the song unsung. When I’m in one of my children’s homes living out my last days (since none of them ever read my blog, it’s safe to say that), I won’t be saying, “If only….” It’ll be too late then to even get in the elevator at Chimney Rock, much less climb the stairway.

So I climbed to the top, and I was so happy to see the rest of my party and the beautiful American flag flying in the breeze. We hung around on the chimney taking pictures, relaxing, people watching, and exclaiming over the breathtaking views. Before descending the mountain, we visited the gift shop and the restroom, mainly so we could snap a couple of pictures of the murals there. Regardless of what direction we glanced, there was something majestic to see and remind us that “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.”

 Before we got on the elevator (I succumbed to the not so subtle pressure of my sweet husband), we walked outside once again, and an employee of the park asked us if we wanted him to take our picture.

“That’s part of my job,” he assured us.

“Taking pictures?” I asked.

“Making sure everyone has a good time,” he said.

We did. And you will too. Put Chimney Rock on your “to do” list this year. Even if you don’t make the trip to the top, the town itself is charming, especially now that the river walk has been added.  And don’t even get me started aabout the quaint gift shops, restaurants, and streetscape.

Joann’s View

If you’re open to life and all it has to offer, all sorts of invitations, views, and people will come into your life…even mountain top home tours.

When I woke up this morning, the room was still dark. Even so, I could quickly visualize the tree right outside the bedroom window and the sloping front yard with its dogwoods and crepe myrtles. When my new friend Joann (not her real name) who lives in the mountains surrounding Lake Lure wakes up in the morning, she opens her eyes to one of the most majestic views I’ve ever seen in my entire life. To say it’s awesome is doing her “yard” an injustice. Her house is built on stilts, and she has no yard as such outside of her bedroom, just mountains and a splendid view of Lake Lure.

Meeting Joann was just one of the many delightful events of the weekend, but I’m starting with her because our meeting seemed so serendipitous. Yet, was it really? My sister-in-law Karen and her husband had been staying at Rumbling Bald Resort in the Fairfield Mountains, and Karen had become part of a walking group that met at 7:30 each morning and walked for an hour. The walk had a tour guide who led them on a different walk each day, complete with tidbits of interesting information about the area. I joined them Friday morning, and it was both invigorating and educational.

While we were traipsing all over the Rumbling Bald property, I became better acquainted with the early morning crew.  They were all from other places in the United States whose paths had converged at Rumbling Bald, and I enjoyed hearing their life stories and the circumstances that led them to the mountains of NC.  As we talked, Joann pointed up one of the mountains and said that her house was up there somewhere and that she had the same view of the lake that we were currently seeing, only better. “Yeah, right,” I thought. She invited Karen and me to come  visit her and even said that if she happened to be out, she’d leave the door unlocked. We didn’t really take her invitation seriously until she proffered it once again at parting.

The menfolk were playing golf all afternoon, so Karen and I decided “what the heck” and went up the mountain, around and around and around, until we reached Joanne’s home. It was gorgeous. It looked like one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs and seemed to fit right into the surroundings, partly because of the design and partly because of the materials. I’ve seen my share of lovely homes, but few have had the structure and the surroundings so beautifully matched.  Even the façade of the structure was partially stone, and the pillars looked like slim tree trunks. The inside floors were slate and wood, and pathways around the house were of skillfully laid stones.

Joann invited us in and took us on a tour. She allowed, even encouraged, us to take pictures, and so we did. She even asked us to “sit a spell” on her back porch, and we obliged her in that as well. While there, we discussed God and how He had led her to this perfect place. It was like a gift and one that she well appreciated. We also talked about decorating, children, careers, gardening, and the importance of friends. When we bid Joann adieu, Karen and I both felt that our mini-vacation had definitely been enriched by meeting such a fun, warm, hospitable, ditzy (her self-description) person. When we parted, the three of us expressed the hope that perhaps our paths would cross again.

After leaving Joann’s mountain top home, Karen and I went to Bat Cave and Chimney Rock where we spent a couple of wonderful hours. After eating a creekside lunch, we went back to Lake Lure for a boat tour, and as we were waiting for the tour to begin, we watched a wedding take place on the grounds. Nice. The boat tour was fantastic, and I have tons of stuff to share about that later. I mean, really, why does someone need a 7 and ½ million dollar home????? Boat tour complete, we joined the guys for dinner and a street dance. Fun.

That’s just Friday…and only bits and pieces of it. Later I’ll write a little about Saturday and our trek up to Chimney Rock.  The entire area is beautiful, and I’m wondering if anyone else has some tales to tell about your experiences there.

Sunshine and Shadow

There’ll always be elements of sunshine and shadow in our lives, and it’s our perceptions of each that make us happy or miserable.

This morning while walking a few miles at Scott Park, I was again struck with the contrast of sunshine and shadow, just like our lives. Even when you’re walking in the light, there are some things going on that you could notice and complain about. Some people do, loudly and frequently. “It’s hot as heck,” they say, “and my eyes hurt.”  Then you’re in the shadow. It’s good too, but sometimes you’re so busy feeling sorry for yourself that you don’t notice the slight temperature change or the slight breeze that cools your skin.   

Have you got anything good going on right now? Can you walk? Can you see? Did you sleep in a bed last night instead of on the street somewhere? Will you have lunch later today? Sunday morning before going to church, I spent some time watering my plants and flowers. I was lamenting the fact that I’d spent a small fortune on them, and despite my frequent attention, many were dying. Plus, it was almost unbearably hot, and I just wanted to get it over with and scoot inside to the air conditioned comfort. I was also thinking about a lesson I had to teach in a couple of hours, one that I felt a little anxious about. Although I’d spent hours reading and preparing, I still felt inadequate to adequately cover the topic.

Did you see a few good things going on in the above paragraph? There were several. I have an air conditioned home that has some pretty flowers and plants around it. I have running water that enables me to stand and water the petunias and ferns.  I don’t have to go to a well to get it. I have eyes to see not only my yard but all of Mother Nature’s handiwork. I have the opportunity to worship at a church of my choice…and to teach. I don’t live in a country where women’s voices are stifled. Here’s what happened to wake me up from my pouty, self-centeredness. I looked up. That’s it. I looked up and saw the treetops gently moving with the breeze, and beyond them was the bluest sky I’d seen lately…or at least that I’d taken note of. I gulped at the magnificence of the sight and wondered how many just like it I’d missed because I’d been too busy grumbling or looking down.

Hours later and several degrees hotter, I remind myself that I live in the American South, the land of magnolia trees, grits, and beautiful beaches. Hmmm. Makes me want to reread To Kill a Mockingbird.

Gliding Along

I saw something Saturday afternoon that defies description. Sounds like a hackneyed phrase, but still…it was awesome.

Stressed to the max, I escaped to the beach for about an hour. Why stressed? The end of the semester with six classes (make that seven when you add the online one from another college), Elizabeth’s house closing and all the puzzle pieces that went into that, and then learning that my beautiful young niece had being stricken with spinal meningitis. We didn’t know whether it was bacterial or viral at the time; we just knew that she was in excruciating pain and running a high fever. There were other issues going on too, stuff I’d rather not go into at the moment. I needed my mama to talk to! So what did I do? I went to the strand to walk and think and pray until I regained my usual optimistic perspective. Surely I’d find some solace there.

I walked for a while and then sat in my trusty beach chair to read. After a few moments, I closed my eyes and enjoyed seeing the vibrant oranges and reds and pinks, a regular light show going on behind my eyelids. I don’t how the retina’s cones provided that, but the show was magnificent. Eyes still shut, I became more aware of the squawking seabirds, the laughter of playing children, the roar of the ocean, and the muted, constant hum of nearby conversations.

Leaning back, I opened my eyes and saw a breathtaking sight, four pelicans gracefully gliding above me. Between me and a cloud, their movements seemed almost languid, and yet they were moving along at quite a clip (compared to humans). As the one in front lifted its wings, then the one behind followed, and the one behind, and then….you get the picture. It was a beautiful sight and one I’ll never forget.

Even this morning, as I think of their unity as they moved gracefully across the sky, I feel peace. I could take a lesson: Stay together, be cool, move at a decent (not unduly rushed) state, and glide…just glide. Things will work out. Sarah Beth is on the mend, Elizabeth moved in her new home over the weekend, and well, things are moving steadily forward with my end of semester stuff. I’m gliding along.

A Closer Walk

Yesterday’s worship service was a bit unconventional in that I didn’t actually get dressed in my Sunday best, drive to church, and enjoy talks, hymns, prayers with others. Nope. I needed a “closer walk” yesterday so I went to the seashore and saw God everywhere.

He was in the roar of the ocean, the seabirds gently floating on the water, the small white birds looking out to sea, the people collecting shells, the sun on the horizon,  the sea oats, the sun glinting on the wave tips…and so on. The birds flying overhead in V-formation were awesome too. I walked (more like sauntered) along and thought for the umpteenth time of what a beautiful world our Creator designed for us.

 I also thought of those verses in Psalms where we’re told that we can never go from His spirit or flee from His presence…not even in the uttermost parts of the sea.  He always knows where we are and what we’re up to. I thought of how fortunate I was to have legs, lungs, and a heart that allowed me to stroll along and enjoy the majesty of the morning. I thought of how angry the sea can be at times and how Christ, the Master of earth, ocean, and sky, calmed it so many times. I also thought of how much Christ apparently loved the seashore as much as I do because he sure spent a lot of time there.

Refreshed and calm, I left the strand and headed home.  Today I’m looking at the tiny shells I collected and remembering the peaceful, yet almost joyous, feeling I had when I picked them up, still wet and fresh from the sea.

The Marathon That Wasn’t

A few people who didn’t know the MB Marathon was cancelled because of snow (yes, you read that right) have asked me how I did. Actually, I did just fine because I wasn’t under any pressure to achieve a personal best or even to go the whole distance. I just enjoyed the scenery and the experience.

Here’s what happened. As we were dining on delicious Mexican food at Abuelo’s on Friday night, the snow began to fall, and as we were enjoying our papas and enchiladas, the downfall became so heavy that the truck (yes, we were in my  hubby’s truck) had a couple of inches of accumulation by  the time we left. I’m serious.

Naturally, my husband the planner wanted to talk about contingency plans for Saturday morning. The marathon was to begin at 6:30 a.m., and he always drops me off around 6:00 or a few minutes after. Even under optimal conditions, the traffic is horrendous, and we both knew that the snow could make it a nightmare.  I managed to push negative thoughts out of my mind and insisted that there was nothing to talk about because the show would go on, so to speak.

“How will you get to the show?” he asked. “No one will be traveling the roads, and well, even if the streets are passable, we’ll have to leave here around 5:00 a.m. just to get to the start.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said.

“I’m serious,” he countered. “We’ll need to get up at 4:30.”

“Whatever,” I offered over my shoulder as I left the room to get my “stuff” together for the next morning. I had just decided on the perfect pair of socks when I heard, “Jayne, you need to come back in here for just a minute. There’s something you need to see on television.”

In disbelief, I read the words across the bottom of the screen: “The Myrtle Beach Bi-Lo Marathon has been canceled.” I probably stood there looking like a dork for several seconds. I literally couldn’t comprehend that all of the  training and anticipation had come to naught. Yes, there was snow for the first time in ages, and yes it was breathtakingly beautiful, but….Well, you get the picture. I was upset (a nice all-purpose word).  Within a few moments, I had accepted the situation and had begun to think of it in other ways. After all, the streets and beaches would still be there, and I could walk/jog to my heart’s content without the pressure of finishing in a respectable time. 

The next morning, we took Hannah and Sallie out in the yard to frolic in the snow a bit, and then we decided to take them to the MB State Park. It was indescribably beautiful. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Anyone, including yours truly, who could witness that majestic scenery and remain miffed about the marathon cancellation could only be described as a first-rate grouch.

Walking on the pier was a treat. The winter wonderland was awesomely beautiful, and when combined with the beach itself…well, I have no words adequate to describe it. The little birds hunkered on the pier railings looked at us as if to ask, “What’s happening???” The sandy line between the ocean and the snow was a sight I’d never seen and will probably never see again. I even snapped a photo taken from the end of the pier that included the sun’s reflection in the ocean and the snow on the pier. To top things off, I met a fellow half-marathoner and new FB friend, Sandy Taylor. Somehow, talking to each other made the cancellation less disappointing.

We walked through the gift shop and bought a couple of souvenirs and then walked down on the beach itself. That’s when I parted company with the rest of the family so that I could walk, walk, walk, and revel in the splendors of the beautiful morning. As I began my walk, Amanda called, and among other things we talked about Olivia, the precious baby that she’s carrying and my granddaughter. Great way to start my walk!

I won’t go into all of my impressions and memories of that morning. I do, however, want to mention that although thousands of people who’d paid the registration fee were disappointed and perhaps angry about the cancellation of the marathon, hundreds attempted to make lemonade out of lemons as we walked, jogged, ran, hobbled, ambled, and sauntered along Ocean Boulevard, King’s Hwy, Market Commons, and the beach itself. Some walked/ran together while others participated solo. Some people whizzed by me like lightning while others sort of lumbered along. Still, I loved their spirit(s) of undaunted determination.

Me? I walked 11.8 miles and took tons of pictures. When I got home, DH asked why I just didn’t go the distance. One reason is that I didn’t know how far I’d walked until clocking it in the car later, and the other reason (probably more important) is that I had to save some energy for shopping. That’s another whole story. For now, suffice it to say that Lauren and I found some super good bargains in Homegoods.

Next year, I’ll register again. Why don’t you do the same? I only do the half-marathon these days (old knees, no time to train, etc.), and I’ve read that it’s become the premier event. Your body recovers more quickly, and it’s not as grueling.

Pretty and Powerful

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

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

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

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

Outer Banks Part II

Mural in Manteo

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, some quick recollections include:

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

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

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

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

Hendersonville Travelogue

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It’s official. This year I’m really a hunting widow.  DH frequently says, “When I retire, I’ll go anywhere you want to go because then I’ll be able to hunt during the week and have the weekend free for whatever you want to do.” Yeah right.

Never a person to sulk (at least not for long), I decided that I could either wait on him or begin going and doing NOW. Actually, I’ve always been somewhat of a solo act in some ways because I realized early in my life that I’d never get to go anywhere or see anything if I waited for someone else. Hence, yesterday  my sister-in-law Lisa and I went to Hendersonville for a day of shopping, dining, and apple buying. Although the leaves were still mostly green, the weather was bone chilling (I kid you not), and it was a perfect day for mountain travel.

We left Blythewood a little after 7:00 a.m., and with no men along, we agreed that we were going to concentrate on the journey and not the destination. You ladies out there know exactly what I’m talking about, right? On the outskirts of Spartanburg, Lisa mentioned that she and my brother had memorized where all of the Starbucks locations were along the road. She said it so longingly that I knew she wanted to stop, so naturally I encouraged her to. We got to Barnes and Noble outside of Spartanburg a few minutes after it opened, and while she got her Starbucks drink, I searched for this month’s book club selection (Moloka’l by Alan Brennert) and bought a couple of gifts. Then we noticed a nearby TJ Maxx and decided to take a quick walk-through. How could we not with it being right there and all?  Do I need to tell you how my husband and brother would have reacted to this side trip???

Back in the car and on the interstate, we saw the first glimpse of the mountains almost right away. It’s always a kick. It wasn’t long before we arrived in Hendersonville, and the Curb Market was our first stop. People from nearby communities bring jams, jellies, baked goods, plants, jewelry, pictures, and other merchandise to sell there, and Lisa and I bought some damson plum jam and pumpkin brownies. I also bought the beautiful wreath above. From there we visited a huge antique mall, a consignment shop called Two Chicks, and the Mast General Store. We LOVE that place, and yesterday we browsed through the crowded store sipping hot apple cider with dozens and dozens of other shoppers. After devouring burgers and chips at  Mike’s on Main  (lots of ambience) and a brief visit to McFarlan’s Bakery, we headed to the Sky Top Apple Orchard.

Lisa and Mike’s Camry wound its way to the top of the mountain in Zirconia where we were fortunate to find a parking place. As we walked towards the huge open-air  facility, we saw a long, long line of people waiting for hot donuts. I found that somewhat amusing: the crisp healthy apples juxtaposed to the not so healthy hot donuts. We bought some Winesap, Gala, Fuji, and Cameo apples after checking the place out. There was hot caramel for apple dipping, a dozen or more varieties of apples, apple slice samples, hot cider, hundreds of jars of jams and jellies, and a variety of cake and muffin mixes.

Shivering, we finally made our purchases and headed down the mountain. Somehow we missed our exit and ended up in a little hamlet called Tuxedo. The men would have had a stroke, but we loved our little side trip around the lake. I can’t help but think of how it must feel to wake up every day with the lake on one side of your house and the mountains on the other.

We arrived at Lisa and Mike’s house at 7:35, allowing me just enough time to change and freshen up before meeting DH at the Voice Male concert. It was awesome, the perfect ending to a perfect day. I’m still awed at their talents. “The Shadow of Your Smile” was probably my favorite, but then the chipmunk thing was good too. And so was the “choreography,” if you can call it that. Amazing!

So what’s the point of the above rambling? It’s to remind you (and me too!) that the world’s a great, big beautiful place, and we can either sit around and talk about how we’re going to do this and that SOMEDAY, or we can just do it. Also, when on a trip, we need to enjoy every moment of it, even the side excursions. And finally, even when you’re really tired and just want to go home, add the icing on the cake, that last little event that tops off.

Beach Lessons

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week with Carrie and the cuties July 2009 119

I can’t help it. The older I get, the more lessons I see in just about everything, and this past Friday’s adventure at the beach with Carrie and her children was no exception. In fact, in a relatively short period of time, I was reminded of a host of things. Here goes.

It was a 35 mile trip from Lib’s house to the strand, and on our way we rode in and out of sunshine. Carrie expressed concern over the overcast skies, but I reminded her of how things could be sunny on the beach and raining like crazy a couple of blocks away. We found a parking place at 50th Avenue, and it was lovely.  As we got out of the car and began unloading our stuff (chairs, towels, bags, children) to walk down to the beach, I couldn’t help but notice how lovely the sea oats and other greenery were. They framed the scene so nicely for us that I  made the three older Maseda kids pose for me (see above).

Within minutes, we were basking in the sun and getting our feet wet in the warm water. Carrie was snapping pictures right and left, and all was grand. Then suddenly, Carrie said, “It’s raining.” I turned around to see her gathering up our things, and about that time the sky fell in…or so it seemed. Blinding sheets of rain pelted us, and wherever I looked, I saw people walking, heads down, as fast as they could towards shelter.  Then the wind picked up, and sand stung our legs.

Truly, of all of my decades of coming to the beach, I’ve never experienced such a deluge of rain and windborne sand. It was actually a little disconcerting, especially when I saw Emma and Brooke screaming as they tried to wrap their towels around their tiny bodies. Around and around, they spun. Braden didn’t look too happy either, but he had managed to get his towel around him, thus protecting his skin from the stinging sand and pelting rain.  I had the baby in my arms, and all I could see were his blue, blue eyes searching my face as if to ask, “What’s going on?” Carrie got the truly necessary items, and we left the chairs behind. Once in the car, the children enjoyed their Fruit Snacks, and Colton and I shared a banana while Carrie closely monitored the weather. Within five minutes, it was over. Seriously, the rain and wind ceased completely, and the sun popped out.  The sky was a beautiful Carolina blue with only a few white clouds in the sky.

Again, we trudged down to the strand and got set up again. What followed was a delightful afternoon of sun and fun. Among my favorite memories are Braden and Emma frolicking in the surf. Brooke was more cautious and stayed along the edge of the water. She spent much of her time searching for sea shells, and I’m hoping that she and her mom will make me a picture frame with the tiny shells that we collected. Emma was the daredevil, and once when she tromped out behind Braden and wouldn’t stop no matter how loudly I yelled, the strong surf knocked her down.  I tried to pick her up while holding on to Carrie’s camera,  but again she fell. The current was just too strong. Unfortunately, the camera got wet, but I was able to pull Emma out of the surf. Undaunted, she continued to play in the ocean.  Colton, the happiest baby in the world, slept through much of the afternoon. I took him for a long, slow (he’s heavy) walk, and as I’d look down at his sleeping face, I couldn’t help but remember my own babies and how walking them always seemed to lull them to sleep.

So what are the lessons I was reminded of?  The primary one is that storms always pass; that’s nature’s way.  This is true for “real life” too. The sun always comes out again, and sometimes when it comes out again, the brightness of it is even better than before. Sometimes in life our trials last much longer, but they always pass, and at some point in time, you’ll see a ray of sun shining through.  Even if it’s just a tiny ray, it can give you hope.

Another lesson learned is that we need to travel lightly. People count. So do provisions. We had to get the children to safety, and we left the things that didn’t matter so much behind.

While we were sitting in the car waiting it out, I thought of how nice it was to have a little refreshment to tide us over. It gave the children something to do and took their minds off of the storm for a few moments.

A final lesson is that while you’re waiting out the storm, it’s nice if you have people with you who are positive. Who wants a naysayer awfulizing about something? Carrie and I kept each other’s spirits up by reminding each other of how quickly these storms can come and go.

This is the longest blog post I’ve written in a while, and believe it or not, there’s plenty more I could add. I won’t, however. I’ll just wait and see if anyone comments on any of the experiences you’ve had with storms or about the value of positive people, refreshments, or material things (?) when the going gets rough.