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?

Ellen’s Secret

Yesterday in Wal-Mart, I picked up a magazine and skimmed an article about Ellen. If you’ve seen her lately, you have to have noticed something different about her, a glow that exudes health and confidence. She’s always been an attractive woman, but now she seems especially so. “What is it?” I’ve been asking myself.

Last night I discovered her “secret” as I hurriedly read through the article; it was in Shape in case anyone wants the full version. This is what I gleaned:  she looks radiant and healthy because of choices she made regarding diet and exercise. I don’t remember the exercise part, but I do recall the diet part. In her earlier years, Ellen ate lots of red meat, French fries, and fried food galore. She didn’t feel that great, but she didn’t attribute her lack of energy and blahs to her food consumption.  She’d gain and lose, gain and lose, and then gain and lose some more.

Then one day, Ellen realized that being healthy isn’t about depriving yourself of things you enjoy. It’s about rewarding yourself with things that are good for you. For example, she no longer eats fried food, but rather than looking at it as a deprivation, she looks at it as eliminating something totally not good for her. She’s amazed, maybe even appalled, at the foods she ingested “back in the day,” and now she eats lots of fruits and vegetables and stays away from dairy products and red meat. She views it as a way of nurturing herself, of treating herself well.

I loved the article (at least the part of it that I read) because I, like Ellen, feel something between despair and compassion when I hear women lamenting the fact that they’re “so fat” and that they need to go on a diet. It sounds negative, like they’re going to deprive themselves…and indeed they are. According to Ellen, that doesn’t work. You have to make a commitment to a total lifestyle change. You have to make a commitment to a healthier you, one with energy and confidence. That doesn’t happen with deprivation and self-denial; that happens with loving yourself and making a commitment to health.

So much for the cinnamon buns! Where are those strawberries?

A Larger Universe

When my sister Ann called last night, she could tell that I was in a zone somewhere because she said, “What are you doing? You sound funny.”

“Just thinking,” I replied. She chuckled a little and then asked, “About what?”

I told her that I was thinking about blogs and books and teaching and retirement and children and friends and religion. She’s a smart girl, that Annie, and she quickly turned my (our) focus to religious topics. She said that her pastor had begun a study entitled  HABIT, an acronym for five words that the members were to try to incorporate into their lives. The H stands for HANG, as in hanging with God.

To hang with Him really translates to hang out with Him, to find some quiet meditative time each day to better commune with Him. It could be reading and pondering the scriptures or some other inspirational books, or it could be quietly reflecting on the beauties of Mother Nature. Prayer too is a vital part of this hanging out process.

When she had explained the HABIT practice a little more fully, I asked Ann if she remembered that quietude was my word of the year. Not the month, but the entire year of 2010. Yes, she remembered.

“Well,” I said,  “This hanging out concept fits right into my word.”

“Are you going to write about it?” she asked.

“Maybe. Probably. In fact, definitely.”

There’s so much to be said for spending a few minutes at the beginning of each day to get ourselves focused and calmed and ready for whatever the day might bring. My husband used to gently kid me about my obsession for solitude and once asked what he was supposed to say if someone needed to talk to me when I was getting my soul together. “Just tell them that,” I said. I think the idea scared him a little, but he’d be the first to attest to the fact that I’m a much, much happier person to live with if I can just have a little HANG time in the morning.

Back to Ann. As she was whizzing down the highway with her beloved Allen on the way home from Hartsville last night, I read her a quote by Sue Bender from “A Lesson in Prayer” that sums up my feelings on the subject. She liked it, and I hope you will too.

After writing that her day begins as early as 4:30 or 5:00 a.m., Ms. Bender  continues, “I read one page in each of the small inspirational books. The books change, but they are always ones that remind me that I am not alone, that a spirit larger than myself is at work, a universe larger than my immediate self-interest and concerns. For that I am endlessly grateful.”

The 30-Second Rule

While in Myrtle Beach over the weekend, we visited Barnes and Noble. How I love a good bookstore! This one is within walking distance of our little pied-à-terre (using words like this for the benefit of Martha and Jim) at Seagate. I gravitated towards the bargain books and was torn between one with pictures of China, one about feng shui, and one by John Maxwell entitled The Maxwell Daily Reader. DH reminded me that I could always come to the bookstore to look at the China pix and that I already had about a dozen books on feng shui, so I opted for the Maxwell daily reader. By the way, I only have about ten feng shui books, not 12.

Anyway, I want to share the gist of today’s reading concerning the “30-second rule.” Maxwell reminds the reader(s) that we’ve been taught of the importance of good first impressions and that when we first meet others, we try to make ourselves look good. Reverse that process, he advises, and you’ll find this practice rewarding when you realize the positive impact it has on on others.

This does take some time and effort, however. You don’t want to be glib and full of fake flattery. Sincerity is important. Suggestions include thanking someone for something he’s done for you or for a friend or family member, praising someone for an accomplishment, or simply complimenting another on her appearance. It’s not hard, but it does require effort. It also requires that you step out of your comfort zone.

I think one reason I like this way of thinking so much is because I see it ALL THE TIME in the works of great and/or influential people. There must be something to this, right? For instance, each morning Benjamin Franklin reportedly asked himself what he could do for others that day, and in the evening he asked himself what he had actually done. Thomas S. Monson, President of the LDS church, focuses on service to others and encourages members worldwide to do, say, think, act, and live in loving, giving ways.

So what have I done so far today? Absolutely nothing. The day is young, however, and I plan to rectify my narrow-minded and selfish focus soon. In fact, I think I’ll start in my next class…and maybe I’ll donate some money to the humanitarian aid fund of the LDS Church to help the victims of Haiti’s earthquake.  In the short run, I can text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to American Red Cross relief for Haiti.

First things first. I’m going to post this in hopes that you’ll follow Maxwell’s, Franklin’s, and Monson’s advice. Then I’m going out in the hall and pay someone a compliment.

Do It Anyway

If you read the blog entitled “Guiding Word,” you know that some friends and I choose a word at the beginning of each year to serve as a guide for our thinking, feeling, and acting. If you haven’t read it, you should. Ha Ha. I’m feeling pretty upbeat this morning, perhaps because of the gift of extra morning time. Church begins at 12:30 for those of us in the Camden Ward this year, and generally speaking, my mind works better during the first part of the day.

But I digress. The purpose of this post is to talk about Christy’s word a few minutes: Courage. It’s something we all need a double dose of from time to time, and her post about it is so inspiring that I can’t stop thinking about it. Check it out at http://christypeake.blogspot.com.

Her post reminded me of a book entitled Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. Dr. Jeffers says that people see fear in the wrong way, and that it’s actually a green light to keep going. Trepidation is undeniably real, but we just need to push forward, to feel the fear and do it anyway. Sure, security and routine are safe, but can’t they be a little risky?

Jeffers believes that the killer fear is that you won’t be able to handle something, and she suggests practical ways to help you get to the point where you know you can handle anything that comes your way. You must practice positive thinking every single day until sooner or later the positivity you create will begin to seem more real.  

We all know this already, but there’s just something about Jeffers’ writing that makes you really take heed to what she’s saying. She says we need energizing everyday, and that just like eating breakfast energizes and fuels our body, reading inspirational quotes and books fuels our psyches. Take control of your mental inputs, Jeffers advises. Say things like, “I am a confident person in every situation.” Never be fearful of mistakes. Lighten up and be happy that you had the experience…that you tried.

Wouldn’t be awful to come to the end of your life and still be thinking coulda, shoulda, woulda.  From teaching Human Growth and Development, I’ve learned that the #1 regret of elderly people is that they DIDN’T give things a try, that they let their fears hold them back. By that time, it’s too late to make that call, start that business, write that article, or fly around the world. I don’t know about you, but I will not be one of those people who says on her death bed, “Sure wish I’d taken more chances.”

Jeffers offers a perfect example of how she worked through humans’ #1 fear, rejection.  These are her words lifted right from her website:  “It took many, many rejections before my first book, FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY, was finally accepted by a publisher. The worst rejection letter I ever got was that “Lady Di could be bicycling nude down the street giving this book away and nobody would read it.” Can you imagine being told that? I bet that publisher has regretted that snide comment hundreds of times. What if Jeffers had listened? What if she had given up? What if she had felt the fear and stopped?

I want to be more like Susan Jeffers and Christy Peake. I’m going to feel the fear and be courageous enough to do it anyway. What about you? As they say, life expands or contracts according to one’s courage.

Study Hard

Gee whiz. Call me naive, ignorant, misinformed, or uninformed, but I just cannot understand the hoopla about President Obama’s education speech yesterday. I heard it and felt like saying, “Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for telling the young people of America that education is important AND that it takes a lot of hard work. “ How can the parents of the nation’s children be opposed to that? Don’t they know that education is the ticket to a better life for their little darlings and that it comes with a price?

From teaching Human Growth and Development, I’ve learned that accountability is BIG today. From reading the newspaper and online sources, I’ve learned that most people think that accountability rests with the teachers and administrators, not with the students. To solve these shortcomings and problems, homeschooling, private schools, charter schools, and all kinds of other options have become available. Are they successful? Not always. Not if the parents don’t get involved with the education of their children. Do they check their homework? Take an interest in their courses? Go to parent/teacher conferences?

Last week I read an article in The State by Dr. Steve Millies, a professor at one of SC’s colleges, and I found myself thinking, “You’re so right!” I could identify with his experiences completely. He sometimes asks his students if they think he should be accountable for making sure that they learn, and they always say yes. He then asks them how many completed the reading for the day’s class, and perhaps two or three hands remain up. What a glaring disconnect between what students expect from their teachers and what they are willing to do on their own!  Folks, I see this attitude in my classes every day.

I agree with Dr. Millies in his assertion that we indeed have a problem with public education in America. I also agree that that the problem doesn’t rest solely with the schools and teachers but also with the parents and students.  Turn off the television set and read a book.  Listen to our president. He knows what he’s talking about

Same Sweet Girls

New York 08 009Our book club met Thursday night at Kathy’s house, and although we were few in number, we had a great meeting. Translation: The discussion was healthy, dynamic, and “on track,” and the refreshments were yummy. The book Kathy chose was The Same Sweet Girls by Cassandra King, and I highly recommend it for anyone (female, that is) who’s looking for a summer read. It’s not deep or rife with philosophical ponderings, but it struck a cord with those of us who were present that night. We’re all Southern women “of a certain age” who’ve had many life experiences, thus enabling us to identify with the “same sweet girls” in the book.

Although there are several directions this blog could take, I’m going to write briefly (sort of) about the importance of friendship and the commonalities of our female experiences. In King’s novel, six women who met in college have remained friends over the years, and they meet twice a year to have a long girls’ weekend. The dynamics between them seem pretty fascinating at first, and then you realize, “Hey, that’s just like me and my friends.”

One of the things we discussed was how likely it would be for six people to remain fast friends for 30 years, so close that they actually sought out each other’s company year after year.  Plus, despite their rivalries and “pairings,” they all seemed to genuinely care about each other. Do you know anyone who gets together twice a year with five other friends from college? Sometimes life gets in the way of those get-togethers. Then too, choices (too many to go into tonight) lead people in different directions. My college roommate lives in Montana, and we see each other for a weekend once every two years.

Back to the story. Connie brought up the fact that while we might not have decades-old friends that we get together with regularly, we all have friends whose lives we share. She has some fun-loving SSGs that she regularly goes on jaunts with. She also has “us,” her church friends. Then there are work friends, high school friends, neighborhood friends, family friends, and the list goes on.  In thinking about my life at the moment, my work and church friends make life in the midlands much richer than it would be without them.  Oh, and lest I forget, my facebook and blogging friends are phenomenal. In fact, I got more birthday greetings on facebook than I ever have in my entire life!

I love my friends, old and new, but it’s the old ones I’m thinking about tonight.  The five of us in the picture above have known each other since we were children. Between us we have 11 children, several grandchildren, some broken marriages (of which we aren’t proud). Judy is the only one who’s still married to the same man she said yes to 40 years ago. Well, that’s not entirely true. Jeanita is still married to the same man, but they divorced for a few years until he realized what a gem she was and begged her to come to Texas. That’s my interpretation anyway.

We all walk different paths in life and have different careers, styles, interests, hobbies, personalities, and religious beliefs (at least I do). We know each other’s families and histories. That seems like a little thing, but it’s not. It’s cool knowing that Jeanita’s father looked like a movie star, second only to my own father. It’s great thinking about Joan Ella’s mother singing in the choir with mine and that she had younger brothers named Benny and Kenny. Speaking of singing, Patty had a wonderful voice and often sang solos at church. We both had dark hair, cut straight with bangs, and once Mr. Monty, the minister, got me confused with her and asked me if I would be singing that morning. Ha ha. Judy too had brothers, three of them, and since we went to different churches and schools, I didn’t get to know her well until our high school years.

Gee whiz. It’s time to get ready for bed, and I haven’t even gotten to the important part of this blog…the part about whether or not the women in the book were crazy and whether all women are crazy or just Southern women. I say their lives are not that different from all of us. Who hasn’t got a skeleton in her closet? Who hasn’t had her heart broken slap open? Who hasn’t cried over a child? Who hasn’t suffered disappointment or looked sickness, death, or tremendous loss right in the eye? Guess I’m going a little overboard. Maybe I’ll get more into this tomorrow.

Connie, if you’re reading this, could you share your two cents’ worth about crazy Southern women?

This Too Shall Pass

fence-shotWhenever I’ve found myself in a tough spot, I almost always have the presence of mind to think, “This too shall pass.” Whether it’s a time of heartache, a period of loss, a season of disappointment, it always passes. Sometimes it might be giving blood, and another time it could be walking the floor with a colicky baby. Whether a brief moment of disappointment or  years of pain, it always passes.  

Monday I had somewhat of a wake-up call. Cruising along I-95 towards my daughter’s home near Savannah, I was listening to Eckhart Tolle read his book, A New Earth, on my iPod. I had tried to read the book a few months ago but found it hard to stay focused. Listening, however, was different, better. Anyway, he mentioned the above statement, and I thought, “Oh yes, wisdom of the ages.” But this is when he said something that I’d thought of many times before, just not in the context of this phrase. (He actually said, “This too will pass,” but I like using shall, so…….)

So this is what Tolle said that rocked my world, at least for a few moments. “This too will pass” relates to all the good stuff too–the happy, joyful, exhilarating, giddy moments of life. Yes, I already knew that, and yet there was just something about being reminded of it on the way to visit with my daughter and her family that resonated with me. Although I was only in their home a couple of days, that phrase came back to haunt me (in a manner of speaking) many times. Everything is so transient that it’s a little scary to think about.

Carrie is the mother of four very busy little people, the oldest of whom will turn 6 in a few weeks. The baby was born in February, and two beautiful little girls are in-between these two boys. Consequently, Carrie’s life is busy and zooey. Whether it’s laundry, food preparation, dish washing, floor mopping, or chauffeuring  the children to school, dance, church, or baseball, she’s the girl in a whirl. Yesterday I volunteered to watch the baby and Emma, an impish 2-year old, so that Carrie and Brooke could go to Wal-Mart for some basic provisions. She was delighted to be able to go with just one child, especially since it was one that is usually pretty obedient.

I reminded her (that’s my job as a mother) that these crazy days and sleep deprived nights would pass, that one day she’d be able to shop all day to her heart’s content in any store she wanted to. Right now, however, some great stuff is going on. As we were chatting, Emma and Brooke were both holding their baby dolls, and Emma had just said, “Don’t cry, Baby. It’s okay, Baby,” in the most soothing voice you can imagine. Soon thereafter, I painted their toenails and fingernails, and Emma actually squealed with delight. All this time Carrie was nursing the baby, something that only she can do. She had her eye on the clock the whole time because soon it’d be time to stop everything, strap the children in the van, and pick up Braden from school.

I  know I’m not  doing justice to the concept, but hey, this isn’t meant to be an English essay that I’m getting graded on. I just want to get across the strong impression that I received Monday that NOW, right this very moment is where life takes place. Now, not yesterday or some hoped-for tomorrow. NOW.

The picture is of the three older children taken about a month ago. As you can see, their attire is a little “different,” but that was a day in the life of the Maseda family…already gone. I’ve always been pretty good at it, but since Monday I’ve been making more of an effort to consciously notice and appreciate the moments. Why? You know why…because this too will pass.

Widen the Circle, Part II

Amanda, are you reading this? I hope so because you’re the one who’s prompted much of my recent thinking about the importance of friends. In a recent blog entitled “Widen the Circle,” I mentioned that Amanda and I had talked about the adjustments we both had to make in moving to new areas. Both of us realized the importance of making new friends, and both of us stepped out of our comfort zones to do so.

How did we do it? For one thing, we both became involved in book clubs. Before I moved back home, I asked DH what I would do with my time when not working or hanging out with him or cleaning my house…er, make that “homecaring.” I told him I thought I might start a book club. “Surely there’s someone like me in good old historic Southern Town USA,” I said. He looked at me and declared that no, there was no one like me anywhere. Gotta love the guy!

He was wrong. After being “home” for three months, I started a book club at the two-year college where I’m employed. That was nearly seven years, and it’s still going strong. There are months when only three of us have attended, but for the most part, it’s an active group of about seven or eight. We usually meet in a restaurant of the facilitator’s choice, and it seems to be working well. In response to the LDS Church’s focus on literacy, some friends and I started a book club, a.k.a. reading group, which grew out of our association in Relief Society. That was five years ago, and we’re still meeting regularly in a different member’s home each month.

Because of these associations, I’ve read books that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, AND I’ve met some phenomenal people. Quick case in point: Kristi is quiet and demure at church, but I discovered quickly that she and Michelle LOVE Pride and Prejudice, the book and the movie. I’m thinking of one night when the two of them, with great passion, shared a movie clip of that misty morning on the moor with the rest of us. Speaking of people, Amanda too is part of a reading group in Atlanta. Since Paul has Tuesday and Thursday night classes, she decided to “widen her circle” by joining a reading group, and I’m extremely interested in a book she was telling me about, something to do with women and geography.

About the books themselves, we have some guidelines that we go by. Basically, we stick to novels, and in the church related group, we don’t read what one member referred to as “trash.” Of course, we all have different definitions of that so if someone is offended by a selection, then she doesn’t have to read it. What a wonderful way to get to know others better. We exchange ideas, socialize for a bit, and go away feeling a bit more knowledgeable.

A couple of months ago, I began attending a Bible study on Esther at First Baptist, and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s over now, and the facilitator has begun another one for the Wednesday night crowd called “Wising Up,” a study of Proverbs just for women. I’m loving it. I’ve always enjoyed learning, and this is great because there are no tests and no papers to write. Plus, I enjoy the camaraderie and exchange of ideas with the other women there. I discovered last week that I’m probably the oldest gal there, but that doesn’t matter. I enjoy being with young and old and all ages in-between.

One motive for writing this blog was to encourage people who are reluctant to move outside of their comfort zone to do so. Look in the newspaper for local events or happenings and GO. If someone asks you to join a book club, and you like books and people, say yes. Amanda did, and so did I.

Another motive was to write something that would fit Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote about people being interesting. Here it is: “If you approach each new person you meet in a spirit of adventure you will find that you become increasingly interested in them and endlessly fascinated by the new channels of thought and experience that you encounter. I do not mean simply the famous people of the world but people from every walk and condition of life. You will find them a source of inexhaustible surprise because of the unexpected qualities and interests which you will unearth in your search for treasure.”

Website Help

Last year I went to a SC Writer’s Workshop in Myrtle Beach, and one of the things I learned is the value of self-promotion. I’m not a forward person so this was/is hard for me, yet I realized that if I ever wanted to get my work “out there,” I needed to do a little something to give it a nudge. So I came home and developed a website and have been playing around with it ever since. In On Writing, Stephen King says you need a First Reader, and in my case, I had several of them. Jeanita, however, offered the best food for thought when she asked, “What are you trying to do with it? I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do when I read it.”

Ah, eye opener. Thanks Jeanita. What I want to do is to make my transition into retirement a little easier, a little less scary. I’m using the next couple of years to ease into it so that on DAY ONE, I don’t wake up feeling purposeless. 

That said, the major purpose of the website is to sell some books, and as a means of doing so, I’m willing to meet with various groups to discuss principles in the book. For those not interested in reading about the spiritual musings of a missionary mom, I’d be happy to meet with community, church, or other interest groups to discuss topics like health, goal setting, improving mental health, overcoming depression, leading a more effective life, finding happiness and just about any other psychological topic. I’m about maxed out on the neural impulse though. Just so you’ll know.

Another reason for the website is to give my other writing projects a preliminary workout. Right now, for instance, I have a couple of book ideas and am interested in stories, anecdotes, illustrations, and other types of contributions from you. At the present, I have a contest going on about LOVE that ends on February 28. There’s a prize for the winner whose entry will be featured on the website and in the forthcoming book, The Spell Was Cast.

So please check it out at www.jaynebowers.com and give me some feedback at bowersj55@hotmail.com or bowers.jayne@yahoo.com.  What do I need to do to make it more user friendly? What should I do to make the purpose more clear? If you have any suggestions to help improve  improve the look of the site, please send them along to one of the email addresses. And be kind; use some tact. Like everyone else, I’m tender on the inside.

And please, please, please enter the contest.