Sowing Seeds

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Although this photograph isn’t that clear, I like it because it conjures up one of my favorite New York City memories.  I’ve wanted go to the Museum of Modern Art since 1998, and I was determined to get there on this trip by “hook or crook.” I’ve visited other museums in Manhattan but never the MoMA (there’s just something about that acronym that grabs me), and I yearned to see Van Gogh’s Starry Night “up close and personal.”

Picture this. It was bitterly cold, and we were all tired and beginning to drag a little. As the afternoon wore on, we realized that there was no way we were going to be able to visit the MoMA and go back to Rockefeller Center for a longer visit. We had actually been there the evening before, but the throngs of people and our need to get to the theater on time precluded much more than a quick walk through. Still, since I’d “been there, done that,” I wanted to go to the museum and was determined to go even if it meant breaking up our buddy system rule and going alone. My pal Jeanita, perennially upbeat and ready for adventure, volunteered to accompany me. The problem was getting there; all the taxis seemed occupied and rushed right by us. Grinning, she pointed to a rickshaw and asked, “Want to?” I was game, and as we sped along Broadway to our destination, we found ourselves laughing like schoolgirls. We certainly had a view of the hustle bustle unlike any we’d had before and were excited to be in the midst of it all.

As an aside, our rickshaw driver was a young man from Turkey who’d only been in America for a month; he was ecstatic about being here, and Jeanita and I were reminded of how fortunate we are to be living in the United States. 

Arriving at the museum, we were surprised and disappointed to learn that it closed at 5:30, and it was already 5:00. Still, I had traveled a long way and waited a long time to see Starry Night, and I wasn’t going to get the late hour or the high admission price deter me. We bought our tickets and found our way to the second floor where the Van Gogh exhibit was housed. My favorite painting was in the last room, and rather than race to it, Jeanita and I took our time (sort of) and enjoyed the hushed, almost reverential feeling of the rooms.

 Anticipation building by the moment, we turned a corner, looked to the left, and there it was: Starry Night. I’m not sure why I like this painting so much, but there’s just something about the tiny town nestled down beneath the swirling stars that touches my spirit. The action’s in the heavens, and yet sometimes we on Earth get so puffed up with our significance (or lack thereof) that we forget that we’re part of a glorious universe. Plus, there’s the church spire pointing heavenward…the cypress trees too.  Jeanita and I stood staring for a few minutes, walked away to look at other paintings, and then came back for a final stare. It was worth every dime of the admission price, and I’m so glad that I got to see it with one of my oldest and dearest friends.

starry-night

But here’s the lesson we learned: Several of the paintings in the exhibit were of people sowing seeds. In fact, it was a little surprising to see so many of them instead of other well-known Van Gogh paintings. As I was staring at yet another faceless person sowing seeds in the ground, I remembered something I had recently read in a church magazine. The message was to walk away from situations in which negative seeds were being sown. Whether gossip, hateful or sarcastic comments, or any other type of negative conversation, the article encouraged the reader to walk away. While I don’t recall the author encouraging the reader to sow positive seeds of encouragement, Jeanita and I decided on the spot that we were going to do our dead level best to do more of that.

A New York Friday

new-york-08-0111Continuing along with the New York chronicles, we began Friday morning with breakfast at Junior’s, a busy, buzzy restaurant in the theatre district near the Milford Plaza, our hotel. Decorated with Christmas decorations galore, the eatery treated its patrons to the sounds of Christmas tunes mingled with the excited chattering of fellow diners and the clinking and clattering of plates, glasses, and silverware.  We loved it. In fact, we enjoyed the experience so much that we repeated it the next morning. If you visit New York and want something a bit more substantial than Starbucks and a pastry on the run, give Junior’s a chance. The price is right, and the wait staff is gracious and accommodating. Three of us had our cameras out that morning, and our waiter actually seemed to enjoy taking our picture(s).

Fortified with grits (a Southern dish that was well prepared at Junior’s), we walked outside in the windy cold and had some conversation with young men who were selling Gray Line tour tickets. To us, it seemed to be the best route since it would enable us to see the city and hear a tour guide inform us about interesting facts. Although most of us had visited New York before, we were (still are) novices and knew we could gain a lot by taking this tour. I’m so glad we did! Did you know that Jimmy Cagney spoke seven languages fluently?

Our primary destinations that day were Chinatown, Little Italy, and the South Street Seaport, and we managed to see them all and have some terrific adventures. In Chinatown, after the five of us were whisked off the street and escorted into a back room by a young, pretty Chinese woman, Joan Ella and Patty purchased some designer bags. I think all of us were interested and intrigued, but there were too many other tourists crowded in there with us for me to even think straight.

Leaving Chinatown, we strolled through Little Italy and savored our saunter down Mulberry Street. Before reaching the South Street Seaport, we managed to glimpse Wall Street and Ground Zero.  After a bit of shopping, we piled onto the ferry and took a tour of the New York Harbor. Much to my dismay and sorrow, I soon learned that the ferry would NOT be taking us to Ellis Island, a stop I had been anticipating since August. I LOVE that place! On a prior trip with my daughter Carrie and some friends, we had visited the island, and I’ve never felt the same about immigrants.  How must it have felt to arrive in the harbor to the sight of the Statue of Liberty, torch held high, and then have to go through long and sometimes grueling processing? Were they afraid? Excited? Anxious?

Tour complete, we jumped on the Grey Line bus and headed back to our hotel to primp and preen for All My Sons, the Arthur Miller play with Katie Holmes. In my humble and uncultured opinion, the absolute BEST performance in the house was by Diane Wiest. I’m still in awe of her giant gift. When the five of us discussed the play afterwards at Junior’s (had to have some hot chocolate and cheesecake before calling it a night), we were pretty much all wowed by her and her onstage husband, John Lithgow.

All My Sons generated another discussion too…one about family secrets, greed, loyalty, and relationships. Sipping our hot chocolate with huge dollops of whipped cream, we talked about how a single act or quick decision by a person can affect his or her family for generations even though descendents might not even be aware of it…or even of who committed what/when/where. It could be something like deciding to take a job in another part of the country or world, hence affecting schools, lifestyle, friends, and so forth. Then again, it might be something like selling defective parts that result in the death of others…even a son who commits suicide when he realizes how greedy, deceptive, and guilty his father is.

I guess the moral of the story is that our acts have ramifications that we can’t predict at the time we’re committing them. If we could, perhaps we’d think twice before acting.

Mamma Mia Afternoon

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Nice picture, huh? Yes, I know it’s a bit fuzzy and that Joan Ella is partially cut off, but I like it because it symbolizes the fruition of several months of planning to go to the Big Apple. We were standing under the marquee of Mamma Mia where we had just picked up our tickets for the evening’s performance,  tickets that Joan Ella had ordered weeks in advance. Wanting to capture the moment, I snagged a passerby and asked her to take our picture. An elderly lady who looked ultra trustworthy, she began to slowly back up more and more as she tried to bring us into focus, and Judy had just commented that it looked like the sweet looking photographer was about to disappear with my camera. That’s why we were all sort of half-smiling.

All of us turned the big 60 this past year, and as we reflected on the rapidity of how of lives were speeding along, we decided to DO IT, to go to New York City during the Christmas season sans our husbands. That way we could do what “girls” like to do:  shop and sightsee and go to plays that the men folk in our lives might not enjoy.  I should mention that all of us went to high school together and had managed to keep in touch throughout the decades, some of us more so than others. What made the trip and our time together even more meaningful and fun is that we all knew each other’s “back stories,” a term I read about in Southern Living that refers to a person’s history.  And what a shared history we have! But then, that’s a story for another day.

This morning, I just wanted to comment on the fact that we didn’t just TALK about “one of these days;” we DID IT. Joan Ella, planner and organizer extraordinaire, put the trip together for us…even getting our airline and theatre tickets. She also arranged for a limo to pick us up and take us to the hotel once we had landed at LaGuardia. All we had to do was show up at Judy’s house at 7:30 a.m. to pack the car and head out for Charlotte.

But I digress. After settling into our tiny rooms, we headed out to the Winter Garden Theatre to pick up our tickets, and along the way we were surely the epitome of tourists who were agog at the sights and sounds of this incredible city. Energy all around us, we fell right into the beat as the exuberance of the atmosphere infected us. So many people…such diversity…such BIGNESS of everything. 

Although this might seem incredulous, before dressing for our evening at the theatre we ate at the Olive Garden. Yep, we did. We came all the way from SC to dine at one of the most ubiquitous restaurants in the United States. But hey, we like pasta and soup and salad, so why not? Besides, this particular Olive Garden is different from any other that I’ve ever visited in that it overlooks Broadway. As we munched on our breadsticks, we saw life teeming in the streets and enjoyed watching the lit-up numbers from the stock exchange circle around the building across the street. Oh, and I LOVE the M & M billboard, and I was able to watch it reflected in the window. We enjoyed our pre-theatre experience so much that we came back for a post-theatre dessert, a decadent black tie mousse.

The production of Mamma Mia was one that I’ll never forget. The immense talent of all of the performers was/is astounding. Just to make sure that I don’t forget any of it, I quickly downloaded the soundtrack onto my iPod and now I get to listen to “Voulez-Vous” and all of the other numbers any time I want to. Seeing the diversity of people in the theatre was a treat too. It was so cool (?) to think of how so many different types of people had all come together at this special season of the year to enjoy a night on Broadway.

There’s plenty more I can and will write about. For now, what I’d like for any readers out there to realize that this is no dress rehearsal. This is life, real life, and it’s very brief. If there’s something you want to do or say or be, what you are waiting for? If not now, then when???? Yesterday, Judy, Jeanita, Patty, Joan Ella, and Jayne were little girls learning to read with Dick and Jane books. Today we’re grandmothers.

Here’s a quote from The Music Man that President Monson recently used in a conference address: “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’ve collected a lot of empty yesterdays.”  President Monson continued, “There is no tomorrow to remember if we don’t do something today.” I feel assured that the grandmothers in the picture will have a lot of yesterdays to remember. What about you?

Sore Legs and Memories

My calves are feeling a tad sore today, a reminder of the miles DH and I walked in the mountains of NC this past weekend.  I’m not complaining, however, for the slight tightness reminds me of our time together as we enjoyed the splendors of Mother Nature. We said, “Look at that!” so many times when one of us spotted yet another breathtaking view that it became almost humorous. Another reason I’m not complaining is because I’ve come to realize that it’s wonderful to have legs that work so well…and a heart and lungs that still do their jobs. DH and I half-seriously commented that one of these days we might not be so blessed to be able to traverse such terrain.

To be specific, the slight but wonderful soreness brings back memories of:  

·         the sound of the waterfall at the top of one of the trails at    Chimney Rock and the cool mist of that same waterfall on my face,

·         the colorful fall foliage,

·         the creek with the humongous rocks,

·         the sound of rushing water,

·         the couple atop Chimney Rock who just celebrated their 52nd year together and their generous offer to take our picture,

·         the coolness of the caves,

·         the “feel” of Apple Valley and the taste of the Cameo apple that we cut with DH’s pocketknife and ate en route to Chimney Rock, 

·         enjoying “Tuesdays with Morrie” at the Flatrock Playhouse in Flat Rock,

·         lessons learned from Mitch and Morrie at the Playhouse,

·         the decorative goats adorning the streets of Hendersonville,

·         the Mast General Store,

·         a sweet deal on a rug from World of Clothing (25% off all rugs during October), 

·         the helpful grandmotherly advice from a knowledgeable lady at the apple barn about which apples were better for pies,

·         and so on and on.

Our little weekend getaway reminded us that there’s a gentler way of life up the road adn that the world is full of beautiful sights we’ve yet to experience.

Discovering Augusta

I wonder if it’s as steamy in Augusta today as it was Friday. It was one of the last Fridays I’ll get to enjoy being off for a few weeks, and I couldn’t let the hours slip away doing the usual things like homecaring (sounds better than housework), shopping, running errands, grading assignments, and so forth.

 

DH had already made plans to play golf with some buddies, so the day was mine…eight hours to do exactly whatever I wished and whereever I wished to do it. After a little internet work so assuage my workaholic conscience, I headed to a local beauty shop where a friend of mine was having a book signing. Her name is Clara Vincent, and she’s 79 years young. I LOVE IT! She’s an inspirational lady, and the name of her book is Faces I Remember. Check it out at amazon.com or authorhouse.com. I enjoyed chatting with her and leaving with my own autographed copy of her book. Sure hope I’ll still be writing and having booksignings at 79.

 

As an aside, many years ago Clara told her daughter Kathy, also a friend of mine, something that I’ve always remembered. It’s a simple statement that sums up love, giving, sacrifice, and all the other good things associated with mothers. (Sure hope Hayden is reading this.) “As long as I have a biscuit, you’ve got half.” I liked it so much that I’ve stressed it with my own children and husband.

 

I then headed out for Augusta, a city only a little over 100 miles from where I live, and yet I’ve never visited it. On my to-do list is the commitment to visit at least one new town per month. “Why do you want to go there?” my sweet husband asked. “There’s nothing in Augusta except some golf courses.” What can I say? He’s a guy.  I had fun just browsing in the different antique shops and ended up buying some small juice glasses decorated with yellow palm trees. How unique is that? Have you ever seen any? I didn’t think so.

 

I also found an old framed botanical print of May that looks perfect in my foyer; it serves as a reminder of our May wedding several years ago and the vows we made. In that interesting shop, I also conversed with a lady who’s never turned on a computer; nor has she used the GPS in her Lexus. My assurances that if I could learn, she could learn fell on deaf ears. Leaving with my May print, I sauntered out to find a quick lunch. Choices, choices. I ended up dining at the Blue Moon Café and then walked over for a quick look at the River Walk before heading for the Augusta Mall. I wanted to walk around it, but the blazing sun and excessive heat shouted, “No Way!” Maybe next time.

 

Using my trusty GPS, I drove out to the mall and passed some interesting and scenic places including the Medical University of Georgia, the Veteran’s Hospital, and some lovely tree-lined neighborhoods.  The mall looked inviting, but since time was short, I opted to go in TJ Maxx instead and came out with a few goodies, prizes for my new contest on the website. Puh-leez check it out at www.jaynebowers.com and participate in the contest that ends on August 15. It’ll be fun for you and me. You get to reflect on the topic and write about it, and I get to read your entry.

 

Shopping complete, I punched “Home” on the GPS and headed east. Sure wish the lady in the antique store and all others who don’t have or use such a marvelous piece of technology will consider getting one. We love Jill, the name of our direction giver. Home at last, DH and I watched The Kite Runner. It was enjoyable but unsettling. We’re so fortunate to be living in the United States (understatement)!

 

Sometimes it’s easier to take the path of least resistance and stay in your own safe but narrow environment, but we all need to venture out and see what’s out there. Because of that decision, Friday I got to “rub shoulders” with a new author, meet someone who’s never used the internet or a GPS, walk the streets of a beautiful city with a great downtown parking arrangement, see sights I’d never seen, buy some unique juice glasses, and get the feel of Augusta.

 

Hmmm. Wonder what’s next. Suggestions anyone?

Independence Week

I know I said that I was only going to post once per week, but I must share a few quick thoughts about some of the events and observations from last week, the week of Independence Day and a time in which DH and I had the opportunity to travel to Myrtle Beach for a few days. I LOVE walking, reading, and dining right on the edge of the continent. It’s awesome.

 

Among other things, the most important activity we engaged in was unwinding. This was the first vacation we’ve taken in quite a while  in which our calendars were relatively free. There were no mandatory tee times, scheduled shopping excursions, or timed dinner dates. We managed to sandwich those things in with the relaxing, reading, and beach walking, but they weren’t our primary activities.

 

One of the highlights was watching the variety of people who live in this great country of ours, a land choice above all other lands. From our vantage point, we saw people of many colors, shapes, and sizes. One day while watching an Asian couple delightedly walking along the surf holding hands and laughing, I remembered a Fourth of July image from years past. My husband and I had gone to the beach early in the morning to jog before the sun bathers and picnickers came along. It was around 6:30 in the morning. As we made our way along the beach, we were both startled (because it was so early) to see a Vietnamese family huddled together on some steps leading from one of the boardwalks. They were staring at the ocean, and I couldn’t help but wonder about their thoughts. This was/is their country too, and the 4th is as much about them as it is about all of this nation’s diverse population.

 

Other fun memories are:

  • Reading two books, the favorite being Grace Eventually by Anne Lamott.
  • Dining out with Paul and Amanda at River City Café (love those peanuts and souvenir cups!).
  • Going to a Pelicans game with Paul and Amanda and enjoying the high spirits of those around us.
  • The fireworks on the 4th. From the Sands Ocean Club where we stayed, we could see them up and down the beach…what a sparking sight.
  • The variety and number of people who shared the fireworks with us.
  • The music from Annie’s Attic that floated up to our room.
  • Collecting shells.
  • Hearing the squeals and laughter of children.
  • The fireworks display after the Pelican’s game. Even the loud, beer-drinking crowd in front of us was shushed and awed by the close-up fireworks and the music in the background. I’ll always remember those moments sitting with DH, Paul, and Amanda as we watched the brilliant display and listened to “Living in America.”
  • Free donuts at Dunkin Donuts after the game.
  • Visiting with Elizabeth in her darling home on our way in and out of the area.
  • Going to church in Myrtle Beach on Sunday and reconnecting with some fabulous folks. More on this later.

 We loved our time on the strand. We also loved arriving back at our home sweet home.