Beach Walk

I’m not bragging. Really I’m not.  However, I just have to say that today has been the kind of day that I dreamed about during the 40+ years that  I was a working gal. Yes, I know that all (or most) women work, so maybe I should rephrase. This has been the kind of day that I dreamed about when I worked outside of the home and then came home and began what sociologists call “the second shift,” the one involving cooking, cleaning, bathing children, folding clothes, and so forth. I could list them (I’m an expert on the second shift), but just thinking about it makes me tired.

So…back to today. For starters, I’m still in Myrtle Beach, and I purposely set my alarm for 7:00 o’clock this morning just so that I could have the experience of waking up at the time I used to leave for work. It was awesome! Then I read, interacted with my online classes, had a phone conference with someone I met at the South Carolina Writers (I know some of you want to put an apostrophe before that s in Writers, but there’s not one), and then went to the beach to walk for two hours.

The temps were in the 60’s, and the coolness itself put a little pep in my step. I ditched my shoes in the sea grass, thus enabling me to feel the cold water every few seconds as the waves splashed around my feet. Heaven! Strolling along and listening to music on my iPhone while watching birds, people, and the ocean was one of those peak experiences that Maslow referred to. At least that’s my take on it.

When I got back to our little duplex, I spied a picture that hung in my office(s) for decades. Called “Seawatch,” it’s of a red chair perched on the beach with a floppy hat on the sand beside it. Sea birds fly around the empty chair, and in the past whenever I’d get stressed (daily), I’d look at the picture and think, “Somewhere there’s a beach.” And there is.

Time to pack the car and head home after a marvelous few days of learning new things, meeting old and new friends, spending time with Elizabeth, and walking on the strand. Today’s experiences were just the kind I looked forward to all those years that I looked at the red chair in the sand. Don’t get me wrong. I loved teaching (still do), but I’m happy that my life has more of a work/play balance in it now.

Texan in a Black Truck

Some people reading this might think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill or that I’m reading too much into a near miss, but Elizabeth and I know better. We were there when the Texan in the black Chevrolet truck moved into our space the very moment I pulled off the highway. You weren’t.

We were cruising along I-20 on the way home from Atlanta, each of us lost in our own thoughts when Elizabeth  said, “Mom, It doesn’t look like those cars ahead of us are moving to me.”

“I think you’re right,” I said and began slowing down. I was amazed and relieved to note that my trusty Highlander could decelerate from 75 to 0 miles per hour so quickly. Stopping inches shy of the car in front of us, I remember thinking that I sure hoped the cars behind me would be able to do the same thing.

That’s when I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw it: a big black truck barreling right towards the back of my car. I KNEW he couldn’t stop the truck in time, and without consciously thinking about it, I quickly swerved the car off of the highway and onto the side of the road at the exact moment that the black truck flew into the space I had vacated. Drivers in the right lane had seen him flying down the highway and had managed to leave a small free area that allowed him to maneuver into the right lane  before slamming to a halt.

Seconds later, I was back on the highway in a spot left by a considerate driver. Elizabeth and I were both quiet as we considered what had happened so quickly and what could have happened IF…IF she had not noticed the non-moving cars and alerted me in time and IF I hadn’t quickly left the highway.

I looked at my lovely daughter and said, “You’re alive, Girl! And you know why? It’s because you noticed that no cars were moving.”

“But you’re the one who moved over just as the black truck moved into where we’d been sitting!”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. There’s something to be said for quick reflexes.”

Shaken, we sat in silence for the remaining time, both of us pondering the close call. After several minutes, we began inching forward in a stop-and-go progression for several miles.

At one point, we were beside with the driver of the black truck, and naturally we exchanged glances, looks that communicated relief and wonder. He went on ahead, and I noticed his Texas tags. The Texan and I took turns passing each other until somewhere between Augusta and Columbia, and I hope he safely made it to his destination.

“He’d be dead too if you hadn’t moved over,” Elizabeth said.

“And so might several people in the cars ahead of mine.” I replied.

Except for a lousy experience at the Cracker Barrel at Sandhills, Elizabeth and I made it back to my house without further mishap.This morning it hit me: Elizabeth and I almost died! Instead of briskly walking around the neighborhood enjoying the early morning air, I could be lying on a slab at Kornegay’s.

But we’re not.

We’re alive. And we’re both extremely aware of the difference two seconds can make. We both feel that we’ve been given second chances. After my epiphany, I hurried home and walked straight to the room where Elizabeth was reading and again asked, “Do you really understand how lucky we are to be alive this morning?”

“Yes Ma’am, I do,” she relied.

“Okay, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to ask yourself if there is anything you’d regret not doing if your life had ended yesterday.  You don’t have to share it with me; I just want you to think about it.”

“I’ve already been doing that,” she said.

“What I’ve been thinking. No. What I KNOW is that God gave us another chance, Sweetheart. Yesterday was a wake-up call to the fragility and fleeting nature of life.” (Yes, I really do talk to my children like this.)

“I think so too,” Elizabeth replied, probably hoping that I’d leave her alone so that she could finish reading her book.

But I wasn’t finished with my “Momtalk” yet, and she knew it.

I continued, “Some people might say ‘Whew, lucky break,’ but we know it was more than that. Let’s give some thought to what we’re going to do with our lives. It’s clear to me that God isn’t ready for us yet.”

“Okay,” she agreed.

Some people reading this might think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill or that I’m reading too much into a near miss, but Elizabeth and I know better. We were there when the Texan in the black Chevrolet truck moved into our space the very moment I pulled off the highway.  You weren’t.

Because of him, I’m going to start checking some more things off my list, beginning with an adventure that involves the boats above. What would you regret not doing if your life ended today? And why is it that it takes something like a speeding Texan to wake us up?

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.

Labor Day Memories

Yesterday was awesome. In fact, the entire Labor Day weekend was extraordinarily memorable, and I think one reason is because I disciplined myself to be especially mindful of all of the good things going on around me. It’s easy, oh so easy, to concentrate on what you don’t have than what you do, and I’ve been making a conscious effort to work on that.

For starters, as soon as I got to the beach Friday, my young friend Lisa stopped by, and she and I went to Abuelo’s for lunch. Love that place! The ambience and food are both good, and on that day, so was the company. In fact, Lisa probably served as a catalyst for my positive thinking because one of our conversation topics was how fortunate we are to have so many good things going for us in the good old U.S. of A.  I could list some of the things we mentioned, but I won’t. You need to come up with your own list.

After our shrimp chowder and yummy salads, we did a little shopping at Ulta, and I’ve been enjoying the fragrance of my pomegranate lime soap ever since. Isn’t amazing how scents can evoke feelings? We scooted up and down Hwy. 17 a little bit, and Lisa declared that she was seeing parts of the beach she’d never seen. Before a scenic cruise through the Myrtle Beach State Park, we visited the best frame shop on the east coast, The Frame Factory. Seriously, y’all, I’ve been taking things there to be framed for 12 or 13 years, and I’ve always been tremendously pleased. The price, quality, and service are without parallel. (I hope they read this and give me a discount on my next item.)

After Lisa left to join friends in Windy Hill, I hustled down to the strand to get my four miles in. It was indescribable…so I won’t even try.  My brother Mike, his wife Lisa, and their granddaughter Madison soon arrived, and the four of us went out to dinner. Loved catching up with everyone, especially young Madison whom I hadn’t seen since October. She’s delightful, pretty, smart, and well-mannered.

After a brief rendezvous with the above on Saturday morning, my daughter Elizabeth and I took off for Rincon, GA where my grandson Seth was to be blessed in church the next day. We decided to make a genuine road trip out of it, so this time we headed towards Charleston instead of Turbeville (where we usually hop on I-95). It took a lllooonngggg time going that way, but we had fun along the way, including a trip to Target in Mt. Pleasant and a trip over the Arthur Ravenel Bridge (a.k.a. Cooper River Bridge).

Bedraggled but happy, we arrived at Carrie and Rich’s house in Rincon about five hours later. After tons of kisses and hugs from the little ones, we jumped in our cars and headed to Pooler, a city not far from Rincon.  We dined at Cheddars, a busy buzzy restaurant with tasty food, reasonable prices, and a huge fish tank stocked with several varieties of pretty fish. The children loved watching them swim around and around. So did I!

Sunday arrived. Time for Sacrament service in Rincon. There aren’t sufficient words to express how it felt to be sitting there with my daughters and five of my grandchildren.  “If  only Paul and Amanda and Olivia could be here, it’d be perfect,” I found myself thinking. Having my husband there would have been nice too…not to mention the baby’s grandfather. “Wait a minute, Jayne. Can’t you concentrate on the people who are here?”  I could and did.

After the blessing, as I walked little Seth up and down the hallway outside of the chapel, I looked down at his perfect face. His dark blue eyes were staring up at me, scanning my face for clues about what was going on, and I thought, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” But I was wrong. Over the sound system, I heard the sweet little voice of Brooke, my oldest granddaughter. Only six years old, she’s courageous enough to walk up on the stand and bear her testimony month after month, something that still leaves me shaking in my shoes. Sunday she reminded everyone to listen to the Holy Ghost so they’d know the right thing to do. 

After lunch, Lib and I headed back to the SC coast. We took turns driving, and while she napped, I listened to Sarah’s Key on my Kindle. Although it’s a work of fiction, it’s based on factual events that occurred in France in 1942. It was gut wrenching, heartbreaking too. I recalled the conversation Lisa and I had in Abuelo’s two days prior and thought, “I will never ever complain about family, food, soft mattresses, or the government again.”

Fast forward to Monday morning.  After breakfast, I went with Mike and his family for a walk on the beach. Cloudy and overcast, the sky threatened to send a deluge any moment. It began to sprinkle, and Mike and Lisa left Madison and me on the beach. Only 10, she’s a delightful little girl, and we had a great talk. She loves little kids and wants to be a pediatric cardiologist one day.

Back at our little bungalow, I cleaned and packed and puttered. When I glimpsed out the window, I saw a beautiful sight: el sol shining brightly in a blue sky filled with puffy white clouds. “What’s 45 minutes in the grand scheme of things?” I asked myself while putting my beach chair in the car. I drove over to the state park and found the perfect spot for my chair. Ah, bliss. The gentle breeze, the roar of the ocean, and the sun gliding in and out from behind the clouds made for a perfect hour to read and savor the final moments of another summer season. I found myself thinking, “If only I could stay longer,” and then replaced it with, “I’m so fortunate to be able to relish these moments.”

I stopped by my lovely daughter’s house on the way out of town, and I stood over her while she signed up for the Outer Banks 8K on November 12th. It’s a family thing, and this year Elizabeth, Carla, and Sarah Beth will be joining us. Yay!

Life is grand. Remind me of this if you hear me whining. We all have a lot of good stuff going on in our lives. Just take a look around.

The Art of Shedding

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.

Alas, after a long weekend at the beach, I’ll soon be homeward bound. Don’t get me wrong. I love my home, neighborhood, family, and friends, but there’s no beach there. There’s no roaring ocean, no high and low tides, no seabirds, no long expanse of coastline to walk along. Instead, there are also deadlines and due dates and bills to pay.

 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. It’s not like I 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). 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 at the beach 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 that I just have to mention. I’ve seen more exposed body parts on the beach that I ever cared to see. You know what I’m saying, right?  

And tattoos? I learned what a “full sleeve” means from one of my students last week, and I saw several of those. Then there was that lovely young woman with her entire calf covered, front and back. What was she thinking? Or was she thinking? Putting a positive twist on things, when she’s older, at least she’ll have a good disguise for her spider veins!

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.  In the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “One learns first of all in beach living the art of shedding; how little one can get along with, not how much.”

Time to get back to reality. After all, it’s my “other life” that makes this one possible.

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.

Low Country Getaway

In my next life, I’m thinking of becoming a travel writer or something. I love visiting new places and telling other people about it, not in a bragging sort of way but in an informative way. I want everyone to experience the same wonders that I do and avoid some of the pitfalls. In this blog, I’m going to tell you the best place to visit for a sunset and the hotel to avoid if you’re all about “free” continental breakfasts.

Last year we celebrated our 10th anniversary with a weekend in the Big Apple, and although we LOVED it, this year we wanted to stay a little closer to home. Trying to decide between the coast of SC and the mountains of GA was a difficult decision, and the #1 deciding factor was the price of gas. Gee whiz! It still cost a small fortune to do the little bit of traveling that we did, but it was worth every gallon.

We left Myrtle Beach and headed to McClellanville for the Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet. I’ve always had a hankering to visit that historic site, and reading about the events of the weekend in Southern Living gave me just the impetus I needed. We finally found a place to park, and as we were wondering about the shortest route to the water, a man who was directing traffic pointed to a short bridge and told us to follow the yellow brick road and that we’d end up in Kansas. Loved that. I saw it as a harbinger of good things to follow.

I wasn’t disappointed. Right away we fell in love with the little town beside the sea. The trees, the water, the houses, and the people all combined to make the experience a sweet and memorable one.  We particularly liked the booths set up under the trees, and we ended up buying a couple of cool t-shirts as souvenirs. Since jewelry is one of the traditional gifts for the 11th anniversary, my hubby bought me a beautiful bracelet from a woman selling creations of recycled sea glass. I’m wearing it today; it shimmers like the ocean.

Just about everything in life has good and bad, an upside and a downside, and the festival was no exception. The blessing of the fleet was nice, but the microphone wasn’t working, and we couldn’t hear anything that the three speakers said. It was kind of funny because no one told them. Everyone was too mannerly, including us. There seemed to be a reverence in the scene that prohibited anyone from yelling at the speakers who were standing at the end of a long dock. So basically we watched them and the numerous ships that went by.

The food was yummy, but skimpy. Sorry but it’s true. I know they were probably making money for the town, but festival-goers will be more inclined to come back if the food portions are generous. One of the highlights of the afternoon was listening to the band and watching people dance.  I’d expound on this, but it’s time to move on to the next leg of the journey.Suffice it to say that the various dancers reminded me that life is to be relished and LIVED.

We left McClellanville and, following the directions of the GPS, rode through parts of the Francis Marion Forest. At some point, we ended up on 526 and later the Savannah Hwy. The farther south we rode, the more obvious the low country foliage and “feel” became.

I just realized that this blog is getting far too lengthy so you’ll have to stay tuned to read about the hotel without the continental breakfast and the best place to view a fiery orange sunset.I’ll even recommend a lighthouse perfect for climbing.

Cooper River Bridge Run

Cynthia Marsh Cook, I hope you’re reading this and that you’re seriously considering “getting over it” with me next year. For the first time in 30 years, I did the Cooper River Bridge Run/Walk with no kith or kin to swap war stories with in the park. It was still an awesomely amazing morning, but it would have been even more memorable with someone to share the event with.

The first time I participated in the Cooper River Bridge Run, the race began at Patriot’s Point, and I could see every single person who was running with me. In those days, I was running and not walking, and the entrants were much fewer in number than Saturday. There were probably several hundred of us, but we were contained in one relatively small area. Today the sea of people stretches so far that you can’t see a beginning or an end. Another change is that I’ve slowed down quite a bit.

As the years rolled by, the crowd grew larger, and there were times that we could feel the old bridge shake as hundreds of footfalls hit the pavement. I loved that old bridge! The beauty and majesty of it were awesome. It had what I often refer to as the “coolness factor.” But back to the story. Every year, the numbers swelled, and at some point in the early 1990’s, I realized that it was easy to get separated from one’s companion(s). One minute your party would be there, and the next they’d be far ahead, not to be seen again until the end.

Eventually, the Grace Bridge was demolished, leaving the Pearman Bridge, and in the summer 2005 the Arthur Ravenel Bridge was dedicated and opened. It’s the one we now traverse, and I have to admit that it too has a definite coolness factor too. It doesn’t shake, it’s much wider, and the diamond twin towers are awesome. The only advantage the first bridge had was the wonderful sensation of soaring when you flew down the span. Of course, you had to work like the dickens to get to the top of them, but once the ascent had been laboriously made, well, the fast, fun descent was so amazing that I can’t find adequate words to describe it.

Initial numbers of a few hundred grew to a few thousand, and Saturday there were nearly 30,000 people “getting over it.” From my vantage point, I could see neither beginning nor end. People were so densely packed around me that I could scarcely see to the side of the road, much less the start line. For the first time, we lined up in “waves” according to our projected finish time, and I was in Wave J, the next to the last one. Did that bother me? Not at all. I felt happy to be able to walk 6.2 miles, especially with my bum left knee. About the densely packed crowd, there were people of all ages, from babies being pushed by their parents to quite a few senior citizens. Truly, I spied hundreds who were older than yours truly, an encouraging observation.

Speaking of doing the distance, I used to always finish in less than an hour. Always. Then one year (I think it was 1982), I crossed the finish line to see my disappointing time of 1:01:01. It was devastating . I haven’t seen Saturday’s time yet, but I think it was probably 1:30 or more. Do I care? Not at all. About a decade ago, I began to think of the annual event as just that: an event. It’s a day to get together with thousands of other like-minded individuals who are into fitness and fun and the celebration of life.

Saturday was the first time ever that I’ve been on the bridge without a single family member being somewhere in the pack. The Chick-fil-A cows were there, a sight that always brings a smile to my face. There was even one on the Bridge itself, and I saw several people scoot over to give him a hug. People in zany costumes were there…loved that too. I think my favorite s were the men dressed in red dresses, one of whom had a beard. And this year there were more bands along the way; I especially loved the Bluesy Duo on King Street.

Still, there was no kith or kin to swap war stories with in the park. My friend Lynn and her sister Pam were there somewhere in the crowd, but we missed each other in the mass of humanity. I munched on a bagel and an apple before catching a bus that took participants back to Mt. Pleasant, and while I enjoyed the happy banter of all the people around me, I missed my peeps (I hope my daughter Elizabeth will forgive me for using that expression).  Maybe they’ll join me next year. Cynthia Marsh Cook, I hope you’re reading this and that you’re seriously considering “getting over it” with me in 2012.

Take the Time

Although it takes planning, effort, and T-I-M-E, spending time with loved ones is important,especially since we never know what’s right around the corner.

Life turns on a dime. I’m glad my siblings and our spouses made the effort to get together in Raleigh last weekend. On Wednesday my brother David had a heart attack and spent some time in the ICU near his home in Virginia. He’s home now…with a stint in his heart and doctor’s orders to watch his diet and take his meds.

This time last Friday we were finishing a yummy meal at the Texas Roadhouse. Before dinner, my nephew John, a student at Southeastern Baptist Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, had given us a tour of the campus. We went into a chapel for a few minutes and watched as some young people set up for a concert that weekend. As we stood around discussing the best way to get to the Roadhouse, Becky said she’d love to walk downtown in the historic district. Everyone except for yours truly vetoed the idea; they were hungry and ready to chow down on some pre-dinner peanuts. We came up with a win/win for everybody in that she and I walked down this awesomely beautiful street of older homes, all of which were decorated for Halloween.

The gang picked up Becky and me, and we headed to the Roadhouse. The food was tasty, the atmosphere was convivial, and the conversation was lively. I was especially tuned in to Lisa’s trip plans. She and my brother Mike will be in the Holy Land this time next month, and I was eager to learn all about their itinerary and to put in my request for a special souvenir. Just kidding about the souvenir…sort of. As we neared the end of our meal, the server brought everyone a tiny piece of anniversary cake to commemorate the third year of their opening. Sweet.

David, the youngest of the four Padgett offspring, earned the name of “fantast” from me because of his creative planning of our agenda. Plus, I’d just learned the word last week and wanted to use it. After breakfast Saturday, we headed (per David’s instructions) to the biggest and best farmer’s market I’ve ever seen. Mums, oranges, pumpkins, apples galore, sweet potatoes, and peanuts are but a few of the items for sale. We walked through the buildings in awe of the beautiful display of Mother Nature’s bounty, and before leaving nearly two hours later, all of us had filled our back seats and trunks with flowers and food.

A high moment was hearing Becky call out, “John David!” in a desperate voice, and when we looked around, there she was tottering along as best she could with two giant yellow mums. Now’s the time to mention that Becky is a petite person, and the mums were so huge that she could hardly carry them and see where she was going. Her son saved the day and helped her carry the flowers the rest of the way to the car.

The caravan continued to downtown Raleigh, and we enjoyed tromping around and taking in new sights, including the capitol, a gigantic acorn in the park, and some cool looking restaurants. The Big Easy won our unanimous vote for lunch, and everything about the experience was fun…including the music, the décor, the food, and our server who was wearing orange contacts in observance of Halloween. The icing on the cake was being joined by Madison, my nephew Matthew’s daughter and my parents’ first great grandchild. They would have loved this beautiful, smart, sweet child.

Getting together took planning, time, and effort, but I’m sure glad we did it. Our parents died in October, one in 1998 and the other in 2002, and we felt it was important to spend some family time to honor their lives and contributions. In church Sunday, I heard someone say that T-I-M-E spells love. Take the time.

Crystal Coast of NC

My husband says a beach is a beach and that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. I say, “No way, Jose.” While there are some common features, each shoreline is just a little different from all others. Because of his attitude, my other half missed out on some beautiful sights last weekend.

We went to the Morehead City/Beaufort, NC area with some family members to celebrate my brother’s birthday and my husband’s retirement. It’s a lovely area, and although our primary purpose was to share a six-hour cruise excursion, we oohed and aahed like the tourists we were as we walked the downtown streets gawking at the pretty sights of Beaufort. We parked the car in the parking lot of FBC, and the “girls” and I chatted about how cool it would be to live in one of the charming homes and saunter over to church on Sunday morning. Afterwards, we might stroll down to the coastline and watch the harbor action. Everything was so clean, neat, and well-preserved.

We climbed aboard a catamaran that accommodated 42 people and began our sail out into the ocean. That was a stupendous adventure and one I’d recommend to everyone (more on this later).  After about an hour and a half, we reached Lookout Island, and our captain gave us some tips about shelling and instructed us on when to be back. The first moment that I set foot on the island, I was agog at the sight and “feel” of the place. All I could see was  beach, beach, and more beach…a wide expanse of sand and shells.  I looked down, and there were hundreds, no thousands, of shells of all types and sizes. The captain had provided shell bags for us, and I started collecting them right away. In fact, I became so involved with examining and bagging them that the rest of my party left me to go snorkeling. 

I probably walked a mile or more around the island gathering shells, watching people frolic in the ocean, chatting with fellow travelers, and listening to my sisters-in-law laugh as they enjoyed their snorkeling experience. There was also a bird sanctuary on the island that I didn’t enter; however, I did stand there for a while taking in the isolated beauty of the area. In the background, there was always the constant, repetitive sound of the ocean lapping on the sand. Calming, very calming.

Our next destination was Cape Lookout, part of the National Park Service. It too was breathtakingly beautiful. We bought a few souvenirs in the gift shop and then walked down pathway to the museum. Loved it. This is where my husband and I parted company. This is where he said, “If you’ve seen one beach, you’ve seen them all.” He sat in a rocking chair on the porch of the museum while I climbed the steps to lighthouse. Once at the top of the steps, I could see the ocean, and there was no way I could leave without seeing it up close and personal. I clamored down the steps and made my way down the path and over the small incline to get a look at the Atlantic Ocean.

On this particular afternoon, the sea was calm, and the beach was flat. The water was amazingly blue, and if we’d had more time, I’d have “sat a spell.” Lisa and I walked in the water up to our knees and headed back to civilization…or to the boat, that is. This morning I’m wondering what’s more civilized, a natural habitat along the side of a continent or a city teeming with people, restaurants, cars, hotels, hospitals, museums, and shops. Both have their pluses, of course. I couldn’t go for too long without the busy, buzzy world I usually inhabit. At the same time, it’s reassuring to know that there are sanctuaries where one can find serenity and calmness.

Visiting these Morehead City and Beaufort was awesome. Walking their beaches was a highlight of my summer, and I hope to repeat the experience in the not-too-far-distant future. One of the men I met on the sailboat was from Ohio, and he said he and his family have been coming every year for ten years. So do some friends of theirs, also from Ohio. It’s amazing to think of people coming from so far away to visit the Crystal Coast when there are people in SC, NC, and VA who have never experienced its beauty. You might consider it for your next getaway. It’s a “shore thing” that you’ll enjoy it.