Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Beach Chair Madness



   It's 5:30 a.m. and a single beach chair sits alone on a long stretch of beach.  Peaceful?  Not at all. There is craziness behind this picture.  It is sudden onset beach chair madness that drives me. If one waits a minute too late, the entire beachfront will be covered with rental chairs and umbrellas.

   When my alarm went off this morning, shortly after five a.m., I fell out of the bed and landed feet first on the floor, much like a cat.  Wide-eyed and focused, I went straight to work.  My goal was to arrive at the beach before the rental chair company and secure a place in the sand for a family of ten who will follow later with towels, floaties, speakers, a cooler, tropical drinks and maybe a kayak or two.  Space is a hot commodity here and those who wait will take back seat to the ocean front seating.

   By 6:30 a.m., the beach will look like this...

   In the early morning hours, there is a race amongst grandfathers, young men working for the beach chair rental company and one crazed mother.  The grandfathers can be seen setting up large tents and toting multiple chairs at once.  The distance between youth and old age becomes blurred as these family loving men crisscross the beach weighted down with outdoor furnishings, driven by a newly returned strength from their younger days. They look at me. I look at them.  We smile with respect for one another.  It's an early morning acknowledgement that we understand the principles of finite space. Tents and umbrellas pop up along the water's edge as we all work to secure the proper amount of shade for tender skinned babies and those smart enough to stay out of the sun.

   Why do we do this?  For these people...
 

   It is important to have front row seating to watch your children play.  This photo was taken just before one child took a paddle to the face while the other tried to retrieve a jelly fish from the sea. One bloody nose later, I was able to step from my shady spot by the water, assure my child that no stitches were needed and send her back out for more fun in the sun.  Had I been a few rows back, I would have missed it all.  


  



 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Me Time


    As my family members announced that each one had plans for the weekend, I realized that I may actually be home alone for two days.  I'm not sure that has ever happened over the course of the last twenty-one years.  It was probably hard to hide the sparkle in my eye as the gears turned deep inside my head, conjuring up thoughts of all the things I could do with 48 hours of free time.  So many choices.  So many possibilities.....

    Friday night was full of wild abandon as I filled the washer with clothes clearly marked hand wash. I threw out all of the half-open products in the refrigerator that someone wanted to save, but would never return to enjoy.  Out went restaurant style salsa, bean dip, a half-eaten pizza and what may have once been an icee.  

    I tossed out clothing that had not been worn in years and would never be worn again.   I emptied drawers and filled trash cans and danced about the house like a woman on a mission. 

    Saturday morning began with a cup of coffee and mile high whip cream sculptures floating on top. I ate them with a spoon and without, feeling confident in my suddenly found barista skills.  Earth, Wind and Fire played at full volume in my kitchen as I danced around, throwing out disco moves not seen since that Kappa Sigma party in 1982.  I Googled "How to Regrout a Tub" and stripped the grout from the wall like a card-carrying journeyman.  I planted flowers, pulled weeds and paid bills, all to the 120 beats per minute of "Let's Groove" that set the tempo for getting things done. 

    At the end of the wild day of "me" time, I collapsed into a tub of hot water to relax, not the one that no longer has any grout. Later I sat on the edge of my bed, in my PJs, looking about the empty bedroom and I remembered the time the kids would fly in and spring upon the bed in wild acrobatic moves. We would laugh and scream and giggle and covers would go everywhere.  I saw the baby books on a shelf that we once read together, the one about the kitten with red shoes and the other about babies like mine who are soft and warm and cuddly. I miss those days.  But a stronger and bigger emotion is the happiness that fills me when I think about those times gone by.  What a wonderful time it has been giving my children all my "me" time that I could.  It has been the greatest joy of my life. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

In Search of Christmas




Many a message has been spread about seeking the true meaning of Christmas which most know has nothing to do with Black Friday, piles of packages under a tree, or the overeating that comes with holiday gatherings.  Each year, I come up with a plan to finish my shopping early so I can lead my family towards the real reason for the season.  As the days pass and Christmas quickly approaches, my shopping is still not complete and the many Christmas events I’ve attended still leave me searching for that one clear moment where I can look my children in their eyes and say, "Yes!  This is Christmas." But, it doesn’t come.  It’s never that clear to me.  And sometimes, it comes with a heaviness of failing to make things perfect.  Perhaps I’m waiting for a bright star overhead to lead me to a place that I can’t find on Google maps.  Christmas day will soon pass and as I collapse on my couch in a living room full of torn wrapping paper and empty boxes, I’ll fault myself for never showing my kids that clear moment that I believe is Christmas.

Maybe Christmas is more than just a single event, place, or time.  As I woke this morning knowing that my family was all home under one roof, my heart filled with joy.  As I saw the empty cups and plates on the kitchen counter, I knew that the night before had been filled with fellowship, laughter and a few tasty treats. The stack of wrapping paper in the corner with its bright foils reminds me that I still have packages to wrap and may never actually get to the end of my Christmas list.  A sleeping cat rests underneath our Christmas tree that proudly displays ornaments that tell the story of our lives, some ornaments dating back over 100 years.  The gentleness of mornings like this is part of the bigger picture that makes up Christmas.  While I’ve been looking for that one defining moment, it is actually all around me. 

When we go to church Sunday as a family and sneak candy to each other during the sermon, it’s because Christmas brought us all there and those moments are far better than anything wrapped under my tree.  The laughter that echoes down the hallway late at night when my children’s friends gather here, that is Christmas.  Hearts returning home in celebration of the birth of Christ, that is what makes the season joyous. From foil wrapping paper to Christmas choirs, movies with friends, and laughter around the dinner table, that is my Christmas.  Removing the cat from the Christmas tree, trying to build some gift that came with no instructions and making yet another trip to the grocery store for more food, these are the things that all come together to make Christmas grand.

Christmas, today, is not a single moment of pure joy that rises above everything else.  It is a series of blessings that come quietly at times and loudly at others.  That single perfect moment occurred many years ago when a young woman caught the attention of the world with the birth of her child.   That gift came quietly in the night and is the reason for the many moments of joy we find now as we gather with family during the holiday season.  Christmas cannot be wrapped up, contained or plotted on a map, as it is a blessing that has carried forward for over 2000 years.   It is a season of love that comes with perfection already built in. 


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Oh Paleo


Oh Paleo, You have robbed me of my good friends sugar, wheat and dairy. They’ve been with me since my first birthday cake and traveled with me through college, late night pregnancy binges and those times when my very best friend was a piece of chocolate pie. You pushed them away and they fought to stay, calling to me with their sprinkle toppings, chocolate kisses and double, stuffed pizza.  When my bones began to ache and I woke each morning from a slumber that was similar to being run over by a truck, I suspected that I might be running with the wrong crowd.  

Sugar offered me comfort and told me everything would be okay.  I believed her and never saw her for the evil temptress that she is.  Wheat whispered to me with flaky, golden crispness and always brought along her friend margarine who blinded me with buttery goodness.

Dairy was my favorite and the midnight hour was our meeting time when a cold glass of milk was often followed up with two or three Oreos that brought me quiet joy.  

Paleo, however, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Come here.  Give me thirty days and I'll change your life."  I turned my back on bad food choices and learned to welcome lean meats, vegetables and fresh fruit.  The shiny red cans of Coca Cola disappeared from my refrigerator and were replaced with water.  After the headaches stopped and the sugar disappeared from my system, I began to feel younger and even a bit thinner. It was a slow process losing only a pound or two a week.  Before long, my clothes were too big and my daughter said, "Mom, buy some smaller clothes."

The first purchase of new jeans came and went within two weeks as they, too, became too loose.  My daughter said, "Mom.... Buy some skinny pants."  I blindly followed her instruction and it only took about thirty minutes wearing floozy pants that I retreated to the comfort of my Chico's mom jeans.  They were soft and roomy and the perfect choice, so I thought.  My child disagreed.

Today as I dressed, I saw what my daughter sees and realized my clothes are now much too big.  It is a fabulous problem to have and I thank you Paleo for leading me to better choices and better health.



Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Three Day Rule



    For most every rule, there is always an exception. With that in mind, I share with you the three-day rule that my mother created many years ago. Whether it is heartache, indecision, or having your feelings hurt, you have three days to lick your wounds, assess the situation or throw an all-out pity party for yourself if you so desire. After three days, however, you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and move forward. 
    
    While I’m not even sure what a bootstrap is, I know what I am expected to do on day four. There is no promise it will be easy, but there is assurance that nothing good will come if you don’t pick up the pieces and move ahead. Nothing is ever gained from wallowing in the comforts of self-pity. The few exceptions to this rule include loss of a loved one and illness, those obvious mountains that can’t be climbed in three days.

    When I was 18, I decided to spend the summer, four states away, making my fortune waiting tables for minimum wage in a local Mexican restaurant. My mother looked on with great doubt. When my checking account was below zero and my safety was at stake, my mother snatched me home and informed me that I would go to college somewhere within a 200 mile radius. In shock and disbelief, I took to my bed for three days and called it the flu. My mother knew I was licking my wounds and on day four I was met by a team of family members who snatched me from my self pity and showed me the path forward.  That was my first taste of the three-day rule. My uncles showed up in a 1980’s conversion van and I sat in the back seat as we drove around town until I had no doubt about what comes next in the life of an unemployed 18 year old, unskilled at properly carrying a large tray of nachos and quesadillas.

    I have invoked the three day rule many times over the years to assist with broken hearts, missed opportunities, embarrassing moments, and bullies who somehow made it to adulthood. While I no longer disguise it as the flu, I have been known to sit in the dark and spend a weekend watching The Godfather Trilogy surrounded by empty bags of comfort food. Five pounds heavier and four days later, I arise from the depths of the couch with a renewed attitude, a prayer of thankfulness on my heart and the vision to see the good that clearly outweighs the bad.

    My children are already well versed in the three-day rule and I have watched them calmly accept bad news of lost pets, stolen items, failed projects, or being left out. While their hearts may be heavy, they emerge from their sadness after three days and never look back. Unlike their mother, they take to their rooms, wrapped up in auxiliary cords and headphones while they let music distract them from their worries. They don’t need a weekend with the Corleones. They just need time…  and three days is what they are allowed before that van full of family members shows up at their door ready to take them for a little ride. Take it from me and from Luca Brasi, a ride with family who disagree with your actions is never a good ride. As long as you are up by day four, you’ll never have to worry about such. 

    So, take your three days, mend what is broken, accept that healing may take some time, and set your sights forward. On day four, wake with a smile. Thank God for all that is good and take that first step towards happiness. It truly makes all the difference.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

As Simple As Peaches



My 51st birthday was upon us and all I really wanted was to travel north to see my son.  I needed a day with both children.  Unable to find a hotel room anywhere in Nashville, I thought I might try airbnb, a service that allows you to rent a room in a stranger's house.  My daughter cringed at the thought, but the reservation was made.

We arrived at my son's doorstep late Friday afternoon.  It seemed he and his sister had developed a birthday itinerary that was full of food, fun and laughter.  I eyed the stops we would make and the one that stood out above the rest was 9:30 a.m. - The Peach Truck. (Okay... and the nap)  As a former resident of Georgia, the sweet taste of Georgia peaches still calls to me. My mouth watered as I thought of the stand of peaches waiting for me on my birthday.  The itinerary included gourmet snow cones, shopping, too much food and a midnight movie.  There was a long day ahead of us and we would need sleep before we began.  

Afraid that our overnight lodging may be with an axe murderer, I had my son go with us to the house, for protection.  Three screams are better than two, so it couldn't hurt.  We arrived at a lovely home that seemed quite safe and secure.  The owners were out of town, but there were other guests who would be staying in another room. Something about it felt so wrong, but then the comforts of home beckoned us in and we shut the front door behind us.  We were the only ones in the large unfamiliar home with many locked doors and we settled into our room armed with cell phones and large curling brushes.  It was some time after my son left that we heard the front door open.  Frozen in our bed, unknowing who was mere steps away, we listened to our housemates disappear into the silent house.  I could only assume they were as curious about us as we were of them.  Eventually sleep took hold and we woke to a new day... my birthday.  

Of all the activities of this day, my favorite was the Farmer's Market where my children and I washed fresh fruit in a garden hose and ate it near the Peach Truck.  The sun was already hot and the taste of plums and peaches quenched our thirst.  Our fingers were sticky from the fruit juice running down our hands, but the taste was that of summer and it reminded me of days gone by.  Better than birthday cake, simple peaches delivered happiness on my special day.  

The day continued forward with many great stops and food fit for a queen.  At 11:07 p.m., I had to call it quits on the birthday itinerary of fun.  Perhaps I was too old for a midnight movie, or perhaps I had already achieved just the right amount of fun.  My children understood and we returned to our home away from home where we would once again sleep with strangers in the house.  When we arrived, the other guests were already home.  A chance meeting in the kitchen dispelled all of our fears as we learned that the two school teachers upstairs were just as worried about us as we were of them.  We laughed, made new friends and all returned to our rooms where we still locked our doors behind us because, really, what good is a curling brush when a stranger comes calling in the middle of the night.  

The birthday weekend was grand and we love our Nashville home. Our host family was wonderful and we hope to visit again.  As we traveled back to our own home, we took with us a small paper sack of peaches so that we could share a taste of summer with friends and family.