Best Birthday Ever!

Follow your bliss!

Pursue that which gives you joy!

I struggled with the bliss thing for years after I heard Oprah’s advice.  “Look back at your childhood–what did you most enjoy?”  I liked reading a book up in a tree, alone.  I can’t climb a tree anymore, but I still love to read and be alone.  I think I’m supposed to give more to the world than that.

I found a new joy several years ago at my first writing workshop.  (Thank you Resource Center for Women in Ministry in the South–rcwms.com.)  I started this blog after a couple of workshops and I journal whenever the urge hits.  Maybe one day all the bits and pieces will evolve into a memoir.  I just know it’s fun.

A few weeks go my older daughter found a Groupon Getaway deal for 3 nights in a 2-bedroom condo at Atlantic Beach, NC.  I suggested that she, her sister, their 3 kids and I go for a couple of days in March for my birthday.  Both girls loved the idea and soon we had a reservation.

We had a plan. My younger daughter, her daughter Adaline (who is 3 now) and her son Atticus (who is almost 1), and I would drive in one car.  Maggie (14 months) and her mom would take their car and we would caravan.

The closer the time came for the trip, the more ways I imagined that it could go bad.  I started with the 4.5 hour drive (at best!) from Greensboro.  What if one of the babies wouldn’t stop crying?  And the bed situation in the condo would require cooperation and compromise from two moms who often debate who gets less sleep.  I wondered if either of them would back out.  I wondered if I’d be sane afterward.  Would we still like each other?

We were not able to caravan.  Work demands and leaving from two different cities, one closer to the beach than the other, killed that plan.  Each car could stop as needed.  “Never wake a sleeping baby.”  Even if you really, really need to go to the bathroom.

Adaline and Atticus both slept the first 2 hours of our drive!  I thanked God and our travel angels and just kept driving.  We stopped at a Hardees, used the facilities, sat inside and ate and pacified the kids with french fries.  We did what we had to do.  Forgive me, nutrtion-conscious friends.

On we drove.  We figured out we could put a pillowcase in the window to block the sun so Adaline rode content in her car seat, playing with an electronic kid-size computer-like thing and listening to our music.  Atticus sucked on french fries (forgive me, again) and played with toys and his electronic baby-size computer-like thing. Thank you whoever bought them these electronic toys!  We made it in 5 hours with some fussing from Atticus for the last 30 minutes or so.

Maggie and her mom had a 3-hour drive.  Maggie fussed and cried for the first half of the trip and then fell asleep.  Her mom did not have fun.  Maybe Maggie needed french fries and a baby-size computer-like thing.

The moms worked out the bed situation, we got everyone fed as needed, including lunch in a restaurant where they took our order at our table and brought us our food–no counters or paper wrapped sandwiches!.

After we played on the beach Saturday afternoon, all 3 kids (naked) and both daughters (in swimming suits) go into the big jacuzzi bathtub.  I sat on the toilet lid and took pictures.  We laughed and laughed and soaked up the joy amid the bubbles.

The trip home was easier for Maggie and her mom and the group in my car rode well, too.  The kids were all exhausted so, once again, “Never wake a sleeping baby” was our motto.

Now I know what “bliss’ means.  And where I can find joy.

I am so grateful.

Published in: on March 13, 2013 at 8:16 pm  Comments (14)  
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In and Out of the Car Was the Hard Part!

The retired man I live with suggested with great enthusiasm, “Let’s go to the Zoo!” to our daughter, her kids and me.

The NC Zoo, 30 minutes down the highway from us, houses animals from Africa and North America on over 600 acres of “natural habitat.”

I was the only one who hesitated.  The website  says to plan on 2-3 hours to see the Africa section.  That’s a whole lot of walking for me.  There’s a tram, but you can’t see the animals while riding it.

“What the hell,” I thought.  “I am not missing Adaline’s first visit to the big zoo.”   If I couldn’t walk the whole way, I’d figure out what to do next, even if I had to say “I can’t” and ask for help.

The retired man I live with drove the Camry.  I rode shotgun.  The other three got in the back–on one side the forward-facing car seat for the 2-3/4-year-old granddaughter, on the other side the backward-facing car seat and its base for the 6-month-old grandson.  Their mom, who was a zookeeper before children and very excited, perched in the middle after she climbed over the baby car seat base.

We had snacks for Adaline and water for all of us.  The high-end double stroller I found in a consignment store (best deal ever!) fit in the trunk, barely.  And we were off.

We parked far away from other cars.  We needed a lot of space to unload.  First out of the back was the baby, in his car seat, then his mom had to climb past the car seat base and almost planted her face in the asphalt beside the car.  Grandpa got Adaline out of her car-seat and her mother grabbed her hand before she could dart away.  My hands don’t work well enough to help so I stood guard by the baby car seat in an empty parking space.  A bee got caught between two of my finger and stung me while Grandpa wrestled the double stroller out of the trunk.  (Nothing was stopping us by then.)

Her mother put Adaline in the front seat of the stroller and lifted Atticus from his car seat to the back seat of the stroller.  Grandpa put Atticus’s empty car seat in the car.  We gathered purses, diaper bag, and camera bag, stuffed the diaper bag and a purse in the pullout basket under the stroller seats and hung the camera case and another purse over the stroller handle.  We headed to the entrance.

We saw giraffes with a baby, lions, chimpanzees, 2 mama gorillas with babies (!!) and ate pizza for lunch.  Adaline and her mom rode a carousel, we saw rhinos and ended at the elephant habitat where a big, dusty elephant with saggy wrinkled skin slowly strolled past the spectators as if on a red carpet in front of paparazzi.

I walked the whole way, with stops on benches by the animals.  I think maybe it took us more than 3 hours.  Then it was time to reload.

The retired man I live with got the car while the rest of us waited by the entrance.  Reloading began.  At one point, Adaline and her mom were in the car, Atticus was in his car seat on the ground beside the car and I was helping Grandpa remember how to collapse the stroller and wedge it into the trunk.  He headed for the driver’s seat and our daughter and I yelled “Get Atticus in!”  He did.

It was a beautiful day in every possible way.  Except for leaving the camera behind.  We might need more practice.

Published in: on October 18, 2012 at 6:16 pm  Comments (11)  
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Got Sparkle?

After I stopped coloring my hair, I discovered Pantene Silver shampoo.  My hair sparkled in the sunlight.  I loved my grey hair.

Then Pantene discontinued the Silver line.  I searched the internet.  There wasn’t any, not even on ebay.  For months I used regular old Redken shampoo.  My hair was soft and manageable, but it didn’t sparkle.

I went to Sally Beauty Supply and bought a different brand of Silver shampoo.  It smelled weird and my hair didn’t sparkle.

I have easy hair.  For years, store brand stuff worked fine.  Now I wanted sparkle.  The woman who cuts my hair told me about Aveda shampoo for grey hair.  I bought a bottle of purple Aveda shampoo from her for $25.00.  It’s a big bottle, but maybe not $25 big.

The next morning I started the water for my shower and let it get hot.  I stepped into the shower and pulled the door shut.  My whole body relaxed as the hot water surrounded me.  I opened my eyes and reached for my new shampoo.

A stink bug* clung to the side wall  of the tub beside the shampoo bottle.  How did it keep from sliding off?

I wanted to use my new shampoo.  The stink bug gave me the creeps.  It was not cute.  I’ve never smelled a stink bug–an awful smell, I hear–because I’ve never squished a stink bug.  I knew a stink bug couldn’t hurt me, but still…

I was annoyed.  My hot shower was supposed to be a private moment of relaxed solitude.  I washed my hair with my expensive shampoo.  When I closed my eyes, I begged the stink bug not to jump on me.

I threw a cup of water on the stink bug and watched him ride the water to the drain.  He didn’t fit through the drain cover holes so I figured he’d drown.  Or survive and climb out and come looking for me.

My new shampoo does make my hair sparkle in the sunlight.  I like it.

*Click here for a picture and to learn more about stink bugs.

Published in: on April 27, 2012 at 7:34 am  Comments (6)  
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Girl Power

  • Thank you, Suzanne Blievernicht!
  • At a class given at Stanford, the last lecture was on the mind-body connection – the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.
  • At first everyone laughed, but he was serious. Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality “girlfriend time” helps us to create more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well-being. Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities.  They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going.  Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes.
  • But their feelings? Rarely.
  • Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very good for our health.
    He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym. There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising”, we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged—not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!
  • So every time you hang out to schmooze with a girlfriend, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health!
Published in: on February 21, 2012 at 8:49 pm  Comments (9)  
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Carolina Beach, March 12, 2011 Random Observations

I set the clock ahead one hour last night so I was up early enough to see the sun rise this morning.  It peeked over the horizon with an orange edge.  I blinked, and it was all the way above the water line.  How did that happen so fast?

The fisherman moved the blue trash can away from the dune and closer to the water.  He stretched, facing the sunrise.  I thought he might do yoga.  He fished.  He never did put the trash can back.

I glanced up from my book.  I saw the feet first.  A surfer in a wetsuit was riding a dinky wave doing a handstand!  He did it again.

I want to squat on the beach like the 3-year-old toddler and then stand back up with a hop.  She was wearing a vivid blue dress.  Curiosity, wonder, flexibility–she was happy digging a hole and throwing sand into the wind.

An “older couple” walked down by the water.  Grey hair, loose shirts, a long floaty denim skirt, sensible sneakers.  They smiled.

The bright yellow kayak rode on top of a wave like a skilled surfer.  Where were his legs?  He had one oar with a flat paddle on each end.  He dragged the kayak across the sand when he was cold enough to quit.

The dad pushed a red stroller on the hard, wet sand close to the water.  The mother strolled alongside.  The wee baby hid from the sun.  How did they get through the soft, squishy sand?

He rode a bicycle down the boardwalk.  A little girl in a pink helmet and bare legs sat behind him.  What if she fell asleep?

A pale, skinny girl in a bikini walked down the beach with a tall, skinny guy.  She ran out in the cold water, got really wet and smiled.  He kept walking and she caught up.  No t-shirt, no towel.  She did it again, smiling.  He kept walking in his dry t-shirt.

Little dogs walked with their people.  They took busy steps while the people strolled.  That’s what happens when your legs are short.  It’s hard work to keep up.

Published in: on March 20, 2011 at 8:58 pm  Comments (4)  
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Prayer

Father, Mother, God
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.

Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.

And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.

For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.

For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.

For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.

For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.

For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.

Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need most–

Peace.


–Maya Angelou

Copyright (c) 12/2005  Maya Angelou

Published in: on February 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm  Comments (6)  
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Amma Says…

(Amma is my grandmother name.  Click here for why.)

1.  Practice good manners, even if you feel nagged.  It will matter one day.

2.  Accept and revel in the love we all have for you.  It is rare and will carry you long after we are gone.

3.  Take vitamins and calcium as you grow.  It’s one of those delayed gratification things.

4.  Be brave.  Your mom can teach you the difference between brave and reckless.  I tried to tell her, but she had to learn on her own.  You will, too, I’m sure.

5.  Try many things—foods, people, styles, words, animals, smells, places.  You will find beauty and wisdom in odd places, I believe.

6.  Enjoy your hair, when you have some.  (Look at your baby pictures.)  Be grateful for what you have, no matter what color it is.

7.  Be kind.  The energy you send out to the world will come back to you in mysterious ways.

8.  Don’t be afraid of questions.  That’s how you learn that not all questions have answers.

9.  Be still long enough to feel the Presence of something bigger than you.  I promise that Presence will always be with you.  Your responsibility is to notice.

10.  Let the inner child in you live forever.  Fun and laughter are essential.  I forgot how to play.  Please don’t do that.

Above all, know that I love you and that our Spirits will always be connected.

The Pleasures of an Ordinary Life by Judith Viorst

I’ve had my share of necessary losses,

Of dreams I know no longer can come true.

I’m done now with the whys and the becauses.

It’s time to make things good, not just make do.

It’s time to stop complaining and pursue

The pleasures of an ordinary life.

 

I used to rail against my compromises.

I yearned for the wild music, the swift race.

But happiness arrived in new disguises:

Sun lighting a child’s hair. A friend’s embrace.

Slow dancing in a safe and quiet place.

The pleasures of an ordinary life.

 

I’ll have no trumpets, triumphs, trails of glory.

It seems the woman I’ve turned out to be

Is not the heroine of some grand story.

But I have learned to find the poetry

In what my hands can touch, my eyes can see.

The pleasures of an ordinary life.

 

Young fantasies of magic and of mystery

Are over. But they really can’t compete

With all we’ve built together: A long history.

Connections that help render us complete.

Ties that hold and heal us. And the sweet,

Sweet pleasures of an ordinary life.

Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil

My uncle is 89 and my aunt is a bit younger.  They live in a small town in Iowa in the house they built before I was born. Last week they drove to Dayton, Ohio, in one day, for my uncle’s World War II Bomber Group reunion.  We haven’t heard many of his stories, but I do know his plane was hit one time and his friend died and Uncle Phil got the plane back to their base.  He doesn’t like to fly anymore.

They are driving today from Dayton to our house in North Carolina, again in one day.  Aunt Nadine tells me they trade off driving every 100 miles.  I try not to think about it when I know they are on the interstate.

Their house always felt more like home to me than any place my family lived (we moved every few years).  We spent Christmas and a week in the summer in Iowa all through my childhood.  All my grandparents were there and my aunts and uncles and cousins.

Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil’s house was always fun.  My parents were rarely silly or funny at home.  They were at Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil’s.  My uncle played the Boy Scout march on the piano and my dad used my cousin’s drum major baton to lead us in a parade all through the house.  Once he led us through the bathroom while Grandma was in there.  We all laughed so hard we cried.  Nobody drank too much there.  I think that made a difference.

Uncle Phil was a chiropractor.  They were taking vitamins and eating fresh food when the rest of us were excited by Kraft macaroni and cheese in the blue box.  I remember being fascinated by a honeycomb in a jar of honey on the kitchen table.

I read recently that faith is formed out of great love and great suffering.  Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil have experienced fear and worry and grief.  And their love for each other is (still!) obvious.  They are Quakers and they have a strong and quiet faith.  They know how to enjoy life.  They carry an aura of peace.

Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil are my role models for how God wants us all to live.

Please pray for them.  Later this week, they’ll drive from NC to Iowa, in two days.  I do worry when they’re on the interstate.

Published in: on October 4, 2010 at 12:44 pm  Comments (6)  
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Words on the blackboard behind my eyes

Acceptance            Approval           Compassion         Boundaries

Permission         Pity              Blame          Anger

Forgiveness          Empathy        Mercy          Grace         Faith

My granddaughter’s extended family gathered last Sunday to celebrate her baptism.   At lunch were 15 adoring adults and one 5-month-old baby.  Each of has our own story of love and angst and worry and joy in relation to each other.

Do love and compassion help with unacceptable behavior?  Or do they simply enable and excuse?  When is confrontation appropriate and when are surrender and acceptance the only real answer?  Where do I find empathy when I can’t imagine myself in his shoes?  Who gave her permission to act this way?

Last spring, I joined a Lenten study group on forgiveness. We didn’t come up with any easy answers for these very difficult questions.  We talked about pride, sisters and brothers, God’s mercy and grace, parents and children, drugs and alcohol, mental illness, and anger.  We wondered about personal responsibility and setting boundaries to protect our own souls.

“Would you rather be right or happy?” ask my wise friends.  “Can’t I be both?” I ask.

Peace comes with acceptance for me.  Acceptance doesn’t usually come easily.  I don’t often surrender to reality gracefully, not at first.  Anger and frustration no longer energize me.  They make me tired.  And not like myself much.  So I pray for willingness. Sometimes I pray for the willingness to be willing (think about that–it will make sense).

One of my life goals is to live as the child of God I was created to be.  I wish it could be easier.  But “I’m workin’ on it“.