A Confession, Some Questions, and Maybe Some Answers

1.  I am a terrible gift-picker-outer.  My biggest challenge is the retired man I live with.  He needs nothing, absolutely nothing.  And anything he wants, he gets for himself when he wants it.  He doesn’t do delayed gratification.  So Valentine’s Day paralyzed me.  All creativity left my brain.  And I had nothing.

Well, I did offer to make him stuffed cabbage for dinner, but he said, “Oh no, that’s too much trouble. You don’t need to do that.  I’ll fix something.”  Sigh.

To make this worse, he’s good at gifts.  For Valentine’s Day, he gave me a box of Chapel Hill toffee/dark chocolate candy from Whole Foods.  Let me explain: We met and fell in love in Chapel Hill while we were both in school at UNC.  And Heath Bar is my all-time favorite candy and Ben and Jerry’s flavor.  His gift makes you go “Awww”, doesn’t it?  I know–I’m a lucky woman.

2.  Do you worry about wrinkles from smiling?  This is from a blog, “The Daily Round”, that I read:

…a British woman, now 50, who has avoided smiling “for the last 40 years…to ward off wrinkles.” She says she didn’t smile when her child was born, nor at family celebrations or gatherings with friends, insisting her lack of facial wrinkles has made these efforts worthwhile.

Do I read this right? She stopped smiling at 10 YEARS OLD to prevent wrinkles? How do you even do that–not smile?  Does she have any friends? Does her family come around her?  I need more information.  This story has been stuck in my brain for days.

3.  Someone at church Sunday told me I have “fortitude.”  She said I just keep going no matter what.  I googled “fortitude.”  The definition is “strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage.”

I’ve wondered about “resilience” lately, too.  I found 2 definitions.  (1) The ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune.  (2) The property of a material that enables it to resume its original shape or position after being bent, stretched, or compressed.  The second describes how I feel some days.

Where do fortitude and resilience come from?

4.  We talked about the Celtic term “thin places” in Sunday School last week.  They are locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine.  My favorite thin place is beside the ocean, one of those places where spirituality and science overlap.

The ocean generates negative ions.

According to mounting research, there really is something in the air at the beach. Because of the constant crashing and movement of the waves, the beach contains high levels of negative ions. Negative ions appear to have a positive effect on health and mood. They are produced when moving water, wind, and radiation break apart air molecules. What’s left is an oxygen molecule with an extra electron.

High concentrations of negatively charged ions have long been thought to affect the way you feel and there’s now supporting evidence they can boost mood, ease depression, and even improve physical health. Negative ions can also be found in high concentrations at waterfalls, in the mountains, and immediately after a summer rain storm. Even your shower or the fountain in the park produces negative ions.

These special air particles are actually biologically active when they enter the body, yet how they work is still unknown.

Indoor environments tend to have very low levels of negative ions. Our modern lifestyle is to thank for that. Computers, electrical appliances, and air conditioning all contribute to negative ion depletion.

So do negative ions create thin places?  Is God in that extra electron on the oxygen molecule we breathe in?

5.  Asked by a man named Jim in a group with people who are HIV positive:

What if you woke up tomorrow and all you had was what you thanked God for today?



I Need a New Beach

I said goodbye to my brother last week.  Well, really, I said goodbye to Carolina Beach last week.  Before he died in July, 2013, my brother worked and lived around Carolina Beach for about 30 years. So, many years ago, when I decided to run away from home, I ran to Carolina Beach, 4 hours down I40.

I had never been on my own.  I went to college 25 miles from home, met the retired man I now live with at 20, married him at 22 and had 2 kids by age 27.  I chose to be a 30-something stay-at-home mom of 2 little girls with a husband who was gone overnight several nights a week.

I needed to go away alone every so often to find the Robin hidden inside the wife, mother, friend, volunteer, room mother, and Sunday School teacher.

I felt safe at Carolina Beach.  My brother worked on a charter fishing boat, but he showed me where a couple of his friends worked if I needed help. I knew where the police station was and he knew some of the officers.  He pointed me to a safe motel, where I could get an affordable oceanfront room.

I discovered that the ocean fed my spirit and my soul.  I could rest there. Carolina Beach became my “thin place”–a place where the barrier between me and God became permeable.  I found Robin.

Last week I spent 2 nights in an oceanfront room.  I couldn’t rest.  I couldn’t feel God. I missed my brother.

Down one street was the motel he and his wife managed in the 1980’s.  Down the street behind McDonald’s and Hardees,  the charter fishing boats docked in their designated spaces.  I used to go watch when his boat came in and he cut up the fish they caught that day.  Near the boats was the diner where he took me to eat.  Across from the hotel, behind the pancake house, was one of the nice restaurants where I’d buy him dinner. It’s a seafood restaurant, but sometimes he’d order steak.  I’d laugh.

He always understood that I came to the beach to be alone.  He spent his days interacting with people and treasured his evenings alone.  We usually had dinner once or twice while I was there.  It took years for us to get comfortable enough with each other to sustain a conversation through a meal.

When he got cancer last year, he called me.  When he was admitted to the hospital, a week before he died, he asked me to come.  I was with him when he died.  I’m grateful now for all those uncomfortable dinners.

One day soon, my daughters and their families will join me and the retired man I live with for one last visit to Carolina Beach.  We will pour his ashes in the ocean and say goodbye.

I need a new beach.  Someplace where I can rest.  And tend my soul.


Published in: on September 30, 2014 at 9:05 am  Comments (9)  
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