Monday, January 31, 2011

Recalling Good Times

We finally made it—the end of January! In less than an hour, we’ll move right into the second month of our new year. When you think about it, it really did go fast despite all the cold and snowy weather. Isn’t it odd that, no matter how bad things get, looking back, we almost always say, “That sure went by fast?"  It’s the nature of time... and human beings. Things always seem terrible while we’re going through them, but when we look back, somehow, they don’t seem so bad.  Mercifully, we tend to forget dreadful experiences and only hold onto the good ones.

Just this afternoon, I was recalling a good experience. I feel a little silly admitting it, but I’m already thinking about summer vacation. I know it’s much too soon, but for some reason, the thought of moving into a new month brought the memories of our last vacation to mind. As I pondered what a wonderful time we had, almost every detail came back. Reliving it was so much fun that I just let it flow and enjoyed the moment.

Our daughter, who lives in North Carolina, had rented a condo on the beach at Ocean Isle for her family. When she so generously invited her dad and me and her sister and her two children to join them there, we all jumped at the chance and a few weeks later, we jumped in the car and headed south.

After driving all day, it was well after dark and raining when we arrived. The daughter who rented the condo was already there with her family. Everyone pitched in to get our luggage inside and then we assigned rooms, got settled in and started enjoying ourselves with snacks and chit-chat. But the real fun started the next morning.

Ocean Isle is in NC, but right on the border of SC. The first day, the temperature was 84° with the heat index much higher – at 92.  I’m not sure what that means; I just know it was very hot!

The younger ones were up early and off to the beach with their coolers full of drinks and snacks, while my husband and I slept later, had a leisurely breakfast and then got ready and headed for the beach, too. We didn’t stay long. Neither of us are sun worshippers, though we love the beach for other reasons – the food being one of them.

What makes us get hungrier at the beach? We had breakfast and lunch at the condo each day along with non-stop snacking, but we tried a different restaurant every evening. After stuffing ourselves with shrimp or other mouth-watering delicacies on the menu, we’d stop at the Homemade Ice Cream Shoppe and add insult to injury! I knew right away that I’d be dieting and working out very hard when I got home, but right at that time, it was worth it!  The food was delicious!

Upon returning to the condo, an evening walk on the beach was in order for some of us. It’s one of my favorite reasons for going to the seashore. To go there and not take a walk in the surf after dark would be a trip in vain as far as I’m concerned.

Walking beside that overwhelming body of water with a huge full moon hanging so low in the sky that you feel like you could reach right out and touch it, and seeing its light glisten from the whitecaps as they roll in, kiss the shore and hurry back out again, renders me speechless. It makes me feel so small and reinforces my belief that there is a God who truly is in control of everything... especially our lives. We are puppets with Him pulling the strings to effect our every move. As my bare feet sink into the cool wet sand and the warm ocean breeze caresses my body, I am lost in another world and not eager to return to reality.

But that is exactly what I need to do, isn’t it?  It’ll be quite a few months before I can think seriously about a vacation. We’re about to enter only the second month of the year. But I'm sure we all agree that, the way time flies, summer will be here before we know it. My daughter is so efficient, I’ll bet she has already made reservations!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Countdown

Okay everyone, only three more days to go until the long, cold, snowy, dreary, tiresome, monotonous, yucky month of January is gone!  In between this January and the next one, there will be eleven months—each with different qualities—some good, some not so good. No matter how you see them, any of them has to be an improvement.. Right?

My son is the most optimistic person I know concerning the seasons. Like most of us, he can tolerate most anything until after the holidays. After all, fretting about weather conditions pales in comparison to the excitement of getting together with family members at Thanksgiving for a huge feast and the anticipation leading up to Christmas with its joyful gatherings of family and friends, the shopping, the carols, the festive dinners, parties and other social events. Then comes New Year’s Eve with more parties and gala occasions to enjoy. All in all, we have about two months of fun, happy, times.

But on January 2nd, the fun is over!  It’s back to business as usual. Some of us go with the flow. Others don’t take it too well; they whine and complain the whole month! And when it snows all month like it has this year, it’s worse. The moaners are even more miserable!

But not my eldest son!  To him, January 2nd means – and always has – that “Spring is almost here!” He refuses to accept anything else. He calls attention to the slightest ray of sunshine; the tiniest difference in the time darkness occurs in the evening, and he gets very excited if the temperature rises even one degree. He plants seeds in flower pots and puts them in the windows of his basement, watching diligently for any sign of life to appear.

In every phone conversation we have, he says, “Have you noticed that the days are getting longer?” I always say, “Yes,” whether I have or not. I wouldn’t want to burst his bubble. Agreeing is a little difficult for us since he lives for spring and summer and I come alive in fall and winter. We try to humor each other;  I, going along with his “longer days” theory, and he, telling me winter is not so bad when he actually hates it passionately.

I’m aware that I’m in the minority. I accept that. So I promise I’ll try to play nicely and write pretty little stories about spring (if it ever arrives), and I’ll even try to come up with something good to say about hot, sticky, humid, buggy, steamy, dirty, oppressive summertime... but those of you who know me well won't be fooled. You'll know it’s all a facade.

You'll know. I won’t really come alive until I sense the nearness of magnificent October once again!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wise Words

We all have three persons to contend with in our lives: the person we were; the person we are; and the person we wish to become. If we can forgive the person we were; accept the person we are, and believe in the person we wish to be, then we will have a happy life filled with forgiveness, acceptance, and hope for each tomorrow.

Five More Days

With only five days of January left, I can hear the screams of delight for miles around.  January is a terrible month for almost everyone: the excitement of the holidays gone, the weather dreary, and nothing exciting to do. Of course this year, it’s been a little worse than dreary. We’ve had a lot of snow! More than most people want. I just happen to be a little “different,” because I like it. But I won’t elaborate for fear of being called names that I’d rather not hear.

At least it’s not so dark when it snows. Sometimes the gloomy days affect me in a negative way. This afternoon, I was visited by the vivid memory of a family funeral long ago at the end of January. It had been dreary the whole month and snowed a lot - like this year. On the day of the funeral, I clearly remember passing huge piles of dirty snow along the sides of the road as the long, black, salt-stained limousine carried our family slowly toward the cemetery.

It’s odd the things the mind retains at stressful times. When we got out of the car at the cemetery, I watched as people carried dozens of beautiful flowers inside. I thought, “Those can’t be real! Flowers don’t grow in January!” It was almost like a dream - a depressing scene that will live in my memory forever. And keep repeating on dark days...

If I could choose, I’d opt to die in the beautiful, sunny month of October. 

 But not this October! 

Photograph by Ron Jones~ 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Comes the Dawn

I wonder... Does anyone know who wrote this?

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean nothing
And company doesn’t mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head held high and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans.
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong.
And you really do have worth.
Any you learn and learn...
With every good-bye, you learn.

Letting Go

     To let go doesn’t mean to stop caring.  It means, “I can’t do it for 
someone else.”
     To let go is not to cut myself off; it’s the realization that I can’t 
control another.
     To let go is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.
     To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.
     To let go is not to try to change or blame another, I can only change   myself.
     To let go is not to care for, but to care about.
     To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.
     To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
     To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to 
allow others to effect their own outcomes.
     To let go is not to be protective; it is to permit another to face reality.
     To let go is not to deny but to accept.
     To let go is not to nag, scold or argue, but to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.
     To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and to cherish the moment.

                                                                                ~Author Unknown

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hello Sweetie

With more than half of the first month of the year gone already, I must admit that I’ve done nothing worthwhile. How about you?

I, unlike most of you, totally enjoy the snowy days, but once they’re over and we start getting days like today, I’d just as soon sleep until September. Today was as dark as midnight. It was  rainy, unpleasant and didn't show me a justifiable reason to get out of bed. It was a slit-your-wrist kind of day!

I say that in jest, of course. Last time I used that phrase; someone took me seriously and instructed me to call him the next time I felt that way. Feeling embarrassed and not wanting to embarrass him, I said, “Thanks, I will.”

You cannot deny, though, that the weather has a lot to do with our moods. It definitely does mine. On a beautiful sunny day, I am usually happy – dancing around the house singing, phoning and e-mailing everyone I know and accomplishing a lot. And on a day when huge fluffy snowflakes are drifting down from the heavens, I walk from window to window just looking out and feeling grateful. But on a day like today, I'm half awake, not interested in anything, I accomplish nothing and frankly, I'm in a bit of a fog. I actually said, “Hello Sweetie,” to a pair of house slippers a little while ago, mistaking them for the cat. Now that’s just not right!

Perhaps the sun will shine tomorrow or it’ll start snowing again. Either would be an improvement over what we were dealt today. I’d just finished saying that when a friend reminded me that I have a lot to be thankful for and that, “This is the day the Lord hath made, and we should rejoice and be glad in it.” 

Did you ever notice how there always seems to be someone just hanging around to make you feel guilty when you don’t appreciate things as much as you should? 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Yes, I Love Snow

While most of my friends and relatives are cursing the snow, I’m enjoying it immensely, and I’m not very popular when I say so. Everyone thinks I’m crazy and reminds me that it’s easy to love snow when you don’t have to get out in it every day! I concede that, but even when I did, I still loved it!

Some years ago, we had one of the largest snowfalls in recent history. I was working at the time in real estate. I loved my job... and the wintertime! I was driving an Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, and so was a co-worker and friend. There was no place the two of us couldn’t go! We’d don our heaviest coats, warmest gloves and tallest boots and jump into one of our cars and off we’d go to find any piece of property that needed to be inspected or shown. While many people were abandoning their cars, Jan and I just kept right on going like two energizer bunnies! We had a lot of fun that winter!

One experience in particular comes to mind. It was a Saturday morning when Jan called. We had about ten inches of snow on the ground and the temperature was in the low teens. “Hey,” Jan said. “Mr. Hutchins called and wants to see the property on Grover Dr. I’m going to meet him there. Do you want to come with me?”

I thought about it for a minute, shivered a little thinking about the cold and then said, “Sure; might be fun.” Jan said, “Great! Pick you up in thirty minutes.”

I dressed for the weather: long johns, pants, flannel shirt, jacket, ear muffs, gloves and my tallest black boots with heavy socks underneath! I could barely move. Jan was right on time and off we went... two women giggling like schoolgirls at what we were about to do.

To reach Grover Dr. you had to drive up a steep road all the way to the top of the hill, then park your car and walk to the edge of the property. Overlooking the Interstate, it was quite pretty in the spring and summer, but now, standing there, looking down into the snow-covered ravine that was the acreage we hoped to sell, I felt a little apprehensive about actually going down there and walking around on the property. I secretly hoped that looking down at it would be enough for Mr. Hutchins. But it wasn’t.

Mr. Hutchins was a young man – forty-something – I’d guess, and was not at all daunted by the prospect of jumping over the edge of the road to explore the nearly vertical property. I couldn’t help but wonder why he wanted to, since it was impossible to see the lay of the land while it was covered with snow banks and fallen tree branches. To me, it made much more sense to wait until spring. However, the man wanted to walk the property today and that’s exactly what we did!

Once over the edge, we plunged into deeper snow than we had anticipated. I immediately felt a rush of the cold stuff inside one of my boots. Wet socks! I descended into a snow bank once that extended past my knees and couldn’t move for a few seconds. Jan seemed to be having problems, too. It was a little scary, but we persisted... up and down, tripping and falling at times, but laughing all the while. We must have walked for more than an hour. It seemed longer! I won’t deny that I felt relief when we finally made our way back to the top of the hill and civilization!

After saying our “thank-yous” and “good-byes” to the prospective buyer, Jan and I went to a local restaurant and enjoyed coffee and laughs about yet another shared real-estate experience. This was just one of many. It was a fun time in my life!

Mr. Hutchins didn’t make a decision that day, but ultimately bought the property, had a proper access road constructed and built beautiful apartments.  
Every time I drive past the area on the Interstate, I look up and smile as I remember the unusual day Jan and I shared on that Saturday long ago when we stumbled around those snow-covered hills so eager to make a sale.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

All Sunny Days Aren't Happy

Who can explain the emotions of a woman?  Why does she laugh when nothing’s funny and cry when she’s happy?  Why do things make her sad that don’t faze a man?  

I had a dentist appointment today. The sun was shining. As a rule, I love sunshine and would be happy on a day such as this, but today there was something different going on.

As I drove through the little town where my dentist’s office is located, everything looked so drab. Only two weeks ago, there were holiday decorations everywhere and people hurrying around in a jolly mood preparing for the big occasion. Now there was no sign of them. Suddenly, it seemed as if we hadn’t just spent a month or more spreading love and good cheer to everyone we met – even strangers. This little town looked dingy and unexciting... even with the sun shining brightly. It was depressing.

When I walked into the dentist’s office, I heard no music; saw no friendly faces; and there were no cheerful, “How are yous?” In fact, everyone seemed a little preoccupied and not friendly at all. I felt let down and sad.  How can things change so fast? 

About an hour later, when I got home, my husband was taking down the Christmas tree, which didn't help my mood even though it's past time to put it away. We always leave it up until after New Year’s Day. I enjoy turning on the lights every night and day for as long as I can get away with it. We’re usually the last ones in the neighborhood to take our decorations down, but I noticed last night, Jan. 2nd, that our neighbors directly across the street were still enjoying the lights on their tree. I intended to leave mine off after New Year’s Day, but seeing theirs made me giggle as I turned them back on. I loved knowing someone else enjoyed them as much as I do!

But tonight I spent a long time wrapping “special” ornaments in tissue paper and boxing them up for another year. I sat on the sofa, tears filling my eyes as I wrapped each one separately. There was the plaster of Paris snowman that our daughter made in second grade, a little red and gold drum with our youngest son’s name scribbled on the bottom, a silver bell decorated with green and red flowers by another daughter while she was in school, little wooden rocking chairs given to us by a grandchild, two tiny ceremic angels - also a gift from grandchildren, and many others that have special meaning. These ornaments represent a lifetime of memories!

And so... a bright sunny day turned into a dreary, depressing one for me... all because of my unrealistic notion that the beauty and joyfulness of Christmas should last a lot longer than it does.