Uncategorized

Family Friends

After a busy, laughter-filled Thanksgiving week, I sit in a quiet beach house listening to the clock tick, the ceiling fan spin, and the ocean waves rhythmically, consistently roll in over the sand and back out into the water again

2014-05-03 15.52.21And I remember…

Only a few days ago, this house was filled with people busily baking pies, basting turkeys, and tying gold ribbons around napkins for a beautiful holiday table. The house was full of happy people working together to create another memorable Thanksgiving dinner.

Eric, the master pie crust maker
Eric, the master pie crust maker

After dinner, we lounged around the family room and reminisced.

We remembered the Thanksgiving we spent in a cabin in West Virginia when it snowed and we made makeshift sleds and sped down the hills, hiked back up and did it again.

We remembered our friend, Annette who recently died of cancer. We proposed a toast to her and laughed remembering the year we were cleaning up the Thanksgiving dinner dishes in the kitchen and she pointed at some leftover pie and said, “Who made that wretched pecan pie?”

“I did,” I said.

Her face turned fuchsia and she immediately tried to explain that she was talking about a different pie, a store-bought pie that was the wretched one, not my homemade pie, which, of course, was delicious.

Uh huh. That’s why she pointed at my pie.

What else could she do when she called my homemade pie “wretched” right to my face?

Now it’s an annual joke. “Who’s making the wretched pecan pie?”

Actually, I think we dropped pecan pie from our menu after that.

At least I know I never made it again.

And then there’s the driveway pie.

That’s the creamiest, most delicious coconut cream pie you’ll ever eat. And we only have it once a year.

Tragically, one year, while being carried into the house, it was dropped on the driveway – shattering the glass pie pan and splattering the custard all over the driveway.

We were so disappointed that we could only think of one thing to do – get spoons and eat it off the driveway, carefully picking out the shards of glass before ingesting.

I wish I could say I was kidding about that memory, but truly we found ourselves huddled around the splattered pie spooning out as many tastes as we could before giving up because we started spooning up pieces of glass.

We’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with this same group of friends for about 30 years.

After dinner Thursday, Doug thanked them for being part of every major event of our lives from our dating years to our marriage years, through the births of both of our daughters and every milestone in between and since.

When I moved to the Washington, D.C. area, my boss said one of his favorite things about living here was that friends became like family.

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He said since most people in the DC area are transplants from someplace else, it’s like we’re all out on a limb together so we take care of each other.

That’s definitely proven to be true for us, particularly with this group of friends we met after first moving here.

We’ve supported each other through the deaths of parents and siblings, through dating relationships and breakups through marriages and parenting, illnesses and job changes and more.

Through it all, we’ve created memories that cement our friendships; and don’t friendships and relationships sustain our lives?

So as I sit here savoring the silence as the sun goes down on my last evening at the beach, I remember the loyal, true friends I’ve been blessed to know, the ones I don’t see often but the ones I know will always be there for me because they always have been.

Uncategorized

Perspective — the first gift of the sea

Before we left home for our trek to the beach, I wondered if I could leave all my duties and responsibilities undone for a week.

A miraculous thing always happens when we arrive in Avon, North Carolina.

My memory gets wiped clean.

I can’t remember what I had to do that was so important it couldn’t wait.

As I sit on the deck, mesmerized by the ocean, I try to remember.

What were those things I thought I couldn’t leave undone?

Perspective is one of the gifts of the sea, I think. 

The first book I brought to our new beach house was Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, the 50th anniversary edition.

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In the first chapter, she wrote, “The beach is not the place to work; to read, write or think. I should have remembered that from other years. Too warm, too damp, too soft for any real mental discipline or sharp flights of spirit. One never learns. Hopefully, one carries down the faded straw bag, lumpy with books,  clean paper, long over-due unanswered letters, freshly sharpened pencils, lists, and good intentions. The books remain unread, the pencils break their points and the pads rest smooth and unblemished as the cloudless sky. No reading, no writing, no thoughts even — at least not at first.

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“At first, the tired body takes over completely. As on shipboard, one descends into a deck-chair apathy. One is forced against one’s mind, against all tidy resolutions, back into the primeval rhythms of the seashore. Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic rhythms of city and suburb, time tables and schedules. One falls under their spell, relaxes, and stretches out prone. One becomes, in fact, like the element on which one lies, flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today’s tides of all yesterday’s scribblings.

“And then, some morning in the second week, the mind wakes, comes to life again. Not in a city sense –no–but beach-wise. It begins to drift, to play, to turn over in gentle careless rolls like those lazy waves on the beach. One never knows what chance treasures these easy unconscious rollers may toss up, on the smooth white sand of the conscious mind…”

“But it must not be sought for or — heaven forbid!– dug for. No, no dredging of the sea bottom here. That would defeat one’s purpose. The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient.

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“Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach — waiting for a gift from the sea.”

The bottom line of this blog is that I need to stay longer. A week is barely enough. I need to move into the second, third and fourth week to experience the awakened mind and to receive the sea’s gifts of patience and faith.

But, at least I’ve received the first gift from the ocean — perspective and forgetting home and all the seemingly important things that I thought needed to be done.

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Personal

An Outer Banks Weekend

Doug and I drove to the Outer Banks Friday for a “business meeting” and then turned around and drove home Saturday.

Our business was buying a beach house.

After we picked up the keys, we kept saying, “Did we just buy a beach house?”

I think we shocked ourselves with this purchase.

Carolina Beach Retreat

As I sat in the family room of this new house, looking out at the ocean, I thought about our obsession with the beach.  What made us want to buy a beach house? A good rental history? A good investment? It was more than that.

Just one of the beautiful views

We’re pale, sun-sensitive, burn-and-peel-people.

So why a house at the beach?

I picked up a notebook and started writing answers to that question:

The beach is the great equalizer.

I can’t tell a CEO from a local fisherman. From the crowded aisles of Food Lion,to the sandy beaches, everyone looks the same.

And, it’s more than the sun.

It’s the state of mind, and the restful state of being.

It is the air, the pace, the friendliness, and unpretentiousness.

It’s the “ah” feeling that inspires naps, walks, bike rides, all-you-can-eat shrimp bars, ice-filled cups, and snowcones.

It’s also rainstorms, heat lightning, ocean views, pastel-colored houses, sea grass and mosquitos.

It’s salt, sand, and seafood; music and Adirondack chairs on the deck, and the smell of sunscreen.

It’s pools, hot tubs and outdoor showers.

It’s the sound and rhythm of the waves, seashells, turtle preserves, feral cats, t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops.

Kiteboarding, surfing, kites, coolers, books and acoustic guitar music; .

Beach fires, stargazing, sunrises, American flags, deep breaths, yoga classes on the beach.

Leisurely candlelight dinners, lengthy and relaxed conversations.

Games, puzzles, writing, fishermen, Bingo, and jet skis.

Hurricanes, evacuations, popsicles and pizza.

Sunglasses, miniature golf, Orange Blossom Cafe apple uglies.

Laughter, cooking, crafting, and healing

And memories.

We have so many cherished memories from beach trips with friends and with our families.

We want more of those memories.

The beach is a place for creating and cherishing memories with people we love.

Anne Morrow Lindberg wrote in Gift from the Sea, “For life today… is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. It involves not only family demands, but community demands, national demands, international demands on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, magazines, radio programs, political drives, charitable appeals, and so on. My mind reels in it, What a circus act we … perform every day of our lives. It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily…”

This describes my Washington, D.C. life perfectly.

So why the beach?

Again, I turn to Anne Morrow Lindberg: “The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”

 

Family

A Quiet Ride

When Doug and I were newlyweds, we used to go to dinner and notice how many couples around us were eating together in silence.

We always commented on how sad it seemed that they didn’t have anything to say to each other.

One of the things Doug and I loved about each other when we met was that we could communicate easily about everything.

On our first date, we talked until we noticed we were the only two left in the restaurant.

I’ve noticed lately, however, that there is a lot more silence between us.

On our six-hour trip to the beach over Memorial Day, I fell into my beach trip routine of listening and singing along to my road trip playlist.

We shared some Pop Chips, and Doug sipped on his Diet Coke while I downed my big old water bottle.

We commented on the distance to the next Sonic, where we always stop for drinks with lots of crushed ice.

As we got to the Outer Banks, we chatted about changes since last summer’s hurricane.

We commented on the fishermen, the boats, and the sun sparkling on the water, but mostly, we rode silently, contentedly along.

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I remembered those quiet couples from years ago and wondered whether we misjudged them.

Maybe they didn’t need to talk to each other because the silence between them created a comfortable, relaxed intimacy that didn’t need the constant exchange of words.

I analyzed my quiet moments with Doug and whether we’d run out of things to say to each other, but that wasn’t it at all. Doug and I always have plenty to discuss.

We share the details of our daily events, chat about our daughters and families, and almost always talk about politics, religion, crossword puzzles, and plans for the future.

We also always talk about being grateful.

When we acknowledge something we are particularly grateful for, one of us inevitably says, “You know what I want to say…”

Then we recite in unison, “We are so blessed!”

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We never have awkward silent moments that feel empty or hollow.

Instead, we enjoy a kind of closeness that comes from simply being together.

In fact, sometimes, words can get in the way of those moments.

I love it that we don’t have to talk just to fill the hushed air. We don’t feel the need to banter.

So as we drove to the beach, I relished the pleasant, comfortable, peaceful quietude of just being with him.

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sarajanestudios

Maybe we should have admired those couples we saw all those years ago instead of pitying them.

Maybe they had something beautiful going on between them that we just didn’t understand yet.

From the News, Religion

Does Truth Exist?

Last week we went to the beach in North Carolina.  Annie invited a group of her high school friends to join us.

Every night after dinner we asked each other probing questions and talked about the big concepts of life.

Is there a God?

If so, what is He like?

Does God have a plan for us or are we in complete charge of our lives?

What beliefs and values shape your life?

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

What is faith?

Why do some people have faith and others don’t?

How can someone really live by faith?

Why is it so central to some people and irrelevant to others?

How do you know whether something is true and is there such a thing as truth?

This group of 19-year old college students astound me with their passion for answers to these questions.

They are achievement-oriented and live their lives “on purpose.”

They believe that being their best matters.

They believe in being good people and they know right from wrong.  Even though there are many questions on their minds, they are clear about their own ethics and morals. They are true to what they believe even though they are still sorting out what it is they really believe.

They all come from different religion backgrounds and some grew up without any religious influence in their lives at all.

Yet, they yearn to define themselves.  They want to stand for something.

thank you Griffin Harrington for the photo!

Part of me wanted to tell them all the answers to these life questions because after living so many years, I’ve figured a lot of things out.

But part of me relished the conversation, the struggle, the growth that comes from figuring out life on your own.

I enjoyed listening to what they wonder about, what scares and worries them.

Annie Turner photo

I learned their fears and questions aren’t much different from my own, and that while I have a strong set of beliefs and values, I have much to learn from them.

I wanted to tell them what it’s like to grow up and finally have all the answers.

I discovered two problems with that.

First, we only learn by experience and by figuring things out ourselves.

Second, and most important, I still don’t have all the answers.

Even after all these years of forming my own beliefs and relying on a certain set of religious guideposts, I still have a lot to learn.

And I love learning it from optimistic, bright, questioning 19-year olds whose minds are on fire with curiosity.

There is power in their intellectual form of gymnastics as they ask hard questions, and seek inspired answers.

Our conversations reminded me of Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckley’s words:  “The time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of who we are and what we stand for…This is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, breadth and importance of our own mission…It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences…It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain…It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all our relationships…It is a time to nurture yourself spiritually, intellectually and to have no fears, no doubts about your future.”

This stellar group of friends are living up to these words, giving me no doubts about my future because I feel assured that as I age and they take my place as the responsible adults in life, I am in capable hands.

Personal, Pets, Uncategorized

Here kitty, kitty…

I’m dedicating this post to my cousin Becky.

When my mom and I arrived at the beach a couple of weeks ago, we filled our arms full of all the supplies we hauled down there and headed up the stairs. When I peeked over the Costco-sized packages of toilet paper and paper towels to unlock the door, I noticed a cat sitting on the cover of the hot tub.

“I think we have a visitor,” Mom said, standing behind me with her arms full of new mattress pads.

“Oh great! I wonder how long it’s been here. Lew and Brian will die,” I said, as I fumbled to get the key in the lock.

Lew and Brian and Doug bought the house before Doug and I married and we’ve all vacationed there nearly every summer since. We rent it out the rest of the time.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to call these men “particular” or “fastidious” owners. Every time we go down, they expect a report on the house — what’s broken, worn-out or needs to be replaced, for example. In fact, it’s because they are so meticulous about the house being in good shape and well-stocked that Mom and I packed the back of my car with all those rolls of paper towels and toilet paper, only to discover the shelves and closets were already filled with those basic supplies.

So when I noticed a cat living there, I thought they would want it removed from the premises ASAP. I imagined them worrying about the cat having some nasty disease or scratching or hissing at some little beach-going toddler or people writing in the guest book that a feral cat ruined their beach vacation by hanging around the house making people sneeze or by holding the hot tub hostage.

As a dutiful wife of an owner (I know my place in this beach house triumvirate), I fired off an e-mail telling them about the cat. Then I said, “Should I call animal control?” I told them that when I woke up the first morning we were there, I opened the blinds in the kitchen window and the cat’s face was staring in at me.

“It loves sitting on the hot tub and stretching out across the door so that you have to step over it when you go out. I almost fell down the steps trying to avoid it as it wrapped around my legs.”

Then, I received this e-mail from Lew: “I didn’t know you liked cats so much. I have a new name for your new cat –“Rascal, the Raccoon Cat” or it could be “Rascal Turner” for short? Actually, there are many feral cats down there. Many of the residents feed them and certainly the tourists feed them because they are so cute. I doubt there is an animal control down there.”

So I overreacted about the cat. Then Brian replied and said, “How about writing a play about the Cat on the Hot Tub Roof? Have the setting in the south (oops, Hatteras is the south), then we can get some celebrity cats to play the keys roles.”

Doug just wrote back and said, “Send pictures!”

Clearly I was the only one with the cat problem.

The boys didn’t care about a cat taking up residence at their beach house.

And, no animal control?

I found a little story about “Basket Lid Wisdom.” It said, “Before you reach to pet a cat on Hatteras Island we suggest you exercise caution. Many of the cats roaming the Island are descendants of a breed of cats that date back to the first settlers of the island…The cats came with the ships…As the years have progressed many of the wild cats have become domesticated, but you will still occasionally run across one that has that wild look in his eye…”

This cat didn’t have a “wild” look in his eyes and he must have feasted on food at someone else’s door because I didn’t feed it or pet it. And every time I tried to take a picture of it, it eluded me.

I’m not much of a cat person. When I was in high school, we had a family cat and it loved to sleep on the top of the front wheel of my car. When I turned the car on, it jumped off and ran away. Except one day it didn’t jump off…and, well…

“Mom, remember the cat that got hurt when it didn’t get off my tire and you said it ran away?” I asked.

“Oh, well, I might have told you that so you wouldn’t feel bad,” she said, not looking up from her embroidery project. “You actually killed the cat.”

“Now you tell me!” I said. “No wonder I don’t like cats.”

And of course the beach cat liked to wrap itself around my feet every time I went outside. It never loved up to my mom like that. And it liked to rest pressed up to the storm door, staring at me while I worked at my computer. Mom looked in the guest book and saw that several renters wrote about the cat. “It was weird because a cat was here and we loved it. You will too! We found out that it’s notched ear means it’s a Kinnakeet cat descended from shipwrecks.”

“The notched ear means it was captured, spayed or neutered, and then released,” someone wrote.

I checked that out and discovered they were right. There are about 1,000 wild cats living on Hatteras Island.

“The cat was so friendly,” another person wrote. “My kids called her Mrs. Raccoon because of her striped tail. With the broken porch screen, she jumped in through the window and slept on the hot tub at night.”

Well so much for the renters hating the cat. Still, I thought the owner boys would want me to drive the darn cat to the end of the island to live at somebody else’s house.

Toward the end of the week, Mom said, “Do you think I could get that cat home? I could just sit it on my lap on the airplane. It’s so friendly, and it’s really quite pretty. What would you think about me taking it home?”

“No way are you taking that cat home. You have the worst possible history with pets! You should call Becky and see what she thinks of you taking home a cat,” I said.

Many years ago, my mom adopted a cat that made itself at home at her house. She fed it and took good care of it. Then one day she decided she’d had enough of the cat, so that night she decided to give it to my cousin Becky.

Even though Mom was in her pajamas and ready for bed, she scooped up the cat, climbed in the car, and off she went to Becky’s house.

She knocked on the door with the cat in her arms and when Becky opened the door, Mom said, “Here! I can’t stand this cat for one more minute. You have to keep it.”

Becky liked cats so she agreed to keep it.

I recently asked her if she remembered this incident. She said, “I’ll say I remember! That damn cat had three litters of kittens and then one of the kittens had a litter at the same time she did. I had 11 cats in my garage at one point!”

And the real problem? Mom found out the cat she adopted and then gave away belonged to her neighbor!

“You cannot take that cat home. Becky will not want an Outer Banks cat even if it does have a notched ear, a raccoon-like tail and a pirate or shipwreck pedigree,” I told her.

With animal control and adoption out of the question, we said goodbye to the kitty. Then as we packed the car, it followed us up and down the stairs… until I accidentally stepped on its tail, and it decided to go back to the hot tub.

“I think you like that cat,” Mom said. “Maybe you should take it home with you.”

“No way. I am not swayed by its distinguished pirate ship pedigree. And, you certainly can’t take it home and end up giving it to Becky.”

“True,” she said. So we told Mrs. Raccoon goodbye and drove back to Virginia.

But I have to admit I’m curious about whether the cat is still there, whether the renters are feeding it, loving and petting it or if they’re searching the phone book for animal control…