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.”



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.


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!”


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.


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.


Marital Persnickety-ness

Last Saturday I called my mom and told her I wanted to go to the beach to finish some writing projects.

She said, “Oh, that sounds fun.  I want to come!”

“I could probably make that happen,” I told her.

She hung up and called my brother and said, “I won’t be surprised if she calls me in five minutes with plans for me to fly to Washington.”

She knows me well.

I cobbled together some frequent flyer miles and booked her on a flight for the following day.

On Monday morning we packed up and got ready to head to the Outer Banks.

my awesome mama

Before we left, I whipped up a protein shake for the road.

“Sorry about the noise,” I warned her in advance.  “Doug hates it when I turn on my blender.”

love my protein shakes!

With just a few sips left to drink, I said, “Mom, I’m warning you that I’m going to slurp up this last bit of shake with my straw.  Doug hates when I slurp up this last little bit. And he really hates it when I leave the dirty cup in the car.  I always take it into the house as soon as possible and wash it.  But he can’t stand having the dirty cup in the car for even a few minutes.”

Later as we discussed stopping for lunch, I said, “I try not to drink too much water when I go with Doug to the beach because he hates stopping for bathroom breaks.”

We decided to listen to a book on tape I had on my iPhone.  I asked Mom to get my phone out of my purse.

“Doug hates getting things out of my purse.  He always complains and says, ‘I hate women’s purses! Why do women carry all this stuff anyway? It’s impossible to find anything in here!”

After telling my mom about how Doug hates women’s purses, I remembered another one of his purse-related pet peeves.

One of the things he really hates is when he’s standing behind a woman at the grocery store and she waits until the very last-minute to start digging in her junky purse for her wallet.

He complains, “Then, she takes her time getting out her debit card, cash or check book.  She never does this while her groceries are being scanned.  She waits until the last-minute when everybody is lined up behind her.  Then, she decides to rifle through her purse.  And of course after she pays, she has to find her sunglasses, her car keys or whatever before she even moves her cart out of the way!”

Finally my mom says, “Well aren’t you quite a pair! I think you sound like a persnickety old couple!”

notice the purse...

I never realized our persnickety-ness.

As the week went on, I lost count of how many times I commented on Doug’s likes and dislikes.

My mom was thoroughly amused.

I told her he does things that make me crazy too like wear his shoes in the house.

If I suggest he take them off, he wears them longer.

Really, he does.

He’s stubborn like that.

She just smiled and said we were like old an old fuddy-duddy married couple.

One night Mom and I decided to watch a movie on television.

I said, “It’s fun to be able to choose a movie we both want to watch.  If Doug were here he would be switching every two minutes between the History channel, Funniest Home Videos, National Geographic TV, and some weird cop show that follows policeman around as they arrest drunk people.”

After Mom pointed out the frequency of my comments about Doug’s idiosyncrasies, I started wondering about the meaning behind them.

Am I a critical wife? Or is he a critical husband?

Or are we just acutely aware of each other’s odd little preferences because we are so comfortable with each other?

I asked Doug these questions and he just gave me a quizzical look and kept watching the National Geographic channel and eating his popcorn.

A few seconds later he said, “Maybe we just love each other so we’ve made it our business to be aware of each other’s ways.”

I was thinking along the same lines.

It’s not a bad thing to be aware of each other’s oddities.

It’s only bad if we let them become negatives.

If I lose my ability to be amused by the silly little things like him hating my purse, then we have a problem.

When I let his TV choices matter more than just being with him in the same room, we probably need to reassess what really matters to us.

Since I know he hates the sound of my hair dryer, I try to close the bathroom door to muffle the noise.

Since he knows I hate to come home to a cluttered house when I’ve been away, he tidies it up.

These are the small accommodations in life that add up to making a marriage work.

We can’t let the petty things carry too much weight in our relationship.

If we do, we lose sight of what is most important.

The “us” is what’s important, not the noisy blender or wearing shoes in the house.

If we start noticing who puts up with more or who is more nitpicky in the relationship, we both lose.

Our marriage becomes a Trivial Pursuit game with tiny, unimportant bits of behavior scoring big, negative points.

A healthy, successful marriage often lives in a bastion of imperfect humanity where there is a wide zone of tolerance.

If I let Doug’s complaints about my protein shakes become personal or if I assign deep meaning to his criticism about my purse, I create a problem that more than likely doesn’t exist.

If we let the small, insignificant things define our relationship, the fun is over and our day-to-day lives become ridiculous contests over who is more inconsiderate, thoughtless or intolerant.

As an “empty nest” couple without kids between and around us all the time, we probably notice more about each other than we did before.

The family buffer is gone and now we’re face-to-face with each other in new, probably more personal ways.

My approach is to smile at Doug’s funny “ways.”

I hope he can continue to smile and be amused by mine.

We have too much going for us to let the little things become the big things that can ruin a good marriage.

But I still wish Doug would take off his shoes in the house…