Lesson from Sea Otters

Sea otters hold hands so they don’t float away from each other while they sleep.  Not only does that look adorable, it is also very good advice.  Holding hands can be incredibly bonding and has affected my life in so many different ways.

My husband spontaneously slipped his hand into mine and gave it a little squeeze. I squeezed back while we enjoyed a mid afternoon stroll with our dog. As we walked I enjoyed how secure and safe it felt. This simple gesture symbolized a connection between us and it felt good.

Holding hands brings joy.  In grade school I happily held hands with my best friend as we ran toward the swings on the playground. The first time I held hands with a boy it felt intimate and awkwardly thrilling at the same time. I remember when my children were learning to take their first steps. Their tiny hands grasped so tightly around my fingers totally trusting me to provide support as they toddled on wobbly legs toward this exciting new milestone.

Holding hands make words unnecessary.  My sister stood bravely beside her son’s body as I calmly took her hand in mine. It signified a moment of support and an attempt to comfort as I tried so hard to let her know, without saying a word, she wasn’t alone. (John had passed away very unexpectedly from a blood clot. He was a young father so full of humor and quick wit which made it extra hard to say goodbye.) I remember how she tightly grasped my hand as she struggled to comprehend that terribly sad moment.  A few years ago I held my mom’s hand as she breathed her final breaths of life. Mom was unconscious, but just in case she was somehow aware, I wanted her to know we were all there to support her through to the end as she always did for us. I also remember sitting by my dad’s body the morning he died. I placed his hand in mine, held it to my cheek, kissed it one last time and gently held onto it as my siblings and I said our private goodbyes.

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Holding hands breeds intimacy.  My husband and I often drift off to sleep at night as we hold hands. We eventually let go and roll away, but what a sweet way to end our day.  Holding our grandchildren’s hands as we walk together are some of my most cherished moments.  I treasure looking down at their faces as they glance up at me while we share silly jokes or serious talks about Legos or princesses. Saying grace together as a couple or when the family gathers is a truly special time.

Holding hands with a stranger can give you courage. There was a moment in my life when I received difficult news and a stranger took hold of my hand and held it firmly as if they were trying to transmit their strength as well as comfort.  They will never know what that meant to me.

In good times, in bad times, in times of comfort, in times of support, in times of closeness, nothing quite compares (except maybe a warm hug) to reaching out and wrapping your fingers around another’s.

Holding hands is such a powerful gift and I can’t believe how often it has been underappreciated or gone unnoticed in my life. I am taking a lesson from the sea otter and will extend my hand to others more often in an effort to keep the important people in my life from drifting away from me!  What memories do you have while holding someone’s hand?

 

Savoring Charleston

We visited the lovely city of Charleston, South Carolina about three years ago as part of a summer trip.  Neither of us had ever been to Charleston before and it sounded like a good idea.  We stayed in the historic district at an Embassy Suites Hotel which was the former Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.  It was very conveniently located within walking distance of many things we wanted to see.

After a hearty breakfast we started our day feeling refreshed and walked toward the historic district.  We enjoyed meandoring along the quaint streets and saw the Old Exchange, Waterfront Park and Rainbow Row. (A series of row houses painted bright pastel colors.)

Unfortunately, we picked a very hot and humid time of year to visit.  As the day wore on, we could not help but laugh at how hot and very sweaty we were both getting.  What had we been thinking to plan a trip like this at the end of June?!? If you look closely at the photo below, you will see some “moisture” on M’s shirt as we claimed a shady spot to enjoy some ice cold water before walking back to the hotel.  (Truth be told, I also had some on my shirt but it just wasn’t as obvious!  Also, seeing M without his mustache in these photos kind of freaks me out a little.  He grew it back not long after this trip and I am glad he did.)

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After a refreshing shower we headed down to the lobby for some complimentary cocktails and (surprisingly) heavy appetizers. The hotel had a very nice shaded outdoor area to enjoy these goodies and we took advantage of this perk each afternoon of our visit.

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The next day we took a guided bus/walking tour through the French Quarter and South of Broad neighborhoods where we enjoyed looking at all of the beautiful and elegant homes. I was especially charmed by some of the unique gates surrounding these homes.

After lunch we ventured to the City Market and enjoyed browsing around the different vendors.

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While we were there we met an artist who made necklaces and bracelets featuring some of the designs you would see on the gates of those lovely homes we saw earlier.  I could not resist and wound up purchasing this lovely bracelet.   I was delighted to see one of the charms pretty well matched one of the gates I took a photo of just that morning.

The next day, in spite of scorching hot temperatures, we took a boat ride out to Fort Sumter where the American Civil War began.  We also drove over to Sullivan’s Island and over to Isle of Palms to see what it was like.

Eating was also part of our experience and there are so many restaurants and deciding where to go was difficult.  The majority of our meals were very simple and casual and (in spite of the hot temperatures) one of our very favorite dishes was a bowl of She Crab soup at a local type restaurant which was off anyone’s radar recommended by a member of the hotel staff.

Our favorite restaurant was Hall’s Chophouse where we enjoyed a fun filled evening of laughter and delicious steaks. We had so much fun I forgot to take pictures!

Our visit to Charleston was one we will always remember.  If you have never visited this charming city in the south, I do recommend it.  However, I would reconsider planning a summer trip!!

Small Answers

Sometimes it is not easy to understand the reason for suffering.

We all have someone in our lives who is in need of healing whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual.  It’s hard to watch someone we love suffer with an addiction, a disease, or the consequences of a poor choice.

I have been praying about some very tough circumstance for several years and it is exhausting to continually ask, seek, and knock when I am not seeing the results for which I am praying. I am ashamed to admit this, but I have been questioning whether or not God has been hearing my prayers.

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The other day I as brought forth my prayer requests I realized the words I chose to pray were telling God that I did not want to get my hopes up.  (Was I insinuating He might not be able to answer my petitions?) To complicate it more, I realized the words I chose were also telling God, the creator of the universe, how to answer my prayers.  Pretty bold move on my part! I was startled at this realization because this is how I have been praying for years.

I randomly opened my Bible to a page and found this verse from Jeremiah: “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” This was exactly what I needed to read. It gave me peace and encouragement not only for myself, but for the people I am praying so hard for.

As I meditated on that verse reading it over and over, it became clear that I was so focused on wanting the answer to the “big prayer” that I have been missing His “smaller answers” along the way.  For example, one of the people I am praying for has an addiction and is currently getting intensive help and is gradually finding the answers he/she needs. Friends, family members and even distance acquaintances have given generous acts of service to keep his/her family going while he/she is away.  Another person is finding random financial resources to get through a very tough financial time where they are truly living paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings as a safety net.  The beginning stages of dementia are challenging for another person and the unexpected patience of their spouse is a beautiful thing to see.

These examples are not the specific answers I am praying for, but I am so very, very thankful I have come to recognize these “smaller answers”.

I know His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. These sufferings are not easy and I admit I am afraid I will not receive the answers I so deeply desire; but I know in my heart that God’s plan is always the best plan.  I am trying hard to develop patience and understanding that He will help us through every seemingly impossibility we face.  I desire to pray with more thanks, seek His guidance and develop an acceptance to His response.  I desire to pray boldly, specifically, and without ceasing.

I also want to look for, expect, and appreciate the “smaller answers” to my prayers that God sends.

I sincerely want to see these sufferings as a privilege and an opportunity to watch what God does best ~ making the seemingly impossible possible as He draws us closer to Him through His goodness.

Also published on Senior Salon – take a look at what others are saying!

 

Inspired by a Scrooge

My husband and I love to support local entertainment so we bought tickets a few weeks ago to see a community play across town this past Saturday night. The weather outside was truly frightful with heavy rain and winds, but we decided we would venture out anyway.

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We arrived at this lovely facility which was very festive.  A company was having a Christmas party in one of the ballrooms so the smell of food combined with the sound of a DJ playing music added to the spirit of the season.

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The holiday classic tale “A Christmas Carol” is one of our favorites.  This production was really enjoyable as the actors put a different spin on the presentation with a witty narrator and delightful humor interwoven.

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At the end of the production everyone was on their feet clapping.  The encore was the audience singing (with the encouragement of the cast members) a rousing chorus of “Joy to the World!”

Dickens included so many lessons in this timeless story and the more I thought about it the more I realized what a master of allegory Dickens was. First, there’s the surface of the story. You know, the characters and plot and all that obvious stuff. Then there’s the symbolic level, or the deeper meaning that all the jazz on the surface represents.

  • Scrooge feels sorrow and remorse when the spirit showed him how poorly he treated others.  For the first time in his life he saw himself for who he really was ~ a humbling moment in anyone’s life.
  • Scrooge’s bitterness had roots in his early life but he allowed it to devour him. I once read an analogy and it went something like ~ Bitterness is like swallowing a poisonous pill and expecting someone else to die when in reality the victim is ourselves.
  • Initially Scrooge wants nothing to do with the three spirits. But eventually he does begin to listen to them and through his listening he begins to learn and move forward.  We also have the potential to grow and change in ways that not only enrich us, but those around us as well ~ just like Scrooge ~ if we take the time to listen and learn.
  • The spirit showed Scrooge that he wasted his life obtaining power and money and this will one day come to an end. It is important for us to bear in mind that our lives will also end one day and we still have time to change. Living with the end in mind might help us as it did Scrooge.
  • There is joy in change.  Scrooge realized he had a second chance at life. For the first time in a long time, through his jubilation, he began to connect to the real world again.   He asked forgiveness from the solicitors he refused to give money to the day before and made restitution. He spread unexpected joy and generosity to others.  It is interesting to note that when Scrooge awoke that Christmas morning literally nothing had changed in his circumstance.  The only thing that DID change was his heart.

We may think it is too late to change, but in reality the best time is now ~ a lesson Ebenezer Scrooge teaches us well every Christmas.

Someone’s Son, Someone’s Brother….

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He was only 25 years old when he was gunned down and left to die in the middle of the street.

This past Tuesday I met some friends for lunch at a favorite restaurant. Located in a charming area, it is almost an hour away from where I live. It is a rare treat to be able to visit, and the ham, brie and spicy apricot mayonnaise sandwich is the reason we go.

The unique restaurant is located in a former service station. The main dining area is where the cars used to get serviced.  The sound of talking voices, sudden bursts of laughter, clanging silverware and plates, as well as the scrape of chairs on the floor all bounce off the ceiling and the walls so it is quite noisy inside.

Although there are windows in the dining area providing a lot of natural lighting, it is impossible to see outside because of the proportion of the seating to the higher windows. The majority of the light comes from the garage door windows which run along the front of the seating area. Weather permitting, the garage doors are raised so patrons can enjoy outside dining. It was too cold on Tuesday.

We had finished our lunch and were in the process of settling our bill when the manager of the restaurant got everyone’s attention and said we would not be able to leave the restaurant for a few hours because of a tragic incident outside. A police officer then stepped inside and asked if anyone saw or heard anything at all that happened just outside the restaurant.  Everyone was stunned as we shook our heads back and forth.

People began to wander toward the separated front entrance section of the restaurant. As each of us gazed through the large floor length windows with eyes widen in disbelief we saw at least 30 police cars, an entire swat team circling a business across the street, a fire truck and a deceased young man laying in the middle of the street, face down, just 5 feet or so from my parked car and about 15 feet from the front door of the restaurant. Two young men had an argument, one shot the other and then he fled away on foot.  The newspaper said they had dined at the same restaurant at which we were eating just moments before the argument.

It took my breath away when I saw the body.  All I could think of was this is someone’s son, someone’s brother, nephew, friend.  I prayed for his soul, for his family, for anyone who loved him.

I also prayed for the young man (now in jail) who killed him, as well as his family and anyone who loves him.  He too is someone’s son, someone’s brother, nephew or friend.

Two lives – both over.

What in the world could have been so disruptive that the young shooter felt the only way to settle the argument was to kill the other person? The whole incident is incredibly sad.

My BFF and I are still processing what happened and we will never forget what we saw, heard and later read about in the newspaper. How did we or someone in the restaurant not hear the gun shot or hear the argument?  This whole situation could have been much worse and it could have involved innocent people. What if anyone had ventured in or out of the restaurant at the moment the shot was fired? What if the garage doors had been raised with people dining outside?

I pray the families, friends and loved ones of these two young men find peace and comfort during this very difficult time in their lives.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”  Revelation 21:4

Photo is from Irish times

 

 

 

Savoring Egg Fest

No, I am not talking about this egg:

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I am talking about this EGG….the grill.

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EGGtoberfest is an annual event held in Atlanta each October. The fest originated in 1998 as a way for Big Green Egg to say “Thank You” to loyal customers that regularly logged on to the Forum to chat and share recipes and experiences and found themselves becoming fast friends.  EGGtoberfest provided the opportunity to get together and cook their favorite recipes on the EGG. The first year, about 100 Big Green Egg pioneers attended the cookout at the American Legion Hall in Atlanta, with 15 cooks firing up an EGG. The meet, greet and eat event turned into the First Annual EGGtoberfest, which was considered a big success.”  

The photo below was our first attendance to this event and it was pretty impressive.  This was about 8 years ago. The event is held the middle of October.  Get this, the tickets go on sale the first of August and sell out in a matter of hours.  It is almost as hard to get tickets to this event as it is to the practice rounds of the Masters Golf tournament.

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“The Annual EGGtoberfest has grown to a fun-filled weekend celebration where more than 200 EGGs are fired up by new and experienced EGGheads to feed the enthusiastic crowd of over 3000 people. Spectacular fare can range from moose kabobs (the result of a successful Maine hunt) and a roasted whole fresh Alaskan salmon (caught, brought and cooked by an Alaska EGG owner) to exotic breakfast dishes, peach cobblers, grilled pineapple, rum soaked apple cake, smoked turkey necks, barbecued meatloaf and many versions of the more traditional pulled pork, fallin’-off-the-bone ribs, spicy sausages, juicy beef brisket, crispy pizza and just about any other food that you can imagine.”

The next photos were taken about 6 years ago.  Both of these events were taken in the month of October.  Notice the difference in the weather and temperatures?  Crazy!!!  Grills come in all sizes from 10 inch diameter to 29 inch diameter and they are all on display and for sale during this event.

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The line waiting to get in Stone Mountain Park for EGGtoberfest.

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“This festive annual family-oriented event also provides an opportunity for someone thinking about buying an EGG to see firsthand the versatility of the intriguing ceramic cooker. The EGGs that are cooked on are sold afterwards; a number of lucky purchasers can take one home at day’s end.”  

This grill takes a little getting use to when you first start cooking but I have to say, M is a champion cook on the EGG. The flavor of whatever you cook is outstanding!!  We cook pork butt, steaks, burgers, chicken, ribs, pizza, kabobs, salmon, pork chops, even banana bread.

P1000679We can’t wait to go again!

The words typed in italics in this post are directly from the Big Green Egg Website

“A Good and Perfect Gift”

God, faith, family, love, and tradition…..

A while back we gathered as a family to celebrate the baptism of our precious granddaughter.

The world we live in can be very challenging. Knowing our grandchildren are being brought up in the faith…..means everything to us.

Every good and perfect gift is from above.” — James 1:17