Monthly Archives: May 2012

TAKE YOUR TROUBLES TO THE SEA

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I’d spent the night tossing and turning with a mind full of worry.  Sound familiar? Throw in the challenge of a suffocating 90 degree heat wherein the only breeze created was from all that tossing and turning, and try as I might, I couldn’t even will myself to sleep. I read.  I watched mindless TV.  Sheep?  All counted. Warm milk?  Eeww!  Sleep aids?  I don’t think so. Nothing would help on this hopeless night.

So early the next morning I decided to get away from it all and take my troubles to the sea. Only a few quiet souls dotted the deserted beach when I arrived, so I was able to get up close and personal to the line where the sand meets the surf.  The chilly ocean breeze was just what I needed to extinguish the overpowering heat permeating from my skin. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my face.  I squinted upward at the brilliant sunlight and gorgeous blue sky, deplete of any trace of a cloud. I took a deep breath of the salty sea air and exhaled slowly. In and out. In and out. My body relaxed.  I watched the glimmering jewels of sunlight dance across the water’s surface like a brilliant bedazzled showcase.  The waves flowed evenly in perfect unison – back and forth and back and forth.  I heard the moan of a foghorn from a ship in the distance. I took another deep breath and realized that life was basically good. I thought about the things causing my restlessness – all legitimate reasons to feel unsettled. And yet, looking over the vastness of the ocean, my problems seemed minuscule.  I pictured the underworld life existing just beneath the surface of the vast blue /green water.  I could picture the perfect harmony of the creatures in the sea and wondered how all the different species could have survived through the turmoil of thousands of years of rocky waters, and yet they do.  I would, too.

Finally able to relax, I read my book, I snacked and I snoozed and felt a whole lot better.  That is until the beach was deluged by throngs of noisy, rambunctious, screaming teenagers whom I imagined were celebrating senior cut day.  Luckily I had already gotten my mojo back because it was definitely time to go.

The best prescription for a sleepless night: Take your troubles to the sea…early in the day…before the throngs arrive…and don’t forget to wear sunscreen.

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MEMORIAL DAY REMEMBRANCE

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When I was an adolescent and the Vietnam War was in full tilt, there was a movement wherein you could purchase a metal wrist band with the name of a prisoner of war (POW) imprinted on it.  The idea was to wear the band in support of that person until he was released. 

My serviceman’s name was Lt. Col. Louis Makowski. That’s all I knew at the time. Much later I found out he was a 16 year veteran of the United States Air Force working as a navigator when his plane was shot down over North Vietnam on October 6, 1966.  He was first reported missing in action (MIA) then later reported as a POW. I remember the sadness of those days as the many numbers of the fallen were reported daily on the news. I remember the protests, the peace signs, and the unrest in our country caused by this war.

I wore Lt. Col. Makowski’s wrist band for many years and prayed for him daily. I can’t even imagine the torture, physical abuse, starvation and loneliness this man suffered through. For four years there was no word about him or his whereabouts.  Then in 1970, his wife began getting letters from the prison camp.  He was alive and well.

As the war came to a close, the Vietnamese began releasing these prisoners.  Television stations would broadcast their return to the United States at the airport and would announce their names one by one as they descended the ramp from the plane. I happened to be watching one of these broadcasts, and I couldn’t believe my eyes or my ears when they announced Lt. Col. Louis Makowski. He was released on March 4, 1973 after 6 ½ years of incarceration. I started crying as if I knew him.  I took my bracelet off and kissed it.  He was finally home safe.

 I still have that bracelet, and every time I look at it I am reminded of that time in our history and of the brave military who fought during the Vietnam War.  We should never forget any war –Vietnam, the World Wars, Korea, or the Mid-East confrontations or the details that helped us to rise above these conflicts. It is because of those who defended us that we enjoy our independence. And despite some of our nation’s recent challenges, it is still the land of the free and the home of the brave.

As we honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our country on this Memorial Day, let’s never forget and always be reminded of the price these dear soldiers paid for the privilege of our freedom. Even if the reminder is a small metal wrist band imprinted with the name of an unknown Air Force navigator.

GLAD TO BE ALIVE

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I’m watching the couple across the lagoon where I live as they sit in the backyard and rock on a swing built for two.  I have a bird’s eye view and am feeling a little voyeuristic as I observe them, but from where I’m sitting in the sunroom, it’s hard to ignore them. They turn their faces upward toward the sun as a gentle breeze ruffles their hair – or what’s left of it.  I don’t know their whole story, but I do know she owns the house on the corner and he lives next door. His wife died, then her husband and somehow they became a couple. I’ve seen them going back and forth between the houses. Their children are grown and visit now and then, especially during the summer.

They’re very playful at the moment.  He leans over and gives her a kiss, then another.  He sits back with his hands behind his neck looking up at the sky smiling, and then lets one arm drop around her shoulder pulling her in for a hug.  They are animatedly chatting about something and are pointing at things around the yard. He leans over and starts tickling her, and she is playfully pushing him away. They are giggling.  He leans in for another kiss (boy, he’s frisky for an old goat!)  and then they get up from the swing and walk between the houses holding hands until they disappear around the corner.

It’s so heart warming to see older folks in love. It gives you hope that no matter what you’ve been through, it’s never too late to try again.  Getting older doesn’t mean you have to give up on love.  You can still be optimistic that you’ll find that special someone who will make you giggle as you rock on a swing on a warm spring day and feel glad to be alive.

THE BEAT GOES ON

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A newscaster closed a commentary on television this morning with the line, “the beat goes on.” Suddenly I’m thrown back to the 1960’s, sitting in front of our RCA black and white television watching Sonny and Cher sing, “The beat goes on…the beat goes on…drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain.  La de da de de; la de da de da.”  

Sonny and Cher were a husband/wife singing duo. Cher was cooler than cool with her long, silky black Cherokee hair.  Grab the iron and the ironing board, girls, because everyone wanted hair like that.  Yes, I did say iron and ironing board – it was light years before the flat iron would be invented.  So you would lay your hair on the board with a light towel over it and iron it like, say, a pair of pants until it was straight. Odd concept, I agree.  But that’s what we did in the “olden” days.  Either that or you would set your hair with 3 inch beer-can-sized rollers.

And those clothes…tied-dyed hippie garb with Indian patterns, faux fur, leather and so much fringe. Cher wore it well – she was tall and confident and casual and not bothered by the fanfare that surrounded her. She was funny in a sarcastic kind of way, and everyone wanted to be like her. Sonny was her short, older husband with a smile too broad and a “look at me, not her” aura.  He was dominant and controlling, but Cher had an “I don’t give a crap” attitude and  flung insulting one-liners at him like meteorites. Sonny was always trying too hard and had a terrible, croaky, frog-like voice. Sorry, Sonny, but it was true, although you were likeable in a cuddly bear kind of way. May he rest in peace.  Sonny and Cher were the rage of the time, and “The Beat Goes On” was one of their biggest hits.  And such stirring lyrics – let’s take a “then and now” look.

Charleston was once the rage (uh-huh – you’re in charge of singing the “uh-huh” part after each stanza like they did.):  Has everyone heard of the Charleston? It was the hot dance during the 1920’s flapper era? (And, no, I didn’t live in the 20’s.  I’m not that old. No offense to those who did.)  I guess the dance rage today would be running man, although when I try to perform it at weddings or social gatherings, my children run away from me and pretend they don’t know me, so I guess I’m not that good at it.

History has turned the page (what do you say?…uh-huh): Sonny and Cher didn’t last on the next page of history. They went their separate ways, eventually divorcing but were successful doing their own thing. Cher became a mega star with movies and awesome Las Vegas acts (oh, yes, now you know who she is…). Sonny entered politics as a mayor for Palm Springs and then went on to become a member of the US House of Representatives. Go figure.  He died from injuries in a tragic skiing accident in 1998. God rest him.

Who will last from this era?  I’m pretty sure it won’t be Nicki Minaj but maybe Adele?  I’m hoping Gavin DeGraw because he’s the type of guy I would have went for had he lived in the 60’s, and he wears a hat well. Check back with me in 20 years and we’ll see.

Mini skirts the current thing (uh-huh… No, I don’t know why they sung uh-huh after each phrase.  I guess it’s sort of a mystery, like why the Beatles sang “yeah, yeah, yeah” after every phrase in “She Loves You.”):  Mini skirts are out, and maxies seem to be trending at the current moment. 

Teenybopper is our newborn king (uh huh…just do it!):  Not even sure what this line means.  Neither does Google.  But today’s youngest leader would be Kim Jong-un (29 years old) of  North Korea.

The grocery store’s the super mart (uh huh):  Yes, we have the super marts galore still today: Walmart, Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s. 

Little girls still break their hearts (uh huh):  Nothing changed there.

Men keep marching off to war (OK, now they stop saying “uh huh” for some reason, but I don’t know why.):  Then it was Vietnam…now it’s the Middle East.  How to be peaceful hasn’t been figured out yet.

Electrically they keep a baseball score:  Well, to say the very least, it was the beginning of a technology that has surpassed any dream we could have imagined with the creation of computers and phones and gadgets that would have “blown our minds” back then.

Grandmas sit in chairs and reminisce:  Isn’t that what I’m doing now?  And don’t call me granny…yet!

Boys keep chasing girls to get a kiss:  That’s a thread weaved through the entire history of the world, although taken to the next level these days requires ultimate protection.

Cars keep going faster all the time:  The fastest car today is the SSC Ultimate Aero, an American-made automobile that is produced by Washington-based Shelby SuperCars. It can do 0 to 60 in 2.7 seconds, and was clocked going a record 257 mph by officials at Guinness World Records. (Thank you, Google) In the 60’s it was probably a souped-up Volkswagen Bug – mine was yellow.

Bums still cry, “heh, buddy, do you have a dime?”: Bums?  Back then you assumed those who panhandled were just too lazy to work – they were called bums. They were guys who laid around campfires in the woods near railroad tracks so they could hop a train on a whim to go somewhere else at any given time. They were considered carefree rovers, eating beans out of cans and carrying their few belongings rolled up in a hankerchief tied to a stick.

My father used the term for athletes who weren’t doing well in the game.  “Those bums,” he’d yell at the TV.  My Mom used to like to call the Phillies bums.  I’m getting off point.  In this toilet-based economy, there is an overwhelming number of people who just cannot find work because there are no jobs. They are not bums. They are people who are struggling in this economy – unemployed, homeless, down on their luck people who are trying to get back on their feet.

The cost of a cup of coffee in the 60’s was a dime. Today it’s at least $1 -2, unless you go to Starbucks and then it would be $5.  I would imagine the inflation rate would have ballooned this line to “heh, buddy, do you have a buck or five?

Things are a lot different now, and like Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changing,” but that’s another song for another day.

La…de…da…de…de;  la…de…da…de…da

ANNUS HORRIBILIS

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Annus Horribilis, the Latin term for “horrible year” or “year of horribles,” is a good definition of how my life has evolved during the past few years. You name it, it’s happened, and I wonder how in the world I’ve managed to make it past the situations life has presented. Miraculously, here I…still standing.

Who hasn’t had a year, or sometimes years, like this with their own set of unique challenges?  All are fueled by different situations – the economy – the stock market – health – life stages – or just plain old bad luck. It seems like that gray cloud will just not go away. You rise and you fall.  You stand up and get knocked down and discover worlds of possibility in the struggle to get back on your feet. The key is to keep mustering up the strength to overcome and have faith in a better tomorrow.  You have to keep holding on and believing it will get better, and, suddenly, it does.

I’ve grown through my circumstances and could certainly not have become the person I’ve become without having walked through the fire. I am stronger.  I am wiser.  My heart has softened.  My spirit has turned outward from myself to others.  Being in need has taught me how to help those who have nothing. Knowing hunger has made me sensitive to those who struggle for their daily bread. Empty pockets have made me a believer in giving whatever I can and doing as much as I can for those less fortunate. I’ve found that you don’t need money to give.

The challenges we have been called to master are the reasons why we’ve become the people we are meant to be. Without the situations we have come to terms with, we could not possibly comprehend the sufferings or weaknesses of those we are called to help.

Are our troubles and sufferings really Annus Horribilus?  Or are they Benedictio Dei (God’s blessings)?  I think we all know the answer. Embrace them.

 

LESSON FROM A SEAGULL

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I watched a seagull suspended in the sky this morning as if on a string.  It seemed odd that he wasn’t moving forward or backward or left or right.  He was floating in place on the breeze perfectly balanced by the power of the wind beneath its wings. He seemed to be taking pleasure in the serenity of the lift without having to exert any energy.

I feel like that seagull right now because I am also hovering in space without any direction.  I’m not moving forward or backward or left or right. I should be enjoying the lift and just let the breeze carry me where I need to go. Instead, I worry too much about the future and what it may hold.  I worry that I’ll go off in a direction I shouldn’t go. I worry that I’ll fall to the ground.

If only I could let go and enjoy the ride like that seagull and trust that God is holding me in the palm of His hand. All the energy I really need to exert is the faith that He is working in my life. I have a habit, though, of loosing my focus and giving into the anxiety in my mind.  I do trust that soon the wind will pick up again and I’ll start moving in the direction I was meant to go.

So for now, I’ll try to relax and just enjoy the lift, let go and let God.

THE SWEET NECTAR OF YOUTH

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The sweet scent of honeysuckles engulfed my senses this morning as I walked Bella along the causeway to the bay.  I was immediately thrown back in time where as a little girl I walked along the path to Switlik Park where these gorgeous little flowers grew wild on a hedge. Along with my best friend Gayle, we passed them hundreds of times during the course of our childhoods. We would pick the white flowers and suck on their sweet nectar as we talked a lot about nothing at all on lazy summer days. The taste and fragrance of the sweet blossoms is forever embedded in my memory.

Those were simpler times without worry, at least for two little girls growing up in small town Yardville, New Jersey. Early each summer morning we would walk to the neighborhood pool for swimming lessons. We’d go home for lunch and then walk back again where we’d swing on the swings, belly laugh as we tried to “bump” each other off the seesaw or explore the woods.  It was a safer world. We’d go back to the pool where we’d play games in the water until we’d turn blue then lounge in the warm sun all afternoon talking about boys.

I feel sorry for the kids today who don’t enjoy the simpler pleasures we did, those who stay indoors and waste their time on gadgets and computers, video games and TV. They’ll never have the opportunity to enjoy discovering tadpoles in the creek or baby birds nesting. I’m glad we didn’t have all that technology that now occupies all of our time and energy. The obesity that’s so rampant in the youth of this generation just didn’t exist way back when. Kids in my “Stone Age” years never sat still long enough.  We were always outside “getting some fresh air” as my Mom would say, with lots of walking, running or riding our bikes around the neighborhood. We’d make up hundreds of games using nothing but our imaginations. Back home for dinner we’d go, then outside once more to catch lightning bugs and play hide and seek in the dark with all the neighborhood kids. We fell into bed exhausted only to start over the next day.

It’s amazing how you can be catapulted back in time to reminisce about those almost forgotten days by the unexpected whiff of a flowering bush. It’s a reminder of how grateful I am for the gift of my childhood…and for the gift of honeysuckles.