Saturday, November 12, 2016

Regarding the Recent Election

After the last few days of the Presidential election and subsequent victory of a man half the country didn't vote for, I thought I would write about my memories of how my family handled elections while growing up. Then I remembered that wouldbe violating my "no politics" rule on my personal blog. So, I'm sharing about one of the most important decisions I ever had to make as a parent and how that decision shaped my political perspective to what it is today.

I was never a very good student. I was a goof-off. I talked too much and quite frequently got in trouble. My mother used to say that I was very smart and bored in class. I am not sure if that's true. I wonder if I would have been labeled and medicated had that sort of thing existed. What I do remember is being very interested in reading. I loved to read and would get in trouble occasionally for reading by flashlight under the covers. I did not love to study and I did not love how restricted I felt in school. I started working part time in 11th grade and after starting to make money and having the freedom that it bought, I chose not to further my education past a high school diploma.

As an adult I continued to read and felt a kinship with the biographies and autobiographies of self-taught Americans. A few of my friends chose to homeschool their children and after my daughter began public school in Kindergarten, I felt called to look into the possibilities. Maybe the fact that I never went to college helped me, but I never questioned my ability to teach her. What could she possibly need to learn that I was incapable of learning too? She was so tired at the end of the day in 1st Grade. It took so much out of her. She loved school, but she seemed to be stressed out by the teacher pleasing that school took. 

In Kindergarten she would come home with homework that instructed her to write a number several times across the page and then it would tell her to draw something that number of times. I have a vivid memory of the number 12 and the 12 lady bugs she had to draw. There were so many tears. The lady bugs were not perfect and she loved her teacher. How could she turn in a project that was not perfect? That's when the light bulb went off in my head. She didn't have a clue what this lesson was about. The purpose was to learn the number 12. She thought it was an art project. My heart broke for her and the wheels began to turn.

I spent most of her 1st Grade year starting a business and planning for homeschooling. Regarding the starting a business - again, had I been to college I would have learned that one does not just start a business. There is so much more to it than that - business plans, marketing plans, licensing, capitol, etc. Had I know what I should have I would have never done it. In retrospect, my lack of education served me better than an education would. I had no fear of failure, because I didn't realize I was expected to fail. What I learned over that year - her 1st grade of school and my first year of business was that God gave me the ability and the rights to pursue our dreams. 

What did I hope to teach my child through my parenting and as her teacher? My goal for both of us was to take all those labels that signal probable failure or at least disadvantage and roar past them on the road to a life of our own design. A single unwed mother with a an only child abandoned by one parent. According to the statistics, we would be on a road of government entitlements and public school and daycare and a safe job with good benefits. In short, a life of mediocrity and merely surviving. 

On behalf of both of us, I chose freedom. And we have taken full advantage of our life outside the box the world expected us to live in. If that still doesn't make my politics clear, this is it: I need just enough government in my life to keep our world safe. Beyond that, we're fine on our own.

With one of the artisans at Roanoke Island Festival Park. Manteo, NC

Riding her first horse at Cacapon State Park. Berkeley Springs, WV
Sharing a birthday with Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Charlottesville, VA

Snake handling with the naturalist at Cacapon State Park


Friday, September 9, 2016

Our First 90 Days of Marriage

On our happy day!

We married with two completely different approaches at tasks. Sam’s motto would be, “Never pay someone to do something you can do yourself,” while mine is, “Never do yourself what you can afford to pay someone else to do.” I regard it as my contribution to the economy. Alas, this is why he has better retirement savings than me!

Reviewing our first 90 days of marriage, I’ve learned to help out more…as in physical labor, which I have basically devoted my life to avoiding. Sam is a retired workhorse.  In the two years since he retired, he has learned how to relax more, but he is still a driven man. Yards need to be mowed at 3 houses, items need to be packed and moved out of his house to the garage of the new house, regular maintenance on my house, and he’s determined to do as much as he can of the work at the new house without hiring it out.

In my mind, buying a fixer upper and renovating it meant calling the Southern Maryland equivalent of Chip and Joanna Gaines and giving them my wish list. Alas, that’s now how this is going to work! It wouldn’t be right for me to kick my feet up and while away the hours on Pinterest to show Sam my desires for our new home. Although I do have a Pinterest board for it, entitled Willows Ranch Re-do, I have had to roll up my sleeves and get involved in the process. My area of ability does not include power tools or too heavy lifting, so I’ve been somewhat limited but I’ve been suiting up and taking the field.
Our fixer upper - 1974 Brick Ranch with all original interior
His gratitude at the end of the day after I’ve been wrapping breakables and packing boxes and helping to load the trailer is worth the extra effort.  Believe me, I have never lifted my end of so many heavy items! After the garage was full of stuff from his old house, I got out there and reorganized it so we could get more in, because nothing can go in to a house that you’re gutting.  And I’ve been mowing – during one of the hottest summers we’ve had in a long time – with a push mower because the riding mower has to stay at his old house until closing. His yard is too big to be done with a push mower. I have to divide it into thirds and come inside and cool down and wait until I’m sure I’m not having a heart attack before going out for the next portion.

It’s not a perfect process and believe me we’ve had our share of arguments. The day after I weeded and planted some flowers in our front flower bed he asked me to help him carry the flooring he had taken up out to the trailer. For about ten minutes I gathered up armloads of flooring and took it out through the garage and dumped it at the back of the trailer. After watching me go through this process several times, without a word, he hops in the truck and backs the trailer across my new garden up to the front door. Seriously? Words, please…you could have communicated this to me so that I wouldn’t have wasted those trips. He just shrugged and said, “I’ll buy you more flowers!” A man of few words who is used to working alone doesn’t always do a great job at telling me what’s in his head,  and it’s interesting how two grown adults can go at one task so differently.
I've gone from this...

He’s always good at reminding me to be careful of upcoming dangers. Last week as we were carrying his couch into the garage he warned me that the wood shelving on the floor had nails in it. And then he stepped right on it and put a nail through his shoe into his foot. He assured me his tetanus shots were up to date as he hobbled to finish unloading the last of the furniture.

To this! But I'm getting mega-points for helping out!
So our first 90 days have been an adventure and I can not thank God enough that we both have a sense of humor. After a particularly hot day of lawn mowing I caught a glimpse of myself passing the hall mirror and decided to send him a picture of me. When I saw him later we had a big laugh about it! I may not look like I did on the day we said our “I Do’s” but I know that he appreciates having a partner who is willing to break a sweat and work as a team.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

My, Umm, Our Beach House

I've been thinking of a new name for my blog and all that goes with it - Facebook page, etc. It's been My Beach House for so long but I just got married in June and we are renovating a bigger beach house so I've been thinking of a new name. Driftwood Shores, because my husband is a part-time driftwood artist, Willow Shores, because the new house is in a neighboring community called The Willows. I've actually lost some sleep over this.

After two and a half months of marriage, having been single for more years than I want to admit, I believe I've come upon the perfect name:


After this very short period of marriage it has become quite clear to me and my husband that we are so used to living alone (with the exception of our kids, one each), that sometimes it's hard to remember you have another person to consider. And because he has such a generous and mannerly nature, when I say "WE" I mean "ME." He will always pour me a cup of coffee. He will even ask if I want another one. He never leaves things lying around, unless I'm supposed to review or sign something, which I might get to in days. On the other hand, I'm the person who pours one big glass of wine and then plops down on the couch and says, "What?"

My story about finding Mr. Right is very long, but I wrap it up in a little snippet I call, "THE LIST." All of my friends and my husband have heard it a dozen times so I'll write it here and never mention it again. In all the years that I was alone and longing to find love, a list developed. My list included the things that I was looking for in a partner. Of course, my list was longer at 50 then it was at 25, which is why I had been divorced for so long. If I'd been as picky my first time around...well, that's another story! The top items on my list were: a man who is kind, a man who makes me laugh, a man who likes to travel, a man who is good to my child, a man who is a Christian. I only had one physical requirement - a man who is tall. While my husband meets all of that criteria, including being 6'7", there were other less important items that he didn't meet. But that's not the surprise in the story. The punchline of "THE LIST" is how completely surprised I was that he had his own list. And the newsflash was that I didn't meet all of those items. This is what happens when we spend too long alone. We are the only person in our story except for the unknown love that is out there somewhere. Imagine my shock that he had his own list. And then imagine my humbling when he chose me anyway.

We've been married for almost three months now and together for almost five years. We had our own lives 80 miles apart and spent a considerable amount of time away from each other. Now that we're making our lives together every day, it's a big adjustment. Much of it is humorous. We have both had to apologize often and bite our tongues daily! Throw in that we are both retired and we have purchased a home that needs renovations. We each own a home and fortunately his has finally sold. And my college senior daughter is living at home this semester while doing an internship locally. It's been quite a summer. 

At this point, those major qualities on my list have had to be exercised often, especially the sense of humor and following Christ. Between them both, I am reminded often that this is a shared journey and that I have much to learn about being less selfish, more faithful, and to put my husband first. That was when I knew that I had finally met the man I longed for - when his happiness became as important to me as my own. But I've also discovered that love and marriage are as much action verbs as they are nouns. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

365 Days of Gratitude

A few years ago I participated in a Facebook event called 101 Days of Gratitude. The first day was 101 days before Thanksgiving and the event culminated on Thanksgiving Day. The next year, I started one of my own events and invited my Facebook friends. It is a marvelous and spiritual avenue for counting and sharing your blessings. This year, when Thanksgiving Day came, we all shared that we would be sad for it to end.

My parents - Grateful for life and their love
My childhood home for the first 18 years of my life!

I changed the name of the group to 365 Days of Gratitude, and the group has continued. We don't share every day like we do during the 101 Days, but we keep in touch regularly and share what is going on in our lives and ask for prayers when needed. The group has been a wonderful way to focus on the things that are important: family, love, art, beauty and laughter. 2016 may go down as the most cynical year in American history!

My Bible - so grateful for God's Word.
August 11, 2016 is Day 1 of 101 Days of Gratitude 2016. We welcome all to join us. Every year I am so thankful for many new things to add to the most precious blessings that I hold near. It is an effort some days to come up with something new. It stretches me to focus on the positive. What about you? Are you thankful for the air you breathe, your health, your children or that 10 year old dog who is your faithful companion?

Laughter - is there anything better?
This year I have some new blessings that I've collected over the last year: my husband, our new home, our new community, some new friends, renovations, new goals. I'm looking forward to the daily focus on gratitude. The Lord has been so good to me. I've added some photos of gratitudes from year's past. Think about how you have been blessed and share them with us over on 365 Days of Gratitude. Looking forward to meeting you!

The Beauty of Nature. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Morning Meditation

We missed the sunrise by about half hour but we still managed to paddle away from the shore around 6:30 a.m. The 90-100 degree heat of the last two weeks makes it easy to stay inside, and retirement makes it easy to sleep in, but I committed myself to it today and managed an early rise.

We paddled straight out into the Chesapeake Bay away from the beach in the path of the day’s new sun. After awhile, we just stopped talking and paddled and floated on our own. Black coffee still hot in my thermos mug and as I leaned back my thoughts turned to God. That old saying, “If you feel far from God, ask yourself, ‘Who moved?’” I never feel far from God but that’s sort of the problem. Over the last few years I don’t think of Him enough.

I began talk to Him, quietly meditating on His presence. The slight current slapped gently along the bottom of my kayak, as I closed my eyes and breathed in the air.  A look around and I could see Sam at least a football field away, doing the same thing. Just laid back, feet propped up on the bow, rising and falling with the water.  Why don’t we do this more often – enjoy the early morning when no one else is around?

All the normal excuses:  we spent the spring planning a wedding, a honeymoon, buying a house, trying to sell one, getting our joint finances in order, helping our kids, doing laundry, making meals, living day to day.

But at that moment on the water, I thought of all the horrible news the world has had lately – terrorism here and abroad, politics pitting us against one another and the lawlessness of our leaders. I ask God to help me again, “Help me focus on you, Lord. Help me to honor you.” Early morning trips on the kayak or long walks, getting back to healthy eating and exercise. Find a church.  Help others.  Pray more.  I’ve lived an amazingly blessed life. I’ve suffered loss and heartbreak but God’s blessings overshadow those. It’s time to be more mindful. I’m shooting for the actual sunrise tomorrow.