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Archive for the ‘Relaxation’ Category

Nearing the end of a long merry-go-round of out-of-town guests, we took Grandma and her visitors out to lunch on the scenic delta. We shared our view of roosting pelicans from indoors with a healthy population of vampiric mosquitoes leering at us from outdoors…

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On the way home, we swing by a most-likely-to-see-alligators spot at the top of the bay, a lazy offshoot of a river now flanked by hotels, interstate and the occasional looky-loo.

As the local “expert/guide,” I park on the far side of the hotel lot, the place where everybody used to throw chicken to the gators just to lure them, back when it was all good fun and games until the law got involved and the resident fourteen-footer got shot.

I look hither. I look yon, “Beware of Alligators” signs, be darned.

About to climb back into the car declaring that we should move along, nothing to see, folks, I glance down in annoyance at my ankle bracelet catching the strap of my beaded sandal for the umpteenth time. I am staring head-on into a healthy-sized alligator less than ten feet from my two feet.

Yikes!

What else was I to do than to beckon Grandma and her visitors to come hither and see for themselves?

So they did.

While visitors snapped photos to show and tell later this week at the water cooler at work, Grandma – with advancing dementia – decides to teeter on the edge of the embankment and fancies herself an alligator-whisperer.

“Here, sweetie, come up here and see us! You’re so beautiful! Here, gator-gator-gator, just look at YOU! Come here, come talk to me!”

The alligator HAD been facing us head-on, but upon her beckoning, he began to slowly turn so the one eye on the right side of his head could get a better view of her.

“That’s right, you big ol’ lizard, get on up here and look a little closer! We won’t hurt you…”

“Mom, um, let’s go. He’s turning toward us.”

“I know! Isn’t that great? He hears me, he wants to be my friend!”

“Mom, he’s turning toward you so he can size you up. Come on, get in the car.”

“He won’t hurt me, he’s so CUTE!”

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Lurky-loo

 

“Mom, NO! He’s casing you…he’s, he’s trying to see if he can catch you for supper. Please, get in the car!”

“He can’t get me, he wouldn’t do that!”

“No, Mom, alligators run REALLY fast – he can strike quickly, and get up this embankment faster than you can get to the car. Come on, come with me…(leading her by the arm).”

(Fighting and shooing me off) “No, I want to see if he’ll come closer.”

Okay, so this was insanity. Literally. The guests, long lodged safely back in the car and witnessing the spectacle with the “flight” reaction to adrenaline’s “fight, flight or freeze,” were no help whatsoever.

It was up to me to talk her away from the embankment before the alligator had a chance to strike.

So on a whim, I injected a little sobering reality into the mix: “Okay, just make sure you run away zig-zag when he comes up to see you closer. He can run after you straight, but it will confuse him if you run in a zig-zag pattern; alligators can’t run zig-zag.”

“What? Really?”

“Yep. If you insist on standing here communing with this extra-large reptile who weighs more than you do, it’s the least I can do to tell you how to outsmart him.”

(A quiet moment of mutual sizing-up between curious reptile and curious senile then ensued)

“Well, I’ve seen enough,” she finally declared, and she high-tailed it back to the car, just as he began to turn a little closer.

Truth be told, the alligator was probably just looking for a good, old-fashioned chicken handout. (Side note: maybe that’s why alligator meat tastes like chicken – really, it DOES!)

But I wasn’t taking any chances here – how would I explain that to the rest of the family if Grandma got gobbled up by a gator?!

Then we safely resumed our holiday weekend of resort-hopping, one of my favorite things about having visitors when living at the beach. No regrets whatsoever that they come here to visit the beach as much, if not more, than they come here to visit us. Either way, we all get to play!

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I highly recommend outdoor blog-posting.

 

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Creative watermelon carving

 

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I wish this life for all y’all dear readers…

 

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When I studied this picture later, I thought, “Funny, I don’t recall seeing that much color in the stained glass, in person.” Turned out the lower half of my floral-print dress was captured in the reflection as I took the shot. This is why I am not a professional photographer…

 

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Errant footprint on the beach

(and Ms. Ashley, we’ve got a few decent venues down here for ya)

Happy opening of hurricane season to one and to all!

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One of my favorite things about the beach is the number of surprises you can discover, both with and without tourists. Of course the surprises WITH tourists are always interesting and sometimes challenging – traffic, parking, finding a good place to set up, sand kicked by careless feet, thumping music, forbidden glass containers and trash.

On the upside, it’s fun to meet strangers and get acquainted, fun to share the wonder, and fun to help them find ways to enhance their visit with local advice, sharing know-how and, of course, good ol’ Southern hospitality. People always seem grateful to meet folks who have vinegar on hand for jellyfish stings or who know how to embellish sand castles. We always make a point to broaden our horizons with trips to the public beaches a few times during tourist season so as not to isolate ourselves on our favorite, more deserted beaches.

It’s been a fairly warm winter, and January left its mark on me with a couple of mild sunburns. Here are some of the highlights of these winter walks:

Twin tide pools, one stagnating and one crystal blue, separated by a narrow natural bridge:

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Locals get first dibs on the big shells in the winter, even if we don’t get out there until high noon:

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Big, fat jelly fish washed up:

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Fun with homemade blow darts/gun:

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No tourists were hurt in the making of this blog:

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Shells-eye!

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Castles under the boardwalk:

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Winter sparkles:

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Treasures in the waves and on the shore…and a mini-rip tide:

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…and a mermaid with a shelly-belly button?

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Next time, I’ll cover the part of the beach walks that cover me…

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Horizontal hair - ya gotta love the elements!

Rough surf + good boogie board +tangerine toes = FUN

Can you handle the mangly tangled results of exhilaration?

Best surf of all..

Eventually gravity and relaxation settle the matter.

Thanks, God, for awesome beach days!!

P.S. – Thanks to Ms. Dotty Headbanger for the Golden Shatner Award…it just made me laugh, just like her posts…even though she added me to her American Therapist hoarding problem Collection prior to my officially granting permission.  Send the lady a Cumberland sausage!

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The Grand Old Oak Tree

How many monkeys can you see?

Zoom in close and count with me…

One, two, three, four, five, six ~ seven;

These loving arms are a child’s heaven!

 

A Home Away From Home

This boy has found a notch on which to hang his Crocs, a nook for his Co-cola, a wedge for his hot dog foil and a quiet place to enjoy his book.

What’s your favorite childhood tree memory?

 
 

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I’ve just returned from a workshop about using art therapy to treat loss and grief. There I picked up over three dozen nifty ideas to use in the practice of healing those whom I serve. I expected to passively sit and be taught, like a good little seminar-attendee, pen purposely poised over legal pad, brain in sponge-mode. A nice way to end a hectic work week, to be paid to hang out in the Sunshine State for a day of intellectual ministering. Woot!

Silly moi, I should have anticipated that a good learning experience involves, well, experience…and that creative sorts like artists are all about the process. The pen sat largely idle and the pad was brought home mostly blank. Instead, I carried away a very personal experience of how art heals.

That’s right, she put us to work. This “Sorry, I’m limited to stick-men” kind of a gal didn’t get too far with that excuse with an art therapist. There was no hiding in that hotel conference room, and only so many times you can use the restroom/important call/refill the coffee excuses. Reluctant and reticent, I got sucked into the world of self-expression and vulnerable exposure. One cannot, after all, change others if one is not intimately familiar with the experience of changing, themselves.

I was reminded of the old joke in the field of child & family therapy…I started out with no kids and 4 theories; now I’ve got 4 kids and no theories. In order for healing to hold water, one must know something about holding water. Neither book smarts nor experience in and of themselves are ever as powerful as the combination thereof.

Our first project introduced us to the Mandala Circle, a large, outlined circle on a blank page. The instructions were to choose an oil pastel (each of us had been given a generous supply at our tables), and draw anything for 30 seconds.

As is my custom, I was already fretting about what to color, and thus I failed to hear that I would only have 30 seconds. So when the time began, I slowly and cautiously began to color around the outline on in the inside of the circle, using my favorite color (orange). I didn’t know where I was going with it, and was feeling mentally hijacked in being asked to DO something besides vegetate for the duration of the seminar, so I mindlessly and mechanically put pastel to paper.

As I began to plan ahead to where I might go with this drawing, she interrupted and stopped the time, instructing us to trade papers with another person. I was mildly miffed: not only was I NOT going to be able to plan and complete whatever it was I had not planned for, but now I had to go an mar someone else’s pretty circle with my lack of artistic talent.

Adrenaline rising, I quickly took mental note of the location of each emergency exit sign in the room, but was again interrupted by the timekeeper-lady, who summoned us to begin the next 30-second drawing. In front of me was someone else’s pretty pattern, in blue. I was terrified of ruining what they began, but I obediently put pastel again to paper, and found myself tracing their pattern with my orange. It reminded me of one of my favorite color combinations on my commute, when the sun is beginning to set and the water takes on a bright glacier-blue hue, and the sky turns into Creamsicle orange. Yum!

My trepidation began to melt into relaxation and enjoyment. Snap – she called another trade! I had no idea where my page was at this point or what it might possible look like, but now in front of me was a circle with purple and red…and at the start of the new 30 seconds, I added my orange to this one, which resembled a dream-catcher pattern. I wondered what would happen if I went out of the circle…damn, I couldn’t remember the directions! Was this allowed?

Risk-taker rogue that I am, I spat into the wind and zagged that orange pastel smack out of the circle and, like a bolt of lightning, boldly directed the line skyward to the top of the paper. There, I was happy now – I did something impulsively unique and creative, and I liked how it looked. It drew the eye away from the main, central theme and forced the mind to wander…and to wonder. Suddenly I was overcome by a quick flash of remorse, hoping the owner of the circle wouldn’t be upset that I colored outside their lines.

As I was balancing my regret and satisfaction (satisfaction won!), we were instructed to trade again. I cheerfully took it upon myself to color outside of more lines. Yes, this was ME! This was my Zorro-Z! I put to the grave my shame of henceforth being limited to stick men, and was filled with new artistic self-assurance. Rules be damned, lines were made to be crossed and my orange zags electrified and brought added interest to each circle. At least in the eye of this beholder.

After about five or six trades, we were instructed to find the original owner of the circle. When circles had been reclaimed, there was a hush in the room as we all beheld what had become of our circle. I was humbled and amazed at the journey mine had taken. What began with self-doubt, reluctant hesitation, emotional distress drowning out the directions and with only my favorite color to cling to, my circle had become the most beautiful creation which I could not have done – no-way, no-how, by myself. It could only have turned out so beautiful by my being forced to allow others to help me, to contribute to my experience and by others filling in blanks left by my limitations. Yes, this is how we become rich, and how life gets its true value.

Life is a joint effort. We are ourselves because of others.

According to research (Smitheman-Browne and Church, 1996), Mandala circles drawn at the beginning of each therapy session (whether group or individual) have been shown to reduce impulsive, anxious behaviors. In engaging in this exercise, I was able to see how I myself went from my own limitations through the change, to a redefined sense of self. As in life, it challenged me to evaluate my needs and expectations, to challenge those expectations, to compare my reality with those around me, and forced me into making choices I might not have otherwise made.

It reminded me of the anguish of those with mental health problems whose symptoms directly interfere with the basics of getting through a task or a conversation, much less an entire day, without their problems mucking things up worse for them and further reinforcing negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors in an endless, downward spiral, further perpetuating the stigma and hopelessness.

The drawing took me through feelings of artistic inadequacy, being anxious to the point of not hearing basic directions, winding up surprised and upset when asked to change (yet being forced to), finding a way to feel comfortable and define a new style all my own (using my favorite color to overcome fear and creating something I liked), reinforcing this with repetition to the point of enjoyment, and emerging on the other side of the exercise with new courage and a redefined self. Wowzers!

This also drove home how very hard it is to be on the other side of the couch, or worse, to feel as though you are alone in your plight. When we are in pain, it takes extra courage to reach out and ask for help, and even greater courage to change. Change involves risk, and risk can be scary. And the only way through scary is to trust. From a clinical perspective, I can extrapolate this exercise to apply to many different types of problems and diagnoses, but the goal for all is the same: the process of being able to trust others, begins with trusting oneself. Herein lies the greatest challenge of all, and for all.

How well do you trust yourself? And how do you regain that trust when your world gets rocked and your trust is shaken…or lost?

Postscript:

After the circles were returned to their owners and the hush had become fully pregnant, one participant raised her hand but did not wait to be called upon. “SOMEBODY DREW OUTSIDE OF MY CIRCLE,” she announced with great agitation, pointing to the bright orange zag emerging out of her otherwise-neat circle. She fully expected the scribbling scofflaw to be identified, drawn and quartered in front of everyone. The instructor smiled and looked at her picture, which the participant held high for all to see the violation for themselves. The participant sought confirmation: “We weren’t supposed to go outside the lines.” The instructor, still smiling, said, “I never said that. I was very careful to give you just general instructions. Isn’t it interesting the limitations we assume lie in the tasks we face in life? And how that may limit our ability to solve problems? Or limit our ability to guide others in solving theirs? As helpers, we must constantly think outside the box, since answers to life rarely lie within the confines of the boundaries we perceive to exist.”

Thanks, God, for having all the answers (even if we can’t see them), and for teaching us to trust.

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Mandatory Fun

“Sorry,” the ferry captain shook his head. “The two cars at the very front of the line will be lucky if they get on…capacity is 170 people. Everybody from the other side parked over there, bought round-trip tickets to come over here for the parade and will be getting back on for the 2:00 eastbound. We won’t be able to add any cars. You’ll either have to wait for the 3:30 (if there’s even room then) or join the bumper-to-bumper crowd over the bridge. Have fun, y’all,” he winked.

Stranded in Paradise.

Again.

My only option was to hang loose and have fun. Mandatory fun. No way out of it.

“I have to stay for the parade…I can’t get off the island. Sorry, sweetie…” (said with semi-sincere furrowed brow).

My shift ended at 12:30; here I thought I had concocted a brilliant escape off the island to get to watch the parade from the ferry line AND get off the island first, avoiding the traffic and crowds. But, oh well…I should have known there would be 170 others seeking a designated driver this time of year, here. So the auto-ferry was transformed into a party-boat.

Fact: Southerners know how to party. In fact, I think we invented the word, since I don’t recall hearing of any or many notorious celebrations north of the Mason-Dixon line which have endured for so many centuries in our nation.

Mardi Gras preceded them all, beginning in 1699. There exists a certain obligation to maintain traditions in the South which is always steeped in deep pride and unrivaled enthusiasm. Such  is the phenomenon of Mardi Gras, and one which must only be experienced firsthand, since many of the facets of Mardi Gras can seem to an outsider trivial, frivolous, wasteful, or any number of such judgments.

And what is so wrong with a tradition of relaxed fun? Or a month of it, for that matter? After all, life is hard and all too short. It really is a win-win, especially when old and young alike have a week off – no, 10 days – to look forward to (you know, Lundi (Monday) Gras, Fat Tuesday, a day thrown in to tip hats to President’s day and a couple of (*snort*) “teacher’s work days…”). Even local federal offices are ghost towns on Fat Tuesday; there is no business conducted to speak of on the biggest parade days, where all along the Gulf Coast, most cities have multiple parades throughout the day. This is about the only business being done:

Vendors are a pre-parade event in and of themselves.

So we backed out of the ferry line, made our way down the boulevard lined 10 people deep waiting for the parade, and managed to find a parking space next to a Sheriff’s car – no one dared park on the grass by him until Mrs. Brash here pulled up in front of him, but by then it was so crowded, he was happy for us just to get the heck off the street, and smiled/nodded his blessing upon us as we pulled the beach chairs out of the trunk (yes, they remain in the trunk at all times – you never know when you’ll need them around here).

Y'all come on down and find a spot...

Prime parking spot headed toward the bridge headed off the island, prime spot lining the parade route to sit/stand/enjoy, all we had to do was wait. And have fun. No choice in the matter. Sealed fate, more or less.

Southerners love their hats for every occasion...

Mardi Gras appeals to all 5 senses. Missing from this post would be the smells and the feel. Smells of multiple barbecues in progress up and down the roadside mixed with the sea air, with a wisp of a molecule or two every few breezes, of various beverages being consumed somewhere deep in the crowd. Fresh cotton candy and funnel cakes. Shrimp boils and gumbo. We saw them setting up shop at 8 am, already claiming their spot on the parade route, coolers unloaded, tailgates open.

Southerners love any excuse to have a tailgate party!

And the feel…of catching beads and moon pies, the warm sunshine beaming on your smiling face.

Throw me something, mister!

Oh, and the sounds…of the endlessly festive cacophony of music, some coming from truck stereos, some coming from the parade itself. The sound of children chanting for beads as the floats roll past – “Hey, mister, throw me something!” and when mounted police or other police-type parade participants roll by, children jokingly calling to them to throw them some handcuffs instead. Alas, no handcuffs, but always plenty of beads, moon pies, stuffed animals, trinkets and treasures.

Some parades are  better than others, but all parades have something to offer, something to send you away feeling glad that you came.

Mardi Gras parades are not spectator sports...they are interactive social events.

This wise guy drove a "Hardly-Dangerous."

This float-puller felt the need to have an open box of Cheez-Its on his dash for the drive. It ain't a party without food of some sort...

While everybody else was reaching for beads, I was analyzing the car and driver. Boar's head with borrowed horns, crap all over the dash (air horn, cd out of case, roll of electric tape, etc.). Come as you are!

Why do we celebrate? Because of Jesus, although He seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle, not unlike Christmas. Mardi Gras is the last hurrah before Lent, when we straighten up our spiritual posture and assume a more reverent regard for Him as we await the celebration of His resurrection.

Death gave way to life...okay, so it's a stretch to pair a skeleton dude and the Easter bunny together and make something meaningful about Jesus out of it, but...traditions water down into representations over time. At least we are reminded - our choices hence are up to us.

Hey, God – thank you for good times, for reminding us daily of You (in ways we choose or do not choose to notice), and, of course, for the fun You afford us along The Way.

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Hey, God…thank You for getting my attention Tuesday night when You sent that bolt of lightning. I guess I ignored You the last few posts and forgot to give You the credit. Thanks for getting me through that 13.1. Thanks for giving me the chance to even still be here to post about it. And thanks for whatever hand You had in restoring our internet service yesterday. I had always surmised that AT&T was an agent of the devil, but Your “act of God” sort of trumped it all, regardless of the agents’ mischief. As usual, you took evil and used it for good.

Well, God, thanks for acting. I love a good whiz-bang event. I dunno about football scores and divine intervention (and thanks for my neighbor who dares fly the LSU flag at half-mast), but I don’t doubt You have a hand in the big stuff that’s beyond our power. Bigger than SOPA, anyway, which curiously coincided with our home’s outage. For a day or so I thought it was more than a few sites blacked out.

Heaven help us should we have a long-term electronic blackout. Mayhem surely would ensue. Pretty soon businesses and the young people running them won’t comprehend the meaning of a check, and will think archaic forms of non-electronic payments are as nostalgic as a trio of Widespread Panic concerts before the band goes on hiatus.

Yeah, our router got fried…lost the land line, lost internet, lost wi-fi, lost my not-too-smartphone, lost our patience. One big bolt was all it took, not long after I drifted off to sleep – it was a terrifying drop down back into bed after finding myself clinging to the ceiling fan. Amazing the power! Okay, okay, You have my attention! You always have…were you worried I slipped away? I am here. Slipped, well, yeah, I guess. I’ve been slipping for a while. Don’t we all cycle through seasons of hot & cold, off & on, in & out? I like that You’re giving us warmth this January, that I could sleep with the windows open all week long. Tuesday was a restless, kick-off-the-covers kind of evening to begin with, but I hear ya…

Static. That’s what the guy said. Our line had more “noise” than it should. So I asked, “Whaddya mean, noise? Like static, or what?” Yeah, like static. Not coming through clear. Interference. A “third-party device,” he said. Wth?

As if to get in on the general household malfunction the next night, a battery-operated toy began singing the ABCs at 2 am from atop the toy box in the children’s room, with its cheery laugh at the end of the song sounding more eerie than cheery at that hour. Not to be outdone, the fearless Buzz Lightyear chimed in immediately after the other toy when the child he was sleeping with, rolled over: “THIS IS AN INTERGALACTIC EMERGENCY!!!” Buzz authoritatively bellowed to us all in the dark of the night, at the top of his Duracells.

Funny, God, the state of the electronic capacities around here this week seems commensurate with the recent activity level of  my faith…static and disconnect – too ironic. Something has gotten in the way. You are only showing me in my terms where I’m at with You. Perhaps where we all are with You. Egad, Buzz was correct, this IS an intergalactic emergency. Draw me nigh…

I have allowed so many other distractions to come between us. Too busy to go to church, too tired to read the Bible, too distracted to pray, and too often tempted by wrong. But I’m listening. Thanks for understanding how life gets in the way. Thanks for knowing that I am still me, still here, still Yours. I will not let You become “Somebody That I Used To Know.” I don’t always understand Your timing or how things work, but I appreciate Your unmistakable ways of eliminating all the static, all the interference, all the hindrances caused by third-party devices, whatever those are.

So what else is a girl supposed to do with no internet? She went for a run, longest since the race and totally “In a Daydream,” stopping only once to reconnect with a neighbor who lamented the cost of upkeep for his beautiful, sporty, red mid-life crisis and gave her something to pray about with his ailing family members, and thus she found herself praying for most the rest of the run.

She rejected all-things-Kindle and, for the first time in over a year, resumed her leisure reading list by checking out the last of the Charlotte Brontë books she had not yet read, Villette. She enjoyed the feel of the pages, the smell of the paper, the comforting experience of reading words that did not emit a glow and a hum, causing her to stretch her mind, restore her imagination and prompting her to dust of her Bible to look up a vaguely spiritual reference that caught her attention in the book.

She pruned her roses, thought about the man who taught her how to prune roses and how God prunes us, and then had a close encounter with this fine creature, who narrowly escaped the clippers:

She actually slowed down long enough to take a nap – a rare event to be sure – and replenished the sleep stolen by the storms… and rested in Him.

She capped off the day with a long walk on the beach, hearing thunder in the distance and finding unusual treasures and casting driftwood back into the water, wondering how electronics ever came to dominate our lives to the point where we lose our perspective of what’s important and how to stay healthy. One curious find was a small magnetic decagon with faded words, the only visible word being “geospace.” Despite its mysterious importance in the past, whatever it was, it was no match for the elements. She thought about how God, the inventor of electronics and all things digital throughout space and time, allows us to use His stuff for good, but if we veer off, how He can so quickly remind us Who’s Who and what’s what.

She thought about how the simplicity of the ABCs always holds the keys to resolving intergalactic emergencies.

She forgave herself for veering and hoped others could also forgive her, for she knew that He had already forgiven.

She thanked Him for the great power in keeping things simple and relaxed. And focused.

On Him.

Thanks, God, for everything.

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Hey, God…and hey there, my friend…

Thanks for pulling up a chair.

And thanks for another great day.

I was mentally blogging on a thousand subjects since my last post, each one worthy of its own post.

Remind me to tell you sometime about the guy who flirted with me for two years, and has now has turned his sights on the coworker who filled my shoes. After coworker and I put two and two together and giggled like schoolgirls about this poor chap’s efforts, I bribed her with chocolate if she’d use on him the last line he used on me a couple of months ago just before he met her. And capture his reaction on her phone. Then we can blow him away altogether and both take him to that Mexican restaurant (watch him squirm!) he kept trying to lure me to on a lunch hour. Holy guacamole, that would be fun!

Or the business idea my hairdresser and I hatched while she excitedly envisioned and whacked away. Uh oh! I gotta remember to do most the talking so she can tune me out and concentrate on what she’s doing. I think this idea might just fly, though…

Or the cute dude behind me for most of the commute, who wasn’t so cute after all, after he became obsessed with his hair for six straight traffic lights (it can only go so many ways when you’re thinning, got it? okay, then…get your eyes off yourself in your rear view mirror and drive, ya groomin’ monkey…).

Or the new challenges at work I’ve never encountered before, complete with mutiny on the bounty, and the sage advice of my superiors laughing off my uneasiness and telling me to hold my head high, keep doing what I do best, they’ll get over it, and soliciting my solemn promise not to think one iota about anything remotely related to “this place” over the weekend. Okay! See ya!

Or getting conked over the head with a new frontier at home altogether, and having to pass through several stages before I decide what I really think about it. I’m still thinking, but I think it’s cool. Hmmm…a taste of my own medicine.

“In a time of treason, is the time to trust,” so sayeth Bono these days. I’ll buy it. Hope I’m not being stupid naive. Again.

So, friend, enough of all that garble. What I really wanted to talk to you about today is not about me. It’s about you. So many times you pull up this chair with me here on the beach, and it’s my agenda. Today I want to hush up and let you enjoy what we’re seeing and hearing today at the seashore. The tourists are gone now; we have it all to ourselves. Be with me, and let’s just enjoy what we’re seeing, what really existed this morning, once upon a time, in a land not so far away, in utter reality. Let me share with you my world today, and you lean back and enjoy.

Sea spray inundating our senses, foam at our feet.

Sparkling shimmers on the waves, sun rising and bright, dancing in a thousand splendors, inundating our rods and cones.

A lone pelican diving for jumping fish. He’s so huge, yet so graceful, scooping up his breakfast in that long beak!

Let’s get up and wade…each wave creeps a little higher until the part we didn’t want to get wet, gets biffed anyway. What the hey, might as well wade deeper! Go ahead, envelop me…let me not be in control for a spell.

Moon Jellies!

What’s that weird feeling at our ankles? Wow, it’s a giant moon jelly! Look at it!

Four perfect crimson circles in its center, graceful glob flowing with the whims of the water….

don’t worry, moon jellies won’t sting.

But look out for that ray! And here’s a giant blue crab, worthy of taking home for lunch…except it’s a she…have to try to untangle it from our net and let her back out to sea.Can’t boil a she-crab.

Let me pick up and twirl in the air, the little child who just caught his very first sea star! It’s missing part of one of its five legs, but it gets around great anyway. You found another one! This one is perfect. Let’s watch them help each other crawl back into the sea together. They are so beautiful, so alive.

Let’s sit for a while now and let the surf wash the sand off our feet. The aromatherapy of the sea washes the grit out of our hearts and minds, too.

Let’s just veg, k?

Mmmmm…hear the waves with your eyes closed.

One eye open. Both eyes fly wide open at the sight of a bottlenose dolphin, not too far from us, leaping 15 feet out of the water! Oh, WOW! There they go, there’s a whole bunch of them – look at them fly! Fish leaping, dolphins playing and feeding. How do they do that?! They look so happy! Joyful! Wheeeeee! We watch them till their acrobatic maneuvers blend in with the waves on the horizon. Eyes closed again.

Breathing deeply, fully inhaling sheer relaxation. Exhaling all that mattered before we got here. Letting the sea breeze carry it all away…

Thank you, God….and thanks, my dear friend, for being here with me. I hope this brought you rest and rejuvenation.

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Hey, God…

I really should lighten up. After all, life is too short. Why, I ask myself, are my posts so, um, serious? Is it because I use most my humor at work, making my superiors and the children laugh? Wait, they must be laughing at me instead of with me. This could account for why I have not been promoted within my impatient time frame. Some coworkers might beg to differ, however, since the new position with the office they gave me is the only one, other than higher administrators, which has an actual window in it, a window that overlooks some beautiful scenery…lily pads with bullfrogs sunning themselves, a blue heron whom I suspect may be a prop on the payroll for therapeutically aesthetic purposes, sloping lawn that dares you to lie down, cross your heart and roll down to the pond. One day I will lead all the children to do just that, simply because it is there. We will get muddy and laugh.

Maybe I am being kept there for their entertainment. Maybe they secretly want to say and do the brash things I (sometimes impulsively) do, like saying what everyone is thinking anyway, but nobody wants to be the idiot out on a limb to come out and say so. Or maybe it’s the double entendres I spit out on daily whims as circumstances present themselves, the kind that go clear over the heads of the children and certain adults, but are clearly understood by those who happen to be on their toes at the moment. Other than a couple of appreciated indiscretions, I have followed my New Year’s resolution this year in the office to keep all emails brief and businesslike.

Blah.

I will have to do an experiment and try being serious at work some day, and see if I don’t have more playful humor left over in the evening for this blog. Oops, that might not work…they recently gave me that office to work in a position in which playfulness is valued, even expected. The staff was stiffly aghast last week at my choice in replenishing the Treasure Box with whoopee cushions, rubber roaches and hillbilly teeth; my superiors suppressed grins and happily but quietly reimbursed me for such purchases. The children and I had a wonderful time, nonetheless, and I hope lessons were learned all the way around about the importance of laughter and lightheartedness. Alas, am I doomed to be playful by day, serious by night? I hereby try not to be so serious, even when I am not being paid to be playful. How much better life is when we keep playfulness a priority. Life is too boring, too straight-laced, otherwise.

I was terribly grateful for the unbusinesslike email a coworker sent me envying my daily playful responsibilities; and shamefully amused at another coworker who went to the trouble to page me overhead throughout the entire facility this morning in front of you, God and everybody, just because she wanted to show me something she found for me on her phone that was best relegated to her phone and not mine, and made me blush just having to look at it in the confines of the office setting. Oh, my. I do want to sign up for those classes, though.

And when I came home, our home was opened to several neighborhood children who emerged out of nowhere when we pulled in. How much more fun was it for them to do homework with classmates who are neighbors; to ride bikes off of the ramp which they rigged up in the front yard; to laugh at the baby who puts a “y” instead of an “l” into his vocabulary and tried to feed his stuffed yion some Yucky Charms; taming snakes and lizards and critters the other kids aren’t allowed to keep in their homes; to feed all seven children supper because they were here and hungry and nobody wanted to go home quite yet. I hope the background strains of “Holding on to Black Metal” didn’t subliminally corrupt anyone.

Now it is my turn to unwind. I am thoroughly exhausted, cold still in full swing, head swimming with all the puzzles and Legos and dollhousing and Monopoly Junior and cards I played today, while I slipped in some neurological rearranging on those with whom I played. I will consider planting a rubber roach somewhere tomorrow. But for now, I am reduced to stick-figure status, tired and simplistic, with X’s for eyes.

Aaaah, thanks, God, for these beach chairs, that we can unwind together! It’s okay to play both on and off the clock, isn’t it?

I secretly think You must like to play, too, God. After all, You rested on the seventh day. You play…for keeps.

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Clouds Dancing

Hey, God…

So the tiny child stopped me in my mental tracks, as I was wandering in the wilderness of busy-ness, with one, simple observation: “Clouds dancing! See? Clouds dancing!” He pointed excitedly to the sky, where my eyes were drawn by his little finger, and I beheld the world through his eyes for a moment, echoing his mirthful wonder.

What priceless delight and repose can be found by pausing from our busy schedule to catch a slice of the busy schedule of the universe! Indeed, like graceful dancers with flowing robes skimming across the sky, the clouds did dance, and we got to watch. Blowing, wisping, merging, billowing, parting. They invite the mind to wander…to imagine…to marvel. It must be like Heaven, to know our seemingly small but important part in the grand scheme of things, but to be invited to fully enjoy the beauty and majesty of things greater than us.

Why does it always seem to take one who is smaller, younger, weaker or somehow lesser than we, to humble us in our tracks and draw our attention to where it should have been all along? Only You could be behind such a feat, Lord!

Come sit with me here by the sea and lets watch the clouds dancing!

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