Archive - August, 2011

Hidden treasure in plain sight


Home now, but not.

Not really.

Part of me wants to close my eyes, fall asleep and wake up to the sound of the ocean. It’s always good to be home after being away, even if part of my heart still lingers at the beach. I know I’m not alone in my love of the ocean. Maybe that’s why so many people search for shells on the beach. We want to bring part of it back home with us.

The number of shells I found this trip pales in comparison to what we found back on November. There were much fewer beach combers in late fall than in late summer. The type of shells I found were different, too. Most of the shells from our first trip are either white or close to white, much bigger, too.

I don’t remember seeing many dark shells on our last trip. This time, the only ones that were unbroken were almost always black.

Then again, many times what I thought was a black shell turned out to be a clump of oil soaked sand. They’ve done a good job cleaning up the beaches after the BP spill, but there is still oil washing ashore in the Gulf of Mexico. You only need to dig down a few inches until the white sand turns to gray in some places.

And I wonder about that.

I wonder how many of my fellow shell seekers (of which there were many) began to assume ALL of the black spots on the shore were not shells but oil soaked clumps of sand.

I wonder if we’ve become so accustomed to disappointment that we assume any potentially good thing probably isn’t so good after all; that if it’s still there when we find it, it’s probably not worth having.

And I wonder how many treasures we miss because we stop believing they’re still out there to be found.

The last shell found on the last day at the beach.

Being enough

It’s Thursday, late afternoon. I’m walking down the beach looking for shells and watching the waves roll in. Tomorrow will be the last full day here at the beach. I’m not ready to go home. I’m never ready to go home when I’m at the beach.

It’s been a fairly lazy week. Oh, we’ve been to Waterville and The Track, eaten at The Original Oyster House and Lulu’s. I imagine we’ll go to Flora-Bama for some fried oysters and shrimp before we leave because my friend Amy Sorrells said I needed to go, and y’all know I always do as I’m told if it suits me.

But truth be told, it would be enough for me just to walk on the beach every day. To dig in the sand and wade in the water. The crab catching, castle building, dolphin and stingray sightings are like extra gifts–unexpected and much appreciated.

I’ve often wondered if living at the beach would take away its hold on me. If knowing I wouldn’t have to leave would make me less inclined to appreciate it. I’ve said before I feel closest to God where the earth meets the vastness of the ocean. Here there is so much of Him and so much less of me. And while I know this is the case wherever I am, knowing it and knowing it aren’t necessarily one and the same.

I am never enough and God is always enough.

But here at the beach, there is peace in knowing that with Him, I am more than enough.

Now, if I could just find a way to bring that knowing home with me.

Déjà vu all over again

“It’s like Déjà vu all over again.” – Yogi Berra

Driving down the long stretch of road that cuts through the middle of the Gulf Shores peninsula, trees frame the road on either side. But just beyond the trees, the Gulf of Mexico flanks me to the south and Mobile Bay to the north. Compared to the enormity and power of the surrounding bodies of water, this little finger of land seems so very small. And while there is evidence that the power of Mother Nature has taken its toll here, there’s also so much that has withstood and overcome her power. Pastel colored beach houses dot the beaches on the gulf side, cottages and cabins line the banks of Mobile Bay.

To the best of my memory, Thanksgiving, 2010 marked my first visit to Gulf Shores, Alabama. And yet, there’s something eerily familiar about this place. Memories are funny things. There are some moments I seem to remember with vivid clarity while other moments I’m quite sure I’ve forgotten completely. Then there are those memories somewhere between the two: like a word on the tip of your tongue that you just can’t seem to call forth from the recesses of your mind.

Or a place you know you’ve been before even when you know you haven’t.

There is a grouping of houses right off of Fort Morgan Road that brings forth that feeling of Déjà vu. It’s not that I know I’ve been in that particular neighborhood, but I’ve been in one just like it. For the life of me, I can’t remember when or why I was there. I know (I think) it was a family vacation. What’s so frustratingly unclear is if it was before or after my parents divorced. Whether it was when we were pretending to be a happy, intact family when we were anything but, or if it was afterwards, when my mother scraped together enough money to take her four kids on a vacation like they’d never had before. One without yelling or arguing or waking up at four in the morning and you’d better go to the bathroom before we leave because we’re not stopping until we need gas.

I’m grasping at this memory. But like a heavy mist, it dissipates when I try to reach out and grab it.

I need to remember it.

I think it’s important somehow.

Every had one of those Déjà vu moments?

Sun, sand and crabs


As some of you may have surmised (or not), I’m on vacation this week. When my sister invited my family to Gulf Shores, Alabama over the Thanksgiving holidays, I fell in love with this place and told my family we would be coming back in the summertime.

So here we are at the beach. I love the beach, and to my pride and delight, my 10 year old daughter loves it, too. There are two things that have occupied our time these past two days at the shoreline: sand castle building and crab catching.

I’ve never seen so many blue crab at the beach. After several unsuccessful attempts to catch one in a bucket, I made a five dollar investment in a crab net. It’s worked like a charm. I’ve caught several so far. And no, we didn’t have a crab boil. It was strictly catch and release.

Why would I spend all day catching crab only to turn them loose?

Because I can.

And because it’s fun.

Especially when they get angry and snap their little crab claws at me. Ha!

And because we don’t let them go immediately…

My daughter and I have combined the art of sand castle building and crab catching to create a luxury retreat for our temporary captives. Something we like to call:

Crabitopia!

Crabitopia: Coming soon to a katdishionary post near you!

Meeting You here (repost)

(This was originally posted in March, 2010 after I spent a day at the beach just an hour away from home. This week I’m spending a week at another beach 9 hours away from home. I’m settling in and hoping to find some stories to share with you soon.)

It’s been too long since I met with you last. At that place where the world fades away and I feel closest to you.

Today was that day. As the morning began to slip away, I waited. But my original plans were put off and then changed.

Still, a promise is a promise. To myself, but more importantly, to my little girl. So what started out as a party of four became a party of two. Well, three…but you know what I mean.

Getting there proved a bit more stressful and time consuming than anticipated, but eventually the crowded streets of downtown Houston…

Gave way to the crowded streets of Galveston.

Until at long last, I stood at that place where I feel closest to you.

Funny how crowds seem to distract me everywhere else but here. Here I can always find solitude as the waves drown out everything else.

You show me that holding things in will only last so long. That my walls may appear strong, but you are stronger.

You wash away my walls and remind me that you are my fortress.

So once again I run to you, like I’ve done so many times before when I’ve gotten too far from you.

And you give me back my joy.

Thanks for meeting me here.

Again.

And baby makes six


On August 5, 1965 a family of five became a family of six.

The first born child, a daughter, was doted upon, as most first borns tend to be.

The second child, also a daughter, was the apple of her father’s eye.

With the third child, the couple had a son. Someone to carry on the family name.

The fourth child was another daughter. Unplanned and unexpected. Well cared for and loved, but nothing particularly special.

She wasn’t smart like her sisters, or athletically gifted like her brother.

She talked a lot.

She was sort of clumsy.

To compete for attention, she became a world class whiner.

When that brought undesirable results, such as regular beatings from her siblings, she discovered another way to garner attention.

She figured out she could make people laugh, even if it meant that laughter came at her own expense. She was really okay with that.

Forty-six years later, much has changed and much has not.

She still talks a lot.

She’s still sort of clumsy.

She’s not much of a whiner anymore, although she still has her moments.

She still likes to make people laugh, even if it’s at her own expense. She’s really okay with that. Still.

She’s a wife, a mother, daughter, sister, a friend, an encourager, a reader, writer, painter, a singer and a worshipper. Some other stuff, too.

She fails miserably at all of the above at times. Sometimes she gets it right, but never all on the same day.

She doesn’t think her birthday is such a big deal. Never has, really. But appreciates the birthday wishes anyway.

Happy Birthday to me.

I never thought I’d live this long. (I wish I were kidding.)

But I’m grateful I did.

O, I believe
Fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as she came to my mother
Know this child will not suffer
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way

No heaven, no hell

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Note: This is not intended to be a biblically accurate account of the existence of heaven or hell. It’s just a story. Or a poem. Or whatever.

Two brothers
Sons of a preacher
raised to believe
there’s more to this life
than time spent on earth

One questioned his faith
cultivated his seeds of doubt
and at times chose paths
unworthy of a preacher’s son

One never wavered
stayed close to home
clung to the safety
of his father’s faith

Both were visited
by an angel
with a message from God
he said,

God knows the number of hairs of your head
and the number of days you have left on this earth.

Both replied,

We know this to be true. The Word of God tells us as much.

The angel then said,

The message God has sent me to deliver is this:
There is nothing else beyond this earth.
No heaven
No hell
The earth you walk upon encompasses both
and you choose which you will inhabit;
which path you choose to journey upon.
When you draw your last breath
your journey will come to an end.
No bright light at the end of a tunnel.
No fiery pit to suffer for all eternity.
There is no eternity
Only now.

The brothers spoke to one another
about this messenger from God
One was relieved
the other angry

I’ve spent my whole life depriving myself
of the things you’ve indulged in.
I’ve missed so many experiences
in lieu of heaven.
Now I am told there is nothing
beyond this world?
I’ve much catching up to do.

And so he did.

The other brother
who had questioned his faith
knew that what his brother had missed out on
didn’t amount to much.
And he heeded the angel’s words
about which path he would choose.
Heaven or Hell was a choice he could make.
He’d glimpsed at Hell.
He decided to give Heaven a shot.

And so he did.

He died to himself
Spent his days serving God by serving others
Not out of obligation
or the promise of Heaven
but out of Love
and he caught glimpses of Heaven
everywhere he looked.

Years later…

The brothers meet again
in a homeless shelter
one serving food
the other being served
and they talked about
the visiting angel

Do you still believe what the angel said?
About no Heaven or Hell?
After death there is nothing?,

asked the homeless brother.

Yes and no,
the other brother replied.
I believe we begin to live eternity here on earth,
but after that visit I began to search the scriptures.
I believe what God’s word says.
Not the angel.
I also believe that you’ve been given a glimpse of Hell
in order to understand the gift of Heaven.
A gift you felt entitled to as a birthright.
I hope you understand now the gift you chose to refuse
and know it is still being offered.

I think I do understand now, brother.
I don’t want to choose Hell anymore.
I choose Life.

Just then the brother felt a weight fall from his shoulder
Both brothers turned towards the sound of shreiking.
The angel who had been watching them all these years
was enraged that Hell would have one less resident.

As he flew away
both brothers remarked
How neither had noticed
the black wings
and singed robes before.

Horseradish

I will on occasion review a book on this site. I don’t do so often. There are people more qualified to write intelligent, fair reviews and I will leave that up to them. There is one book I plan to review, Pursuit of a Thirsty Fool by T. J. MacLeslie. The review is actually long overdue, but there’s quite a bit to ponder in this book and in fairness to its author and those who may choose to read (or not read) it based upon a review, I need to spend time going back over some points in there. Too many people write either glowing, over the top reviews or scathing, negative reviews then post them on Amazon. I don’t find either particularly helpful. I will say that I liked the book, and if you’d like more information about it you can click on the link.

Okay, I know I just said I don’t often do book reviews here, but sometimes I stumble across a book that I feel compelled to share with you. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and On Writing by Stephen King are two such books. I also just said I don’t find glowing, over the top reviews helpful, but come on–those books rock.

I found another such book yesterday whilst digging in the bargain books at the local Books-a-Million. It’s rare that I will buy a book without opening it and at least reading the first page, but as I tweeted from the bookstore yesterday, I bought this book because of the back cover:

There’s just something about devastatingly honest cynicism that makes me giddy. And how can you NOT buy a book by Lemony Snicket when it’s at the bargain basement price of $3.97?

The extent of my knowledge of this author comes second hand from my son, who devoured Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events books in elementary school. He glanced at the book cover and proceeded to inform me that he’s pretty sure the author suffers from depression. Alas, some of the most talented souls are tortured ones.

When we arrived home from the mall, I figured I’d read a few pages then set it on my nightstand. But to my delight, upon opening the book, I discovered it is a collection of quotes from its author. I’m a sucker for a good quote, and this book is chock full of them:

I can’t possibly share them all here, and I won’t even promise the few I’ll share are among the best, but if you love a good (albeit sometimes cynical) quote, I would highly recommend this book if you can find it.

Here’s just a few:

“An old cowboy song celebrates home on the range, where deer and antelope play, but anyone who has seen deer and antelope knows that when they are frolicking they scarcely look where they are flinging their hooves, which is why cowboys have been pummeled almost to extinction.”

“Perhaps if we saw what was ahead of us, and glimpsed the crimes, follies, and misfortunes that would befall us later on, we would all stay in our mother’s wombs, and then there would be nobody in the world but a great number of very fat, very irritated women.”

“It is not very polite to interrupt a person, of course, but sometimes if the person is very unpleasant you can hardly stop yourself.”

“In most cases, the best strategy for a job interview is to be fairly honest, because the worst thing that can happen is that you won’t get the job and will spend the rest of your life foraging for food in the wilderness and seeking shelter underneath a tree or the awning of a bowling alley that has gone out of business.”

“No matter who you are, no matter where you live, and no matter how many people are chasing you, what you don’t read is often as important as what you do read.”

“There are those who say that life is like a book, with chapters for each event in your life and a limited number of pages on which you can spend your time. But I prefer to think that a book is like a life, particularly a good one, which is well worth staying up all night to finish.”

“A library is like an island in the middle of a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is very tall and the surrounding area has been flooded.”

“If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[pasdlgkhasdfasdf.”

“I’m sure you have heard it said that appearance does not matter so much, and that it is what’s on the inside that counts. This is, of course, utter nonsense, because if it were true then people who were good on the inside would never have to comb their hair or take a bath, and the whole world would smell even worse than it already does.”

“The way sadness works is one of the strangest riddles of the world.”

“Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby–awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess.”

“In love, as in life, one misheard word can be tremendously important. If you tell someone you love them, for instance, you must be absolutely certain that they have replied ‘I love you back’ and not ‘I love your back’ before continuing the conversation.”

“Having an aura of menace is like having a pet weasel, because you rarely meet someone who has one, and when you do it makes you want to hide under the coffee table.”

Okay, okay. I’ll stop now. I love me some good quotes!

What’s your favorite (or one of your favorite–it’s hard to choose just one) quote?

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