Beaches

My husband and I went to Virginia Beach this weekend. It’s the third time we’ve been there in three years. We’ve seen dolphins each time!

It feels wonderful to be at the beach. The warm sand, the roaring waves, the blue sky.

In the case of Virginia – the people watching is fantastic! We went Friday evening as many folks were leaving, and the seashore wasn’t too crowded. We went back Saturday morning – got there at about 9:30am – and there were plenty of places to set up our chairs. But as an hour passed, the beach began to fill up. Many people had large canopies, and there were lots of little children digging in the sand and running from the waves. So many people to watch playing in the water, riding surfboards, dogs chasing balls, distant parasailing.

We can’t help but compare Virginia Beach to the beaches we used to frequent in Florida, when we lived there four years ago. Less commercialization. Less crowds. More seashells. More sunsets.

We lived in Fort Myers, and the congested tourist town of Fort Myers Beach was 45 minutes away. It was busy, with one main road going between all of the T-shirt and surf stores, passing the ice cream shops and umbrella-ed picnic tables. But once we got off the main drag, there was plenty of room.

There were other wonderful beaches, too. Delnore-Wiggins Pass State Park. Lover’s Key State Park. The beaches on Sanibel Island. Little Hickory Beach (our favorite).

On all of these beaches, we enjoyed watching the various birds instead of people.

And there was a huge advantage of facing the Gulf of Mexico – those western sunsets. We’d try to catch the notorious green flash as the sun hit the horizon. And everyone on the beach waited for the sun to go down. I was surprised the first time when all the people began to clap as the sun dipped past the ocean, but I quickly learned to join in. And I marveled at how God gave us this show every night!

I think we prefer Florida, but any beach – including a crowded one – is a good place to be!

Living far away

I live 1,188 miles away from my parents. 1,142 miles from my daughter. 1,576 miles from my son.

I live 6 states away from my lifelong Wisconsin friends and my in-laws, and 5 states away from my sister.

I’m not living in the wilderness by any means, but I’m far from family and friends (not counting those I have here, of course). I live in Virginia – the furthest East and South of anyone in our immediate families.

This is especially difficulty when someone is sick or in need. Like my mom, or one of my lifelong friends. I want to be with them, but there’s no easy way to do so. I have to plan way in advance to be able to afford the plane ticket. And I need to be there for several days – so I’m at my destination longer than it takes me to travel to and from there.

I wish I could just stop by my daughter’s for the weekend. Or plan a 3-day holiday at my son’s. But it’s cost-prohibitive.

Don’t get me wrong. I live in a beautiful part of the country – in the valley of the Shenandoah Mountains, and the views are spectacular. Our town is small, but near a couple of larger cities with college campuses, and 45 minutes from an airport, which connects us to the rest of the country within a day’s travel. We have easy access to concerts and breweries and museums.

I’ve lived further away. When my husband and I were first married, we lived in Utah, far from our families in the Midwest. And more recently, we lived in Florida for a little over a year. But Florida is a vacation destination, so we saw family and some friends while we lived there, with the promise of many others to come visit.

It’s hard to live so far from family and friends. Thank goodness for instant messaging and texting and FaceTime and Facebook. For phone calls and video chats. For vacations and an understanding husband, who tells me, “Go,” when I need it.

Over the course of the years we’ve been married, we’ve talked about living overseas. Now that’s far away! And quite honestly, I think now would be the time, before the kids settle down and have families of their own. I don’t want to be far away when there are grandbabies to hold!

All this means that we probably have another move in us, sometime in the not-too-distant future. And maybe a move after that, to wherever we’d like to retire and live out the rest of our lives. That’s hard to decide, because while we long for the western mountains, we loved the beach. But neither of those are close to family! I guess our biggest deciding factor will be access to a national airport, for easy travel to all the places we’d like to visit!

National Best Friend Day

June 8th is National Best Friend Day.

According to whom, I’m not sure – either greeting card or calendar companies. “Best friend” implies exclusivity, which I don’t want to do. No matter, as this day gives me a chance to reflect on wonderful women friendships.

Female friendships are a beautiful thing, and I’ve had the privilege of having many of them over my life. Here are a few, tho’ I’m leaving off names so as not to miss anyone. Still, I’ll throw in some pictures for fun.

In high school, I had two best friends but I had many others who were very important to me. And I’ve reconnected with a few of those, thanks to Facebook! It’s fun to see these old friends’ families and celebrations via photos and posts, and even catch up with the rare phone call.

In college, I had great friends – one I met at Freshman Orientation, and we still text regularly and our families have been together a handful of times. Another I’ve seen over the years for a few visits, and one I just exchange Christmas cards with. A couple I’ve lost track of, unless I look them up specifically on Facebook – they don’t show up on my feed, but I remember them fondly.

I’ve been very blessed in my adult life with amazing relationships. My husband and I are lifelong friends with one of the first couples we ever hung out with as adults – we’ve been camping together for over 25 years and even travelled in France together!

We stay in touch with other couple friends from those days of early family life, though we don’t get out West to see them since we moved to Wisconsin 23 years ago.

When we first moved back to the Midwest, we met another couple and instantly connected with them – more lifelong friends.

I had the opportunity to form close relationships with women at Bible Study at my church – in leadership and ministry and doing life together. I talk with one woman from that time every week! Lifelong friend! I formed special relationships in my neighborhood – by the garden or by the backyard swing set. I became friends with women who were my kids’ friends’ moms. I made close bonds with women I prayed with through my years of Moms In Touch. And I’ve mentioned before the amazing women I worked with in my jobs at the Church and the Children’s Museum.

We moved south, and I formed all new relationships. And it took time, but even the short year we lived in Florida brought several close friendships with marvelous women.

And now I live in the East – in Virginia – and I have more women influencers in my life.

Most of these women have been incredibly encouraging to me as I’ve walked through depression over the past 12 years. So many friends I’m thinking of as I write these words! Perhaps I should buy a stack of cards and send them to all these amazing women. This blog post is certainly a “Thank you!” to them!

I’m very lucky to have a best friend through all of these years – my sister. She’s amazing – a great mom, a talented writer, a hard worker, a generous woman, a fabulous friend. I’m proud to have her as my bestie.

Happy National Best Friend Day, Stace!

Regulating Springtime Temperatures

Does anybody else have trouble figuring out what to wear in the Springtime?

The mornings can be cold – in the mid-30s. But daytime highs reach into the 70s, might even touch 80!

“Dress in layers,” they say. And I do have a couple of lighter-weight sweaters that could go over short-sleeves. But the jacket I need in the morning is laying in the backseat by afternoon.

And do I wear socks in my shoes, since my toes are cold? They make my outfit look so “wintry.” Yesterday, I put on a black T-shirt with a lightweight red and black open cardigan, and jeans. With socks and shoes, I looked like I was dressed for November!

I took off my socks and tossed them on the floor of the car. I rolled up my sleeves and cuffed my pants and – voilà! – I was dressed for Spring. Kinda.

I don’t really have much in the way of Spring colors in my wardrobe. I wear lots of blues, with some purples and grays/blacks. Not Springy colors like pinks and greens and yellows. Definitely not yellows, which make my skin look sallow.

What about sleeping in these temperatures? We’ve been keeping one window open at night, for the fresh air. But the room really cools off by early morning.

On my birthday a couple of weeks ago, I got a weighted blanket. They’re not supposed to be hot, just heavy. But mine came with a “minky” cover, which is plush polyester – not breathable. I got a second cover – cotton and bamboo – which is definitely not as stifling as the first one.

I’ve slept with the weighted blanket many nights since I got it. But I almost always kick it off in the middle of the night because it’s too hot. I find myself dropping it to the floor and reaching for my regular sheets and blankets. And then, come early morning, like 3am, I’m cold and want another layer. But I’m hot by 7am – probably the furnace kicking on.

Speaking of heat, I’ve noticed how hard it is to regulate the temperatures of rooms in this weather. It’s too warm for heat, too cool for air conditioning. Having the windows open is a nice alternative, but that doesn’t work at our office. And if it’s windy, all the tree and flower pollen is blowing around, which makes sneezing much more likely.

This temperature difficulty is especially noticeable in big buildings, like at church. It must be difficult for staff to know if they should turn on heat or AC. And it takes so long for a large space to warm up or cool off. I’m sure that’s a challenge for the property manager to regulate.

I sound like I’m complaining. And I’m really not; just observing the difficulties of this time of year.

The positive aspects of Springtime far outweigh these trivial negatives. The beautiful dogwood and Mountain Laurel trees, the greening grass, the daffodils and tulips. The celebration of Easter and new life. I stood underneath a huge lilac bush at church last night, just soaking in the beautiful perfume. I may not have anything to wear, but Spring is a beautiful time of year!

National Pet Day

In honor of yesterday as National Pet Day, I wanted to write a post that shared the furry friends who have been part of our life over the years.

We started with a stray cat we found under our car in our first apartment. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures of Jenny before she was reclaimed by the local drug dealer in our complex!

Next came Maggie, who we had before we had children. She was our first baby, and I think she thought she was human. She was with us for 16 years.

Then we had Alex – a kitten who hid in Chris’ underwear drawer, and who was an awesome companion to Maggie.

Next came Allie.

We found Bob when he’d been hit by a car. “Bob bites” might have been our daughter’s first sentence.

Then Arthur. The opposite of Bob. Our son learned to stand by pushing off of Arthur’s belly. He was so tolerant!

Then we got Abbie and Archie, who we had for 15 years.

Next came Ella, a hound dog who stopped listening whenever she caught a great scent.

Finally, we acquired Annabelle and now Henry. They have bonded well, and keep us company all day – and night – long!

We love our fur-babies!