Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Summer Fun Series: Family Barbeque

In my mind, a summer just isn't complete without a family barbeque. I'm sure in some families this is not the definition of summer fun, but I'm lucky enough to be blessed with a great group of relatives who all live close by.

I think that anything cooked on a grill equals GREAT FOOD - especially when your host gets creative by sauteing fresh veggies in a pie platter. Add that with cole slaw, scalloped potatoes, deviled eggs and yum! That's my idea of good fun.

Our family recently gathered after not having seen each other for several months, some folks over a year. It shocked me to see how much the kids have grown - one newborn now a sweet, grinning toddler; another growing so tall she's nearly a teenager; and one with such long hair, he looks like a California surfer! We talked about Disney World trips and tips, real estate endeavors, and a war against basement copperheads. We updated each other on work, home and balancing life amongst chaos!

And through all o
f this chatter, all of this catching up, all of this laughter, it was so interesting to me how the thread of family history weaves it's way into just about everything we discussed. One word, one reference, one look can spin you off into memories from which you can hardly return.

There was one moment that was particularly interesting... we were sitting as a group and talking about my grandfather. My younger cousin leans over to me and says "I really wish I could have known papp
y, I've heard so many great things about him." And in that instant a flood of memories tumbled into my mind - how he used to sing a little jingle on his guitar with his handlebar mustache to make my sister and I laugh, how we used to play in his wood paneled art studio covered with framed articles featuring his paintings, how we would fall asleep on the gold carpet of the living room floor by nightlight, comfortable and secure, listening to the quiet ticking of the clock.

All of that in one moment - one flash, like lightening illuminating miles and miles of breathless and beautiful evening sky.

It's fascinating when you actually think about it -
in most cases, you're family members are the ones who know you the longest and the best. I have always, and will always, enjoy discussing family history - little snippets of memories here and there that piece together a deep and rich tapestry of my family history. My daughter is more engaged in stories about my childhood than any movie I've ever seen her watch.

There is just somethin
g about learning about people who are related to you, shaping who you are and where you've come from. It's grounding in the most basic of ways.

And so I relish the family bar-b-ques, the friendly faces, the shared laughter and the scrumptious food and drinks. It's like blossoming in the summer sun!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Summer Fun Series: Outdoor Concerts

We've been doing so many fun things lately that encompass the heart of summer that I decided to do a "Summer Fun Series" since I can't cover everything in one post! The first is on Outdoor Concerts.

The NC Museum of Art has been doing outdoor movies and concerts for many years but we've never attended them. Either the movies were too late or the concerts didn't really interest us. Several weeks ago, I came across a flyer announcing that one of our favorite bands was performing! Southern Culture on the Skids - a local band from Chapel Hill that we've seen numerous times when we lived in San Francisco, was paired up with an outdoor movie, Talledega Nights. If you know anything about SCOTS, you'll know that this is a perfect combination!

What a glorious evening it was - warm with low humidity. As the sun dropped, we enjoyed chilled wine and snacks. I observed other groups of friends enjoying picnics in the grass, kids dancing around like little jumping beans, people wandering around in barefeet and everyone be-bopping to the music - such hits as "Too Much Pork for Just One Fork" and "Liquored Up and Lacquered Down". In fact, my friend and I even got to dance on the stage with the band during "Eight Piece Box" and throw fried chicken to the audience! What a blast!

If being outdoors on such a comfortable evening and enjoying great music wasn't good enough, once the performance was over, we assembled our chairs on the lawn and watched the movie on the big screen - the same ones they used to have at the drive-ins! It was so relaxing to sit beneath the stars in the fresh air and joke with our "lawn chair" neighbors. Much more fun than any theater!

We had such a great time and ticket prices were much lower than any amphitheater concert. If you have any organizations in your area that offer outdoor concerts and movies, I highly recommend them. It's the epitome of summer - enjoying life in the great outdoors!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

May you be blessed

Many years ago, I worked with the most interesting fellow. He was a sweet, sincere man from outside of Houston with a heavy Texas drawl and a slow, deliberate way of talking. He ran a national trucking company by himself and was eager to please. After we booked the first truckload with him, he sent me flowers in a beautiful ceramic vase. Initially, I was a bit uncomfortable with getting flowers from someone I hardly knew. But after months of working with him, I realized that he's just a genuinely thoughtful kinda guy - a real cowboy, I suppose.

When the time came for me to resign, he was just about crushed. I could hear it in his voice. Shortly after our call, he sent me an email. It was called "May you be blessed" and had a link to a website.

When I clicked on the link of the email and watched the movie, I thought, oh, geez, here we go... another junk email. But after the first couple of frames, I became entranced. And touched. And then I realized that I was starting to cry - because how wonderful it is that someone actually wishes that you are fully blessed, that everything in your life is absolutely amazing and wonderful and that every dream you've ever had comes true.

I think this is a blessing that we should pass onto everyone we know - even those we don't know. Because it's only right and true that every soul in this world is blessed beyond their dreams. We can only reap the benefits of our friends, family, neighbors and strangers on the street having a happy and fulfilling life.

I don't even think I realized how nice it was to talk with Andy everyday and listen to his slow, southern drawl. He had a way of recognizing and honoring the spirit of everyone he knew.

So - to you... MAY YOU BE BLESSED! Pass it on to all you know.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I'd rather be yard sale-ing

A few weeks ago, my neighbors came up with the idea of everyone on our street having a yard sale on the same day. We thought it was a great concept and dove right into the preparations. I dragged box after box of our daughters clothes from the attic and sorted them for hours. My husband pulled things from the garage that I hadn't seen in years. We posted an ad in the paper and hung over 30 signs around the neighborhood and on major streets. We made plans to have a refreshment stand that served coffee, doughnuts, cookies and iced tea (which my daughter would run, of course.)

On the day of
the sale, we woke up before the light of the sun hit the sky. Our neighbors were up at the same time, setting up tables and organizing. It was a shared moment - we greeted each other by moonlight as the locusts buzzed and birds began to sing. The sky began to lighten and we offered to help each other, all of us bustling to get ready. The sun began to rise and we wandered into each others yards looking over the goods. One neighbor set up a moonwalk for the kids, another a manicure table, some had tents, fans, candy and coffee. One neighbor cat-called on a bullhorn to passing cars, we had music. It was like an early morning block party!

Although my husband and I had some small bills in our pockets for those who made immediate purchases, the majority of our money was in a cash box by the refreshments. If you recall, this was being run by my 7-year-old daughter. She would disappear every now and then, coming back with a book, a video or a stuffed animal. Then she walked back with a scooter (she already has two) and then a sled! We realized that she was taking the profits and shopping at the competitors! The rest of the kids thought this was a fine idea and they all joined in.

The balmy morning developed into a very hot and steamy day. We didn't have the hordes of people that I had expected. I took stock, remembering that it was July 7... 7/7/07. I'd heard that lots of weddings were planned for this day - brides imagining luck in the numbers. Perhaps that was the reason for the low turnout. I looked around at our offerings. My clothes, although very organized by size and price, were piled on two 8 foot tables with bins underneath. Toys were scattered on tablecloths on the ground. We probably did not have our prices low enough. My husband made over 4 gallons of coffee. (I think we sold 3 cups the whole day - am I the only one who drinks coffee in the heat?)

By the time we started packing up, the thermometer hit 100 degrees. One neighbor jokingly called out to another "Now for the best part, right?". He replied "Hey, I've got some gasoline in the back to burn it all - it'll be it out before the fireman get here!" I have to say, at that exact moment, I wouldn't have objected!

Once everything was stored in the garage, I counted the cash. We made just over $100.00! Pretty good for a morning yard sale on 7/7/07. We changed into dry, cool clothes and headed for a place with plenty of A/C... the movies!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

...And the cast comes off

The day finally arrived - the cast on my daughter's arm was scheduled to be removed. She was incredibly excited about it and announced it to all of her summer camp friends, counselors, neighbors and anyone else who happened to listen. After this, she'd be able to participate in the camp activities she'd missed out on - swimming, mini-golf and go-carts. At the doctor's office, she hopped around like a jumping bean.

We were lucky to have a doctor with a great personality who joked with her during the procedure. I think we were both expecting
a frightening, high-pitched buzz saw. But, the little tool really sounded more like a vacuum cleaner motor and was completely benevolent.

Since I've never had a broken bone that required a cast, it was fascinating for me to watch this process. How the saw the cut through the fiberglass so easily. How the pliers cracked it open like an egg. How her arm was lifted out like a precious little treasure. I was startled to see how tiny and fragile it looked. When I applied lotion to the dry, flaky skin, I felt like I was handling a delicate piece of porcelain.

How amazing it is that these bones of ours can be placed into hard shells to heal. That within these hard shells our skin starts to wither, our muscles begin to atrophy. My daughter's arm was tender after the cast was removed. It was hard for her to move it around. It ached. She asked that I wrap it at night to keep it warm and still.

I remember someone
once telling me that it's baffling that humans continue to thrive in this world. With all that can injure and harm us, we still have survived millions of years. We need a certain amount of food and water daily, a certain level of oxygen to breathe. We can't be exposed to extreme temperatures for too long. We have learned to avoid poisonous plants and dangerous animals. We have discovered the right level of immunizations to cure deadly diseases.

At the bookstore recently, I found a book for my daughter on the solar system. Every time I see the lineup of the planets, I am amazed. Nestled within the lifeless orbs that circle the sun it this perfect little beautiful ball of blue and white, shining like a beacon in space. When I was little, I watched a TV program called "The Big Blue Marble" and I think that describes the planet perfectly. How incredible that life thrives on this planet, out of all the planets that we know of. It is a miraculous thought.

Are we simply lucky to be alive? It is just coincidence that, in this world spinning through space, life flourishes in the light of the sun? I think there is
a deeper mystery to the perfect balance in our world. There is a reason we are here, that we have survived for all this time. There is a reason that we can heal after being broken. That a small little arm weakly emerging from it's protective shell can grow strong again. So strong that it can swim and play and drive a go-cart.

Ernest L. Woodward was quoted as saying:

So great has been the endurance, so incredible the achievement, that,
as long as the sun keeps a set course in heaven, it would be foolish to despair of the human race.

So I celebrate the wondrous gifts of this world. I give thanks for the miracles that occur every minute of every day. I relish this life and marvel at its beauty.