The Magic of Ocean Time

It has been a few years since our entire blended family gathered at the beach for a vacation.  Let me just say, to achieve such a feat is nothing short of miraculous.  Sixteen folks ranging from age three to me and every stage in-between reunited for a week.   Four little ones, two teenagers, eight middle-agers, and a couple of juvenile old-timers are packed into one large house that may need some repair today.  

When I first saw the ocean, I was heading to Florida from Tennessee with my parents and brother.  The car was hot, and the salty air flowing through the open windows did little to cool us down.  “Daddy, are we there yet?” I asked so many times, causing my father to burn hotter by the minute. 

When my eyes widened to finally view the expanse of water, the waves crashing onto the shore, and the sun glistening on the blue sea, the misery of traveling hundreds of miles faded away.  It was the most spectacular sight my six-year-old eyes had ever seen.

My older brother taught me to swim in the motel pool during our vacation. And Mama basked in the sun while Daddy conversed with anyone who would listen. 

I remember nearly everything about those magical days when the sound of the ocean calmed the soul and gave a family immense joy.

Surfing to shore

As a teenager near the same age as those two teens vacationing today, a group of girls set out for Panama City accompanied by two brave sets of parents.   As teens, we were more interested in “where the boys were” instead of the blue of the sea.  My friend, Ree, whose father could stand amidst the waves far from shore because of his towering height.  He put us on canvas rafts to let us ride a long way in the surf while we laughed ourselves even sillier. 

Today, as I recall such delight, I glimpse old friends who once walked along the water’s edge, wondering about our future lives and soaking up youth’s splendor and friendship’s happiness.

When my children were small and I was approaching middle age, I returned to the sea numerous times.  We searched for the perfect seashells and built sandcastles, and even though I wasn’t as tall as Ree’s dad, I sent them sailing on a raft to the shore.

When I watched them play in the surf and shriek as the waves knocked them down, I prayed their futures would hold such sweet, lovely moments.

The value of time

I understand that everything changes with time.  Children grow, dreams are altered, and lives end, but the ocean stays as it has always been.  A place for play, refuge, wonderment, and extraordinary beauty.

Now, I am entering the days when one realizes our time will one day end, and the memories we created for others are all that will remain.

Today, I play with the kids in the pool and help them swim, as my brother taught me.  I watch my teen granddaughter with her friend strolling in the white sand, wondering “where the boys are” and what their futures hold.   I see my son far from shore, pushing a child on a board to catch the waves.  My son-in-law is laughing at the shrieking laughter of his little boy as a wave knocks him down.

Daddy, Mama, my brother, and Ree’s towering father are all in heaven today. However, because each produced special moments for many, they remain alive in my heart.  The friends I once walked with on the shore are still strolling.  We have cried and laughed and lived to see the future.  We scattered in all directions and triumphed over life’s hardships. Now we wonder what the future holds for those little ones who play by the ocean.

Time is precious and fleeting for all of us.  What we do with our hours is what will make a difference for those we love.  Do we build joy and teach the ones who follow us the value of family and friends?  Are we afraid of tomorrow, or are we embracing the remaining moments?

God was gracious enough to bless us with memories as well as create all that we see and those we love.  We should all comprehend the magical sound of the ocean that calms the soul and brings us all great joy is a gift… just like our time.

The Present You Cannot Buy

Jaxon, our grandson, spent the night with us recently.  This month he will turn the ripe old age of six and is about as busy as the bees swarming around our purple butterfly bush.  No word describes Jax’s exuberance for life nor a power strong enough to slow him down.  Trust me, we tried, but to no avail.

We planned on taking him to the community pool to waterlog some of his energy, but the roar of thunder only allowed an hour for us to burn a small amount of fuel in his supply tank.  Now what?

Target is my cure for all things.  You can ask my 17-year-old granddaughter, my nephews, nieces, and all those who once were my little tykes, how much I love shopping for toys. 

“Jax, wanna’ go to Target?” I questioned, knowing his answer.  I swear I glimpsed flashing green dollar signs in his dark brown eyes, so I gave him a budget.  I understand he doesn’t yet comprehend how or why one toy is $100.00, and another of the same size is $10, but those little ones get it when I say, “No, we can’t afford that!”

After we buckled our seat belts, I announced, “Son, we have one stop to make before hitting the toy aisle at Target.  We must go to the Dollar Tree.”

“Why?”  He replied with a bit of groan between the w and y. 

“I’ll explain when we get there,”  I answered with a mocking groan causing the bee to snicker.

Rules of Giving

It would be lovely if I had been the awesome grandparent who came up with this idea for kids, but I am not.  However, I will pass such wisdom on to anyone with a child buzzing around their lives.   

After my husband, Jax, and I piled out of our car, I explained to him the rules before entering the store.   Sometimes the buzzing Jax creates causes him not to listen to ‘rules,’ but I am an accomplished, experienced bee wax remover.

“Mid-summer each year, a big blue box is placed inside the store to donate school supplies for children whose families cannot afford to purchase all they will need.”

I continued, “So, I am giving you money to buy whatever supplies you want to put in the box.  You cannot keep any for yourself, and you will not ask for candy or toys while we are here.”

The bee asked, “Why do those kids have no money?”

“Well, there will always be a need for you to help others.  Someday you also might require help.  One never knows, but I guarantee you one thing, you receive greater blessings by giving gifts away.”

“You mean I get a present one day for helping?” 

“Yes, you do, but you will never know when and how it will arrive.”

Learning Compassion

He enthusiastically selected rulers, pencils, and an extraordinary dinosaur pencil case.  He carefully placed them in the cart along with glue sticks, crayons, notebooks, pens, scissors, and other supplies.  I realized quickly we were extending the budget, but at that point, to put items back didn’t seem appropriate or honorable.

The toy Jax bought at Target will be forgotten within a month, but the lesson he learned by helping others hopefully will be with him forever.  It is a principle we all must learn and teach.

It would take the entire paper to quote how many times God speaks of offering our aid to others, helping the poor, and the joy it gives Him when we do.  One of the most striking verses is from Proverbs 21:13, “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.”

We all have been poor at some point in our lives.  Perhaps not from financial destitution but from a barren, hardened heart.  I don’t know about you, but I would rather lose all my possessions than cry out to God and He not be there for me.  Without faith, I know I would own nothing.

For seven years, I have written and contributed a weekly column for many newspapers and do so without pay.  However, I respect and appreciate my editors, who graciously promote my books and efforts.  To work for no wage sounds crazy, but it is my words that I give away, and when I receive a response from a reader, that is my reward. 

I know God summoned me to write; He is there whenever I call His name.

Hopefully, with each passing year, Jax will also understand and trust that God always hears him.  That is the gift that success, money, or fame can never buy.

“Them Good Old Days?”

It seems that when every generation begins to age, they long for the return to those good old days.  Many wish for America as it was when they were young and yearn for a time when society reflected better values and morals.  Since I am a bona fide Baby Boomer, I understand.

I recall The Greatest Generation thought the same when many of America’s youth fled to Woodstock in bell bottoms, protested, and watched Elvis swivel his hips.  And God forbid if those irreverent boomers wore their hair like those boys called “Beatles.” 

Today, many members of my generation are downright obnoxious, trying to locate a ticket to yesterday when life in America seemed perfect.  They are convinced today’s younger folks who jump up and down at rap concerts, demonstrate and wear hair in shades of blues, pinks, and green will send the world to “Hell in a Handbasket!”

 Didn’t our parents use that phrase?

Was it simpler?

  Yes, it appeared to be a simpler time, but not for all.  Women, minorities, and those considered “different” had to adjust to social, educational, and wage inequality. 

Didn’t we march for those changes?

Do we want to live in the days without lifesaving vaccines, treatments, and medicines for everything from polio, cancer, and other countless diseases to watch our loved ones suffer?  The advances in science and medicine to aid our world since World War II are miraculous.

  Plus, our life expectancy today has increased by 12 years since 1950.  Who doesn’t want to see their grandchildren grow? 

If you are old enough to remember, did you like using the phone booth to make a call during a storm?  When your car broke down on Highway Out Yonder, how did you call for help?  

Gas and everything related to automobiles is downright expensive today, but do we want to drive cars with no seat belts or airbags while our toddler grandson stands in the front seat?  I don’t think so.   Today, the number of deaths by car accidents is approximately half the number recorded in 1950.

 Wait, didn’t many Boomers assist in inventing the cures, the mobile phone, and safer automobiles?

Return to respect

However, there were some aspects of long ago we long to see again.

Bullying in our day was mostly limited to the mean kids on the playground or taunting in high school.  If we did not respect our elders and teachers, we faced dire consequences from those aging parents we knew.  Today, bullying and disrespect seem to be acceptable in adults as well.  I have listened to the tirades of politicians inciting flames of hatred as I have never heard before.  Are we no longer responsible for our actions, or was that rule applicable only in our youth?

Today, many wish to search for lies on the computer instead of truth to bolster their personal beliefs, leading to distrust.  It’s shameful how many people we harm when we do such things.  And we wonder why suicide is up, the sanctity of life is down, and church pews are empty.  

Our love of money and material things should be secondary to faith and moral values, and the Bible tells us so.  A greedy, unappreciative, resentful, hateful heart reaps nothing and never will. 

So, considering all of this, where do we wish to go, past or present?

Our legacy, our choice

Since the Time Machine is not in production, we cannot return to yesterday.  Instead, today we must consider changing what we can and prioritizing what is essential.   Returning to falling on our knees and reaching for God’s hand instead of worshiping any politician, political party, or false idol would be a good start.

God is as present today as He was when we were born.  He expected great things from us.  We fall when we don’t abide by his advice and counsel.  When we hit the computer send button or use our mouths to spread vitriol and conspiracies, or when we abandon our brothers and sisters, we fail.

Why are we so eager to share controversy instead of peace?  What does that say about us?  What does it say about us when we choose our pocketbooks over character? 

My generation is at a point they must believe that it is never too late to improve our legacy.  We can make a difference in future generations by exemplifying God’s greatest commandment:  “Love one another.” His laws will return us to morality and respectfulness, not ours. 

We were once the dreamers, thinkers, and shakers who believed we could advance humankind.  And we did.  Many forgot as we aged that we still can with the Almighty’s help and mercy.

Why not endeavor to make them “good old days”….. today?

IT TAKES TWO

Ok, here goes; I am dipping my pen in the inkwell of the abortion debate, but not the way you may think.  I don’t believe we will ever agree on that issue, so it seems useless to voice another opinion.

Years (I do mean eons) ago, I returned to college.  I decided to change my career path from interior design to become a Health and Physical Education student.  I was a wee bit athletic, yet I wasn’t leaning toward teaching physical education but instead educating others about health.  Especially women who lived in poverty and did not have access to or the means to obtain good healthcare.

Some women at the time knew little regarding birth control, breast cancer, or warning signs that they were in unhealthy, unchartered territory.  Many were not knowledgeable about the value of good nutrition, exercise, mental health, and weight management for themselves or their children. 

My dreams were lofty, but I believed we could change the future of women’s healthcare through education and prevention. 

A good theory

I did not finish the degree and became that Interior Designer, providing for my children’s health and well-being.  But I still believe my theory was a good one.

With all the shouting matches between the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice movements, there seems to be little dialogue regarding prevention or responsibility.  Few discuss what men should do to help women not to face life-changing decisions.  It takes two to create a child; if the pair do not want an unplanned pregnancy, they must prevent one.  Seems simple, right?

We all know about “surprise babies.”  I have a physician friend who found she was expecting her third child soon after her second was born.  “I just don’t know how that happened!” She exclaimed after she told me the news.  I sarcastically replied, “I guess you skipped the classes regarding reproduction in med school, right?”  Then we both laughed till we cried.  I, to this day, have no idea how my last child came into my world.

However, she and I welcomed our baby boys with open arms.  We struggled, but now we can’t imagine our life without them.   

Dire circumstances

However, we don’t live in the dire situations some women do.  There are so many today who still do not understand the value of prevention economically or physically.  Plus, many men still walk away unscathed when they learn their partner is carrying their child.  The truth is both consenting adults must step up to the plate when difficulty is placed on the table.  They need to accept the commitment of parenthood or be responsible enough to avoid becoming a parent.

As I was nearing graduation from high school, I learned a friend was pregnant.  When she told her boyfriend, he literally ran away.  At the time, an out-of-wedlock baby still produced demeaning, judgmental reactions from folks.  Many would declare, “How could SHE do this to her parents?”    My mother said the opposite, “How dare HE simply run away!”   She continued, “Women have always been both victims and villains when it involves an unplanned pregnancy.  In many cases, they become their child’s sole support while their partner is somewhere unfound.”

This slanted behavior is not reasonable or fair and has been going on forever. 

Here are a few facts as of 2022:

.  10 billion dollars in child support payments go uncollected.  More than 30% of support payments are never paid, and more than 43% do not receive the total amount due.

. 80% of single-parent families are headed by mothers, and the number is rising.

. 12.7 million children are being raised without a father.

. So, I ask you, where is the other part of the “two?”

Fostering fatherhood

Even though years have passed, there is very little change in attitudes.  Women must know that if they are not going to protect themselves from an unplanned pregnancy, they will more than likely be responsible for their actions for the rest of their life.

There are many good, righteous men in the world, and you are loved.  But for those men who feel they are not economically or physically responsible for the child they produced,  they are the epitome of a coward.  These men are present throughout every segment of our society, and the courts can do little to ease the suffering their behavior creates.

Women must help each other educate our sisters with the knowledge and compassion to prevent heartache and destitution and provide them with hope and education.

And good, decent men should foster responsibility, denounce “good ole’ boy behavior, and put fatherhood at the head of the table as it should be.