Year of a Hundred Things – “Thing” #86, “Island Girl”

Jumping the Waves

My sister sent her DNA into Ancestry.com back in December. I was only slightly surprised at the results since I’d been researching our family history for a decade. The report listed ethnicities of which I was already aware and gave percentages that I thought coincided exactly with our origins.

What I found amusing about the report was that it illuminated a fact that had escaped me while listing countries of origin for my ancestors. Nearly ALL of our DNA came from around the Mediterranean and a large majority came from islands, including Sicily, The Canaries and Menorca. Suddenly, I had an explanation for my need to be near water all the time and my ability to tan in the shade.

It makes perfect sense now that I sleep better on or near water than I do anywhere else. Even a simple water feature will do it. But nothing has more pull for me than the beach, which is also the only place on Earth that I awake at the crack of dawn. And it’s not just me. It’s my whole family and all my friends whose families had similar migrations to sunny Florida. Every summer of our lives has been marked with a stay at one of the gulf coast beaches.

There are so many familiar places and traditions that have been borne of these summer days, and now I get to share them with my own child. So, please excuse me now, while I go pack for another relaxing weekend on the water.

Résumé for an Eight a Year Old Boy

“Son, put on your helmet!”

“Mom, I don’t need it!”

“Yes, you do. Now that you’re brave enough to do stunts, you HAVE to wear your helmet.”

“Mom, they are not stunts, they are tricks. There IS a difference.”

Future Stunt Man
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Year of a Hundred Things: “Thing” #87 – Figuring it all Out

In our twenties, idealism and hubris rule.  We don’t yet know what we don’t know. It’s a magical time when we believe we can do anything, and God help those that try to stop us. We’re still allowed to fail, even miserably. The rest of the world, especially that demographic that has survived that pivotal decade, looks at us sympathetically, perhaps even blithely, and recognizes that life hasn’t yet kicked us in the collective ass. 

Our thirties bring on a significantly less idealistic view of our world. The shiny hubris that gave us that unfounded, but entertaining “I can change the world” attitude begins to dull when you realize that it takes a village to raise a barn. You begin to understand that team effort is far more effective than all the idealism in the world. And then secretly, when you’re not looking, your tribes begin to form around you. 

If you’re lucky enough to make it into your forties healthy, devoid of the ailments that catch us no matter how fast we run, you finally see a glimmer of self-awareness. 

It becomes easier to admit when we’re wrong and that we have limitations. We start to own those limits, helping us discern which endeavors truly deserve our best efforts. It certainly doesn’t mean we actually achieve those best efforts, but the field narrows in our favor. 

I was 48 before I realized that I’d forced myself into a box that was designed for someone else. A box that left no room for the creative person I feel that I am. I didn’t know what I needed to do for myself until then, and this realization was the result of some painful soul-searching. 

Man’s struggle to survive is a distant memory for most of us in the western world. We find ourselves whining and complaining about “first world” problems as though individually, we are the only victims of the crisis du jour. We whine about triggers instead of empowering ourselves to transcend our experiences. We want the world to change around us instead of developing the fortitude to adapt and solve the problems that plague us. 

The best part of facing fifty, for me, is figuring out that we are amazing, adaptable creatures capable of much more than life may or may not have handed us. It has caused me to shed limits I thought I had and do FINALLY what I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I don’t have to wait for someone else’s approval or encouragement. If I can give you twenty-something’s any advice, it is to start that process earlier. Realize that people with more experience ARE smarter than you are and most earned respect before your tiny lungs took their first breath. Pay attention. The younger you figure it all out, the longer you’ll have to live it. And living it is the best revenge to anything life hurls at you.

Uncorked

Weak springs creaked as she sunk heavily into the cushions, letting her things scatter across the remaining length of the couch. For a moment, she thought that nothing had ever given her so much relief as her head rolling back against the arm rest. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Nothing impelled her to move, not even the din of objects, specifically the contents of her purse, crashing against the wood floor.

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Rising Above

It is man’s response to struggle that defines us. Sometimes, it is difficult for the individual to remember that the person sitting next to you might be struggling with something that is far more consuming than anything you’ve experienced in your lifetime and you can’t possibly understand what effect that struggle has on his or her existence.

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Year of a Hundred Things – Thing #88 – Lullabies

Few things make me sentimental anymore. Nearly all those that do involve the children I love. Seems reasonable, I think, as I approach fifty that I have filtered out the things that shouldn’t matter. Strong memories are funny things, induced by any number of powerful sensations. Perhaps you pass a table at a restaurant where you perceive a hint of a perfume worn by your favorite teacher or a former lover. Or perhaps, God forbid, as a child you were burned by bacon grease, causing you to forever hate that salty smell. But strong memories can keep us anchored to love-rich moments when our hearts are so filled that we feel they may burst. For me, many of those moments have been experienced while singing lullabies.

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Year of a Hundred Things – “Thing” # 89 – Blown Glass

Okay, okay, take a minute to titter about the title (but first, forgive my alliteration). (Oh, and thank you Linda G. Hill for reminding me how much I love the word “titter.”)

Alright, now that you’re done…

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Year of a Hundred Things – “Thing” #90 – Afternoon Rains

Each corner of the globe has its own unique weather phenomenon. Florida has a few, the results of its placement in the middle of two major bodies of water. Anyone who has lived here for a few years will have realized that, beginning in about mid-Spring, the afternoon rains begin and with them comes a host of benefits, some even comical. Most of the inland residents of the Tampa Bay area converge on the coastal beaches for at least a few days every summer. It’s a long-standing tradition, documented by boxes and boxes full of images from as far back as the old Brownie days. For the luckier and perhaps more well-to-do among us, there might even be some Super 8 reels of skinny, sun-kissed boys and girls playing cork ball and building sand castles while sand pines, rather than high rises, still lined Gulf Boulevard.

You see, there are things about Florida summers that we know are utterly predictable, the afternoon rains being the most welcomed for us. As a public service, here is a list of things that you should understand about Florida summers, especially on the Gulf coast:

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Goodbye GiGi

Today, we will have the first of two memorial services for my son’s great grandmother, Barb Friend. He is eight years old. Between the testosterone and the inability to stand still for five minutes, I knew that I had to have a conversation with him about how he should behave during the services. As I began to explain that he is the very embodiment of his great grandmother’s pride and joy, I began to cry. People who know me well know that I don’t cry.

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Not Exactly Cronkite

During college, I worked as a bank teller. Obviously, that position requires some very specific training, including how to remember details when witnessing any criminal activity in the bank. During the week-long training class, around lunch time, a man walked into our class and presented something to the instructor. He said very little to her, did not address the class at all, and then left the room. About an hour later, in the middle of the lesson on how to handle a bank robbery, we were asked to provide a description of the man who’d entered the room. There were roughly thirty people in the classroom and not one of us produced a description good enough for a sketch artist to draw a likely representation. We were in a safe, well-lit room, experiencing no stress or duress. Yet, we could not remember enough to convict our would-be criminal.

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