Life is a beach

It’s been a while. I could explain, but I won’t. At least I won’t/can’t today.

Oak Island collage - www.alliepottswrites.com

Oak Island, North Carolina

Taking a break from the heat (and maybe a few other things I am beginning to associate with June) I went to the beach with my family and my sisters’ families for some much-needed rest and relaxation (or as much rest and relaxation as you can expect when you are traveling with seven kids 10-years-old and under and three dogs).

We’d picked out the home shortly after the new year. That had been a whole stressful process in and of itself, requiring lengthy negotiations and more than a few compromises, but it checked the major boxes. It had beds for us all (or so the ad claimed) with a pool as well as an oceanfront view and beach access.

On paper it was perfect.

In reality, not quite. The beach access was not directly across the street as it had appeared in the photographs and at some point, the owners had replaced bunk beds with queen-size meaning several of the kids would have to enjoy even more cousin time, but it served its purpose.

We arrived in mass with cars loaded up like the opening credits of the old show Beverly Hillbillies. All that we were lacking was our family matriarch riding in a rocking chair up top (she’d wisely driven separately). We divided rooms and filled the cabinets with a week’s worth of groceries while the cousins darted around and attempted to keep watch of the various canines.

The first day went great, the second too (the nights on the other hand – not so much). However, storms rolled in mid-week and the combination of early-week sunburns, over-tired small people forced to share beds, a flare-up of a stubborn ear infection, and more than one instance of a pup bolting from the house very nearly become a decorative hood ornament on a passing car, caused my sisters to consider calling it a week early.

Sunset over the dunes - www.alliepottswrites.com

Sunset over the dunes

I chose to stay and volunteered to watch a couple of my nieces on the beach while their parents packed. Sunglasses on, book nearby, and beach chair out, I prepared the soak in the last rays of stress-free (or at least stress-lite) living. It didn’t last long.

A niece marched up to me crying. Her eyes stung. Hastily applied sunscreen had mixed with saltwater, rendering her blind, and in pain. She couldn’t see or swim. The sand was no fun. She wanted to go back to the house and she wanted to go now.

I looked over my shoulder. I could see the house over the dunes. We hadn’t been gone nearly long enough for my sister to pack their stuff away and clean. I did the only thing I could. I handed her a towel. She complained her eyes still hurt. I grabbed a bottle of freshwater and instructed her to tilt her head, while I splashed her face.

“Now dab,” I said.

“Dab?” she asked.

“Yeah dab,” I said again, gesturing at the towel in her hands.

“Okay…” she replied. But instead of drying her eyes, she lowered her face and swung both arms out, parallel to each other, in pure celebratory fashion.

In short, she dabbed.

I couldn’t help it. I cracked up. Leave it to the younger set to take a perfectly good simple instruction and interpret it in a way you’d never see coming.

It might have been the freshwater rinse. It might have been the trendy move, but in either event, the smile returned to my niece’s face. She turned and the others where they built sandcastles in the surf until noon.

It wasn’t a perfect trip, and it’s been far from the perfect summer, but moments like these prove that there are still plenty of reasons to laugh, even with things aren’t as expected.

chasing the tide - www.alliepottswrites.com

chasing the tide

It also illustrates one final universal truth, which is:

A day at the beach beats a day in the office almost every time.

 

One Nearly Foolproof Way to Achieve Absolutely Nothing

One Nearly Foolproof Way to Achieve Absolutely Nothing - www.alliepottswrites.com #beach #sharks #quotes

“There is only one cure for gray hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.” – P. G. Wodehouse

While the cure for gray hairs might only be death, spending a weekend at the beach accompanied by a handful of close friends, a box of wine, and neither kids nor spouses in sight, sure goes a long way toward treating its spread.

We’d arrived after work Thursday afternoon. The sky was blue and the air was still warm from the midday sun though occasionally gusts kept it from becoming unpleasant. Half of the group had arrived earlier and were already well into relaxation mode as I let the sand fill the space between my toes. I looked out to the sea. We meet again, my nemesis.

The sea waved back.

A surf shop at the beach swears by Sharkbanz, which I also refer as my bat-shark repellent. I can’t say it works, but I can say it hasn’t not worked when I’ve worn mine. Image will take you to affiliate link

To be clear, it is not the ocean I have a problem with, but its denizens. Even so, I looked out to the horizon determined. This was the year. I would go swimming with my friends rather than sit on the shore watching their antics with envy, helpless against my galeophobia (that’s fear of sharks) which seemed to have only grown stronger with every year, exponentially more so since my children were born.

I wasn’t always like this. I am sure once upon a time I was able to view a shark and see it the same way my children do – as merely a large meat eating fish rather than the soulless killing machines they are – a predator so perfect it stopped evolving back with the dinosaurs still roamed. I can blame part of it on my teachers in primary school. You see, and some of you may be shocked to read this, I wasn’t exactly the best-behaved child in the classroom. As a result, I was given the opportunity to earn a bit of extra credit by writing a few research papers. Unfortunately, while the teacher’s changed, the topic didn’t – sharks.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school” – Albert Einstein

I’m sure as far as my teachers were concerned the topic was harmless enough. They probably even thought I would enjoy it. After all, sharks are fascinating as the popularity of the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week proves. However, my teachers didn’t anticipate the scope of my imagination. When I read that some sharks, such as the Bull Shark (a highly aggressive species) can swim quite happily in either salt, brackish, or freshwater, my young mind immediately came to the conclusion that they could be lurking in all lakes, regardless as to size or how far a particular body of water happened to be from the ocean.

I became convinced that there was a shark living in the lake near my father’s house. Not wishing to be the only one stuck on land, I convinced my younger sister that there was an invisible shark living in our mother’s pool too. (If you are reading this, sis – love you and happy birthday again).

“Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life” – Charles M. Schulz

Yes - it's a shark in the roof.

Okay – so technically this is not the aftermath of a real Sharknado, but the Headington Shark in Oxford does illustrate my point nicely. Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com

You laugh, but it could happen. There are several species of animals with transparent skin and much that we haven’t discovered yet leaving underwater. Also, Sharknado isn’t as fictitious as it sounds. Sharks have, in fact, been known to fall from the sky.

You might be wondering then why a person with issues a phobia like mine would enjoy going to the beach as often as I do. All I can say is this – it is the beach.

The sand, the sound, and breath-taking sunsets call to me like a siren. While it very well could lead to my death, I’ve found no other place where the command to sit and enjoy the moment is so strong. I love the mountains too, but while I may be cut off from civilization, I am still compelled to be constantly on the move – to hike, to explore, or to otherwise look for the next spectacular view.

But the ocean is different. Though you might sit for hours in the same spot, the view is never the same. Sands shift and tides change.

The ocean is a good reminder that everything changes with time. People too.

After spending most of my annual weekend ridiculed (gotta love good friends) and afraid last year, I decided enough was enough. While the fear might never go away completely, I would not let it rule me. Watching my friends in the water, I’d remembered a trick for handling my fear. It worked too. As long as I kept my eyes on the horizon and never looked into the shadows, I could wade out as deep as my shoulders. I could even swim a few strokes. Unfortunately, I hadn’t recalled this until it was nearly time to pack up and go home.

But that was last year. This year would be different. I just knew it. I went to bed that night convinced I would stun them all in the morning.

“Everybody’s got plans… until they get hit.” – Mike Tyson

The next day rain pelted down courtesy of a tropical depression that had made landfall in Florida earlier that week. It would appear my plans for phobic domination would have to wait.

Proving if you are looking for one nearly foolproof way to achieve absolutely nothing all you have to do is count on the weather.

What are the Odds of?...

and may the odds be ever in your favor…

Infographic courtesy of Visually.
Quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquote.com

 

Another walk on the beach

I originally posted the following around a year ago, however, while my eldest is now a second grader and will be attending the same school as he did the year before, much of the rest of this post is just as true today.

storm brewing off topsail island

I could get used to views like this

“Do you want to go for a walk?” I asked Kiddo. It was only the second day of our beach trip. Earlier that morning, Lamont spotted a four to five foot shark chasing after a school of fish in the waves and none of us were exactly jumping up and down to get back into the water.

“Sure mom,” he replied, trotting to my side.

As we walked, every so often Kiddo would leap ahead, driven to scoop up a shell and hurl it back into the sea while he waited for me to catch up. It was a far cry from the early years I spent begging him to stay focused and keep up. I glanced back toward our tent and noticed that his footprints in the sand weren’t much smaller than my own.

“Do you still want to be a firefighter when you grow up?” I asked. It was a question that had been on my mind for the last several months. Kiddo had decided at the age of two that he was going to be a firefighter and stuck with his original announcement as the years progressed. He has a lunch box-shaped like a fire truck, a dozen firefighting themed books, and even a note from his Kindergarten teacher stating that perhaps we might like to expose him to other topics after journal page after journal page featured the same red and white truck. But over the last several weeks he had been picking dinosaurs over trucks when given the option. It made me wonder.

“Well I still would like to… some of the time.”

There it was. He was considering other career options. My baby was growing up.

“Well what do you want to be?” I asked. It was a simple question, one I had asked dozens of times, but for the first time in years, I didn’t know how he would answer.

His new school year starts next week. He’ll be attending a brand new school, with brand new teachers, at a brand new time, with brand new friends. Many of our neighbors are excited about the opportunity. They see the school’s raw potential, but as much as I would love to share their enthusiasm, I am too obsessed with the what ifs to look forward to the school year. Kiddo was identified as potentially gifted and a future leader at last year’s school. What if the teacher’s notes didn’t follow him? Would he be asked to slow down so the rest of the kids could catch up? What if there is no chemistry with the faculty? Would parents and students have to suffer while they figured out how to work together? What if? What if? What if?

I fear the unknown almost as much as I fear sharks. I hate not being able to see what is in the water next to me. I hate not being in control of my destiny. I hate what ifs. We kept walking.

The following day, the morning sun reflected off the water to our left as gray skies grew to our right. Storms were in the afternoon forecast. If we were going to swim, we thought we’d better do it soon, or not at all. As we approached the surf, a dark fin appeared several feet in front of Lamont and Kiddo. Great. There goes another vacation day. Then another fin popped up. Each was attached to a curved back. The fins disappeared beneath the water only to reappear several more feet away. Not sharks. Dolphins.

I let myself relax. Where there are dolphins, there is unlikely to be sharks. The fins didn’t appear again, but we took it as a sign and dared to go back into the water. I am still far from thrilled about the start of the school year, but maybe, just maybe, things might yet work out. Tomorrow is still a big unknown, but at least it is another day.

rainbow over topsail

A walk on the beach

storm brewing off topsail island

I could get used to views like this

“Do you want to go for a walk?” I asked Kiddo. It was only the second day of our beach trip. Earlier that morning, Lamont spotted a four to five foot shark chasing after a school of fish in the waves and none of us were exactly jumping up and down to get back into the water.

“Sure mom,” he replied, trotting to my side.

As we walked, every so often Kiddo would leap ahead, driven to scoop up a shell and hurl it back into the sea while he waited for me to catch up. It was a far cry from the early years I spent begging him to stay focused and keep up. I glanced back toward our tent and noticed that his footprints in the sand weren’t much smaller than my own.

“Do you still want to be a firefighter when you grow up?” I asked. It was a question that had been on my mind for the last several months. Kiddo had decided at the age of two that he was going to be a firefighter and stuck with his original announcement as the years progressed. He has a lunch box-shaped like a fire truck, a dozen firefighting themed books, and even a note from his Kindergarten teacher stating that perhaps we might like to expose him to other topics after journal page after journal page featured the same red and white truck. But over the last several weeks he had been picking dinosaurs over trucks when given the option. It made me wonder.

“Well I still would like to… some of the time.”

There it was. He was considering other career options. My baby was growing up.

“Well what do you want to be?” I asked. It was a simple question, one I had asked dozens of times, but for the first time in years, I didn’t know how he would answer.

His new school year starts next week. He’ll be attending a brand new school, with brand new teachers, at a brand new time, with brand new friends. Many of our neighbors are excited about the opportunity. They see the school’s raw potential, but as much as I would love to share their enthusiasm, I am too obsessed with the what ifs to look forward to the school year. Kiddo was identified as potentially gifted and a future leader at last year’s school. What if the teacher’s notes didn’t follow him? Would he be asked to slow down so the rest of the kids could catch up? What if there is no chemistry with the faculty? Would parents and students have to suffer while they figured out how to work together? What if? What if? What if?

I fear the unknown almost as much as I fear sharks. I hate not being able to see what is in the water next to me. I hate not being in control of my destiny. I hate what ifs. We kept walking.

The following day, the morning sun reflected off the water to our left as gray skies grew to our right. Storms were in the afternoon forecast. If we were going to swim, we thought we’d better do it soon, or not at all. As we approached the surf, a dark fin appeared several feet in front of Lamont and Kiddo. Great. There goes another vacation day. Then another fin popped up. Each was attached to a curved back. The fins disappeared beneath the water only to reappear several more feet away. Not sharks. Dolphins.

I let myself relax. Where there are dolphins, there is unlikely to be sharks. The fins didn’t appear again, but we took it as a sign and dared to go back into the water. I am still far from thrilled about the start of the school year, but maybe, just maybe, things might yet work out. Tomorrow is still a big unknown, but at least it is another day.

rainbow over topsail