The Last Day at the Shore

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It was the Greens last day at the ocean. Very early in the morning Mr. and Mrs. Green walked along the shore line side by side, hand in hand. The footprints they left behind were soon washed out to sea leaving a clean slate for the next person to create their own memory.

Mrs. Green felt the end of things was more precious than the beginning. At the end of something wonderful she was left with a permanent imprint. It was not like the footprints in the sand. Her sincere appreciation for the stunning wonder of this world, was going home with her, making her more beautiful, fascinating, and appreciative of all God had given her.

Mrs. Green did not try to hold onto the moment. She had learned to appreciate the ocean without trying to grasp the waves in her hand.  She knew the beauty was the permanent gift she would take with her. The miracle of the sun rising and setting over the ocean was not lost on her. She looked out over the water and up to the skyline and felt intensely grateful. The cool waves rolled in and covered her ankles. The sky seemed bluer than a sapphire. The ocean seemed to lift her soul and carry her along to a hidden place where childlike happiness dwelt.

Even though Mrs. Green did not try to hold onto the moment, the moment seemed to hold onto her. She was no longer content to go on a walk along the shore. She turned and ran into the ocean. Mr. Green was surprised for only a moment and then he ran, fully clothed and in his shoes, into the ocean past the break of the waves to join her.

The Green’s played in the waves like two young children. They frolicked in the cool white foamy surf. They laughed out loud. On this trip they had allowed the stunning sunsets, blue skies, white sand, and glistening ocean to renew their spirits. They were truly grateful for the experience.

Copyright Terri Neagle Donaldson 2015

Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Ocean

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Mrs. Green did not always love to swim in the ocean. Early on in her marriage she was afraid of many things. The ocean was one of them. She had spent many years as a child trying to embrace the waves and the strong current on the beaches of Maryland and Delaware. Time and time again she found herself scraped up by the sand, tumbling backwards with water up her nose.

It was one trip in particular that changed not only how Mrs. Green felt about the ocean, but how she felt about life. The Green’s, Silvia and Sam took a trip together a few years after they were married. They were so excited. They planned the trip for months in advance. They saved and looked forward to it during the long cold days from January to the hot, hot days in July. They packed up their cars and headed to Bethany.

They were going to spend the entire day on the beach. They had beach chairs, blankets and coolers full of drinks and sandwiches. Mrs. Green set everything up. She had a book in hand and settled herself in her chair with her sunglasses on and her feet buried in the warm sand.

Mr. Green, Sylvia and Sam spent the day diving into the water, body surfing, and floating way out beyond the break of the waves. Mrs. Green waved and sat hot and sandy on the beach. She stood with the lap of the waves brushing over her feet now and then to try and cool off. Mr. Green, Sylvia and Sam kept asking her if she wanted to come in. Mrs. Green offered to serve lunch. They tried to call her from the water laughing and splashing. Mrs. Green offered them a cool drink. They offered her the inner tube and the raft. Mrs. Green put on more sunscreen.

The entire day went by. Mr. Green, Sylvia, and Sam had a wonderful time. Mrs. Green felt crispy, sticky, and hot. It was later that night when they were alone that Mrs. Green confessed to Mr. Green that she was a tiny bit afraid of the ocean. She wanted to join in but she wasn’t quite sure how.

The next day Mr. Green was prepared. He was excited to show his knew wife just how fun the ocean could be. He held her hand and out they walked early in the morning before most people were up. The tide was in and the waves were big. A little boy and his grandfather were the only ones in the ocean. They were riding the waves in on their bellies and laughing and having a grand time. Mrs. Green bravely followed Mr. Green into the water. When the first wave came Mr. Green held her hand and said,

“Dive under!”

Mr. Green dove under and pulled Mrs. Green with him. She came up sputtering and gulping just in time for the next big wave. Mrs. Green pulled her hand away and was smacked in the face and tumbled backwards up onto the sand. As she tried to stand up the water around her was pulling her body out towards the next big wave that hit her right in the face.

She wiped the salt water from her eyes and looked up. Standing on either side of her was the little boy and his grandfather. They offered her a hand and helped her to her feet just as Mr. Green was riding in a big wave next to her. He said thank you as Mrs. Green caught her breath. Mr. Green held her hand again and slowly walked her out into the ocean.

The morning went on. Sylvia and Sam and other vacationers soon arrived at the beach. A group of young teenage girls set up their chairs right next to the Green’s on one side and the little boy and his grandfather set up their chairs on the other. Mrs. Green sat on the beach and regrouped after lunch. She had two bruised knees a scrap on her back and red eyes from all the salt water.

It wasn’t just her knees that were bruised. Mrs. Green’s ego was a little bruised as well. She heard the snickers of the young girls as she tumbled up onto the shore. She saw the whispering that went back and forth. She watched as the little boy and his grandfather road on the waves with ease. She heard Mr. Green, Sylvia, and Sam having a grand time and Mrs. Green felt just as she was, on unsteady ground and all washed up on the shore.

The little boy and his grandfather sat down on their chairs next to Mrs. Green. They had seen Mrs. Green try again and again. They had seen how she kept getting up and they had seen the snickers of the young girls. The little boy looked over at Mrs. Green and it was as if he knew just how she was feeling. He was watching Mrs. Green as he took a huge bite and swallowed his baloney sandwich. He looked out at the ocean and said,

“You are not going to give up, are you?”

Mrs. Green looked in the very same direction as the little boy. She took a deep breath and tried hard to remember who she was. She remembered that Mr. Green, who was her family, was very important to her. She remembered that they had come on this trip to spend time together with their good friends. She remembered that she had always been an active and vibrant part of all the things they did. She remembered that she was not someone who easily gave in to the opinion of others. She knew that  the girls who were snickering at her did not know her. They did not know she was fiercely determined. They did not know she was not easily shaken.   She was a person who wanted to be part of life. She was not someone who sat on the shore. Mrs. Green remembered that she wanted to learn to swim in the ocean. She looked at her bruised knees and scraped up hands and silently prayed for help.

She looked over at the little boy. He and his grandfather were now looking her right in the eye. She sighed a heavy sigh, pulled herself together and said,

“I don’t want to give up.”

It was at that moment that the grandfather stood up. His grandson stood as well. He offered Mrs. Green a gentlemanly hand and said,

“That is just what I hoped you would say.” They walked to the water and he asked Mrs. Green a question. “First of all you have to know what it is you want to to do. What do you want to learn? Do you want to get past the waves and float around? Do you want to dodge the waves and dive under? Do you want to ride the waves and body surf?”

Mrs. Green was starting to feel like herself again. She knew the answer right away. She did not dodge or float. “I want to body surf.” She said.

“Great!” said the grandfather. Knowing what you want is step one. Step two is being committed to it. You have to walk out before the wave breaks. You can’t be afraid of it or you will wind up washed up in the sand. You decide on the wave you want and you take it on. Get down in the water and kick your feet. Watch my grandson.”

The little boy walked out beyond the white surf. He got down in the water, chose his wave, turned his back to it, looked over his shoulder, and began kicking his feet. He surfed right onto the beach with ease.

The grandfather looked at Mrs. Green. “Step three is all about the right timing and not giving up. When do you take a wave and when do you let it pass you by. Waves are like opportunities and people. Some will build you up and help you along, and some won’t. Choose wisely.

Mrs. Green laughed, “Some will wipe you out.”

The Grandfather smiled, “Then you have to get right back up again.”

Mrs. Green wiped out several times and got right back up again that afternoon. The voice in her own head, the sound of the waves, her laughter, and her family and friends drowned out the snickering and whispers on the beach. Mrs. Green learned a lot more than how to swim in the ocean that day.

When it was time to pack up all their stuff and leave the beach she turned to the Grandfather and his grandson and asked,

“What are your names?”

The Grandfather said, “It is easy to remember. I am Big John and this is Little John.”

Mrs. Green shook their hands, thanked them and said, “Oh, you can be sure, I will remember.”

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Copyright Terri Neagle Donaldson 2015

Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Off They Go!

The Green’s did not travel much and when they did they saved and planned for quite some time. When they went on a trip they made the most of it. Mr. Green was a wonderful traveling companion. They had long talks in the car about what they were going to see, what they were proud of, and things they had yet to do. When they stopped to eat they talked to people. In reality, the people talked and the Green’s listened. People were fascinating and the absolute best part of the trip.

Mrs. Green loved to find artist and poets in the towns they passed through. Artists and poets were everywhere, and most people did not recognize them. She stopped and bought a goat made of a rake, shovel and copper pipe at a yard sale in Virginia. She bought an intricately carved wooden hand fan from a vendor in North Carolina. She stopped and talked to a singer on a street corner in South Carolina.

They spent an entire day in Charleston. What a day it was! They took a carriage ride through the town and fed lemon moon pies to their horse Jack. They saw a wedding in the park.

They strolled down East Bay, to Rainbow Row, and across to the Battery. They joked about buying the 11 million dollar mansion that was up for sale.

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They drove down a long dirt road and stood with their mouths wide open in awe at the Angel Tree. It was something to behold. It spanned 17 thousand square feet and stood majestic and welcoming for more than four hundred years. Mrs. Green went around and around the tree offering to snap pictures for the people she met there.

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They slept well and drove on the next morning and when they arrived Mrs. Green only had one thing on her mind. They settled in quickly and changed clothes. Mr. Green could not keep up with Mrs. Green. She ran right into the ocean letting the waved knock her over and the salt water get into her eyes. Mr. Green stood back and enjoyed the moment. Mrs. Green looked lovely in the dress she designed herself specifically for swimming. No one could have been more beautiful at that moment. The dress was cut above her knee and came in at the waist flowing in the ocean breeze and waves. Mr. Green thought she looked better than any movie star he had ever seen on the big screen.

Mrs. Green was overwhelmed by the beauty of the ocean. She dove under a wave and came back up again with her hands lifted to the sky. She turned and looked at Mr. Green. The waves reached up to the sky in gratitude and crashed over her shoulders. She laughed out loud. Mrs. Green was in her happy place.

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Copyright Terri Neagle Donaldson 2015

Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Stitching Together a Trip

The Green’s were getting ready to go on a trip, but first Mrs. Green had a project to do. The Sewing machine sat on the dining room table. She had yards and yards of green, ruby, and purple fabric floating all around her. Mrs. Green knew what she looked good in and jewel tones complimented her beautifully. The bright colored fabric billowed from every dining room chair and scraps sat on the floor to discard later with long strands of thread. On each wrist she wore a pincushion bracelet. Around her neck was a measuring tape necklace. Her hair was in rare form with more of a mind of it’s own than usual. It seemed to sense the buzz within her and curl more rebelliously than ever. She ran her fingers through her wavy curls while working through the creative process.

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Mrs. Green had a picture in her head of how she wanted to look on this trip, and she was creating as she went along. Sometimes the things she bought in the store made her feel dowdy and dowdy was not in Mrs. Green’s repertoire. The stores did not carry vintage, glamour, so Mrs. Green was going to create the look she wanted herself. She felt strongly that if you were going to a beautiful place you should do your best to look beautiful as well, that way you were free to enjoy your surroundings and those you met and not concentrate on yourself. She didn’t want to be like the models in the magazines. She just wanted to be the best version of herself.

She was so deep in her project, she forgot about breakfast. Mr. Green knew to leave her alone. He had learned over the years to let Mrs. Green create at will and not distract her. Around noon He put a sandwich on the counter and went upstairs to pack. Sylvia came over late in the afternoon to help with hemming. Sue stopped in and watched and learned all she could.  Ampersand turned around three times, sighed heavily, and made himself comfortable in a pile of scraps and thread under the table. He dozed in and out all afternoon to the hum of the sewing machine.

Copyright Terri Neagle Donaldson 2015

Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

4th of July

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Every year on July 4th Mr. and Mrs. Green got up early. They drove to  Greenbelt MD and hopped on the Metro. They arrived before the crowds at the Washington Monument. They gazed at their reflection in the reflecting pool. They walked hand in hand up the mall and around to the Lincoln Memorial. They counted the steps, just to make sure they remembered the exact number. They ate pulled pork sandwiches from a food truck for lunch and stopped into the Natural History Museum to cool off and look at exhibits. The Green’s loved Washington DC! They loved the crowds, they loved the sites, and they loved the feel of it.

Mrs. Green carried a tote back and Mr. Green a backpack. As they walked down the street and saw the sights they stopped along the way and met  the people sitting on the street. They were called homeless by everyone else. Mrs. Green preferred to call them by name. She introduced herself, looking them in the eye and offering her hand in a friendly and respectful gesture. If invited, she sat next to them and listened. Oh the stories she heard that day! Stories of trouble and woe, but also stories of poets, and songwriters, stories that seemed all mixed up and tangled, and stories that made more sense than things most people say.

Mrs. Green would not have traded this time for anything in the entire world. She learned more from the people she met on the 4th of July than she could have in a thousand classes in college, Sundays at church, or every book in the library. As she said goodbye to each of them by name she thanked them and asked if she could return the favor with a gift. Out of the tote bag and backpack she pulled a large Ziploc bag. There was always a bit of money, a bit of food, and an encouraging note. As for the extras Mrs. Green never knew what she would put in each bag for the day. Sometimes it was a full change of clothes, sometimes a kazoo or a harmonica, sometimes umbrellas and rain ponchos. Once she put together a bag of makeup and a wig, and a yo-yo. Mr. Green often asked Mrs. Green how she chose the things to pack for the day, and how on earth she knew who to give them to. She always had the same reply,

“God knows the number of hairs on our heads. He can certainly figure out what might bless someone’s life if you are willing to ask. It is not my business to know all the answers; it is just my job to ask the questions.”

Copyright Terri Neagle Donaldson 2015

Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terri Neagle Donaldson and Stressfreestories with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.