I Played Hooky From Work…with no regrets!!

Last Wednesday, a couple of My Favorites burst through my front door just after 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Because she knew Alex and Mackenzie were over, my daughter arrived a few minutes later.

Yes. We had plans…but the girls were a bit early. I was pushing hard to complete a work project, so that we could head to a neighboring community for a “Take Pride in America” event.  It featured the United States Marine Corps Drum & Bugle Corps, Silent Drill Platoon and Marine Corps Color Guard.

Though I knew I could spend more time working, I chose to shut down the computer.

There was every reason to send the girls off without me. I could easily have continued on with my project. I knew that I might be working late into the night—possibly all night due to the choice I made.

On paper, our Funny group of five makes no sense. But when we are together, it makes Perfect sense. My daughter and I. Alex and my Godchild (I dated their father for a couple of years.) And the girls’ mother (my Former Flame’s ex-wife).  Yet we genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

We loaded into my Trusty Honda, with my Godchild at the wheel. She likes to drive. I rode in the backseat with my daughter and Alex. The Former Flame’s, ex-wife rode shotgun…white knuckling it as her daughter drove. We were laughing before we hit the end of my street…and the fun continued until we pulled back into my driveway about five hours later.

If I came from another family, I might live my life differently.  Make different choices.

But I come from family who always put People first. Always.

Take my Uncle. He is a busy man. He holds an important job for a large international corporation—he carries a heavy load of responsibility, stress and puts on long hours. He is one of the hardest working, most dedicated people I have ever known.

Yet every year, he takes a vacation day on Aunt Kate’s birthday. Every. Year.

And I am quite sure he schedules meetings around this and has to shuffle his schedule to make this happen.

Uncle Joe -- in Relaxed "vacation" mode a few weeks ago...

He also spends a week sitting on the beach in Hilton Head every summer with Aunt Kate, their son and daughter-in-law. No laptop. No phone on the beach. Nothing but family time. And again, I’m quite sure that it takes some doing to make this possible.

Incidentally, Uncle Joe–by anybody’s standards—has a very, very successful career.

Even more important, he has a successful 39-year marriage and a son and daughter-in-law who adore him. That is no accident…

He knows what is important. And I can’t say I’ve ever heard him talk about it. He lives it. It is clear in his actions, the way he conducts his life…each and every day. No words necessary.

In turn, my aunt wakes up each day to make his coffee. She could sleep in. But she doesn’t. While he gets ready for work, she puts his coffee in his favorite covered cup—so that he is ready for his commute. (They live in Virginia, about 30 minutes outside of Washington D.C.)

I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

My father always put People first, as well. Didn’t matter what he had to do, he never missed a ballgame, concert or anything my brother and I did growing up. In my 40 years, he has AWAYS had time for me. Has NEVER been too busy when I needed—or just wanted him. Honestly, I cannot remember a time he lost patience with me, judged me or yelled at me…

He was a wonderful husband to my mother while she was alive. And he is now a loving husband to Jannie. My father has also had success in his professional life, along with lifelong friendships and relationships.

Again. Not an accident. From what I have seen, successful people tend to know how to balance their lives. How to work hard at in their professional lives. But they know when to set that aside and embrace the People in their lives. They know that People come first. That without the People, financial and professional success mean little.

My children and I spent a week in Hilton Head sitting on the beach with those mentioned above. In many families, we would not all ‘hang’ together.

My father is what many would consider ONLY a brother-in-law to Aunt Kate and Uncle Joe. (My mom and Aunt Kate were sisters) In many families, my Dad may not have stayed part of ‘the family’ after my mom passed away. Especially when he re-married a woman not Aunt Kate’s sister. It doesn’t work like that for us. My Dad’s wife is one of us, as well.

Because of the type of People I’ve always been surrounded by, I didn’t have to think too hard about shutting down my computer last Wednesday. And it was a magical evening…

I don’t know a damn thing about music. Cannot play a note. Nor can I sing one, unless I want my dogs to howl in protest.

There was a good bit of pageantry and ceremony.

At one point, my Godchild whispered in my ear, “This is almost like Catholic Church.”

“Huh?” I said, not getting her meaning.

“Stand. Sit. Kneel.”

We had just stood to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Then sat back down…She had a point!

But when the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps marched on the football field in their Crimson Red coats and pressed white pants, I was in awe…speechless. (A rare occurrence for me…)  Their matched sets of silver instruments were stunning—their every movement in sync. They played Perfectly…

Honestly…those who know music might want to check out Alex’s blog. (It is below this one) Alex goes off to college this week with eight years of band under her belt, so she appreciated a lot of ‘musical things’ that are beyond me. What I understood was that I was in the company of people I love, respect and who are important to me. And I was watching some of the most talented young men and women in our country perform—and the experience was breathtaking.

After The Drum & Bugle Corps finished, the US Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon executed an impressive drill routine with rifles and fixed bayonets. There are no words to describe it…I won’t try.

I admit to sneaking glances down the row of bleachers to catch the look on Alex’s face. You see, the young man she dated for four years in high school is at Marine Boot Camp as I write this—this display carried a different meaning for her. (Her mother was sneaking glances at her, as well.)

It was an evening I will never forget. It was not to be missed. Yet it would have been easy to skip the event. To wrap up my project on the computer at home and miss out on this experience… (I admit it crossed my mind for a few seconds)

But I am a product of my family. A person who has never been told by her parents that they ‘didn’t have time…’ (Or even later in my life, by my Dad’s wife Jannie)

My mother was fond of telling us that we make time for what is important to us. And she was right.

I believe our lives are comprised of little decisions, little moments. When we string them together, and look back at our memories—with any luck, we have taken advantage of every opportunity to spend time with those we love.

When we do that, we are truly happy and filled with joy. And we radiate that and bring it with us out into the world—and tend to find success in our community, professional lives,  friendships and relationships with those we love.

And as we move through life, we add to our circle of People—if we’re lucky. Which is why I spent an evening with Alex, my Godchild and the Former Flames ex. Because they have a place in my family now. (And thus a place with my Dad, Aunt Kate and other relatives…)

I’m not sure what will crop up needing my attention this week…but I can say with certainty that I will be sitting in the bleachers to watch my son’s football scrimmage on Tuesday.

Whatever it takes.

Because I understand that we never know what comes next. That is why the smallest choices–the little things–add up to mean everything…Because we can never be certain that we will get another day–Or another chance.

A Day at the Beach…

My Dad whipped open the blinds to let the sunshine in first thing this morning, as we all tried to ready ourselves for the beach.

Dad: He’s eyeballing us…

The four of us:Huh?

Our New Friend...

Dad: The alligator out there.

We all crowded around the sliding door.

Jannie: Want me to take a picture.

Me: I’m not going out there. How fast can those things move?

Our new friend...a little closer thanks to Jannie.

Dad: He’s eyeballing us.

Jannie: He’s 20 feet from our door. I’ll get a picture.

Dad: She does things like that.

Me: I’m not going out there.

Jannie heads outside…

Dad: Good Luck Hon…I’ll be in here if you need me.

After getting ready, we hopped into the Trusty Honda and headed for the beach. I’m just grateful our old hunk of junk made it down to Hilton Head Island, with 200,000+ thousand miles on it.

Matter of fact, my son has been harassing me over it. Because the car has manual locks, I am a broken record of  ‘lock the doors.’

Son: Yeah. We’re parked between all these nice cars, and somebody’s going to want to take the Accord?

Me (thinking in my head): Okay. Good point.

Peanuts??

We are surrounded by very nice vehicles–this is Hilton Head, after all. And I’m fairly sure my car is the only one with peanut shells littering the floor.

Remember the graduation party peanuts? And my recent blog about them? I was given a whole bag last week after that posting. I brought them on our road trip—and my Dad drove my car for hours…eating peanuts the whole time. (The kids along with him.) Already a heap, it now looks like The Ground Round on Wheels…

At least the Trusty Honda is dry now. The night before we left, somebody left the windows open. And there were torrential downpours all night.

We traveled yesterday with towels on our seats. It was like sitting in a damp bathing suit…for twelve hours!

Anyways, they have a guard stationed at gated checkpoints in all of the private condo complexes—called ‘Plantations.’ We passed through one such place on the way to the ocean.

The Guard Shack at Palmetto Dunes…

Son: Doesn’t he look like a he could be a stripper?

Me: He looks like he could be in The Village People.

Mirrored aviator sunglasses. A navy ‘police’ look-a-like uniform. Dark skin. Muscular. My son has a point…he looks like he could rip off his pants from the front exposing a g-string, while gyrating about. He could be that guy in a heartbeat.

Past the checkpoint, we arrive at the ocean and the crew starts to assemble down on the beach. I have just gotten situated in my beach chair, book in hand.

Along comes my cousin, already making fun of his lovely wife. At it is only 10am.

Cousin: Carissa thought somebody from the store opened her jelly.

Charming Carissa: All I said when I went to make my toast was, “Somebody probably had some, right?”

Uncle Joe (who had in fact had some): I left it out. With the butter knife. And spoon. So she would know…

Cousin: That wasn’t what she was thinking…she was wondering if there was a Jelly Robber around somewhere.

And it went on from there…for a while. They had a field day with their Jelly Robber theory. Not that I minded. The focus was on somebody else. I read my book, while they had at her.

You can imagine what a beating I take in this family. I give them continuous material ALL DAY LONG.

In fact, I took a pounding the evening before for commenting that I should put the bologna in the fridge. It was in the cooler during the trip from Ohio to South Carolina.

Bologna fiasco…

Aunt K: But it was in the cooler.

Me: Yes.

Aunt K: I don’t want any. Don’t bring it over to my place for lunch.

Cousin: Do you know what’s in bologna?

Son: There’s…

Daughter: DON’T. I already TOLD you that today!!!!

I’m just there…listening to things go down.

Aunt K: I’m not eating it anyway. It’s been in that cooler for what…12 hours? Is there even any ice in there?

Daughter: It was just about melted.

Aunt K: It’s GOT to be floating in water by now.

Daughter: Yep. It was last time I looked.

Cousin: And anyways, we’re not eating that over here. Bologna is like, mystery meat.

Son: Yeah, they put…

Daughter (who was in fact planning to eat it): STOP!!!

Aunt K: I’m going to have to have a look at that stuff. It can’t even be cold anymore…

Me: ENOUGH about the bologna. I’ll throw it away. I wish I never even bought the bologna.

There is good reason my brother has only been on the family vacation to Hilton Head once. Back many years ago when he was married and his wife (now ex-wife) put him in charge of sunscreen—which he purchased, special for the trip.

Sunscreen is important for my brother because he is one of those pasty white people who burn easily. He didn’t like the sun…even when we were kids.

On Day 1, they were like boiled lobsters. And they just couldn’t understand it. You have never seen anything like the way they slathered on that sunscreen—and with such frequency. None of us were burnt.  Puzzled, we asked to see their sunscreen several days later, when they finally made their second trip to the beach. Let’s just say my brother bought tanning lotion, with zero—yes zero sun block in it. This did not make his very, very red wife happy. He has never lived it down.

Then there was the time he went a#@ over teakettle after dropping down into a beach chair. It was a mess—he was all tangled up in the chair, legs in the air, head in the sand…and we did help him…eventually—when we caught our breath and could contain the laughter.

The best thing about my family?

We laugh at ourselves. And we do it a lot. We find humor in most anything.

As I sit typing this my daughter is flinging pillows about looking for bedbugs. Tossing the blankets back. Her face inches from the sheets…This is quite the investigation.

The sunset from our condo...

I can tell you one thing. It isn’t going to be pretty for her come morning, when the crew gets a hold of that one.

Again, I need to do all I can to keep the focus on others…

It’s all I’ve got.