Posts Tagged With: grandson

Homeward Bound

Having been in New England for ten of the past sixteen months, I’ve thought a lot about home.

With respect to Robert Frost, home is the place where they’re glad to take me in.

Sally, Jenna, and Julie are home to me, wherever they are.

Home is sleeping in my bed with my wife.

Home is our cat, Caesar, loving me as if I’d never been gone.

Home is grilling salmon on our patio. Home is our bright red Japanese Maple tree.

Home is a hug from the lady at the dry cleaners who missed me. Home is friends at Kathwood Baptist Church welcoming me back.

Home is my Grandson Lake showing up at our house at 6:45 a.m. wanting blueberry muffins on Thursday morning.

Home is my shower, my pillow, and my favorite coffee mug. Home is iced tea with mint freshly picked from our garden. Home is my bookshelves with my books with my favorite passages underlined. Home is being surrounded by memorabilia from Charleston, Cooperstown, Scotland, Italy, Turkey, Kenya, and Romania.

Home, for me, are tigers, tigers everywhere.

Home is driving on familiar roads and walking on familiar sidewalks.

Home is my Dad’s picture on the wall and my Mother’s baking sheets (which we still use to make chocolate chip cookies) in our kitchen cabinet.

Home is my back porch where I eat breakfast and drink coffee as many days of the year as possible, January through December. I love it, especially the sound of the birds singing, the toot of the railroad train not far away, and the kids waiting for their school bus. When Sally, Jenna, Julie, sons-in-law Thorne and Tom, or friends join me, there is no better place in the world.

Home.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Mud in New Hampshire? Mud in South Carolina? Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder…

Dirt, water, pebbles, rocks, and minute quantities of organic material, along with random muck.

In New Hampshire, during March and April, that grayish brownish wettish combination culminates in what is affectionately known as Mud season. The affection may be mixed with hostility depending on the exact composition of the miry bog as well as its relative location to your feet or your vehicle.

In South Carolina, we are proud of the pluff mud in our marshes, and we want to keep it there. A low country brewery produces a Pluff Mud Porter, but they market their beer based on lovely images of the Carolina coastal marsh, not because the beverage contains mud.

Scooped up in a clear glass container, mud is not pretty. It could have been named Yuk because the mixture of these common materials into a muddy consistency is a mess.

Winter snow is beautiful. Spring flowers are lovely.

Mud season is a different matter. Houses in New England are constructed with mudrooms to keep the grime out of the living areas of the house. Mud mats are required. Automobiles are made filthy by the accumulated grunge. Muck is the enemy. Pets that get caught in the quagmire are disgusting.

Mud, however, may be highly valued in health and beauty spas as a type of therapy for skin problems. Some mud formulas are used to soothe aches and pains deeper within the human body. Minerals in some soils, containing ash, for instance, are said to provide healing for various physical maladies. You can buy a Borghese Mud Mask “sourced from Tuscany’s volcanic hills.” You can purchase Dead Sea Facial Mud or Seaweed Mud. These products are not cheap. They are also not for the sane.

Mud can also be redeemed as a structural aid. Malleable when wet, mud, when dried, can seal cracks in the joints of construction projects, or make bricks for building huts.

Children spontaneously make art with mud. If the dirt contains kaolinite, it’s called clay. Potters use sophisticated formulas of mud and/or clay to produce magnificent pots, plates, chalices, and sculptures.

If the proportions of the primary ingredients within the recipe are altered, our experience can be transformed. Dirt, water, pebbles, rocks, minute quantities of organic material, along with random muck, may still surround me, but it doesn’t always result in unsightly mud. Instead, I can enjoy a flowing river and marvel at the deep gorges as I raft with my grandson on the whitewater of the Chattooga River. The same materials as mud, but comprised by different percentages of each ingredient, make for outdoor beauty that has little to do with ugly and unpleasant muck. Instead, the landscape bursts with color, a Garden of Eden.

As a hiker, my favorite destinations are waterfalls. Water is even in the name. A stream of mud and water flows over miles of rocks as it searches for lower ground and, ultimately, the sea. Lots of muck is stirred in the process, as creek banks cave in, but the water continues its meandering journey, pulled by gravity down, down, and farther down the riverbed. Photographers flock to these picturesque sites to capture images of beauty. International tourists travel to mammoth cascades listed among the natural wonders of the world—Angel Falls in Venezuela and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

Yet what is a waterfall but dirt, water, pebbles, rocks, and minute quantities of organic material, along with random muck?

“God saw everything he had made and, behold, it was very good.”

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Aging in New Hampshire

“My name’s Alexander Hamilton and there’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait, just you wait…” lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Friends and strangers are mystified by why I would abandon semi-tropical South Carolina in the dead of winter to freeze for six months in frigid New Hampshire. Minus seventeen degrees this morning! The lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (above) are a clue. I have a lot of life yet to live. I’m still curious about a million things.

I don’t want to offend anyone who has chosen a different path, because there are a lot of fine ways to live a life, but I don’t intend to sit in my home slowly fading into death for the next twenty years.

Of course, I have no control over random disease or tragedy. But I do have choices. I can choose not to turn on the television during the day. Instead, I choose to stir around a bit and continue to meet interesting people in interesting places.

Just think of all the books I have yet to read, of the places I can visit, of the cookies and pastries out there still to be tasted. There are national championships to be enjoyed, waterfalls to find, a grandson to mentor, churches to help, jokes to hear and retell, and thoughts to think.

My wife shares my enthusiasm for life, though her interests don’t always coincide with mine. She loves to sew and I love baseball. But our lives do intersect in a hundred other ways—adoring our daughters and sons-in-law, dinners with friends, Thanksgiving, the occasional trip, and, not least, supporting one another when one of us is ill.

Last night, in a suburb of Boston, daughter Julie and her husband Tom hosted a Murder Mystery party for my birthday weekend. Great experience. Wonderful food. In what world would I rather vegetate in front of a computer than be surrounded by a host of young, new friends?

What’s next? Who knows? I would not have predicted Murder Mysteries for parties, or the Internet, or blogs, or Facebook, or Harry Potter, or Downton Abbey, or being a campus minister at Dartmouth.

Next thing you know, I’ll have a grandson driving… Oh, that’s next month.

Life keeps happening, and I love it.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Holiday, Quotations, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Washington, D.C.: The Fifth Leg: July 2015

My grandson Lake missed his class trip to Washington D.C. this school year because he broke his knee playing soccer the day before the trip. That suited him just fine, but I was not a happy granddad. I think kids need to go to the Capital. I took my daughters and I wanted Lake to have the experience.

I gave him a list of options and told him to pick two:

1. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
2. Holocaust Memorial Museum
3. International Spy Museum
4. Library of Congress
5. Mt. Vernon
6. National Air and Space Museum
7. National Museum of the American Indian
8. Newseum
9. Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
10. Supreme Court Building
11. Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers
12. Trolley Tour or Duck Tour
13. US Capitol
14. White House tour

He picked the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (the Hope Diamond, dinosaurs, etc.) and the National Air and Space Museum. We also took a moonlight tour of the primary Washington D.C. monuments, a great decision. We took the “Old Town Trolley Tour,” and we highly recommend it. We rode past some sites, such as the Supreme Court, the Jefferson Memorial and the Capitol, but we stopped and spent time at the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. The trolley tour took three hours and was awesome for all ages. Our guide became emotional talking about the last inauguration with 800,000 gathered for the peaceful passing of power from one Head of State to another. Not many countries in the world do that, but we do. I’m proud to be an American. Some want their state to secede when the wrong party wins, or they want to turn their backs on our great democratic nation when their candidate loses. Not me. I’ve suffered through bad Presidents and benefited from the efforts of good Presidents. And, since I’m not God, I am continually surprised at some of the good done by politicians with whom I disagree and vice versa.

Our hotel, the W, was as close as you can get to the White House and the Washington Monument. Lake even took his soccer ball out to the Ellipse one afternoon and kicked it around while I sat on the ground nearby, leaning against a tree, and smoked a cigar.

We drove home to Columbia the next day and were happy to be back. My attitude is almost always that I’m glad to go and I’m glad to get home. Right now, I really don’t want to go much farther than West Columbia. It’s good to be with Sally. We went out last night for hamburgers and cooked hot dogs for lunch today, in honor of National Hot Dog Day.

The End

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New York City: The Fourth Leg: July 2015

My grandson Lake, age 14, wasn’t so sure about going to New York City. He likes his familiar world of friends, soccer, soccer, and more soccer. One of my theories of childrearing is that adults are supposed to be smarter than kids. So far, so good.

Our itinerary called for us to come home from Boston to New York City to Washington, D.C. to Columbia, SC. Researching soccer venues for the relevant dates, I discovered that the New York Red Bulls were playing the New England Revolution in Harrison, New Jersey, a short subway ride from Times Square. So I bought the three of us, Jenna, Lake and me, tickets to the game. I didn’t care much about the game, except that I like most sports, but the decision gave Lake some buy-in to this leg of our trip. The journey to the stadium required a subway ride, which was also part of my agenda for a New York experience, so win-win.

The first 15 minutes in New York City were hairy. Jenna was driving and the traffic was, well, New York City traffic. Our hotel was near Times Square. After checking in, we walked there to catch the subway, and Lake was bowled over. Who wouldn’t be? A cowboy wearing a guitar and a jockey strap. Women wearing only body paint. Bright lights. Big city. Sensory overload. Tens of thousands of people.

We ate a very late lunch at Hard Rock Café which made Jenna happy. This was, after all, her vacation, too. Then, we had to catch a subway. The game was in New Jersey.

The home team won the game, but I learned Lake was pulling for the Revolution. Jenna and I didn’t care.

The next day we went to the observatory on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. Good way to see the city. We never made it to Central Park or the Statue of Liberty, for example, but we could had a panorama view of the entire city from that height.

We bought tickets to see the Lion King. The challenge had been which Broadway play would appeal to a 14-year-old boy. Lake liked it. I’m the one who slept through the first act.

In New York City, just walking down the street is a hoot. We went into soccer shops, cigar stores, shoe stores and, best of all, a random retailer that sold magnificent rock specimens—up to half a million dollars for a rock—and it wasn’t even a diamond. Beautiful, but I didn’t have that much money on me, so we just looked. We had supper and ate sushi with friends Chris and Bryan. We discovered Insomnia Cookies.

I think Lake will go back to New York City. Mission accomplished.

Tomorrow: Washington, D. C. The Fifth Leg of my summer excursions

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Boston: The Third Leg: July 2015

“Every teenager needs an adult friend.” That was a theme of Young Life, an organization that made a huge difference in my young adolescent life. Most kids get a pair of parents. Fortunately, both of mine were great. For good or ill, parents are the primary models for a young person’s life. Other adults come and go—teachers, coaches, youth ministers, even aunts and uncles. Few rise to the level of being close enough to teenagers to be major influences in their lives. One of the reasons gangs emerge is to fill the gap when there are no good adults stepping up to befriend teens during those turbulent years. I look back on my teenage years and am grateful for Jerry and Jane Howington and Uncle Tom and Aunt Mildred Hipps, four important adult friends and models for me.

During July, my oldest daughter Jenna and I drove her son Lake, my grandson, to Framingham (near Boston), Massachusetts, so he could spend a few days with his Aunt Julie and Uncle Tom, both of whom he adores. Sally did not go with us because, when Julie and Tom settled in Massachusetts, we decided to split our trips up so we would have more “touches” with them than if we always traveled there together. That’s worked out nicely. Also, on this trip, Jenna’s husband Thorne decided to fly up and spend a few days with us on the Boston portion of our adventure along the Northeast corridor.

Cooking and hanging out are generally the primary agenda when with Julie and Tom. On the trip up, Lake’s discovered the U.S. men’s soccer team was to play Haiti at Gillette Stadium (where the Patriots play) in Foxboro. Turned out to be a double header so we also saw Panama and Honduras, too. We ate a fine meal at the huge shopping mall attached to the stadium.

The next day, Lake and Julie made blueberry pancakes for breakfast. For dinner, Tom taught Lake how to shuck corn and Lake did it willingly. We went to the grocery store. How’s that for entertainment?

Board games are a big deal when Lake is with his aunt and uncle: Ticket to Ride and Apples to Apples.

Lake likes their cats: Athena and Magneto. Lake drives them nuts with the red laser pointer which the animals are glad to chase endlessly.

Hanging out.

The car trip (I always rent a car for long distances) from Columbia, SC to Framingham, MA takes 17 hours, driving through nine states (SC, NC, VA, MD, PA, WV, NY, CT, and MA) and the Shenandoah Valley. I think it was nine states and I’m sure it was the Shenandoah Valley. And I’m sure it was 17 hours. One way. Jenna and I split the driving.

Next Leg: New York City

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In Defense of Vacation

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 In my mind, vacations are as American as apple pie and baseball. Europeans take them even more seriously than we do in the U.S.

So I was a bit surprised to read a short devotional recently by someone who has obviously got a bad case of the Protestant Work Ethic. This anonymous author argued that we should attend to more important matters and asked questions such as, “In two years, will it matter?” Holiday planning was denigrated as a “smaller, less meaningful concern.”

I respectfully disagree.

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In the Christian faith, we believe Sabbath is built into the rhythms of our psyche. All work and no play makes Jack and Jill very dull indeed. When I take vacations, when I get away from the usual ruts and busy-ness, my batteries are recharged. I am replenished. Rest and restoration are desirable.

 Travel makes me a bigger person. I think new thoughts. I enjoy new experiences, new sites, new smells, and new tastes. I understand the world we live in more fully.

 Travel provides many of our family’s most meaningful memories.

  • My wife Sally and I were in Paris for her 40th That was a pretty big deal.
  • My daughter Jenna and I remember our trip to New York City during a Christmas holiday when snow covered the parks and the roads.
  • My daughter Julie and I recall time together in Princeton, New Jersey, exploring a beautiful campus and one of America’s most fascinating small towns.
  • My grandson Lake and I will always remember rafting down the Colorado River and eating Navajo Fried Bread in Arizona.

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 So, allow me an alternative opinion.

 I believe travel, holidays, vacations, time off, Sabbath and time away are hugely important.

 

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Traveling with my Grandson

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Lake Barrett is my thirteen-year-old grandson and a terrific traveling companion. We just returned from five days in Arizona, just the two of us, visiting the Grand Canyon, rafting on the Colorado River, visiting cliff dwellings of Native Americans, walking through a lava flow, eating Navajo Fry Bread, Red River trout, swimming in motel swimming pools and otherwise enjoying ourselves.

One key to successful travel with children and teens is to pay attention to their age-appropriate wants and needs. This was not a year to introduce him to the Metropolitan Opera. Some kids, yes. My grandson, no. I am older and supposed to be smarter. Surely there are places and events in the world that would make my grandchild and me happy at the same time. To insist on my own way and/or to treat every minute of a vacation trip as a teaching moment seems silly.

To make a long trip all about their wants and whims is equally foolish.

Rafting down the Colorado River was a good option, something we would both enjoy.

Also, I knew that, after our plane trip from South Carolina to Phoenix, we would be in a rental car for almost 1000 miles. I carried several books on tape that I suspected Lake and I both would like. Then I let him pick which ones to listen to. He chose Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Jack London’s White Fang. It worked. I didn’t insist he put down his video games during those long hours of driving. He looked when I pointed out cacti he had never seen in South Carolina. He got excited when I showed him a coyote in a desert arroyo. Nor I did not expect scintillating conversation for those endless hours in a car. He is thirteen years old, after all.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” –Anonymous

Categories: Family, Health, Holiday, Quotations, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Waterfalls

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My Grandson Lake and I, almost by accident, began taking hikes to waterfalls in the mountains of South Carolina and North Carolina. 

 

I love the woods.  That’s the term we use in South Carolina.  Not the forest.  Not the jungle.  Not the wilderness.  Not the bush.  Just woods.  I grew up on the last street of the last subdivision in our small South Carolina town with the back of our house bordering the woods.  My big brother and I, with our friends, played war back there in the red clay gullies.  We had pinecone fights.  With the other kids in the neighborhood, we built a field in the woods and played baseball there.  We hiked.  We created bicycle paths.  We found an old still, long abandoned.  Flowers.  Wasp nests.  Mushrooms.  Snakes.  Trees to climb.  Creeks.  Swamp. Turtles.  Wild blueberries.  Wild plums.  Endless variety.

 

I also love the mountains.  When I was a kid, vacations meant one of two things:  visiting grandparents or going to the mountains of Oconee County, South Carolina, above Walhalla.  Dad had access to a cabin on the Chattooga River (now of Deliverance fame, but unknown in the 1950’s).  We picked blackberries, swam in the river, fished with a cane pole, toted our water from a nearby spring. Hiked.

 

As an adult with my own family, when I get away from home for vacation or retreat or a college football game, I gravitate toward the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I like the beach, too, and big cities, and all manner of other travel destinations.  But I love the mountains.

 

In recent years, Lake has joined me on my hikes in the mountains.  For a 12-year-old boy, a destination is a good thing, so we began hiking to waterfalls, 45 minutes in, 45 minutes out.  Sometimes, we let other folks go with us.  Two waterfalls on Friday and two on Saturday and time with my Grandson make for a very good weekend. 

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The Navel of the World:

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There is not nearly enough oxygen in the air in Cusco/Cuzco, Peru, 11,200 feet above sea level.  When I was 19 years old, I climbed a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado.  I am no longer a teenager, but, with our 12-year-old grandson and our old-enough-to-be-his-mom daughter in Cusco, Sally and I climbed almost everything everyone else climbed in this amazingly beautiful part of creation. 

 

The Incas certainly appreciated the beauty of the area, but for them, something more than splendor at stake.  They believed that this was the spiritual junction of heaven and earth, where gods and humans connected most perfectly.  In the Quechuan (Inca) language, Cusco means “Navel of the World.”

 

Who can argue with the value that a tribe, or an entire nation, puts on a sacred place?  You can enter a small cave in Sacsayhuaman, just outside of Cusco, where sacrifices to the deities of the Incas are still made annually.

 

The Irish call these sacred spots “thin places” because heaven and earth seem to have less air separating them.  Somehow, it is easier to connect with God, however God is understood, in these hallowed locations.  The island of Iona in Scotland is my favorite “thin place” in the world.

 

I have traveled to two other “navels of the world.”  Jerusalem, where the Holy of Holies of the Hebrew Bible was located, is one.  Delphi, in Greece, home of the famous Oracle, is another.  I won’t argue with anyone who feels they have experienced the Holy, whether at a summer camp in the North Carolina mountains or as a tourist in a grand cathedral.

 

The older I have gotten, the more I have been forced to remember that God told Moses his name is, “I AM WHO I AM.”

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