Go to the Beach!

It’s Labor Day weekend, and I haven’t been to the beach all summer.

This is very sad, because I love the beach. The hypnotic music of waves rolling in, tang of salty spray on my face, warm sand caressing my feet – the sights, sounds and smells are like a healing balm. I live near the Georgia coast, about 30 miles from the beach at Tybee Island. My husband Ret and I were married on North Beach seven years ago, beneath the historic lighthouse that witnessed our first date. And yet we haven’t visited Tybee at all this year.

If the suit fits

Honestly, we’ve had a busy summer. Ret’s started a new job with his company and we have a never-ending home renovation underway. We rarely have the same day off. And…I’m not sure I can fit into last year’s swimsuit.

Okay, I’m pretty sure it won’t fit.

But still, is that a good excuse? Because seriously, the only person who will be worried about what I look like in my black and purple tankini is me. And that’s just one giant waste of my mental energy.

How many times have I squandered a beautiful day mired in unimportant concerns over what others think of me?

Overcoming insecurity

In my youth, I was painfully insecure. I was shy and awkward around just about everyone. My curly hair frizzed wildly out of control in the New Orleans humidity, while all the girls I admired were blessed with long, sleek, flowing tresses. I wasn’t interested in fashion, but I was keenly aware that my clothes were all wrong, wrong, wrong. Hopelessly klutzy, with zero athletic ability, the thought of going to a dance left me terror-stricken.

Somehow I managed to overcome this gnawing fear and make peace with myself, but it took eons. Discovering yoga helped immensely with my coordination and body confidence, even though I can’t do a handstand and probably never will.  I’m still a work in progress, but I knew I was on the right track when, at age 49, I threw away my flatiron!

Every so often, I’ll come across a little reminder to enjoy today: to go forth boldly wearing my nice clothes and using the fine china instead of saving these things for some elusive future date when everything is perfect. Well, I don’t have fine china, but that’s not what’s important. What matters most is that life won’t wait for me. And the ocean thinks I look great just the way I am.

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from Swimsuits for All, on Instagram

This wild, wonderful world is meant to be experienced, and there are no rules that determine who’s eligible to partake of its majesty. You don’t have to wear a certain size or have a PhD to hike a mountain, picnic in the park or gaze in awe at the watercolor sky. And no matter who you are, if you visit the ocean, it will rush right up to the shore to meet you there.

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Not What I Wanted

Sometimes not getting what you want is a great boon.

It’s a cloudy winter afternoon in the waning days of 2016. I’m sitting comfortably on my sofa, reflecting on all the blessings in my life and thinking about how unexpected most of them are.

I could tell you about all the twists and turns my life has taken – I never thought I’d leave New Orleans, didn’t expect to have a career or find myself divorced and then remarried in my forties. Very little went according to plan, but somehow it all turned out… beautiful. It proves I don’t always know what’s good for me.

Meet Tanner

This gorgeous red and white dog is one example. His name is Tanner, aka Tan-Tan. Three years ago, Ret and I rescued him from the pound just days before his time ran out. According to the staff at Animal Control, he was a year-old border collie mix, housebroken and recently neutered. (I know, poor guy!) At the time he weighed 42 pounds and was a bundle of joyful energy. He’d been found as a stray several weeks before and no one had come to claim him. The staff named him Victor, a name too stuffy for this happy-go-lucky fellow.

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Victor, the pound puppy

Victor wasn’t what I wanted. I was looking for a small, older female dog to be a companion for Lacy, my little bichon frise. We’d lost our three elderly pets, and for the first time in her 6 years, Lacy was an only dog. (She and Louie the parrot have never really hit it off.)

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Louie, don’t come any closer…

Anyway, once we learned that poor Victor was in danger, we couldn’t bear it. We adopted him and changed his name to Tanner.

From pound puppy to family dog

Lacy wasn’t crazy about our choice. Tanner was energetic and goofy and had no concept of personal space, especially hers. He chased tennis balls all over the house, skidding across the wood floors and around corners, and his big fan tail knocked things over. Taking his cue from Lacy, who is an outstanding companion animal, Tanner wanted to sit in our laps even though he didn’t fit.

Tanner was (and still is) fascinated by socks: empty socks, socks with feet in them and especially socks while a foot is in the process of slipping into it. He was particularly enthralled with Ret’s black work socks and couldn’t leave Ret’s feet alone while he was wearing them. Most of our dinnertimes were spent laughing at Tanner’s sock-loving antics as he rolled around under the kitchen table at Ret’s feet with an expression of loony determination on his face.

This dog did everything with the gusto befitting someone who narrowly escaped death and appreciates every single moment. When we gave him a chew rope he’d lie on his back, paws in the air, dangling the rope to his mouth. He banged into furniture chasing his own tail, something he did with regular and delightful abandon.

And he grew. And grew. In six months’ time, Tanner morphed from a wiry 42-pound youngster to a 75-pound protector with a thick, wavy coat and a fierce intelligence behind the comic demeanor. No way was he a year old when we adopted him. More likely, he was a 6-month old puppy.

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A little too big for Lacy’s bed

So much for my small, older female companion for Lacy.

Ret and I often find ourselves marveling over Tanner’s place in our lives. How’d we get so lucky? It’s heartbreaking to think of all the special dogs that aren’t fortunate enough to find a forever home, but I am so grateful we found this one before it was too late for him. He’s such a bright, loyal creature, even if he is a little spooked by the new washer and dryer.

Good boy

For all his slapstick ways, Tanner is a remarkably perceptive, compassionate dog. He seems to know when I’m feeling blue or under the weather; he’ll appear by my side like a sympathetic friend, with no advice to give, but lots of warmth and affection.

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Today Tan-Tan is a beloved, full-fledged member of our family. He is always ready for fun, but he knows when it’s time to stretch out and watch TV. We count on him to remind us when it’s bedtime – around 10 p.m. he’ll stroll into the living room and beckon us to pull out his mattress. He’s also really good about announcing every visitor. Sometimes I feel sorry for the UPS man. Oh, and Lacy has come around. She’s right there beside Tanner when he sounds the intruder alert.

Living in the moment

One of the biggest gifts dogs give us is a renewed appreciation for the present moment. Dogs are great that way. The most important walk is the one we’re having now. The best cookie is this one. The best day? Today!

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Yoga dog: Tanner practicing viparita karani, or legs-up-the-wall.

If I’d known Tanner would grow to be such a big dog, I might have passed him by. And I would have never even realized my loss. Like so many other people, events and circumstances in my life, he wasn’t what I planned at all. But he was exactly what I needed.