Hashbrowns and Hurricanes-Sunday Brunch and Parking Lot Church

Hashbrowns and Hurricanes-Sunday Brunch and Parking Lot Church

(The edge of Hurricane Ida-Miramar Beach, Florida)

It was Saturday, August, 30th, 2021. 16 years to the day since Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana.  New Orleans was bracing and preparing for another weather event. The onslaught of Hurricane Ida and all of her wrath, bringing record breaking 174 mile per hour winds as she made landfall in the Big Easy over Sunday Jazz brunch. 

Four hours east, I was in my happy place-Miramar Beach, Florida, bracing and preparing for a second day to put in extra hours as a volunteer at the beach that I love, looking out over the stunning waters of the Emerald Coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Ida had something to say to us too. And I was all ears.

When I volunteer, I wear my blue shirt, nametag and whistle. I proudly serve Walton County on Miramar Beach, one of the busiest stretches on the 26 mile strip protected and served by the county personnel. At the height of the season, it is not unusual to see 3000 plus in a space less than a mile wide.

I feel led to volunteer on the days when they fly two red flags signifying water closed to the public. Sadly, there have been people who go in the water anyway on these days and some of them go home leaving something behind-their life.

When I see a person heading into the water, it is my training to blow a whistle, wave them out and when I am able, tell them why. I follow the lifeguards who ride their ATV’s ahead of me, telling people to get out of the water. Often, the people get right back in once the lifeguard drives on. I want to support these brave first responders, hoping that my efforts may help to keep them from having to risk their young lives unnecessarily to save someone who has no respect for their own. “The water is closed. The county policy is that you must be on dry sand.” I have said this hundreds of times. Some adhere. Some get angry. In all cases, I do what I can to educate, sharing that it is for their safety and that I appreciate that they came to go in the water, but that it is unsafe. This beach saw over a dozen drownings in spring and summer of this year alone. 

In many cases, people protest. But when I say to them that the sheriff writes tickets for anyone in wet sand on these days to the tune of $500 a head, that often gets their attention. When the idea of dying does not.

It is also my training that once I have informed them, should they turn and go into the water, I must take their picture, note their description, the time and the place they went in to submit to the authorities and send it in so that if they wash up later, they will know where they went in.

I say that I prepared and braced myself for my days because when I do not and people get angry, I sometimes react with the same. Or allow my feelings to be hurt. And that makes my soul hurt. So this weekend, I made an intentional effort to handle myself differently because I have control of my response. Each day, I did my usual prayer and mediation. I  saw myself wearing a virtual teflon suit and added that I was going to look for the good in everyone and be mindful that hurting people hurt people and none of it was about me. It was and is ALWAYS about them. Kids wanna swim. Dad paid good money. The family is disappointed. I was determined to have a great time.  

The extreme weather energizes me. I spent most of my life in tornado seasons, going out to lay in the grass and watch the green Oklahoma skies, in their eerie dead silence before I would take shelter. There is an energy in that silence that is magnificent and palpable. 

On this hurricane weekend, if they could have flown four red flags, it would have been fitting. Because these were angry storm surge waters. Part of the hurricane. These were Ida’s outer bands. Sunday was like an all day concert. Only the headliner played first. At our venue, one band would rain for a few minutes, then take a break while the next band set up their 30 mph horizontal wind gusts and lightning and thunder machines. Not the kind of festival you would scream for an encore, but for me, it was just as exhilarating. Nature at its most spectacular. Showing its prowess in the form of eight foot storm surge and winds that blew wet sand so hard that my lips were chapped and swollen. Slapping the beach all the way to the dunes. Saying no to the offering of a place for a beach goer to rest their head in the sand.

The parking lots are above the beach. There are stairs that lead down to the sand. I migrated up and down the stairs, blowing my whistle from above the beach, making hand signals to those in the water, waving them out, giving thumbs up to those who heeded me. The rails up top were crowded. A few dozen families looked on as the waters beat up the sand. Several cars had Louisiana plates driven by people who looked vacant and shell shocked when I spoke to them. “I have no idea what I am going home to. Or if I will even have one.” Some were sleeping in their vans. Changing babies in the parking lot. My heart broke for them. I made my way up and down through the crowd, connecting with those who were receptive. It was a great sense of community. No one cared about politics, religion or world events. We were all fully present. Like kids in the bodies of kids and adults, sharing the bond of shock and awe to the spectacle before us.

I was feeling joy in the midst of it when I walked by a beautiful late model sapphire blue Mercedes Coupe. It was loaded. Top open to a brown buckskin leather interior and its driver as the bands were breaking from their showers.   “Can I valet park that for you?” I said playfully. The driver smiled big, as if he was excited to have someone engage him. He had other things on his mind I would soon learn. “This is my blessing!” He exclaimed, referring to his car. I replied with equal enthusiasm. “You know it’s funny. We could all enjoy this kind of abundance if we just allow ourselves to receive it.” It was as if he was deep in his thoughts and me showing up was such a reprieve.

Again, the look on his face, while he said little, spoke volumes. We were connecting. My soul and his.  Like that intention I had set to see the good in everyone was happening. I continued. “My affirmation today was that I was thankful for my abundance. And that there is enough money, enough time and enough love.” Again, he appeared to be moved.  I added, “And I notice that the birds don’t have 401 K plans.” My way of saying,  “If the birds needs are met, who are we to think ours won’t be?” He got me. It was like church. He said, “I am from New Orleans and I came here to shelter for a couple of days before I know what to do next.” He sounded a little defeated.  It struck me at that moment that we are all the same. That nature respects no person. No demographic. We may look different. Have different gifts. Different containers. Different beliefs. But in that moment, I saw the sameness in all of us. “I am a rapper. Would you please share that affirmation with my followers on my instagram LIVE?” “Sure.” With hair standing straight up like metal shavings to a magnet from the winds, I looked into his phone and said, “There is enough money, enough time, enough love.” And then our part of church let out and I moved on with my whistle. 

He was my blessing.

Anti Social Media-My Recent Experience with Facebook and Online Dating

Anti Social Media-My Recent Experience with Facebook and Online Dating

Destin, Florida February 2021

I am sitting on my couch on a Monday afternoon. It is raining outside here in Florida. 70 degrees.  It is March 1st. I don’t know why I am writing but I am. I am binge watching the same Netflix show of seven seasons that I first began in October as a way to cope with so much alone time during this pandemic isolation. I am at the end of season seven for the fourth or fifth time, I have lost track. It is called Offspring, a show complete with hot Aussie men, a dysfunctional family, sunshine, laughter and tears and quite alot of wit and poignancy, but I got bored after sleeping through an episode or so, so here I am typing away. 

I was feeling lonely and started to do what I used to do which was look to social media to fill the void. I got as far as my Facebook page, where I updated my profile picture, knowing that by so doing, I could get some likes and loves and maybe if I am lucky, some comments. Those are the brass ring you know. I mean, anyone can hit a like or a love but an actual comment. Someone actually ambulating their fingers and going to the trouble to make words out of letters, well, that just feels so…empty really. In the long run. Because this is what happens next, for me, and this is the reason that I have abstained almost entirely from Facebook since the middle of December.

Now, I have set myself up for more loneliness, not less. Because now, I have a choice to make. I can go back to my Facebook to see if anyone has seen my new picture and then see if I have had any likes or comments. And then I can spend time living in my head wondering if certain people I find attractive have seen my picture. Or, whether friends have missed me or not. In the past, it inevitably ended up with entire evenings lost in scrolling, reading posts, being outraged at some, tickled at others, touched by a couple of memes, but ultimately coming away feeling spent, tired and MORE lonely than when I signed on and those hours spent scrolling are never coming back to me. Because I have used something outside of me to try and fill me up, when what I am actually doing is abandoning myself in the process.

Social media!?! It really isn’t social at all. At least not in my “I live alone in Pandemia and I am single” experience. Because since the time I have left Facebook, I have only heard from a small handful of the over 1400 friends on my account. Admittedly, there are probably about half of those who are only friends for business reasons. We have a code where we friend each other and then like each other’s business pages to grow those business pages and hopefully grow those businesses. Facebook algorithms give business pages more exposure when they show a higher number of followers and fans.

I am not judging or criticizing any of those people who I have not heard from. It is a two way street. Just observing my behavior that leads nowhere good.

The view from my window

Today, I decided to do something different. I know people who say that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insane behavior. And I want to feel better, not worse. So that is why I am telling on myself here because who knows, maybe I am not alone in my behavior. Wouldn’t it be ironic if by posting this story on the social media apparatus of my WordPress blog page people relate and take some kind of comfort in knowing that they are not weak or flawed or unloveable, all feelings I have had today backed by the gray rainy sky that blocks my solar mood altering sun from me. 

We are coming up on the one year anniversary of Covid 19 taking life as we knew it, and hermetically sealing it, or in some cases, us in, leaving REAL social interaction in some cases potentially dangerous to our health. I am so thankful that I have remained well from that sickness. 

The sickness I have had has been loneliness. Actually, loneliness is not a sickness, but I have some shame admitting mine. My response to my loneliness at times, is seen by some as sick behavior. I am just going to call it learned behavior. The other social media that I have gone to at times looking for something outside of me to make me feel less lonely is online dating sites. While I do have a valid desire for a loving romantic partnership, I have a pattern there. I start out telling myself that I can do so in moderation. Just sign up for one app, only check it every so often, maintain balance in the rest of my life and before I know it, weeks go by, four dating sites are downloaded on my phone, hours of my nights spent scrolling through pictures of men looking for…something outside of myself to fill my void, entertain me or take away my pain. There have been several dates. First and last, all in ones. I can’t believe I am admitting this on paper, but truth is the only way for me. And the truth is that I don’t want to feel discomfort or grief or loss or boredom for that matter and these are things in me asking to be felt.

I have a support network in place set to catch me when I need to be comforted as I purge losses that I have distracted from in any number of ways. TV, food, shopping, men, women, your life, world news. It is far more exhausting to distract at this point than it is to just sit with the feelings and let them come out. But I still fight just holding still.

I am having to unlearn some bad advice, or better described, “programming” I have subjected myself to for a very long time and took to be gospel truth.  For many years, I have heard the terms, “fake it til you make it,” and “act as if”- two of the worst bits of advice given by people who don’t know what else to say when someone is really in need of dealing with some really uncomfortable feelings. Advice typically given by people who can’t be with their own uncomfortable feelings, so it just trickles down like a bad infection to many unwitting eager for relief listeners. I tried it. It doesn’t work.

For me, it only caused me to believe that I was somehow flawed for having anger or fear or grief or loneliness. And I have them all. At some point or another. Because I am human. I still have shame even writing this here. But I want to be over this. 

So as of this moment, I am not cruising Match.com or Bumble or Tinder or Hinge or Plenty Of Fish, which, by the way goes by POF.com and would be better named POFFOT.com, (plenty of fish floating on top.com), and yet I go there. Desperate. But I want to bring a more whole me to whatever relationship I have coming, which I sometimes trust the Universe is preparing for me.

To be fair to me, and to anyone out there, I don’t bring a healed person to the table, so I am going to do some more of that before I get out there again and I really hope that I allow my daily walk of life to be the source of people I date because online dating leaves me spent. And not in the sweaty, fun way. I rationalize going there by saying “It is hard to meet people out in the world” which I find to be true, but I also find meeting people who I have anything in common with online to be difficult as well. Maybe more so than if I just give it up and see what happens. At the store. At the beach. Who knows. Clearly, I don’t and my way certainly isn’t working.

Honestly, I don’t feel like I am very available right now. I tell myself and others that I want a meaningful relationship and I do. But if I am completely honest with myself, I don’t have a lot to bring to the table right now and I don’t want to lose myself in someone else or use their attention as a distraction for feelings that I am trying to avoid. That is not fair to them. And not good for anyone. Just writing that here is scary because it means getting more intimate with me.

So that is where I will be. Hanging out with friends, open to timing other than mine to fulfill that heart’s desire because I have done nothing but wear myself out, lead people on, lie to myself and spin my wheels. I have caught myself saying “he’s a game player.” “He’s unavailable.” “He’s all talk.” That all may be true, but guess what? I am the common denominator. The laws of attraction are at play here and that tells me that these things are all true of me too, or else why am I attracting this type of man, so I am stepping back.

In the meantime, I have art to create, words to write, a one eyed cat who needs and gives love, a beach to comb, sun to soak up and being to do.

Out Of My Own Way

Out Of My Own Way

“Cindy” aka me

I woke up this morning from a dream. I don’t have them very often. At least I don’t remember them.

I was caring for someone’s child, about the age of two or three. The child, not me. Or was it? She bore a strong resemblance to me at that age.

In the dream, I was fully focused on my work. Nothing else. The task at hand to care for this child was my only focus. 

I was in a house. That felt like home. It had a bright living room with tall pane glass windows on both sides of a big white stucco fireplace. There were windows on all of the bright white walls.  With lots of sunlight filling the living room with warmth. I was alone with the child. Fully attentive to her needs. She had cherubic blond curls and big blue eyes.  

My heart desires romantic love, but my focus was no longer that. I was not thinking about a man. Of attracting a man. Of having a man. Of loving a man. Of a man loving me. Caring for this child was both fulfilling and enough.

I was minding my business and the door opened. And he walked in. I was surprised. Not expecting him. I was trying to process his arrival on the scene. I was thinking, “ Who is he? Why is he here? Should I be alarmed?” No one had informed me that he would be arriving to do his part of the work that there was to be done. In this home. Where I was a part of caring for the child that lived there.

In fact, I don’t really know who I was working for. There was never a person that represented that in the dream. But it was understood that both he and I had jobs to do for someone or something in the same home where I was caring for this child.

The man was earthy. Slightly taller than my frame of 5’10”. Raw, edgy, and real. Honest, too. There was no effort on my part. He just showed up. “You are a slim woman.” His first words to me. I felt immediately vulnerable. Apprehensive to hear the next words. Would he be objectifying me? Is he just about what he sees? He continues. “I like a slender woman.” As if to say, “I like pizza.” 

His frame was slender, and I could tell he had been through some storms in his life.  It was a feeling. And a knowing. And an edge. And a magnetism. “Good God.” Exactly that. The attraction was strong.

“Where are you from?” I asked. Observing him doing the task at his hand. Checking out his form. His arms. His hair. His shape. It was hard to see his face at this point. It appeared he had taken on a job for the same employer I had. Work of a handyman nature. I think he was working on the bottom step of the stairway to the upstairs. “Virginia.” Is what I heard in a voice that sounded older than he looked. It had a richness in its tone coupled with a rough edge. In the center it was deeper. Just like I was getting in by listening.

I was not able to get a good look at him all at once. Partly because I am shy at first and was afraid to look at him for very long. And partly because the dream only revealed his image to me a little bit at a time. And with that revelation, I really liked what I saw. He had the most beautiful black hair. The attraction was strong. Undeniable. And oh so mutual. 

I did nothing for his attention. And I had all of it anyway. He was fully in the moment. And so was I. It was electric. He wore a white t-shirt and jeans. The container of his body was attractive because he was in it. There was a magnetic thing happening. Hard to put into words. But it was strong. And unavoidable.

He began to ask about me. I don’t know what he said, because I was on sensory overload as the blur that had entered the door was starting to come into focus, his features gradually defining themselves. What he said was almost irrelevant because I felt as though he already knew everything about me anyway and was just making conversation because that is how we do it. 

His eyes were beginning to show themselves to me. They were piercing. Brown, very dark, with a glint that was in the shape of a smile. I just had to pause as I wrote to utter to myself, “Oh God.”  

The closer he got to me physically, I would say I knew I was in trouble. But I was not. It was right. And right on time. And I had nothing to do with it happening. I was completely out of the way. Which, historically, in romantic relationships, I had been a 100% initiator with 100% failure rate. Some call that kind of behavior insanity. Defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. 

He had something in his hands that played music I think. I’m not sure, because by now, he was in my space. And I was good with that. I had a sense of abandonment. Not concerned about boundaries. Or hula hoops. Or rules. “You don’t know him. You only just met. Are you crazy?” 

But I did know him. On a deep level. At my core. Almost instantly. Besides, when you are really crazy, you don’t know it. 

I had a hole in my sock. And I was embarrassed for a minute. That feeling was quickly replaced by the attention I was being showered with. Showers are good. Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Oh my God.

This was not about sex. This was about love on a deep and spiritual level. And in spite of the many words in many languages that I have to choose from, there are none that would adequately describe the feeling of simply being in the room with him. When he touched me, all four of my other senses all but shut down. Without permission, I touched his gorgeous, thick black hair. It had only a few flecks of gray. It was rough to the touch. 

Coarse, but he was not. 

He was gentle. 

I am pausing again. Not sure if I want to share. 

I was no longer trying to attract a man. And one came anyway. Not because of me or anything I did. Or how good my hair looked. Or if I had on makeup. Or wore that cute polka dot sundress. Or if I was witty. Or articulate. Or said the right thing on my Match.com profile. I had nothing to do with it. 

When I get lonely, my friend tells me that I’m easy to love and that makes me happy and gives me hope.

This was a hard one to wake up from. But it strengthens my faith that there will be romantic love in my life again. And that I don’t have to do anything to earn it. 

I’ll just make caring for that little girl my full time job and leave the rest to God.