Joyful Connections

Our time in Hilton Head is winding down…in one week Dave and I will begin the three-day journey back to Nova Scotia. The hope is that by the time we get home, winter in the Valley will be but a cold, frozen memory.

I am so grateful for the time Dave and I are able to have in the South these past three winters. The sunshine has been wonderful for brightening the spirit and feeling healthy. In fact, for several years before we started going south for a few months I suffered greatly from SAD—seasonal affective disorder, although for a long time I just thought I was depressed. I guess it wasn’t normal to stand in front of the living room window in January and cry for the greyness of my world. In the South, even when it is cold outside, usually the sun is shining and that’s all that matters to me.

This is the first winter in three that I have not been sick; two years ago I suffered from shingles during my time here, and last year I arrived with Bells palsy, so when I say I’m grateful, I really am.

I’m grateful for the increased health I’ve experienced in the past six months! I still have my moments of insomnia and low energy, but overall things are much better.

I have said that I believe JOY and happiness in life comes from connection and relationship, not from possessions, outings and workplace successes. What’s the point of having all those things if you don’t have someone to share it all with, someone who really cares? I’ve missed my friends, my groups and my church while basking in the sunshine and getting healthy. My Knitting Ninnies have had to move on without me; things have been happening in my church that I am disconnected from, and my friends have been busy doing their own thing.

How I have missed them all!

But there have been joyful connections here in Hilton Head. Dave and I have had a surprising connection with a couple of beautiful souls from France. Jan (pronounced ‘yawn’) and Ada (pronounced ‘ah-dah’) hold court at a coffee shop we call the ‘office’ from 11 to 12 every day, drinking their espresso from tiny cups that were bought just for them. A few times a week we join them and several other displaced Northerners. Can you believe Jan is 90 and Ada is 88? They remind me of my parents! They are well read, quick witted and about as opinionated as anyone else, and we have some good conversations at the office most days. They walk on the beach as well.

In fact, the first year Dave and I were in Hilton Head, we saw an older man walking on the beach. He wore a fur vest and leather pants (it was a cold winter, even down here), and his hair was longish and combed straight back. I said to Dave that he looked like he was French. Sure enough, when we met Jan at the coffee shop, he turned out to be that same man and he is indeed from France!


For the first couple of years Ada used to laugh at me for all my thrift shopping, until one day in January I showed up at the office wearing a beautiful blouse. She loved it and when I told her I got it at a thrift shop she said, “The only problem with that blouse is that it should be me wearing it.” I showed her where and how to shop at the Bargain Box, the best thrift shop on the island. Now she sports a few beautiful blouses of her own.

Jan and Ada bring joy to my life every day! My prayer is that they will be able to come back next year.


Beach Remembrances, Tomatoes and Love

Sometimes a solitary morning walk on the beach can bring up a lot of memories. We have been in Hilton Head SC for the past couple of months and the morning walk on the beach has been the highlight of my day.

 This morning as I walked, I remembered many walks on the beach with my mom. Back in the day, she and Dad used to go to Florida for a month every winter, and I visited several times. Mom and I would don our running shoes every morning and head for a three mile walk on the beach. Most of the time Dad just let us be and did not join us. It was time for serious woman talk. As we walked we discussed a lot of things, like food, diets, hairstyles and clothing, but mostly we talked about the men in our lives.

Husbands, sons, brothers, uncles, no one was spared. We shared secrets and bounced ideas off each other. Sometimes we laughed our heads off. We were often irreverent, but it didn’t matter because there were no other ears listening. I can’t say that we solved the problems of the world on our walks but we each came away knowing that we were heard and taken seriously.

And that’s about all that matters, really.

I sure do miss those walks with my mom.

And then another thought popped into my head…

It was something a friend told me about a relationship she had many years ago.

“I love you”, he said.

“I love you too”, she said, “like a tomato.’

He went away happy, not knowing her relationship to tomatoes. She used to like them a lot, but she got tired of them and now she doesn’t eat tomatoes any more.

I am the same. I could say that I loved my ex like bread. Fact is, I used to love bread a lot. In more recent years I found that I had sensitivity to wheat bread such that every time I ate it I became sick and bloated for at least three days. I know now that I am much healthier and happier without wheat bread. (I’ll be writing more about this food sensitivity soon!)

And I’m much healthier and happier without my ex!

Nowadays I love my new husband like chocolate. I’ve always liked chocolate, but as the years pass I realize that I like it more and more. I love it so much I need some chocolate just about every day. And that makes me very happy.

These are just a couple of crazy thoughts I had while walking on the beach this morning. The nature of them tells me that I am finally starting to relax down here in Hilton Head. It’s been a long year of not feeling well and trying to find the source of my malaise. In fact, I haven’t felt like my old self in more than a year, since my shingles outbreak last year.

I think I’m getting closer.




My Mystery Illness

We’re spending two months in Hilton Head, SC for what are probably the worst two months of winter in Nova Scotia. Yeah! We escape the snow for two whole months! We have a great condo on the beach and the area is just gorgeous. We wake up each morning to a beautiful sunrise over the ocean. Such a lovely place to slow down the pace and recoup from a busy fall.

When we arrived in Hilton Head on January 1st I had visions of walking on the beach, shopping, doing a lot of writing, reading the stack of books I had brought and even going for a weekend visit to an old friend in Atlanta GA. I had planned to lose ten lbs during the two months we were here.

I was going to bicycle all over Hilton Head Island.

I had plans to get my body healthy, detoxify, get my mind free of all the stresses of 2014, and to find some peace in my heart, mind and soul.

But then I got sick. I guess Hilton Head is as good a place as any to get sick!

It started with back pain that I thought came from slouching on the couch. So I bought a down filled pillow to lean back on. That didn’t help much, and nothing else I did brought relief. The back pain was followed by vise grip headaches and pain deep inside my chest, accompanied by a fever that left me horizontal. Then came the rash: large red welts on my back.

I thought I was dying.

We called our insurance provider back home and I was authorized to go to a doctor here. Now I would get a glimpse of the American medical system. Off we went to Doctor’s Care, a walk in clinic right here in Hilton Head. I was told I would be seeing Dr. Coswell, a young and vibrant Southern lady, complete with “the twang”.

As soon as I told her about the symptoms I was having, she asked to see my rash. Immediately she said, “Ma’am, you have shingles.”

What the hell? Me? Shingles?

She told me that it is the same virus as chicken pox that stays in the body and manifests itself as shingles at stressful times of life, or when the immune system is compromised, and especially in older people.

Well I am older, and I have had a lot of stress in the past year.

Actually, when Dr. Coswell told me I had shingles I could have kissed her. That was much preferable to what I thought I had, which was brain cancer, heart attack, acid reflux, you name it.

So for the past couple of weeks that have felt like forever, I have been managing my pain, taking antiviral medication and coping as best I can. Having a positive attitude has been paramount.

I’m over the worst of it now and have even had a couple of walks on my beloved beach.

And now I can add to my ‘compassion list’; those things I have experienced in life that will help me to understand others when they are going through them.