What’s On Your Bucket List, Some Sweet Ladies, and some ‘healing’ books

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Kelly and me, at the PEO luncheon

Last Friday I had the opportunity to speak to the PEO (Philanthropic Educational Organization) women’s group at a church in Ferguson, Missouri. I was invited by author and friend, Deb Marshall and event organizer, Kelly Mazzacavallo.

After a lovely lunch of chicken and ham salad, the women gathered in a cozy lounge and settled in comfortable chairs to listen to me talk about “What’s on Your Bucket List” and the story behind my ‘healing’ coffee table book, Folly Beach Dances.

I shared with the ladies, that in preparation for the talk, hubby handed me a paper I gifted him a few years ago. The paper’s first words were “Do you remember when?” and reflected on all the crazy and unexpected bucket list items achieved in our travel adventures…like seeing the excitement in my husband’s eyes when we dove Bloody Bay Wall in the Cayman Islands, sailing a hobie cat from Sandals Negril to a deserted island, or even observing a ten-foot pregnant black tip reef shark on a dive in the Abacos.

Aptly named for the definition as well as the movie, The Bucket List, stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Complete strangers, fate lands the two men in a hospital room together. The men discover they have things in common – their desire for adventure, and a need to come to terms with their lives. After they are released from the hospital, they set out to check items off both their bucket lists.

At the end of the movie, Edward (the billionaire), living to age 81, has his ashes carried to the top of the Himalayas by his assistant Matthew. As Matthew gently places the container of ashes alongside Carter’s can of ashes, he takes a pen and crosses the last item off the Bucket List (which is to ‘witness something truly majestic’). Finally, Carter (Morgan) states, “I’m pretty sure he (Edward) was happy with his final resting place. Because he was buried on the mountain, and that was against the law.”

So, someone’s idea of a bucket list item, may be totally different than someone else’s.

That’s how it was for me when Folly Beach Dances was just an idea. In 2014, my idea came to fruition. I was able to cross ‘publishing a book’ off my bucket list.

As I spoke about the book’s mission of self-care, healing and positivity, the women listened intently.

I selected some of my favorite poems to read.

“Circle Dog Dance” written by Pat Wahler, reflects on three dogs laying in a circle on a beach relaxing, not a worry in the world.

“The Drifter” penned and photographed by me, reminisces about memories of days gone by and lazy days spent on the beach.

“The Fandango” – An old seagull (sporting grey hair on this wings, face, and body) who lives to fly, soar and dive, is penned by Marcia Gaye.

“The Twist”, about how often times life seems to be a mess of knots and twisted rigging (by Marcia Gaye). The Twist brought tears to the women’s eyes.

After time had run out, the women stepped forward to purchase books. I quickly ran out of Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits, my newest release, and Folly Beach Dances.

One woman stepped forward and shared how “The Twist” touched her heart, reminding her of a family member going through tribulations. We spoke for awhile, and I offered hopeful suggestions on how to make things better. Our conversation ended with a hug.

I thanked Kelly and Deb for allowing me to take part in this quiet gathering. The women where particularly sweet and seemed genuinely interested in my writing. My wish for the day was to stir some emotions, touch some hearts, and be positive.

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Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

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Sheree K. Nielsen is the author of 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, Folly Beach Dances; coauthor of Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat, and Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets.

 

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In Search of My Kindred Spirit – An excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirit

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Today my thoughts are with those affected by the hurricane. My friends in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, seemed to have fare a little better than the other coastal towns like Wilmington. So in honor of them, here’s an excerpt from my book, Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits, to be released Tuesday, September 25, 2018. Hope you enjoy it.

The essay is titled, Finding My Kindred Spirit, and it talks about finding a perfectly inspirational place some search for all their lives. I was lucky to find this place of calm about 7 years ago. So drawn to this spot, I return year after year…

“Two days later, on a radiant Carolina morning, with canteens and cameras in-tow, hubby, the dog and I, made our journey down the beach to the Kindred Spirit Bench from the 40th Street beach access. Along the way, we took time to soak in the sights and sounds – seagulls soaring overhead, driftwood wash ashore, and children building sandcastles.

Arriving at our destination, my carefree animal child with the ice-blue eyes hopped up on one of the two weathered benches aside her Earth Mother. We cast a gaze onto the flat hard sand watching passersby carefully select seashells from the shallow tide pools.”

Hope you enjoyed the sneak peak. The quote below precedes the essay in the book.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

Emerson

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

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Take Time to Breathe – It’s Time to Slow Down

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I read a message on author/illustrator’s Sandy Gingras’  Facebook page who I’ve recently become acquainted. She mentioned how people are missing the point of beach life – simplicity.

A beach girl at heart, trapped in the Midwest, I can identify with her. All I’ve ever wished for is a little cottage by the sea. I’d be happy with a one room home to call my own – as long as I could spend my time outside with nature, the waves, the sand, and the sea.

But for now, I’m limited to beachy vacations to the South and Great Lakes regions.

As a writer, I get caught up in trying to check things off my daily ‘to do’ list, and often miss the little things in life happening right before my eyes – like the white-bellied plump squirrel munching on organic banana chips I’ve scattered for her on the deck rails. Or the black banded pennant dragonfly fluttering above scores of pastel lavender and eggplant-hued Cleomes in my garden.

When I take time to slow down, I notice the small things in life.

Yesterday, I eyed a Momma bunny in our backyard foraging bits of dried grass, meticulously moving the straw-like material from an old nest to a fresh one, in preparation for a blessed event! She allowed me within a foot of her presence. Nesting grass was tightly gripped in her mouth. I was overwhelmed by her beauty.

Inside the house, Miss Adeline, our Manx cat, was leaping windowsill to windowsill, vocalizing about her bunny friend, and dreaming about a future bunny buffet!

It’s these times when I slow down, my ideas and creative juices flow.

With that said, for those of you who love to travel, revel at nature, and spend time with family and pets – you might just like my upcoming book – Ocean Rhythms, Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets. It’s due to be published this summer by Ocean Spirit Photography. To accompany the essays, photographs will be at the end of each story. Cover reveal coming soon!

Have I started marketing yet? Not really. This is the first mention of the book.

Am I worried about marketing? Maybe. (Ha – who am I kidding – Yes!)

In the big scheme of things, I think it will all work out.

But for June 21, the beginning of Summer Solstice, I need to soak in the playfulness of the squirrels and the cardinals prancing about the deck rails, and listen to the words of Sandy Gingras —

“Take time to breathe”

Peace out, and love,

Sheree

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Lighthouses, Beaches and Waterfalls – Oh My!

Last year I had the opportunity to explore the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, not once, but twice!

I was invited on a press trip by the Pure Michigan group (puremichigan.org) to visit the Keewenaw Peninsula with a group of journalists at the beginning of summer. At the end of August, I visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and beyond, with my hubster and two canine kids. Many of my adventures included lighthouses, beaches, waterfalls, and great food.

Here’s my 5-page feature story with photographs published in May/June AAA Midwest Traveler. It’s also online, as well.

Hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I did!

Peace out,

Sheree

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The Drifter – A poem from Folly Beach Dances

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Since it’s National Poetry Month, I’d like to share a poem I penned for my 2015 Da Vinci Award Winning book, FOLLY BEACH DANCES – THE INFINITE RHYTHMS OF A SOUTH CAROLINA SEASHORE, inspired by the sea’s rhythm and my lymphoma journey, and endorsed by Karen White, NYT bestselling author.

It’s titled “The Drifter”, on page 5 of this ‘healing’ coffee table book of lyrical poetry and gorgeous photography, with reflections by 5 award-winning women authors, and my husband.

“The Drifter”

Not far in the distance I notice an old tree,

now driftwood,

with branches reaching out to a cornflower blue sky and white-streaked cotton clouds.

The image of a beach bungalow appears in my head,

with sounds of laughter,

lazy days in the sun,

peaceful ocean breezes,

smoky barbeques at dusk

and a warm crackling fire at night.

Except from Return to Folly Beach, Sheree K. Nielsen

Folly Beach Dances, copyright May 2014

Peace out and love,

Sheree

Sheree’s Happy Phone Pics – Or Things That Make Me Smile

With all the negative stuff happening in the world right now, I’ve decided to post phone pics. Sometimes the picture quality wasn’t great, but everything I snapped pics of made me happy. It’s interesting to see just how many photos are merely simply pleasures in life, or of friends and family.

Well here you go! I hope my happy crappy phone pics make you smile, too!

Let me know which photos you like the best by leaving a comment below!

Peace and Love,

Sheree

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These two – I love them so!

 

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A secondhand store and its treasures

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Standing in front of Galliot Cay Sand Bar, Exuma Cays – a bucket list adventure

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The St. Louis Art Museum’s interesting masterpieces

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A Caribbean Island

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A visit to Tenth Life Cat Rescue and snuggling a kitten

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The corn field behind our house

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The cancer survivor tiles at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis

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The view directly in front of me

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The smell of a freshly groomed fur baby at Sebastian’s Pet Salon

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A 100 year old barn in winter

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My favorite comic strip by Hilary Price. Even better when it’s focused on English.

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Cousins

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The hubster being silly.

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An amazing book – Folly Beach Dances – photos by me and hubster; poetry by 6 women friends

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Corn Mazes involving Missouri teams

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Cappuccino at a favorite coffeehouse

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Sleepy cats

 

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Booksignings with friends

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Surprises from my honey

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Stolen moments

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Long time friends listening to a jazz concert

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A swinging bridge in Missouri

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Students that turn into friends

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These three

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Acceptance into a juried art show

 

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The aroma of a good peanut butter and cutout cookie, right out of the oven.

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Fun Hats

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Preparing a savory pork loin

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The smooth sounds of Cris Botti at the St. Louis Symphony

Pleasures await you by the seashore…

This summer I had the opportunity to sit and observe nature while on vacation in Sunset Beach, North Carolina.

I love watching birds, their graceful movements, and sometimes silly actions. I wrote a poem on this cold winter today which actually fits quite nicely with a fortune cookie I received awhile back.

Here’s the poem – I hope you like it. It’s called “Pleasures at the Seashore”

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Six little sandpipers
dip long spindly legs
and feet
in the shallow mud flats
and
watch tourists
on the shore.

Preening, gleaning
angel-like wings
and brown-tufted bellies,
resting idly
at ocean’s door.

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pushes foamy surf
across wet land
in a lover’s
lullaby
of the sea.

And the feathered
reflections of nature –
six mirrored silhouettes,
dance on the glistening sand.

© Copyright Sheree K. Nielsen 2015

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Beautiful by Nature – Turks and Caicos

This spring I had the good fortune to travel to the Turks and Caicos Islands for a feature story for AAA Midwest and AAA Southern Traveler Magazine.

During my assignment, I met so many lovely people, including Lindsey Mensen, manager of Blue Horizon Resort and Mudjin Harbor Grill on Middle Caicos; Hunter Viator, an expat from Florida that’s living the dream as a certified instructor at Kite Provo on Long Bay Beach, the oh-so-hip employees of Da Conch Shack in the Blue Hills region, and the employees of Beaches in Providenciales.

Each area I visited was vibrant and alive. By far my favorite was Mudjin Harbor. It’s untouched exquisiteness blew my mind.

Anyway, here’s the 3-page feature article titled “BEAUTIFUL BY NATURE”.  The lead in photo of fetching Pumpkin Bluff Pond beach was captured by my husband, Russell Nielsen.

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Triply Blessed – 3 New Publications – Thoughts on Family, Cats & Frank Lloyd Wright

I want to thank my lucky stars and God, of course, for a wonderful month of acceptance into two anthologies and one magazine of my literary and photography work.

In early June, Well Versed Literary Works 2014, held their book launch in Columbia, Missouri. While I was unable to attend the celebration, I am happy to say they selected four of my works (and loves) for inclusion into their exquisite literary anthology.

“Show Me the Chocolate” spoke of my unconditional love for the savory sustenance.DSC_1377

“My Morning Delight” was a sweet tribute to my cat Scooby, who entered this world with a roar, and left with a whisper.

“Modern Resonance” a funky poem, spoke of my love for jazz.

“Ode to Sunset Beach” told of my undying passion for all things ocean, sJuly 15 book signing NYMBky, sea, and nature.

On June 18, I was notified by Dahlynn McKowen of Publishing Syndicate that my essay, “Mom’s Best Advice” was accepted for inclusion in NYMB on Family, which was released on June 24. Anyway, there’s a really cool event on July 15 at St. Louis Books in Kirkwood, Missouri.  Alot of the local contributing authors will be there signing books. Hope you can make it.

In mid May, I was asked by the Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park to submit four personal photographs to MODERN Magazine, a boutique architecture mag in New York, not available on newsstands. One interior and three exterior views were accepted for the Summer 2014 issue and grace the pages of 80-82 along with a lovely feature article title “Open House” by Joanne Kohn and Laura Meyer.  Click on the link  MODERN_FLW – Summer 2014 – Nielsen to view.

I’d like to thank the editors for publishing my literary and photographic works. I truly appreciate the opportunities.

Our book, Folly Beach Dances, is doing quite well. For a small publisher we’ve sold more book by word of mouth in five weeks – we’re into triple digits.

There are three local booksigning events coming up in the St. Charles County area, and a schedule is being set for the Charleston, South Carolina area. Two bookstores, Indigo Books in St. John’s Island, and Blue Bicycle Books in Charleston, will be carrying Folly Beach Dances, just as soon as they receive their shipments.

Well, now that I’ve run on for so long, everyone go and have a positive day.

Remember to dance!

Sheree

Folly Beach Dances – Reflections on a book launch party

May 1, my husband and and I, released our ‘healing’ coffee table Folly Beach Dances for purchase on the book’s official website Beach Dances.  May 4, we kicked off with a IMG_0073book launch party and celebration at Grand Opera House in St. Charles, Missouri.

Our ‘healing’ coffee table book, Folly Beach Dances, combines our love affair with Folly Beach, South Carolina, along with lyrical movements and universal beauty – expressed through dance names. It tells the story of sandpipers, babies, dogs, and yes, even structures moving in infinite rhythm.

Literary interpretations from five award-winning women authors, including us, accompany our photographs of Folly Beach.

Diagnosed with lymphoma in June 2012, I’m donating 10 percent of every book sale to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Debbie Kersting, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Gateway Chapter Director, has written the foreword for the book.

Sunday night was beautiful.

Friends, and family wore the colors of sand, sea and sky.IMG_0184 Ashley Delgado

The sweet vocals of Ashley Delgado mixed with the acoustic musings of Chris Griffith, guitarist extraordinaire.

The three food tables were a cornucopia of sorts. Chocolate-covered almonds, sesame-honey coated cashews, coconut macaroons were a few of the dessert delectables.  Cheddar bay biscuits, prosciutto wrapped mozzarella, and kalamata olives provided sustenance.  Friends arranged the tables for Russell and I, so we could focus on the event.

IMG_0015White tablecloths draped with weathered gray and sandalwood hued napkins complimented the white and caramel-colored candles under glass hurricanes, and balloon bouquets hung from the ceiling and rails.

The speakers for the night – Representative Bryan Spencer, Wentzville district; Deborah Marshall, Warrior Arts Alliance; Kristy Makansi, Treehouse Author Services, and of course, Debbie Kersting, Gateway Chapter Director of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Kris Makansi (Tree House), Russell, me, Deb Kersting (LLS), Deb Marshall (WAA)

Kris Makansi (Tree House), Russell, me, Deb Kersting (LLS), Deb Marshall (WAA)

Contributing Authors Pat Wahler, Patt Pickett, Mary Horner and Tina Solomon read a selection of their poems, accompanied by appropriate photographs projected on the wall behind them.

I spoke about the book’s mission, and how important it is to take care of yourself.  There were tributes to friends Rick Wheeler, diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, and friend Dave Reed, who’s overcome Histocytic Sarcoma, a deadly cancer.

And finally, as the program came to a close, Russell and I called Debbie Kersting back up to turn over our donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

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There were many door prizes – the book, greeting cards (photos from the book), sparkling juices, and even a black pearl bracelet from the Caribbean.

Friends shared how touched and moved they were by the entire evening, and gave big hugs, kisses, and “I love you’s.”  And even one couple whispered in my ear, “We made a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society this evening.”

Russell and I hoped we made a difference by hosting the book launch.

It’s not really about the book, it’s about the people.

The people you meet at your local Starbucks, the people you’ve known forever, the friendships you forge, the family life time relationships, those you’ve made a difference in their lives, and loved ones that have passed on.

And when you think about it, everybody’s got something.  Physical ailments, issues, hard times, relationship troubles. Isn’t it true?

This book is dedicated to dreamers, the beach lovers, the dancers, the Mom’s and Dad’s, Folly Beach residents and all those with ailments – everywhere.

It’s meant to be a book of self-hope and positivity.

So when you got out into this big fat beautiful (sometimes cruel) world, remember to dance!

It’ll make you feel real good.

Love and Peace and All That Stuff,

Sheree

 

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I Go Down to the Beach….

DSCN0319 me and sab in bathing suit copyrSometimes you forget what’s important in life, when the struggles of life consume you.

Lately, I’ve been busy with our ‘healing’ coffee table book, Folly Beach Dances, and all the stuff that goes along with promoting it — social media, networking, just to name a couple of things.

I feel like I’ve been missing out on the fun stuff in life.

Like the fact that I’m going to the beach two times in less than one month, and how lucky I am.

How great my editor at AAA Midwest and Southern Traveler is to send me on these dream assignments.

How I should appreciate every stinking minute of every stinking new experience.

The lyrical words were playing in my head when I awoke this morning.  They’ve also been accepted for inclusion into Well-Versed Literary Works 2014, for which I’m grateful.

I give you –

Ode to Sunset Beach

I go down to the beach today
to play
and cast my worries away.

I go down to the beach today
to remember
my carefree childhood of yesterday.

I go down to the beach
to savor
glistening rays,
tempestuous waves,
and nature’s folly.

I go down to the beach
to gaze
at lovers embracing,
six seagulls pacing,
and toddlers named Molly.

I do down to the beach
to pray
for sea turtles’ gestation,
Bird Island’s preservation,
and new found friends.

I go down to the beach today
because it moves me
with a wise silence,
and physical magnificence.

I go down to the beach
because I can.

I go down to the beach
because I am.

© Copyright, Sheree K. Nielsen, 2013

 

 

Backfire on the Beach

Just about every other year Mom’s side of the family would make the trek in July to a familiar spot in the Southeast United States — Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  This would be the first time hubby and I joined them.

During the day, we’d bask in the crystal waters and bake our Midwestern ivory skin in the hot sun.

On the Fourth of July, the family pulled together their culinary skills.  A cookout was inevitable with all the regular holiday fixins’ – BBQ’d burgers and hot dogs, potato salad, coleslaw, and a red white and blue cake (with sparklers).

After dinner and cleanup, we gazed upward as the sky turned a cornflower blue to a blue violet hue.   We collected our beach chairs and loungers, and drug them to a comfy spot on the sand in anticipation of the spectacular show awaiting us.

The stunning view of fireworks lit up the night sky — Destin in one direction, and Seaside from the other.  There were rosettes, stars and fish designs high in the atmosphere.  And the colors — neon green, gold and cranberry red.  Phenomenal.

My second cousin, Matt, brought his own fireworks — four grocery bags worth.  He said he’d ‘got a good deal’ for the whole shebang by trading pizzas for them.  He used to manage a pizza joint back home.

Well, I wished I’d brought a protective suit to wear.  No tellin’ what direction those noisemakers were headed.  Satellite launchers and cone fountains dive- bombed the beach.  No ankle, eye, or armpit was safe.

I laughed hard.  And wished I’d brought a Depends!

After the display (which took close to two hours), we collected debris from the beach.  Grabbing a cold beverage from the cooler, we settled into our chairs.  The adults watched as the kids spun sparklers in perfect circles.   Others (including me) made cool patterns by placing sparklers strategically in the sand.

We talked.  We shared.  We laughed.

At evening’s close, one by one, we retreated back to the security of our rental condos like tiny hermit crabs.

Since then, the family dynamic has changed in more ways than one.  As I think about that day, I realize it was the ‘best’ Fourth of July.  Many elements made up that fun and zany memory.

The beach.  The fireworks.  The sky.

Family.

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