Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sand Men and Women, Castles and Dragons Part 2

Sunday evening my granddaughter and I found ourselves in the midst of the doubles sand sculpture competition, part of the World Championship of Sand Sculpting taking place in Atlantic City NJ. Various family members were meeting at the nearby Rainforest Cafe for an early dinner. We were the first ones to arrive, so with the additional time we thought we had quickly made a beeline for the exhibit, hoping to view the results of the double competition. Last week the solo competitors labored over their creations. This week twosomes worked their magic with sand and water.

Results are pictured below. My photographic abilities are minimal, but hopefully some of the beauty and majesty of the sculptures comes through.

"The Charge of Achilles" was the doubles competition winner, earning the two creators,
one hailing from Illinois (Brian Turnbough) and the second from Singapore (Joo Heng Tan), $3,500.
"Weightless" was the second place winner.
$2,500 prize.
Sand sculptors Enguerrand David of Brussels, Belgium and Johannes Hogebrink of  Amsterdam, Netherlands.

"Neverending Story" was a favorite of mine.
"Rooms for Rent" was my granddaughter's favorite.
It did not fare so well with the official judges.
"The Eye of the Storm" took third place and a $1,000 price for the artists from Germany and Kenya.
The sculptures are amazing temporary works of art. My previous experience with sand sculptures was limited to my children and grandchildren's creations, and the occasional teamwork of an enterprising group of children and/or young people toiling under the hot sun and threat of rising tides.

We totally enjoyed the exhibit, but the wait at Rainforest Cafe was too long for the youngest grandkids.  That experience will have to wait for another time.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Day of Decadence

As I age I am in a quandary about how or if to celebrate my birthday, or anybody else’s upon reaching a particular delicate age of seniorhood. This magical age is different for each individual, but ranges anywhere from 50 on up to almost triple digits.

A sudden realization jolts us into the real world, and the recognition we are suddenly getting old. Not yet – but soon. Maybe very soon. That unfamiliar, undiscovered, murky period of life quickly approaches, much faster than we would like.

So it begs the question – to celebrate or not to celebrate. We are encouraged knowing we are still around, kicking and moving and hopefully enjoying life. Landmark birthdays are an excuse for special occasions and extravagant expenses. 

This year did not mark a special numbered day for me. It was simply one more day denoting a higher numbered age.

It is an omen of things to come – more wrinkles, weaker eyesight and hearing, more AARP mail and fewer fliers from fitness clubs, more pills and doctor visits and less spicy foods. Offers of seats on buses unexpectedly materialize, and it gets a bid harder to keep up with the grandkids. The extra pounds refuse to leave and eventually we sigh in resignation and hope not to gain more. Memories become fuzzier and to compensate written lists grow longer.

Born 60+ years ago, my yearly event seems to arrive sooner each year. This time a friend suggested we splurge on a spa visit. I agreed.

And so yesterday morning my daughter-in-law and I left the three kids in the care of hub, aka Grandpa, and headed to the spa. We rendezvoused with my friend and her Mom who were enjoying a mini-vacation at a local hotel.

The spa was beautiful – all muted colors, grays and browns, low lights, soft elevator music, and room after room of facilities – locker rooms, changing rooms, showers, bathrooms, pools, steam rooms, saunas, hot tubs, and long corridors of private rooms for facials and massages. It was easy to get lost.

We enjoyed the steam room and sauna, the hot tub and the cooler pool. I opted for a facial, the others a massage. I felt as if my muscles were turning to mush and wanted to lie down and enjoy a long, soothing nap. It was a short walk to the fitness pool and café, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch. We relaxed, stress-free and hassle-free, savoring five hours of self-indulgence.

Leaving the spa at 4:00 p.m., we rendezvoused with an exhausted Grandpa and three still alive and thriving, unhurt, happy grandkids. They spent five hours at Storybook Land, an enchanted amusement park for the younger crowd. The kids had a ball. The oldest two went on the roller coaster eight times and only Grandpa, set firmly on the ground with the two-year-old, got queasy. The youngest fell asleep on the drive home, exhausted, too tired to regale Mom about her exciting day. Grandpa definitely deserves the Medal of Honor for Grandpa duty.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sand Men and Women, Castles and Dragons, Oh My!

Life  has been hectic as summer weather finally arrives and family descend. Tubs of toys found their way from garage shelves into the family room. Grocery shopping, cooking, meal preparation and clean-up, and loads of laundry are attempted in the midst of a chaotic household. But it is all fun and short-term.

Outings with the grandkids highlight the days. During the past week we visited a wetlands institute, aquarium, zoo, and today toured a sand sculpture contest exhibit. We also went to the beach.

A sand sculpting world championship (honestly, how many of you knew there was such a thing!?) is currently taking place through June 30th in Atlantic City, New Jersey - the first time Atlantic City has hosted a prestigious event of this kind.

Sometimes a picture is worth paragraphs of words. Below are snapshots of some of the sculptures in the singles competition. The singles competition - one person completing an entire design - is over. The doubles competition - teams of two working on a piece - has yet to begin.

The exhibit is free and open seven days a week.

The three sculptures above greet visitors to the exhibit.

A winning entry and a favorite with our crowd.

My son adds a human touch.
More visitors taking in the sights.
My four grandchildren, one Mom and a Great Grandma a.k.a. my Mom.

A traditional castle and a favorite with the little girls.

A more unconventional sand sculpture popular with the guys.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I Am a Research Pawn

It is common nowadays to see old folks (like me) on college campuses. When I was a coed decades ago, in another century, the over thirty forty fifty crowd were few, except for professors. Today many golden agers attend programs geared to ‘the aging’, which is why I occasionally find myself on college grounds. Some attend courses for credit. Others purposely retire near universities and take advantage of the culture, entertainment, sports, and educational opportunities.

My appearance on campus led to a weak moment when I volunteered for a research project. I now find myself a pawn in a health program, interested and even eager, although a bit anxious, to discover any negative findings, if any.

The first test was a telephone interview. If I failed my participation in the program would end before it began.

My initial analysis: Want to feel old? Participate in a health study about aging.

I was asked a laundry list of health events and problems experienced in bygone days or currently.

I passed the initial oral questionnaire and a rather lengthy description outlining the test followed.

Was it my imagination or was the woman (probably a very young grad student) on the other end of my iPhone speaking very slowly, distinctly, and louder than normal? I did tell her English was my native language, didn’t I?

She: Will I have any problem sitting still for more than ten minutes at a time? Not so still as unable to move a muscle, but without standing and moving around.

Would I need any kind of special assistance? Walking, sitting, hearing, vision

Remember to bring any items utilized in everyday life, including glasses and hearing aids.

We will call you the day before as a reminder. They apparently are really, really concerned their subjects’ short term memories and longer term management skills are kaput.

 I am starting to have second thoughts. How old are most of their research subjects?

I received all the information including directions to the test site in the mail. I will read it carefully. The project date is on my calendar.

I just have to remember to check my calendar.

Otherwise I might forget about the appointment.

I started filling out the enclosed survey, three pages of questions, most a simple yes or no concerning health-related items experienced in my over six decades of living.

I have to place the form in an easily accessible, readily available and remembered place.

And remember to take it with me.

I think this is all part of the test.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Home Again as Bedlam Begins

We coasted up to the house about 8:00 p.m. last night, our cross-country road trip over.

The morning began with a drive through the mountains of West Virginia, the landscape ever changing, green and luscious, a stark contrast from Midwestern monotony.

Our primary destination was Cumberland Heritage Days in Cumberland Maryland, a local festival celebrating summer and the area’s history, dating back before the French and Indian Wars of the mid-18th century. Men and women costumed in the attire of the era added to the historic setting. The obligatory food, craft, game booths, and petting zoo amused our grandson.
Hayden making new friends.

On the road again, we quickly approached Baltimore and populated areas. Traffic increased. Construction zones multiplied. Trucks clogged the roads. We were ready to go home.

Tired but happy to be in one place for more than one night, we celebrated with take-out - pizza and wings, our grandson’s favorite meal.

And now a month or more of kids, grandkids, relatives, friends, and dogs begins.

It is amazing how quiet it is around our shore community during the long, cold, gray winter days, weeks and months.

No one visits. No one wants to visit us the shore.

Suddenly the sun shines, flowers peek out of the soil, and warm air beckons hibernating humans outdoors.

And humans from every corner of the country descend on our beach town. To visit us, so they say…we know better.

But we love seeing everyone and hosting everyone. We love the kids and the chaos they create.

 We only miss time-out. After all, we are senior citizens.

Young senior citizens, but seniors nevertheless.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Our Road Trip Continues: Crossing the Mississippi River Eastward Bound

Before crossing the Mississippi River we drove to the waterfront to view the great waterway up close. The river is slowly rising, and many towns in its path have already flooded while others prepare for flooding. Sandbagged buildings and flooded parking lots mark the waterfront. Trees usually lining the dry waterfront are now underwater.

We drove across the Mississippi, bid Iowa farewell and continued east, driving through southern Illinois. We immediately noticed the roads - visibly worse than roads in Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa, with more potholes and roads in need of repair. There were also more billboards marring the landscape.

Before long, relative to cross country driving, we entered Indiana and lost an hour passing into the Eastern Time zone. We played the license plate game, unable to do so the previous couple of days because the few cars seen were local ones.

Dropping a few dollars in the state of Indiana, we drove on to Ohio the following morning – actually this morning, but it seems like a long, long time ago. Our first destination was the Banana Split Festival in Wilmington. We cruised the display of old cars and enjoyed ice cream. Even Charlie (the dog) had a great time. Discarding an almost-empty tub of vanilla ice cream, the very nice ice cream scooper let him finish the dregs remaining in the bottom.

Trip highlights vary for each traveler. Our grandson has so far found the following experiences of special interest:

Make-your-own waffles at the motel breakfast buffet.

A motel indoor pool with four fountains spouting water into the pool.

Dessert at the Dairy Point in Greensburg Indiana, indulging on strawberry shortcake and an ice cream flurry. A late lunch/early dinner (we were kind of confused with the loss of an hour) was a close second, feasting on pancakes and a milk shake.

Make-your-own banana splits at the Banana Split Festival.

The obstacle course and games, also at the Banana Split Festival.

Then there are things that will probably not evoke fond future memories. Our nine-year-old traveler pipes up, as we drive through Illinois, “Haven’t we been here before?”

“No,” I tell him, “it just looks like we have. This is the same landscape we saw in Nebraska and Iowa and now Illinois.”

A couple of hours driving through southern Ohio and we arrived at the Wings and Ribs Festival in Pomeroy, our dinner stopover.

After dinner, crossing the Ohio River and venturing into West Virginia, we began to feel as if we were almost home. ‘Only’ 400 miles to travel tomorrow, our last day on the road.