Hilton Head 2010

August 3, 2010

Paul, Dominic, and Anna

Last week, my bride and I traveled to Hilton Head, South Carolina and spent a week with her sister and brother-in-law, and various children and grandchildren.

I’m not a big fan of Hilton Head for a number of reasons, but the thing I dislike the most is all the private property between the public roads and the public beach and waterways. Unless you rent a place with beach access, there are very few easy paths to the sand and surf. We were fortunate in that the house we rented was next to Bradley Beach Park.  However, had we not rented a house in that area, we would’ve had difficulty recognizing that there was a parking lot and walkway to the beach at the end of the road. There is a sign, but one that can easily be missed.

The beach was nice – everyone else in our party was fine with that – but I wanted more. I love crab and crabbing. Crabs do not spend time in the surf; they dwell in the marshes and streams away from the waves. Trying to gain access to those back-water salt marshes is next to impossible; they are surrounded by private property.

The only place I was able to find was a large bay between Hilton Head Island and the mainland. It wasn’t the optimal place to catch crabs, but it was better than nothing.

The first day I tried, a family had already laid claim to the best spot and I had to go to the end of a dock where the water was much deeper.

A side story: In many states, the use of crab traps is perfectly legal and that’s how we caught them during my childhood on our annual vacations to New Jersey. However, in Maryland (and this may no longer be true) traps were only permitted for the commercial crabbers. Everyone else had to tie the bait to a line and slowly draw the crabs close to shore where they could be captured in a net. Thus, when I go crabbing I’m prepared to catch crabs using both methods. Using the baited line is less boring than simply checking the trap every five to ten minutes.

So, as I’m walking to the end of the dock, a small boy of five or six asks me if I’m going crab fishing with my net. When I told him that was my plan, he said, “You’re never going to catch a crab with that net.”

Out of the mouths of babes! On that first day, he was absolutely correct. As a matter of fact, he could’ve said the same about my trap and would’ve been almost correct. I caught nothing with the baited lines. As for the trap, I caught one small crab – too small to keep – and one medium sized fish. That was a first. I’ve caught turtles in a trap, but never a fish.

The next day I arrived earlier and claimed the better spot, but the tide was wrong. Nonetheless, I caught one crab in the trap and two using the baited line and net method.

It can be done!

Unfortunately, only one of the three crabs I caught was big enough to keep. Eventually I gave up and released my sole captive. My feasting on fresh crab meat will have to wait.

When we first arrived at our rental house, we all made fun of the swimming pool.

Most of the pool is in this picture.

Our group consisted of nine adults and five children. There is no way we could’ve all fit into that pool at the same time. Yet it was perfect for the children. They were always close to a side that they could grab on to if they encountered any difficulties.

The shallow end was a series of steps down to about three feet. The deep end was perhaps four or five feet deep… just deep enough for a rotund grandfather to do a cannon ball without hitting the bottom of the pool too hard.

Most of the time, I simply borrowed my granddaughter’s flotation device and enjoyed the coolness of the water.

Chilling in the pool

The most difficult part of the vacation was trying to get the children out of the water. They all loved the ocean and the pool. By the end of the week, they looked like a bunch of prunes, but we did manage to get them to sit still for about 30 seconds for a group photo.

Dominic, Anna, Emma, Zack, and Ty

It’s plain to see the children enjoyed the trip to the beach, and I assure you that at least one adult also had a wonderful time. I’m sure my bride and the others also had a good time.

We definitely have to do it again… real soon!

The Beach is Always on my Mind

February 19, 2010

Edisto Beach, South Carolina

I have taught numerous classes on the art of listening. I have taught those classes at our church – for Stephen Ministry – and for Quick Start.

Quick Start is a function of the Georgia Department of Labor. To encourage companies to move into, or expand in, Georgia, Quick Start will provide free training for the newly hired employees. In addition to their required job skills, we include topics that would help them deal with customers, management, and other employees.

Listening is an art. Hearing is a natural ability – for most of us. Listening is an art for all of us.

One of the groups I’ve taught are employees of Hamilton Relay in Albany, Georgia. Their job was to accept calls from people with hearing impairments and relay the information to whomever the caller was trying to reach. They would read what the deaf person wanted (the hearing impaired used keyboards to communicate) and recite it to the person called. They would then have to listen very carefully to the speaking person and type it word for word (EXACTLY) so the deaf person could read the response.

That is one of the most difficult job skills I can imagine. Listening is extremely difficult. (Men! Take note. Here is what you can tell your wife!)

The human brain is capable of hearing and understanding more than 250 words per minute. The average speaker talks at a rate of 150 words per minute. Thus, the brain has free time.

During that free time, we might find ourselves grabbing onto a word or phrase that we hear and begin formulating our response, or it might remind us of something we forgot to do. A word or phrase might even bring back a long repressed memory that causes us to get angry. We may begin to stifle thoughts that make us feel uncomfortable. We may…

Do you see what just happened? We stopped listening.

In one ear and out the other is hearing. Getting the sound to stop at the brain and be processed is listening. As soon as we begin to process more than what we are hearing, we are no longer listening.

Like I said, listening is an art and a very difficult one to master. One must truly work at it.

In Stephen Ministry we practice what is called reflective or active listening. Instead of simply sitting and soaking up what the talker is saying, we interrupt (shameful!) from time to time and paraphrase what the person has said. We begin by saying something like, “Let me make sure I understand you correctly.” Then we tell the person what we think we heard.

That does two things. First and foremost, it lets the person know that we truly are paying total attention to him or her. Second, it allows them to correct us if we didn’t get it right.

So, what does all this have to do with a beach?

When I stop listening to anything and allow my mind to wander, I call it “Going to the beach.” I’ve heard others refer to it as “Going to the mountains.” In any case, anytime our brains wander away from whatever, we have gone away. Notice I didn’t say we have gone astray, we have simply gone someplace else.

I often do that while watching television. My bride will ask me what I think of something that was said on the news or what I think will happen based on the latest evidence uncovered by the CSI group, and I have no idea what she’s talking about. I was at the beach.

If you don’t mind, I think I’ll head that way now.

A scene that could be found at any beach