Beachcombing and Bemoaning

By Andrea Hagan

 

I love shelling.  It combines some of my favorite things – the beach, physical activity, solitude and attention to detail.  Planning for one of my family’s upcoming Florida trips, I (naively) thought that it was time to introduce my daughter to my beloved pastime.

I envisioned us as a great mother-daughter beachcombing duo.  What fun we would have on our hunt and even better, getting our treasure back home where we would eagerly sort and proudly display our fighting conchs, kitten paws, shark’s eyes, maybe even a prized alphabet cone or two!

 

Then there was the reality of shelling with a toddler.  One of the best shelling spots in Southwest Florida takes some effort to reach.  We set off on bikes for the first stretch, my husband pulling our daughter and her baby brother in the bike trailer.  The second leg requires a one-mile walk along the beach.  My husband pushes our son in the bike trailer and our daughter gets out and takes my hand.  It’s the perfect day for shelling and I smile, excited to create this new tradition with my daughter.

That is until I spot the first fighting conch.  l let go of my toddler’s hand to pick it up and put it in my bag and she whines, “Mom, hold my hand.”  This is my daughter’s latest annoying toddler behavior.  In public, she demands I hold her hand, regardless if I’m holding her brother and a diaper bag plus a bag of groceries, she goes into complete hysterics if I let go of her hand for a split second.  I’m not sure if this is a power struggle, jealousy of her brother, or if she’s becoming Howard Hughes, afraid of people and being in public in general.  So I explain to her that we are shelling and that when we see a pretty shell, we stop and pick it up and I need my other hand to do that.  Two steps later and I spot another shell, and again, “Mom, hold my hand.”  “Mom, hold my hand.”  “Mom, hold my hand.”  “MOM, HOLD MY HAND!”

Now, some of you might be thinking, what a terrible mom complaining that her daughter wants to hold her hand.  I implore you to listen to “Mom, hold my hand” for 150 times, each whine becoming higher in octave and louder than the Gulf of Mexico crashing against the shoreline before you lose your (sea glass) marbles!  My husband tried to help, but he’s pushing baby brother in a bike trailer, not an easy feat on baby powder fine sand. Eventually, my daughter has a complete meltdown and we are forced to put her in the trailer too, which makes strolling on the beach difficult and shelling less than enjoyable.

One mile in means one mile out.  We try to let our daughter walk on the return trip, and it’s still the broken record of “Mom, hold my hand,” but now sprinkled in is, “Mom, hold me” with “Mom, this is too much walking, Can you hold me?”  The hallmark picture perfect mother-daughter shelling tradition that I envisioned sinks right to the bottom of the Gulf and is carried over to Keewaydin Island, probably with the alphabet cone.

I did add a few shells to my collection on that trip.  Just don’t hold the fighting conch up to your ear because all you’ll hear is whine.

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Bird Eggs in One Basket

After making the decision this year to actively pursue a writing career (more about that
in my blog Mommy Moments “When Life Gives You Lemons and Lyme Complex” for
Wilson Living online), I began writing a little bit every day.

I finished the draft on a different children’s story about a bird and read it to the toughest
critic I know: my now four-year-old daughter. I asked her what she thought. Her hesitant
reply was, “Well, I like it, but I wish I had a blue jay story because the blue jay is my
favorite bird.”

And so I sat down while my kids were taking a nap and wrote “The Blue Jay Blues.” I
had some feathery inspiration, seemingly having birds on the brain. My husband
recently put up a hummingbird feeder and a songbird feeder in our backyard, little things
that have brought big entertainment to myself and my children.

We all have our favorite birds, my son the hummingbird, myself the cardinal and my
daughter, of course, the blue jay. Fitting that my daughter picked the notoriously mean
bird as her favorite, as she delights in terrorizing her little brother.

But then I got to thinking about it. Was the blue jay really a bad bird, or was he just
misunderstood? This sparked the story for “The Blue Jay Blues,” with more inspiration
flowing from my time living in Memphis where both my husband Ensley and I attended
law school. You think Memphis, and you can hear B.B. King’s electric guitar. You can
visualize a lyrical, neon trail of heartbreak dancing down Beale Street.

“The Blue Jay Blues” is a story about a blues playing Blue Jay who just wants to play
with the other birds, but they’ve all heard that Blue Jay is bad news. Overcoming his
bad reputation, all the birds perform in the Blue Jay Blues Band. It’s a rocking good time
with an educational bent, throwing in some facts about Blues music and blue jays.

While I’ve sent out many of my other stories to find a home at a big publishing house, I
decided that I wasn’t going to wait until an elite in New York decided to give my blue jay
story a chance. I had my marching orders from my daughter, after all.

I asked for divine wisdom on how to proceed. It just so happens that my daughter
received an angel book by a publisher whose name included the word “wisdom.” Seeing
that as a sign, I did an online search trying to find the book’s publisher, thinking that was
where I should send my story. Well, I couldn’t find the angel book publisher, but landed
instead on Wisdom House Press, an independent publishing house in North Carolina. I
decided to take a leap of faith, or a flight of faith as it were, since birds apparently are
my muse.

So about all those eggs in one basket. During “The Blue Jay Blues” production, I had
the idea for a Southern poetry journal. Much of my writing begins in a journal, so I
thought why not put my pen to paper on paper already containing my words?
I began thinking of all the sayins' of my late grandma from Crossville and began turning
those expressions into poems. My list keeps growing every day, with “new” old material
supplied by my Lebanon grandmother-in-law Madeline Hagan, and the current tally is at
more than 600.

I decided to split the sassy sayins' into multiple books. The first I’m sharing is called “A
Big Helping of Southern with a Pinch of Poetry: A Sassy Southern Journal.” From
canning to a can-do attitude, from big hair to big dreams, with A Big Helping of Southern
I hope to leave you hungry for seconds! Of course, I want you to buy my journal, but I’ll
give you a taste (just don’t ruin your supper!):

“Life is like a potluck, what others make you can’t dictate. But you create your own
menu, so make something delicious to adorn your plate!”

“All your eggs in one basket is said to be foolhardy. Unless you’re making omelets, you
need a few broken eggs for a brunch party!”

Come out to hear a reading of “The Blue Jay Blues” during Wilson Living’s
Breakfast with Santa Nov. 16 at 8 and 10 a.m. The event will be at the Wilson
County Fairgrounds’ James E. Ward Ag Center.

Andrea Hagan is a mom full time, a lawyer part-time and a wordsmith on the weekends.
Check out her blog Mommy Moments for Wilson Living Magazine online. Andrea and
her family live in Lebanon where her husband, Ensley, was born and raised. Andrea is
an interloper from Sparta, but we won’t hold that against her. Be sure to check out
Andrea’s website Andreahaganbooks.com for more information about her upcoming
projects and to purchase her books.

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