Meet Me In Calabash

A Visit to Calabash, NC…..

Welcome to Calabash, NC

We recently had the opportunity to visit friends in Calabash, North Carolina. I had never heard of it before and was thrilled to discover this wonderful, quaint town in North Carolina minutes from North Myrtle Beach.

Sunset Beach…..

We flew into Myrtle Beach in just short of two hours. A quick flight is always the best way to start a vacation. And then the fun began.

We stayed in Brunswick Plantation, a manicured golf-course gated community with condos, sprawling greens and new houses being built every day. There are pools surrounded by the lakes there and the views are outstanding. It was just a comfortable, restful place to be.

The first day seemed to be the best possible weather of the week so that was the day we visited Sunset Beach. I was the most excited to go to the beach and was even happier that my husband and friends enjoyed it as well. Not only did you have a beautiful beach with clean sand and ocean sounds, but you can sit under the pier and not be in the sun if you chose. I loved running my toes through the water and breathing in the fragrant ocean breeze.

Besides the beach, we visited many wonderful restaurants in Calabash and North Myrtle Beach. Some that I would highly recommend are:

I am a seafood aficionado and I had to try all the seafood I could for most meals. I had grouper, shrimp, stuffed flounder, fried clams and awesome clam dip. We started the week at Abuelos for delicious Mexican food and ended it at Grumpy Monks with delicious hamburgers.

            . Abuelos

            . Boundary House

            . Clarks

            . Fillet’s

            . Grumpy Monk

            . Flying Fish

At Fillet’s we sat outside and watched the boats go in and out of the moving pier. We watched the sunset and enjoyed a feast of stuffed flounder, triggerfish ( a new fish I had never tried, almost like a filet of sole), tuna and so much more. We definitely over-ordered but what a memorable meal!

Sunset from deck of Fillets

Besides eating, we enjoyed ice cream at Molly’s Creamery a few times during our visit. We visited Barefoot Landing and Broadway at the Beach boardwalks during the week. Each of these boardwalks had their unique style and definitely a Carolina flavor to it. There was so much to see and do that it will require another visit.

Barefoot Landing:

Barefoot Landing is a large shopping complex located in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It consists of several divided sections of stores and attractions located on filled land over top of Louis Lake, next to the Intracoastal Waterway. Barefoot Landing was previously known as the Village of the Barefoot Traders which was a collection of 15 unusual gift shops that was located on 3½ acres along a natural marsh and in 1988 was rebuilt and opened as Barefoot Landing. The complex, a popular tourist attraction, has over 100 stores and restaurants, on all sides of a small lake, plus it has adjoining areas with Alabama TheatreHouse of Blues and Alligator Adventure.

We ate at the Flying Fish, which has the fish of the day, and many choices of seafood specials. There I tried my absolute favorite fish, grouper, This was the first time I had it fried and it was definitely different and very enjoyable.

There were so many fun sites to see, games to play and a great place for all ages. When we left, we drove around and admired the real estate available near Barefoot Landing and the surrounding areas.

Broadway at the Beach

Broadway at the Beach is located off Highway 17, Broadway at the Beach is a must-see for Grand Strand visitors. There are over 100 specialty shops that sell everything from T-shirts and sunglasses to fine jewelry and high-end shoes. Also, there are more than 20 restaurants that feature all kinds of food, from hamburgers to great local specialties. Broadway at the Beach also contains a 23-acre lake surrounded by boardwalk, making it a great place to stroll on a sunny day or balmy night. During the summer, the boardwalk has live music and other events. There are so many fun activities to try including zip-lining for the adventurous, and Paula Dean’s restaurant and store for those who love browsing. You can never do it all in one visit. We ended our visit with lunch at the Grumpy Monk—one of the biggest burgers I have ever had.

It makes your mouth water….

I can’t wait to visit Calabash again and discover all the other secrets it has to offer. Please share any of your experiences from Calabash or North Myrtle Beach…..

The Beach: Relax and Destress

Please note that this article contains Amazon affiliate links.

Whether it’s digging your toes in the sand, or collecting seashells while dodging small, coastline waves, nothing compares to the serenity you feel when you go to the beach. The salt air smell and the calmness of watching the waves, can make all the stress leave your body.

Why do people love the beach?

People are willing to pack up their car for a day of sun and fun at the beach with food, drink, towels and chairs. Sometimes they even have a radio with them (now replaced by music on a phone) which means you only have to add some ear buds to your packing. Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

We pack with such gusto even though we know our car will be full of sand on our return. The benefit of this is that we can smell the beach for days to come, until we decide to visit that car wash. We sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic to feel the sand between our toes and breathe that special salt air.

Relaxing and Renewal at the Shore

By Timo Wagner on Unsplash

There are no words to describe the feeling you get when you hear the crashing of the waves on the beach, coupled with children and families laughing together, forgetting the weight of the world. Collecting seashells becomes the priority of the day and phones become a part of our other world. A release from real life in a place that we feel at home and together with the earth.

Sometimes when I go to the beach, I close my eyes, breathe in the smells and listen to the world around me. This replaces the everyday noises of trucks, buses and interrupting texts and phone calls that boggle our lives. It is a time to release our anxiety and feel happy throughout our souls. Putting your phone on silent is the most rewarding part of getting away for the dayMost people have a favorite beach close to home that they visit to get away from it all and to reconnect with nature and their inner calmness. This beach is much different than the one we visit on vacation where we sign up for all the activities, we can fit into our days of being away from home. This beach is where we can do some critical thinking, re-evaluate our lives and feel total renewal before going back to our “normal, everyday life”. Some compare it to the feeling you get after a good workout – relieve stress, feel renewed.

The beach can pick you up out of a deep rut or sadness, and make you feel part of the earth. Somehow problems seem to be less intense when sitting on the sand and listening to the sounds of the ocean and people relaxing and leaving their troubles behind. If you are able to take a nap, you will be lulled asleep by the sounds of the crackling waves, the birds flying around and children laughing. If this doesn’t make you feel better, nothing will.

By Salomon Riedo on Unsplash

I love collecting seashells and then cleaning them in a bucket. There are so many fun collection bags or boxes you can use to store them until you get home. When I go home, I sort through and find the ones I will keep in my treasured display. I rewash them and have them dry so I am ready to add another beach day to my collection. My seashell collection varies from one shell designs to coral looking shapes that I can display on my tables. These fancier shells are ones I found in Florida and Delaware beaches. The beaches I visit in New York contain mostly the one shell looking design. These simple shells add to my big bowl collection as a fill-in around those other more grandiose looking shells which can tell their own story. I often wonder how far these shells have traveled, what other beach goers have admired them, and how long they have been in existence. My day of visiting the beach continues as I admire my shells for weeks to come.

Did you ever just sit on the beach with a cold drink and enjoy the sights and sounds around you? Here’s a way to hold your drink in the sand without worry. Especially when juggling a sandwich too!!

Whether you have a good book or a refreshing drink, the day of fun and relaxation in the sun is like no other…….

Please take a look at my other stories on Vocal Media.

Getting Back to Normal

So now that Covid restrictions are being lifted one at a time, people are getting back into the world. Each step back into a “new normal” feels wonderful and different. We were stuck without our loved ones, our routines, our fun nights out for so long that we are just staring in anticipation at what we hope will be a great summer to make up for last year’s debacle.

Time to enjoy every bit of nature…..Photo by kira schwarz on Pexels.com

Last week was the first time I drove back to my gym for a class. For the last 15 months I have been taking virtual classes. It felt so weird driving there, almost as if I was breaking a law. It will probably become a routine again after I go a few times a week. But what has changed? Well, now I don’t have to drive there everyday as I can still take virtual classes. This allows me to mix it up and to also not miss a workout if driving doesn’t fit into the schedule. I will use those virtual workouts when I am busy on a project or traveling, but overall am looking forward to seeing people on a daily basis. I also think that you work harder during an in-person workout than on Zoom. I often caught myself going to do other things in the middle of a workout. Can’t do that at the gym so I will be making the gym more of a priority.

Relax and enjoy the world around you… Photo by Dainis Graveris on Pexels.com

The other change is getting together with people. I looked at my weekly calendar this morning and was excited to see that I had lots of things planned. In fact, on Friday, I have two events. That’s a big deal after not having any at all. People are anxious to see each other, to truly renew friendships and to enjoy the little things in life that perhaps some of us took for granted.

In fact, this week I plan to visit my school which I retired teaching from during the pandemic. I hope to see some of my students and give them an official goodbye. I was lucky enough to see some of my colleagues at our first in-person book club meeting since Covid. It was a wonderful time to reconnect and honestly, we didn’t even discuss the book this time as people were so excited to be together in a fun setting in person and not on Zoom.

So I wish all of you a Happy Summer and hope that you fill it with days that are complete and fun and full of everything important to you that you missed during our “over a year pause of life”. It is time to make those memories , always cherishing each other and realizing that fragility of life as we know it can be taken away in a moment’s notice. So love more, hug longer and reach out to those you have missed these past 15 months.

How are you celebrating returning to real life? I would love to hear your stories.

My Cuddle Muffin

My First Dog Love

When you find a dog that melts every part of your heart, you know that this dog is part of your family and part of your life unconditionally.

Years ago, I lost my dog Buddy after 12 years. It was heart-wrenching to watch him go over the Rainbow Bridge and not see him when I came home from work or running errands. No matter how bad of a day you had, the tail wagging and puppy kisses can make everything better. And especially when there is no one else to greet you.

Today is his birthday and every year I feel the same sadness. He was lovable and loyal and meant so much to our family. Through his blindness and epilepsy, which he developed at three years old, his love was still unconditional. We bought him at a Puppy Store when my children were very young. Soon after we found out all the problems he had (being bred at a puppy mill). I would recommend that anyone who wants a dog to love should go the rescue route so you can avoid cross-breeding and illnesses that make you upset (and a little broke too)

I swore that I could not go through this heartache again. But then a dog comes into your life….

Enter My Cuddle Muffin

My happy little traveler.

My husband and I were engaged to be married and had a few meetings with our priest. Our priest had a Bichon Frise, named Faux Pas (an oops or mistake in French), who I immediately fell in love with. She was rescued by him, found on the side of a country road. He knew that when he brought her home to his wife, he would hear about his faux pas, hence, so that is what he decided to call her. She is the most loving, cuddly little bichon that makes you feel so happy inside. Every time we met with him, she would sit close to me and listen to our conversations and sigh happily. I couldn’t wait for our next meeting to see her again. I kept resisting because I knew how heartbreaking it was to lose a dog you loved and did not want to endure that pain. But the love continued to grow….

Our priest would ask us what we would name our dog if we had one. He even said a dog like Faux Pas. I immediately said Penne like the Pasta and then she would be Penne Gallagher, representing both her Italian and Irish owners.

We got married about five months later. We knew that Faux Pas was pregnant and our priest often asked us how we would feel having a little Penne. I was still resistant because my heart was still broken from losing my Buddy just a few years before.

The day of our wedding we were told that we were being given the female of the litter as a wedding gift. We were still very hesitant. Did we want to take on a dog now? Could we go through the pain of losing another animal down the road? So many questions, we wondered what to do.

We went to the rectory about a month later to visit. Prior to getting there, we discussed that if we see this precious little puppy we would think about it before committing to taking her. Well, there was no thinking. As he handed us our little bundle, he said “Welcome to your forever family” and we were immediately in love with her.

She was the runt of the litter and so very tiny. She fit in the palm of my husband’s hand. We had never seen anything so precious.

Frantically, we took her to PetCo with us as we had nothing ready at home. We left the rectory with her favorite squishy toy and a bundle of hope. She is the daughter of a rescue on the side of the road and she is the most pleasant, lovable, wonderful dog that I ever had.

When we watched The Big Bang Theory and Sheldon called out for Penny three times, our Penne girl would look up and listen. She knew her name immediately and she felt at home in our house. She is the queen of our castle. Penne does bark when she sees other dogs walk by our house but if you come in expect to be kissed and jumped on with more excitement than you have ever witnessed. Her short legs will try desperately to climb up and she often needs help getting onto a chair or couch. Bichons are incredibly smart and she knows what time she gets her treats and her food, and she is sure to bark and let you know. It amazes me how her bark is different for each thing she wants. If you didn’t know better you would look in her eyes and see some human qualities.

Penne tilts her head when you speak to her. We tell her everything we are doing as if she is a human being. She understands when we say that we are going to Florida to see Grandma and delightfully hops in the car for the long ride down. She loves our daughters and son-in-laws and loves the little babies (our grandchildren) that visit. All she has is love and kisses to give.

Penne celebrates all holidays with us…..

Every moment is fun and loving and she loves us both unconditionally. We take her everywhere that she is allowed to go, and when we can’t she misses us and often feels anxiety. We are so thankful and blessed, and most of all, overjoyed that there was a Faux Pas on the side of the road to give us our beautiful baby.

She loves laying on a mat watching me cook.



Penne loves shopping too!!!

I shared this story in a Vocal Challenge and hope you will click here to view.

Do you have a story about a dog you rescued?

What Is A Mother ?

A Mother’s Love….

Elaine Gallagher

by ELAINE GALLAGHER 14 days ago in PARENTS

What is a Mother?A Mother's Love....Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

What is a Mother’s Love?

A mother’s love is like nothing else in the world. It knows no boundaries and will crush anything that stands in its path. It is an unconditional love, with no strings attached. You love your child for who they are, who they have become and no matter what.

Today on the seventh anniversary of my mother’s death I look back at a mother’s love and how it is like no other love in the world. I fondly remember my mother always sticking by me no matter what, and always encouraging me to fulfill my dreams. My mother was the most precious, selfless and caring person I know. I often thought about her this year during Covid and sometimes even chuckled when I imagined her responses to certain situations. I feel my mother’s love through her family as well, so this year of separation has been even more difficult for me.

I think we realize our own mother’s love even more, when we become a mother. The day that you become a mother changes your life forever. All of a sudden, the trivial things that upset you no longer matter as you gaze upon this little person who needs you for the rest of their lives. The immediate love and bond you feel is unexplainable, and so hard to describe to someone who has not felt this. Before I had children, people would tell me that it was the strongest love ever created. I did not believe that until it happened to me and no one can surpass the love you feel for your children because they are a part of your soul, your heart, and your whole life.

By Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash

Today as I reflect in sadness and complete grief as I think about my own mother’s passing on this day, I realize that love continues beyond the place we live, the earth, and the moon and the stars. It is a feeling that never leaves your inner being. It is a love that never ends.

The love you have for your children goes way into adulthood and until you suffer your own death, when it then becomes eternal love. We relish moments that are not even seen by others and we see our children grow into responsible, caring, wonderful adults. As a mom, I wake up proud every single day when I think of my daughters and the beautiful women they have become. I feel extremely responsible for instilling values in them, as well as positive thinking and self-esteem. Life is a roller coaster, and we have been on a very enormous one this past year, that keeps on giving us ups and downs. The most important thing is to go with the flow of these ups and downs and continue to grow as people. And never forget the love inside of you. Most of all, never forget the gift of life that you were able to be a part of as a mother.

This year I had the privilege and honor of becoming a grandmother for the first time. Although my grandson lives far away (farther because of Covid limitations), I feel a love that is different yet just as strong as the love I felt when I gave birth to my own children. As soon as I met him, I felt like he was a part of me and my heart and my life forever. It gives me such joy to see him growing up (thank goodness for Facetime) and I am so very proud of the mother that my daughter has become. It makes me so proud to see her taking care of this little guy and giving him unconditional love. Perhaps she even remembers how I took care of her throughout her life.

By 𝔥𝔦𝔩𝔩𝔞𝔯𝔶 𝔭𝔢𝔯𝔞𝔩𝔱𝔞 on Unsplash
By Christian Bowen on Unsplash

I remember when my mother became a grandmother and told me there was no better feeling in the whole world. Well, now years later, and without her to share it with, I feel that unconditional and amazing love for a little baby who carries on my family. Looking into the eyes of your grandchild can only give us hope and confidence for a brighter future. It is a love that knows no boundaries. My mother lived for her grandchildren and I totally understand that now. I feel such a deep sadness when I realize that my mother never got to see her great grandchild. I only hope she sees him from above and is beaming with love and pride.

I hope that all of you will take the time to think about your own mother and how special she is. Tell her as often as you can how much you love her, need her and appreciate all she does for you. Moms are pretty simple—the smallest token of love goes a long way. So this year on Mother’s Day and any other time you can, hug your mom a little longer, and a little harder, because she won’t always be there. Treasure her and make good memories that will stay in your heart forever. I miss my mother every single day but rejoice in all the wonderful memories I have of her and the love she brought to our family.

By Ryan ‘O’ Niel on Unsplash

The Mask

Do You Really Know Him?The MaskPhoto by Jean-Philippe Delberghe on Unsplash

Mask: a covering for all or part of a face, worn as a disguise, or to amuse or terrify others; disguise

The visual jagged lines and penetrating noise on the TV screen screamed at him. The piercing sound of the static and the visual snow made him cringe as he continued to get ready to leave his torturous dwelling…..

The police officer chuckled loudly and raised his eyebrows as she patiently told the story. The handsome officer thought it was just another fight with the boyfriend. He snickered loudly and said he would see what he could do. Every day at least one of these situations crossed the main desk so he was ready to go back to his mundane paperwork. As she notices his total obliviousness for her, she keeps her composure. She hands him a 200 page bound document of text and emails received and exclaimed, “For your reading pleasure, officer.” His face hung low as he realized she was not joking and he was caught in his not-so-nice response. Not just another everyday dispute. Here’s how it all happened….

One cold, bleak night after Thanksgiving, feeling lonely, with nothing better to do, she ventured out to meet the online stranger she had been talking to for weeks now. In his profile picture, he looked handsome with dark hair and a moustache, a nice smile. He seemed much thinner and older than his profile picture. She didn’t remember noticing his height online but they met eye to eye. That was usually the case. Misrepresentation online happens all the time. It’s a chance you take when you decide to meet a stranger from a dating website. Online dating has brought about some lasting marriages and some terrible memories as well.

Actually, he seemed quite serious and quiet, yet very much a gentleman as he offered to treat her for dinner. Most meets were a quick cup of coffee or a drink. She didn’t know what intrigued her about him, but she conversed freely through the date and allowed him to walk her to her car. It may be his gentlemanliness after a rash of horrible, meaningless dates in the past few months. He texted her as soon as she got home. She thought that was odd yet very sweet that he was so concerned with her safety driving home alone. He seemed like an ordinary nice guy.

She had never met anyone like him. He was so kind and attentive. A well-known boat repairman at the local marinas, he took pride in his livelihood. He repaired motors at home during winter months when business was slow. Money was never an object to him and he spent it quite freely. He was much freer during the winter, and told her he worked at two marinas in the summer. He mentioned that seeing him now was a luxury and she should enjoy it because once April arrived he would be extremely busy getting his customers out on the water. Because it was winter and he worked at his own pace, he told her he would work around her schedule so they could spend as much time together as possible. This was perfect as he wanted to get to know her and she was enjoying all the attention for a change.

By Alex Iby on Unsplash

The first few days, he called several times a day and she saw him again on that Saturday night. She was impressed by the way he put so much thought into whatever they did together. Every date revealed his thought process and it always involved pleasing her. He was sweet and respectful. She never met anyone like him before. So she saw him during the week for dinner and on weekends as well, sometimes they just went to a movie.

Once in a while he would “appease her” and get a drink at her favorite bar where her friends always met. He did mention more than once, though, that only single women without boyfriends should drink at bars and men never thought highly of them. Her friends were very gracious when meeting him and anytime he was around. They even tried to have conversations with him. She ignored most of his comments attributing it to the “boyfriend taking control” attitude. No one ever said a negative word to her. At the bar, he didn’t socialize; he just stared forward as if he was in a constant trance.

The Knicks game was interrupted again. Why won’t that interference stop on the television set? Do they know I am here? Did they follow us? Why won’t they leave me alone? I’m happy now. I have met a beautiful woman. He stared blindly into space until she revived him that it was time to leave.

One night he suggested they try this special restaurant near Bear Mountain that he always talked about. It was a far drive but she agreed as she knew he put so much thought into their time together and she had never been there. But as they started getting closer to Bear Mountain she regretted her decision. The bends in the road were sharp and scary. No lights for miles. It felt as if they would just fall into a ditch. She continued to tell him she didn’t want to go anymore and that these roads made her nervous. It was so dark and it frightened her to almost tears. He finally conceded after going around the same treacherous turns and he went to another place. But he did not speak much during dinner. She figured he was just disappointed because his plan had failed. Not every date can be perfect.

By Nathanaël Desmeules on Unsplash

He wondered where they were. Were they watching him? Were they waiting in a ditch off the road? Were they interfering with what was supposed to be a romantic dinner in Bear Mountain? He heard the static ringing in his ears and tried to push it away. It wouldn’t stop.

She did notice that every once in a while, he would twitch. This was particularly evident the night after the Bear Mountain drive. Or go into a trance and tell her about this woman, Frances, who hurt him deeply. This was his last relationship which lasted about two years. He said she took over his television screen and made a big static wave through it. He could even see her face in the screen in a long, white dress. Somehow he felt that her and her new boyfriend hacked his cable box. He turned the TV on one night and waited for the snowy lines to appear and they did not. He pushed it away saying they were watching and would not do it when she was there. Their purpose was to drive him insane. He did not understand why anyone would do this especially since she was the one cheating. He did everything for her just like he did for any woman he was dating. She was frightened thinking that someone would do this to this sweet, harmless man.. She figured he exaggerated about the television situation after having a few drinks. Needless to say, she never watched television with him. He was obviously a bit quirky.

“Please make it stop”, he would shout out alone in his apartment, every time he turned on the television. He ventured into the backyard to see who was there messing with his electricity and his television screen. It took many hours for him to fall asleep that night.

By Zach Vessels on Unsplash

She would notice certain abnormalities about him but then brush them off again as she spent more time with him. He was overly interested in her. On their two week anniversary he bought her a sparkling, white gold ring with a garnet stone in it. She did not want to accept it. He said it meant nothing – he just saw it and thought she would like it. .

He continued to overindulge her. He brought over packages of lobster ravioli for her daughter’s birthday. On Super Bowl Sunday she was visiting with friends and he showed up to surprise her later, bringing an abundance of flavors of ice cream for all of them to choose from. It crossed her mind that most men don’t want to spend this momentous football day with women, but he was different. One day he spent two hours in Stop and Shop looking for the perfect lunch for her now that her doctor put her on a low cholesterol diet. He came over to give her a foot rub when she had a long day. When her mom needed repairs on her apartment, he ran over and helped out which, of course, won her over too.

One night they decided to try this small, quaint Cajun restaurant in the neighborhood. She was looking forward to some delicious catfish and hearing the band after dinner. They ordered a cocktail and sat at the bar waiting for their table to be ready. He quivered, started gazing into space and then abruptly wanted to leave. He claimed a man was glancing her way and made him extremely uncomfortable. Then, when the lead singer of the band said hello to her he started twitching. It was a shortened date as he did not speak very much during dinner when they ended up at the local pub. They ate quickly and then he took her home. He mentioned how it was difficult to have such a beautiful girlfriend that everyone wanted. He could not get rid of them all so they just had to get away from them. This frightened her a bit. Part of her was flattered and the other scared to death.

She went home that evening with a weird feeling. Not all dates are perfect, so she tried to brush it off. Something in the back of her head kept shouting at her to pay more attention to this man who wore a mask, sometimes happy and sometimes very dark. She couldn’t shake this feeling for days.

Her children were not especially thrilled with him, maybe because he was always around. Her nosy aunt investigated him but found nothing at all. The old woman continued to be obnoxiously rude whenever he was in the house. She just ignored them and continued on her way with him. Didn’t they understand she was just dating him. They should be happy for her. He was harmless after all and just a little bit possessive. In her heart, she felt as if he was just a temporary boyfriend that treated her right and nothing else. She wanted to enjoy this. She would not have any feelings for him. That was her plan this time.

The last man she had feelings for turned out to be a complete liar. He was not divorced yet and still married with children. He lied to her consistently without her being suspicious. He made her laugh whenever they were together so she never even questioned his last minute cancellations. As she looked back at the times he canceled on her, she realized that she was completely blinded. She was no longer blinded and would never be again. She was just enjoying being treated like a princess. She knew he was not “the one” but she was just enjoying the good treatment she hadn’t had in a very long time. He had no children so he was always willing to compromise plans for her children. Who could ask for more?

But can you be treated as a princess for a price?

In February, he surprised her with a three day trip to Florida. First, they would stop in Juno Beach and see her best friend before taking a scenic drive to Key West. It sounded like an exciting, fun time. He even arranged it so that they would be back for her daughter’s birthday, which he knew she would never miss. She was reluctant yet at the same time embraced this fun adventure.

By John McArthur on Unsplash

The trip was interesting and memorable to say the least. They arrived at West Palm Beach airport without any problems. He rented this beautiful red sports car and they were on our way to her friend’s house. Her friends were polite, very happy to meet him and treated them to delicious, homemade pizza. Conversation flowed and all seemed to be going well. They were only there for a few hours and then were on their way to Key West. This is where the horror began.

About one hour into the trip, he became violently ill. They had to stop on numerous occasions as he was vomiting uncontrollably. She was petrified for two reasons – she was alone with basically a stranger that was so ill and she was frightened of getting to Key West. What if something happened to him? What would she tell the authorities? Who would she call? Suddenly, she felt so all alone. What made her decide to take this trip? When would she learn the word no and not always worry about others’ feelings? At one point in the trip, he was so sick, she had to do all the driving. There was nowhere to stop and she was in a state that she was so unfamiliar with. She was petrified during the rest of the ride as he continued vomiting and she was driving on what seemed like a one foot wide bridge with trucks with huge beaming headlights blinding her the other way. It seemed as if this narrow bridge would never end. She just kept praying. She had never been here before and had no idea where she was going. She never prayed so hard. She swore when she got back home she would kiss the ground and her children.

They checked into the hotel finally sometime after midnight. He was deathly ill. She looked around and never felt so alone. How long would it take for two days to pass? The next day she wandered the main strip. She did not feel confident to take the car and go see the tourist sites in Key West. She managed to pick up a fast food meal for herself and just stayed at the pool with a book. She could not concentrate on reading or even enjoy the serenity of the pool and beach area. She did not enjoy one second of the two days she was there. In fact, today when people asked her if she ever went to Key West she would always say no. She did not experience anything. It was just a hotel room with a sick man and no one around to talk to. On the last day, before they were leaving, he mustered up energy to go to lunch with her in Old Town. She had the grouper that he had been talking about since they met. It was pleasant but again she felt all alone in the world and knew she made the biggest mistake traveling with him. He wasn’t feeling perfect so again she had to drive the five hours back to the West Palm Beach airport. She asked him to change the flight to Key West airport but apparently there were no flights available. He checked on line (apparently) and they decided to stick with West Palm airport. In hindsight she should have packed her bag that first night and either gone back to her friend’s house or taken a flight from Key West airport home. That’s what credit cards are for. These type of emergencies. The thought had crossed her mind but how could she leave a violently ill man alone and what if something happened to him. Wouldn’t it lead back to her, the innocent girlfriend on this whirlwind horror trip from hell?

They finally flew home and he seemed to be getting better. She never felt so relieved. It was one of the happiest feelings of her life, being home and away from the loneliness and fear of her vacation. They celebrated her daughter’s birthday the next day. She felt continued tension from the dislike in the air. It was so thick it was unbearable. She knew that she had made a grave mistake dating him. Her family was the world to her and she would not want to make them unhappy. The children had enough to deal with in the aftermath of her divorce. What was she going to do?

His constant attention and sometimes jealousy got on her nerves. It’s like he had two faces –one that said “have fun with your friends” and one that was not happy at all when she talked about her friends that were unattached. That’s when he wore….the mask.

The mask surfaced again about a week after returning from Florida. She received a call while she was having dinner with her girlfriend that her sweet neighbor had died. It was already 7:30 and the wake was only that night. Quickly, they paid the bill and went to the wake together. On the way there she texted him and told him what happened. This triggered a series of continuous texts from him. He went insane claiming that she’s making up the wake, and where was she really going. He said he was having a heart attack and couldn’t believe that this was happening and who was she really going to see. Where is she really going? Why is she doing this to me? She knew she had to break up with him. Didn’t he realize she didn’t even have to tell him anything because she was going home after dinner originally? He continued texting long after the wake was over. She realized that he was not only possessive and quirky, but he was mentally unstable. She had to think of something and fast. She couldn’t stop shaking. She figured it would be right after her birthday weekend away with her friends which was starting the next day.

The “big” birthday was coming up. She planned a weekend away with her friends. She couldn’t wait. They would have a nice dinner and go bar hopping, and then stay at the Marriott. She should have realized he was too easy going about this plan, but at that moment she was happy to be going with her friends and not having to see him for the entire weekend. She felt such a relief and freedom she hadn’t felt in months. She would deal with him when she returned. For now, she was completely focused on what she was wearing and how extremely relieved she would feel when she was away from home, away from him, and out with her friends who made her laugh and always have a great time. She wanted herself back so badly. Remember that fun girl – where did she go? Why does she need a man to make her happy? She certainly didn’t.

Before making the 7:00 train, her friends suggested stopping for appetizers at one of the local restaurants. They talked about this appetizer special that was delicious. She wasn’t overly thrilled with the idea but since they planned this special weekend for her, she went along with it. Waiting inside the restaurant was a surprise party for her. Her family had planned it (even though she did not want it) and all her friends were there to surprise her. And of course, he was there. No wonder he didn’t give her a hard time about going away. She felt faint just realizing this. From his reaction to the wake the other night she should have known that he wasn’t totally thrilled with her being away and not with him. She wanted to break up with him after the weekend away and couldn’t wait to be free of him and enjoying her friends and her freedom again. And there he was…. Which mask was he wearing tonight? How would she survive this party? If only she told her friends what was happening…. Then maybe he would not have been invited. He just stood in the corner and smiled deeply.

Well, she got absolutely drunk because she didn’t expect this and also because he was there beaming with happiness. Of course he was happy – she was with him and not going away for the weekend. No one else would be looking at her. He had that evil look in his eyes. All along he didn’t argue with her about it because he knew that she wasn’t really going away after all. Her friends from work were in attendance – she didn’t want them to know her age. Her friends from Long Island and her dear Florida friend was also there. So here she was drinking Absolut and Cranberry (she lost count) and then started with Espresso Martinis. Every picture from that evening showed her with a drink in her hand and with a very big grin. Finally, they get her home and to bed. Her best friend was going to stay with her. Her friend tried to get her comfortable while he was in her bedroom telling people to leave. He kept repeating that he was going to marry her and he was in charge. Her family started a screaming match with him. He was eventually thrown out. She was too busy being sick to know all that was being said, but felt relief with just her friends and family staying with her. She knew something was terribly wrong with him. That night she was called the most hyper drunk because she was so ossified from the alcohol and so awake from all the espresso. She laughed and cried all night long. What a wonderful surprise but now what was she going to do about this imposter?

By Kobby Mendez on Unsplash

The next day she could barely move. Her friends took all presents he left behind (one was a diamond ring they didn’t let her see) and they immediately packed them up to mail back to him. After ridiculous attempts to call her, her friend picked up the phone and told him to stop calling and to pick up his stuff on the front steps (he purposely left his wallet) and to never ever call her or see her again. They let him know that they were returning all gifts. This is when the real nightmare began….

Phone calls, emails. Texts ….hundreds a day and continuous, just seconds apart. Why don’t you believe me? I will take you away from all those bad people and we will live happily ever after.

By Nathana Rebouças on Unsplash

Wherever she went he followed. Looking quietly through the blinds she saw his car drive past her house all the time, sometimes a few times in one hour. If she was outside a restaurant smoking a cigarette with a group of people, she would get a text and a phone call from him. He always left a voicemail and always called her “honey bunny”. At night he would send hundreds of emails repeating over and over that she did not understand how much he loved her and that he was going to marry her. He sent her an insurance policy for $500k that he listed her as sole beneficiary and as his fiancé. She just kept printing and saving, printing and saving. The folder was so thick she couldn’t keep it all together. It was out of control. She answered a few texts saying she was contacting the police. Even the smallest response gave him courage to do even more harassing. Is there hope now that she answered me? She won’t really call the police, will she? Her responses could be angry, threatening or vicious and he would apparently think it meant he was getting through. He kept on saying she would never find anyone like him.

He went into her Facebook account and contacted all her friends that he met at her birthday party and begged them to speak to her. He brought her three girlfriends (whom she was planning to go away with) bouquets of flowers. He showed up at her mother’s house, her aunt’s house and it just kept going on and on. Everyone was frightened by his actions. Her kids were afraid to leave the house. They were angry with her and she knew she had let them down.

The nightmare continued. She still threatened to call the cops. Deep down he didn’t believe her. Her girlfriend (she witnessed entire event at her house) called him and begged him to leave her and everyone else alone. He said he would. That lasted a few days and then it began again. He would always send her letters and cards using her maiden name (when they dated he said she should get rid of her married name as she was divorced). He sent emails with pictures of a new dog he bought which was an exact duplicate of her dog. He claimed that the dogs could be in love just like they were. They had rhyming names. Buddy and Bunny could be in love like we are. She was sick to her stomach. The next few months she received flowers, cologne, cigarettes and cards at least once a week. She returned them all. He would not get the hint or understand. The ringing in my ears doesn’t stop. Even my television doesn’t show me any pictures anymore. Just static noise.

Months later, it calmed down a little bit and she started dating someone else. Every time she was out she always had to look behind her. She felt sick all the time. She tried to move on but she needed him to go away. It would stop for a few days or a week and then start all over again. The blue Toyota, the phone calls, emails and more texts….

Finally, she took all the paperwork to the cops. They laughed, they read and they called him and advised him if this continued charges would be filed. He sent her an email finally saying that he would not be in touch any longer because he could not lose his business but that he would always love her. She figured this was it and he was gone.

A few months passed and she was waiting to meet her new boyfriend. He was returning from a short vacation. He was calling her to tell her that he was running late. She never got the message since she was the phone calls started again and she was so busy trying to disconnect them. So she went to where she was meeting her boyfriend who ended up not showing. She left in haste and became very angry. Why does she get herself involved in situations? She was angry with herself.

If she had gotten his message she would have known that he was delayed and coming in about an hour. She left and when she tried to talk to him later they ended up in a fight. He said if she couldn’t wait for him, he wanted nothing to do with her. She was heart- broken. She had a connection with him and felt as if the other situation was behind her. But no, the mask appeared again and ruined her day.

This situation put her over the edge. She called him and said to leave her alone or the cops would be at his door. He begged her to listen to what he had to say and that he did everything for her own good. That no one would love her the way he did. My business is too important to lose – I better step back for a bit. And then there was silence for a while.

A few weeks before Christmas, she came home one night and found a wreath on her car with a purple bow. He knew she loved purple, who else would have left it there?! She gave the wreath to her friend because hanging it up would have meant she accepted it and would give him his power back. She had to let him go away for good, no matter what it took. She looked out her window constantly and knew she saw a small navy Toyota truck pass by a few times a night. She continued to be frightened.

By Brooke Lark on Unsplash

He would be silent for a few weeks and then send her an email. Even after the cops went to his door, he still needed to send an email or text her or pass her house. He emailed her stating the cops visited and that he would no longer bother her. Liar, liar!!! Finally, she decided to ignore him and hoped he would go away. The contact became less and less. She was moving on with her life.

One day it just all stopped. No calls, no emails, no texts. She felt finally free. She found out around a year later that he passed away suddenly. His family found him on the ground. Apparently it was kidney and liver disease. Was this what was ailing him in Florida? His mother had died a few months before him and his sister-in-law passed away a few weeks before that. And then– him. It seemed weird. His brother was the only remaining member in their three family residence. Very suspicious story—had he been sick all along hence, the insurance policy, the engagement ring, the thin, gaunt look compared to his profile picture…. A story for another time…..

She would never know what really happened to him, but she finally felt free of the mask that shadowed her life for almost two years. She no longer shivered when a small blue Toyota pickup truck drove by her, but she always noticed and held her breath.

Elaine Gallagher

Elaine Gallagher

This was originally published on Vocal Media: Please visit and share

https://vocal.media/humans/the-mask-rxob7e0q9x

Also check out my other stories and let me know what you think.

What is Gratitude?

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful. It also means the readiness to show appreciation for kindness and to be willing to return kindness. Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness for what you have and not always wanting more. When you are grateful, you acknowledge the goodness in your life and feel positive emotions, enjoy and relish good experiences, and continue to build strong relationships.

Be grateful and thankful….

How does grateful feel? It is a feeling of being thankful and appreciative. An example would be how you feel when a friend does something exceptionally nice for you.

How Do We Practice Gratitude?

  1. Notice good things in life, look for them and always appreciate them.
  2. Savor and pay attention to all these good things in your life.
  3. Express your gratitude to others and to yourself. Thank someone.

In the Bible, it says “Give thanks to all circumstances; for this is the will of God”. When you regularly practice gratitude, you take time to notice and reflect on things you are thankful for and, overall, you will experience positive emotions. This can lead to more sleep, feeling more alive with more compassion and kindness. Gratitude also enhances your immune systems.

Give thanks to all circumstances.

People are more successful when they practice gratitude. They reach their goals and make 20% more progress than those who do not practice gratitude.

Practice Gratitude Daily

Take time each day to practice gratitude and you will definitely see a significant increase in your happiness and your overall physical health. Daily practice improves sleep, boosts immunity and may decrease the risk of disease. It is hard to practice gratitude and we have to work hard to cultivate this daily practice.

Here are some ways to practice gratitude daily:

            . meditate on things you are grateful to have in your life. Practice mindfulness on step at a time and a little more each day.

Take time every day for yourself….

            . think about what you are grateful for as soon as you wake up (someone or something)

            . reflect on people or things you are thankful for at work when you are done for the day. Sometimes thinking of someone after a long day is all you need for a boost.

            . keep a list of what you are grateful for handy (and update it often) to look at throughout your day.

Gratitude Can Change Your Life

Gratitude changes your life because it makes you reflect and appreciate what you have in your life rather than what you don’t have. It can change your life by being a very powerful source of inspiration that you can tap into. Just pay attention to the simple beauty in everyday life and what we often take for granted. More people are feeling grateful after living through this pandemic and fearing tomorrow. It helps us to reflect and appreciate all that we have. In these times, it is even more important to reflect on how grateful we are.

Show Gratitude to Someone Who Helps You

How can you show gratitude to someone who helps you? There are many ways to do this. Just a few ideas:

            . a card or handwritten note expressing your gratitude

            . a hug

Express yourself….
Think without interruption….

            . a compliment

            . perform a random act of kindness

            . provide encouragement when they need it

. a quick text to say you are thinking of someone.

Make a List of What You are Grateful For

Think about what you are grateful for in your life and make a list. It can include:

            . your parents

            . your family

            . your best friend

            . your teachers

            . your colleagues

Next to each item on your grateful list state reasons why you are grateful for them. For example, I am grateful for my parents because they gave me life and raised me with love and support.

Does Gratitude Relieve Stress?

Being grateful for what you have in your life can immediately enhance your mood and give you happiness in the inside. This can help strengthen and create a positive nature within ourselves which can combat stress. If you have positive thoughts before you go to sleep, you will sleep better.

Express Gratitude Daily

There are ways to express gratitude daily:

  1. Write in a journal that you keep with you and only use to express gratitude.

( I purchased a premade journal that I find useful)

Continue reading “What is Gratitude?”

What is Happiness?

What is happiness? Can it be defined in a word, in a sentence, in a song? Why are we not happy even when things are going right in our lives? Do we know what happiness really is?

Happiness is a feeling….

Did you know that happiness does not depend on what we have? Happiness depends on how we feel about what we have. Did you notice some people are happier with less and miserable with more? Happiness is such a powerful human emotion yet often the least understood. Happy people have more control over their physical health and “happiness” as well. When we are happy we feel more self-worth and confidence. We are often disappointed when we get something we hope for, yet we are still not happy. You can honestly see when someone is happy by they way they carry around some sort of positive brilliance wherever they go.

We can define happiness as having meaning and satisfaction with one’s life. It is not merely about material things. It is experiencing a sense of purpose. It is not simply an external pleasure. It is connecting with others, having meaningful relationships in your life, and feeling a sense of community around you. Many people have learned that money definitely does not buy happiness.

Happiness in Relationships

We are defined often by the people in our lives. We cherish our relationships and they should be the primary source of our happiness. When a major relationship in our life fails to bring happiness, we are reluctant and afraid to make changes in fear of not finding anything better to give us true happiness. People who are happy in their marriage or relationship, happy with their close group of friends and extended family, are often the people who understand the true meaning of happiness. It can’t be bought, it must be felt.

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Happiness in our Career

Whether we choose a career or just a job to get through our lives, what we do every day is a major part of our overall happiness. When you jump out of bed because you love what you do then you are experiencing happiness and fulfillment. When you work too many hours, and not happily, this has an affect directly on the other possible parts of happiness in your life. Most people are afraid to take risks and often stay in a mundane work environment for fear of trying something new that interests them, and also fear of failing.

Happiness with Ourselves

Yes, we are a society that looks at physical appearance and a person’s attractiveness, so many of us feel if we lose weight, buy new clothes, etc., we will become happier people. We will become healthier, but happiness is so much deeper than that. We should never stop trying to eat healthier, increase physical activity and take care of our bodies. However, we need to have a combination of needs met in order for this to add to our happiness.

Breathe in happiness…..

Honestly, I can talk about happiness for pages on end. Right now, each of us has a specific key to find their true happiness. It is usually a combination of many things, but mostly a feeling of self-worth and contentment in many major areas of our lives. Each day is a journey to achieving this happiness. Happiness changes along the journey and we need to notice the changes in our own individual needs.

I hope that you can find a way to make yourself happy, even in these not so normal times. Perhaps this is the best time to evaluate what really makes us happy and to see life for what it really is, when so many people around us are suffering.

Some synonyms for happiness:

jovial, harmonious, ideal, delightful, dazzling, flourishing…..

Can you think of some to add to that list?