Of Extended Family and Endings

10151194_10153250732136766_5871828394969407407_nIt could be that I am wrong putting these two things together, but my experience has taught me differently lately. My immediate family, husband and children, is the center of my life. My sisters and their families come a close second. I imagine it is the same for most of us, never mind our background. We also have extended families. They are important, they fulfill a role that is necessary in society, especially where I come from. That is what I always thought and how I always believed. Could it be that I was wrong? Let me tell you why.

When my sisters and I came to college in the States, our parents stayed behind. Of course, you would say. I am also sure you know that in those days traveling back and forth, calling home and keeping in touch, was very different from what it is today. Traveling, actually, was the easiest part. Now, calling home was another story. You needed hundreds of quarters, dimes etc, you needed to know the right operator for International Calls and you needed patience. Let’s not even mention keeping in touch. Letters would take more than a few days: write, then mail and deliver. Yes, I am that old!!!

Boston is not around the corner from Panama, but we managed. During those years, we visited our parents, our parents came to visit us and we spent many hours trying to conduct long distance conversations from a pay phone in our college dorms. It also happened that we all fell in love with boys we met there and going back home after college was not to be.

Of course, then, we didn’t stop to consider that our lives would be changed forever and going back and forth to Panama was not going to happened as we thought. That’s youth for you: we were happy, everything else took second place. We see that now, but our parents saw it then. Still, they never tried to change our minds or made us feel guilty about it. Their lives changed as well and in many ways not always for the better since their children were living far away and the grandchildren were not there for them to spoil and cuddle and love!!! .

We were busy with our lives, our families, but we visited them regularly……or they came to us. Life continued. Our children adored their grandparents, but had lives so different and so far removed from them. My parents grew older and my father passed away in 1984. He was younger than I am today!!! It was a wake up call and very difficult to accept.  In the years that followed, my mother grew more and more attached to her family in Panama.

They took our places in her everyday life, but we never minded. We kept in touch, visited, took her on our vacation trips, she visited us. Those were happy times in many ways, but hard times too. Saying good-bye was harder and harder. We could see she was getting older and all those family times would become difficult to arrange. Our children went away to college, another step in the never-ending march of Time.

My mother’s life made her happy. Every time we visited she had a new project or she was moving to the beach house for the Summer. She kept active and was with people she loved. Her peace of mind and her happiness had no price. She was happy and that was enough for us.

Yes, she was happy helping everyone. Her family, even today, say how wonderful she was and how she took care of everything, no matter what. Then she had a massive stroke. No point talking about that since I have before. As she got progressively worse, we discovered that extended families are not always what we thought they were. Ideally, everyone should be able to talk and express their opinions without arguments. Resentments never solved anything.

Slowly, our extended family shrunk and this is what I mean by endings. What was is no longer and that tells me it was not real. With this ending came another realization: we do have some wonderful people in our family. Finally, we are left with the ones we love, the ones that were there for us. We have the time and the openness to get to know them again, to enjoy their company. As someone who loved her family, my mother would have understood.

My mother’s illness made us stronger. Her passing made us free of whatever attachments we thought we had. The peace of mind and serenity we now enjoy is priceless. Endings are a beginning and for that, we are grateful.

On Becoming an Orphan and Other Musings……

13119046_10154293342686802_7816716738816642024_nMy mother passed away at the end of June: not unexpectedly, but not less painful. After almost 10 years living after a massive stroke, battling fibrosis and old age, her body just let go. She died in her sleep, we should all be that lucky.

In November, my sisters and I made the incredibly difficult decision to put her in a home. We had battled this for years. She stayed at her home, looked after by nurses, by the woman who had been her faithful companion for many years. My sisters and I visited several times a year, everything was perfectly planned, executed. Slowly it became obvious that it was impossible to care for her without an expert staff, but getting anyone to work at a private home became a big challenge. Finally, we realized, she wasn’t getting the care she needed and deserved. This was not done lightly, it was not done with anyone in mind, but her……her well-being, her health, her comfort. That was always our goal.

Now, you would tell me that orphans are generally young children that need their mother’s care. I don’t think anyone our age would think of themselves as orphans, but we are. My mother maintained that an orphan is one who has lost their mother. It is ingrained in me, I believe it with all my heart and because of that, I am officially an orphan.

First things first, her passing also made me the eldest in our family. Have no idea how that works, but it feels sort of strange. My sisters and I are the oldest generation. We are those women who not long ago we used to consider: old!!! What does that mean? What has changed? It is definitely more than just that I have become the eldest. I have, but there is more to that statement.

As long as my mother was alive, I was still a daughter. There was someone higher than me in the hierarchy of life. There was someone before me when it came to longevity, someone ahead of me in the pecking order and that kept me happy. Why? because children are always children as long as our parents are alive.  We can convince ourselves that there is still time to do what we want, to change and enjoy new things, don’t we? This might sound strange, but I am sure we all have felt this way, at one point or another.

Jeanne Safer, a psychotherapist and author of Death Benefits, wrote:  “The death of a parent — any parent — can set us free. It offers us our last, best chance to become our truest, deepest selves. Nothing else in adult life has so much unrecognized potential to help us become more fulfilled human beings — wiser, more mature, more open, less afraid.” A very interesting thought, but one that I find I can completely understand now.

Didn’t we always look up to our parents? didn’t we listen to their opinions and tried, as we grew older, not to have arguments because we disagreed with them? didn’t we learn to avoid certain topics because it would just take too much time to explain we have changed, that our opinions were so different? or wasn’t it easier to just let them pretend they were in charge or that we took their opinions into consideration? I don’t know about you, but I am guilty of doing most, if not all, of the above.

I have expected the sadness and the sense of emptiness that would follow my mother’s death. I have gone through her things with my sisters and relived so many happy moments and so many sad ones as well. I cherish the visits over the last 9 years, the gifts I received from her, the interactions and the sharp comments she was capable of until her last weeks. I can feel my heart contract when I remember her smile, but I also remember when she rolled her eyes in disagreement with whatever we were saying!!!

What did not expect and surprised me is the sense of relief. Yes, relief. The sense that she is at rest is part of that. Her last years were not easy. She was very much aware of her limitations and didn’t like that at all. Deep in my heart, I think that she just let go, said enough, that’s it. On the other hand, there is the fact that now I have more freedom to do things I had put on hold for all these years: vacations with my husband, time to spend with my children, visits to dear friends. I can plan, never miss another important date, go to bed without fear that I can receive a call in the middle of the night. What does that make me?

I think it makes me human, period. If I have learned something these past years is that we must be kind to ourselves. We do all we can and it should be enough. We should never over think or doubt our decisions. What is there to gain by that? and can we do it? I am not sure yet, but I am willing to explore the possibilities. Right now, I am an orphan trying to adjust to my new role. I am myself, without parental boundaries……will see where this takes me and will share my findings.

 

Accepting our Aging Bodies

What? That was my reaction when I read a post by Margaret Manning, from Sixty and Me. She has been on a trip to Bali for 8 weeks, rediscovering herself and accepting who she has become. It was very powerful. See for yourself HERE .

IMG_5294My mind understands this is essential to acceptance of ourselves as older women. Changes in our bodies are the first sign we are no longer the young, pretty things we once were. They creep in and slowly transform us. I know that, but since changes come slowly or we are not paying attention, we just wake up one morning and we are older!!! It’s not easy for me to post this picture, but I thought it necessary.

Margaret, of course, is right. This is who we are today and accepting, loving it and moving on is the thing to do. Now, what each one of us mean by accepting is the difference between living in harmony with ourselves or fighting to stay young by any means. This would be hardly harmonious. The desire to hang on to our youth is powerful, I understand. Millions of women spend fortunes in beauty products and surgery to try just that. Who are we to criticize….. but is it worth it? For some it is, but more and more women are changing this view.

IMG_3555The most important thing we should remember: keep healthy, active and involved. Living in harmony with our aging bodies, accepting them, does not mean we are going to let go. Nobody is saying we should just stay home, gain weight, slow down in our activities, dress like our grandmothers did and sit and wait for old age to fully take charge of our lives. Absolutely NOT!!!

Accepting our bodies as they are today involves a lot of work, dedication and care. We should work at keeping our bodies healthy and performing at their best. Make sure you have your physical exams regularly, listen to your body and tell your doctor anything you do not like or understand. This is most important. If you need medication, take it and do not forget to take your vitamins and supplements.

Eat right for your age. I know, here I go again mentioning age, but it’s important. At this stage of our lives we need certain nutrients more than others. We cannot tolerate certain foods and certain drinks. Alcohol should always be taken in moderation, but these days it’s more important. Make sure you know what agrees with you and what doesn’t. There is also the fact that overeating or eating at certain hours could be upsetting to our bodies, pay attention.

If you are exercising, great!!! If you do not like to exercise, try yoga or tai-chi. Your body needs to stay nimble, it will help your aches and pains, your posture and your attitude. Walking tall is always a confidence booster!!!IMG_5828

Finally, and very important, learn to dress as you please. It’s our time, wear what you like, what makes you feel attractive, what feels good. There are no rules about how we should dress…..never mind what certain people say. If you Google this topic, there are countless articles. Ignore them!!! Best go online and look at older women’s blogs: Not Dressed as Lamb, The Sequinist, No Fear of Fashion, Style Crone and Idiosyncratic Fashionistas. You’ll be surprised in a most wonderful way.

Now you know: accepting our aging bodies it’s a powerful statement in a world obsessed with youth. Go out and make it with pride!!!

P.S. Header photograph by Alan Maduro at Caracasbaai, Curaçao. Thank you!!!

We are What we Eat…….

DSC00647.JPGSuch an old saying, such a great truth, but such ignored one as well!!! Since my daughter moved back to the States from London, I have slowly changed my food shopping habits and my cooking ways. You all know I am not a cook, but we all have to cook at one point or another. I preferred reservations for a long time and I still enjoy dinning out; it’s just that these days I am more careful with everything I prepare and eat.

Healthy eating has become a priority in my life. As we grow older, good health is our most important asset. Taking care of what we eat is the first step to achieve a healthy lifestyle. So, I am now on a quest to spread the word. It has helped me, trust me.

Health issues are part of everyone’s life at one point or another. We do not have to suffer from incurable illnesses to understand this. Painful joints, high blood pressure, borderline sugar levels, problems with insomnia or weight issues just get worse with age. As in any modern society, our first impulse is to visit the doctor and start taking medication. We are all guilty of this!!

Do not get me wrong, when medication is needed, we all should take it, but we should also give Nature a chance. With that in mind, I decided to eat healthy. It surprised me how easy it was and how good it has been for me despite my health issues. Highly recommend it!!!

IMG_5442First thing I did was get my supplements in organic form and ditch the multivitamin pills. I do take more pills in the morning, but only specific ones that help my needs. Besides, I do not take fillers, additives and other harmful substances.

Second decision, drinking more water; not just any water, but flavored water. Anything that can give health benefits have found its way into my water jug: lemons, ginger, cucumbers, chlorophyll and other fruits and veggies. My jug is always full in the fridge, ready for me to enjoy. Soon these two changes started to make a difference, it was time to move on.

IMG_5445I started looking for specific foods that would help with my health issues and with keeping healthy. I came up with: olive oil, fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, organic and raw honey, green tea, organic fruits and vegetables. Chicken and fish are still part of my diet, but they must be organic, a bit more expensive but worth it. Beef and pork make an appearance only once in a while!!! Lots of the veggies I serve are raw or steamed, same with fruits. Eggs, always misunderstood, are good too. I did learn to eat avocados and papaya…never liked then before.

Cooking healthy is also important. You start with the best you can get, you better do a good job preparing them!!! I broil, grill or stew, I never fry. Boiling has become a science since over boiling can make you food bland, destroy nutrients. This include hard-boiled eggs….didn’t know that. This is the healthier way to do hard-boil eggs. Put eggs in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a quick boil, cover and turn off heat. Let eggs stand there for about 10 minutes, put them in cool water and peel….perfect eggs!!!

Most of the time, I do not use recipes…I just improvise using ingredients I have at home. Fresh herbs and spices, onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes are always welcome. Cheese is a favorite and a challenge. I have accepted the fact that organic cheese is not easy to find where I live. So I try to look for simple kinds: Latin style white cheese, cottage cheese, any brand that offers the least amounts of ingredients in their cheese. It has worked so far.

DSC00513As I said before, I am no expert in any of this, but I feel strongly about my health. I will continue to learn and share. One last piece of advise: visit farmers markets. It has become the rage to have them in big cities. You are buying local and helping the economy. If you get to know the sellers in your favorite market, you can get the best products. On the other hand, be careful where you go. Some so called farmers markets sell products that are bought from big wholesalers.

It is never too late to take control of your health. Take the challenge and start soon…good luck!!!

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I am exercising more…….. and sweating a bit!!!

I have said it again and again: I do not sweat on purpose. No matter what people tell me, going out of my way to feel sticky and smelly would never be a priority for me. On the other hand, I have to accept that exercising can make a huge difference in our lives. Keeping active and nimble can help us stay healthy for many years to come. So, I have relented….I now exercise more and sweat a bit!!!

IMG_5270I have always walked. I could be because I lived in a beautiful place and walking was more of a treat than a chore…..or because I walked with dear friends and we talked and laughed while we walked. For whatever reason, I’ve always enjoyed it. I still do, but is not as fun. Walking on your own is not the same. Lately, I have taken my husband with me. We don’t talk much, but the company is welcome. The fact that we walk along the water, looking into Biscayne Bay, is an added bonus.

IMG_5268Weights are supposed to help with bone density, keep your muscles in working order and help your posture and balance, aid in combating depression and making you look better. So what’s not to like? I am not talking about anything too heavy, that would involve more sweating. My weights are 3 pounds and bright red!!! Believe me they do their job. I have no flabby arms…..

Stretching is another great thing to do for yourself. Start slowly, develop your routine and just do it. I start before I get out of bed, all the stiffness just melts away. A bonus for me:  you don’t sweat stretching and it feels wonderful!!!

Some days, I take out my yoga mat and do some poses for beginners. It’s not that I can’t do more, it’s that the simple poses get me relaxed and nimble in a few minutes. Feels wonderful. Everyone should try yoga, it’s a complete exercise that involves your mind along with your body.

IMG_3199I have discovered that sticking to your plan is what’s important. I am not an expert, but I can tell you that working on your routine on a regular basis is the most important thing. You decide what and how much you are going to do, then you do it consistently. My goal has never been to reach a certain level or to look a certain way. I never thought of exercising so I could eat more!!! My goal is to feel good about myself and do as much as I can. Once you see results, as minor as they might be, you will feel inspired to continue…..I have and that is a lot to say!!!

Orchids

cropped-IMG_1692.jpgIMG_3358If you know me well, you know I don’t have a green thumb. When I had a beautiful garden, I had a lot of help and I contributed to the local economy!!! When I moved to Miami, we settled into an apartment, so no garden. I do, however, love plants….go figure. I used to buy them, tend them for a while and when they could not be helped…out they went. Worked very well through the years. Still, it seemed such a waste.IMG_5086

23_23When a dear friend, Guido, gave me an orchid for Mother’s Day in 2003, (there it is on that day!!!) all that changed. He passed away a few months later, 12 years ago today. I didn’t want to lose the plant. So, my quest for trying to keep it alive led me to buy more plants, trying to get them to bloom several times a year, finding the best place to help them thrive.  I Googled how to care for them, I asked questions where I bought them, bought fertilizers and blooming-food. I still have that first one (there you have it on the right!!!) and it blooms twice a year. In other words, I became a bit obsessed……and I love it!!!IMG_4712

My efforts have paid off; haven’t bought a plant in ages. Right now, I have 10 in bloom and others that are almost ready. Still working on variety, trying to get colors and shapes that catch my eye, but not overdoing it. After all, I am just a beginner at this; but my daughter calls me the Orchid Guru!!!IMG_1773IMG_0501

I just went on holiday for Easter Week. Left them all inside just in case there was too much sun or heat or wind. Came back and they are fine, some went back outside to get the morning sun. Those in bloom are all over the apartment. It feels great to know I can do this. Simple pleasures, simple joys……part of life. The difference is that I now sit back and realize they were here all along. Wonderful!!!

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This has just been a short post, just to show off my beautiful flowers.

They are something that gives me such pleasure. Life is good, my orchids tell me so.

Don’t you agree?

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Lessons Learned and Simplicity

IMG_3723This might be the year I finish my never-ending de-cluttering project. I have been at it since we moved to Miami 13 years ago. Yes, that is a long time, but I did have too much to get rid of. All in the pursue of Simplicity, a simpler life. It’s a long story, so bear with me.IMG_3725

In 2003, after more than 20 years in Curaçao, my husband and I made Miami our home. He came to work here and I followed. At the time, it was the thing to do, but that did not make it any easier. I did a lot of throwing away, donating, selling and packing. In the end, I had still too much because I was holding on to memories in the guise of possessions. It was difficult to just let go of them, so I brought them with us.

I have learned a lot since then. Every move we have made here has resulted in more donating and throwing away….no more selling for some reason. Since we have moved three times, you can imagine how much I have de-cluttered. Still, it has not been enough. So regularly, I go through our closets, our kitchen, our books, CDs and DVDs. I have participated in two de-clutter projects as well. I have one day every two weeks when I shred papers that are of no use anymore. I must have done some damage to my storage space, you would think. Not so fast…

IMG_1697It is true that we started with two storage cages in our first apartment building. They were full to the top, mostly with boxes that came from Curaçao, boxes our children brought to us when they moved from place to place. We now have only one storage cage, but it is full to the top!!

Having decided that we need to move on, look for a more relaxed place to live than Miami, I have started again in earnest to diminish the clutter we brought and the one we have accumulated. I kid you not, sometimes I feel our things just multiply!!

IMG_4985Now, I have learned one important lesson: this is not de-cluttering anymore…this is downsizing!!! All I have done is a preparation for this most important ritual in our lives: moving on and live in the day. Memories will be there, but our  are being weeded out. I have taken many photos  to have a record of what I am getting rid of. A less complicated home is coming soon.

IMG_4989The other lesson I have taken away from this long process is that I will downsize my way. Simplicity is not the same for everyone, each of us have our own definition. Mine is, well, simple!!! I will keep my photographs, my videos, my books, my photo albums (remember them?). They tell my story, they are my memories and in the great scheme of life, they take less space than furniture, china, glassware, silverware and other assorted items I have dragged with me for years.

It is liberating and I am enjoying it so far……of course there have been some emotional moments along the way. That is part of the process, part of what life is all about. I will keep you posted on this leg of my Simplicity journey.

Lessons Learned and Aging

Have you ever been asked your age only to hear this: you look good, though? Look good, really? Look good for what? Look good compared to whom? What does this really mean?

Well, I know it’s mortifying to many. Some of my friends can go into hissy-fits, some can get depressed and some of them just lie about their age!!! I am sure you belong to one of these groups. Or you could be one of those free spirits to whom age is just a number and you don’t care.

Since I let my hair go grey, I have not been asked my age very often. I guess everyone thinks I am just old!!! When it comes to this subject, life becomes complicated. Society has conditioned people, especially women, to strive for a youthful look. To keep looking young well into their middle-age is a goal for most of the women I know. Many of them go to great lengths to keep up an appearance of youth. Sad. We can try to change our look, but our body is still whatever age we really are. Period.

Do not get me wrong…I like to look good too. I want to feel attractive and strive to always look my best. There is no question about that. Just letting go of everything is not my idea of aging either. There is the fact that keeping healthy, active and focused on our well-being is a priority, regardless of how you feel about aging.

Now, let’s get down to reality. Studies conducted on older women have discovered certain attitudes that will bring a healthier, relaxed and positive lifestyle to anyone as we age. Most of these studies included women in the 80s, 90s and even 100s. The findings are amazing and we must share them.

First: Good posture is essential. We should strive for vertical balance. To help us along, walking is the best exercise. Try doing it everyday. I certainly know this, walking has been part of my routine for years. It is an excellent aerobic workout and gives you the chance to be outdoors enjoying nature!!! Dance when you listen to music, let go of those inhibitions…..it releases Cortisol, lowers your stress levels. Besides, it keeps you limber!!!

Second: Stay in the present. We can reminisce and enjoy our memories, but it is absolutely unnecessary to live in the past. Our future will not be as long as we want, even if we live to be 100. The present is where we live. This means becoming engaged, learning new things: listen to new music artists, learn a new language, watch new movies, get involved in social media!!!

Third: Love yourself. Love how you look, how you move, how you feel. Accept  yourself, but keep improving as much as possible. It is never too late to start taking care of your body, your health, your mind. Let go of perfect, it doesn’t exist. Cultivate a positive attitude that will lead to resetting your inner clock, making you feel years younger!!!

Fourth: Get in touch with your feelings and emotions. We forget this when we feel sick or under the weather. Find the cause of what ails you. Pay attention to how you feel. Meditate and listen to your body. Your brain is so powerful, it connects your feelings and emotions to your physical welfare. Use it to make you feel better!!!

Fifth: Savor the good in your life. Trust your instincts and defend what matters most to you. Be compassionate, starting with yourself. Enjoy and savor every experience be it a play, a book, a song, a glass of wine or a fine meal. You do not need anyone’s approval, you don’t need to please anyone but yourself….enjoy this time!!!

Gloria Steinem said once: “Women over 50 are a country to which this youth-obsessed culture has few guides“. Indeed, so it is up to us to gather the knowledge that is out there and use it to improve our lives now.  Age is liberating, we can say and think and do what we want. Make it so!!! We must not let the world tell us that we are now pass our prime, ready to put out to pasture, no longer attractive……..Aging is a right of passage just like others we have successfully lived through. It just happens that this time, we are prepared and ready!!!

Here is to 2016!!!

brown-background-blank-notepad-happy-new-year-holiday-62925209-1New Year…….opportunities and chances, choices and changes, a blank book to write wonderful stories. This year is no different, unfortunately, we all make resolutions and we all break them!!!

Thinking along those lines, I decided no to go the usual route. I am not going to get all worked up trying to accomplish the impossible. There had to be a better way, or ways to make this a good year.

Here are my ideas:

IMG_3566A few months ago, on Facebook……yes, I do get some good ideas from that…..I saw my New Year’s project. Going around, I found an article about focusing on the happy moments we have on a given day, week and month. It had a photograph of a jar, decorated and ready. For what you would ask? Well, to receive small notes mentioning those happy moments along the way. I thought it was just the thing because we tend to remember the difficult times more than the happy ones. So I bought three of them, decorated them very simply: one for me and one for each of my sisters. Part of my Christmas present to them.

The past year was very difficult to us. Nine years traveling back and forth to Panama, making sure our mother was well taken care of, struggling as so many other caregivers do. We had little time to focus on anything else and when we did, we discovered we have missed happy moments. When we, finally, put out mother in a home, mixed with the regret and the doubts, we were relieved. She is so much better off where she is and we deserve the rest. Christmas was a joyful family time!!!

The idea of our Happy Moments Jar was all we needed. It will give us the opportunity to stop and enjoy those moments, realize that we do have them and then scribble a small note about each one and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, we will get together and open our jars, read all our happy moments notes and remember what a great year it was. Brilliant idea, whoever had it!!!

IMG_3573Of course, I needed something else. I needed something to keep me busy the rest of the time, the time between those happy moments I was going to write about. On my last visit to Panama, I have picked up some coloring books and some Crayola crayons. Of course, the books were childish and simple. I most definitely needed adult coloring books. Mentioned this to my children in passing…….my son, Frank, got me the most beautiful one. Indian Mandalas and Henna designs….right up my alley!!!

IMG_3570Already colored my first page, randomly picking up crayons in no particular order, just the nearest. The result was very pleasing and, what’s more, it was so relaxing and uncomplicated. That, I discovered is the secret, you need to just go with the flow. Wonderful exercise in letting go!!!

These are my New Year projects, nothing complicated and stressful that would put me off. Nothing that requires a schedule, dieting, trying to get along with difficult people or a long term project that would never be completed. I think this is going to be a great year!!!

Lessons Learned and Sanibel Island

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, my favorite, my family went to Sanibel Island. While I was in Panamá stressing about my mother, her move, her care, my husband and children planned this getaway. As I have said before, these are the best trips!!! All I had to do was pack my bag and go.

We left on Tuesday the 24th, stopped for a fabulous brunch at a small cafe in Coral Gables and drove to Sanibel. It is true that I dislike the roads and highways in Florida. Unfortunately with good reason, but this time I was instantly relaxed, so slept most of the way.

The plan was to relax, watch sunsets, celebrate Thanksgiving and enjoy each other company. It has always been important in our family to take time to recharge batteries and reconnect. This trip was our effort to do this before the craziness of the Christmas Season.

12301709_10153890851636802_8608273706029870815_nThat is the first lesson, not new, but so essential. You need time with your loved ones to reaffirm your bonds, to get closer, to just enjoy their company without any definite plan. Unpacking done, we went to have something to eat. Did you know you can have alligator meat in this area without any trouble? Not that we were going to even try it…..we are not that adventurous!!! The place, fortunately, had other choices.

Lesson two, the family that plays together……yes, we do that. Twice we played miniature golf. I am sure not everyone shares our passion for this game, but it’s a family tradition, if we are together and there is one around: we must play. This is old-fashioned and corny, but we love it. We found one: The Story of Tarzan, complete with giant gorillas, water traps, banana tees and crates of all sizes. Along the way, we were treated to painted boards with parts of the book by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Frank plays real golf, so he did well, but we all had a ball.

When in the hotel, we played rounds of the new Trivial Pursuit. You can get the funniest answers in this family, so there were laughs and jokes. We also played Scattergories.  There was more laughing and joking when words never heard of before made it to Frankie’s answers. My mind was either too relaxed to concentrate or just in suspended animation. My paper more than not was empty!!!

89cbe25a32f8be3c6eca62c05a689d71Lesson three, really, take to the road and see where it takes you. Too much planning could so curtail your fun. Getting to know the place you are visiting is a priority if you want to enjoy the trip. First stop: the lighthouse and the beach. Beautiful weather to be outdoors. We also visited the  Sanibel Historical Museum and Village. It was a great idea. This was easy, relaxing and informative. The lives of those first inhabitants was not easy, but it was exciting. I found out that the mild weather invites rocking chairs……there was an abundance of them and I sat on each and every one. Have pictures to prove it!!! After this visit, time for a late lunch was approaching, so we asked for recommendation from the staff. Got the best:  Rosie’s Cafe & Grill. Owned by a direct descendant of one of the first African-American families to settle on the island. Remember to try their homemade ice cream.

IMG_4582Lesson four: the best Thanksgiving lunch is the one you do not cook and someone else serves for you. Hands down, you will get no argument from me. Camille had made reservations at the Sanibel Island Golf Club. Wonderful setting, delicious traditional food, unlimited Mimosas. The service was attentive and the atmosphere just right. The weather was mild and sunny, so a walk around the fairways after the meal was a perfect idea.

IMG_4608Lesson five, if you enjoyed the beach…..go back!!! Every stretch of beach was fairly crowded and the water too cool for these island people, but walking along the water edge was so what we needed. Went shell collecting, no seaglass…..I wonder why. Of course, when it was that time when the sun goes down and everything is tinted in beautiful colors: from reds and oranges to peaches and golds,  we headed for the beach. Drinks in hand, we sat looking at the spectacle. Well worth it…and I have been an admirer of sunsets all my life.

8534fe5d8d5557c4f231739f247325c5Lesson six, you should go bicycling with your family. Well, in my case I have gotten out of this one for years. Never did learn to do this well and never had any interest in trying again. This time there was no getting out of that, exploring the island was something everyone wanted to do. Easy solution: I got a tricycle!! Yes, it was fun. Not that I care at all, but there were others doing the same and it’s so much easier!!!  Don’t you love the outfit? Stopped for a great and healthy lunch at Traders Gulf Coast Grill & Gifts. Picked up some original gifts for the Holidays too.  On our wanderings around in our bicycles (and tricycle), we got to see the residential parts of the island, the quiet neighborhoods away from the tourists, the lush vegetation. It is beautiful.

The hotel itself had few things to offer, but a dip in the hot tub, was more than welcome at the end of the day. We managed to walked around and enjoyed the full moon on Thanksgiving night. We even had time for a small shopping trip across the road at the outlet stores and ended our stay with a visit to a small arts and craft festival and a visit to a vintage store. Great ending!!!

 We got back to Miami tired, but ready for the Holidays.