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.

Lessons Learned and Curaçao Weddings

After more than 12 years going back and forth to my former home, something did change this last trip. We went to the wedding of Anjali, whom we have known all her life. So you can imagine it was a very lovely occasion. As a cherry on the pie, it was an Indian wedding. Several days of celebrations, meeting old friends, visiting Curaçao…it couldn’t have been better.

IMG-20150722-175101It was a last-minute idea, we were just there for another wedding a month ago. That one was a family wedding, Daniela is our niece despite not been related by blood. It was beautiful, sentimental, the kind of event that warms your heart and you will remember forever.  Seeing the bride walking to meet her future husband on the arm of her brother Nathan, brought more than some of us to tears.

1932381_10153367496863767_8473937129773430490_nWe were missing her father and her uncle, such wonderful men, gone too soon. The party under the stars was a joyful celebration and we danced and laughed and gave thanks. It was also a bit sad. Still, that trip was wonderful, we stayed a week, I played bridge, we went to the beach very day, saw friends and family……recharged our batteries. When we left, I wanted to come back as soon as possible. It was as it had always been, a trip home.

IMG_3927This time we were to enjoy another fun five days. Do not get me wrong, it was exactly that. So much fun as Indian weddings can usually be. From the prayers and dinner the day we arrived to the fabulous wedding party four days later. The ceremonies, the mehndi, the bangles, the beautiful costumes, the food, the friends I haven’t seen in while or in years, the children all grown-up married, with children…..what can I say.

On these occasions, you have no time to stop and think. You go with the flow and soak everything, enjoying every minute. Of course, there were the side trips to the beach every time we could. We had a few mishaps with hotel reservations because the internet service was down and the feeling you are not up to par when you chose your outfit……it’s hard to outshine a sari!!

There was no time for much until Sunday afternoon. After a very good breakfast and time spent with family at a barbecue, we returned to the hotel and the beach again. It was late afternoon and not too many people. The water was just perfect. When the sun set in the usual spectacular way, we walked along the beach. It was so peaceful…….and suddenly so lonely!!!

I felt a bit down, something wasn’t quiet right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could certainly feel it. Walking back to our room, darkness suddenly fell, as it does in the tropics. The entrance to our building was so quiet and in shadows. What a difference from the day before!!! Up in our room, another mishap: nobody had serviced it…..unmade bed, no towels and more shadows. To say I lost it is an understatement. This was too much, I thought, and walked out all the way to the front desk and complained most forcefully. Fortunately, the personnel manning the desk acted quickly: housekeeping sent someone to make the bed, clean the bathroom and a stack of towels, soft and fluffy was delivered.IMG_3957

Refreshed and casually dressed, we walked along darken halls, listening to the break of the waves, the sing-song of birds and the quiet. We went for Italian ice-cream and checked our emails at the restaurant which did have internet service. Not wanting to go back to our rooms, we decided to have a small pizza. Outside, other guests were sitting on comfortable chairs enjoying the balmy air while zipping tropical drinks. Everything was in shadows, have no idea why this made me sad…..there were laughs and everyone was having a great time.

So it was me. Finally, and without even noticing, I realized that this island paradise will never be home gain. It is that simple. Friends that have lived there for years and moved away have told me in more than one occasion that they do not want to go back. I never understood this. Now I do, trips there should be about enjoying what is there now, never about trying to recapture the past. Letting it go as home and embracing it as a wonderful place to visit, that is what these weddings taught me, and not too soon!!!

Let’s Focus

11021409_10152735021796526_8966241876562844157_oMultitasking: it is not what we were told. Apparently, doing more than one thing at a time is not the amazing feast everyone is so proud of. There have been articles written that show: we have been confusing movement with achievement. Yes, that was it. There was a lot on our plates, but that didn’t mean we were doing any of it right.

As many women of my generation, I was always very proud of my ability to handle several situations at a time. During the years I worked, I was constantly on the go. There is no such thing as relaxation when you work and have a family. When my children were small, I drove then to all their after school activities, read a book while waiting, took side trips to the drugstore or supermarket and who remembers what else. It was the way to go, never thought much about it unless it was to realize I was exhausted at the end of the week!!! Once in a while, I mixed things up and ended forgetting something, buying something I didn’t need, had a couple of near-misses while driving and called each child by his/her sybiling’s name. Of course, I told myself, this happened to every woman I knew. Now, was that really true? or was I just kidding myself? after all, I could handle so much and solve almost anything, I had to be doing this thing right.

No, I wasn’t. If I would have stopped for a second and taken a good look at how I was running around like a chicken without a head, I would have clearly understood. What I was missing was focus. Yes, I was not focusing on any particular task, I was just running through them thinking I was so organized.

Everyone tells us that, with age, we forget, we cannot do as many things, we cannot accomplish as much in a day. Somehow, we are made to believe that we are not as sharp as we used to be. Well, that is a fallacy older women should not fall for. Unless there is something wrong with your mind, slowing down and focusing on the task at hand is the best that can happen to you.

This is finally our time, isn’t? Children are grown, we have retired or are working less, we have time to enjoy the things in life that used to fly-by in our youth. Now we can focus. We can concentrate on the task at hand and do it well, the first time. We can sit and enjoy everything around us. We can read all day, admire the sunsets, go out to lunch with our friends, take a walk on the beach picking up seaglass or shells. What a fabulous discovery!!!

You might think all this comes down to the fact that now we have more time. You may be right, but you may be wrong too. We are now able to do one thing well, while being able to see the whole picture. Like the beautiful photograph on this post. You can see the pier in between the branches, but if you step back a bit, you can see the whole beach, the sky, the ocean. That is focusing!!!

So do not feel that life has slowed down because you do not go around doing three things at a time. That has never been something good, it’s about time we understand. Life has not slowed down our abilities, we are finally doing things right. It is as it should be.

P.S. Thank you so much to Manu Bergman who allowed me to used this photo. It was taken on a most beautiful spot: Barbara Beach, Curaçao.