You Grew Up, Now What?

Butterflies. Or, gas bubbles. That is how everyone explains it. That first faint awareness of feeling your baby moving inside of you. That wonderfully delicate and precious life you co-created, is not becoming an active organism inside your very own body. It is random; almost undetectable and fleeting, at first. Once you realize what the feeling is, you spend hours on end in stillness just waiting to the chance to feel it once again. Eventually, the fluttering gives way to more forceful kicks and then it is like an army of circus elephants have taken refuge inside your womb. Regardless of the shortness of breath, the swollen ankles, and the all too often tear drawing kicks to the rib cage, you savor every single movement that beautiful infant makes. You have just entered a new and exciting, and sometimes terrifying, chapter of your life- you are now, a mother.

Your life is now forever changed, and you will never be the same. No day in your life will ever be the same, either. You feel a sense of elation. I mean, after all, babies are precious; they are adorable, and sweet, and fun. Right? Well, they are, that is, when they are not cranky, or crying for hours on end and there is nothing you can do to make them happy. They tend to get sick, too. Suddenly, horror sets in alongside elation in a perfect marriage of hot and cold emotions. You come to realize that you are now responsible for keeping this precious and innocent human life safe. It is your job to care for them when they are sick, when they get hurt- which you will try with your most valiant efforts, yet fail time and time again to prevent, and when they wake in the middle of the night from the nightmare that torment their peaceful sleep. You think about the future, it is your job to raise them to be decent and responsible adults, and when if they turn out to be less than positive and productive members of society, you feel as though you have failed at your job.

First days of school are times when we believe as moms that are the hardest. From irrational fear that your child will spill his lunch tray as the class makes the, what seems to you, far too long trek from the cafeteria back to their classroom, where they must carry their trays to eat lunch in class, rather than getting to sit in the lunchroom. You worry all day while he is at school about him spilling his lunch and then having to wear wet cloths, and will they provide him another tray? But what if his classmates laugh at him for dropping his tray? It turns out, that his first year in school was much harder for you than it was for him. While he was busy making new friends and learning new games, you were beating yourself up with fear of not being there to watch over him for every minute of the day. He was, after all, your child. Your responsibility.

After that delicate first year of school, they seem to get a little easier with time and practice. You eventually get excited for those memorable first days of a new school year and forever capture them in pictures taken of them in their new outfit with new shoes and those new backpacks. It is, as they say, a Kodak moment. However, it feels as though the school years fly by all to quickly and then one day you are staring down the fact that this new first day of school, is far different than any before it. You are now sending that precious child off to high school. And suddenly, the fears of spilling lunch trays in the hall or scraping knees on the playground or wearing we shoes all day because he cannot resist splashing in mud puddles or if he sits close enough to read the board give way to much greater fears. Now, you are faced with a whole new set of fears- what if someone tempts them with smoking, or drugs? What if he falls in with the wrong crowd and becomes defiant in class? And, what about, girls?

Ah, the teenage years. The time when you realize that up to this point, you only thought you knew what fear was. There are few fears for a mother greater than the first time she watches her child pull out of the driveway for their very first driving experience on their own. It had been somewhat fun, albeit terrifying at times, riding around with them as they learn to drive. But now the learner period is over, and they think they are ready to take the car out all by themselves. Legally, now they can do that. But you are full of fear and a sense of what ifs that you will try anything to convince them they need more time with you in the car with them. It seldom works. Incredibly, following what seems like a never ending few years, you look up one day and come to the stark realization that you have survived. You no longer have the typical drama entailing such things as who will be their good influences, who will be their bad influences, and just how much trouble can they get into. Alas, your child is now an adult.

For a solid twenty or so years your entire being has been centered around your identity a mom. The fact is, being a mom has been your sole identity. And, then one day those children grow up and become adults, and they go out and they begin lives of their own. They now possess the ability to pull from the ideas in their own minds and develop a desire to pursue their own dreams. They morph into their own identities as adults, and you do not get a choice as to where they can or cannot become adults or when that change happens. When it happens, we are not always ready for this change, and we can find ourselves in a place where we simply do not know how to not be a mom. Initially, the first reaction to this new and even more terrifying chapter in life is a gut reaction. We panic because we want to cling on to them as children because being their mom has been our entire identity for the better part of half our lives. You are terrified because you do not know  how to not be a mom and you do not know how to be anything else, so it is terrifying and it entails a deep sense of loss because it sis not as much about control and turning over control to allow them to live their own lives as it is that you can feel as though you are losing your own identity. When your identity is attached to being a mom, you do not know how to let that go easily, because you can feel that you are losing the core of who you are – you identity; your purpose in life.

While is our job, as parents, to nurture them and to protect them and to try and teach them morals and manners, it is only our jobs, for a time. One day, they will grow up, and we are expected to allow them to go out into the world and make their own dreams their own reality. They grow up, then what? That is when we trust that we did the best that we could, even though we made our share of mistakes along the way. And, we trust that we have given the world amazing people. It will be hard to remember what life was like before we were moms. Life without wiping more runny noses than our own or grocery shopping without having Capri Suns and Lunchables in our carts. Now we find ourselves in a place where we trade the Capri Suns for bottles of wine and the Lunchables for frozen bags of vegetables to steam. The house is quieter now and we get to watch programs without ducks or mice or crime fighting turtles, or catchy hero names like T-Bone and Razor. Although I am not thoroughly convinced Hallmark and Lifetime are better substitutes for cartoons. Just my humble opinion. Family game night has given way to date night and movie night for two. Road trips are now much easier, and to some degree, a little less exciting. Sometimes, we reach back into the recesses of our minds and pull out tiny fragments of ourselves before we became mothers. There was a time, when we were ourselves teenagers, when we had dreams and ideas and aspirations. Perhaps, this is the time to go back to college to finish that degree or buy that shiny sports car with only two doors. Maybe, you move down to Florida and spend a year on the Gulf of Mexico trying to rediscover yourself and what you want out of life. Perhaps, what you discover is that what you want is to be close enough to enjoy a relationship with your grandkids, and decide to move back home, after enjoying that year-long vacation on the coast. Regardless of whatever choices you make, they are now yours to make. Find a hobby, or join a new social group, or binge watch Criminal Minds on Netflix. Either way, we cannot hold on to them forever, but we do still have ourselves after they grow up. Always cherish every minute as a mom, it really is a life long commitment. However, never lose sight of your own identity and the person you were before, because, while there may be some of those crazy dreams and ideas that it may be too late for, such as being a drummer in a rock and roll band, there is still a chance to write that book.

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Captive on Captiva

I was told I must visit Captiva. By more than one person. A long time and dear friend of mine said that while I am newly located to his area, it is a must to visit Captiva and eat at the Bubble Room. And, by a less long time, and just as dear friend. I was informed that the water was so blue it would make me think that I am in Hawaii. I have never been to Hawaii. I have additionally never been to the Mediterranean or the Caribbean either. Therefore, I really have no idea what Hawaii would be like, other than seeing it in pictures. But I would like to know what it is like. The irony of my landing in southwest Florida as a place of residence is that my son and daughter in law moved here last summer. I moved here to be close to them and to be close to my beautiful granddaughters. My daughter in law’s parents moved down here as well. It was my son’s mother in law who informed me that I had to go see Captiva just as she was readying to make the move back north.  We had all migrated from small town north Georgia, and southwest Florida was a culture shock to everyone, to say the least. Three months after I moved here, they all decided their heart was in north Georgia, and there they went. My husband and I were not able to move back to Georgia, so we determined that we really wanted to see what all south Florida had to offer. And, off exploring places, we went.

In all honesty, crossing the causeway to get to Sanibel Island was hard to accomplish. Mainly, because I was driving, and it was difficult to not want to stare in awe of how incredibly gorgeous the drive was. For anyone planning to go to the island, there is a six-dollar toll. The highest toll we have found in all our travels, thus far, but worth every penny of that six dollars. Once on the island, the scenery got only more beautiful with each turn of the wheels on my Lancer. We used the GPS on my phone to meander our way through hordes of people along the island to find our intended destination- Captiva.

I had wondered, and we debated about what island life would be like. There were incredulous groups of people out, walking, riding bicycles, and such. Many of there were in groups, and we wondered if they were tourists out exploring all that Sanibel had to offer. We finally made our way to Captiva. It was utterly unreal. The homes were beyond what I had imagined finding, many of them mansion-like, rather than traditional pastel colored beach house sitting up on stilts. The vegetation, lush and deep green mixed with some of the most vibrant colored blooms, was among some of the most stunning landscapes I had ever seen. We also noticed, as we made our way along Captiva, toward the beach parking area, that all the homes had signs placed at their entrance. The signs were of various designs, but all had catchy island themed names, such as, On Island Time, Sea esta, Isle-B-Back, Aquamarine, Anchors Aweigh, and Sea Oats, to name a few. We found these catchy and personalized driveway markers to be very charming and add greatly to the appeal of the place.

We finally made out way to the beach parking at the far end of the island. However, much to our dismay, the parking lot was full. There were a limited number of parking spaces and there were already cars lined up waiting for one, and many of them turning around in line and driving away. After a considerable amount of time, we accepted the fact that we would not be able to secure one of the highly sought-after spaces, and we turned around as well. Determined not to leave Captive without seeing the incredulous blue water that had been the sole mission of our trip there, we made a point to locate alternate parking. On the way back toward Sanibel, we located a beach parking lot. As luck would have it, to our right, so I just pulled in. The lot, only containing what seemed like roughly about ten spaces as well. Although this time, there was only one car ahead of us, ironically, one of the cars that had also turned around from the previous lot. We decided to try our luck and wait it out. Luckily, it was only about a twenty minute or so wait, and then we were able to secure a parking spot for the beach. The parking fee on the island is five dollars an hour, which is a little more than what we are used to paying at Fort Myers. But, our mission for the day was to see the waters of Captiva. Being that the island was abuzz with droves of people and we had already encountered many people turning away out of frustration from not being able to get a spot to enjoy the beaches, we did not wish to rob anyone of the chance to see the beaches as well, since we figured many of them were tourists and we live close by, so we only paid for two hours of parking.

Once we had cleared the parking lot and stepped out on to that beach, it was worth every minute of the hour or so it had taken us to find a parking space. As I have said, I have never seen Hawaii, so I cannot say that Captiva looks anything like it. But I can say with absolute certainty that the waters of Captiva were the most breathtaking that I have ever seen at this point in my life. It was, in the same instance, both the most soothing and the most exciting teal blue water I could have ever imagined. In fact, it was beyond my expectations. We were in an area that was posted for no swimming due to the current. However, there were people in the water, fishing and wading, and yes, even swimming. We were not looking to disregard the signs but felt safe enough to at least wade in and get our feet wet. The floor did seem to drop off much more quickly than does the beach as Fort Myers, so we stayed right up close to the edge where the sea kissed the shore just before turning away. There was a dolphin nearby making unexpected leaps out of the water just often enough to get everyone excited and then would move to a different location and have his audience following him all around the beach area. It was truly a sight to behold. As for the beach itself, the sand was much coarser than the sugar sand of Fort Myers. Yet, it is a shell collectors dream. As far as the eye could see, there were millions of shells in varying shapes, sizes, and pigments. It was, in essence, a floor made of shells. They were beautiful. Everything we saw that day was beautiful, and we look forward to going back and spend more time getting to know the area.

However stunning, the beach and scenery are not the only things that warrant a trip to Captiva. I have also been advised by a dear friend, as well as read in a Top 5 Things to do on Captiva article that I found online, to enjoy a meal, and especially, a slice of cake at the Bubble Room. Unfortunately for us, we did not get the chance to try it out that day. But have definite plans to get back to the island soon and enjoy the highly recommended eatery. Also, after our trip there, I decided to look up some history surrounding Captiva. Often times, we learn a little bit about a place, maybe from videos or word of mouth, but then when we go, we like to experience it for ourselves as though we were opening a treasure box yet to be discovered. Then I go back and look into the history or the selling points of tourism surrounding the locale, just to see if I can discover any of those places of interest on my own without prior knowledge of them. In looking up some history of Captiva, there is lots of talk of the “folklore” surrounding a pirate, by the name of Jose Gasper, who went by the nickname of Gasparilla, who held his female prisoners on the island for ransom. Which, I had heard that story, however, I learned that the Jose Gaspar story may likely be a story fabricated for an advertising brochure. I also learned that the artists Roy Lichenstein (1923-1997) as well as Robert Rauschenber (1925-2008) were both residents of Captiva. And, that it was also the set in which the 1997 movie, G.I. Jane was filmed.

So, whether it be history, or folklore, or fine island dining, or scenery and natural wildlife, or shelling, or just to see some of the most memorable coastal waters, a trip to Captiva, Florida should be a definite on anyone’s must-do list.


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“Girl, wash your face” an Honest Review

Often times we are reminded of how much influence we allow society as a whole to have on us. I was recently reminded of that myself when I read “Girl, wash your face,” by the witty and charming Rachel Hollis. The book takes an in-depth look at how we can buy into the lies that society spoon feeds us and how we can, in turn, begin to feed those same lies to ourselves. She tackles many commonplace misconceptions about oneself, such as, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not a good mom,” “I’ll start tomorrow,” “I am defined by my weight,” and a whole smorgasbord of self-defeating inaccuracies that can limit ourselves to step out of our proverbial comfort zones and realize our true potential.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading her book, but in all sincerest honesty, Rachel made me acknowledge some hard truths about myself. While, most of my later adult life, I have been a self-proclaimed “independent woman” who had my shit together, the reality is that I have been independent because life had thrust me into circumstances, not of my own choosing, that warranted my self-independence, however begrudgingly. No matter how much we think we have ourselves together, there will always be those things that society sells that we are buying up like they are bargain deals at a going out of business sale at our favorite boutique. I for one, have come to accept that I have bought into so many of the lies that society, family, and even friends have been dishing out to me. Many of those lies, I have held on to and hid behind as though there was a sense of comfort in attaching myself to them, like a tub of death by chocolate ice cream after a stormy break up.
There is something about the way that Rachel engages her readers with her own life experiences and stories that lends an air of realism to her, and allows the reader to relate to her words and gain a sense of trust in her, as though she gets us, because she has gone through so many of the same things. While Rachel’s stories may not be exactly the same stories, verbatim, as the ones that I or anyone else who reads the book owns, Rachel allows her one personal accounts with the lies that society places upon us to in some way, come across as a comforting chat with a dear friend, or sound advice from a trusted therapist.
She speaks volumes of truth in her book in how she implores her reader to peel back the layers upon layers of untruth and tragic bullshit that society has heaped upon us for years and years, and realize the true and real value that we all possess. I would highly recommend anyone to read “Girl, wash your face.” But I would really encourage anyone reading the book to take the time to really dig deep in to the pages, and the words that Rachel is expressing to each and every one of her readers. Take her stories and let them seep in deeply into your mind and your soul. The advice she provides at the end of each chapter, noted as: “Things that helped me” are there as stepping stones, not meant to be disregarded or taken lightly. She has, as the reader will learn, overcome overwhelming odds to become the dynamo that she is today. And, people do not get that far in life without learning a few lessons along the way. When such people offer to share those learned lessons in an effort to prevent others from giving into the lies or to aid them in seeing past the lies dished out daily by the world around us, we listen. We learn. We adapt. We wash our faces, and we show the world just who we are!

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Comfort Foods and New Traditions

Over time, many families develop favorite recipes that are handed down from generation to generation. Those recipes become the tried and true go to dishes that moms, daughters, or aunts always know they can throw together for any social gathering and, in a pinch, present a delicious and filling dish that will win over the hearts of even the most finicky eaters. There is such a dish in my family, not handed down from generations, or found as some otherwise undiscovered page in a recipe book. But this dish has become an absolute favorite for my family, and my own daughter and son have adopted the recipe and now, as adult children, are able to make this dish for themselves without any hesitation. This dish is sure to be a hit with your own family. No matter if you are entertaining friends over for the big game, providing for the company luncheon, taking a dish to the church pot luck, or making a filling appetizer for a family holiday get together, this hearty cheese dip will be sure to please everyone. Utilizing only one pot, this recipe is easy, simple, and sure to become one of your favorite go to dishes.
The first thing you will need to do is assemble your ingredients. There are relatively few ingredients in this dish, but they make a big impact with the result. For this dip, you will need one pound of ground beef, one pound of ground sausage – I usually just get the Tennessee Pride or Jimmy Dean mild, but have used other brands and really do not notice any difference regardless of the brand of sausage used,- one can of Ro-Tel tomatoes with chilis, one can each of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup – in regards to the soup, I have substituted the Campbell’s brand for Walmart and Kroger brands, and I can tell a little difference in that the Campbell’s soup does seem to be more creamy than the store brands,- and you will need one two-pound block of processed cheese for melting. The recipe calls for the Velveeta brand, but given the price difference, I always substitute this for the store brand, and have never noticed a marked difference in the cheese.
Then, you will begin by browning the ground beef and sausage in a large pot. Cook them until no longer pink, and then drain. Add in the cans of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup and the can of Ro-Tel tomatoes. Mix the ingredients together until well blended. Then you can cut the cheese into cubes and begin adding to the mixture. You will want to add a little at a time, and stir continually until the cheese begins to melt. Once you have added all of the cheese to the mixture, you will want to stay close by because this dip is very creamy and cheesy and will stick to the bottom of the pan and scorch very easily. Once the dip is well blended, however, it is an easy to keep dish, by simply turning the stove eye on low and keep it stirred every so often. It also re-heats well in the microwave in just a few seconds, I usually warm in 30 second increments.
Finally, once the cheese has been completely melted and the dip is well blended, you will want to serve up warm with tortilla chips. However, over the many times I have prepared this dish for my family, they have discovered their own ways of wanting to serve the dip up for themselves. Some like to spoon it onto a flour tortilla and roll it up to eat it like a burrito. While others have found that poured over crumbled cornbread into a bowl is a choice way to eat it.
This recipe was taught to me many years ago by a paramedic that I worked with during my time working as and EMT for the county I lived in. It was always a huge hit with the firefighters and other EMTs and Paramedics in our department. When I first began trying the dish at home for my own family, there was no doubt this was going to be a long time traditional favorite food for us for many years to come. No matter what creative ways you or your family and friends decide to enjoy this hearty cheese dip, it will definitely be a fan favorite for any occasion.

The recipe:
1 (16 oz package) ground sausage
1 (lb) ground beef
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes with chilis
1 (2 LB)package of processed cheese product (like Velveeta)

Brown ground beef and sausage in a large pot, drain. Add cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, and Ro-tel tomatoes. Blend well. Cut cheese product into cubes and slowly add to mixture until thoroughly melted. Serve warm with tortilla chips.
This recipe can also be placed in a crock pot- once beef and sausage are browned, place all ingredients into crock pot and cook on low for two hours to melt cheese. Place crock pot on keep warm setting, and stir occasionally.

A Look Back at the Future

Often, we find ourselves looking out into the horizon and for the life of us, we have no idea how to get there, or how we even got to where we are at this point in life. The new year is always a time of reflection for many people; a time to reflect on the year that has come to an end, and what it brought us, and a time to reflect on the year ahead of us, and the promise of opportunity that it lays out before us.
All too often, when people look back over the year that has come to an end, they are filled with regret. Regret over a broken relationship, perhaps they did not make that job change they had been contemplating for some time, or maybe, just regret over doing absolutely nothing throughout the year that brought about a sense of fulfilment to their soul. A true sense of peace and happiness from within generally originates from personal growth, and most people rarely step out of their all too familiar comfort zone to reach the level of uncomfortable that is required of growth.
Sometimes, looking at the year ahead can be a damn scary thing for many people. Maybe their job has changed; maybe their family dynamic has changed because some family members have moved out or moved away; perhaps, they are the ones that have moved to start a new life in a new town, or even a new state, and they see themselves, for the first time, surrounded by total strangers instead of family and friends. Fear can be a very overshadowing emotion that can obscure the view of the future.
Some people are fortunate in that they do not look to the past year, nor the upcoming year with any regret or fear or dread. They view the changes that have taken place in their lives during the past year and the changes that they will face in the new year as opportunities to learn, not just about new places or the world, but learn about themselves. When we have been surrounded by family and friends for our entire lives, we develop a level of comfort in that, and in knowing that while family and friends will not always see eye to eye with them, they will always love them and be there no matter what. People fear less failing when they know they have loving and supportive people there to help pick them back up afterwards.
To face a new year that is already latent with big life changes, provides one with a chance to see how strong they can truly be. If failure comes, there is no loving family or supportive friends to comfort you. Likewise, if great successes arise from the changes that have transpired, those same family and friends will not be there to provide hearty congratulations or help celebrate the joyous occasions.
Regardless, as the very cheesy and cliché saying goes, the new near brings with it three hundred and sixty-five new opportunities; three hundred and sixty-five blank pages on which you have the chance to author your own story, make it a good one. As a matter of fact, I believe that is the best way to look at the upcoming year. There will be good days and there will be bad days; days that come easy and days that will present a variety of challenges to get through. But days that have no concrete story line to follow as of yet, and days that can be faced with determination and anticipation. After all, we learn the most and obtain the greatest amount of grown through the bad days and the challenging days. Those days will only make the good days sweeter.
So, as you stand on the threshold of a new year, take the regret of the past year, and put it away, we cannot do anything to change what has already been done. Rather, look forward, knowing that all days will not be easy or fun, but you have the opportunity and the power within you to make them as good as you can make them for yourself. Every year, the flowers die out from the harsh conditions of the winter, yet, every spring, through thawed ground, they inch their way back to life, and put on a glorious showing for the springtime. See yourself as a flower in the spring at the beginning of the year. Inch your way back to life and put on a glorious show!
Yes, good days will come and go. But after all, “it can’t rain all the time.” (Eric Draven- The Crow)

Peach Among the Palms

It is a sunny, brisk Christmas morning as I sit here alone by the pool. There seems to be no other living creatures stirring about, well, other than the half a dozen or so birds flocking around the area. They tend to stay close to the pond, which is located about ten to fifteen feet from the pool area. On the occasion, I hear a random car passing by on the highway, and there has been a plane or two passes overhead, as they shuttle friends, family, and associates to and fro. But mainly the only sound I hear is the fountains in the pond. The sound of water is quite relaxing, and blended with the sounds of the birds, make for a great soundtrack for a little self-reflection.
For quite a few years now, I have talked of little else than the notion of one day throwing caution to the wind, taking off, and moving to the Gulf of Mexico. And, on this peaceful Christmas morn, here I am. The pool and the pond are actually part of the amenities at my apartment complex. It is truly a lovely place. The landscaping alone at my complex gives the feel of being off on some tropical getaway. One of the selling points the complex uses in their website advertising is “resort style pool” and it truly is. Sitting here, one can easily feel as though they have slipped away from reality on some amazing tropical adventure in peace and tranquility.
However, the irony of it all is that in realizing my ultimate dream of living in the Gulf of Mexico, is the reality of being here without my family. And, that has proved to be a fairly hard pill to swallow. When we first moved here, to this specific dot on the map, it was because my son had chosen to move his family here. I had long planned to move to the gulf area, but perhaps, not quite this far south into the sunshine state. Sadly, life in the sunshine state has not rendered itself quite so full of sunshine for my son and daughter in law, and they have made the decision to move back to Georgia. I will miss them and the girls terribly, as I already do miss my daughter and mother and brother. Circumstances has placed me in a position whereby even if moving back was something that I wanted, it would not be in the cards, at least for this moment in time. As much as I wish I could hold all of my family here, perhaps hostage, and keep them with me for as long as I am here, I understand that they are all adults with their own rights to their own choices.
Initially, I was deeply saddened at the thought of being here with no family or friends, and utterly heartbroken over the idea of not being able to spend time with my granddaughters, or to have the chance to develop a relationship with my grandson, who will be born in a few months. But I am slowly coming to terms with the reality of how things are going to be. There is always FaceTime and a flight is only about one to two hours away. While driving is also an option, it is a ten-hour drive, and not highly adored.
I have been trying to come up with ideas and things to do to better blend into the culture down here that is so different from my little dot on the map in Northwest Georgia. It is not always easy to fit in to a new place. And it does not make things any better when you leave a small town and move to an actual city, there are far more people and less likelihood of seeing any one person enough times to form a friendship. I have investigated things like joining a book club, transferring my volunteering with the Red Cross, and even joined a local rock group- a group who paints rocks and places them in random areas about town, as little hidden treasures for someone to discover. At this time, I have not got around to getting any rocks to paint myself to hide about town. Henry and I have gotten out a time or two to attend local events, such as the lighting of the tree downtown, the local art walk down the river district, and the Christmas boat parade. On each of those events, we discovered new things that we plan to go back and visit again, places to go shop at, local eateries that we wish to try out, and have even made random conversations with people who make Florida seem not so bad.
I believe, for me, the simplistic customs and laid-back lifestyle in little town north Georgia is so different than here, there was an initial culture shock. Back home, you shop in the same stores, and you, over time, get to know the employees, and they in turn recognize you. In many places, the slogan is “we treat you like family” and that bears truth for most of them. You learn all the short cuts and back roads to avoid the main roadways that may be congested at various times. Neighbors get out in the evenings and walk around the neighborhood, and always take the time to stop and hold a conversation with you if they catch you outside. Many of those neighbors even take the time to make treat bags full of home-made goodies to personally deliver to their neighbors during the holidays. Where I come from, family is first, and traditions mean something.
Here, things seem to be much different. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that this is a city, and much larger than any town I have ever lived in. However, I believe a lot of it has to do with the people here. Apparently, this is an area that is common place for retirees and “snowbirds” (a term used for people who migrate south to live for the winter to escape the bitter conditions from the norther towns they normally reside. I think, in many ways, the blending of so many people from various other states and towns, lends itself to the fact that there are few people who are actually natives of this area, and with many of them only residing here a few months of the year, and many more, much like me, just newly moved to this area, we are now a city made up of strangers.
I plan to continue to research groups or activities to get involved in. I have a whole new appreciation and respect for the proverbial “new kid” in school. It is not that easy to blend in and make new friends in a place that is so unfamiliar to you, and where the people are not as warm and welcoming as you would hope they would be. But, for today, Henry and I are going to embark on new traditions. We will go and spend time with Ryan and the girls, it is Christmas, after all, and we will exchange gifts and food with them. But, afterwards, we will do something that neither of us have ever had an opportunity to do in our lifetimes, we are going to the beach to spend some of our Christmas day, just taking in the reality of our new life, here in the Gulf of Mexico. Then, we have decided, to try something completely new. A Christmas Story is one of our all-time favorite holiday movies to watch, and we have decided to start a tradition in honor of that movie. We are going to find a local Chinese restaurant open and have our Christmas dinner there.
So, as we prepare to end this year and look on toward the next, some traditions will end for us, as life has a way of changing, and so with it, people and circumstances change as well. Being separated from family will force some changes in our holiday plans and traditions. Being in a place where we do not have friends to make plans with, will surely change many more. But we will look at this as a time for growth, opportunity, and chances to make new traditions, to try new things, and to experience a life, well lived.

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