The College Transition

Loaded Truck Dee On Back of Loaded Truck Dee Wallking in with Box Dee Opening Dorm Door First Time Dee Room Before Decorating Dee on Bed in Dorm Dee FAU Sign Nell & Dee Hug GoodbyeDee and Roomates

Our tribe of four is now officially down to three. My daughter moved out of our house for the first time a couple of weeks ago to venture into her college career.  The only way to describe this major life event is bittersweet. On the one hand, I am exceedingly excited for her as the opportunity ahead is an amazing one that she will, no doubt, run with and make great things happen.  She was one of only 100 students accepted into the direct admit nursing program as a freshman.  This makes me one happy and proud mama.  On the other hand, I am sad and lost.  After moving her into the dorm, the first steps back into our home with her bedroom empty was difficult to say the least.  The emotions I experienced were far harder than I had mentally prepared myself for.  Not only is this special girl my daughter, she is my best friend. There was an aching emptiness inside that I wasn’t quite prepared for.  It has been two weeks and most days I’m ok.  There are hard days where I find myself upset and in tears.  I’ve been told by other mothers that have paved this path that it does get easier as time passes.

Overall, our college girl is doing great, adjusting to college life with classes underway.  Life change can be difficult but usually those difficult ones are the most rewarding.  Off to new adventures.

Nostalgia and Change

Steve and Baby Dee Nell and Baby Dee Dee & Steve College Apartment  Dee with Sunglasses Bald Baby DeeLittle Dee

 

In two days we will be moving this sweet little girl into her dorm room.  It is crazy how fast time has flown.  I found myself in a recent conversation with someone who didn’t understand why I was “struggling” with my age and my daughter moving out.  As I was explaining myself, the reality hit me straight in the face.  Does that ever happen to you?  (it seems to happen to me a lot) Anyway, it isn’t that I am necessarily upset about turning 40 (ok, sometimes maybe a little); it’s not so much about the number.  It’s really all about how I got here.  My husband and I got married, had babies, did college and got real jobs almost all simultaneously.  Life moved fast.  In the midst of all this activity, time flew.  I found myself “waking up” at 39 thinking, “hang on. stop. what just happened?” It’s like someone snapped their fingers and I went from being 25 to peering over the edge into 40. It’s not so much about the number 40 or my daughter moving out as it is about simply not believing that I am here in this place at this time.  It’s almost like I’ve watched a movie of my life and the last 15 years were summed up in 2 hours.  It’s surreal I guess. I sit here with the realization of turning 40 and my baby girl moving out of my house for the first time to start her college life and think, “wow!” This is so surreal.

On the flip side, I am beyond excited for her and proud of her.  I know she is going to do amazing things at college, make the best of friends and have the time of her life.  So, of course, to celebrate and reminisce, I had to pull out a few old pics from when she was little.  I’m so proud of you, Dee!  You make me one proud mama!

Reflection

Reflection

I apologize in advance for this deep post as well as for not posting here in a while.  What is reflected (no pun intended) below is the reason behind the lack of activity here on my blog.

As I lay here, I look over at the clock and its 1 am. This is quite unusual for me. See, I am never one to have trouble sleeping. This year has been different. 2015 was expected to be a monumental year for me without my moms tragic accident and without losing my precious grandmother. As we creep into the eighth month of the year, I am tired. I am worn out. I am stressed. I feel my body breaking down. I feel like I’m getting sick. And the big stuff this month hasn’t yet begun. Four days from now, I help my daughter move out of my house for the very first time and into a new college life. My son transitions in two weeks into to a brand new high school. Later this month, I launch the largest work project of my entire life (three years in the making) and definitely the largest project my company has ever seen. I am losing my boss and mentor at the end of this month which means a transition to a new boss. I am tired and there is more to come. I have worked tirelessly this year to balance my life but seem to fall short nearly every time.  All I can say is that God must be doing something pretty darn big, but I don’t know what exactly.  What I do know is that this year has been a character building year for me. Other than that, I have no idea what the future holds.  All I do know is that some things have to change.  The burdens must become lighter as I move toward the end of this year and into next.  My goal at this point is to hang in and hang on to see what God has in store.

Costa Rica Day 4 :: Explore

Big Wave Dee Crashed on Beach Dee Gazing on Rocks Dee in the Sunset Dee Running up from Beach Dee with Hands up Epic Sunset Nell in Cave Nell Jump Nell on Rock Nell under Short Palm Nell Victory on Rocks Steve and Trey Out in Water Steve Catching Wave Steve Running into Ocean Steve throwing Dee in Water Trey Catching a Wave Wave in SunsetSteve Gazing at Ocean from Patio

Well if you made it this far, then you managed to look through the ridiculous number of photos I posted.  The good thing (for memory purposes) is that I literally took 2,000 photos on our Costa Rica trip  The bad thing is that I took 2,000 photos on our Costa Rica trip and have to go through each and every one of them.  Honestly, there are just so many good pics from this trip that it takes me at least two to three passes through the photos to decided what to post.

Well, anyway, here you are.  This is day 4 of our Costa Rica adventure.  We rented a house in the Punta Leona gated resort with no rental car.  This wasn’t really an issue since the resort had two amazing beaches, 800 acres of rainforest, restaurants, stores, etc.  But, hey, we figured we should head off the grounds to explore a local town at the very least.  We chose to get a taxi and head to Jaco (pronounced Ha-co).  While the town was a great place to shop for souvenirs and eat a nice authentic Costa Rican meal, there wasn’t much else to rave about.  To be honest, we were pretty disappointed.  But that was ok because we were able to not only begin the day with a quick exploration of the caves at low tide, but also catch probably the best sunset I’ve ever seen while body surfing 5-6 foot waves.

Costa Rica, you never disappoint.  What a great way to end the day watching the sky being painted with the prettiest of colors while having a blast in the beautiful ocean.  Perfection.

Costa Rica Day 3 :: Rainforest Adventures

Nell Zip Lining Upside DownDee Canyoning 2 Dee Zip Line Small on Big Mtn Dee Zip Lining Upside Down Handleys in Zip Line Gear Monkey Middle of Palm
Dart FrogMonkey on a Palm Nell and Dee Riding Horses Rainforest Nell and Dee Riding in the Rainforest Nell Canyoning 2 Nell Canyoning Bottom View Nell Canyoning Nell on Horse Drinking  Steve and Trey ATV Top of Mtn Steve and Trey Top of Mountain Steve ATV Face Steve Nell Dee Waiting to Zip Line Steve Upside Down Zip Lining Steve Zip Lining Trey Canyoning Trey Zip Lining Upside DownNell Looking Over Balcony

 

Everyday in Costa Rica was amazing but day three may have been just a tad better than the rest.

We were told by many as well as read online that you will most definitely see wild monkeys in your backyard.  Up to this point, we had seen parrots and exotic birds but no monkeys.  I will honestly say that I was getting quite disappointed.  On day three, this all changed.  Steve was out on the patio just looking out at the ocean.  The kids and I were inside getting ready for the day.  Steve storms into the house yelling, “Nell, monkey’s!  Nell, monkey’s!  Nell, monkey’s!”  We all raced out to the patio and he was not joking. There were about 30 adorable little white face monkey’s migrating through our backyard.  There was the alpha male in the far left palm tree calling out to the others. There were even a few mama and baby monkey’s.  I probably took 50 pictures but only posted two here.  It was amazing to see.  They were everywhere and just so dang cute!

After watching the monkey’s in amazement we went out on our big rainforest adventure.  One of the coolest things about this trip is the timing.  We timed it perfectly and totally by accident.  Apparently, we were in Costa Rica during the rainy season and during the lowest season.  It was perfect!  The reason why?  Well, one reason is that we went to the 850 acre rain forest adventure park (Ocean Ranch Park) and we were literally the only people there.  How crazy is that?  We ended up getting a private tour with two guides and had the entire rainforest park to ourselves.  Dee and I rode horses to start while the boys rode ATV’s.  We all did waterfall canyoning which is much tougher than it looks by the way, but a ton of fun. Then it was off to zip lining.  Honestly, we added the zip lining on after the fact as we didn’t initially set out to zip line since we had done it before when we went to Mexico.  Man, we were so glad we did. We thought the waterfall canyoning would be the coolest part, but we were wrong.  The zip lining was totally the best.  I really believe it was because we were the only people there and instead of doing just 2 or 3 zip lines, we got to do all 10 with the last one being a half mile long and well above all the rainforest trees.  Also, I am totally convinced that you can live forever if you are stuck in the rainforest.  Every remedy you could ever need resides in this beautiful place.  There was everything from a Bengay plant (it literally smelled like Bengay when you broke the branch), war paint leaves, dart frogs (poisonous frogs used by warriors to rub their poison on their darts) and cancer treatment roots.  I was blown away.

What a spectacular day!  Of course, everyday ended with us peering off the patio overlooking the ocean.  There was nothing more relaxing and peaceful than just sitting there watching the sun set and listen to the waves crash.  Pura Vida!

Celebrations All Around

Angels Trumpet Danica with Tongue Out Earl and JoAnna with Kona Kona and Earl on Float Mom and Earl Sweet Moment mom smelling the flower Nana and Papa Throwing Frisbee Steve Waving papa in the pool full Papa Grilling Nell Jumping in Pool Nell Flower Crown Nell and Mom Flower Crowns

America’s birthday is certainly a reason to pull the family together and celebrate but for us, even more important than that is my dad’s birthday.  Well, technically his birthday falls on July 5th, but we celebrated on the 4th to enjoy the fireworks as well.  We celebrated by having a pool party and grilling out for lunch and dinner; ribs, chicken, fish and duck. Of course, as always with our family, there was a ridiculous amount of food with dad cooking every last bit. He is the grill master.

I haven’t mentioned my mom’s progress here in a while, but man, is she doing well.  She hit the 6 month mark and something just clicked; her short term memory is much better, she’s more alert, more aware and is just simply more like Brenda (mom and nana). So, at the celebration, she did really well the entire day. She even got in a swimsuit and dipped a little in the pool, which was a first since the car accident. At the end of the evening there were fireworks going off all around the house, so we went out back by the pool to watch.  I stood there arm in arm between my sweet mother and my amazing daughter; three generations looking up at the sky watching the magical fireworks all around.  It couldn’t have ended any better.

Happy 59 to my dad!  You are the superhero of this crazy story.  I’m so grateful and blessed to have such an amazing father and so very glad that you had a good day.  You deserve this times a million.  I love you to the moon and back!

Costa Rica Day 2 :: Explore

Dee and Trey in water Dee and Trey on Rocks Dee and Trey over Pennisula Dee Big Palm Playa Blanca Dee Floating in Water Dee in water Playa Blanca Dee Ohm Underwater Dee Running Road in Rainforest Dee Running Up from Water Family on golf cart Famous Palm Nell & Dee in Water Playa Blanca Nell and Dee over Pennisula Nell and Steve on Rocks Nell Flying from Beach Nell Hanging on Palm Nell on Road Rainforest  Nell Walking down Playa Blanca Over Pennisula Palm Shadow Playa Blanca Rock on Beach Up Close Steve in water Playa Blanca Steve on Playa Blanca Steve Walking Away Playa Blanca Steve waving from House Patio Sunrise over Mountain Sunset Day 2 Trey in Rainforest Trey in Water with Mask Trey on Rocks Trey on Steves Shoulders Trey Walking behind Playa Blanca Trey walking Playa Blanca Tropical Bird on Beach

Day two was spent exploring. And man, we had no idea just how much there was to see.  We rented a house but the house was on the grounds of an 800 acre gated rainforest resort (Punta Leona).  Our adventures included checking out two beaches; Playa Mantas and Playa Blanca, rainforest trails, golf cart trails, multiple swimming pools, local snacks, etc.  Everything was incredibly lush  and tropical.  The beaches were amazing especially Playa Blanca. It was perfect-o. Playa Blanca was separated by a rock structure in the middle where one side was flat for snorkeling and the other side had surfable waves.  The sand was pure white and there was a snack bar with delicious piña coladas. It really doesn’t get any better than this!

Costa Rica Day 1 :: First Impressions

Alligators SizedView from Patio No Rail Steve and Trey Beach Day One River View Pennisula Day One Nell and Dee Hug Beach Day One Nell and Dee Beach Day one

The ride from the main airport (San Jose) in Costa Rica is far from either coastline.  This was just fine for us as we booked a private driver to take us from the airport to our rental house on the central Pacific coast.  The lengthy drive of two hours allowed us the opportunity to take in the countryside, stop at the river to see the dinosaur sized alligators, visit delicious fruit stands and stop at the grocery in the afternoon rain storm.

Once we got to the resort, we were wowed with beauty.  It was a tropical oasis like I had never seen before and that says a lot as I live in tropical south Florida and have been to Hawaii twice.  Lush doesn’t even describe the views.  The view from the house that we rented certainly didn’t disappoint.  The view in reality far exceeded the pictures.  As I looked at the view of the Pacific Ocean from our patio for the very first time all I could think was, man this looks so much like Hanalei Bay in Kauai; horseshoe bay on the Pacific Ocean. I couldn’t take my eyes off this beautiful view.

As I mentioned from my previous post (Costa Rica Day Pic of the Day 1), there were several things learned from our first day.

  1. The grocery stores are intimidating.  Literally everything is in Spanish and we are most definitely a no hablo español family.  It took me a good 10 minutes to find the salt in the spice isle.
  2. The bugs are ginormous! You can see the segments of an ant in great detail from a standing position.
  3. The sun starts to rise at 4:45 am.  The sun glaring in your window by 5 am means that you get up really early.  I am most definitely a morning person so this made me a happy girl.
  4. The sun sets at 6 pm. Love this!  It means that we can go to bed early (by 8:30pm).  Woo hoo!
  5. Falling asleep to the crashing waves and sounds of the rainforest makes for the best sleep of all time.  Listen at the link below.  There is nothing more peaceful to fall asleep to than this.

https://soundcloud.com/nell-handley/costa-rica-rainforest

6 Months

mom smelling roses

6 months. It has been 6 months since our lives were turned upside down and inside out. It has been 6 months since I received the worst and most shocking call of my life and witnessed a moment in time that I hope no one will ever have to experience.

Today marks the 6 month point since my moms tragic car accident. It was a moment in our lives that we will never forget. As I look back on that time, especially the first two weeks, I remember mourning my mother’s death at least 15 times. Yes, I actually mourned her death, not just once but 15 times. Can you imagine? It was a yo-yo experience where we toggled between hope and hopelessness; between thinking she may make it and thinking we would lose her forever. I can’t describe in words what this emotional state truly felt like. It was the worst feeling that I had ever experienced in my entire life.  No one has a picture of what mom looked like when Earl, dad and I walked into that hospital room for the first time on Friday, December 19, 2014. No one but the three of us saw her early on. I’ll be perfectly honest.  It was simply too difficult to see. I will say this though. There are actually three pictures of what those early days looked like; not physical pictures but one picture etched into each of our brains (Earl, dad and me). It is a picture that is as real as any picture you can hold in your hand. I can tell you that this picture is with me all the time no matter where I go. I close my eyes and there it is. But the amazing miracle is that now I can open my eyes and see my sweet and beautiful mama standing right in front of me.

As I sit on this side of that 6 month point, I am in awe, completely wowed and forever grateful. This has been the hardest 6 months of our lives especially dad’s, but by God’s grace, His miraculous works and one answered prayer after another, we are on the road to recovery. Mom has gone through nearly 10 surgeries, 3 months of hospitalization, 6 rooms changes, 1 TB scare, 1 move home, 50 days of rehab (and counting), at least 30 doctor visits, lots of family and friend visits, many miracles and lots of love. As incredibly difficult as this has been, we have seen many blessings. Our family is closer than ever before and we’ve seen God work like never before. For the first time, we have a whole new (and correct) perspective on life. I truly believe that God is far from finished with mom (and dad for that matter). Look how far she’s come in 6 months! She truly is a living miracle! I cannot wait to see what the next 6 months will bring. There are big plans in store and feel incredibly blessed to be a small part of this bigger plan and even bigger story.

(This picture (taken earlier this week) depicts perfectly one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned the last 6 months.  Take one day at at time. Live in the moment. Enjoy the moment. It’s all we are guaranteed. As mom shows it best, take time to stop and smell the roses.) Also, I have learned that my dad is a superhero! I don’t know where we would be without this amazing man.

P.S. A special thank you to those of you who have stuck by us through this journey in love, support and prayer.  We wouldn’t be where we are today without you.  We love each of you!

Costa Rica Pic of the Day 6

Costa Rica Big Wave

Day six; the last full day in Costa Rica.  What a fantastic adventure!  Life certainly has many ups and downs.  I’m so glad I get to experience all of them with this guy by my side.  Costa Rica, you were certainly one of the ups in our life.  Can’t wait to go back and explore more of this beautiful country.  Pura Vida!