An Engagement, a Prom and a Birthday

  

I have learned that it is much more difficult to parent older children, especially adult children, more so than smaller ones. I’m not downplaying the difficulty of raising little ones. Raising little ones is more of a physical drain whereas raising older ones is an emotional one.  Yet, all of is more gratifying than most anything else you’ll experience in life.

I remember those days when my kiddos were little and learning to ride a bike. It was hard in its own way but mama had control of it all. When your kids are older, you must parent with little to no control over their lives. Letting go is hard.

Within one week, my oldest got engaged, my youngest went to his first prom and he also turned 17.  It feels very surreal; like being in some sort of time warp or maybe an out of body experience.  At times I feel like I’m hovering above my life looking down and not really even recognizing it.  It seems like everything is changing all at once but I guess that how life goes, right?  “Children grow old and then they leave.” -Parker Millsap, Homeless.  Just sitting over here trying to adjust.

More Than Magical

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to ride in a parade through the streets of Magic Kingdom with 100,000 people watching you and waving to you? Apparently this a thing that can actually happen to an average person.

My family had just walked into Magic Kingdom and of course had to do the stereotypical picture in front of Cinderella’s Castle. As we were trying to figure out how to get a picture with everyone in it, two Disney cast members approached us and offered to take the picture for us. Of course we accepted. Little did we know that those two people would totally change our day and our Disney experience forever. After lots of dialogue and questions back and forth with the two cast members, they proceeded to ask us if we would like to be the honorary Grand Marshals of the Festival of Fantasy parade. The first picture above shows our reaction when we were first asked. Unbeknownst to us, they had a photographer capturing the entire moment.

I’ll be honest, I really had no idea what being a grand Marshall of the Festival of Fantasy parade in Magic Kingdom truly meant. It was a much bigger deal than I had expected.

We all met back at the predetermined location later that afternoon. Those same two cast members were there ready and waiting for us. The first thing they did was gave Mickey ears with “Grand Marshals” embroidered on the back. The photographers were there as well. We were quickly told what would happen but I still had no idea what this was experience would be like for us . The entire moment was surreal. We were ushered back into a cast members only area. We loaded into this beautiful car and were told to smile and wave the entire time. As the main cast member instructed, if our mouths and arms don’t hurt by the end, then we didn’t do it right. The gates opened and we were on our way.

Next was the surreal part. The entire streets of Magic Kingdom were roped off. There were nearly 100,000 people lining the streets. We were well ahead of the parade and the only thing on the road. The entire crowd began waving and smiling at us. At this moment over the entire loudspeaker of the park, our family name was announced; “our honorary grand marshals of the Festival of Fantasy parade is the Handley family from South Florida”. They proceeded to make this announcement multiple times through the entire route. As I am smiling and waving to the crowd, I felt like I was in a dream. Everyone was looking at us.  Everyone was waving at us. It was probably one of, if not the coolest thing that has ever happened to me and my family. We ended the route but it was not over.

The cast members had roped off a special location for our family to watch the parade. They were literally kicking people out of our area as it was specially roped off just for us. The amazing and cool thing is that not only did we had a photographer shooting the entire moment, but everyone in the parade, all the characters; Belle, the Seven Dwarfs, Mickey, Minnie, etc. were all paying attention to us; waving to us and talking to us. I’m pretty sure this is exactly what it feels like to be a celebrity. The parade ended, but there was still one last thing.

Our paparazzi photographer (as they called it) took us to Main Street in front of Cinderella’s castle. From there she took a ton of awesome photos of our entire family. This moment was bigger and better than I had ever imagined or expected. This moment in our lives and our Disney experience, was more than magical.

Happy Trails

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I love adventure, exercise and nature.  So, I’m not quite sure why I was so surprised that I not only liked trail riding, I LOVED it! It combines almost everything I love into one activity. If you throw in a sunset, that just puts it right over the edge. The trails I’ve been riding are on the edge of the Florida Everglades so the sunsets area phenomenal.

As promised in my post about paddleboarding again (view here), I gave trail riding a try and I must say, it is quickly becoming a regular outing for me. As for rock climbing, I tried a local indoor gym and loved it.  However, it will be a bit difficult to do on a regular basis as you need a partner to belay you. The only active person I know that is interested in rock climbing is my 16 year old son.  Between school, football training, track training, track meets and theater/play practice, I doubt we will fit much climbing in (at least for now).  I am going to try an outdoor rock climbing option at my daughters college and do a climb with her. We’ll see how it goes.  More to come.

I must say, I love using nature as my gym.  When I’m exercising outside, I feel invigorated and elated; I feel alive!

Forty One

sup-beach-view nell-hat-on-beach rock-climbing sup-selfie nell-and-kiddos 41 single-wave abc-breakfast sup bike-ride

So, this is 41. Supposedly once you’re over 40, then you’re considered “over the hill”, right? Well maybe, maybe not. In my 20’s I did consider the 40’s as being “over the hill” and I had a picture in my head of what that would look and feel like. This is not at all what I expected. Man, am I glad.  I choose to make the most of every day.  I choose to do the things that make me feel alive. So, here’s to the 40’s. Bring it on!

*A special thanks to my three favorite people; Steve, Danica and Trey.  Steve made me feel special and let me do anything I wanted all weekend while he did my chores for me.  Trey went rock climbing with me and we had the best time.  Danica gave me the best present by coming home for the weekend to hang out with me.  To each of you… thank you for being you and thank you for being amazing.  You made me feel so very special. 

 

Denver for Two

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The hubs and I went on a very quick getaway to Denver to see our favorite singer live.  We have been dying to see Amanda Shires for years but she never seems comes to our state.  However, she does go to places like Denver, CO.  Since we had just celebrated our 20 year wedding anniversary, we figured, why the heck not.  Let’s go to Denver!  It was the perfect excuse.  So, we booked our little 2 1/2 day getaway to Denver to see Amanda at Opelia’s Electric Soapbox (amazing little venue) and to do a bit of sightseeing (my fave).  Unfortunately, I had altitude sickness the entire trip but was determined to push through.  It was by far the most fun I have ever had all while feeling dizzy and nauseous.

Win and Relaxation

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The place we stayed in the keys was absolutely perfect.  It was located directly on the Gulf and lined with palm trees and hammocks; the perfect location for doing absolutely nothing; exactly what this family needed.  The sunsets never cease to amaze me.  I stand there in awe every time taking a ridiculous number of pictures as the colors evolve every few seconds.  I don’t think I will ever get tired of watching them.

The real reason we went to the keys was for our annual showdown with Key West High School.  This year was a bit different than last.  This year we won (yay!), but unfortunately my son got a fever just an hour before the game started.  The win was great, but a bit bittersweet night for us since he was feeling so bad.  We spent the weekend in the keys relaxing with family as planned.  As soon as we got home on Sunday, I took him to the urgent care and sure enough he had bronchitis.  They gave us an antibiotic and we are hoping for a quick recovery.

All is well that ends well.

Twenty Years

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It is truly amazing how quickly twenty years of marriage has flown by.  The first decade was spent having and raising young children and seemed to go by at somewhat of a normal pace.  The second decade has gone by in the blink of an eye.  It feels a bit strange and surreal; like a couple of years went by but definitely not ten.  It seems like we went to sleep one night with young children and woke up with older teens.  We now find ourselves embarking on being empty nesters with two adult children.  I really am having trouble wrapping my mind around this time warp.

Let’s back up over two decades for just a minute.  I’ve been told that my marriage and what we have is an anomaly; truly unlikely and almost statistically impossible.  The hubs and I met my junior year, his senior year of high school.  We became best friends and then started dating.  After dating for four years (on and off), we got married at the young age of 20 and had a baby right away at the age of 21.  Being together since the age of 16, getting married young and having a baby at a young age.  Any one of these factors alone sets us up for failure, but all three?  Impossible.  Right?  Well, somehow we made it.  Not only have we made it this far but we are happy; seriously happy.  We are just as happy now as we were way back then, maybe even more so.

I don’t know that there is any one “secret” to my marriage.  I am just as awestruck as anyone looking in from the outside, to be honest.  I feel incredibly grateful for what I have and I definitely try not to ever take it for granted.  I will say that getting married young and having children young as opposed to waiting until we were older and “set up” in life had its real advantages in our marriage.  In those early years, we truly fumbled through life.  We were so young and had absolutely no idea what we were doing.  I think when you get married young, you expect each other to change.  You expect each other to grow.  This expectation allowed us to come together and actually grow up together.  Neither one of us had the answers.  We just figured it out as we went, but we did so together.  It was an adventure.  It was our adventure that turned into an absolutely beautiful life with an amazing marriage and two awesome kids.

What will the next twenty years hold?  I have no idea. I do know that it will lead us into a brand new season in our lives.  We will have two adult children, become empty nesters, put our children through college and watch them spread their wings and start their own lives.  Then it is us again.  Back to the beginning, in a weird sort of way.  We still won’t have the answers but we will figure it out together.  It will be our next adventure.

* Steve, I cannot thank you enough for sticking by me all these years.  I absolutely love doing life with you.  I cannot wait to see what the next twenty years hold for us.  No doubt, it will be something beautiful.  I love you with all my heart.  😉

 

 

A Soggy Hawaiian Bridal Shower

Photobooth - Earl Jo and KonaAdvice TableLei TablePhotobooth SetupPhotobooth - Frame Papa Nana and NellPool AreaEarl and Jo Hula Hooping Photobooth - Dee and Nell JoAnna the Hawaiian Photobooth - Frame Papa and Nell Photobooth - Jo & Nell Rings Group Photobooth - Frame Earl and Jo Kiss Through Frame Photobooth - Jo Face Megan Ball Hula Hoop Jeopardy Photobooth - Dee and Bringas Earl Sailor Hat - Jos Finger Photobooth - Frame Earl and Jo Letters

My brother is marrying the absolute sweetest girl in less than 50 days.  We are all so excited to have her become part of our family. To ensure that she felt super special, we pulled together a backyard Hawaiian themed surprise shower for her this past Sunday.  They will be going to Hawaii (Kauai and Maui) for their honeymoon so the theme was quite fitting.  In planning and crafting for weeks, I was super excited about how this shower was coming together; maybe a little too excited because typical Florida summer rain was quickly turning the party into a very soggy event.  We setup for hours only to have everything rained on multiple times; moving everything outside, then inside then outside again with the last move only being a matter of 10 minutes before the bride to was to show.  My sweet, sweet dad could see my devestation and was determined to get everything back outside and setup before the kick-off.  Surprisingly enough, the rain held off the rest of the day.  One table was soaked and the photobooth area was drenched but that didn’t seem to matter.  We all had a blast and it turned out to be a HUGE success!

Welcome to the family, JoAnna!  Based on my brother’s answers to the bridal jeopardy questions (and just generally speaking), he is incredibly blessed to have you in his life.  I am just so excited to be a part of this monumental time in your lives.  I can’t wait to share in many more.

P.S. – So excited to have my Dee (and her boyfriend) at the shower to not only celebrate with the bride and groom but to support me (even after having just moved back to college two days beforehand).  You’re amazing, Dee!  I don’t know what I’d do without you.

A Heavenly Birthday

Granny Bridesmaid granny Rose Mardi Gras

Today would have been your 84th birthday if you were still here on earth with us.  They say that time heals.  Maybe it does.  I still just feel emptiness in my heart.  I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that I don’t think about you.  I miss the days when I could pick up the phone and say, “hey granny” and hear your voice on the other end reply, “hey bébé”.

I’m going to admit something here that haunts me everyday.  It’s three simply words that continue to mull over in my mind…I didn’t call.  You died in the midst of my mom’s tragedy.  You were sick.  I didn’t want you to know about mom because you would get upset and worry making your sickness all that much worse.  So, what did I do?  I didn’t call. I didn’t call because I wouldn’t know what to say when you asked about mom and dad. I didn’t call because I didn’t want you to get upset.  In my heart, I thought I was doing the right thing.  I know now that I was wrong.  So what if you asked me about mom.  I should have called.  You needed to hear my voice in the midst of all that you were going through. For that, I am eternally sorry.

I love you with all my heart and miss you like crazy. Happy heavenly birthday, Granny!

PS – My deepest apologies for the heavy post.  You can read the “One Year” tribute post HERE that is a bit on the brighter side.

What Shall It Be?

nell and dee skipping kauai

What does a person need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by, the dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life? ”

― Sterling Hayden