The Big Move

        

So, it’s been nearly a year since I’ve posted to the blog but this big change warranted a post. Hoping to get back to more postings about our new journey.

It seems like most people have a similar story; the couple meet in college, they fall in love and get married. They spend the next 10 years or so traveling, building their careers, building a home with pretty things and enjoying time with each other before settling down to have children. Good, bad or indifferent, our story is the opposite of most.

My husband and I met when we were 16 during my junior and his senior year of high school. We fell in love and got engaged at 19 and 20, married at 20 and 21 had our first baby at 21 and 22 with the second baby at 24 and 25. There was no money or time to travel, to build a career, to build a home with pretty things or spend a lot of time together. We focused on our children and our family.

Then in the blink of an eye, we realized our children are pretty much grown. We took a step back and evaluated. We have been married for nearly 22 years and most of our furniture was given to us and we had no matching dishes or towels (just to nam a few). We had been so focused on raising children, we hadn’t really focused on all the little things. We were living like college students!

So we decided to make a big change. We decided to sell our family home and purchase a small town home near the beach. Our town home is about half the size of our family home. This was the perfect opportunity to throw away all of our old crap and actually be adults and buy and fill our home with new and pretty things.

Our daughter has moved out and will be getting married next year (yikes!). Our son will be 18 in a month and will spend his senior year in the town home before he goes to college. After that, it will be just the two of us. We have never truly been married without kids but we are excited about this next season of our lives. While everyone else our age is raising a family, we will be biking to the beach to watch the sunset, paddleboarding down the intercoastal, fishing from our boat, walking to beach restaurants for dinner and traveling the world.

Even though our story is different, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I have two amazing (ahem) adult children (still so hard to say) that I am incredibly proud of and a loving husband that I get to spend the rest of my life with. So while it’s sad to see my children go, I am excited to step into the next phase of our marriage; our fun empty nest phase.

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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

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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. 

 

Ocean Magic

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For me, paddleboading can be a purely magical experience.  This week I got to experience one of those magical moments. The water was completely flat, glassy, crystal clear and calm, the ocean was filled with beautiful sea life, the wind was calm and the moon was full.  It was perfect!  I quickly remembered just how much I love paddleboarding and how grateful I am to live in a place where I can do things like this year round.

You see, two years ago (before my mom’s accident), I was out on the water every single week without fail.  Then life flipped upside down and I just never got back into the habit.  Well, I’m taking life by the horns and I’m changing that.  Doing fun active activities makes me feel better physically and emotionally. Paddleboarding is probably at the top of that activity list for me.  It makes me feel alive! Now I’m looking to add additional activities to this list; mountain bike trail riding and indoor rock climbing.  More to come on that.  In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying more time on the ocean.

Beach Photography

I have been MIA from the blog for sometime; 3 months to be exact!  WOW, how quickly time flies.  Hopefully that will change.  Soon there will be a post about my hair, the debacle and the process to recover.  I know, don’t get too excited.  In the meantime, I wanted to share my most recent little hobby with you.

If you know me at all, then you know I’m a beach lover.  It could be said that I moved my family 1600 miles to be close to the beach.  (well, that’s at least one reason anyway) The beach brings me peace.  It is my happy place.  Ok, after much  babbling, here’s the point.  I got this awesome lens set for my Samsung phone from my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas.  The set came with a wide angle lens and a fish eye lens. My Galaxy s6 Active already takes great photos, but this lens takes it up a notch. Plus, it’s super easy to use.  I can’t stop taking photos.

Here are just a few pics I’ve taken in just the last three weeks.  If you follow me on Instagram, then this will be a repeat.  If you don’t follow me on Instagram, please do.  You can find me at @mamanellie_.

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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.

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

Friday

Sunset

Eat food from farmers markets.
Drink good tea each morning.
Read books that make you feel.
Paint, even if you’re awful.
Write, even when you have nothing to say.
Sit in the fresh air outside.
Go on hikes.
Swim in lakes and wade in streams.
Sleep as long as you need.
Work hard at what you love.
Work hard at what you hate.

Love unconditionally and wholeheartedly.

Happy Friday!