Lessons from a skincat

Lulu header

Happy New Year! AND it’s mid-January. I know it. I’m a bit late to the party. Back at blogging! Yes. Photography ate me alive this fall. I love those sunsets and leaves, then Christmas rolled around, and well…I’m back!

Meet Lucy. She’s our two year old Sphynx, aka a “skin cat.” A few recessive genes (yay double r’s in the Punnett square!) makes a Sphynx cat. How’s that for a hands-on STEM lesson plan? Yeah, bring the kids by! Either you’re fascinated and wanna come over and pet her, or you’re totally grossed out right now and possibly wondering why we’re friends. And that’s ok. If you have any sort of reptile or poisonous insect in your house as a “pet,” I’m wondering the same about you. This is our kitty, Lucy, our Lulu, and we love her dearly. But I didn’t always. GASP! I’ll get to that.

Lulu isn’t the first or only of her kind. She’s also not our first Sphynx. Fish was. Now you think I’m even stranger for having a cat named Fish. That’s ok too. My 94 year old grandfather was so terrified by what he thought as a “possum” in my living room that he tried (repeatedly) to stomp on my pretty kitty and save our family from the “varmint” while I shrieked, trying to explain who and what she was, while family members pulled him into a chair. I will never forget the look of sheer panic on his face. Who knew a guy that old could jump so high? I digress.

In January of 2013, I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life. Fish was battered by kitty cardiomyopathyheart disease. On a freezing, cloudless Saturday morning padded with fresh snow, January 26th, at the door of the vet’s office, I had to decide to end her suffering. UGH. Not only was that hideously difficult, try watching your then 4 year old cry hysterically for weeks each night, petting the cat’s pictures on the iPad, begging God in her nightly prayers to send her back from heaven. Stomach churning, heart wrenching, gut punching difficult moments as a mom. How did we handle it? Guess. A kitten, of course. Kittens can solve a lot of problems.

A few months later, as birds arrived with spring, Lucy arrived at Newark Airport via from Ed and James, her loving breeders in Raleigh-Durham NC. She purred and welcomed cuddles from day one, and she loved the kids – a bonus, because Fish loved me (and Phil way, way more), and really no one else.

Despite her adorable-ness, loving nature and lightening-quick adaptability to our home, I found myself working to love her. She did nothing wrong. She did everything right. Purred, chased strings, attacked feather toys with bells on cue. So why was my heart so hardened like the Grinch’s on Christmas Eve? It was because every time I saw her, in the background of my mind was a dark urn holding the remains of Fish-cat. I only figured out later, after I realizing how much I had grown to love this 9 lbs of happiness, what my problem was. It took me about a year to get over the fact that she wasn’t Fish.

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Don’t I sound like a monster now? Hear me out.

My problem wasn’t with Lucy. My problem was with me. I couldn’t get over the fact she wasn’t who I had to let go of. Fish was gone at just 8 years old. Without even knowing it, I couldn’t accept the change, and so I didn’t – I couldn’t accept Lucy, let alone love her. As the adage goes, change isn’t easy. No kidding. Major, major understatement. We are creatures of habit, like it or not. Most change is forced upon us. SLAP! Life goes at you again. When the situation is painful, as I learned, it’s easy to become bitter & jaded – and without even meaning to – to hold a cold, marble heart even in the face of an aqua eyed, tiny purring kitten. (Monster! I admit it on a blog!) What did I learn? I learned I don’t always have a say in the changes that happen around me, but I can help how I react to those changes.

Besides my slow climb toward nirvana, there is a happy ending. I was able to make room for Lulu. One morning as I watched T carry her all curled up like a baby doll across the living room for the 55th time without complaint, without even trying to escape the clutches of a super-loving 4 year old, she did it. She won me over big time, oh-yes-she-has-oh-yes-she-has (insert smothering kiss sounds as seen below:)

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(Had to.)

 

 

 

Gwenyth in Wonderland

So this happened. Aunt Melissa gave Gwen an Alice in Wonderland costume, and being as theatrical as she is, she became Alice for our photo shoot. With our yard lit up in fall’s perfect shade of gold, we had a lot of fun together. And a lot of imaginary tea. When we were finished, she told me, “Mommy, I’m always Alice in Wonderland.” That’s pretty point on, kiddo! Enjoy the 801 photos! “I’m late, I’m late I’m late!”

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Alice a 700-27Alice a 700-4Alice a 700-5 Alice a 700-8Alice a 700-28Alice a 700-29 “Yes, that’s it!” said the Hatter with a sigh, “it’s always tea time.” 
“Alice:How long is forever?”
White Rabbit: “Sometimes, just one second.” Alice a 700-3Alice a 700-16 Alice a 700-18 Alice a 700-19 Alice a 700-33Alice a 700-20 Alice a 700-21 Alice a 700-22Alice a 700-32Alice a 700-25Alice a 700-10
 
“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly. 
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.” 
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.” 
“Nobody asked your opinion,” said Alice.” 
 

Harvest

I’m part of the Mommy Blogger Collective. Each month we’re given a one word prompt to riff with. This month’s prompt is *harvest.*

Summer is coming to a close, (or is it gone the first time I wear boots?) and I’m coming up for air! (Insert insanely exaggerated gasp for life.) August was a blur of sun, sand, parks, play dates and keeping the kiddos busy, happy and outside as much as possible. Mission accomplished. I have tan lines to prove it.

I didn’t see how big these kiddos were getting right under my nose, how every day their baby faces thinned out just a bit more than the day before. I’m no gardener, and definitely no farmer. I can’t even keep a cactus alive. I can, however, grow people. No small beans. So what do I know about a harvest? I imagine that aspects of farming and parenting are pretty similar. You’re bringing something into the world that didn’t exist before you decided to nurture it. You work hard – really hard to make sure it’s ok, more than ok  – that it thrives, even on days when it (he) is trying to repeatedly face plant into professionally decorated cupcakes at a birthday party.

You watch out for the elements. Sun, rain, wind – “bad” influences, people, mean kids on the playground. You nurture, you hope, pray…you wish for the best, you will break your back if something harmful gets in the way. You work, wait, and watch. Maybe bite your nails a bit, getting impatient. Then, even when your back aches and you’re dead tired, you stand up, step back and see what you grew and you’re proud – really proud of your harvest.

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“Harvest” is the September writing prompt of The Mommy Blogger Collective. In addition to a monthly writing prompt, the collective hosts a monthly blogger featurette. This month we are featuring Courteney of The Titled Blog. A few words from Courteney — Hello! I’m Courteney from “The Titled Blog” I live up in Canada (in Abbotsford, British Columbia – just East of Vancouver) with my husband, one year old daughter Lucy, a pug named Minnie and an angry flame point siamese cat named Bigsby. My blog has evolved over the last 7 years from random rants and social commentary to lifestyle and now most recently to being a mom. My daughter was born with a lot of health problems and I often write about the challenges that have come with having a baby that has spent a good chunk of her first year in and out of the hospital and how to deal with those challenges head on. When I’m not blogging, I work as a photographer with my own business (Courteney Rodda Photography) sing in my jazz band “Courteney Rodda and the Other Guys” and most recently I am sewing for an awesome local company making baby moccasins called “Minimoc
You can also find me on Instagram, where I post too many pictures of my daughter, dog and cat.

/// The Mommy Blogger Collective /// Christina, Courteney, Dena, Erica, Erin, Gillian, Katie, Misty, Nicole, and Renée. ///

Teagan’s need for speed

So one of my babies had to end up with the need for speed gene. Between my dad’s lifelong obsession with motorcycles and Phil’s, one of the pumpkins had to want to pin a throttle. It’s Teagan, for sure. Here she is a few weeks ago on Father’s Day with “Uncle Aaron” (my cousin), owner of Maverick’s Cycle House. Now don’t fret. She didn’t go over 5 miles an hour, but she wanted to. I’m sure Aaron and Dana’s neighbors could hear her screeching, “FASTER, FAAAASTER!”

While watching this front yard fun (& holding the fish eye lens like Gollum guarding his “precious,”) I was putting together a list of her possible future adrenaline-pumping hobbies: cliff jumping, drag racing, flying fighter jets…ah!

Meet (part of) my amazing family.

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Never a dull moment with Aaron!

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This is how we roll.

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Note the look of satisfaction on her face. “I don’t need help.”

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Hudson Tommy, never to be left out! Let’s see what July 4th brings!

 

 

Bloom

I’m part of the Mommy Blogger Collective. Each month we’re given a one word prompt to riff with. This month’s prompt is *bloom.*

To understand why this is wrong, you don’t have to be a feminist. You just have to be human.

In the early hours of April 15, 2014 in Chibok, Nigeria at Government Girls Secondary School, 276 girls were forcefully taken by militants. Some escaped; the majority did not. They’re still missing, likely being sold into slavery or forced into marriage, the repercussions brought down on them by extremists for simply getting an education.

#bringbackourgirls is all over the media, with famous faces backing the hashtag, looking serious, disappointed, disgusted. Rightly so. The images that get to me the most are not those of celebrities, but those of the mothers of these young girls – women with tears streaming down their faces, washing over worried crinkles and grimaces as they beg someone, anyone, to bring their babies back safely.

The educator in me is furious, and the mother in me horrified.

Sunday was Mother’s Day.

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girls laughing

girls dreaming

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I look at my daughters and (soon to be three!) nieces, and think of the the apps at their fingertips, the books at their disposal, the endless information on any topic available to them, and I pray they won’t ever have to fight to keep the basic human right to learn. They, like all girls and boys around the globe, deserve to learn, dream, to shine — to bloom.

#bringbackourgirls


“Bloom” is the May writing prompt of The Mommy Blogger Collective. In addition to a monthly writing prompt, the collective hosts a monthly blogger featurette. This month we are featuring Misty of Momista Beginnings. A few words from Misty — I’m Misty, the southern California blogger behind Momista Beginnings. I began this blog while pregnant with Mia over two years ago to create a space for mamas out there to connect with their inner “momista.” According to me, a momista is a devout follower and lover of motherhood who takes her role to the next level. She uses her strengths to create the best childhood for her kids through activities, traditions, adventures, exploration and experiences. My blog aims to inspire all of this. Other bits of me make up my blog as well, like my passion for photography, art, crafts, my love for baking and cooking and family updates. I’m an ex art teacher of over 10 years and my art projects for kids make appearances from time to time, too. You can also find me on Bloglovin’, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and at my photography website and its Facebook page!

/// The Mommy Blogger Collective /// Christina, Courteney, Dena, Erica, Erin, Gillian, Katie, Misty, Nicole, and Renée. ///

“Mr. Eat” and flower crown day

Ah, Pinterest. You are addicting. Especially when you’re a visual person. (You’re nodding, yes, yes.) A super cute photo of an adorable girl wearing a flower crown holding a baby calf got stuck in my head when it popped up on my feed. I don’t have a calf, (seriously, right?) but I do have awesome neighbors who have a bunny (rabbit? bunny?) named “Mr. Eat.” Behold:

black and white bunny

Mr. Eat came over with one of his humans this afternoon. We got some time to pet him, learn about his bunny habits, what makes him happy, and offer him some bunny treats and organic arugula. He snubbed both, probably because Hudson was screeching in super-sonic decibels of excitement while trying to kiss him. Mr. Eat probably had agita.

Black and white bunny

He’s a sweetheart, and let our kids pet him (gently) as he graciously posed for photos in our yard, and then came inside to meet Lucy, who didn’t show hair envy at all.

Black and white bunny, sphynx cat

A big thanks to Mr. Eat and his humans for today’s visit! I’m sure tomorrow the kids will want a bunny…my plate is full these days…as undeniably adorable as Mr. Eat is, that’s a chuckle and a *no* bunny.

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Black and White Bunny

Later, I took the ladies outside to twirl around like hippies in the sunset:

Girl with flower crown

Girl with flower crown

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Girl with flower crown

Girl with flower crown

Girl with flower crown

Make it a good week! A pet a bunny kind of week.

 

SPRING has sprung

What did we do this Saturday? We were outside. A lot. For those of you reading from below the Mason-Dixon line, you may not be thinking that’s a big deal, but it is! What a day! It was a “Disney” Day here in New Jersey on Saturday. Sun out, birds chirping, everything about to bloom and burst in full color. I thought Aurora (Sleeping Beauty for those of you without girls under the age of 7) was going to bust out from behind a tree and start singing with woodland creatures in the background. That didn’t happen, but we did see tadpoles and squirrels.

This is the highlight reel starring the kiddos, our good friends and mother nature! Our adventure included our dear friends and their sweet little boys in central NJ, land of rolling hills, towering trees and gorgeous old estates. We had a fantastic day as we caught up and had their photo session at Cross Estate Gardens over smoothies and bagels, (see Hudson’s face) and I’m not sure how their family can get any more adorable.

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The Davids

The Davids

The Davids

Yes, this family belongs in a frame!

Tulips, Tulip Tree

Bloom!

Blonde Boy

Mr. “All boy,” reclining as if he’s just returned from a tough game of cricket. He was really throwing rocks all day.

Blonde Boy

Blonde Boy

Post-smoothie “smoldering” face of a filthy, tired toddler. Work it.

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Teagan can fly!

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Smoothie time! Tea found me some hydrangea: “You’re favorite flower, Mommy.” <3

Flying

No, really. She can fly.

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Somehow, in photos, Gwenyth always manages to look way older than she is! Scary? You bet!

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 We’re oh so close to leaves and shade!

Trees and stone wall

Tulip Tree

Daffodils

 “We were together. I forget the rest.” – Walt Whitman

 

Make it Rain

I’m part of the Mommy Blogger Collective. Each month we’re given a one word prompt to roll with. This month’s prompt is rain.

Make it rain. I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about making intentions, passions and goals reality.

Looking back at my college days and early 20’s, I really had no idea what I wanted in life besides finishing my degrees and marrying my husband, who after returning from ARMY basic training a well-tanned combination of muscles and ambition, I knew I wouldn’t spend my days without. The rest of my early 20’s was a big swirl of decisions based on what I thought I had to do, what I needed to be, and how it all should look based on some blue print of suburban success. I was easily persuaded and influenced by the older adults in my life (read: family), but didn’t see it then. I thought I had it all together, was sure I had it all figured out. I followed the road map made for me: college, grad school, job, (a couple jobs)….fast forward to my late 20’s.

Enter motherhood.

Instantly, a 7 lb 6 oz little girl (followed by two more, significantly larger bundles of joy) carved out a new role me. Since becoming “Mommy,” I know who I am, what I want, what I don’t want, who to spend time with, and who to cut ties with and not look back. I have zero tolerance for negativity, pettiness, or anyone less than genuine. Time is more valuable than ever, and motherhood has given me a keen sense of how to cut through the garbage that gets in the way of the good stuff in life.

The last 5 ½ years have been a full immersion into mommy-hood, like the front seat of the roller coaster, hands up all the way. Three babies in under four years – and that’s how it goes. Bassinets, strollers, diapers, baby-wearing, crib bedding, countless lullabies, baby books, mushy food, decorating and redecorating nurseries, bubble baths, pictures, big kid beds, the first tooth fairy visit, the first day of school, birthday parties, play dates, endless park trips, sleigh rides, snowmen, bike rides and walks on sunny spring days.

Lately, there’s a subtle shift for me. The kiddos are getting big, fast. Really fast. Instead of holding their hands on the stairs at the park, hovering over to be sure of no spills off the slides, they’re ok on their own going down, even though I’m still waiting at the bottom, just in case. “I can do it Mommy. I’m big.” Truth. You are. (Though Hudson is still trying to eat mulch – *sigh.*) My pumpkins are becoming more independent, and in turn, so am I.

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Photo Credit: Katherine Hoos Photography

Photography is a growing career. I’m meeting more moms like me, trying their hand at growing their dreams. I’m watching them crop up like the flowers peeking out of the ground this early spring, and they’re blossoming. Florists, stylists, Etsy store owners, life coaches, small business owners, dedicated teachers earning advanced degrees, nutritionists, gourmet bakers, physical therapists branching out on their own, moms excelling in their chosen career, others as students pursuing a new field…you name it. There’s talent, passion and drive all around. It’s amazing, thrilling, inspiring. We’re making it rain.

PicMonkey Collage

The rainmakers, clockwise, from top left: Alee Bonagura McCarthy – Bright Blooms, Jenine Kinesella – Rodan & Fields, Katherine Hoos – Katherine Hoos PhotographyLeah Bustos Mazzola – Snug Agency, Corinne McKeever Bluteau – Teacher/Grad student, supermom of 4, Kimberly Miller-Volin – Maison KMV. 

Photo Credit of Leah Bustos Mazzola – Brandon Trull.

“Rain” is the April writing prompt of The Mommy Blogger Collective. In addition to a monthly writing prompt, the collective hosts a monthly blogger featurette. This month we are featuring Katie of Hello, Little Bean. A few words from Katie — Hi! I’m Katie and I write a blog called ‘Hello, Little Bean.’ It’s about life as a new mom to my cute daughter, Lark Story. I’m California born and raised, but currently live in Michigan with my soon-to-be husband, James and my soon-to-be stepson, Brennan, as well as our little Lark and two kitties. I’m a full-time graphic designer who loves all things artistic and creative. I’m overly sensitive and sentimental, sarcastic and foul-mouthed at times, a foodie and a reality tv junkie who’s completely and utterly in love with motherhood. You can also find me on instagram, facebook, pinterest and our little online boutique, Bold Threads.

/// The Mommy Blogger Collective /// Christina, Courteney, Dena, Erica, Erin, Gillian, Katie, Misty, Nicole, and Renée. ///

Defined

 As part of the Mommy Blogger Collective I’m delighted to be a part of, I’ll be writing a post in response to a single word each month. March’s assignment is to respond to the word “defined.” Here’s what I came up with:

These were my grandma’s hands, Isabella Rosalie Graziano’s hands. That was the name her Italian parents gave her, the name on her Baptism record from 1915. Everyone else called her Lisa Bella, Elizabeth, or Mrs. Marsh, but mostly Betty. To me, she was Grandma.

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Grandma was embarrassed by her hands, because in her 90’s they were riddled with arthritis, and “knotted up,” as she put it, as she rubbed them together, squeezing one, then the other. Still, they made meals when they could, often caressed the face of her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and waved to everyone, coupled with her effervescent smile. They were beautiful hands, despite what she thought.

Each curve and twist in her fingers spoke of a lifetime of love: turning pages whispering bedtime stories and pages in her choir books, sewing countless buttons back onto our coats and our over-loved toys back together, volunteering at the local hospital, hanging Christmas ornaments, bathing babies, grand-babies and great-babies, cracking a baseball far into the outfield as a child (she was so good at baseball), picking blackberries, spearmint and parsley in her garden for us, “I grew this for you, special.” These were the hands who made you believe you could do anything by just tilting your chin up to meet her eyes. These were the hands circling us all together the night my father, her son, died, and led a family in a chorus of “Hail Mary’s” during the darkest hour it had ever seen.

They were strong hands. Strong, but tender. These were the hands that defined her. In turn, they defined me.

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Grandma taught me how to appreciate a summer breeze, a patch of shade, crisp fall mornings, how to make killer meatballs, fantastic bread pudding, how to properly apply “rouge” and why attitude is everything. She taught me not just to squeeze lemons to make lemonade when life hands them to you, but to pulverize them with unfailing optimism, unwavering faith, patience, forgiveness, and why to encourage peace all around you. I’m still working on the last five. Understatement.

The day I brought my infant son home, cradled him on my shoulder, exhausted, covered head to toe in poison ivy (don’t ask how I manged to get that), my then three and one year old daughters were going ballistic with sibling envy. I felt like I couldn’t move back one moment or forward into the next. It was at that moment that thought of my grandma, or maybe she thought of me, and suddenly felt a window of serenity in the insanity. It was also at that moment that my oldest daughter asked out of nowhere, “Where is Nana?” Nana to her, Grandma to me, had been gone for 6 months by then. I’m convinced that on that day, in my moment of mental turmoil, Grandma came to check up on me and remind me of one of her favorite sayings: “Men tena ti forte,” which in her parents’ Italian dialect means, “keep yourself strong.”

PicMonkey Collage me and grandma

When I get past impatient after a day that I think my limits can’t be pushed farther, and then those limits are ran right over and erased like a line in the desert sand, I think about her, and it’s all good. She’s part of me, and I’m part of her. What a better way to be defined?


“Defined” is the March writing prompt of The Mommy Blogger Collective. In addition to a monthly writing prompt, the collective hosts a monthly blogger featurette. This month we are featuring Gillian of Comes in Colours. A few words from Gillian — Hey, I’m Gillian and I blog at Comes in Colours! I am passionate about motherhood and passionate about photography. I am married to my middle school sweetheart and we are now raising our two boys, Roman and Asher, in northern Colorado. My life is real and far from perfect but my blog is a place where I celebrate motherhood through pictures and words. Connect with Gillian on Instagram, Pinterest, Bloglovin and pop by her blog to say hello.

/// The Mommy Blogger Collective /// Christina, Courteney, Dena, Erica, Erin, Gillian, Katie, Misty, Nicole, and Renée. ///

sunshine, silence and oranges

One of my oldest, closest friends of all time lives on the opposite coast. From time to time, she’ll text me a picture of a view from her “happy place,” a gorgeous point overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It’s serene, it’s peaceful, it’s everything a place to re-center should be. For a half a second one fairly recent day when I read her text letting me know she was there, I got to thinking that I didn’t have a “happy place” of my own, and just as quickly as I thought that, I forgot about it.

Fast forward a few weeks later to the beginning of a snow storm. If you know me, you know how I feel about fall and winter. I’ll spare you my rant. The closer to the sun I can get, the better. As the snowflakes began to fall and we headed deeper into yet another snow day, I told my husband the highlight reel of childhood winter escapes to Florida: wind chimes sounding like daytime lullabies paired with the whirl of bike tires, warm air all around, palm trees swaying above me, the sun on my back, in my eyes, hours in the pool – and the smell of oranges. Lots of oranges.

I guess I was convincing – (did I get you?) – that coupled with the man being a spontaneous optimist, ready for adventure at all times. On top of  that, we got news that my grandma, a New Jersey ex-pat who’s been soaking up Florida’s rays since 1984, was hospitalized. That was 11:30 am. By 2:00 pm, our family of 5 (Gwen sporting her beach cover-up) was packed and heading south. We drove all night, taking turns on and off at the wheel, and working on our laptops (working remotely has major perks!) Every hundred miles or so, the temperature jumped up about 2 degrees. After months of cold weather, topped off by a hideous “polar vortex,” that was a glorious sight.

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We had a blast that week, our family of five. We played in the aqua water, collected seashells, jumped in the pool, dipped in a hot tub, rode bikes on the beach and counted stars from the boardwalk. My girls learned that “jungle trees” are really called palm trees. They soaked up sun they hadn’t felt on their skin in months. My babies played with their cousin for hours, and bonded with their great-grandma, great-aunt and great-uncle. Their aunt took them on “safari” in an electric golf cart, dodging through palmettos and under towering pine trees.

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On our last day in Florida, I hopped the fence behind my grandma’s property and found a clearing between two trees into the orange groves that back up to her 5 acres. My grandfather, who we lost in March of 2013, introduced me this orange grove when I was just 13.  As I stood there 20 years later, alone, listening to nothing, overwhelmed with gratitude for sun and overtaken with the smell of these ripening oranges, time folded in on itself and stopped. This place wanted me to remember it. How could I forget my “happy place,” the place where I did nothing else but admire the beauty around me, freeing me from the responsibility of all other thoughts? Easily. I’ve been too wrapped up in life to remember. Since I last visited, I’ve graduated college, grad school, started a career, got married, lost my father, three grandparents, had three babies, moved five times…I’ve been living, and living fast. We all are.

So much life stands between me and that 13 year old girl – so much learned, lost and infinitely gained. If I could whisper in her ear, I’d remind her of what I tell my kids, (who you may see sniffing flowers whenever they have the chance): stop and smell the flowers (or the orange blossoms). All of them.