Sunday, June 30, 2013

My Village Vacation: Part 1 - Life with the Village People

The family vacation continues!  We are now at the Villages.  America's self-proclaimed friendliest hometown.

It's an over 55 retirement community in central Florida.  It has a population of approximately 86,000 residents and covers over 30 square miles in 3 counties.  It's still growing!  They sell 200 new homes every month!!  It's expected to be complete in or around 2017 at 55,000 homes and 110,000 residents.  It's a brilliantly and beautifully laid out gated community of sub-communities or villages.  My parents have lived here for about 10 years.  They love it.  They came down for a few days to check it out and drank the kool-aid.  Next thing I knew, I lost my babysitters and they moved here.  Who can blame them?  The place is pretty cool.

It is a golf car (yes car, not cart around here, and some are street legal!) community, although you can travel conventionally in an actual car, too.  Golf cars travel on lovely cart paths throughout the Village but one can also go to the supermarket, Target, the bank the doctor/hospital or a plethora of restaurants in and around the Village as well.  My son thinks it's wicked cool to go to Chili's in the golf car!  My oldest is old enough to drive the golf car this year, at 14.  AHHHHHHHH!   Oh, by the way, they hold the Guinness Record (or was it Ripley's Believe it or not?) for the longest golf car line/train here at the Village.  No one in my immediate vicinity seems to be able to remember how long it was, even though they were part of it.

There are a lot of 'senior moments' here, too.  :-)

One of the first things you notice is that most people really are friendly.  They wave to everyone.  They are quick to say hello or offer advice or a hand.  Some will talk your ear off if you get into a conversation with them!  Many have small dogs that they walk early in the morning and that ride around in the golf cars.  They make for friendly conversation, too.

The second thing you notice is that they golf.  A LOT!  It's one of the prime reasons many people choose to live here.  There are currently 11 championship courses of varying difficulty, some designed by the likes of Arnold Palmer and Nancy Lopez (2 with 18 holes and 9 with 27 holes) and 32 executive courses (9 holes) and of course, 4 driving ranges.  They have a computerized system for tee times.  They have an ambassador who roams the courses to be sure everyone has paid and the only golf cars on the course are the ones who belong to the players.

The Village people love to socialize, eat, shop and dance!  There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of clubs including the paranormal society, the village idiots (my personal favorite), bridge and other card games, the happy stitchers, the Village twirlers, musical groups, sports clubs and dance clubs.  There are lessons for everything, even a lifelong learning college!  It's a pretty active community.  Every Village has a recreation center and pool.  Some have family pools for when the grandkids visit.  There are adult (over 30 yrs old) pools and there are sport pools.  It's not unusual for their to be a party at the pool, complete with DJ and games!

Guests are welcome but must have a Village ID and are limited to a certain extent as to when and where they can go in the village.  No one under 55 can purchase a home, and no one under 55 can stay more than 30 days unless they are over 30 (like an adult child moving in with a parent who lives here).  This is how they keep children and grandchildren from overstaying their welcome and preserving the retirement community lifestyle.  In the summer, there is 'Camp Villages', activities designed for grandparents and their grandchildren to participate in together.  My boys participated in a golf car scavenger hunt and my eldest in a teen table tennis clinic this year and had a blast.

There are numerous country clubs and restaurants and the food is excellent.  There are also 3 'town squares', Spanish Springs, Sumter Landing and Paddock Square.  All very specifically themed with a movie theater, restaurants and shops.  There is entertainment at these squares every single night.  Golf cars park among the regular cars.  People bring their chairs, their dogs, their dancing sneakers and enthusiastically participate in 2 for 1 happy hour at the drink shacks!  The entertainment is free and it's good!  There are live bands or DJ's and dancing on the square every single night.  These people love to dance!  Line dancing is all the rage, but more traditional dancing is also quite popular.  We participated in a version of the electric slide to "Mustang Sally" last night and the dance floor was packed!  Did you know the Villagers hold the Guinness Book of World Records record for the most people doing the electric slide at once?  Over 5000!  On the Polo field.  Oh, yeah. They have a polo field, too.

I enjoy the wildlife, of course.  There is an abundance of birds, turtles and the occasional alligator.  My mother's cat enjoys sitting out on the lanai and stalking the little geckos, birds and squirrels.  There is something for everyone here.

After the whirlwind of Disney, it was nice to come here to relax a bit.  We can be as busy or as relaxed as we want.  So far there has been a fair amount of pool time, lots of golf car rides and visits to the square, I've been on a few really hot and humid runs (I don't know how people run in this oppressive humidity all the time!), the boys took in a movie, we've sampled several restaurants, we've danced and enjoyed the entertainment, and we've sat around and relaxed, enjoying time with my family.  A rousing game of hand and foot ensued.  It's a rummy like card game and it's big down here.

Ah, the life of the Village they say, every day is a beautiful day at the Villages!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dear Disney...

I'd like to thank you, Walt Disney World, for providing the environment that brought my eldest boy back to me.  At least for a while.  I laughed.  A lot! Thank you for providing for a wonderful family fun experience.  And for completely exhausting all of us!

Yes, we've just completed a fast and furious Disney vacation.  I'm a rather well experienced Disney vacationer, so even though we only had 4 days, we knew in advance exactly what parks, attractions and eating establishments we were going to visit and when.  We knew were were not going to see it all.  We knew we were at the mercy of the weather to a certain extent.  We did not stay on property, but had a wonderful (and much less expensive) Villa mere minutes from Disney Property.  I was armed with experience, apps, weather radar, two hyper-excited children, one somewhat skeptical husband and my parents with season passes and rain ponchos!  I had my touring plan.  We know how to 'work' the system.  We knew what the crowd predictions were.  We know how to use the weather, magic hours and fastpasses to our advantage. We were well-prepared!

My biggest problem was getting them all out the door at the appointed time each morning.  *sigh*

Day 1:
Animal Kingdom.  We got there just as the park opened.  My mother who does not ride the 'thrill' rides was our fastpass runner to the Safari.  We went directly to Everest.  My youngest was beyond psyched to ride the 'mountain range' at every park, since he was finally tall enough!  We chose the stand by line. We waited about 10-15 minutes.  Not bad at all. Disney does a great job with their waiting queues of decorating and giving you something to look at.  My tallest enjoyed ringing the bells as we made our way through the maze of a line.  The kids loved it.  The Yeti did not get us!  Phew.

Next, it was Kali River Rapids.  We walked right on.  Yes.  We got wet.  It's Florida.  It is 80 degrees by 10 am.  Not a problem!

We then went to fastpass Everest for later in the day and went to the Safari.  We had a great Safari.  Lots of animals were out and about as it was still relatively early.  Even though the boys were not keen on the safari, they really enjoyed it.

Then, on to Dino Land.  We had an early lunch, no line!  I purchased princess ears!  We were going to ride Dinosaur, but the stand by line was too long, so we got a fastpass and went to ride Primeval Whirl (I think it should be primeval hurl) and Triceratops spin.  Yes, the Dumbo of Dinosaurs.  Boys are funny.

Back to Everest for our fastpass ride and then to Dinosaur for our fastpass ride there.  Holy carnatorus, Batman!  I rode it 14 years ago and was scared out of my mind.  I don't like to be scared!  Even though I knew what was coming, I did the exact same thing I did 14 years ago.  When it came time for the picture, I am invisible!  Both my eldest boy and I dove for the floor and you can't even see us!  It was hysterical.  Sadly, I think I lost my Fitbit on that ride.  I called lost and found and they don't have it, still, 3 days later.  So sad.  :-(

Next up, Festival of the Lion King!  Such a great show.  My husband, who has never been to Animal Kingdom and hates musicals (and Disney movies) was even impressed with the show.  They do such an amazing job. It's a must see if you haven't seen it before.  When we went in, it was starting to rain.  We came out to sunshine, but it was to be short lived...

We decided to split up at that point.  My parents taking the boys to the Magic Kingdom for their next mountain range adventure.  We wanted to stay at the Animal Kingdom to do the walking trails and actually see the animals.  Go figure.  It is called the animal kingdom after all...

We went back to Dinosaur to inquire about my Fitbit.  By the time we came out, a mere 8 minutes later it was really dark.  Thunder was starting to rumble.  Then, the skies opened and it poured.  Holy torrential downpour! We had quite a classic summer Thunderstorm.  We took shelter under a little overhang that barely covered us, ponchos on.  It lasted about a half hour before the rain let up and the thunder and lightning stopped enough so we could venture out.  We strolled around in the light rain.  We had a snack.  I jumped in the puddles.  What the hell, I was already soaked!

The only rides open were the Safari and Dinosaur, and I sure as hell wasn't doing that one again!  We walked right on the Safari since the park emptied out when the storm started.  What a great Safari!  The hippo was actually out of the water!  We saw the baby elephants playing in the water!  So cool!  The truck stopped for a long time to let us watch, since there was no one behind us for quite a while.  The cheetah's were actually visible and the Lion had emerged to preside over the plain.

We tried to do the animal walking trails but they were closed, too.  Another storm was close.  The animals were actually all 'hiding' according to the guide, so there wasn't much to see.  So we headed to the Magic Kingdom to meet up with the kids and my parents.

We got to park in Zurg!  The first lot.  That park had a mass exodus with the rain, too, apparently.  Yay for us!  The boys had already ridden several rides in the 2 hours they had been there.  We met them at Space Mountain.  Small boy rode it once and had a fastpass for all of us.  We were one person away from getting -on and it broke.  They had us all exit the ride.  I felt really bad for the people who were in the stand-by line for 90 minutes and didn't get on!  They gave us all a fastpass on the way out to be used on any ride in the Magic Kingdom through the following 2 days.  It was a nice peace offering.

The boys were hungry so we went to eat, then rode Buzz Lightyear (fastpass), Tomorrowland Transit Authority, the teacups and flying horsies for Meggie (carousel) and the Tomorrowland speedway, all with little to no wait.  Then it was time for Wishes.  We watched the new projection show on the castle.  That was cool.

We saw Tink fly, but were not well positioned to watch the fireworks, so we moved to by the teacups. Having seen Wishes from Main Street USA many times, I was OK with our less than ideal positioning.

This worked out well, despite the lack of the 'magical' experience of the castle backdrop, since as soon as it was over, we went to Frontierland and walked on Thunder Mountain.  It's fun to ride at night! The boys wanted to do Splash Mountain again, but I didn't want to get wet right before leaving, so we opted out. We walked right on Pirates of the Caribbean on the way out, too!  We made our way down Main St. just as the 11 pm parade was coming down.  Most of the crowd had left after the fireworks, so we walked on the monorail and got out of the park fairly quickly all things considered.

The rain ended up being the best thing in the end.  It cleared out much of the crowd, at least temporarily, and cooled it off.  We were wet, but prepared with ponchos and shoes that could get wet and dried quickly.  Even band-aids for the blisters we anticipated (and I got!).  It was a long and whirlwind day, but we knew it would be our longest and busiest day.  My husband's Fitbit said we walked 15 miles and over 30,000 steps that day!

Day 2:

Saturday, it was on to EPCOT.

Soarin' was up first.  We opted to stand by as it was only a 20-30 min wait.  Then on to test track.  We opted to stand by there, too, because we had an early lunch reservation.  The sign said 40 min but it was actually an hour and 10 minute wait.  The re-design of the waiting area is really quite nice and much better than it was before.  The re-design of the ride is also very cool.  The boys loved being able to design their car and then see their stats along the way.  My husband enjoyed his first test track and Soarin' experience!

Then, we split up.  The kids were off to the rest of future world with my parents and he and I were off for our EPCOT World Showcase adventure date!  Lunch at Via Napoli.  Oh.  My.  God.  The food was amazing!  The service was outstanding.  It might have been the best meal ever.  And then, the tiramisu.  Do you remember that scene in When Harry Met Sally, when Meg Ryan demonstrated how women can fake an orgasm?  I had nearly the same response to the tiramisu, but it was all real.  Holy Italian dessert bliss!  I'm SO eating my way through Italy someday.  Seriously.  It's on my bucket list.  Very close to the top.  I think for my 50th birthday or 5th wedding anniversary.  Honey, are you taking notes?  :-)

From Italy, we ventured to the American Adventure and took in the Fife and Drum, the Voices of Liberty in the rotunda (the acoustics in the dome are fantastic.  You MUST be sure to take in this brief performance by this abundantly talented co-ed acapella group) and the show.  I might have had a nap during the show.

We toured Japan and then headed to the UK for the British Revolution.  A mini British rock concert.  They were great!  We continued our concert tour with Off Kilter in Canada.  A great Celtic rock band.  We even got up and did some swing dancing.  It was in the 90's, we were outside and wearing sneakers.  Longest, hottest dance we've ever done!  Holy cow.  Next up, Morocco!  I am now the proud owner of a belly dancing scarf or two.  :-)  We had a blast getting all decked out in authentic belly dancing gear and learning a few 'moves'.  I've taken belly dancing before  It's not as easy as it looks, but what a fantastic ab workout!

On our way to meet up with the family for dinner, we happened upon a concert by an Eagles cover band.  Lo and behold, my family was there!  Off to the Biergarten we went for dinner with prime seats right by the stage.  The kids loved the show.  My oldest said to me after we all raised our glasses and sang the tiki taki tiki taka  Hoy!  Hoy!  Hoy!  song, "Mom!  I love this country!"  We sat with a couple that fit in well with us.  The woman was pregnant with her 3rd child, her husband was a urologist!  We had plenty enough in common to chat about.  They were doing Disney without their kids.

After dinner, the kids were back to Future world for a fastpass ride on Test Track and then back to the hotel for a swim and we sought our spot for Illuminations.  I did eye what I could of the half-marathon course in EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom in preparation for my next visit in January for the Half!  The full supermoon shone spectacularly in the sky.  The photos don't do it justice.

My husband enjoyed our date around the world.  We didn't see every country, but we knew we wouldn't.  Especially with 2 ADR's.  We didn't do most of Future World, but we also knew we wouldn't be able to do that either.  EPCOT is a 2-day park.  We had a leisurely day taking in mostly musical events that were of the most interest to him.

Day 3:

Hollywood Studios.  This one was for my man.  First up, my youngest got razzed by the fellow at the ticket gate for wearing a Batman shirt to Disney!  LOL.  Then we high tailed it to Toy Story Mania. We rode stand by with a 30 minute wait. This ride is a blast!  Fun for all ages.  Much easier for little kids to play than Buzz Lightyear in the Magic Kingdom. The queue is awesome! The fastpass return at 9:30 am was already at 3 pm so if you don't want to wait, fastpass it first thing in the morning or you will have to wait in a standby line.  I imagine the fastpasses were gone by 11 am for the day. The standby line at 4 pm was 90 minutes!

Then we split up.  The boys went to Star Tours while my mother and I were fastpass runners to Rockin' Roller Coaster.  They met us at the roller coaster for our fastpass ride.  I don't like roller coasters.  I don't know what possessed me to go on this one.  I think the fact it was in the dark helped.  My youngest is the adrenaline junkie.  He got the front seat!  I sat with my older son.  We are both chicken.  As we awaited our 'launch' (and I do mean launch, holy crap!), he turned to me and went "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH"  I returned the same.  We both screamed like teenage girls the entire ride.  The picture was a hoot.  The smile on my youngest's face was precious.  He was psyched.  Loved it.  The terror on my and my eldest son's face as we screamed was hysterical.  Bottom line.  I survived.  We all had fun.  Once was enough for this mom.  :-)

Lunch was at Mama Melrose. Another wonderful meal.  We chose the Fantasmic Package.  Our $35/person price included an appetizer, entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverages for everyone and VIP seating at Fantasmic, the evening show.  So worth it!  A lot of food for lunch, but so amazingly good!  I highly recommend it as a must try restaurant.

The ADR process is smooth.  I want to give a shout out to Disney for how they handle food allergies.  I indicated when I booked the ADR's he has a peanut allergy.  At every restaurant we had an ADR for, the chef came out and talked to us.  Told us what was safe and not safe for him to eat and answered any questions we had.  They accommodated changes/requests easily, happily and without extra charge.  Even more impressive, everything he ordered came out with a little flag that said 'allergy' and all of his food was delivered individually to him so there was absolutely no chance of cross contamination with anyone else's food.  Restaurants everywhere should take note of how seriously Disney takes food allergies!  So impressed!

After lunch, we took in Indiana Jones, the Backlot Tour, the Lights, Motor, Action stunt show, Muppet 3-D, the Great Movie Ride and our adrenaline junkie rode Tower of Terror Twice!  Dinner was at the Sci-Fi Dine in Theater.  The experience was unique as it's like an old-school drive in complete with cars and speakers and sci-fi clips on the big movie screen, but the food menu was limited and so-so.  For counter service quality food, the price was outrageous.  I wouldn't do it again.  My boys enjoyed it, though.  We had managed to ride just about every ride and see the shows we wanted to, despite the 2 ADR's.  It's a small park and easily done in one day.  Especially if you have a plan and don't spend 3 hours eating!  :-)

Because of our late dinner time, we did some shopping and then we were off to Fantasmic.  I'd never seen it before.  It was OK.  My least favorite Disney Park closing show.  Our seats were fantastic.  Definitely too scary for little ones.  If you've never seen Fantasia, you might not understand the references.  It involves sorcerer Mickey and all the Disney Villains.  It's a light, water, and limited fireworks show.  My favorite part was the end, where they blended old and new together.  Then, the 5000 person theater empties out and you herd like cattle to the exit.  Par for the course at Disney if you stay for the closing show.

Day 4:
Our last day was Blizzard Beach.  The kids of all ages had a blast!  We did all the slides except summit plummet.  Lots of stair climbing although the ski lift to the Summit Plummet slope was nice.  It's funny how those who have never ridden a ski lift before were confuzzled and many little kids scared of it!  They even had a gondola for those who needed a wheelchair or unable to use a conventional lift.  We spent a long time in the wave pool and took a few floats along the lazy river.  We brought a bunch of drinks and snacks with us, so aside from lunch and a cold beverage and funnel cake to share, it was a day we spent little time and money on food!  We were there about 6 hours, which was enough.  The kids would have stayed longer, but a storm was brewing and we were sunned out.  Blizzard Beach is really more about the slides where Typhoon Lagoon has a much bigger wave pool and is more geared to younger kids.  Personally, I prefer Typhoon Lagoon, but we had a really fun day.  It was a great way to end our Disney Experience.

Then, we were off to the Village!

It was wonderful to get back to Disney with the kids after a 3+ year hiatus.  The opportunity if afforded me to bond with the kids, especially my oldest, who was more interactive and affectionate than he's been in a long time.  It was such a gift.  It was nice to share the experience with my husband, who is generally anti-Disney and dreaded it.  I think he had more fun than he thought he would.  Of course, having my parents along was great!  They love Disney and well, we, as a family, have been coming to Disney every few years since the 70's, so there was that nostalgia, too.

It would have been nice to have a few more days to explore the parks, but we decided ahead of time how many days we wanted to spend and could afford and how we wanted to spend that time, knowing we wouldn't be able to see/do it all.   The kids were able to see/do pretty much everything they wanted to.  We were able to do quite a lot of what we wanted to.  We had fun!

Now, a vacation from our vacation!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Soaking up the rays...

I have a confession.  Today, I indulged in sun worship.  And I liked it!

Oh.  My.  God.  Did I love it.  It felt like coming home.  It's probably not what you think, either.  At least not entirely.

It was one of those things that sort of happened on a whim.  I was enjoying a day off.  The kids were at school.  My house was blissfully peaceful and quiet.  I had a solid intention to organize today.  My to do list was lengthy and I was on quite a roll with the productivity.  That was exciting in and of itself!  It was about 11 am.  I thought about how much more I could accomplish in the 4 hours before my son came home from school. There was hope I'd make a significant dent in the to do list!

Then, I gazed out the window.  I noticed the crisp blue sky.  The vibrant green of the leaves in contrast.  I became aware of a gentle breeze and smiled at the soft song of the wind chime on the front porch.  I noted the temperature was 78 degrees.  I went back to my to do list.  The rustling of the leaves kept calling my attention back to the outdoors.  I kept gazing out the window.  Then, I started to think about the weather and priorities.

It's the first really summer like day we've had that I actually had an opportunity to enjoy.  I stopped mid-task.  I had an internal conversation with myself that went something like,

"You should go lie in the sun for a change.  You deserve some down time"

And then, the practical voice, "But I have so much to do and I'm on a roll.  I'll be on vacation soon, there will be plenty of opportunity to chill at the pool in the sun".  

The slacker voice countered, "Yes, but right now, it's just you.  Alone.  Blissfully alone....blissfully.  Alone...."

Dammit.  She was right!  And it was gorgeous outside.  I listened to my inner voice.  The one that wanted me to nurture me.  I changed into my bathing suit, donned sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat, grabbed some reading material and a big glass of water and settled myself on the deck.

Suddenly I was transported to a place of relaxation and peace.  I smiled without consciously being aware of why.  I read for about 5 minutes but couldn't focus.  I closed my eyes.  I listened.  I saw.  I felt.  I remembered.  I experienced sitting in stillness and absorbing the environment around me.  It's amazing what you notice when you are not trying to notice anything.

I heard the wind through the trees.  I heard the birds calling to each other.  Some I could identify by their song, others I could not.  I heard a dog bark.  A car drive by.  Someone next door sneezed.  A critter scurried under the deck.  I thought of how I'd not have been aware of those things in the house, preoccupied with 'work'.  How much we miss because we are preoccupied.

I felt the warm sun on my face and my skin.  I felt the breeze against my skin and blowing through my hair. I noticed the directional change.  I could tell when a cloud happened by and blocked the sun briefly.  I had instant memories of similar sunny days where I'd lay in the sun and relaxed.  Mostly in my youth.  At my parents pool, at the beach, in the yard.  I thought about how I spent many hours and may days of every week outdoors, in the sun. It's funny how the brain works, associating certain external conditions with memories and how instantly they can resurface without trying to remember them when those circumstances are recreated.

The memories of days like today are few and far between since becoming a grown-up, having a family and working full time.  That, in and of itself, was a message I needed to hear and be mindful of.  Must take time for me.  Must take time to play.  Must take time to appreciate the world around me.

I opened my eyes and saw a heart cloud.  Of course.  I smiled.  I said thank you. I noticed how pretty our yard is.  I watched the birds, bees and even a butterfly.  They seem so carefree.  I closed my eyes again.  I became even more mindful of the sensations and sounds.  I felt warm, connected, peaceful and yes, even relaxed!  It was a miracle!  I relaxed!  In the sun!  For almost 2 hours!  It was like a vacation!  I've always said I'm solar powered.  It's true!  It's really true!  The vitamin D boost was a bonus.

I became keenly aware of how small we, as people, are.  How vast and powerful nature is and the world around us.  Let alone the Universe!  How much information is there for us.  How much the sun, moon, earth and stars have to teach us.  If only we'd take the time to listen and appreciate their wisdom.  As if to punctuate my thoughts about the beauty and power of nature, the gorgeous sunny day soon gave forth to thunderstorms, gusty winds and torrential downpours, that brought their own beauty, sights and sounds.  Ah, Mother Nature, she's a fickle one...Oh, hey, we have something in common, then!  ;-)

After a while of worshiping the sun and soaking up her glorious warmth and energy, I suddenly felt compelled to write the flood of thoughts and ideas that had burst forth from my sun worshiping.  I was a bit taken by surprise.  My intent in going out to lay in the sun was so I didn't have to do anything.  I wanted to be.  To relax.  My soul had other ideas.  The writer's block I've been struggling with was suddenly lifted.  I grabbed a notepad and a pen and tried to write my thoughts and ideas as fast as they were coming.  I'd no sooner put it down and rest my head and close my eyes when I'd feel driven to pick it up again and write more.  This went on for quite some time.  I've got several pages of messy scrawled words and phrases that I do believe is the birth of a book or two.  Raw.  Automatic.  Literally out of brain and on to paper.  I don't even remember most of what I thought of or wrote!

As the time for my son to return from school neared and the storm clouds rolled in, I thanked all the nature around me for the gift of today.  I pondered with gratitude that I was able to have this experience on so many levels.

The piles on my desk are still there.  My to do list still begs for my attention.  The sun is once again shining and dancing through the leaves on the trees.  It's so pretty.  So energizing.  The rain and wind brought cleansing to the air, the land and my soul.  I feel more grounded, centered and connected to earth and spirit.  My usual stress over what needs to be done is just not there, despite the fact it all still needs to be done.

Turns out I gave myself more than the gift of a little old fashioned 'sun worship' today.  I re-discovered the importance of self-nurturing.  Of truly relaxing and unplugging, even if just for a short time. Of the healing power of nature.  I truly soaked up the rays of love and light.  Of spirit.  You just never know what gifts await, if you take the time to follow that inner wise girl.

What did she tell you to do today?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Running away

Something very bizarre has happened.  I fear I might be ill.  Or crazy.  Or both!  I'm almost afraid to say it out loud, so I'll whisper.

I like running!

Now, you may not think that's a sign of illness or insanity, unless you know me.  I've always enjoyed some form of exercise.  The one thing I've always hated was running.  It was boring.  It felt bad from a cardiovascular standpoint.  It sucked.  I just didn't see the point.  Treadmill or outside.  B-O-R-I-N-G.

When I was young I was a gymnast, until I dislocated my elbow in 5th grade.  Then I took up roller skating and even competed a bit in roller dance and enjoyed being an assistant teacher in exchange for lessons and free skating.  I went through an aerobics phase and was addicted to step and hip-hop aerobics for a while.  I've always loved to social dance and did the club thing for a while. In college I tried crew, which I enjoyed, but didn't keep up with because it almost killed me.  Now, I love ballroom dancing with the love of my life.  We just entered our first competition, which is another form of crazy and another discussion for another time...

About 3 years ago I decided since my life was too hectic and crazy busy with work and kids to allow for going to the gym, and working out at home just wasn't working, that I'd try running.  It was logistically the only form of exercise that I could do at 0'dark thirty in the morning or anywhere, anytime.  It was cheap and portable.  All I needed was proper attire.  I also needed the exercise as much from a physical health standpoint as I did for my emotional well-being.  So I decided my goal would be a 5K before I was 40.  I started the Couch to 5K program in May of that year and ran my first 5K about a month after I turned 40 (October).  It was not easy to train. I did not enjoy it.  I forced myself out the door every single time. I did not run anywhere near fast.  I did not run the entire race.  But I did it.  I finished alive.  I still didn't like running, but I knew that if I didn't register for another 5K, I would not stay motivated.

I found if I ran the 'fun' races, I enjoyed it more.  So I choose races for charity or those that I can run in costume, because hell, I love to dress up and be silly!  Some of my favorites are the Gobble Wobble on Thanksgiving which is in the town I grew up in, and the Jingle Bell Run, in which nearly every person runs in a holiday themed costume and being that it's in Somerville, MA, the finisher medal is a bottle opener!  I also captain Sammy's Super Stars for the NECC 5K for autism every spring in honor of my nephew.  My  husband and my boys often run with me.  My next race is the Diva Dash - an obstacle 5K for women!  It's in September.

Then, this January, I lost my mind.  I decided I wanted to run the Disney Half-Marathon!  Before I was 45.  Maybe it was too much egg nog or the cold weather did something to my brain.  I don't know what the hell happened to me!  The only thing that would motivate me to run 13.2 miles is Disney.  The memories of my childhood (and adulthood) of Disney trips, the excitement, the magic, the characters and entertainment on the course, cast members cheering you on all along the route, running down main street and through the castle, street lined with cheering spectators, including my parents as ChEAR squad members (they are Disney crazy, too), running through EPCOT to the finish with a gospel choir motivating you to the finish line?  Hello?!  Who wouldn't want to do that?!  So I convinced my sister and some friends to join me and WE REGISTERED!  Yes.  It's true.  I am running the 2014 Disney Half-marathon in January.  And yes, I'm out of my freaking mind!  For the record, I'll be 44.  :-)

Except that I'm really excited about it!  Not only is it going to be a fun girls getaway weekend, it's motivated me to ramp up my running.  I got back on track in April and ramped back up to 5K distance regularly.  I tried the 5K to 10K bridge program but it wasn't working for me.  My body just wasn't handling it well. I was feeling doubtful I would be able to do it at all.  Injury and passing out are not an option!  Running through summer is going to be hard, even if I run at sunrise, as my body does not deal well with heat and humidity and exercise.  Low blood pressure sucks in that way.

Then I discovered Galloway's run-walk-run program.  Lots of Run Disney runners use his method.  OMG, the difference is amazing!  I really enjoy running now.  I can run longer, for a greater distance and ultimately at a faster pace taking short, regular, walk breaks.  I feel fantastic!  The hills still suck, but I'm managing them much better with this method.  I purchased a GymBoss interval timer so I don't have to futz with trying to keep track on my own and I love that, too!  My goal is a 10 min/mile pace for the half.  I got a PR at my last 5K, shaving nearly 3 minutes off my previous time (I ran the 5K without stopping).  I'm presently running 5.5 miles.  I'm almost half way there!!!!

I just registered for the Tufts 10k for women in October.  It will be a good test of half the distance of the half  (does that make a whole?) and provide proof of time should I choose to use it for corral placement at the half, and assuming I run a decent race.  I actually expect to be running 10 miles by then, so it should be relatively easy.  The three of us running the half are also running the 10K together.  It should be fun!

As part of my motivation, I spent waaaaay too much time on Pinterest last night creating a vision board of my Run Disney adventure.  If you want to take a peek, you can find it here.  Part of my inspiration will be Meg.  She and I shared a love of all things Tinkerbell.  Since I do love to run in costume, and the spirit of Disney encourages such silliness, guess who I shall be.  Yep.  Tink!  I'm pulling together a Tinkerbell inspired running outfit.  I figure with the help of my own personal angel and some pixie dust, I really can fly!

Periodically, I'll post about my preparation and eventually, about the experience itself!  As the training T-shirt that I want to get says,  

"This race is my ball, my running shoes are my glass slippers, the finish line is my prince charming and the accomplishment is my happily ever after."

In the meantime, gotta run!  ;-)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Ask. Believe. Receive.

Are you familiar with the law of attraction?  How about letting go and letting love?  Trusting the Universe to provide exactly what you need and when, which may not be how or when you want it to be. Do you have faith?  Trust?  Pixie dust?

Most students of spirit are called to their path by a life crisis.  Somehow, they end up at a crossroad with a decision to be made.  How do I proceed?  Is now the right time?  How do I know?  What if I’m wrong?  What if I’m right?! How will I do it?  What if I fail?  What if I succeed?  

So many unknowns.  So many possibilities.  Sometimes a myriad of choices.  Sometimes, only one choice.  If I've learned anything, it’s that when faced with a crisis, the only way out, is through.  

Choosing to go through the pain, to delve deep and allow yourself to sit fully with it, feel it, truly experience it and learn the lessons it has for you is no easy feat.  The logical part of our human brain wants to avoid pain and absolve ourselves of responsibility.  It’s quick to seek platitudes and a quick fix.  When we do that, we can function, but sometimes we miss the gifts.  The opportunities for growth, change and the greater good.  

I've had my share of life crisis.  Postpartum depression.  Miscarriage.  Twins (a good crisis!). The death of a child.  A contentious divorce.  The collateral losses of friends as a result of those two life changing events.  A crisis of faith. A spiritual awakening (good!). I have damn good reasons to be bitter, depressed and to cry victim.  I could easily blame any number of people and circumstances for my lot in life, but I don’t.

Because it’s not about them.  It’s about me.  The only person I can control is me. Only I can decide how I will feel, what I will do, say, believe, or own. Nothing happens in isolation.  Everything happens for a reason.  We have free will.  Choices.  Karma may be a bitch, but she's all ours.

I have a calling.  Well, a few of them.  I know without a doubt what they are.  The problem has always been, how to make it a reality when the practicalities of life factor in. The bills must be paid.  Life needs to be lived.  I do not exist in isolation.  The unexpected happens, often at the most seemingly inconvenient of times.

Here’s what I know.  I want to spend more time with my family. I need to spend more time with my family and they with me.   I promised myself after Meghan died, life is too short.  My kids would come first.  Our lives have gotten so busy we rarely eat together, we don’t do family game night anymore, we are constantly running from one thing to the next.  I've had to rely on others to get MY kids to THEIR events.  That kills me.  It’s difficult to nurture relationships, let alone have me time or couple time with my husband between work and kid responsibilities.  Something’s gotta give, and it ain't gonna be my family.

I love to teach.  About childbirth, safety, Reiki, energetic anatomy and other spiritual pursuits. I have much to offer other bereaved parents.  It’s not work to me.  It’s about helping others be better prepared, safer and connected to themselves and a higher vibration.  It’s about healing hearts and connecting the dots.  I want to do more of it.  I've always said if only I could pay my bills with my teaching and speaking pursuits, I’d do it all day, every day, in a heartbeat.

For a long time I've wanted to write.  I’m not an English major.  My grammar is not perfect.  I will need to make friends with an editor or three.  Yet I know in my heart I not only want to write, I have to write.  There is a higher purpose to it.  What do I have to write?  Meghan’s story.  My story of loss, love, hope and spiritual growth.  I have to write about safety.  I have information that can help others in similar situations.  I have knowledge that can save lives and a compelling way of presenting it.  What I have not had is the time to truly realize the dream.

Until now.

Last December, I decided to focus more on my life’s purpose.  My calling.  I started blogging more.  About 6 months ago I made a vision board.  For the first time, I put it out there to the Universe.  Not what I wanted to do, what I would do this year.  I started to focus my energy and intention on the things I wanted as if they had already happened.  I fully believed that they would happen.  It was time to live the dream.  I asked the Universe, God, the angels to guide me and help me truly listen and hear the guidance.  

I put my heart out there and wrote about the day Meghan died and my ritual every year on her angel day.  It was really meant to be for me and for those who know me to get a glimpse into what it’s like to be me.  My blog post went viral.  I was blown away.  Suddenly, I had offers to guest blog, write freelance pieces on safety and even an unsolicited call from an acquisitions editor for a book offer!  I had offers to do radio interviews, cable TV show interviews and to speak on Meghan’s Hope and safety at moms groups and other local venues.  Opportunities to teach CPR and safety related classes presented themselves again and the classes filled!  With waiting lists!  

I was filled with gratitude.  Finally, someone was listening to Meggie!  The problem was I still had a more than full time job and two needy and active boys.  I couldn't keep up.  The thing I wanted to do the most (and there was finally interest in) was the thing that I had the least time for and yet the strongest passion and calling to do.  I began to focus on manifesting the means by which I could follow my heart and make it happen.

Guidance called me to train to be an angel card reader.  Literally, one day, I woke up, knew I had to do it and so I did.  Loved it.  Reiki called me back.  I need to practice.  I need to give.  Clients started messaging me out of the blue, asking if I was practicing!  

The hardest part of it all was knowing I needed to quit my full time job to realize the dream.  To manifest what the Universe was throwing at me.  The signs were clear.  It was time.  Do it, woman!  The logical, human side of me was of course concerned from a financial standpoint.  I meditated on it.  I came upon guidance on manifesting abundance.  I happened upon a large green aventurine that I swear screamed my name.  I purchased it.  Cleansed and programmed it for abundance and right timing. I massaged it every day.  I see it every day.  I affirm the Universe will provide everything I need...

No sooner did I have it on my desk, did clarity of purpose and job opportunities appear.  After halfheartedly searching for the ‘perfect solution’ for months, I asked the Universe to lead me to the perfect part-time job.  It did.  Like the very next day.  I interviewed at two places, but knew which one was right from the beginning.  Before I even interviewed at the job I wanted, I went about my life as if it was as done deal.  I imagined the conversation I would eventually have to have with my boss, complete with this company’s name in the narrative.  I wrote when my last day of work at my current job would be and when I would start at the new job, by name, in my calendar!  Cocky?  No.  Positive intention and energy and a dash of intuitive knowing?  Hell yes. Guess what.  It all verified!  :-)

More time with my kids!  Time to write that book!  More time to teach and speak! Time to manifest the dream!

Wait.  It gets better.  So I’ll be working part-time.  I still need to generate additional income, which I want to do through teaching and speaking engagements.  I kid you not, a week ago I received another unsolicited invitation to teach non-credit adult ed courses at a local community college on topics pertaining to safety and spiritual pursuits!  All I could do was smile, thank the Universe and marvel at the power of intention and faith.  It was on my list of things to pursue, yet they pursued me.  Thank you, angels.  

Then, I was walking into one of the hospitals I frequented for my now former job this week and ran into a colleague who runs in the childbirth world circles with me.  She was dumbfounded at the serendipity because she had *just* made the decision to give up a safety class she teaches there (using my original curriculum) and knew I was the one to take it over for her.  She told her supervisor to call me, which apparently she plans to do to offer me the position.  I’m waiting to connect with her, to discuss that and adding a CPR class to their curriculum for the community.  It’s a full circle thing for me, too, since when I was training to be a childbirth educator, it was that hospital I taught for.  I’d been trying to figure out how to offer those classes to this particular community and there it was.  She was on my list of people to call.  We marveled together at the way the Universe and God work when you let go of the control and simply trust when the time is right, it will happen.  

Along the way, amazing webinars started coming my way on writing and speaking.  I listened to them.  Oh.  My.  God.  I feel like a kid at Christmas!  The gifts are amazing!  

This morning I sit here with my heart filled with joy and gratitude.  I feel so blessed to have the opportunity I now have to fulfill my soul purpose.  I have the time and the apparent support of the Universe to follow my heart and write, teach, speak and serve others.  I am grateful for the support of my family, friends and colleagues as well as the many people ‘behind the scenes’ that have touched me, guided me and led me to this day and into the future.  

If you ask for what you want, specifically.  If you believe with every ounce of your being it will happen when the time is right.  You will receive.  As Peter Pan and the beloved Tinker Bell is famous for saying, all you need is faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust.  

Guess what.  I have all three!  

I am grateful.  I am blessed.  I am filled with love and light.  I want to share it.  I will.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

When one door closes...

Today marks a transition.  It was my last day of work at my current job.  How I arrived at the decision to leave this job is the subject matter of another post.  Suffice it to say, signs were abundant that it was time.  Eventually, I listened.  I resigned.  Today, it's an ending.

I did not leave with any bad blood. Sure, it wasn't a perfect job.  Is there one?  There are always things that are frustrating in any job.  Hell, in life!  I very much enjoyed the two years I spent in this role and loved my colleagues.  We were a fantastic team.  I am so grateful we had the opportunity to work together, learn from each other and support each other.  It's always difficult to leave when you really like the people you work with.  I've been fortunate to have always really enjoyed the people I've worked with at all of my jobs!  My boss said it best when she said, "...this is not goodbye, it's good luck."

Today, I am filled with gratitude for the blessings this job and the experience afforded me. I've learned and grown personally and professionally.  I was able to financially accomplish things I might otherwise not have been able to.  I made new friends.  Everyone was understanding of my reasons for choosing to leave this role and tremendously supportive of my future endeavors.  I am blessed.

The adage goes, everything happens for a reason.  I know without a doubt, certain people I encountered in the past two years were also there to cross paths with me.  We had information for each other.  It was the right place and the right time for unknown reasons.  Until it was obvious.  Little gifts that we gave each other, that were in fact tremendous.  Whether we realized it at the time or not.  Our purpose served.  Our journey continued and out paths once again diverged.  Ah, but we shall never forget the lessons and gifts we received.  Gratitude abounds.

It was also nice to hear such kind words this week from those I interacted with on a regular basis but did not work for or directly with.  My job had me in and out of several hospitals and doctor's offices every day, clinically screening patients or marketing.  I had professional relationships with people I saw regularly.  To get an unexpected hug, kind words of praise and thanks, a humorous ribbing or sincere well wishes touched me.  It's nice to be appreciated and to be told such!  I will miss many of them.

Today is also a beginning.  For when one door closes, another opens.  I have a new and somewhat different job lined up and I'm excited about it.  It's going to be a good fit for me and for them.  I have plans go follow my heart and live my dream.  The time is right, that is clear.  I'm grateful for the opportunity and the support of those around me and all the forces conspiring to make it so.  My heart is happy.

In as much as I struggled to make the decision, once I did, I felt a weight was lifted.  I knew it was the right decision.  For me.  I know change is not always easy, but it is always good.

I look forward to fondly closing this door and lovingly opening the next one.  Open heart.  Open mind.  Open to the experience and the path I'm meant to walk.

Stay tuned, you can walk with me.  If you choose to.