A Relaxing Winter Break


Our family ALWAYS looks forward to winter break.  I can't emphasize the word ALWAYS enough.  Little Lewie obviously looks forward to it because it's a week off from school.  I look forward to it because it's a week off from work--a week to relax, a week to reconnect with family and loved ones, a week for enjoyment, and if I'm lucky, a week to begin organizing my house for the New Year.

In the past, hubby and I would use this time to go on couple trips to places like Las Vegas, San Francisco, New Orleans, and San Diego.  (Those were our pre-Lewie days; in fact, some of those trips were pre-wedding days, too.)  Now, for the past ten years, our priorities have shifted.  We mostly spend time at home, unless we try to squeak in a one or two day trip. 

This year was no exception to our "new norm."  Aunty Kiki, our beloved family member that is battling Ovarian Cancer, stayed with us for almost a full week as she recovered from surgery.  Then, Aunty ReRe from Delaware came up to stay with us, too.  After celebrating Christmas, we had a few more days of fun--a day for art, a play date with hiking and ice cream, a day at our local aquarium, and a night with friends to welcome in 2019.

Here is a glimpse of our break through pictures:

Cousin Sarah painting ceramics at the Clay Date

My lovely vase...

Cousin Brooklyn's Dragon

Cousin Lily's kitty cat...

Our winter hike at White Memorial Conservation Center

Hikes are better with family and a best friend.

A day at the Maritime Aquarium

The end of a fun day...

It's hard to name one single favorite moment as our break was full of them.  Still, I did have a favorite activity and that was going to see the IMAX movie Backyard Wilderness, which was part of our trip to the aquarium.  The movie, having received rave reviews, explains how the cycle of nature/life occurs all around us when we're too busy indoors watching TV, playing video games, or going to school or work.  It shows how plant and animal life changes during all four seasons with a particular emphasis on spring and the birth of newborn baby animals, like frogs, salamanders, ducks, raccoons, deer, coyotes, and other wild animals.  The movie resonated with our ten year-old Lewie who often turns down outside activities to stay on his computer, and it made both my husband and me cry as we're reminded about the beauty, splendor, delicacy, and sanctity of life.  (I had no idea I should have armed myself with a package of tissues before beginning the movie.)

Our winter break this year, in short, was a reminder to us of what's important.  By spending time with family, friends, and nature (or observing nature), we had a chance to focus on the areas of our life that should be held in the highest regard but often gets pushed aside because of school and work.  My challenge this year will be to schedule more time like this each month, so we don't have to wait until summer and winter break to find balance.

New Year's Resolutions 2019


New Year's Day is my FAVORITE holiday.  For me, there's something therapeutic about starting a brand new year.  Just like I welcome each morning as a blank slate, I welcome January 1st as the ultimate blank slate--a time to release past pain and regrets and to begin a  new adventure.  It's a time for reflection.  What did I learn in 2018?  Can I take any of this wisdom and apply it to the New Year?

I actually learned a lot in 2018.  My resolution was to make more "me time," and I was successful in some areas and unsuccessful in others.  

I did ensure we continued our National Park tradition as we spent an amazing week in Yosemite National Park and its surroundings.  I also checked off another item on my bucket list.  In September, hubby and I had a chance to go on an actual spiritual retreat at the Omega Institute.  It was a dream come true--one I harbored for six years when I first learned about the place.  Both trips gave me an opportunity to feel my essence as I found pure, unadulterated joy in communing with nature and listening to my true consciousness.  

Around the same time of the retreat, a family doctor recommended the audio book, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.  Our doctor told us the book would be transformational, and indeed, it has become my "go to" book whenever I need to reconnect with the present.  As someone that prides myself on my "to-do" list, I now realize I spend most of my life living in the future with the tunnel vision of checking off goals.  The book awakened me to see how the present is really the only time we have and how our thoughts often lead us down paths that take us away from our inner light.  Whenever I find myself feeling stressed, self-pity, anger, resentment, or jealousy, I turn on Eckhart Tolle's audio book to regroup.  

Another success this year was making more time with friends.  (The time was still not enough, but I've come to learn that sometimes it's more about quality than quantity.)  Hubby, Little Lewie, and I finally drove down to New Jersey to visit my best friend and see her "new home" that was purchased three years ago.  It was fun to experience a day in the life of my best friend, getting to know her children, her community, and her activities and travels.  We reminisced about our old college days and then laughed about the hustle and bustle of our current lives with kids.  Then in November, another best friend and I made last minute plans to go to a holistic health expo in Massachusetts.  We ditched the husbands and kids, and actually made a whole day for ourselves to sample healthful products like protein powders, teas, shakes, lotions, and tinctures.  We even had a mini acupuncture and cupping therapy session.  That day, we learned more about each other than we had during our many years of friendship.  I discovered the best recipe for wellness wasn't found in any of those products; it was found in the laughing and enjoyment of sharing time with a true friend.

Yes, how do I take the wisdom from this year and bring it to 2019?  Well, I've learned that sometimes momentous events happen because we plan for them, and other times they happen spontaneously on their own.  With a very full life, I find that the planning, however, usually works better than the spontaneity.  This year, when I didn't specifically schedule in "fun" time with hubby, Lewie, my mom, or myself, I found that weeks and even months would go by as if I was reliving the same day over and over again.  Wake up, get ready for work, get Lewie ready for school, drive to work, go to my meetings, come home, have dinner, go to bed, repeat.

This year, my one resolution is to get more organized.  That means first to clear away the extra clutter, which I know for certain drags me down.  I can feel the "stuff" zapping my energy as I enter certain rooms of the house.  The second is to organize my months and weeks better.  On a grand scale, I will write in activities, vacations, trips, etc. for the year, focusing on three month intervals at a time, but then each week, I'll zone in on the particulars.  When will I find time for exercise, reading, walking, spending time with hubby, Little Lewie, or my mom?  Weeks go by when I just "do" but don't accomplish any of these.  This year, I'm looking at each of these 52 weeks as they begin, and I'm writing in each activity, making sure I am allowing enough time for each of them.  With practice, my goal is to live with more intention and meaning. 

I do know the pitfalls--schedules can lead to unrealistic expectations and disappointment.  After all, life is not always kind to schedules.  All it takes is a family illness, accident, storm, or other disruptive event to erase even the best of plans.  Still, I don't think this is a reason not to have them.  The other pitfall is living by a "to-do" list--the very "to-do" list that keeps me thinking about the future and not focusing on the present.  For that, I say, I'm going to allow myself to think future when it comes to planning, but once my day begins (with a framework in mind), my goal is to live as consciously as possible--making each activity, whether it be walking, doing homework with Lewie, or spending time with my husband, focused and intentional.    

Today is actually "the first blank page of a 365 page book."  As with every new year, I am determined to write "a good one."  All the New Years resolutions in the world can't predict the future, but as long as I have some free will throughout the journey, I'm going to do my best to make it a meaningful year--not perfect--but meaningful.