island smile:)land

IMG_7076Last weekend I enjoyed a few days on Florida’s gulf coast. This was a special occasion, celebrating with my next younger sister her 50th birthday.

This trip has been in the works for months. I booked a villa at the South Seas Island Resort in February and coordinated flights through award miles. My cousin came on board, generously offering to provide custom taxi service after securing time off to join the party. Then we looped my mom and aunt into our plans. These ladies both celebrated big birthdays this year as well, turning our event into a dual-location and multigenerational celebration.

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The resort was lovely. Lot of seashore, silky sand, and sunshine. Our South Village villa provided expansive coastal views and direct access to miles of shell-strewn soft grey sand. We were situated between two pools and not far from resort shops — plus a pond inhabited by a small alligator, just to keep it real. A resort trolley made for convenient access to the other end of the property, North Pointe, with its outdoor pool complex, tiki bar, marina, restaurant, spa, fitness center and more shops. We all had good intentions for that fitness center!

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IMG_7223.JPG-1Despite all of the planning, I had few expectations for this get-away. A vacation is usually better that way: surprise me! The villa was perfect, with three bedrooms and four beds. The resort staff were so pleasant, launching our celebration with bottles of wine and other freebies in honor of the birthday girl.

My cousin brought along a huge cooler of food and birthday cake. We enjoyed a couple of dinners out and an excursion to Ding Darling preserve on Sanibel Island, searching for ‘gators. We found one big one — at a safe distance. Otherwise, only a few odd birds and horseshoe crab happy hour. :=) Mostly we hung out and did nothing much of anything, low-key and Captiva-easy.

IMG_7783My sisters and I are different from each other in many ways, and from my cousin in still other ways. But at the end of the day, we are much more alike than we are different. We share common traits, like generosity and compassion. We share appreciation for simple things, like a good cup of coffee with the sunrise or a glass of wine at sunset. We enjoy travel adventures, near and far. We share fond memories of early childhood summers on Grampy’s farm with our mothers. I hear myself in my cousin’s laugh and see myself in the shape of my sister’s feet or the arch of her brows.

Even so, our differences are real. Sometimes they create tension, especially when I am overtired and irritable and not prone to listen to anyone’s advice. Or when I allow self-doubt or insecurities to creep in and cloud my better judgement. I should know by now she’s in my corner; if I can’t trust her, who can I trust? Seriously.

More often than not, however, our differences are a gift. I’ve learned to listen closely to the small silences, to examine the gaps between me and she. I usually find something in that space that I need. I’ll take a tip from my Aunt Bea and hope that at eighty I’m still up for challenge of becoming my best me.

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On Monday night we drove back to Fort Meyers to rendezvous with my mom and aunt. We enjoyed a nice Italian dinner and another round of Happy Birthday to You! Have you ever seen 50, 75, or 80 look so good? Me, neither.

~ René Morley

sliding over the hill

IMG_2025Yesterday was the perfect capstone on fun-filled birthday weekend. It started with a brief visit from Rosie on Friday afternoon, as I was finishing work. Just long enough for some hugs and kisses but it sure made my day.

On Saturday, I tagged along with Sadie and Ollie to visit Old McDonald’s Farm. There is a delightful variety of animals, including bunnies, chickens and other feathered friends, cows, pigs, sheep, horses, donkeys, alpacas, lamas, even reindeer, and a camel!  I do think we agreed the goats are the most fun. Oliver decided he’d ride the big horse and did so with a big smile. Sadie, never one to be left out, rode the pony around the ring. She had a dubious look about her, no doubt wondering how she ended up in this precarious position!

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We had lunch at Tin Pan, one of our favorite restaurants. I found exactly what I have been looking for in the antique store and voila, it became a birthday gift. What a nice surprise. We were all wiped out and it had started to rain by the time we headed home. I thought the chids would be quick to conk out. They’d been on the run for hours! Nope. Not this time. I suspect they heard someone say “Ice cream?”

Sunday started bright and early with breakfast at a tiny diner at the edge of a neighboring of town. It’s the sort of community gathering place where you might feel like an outsider except that the proprietor and staff are so welcoming. They offer great food and yummy pies. Hens loves the Cin-Cin french toast, as does GiGi.

We met up again at the playground for a picnic lunch.The grands enjoy this particular playground best of all in our area. There are lots of things to climb on, slide on, bounce on, and swing on. Something for everyone! Big bonus: it sits on the riverbank near shady trees with scenic views. Perfect place for birthday picnic.

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Recently, Hens learned the word “muumuu” in reference to GiGi’s summer attire — falsely, I might add. (Google it and you’ll understand my miff!) In response, I wore to the picnic the closest thing I have to a muumuu (a navy breakfast robe, courtesy of my mom) accompanied by my grandmother’s pink costume jewelry, a long string of glass beads white ankle socks, plaid boat shoes, and a floral silk scarf with white leggings that might sub for granny pants. The “old lady” effect was completely lost on my son-in-law, the rascally source of the muumuu myth, but I had fun with it anyway!

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The whole weekend was so much fun that I rather forgot I was sliding over the hill. That is good by me. After dreading the big 5-0 for so long, I am pleasantly surprised to be enjoying the ride. I know growing old is a privilege many are denied. I only hope that by the time I reach bottom (sometime in the far distant future, please, God …) these wee ones have accumulated a big bucket of GiGi memories to carry along. More than anything, may they each know how much they are cherished, always and forever.

~ Rene Morley

hens turns two

Last week grandboy Henry turned two years old. He had a full week of celebration to show for it!

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On Monday, Hens and his mama and daddy took a trip to Parc Safari in Quebec. It is quite something. I remember taking our chids here many years ago but it’s almost an entirely different species now! They had a grand time surrounded by exotic wild animals on the psuedo-African plains. (Yes, in the cold Northern Hemisphere. It’s a marvel.)

Henry enjoyed the water park more than anything. But I loved hearing about the up close and personal camel experience. Better yet, while Daddy was intent on capturing the perfect shot, he received a sloppy, wet smackeroo from another camel on the backside of his head. Stealth attack!

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Early on Wednesday morning, I called Henry via FaceTime to wish him a happy birthday. He listened politely to the birthday song for all of about a minute before telling his mama, “Shut door.” Then CLICK, he disconnected me! Well, huh. I can hardly compete with the Micky Mouse Clubhouse.

His mama took the day off to enjoy his birthday. She said, “Henry, you can do anything you want today. Beach? Playground? Anything!” Henry said, “Feed cows with Pops!” … and she was unceremoniously ditched, too! Pops had the honor of Henry’s company on his big day.

I took a few small gifts down to Henry after his nap to help fill some time as he was waiting for his daddy to finish work. I was eager for him to unwrap.

GiGi: “Henry! Don’t you want to open your presents?”
Henry: “Hmm. No, GiGi. Play diggers! Play diggers!”

That is classic Henry. However, his eyes lit up when he saw the appliquéd dump truck on his new pillow sham, preparing for the transition to his big boy bed. He thought it was Mighty Machines. Oh, how little boys love their equipment. ;=) IMG_0193

Henry received a tricycle for his birthday and is quite proud of his newfound skill pedaling. He cannot wait to show his older friend, Andrew, what he can do. (Andrew is a mature 5 years old, after all.) It was all Hens could talk about as he pedaled around.

Their driveway has a slight incline, which made for the perfect training ground. Hens-Self could hardly keep up! “Who’s birthday is it today? Who is two years old?” I asked. He giggled all the way to an abrupt stop on top of my strategically placed foot. Only then, breaking his intense concentration, did he look up and answer my question. “Hens!”

After dinner with Daddy and Pops, we went out for ice-cream. Henry couldn’t decide between his vanilla-chocolate twist with sprinkles or mama’s vanilla with cherry dip or daddy’s plain vanilla. And really, why should he have to? Ha! But just how much ice cream can one two year old eat?

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On Saturday, it was Henry’s mama’s birthday. I picked them up for breakfast shortly after 8. We headed to a little diner on the outskirts of town that gets great reviews, especially for their pies. Henry picked up on this tidbit in our conversation and became very excited about this prospect.

His Mama: Henry, What do you want for breakfast?
Henry: Pie!

He quickly earned the title “Cutest Yankees Fan, Ever” from a sweet elderly lady at the adjacent table — although he was far too consumed with savoring his chocolate milk to take note. He enjoyed some of his mama’s breakfast sandwich and some of GiGi’s french toast. But boy, oh boy, did he relish that fresh raspberry pie! Because, why not? It’s mama’s birthday!

I think there must be an as-yet undiscovered pie gene and it runs at least four generations deep in my father’s family. Come to think of it, there might be an ice-cream gene, too!

On Sunday, we gathered for Henry’s birthday party. Pizza and presents. Cake and balloons and Mickey Mouse party hats. Aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents. It was raining outside … and inside, the barely controlled chaos you might expect with four busy wee ones at play.

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Oh my mercy! Even with just the immediate family, we are bursting at the seams. Pops better build that barn soon! How far we’ve come in two-and-a-half years of grandparenting. This picture says it all: Life is good.

Sadie (16 mos), Henry (2), Oliver (2 yr 5 mos), Rose (11 mos)

~ René Morley

celebrate

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This was a Big. Birthday. Weekend. A birthday I’d been thinking about for a long time. Yes, the big Five-Oh. Fifty! Me? Yes, indeed.

I’m big on celebrations for just about any reason. Especially as we age, we must be purposeful in maintaining joie de vivre — the enjoyment of life. My personal motto has become, Celebrate: just because.

Celebrate the interview, don’t wait to see if you get an offer. Celebrate the friendship, don’t wait for her birthday or promotion. Celebrate the journey, don’t wait for the next big transition. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring; celebrate today.

So that is what I did about turning Five-Oh: I celebrated.

Two Saturdays past, I spent with my girls at my favorite Adirondack destination, Lake Placid, NY. One of the girls is very pregnant, so this might well have been her last luxury for awhile. Both of the others are mommies who appreciate a few hours baby-free. We enjoyed lovely spa treatments and lunch, refreshing margaritas and laughter. The best part is that it was their idea.

The next day, I left for a week of work in Boston. The final day of my trip, I dropped by the Apple store on Boylston just before the airport. What a treat! I knew what I wanted to buy before I stepped through the doors. It was easy enough to justify, with a big birthday ahead. It was just so much more fun to buy in a beautiful Apple store store than online. The sales clerks were all too happy to help me celebrate. ;=)

On Wednesday past, I had dinner and drinks with some dear colleagues … who could not resist a round of the birthday song. I embraced their harmonious effort as a gift, an expression of love. It was wonderful to spend an evening among treasured friends.

On Friday night, the Hubs treated the family to dinner on the back patio at one of our favorite restaurants. Fresh lobster on any North Country menu is cause for celebration in and of itself! It was quiet on the patio, the river slipping easily over the dam behind us as daylight faded into a lovely summer evening. What a gift.

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On Saturday, I rose early to grocery shop and pack a picnic lunch. We set off with the grandboys, Ollie and Henry, and lady baby, Sadie, for the Central Agricultural Farm and Museum in  the heart of Ottawa. What a fantastic place and so much fun to return, after all these years, with grandchids.

The Hubs couldn’t take time off, what with Rosie due to arrive any moment and knowing he will cover for her daddy when she does. But the rest of us sure enjoyed the squeals and giggles of little boys surrounded by farm animals they’ve seen only in storybooks  — except for cows and kitties, of course. Goats, sheep, and alpaca; horses and cows; ducks, chickens and rabbits — oh my! It was a near-perfect day.

The only thing lacking was baby Rosie. Then we will surely celebrate again!

But truth be told, I’m not planning to close out this birthday celebration yet. I’m still trying to connect with a few friends spread afar. And I’m waiting for two of my sisters to arrive, mid-August. Then there’s another get-away day planned and a lot of catching up to do.

Finally, in October, the Hubs has planned a wonderful cruise. His big Five-Oh is still ahead. We’re celebrating in between our birthdays this year by visiting a few bucket list places: Quebec City, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland. Bonus: Saint Pierre and Miquelon! Who knew France still owned territory in the “New World”? So exciting!

One thing I hope is clear: it’s neither about turning fifty nor is it about me. It’s about richness of relationships that make life worth living, maintained across decades and generations. It’s a privilege to turn 50 or 60, or 70 or 80. It’s a joy to live in proximity to family. It’s an honor to remain close to sisters from childhood and girlfriends from grade school, to reconnect with colleagues spanning a career and good friends gathered up like treasures over time. To each I say, let’s celebrate.

~ Rene Morley

20140608-223252.jpgThe babies’ blue Ts were a gift from my cousin, as we were celebrating this spring in Arizona. The boys’ Ts say: If you mess with me, you mess with my Grandma. You don’t want to mess with my Grandma! Sadie’s T says: She’s not my Grandma, she’s my Glamma!  ;=)