Today is Thanksgiving Day. Richard and I are on our traditional Thanksgiving week vacation. We own a small time share in Orlando and it has become our custom to take the Thanksgiving week and enjoy a break away from all the chaos that leads up to the Holiday Season.
It’s a pretty standard time share condo: a lounge/dining area with a small compact half kitchen, a decent size bathroom with a shower in the tub which has some whirlpool jets, and a bedroom with a nice comfortable king-size bed and the prerequisite double closet and chest of drawers. There are two TV’s and a boom box and all the necessary accoutrements for cooking, cleaning, and ironing. The furnishings are nice with small touches of tasteful décor, but nothing extravagant.
However, there is one item of pure luxury as far as I am concerned. We have a large screened-in balcony that accommodates a table and four chairs and there’s still plenty of room to move around. This is my “lanai away from home” and where I spend the vast majority of whatever time we do not spend running out and about. Over the past few days I have sat out here and written about one hundred and forty Christmas cards, remembering friends far and near as I always do at this time of the year.
This is where I come first thing in the morning to have my quiet time with God and do my reflection readings and pray and meditate. This is my small sanctuary where I find safe haven where I can reaffirm or reclaim my inner peace and gratitude for all my blessings. I also bring my laptop out here to do my writing, as I am doing at this very moment. I feel like this is a special gift from God to me.
As I sit here on the lanai I look out over a small artificial lake with a fountain set in the middle. The lake is surrounded by other condo buildings but they are spaced out enough that we are not crowded. There is lush green grass everywhere dotted with flowering trees and shrubs, and pathways offer the opportunity to walk or jog everywhere.
Today is a glorious sparkling blue day – a Princess Di kind of day. The sun is shining brilliantly and shimmers on the water in the lake. There are a few white clouds softly smeared across the sky and the temperature is warm and inviting. I’m thinking about going for a walk and a swim. There is a balmy breeze blowing and the palm fronds wave lazily as it moves through. The smaller leaves on other trees are fluttering like myriads of green butterflies and everything seems to be in gentle motion. Along the banks of the lake a small blue heron is gracefully and stealthily stalking a prey that only he can see.
I sit here and feel the sun warming me to the very depths of my bones and I am so very grateful for all of this, that is so much more than my basic needs. I am grateful for food on my table and a roof over my head. I am grateful for fresh-smelling soap to wash myself with. I am grateful for a closetful of clothes (mainly purple!!) that I can chose from. I am grateful for a loving, kind, patient husband (he needs to be patient with this purple creature he has married!).
I am grateful for the whole of my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yes, there are some bad and ugly parts to my life and yes, I am grateful for them too. They serve as humble reminders that I still have more work to do to improve. I am grateful that today I can recognize, admit and accept that I am not perfect and that there is room for growth. Amen!!!
The other day a friend called asking if we could get together. I opened my planner and started checking for my next available free time slot. As I shuffled through the pages I began to feel a hint of panic rising in my chest. I had nothing available until after Thanksgiving – at least a week after Thanksgiving!! Feeling guilty, I took a few deep breathes and managed to squeeze a small space of time for a cup of coffee together.
When I got off the phone, I took my planner and went and sat in the lanai and just breathed in God’s air for a few minutes. There is nothing calms me down quicker than sitting out there, surrounded by God’s creation, and just breathing. Then I slowly checked through my planner. Yes, it was very full but I could see that some chunks of time were carved-out-for-me (and husband Rich) time, and I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed and enjoyed the outdoors for a few more minutes before I went on with my day.
I think the panic had come because somewhere inside of me there was this little voice saying, “so you still haven’t learned the Time Lesson yet?”. This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn on my life journey, to rest and pause and give myself some dedicated time to relax and restore. My life has been so much about doing for others and being busy and productive. I was a do-er, not a be-er. I was always taught not to waste time, and some of those lessons die hard, even when they no longer serve me.
This all got me thinking about how even more busy life seems to get around this Holiday Season, and I think that’s what caused the panic. I thought I had fallen into the old trap of getting ridiculously over-busy just because it was the Holiday season. However, a whole week of time is a mini vacation for me and Richard. Right now I’m also enjoying a sort of two-day vacation in Orlando as Richard is involved in a conference and I’m “along for the ride”. And on the way home from here on Friday he will drop me off in Sanford for my Audire program instructional weekend.
I have time slots marked down for Christmas card making, and other spaces for doing my Audire homework. I have some para-professional appointments with people and a doctor’s appointment too. Scattered in and among these appointments are my Pilates classes and a massage appointment; I have most definitely learned to take care of me even in the midst of busyness. There’s a concert with a friend and a Christmas party, even if it is an “official function” connected to Richard’s job.
I know I have written several postings about resting and pausing, sharing some of the reflections from the books I read each morning. Just a couple of weeks ago in the October Daily Word, I read:
When I am out of alignment, my body feels out of sorts, my mind races with thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow. I feel unsettled.
At such times, I have not lost my connection to Spirit, I’ve just become distracted. In conscious awareness, I pause, say a prayer and step away for a few moments in the silence. I immediately begin to feel the Spirit flowing within and through me.
I don’t think we can have enough reminders to “be still and know that I am God”. Fortunately I have a good husband, friends, and many tools that I use to remind me constantly of the need to give myself time, to just simply be. Thanksgiving and Christmas are times to be enjoyed, times to relax, times to give some thought as to why we are here in the bigger scheme of things. Frenetic shopping and filling our calendars with too many activities are not conducive to our inner peace or the harmony of our souls. I encourage everyone to make a commitment to plan some personal quiet spaces in the busyness of the upcoming Holiday Season.
Sometimes I have to give myself permission to play. I think it is important for the soul, for the heart, for the mind, and for the body to simply have fun. Especially once we have reached the lofty maturity of adulthood! We take on more and more responsibility. Our lives get busier with duties. We begin to wear ourselves down before our time.
So once in a while I decide to do something quite childlike that requires no special thought. Dare I say – I even allow myself to “get silly” and giggle and not act one iota like an adult. There’s no better time to do this than during the Holiday Season. There are so many fun kid-oriented activities to choose from starting with getting dressed up for Halloween and ending up with a visit to Santa.
And so it was, that about ten days ago I found myself in the company of two intrepid child-wannabee girlfriends heading down to St. Augustine. We picked up my daughter who had decided to brave the company of three mature ladies on their quest for childish fun. While trolling the internet, I had come across a link advertising a large 9-acre corn maze and the promise of a hayride included. I have always wanted to do a hayride and the idea of the corn maze made me think of the movie “Field Of Dreams” and had me shivering in anticipation.
The corn maze was located on the Sykes and Cooper Farm in Elkton, which is a few miles south west on CR 207 just outside St. Augustine. We parked the car and walked over to the ticket booth to pay our entry fees. It’s times like this that I really don’t mind being a senior because I got a two dollar discount. They had a few farm animals on display including a sweet donkey, a huge round-bellied fat pig that the toddlers found fascinating, and a small collection of hens. As we finished checking out the hens we realized the big tractor trailer for the hayride was right there and almost empty, so we decided to do that next.
Once we had all got ourselves settled on bales of hay, Farmer Cooper fired up the engine and off we chugged around a large field. There were myriads of gnats in the air but for the most part they didn’t bother us. As we swung around the other side of the field we began to see pumpkins growing on their mounds. I noticed that many of them had a layer of what looked like heavy duty foil laid on the ground around them. I learned that this was to prevent the pumpkins from going moldy on the ground. Some of the pumpkins were humongous!
We jumped off the hayride and made a beeline for the maze. It really was huge and quite intimidating as we entered. The corn (or sorghum) was way above our heads and the paths twisted and turned, ran into each other, went in circles, and did everything else to turn us in the wrong direction. We could hear children’s voices and their shrieks of laughter coming from various directions as they obviously found themselves back at the same spot again and again.
I guess we spent a good half an hour in the maze as we tried to find our way out. Even though we were “acting like children”, the adult in us was aware that we should keep the sounds of the highway to our left, so we didn’t have too much difficulty. I do remember thinking at one point “supposing a ghost just appeared through the corn”, or “what would I do if I stuck my hand into the corn and it (my hand) disappeared”!! Woo-woo! Coming out from the maze we wandered over to the pumpkin stand and bought some miniature pumpkins to use as fall decorations.
By this time we were hungry and decided to head back into St. Augustine to have dinner. On many of my visits to St. Augustine I have passed a small colorful restaurant called “La Cocina Mexican Restaurant” on US-1 and have wanted to try it. We all agreed, Mexican it would be. What a great dinner we had. The service was excellent and the food was “uber” excellent. What I didn’t expect was the superb presentation, almost like a top class eatery. The restaurant itself was delightfully decorated with beautiful murals. Definitely worth another visit and I highly recommend it!
What a fun evening we had. Can’t wait to be a child again!