Another Empty Nest Benefit

So here it is, President’s Day. Most other years I would be on vacation with my family- during one of the most expensive weeks to travel. Blackout dates definitely apply and airports are crowded as families make their way to their week-long vacation. Instead, I sat behind my desk today- which was very undisturbed by the way- because all of my clients were on vacation- and accumulated holiday time that can be used at a later date.

I am looking forward to taking one of my few vacations (but I hope there will be many more), that are not driven by school timing. That is another great benefit of the empty nest- I can vacation on my own terms- not the schedule of the millions of school children!

cheerio

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Bon Voyage, ma Fille!

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Where Love and Obligation Meet

Where does one draw the boundaries between love, obligation and regret? There is a very fine line between each of them. The actions we take do not neatly fall into any one of those categories but, instead, often overlap in many tangled and complicated ways. I am writing this post in Hilton Head, where I came for a brief stay with my father and stepmother for all of these reasons.

Because I had not been able to see them over the holiday season, I had been invited several times to come visit. The first two times, I was able to justify my own busy schedule or that of my family; but when I declined for the third time because I was “too busy”, I began to feel pangs of guilt. Was there something sad I could detect in his voice? Was I neglecting my duties as a daughter? How would I feel if something happened and I never had another opportunity? Why was I so focused on my daily life that I was ignoring the long, loving history of our lives together -forgetting how important our relationship is and denying that the extra effort would be worth it?

Thankfully, my husband saw through my calm indifference and realized what was gnawing at me inside. The next day, at his insistence, I booked my flight and now, a month later, I am so glad I came. The weather was not what it should have been at this time of year. In fact, I was lucky to arrive on schedule between the ongoing parade of winter storms. The cold didn’t bother me, though. We walked between the raindrops, braved the winds on the barren beach, prepared delicious meals, talked late into the evening and celebrated by singing together at his piano just like we used to.

Despite the gloomy weather, our spirits are high!

Despite the gloomy weather, our spirits are high!

Delicious jumbo shrimp from a local fish monger!

Delicious jumbo shrimp from a local fish monger!

The evening I was supposed to leave, yet another storm threatened the east coast and my flight home was cancelled. Was it inconvenient? Yes. I had to cover my classes back home and ask my husband to deliver some necessary materials for me. But, I prefer to see this extra day as a gift from Mother Nature. The sun finally came out. The wind went away and I was able to sit outside in only my shirt sleeves. (It was the only day of my trip above 50.)

Notice the temp! It is the highest one of the whole week.

Notice the temp! It is the highest one of the whole week.

Finally it's sunny enough to need my glasses.

Finally it’s sunny enough to need my glasses.

The warm weather also brought out the fog, but at least it wasn't windy.

The warm weather also brought out the fog, but at least it wasn’t windy.

My stepmom and I got to enjoy an hour or so at the beach, breathing in the salt air and moving our bodies after being stuck inside. Tonight we are going out for dinner and will watch the sunset.

This Heron let us watch the sunset alongside him.

This Heron let us watch the sunset alongside him.

This trip has been a special way to reaffirm our bond and create new memories. I am thankful for the wonderful time we had together- whether for love or out of obligation- and I have no regrets.

A perfect way to end a memorable trip.

A perfect way to end a memorable trip.

A reflection on giving thanks

As I head out to the grocery store to shop for my Thanksgiving meal, I am thankful that my family is coming to gather at my home. I am thankful that I have the means to host everyone and provide a delicious meal. Several of the dishes I plan to serve have been grown in my garden, either frozen when they were harvested over the summer (beets) or still waiting to be picked, gathering sweetness from the cold nights and days (brussels sprouts). The other vegetables were purchased at the farmers market from a vendor who was still able to grow food in his greenhouse. The items I have to purchase from the grocery store are the staples and desserts ( although I will be using the apples we picked at the orchard for my pie). It gives me a happy feeling to eat what I have grown, as much as is possible, on this symbolic day.

Aside from the historical aspect of what happened in the years after the first feast, the picture of the Pilgrims and Wampanoags feasting together, celebrating their bounty and sharing their customs, is really what the spirit of Thanksgiving has become. It is a time of families to gather-to laugh, to cry, to share. It is the most travelled time of the year. The great distances that people are willing to cover to be with their loved ones on this day demonstrates that principle. The ones who can not join their families, often find friends or neighbors to share the meal with. Others volunteer their time serving meals to the less fortunate.

Unfortunately, those numbers are on the rise. The local food pantry is expecting to serve 1800 meals this Thanksgiving, up 28% from last year. When I think of all the people who have lost their jobs or homes, who will find this the only place to get a good meal for the holiday, it truly makes me thankful. So, as I wrap up my purchases I will make sure to drop a few items in the collection bin as a small way of helping others in the spirit of Thanksgiving.