Farm fun!

Yesterday we headed to a friend’s house, who happens to have a farm. Jacob was in his glory!  It was like all of the animals that he reads about in his books suddenly appeared before him. He couldn’t chase the ducks fast enough, although he was able to outrun them when they turned towards him quacking! He loved using “nice hands” on the dog-dog and thought it was the coolest thing ever to pick up fresh chicken eggs! The pond was awfully tempting to play in on a hot summer day too. He tried sneaking a leg in a few times!

All of the plants at Alimonti Farms are edible and the trees were covered in fruit!  It was such a fun way to spend the afternoon and Jacob loved every moment! Hearing him make all the animal noises and having the animals talk back was awesome!

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Back to my happy place…

When going through chemo treatments, the days following each session were relatively consistent. I knew about which day that I would feel my worst, which I would start to feel better, when the metal taste began to disappear, when my appetite started to come back, etc. Each treatment I would focus on the recovery days; the good days where I knew I would start to feel better again. Having these “end” dates in my head helped me to focus on them.  They were my goal dates. I knew that if I could stay strong and get through the hardest days, that the good days were waiting for me at the end.  Every treatment has helped me to stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.

I wanted to take this same approach after surgery. I knew that surgery would be challenging and I knew the recovery would be long. But I also knew that I would eventually start to feel better, one day at a time. After chatting with a fellow survivor, who had surgery in December, I learned that she was at the beach within the first week after surgery. I don’t recall the exact day she went after her surgery but I knew that was the goal that I wanted to set for myself…a visit to my happy place.

I didn’t want to push myself too hard so I decided my goal was to be at the beach by Saturday. Even if it was for a few minutes and even if I didn’t get out of the car, my goal was to be there.

So today, that’s where we headed. It took some extra preparations but we made it!

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The beach continues to cleanse my soul and clear my head. It is my happy place and being there with people I love makes the day even more special.

It was a short visit because the rain met us there soon after we arrived. I am tired and sore from the little bit of walking that we did. But it was worth it. To feel the wind blowing, smell the salt in the air, hear the waves crashing and see the waves moving as they rolled up the sand…made for a perfect day.

I hope you all are able to spend some time at your happy place this weekend with people you love! 💚

To friendships

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On the street I grew up on lived a girl my age named Liz. We lived just a few houses down from each other and grew up the best of friends. We played outside together until the street lights came on, walked to the bus stop together and car pooled to school together. Even after high school, we continued to hang out regularly. When I decided to move to Florida, she offered to take the road trip with me and help move me down.

So the day after Christmas 2004, we loaded up her gold cavalier with as much of my stuff as we could fit in it. We even managed a little room for her suitcase! We drove straight through, only stopping for bathroom breaks and snacks – each hour of the drive the temperature rose a little more. The following day, we arrived in the beautiful sunshine of Florida. We unloaded the car, took a nap and then headed out to explore the new city that I would call home. It is a great memory of mine that I will always hold in my heart.

Over the years, Liz & I stayed in touch but not as frequently as we had in the past…until a few years ago when she moved to Florida. Though she moved to the Gulf side opposite of me, we have traveled to see each other and even met halfway in between over the years.

This past weekend, Liz and her fiancé traveled to our side of the state. We spent the weekend catching up, laughing about old times and dreaming about what our futures hold. It was a wonderful weekend that mixed a bit of my childhood in New York with a lot of my life in Florida with an old friend.

We spent time at the beach (where else?!) and while the boys fished, Liz & I watched Jacob stare in awe at the dolphins swimming about. Jacob even had some fun with his own fishing pole while the sun set in the distance. Such a fun weekend!

Life continues to inspire me. Moments like this, spent with an old friend reminds me of how much I have been blessed to experience in my life – and how many incredible people I have had by my side through it all. To friendships – old and new – may your life be forever blessed with them. Have a wonderful Monday everyone!

Rachie

When we were younger, my little sister and I shared a room. I remember when that room was filled with a full size bed that we shared and we all traveled to the local furniture store to pick out bunk beds. I was so excited to have the top bunk! This lasted a while but eventually I moved into my own room. Wanting to embrace my newfound dependence, I refused to let Rachel sleep in my room at night. She would try to tattle on me to my parents but would eventually retreat to her room.

Most mornings though, I would awake to her sleeping in my bed.  Her feet would be next to my head and she would be snuggled up to my legs. Some nights I would even find her and my baby sister tucked into my twin size daybed!

I remember being so angry at the time, but looking back, it is a memory that I cherish. Last night, my sister traveled to Florida to celebrate her birthday. We spent the day together and shared many laughs.  Neither of us could remember the last time we spent her birthday together!

The day was filled with lots of dancing with our boys, fishing (Joe taught us lots!), delicious food, walks with our momma and of course sister snuggles. What a great day!

Each day I find myself more and more  grateful for the everyday moments that make lifelong memories.

Merry Christmas!

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After moving to Florida, Christmas was always an odd time of year for me. I was used to the cold weather and my own family traditions from upstate New York, so the first few years were tough. I missed my sister snuggles and the yearly attempt my parents made at pop over perfection (the struggle was real!).

One year, Joe & I were talking about what to do Christmas Day. We had tried spending Christmas Day at home but it felt a little off because it was just the two of us and the weather was warm. That’s when it hit me.

We need to embrace Christmas in Florida. Instead of trying to make it feel like the Christmas I had in New York, we needed to create the Christmas we want here in Florida. Seems simple, right?

That year, we headed towards our favorite restaurant near the beach, only to find out it was closed Christmas Day (oops). Hungry and disappointed, we started driving again and passed a restaurant that we had talked about trying before. We pulled in and grabbed a table. We enjoyed a really nice meal with a wonderful waitress but it just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t quite the Christmas that I was looking for and I felt bad eating out on a day that everyone should be with their families.

After our meal, we headed towards the beach to spend the afternoon. As we sat staring at the ocean, I realized that this was exactly what I was looking for in my search. What’s more Florida than Christmas at the beach?!

And our tradition was born.  For the last five years, we have headed to the beach on Christmas Day. We grab a picnic table or two, Joe heats up the grill and we sit enjoying the ocean air while cooking chicken wings, potatoes and a yummy veggie. Some years we spot Santa handing out candy canes while walking in the sand, while other years there are barely any people around the beach at all. It’s become our “thing” and I love it more and more every year.

Last year, Jacob joined us for his first Christmas Day beach trip and this year our friends joined us as well. Though this was the warmest year yet, it was still filled with fun and laughter.

Though Christmas in Florida is not filled with snowmen or hot cocoa, it is filled with a sandman or two and love. And that, my friends, is what makes this holiday so wonderful. I hope your holiday was magical, no matter what traditions you have.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Love Jar Project

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They are complete! Although simple in their design, I hope that they will have a positive impact on the lives of those who take them.

Joe & I were not alone in this creation -they are made by Team Red Phoenix! The jars and fabric were both donated and my amazingly artistic friend painted the Red Phoenix symbol on them (which she created). She switched the ribbon out for other types of cancer too!  Even the stickers were bought with money donated just for these jars.

Each Love Jar is filled with sheets of folded paper.  Every piece of paper has a sentence or two that is meant to inspire positivity and hope.  Joe and I cut each saying, folded it and tucked it into the jar for someone to enjoy.

I am thrilled that one was taken almost immediately! I cannot wait to see how long it takes before I need to make more. I just love that they have the potential to brighten someone’s day, when they may need a smile.

If you are reading this and have one of the Love Jars – YAY!! Welcome!  Please share your thoughts on what it is like to have one. I would love to hear from you!

Spread the love, my friends!

New traditions

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Over the years, Thanksgiving has taken on many different forms.  When I was a child, my family would sometimes spend the weekend in Rhode Island & Connecticut with my father’s side of the family. All of the cousins would stay up late the night before, sharing stories and giggles. We would sleep in on Thanksgiving morning and wake up just in time for appetizers at noon. The adults would sit at the main table and the kids would have their own table or two.  We would eat all day, having second and even third dinner, with naps & snuggles on the couch in between.

Other years, my family would spend the day with my mother’s side of the family. We would all gather at my grandparents house for dinner promptly at noon. There were so many aunts, uncles and cousins that we ate buffet style. We would line up with our plates and serve ourselves heaping helpings of food and then sit wherever we could find the room. Sometimes the table, sometimes the couch and sometimes the stairs going up to the second floor.

The first Thanksgiving after I met Joe, he wasn’t planning on celebrating the day because his family was in Florida. Him and his roommate were going to stay home and order a pizza. I immediately invited them to my grandparent’s house and after a little hesitation, they both agreed. “The Joe’s”, as my uncles called them (something they laughed at for years), were welcomed into my family gathering without question.

After moving to Florida, we spend the first few Thanksgivings at my in-laws, with the exception of the year we bought our house when we hosted for the first time ever.

The last four years though, we have taken on a new tradition that has been named the Brown-Hall-Rivers-Thanksgiving-Extravaganza. It started with my younger sisters coming to spend their first Thanksgiving in Florida with the windows open and wearing tank tops. This first year was also the infamous year that I dropped the freshly baked apple pie that my little sister made for dessert. The following year, we decided to head to Georgia and experience a cooler fall Thanksgiving, where we were able to bundle up and snuggle to keep warm in the chilly air.

Last year, my baby sister and her (now) fiance traveled back to Florida to spend little man’s first Thanksgiving with us. Jacob, despite only eating milk at the time, was the head of the table (something that seems rather fitting!).

This year, we caught an amazing sale on plane tickets early in the year and we are back in the beautiful late fall that Georgia offers. Though, instead of celebrating today, we are waiting until tomorrow so that my soon-to-be brother-in-law can join us. Today, he is in uniform protecting this wonderful city.  Tomorrow ee will join his aunt & uncle, who are kindly hosting us in their home for a feast and celebration.

So today, though we won’t have turkey and fixings, we are thankful. We are thankful for all of the amazing Thanksgivings that we been blessed to have, for the incredible family & friends who love and support us more than we could ever have imagined, for it being a “good” week that allows us the ability to travel and eat well, for this gorgeous fall weather, for each other and for each year that brings a new spin to our Thanksgiving traditions.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy this beautiful day with loved ones! I’d love to hear what traditions you share!