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The Perfect Vacation

Summer.  Families are crammed into vans bulging with suitcases, pillows, headphones, and a cooler for drinks and snacks.  Dads are checking the tires one last time.  Moms are reminding themselves this is going to be fun.  Kids are asking if we’re almost there, an hour into the trip.

What makes a perfect vacation?  I can answer that in one paragraph.  It’s being together, creating memories.  That’s it.  It doesn’t matter where you go or how much money you spend but being with the ones you love.

Recently, Randy and I gathered our six children and their families into a two-story lodge, nestled in a remote area of Arizona, away from any store, restaurant, or amusement park.  It was the setting for an unforgettable vacation.

At first, we met some resistance, the majority voting for the enticing call of the beach, amusement parks, fancy restaurants, and the related glamour.  I kept my mind open, considering several elegant accommodations, always returning to the simple.  I knew the results of such distractions.  We would all go our separate ways, meeting at the end of the day, worn out and cranky.

Not knowing when I could gather our chicks together again, I wanted this vacation to be unforgettable, even for the youngest.  It was a risk.  Would we be able to set aside the glitter of the world and have fun being together in one large cabin, with not even a McDonalds in sight?

After making the final decision to rough it and secure our humble accommodations, panic set in.  Four days in a remote area void of worldly entertainment and technology might be a disaster.  Assigning each family to plan a unique game or activity helped ease my fear of potential boredom.  Little did I know all we needed was a creek, a tree house, a zip line, and each other.

My six children and their respective families are scattered all over the country, so some young cousins had never met.  Instant bonding occurred as they ventured into the big backyard that was their playground.  They caught bugs, played with sticks, and jumped rocks in the creek.  We never heard the words, “We’re bored.  What can we do?”  No one complained about standing in long lines.  Not once did anyone text or engage in video games.  WiFi wasn’t available in our remote location so it wasn’t an option.  Although we did have a large screen TV with a DVD player, it was rarely on.  Surprisingly, the call of the wild was more enticing.

I watched my children interact as adults, engaging in deep conversations, remembering childhood pranks, and working together in the kitchen.  There were late night talks and lots of laughter.  Ping pong tournaments, handmade boat races on the creek, silly games, and attempts to catch fish and crawdads filled the days for both young and old.  S’mores never tasted so good made around the fire pit with only the light of the flames and stars.  As we gathered the last evening to watch a variety show that featured everything from break dancing to an original piano composition, I marveled at the love and support that filled the room.  What more could a mom ask than to see her posterity gathered, happily satisfied with what matters?

For us, it was the perfect vacation!

TIME. Friend or Foe?

It was a pleasant evening for May.  The only problem was the bright sun glaring in our eyes each time we stole a glance at the football field.  Sitting on the sunny side, it would be a relief to have it go down before the festivities began.  Nothing was happening and wouldn’t for another hour, but anticipation filled the stadium as we waited.  Helium balloons, flowers, and banners flashing words of “Congratulations” bobbed all around us.  Rows and rows of chairs sat on the newly mown grass facing a silent stage.  We were there for the graduation of our grandson, and soon this empty field would be overflowing with teachers and senior high school students, dressed in long, regal robes.

As I sat on the hard bleacher, I reflected on the life of my oldest grandson.  What happened to the last eighteen years?  It was only yesterday when we watched him toddle around, babbling his baby language, and arranging his matchbox cars in a perfect line.  Now he filed in with four hundred others, in the same kind of straight, precise line.

Time.  We don’t get along.  I want to restrain the hands of a clock to keep them from moving or spin them ahead to the future.  I don’t know which is worse.

The Peter Pan Syndrome

I never wanted to grow up.  For years, I dismayed at each approaching birthday, wishing life to stay the same.  Perhaps I wasn’t anxious to shoulder the responsibility of adulthood, or I was insanely happy being young.  But growing up happened and then I faced the dread of entering each decade; 30, 40, 50, 60.  Stop!  (Note I skipped the 20’s.  Those years were the best!)  I’ve given up grieving over my age.  I now realize that birthdays are a good thing, considering the alternative.

Another issue I face is watching my children, and now my grandchildren grow up.  I enjoy seeing them develop their talents and blossom, yet I cringe when the pigtails and Legos become mascara and iPhones.  Young mothers, beware.  It happens faster than you think.

Then there are the holidays.  I wait all year for Christmas to come.  And because I want it to go slowly and savor every moment, it flees in a flicker.  The more I want time to slow down, it speeds up, and I’m left standing in the midst of wrapping paper and crumbs wondering what happened.

Tomorrow . . .

In contrast with the Peter Pan Syndrome where I want time to stand still is my tendency to concentrate on upcoming events.  I realize how often during the day I catch myself thinking, “Tomorrow I must . . . ” or “I can’t wait until. . . .”  I leave the moment to live in the future.

When I had my first baby, I anxiously anticipated the day she could walk, then talk and tell me what she was feeling.  I couldn’t wait for her hair to grow long enough to stay in ponytails or be brave enough to go down the slide.  A few weeks ago I watched her stand in line excited to ride a wild roller coaster.  What happened?  I focused on the “tomorrows” of her life and missed out on lots of the “today’s.”

While on vacation, I find myself thinking about the activities planned for the next day.  Right in the midst of all the fun, I’m mentally absent.  Realizing what I’m doing, I remind myself to return and enjoy the present.  I’m a planner, and as I focus and prepare for the tomorrows, I often miss out on the enjoyment of what is happening all around me, in my today’s.

Fortunately, I live with a good role model who is the epitome of everything I’m not.  My husband lives for the moment as he enjoys the stroll through the park while I focus on the destination.  Over time, he has rubbed off on me, and I take more opportunities to savor the journey.

Embracing Time

Contending with time is a losing battle.  Time trudges onward regardless of my desire to control it.  Age and increased wisdom have taught me my only choice is to respect it and make it my ally.

I have learned to enjoy every stage of life, both my own and those around me.  Accepting the natural process of aging allows me to rejoice in progress and growth.  I watch my children, grandchildren, and friends with wonder and appreciation for each phase of life we are living.

There is no use pining for the time that is gone.  We can never reclaim it.  Time is the author of our memories and how we use it makes us who we are.  The past becomes valuable when we allow it to teach us.

Time must be valued.  We are all given the same number of minutes in a day and how we choose to use them determines our tomorrows.  Dreams of the future never come true unless we do something with the time we have right now.  Hard work and the wise use of time results in the realization of our hopes and dreams.

Time will not ever be my BEST friend, but I’ve learned to relax and let it do its thing.  I will always wish I could slow it down, but that’s the result of loving life.  Learning to appreciate time as a gift has helped me surrender to its demands and humbly embrace it.  It’s about “time” I figured that out!

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