Family, Fun & Sun: Fully Present

Thursday, July 11, 2013

There are many perks to being on Facebook but with all social media, there are some features that do get under my skin.  One of those is the constant posting of vacation pictures which one can easily interpret as "look how much fun I'm having while you're living your mundane life perusing my pictures and seething with jealousy."  I realize this is not the motive of every member of the social media world but there are a select few where you do want to say: "Enough already.  No one's life is that glamorous.  No one's."  That being said, I know there are some family members and friends that actually do want to see photos of our recent time in Florida. (And the irony is that I'll probably put a link on FB to this post.)  But before I do that, I have to say that so many feelings hit me during this visit that the pictures don't show.

Amelia Island holds a very special place in my heart.  It's by far my favorite place on the eastern seaboard.  Trey's parents began building their retirement home there the year Quinn was born (1997).  From the minute the house was completed until we moved out west (2001) we spent many a long weekend there making memories while trying to wear out our tireless babies and toddlers on the beach, in the pool and on the golf course.  It was our "go to" place and the only way we got a vacation during those early years.  I can still envision trudging out to the beach with an enormous supply of paraphenelia to dig in the sand, play in the water, protect the kids from the scorching sun and feed their hungry stomachs and thirsty mouths.  Even though it was a gargantuan effort, when I look at the pictures, the fondness I feel reminds me it was always worth the effort.

When we landed at Jacksonville airport 17 days ago at 11:30 p.m., it was 82 degrees and glorious.  After retrieving our luggage and the rental car, we hit I-95 then A1A, crossed the causeway and turned on the Parkway.  The entire time filled with boys commenting incessantly with the "Remember When...." stories.  It was music to my ears--especially when the teenagers moaned and groaned beforehand about not being able to see their friends for two whole weeks.  The walk down memory lane was punctuated by all they had planned for the long summer days ahead of us.  "We need to call Uncle Mike and see if we can borrow his surfboard."  "I'm going to eat at Chick-fil-A every day."  "When do we get to see Baby Wynn and the rest of our cousins?"   We arrived at the house close to 1:00 a.m. and Mimi & Papa Jim were on the porch to greet us.  That porch was also covered in bikes, boogie boards, a surf board, beach toys and beach chairs.  We were well on our way to making some new memories.

The next 14 days were filled with constant activity and family visits--and lots of Chick-fil-A of course.  While we were playing in the pool with the younger kids, I had flashbacks of Quinn, Ian & Ben at those tender ages of 3 & 6 when life was in continuous movement and sitting poolside for more than 5 minutes wasn't an option. It was nostalgic but also very sobering.  On July 1st, Trey, Quinn & I took off for the day and headed to Gainesville.  Trey had a customer to see so we took advantage of the timing and scheduled a tour of the University of Florida.(one of Quinn's top 5 on the college wish list.) The possibility that the campus could one day be home to my firstborn was surreal but exciting. After returning from UF, I was privvy to a conversation between Trey & Quinn that hit me like a ton of bricks.

It poured the day of our tour, the day before and the day after.  Not just your typical southern summertime afternoon thunderstorms but all day long rainfall.  While listening to our 16-year-old grumble about how bored he was, how the weather wasn't supposed to be like this, how he missed driving his car, etc. Trey had a stern talking to with him and reminded him that since we only visit every other summer, this could be the very last time our whole family is together in his grandparents home for the rest of their lives.  No one knows what the future holds and where he'll be at this time post high school graduation.  Although his grandparents are in good health now, none of us can predict how quickly that could change.  I'm not entirely sure how much of an impact these words had on my son (teens can rarely see beyond today) but they were not lost on me.  It made me think about the brevity of life and the importance of being fully present in the here and now.  I am guilty of "waiting for someday". I have put off so many tasks, dreams and adventures waiting for the right circumstances.  "When I'm done with school."  "When I have a teaching job".   "When the kids are gone."  "When the house is paid off."

Even today, I found myself starting to do that as I looked at the suitcases on the floor; the mound of laundry in the basket; the pile of papers on my desk;  and the projects pinned to my boards on Pinterest.  I found excuses to put them off telling myself they would still be there tomorrow.  And then I remembered the promise I made to myself while being unplugged from technology and the normal demands of family life.  I want to be present and try to do one new thing every day.  It can be as small as unpacking the suitcase within 24 hours (which I actually did and this is a first) or trying a new recipe.  It's time for the summer bucket list to resurface from last year (I did 5 out of 10) and start crossing items off and adding new ones.

My father-in-law said the sweetest thing to me during their visit for Ian's 8th grade graduation and I want to continue to live it out.  He told me, "When the boys are gone, you and Trey aren't going to look back with any regrets.  You have made the most of every single moment with your kids."  Thanks to him, we have had the privilege of enjoying many of those moments at the place he & Mimi call home.    

Back to my original reason for this post....................(a lot of) pictures from our vacation below.

Everyone loved playing with "Baby Wynn"

Amelia Jane making Quinn laugh.

Cousin Chris taking it easy while we played with his kids--ask him what he was doing when we had kids and he didn't.   Probably the same thing as in this picture.  

Wynn trying to shoot his big cousin

The tour ended with a visit to the infamous football stadium "The Swamp."

Wouldn't it be cool of he could stand here wearing one of their uniforms one day?  It's a long shot but we were dreaming anyway.

Ben doing his magic trick for Aunt Nancy and Uncle Jim.  He's a wizard, that Benny.

Elizabeth is such a good big cousin to Amelia Jane and Wynn

After Trey let him go under the wave, Wynn announced: "He drownded me."

A game of Corn Hole before the fireworks.

All the Sturgeon cousins.

Aunt Nancy & Uncle Jim take a break from the stress of checking on their house being built on the island.

Amelia Jane told me she loves her "big cousins."

Everyone rushed to take a picture of our 4th of July visitor.

We affectionately named him "Uncle Sam" because of his Independence Day visit.

Quinn patiently taking his little cousin on the water slide for the 50th time. "Do it again" was all Wynn said to him that day.

Re-enacting a photo taken of these two when Ben was a toddler.  

Another thing we miss about the South.

Chasing the waves.

My beach boys.


Each visit his head gets closer to the stop sign.

Circa 2004

Striking the same pose 9 years later.

We did feel welcome.

This is where you could find Ben most days.

Yes, that is a Chick-fil-A cup.

A double "selfie."

Have soccer ball, will play.

More pool antics.

One last game of Mexican Train.

Getting crazy with Uncle Mike.

Not sure what this was but they were laughing a lot.
Quinn got to drive the Miata.

Yes, Ben, the street was named after you.