family, kindness, mom

Sand, Sun, and Quarantined Fun

“Mom… what do you want for Mother’s Day?”

The holiday was only a few days away and my children were scrambling to make it special for me. This would mark the third Mother’s Day without my mom, a constant reminder that I was now the matriarch of my family. This year would be different, however. We were homebound due to COVID-19. What we had done in the past wouldn’t be possible now.

No dining in family restaurants.

No movies with a big tub of buttered popcorn to share.

No visiting museums or amusement parks.

We were stuck at home in quarantine.

Welcome to Week 9.

I closed my eyes and thought, “What would bring a smile to my face right in this moment?”

Bright sunshine. Warm sand tickling my toes. The sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore. My response was quick and to the point.

“You know what I want? I want to be sitting on a beach in Florida. That would be AWESOME!”

It was a joke, of course. The kids laughed at my response as they knew how weary I was of being stuck in the house day after day. We had seen reports of various states across the country reopening their beaches, confirmed by one of my daughter’s friends who lived in Florida. It was only natural that I would want to go there, even if only for the day.

The conversation didn’t cross my mind again until I was handed a sealed envelope on Mother’s Day.

“You can’t go downstairs until we are all awake. Open this first.” The envelope contained only one thing: an airline ticket to Florida.

Airline ticket
My airline ticket to Florida

The craftsmanship of the ticket made me do a double-take, later discovering that my daughter had made it online. I followed my children downstairs to begin my “Florida vacation.”

There was a colorful straw basket on the kitchen table filled with everything I might need for a day on the beach: my favorite beach towel, water bottle, sunglasses, sunscreen, and newest acquired book. (All things I already owned, mind you, but placed in this basket to make them feel new!) There was even an itinerary provided and a special gift surprise, too!

All my favorite things!
Activities for my day in Florida

It was then that I peeked out the back window. My family had created a tropical paradise right on my back deck! Two steps out of my kitchen and I was standing in Florida!

Welcome to Florida!

I was amazed by my children’s creativity and attention to detail. There was a palm tree crafted from green tissue paper, rolled yoga mats, and brown postal mailing paper. Yellow towels and streamers welcomed me to the beach with real sand and seashells. There was even a small sandcastle and conch shell strategically placed along the corners of the “beach” to avoid “potential erosion.”

Daniel did a great job designing the palm tree!
Included with the sand and shells was a small frog, a reminder of my mom who passed away in May 2017. She collected frog-related things all throughout her life.

The beach flowed into the “ocean”, a blue towel draped with blue streamers along the edge. There was a beach ball for play as well as an inflatable ring toss game in the shape of a bright pink flamingo. There was a bucket of warm water with a chair nearby where we could sit and enjoy the surf. “We even added salt to the water!”

The border of my vacation spot was decorated with flowing strands of straw, lighted tiki lamps, and flower petals scattered everywhere. It was my own personal oasis!

My salt water ocean
Caleb enjoys “playing” in the “surf.”
We stayed far away from the sharks in the ocean!
Tiki lamps
Flowers and sand

At 10:00 AM, my children said it was time to open my gift surprise. Inside the decorated envelope was a postcard notifying me that a gift had been purchased and shipped for delivery… an actual “regift” of a gift they had tried to give me years ago!

The memory made me laugh. In 2015, my daughter was in high school and wanted a specific opal necklace, but knew it was out of her price range. I ended up surprising her with the necklace for her 17th birthday. Then, as she wore the necklace each day, I made a comment that I would love to have a matching one, too. Lo and behold for Christmas that year, they gave me a handmade gift certificate to purchase one.

Only thing is… I never did.

As much as I admired the necklace and would have loved to have one of my own, I really believed it was the thought that mattered most, so I never purchased the necklace to keep for myself. My joy in seeing my daughter happy was reward enough!

Now, almost five years later, my family bought the necklace for me to keep.

The note that my new necklace would arrive soon.

The day continued with wonderful activities from binge-watching Gilmore Girls to eating fruit salad in fancy crystal glasses. We even had strawberry smoothies served in Florida!

Can you see the heart made of strawberry slices?
It was bit chilly with the “tropical breeze” in the shade, but the drink was delicious!

One thing we did not anticipate were the high gusts of wind that unfortunately obliterated much of the beach-themed decorations. Instead of getting frustrated by the destruction, we just shifted our vacation to a Hurricane Party inside and waited for the winds to die down before decorating again.

That was one strong “hurricane!”
Katrina sitting in the shade after our tropical reconstruction.

One of the highlights of the afternoon was the “special entertainment”: my teenaged son performing a hula dance for us all, complete with Hawaiian music. We laughed until we cried, especially when his handmade coconut shells (crafted with red plastic bowls, butcher paper, and a shoestring) had a wardrobe malfunction halfway through his performance. He didn’t let that stop him, though! With determination and perseverance, he readjusted his attire and danced until the song was done.

The evening ended with family games, a walk around our neighborhood, and a delicious cookout-style meal of “surf and turf” (grilled shrimp and cheeseburgers.) It was a perfect ending to a perfect day!

As I reflect on this experience, I am in awe of all the wonderful ways my family wrapped me with love on this day. Their kindness knows no bounds. I delight in learning the “behind-the-scenes” stories of how they came together to make it all happen, from the initial idea of a Florida staycation to the discovery of a hidden box in the attic filled with Hawaiian-themed items (remnants from my daughter’s 6th birthday party so many years ago!)

During this time of quarantine, it’s easy to view the circumstances surrounding us as obstacles and obstructions. The days are long and monotonous, utter misery at times. This Mother’s Day adventure reminded me that while those challenges still exist, we can use creativity to overcome constraints. Teamwork makes the ideas better. Empathy and compassion make the ideas soar.

As you look towards the future, what small ways can you use creativity to shift the perspective of an otherwise ordinary day? Can you use the things you already have to bring joy to someone else? I challenge you to step out beyond the structure of status quo and shoot for spectacular. You never know when your efforts will completely transform someone else’s day and create a memory that will last forever!

What a wonderful day in Florida!

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