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As I sit here on the beach in Florida I am reminded of all that I have.

The sunset over the Gulf.

I have been blessed with so many gifts, that I cannot begin to list them all. And that includes gifts that I definitely would not have called gifts at the time (like everyone home all the time for most of this year!)

But, of all my blessings, I have realized that the Gift of Time is the one I will treasure most, but that is not all the gifts that I have been given over the years.

When I was much, much younger, I couldn’t wait to get away from my parents! College was a great release. As most teenagers feel, I felt stifled, my sense of adventure suppressed by (heaven forbid) parents who wanted to keep me safe!

I had a curfew, and I had to ask to borrow the car. My younger brother’s curfew was later, and he had his own car. Yes, this still irks me a little, but I know that my folks were being responsible parents and making sure their little girl was protected, but not so much that she couldn’t stand up for herself--a gift.

College was a new beginning. No one knew me there and I could be anyone or anything I wanted.

But you know what? My sense of responsibility kicked in. Another gift.

Yes, I was stupid in college, and did somethings that definitely put me in some awkward and probably even dangerous situations. Fortunately I came out unscathed. But, I also knew better to do some things. And that may be why I walked away from potentially bad situations.

For a while after college, I went even further away from my roots...including marriage and heading out to Colorado. I stayed in touch, but I wanted my freedom. And, I had all the time in the world, right?

My mom and I would talk on the phone occasionally. For some reason, at that time, she would drive me nuts. I can't explain it, but my husband would try to hang up the phone on her while we talked (hey, this was before cell phones, so it was pretty easy to hang up on someone). He could see that I was physically frustrated--the veins would bulge out on my neck. My Aunt, her younger sister, who we lived with told me to pretend I was medicated--"on ludes" is what she said.

I can't even tell you what stressed me out about talking to my mom. It's my mom! I love her. She's great! But we had a tough relationship when I was younger.

I think it's because (gulp!) we are a lot alike.

And now, I don't think that's a bad thing. It is a gift.

I have realized that as I have grown older (and probably having kids has helped too), I have grown more nostalgic. I have always wanted to go "home", but as loved ones leave us, the pull to go home becomes even stronger.

Spending this past year with my family has eased that pull a little. I think part of it has to do with the realization that we aren't leaving here for several more years. We are blessed to have found a wonderful school system for both our boys, especially J, who receives special services.

Being away from "home" in retrospect has been a gift. It gave me the opportunity to figure things out without being able to "run home" anytime things got tough. It has also allowed me to gather around me some friends that I couldn't do without--my book club, the "Juggabees", as well as my running/triathlon friends. I would never have met them if I just stayed close to home.

In fact, I doubt I'd be on this triathlon journey if I lived back in Michigan.

Back to my mom...the past week spending time with her has been a true gift. Usually when I visit her, I have kids in tow, and a million things to do and see. This time, it was just the two of us. Listening to her stories of growing up, asking her questions about her grandparents, remembering the things we have done; it was amazing. I learned things that I never knew, and we laughed at ourselves. She even got a job offer from some lady while we laid by the pool!!!

Told ya she is awesome!

And I know that it has been that gift of time that has made me realize just how special my family is, especially my mom, because I know when I was younger that I did not feel this way.

So, I was so fortunate that I was granted the gift of time, for just a little while this week. I know there are a lot of people that are missing out on all kinds of trips, activities, and people. It hurts. It sucks.

But as I prepare to go home and self-quarantine and avoid my family for a few days until my test comes back, I realize that I have missed the simplicity of this year. I could not plan trips or activities. We couldn't rearrange schedules for the oodles of extracurricular activities the boys (and I) have.

We had to spend time together. There were more family walks and bike rides. More family game nights and movie nights. More time playing Mario Cart and Wii golf or bowling.

More time together.

And even though 6 months ago I wanted to escape and never return; a week away has made me realize how precious the past year has been.

And with a vaccine now making the rounds, we may be soon getting back to "normal".

Part of me can't wait. But part of me is going to miss this time of being together.

Enjoy every second of this time. Pandemic or not, time is something we can never get back.

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