Heading south, our destination Florida, on Christmas day I’d set out traveling with my family. Upon our departure, along with whatever stress normally accompanies the holidays and leaving before a trip, comprised was a curiosity at how traveling might affect and possibly compromise the traditions and quintessential experience of Christmas that I hopelessly treasure. Diligently, I hoped to stretch out the spirit of the holiday over the weeks before and succeeded in the abundant baking of many batches of Christmas cookies (Coconut White Chocolate Macadamia Nut! http://passthesushi.com/white-chocolate-coconut-macadamia-nut-cookies/) and my forays into wreath making. For the first year I succeeded in sending out a Christmas card! This year the honor of creating the holiday card at Shriners in Philadelphia was given to me.  In collaborative efforts with another patient, I think that our print wound up wonderfully exemplifying the art happening at Shriners and the friendship, happiness and healing that comes from our creativity! I decorate my Christmas tree as nature might itself; adorned in white sparkling lights, enormous pine cones picked up in Cali, wooden snowflakes and clear glass balls filled with feathers and a terrarium. Gypsy, the wilder of my two cats is constantly sabotaging my efforts.

We’d celebrate with as much family as possible beforehand, said our goodbyes and on Christmas afternoon our holiday was in the hands of our adventures and up to the kindness of the road that lie ahead. My mother devised for my younger brother and sister, Brier and Johanna, to open one present in every state we’d pass through. Their first gift was Duck Dynasty duck calls on which I’d hear them hilariously attempt Jingle Bells.  Thankfully I’ve come to terms with and can enjoy country music, as it was mainly an Outlaw Country station and Grateful Dead on the radio while my step father drove. If we wanted to sleep, we’d position pillows over the speakers. I’d advise not to fall asleep though; as you might have dog food thrown in your mouth! For the most part, excluding varying noises along the way, the ’89 VW Eurovan handled like a champ… such a sweet way to see the country.

We’d spend the night at a friend’s house in Chapel Hill, NC and carry on Christmas night in their company with a hysterical holiday sing along, their old Golden Retrievers lying around and a lot of laughter. Tracy’s house is interestingly a green and eco-friendly version of a Habitat for Humanity house of which I adored its large square earthy and Terra Cotta colored concrete radiant flooring and the intriguing art collection hung on its walls. Early the next morning she’d send us off with yogurt, some green energy powder, banana and blueberry smoothies. It’s always so wonderful to feel the love of friends who are normally so far.

One night with Venus hanging high and bright in the sky, in search of a hotel, I was hopeful to encounter a catalyst at which an interesting evening might ensue. We came across the Port and Seaside Motel in Crystal River. I instantly found its closeness to water enticing, hurried my way over to its water-front ale house and enjoyed the heron standing close by. I read the character of the place as dated, yet inviting, but others in my family seemed to deviate in their opinions. So because of an apparently poorly draining shower, nightmare’s of one of my younger siblings, claims of bedbugs, etc… I was called from a delicious Stump Knocker Pale Ale, an unfinished postcard and we fled just as quickly as we came in search of another place to spend the night. I was initially frustrated, but this trip is different from others as it’s not a trip of my own. It is a trip with my family on which I’ve decided that a simple differing of opinions shouldn’t compromise a single second.  Florida of all places, its warmth of sunshine is something, like love, which I hope to radiate and warm my heart.

It is a place, like any, that is meant to be experienced and thoroughly enjoyed!