You know, those people you were given at birth and the ones that came with your marriage. Love them or not, you’re stuck with them. I got lucky!

Family Reunion

I had the good fortune to marry into an incredible family so when our annual family reunion rolls around I know I’m in for a great time!  For starters it’s at the beach which makes it a winner before it even begins and it’s at a quaint old Florida style resort — the Seahorse Inn on Neptune Beach.  They even have our name on the welcome sign.

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We have a series of set traditions that have evolved over the years; a few weeks before an annual Jager Nation Family Reunion newsletter is sent out by my brother in law.  It highlights the upcoming days events.

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Wednesday:  the early arrivals come in and the feeding and drinking frenzy begins.  Its usually the most laid back day and evening as we all begin to decompress and wait for the little kiddos and a few more families to arrive. Some quiet time is enjoyed in a smaller group setting.

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Now, trying to get 30 people seated at a crowded restaurant and one that everyone likes is next to impossible so we’ve come up with ‘finnin’. Which means each family fends for themselves and we gather with our take out containers in the common area to eat dinner together.  Or together for the most part.

The Seahorse is surrounded by a bevy of restaurants, shops and bars all within walking distance.  I have my favorites which we frequent every year, occasionally trying out a new one.

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Thursday:  we head down to the beach for a day of fun while we wait for the rest of the family to arrive, watching everyone unpack, sweat and settle in.  That’s followed by another night of ‘finnin’ and the advent of the annual Poker Prelims; and this year we all wore a throwback tee.  The reunions have been taking place since 1990 with custom printed tee shirts becoming a staple starting 1995; needless to say we had plenty to choose form.

Friday:  this year the morning started quite differently with a ocean side memorial.  We lost our patriarch six weeks prior and the final wishes were to be joined with the matriarch and the ashes sprinkled in the ocean.  While laden with grief and a melancholy feeling for part of the afternoon the closure was soul cleansing especially for the five siblings.

The morning event was followed by a breakfast gathering, beach time, ‘finnin’  and the Poker finals rounded out the night.

Saturday:  is the last day but definitely one of the best days — we’re all pretty relaxed by this time. After another action and fun filled day at the beach we had our crazy contest — yet another tradition where each year something is chosen to be decorated such as crazy shirt, hat, sunglasses etc and this year it was crazy towels.

They are all laid out right after dinner and the judging begins…

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After the crazy contest there is often entertainment provided by a few of the more talented members of the family; three of our nieces better known as The Dancers 3 gave an outstanding performance.

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There is also a Shut the Box tournament, run by my nephew, that goes on all day Friday and Saturday with the winner being announced Saturday night.

Bocce, cornhole and other games will sometimes be played along with boogie boarding and surfing depending on the wave action.  Never a dull moment.  And often a fashion statement.

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After the sun sets on Saturday it’s time for more entertainment.  We all gather in one family’s hotel room and watch a slideshow collection of pictures taken by all throughout the weekend set to a bevy of summer songs chosen by each member of the family. By know it’s probably clear that just about everything is either bet on or a contest.

So right after the slideshow the songs are played in their entirety and the option is given to entertain with a routine of choice. Some of the family members unbeknownst to all actually choreographed and practiced a routine to their summer song.  Not fair but very impressive. Yes, they won.  We will be ready next year…

We conclude the evenings activities by choosing what will be the crazy item for next year, who will do the tee shirts and confirm that we have all booked our rooms as they go quickly at the Seahorse.  The evening is then capped off with last night socializing.

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And of course there is the ever impressive family photo.  It generally takes about 30+ minutes to get everyone and everyone’s cameras coordinated but well worth the final result. Thirty one year’s with this family; so many memories, so many wonderful times.  I am fortunate to have become a part of this family.  While none of us are perfect we are a family that loves each other and always has each other’s back.  Some things are worth their weight in gold.

Family Traditions

Every family has them and the good ones must be carried on as a tradition year after year for decades on.  I first met my husband’s family back in 1985 at Thanksgiving and they welcomed me with open arms.  Here we are 30 years later and what a wonderful ride that has been.   I am very grateful to call this wonderful group of people family. Being an only child I feel so blessed to have been given both “sisters and brothers” not to mention beautiful nieces and nephews.

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The Thanksgiving weekend is rife with traditions and one thing this gang knows how to do is have a good time.  We gathered for a blessed meal on Thursday, shopped till we dropped on Friday

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and come Saturday aka ‘game day’ we continued to celebrate in style.  I made my Game Day Pot Pie (in bulk) for the family

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We gobbled that up, pun intended and then began decorating the garage for the party to follow. . .

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Garnet and gold are the colors that reign here.  ALL family members wear them dressing in their finest although we do have two or three friends that will show up wearing blue and orange.  They are not treated with disdain, at least not much beyond friendly jesting.  Win or lose we celebrate every year never failing in our support.

This year it was a quite a game and of course you know the score Florida State 27 Florida 2!

And now the traditions move to those of Christmas with a whole months worth of parties, preparations and celebrations.  Don’t let the season stress you out; take the time to appreciate and enjoy your family and friends.  There’s nothing wrong with saying no when your plate threatens to topple over.  Prioritize and enjoy the moments — that’s what this season is all about.

Mother’s Day: Simply Celebration

I have been fortunate and blessed with 55 years of Mother’s day celebrations and counting with my very own mom.  This day goes out in recognition not only to her but to special mothers in my past, my friends that are mothers, our CF Jaguar members that are mothers and to all reading that are mothers.

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This photo was taken 3 years ago at my Mother’s 85th birthday party.  She will be 88 this coming September.  Over the years we have had many dinners, many shopping trips, many vacations and good times too numerous to count.  I am blessed with wonderful parents and my mother has always been there for me through good times and bad never judging yet always supporting.

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circa 1996

Not only blessed with a wonderful mother but a most amazing mother in law.  I had 13 wonderful years with Marion, my husband’s mother.  Unfortunately she was taken from this earth at far too young of an age.  She enjoyed life to the fullest and loved nothing better than winning the football pools over Thanksgiving weekend.  This one she split with my mother and they celebrated that morning after hearing the news with mimosas.  13 years of wonderful times with Marion, I miss her dearly still yet her presence is often felt and never forgotten.

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My aunt Jean,  my mother’s sister was another special woman in my life.  She was taken June of 2012.  This picture was taken September of 2011 at her house and one of our last weekends together.  Over the years we also had many, many good times together.  She loved to cook as much as I and didn’t care at all if we made a mess.  We spent many afternoons together  in her kitchen baking pizza, cookies, pasta dishes, roasts and other delights.  There were also shopping trips, vacations together and many many family gatherings.  She was loved by family and friends alike, we all miss her dearly.

So whether you prepare a special dinner at home, go out to eat, spend the day at the beach, shopping or another pastime that you both enjoy the important message of the day is simply celebration.  For you never know when those times may end.  Make the most of every precious moment.

Family Reunion

Does a vacation mean you need to lose all your gains or stay so on track that you can’t lighten up and have a little fun? Of course it doesn’t. Come with me, here’s a few tips and strategies as I embarked on my annual family reunion. . .

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Fail to plan and plan to fail; start making a list a couple of weeks out of what you’ll need. No need to go overboard but it’s very helpful to have the essentials on hand. I divide my list up into a few categories: clothes/outfits + workout wear/sporting gear, food, kitchen utensils and in this case beach stuff I will need.

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Hallelujah! I managed to get 5 glorious days away. Leaving on a Wednesday I pre packed as much as I could that Sunday, knowing Monday and Tuesday would be very busy at work with preparation for my absence. So, come Wednesday morning I was ready to go with minimal last minute packing. It was a dreary day with lots of rain on the horizon. I didn’t care; I was going to the beach, the rain was a sign that my stress was about to wash away.

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Off we go!

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And it rained all the way up. The “Jag” loves to be in control especially behind the wheel and I hate to drive. So fine baby, have at it. Let it rain; I relaxed, read, conversed and had quite a pleasant trip up. The weather had cleared slightly upon arrival.

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Over the years our family reunion has been at a few beach destinations but the last 10 or so we have made our way to Neptune Beach, a quaint and beautiful strip and stay at a delightful hotel The Sea Horse Oceanfront Inn. I have a no elevator rule when I am at the beach and it had better not be more than 2 stories high. I find the old Florida style resorts to have the most charm and despise the overbearing high-rises.

I have to unpack immediately and organize everything especially since we would be there for 5 days and I cannot live in clutter. We had a little more rain that evening but no one minded as the rest of the family members began arriving.

Meet the Family. . .

the Parents

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It all started with the parents although they no longer make it to the reunions because they can’t handle the heat like they used to.  This is a dated picture circa 1991 but one when they were all together. Both my and the Jag’s parents were good friends and had a lot of great times together.  Mine are on the left and the Jag’s are on the right. We lost my dear mother in law Marion in 1999.  I am thankful I had 13 wonderful years of knowing her.  She is depicted as a guardian angel on every family reunion tee shirt.

the Jag & his Bros

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Chuck and Kenny, the blood is thick.  Chuck is one year younger than Rick and Kenny is 11 years younger

Sisters in law

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The Jag’s 2 sisters Becky (2 years younger than Rick) and baby sister Jay (14 years younger) bookending and sister in-law Suzy in the middle

Brothers in Law

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You already met Chuck and Kenny, that’s Dave (belongs to Jay) in the middle

There are 3 nieces, 1 nephew and 6 great nieces and nephews

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I’m an only child and I inherited this entire wonderful family through the Jag

Come late Wednesday evening most everyone had arrived and the fun began.

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Since it’s a flip flop state of mind all week the girls immediately showed off their pedicures.  Hmmm, I think the naked nails are Jag’s and he somehow slipped into the picture.

For dinner every night it’s Finnin’ which means each family fends for themselves getting take out from their restaurant of choice and we all eat together in the courtyard.  Of course we have a block of adjacent rooms on both floors.  Now, there are no kitchens or grills at the Sea Horse so bummer, no cooking.  I do enjoy a break now and again but you must be prepared.  Where there’s a will there’s a way. . .

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I don’t like eating breakfast out, unless you’re lucky enough to find a quality spot so I cook our breakfast in the room using my trusty toaster oven to cook up bacon or sausage

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and my hot plate for some scrambled eggs,

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a side of fruit and voila breakfast is served!

After breakfast I need some activity.  In the past I have searched out gyms and there is even a CF box about 6 minutes from the hotel. This year I decided to take a break. Thursday morning I ran beach sprints from trash can to trash can, they were placed in between lifeguard stations and I guesstimated them to be about 100 yds. Sprint 100, walk 200 and I repeated that for about 2 miles.  Friday and Saturday mornings were a power yoga class not 50 m from the hotel.  Then it was time for some fun in the sun

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Now if you’re going to use sunscreen get a natural or organic one — they won’t have the harmful chemicals in them that the conventional ones do.

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After some energizing boogie boarding it was time for lunch . . .

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Lunch and dinner are much easier and restaurants abound within walking distance – over the years I’ve tried them all and narrowed it down to my favorite two. This was an octopus salad with a homemade lemon vinaigrette.  Yum!

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the fun continued throughout the afternoons

The Girls

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And dinner, well sometimes you have to splurge a little

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who can resist Shrimp n’ Grits from the North Beach Fish Camp

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the evenings were capped off with nightly poker tournaments

On the last night we all cram in one hotel room and watch a slideshow of the weekend’s best moments saddened that it’s almost over but knowing that some great family memories were made

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All good things must come to an end and the 5 days flew by. I came back rested, refreshed, re-inspired and ready to get back to my day to day life. Vacations are a much needed necessity and not taken often enough by most of us. The last several years mine have not been far away from home or exotic but the quality of  them and the company is what is important.  Like anything else it is what you make it. . .

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