Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sunday, January 7th, 2018 – John's Pass and St. Pete's

Our last full day of the Power Weekend. Even though we had absolutely no plan, we had no time to lose. Magnus woke up in a rotten mood because of the bed altercation the night before so we just left him alone. We turned on the tv to watch the American cable news channels, although what you get mostly are ads for lawyers and medical prescriptions. Because we cancelled our cable a long time ago the kids don't often see "regular" tv, so were a bit mystified at the quantity of commercials. All that was on the news channels were stories about Trump, which were interesting, but in a Hollywood comedy sort of way. We did find a channel with a show the kids loved called "Lone Star Law" which is all about game wardens in Texas and their adventures checking hunting licenses, issuing citations, rescuing animals, and speaking in outrageous southern accents that are only outdone by the trailer bush hillbillies lying through their teeth about their hunting practices. But enough was enough, it was time to embrace the day.

Magnus went out to the car first, which gave me time to have a little chat with Stella. She was unwilling to extend any sort of olive branch to her brother, but after some persuasion she reluctantly agreed to apologize for the bed incident, even though she said she wouldn't mean it. The three of us continued out to the car, got in, and Stella immediately said to Magnus, "Sorry. Well, do you accept my apology or not?"

Magnus said, "I accept your apology."

Everything was good after that, proving that sometimes even an insincere apology can work just fine. We took off headed north on Gulf Boulevard and pulled over when we spotted a cool looking café with moisture dripping down the insides of the windows, perhaps suggesting the presence of warm bread ovens. It was quite cold outside, but at least the sun was out. We ordered up hot drinks and warm muffins and enjoyed a nice, slow chit chat where we started talking about the goals each of us have for 2018.

Because I am a planning and spreadsheet nerd, throughout the year I keep track of practically every dime we earn and spend, and then at the end of each year I do a great deal of analysis on our financials – how much we spent on various detailed expense categories, how much money we earned and where it came from and how our investments performed. I also review all of the goals we set the previous year (usually in the categories of Safety, Personal, Work/School, Financial, Travel) and make a judgement on how well we did on them. I put this all into a Powerpoint presentation and we sit together in the living room and go through it all together, and then make new goals for the next year. Well, we did the first part back in Canada, but had decided to save the goal making for Florida. We started talking about our goals, but didn't get too far before somebody came up with the idea of going to the Wagon Wheel flea market. We put the goal making on hold and jumped back in the car.

Florida is known for its flea markets, and the Wagon Wheel is a big one. We have been here a couple of times before, but each time we visit we find completely different vendors with different things so we always have a lot of fun browsing around and people watching. The US is such a great place for people watching as the folks here are so much less reserved than they are in Canada, resulting in some very colourful characters.

Each of us found something interesting to buy – I found several pairs of work gloves and a bag full of soon to expire medicines, Magnus found Magic cards and incense, Ana found a purse, and Stella found a new case for her iPhone, a fine haul indeed. We were tempted to stay for lunch when I found a sausage vendors cooking up some delightful looking, oiled-up snarlers, but instead we decided to drive over to John's Pass to have a more civilized lunch on the boardwalk.

John's Pass is a lovely little shopping area near the bridge between Treasure Island and Madeira and it's one of our favourite places to go. We had lunch at a small café on the boardwalk and then spent an hour or so browsing around the shops, enjoying the sun that had finally heated up. In fact, it had heated up so much that I gathered the troops and insisted we go back to the hotel to get our shorts on and try to soak up as much sun as possible before having to return home.

Although the temperature was only about 18 degrees, the sunshine felt great so Ana and I got set up in lounge chairs while the kids went for a swim in the pool, which they were shocked to learn was actually heated! They gleefully leaped into the pool, I sparked up a fat, coffee-coloured H. Upmann robusto cigar, Ana pulled out a magazine, and we each cracked open a bottle. I hadn't done too well at all on those Presidente beers we bought the first day, so I made it my goal to drink as many as possible. When I got to my fourth one, Ana said, "You're not going to be driving us to dinner, right?" I nodded and smiled. Hello designated driver!

As the sun dipped down below the palm trees we moved out to the front of the hotel where we could absorb the last of the day's sunshine. It was also a perfect opportunity to play some beach soccer so we dug net lines into the sand and started a game of two on two. Stella was on my team, and we all played magnificently, but she made me promise that I would not reveal who won the final championship. Playing soccer on that beach was the biggest moment for me on the trip. Even though there are always reasons to be sad, or angry, or pessimistic, when your family has a moment of organic happiness and satisfaction you just have to stop for a second and recognize it for what it is and stamp that memory on your brain. One thing Ana says she wants to do more of this year is to "Appreciate the moments" and this sure was a great one to start with.

For our final dinner we went to the Olive Garden restaurant, which seems to have become our family favourite. It is so consistently good and we just keep returning, and are never, ever disappointed. Throughout dinner we again started talking about our goals, and Stella began to record them on the back of a small sheet in crayon, but there was only space for three goals each so that's what we decided to do. Both Ana and Magnus decided on theirs, but Stella and I couldn't decide on ours, so we kept the sheet and will get back to it soon.

We drove back to the hotel, put the kids to bed and then Ana and I went out to a crazy, late night club, did tequila shots, danced on tables, partied with Drake who happened to be in town visiting his grandma, and ripped up the town all night. We got back to the hotel around 7am, exhausted, but happy that we still know how to party hard. Wait a minute, I just checked with Ana and I guess that whole last part must have been something I dreamed. Makes sense, because I was sound asleep by 10!

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