Five Days in Paradise

I’m tan, rested, and ready to share some photos (too many photos) with you from our trip to Key West. Let me give you a little back story before I dive in to the pics. Last September, The Hubs asked me how I wanted to celebrate my upcoming 40th birthday. The conversation went something like this:

“Party or trip?”


“Beach or Mountains?”


“Mexico or Caribbean?”

“You choose.”

“Okay then. Renew your passport!”

Hubs drops the mic, Mary packs her bag.

At the end of September, I went to my new OB-Gyn here in Indiana for the first time. It was just an annual exam, and of course, the nurse made me step on the scale. I was not surprised to see that I was twenty pounds overweight. My closet was filled with clothes that no longer fit and I was feeling pretty down about how I looked. It was time to do the unthinkable: I needed to start working out.

I don’t know why I’ve always been so down on exercising. I was a self-proclaimed non-exerciser and I was proud of it. I used to tell people how much I loathed exercised. Much like my daughter who detests foods she’s never tried before, I was the girl who never went to the gym or tried an exercise video because I detested working out.

Well guess what? As it turns out, I love it! Back in October, with the encouragement of my new friend Becca, I joined a gym. We would meet in the weight room a couple times a week so she could teach me some exercises that I could then do on my own. I also started power walking two miles a day, either around my neighborhood or at the gym track. Before long, I started to really feel a difference in my energy level and some of my clothes started fitting me again.

On December 6th, we found out we were expecting and I continued to work out. My hope was that the exercise and low carb, high protein diet I was on would help with the terrible morning sickness I normally experienced in the first trimester. To be on the safe side, and just to keep travel simpler, we decided against leaving the country. The Hubs had a co-worker who had just returned from Key West and had an incredible stay at Casa Marina right near the Southernmost Point. The more we looked into the resort and the island of Key West, the more excited we got.

Then, at the end of December, at my eight week appointment, I found out that I was miscarrying our baby.

My body was turned inside out during the process. It was a very, very dark time for me, physically, mentally, emotionally. The skies were grey in every sense of that expression. I was literally clinging to the hope of our upcoming trip. During the long days of recovery, anemic and pretty depressed, I shopped deals on line for fun clothes and bathing suits, perusing pictures on line of the resort and the sights to see on Key West. Three weeks after the miscarriage started, I headed back to the gym. It felt so good to get back to my workout routine.

What started out as a quest to lose weight for vanity’s sake, turned into a mission to restore my body.

At the beginning of February, I quit the gym and started doing a forty-five minute exercise video at home. I was tired of shlepping over to the community center, and I was fairly convinced that Little One was picking up a lot of germs in the child care. I started out with the Brooke Burke Tone and Tighten video and it was kicking my butt. I seriously think I would have stopped doing it out of sheer discouragement, but those weeks at the gym had strengthened me enough to keep up. As soon as the kids left for school each morning, I’d turn on the TV for Little One and head upstairs to work out. Forty-five minutes of sweating it out with Brooke everyday, toning and tightening, I got to the point where I had memorized everything she said and didn’t have to watch the TV to know what to do. It was time to mix it up. I switched to her Strengthen and Condition video and boy, was I getting a daily butt kicking! This video was definitely more challenging, but again, I don’t think I would have stuck with it if I hadn’t already gotten stronger from “Tone and Tighten.”

By the way, I am laughing at myself big time. This post was supposed to be about our trip and all I’m talking about is exercising. You know, the thing I supposedly hated.

Our babysitter was hired, our trip was booked, and we were getting so close we could taste the salt air. Just a few more weeks and we would be far away from our usual routine. For the first time since that OB-Gyn appointment in September, I stepped on the scale. I was twelve pounds lighter and feeling fit. More importantly, on a physical and personal level, I felt restored.

The Hubs and I have left our children in the care of several different adults we trust over the years, but never for five days, and never for a vacation getaway. We had not been on a true vacation, just the two of us, since our honeymoon thirteen and a half years ago. Assuming that we would not have this opportunity again for many years, our approach to this trip was, “Go big, or go home!”

We stayed at Casa Marina, one resort over from the Southernmost Point of Key West. It’s a Waldorf Astoria resort, now owned by Hilton and let me just tell you: All the rumors are true. Waldorf Astoria’s customer service is bar none. We were so impressed by all of the employees we encountered during our stay. From the hotel room maid staff to the cabana boys, we were always greeted with cheerfulness and a, “What can I do for you today?”

Half the time we were in Key West, we had no idea what time it was. I gave my cell phone, aka my watch, to The Hubs and he left it in the room most of the time. We were laying on the beach on day three of our stay and were able to determine the time by the arrival of our complimentary drink of the day brought to us on a tray by a server. Must be noon! There were many simple exchanges between us that went something like, “You hungry?” “No.” “Need a re-fill?” “Yes.” “Wanna go somewhere?” “Nah.” “Sounds good to me!”

Now that’s what I call luxury.

Speaking of luxury, couples’ massages, fifty minutes, on the beach. What an incredible experience! It was so relaxing, and so needed. At the end of the appointment, my masseuse said, “I don’t know if you’re religious or anything, but there is the most beautiful shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes about a ten minute walk from here. Are you familiar with her?” Uh, yah! Apparently, the locals built the shrine after a hurricane had taken many lives as a sign of their devotion and to ask for protection. Since then, no lives have been lost due to hurricane. We were able to make a visit to the Perpetual Adoration chapel before we walked the grounds and took in this island gem. I love how Our Lady made herself known to us through the massage therapist. It was a highlight of our stay on Key West.

Sleeping in while away from home usually doesn’t happen for me, especially since having kids, but I was hopeful. Key West Gypsy Chickens and Roosters, however, roam free and are protected by law. So, the whole sleeping in thing didn’t quite work out and I was up by 7:30 each morning. A little Nespresso and some Blessed Is She retreat on the balcony with a stunning view of the beach and the ocean and I didn’t mind. I’d rather be up and at it than sleeping any day, especially on vacation.

Our resort was within walking distance to everything we wanted to see, but when we wanted beach time, the resort was the place to be. You really can’t beat having someone set up your chair, get your towels, set up an umbrella, and serve you drinks. And if we wanted to just stay put and have lunch we could.

This may have been planned as a 40th Birthday Celebration for me, but in the end, it was a chance for my husband and I to reconnect. He keeps referring to it as our “Marriage Retreat” and I absolutely agree. We spend our days working hard and serving our children, as we should, but this trip was all about being totally present to each other. Our day to day life together is in service of each other and our children. But for five days, the kids’ needs were being taken care of by a wonderful, loving college student and the army of friends who offered to drive them hither and yon for school and activities. And you know what? They were so adorable when we came back home. It felt so good to be hugged fifty times, kissed a hundred times, and told over and over again that we were missed. As for us, don’t take this the wrong way, but we didn’t miss them. Well, not until the last day. This past year has been jam packed with major life changes. We sold a house, we bought a house, we moved our family of seven to Indiana, and we experienced a loss. Aren’t those on the top ten most stressful life events? On this getaway, we got lost in each other’s eyes and got back to the beginning. We rediscovered the fire between us – the reason the children came into being in the first place!

I know I’ve said too much already, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit to the man who made it all happen. My wonderful, generous, giving spouse who moved heaven and earth and saved and saved and worked our budget to make this dream vacation a reality. In reading and experiencing the lives of others through blogs and Facebook, I’m always worried about the impression some posts give, especially this one. We are not ones for extravagant vacations. I’m not gonna lie, I enjoyed the luxurious aspects of this trip and I appreciate the incredible service and care we received during our stay at Casa Marina. It was the time away together, however, that I will treasure the most when I look back on this trip years from now. I’ll remember taking a nap in a hammock under the palms, reading books side by side on the beach, and praying at the grotto. Turning forty is no big deal after a trip away with my beloved. Bring it.


Categories: Celebrating


6 Responses to Five Days in Paradise

  1. Sounds absolutely dreamy! I’m so glad you had a chance to get away and be re-filled. I found myself at the beach immediately after a miscarriage a few years ago. I’ve always found the beach to be very soul-filling for me and I know God had timed it that way for a reason. Loved the story about Our Lady. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your beautiful trip!

    • Thanks, Tracy and Kelly!

      Bridget, a follower on Instagram asked me to share details on the diet, so here goes. I kind of hesitate to do this because every woman’s body is different. I just want to stress that I was working out six days a week, doing a 45 minute total body workout, so keep that in mind.

      Think Thin bar first thing in the morning with coffee.
      Protein Shake immediately after workout.
      A couple of hours later, four soft boiled eggs.
      A few hours after that, whole milk yogurt, honey, granola, berries or, my fave, a ham and cheese sandwich 🙂
      Around 4 or five o’clock, guacamole or hummus with carrots, cucumber, celery, etc.
      Dinner with the family.
      No sweets. Not much alcohol. 😉 And I try really hard not to eat after dinner. This doesn’t always work out so well.
      I drink a lot of water.

      That’s the diet! Easy to do. Nothing too crazy. I was working so hard exercising that I was super motivated when it came to food. I seriously didn’t even want to look at ice cream and ice cream has always been my go-to comfort food.

      • PS I was on a steady diet of beer, carbs, and fatty foods prior to exercising. If there was something I wanted to eat, I’d eat it. M&M’s at the checkout, yup! Burger at the drive-through? Sure!

  2. First off, I am so sorry for your loss. I wish I could give you a hug through the internet. <3

    Secondly, we also just got home from Key West, and the Our Lady Star of the Sea Basilica was a highlight for us as well. Now I'm trying to figure out how to do an outdoor rosary with pavers in our own back yard. It was our first trip away from kids since…ever…and my own feelings mirror yours.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Alicia! No kidding! It is such a beautiful place in spite of all the craziness that goes on there, isn’t it? And the Basilica? Dreamy. I am heading over to your blog to check it out! Nice to “meet” you!

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