Vacation Blessings by Sharon O’Donnell

My family and I just returned from a week-long vacation in Orlando and Clearwater Beach, Florida. We had a great time and fabulous weather (no humdity! no frizzy hair — or at least not AS frizzy). We’d originally planned to go to the Tampa area and see a few Red Sox versus the Tampa Bay Rays baseball games, but that plan morphed into also spending some time at the amusement parks and several days at the beach. Going to a Red Sox game is always a good way to ensure that my college-age sons still want to go on family vacations :) We also invited my middle son’s girlfriend to go with us — and it was nice to have some more estrogen to help balance things a bit. I did do a double-take when she wanted to go to some shops; I was so used to being the only one who wanted to go to shops that I’d long ago abandoned that itinerary for our vacations, and suddenly there was someone else who wanted to shop! It was a very strange feeling.

We, of course, also took a long our long-haired dachshund, also a male, because after the 2010 incident that we refer to as the “Devil Dog Fiasco”, we can’t leave our dog at home with the pet sitter checking on him. Three years ago when we were in Maine, our dog Fenway was fine for the first 24 hours, prompting the teenage girl who was watching him to email us that he was the sweetest dog she’d ever known. Then the next day came another email telling us that Fenway totally changed and was guarding the entire upstairs of the house, showing his teeth and growling. She called him “Devil Dog” and the nickname stuck. Since then, we’ve taken Fenway on every vacation with us, which means all of them have been by car. I actually think Fenway knew exactly what he was doing and it was all his master plan of never being left at home again. As I looked at him on in a deep sleep on his pillow in the car as we traveled, I could almost read his thoughts: Yep, they fell for that Devil Dog routine hook, line, and sinker. But he is part of the family, and we miss him when we go away, so it seems only fitting that he be traveling with us, content on his pillow.

As we traveled through Jacksonville, FL, I recalled my family’s very first trip to Disney when our oldest son was almost 4 and our second son was 9 months old. My husband had just left a promising but unfulfilling career with a huge energy company and started his own business. It was an exciting but rather scary time. It was in Jacksonville on our first trip there that my husband had an epiphany about an idea concerning energy aggregation. We’d planned to stop for the night at a Jacksonville beach, so as soon as we got to the hotel, my husband wanted to get on the phone and pitch his idea to potential municipal clients. He needed total quiet to do this, and this was in the days before we had a cell phone. So I took Billy and David, our two sons, out of the hotel room while my husband made phone calls. I had to entertain them, which was not easy. I kept thinking he’d be done with the calls, but about an hour and a half went by. When he was done, he had built a strong client base for his business — the business that still sustains us. I got a bit misty-eyed as we passed by the Jacksonville beaches sign because that day 18 years ago felt so vivid in my mind. I remembered the excitement we felt about the business, the hope we had — and yes the fun of being young and starting out with our little sons.

And now here are with those two sons on the verge of starting their own careers and another one who — thank goodness — will still be at home with us for awhile. I’m so thankful for God’s blessings over the years. And for the business that has been good to us that had a big part of its beginning in Jacksonville, FL.