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This past weekend was our Country’s annual 4th of July celebration.  Because I was employed in a hospital setting over the last few years, it was one of my usual holidays to work. Thus it was a welcoming change this year to finally have the day off.   So this past Thursday I headed south, and shared this holiday with my old college friends, their children and my little one.  July 4th was the first time my baby girl went in the ocean and played in the sand.  She LOVED both the ocean, and the sand! So much in fact, that she managed to get sand from head to toes multiple times throughout the day; it seemed as if she could not get enough of it.  It was a glorious day spent mainly under a big shaded tent and the cool ocean. It was filled with laughter, old tales, food, and plenty of sun-screen.  Everyone had a great time, and we all left planning the next get together.

The following day held another adventure for us.  To celebrate my little cousin’s birthday we decided to head north to Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach.  It was very exciting for some of my family members because they had never been there.  We arrived to the entrance after navigating through a sea of greenery and horse stables.  The day was perfect, not too sunny, and a little cool and overcast.  Instructions were given at the entrance of the park.  Keep the cars with the windows up and doors locked at all times. As we drove into “the wilderness” we began listening to the given CD which taught us about the animals  we would encounter along the way.

It was magical to see the awe and excitement in both my little cousin who was just turning 9 yrs. old and my 15 month old as the car navigated through nature and some of its inhabitants.  The safari is beautifully set up in a safe environment resembling a natural habitat without compromising one’s safety.   Animals such as lions, gorillas, zebras, and others get to roam into the greenery while been separated from the passing cars by large electric gates or large vast open valley of water.  Other animals that are friendlier to humans such as donkeys or ostriches get to roam freely along the road.  Often times during the drive one needs to wait as they cross the road freely or stop by for a look.  Both the children and adults in my car laughed out loud in excitement many times along the way.

As the drive came to an end, the next part of the journey continued, this time afoot.  There was the chance to walk along a trail and discover butterflies, birds, tortoises, and fishes. Some fed the giraffes, while others opted for the petting zoo.  The birthday boy had the chance to run around and get wet in the little water park.  We rode the carousel, chauffeured our own water bike and my uncle improved his miniature golf skill.  We also had the opportunity to ride the ferris wheel and gazze out into nature and the miracles of our beautiful planet.

Indeed this weekend proved to be one filled with the marvels of nature.  Our planet provides us with so many wonders to explore and enjoy that is really a shame not to take full advantage of what is out there.  Sometimes we get so boggled up with day to day stressors, or consumed by work and responsibilities that circumstances leads us to overlook what’s really important.  Life is but a gift, and yes it can be difficult, and pressing at times, but it can also be beautiful and awe inspiring.

I have realized that it’s important to take the time to stop and literally smell the roses.  Have a look around you and see how beautiful our planet Earth truly is.  There is so much out there to see, explore and just enjoy.  One must find time to balance things out as much as possible.  I remember hearing Chris Bosh say, work hard and play harder after winning the NBA finals, and I agreed with him.  You can work hard, but it is so important to find the time to enjoy life as well.  It does not have to cost much money to do just that.  The best things in nature are many times free.

Having a small child has taught me that quality time spend together can go a long way.  No amount of money in the world compares with the joyous laughter that came out of my baby’s mouth as she felt the sand for the first time in her little toes, or the cool sensation of the ocean as it caressed her soft skin.  I loved seen the awe in her eyes, and hearing the wow sound that came out her little lips as she saw those animals close for the first time.    I’m so glad I was able to take the time off from work this 4th of July.  I can honestly say it was truly priceless.