the no expectations vacation

29 04 2010

When the one expectation I had for this time was met within the first 3 hours, it really makes for a relaxed ride.

Our decade plus in Spain was marked by frequent visitors – some expected and loved, others complete strangers.  It took a while to figure out that the key to a successful vacation experience for people had everything to do with the what they were hoping to accomplish.  So regardless of how well I knew people, the early hours of their stay were marked by planning.

I started with a litany of questions to sort out their expectations.  Were they art lovers who would drool over The Prado? Were they kitsch shoppers that would buy cheap T-shirts and key chains and call it a day?  Were they open to real cultural experiences that they would allow ME to do all the planning?  Did they need to eat every few hours?  If I had the answers to these questions, then I could probably come up with itineraries that would keep them happy.

So now before we plan any trip for business or pleasure or a combo of both – we work out those details as best as we can.  There has never been as smashing a success as last year’s great escape.  Not every time away can be centered around cliffs, sun umbrellas and a suitcase of books to be devoured.

This trip was a last minute mental necessity – a need to reconnect and get some face time with Best Boy and Mimi.  There is something strangely wonderful about being in the Entertainment Capital of the World and not needing to go or do or see any of the sights…except for hanging with them.  I dare say that our future holds return trips with Donny Diva in tow where we’ll be back at Disneyland or Universal Studios or Legoland or the San Diego Zoo or – or – or…

Not this time around though.  There is nothing looming on today’s horizon except for the fact that I know we’ll eat more than once.

34 to go

16 02 2010

I thought that the first part was the hardest part – but I think this half is really the killer.  We are on the downward slope.  It should just be a coast from here till Spring but this is when things get really tough.  I don’t like how the radio announcer has a smile in her voice telling us to expect snow the next three days.

Just about a year ago, we got away for the vacation of a lifetime…and now it seems like a lifetime ago, but it wasn’t. Looking at all the photos quietly nestled in my iPhoto library brings some small measure of satisfaction as I re-create the days in my head.  I was there.  It did happen.  I was a lucky, lucky girl.

Then there’s this year.  Lots of things have pressed in making such extravagance absolutely out of the question.  And I’m OK with that.  Really I am.  Really.  Seriously.  No, I really mean it.

This is when the gray seeps into my brain – when Spring seems like it will never ever return again.  There might not ever be another night sitting on the porch in the dark listening to the cicadas.  Surely, something has gone wrong with global warming and we’ll be stuck here in late winter – never to get out. It seems as if every commercial on TV points in the direction of warmer climes.  Target looks like a color wheel exploded and hatched little swim suits and cover-ups even though it hasn’t been warmer than 30º in months.  A friend is headed to Costa Rica…others, Jamaica – still others to Florida.  Best Boy posted an innocent picture of something lovely from Santa Barbara and it sent me careening over the edge.

In an impromptu puke session the other day, the Dr. and I reflected a bit about the very Western mind-set that oozes from every pore of our beings.  You know – the one that says we should seek personal satisfaction and fulfillment in every arena of our lives.  Our jobs should be fulfilling our deepest longings and our “giftedness”.  Our dinner parties should be warm, intimate events with meaningful conversations and long drinks of wine. Every occasion should be a celebration of life.  Our vacations should be…

Who do I think I am to be entitled to any of that?  Do the people in Mumbai living in the slums think these thoughts?  There are thousands of families in Michigan alone still losing their homes to the mortgage crisis and they aren’t thinking about being “foodies”.  There are kids in the inner cities all over this country that may never get out of a six block area.  The earthquake in Haiti DID happened but it seems to have taken a back seat to a big snow storm that took over the headlines. When I am done pouting about how my life doesn’t measure up and I get over being angry that circumstances in my life don’t allow me to do what I want to do…I pause long enough to take a deep breath and an honest inventory of what IS.

There are two cars parked beside my very warm house.  There is enough stuff hanging in the closets to keep dozens of families in threads for a long time.  Our bills have been paid every month during this last year. I have gone to the store to buy groceries every time we were out of essential things like oreos and ice cream.  We have electricity and hot water – clean water for that fact. We live in excess.  Lots and lots of excess.

Suddenly, I hear Billy’s voice echo in the darkest recesses of my spoiled, self-absorbed brain…”Quit your belly achin’!”  So, I will suck it up and get back to my basement.  There’s no better therapy than some early Spring cleaning to unload some of this excess baggage.