Whew! Just got home from a week’s vacation and I’m absolutely worn out. I’m not sure whether we’re cheap and want to get our “money’s worth” out of a vacation, or we’re afraid that we’ll strangle each other if we don’t schedule up every second with body-draining activity. Our family vacations are like running a marathon: get an early start, stay on the move all day, then collapse into bed at night in a body wrung out like a dishrag.
Category: Vacations Page 1 of 2
We are going on vacation soon, and our family loves to snorkel, which means I’ll have to wear a swimsuit (groan). The long sleeve rash guard I always wear will hide my sagging crepe chicken fat skin from the waist up, but it leaves the lower half of me exposed to the world – big as life and twice as ugly.
The first thing when I crawled out of the warm bed this morning, I said, “Hey Google! How do I get rid of old lady cottage cheese on my thighs?” And you already know what Google said. Google came up with some exercise videos so I can watch young lithe girls contort their bodies in impossible exercises, and I know good and well that they don’t have even one lump of chicken fat on their thighs, much less being covered with it like peanuts on a Payday candy bar.
Why is it that every solution to every appearance woe goes right back to changing what you eat and outrageous exercise? I’m lucky that I was brought up at a time when people ate healthy food. A meal was a small portion of meat, one starch (like a potato) a salad, some sliced tomatoes and/or cucumbers, and maybe another side vegetable, usually green beans because my brother loved them and insisted on them practically every meal.
My point is that I’m not fat or skinny, I’m about average, right in the middle of the body mass index for my height. I don’t have as much cottage cheese as a lot of people, but it’s still there even though I walk a couple miles every day. So I have to ask myself right now. Do I want to give up some of the food I eat to be skinny enough for a tropical vacation? And do I want to contort myself with heartless exercises?
Of course I do! The question is, WILL I? You know what? I think I will. I think I’ll do it. I think I can. Maybe. I’ll try. We’ll see. It’s a strong, a very strong, possibility. I know one thing, though. I’m getting tired and hungry just thinking about it. I think I’ll ponder it on my La-Z-Boy, and my oh my a nice bowl of buttery popcorn would sure hit the spot right now. Maybe I’ll think about the vacation tomorrow….
I saw Gerard Butler on the Daily Show last night. My, my, my he is one fine specimen. He was promoting his surfing movie, “Chasing Mavericks,” and they showed a clip with this giant wave rolled over him – it was thirty feet high and looked like a tsunami. When John Stewart asked him about it he said, “Yeah, it was really scary – I looked up and saw this thing and then it rolled over me, and another one was right behind it. I finally got up to the top for air and here was another one…”
Spoiler alert: He survived but only after someone on a ski doo got to him and hauled him out. The movie’s insurance company said, “You inexplicable idiot. No more. You use a stunt double from here on out!” Butler didn’t say those exact words, but I imagine this is about what the insurance said to him.
The purpose of this blog, however, is to tell about MY experience, which was quite similar to Butler’s except the waves were higher. Or at least they seemed to be. We were in Maui at this “locals only” beach full of surfers and their families, along with the odd pale tourist.
The waves were easily ten feet high, which is no sissy wave, especially when you think of most waves being three or four feet. It’s daunting when one is coming right at you. You see nothing but a wall of water and then, if you don’t have enough sense to dive under it, you get pounded like tough meat in a butcher’s shop.
When you dive under, you feel the wave rolling over the top of you, from your head to your toes, like one of those chairs that massages your back when you get a pedicure. It would be pleasant if it weren’t so utterly frightening.
Once the wave rolls over you, and you come up for air, you open your eyes and see another ten-foot wall of water. It’s right there. If you’re lucky you gulp a breath of air and dive down to the ocean floor and feel the wave rumble over you again. You come back up, thinking that these crazy back-to-back giant waves are just a fluke, and another wall of water is right there, big as life and twice as ugly.
I was hoping to get the hang of it after about twenty of these, but I didn’t. I was worn out and started swimming back toward shore, which was about fifty feet away. When I got out of range of the giant waves crashing on me, I got sucked up by an undertow. It started sweeping me sideways like I was a cork in river rapids. I tried to remember the rules of undertows from my lifeguard days, “Don’t swim against the undertow, swim parallel to shore but consistently try to make your way toward shore in a diagonal fashion.”
As the water continued to drag me sideways and out to sea, I started to panic, which the Lifesaving book said not to do under any circumstances or you’ll drown for sure. There was a lifeguard on the beach looking all official and worthy, and he simply watched me sweep by, apparently thinking I had the situation under control because I didn’t have enough wind to yell for help. Luckily, I turned and saw a head behind me being swept along at my exact rate of speed, and we went racing through the water like this for a good ways, making a parallel and somewhat diagonal course toward shore. Just seeing the other head bobbing along made me feel less anxious, and I was able to relax and really experience how exhausted and close to drowning I was. Then my toe brushed against a rock and I realized I had the possibility of getting dragged over jagged rocks as well.
But (spoiler alert 2) I survived it. It was one of the rare times I’ve been really afraid in the water. I have a whole new respect for waves and the ocean, and for Gerard Butler. I’m going to see the movie just so he and I can commiserate together in my mind.
Speaking of Tennessee and being Su-then – that is a whole ‘nother world down there in Dixie. The things they do are amusing at every turn. The Cracker Barrel is an example.
After my lengthy flight from Portland, OR to Knoxville, TN (the closest airport to Kingsport that I could use with my airline miles), and renting a car for the last leg of the trip, I was starving to death and didn’t want fast food – I wanted collard greens and fried okra and black eyed peas and corn bread and other such Su-then fare. I wanted Cracker Barrel. I called my family and my Uncle Martin gave me the names of three exits with Cracker Barrels between Knoxville and Kingsport, an hour and a half drive away.
I parked the rental, mouth watering, and stepped up on the long porch of this mecca of southern cuisine. I passed all those wooden rocking chairs and for a second I was tempted to sit a spell, but figured I’d better get my name in because it was Saturday evening and the place was packed.
After a small wait in which I browsed the country store and thought about how good it was to be back in the South, a sweet girl with a cherub face seated me at a little table in the middle of the action. Waiters and waitresses zipped from table to table and said things like, “Hello, darlin’. Can I git you something to drink, sugar?” It was like that through the whole meal. I couldn’t take two bites without someone asking if they could get me some more water, “honey,” and if I was enjoying my food, or “Sweetie, can I refill that tea for you?”
When I went to the cash register to pay, an ancient woman with more wrinkles than a wadded up linen shirt was behind the register. I mentally stereotyped her, no doubt slow and fumbling, as she handed the change to the couple in front of me. When I stepped up to pay she briskly took my money and started ringing me up. “Sweetheart, did you have a good supper?” she said. “Can I interest you in some of this hand lotion? It smells so sweet. Oh and you really ought to try these caramels – they just melt in your mouth!” Not only was she quick, she wasn’t taking “no” for an answer until she up-sold me something from the gift shop.
With the drive ahead of me, it was going to be late when I arrived at my Aunt Mary Ellen’s house, and it was already way past dark, but I eased down into one of the wooden rocking chairs on the front porch and felt myself rock back and forth like the pendulum in a grandfather clock, listening to the soothing sound of wood rolling over wood, remembering the taste of that good southern food, the smell of the fresh-baked cornbread, and the sounds of families exchanging stories all around me as they visited at the Cracker Barrel on a Saturday evening. I mentally willed myself to slow down to Tennessee time.
I’d come back “home” to take a little break from life and get centered – and as I sat there rocking, I knew it was going to be a perfect trip. A couple walked slowly out of the restaurant, holding hands. He grinned at me and said, “How y’all doin?” There are no strangers in Tennessee – but there are some strange people. I’ll tell you about one of them next time.
I went to Tennessee a couple of weeks ago to get some fried okra and brush up on being Southern. Or as Atley, my son Chris’s friend, would say, “Su-then.” He’d make jokes about my accent, saying, “Chris, your mom’s Su-then,” putting an emphasis on the “Su-” part to bring out the accent. It got laughs from everyone, so I went along. When I’d say something like, “Atley, can you pick up your glass and take it to the kitchen?” he’d say, “Suzanne, you Su-then.” Maybe you had to be there to truly appreciate it, but now in my head the word is no longer “Southern” but “Su-then.”
Anyway, on one of the layovers in the airport (no one flies to Tennessee from anywhere in the US without laying over in Chicago or Dallas or both), I decided to write out my top most fun times, and was kindof surprised at the things I wrote down.
They weren’t the times when I went to expensive dinners or to fancy plays or even tropical vacations. They were just regular times with one thing in common. I was with someone and we got the giggles until everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, became funny and we burst out laughing over and over again at absolutely nothing.
I’ll give you a for instance. After high school I dated this guy who was pretty funny – I called him Bangum, a Su-then pronunciation of his name. He had a great bunch of friends who fortunately became my friends, and once when Bangum was out of town, his friend, Adrian Ferguson, asked if I wanted to go see a horror movie at the drive in. This was about the extent of our entertainment options back in the day in Kingsport, Tennessee – going to some B-movie at the drive-in.
The movie was so bad that we could predict every plot point coming way before it happened. It was the kind of movie anyone with any taste would have left after the first few minutes, but Adrian kept making sarcastic remarks about everything and I got the giggles. This prompted his humor to seek loftier heights, and he kept firing funny comments, each one more ludicrous than the last, until I was begging him to stop so I could catch my breath.
He wouldn’t stop. He had a captive audience, and there was plenty of material on that giant outdoor screen. I can’t remember the plot, seems like it was about an illusionist who was so good that he could actually saw a woman in half – blood squirting out in all directions – and the audience only saw the box with the lady’s smiling head on one end and her wiggling feet on the other. Of course we, the moviegoers, could see the poor sawed lady screaming and guts and blood everywhere.
There was something in the movie about hitting a woman with a rubber hose. It was supposed to be horrible, but the whole concept of someone attacking a woman with a rubber hose sent us both into hysterics. Here’s the scene in our car.
Adrian: “You’d better behave, woman, or I’ll beat you with a rubber hose!”
Me: “Ha ha ha, oh please stop, don’t say rubber hose again, ha, ha, ha, no, no, no don’t I can’t take it anymore, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Where’s the bathroom – stop or I won’t make it, ha, ha, ha, please, you have GOT to stop.”
Adrian: “I’m going to beat you with a rubber hose.”
Me: “HA, HA, HA, oh please, please, please stop, HA HA HA HA HA oh my gosh I can’t breathe, stop, don’t say anything for a couple of seconds, let me catch my breath, ha ha ha.”
Adrian: “I’ll beat you with a rubber hose.”
I don’t’ know if I made it to the bathroom in time. I don’t know if we even stayed to the end of that dreadful movie. All I know is that I laughed longer and harder and with such complete abandon that I didn’t even feel like I was part of the world anymore.
That’s the great thing about going back to your hometown – I got to see Adrian and Bangum during my visit, along with a myriad of other friends and family – and we relived lots of fun times with fresh laughter.
I don’t care what Atley says, I’m darned happy to be Su-then.
My daughter and I went to Europe a couple of years ago. We had a fantastic time, mostly because my daughter’s red hair attracted special favors and kindnesses like moths to honey. Even in France, with it’s reputation for impatience with American tourists, we were treated well. The waiters were smitten by her. One flirted openly, gave her his phone number, and asked if he could come to America to see her – all before the French onion soup arrived.
The most memorable experience, however, was in Italy. Italian men practically shoved themselves at her. Unlike in France where people on the streets were zipping around and not as inclined to notice us, the Italian men leisurely gawked at us when we walked by. Sometimes we’d be in those cobbled alleyways with only a few people around, and the waiters would be standing outside smoking. All Italian waiters smoke. When they’d see us coming from far away, they stared the whole time we walked toward them, looking us up and down openly and unabashedly as we passed.
I’d like to take a second to look up the word “unabashedly” because by anyone’s standards that’s a doozie. Doozie is another word I’d like to look up. Either of these would be well worth a side trip to Google, but I’d like to get on with my story so they will have to wait.
When the men eyeballed us (and by “us” I mean my daughter), I’d say under my breath, “Don’t look at them. I don’t want them following us around like stray dogs.”
Italian men are a delicious feast for the eyes. Nummy. But I’d read in the touristy books that it was not a good idea to encourage them. The books warned of men grabbing women’s bottoms in public. I don’t know if I would have been overly offended if my bottom, personally, was the destination of some wandering Italian hand, but I sure didn’t want one of these guys groping my teenage daughter.
So we both kept our eyes facing forward and picked up our pace when we’d see the smoking Italians leaning against the outside café walls, drinking us in like we were Chianti.
Once, however, we were walking down an alley in the sultry, dusky evening, and a young Italian man was walking toward us. He had on a long-sleeve white shirt with the cuffs rolled up, and long, dark pants that swished as he walked. He was tall and exceedingly good-looking, and he had not taken his eyes off of us the entire time he glided toward us. As usual I whispered, “Just stare straight ahead.”
He smiled brightly when he was about twenty feet away, and my daughter must have smiled back because he stopped, and in that exaggerated way you see Italian men act in movies, he grabbed his heart with both hands, tossed his gorgeous head back and said to the heavens, “Ahhhh, she smile at me! She breakin’ my heart!”
We both giggled and said, “Buon giorno.” He stood still and watched us walk by, still clutching his heart, grinning with luminescent white teeth. He made us feel like we were beautiful and exotic and like we were eye candy right back at him.
One day when I’m in a nursing home drooling Cream of Wheat, I hope I still remember this man and his flamboyant compliment to two worn out American tourists tromping down an alley on exhausted legs after another hot, humid day of roaming around Rome trying to snatch every sight in three breathless days, and how he suddenly made us feel like we were walking on air.
I wrote yesterday about how bad our priest sang and last night I didn’t sleep a wink I felt so guilty. Tonight I went to a school meeting, and afterward one of the moms came up to me and said, “I saw you sitting way across from me at church on Sunday. Did you see me gasp when the priest started singing?”
“Oh my gosh,” I said, “Can you believe his voice?”
“It’s horrible,” she said. “I literally gasped out loud, and I know I had a look of horror on my face. Then I saw you across the church and you were laughing and trying to cover it up.”
“His voice is shocking,” I said. We commiserated a few minutes more about the torture of hearing such a well-spoken man sing like a rooster with his leg being gnawed by an iguana.
I still feel a little guilty talking about him, but on the other hand, this now appears to be common knowledge and therefore is simply an observation and should not carry with it a stigma of guilt. That’s my theory anyway.
Not to change the subject, but I went to an open house yesterday afternoon and met a nice, older lady who retired to Naples, Florida. Talking to her reminded me of when I was 19 and spent the summer with two girlfriends near there, in Ft. Myers Beach.
One of them, Mary, and I decided to drive to Key West in her little ancient Opal Cadet – a perky little car with a lawn mower for an engine. We were on a backroad out in the middle of nowhere when we came upon a pickup truck carrying three hooligans. They stood up in the truck, which was going pretty slow, and started making obscene gestures. We slowed down, but they were creeping along and we would have had to stop cold for them to get out of sight.
We saw them give each other a look and pretty soon all three of them had dropped their shorts and started mooning us at practically point blank range. We had nowhere else to look! We slowed down almost to a stop, but so did the truck.
“Get us out of here, Mary,” I screamed.
“I didn’t drive all the way down here to have to stare at three hairy assholes,” Mary said. She downshifted that little Opal into second and started to pass. They sped up. She shifted into third and we started making headway. It was a straight, narrow road and we would have been doomed if someone had been in the other lane, but I don’t think Mary would have slowed down. Her face was red and her knuckles were white on the steering wheel. She had an East Tennessee hillbilly anger that was boiling like a whistling teakettle.
I started rocking back and forth to help the car’s momentum, coaxing it to go faster. When we were neck and neck with the driver, he turned and gave us a grin that showed all eleven of his stained yellow teeth. These were the kind of guys who’d run you into the ditch and laugh as they deflowered your maidenhood.
“Give it some more gas,” I screamed.
“I’ve got it on the floor,” she yelled. I rocked harder. We finally got far enough ahead that we could pull in front of the truck. Simultaneously we threw our hands out the window and let our fingers do the talking.
They didn’t like that and started gaining on us. I rocked faster. Mary started rocking too. “Come on, baby, come on,” we begged.
The chase only lasted a couple more minutes before the farm boys gave up.
What does this have to do with the singing priest? If you figure it out, please let me know.
I’m thinking the key to life is loving where you are. Where I am, or soon will be, is in the kitchen getting a fistful of chocolate cherry trail mix. Be right back.
It’s gone! I searched everywhere – in the cabinets, on the nightstand, in the bonus room, but it’s disappeared. Doggone it! Thank goodness I found a Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate bar the size of a greeting card that hit the spot. No, I didn’t eat it all, I left a couple of squares to the previous owner so they’d know they hadn’t imagined putting it in the cupboard. After all, I’m a considerate person.
Back to paradise. We were visiting friends over in Central Oregon and the sun was shining the whole time with nary a cloud in the sky. It’s hard to complain about warm sunshine after living in Portland during the incredibly cool summer we’re having (to find out why – SHAMELESS PLUG – get the global warming book I helped write called, Footprint, a Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Extinction).
One morning we came out of the dark bedroom to be greeted by glowing sunlight through every window, and our host said, “Another day in paradise!”
Didn’t Jimmy Buffet sing a song about that? Somebody did. Anyway, I got to thinking about it and I concluded **** PROFOUND SAYING ALERT***** that:
PARADISE IS WHERE THE HEART IS
This might sound a whole lot like another saying, “Home is where the heart is,” but that one isn’t centered on the page and in all capital letters. I wonder if I can copyright this saying and get royalties when the world starts using it? Because, you know, paradise is sometimes where the money is, too.
Clear skies and warm sunshine might certainly be part of the formula for paradise, but I’ve had a taste of paradise when I’ve been on the side of Mt. Bachelor in the freezing cold and hit a bump on my skies that should have sent me flailing end over end but I miraculously recovered and flew weightless through the air without breaking a leg. It’s exhilarating.
Something else to ponder: Isn’t the world confusing enough without spelling skies and skies the same way?
I’ve also been in paradise when my teenage daughter asks me to go to a movie with her. OMG I will drop anything to spend time with either of my kids because they are scattered like my Uncle Vance’s ashes in the trunk of my cousin Nancy’s car. That’s a funny story I’ll try to remember to tell one day.
My kids rarely light near me any longer than it takes them to say, “Mom, you already asked me that.” I’m not so sure I DID ask, and I certainly don’t remember what they said. They make stuff up to drive me crazy. Even so, I love when they’ll forsake their friends and hang out with me, even when I know it’s because none of their friends can do anything right that minute and also I’ll pay for their movie ticket. Still, to me it’s more of a “paradise” to hang out with them than being in the tropics sipping POG and vodka while swinging in a hammock on the beach. I think.
The point is that paradise is in our heads. If it weren’t, then everyone in warm places would be happy, and everyone else would be miserable. That may pan out in some cases, but I have witnessed many, many cranky shop clerks in those little beach stores in Lahaina. In fact, there are few things crankier than a middle-aged Hawaiian woman in a t-shirt shop packed with tourists unfolding the merchandise during the heat of the Maui summer. I’ve heard them mumble, “I got your paradise RIGHT HERE!” and though I’m not sure what that means, they didn’t sound happy.
So, gentle readers, you probably don’t need to look any further than your own back yard for your little patch of paradise. And if you find some money out there, send me some!
Yesterday I had a naturally happy day. By natural I mean a day that was happy on its own merit and not one I have to cajole myself into believing was happy.
I’ll give you an example. When it’s raining and cold and I’m freezing to my bones I can say, “At least I’m cozy inside and not out in a leaky tent with no bathroom.”
Or I can say, “I’ve got a sore tooth but I at least I have teeth, unlike my cousin in Tennessee who drank Coca-Cola out of a baby bottle.”
These things are designed to make me feel better. If I imagine myself in more pitiful circumstances, then I’ll feel better and can even give my situation a “silver-lining” up a couple of notches on the happiness scale.
This method of happiness works, but every now and then things go so well I’m not forced to look at the miserable side of life to get pumped up, and yesterday was one of those.
First, I found a swimsuit that doesn’t make me look fatter than I am, and it was ON SALE! Next, I found a couple of tops that don’t make me look fatter than I am, and they were ON SALE too!
This in itself would have been enough to make for a pretty stellar day, but I also went hiking in a wilderness area at the base of Three Finger Jack, a central Oregon mountain with jagged peaks that look way more like a bunch of jagged peaks than three fingers. I’ve seen that mountain from every angle and still can’t find the fingers, but this did not make me unhappy because it was gorgeous up there, with snow-fed streams and wildflowers blooming in every direction. We hiked for four hours, which wore me out and therefore must have burned a lot of calories. Lucky for me because I had a bag of chocolate cherry trail mix that geniuses invented. They stuck some peanuts in there to make it an “official” trail mix food, but for the most part it was chocolate and more chocolate. Could a wilderness hike be any better?
Then I dozed all the way home while my husband drove which was great because I was unconscious as he passed extra-long RV’s on curves, and risked our lives in other creative ways that usually give me a heart attack.
But the real happiness came when I got home and read my emails. Not only did I have several new site members (thanks and welcome!), but also the book I helped to write about global warming got an endorsement from James E. Hansen, the world’s foremost authority on global warming. HOW EXCITING!
Hansen is a NASA scientist who has written a couple of books about global warming as well as teaching at Columbia University and being called to testify before Congress. He is no slouch. So having his endorsement is such a wonderful thing even though you, personally, have never heard of him.
Riding on the high of all this, my daughter’s boyfriend had left the movie, “Big Fish” at our house and I watched it. What a delight! Tim Burton is a very interesting director, and I was sucked into that movie like a lollipop into my toothless cousin’s mouth. By the time I went to bed I was feeling bubbly. A wonderful day never hurt anyone.
I took a day off today from doing almost everything. Instead of gluing myself to the computer, catching up on filing, or planting the flowers I bought a week ago, I finished a mystery novel that I’ve been struggling through a page at a time in bed before I dropped off to sleep. I should feel wonderful making time for R and R, but I feel worthless.
How am I going to make up these lost leisure hours, I’d like to know? Tomorrow I will have to work extra hard and I won’t catch up. Things will be tabled until Tuesday, and then Wednesday. Is R and R really worth it?
I will leave the answer to the philosophers and people who make a living answering such questions (and please, let me know if you hear of any job openings in the latter). All I know is that it felt pretty darn good.
One thing I noticed about reading while lying on the couch was that I kept dozing off. When I did, my mind would continue with the story. If I dozed off when the big strong man was approaching the petite detective lady, my semi-conscious mind would actually continue on like I was reading: “He took her in his arms and kissed her ravishingly. And then he scooped her up in his arms and walked toward the bedroom, bending down to kiss her along the way.”
I’d startle awake and look at the words on the page and this is what they said: “Lance walked toward Andrea. When he got within arm’s reach, she slapped him hard across the cheek. ‘You bastard!’ she hissed.”
Hmmm, my unconscious mind obviously didn’t pick up on the direction the plot was actually going. This happened over and over – with my half-asleep imagination completing scenes the second my eyes drift closed.
When I managed to stay awake, my conscious mind knew all too well what was coming, long before the author took the plot in that direction. I knew pages and pages earlier that the son was going to get kidnapped. This was frustrating because I really wanted to be surprised. The writing style wasn’t that great, so the plot needed to be good to make up for it. This was a book someone had given me and said it was really good. As I was reading it, I kept thinking – compared to what?
But I finished it, wasting my entire Sunday on the couch, and now I’m going to have to work myself to death to make up for it. I think I’m going to go now and doze off so my mind can take me to a place where my inbox is empty, where all my good intentions have been carried out – every birthday card sent on time, every batch of cookies baked for the new neighbors – and life is carefree, plus there’s a magical box of chocolates that don’t have any calories. I’m going to dub this place “Sofaville” and it’s going to have a remote control that has commercial-free comedies all day long, and a sweet little dog to cuddle up to my feet and keep them warm. All the laundry will be done, dishwasher unloaded, bookshelves dusted, fish water changed, cobwebs knocked down, carpets with vacuum streaks, buttered popcorn that isn’t fattening, and a cheese platter.
OMG – this is so pathetic. Other people dream of changing the world or becoming rock stars. I’m dreaming of a day on the couch. Still, it sounds good. Hence, I’m off to bed where my rich fantasy life awaits me. Here’s wishing that all your dreams come true – at least in your dreams. Good night, my friends.