Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pausing for the Cause

Back in January my husband and I were to leave on our first Real Vacation in many years. By Real Vacation I mean yours truly didn't plunk a book signing or speaking engagement into the middle of our schedule, nor was I going to spend my evenings clacking away on my laptop. (Okay, I had one teensy east coast book signing tacked onto the end of our trip, but that's when our Official Vacation would end and my work would reconvene.) We were going to fly and cruise and make merry. WAHOO!

Instead, within three weeks of our scheduled departure my husband blew out his knee (which his able orthopedic doc sawed away and replaced, and don't I make that sound easy?!) and I broke my leg. Bye-bye body parts and vacation. Life marched on (okay, came to a screeching halt then crutched and gimped) while we endured, convalesced, grumbled and healed. My addled brain left me running behind with a major book deadline, leaving Poor George a worse fate than that: he had to live with someone running behind with a major book deadline. Just call me Ms. Distracted and Crabby.

As a result, since the beginning of May I have been holed up writing like a bandit which is good for me but which makes me absent to George—which, come to think about it, might also be good for George. (Ms. Distracted and Crabby, remember?) I have an upcoming book convention to attend (fly, baby, fly—and back on the road we go), an out-of-state extended family gathering (drive, baby, drive) and more writing to do before George gets his other knee replaced on 8/21, which was the "bad knee" until the other one went suddenly badder. All this to ask, what vacation, and when?
But last week a fresh wind of insight blew through my working brain: the luxurious capturing of mini-vacation moments.

No matter where you roam or how jam-packed your schedule, you too can root them out with just a few minutes of dedication. Granted, I am temporarily residing in a dear old farm house up on the ridge of the beautiful bluffs in a Minnesota river town along the Mississippi. (Oh, poor baby!) From the living room I can witness, unobstructed, the sun both rise and set. Not much more than ten yards from my keyboard, a few times a day the neighboring farmer's cows saunter, march or high-kick their way up or down the hill, and the horses, tails flying and nostrils flared, race through the field just behind me. Hummingbirds, bluebirds, finches of all sizes and miscellaneous others (feathered others, that is) bathe in an old fry pan I set on the porch rail (also visible from my keyboard) lined with a bright blue Frisbee and a couple marbles to attract them. In the evening I can hear the frogs and coyotes, and on a clear night, the stars are close (Venus is captivating) and the big dipper empties its heavenly contents right onto the roof. Each moment I decide to lift my eyes and drink of these wonders is a mini vacation from my daily working grind.

You say that's nice for me but that your hotel room only offers a view of the hotel next door? As you can see (and if you can't because you receive this by some tricky means that doesn't enable photos click here) I'm gifting you with a few visual slices from my neck of the planet. Dive into them, allow yourself to "hear" the sounds, imagine your toes waggling through the grass, feel the restfulness. May these small country reminders whet your appetite enough to cause you to stand on the sidewalk and seek out wedges of blue sky (yes, the sky still exists beyond the top of those sky crappers, as my grandma used to misspell them), notice a bird's nest near an overhang or a determined flower growing through a crack in the cement. Or perhaps S-T-O-P for a moment and actually tune into the soothing sound of that architectural waterfall in the lobby rather than whisking by it. Let your eyes blur over as you imagine yourself in an exotic lush green place of respite.

If you cannot succeed at discovering even these simple natural nature-istic pleasures, be on the lookout for a breeze to soothe your fretting brow, the scent of real flowers in a window box to flare your nostrils—allow the bright welcoming smile of the doorman to imply "Welcome home for the night. I hope you sleep well." Or try luxuriating in these momentary sensory-loaded mini-vacation moments: the healthy sound of your gym shoes slapping against the treadmill in the exercise room; the smooth cool feel of the high-count cotton in your pillowcase; the bevy of mouth-watering culinary choices on the menu as opposed to the gob-wads of leftovers in your fridge at home.

Give thanks for the simple pleasures and see how they multiple when you look for them. Even on the road.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Recanting a recant

When I posted my last entry, never did I imagine that a few days later my neighbor, who lives three doors down and whom I've known for 38 years, would be one of "those" people, the "happy vacation travelers" holding up the security line.

Nothing personal, Dear Neighbor, but do you NEVER listen to the news? Or to me when I ramble on about my latest adventures in the airports?! (Obviously you don't read my Traveling Laughs. And here I fancy myself so fascinating!)

During a recent phone chat with my husband (I've been hiding in MN for six weeks writing under deadline), our entire conversation crackled with disbelief over the news that our neighbor--the one who hasn't flown since 9-1-1, the one with a carryon bag filled with giant-sized hair products--had called her husband absolutely incensed that the TSA dared take her expensive hair products away from her. She was furious and dumbfounded she had to remove her worn comfy shoes. "All those bare feet on the floor! GROSS!" Incredulous she had to endure wanding plus have the bottom of her feet inspected because she had a hole in the foot pad of said comfy shoes. She couldn't believe they thought she might harbor drugs or explosives in said heel-worn hole. "Come ON!" she barked at me in a follow-up phone conversation. And the air machine that blows our sensible thoughts away, well it FREAKED-HER-OUT!

When they took her stuff away she wondered—and then asked—if they were going to keep it for her so she could pick it up when she returned. Seriously. I'm still shaking my head. Can you even imagine how long that name-it-and-claim it security line would be?

Last week I wrote that I kind of envied the thus-far TSA-untainted and therefore unjaded. I said I wished I could once again become a virgin-to-the-rules traveler myself so I could head to the airport with that Happy Vacation Glow. But after hearing George's rendition of our neighbor's debacle as relayed through the translation of her husband (who didn't know the rules either, but who listened to the fury of his newbie traveling mate), then receiving the full flaming details in my follow-up phone conversation with said offended neighbor, I heretofore recant my wish. Her outrage, disillusionment and complete inability to understand WHY someone would want to take her toothpaste—her TOOTHPASTE, for goodness sake--almost reignited mine. She expressed VENGEANCE toward those who were responsible for 9-1-1. LOOK what they've done to us! she spat. It seemed as though the fallout was just now hitting her.

I waited until she stopped to draw a breath and said, "But it's our TSA that's made the decision to take away our regular size toothpaste."


Now that I've been reminded of that initial response to THE OUTLANDISHNESS of it all, yes, I rescind my wish to once again be ignorant of the reality of today's travel circumstances. That initial fall from traveling WAHOO is just too heartbreaking; I do not ever wish to experience it again. I proudly claim myself a member of The Well Informed & Seasoned Veteran's Traveling Club, a club that is compliant, unchallenging and appropriately numb. Like a wild mustang now broken to accept its rider, I stand in the stable (well, okay I currently hide in Minnesota) waiting for my next trip to the airport when my boss—Da TSA Man—will tell me whether to turn to the right or the left, what he or she can and will take away from me, like the right to say "I object to this treatment!"

Okay, THAT was all so depressing I now recant my recant while I consider this philosophical question: Is it better to have flown often and therefore learned to surrender your power, or to ne'er yet have flown and still ignorantly think you have some? Or is it better to simply work your Sudoku and fo-getaboutit?

Hey youse guys and gals out there, whatdayathink?

In closing, let me just say that I am glad my husband is driving up here today since he shall have total control over an on-time departure and what he arrives here with, which will include all kinds of sharp implements in his fishing tackle box, bottles of nail polish left behind by his beloved, a case of liquid refreshment and anything else he can cram into his big ol' LeSabre.

Unless . . . OH NO! Unless while I've been hiding this past six weeks here in MN and barely hearing any news (like my neighbor apparently hadn't done for the last many years) the TSA has slapped down some new regulations at the Illinois toll booths! And if learn they have, do I call my husband and alert him, thereby causing him to leave all our favorite things behind, therefore enabling Wally Walleye to escape the lure of our fabulous split Rapalas? Or do I just let my beloved be one of "those" people merrily setting out to reunite for a spell with his honey?

CHARLENE! SNAP OUT OF IT! Like THAT toll-screening, tackle-box nabbing scenario would ever happen!

Oh boy. Just like nobody will ever give a ding-dong about our toothpaste either, right?

Oh boy.