Vacation

lake trail sign bridge

I’ve been working 23 years. For the first time in my work life, I just completed having a week’s paid vacation. I have never before had employment that gave me paid vacation. It was wonderful.

At one moment, I was lamenting that I did not take as many day trips this year as I have in years past. Then I realized that my life has slowed down enough that I no longer have need for the day trip escapism that was so essential to keeping me going when I was working two jobs and going to school full time. Now that my life has slowed down, I actually have a few hours each week in which I can relax without having to leave town and take a day trip. Having an entire week off completely blew my mind.

I was amazed at the fact that even though I had a week’s vacation, what I wanted more than anything was to be home. I do a lot of driving. I drive every single day. I am sick of driving. Especially where I live in the Finger Lakes, the traffic is so bad in the city in which I work that it is worse than Manhattan, Boston, or L.A. I have driven in those three cities, and would rather drive in them than drive through the city in which I work. So one of the nicest parts about being on vacation was that for nine straight days, I did not go anywhere near the city I work in, which is about 10 miles away from my house. It takes me almost an hour to drive those 10 miles one way to work on a daily basis. I did not miss it.

I did a lot of reading, a lot of hiking, a lot of sleeping, and a lot of relaxing on my vacation. I also planned some fun things for the coming fall and winter. Vacation was a great time to stop and assess where I am in life and to be sure that I am on the right track.

I am so relaxed; I don’t have anything to say.

I have heard many arguments for vacations and many for staycations. I would say that my week was a hybrid. I had four “away” days where I went on a trip, and five “home” days. I read that staycations became popular after the recession. Family vacations of the post-war period were typically camping trips that centered on family togetherness. As the extravagance of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s took over, families go to Europe or Disney. Personally, I needed home days before and after my trip just to prepare and decompress. I go from point A to point B every day of my life. The last thing I want to do on “vacation” is the same thing I do in my everyday life except in a different location. That just does not seem like vacation to me.

What fun are you having this summer? Vacation or staycation?

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Wide Open

fieldme at bridge

Above: At the oldest covered bridge in the USA

My first vacation is coming up later this month. This will be the first time in my 23 years of working that I have a week long paid vacation. I have never had a week off from work before, and it has not been paid.

Given that I had to cancel my travel plans to take care of my sick family member, I will actually be having a staycation punctuated by day trips. My schedule is wide open. In fact, the only thing on my calendar for that week is meeting a friend for lunch on one of the days.

In a way, it looks like I completed my objective of slowing my life down. No longer am I running from point A to point B like a crazy person who does not know which end is up. The hard part about having so much free time is that now I feel like I’ve been drifting for the past 9 months. I don’t really have a direction anymore. I almost feel like I am maintaining status quo waiting for my family member to die to try to figure out what is next.

That may sound really mean. I don’t intend it to be. I love this family member very much. It’s just that I need a break, and I won’t be getting the break that I need since I had to cancel my travel plans.

Part of my goal for my staycation is to try to figure out what I like most about my annual ADK camping trip and try to incorporate some of those aspects into my staycation that is upcoming. How can I feel like I’m on vacation even when I am stuck at home?

The biggest part that scares me is that this is the first time in 15 years that I have not been able to take my annual break from reality, and I am apprehensive if I will be able to cope for another year without it.

Mostly, I’m just tired.

I’m preparing to head into the great wide open where I have a completely empty schedule for a week and absolutely nothing to do. It’s a little scary. I have never had this problem before. Welcome to first world problems, I guess.

What would you do with a week long blank calendar? If you were unable to leave your home for more than a day at a time because you had to be at your house at a certain hour every single day, what would you do?

Grow Where You’re Planted

I’ve had a hard time finding my groove in retirement. It’s been 9 months since my 20 year career as a college student has ended. I feel sort of like a recluse. No one talks to me now that I’m no longer in school. It’s almost as if I’ve lost my voice and nothing I say or do matters.

So I’ve been struggling to fill the large, gaping hole left in my life now that I’m not in school. I had joined a book club. I had joined a writing club. I’m not one for bars. Running is a solitary sport, and I have no interest in group sports. What is there to do?

To the seemingly surprise of many, I returned to church about 6 months ago after a significant hiatus. I was raised very strict Baptist, and even married to a minister – until he got his girlfriend pregnant. I tend to be extremely liberal in my views with a laid back personality, so many people did not see me as any sort of Jesus freak.

In these past few months of drifting, I have gone back to old habits and old coping skills in my quest to find both an anchor and my next direction in life.

After the numerous negative experiences I have had as a Baptist, I was cautious to go back to church. I was basically just looking for some peace without the politics. I knew I could not return to the Baptist church after everything that has happened, and decided I needed to convert. On recommendation of a very good friend, I tried a Methodist church.

In June, I went through my official confirmation ceremony to join the church. Good bye, Baptist. Hello, Methodist.

I mostly keep to myself at church. It’s a traditional service that provides familiarity, and brings fond memories of services attended with my grandparents in my youth. Plus, most of the congregation is older than me. I really haven’t met anyone my age, and there’s only about 40 people that go.

The friends I’ve made at church are slightly younger than my grandparents would be if they were alive and well. So, it fulfills that sense of safety & joy I had attending church with my grandparents growing up.

There is one gentleman who stopped me dead in his tracks. When he sings, he sounds just like my grandfather, and it brings me to tears. My grandfather was the one person in my family who was ever supportive of me. He was such a role model. This gentleman at church is the exact age my grandfather was when he passed away.

While book club and writing club did not work for me (mostly, my work schedule changed), I had been thinking of getting involved at church. I have such a sense of peace there. But, I don’t want to be involved in the politics like I was as a pastor’s wife. Plus, while I long for a sense of belonging, I am not looking for a huge commitment. I don’t want to replace the rigors of school, but I need something to do.

I had been thinking about volunteering for the food pantry, but with multiple food allergies that react by touch, that doesn’t seem like a good idea. At one point, out of frustration, I actually asked God what I should be doing with myself. I’ve been out of school for almost a year. I’ve spent the entire time drifting, and have at times been in a bad place.

Well, today, out of the blue, the woman in charge of the food pantry asked if I could help with the August food pantry, as the usual person is on vacation. They know how severe my food allergies are, so I will be doing the people and paperwork part – checking people in, and being sure they get enough to get by – like inventory, without having to interact with any of my allergens.

Also, the woman who is the church gardener is moving south to be closer to her children and grandchildren, and today she stood up in church and asked if anyone would be willing to take over the gardens both to serve God and to keep them up for the enjoyment of all the people.

Before I knew what was happening, I was volunteering.

I know nothing about gardening. I can’t keep a plant in the house. The only plant I ever had that I didn’t kill was a spider plant, and Kitty ate the entire thing until it was gone (this was years ago).

So, I know nothing about plants, but now I’m the new church gardener.

I had the lady walk out with me after service to explain everything that needed to be done. She even told me the plant names. I didn’t know them.

Right now, it will be mostly weeding and getting the plant beds in shape. I can spend a few hours a week doing that before work. Maybe growing plants in soil outside will be easier than having a house plant inside with two cats.

Lets hope so.

I’m looking forward to some quiet time weeding, reflecting, thinking. If I wanted to serve the church without being involved in the politics of church life, then maybe the garden is it.

Apparently, somehow in this transaction, I’m also now doing the flower arrangements for the alter. I don’t think they know what they are getting into. I don’t know names of flowers. I’m just like, this is pretty, put it here.

I mostly went back to church in my quest to peace. I’ve been trying to unwind and relax. That’s the entire purpose of rewind real slow. You can’t enjoy the good things in life if you are frantically going from one thing to another and trying to keep pace.

Lets hope that church gardening is my groove. When they say grow where you’re planted, they weren’t kidding. Hopefully the gardens keep growing under my care

This is what I signed up for

Being a parent is hard. No matter how much you try to prepare, how many books you read, or how many people you talk to for advice, you truly don’t know what you are getting into until you are there, elbows deep, unable to escape, back track, or change your situation.

When you adopt, you take on all these responsibilities knowingly. In fact, you even have to go out of your way and try harder to become a parent compared to those who are just blessed with the ability to have their own children naturally. No matter how much you plan, and no matter how much you think you know what you’re getting into, you really have no idea until you are in the middle of it.

Kitty had a doctor appointment today, and the news was surprisingly good. He is responding well to the medication, and even though he has a tumor in his intestines, he managed to gain back one of the four pounds he had lost. Two months ago, we were unsure if he would make it to 18. Not only did he make it to 18 last week, but we are also now expecting that he will be around for Christmas. His next check up is not until December.

In addition to the horrifying camping trip I had in July, I remember what terrified me the most was the thought that if something happened to me, there would be no one to take care of Kitty and Jude. Although I had a very good friend who is completely capable administering his medication while I was gone, I was still unable to relax because I was worries about how he was doing.

Kip passed away at 14. He lived with kidney disease for half his life, and I administered his medication daily for 7 years. His original prognosis was that he would have maybe 3 years with kidney disease. He had an additional 7. So being used to giving Kip his medicine for such a long period of time, you would think I would be more relaxed with Kitty’s meds and not so high strung about it. I’m not sure if its due to the medication schedule itself – precise doses at exact times, or if dealing with cancer is emotionally different than dealing with chronic kidney disease, but I feel more stress dealing with Kitty’s meds than I did with Kip’s meds.

So today, his appointment went well, and his dosage is being decreased, but it is still a daily dose. Then I thought about my vacation coming up in a few weeks.

I have 9 days off in the middle of August. This is going to be the first time in 23 years of working that I am getting a week long paid vacation. For the first time in my life, I have time and money to do something. I had made reservations back in March to be out of town for 4 of the 9 days.

I hemmed and hawed about boarding the cats at the vet office, taking them with me, or trying to find a babysitter so I could go on vacation. I normally wouldn’t worry about leaving them alone for a few days, but Kitty’s meds need to be on an exact schedule (or it could literally kill him if I screw it up).

I decided not to board them. They have never boarded before, and with Kitty’s anxiety over a 30-minute office visit, I don’t think I could leave him there for 4 days. I don’t think he can handle it. I think he would die of a panic attack. I can’t take them with me. While Kitty is leash trained and would do fine, Jude is not. It’s not fair for him to spend 4 days in a box. Finding a babysitter for that length of time is challenging, and I would not want to put that responsibility on anyone for that length of time. One or two days is fine, but not four days.

I canceled my vacation.

I’m going to have 8 days of day trips instead.

For the first time since 1999, I am not taking my Adirondack camping trip.

It’s probably a little ridiculous. I could probably work something out to get Kitty’s med schedule covered. Except, I don’t think I would be able to relax and enjoy my.vacation because I would feel guilty and I would feel bad about someone else shouldering my responsibility.

I signed up for this.

When I signed the dotted line 18 years ago, I knew it was for life. Through sickness and in health. I can’t just go and leave the one person who has stood by me every single day for the past 18 years and drop them off someplace where they are terrified just so I can go play in the woods for 4 days.

When Kip was on medication, I would get a babysitter. As long as he got his meds once a day, it didn’t matter when. Of course, it was preferable to have consistency. But 3 days of random doses once a year, were okay. With Kitty’s medication, a missed dose or a dose at the wrong time could mean death.

I think I need to stay home until either he improves enough to be without meds (I doubt it) or passes away (more likely).

He has been here for me every single day for 18 years. This is the least I can do. Like I said, I signed up for this.

So now I’m looking forward to 8 beach days coming up. Hopefully the weather cooperates. We are technically aging a drought. Of course, every time I have a day off is when it decides to storm severely or just plain rain all day. With my luck, the drought will probably break with 9 straight days of rain during my vacation. It would suck to get stuck inside like that, especially after enduring a very harsh winter this past year.

In the meantime, on the scant beach days I have had, I have had the opportunity to do some beach reading. Those books with the stickers that say “beach read” finally got read on a beach. Hopefully my day trips will be just as relaxing and rejuvenating as my usual camping trip typically is for me.

This is what I signed up for, and this is what life is made of – spending time with those yo love while you still can. Life is so very short.