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Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

I was away for a little bit; off on a vacation on which I made the conscious decision to disconnect from all of the technology I normally drag around with me.  I didn’t take a phone, I didn’t take a laptop, I didn’t even take a little piece of paper with my passwords jotted down on it in case the desire struck me to log in, check up or connect.  I did cave and take a notebook and a pen with me, on the off chance that brilliance and genius would strike while I was sitting on the beach or lounging on our veranda, watching the sea go by.

I didn’t even take the notebook out of my suitcase.

I’ve been back for a few weeks now.  I’m now officially back into the routine of packing lunches and checking backpacks, going to work and coming home again, checking and filling up the calendar with places to go and things to do.  That whole “being away” thing now seems like a distant memory, something that happened to someone else that I heard about once.  And I’m okay with that.  Some people may like to be on vacation all the time but I think the only way I can actually appreciate being away, or alternately, being “here” is to only do it once in a while.  Which is good because that’s about all my bank account will allow.

So I was away and completely disconnected and now I’m back and almost fully plugged back in, except for one thing.

Writing.

It’s like I came back and got about 95% back into my “here” life but I just can’t seem to get back into the writing.  When I was away it was like a switch was flicked and I just stopped contemplating.  I stopped thinking about “what if” and “why” and “why me” and “why not me” and as those are what make up almost all of what I write about, it just didn’t even occur to me to pick up the pen.  And now that I’m back, I can’t seem to flick the switch back on.

I told my bestie I was waiting for inspiration to hit, as it always seemed to do in the past.  I’ve mentioned before that so much of what I write comes at me in an instant, like someone whispering in my ear “write about this” and so I do.

I’m not sure if the whispers have stopped or if I just can’t hear them.

I always thought I write because I need an outlet for all of the reflecting that I do; that the only way to clear up space inside my head is to get the thoughts out on paper so I can make room for more.  But these past few weeks I’ve begun to wonder if maybe it’s the other way around.

Maybe the reflecting doesn’t cause me to write; maybe the writing encourages me to reflect.

And I hope now that I’ve broken the barrier and put something, anything, out into the world that the flow will come, the reflecting will come, and I can once again feel connected to me, and to the words that make up such a big part of my world.

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‎The place is so quiet that I can hear the clock ticking. The clock has been in the wall the whole time we’ve been here but with four kids running around it’s usually much too chaotic and loud to hear the tiny sound of a ticking clock.

But the kids are out for now, up at the pool with the dads and so the house is quiet and I can hear the clock ticking. I went to the pool yesterday and the day before but today is overcast and cool and I barely get into a bathing suit when the weather is scorching, let alone when the sun is hiding and my body is covered in goose bumps.

My friend is asleep on the couch. She will wake up in a few minutes and claim she was not sleeping and, in fact, was only resting her eyes but I know the truth. ‎Her kids are younger than mine and so she is still in the stage when days start early and nights are never uninterrupted. She deserves to grab sleep, any sleep, wherever she can find it. I, on the other hand, feel somewhat guily napping when I had a full nights’ sleep last night (and the night before and the night before). I know she looks at me and wonders of she will ever get here, to the other side, where I now am. I remember being her and hating people who told me this phase will end, so I say nothing and just sneak quietly from the room so she can rest her eyes for a bit longer.

‎I should probably fold something or pack something or tidy something but I tell myself I’m on vacation so I don’t have to. Chores still exist on holidays, especially those with children, but I take the position that they become optional rather than mandatory. Whatever gets me through the day. We go home tomorrow so soon enough there will no longer be an option.

I sit here and look out the window, expecting to see the rag-tag bunch trudging down the hill from the swimming pool. They will be cold and tired, although they will admit neither. The quiet will be broken and there will be showers to run and soaking wet bathing suits to wring out and stories to listen to about who dove in and who swam the fastest and who stole the beach ball and wouldn’t give it back.

I will feel both happy and sad to see them. Happy for all of the reasons I’m supposed to but also sad because quiet time is done, and perhaps I’ve wasted it. Time alone is so precious that I feel I should have accomplished something amazing, although what that would look like I’m not sure. Instead they will return and all I will have done is pinned a new muffing recipe on Pinterest and written this post. Amazing? I fear I will once again have fallen short.

I look out the window again, and again no sign of them. It’s almost as though I don’t know what to do when I’m sitting here without them, without a constant list of things to do. Apparently I’ve lost the ability to be left to my own devices. When my kids are present I don’t know what to do with them, and yet when they are gone I don’t know what I’m supposed to do without them.

But soon enough they will be home and it will again be loud and chaotic and all of those other things that kids bring along with them wherever they go. And I will love them for it (at least a little bit) and I will fondly remember my time alone, when it was quiet enough to hear the sound of the clock ticking.

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‎I will remember…

Feet on the coffee table.

Pool towels hanging over the balcony, drying in the breeze.

Birds in the trees.

Sand on the floor.

Shoes piled by the door.

Splashing in the water.

Clapping from the deck.

A cold drink, warm sun and laughter.

Breathing deeply.

A clear mind.

Old friends and new memories.

Lazy days.

Peace.

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I woke up before the alarm and groaned.  Today of all days when I could actually sleep in a little, of course I’m awake even earlier than usual.  I decide not to be too upset, at least I don’t have to go to work!  I’m off today, a rare vacation day for which nothing specific has been planned.  I’m actually off because hubby has work stuff to do after work today and my son needs to get to a hockey practice and then my daughter needs to get to a hockey practice so I offered to take a day to do that.

But all of that running around stuff doesn’t start until later this afternoon, which means I’ve had time to do things.  Any kind of things I want. And this is what I’ve done:

1) drop the kids at school and spend five minutes pawing through the lost and found bin looking for my son’s missing hat.  I’m pretty sure it won’t be in there but I had some time and decided to give it a shot.  The entire time I’m sorting through the piles of stuff, I just kept thinking of the moms out there who are, right in that moment, looking through their house for said missing item.  After having already asked their child ten times where it is and throwing up their hands in exasperation over “why can’t you just bring your sweater home with you??”  I totally get it sister, I’m right there with you.  And really, in this day and age don’t you think the whole lost and found thing can be digitized at least a little bit?  Take a picture of the item and post it on the school website so we don’t have to stick our hands down to the bottom of a crazy bin on wheels and get whacked on the head with the heavy wooden lid?  Just a thought.

2) go to the grocery store to get margarine.  Walk up and down the aisles somewhat aimlessly pulling one of those baskets on wheels which, incidentally, were a great invention.  Pick up a few things we don’t really need (what can I say – I have a craving for cinnamon buns) and a few things that we do and headed to the check out.  Then realize I forgot the margarine.  Really?  I don’t know why I’m surprised, it happens almost every time.  Run to the back corner of the store where the margarine is – of course it’s literally as far away from the checkout as is physically possible, I never forget something that’s close by – and run back in time to pay.  Spend a minute contemplating how winded I am after such a short run but decide that’s a thought for another day.

3) realize I have 15 minutes to kill before the library opens so I head to Tim Hortons to grab a tea from the drive through.  Make a witty comment to the lady working the cash about the holiday cups now being available.  Momentarily congratulate myself for successfully making a witty comment.

4) go to the library and just miss getting the last free parking spot out front.  Decide that today is my day and I’m not going to let things like that get me down.  Pull into the other lot and pay for 30 minutes of parking and head inside with my bag of books to return and my cup of tea.  Spend a blissful 15 minutes browsing through the magazines and the movies and the CDs, spending a little more time than I should admit contemplating whether I should borrow the Depeche Mode greatest hits album (I decided no and then regret it as soon as I get home).  Remember I was going to pick up some Christmas books while I was there.  Spend another 15 minutes browsing through the Christmas books before realizing my 30 minutes of parking has now expired and I’m probably getting a ticket right now.  Run to the automated checkout (why is there so much running today?) grabbing eight items from the hold shelf and realizing the book bag I brought is going to be horribly inadequate.  Get the books all checked out, and squash as much stuff into the bag as I can, carefully balancing the others in one arm while being incredibly careful not to spill my tea which I have not yet finished. This is probably why they’re not too keen on people who bring beverages to the library.  Note to self for next time – get the tea AFTER the library.  Make it out the door without spilling a single drop and have just enough time to feel very proud of myself before I dump the remaining contents of my cup down the front of my jacket.  Oh well, at least I didn’t get any on the books!  And it’s my day; things like this don’t bother me on my day.

5) home to do a bit of work around the house and in the backyard.  Finally put the garden to bed after weeks of staring out the window telling myself that I really have to do it.  Take a minute to enjoy standing in the middle of the yard on a Thursday morning without anything else to do.  Cut back the dead plants and think about what a wonderful gardener I am.  Momentarily wonder if I’ve actually cut the plants back too far which means I’ve actually just killed them.  Decide not to think about that today, because today is my day.

5) decide I’ve worked very hard so far and it’s time for lunch.  Heat up some minestrone soup which isn’t great but it’s not chicken noodle which is what I usually have to eat when the kids are here so I am thankful for that.  I finish the soup and contemplate how many candies I can reasonably take out of the bin of leftover Halloween candy without anyone noticing.  Decide that number is probably five and am satisfied with that.

6) sit my butt down on the couch and watch the episode of The Good Wife that I recorded from last week and, not for the first time, hate Julianna Margulies just a little bit for her perfectly coiffed eyebrows and her ability to wear fabulous colours of lipstick.  But it’s the nice kind of hate because of course I also 100% love her, in the same way you love your best friend but also hate her a little because she has better hair than you do.

7) breath.  I haven’t had time all week to even sit and take a breath so I’m going to do that now.  I’m going to do that for the next hour before it’s time to think about gathering together hockey equipment and trying not to forget the bag of pucks and the water bottles and the 10,000 other things to stuff in the back of my van.  Breath and lay my head down and love the fact that today, at least for part of it, was my day.

And I have loved every minute of it.

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away

Feet

I went away for a week. One week of relaxing by the pool and playing by the beach.

It’s funny how away can describe a place, and also, at least for me, a state of mind. I was away for a week, physically and also mentally.

I left my phone at home and had no access to email or the Internet. I could have had access if I wanted to but I had absolutely no desire to know what was going on while I was away.

I sat by the pool, read an amazing book and only thought the thoughts that happened to drift through my head. I didn’t take them out and examine them from every angle, as I normally would. I just thought them and left it at that. Some particularly important or meaningful thoughts I tucked in my pocket, to think again when I was no longer away.

There were no grocery stores, no errands, no laundry, no cooking. There were no to-do lists or to-buy lists and no calendars on the wall, filled up with activities. Instead there was the pool, the beach and everything we needed for the day in my little bag. As long as there was sunscreen, a book, a hat, a deck of Uno cards and goggles, we were happy and content and had all we needed.

When we got hungry, we ate, when we got thirsty, we drank, and when we got hot we dipped ourselves in the cool blue water and sighed the deep, contented sighs of being away.

My hair puffed up to twice its regular size and my nose went from white to pink to peeling in three days flat but I didn’t care. There was no one to impress when I was away.

There were moments of simple beauty and the time to appreciate them. Little wet footprints on the bathroom floor, the feeling of toes digging in the soft, golden sand, cold, wiggly bodies wrapped up in huge, fluffy towels, whispers in the dark, birds singing in the morning, and watermelon juice dripping off our chins.

And now I’m back; now I am here instead of away.  And while I have tried and tried, I can’t seem to regain that away mentality when I’m here.  When I’m here there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them.  There is stuff upon stuff upon stuff and things upon things upon things.  I have to cook here and do laundry here and clean here.  And here all those thoughts that I decided not to think when I was away are all creeping up on me, only now I don’ t have any more room in my pockets to hide them away for later.

For one blissful week I was away, but now I’m here.

I wish I could figure out a way to be here and away, all at the same time.

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I’m not a big fan of packing, even if it’s to go somewhere fun.  I’m always sure I’m going to forget something, or two somethings, or ten.  I feel like as I’m pulling out of the driveway inside the house there is a spotlight shining on all of the things I’ve forgotten: the camera, my glasses, my son’s favourite hat, just taunting me.

In an attempt to counteract that, my list-making skills are put to full use.  I start weeks before anything ever needs to get in a suitcase although, inevitably, there are things that make it onto the list but never actually into the bottom of the bag.

I don’t usually have a problem deciding on which clothes to take because, let’s be honest, my closet isn’t that extensive.  Once you take away the things that don’t fit and the things I don’t like anymore, it leaves a select few items and those are the one that make it.  Same with shoes.  I’m guessing there are people out there who line 10 pairs of shoes up on their bed and have to make some cutthroat decisions about which ones get to come on the trip but for me, if they’re comfortable and they match at least three of the outfits I’m taking, they’re in the bag.  And believe me, that still only means I’m taking three pairs with me, no matter how long we’re going to be away.

However, my real issue comes when it’s time to decide on reading material.  For me, picking the wrong books, or the wrong number of books for that matter, can make or break a vacation.  It is a decision that needs to be pondered, thought out, strategically analyzed and then finally a small prayer needs to be said before the final decision is made.

Take too many with you and you’re left lugging them around for the duration of your trip.  Don’t take enough and you’re half-way through your vacation with nothing to read, which to me is basically a fate worse than not being on vacation at all.  One time my hubby and I went on a trip to the beach and three days in I had already devoured “A Girl With a Dragon Tattoo” and was left book-less.  My hubby is not a big reader himself but had brought a book with him on the off-chance the mood hit him.  It didn’t.  I was desperate.  That’s how I spent the last two days of our vacation reading a biography from an NHL hockey player.  A good way to expand my reading list but let’s be honest, not nearly as satisfying as a good chick-lit beach book.

Some people I know solve this entire issue by just preloading a dozen books on their e-reader and taking that instead.  It’s light-weight so you can take it anywhere, no matter how many books it has on it, and if you don’t like the one you’re reading you can just move on to something else.  In theory it sounds like a great solution and in my head I totally understand the rational behind it.  I even have an e-reader that I could easily take with me.  But I don’t want to.

I don’t like reading from an e-reader, no matter how convenient it is.  I like to have a book, the real book, with pages and a cover and a spine.  I like to be able to stick mementoes from my trip between the pages as a bookmark that also serves as a keepsake.  I like to come back from a great trip to the beach with sand in the spine and some of the pages slightly warped from having been wet and dry and wet and dry.  The book becomes the keeper or some pretty great vacation memories.  And I’m sorry, you just can’t get that from an e-reader.

So this time I have tried to plan accordingly.  The kids are coming on vacation with us so that is going to limit my reading time.  However, there will still be idle hours to fill and without a book to read at all times, I will most likely go crazy.

And so I have decided on three.

My vacation picks.

My vacation picks.

One that I have tried to read a couple of times in the past and am determined to finish; one that a dear friend gave me to read and her recommendations are always spot-on; and a back-up in case I actually manage to finish the first two.

Because I don’t think I can handle having to read another sports biography.

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home

There’s no food in the fridge except a half-eaten, squishy watermelon and two dozen bottles of varying types of condiments. There’s not even a splash of milk to make myself a cup of tea.

There are four suitcases and three backpacks sitting just inside the front door waiting to be emptied. Once they are, it will mean at least three loads of laundry and more trips up and down the stairs than I care to imagine.

I haven’t yet dared go down to the basement for fear of what I will find there. Our lovely cat has a fondness for throwing up down there, preferring to do the deed on the hard-to-clean Berber rather than the easy-to-clean hardwood. I’ve decided I can’t deal with it until later…much later.

We are home from our vacation now. Back to the place where there are errands to be done, bills to be paid, beds to be made, meals to be prepared.

I’m sad that it’s over; this trip that has been in the works for almost two years. No more counting down the days; it has now come and gone, leaving behind a camera filled with pictures and a lifetime of memories.

But as sad as it is, I’m equally glad to be back home, to this perfectly imperfect place. Without the day-to-day demands, the escape from them would not be as sweet.

So for now we are home, surrounded once again by what we know and recognize, but I hope that one day soon there will be another countdown in anticipation of another adventure yet to come.

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