500 Thoughts

hans-peter-gauster-252751-unsplashSometimes the inside of my brain feels like this photo here → 

I seriously have about 500 thoughts running through my head tonight, these being the first few:

  1. At least three blog ideas (actually way more) where I simply need to find the time to write
  2. The packing and prepping for my daughter’s first dance competition of the season, tomorrow, which involves a weekend away and a desperate need to pack healthy snacks so I don’t feel like loser mom for not properly feeding my artist-athlete with a nut allergy
  3. Wondering how our powder room remodel is going, why our front porch is still torn up from some foundation work that needed to be done months ago, and why both of these things are taking longer than expected
  4. Why I hear a clicking noise inside Roxanne (my relatively new Jeep) and whether that’s just marginally annoying and I can live with it or if it’s actually something bigger I need to get looked at
  5. How to “market” myself better professionally internally or externally should it be warranted, and why this is getting more important than ever before
  6. Whether I should be posting/blogging/whatever on LinkedIn and what I should write about if so
  7. Whether I should be posting/blogging/whatever on Yammer which is our internal social media tool at work to “market” myself better professionally with my colleagues
  8. Music I want our little family of five to make for Christmas (a really “out there” idea even they don’t even know I want to do this year but we have the equipment and our own studio to pull it off)
  9. What Christmas gifts and donations are needed for
    • Immediate family
    • Extended family
    • Colleagues, Secret Santa and charitable donations at work
    • Teachers, friends, and charitable donations for our three school kids
    • Church charitable donations
    • Other coaches and teachers for our three kids and
    • Anyone else I’ve forgotten, because yes, there are years I have forgotten and I feel horrible about it
  10. When the shopping for all of the above needs to be done, when I’ll have time to wrap it all and deliver it
  11. How much anxiety I feel about going to CrossFit tomorrow because I have missed quite a bit this last month due to travel
  12. When in the world we’re gonna get a tree or see Santa, and both of those need to happen sooner than later
  13. Whether we will EVER get Christmas lights hung on our house but that depends on when the front porch slab is returned to its proper position and the yellow tape over our front yard is removed so the people hanging lights don’t fall into a foundation hole 8 feet deep
  14. When in the world the front slab of our porch is gonna get returned to its proper position so that UPS and Fedex can deliver packages to our front door, which is gonna happen a lot this month
  15. When I’m gonna get around to cleaning the house, because even though I actually hired someone to help us earlier this year (because, uh, duh: see all the above), she fired US for being slobs, telling us she is not our maid, even though “maid” is literally part of the name of her business: go figure on that one
  16. When I should start planning our trips for 2019, because planning is half the fun for me
  17. When I can start making the small health and behavior changes I learned about after reading The Blue Zones and taking the quiz mentioned in the book, because I have the potential to live healthfully to age 97 if I do
  18. Whether I have enough money saved for retirement to live until 97 (and I think we all know the answer to that one)
  19. Will any of my kids be in a position to take care of me or want to while I live to 97
  20. When in December I can invite every cool woman I know to my house for good wine, delicious food, and laughter
  21. Wait: when are the kids’ Christmas concerts?
  22. Oh shoot: I have no more vacation this year
  23. Whether my oldest understands how to use a planning calendar to stay on top of his assignments and goals
  24. Why am I worried about anything when I’m healthy, we’re happy, and we have everything we need when so many people don’t.
Pretty sure I need a glass of wine.

The Standardized Vacation

On a recent Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, the host and her co-host sister talked about the benefits of a “standardized vacation”. It struck a chord with me.

I’m a travel buff. Have suitcase, let’s go! I’ve been one to explore new places as often as I can for as long as I’ve lived but there is something to be said about hitting the easy button especially now that we have kids. Enter: the standardized vacation.

Here’s the basic premise: same location, same hotel, same time of year, same length of time, same people, same restaurants, same activities.

Beautifully simple.

Nothing to think about, nothing to plan. Just do what you did last time, and build upon what you know, if you want.

anton-sharov-133628-unsplashMyrtle Beach, SC, has become our go-to vacation, like 5 million other Ohioans if I had to guess! We found our favorite hotel about 10 years ago, and we even get booked to the exact same room each time we go. It’s glorious.

We know exactly what to pack. Rule #1 is more bathing suits, fewer clothes. Rule #2 is bring a laundry basket and a small bottle of Tide so I can do a quick load mid-way through the trip and recycle what we wear. Rule #3 is bring whatever gadget you can’t live without and the charger. We’re not hard-core enough to unplug entirely while we holiday.

Last night my husband and I laid in bed and talked about how excited we were for this trip. We drive it. He’s not a fan of the drive, but he talked about how he was actually looking forward to it this year because he knows exactly what to expect. No thinking involved whatsoever.

Seriously, we laugh the whole way to South Carolina because nearly every car on I-77 has Ohio plates and we know where they’re going: Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head. It’s 11-hours non-stop, which means we have found ways to minimize the number of stops along the way and make it a 12 hour trip max, barring traffic.

Our routine involves hitting the road at 5am. We gas up and load the suitcases the night before. The kids sleep walk to the van with their pillows and PJs on, and they’re crashed out for the first four hours of the trip. From our house in Ohio this takes us to Charleston, WV, where the kids change clothes, we all get a potty break, we gas up if need be, and switch drivers. I’m better on the curvy roads though West Virginia regardless of the weather, courtesy of growing up in the tri-state area of Ohio, Pennsylvania, & West Virginia.

Waze is my favorite travel app for this trip. It’s crowd-sourced in terms of traffic jams, road hazards, and speed traps monitored by police or state highway patrolmen. Waze conveys the speed limit and whether you’re over it, and gives you that wonderful metric, the estimated time of arrival, otherwise known as the “time to beat”. LOOOOOOVE Waze.

The car is still pretty quiet as the kids are now awake but on their devices with their headphones or maybe they watch a new movie we buy and laugh. The two of us adults get loads of time to talk and talk, or we take turns napping while the other drives.

I drive four hours till we hit the North Carolina border while all of us nosh on ham sandwiches, snacks, and drinks we’ve packed, and then we stop again for a bio break, gas up and switch drivers for the last time. Then my husband drives the final four hours to our hotel where we check in, unpack, relax for a bit, and then head out to dinner.

We hit up Walmart for some food while we’re in the area. Our hotel has a kitchenette so we alternate meals out and in for lunch and dinner. Breakfast is free at the hotel so we eat up and take our time feasting on all kinds of hot and cold food items.

I remember the first time we made this trip as a married couple with an 18-month old baby in tow. I basically had my husband back the van floor to ceiling with the entire nursery: you know, Pack-n-Play, stroller, tub toys, travel high chair, lovies, baby food, an entire box of diapers….it was endless. You couldn’t even see out the back window. He looked at me like I was nuts. I wanted all the comforts of home. Nothing like having a baby attached to your hip on vacation. It defeats the purpose of getting away for a few days if you don’t have a way for your precious kid to be mobile, clean, and safe.

Now it’s funny how little we need. Beach towels, beach toys, electronic gadgets, headphones, chargers, bathing suits, sunscreen, sandals, laundry basket with detergent, clothes for three days to last us through eight, sandwiches, snacks, drinks, and that’s it. I don’t even sweat it anymore. If we forget something, we just buy it down there.

It helps that we go the same week each time, for the same length of time. We know what restaurants we’ll hit up. We rent beach chairs for the week. There is nothing else to even think about other than which putt-putt place we’ll visit on which day. If we want to sleep, we sleep. If we want to splash in the pool or lazy river, we do. If the kids want to build sandcastles or boogie board, they do. No debating, no thinking about it. We just rotate between 3-4 activities at most. It’s as low key as vacation can get.

And me? Mama Louie? I sit and read under a giant umbrella with my coverup, sunglasses, sunhat, and SPF maxed out, courtesy of a melanoma diagnosis 25+ years ago. It’s a bummer as all the kids just can’t quite understand why I can’t play with them in the sun. Thankfully they have these bronzed bodies courtesy of their Hawaiian and Asian genes and didn’t inherit my pale Eastern European skin.

Man, we love the ocean. Now some people prefer lower-key, very scenic Hilton Head over Myrtle Beach because they think the latter is over commercialized. Parts of it are, but we don’t do that stuff. We don’t walk Ocean Boulevard at all hours, slipping in and out of the souvenir shops. We just skip that. It’s pretty easy to avoid the mass of humanity while you’re there.

Yep, our hang is the beach itself and the amazing putt-putt places. Our kids think putt-putt (mini-golf to some of you) is the most glorious thing ever. It doesn’t take much to entertain our kids and we’re fine keeping it that way, at least for a few more years.

We’re all excited to go back. Hawaii, California, Utah, Colorado, and Florida have been incredible these last few years but it’s time to hit the easy button and return to our home away from home, just the five of us. We have often wished that we were there with a larger group but then we realize that others may not enjoy the next-to-nothing we like to do, so our week away is always just us.

I can already hear the waves in my mind.

Image by Anton Sharon on Unsplash.com