Site 50

All 3 cats watching the birds fly by.

The year is 2003. Imagine taking your first vacation in 4 years. You pack up the car with all of your supplies and drive 3 and a half hours to your destination. You are meeting friends you have not seen in years. After a stressful, traffic filled drive, you arrive at your destination, and take one of the last available sites at the campground you have chosen, in relative proximity to the rest of your friends. It is the same place you were at 4 years ago for complete relaxation. Back in 1999, you had crammed 8 college friends in a family tent on a single campsite. It was just like dorm times. In 2003, the only difference is that you are in a different camp site from before and have elected to set up your own tent instead of being in with the rest of the group. Things have changed in 4 years, and some of these friends now have families they will be bringing.

On site 50, you set up your $30 K-mart tent and begin cooking dinner as darkness descends. You are one of the first in your group of friends to arrive for the weekend outing. The location is the halfway point for you and all your friends. It has been about a three and a half hour drive for you going north east. It is about a three and a half hour drive for them going north west. 

You have all the elements for relaxation from good food to good music to good wine. Suddenly, a loud thunderclap sounds and rain unexpectedly downpours on your campfire. You scramble to pick up all of your supplies and cram them in the car so they can remain dry and you can seek respite in your tent.

Although hectic, it is also exciting. This is exactly the type of situation of which memories are made and you can laugh about with friends after. Supplies safely in the car out of the rain, fire put out by the downpour, you unzip the tent to seek solace inside. Once inside, you discover your $30 purchase was not the best bargain as rain pours in through all the seams. The bottom of the tent quickly accumulates a few inches of rain, much like a canoe taking on water in danger of capsizing. Your sleeping bag is completely soaked, as well as the small duffle bag of clothes inside the tent.

Like a drowning man on a sinking ship, you fruitlessly attempt to bail water from the tent. Again, a story to laugh at later. Rain continues to literally pour through the seams of the tent as if the Hoover Dam were breached.

Tiring yourself with bailing water, you finally admit defeat and run from the tent to the car. You are completely soaked with no dry clothes to change into as your sleeping bag and clothes are all waterlogged in the tent. You fall asleep from sheer exhaustion, unsure and uncaring whether the tent will even be there in the morning or if it will float away.

Morning dawns, and you awake to fogged car windows. Still water logged, you open the car door to see the tent completely leveled and everything wet. The rain has stopped. The rest of your friends are supposed to arrive today.

You make a new fire to get warm, and start hanging up all the wet items to dry. You fix the tent so it is again standing, although wet. Now that the rain has stopped, you are able to bail out all of the water from the night before.

Once your friends trickle in for the weekend, you are able to borrow clothes that are both dry and warm. This is definitely a story to laugh about later. The remainder of the weekend passes dry, cool and full of laughter, good memories and good times with the best of friends.

Lesson learned from the leaking tent, when you return in 2004, it is with a new, more waterproof tent. It cost $150 from LL Bean. That new tent will see you dry through the next 15 years of these trips with the best of friends.  

Fast forward to 2020. We are in the middle of a global pandemic. Every single one of those people who were on that camping trip in 2003 except two are now dead. They have all died of COVID within the past 6 months. You are running out of friends. It is not an exaggeration and it’s not because you are a bad person. It’s this horrible disease.

While you have been able to take off 2 or 3 days here and there, you have not had a week’s vacation in over 3 years. For the first time in over 20 years, your annual camping trip has been canceled by COVID.

You are burnt out. You are at your wits end and need a break. Even though COVID has canceled your life and taken all of your friends, you decide to take a week’s vacation from life.

This is a true story. This is my story.

I took my first week’s vacation in over 3 years recently. While this week has been a flashback to 2003, it was anything but restful.

Instead of running around with a tent in the rain, I had a major water issue in my house. I spent 7 days of my 10 day vacation dealing with this water issue. It was anything but restful. There were no friends arriving to laugh with. They are all dead. I’m having a staycation in the middle of a pandemic and instead of relaxing, dealing with a major house emergency.

I may be a first time homeowner, but I do know that water damage is every home owner’s worst nightmare. It’s not funny like bailing out a tent. 

Trying to get help with house emergencies in a global pandemic is extremely challenging. There are people out there who either do not respond or just want to take you for a ride (read: unnecessarily charge you thousands of dollars for illegal work done without appropriate permits). Forget that. I’m on vacation. I just want to relax. 

I feel like I completely wasted my vacation from work dealing with this water issue. I was not able to relax. I only got 3 days of relaxation. I should have just taken my traditional 3 days off instead of a whole week’s vacation.

Maybe this story of plumbing issues with my house will be funny in the future. I’m not sure when. I’m not sure who will be laughing with me, since COVID has killed most of my friends.I am still so thoroughly traumatized by my experience dealing with this water issue that I cannot even go into the details of how bad it was trying to get help. 

All I know is that I am happy to be dry and safe in this house. I hope to survive the pandemic so I can have more camping trips again. Even though my vacation was not really a vacation, I am thankful to be safe with my cats. I have not had a week this bad or this stressful since I bought my house.

5 Podcasts That Rock!

Jude snuggles with me while we listen to podcasts.

This post is another installment in my “5 <insert item or thing here> that rocks!” series. What may potentially be my first week-long vacation in more than 3 years is coming up in a few weeks here, and I am making plans for what I want to do on my staycation. COVID is raging in my area worse than ever before, with infection rates regularly above 4% each day, so my first vacation in over 3 years will completely be a staycation. (Not to mention I am still in quarantine.)

I first discovered podcasts about a year ago, after a friend took the time to explain to me what a podcast is. I have heard the word “podcast” for a while. My eyes glaze over because it is one of those nonsensical technology words that just completely went over my head. This particular friend happened to know how much I love radio and radio programs, so they took the time to explain to me that a podcast is basically a radio program that I can play “on demand” on my phone. The best part of podcasts is that they are free.

One of my top 3 favorite radio shows, Only A Game, was canceled recently after a 27 year run on the air. I decided to add a few shows to my podcast library to try to give me a few more things to listen to. I have no cable at home and no reliable internet to do any kind of video or streaming, so my entertainment tends to be reading and radio. 

For the record, my other two favorite radio programs that are in my Top 3 favorites are still on the air and I listen to them on the radio on Sunday mornings. My other two favorite radio shows are the Frank Sinatra show with Sid Mark and Time Warp with Bill St. James.

But back to podcasts … 

Podcasts have been great with my disability because I can just listen and follow along. My disability affects my vision, and I have times when it is very challenging to read. It is easier to have someone read me something and podcasts fill that need. Especially in the summer heat, I do a lot more podcast listening than I do reading. 

There are two podcasts that I have been enjoying quite regularly for the past year. There are three podcasts that I have found more recently during quarantine in the past six months, but am so thrilled I found them. There were some “special series” podcasts I had listened to and enjoyed, such as “1865,” “Dolly Parton’s America,” and “The Killing of Marilyn Monroe.” Those were all series that ended after 5 or 15 episodes. The selections below are ongoing broadcasts that have seasons and go on for a longer period of time, updating regularly. 

In random order, here are my top 5 favorite podcasts that rock!

  1. American History Tellers

This podcast first hooked me with its use of vignettes written in the second person narrative. I first discovered writing in second person narration in my 8th grade English class and have been absolutely enthralled with everything written in the second person point of view ever since. 

Each episode is well-written and well-researched. I love how I can choose what period of history I learn about. I find myself skipping around from more modern times, like the Space Race, to more “historic” times like the American Revolution. 

2. Levar Burton Reads

I grew up on the “Reading Rainbow” television show. Levar’s voice is so soothing! I was amazed to find the same person who read stories to me as a child is now reading short story fiction to adults. The stories tend to be heavy on the science fiction and speculative fiction, which is perfectly fine by me. During this time of the pandemic, it is very soothing to hear a voice from my past and get lost in a story. 

Levar offers a brief introduction to each story and a brief commentary after. But, you don’t have to take my word for it. 

3. The Constant

The Constant is a recent discovery and I got sucked in learning about the Foolkiller submarine that was found in the Chicago River in 1915 with the bones of a man and a dog inside. I enjoy The Constant because it helps to explain why we know the things we do. 

I just finished an episode that explains how we figured out that birds fly south for the winter – and what people believed happened to birds in winter before realizing they fly south. The Constant took me a bit to get into. It highlights how people got things wrong, but in the process, you learn more about the world and how things came to be. 

This is one of those podcasts that may be more of an acquired taste. Each episode is like a little mystery with many twists and turns. The speaker is great to listen to and each episode is well-researched. 

4. The Relic Radio Show

The Relic Radio Show gives me the feeling of snuggling up in a warm blanket and feeling loved. This is the type of radio I remember listening to growing up. Each hour-long episode consists of two 30-minute episodes. These are the traditional radio stories from the 1950s when most entertainment was on radio and few people had television sets. Again, just another show that takes me back to my childhood and helps me to feel good in this pandemic.

5. You and Me Both with Hillary Clinton

Even if you do not like Hillary politically, I like her personally. If we could choose anybody on the planet to be our parents, I would choose Hillary Clinton to be my mom. That’s how much I like her. You and Me Both is a newer podcast in which Hillary has conversations with people and discusses topics such as faith and cooking. So even if you are not into politics, this is just an amazing woman showing her human side.

Bonus Podcast:

I’m giving a bonus to my list of 5 because this particular podcast is in between seasons right now. I fell so in love with this podcast, that I have listened to every single episode and am waiting for new ones to be made. It sounds like this series may be taking a pandemic related break. I can’t wait for it to return!

The bonus podcast is “This is Love with Phoebe Judge.” Phoebe has a soothing voice and does a great job of asking questions so that people tell their stories in a way that really connects. There was a season about animals and a season about small villages in Italy. “This is Love” is a podcast we need right now in this time of pandemic. They are joyful stories that make you feel good. 

This is what I have been listening to lately. It is nice to take a break from news of the pandemic and having to hear about all the bad things going on in the world right now. It is nice to take a break and either relax or learn something new. What favorite podcasts do you have?

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?

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?