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.

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?

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.

Escape

As much as I have tried to create a life I don’t need to escape, sometimes we need to take a step back in order to view situations objectively. When we are enmeshed and really “in” something, we are much more likely to make poor choices because we just can’t see out or around the situation in which we are living.

An expression I said almost all the time during the last few years I spent working on my bachelors degree was, “I keep pushing the escape button, but I’m still here.” I spent 15 years working on that degree, and sometimes, I just wanted a break from the constant flow of work, home, and school.

I will be getting a break next week, and am extremely fortunate in that not only will I be getting a break in July, but one in August as well. This is going to be the first time in my life I have gotten two breaks in one year.

Some things are beyond our control. As much as I have tried to slow down, I cannot control a family members illness or the stress that brings, or certain other life events that just kind of “happen” to us. The only person you can control in this life is yourself. We do not always have control over anything around us.

Next week, I’m going camping, and I am really looking forward to having a break. As much as I love my ill family member, I just feel like I need a break from them and the situation. I feel guilty saying that, because this disease is their everyday reality, but its hard sometimes to hold it all together.

My camping trip next week is in a location completely new to me that I have never been to before. My August trip will be to my usual spot, but for July, its someplace new.

It’s pretty sad when you have to drive yourself to the middle of nowhere to a location with no cell service, no internet, no electricity, and no water just to escape your own life. Unfortunately, in today’s technological society, sometimes that is the only way to completely unplug.

Away from glowing screens, email notification dings, and the noise of an overly congested and poorly planned small city, I will be reconnecting to nature. Camping off the grid is time to listen to body, mind, and soul and align all three with the universe. You can’t hear that “still small voice” when constantly surrounded by noise.

So yes, I will be escaping next week. I also think there is a difference between an escape and running away. Sometimes we need to escape our situations momentarily to take a step back in order to view things objectively. Escaping allows us to return renewed and refreshed, perhaps with a different perspective and brighter outlook on how to tackle a challenge.

Running away, on the other hand, entails leaving the situation and either avoiding it completely, with no intention of return, or returning to the situation with the naive idea that it had changed in your absence, even though you have done nothing about it.

Running away and escaping are two profoundly different situations.

So while I strive to create a life I don’t have to escape, I have come to realize that I do not have total control, and sometimes we need the escape to take a step back in order to face uncertainty with more clarity.

Here’s hoping my camping trip to this new location next week brings me peace, rest, and refreshment. It’s the ultimate adult time out when you come to realize that you are so burned out, that you need to recenter yourself before you reach out and slap someone.

Hopefully by making the effort to take better care of myself, I can be better for those around me. How do you escape when you need some objectivity and refreshment?