Friday, February 24, 2017

Have Shoes, Will Travel

In preparation for our vacation, I tried to buy warm-weather shoes. Yet, driven by the secure feeling of my New York City sneakers and boots, and the lovely thought of a suitcase not weighed down with extra things, I traveled with only the high top sneakers on my feet--not easy to take off at airport security, and not particularly attractive with shorts and among palm trees, but comfortable, and comforting--a feeling of the known in the midst of the unknown.

And so, wherever I have gone, I have worn those shoes, only once or twice looking down and regretting my decision not to bring something more. I have just worn them--to go to the theater, to walk on trails, to walk to the pool. Everywhere, until we got to the beach.

Now, the taking off of my shoes at the beach was a no-brainer--there was no way I was going to risk having my favorite shoes--not to mention the only shoes I had with me--be covered in sand or saltwater. But, as I walked along the beach barefoot, shoes in hand, through soft sand and rocky sand and wet from the waves sand, I realized that my one pair of shoes had been enough. When it was worth it--in lovely sand I could not experience at home--I was perfectly prepared--all I needed was my bare feet. And the taking off and carrying of my shoes was well worth it. And for everything else, the me I was comfortable with, shoes and all, was enough. I may not have been the most attractive person at the mall, at the theater, on the boardwalk, but did that really matter? And why should it, any more on vacation than in our day-to-day lives? If we cannot be ourselves on vacation, then what purpose has our vacation really served?

I will head home soon with the memories of my toes in the sand and my feet, in comfortable shoes, in all sorts of other places. And I will be happy to know that whether on vacation or at home, my feet can be firmly planted on the ground, reminding me to be the me I want to be.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Same Destination, Different Vacations

It is becoming clear that when our family vacation is over, there will be several entirely different accounts of it. Because going to the same place doesn't really mean that a group has the same vacation experience. It doesn't even really mean that everyone saw the same things. What, after all, is vacation? Well, it depends on who you are.

My vacation story will include sites seen, but will also feature foods eaten and hours slept. For me, vacation will have been about a break from normal schedules and routines, about sleeping at night, choosing more of the steps in my day, and seeing a different view out my window.

My kids' vacation stories will likely start with the (sort-of) absence of schoolwork, and the ability to stay up later. They might include the outdoor experiences very different from our normal city environs (either for their natural beauty or for their interaction with particular video games), and foods they wouldn't necessarily eat at home. And they will almost certainly touch on the places we didn't go, because what kind of kid wouldn't need to speak his or her mind, at least a little.

Before we know it, we will be done with vacation, telling our stories, and then watching them fade into the woodwork as we return to normal existence. Will this be a week that remains in our memory, or just a blip in a busy life? Will certain pieces stay with us for years, and call us back next time?

The stories--all of them--are still unfolding, so, hard to know for sure yet how they will be told...


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ninety Percent

Among the perks of a vacation in suburbia is the opportunity to visit suburban size stores, where lower real estate prices allow for larger inventory and, therefore, larger post-holiday sales. Suffice it to say, we will be returning home with far more post-Valentine's valentine candy than we probably need. But, at 90% off, who can resist?

As I sampled one of the 90% off candies, I began to consider the effects of the 90%. For the store, it meant an opportunity to make room for the next set of products, even if that meant losing money on the ones being sold at such a discount. For us, it meant buying items that might not be worth it to us full price, and more than what we might otherwise. It meant feeling as though we had gotten something special, both rescued from certain destruction and transferred to us because we happened to be in just the right place at just the right time.

In life, 90% is pretty good, but not perfect, giving it something, but not quite your all. But, in the context of a sale, 90% is about the best you can do--definitely worth looking at, and almost certainly worth acting on. So, for today, ninety percent sounds pretty good to me. When vacation is over, there will be lots of time to aspire to 100%. But, because of the 90, will be munching on some yummy treats while we do it.

Monday, February 20, 2017

On A Jet Plane

All our bags are packed...
(Well, at least as long as we're going someplace where we can buy what we forgot.)
We're ready to go...
(Well, as ready as we non-frequent fliers ever are.)
This flying thing presents an interesting dynamic for us--
Rarely, these days, are we all going to the same place at the same time (rarely are we all even AWAKE at the same time!)
Rarely, these days, are we called upon to be quite so interdependent--relying on each other for everything from holding documents to retrieving each other's shoes from the security conveyer belt.
Rarely, these days, do we sit together in such confined spaces (and wow, are those airplane seats confined spaces!)
We are still ourselves, with our particular interests and our own electronic devices.
We are still ourselves, with our own choices about snacks and drinks.
We are still who we always are, yet, we are different--in among strangers, and perhaps because of that, more attached to those we know.
And maybe, that's what a family vacation is all about, no matter where you go. It's about being "together" in different ways than you're used to. It's about working together, simply to make it through. It's about managing individual interests while preserving the group interests that will make the trip work.
We leave on a jet plane, knowing full well when we will be back again, and knowing that when we return, we will be just a little different than when we left...

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Do As I Say...

There are days when I'd rather be surfing my Facebook than working the elliptical. So, can I fault my kids for enjoying Pokemon and YouTube as much as tennis and baseball?

I choose chocolate over cauliflower far too often. So, can I blame my kids for being attracted to the Cupcake ATM?

I dig my heels in to finish what I've started. So, can I blame my kids for wanting "one more minute"?

I don't always have the attention span to read a less than exciting book or stay awake through a less than exciting movie. So, can I really fault my kids for being less than engaged in homework that is not engaging?

I am skeptical more often than I'd like to be, and wary for my own protection. So, is it so surprising that my kids don't follow instructions blindly "because I say so"?

One of the most challenging parts of parenthood is being able to give the best of yourself without letting your "not so best" rub off on your kids, of sharing who you are without sharing some of the things you'd rather not be. I suppose, then, that the best parents simply try to teach their kids to know the difference. So, that's what I'm trying. So, please, children, do as I say--at least some of the time--and not everything--only some things--as I do.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Natasha, Pierre, and Nick

I had the opportunity to see "Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812" this week, and was excited to see Nick Choksi, one of the funniest actors I ever worked with on One Life to Live, in a featured role. Now, I realize that for most people, seeing Josh Groban in the show would be the attraction. Yet, while I don't mean to take any credit from him or the rest of the cast, I couldn't help focusing on the performance of someone with whom I'd worked, and wondering about the varied roles an actor plays over the course of a career.

For many a New York actor, One Life (or one of the other soaps that was once here) was just a brief stopping point--one gig among many--so that when the soaps went away, there were simply fewer places to work. For others, the soaps became a much longer-lasting endeavor, perhaps punctuated by other gigs, but fairly central to existence. Either way, the genre played a key role for many a New York actor. And when it went away, actors, like the rest of us, simply had to focus on other areas. Like the rest of us, they landed all over, demonstrating that where we were together was simply a stop along the way. As satisfying as it always was for me while I was working in soaps to see "one of our own" turn up on Broadway or on a prime time show, it is perhaps even more satisfying now, because it reminds me that life goes on in all sorts of big ways.

In the case of Nick, this is perhaps nothing so new. But when I see him, or any other actor with whom I was privileged to share the soap studio, I can't help but clap a little louder. I am reminded that, for us all, there is way more than one life to live...

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wisest Use Of Time

There was a time when I had hours for coffee and conversation. These days, more often, it's an email or a "hello" on the run.

There was a time when there were stretches of time to think great thoughts, write new words, discover uncharted paths. These days, the brain has to work faster, my pen has to move quicker, my strides have to be longer.

There was a time when I wondered about "down the road," planned for "something different," looked for change. These days, I gulp today, celebrate right now, leave the future to the future.

There was a time when I had hours for coffee and conversation, great thoughts, and all sorts of plans. And maybe those were glorious days. But making the most of a moment of silence or an email or a quick "hello"--that is perhaps my wisest use of time...