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Vacation Reality

Aussie Sign

We got back from Australia a few weeks ago. For three and a half weeks, we experienced genuine Aussie hospitality, met lifelong friends, and saw wonders that travel guides and big, beautiful coffee table books don’t do justice.

No, we didn’t see any sharks or pythons or funnel spiders. We did encounter some poisonous plants and a spider so big its legs cast a shadow on the wall.

Before we left the States, friends would say, you know the 20-something most deadliest creatures can be found in Australia.

The Aussies laughed when Lyle asked about places to avoid. No worries, mate. Sure, we have those things, but you’ll be fine as long as you don’t look for trouble.

I smiled and figured Americans watch way too much TV. I didn’t think about danger much until we ran across a precaution sign at a park that advised visitors of what to do should they see a kangaroo. Don’t approach. Back away slowly. If one charges, drop to ground. Curl up into a ball. Protect your head and throat. The kangaroo was not an any dangerous-animal list.

aussie kangaroo
Then, there was the warning sign about the poisonous plants to avoid during the 6 km walk down into the rainforest.

aussie poison tree



aussie poison fern

Blah, blah, blah I thought until I realized these particular trees hung over our heads in this vast green canopy, and the palm looked just like all the others and lined the paths where we walked.

But I made it out just fine.

During the trip, we walked along headlands that towered over the ocean below and then hiked down to the beautiful, deserted, white sandy beaches. We watched whales breach the surface of deep aquamarine waters (that never gets old). The day we trekked through the unbelievable rainforest, I found myself dwarfed by trees hundreds of years old.  Another morning we floated down a river on kayaks and spied long, bearded dragons as they skittered across fallen logs, and of course, we saw more kangaroos than I would have imagined existed.

But re-entry into the real world was tough, really tough. For the first week (okay two), I wanted to hop in my car and just drive, drive, drive. Surely, there was a place to escape. My husband was a pain in the ass, my work deadlines were impossible, and my house was a disaster. That was just the beginning.

My mind continued to get more slippery. I didn’t like anyone around me, and if I could have escaped from my sarcastic ass, I would have. Mostly, I tried to keep my mouth clamped tight because I knew venom would shoot out if I opened it just a wee bit.

Things are better this week, but why? Sure, I’ve caught up at work, and my body clock adjusted to the current time zone so I’m finally sleeping when I should, but the things that annoyed me last week are still there, and they’re still annoying. The only difference is I stopped looking for trouble.

aussie beach


Agenda? Forget About It

Yesterday, I had planned to take off by myself with a camera, but we needed to shop for dishwashers, which was oh so much more fun. But you see, our dishwasher had developed a bad case leprosy; pieces and parts were falling off on a daily basis, and it had also developed an aversion to actually cleaning the dishes.

Shopping for appliances generally induces colorful arguments in the Fast household, but Lyle had done all the research, and even though he ruined my plans, ah, surprised me with a new opportunity, it went pretty well. He had all the places plotted where we needed to compare prices, and then I took care of negotiations. We are the proud owners of a shiny new dishwasher to be delivered this coming week.

Since I didn’t get to do my thing yesterday, I set out today with a camera fully intending to take pictures of barns. Don’t ask me why I felt the need to shoot barns, but it was between that and cemeteries. (I think I was channeling my Gram on that one.) I did sneak into one cemetery and saw this – hoping no one is on the run.

I didn’t have much luck with the barns, but once I got home I did manage to take some photos of an orchid plant that I received for my birthday in February. It’s a small miracle the thing is still alive given my track record with house plants. When my friend gave it to me, I thanked her profusely and promised to try not to kill it. That was the most I had hoped. I really only gave it about a two-week chance, but for now it’s thriving. See for yourself.

It was good to take an afternoon and simply do something for me without a timeline or any real agenda. What do you like to do for fun?


I find photography fun.

Sometimes I think it seems selfish to focus on fun. I don’t know if it is a leftover puritanical thing or if I feel guilty if I have too much of it. Is it even possible to have too much fun as long as I’m not abusing my body?

It seems absurd to even put that in writing for all to see, but I get caught up sometimes in the responsibility and obligations of life. Today seemed like a perfect escape. The day was full of fun stuff. I spent it with a group of people I adore, had brunch with a bunch who keep me grounded and then hung out with a dear friend as we browsed at the gem and jewelry show. We ate an early dinner at Tip Top and then slurped down a latte at Café Brioso (definitely fun).

I wrapped up a really stressful week at work, but that was fun too. I conquered new challenges, and it felt good to stretch and feel appreciated, which really made me look at the power that my overall attitude has on my general well being.

It sounds a little too Pollyanna to talk about focusing on the positive or faking it until you make it or any number of those fucking upbeat idioms that I hear. But what about plain old fun? I like fun. That sounds childish, but maybe that is what I was missing a few weeks ago.

Last year when I changed jobs, I pretty much told my future boss that I wanted to have fun while I helped people have fun and I really didn’t want to play with people who didn’t want to have fun. It seemed to work because I was hired, and by and large my job has been a pretty fun gig.

Sometimes though as deadlines loom and family schedules need to be coordinated and I find myself gasping for air, I forget that I also NEED to have fun. It seems ridiculous to say that I should have to REMEMBER to have fun. I take myself way too seriously.

I was reminded this week of the importance of fun while I was talking to a new acquaintance and inquiring a little bit about her career– how she found herself in the situation she was in. It was apparent that she was having a good time at what she was doing and we were talking about how enjoyable our work was. Yea, I do like what I’m doing. It’s fun to follow the blips to see where they lead me.

I can get fanatical with the PLAN, but I find when I let loose and see where life takes me, that brings me much more satisfaction and FUN than when I fixate about whatever is haunting me in the dark hours. Besides, obsession is overrated at least in my pea brain.

I have a feeling that fun is also contagious, which maybe is the best payoff. What do you find enjoyable that perhaps you thought you didn’t have time for?

Is It a Waste of Time?

It’s been a long week. I felt overwhelmed during much of it with a to-do list that seemed entirely too large to conquer.

I have several meetings today, so not much will be crossed off the list by the time I pack it up for the weekend, but I managed to get through some of the biggies that have been looming. I’ve shared that I miss my days of the Franklin Planner ranking system, but something else left me uncomfortable with the basic premise because I knew I was barely getting through my A-list tasks. What would happen to all the things that just get bumped back to page three?

I decided to implement an additional strategy maybe it is a result of reading The Happiness Project. As soon as I arrive in the office, before I grab my first work cup of coffee, I complete one none-essential task, something that has been gnawing at me, but never quite makes it to the top of the list.

Most of the week that included reading material that I usually feel is useless. I flipped through copies of my public relations materials that I get quarterly, business magazines and journals, old newspapers as well as current ones. It is part of my job to keep up to date, so it felt somewhat justified, but again, it is something that slips when I feel like important things are calling. Invariably each day, I found something very helpful to the rest of my day.

I spend a lot of time doing what I think should be done instead of following my instincts, which is a shame because when I follow my gut, I find that I have a pretty good internal compass.

Another non-essential thing that I had let slip was talking to local business people about what is going on in their world. I feel like a slacker when I do this, but part of my job is to promote the cool things happening, so from the outside it makes perfect sense to take the time to do this. As I talked to Paul from Zeroz (very cool product by the way), I loved listening to him talk about his journey to imagine, develop and implement his idea. I had this conversation and didn’t feel guilty about the time because I was there to shoot a video for work.

The energy that I received from sharing this space and time was illuminating, but even more important, it was lasting. I found myself wonder (or perhaps it truly was wander) about some of the choices I have made in place of trusting a blip that I wanted to follow, but too fearful of failure or too tied to obligation or responsibility to entertain.

I’m a planner. I don’t know if I will ever escape that. Most days I think it serves me well. Planning can be productive, but I have to allow myself to step into the soft, sometimes squishy berm alongside the path because that is where many true discoveries are found. It doesn’t feel safe and sometimes others may think it’s crazy, but I like when I learn and feel and find new things that make me a better person.

A to-do list might be practical and even necessary, but do I need to plan for spontaneous? Believe me, the irony does not escape me. When I am cognizant of the need and desire and fulfillment that come from the stretch, it makes me want to pursue it even more. It doesn’t have to be big, but I think it might require practice. So, until it is part of my being, just like waking up early and drinking two cups of coffee before I leave the house and writing in a journal every morning, all of which I have incorporated at various times in my life, I think I will try to save a little space in time for the non-essential. I may not be so bold as to put it on my to-do list, but it’s there, right at the top of the page.

How do you feel about obligation and responsibility? What seems like time well spent or a colossal waste of time?

Is It Thursday or Friday?

I have a hard time on Wednesdays and Thursdays. I don’t know if it is because I’ve practiced so much restraint during the beginning of the week or if the stress of life finally boils over, but often I find myself drawn toward really unhealthy food choices. I managed through yesterday keeping food choices in line – now I just need to get through today, but it should be good because today is actually my Friday.

I’m taking tomorrow off and Monday for that matter. We have a floating holiday at work that needs to be used during a holiday that we don’t officially recognize. Since I began this job well in the March, it left me with fewer choices. It seemed sacrilegious to take off one of the fall Jewish holidays since I know very little of the faith, now Columbus Day or Veteran’s Day remains, and I’m not a veteran. Old Columbus gave me a three-day weekend so the decision was made.

I have quite a bit of time that I need to take before the end of the year. I’ve been hording it for the proverbial rainy day since I had so little in comparison to what I once had working at a school. Interestingly enough, I didn’t technically have vacation time then; I followed the school calendar, which included almost a week at Thanksgiving, two weeks for winter break, two weeks in the spring, all the other American secular holidays and then let us not forget two months in the summer. Who needs vacation? Going from that to three weeks seemed a bit scary, but on the plus side I didn’t have to wait to take it. It was mine from day one, just prorated.

I heard the weather was supposed to be nice this weekend so I decided to take an extra day with my floating holiday. It also helped to know that the cleaning lady is coming today so I will get to spend my Friday in a clean house (cue the music). I cannot wait! This is the first time off since I started working that didn’t involve family illness or stiff necks or school crap.

I was tempted not to even say anything to my family about it. I don’t want them to try to fill my day with their agenda. I know that’s evil, but I really just need to recharge. I waffle in lying around reading, making jewelry or heading to Yellow Springs, which is my favorite little place in the world, well at least within a 30-minute commute. I love that little hippy town where my creative juices bubble up and overflow. I can accomplish at least two of the three if I take a book with me. Hell, I can take a few beads, wire and tools and have a party all by myself.

Any suggestions?

Come In, The Water Is Great

I’m committed to practicality this morning. I look around as I sip my morning cup of Joe and ignore the fact that crud is everywhere around my house. Earlier in the weekend I thought about tidying up and then even tried to entice the soon-to-be 16 year old with cold hard cash to take care of the clutter. He didn’t bite and I decided that maybe a quick 10-minute tidy could wait until the end of the weekend.

Usually when my house gets out of control, I start skimming the want ads for a realtor in hopes of packing up my things to move to a spiffier place, one with clean cupboards encased with new vinyl shelf liners and empty closets providing endless storage. But I like our house, even if it is too far from most of what I want to be around. This weekend I have many things distracting me from the clutter. My social plate is full.

Lyle and Russell have been home most of the weekend, and Lyle put on his spandex and grabbed a microphone as he morphed into a full-blown rock star washing the mounds of dirty laundry – even the sheets and blankets. I’d love to come home and find the house tidy, but I need to ante up a little time for those domestic tasks to prove my worth on the home front. Besides, for better or worse, the men in the house don’t mind living in a hovel as long as they can still find the remote, all is good with the world.

I decided to take heed of what I wrote yesterday and simply embrace the little nuggets of goodness I encounter in my journeys. I came home after a great afternoon with friends and looked at the rainy afternoon as good as excuse to play. I sat at my make-shift jewelry bench known to most if you could see beneath the tools and beads and wire as a sewing table circa early 1900s. I made earrings and watched endless episodes of shows via TiVo. The fact that I could fast forward through all the political ads was an even sweeter bonus.

There is always a long list of things that crop up on the weekend, all those chores that get pushed aside during the week because the days are simply too busy, too packed, too many must dos. Instead I focused on one thing –fun. By the time I was ready to crawl between those freshly laundered sheets, I really didn’t care that my counter still needed cleaned and the toilet could use a quick swish with a little bleach. I hadn’t played with beads and wire for a long time and I needed a creative release.

I wasn’t thinking about food or odd jobs or to do lists or responsibilities. Time meandered like a cool gentle brook over rounded pebbles through the woods coming from who knows where and going perhaps nowhere. It was good, really good.

As I search for some of that deeper meaning, last night reminded me that it is not enough to simply stop and admire the stream from water’s edge; I must dip my toes in and let it ramble over me.

Today will soon turn to evening, quicker than I prefer, but if I live it, oppose to watch it, perhaps that will be o.k. too. How do you like to spend your time, but more importantly how often do you actually follow through with it?

Melissa’s Garden Friends and Flowers

I’ve had a perfectly enjoyable day today. The best part was playing with a camera in my garden. I’ve watched a garden spider grow from barely a speck to a menacing beast. We seem to share space quite nicely, and I wanted to capture her, well at least an image of her, as well as some of the other garden visitors as they perched on my flowers today.

As a side note, if you would like a place to encourage swallowtail butterflies, plant some fennel. It’s a prolific perrenial that will bring the catapillers running or at least inching toward the delicacy.

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