Tag: vacation

Prepping for the Holidays

red and brown fruits wreath
Photo by Luna Lovegood on Pexels.com

Since 2010 we head down to Florida every December to spend the holidays with family, and to have a vacation away from home. Since 2012, we’ve driven so that we avoid the stress of airports, canceled flights, luggage limits. It saves money because we don’t have to buy airline tickets for the five of us, and we don’t have to rent a car, since we bring our car with us. We spent most of the time away staying with family. We are generally away for 2-3 weeks, and beginning in early December each year, I begin to really look forward to the day we head out. Last year, COVID prevented us from taking our usual trip for the first time in a decade. This year, however, since the we are all fully vaccinated and boosted, we are now prepping for the holidays, getting ready to resume our trip. We leave on Saturday.

There is a lot of prep work involved. In addition to completing all of the usual holiday shopping (which is now done, I am happy to say), we have had to arrange for people to take care of the house while we are gone–something we do when we will be gone for more than a week or so. Thanks to friends and neighbors, we finally have that piece out of the way. Then there is the usual checklist of things we go through for any trip. Planning what to bring, how we will load up the car, how we will keep the kids entertained for the 16 hours of actual driving time spread over two days.

To top it all off, I want to be able to relax and not stress about anything on this trip. While I love writing here on the blog, there are days when I just won’t have time to write because I’ll be doing things with the family. I don’t want to neglect the blog and I don’t want to stress about writing. To that end, I have been pre-writing posts for the blog to ensure I have at least one post per day scheduled for every day we are gone. That way, if I don’t get to write, I don’t have to stress: I know there will be a post each day.

This isn’t easy. First, I had to come up with ideas for three weeks worth of posts. Normally, I try to stay two to three days ahead of things here. I avoid scheduling much further than that because I know new ideas will pop up in the meantime. But I had to come up with a couple dozen post ideas that seemed both interesting, and also that would be fun to write about. I planned this all out on a 2-page spread in my Field Notes notebook. With that done, I had to actually write those posts. To manage this, I’ve been writing about 3 posts per day and scheduling them out based on a schedule that I came up with. It covers our entire time away, and a few days after we are back in case things are hectic when I return to work after being away for so long.

At this point, I’ve got post ideas for all but 6 days that we’ll be on vacation and I’ve got about a third of those written. The rest of this week will see me trying to get the rest of those posts written. And I’m not worried about those 6 unscheduled days at this point. The first “empty” day happens to be New Year’s Day so if I don’t get something scheduled before I leave, I’ve got plenty of time on vacation to get these posts written.

Planning posts in my Field Notes notebook. Blurred to maintain the surprise of the posts when they go live.

This is not to say I won’t write more posts while on vacation. It’s just that I want to make sure I’ve got things covered so I can rest and relax and enjoy my time with the family. More than likely, you’ll end up seeing several days with multiple posts simply because I enjoy writing and won’t be able to resist.

Meanwhile, there is still a lot to do:

  • I have to clear out the car. I do this before every major road trip. I vacuum out the car, clean the interior and windows, and begin setting things up for the trip: making sure all of the device cables are plugged in; making sure I’ve got the things I need while driving within reach. That usually takes a while, and I do it the day before we leave so that the car isn’t a mess when we leave.
  • Packing. Fortunately, since it is cold here and warm in Florida, I can pack most of my stuff now–shorts and t-shirts. Kelly handles the other packing.
  • Wrapping up things that are going on at work. I keep a web page with links to common questions I get and the answers and this goes in my email signature and in my out of office message. This probably prevents quite a few calls to me while I am away.
  • Looking at all of the stuff we plan on bringing with us and figuring out the best way to get it loaded into the car. For the holidays, Kelly and I gave ourselves an early present: new luggage. We are testing it out on this trip to see how well it works. It is modern luggage and an order of magnitude better than the battered ancient suitcases we have so it should make loading the car easier.
  • Making sure that the folks taking care of the house have everything they need, stocking the pantry and fridge, cleaning sheets, and generally trying to make the house look less cluttered than it is.
  • Figuring out what books I’ll listen to on the drive. I think I’ve already got this covered.
  • Posting my semi-annual “I’m on vacation!” photo, which you can expect to see sometime Friday evening.

We are all really looking forward to this trip. It will be nice to have a solid chunk of time off work, but also, it will be nice to get away for a while, and feel no pressure during the days. It will be especially nice resuming our traditions after COVID prevented us from doing it last year.

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The Downside of Vacation

There is a meme I have seen floating around the flotsam and jetsam of the Internet that goes like this:

For an American on vacation, I did pretty good. I didn’t check my email or Teams messages for the entire 10 days of my vacation. Of course, I was not “away camping for the summer,” but for me, not checking work email for 10 days is a big step. Indeed, I didn’t really even think about work consciously for the ten days that I was on vacation. I was proud of myself for this. Even as I write this, I have no idea how many emails await my attention when I get back to my (virtual) office first thing Monday morning. No one from work called me or texted me or messaged me, which means there was no crisis that couldn’t be handled without me. That also, is a good thing.

There is, however, a downside to a vacation like this, one where work doesn’t enter my consciousness for ten days. In a way, this kind of vacation is a kind of preview of retirement, and in some ways, not thinking about work foreshadowed what it would be like when I am actually retired and don’t have to think about work any more. Of course, I have to get back to business on Monday, but for a brief period, it felt to me like work no longer existed. That, to me, is the definition of a good vacation.

Still, you know how you feel when you see an early preview of a movie that you are really looking forward to? One of those short previews that comes out eighteen months before the movie’s release date. It’s a minute-long preview, but you spend half an hour watching it over and over again, and thinking to yourself, I can’t believe I have to wait eighteen months before I can actually see this movie! It seem like a lifetime from now? This is what my vacation felt like to me. I was more present than I usually am on vacation. I took only a modest amount of photos in order that I focused on the moment, enjoying my time with my family. Work didn’t enter my mind, and that gave the the false sense that work didn’t exist, that I was done with work, that I never had to go back again.

The truth, of course, is more like that one-minute movie preview. My vacation was a preview of what my retirement would be like, but the actual retirement doesn’t take place for another ten years. There is an uncomfortable period of reintegration that has to take place, where I slip out of vacation/retirement mode and into work mode. It is much easier to go in the other direction. We visited Niagara Falls on our vacation and I imagine this reintegration like a droplet of water trying to make its way up the falls, fighting the 60,000 gallons of water flowing over the edge every second.

We are encouraged to take vacations and to separate work life from home life (harder and harder to do while more and more people are working from home). It seems to me what is missing from this is a kind of reintegration program that eases us back into our daily routines once the vacation is over and we are back on the job. I suspect I will spent a good chunk of time reviewing hundreds of emails to look for the twenty or so that actually require my attention. Then, too, it will take time for me to review the notes I left for myself to remind me what I was working on and where I left off on various things. Those notes help, but there is one thing that will taunt me all day long, something that I’ve never been able to escape, no matter how present I can be in the moment when I am on vacation: a little voice, whispering in my ear throughout the day, telling me, “You know, last week at this time, you were cruising along Route 20 in upstate New York, not another car in sight, surrounded on both sides by fertile farm land.” Or it will whisper, “Remember just a few days ago, when you wandered through that 170 year old mill?” Like a postcard from the past, that voice will taunt me with: Wish you were here.

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My Annual Summer “I’m On Vacation” Photo

My 2021 I'm on my summer vacation photo

My vacation began just a few minutes ago and I couldn’t begin before taking my annual summer “I’m on vacation!” photo. It is nice to be on vacation after a very busy first half of 2021. We have some fun plans, which I’ll eventually write about here. There is something magical about the first few minutes of a new vacation. The waiting is over, and they entire thing is laid out before you. It is a great feeling and that is why I always look so excited in these photos.

For those who may wonder what my vacation means for the blog, it should be business-as-usual. I am on vacation from my day job, not from writing. And I’ve worked up enough of a lead here that I already have posts throughout most of my vacation just in case vacation fun eats into my writing time.

Here is a collage of various “I’m on vacation” photos from the last 6 or 7 years.

Can you tell that I am already having fun?

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Last full day in Florida

Ten days goes by fast! Today is our last full day in sunny southwestern Florida. We head home tomorrow around noon.

I headed to the store early this morning and got things to make breakfast for everyone. Scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, toast. Yummy! Later this afternoon we’ll be going out for lunch. I expect to relax (and pack) for much of the rest of the day and just try to enjoy the time we have left.

Tomorrow is a travel day, but I wanted to give you all a head’s up that throughout the day tomorrow, posts about my goals for 2012 will be trickling out, regardless of where I actually am. The schedule, for those interested, looks like this:

  • 7am: Fiction writing goals for 2012
  • 9am: Blogging goals for 2012
  • 11am: Short fiction reading goals for 2012
  • 1pm: Novel reading goals for 2012
  • 3pm: Conventioneering goals for 2012

I’ll have one more goal-related post but it won’t come out until late tomorrow or early on January first.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go enjoy the last of this gorgeous weather. Happy New Year!

When you’re sliding into third…

Let me set the scene for you. We’ve had gorgeous weather all week down here in southwestern Florida. I mean absolutely gorgeous. Even at this minute, as I write, I’m sitting out the lanai, the thermometer reads 79 degrees, there is a pleasant breeze, ahhh.

Yesterday, however, there was a brief break in the sunshine. The wind picked up and before we knew it, the rain was pouring. Very Hawaii-like. We were sitting in the house and when I saw how hard the rain was coming down, I said to the Little Man, “Hey buddy, go out onto the lanai and look at the rain.”

Trusting that his old man wouldn’t disturb his playing for no good reason, the Little Man diligently took off running out onto the lanai. That was when I noticed that the tiled floor of the lanai was slick with water.

The moment I noticed it I knew what was going to happen, but I was frozen while time slowed down. I watched the Little Man take about two barefoot steps on the tile before his legs went out from under him. We went down on his butt and elbows, which foratunely broke most of the fall because he smacked the back of his head on the tile, too.

As soon as he was down I sprang into action. I knew he’d be crying and wanted to calm him down and make sure he was okay. I dashed out to get him and–you’re ahead of me–I got two steps out onto the tile before I felt my bare feet go out from under me. Not only did I land on my butt and elbows but I slid into the Little Man, smashing his already crying person into the railing.

A few minutes later, he was fine. A small bump, probably a headache but no other injuries. Indeed, when he woke up this morning, it was as if the whole event never happened. Not so me. I woke up this morning and my left arm is stiff and sore–exactly the same kind of stiffness and soreness one expects after spending an afternoon chopping wood. Ah, too be young again.

A typical winter vacation day in sunny Florida

What I’ve done so far today:

  1. Both kids slept through the night. Again. That means that we slept through the night, too. That is two nights in a row for me, something that hasn’t happened since well before the Little Miss was born. Maybe it’s the warm Florida air?
  2. The Little Man and I took an early morning walk. We walked over to the local grocery store to pick up some fresh bagels and some caffeine for Daddy. It is a little disconcerting to be walking outside at 8am on December 23 in shorts and a t-shirt, with the temperature already above 70 on your way to the store and approaching 75 on the way back home.
  3. Wished my friend Eric a happy Jack Benny birthday.
  4. Wrote two short blog posts right after breakfast. (Fresh bagels are yummy. Hear that, DeNardo?)
  5. Read Eric Frank Russell’s “Seat of Oblivion” in the November 1941 Astounding. But you’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out what I thought about it. That’s when Episode 29 of my Vacation in the Golden Age will come out.
  6. Ate a simple turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch.
  7. Read a Robert Reed novella, a Genevieve Valentine short story and a Gray Rinehart novelette while both kids slept. The Little Man is on the verge of setting a record. He has now been napping for more than 3 hours!

What I was suppose to do today:

  • Kelly and I had planned to take the Little Man shopping so that he could get some presents for various people. Because of his extended nap, we are now going to take him shopping first thing tomorrow morning. Stores open at 8am.

What I have yet to do today:

  1. Dinner at Doc’s Beach House. This is a tradition every time we come down here. Pizza and beer. Yum.
  2. See the Christmas lighting. Another tradition. We drive around a neighborhood all decorated with various lights and other appertenances of the holiday season.
  3. Fiction writing. This will have to likely wait until later today but I am determined to get in my 500 words today.

And there you have it. The kind of relaxing vacation day that I have come to relish as the season approaches. I look forward to several more of these kinds of days before the vacation is over

A full night’s sleep

I often brag about how we can, when things break our way, get from our house down to Kelly’s parent’s house in Florida in about 4 hours, door-to-door.  Well, yesterday, everything seemed to break our way and we managed to make the journey, door-to-door, in just about four hours.

Of course, the weather is a little different here than it is at home. That’s not to say it was terrible at home either. It was a balmy 61 degrees yesterday in the metro-DC area. Of course, it was in the mid-80s down here, and sunny with a trade-wind like breeze blowing and carrying the scent of flowers on the air. It almost smelled like Hawaii. I put on some shorts as soon as we got here. Much of the rest of the day was pretty lazy. We went swimming. We relaxed. We went for a long walk in the evening.

In the evening, the Little Man helped decorate the Christmas tree and by the time that was done, it was well past his bedtime. He was going to be sleeping on an air mattress on the floor and that was going to be a big test, since he’s been sleeping with me for several months. As it turned out, it must have been just fine. For the first time in over four months, I slept completely through the night. Kelly told me she got up once to give the Little Man some milk. I  feel very relaxed this morning.

Indeed, I plan on being somewhat productive today. I’ve got some Golden Age reading to do which I will do as soon as I finish these posts. (I’m writing them out on the Lanai, where the temperature currently reads something north of 70 degrees at 8:28am.) I’ve got some fiction-writing to do. And then, of course, there are all of the unplanned things that go along with being on vacation. Like shopping. Or swimming. Or just wandering about.

Disney World, Day 1

As it turned out, all travel arrangements worked out perfectly yesterday. Kelly and I got to Dulles, were through security in two minutes, and made our way to the Red Carpet Club. We had a couple of drinks there before catching our 9:35 PM flight to Orlando. Our flight was on time and arrived 5 minutes early. We met vickyandnorm almost as soon as we got off the tram to the main terminal. Norm went to the rental car desk to get the car and we headed out. We ended up with a bright blue car, roomy, but it sure stands out. We spent last night at a time-share property, a condo that was really nice. Full kitchen, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, dining room, living room, balcony. Our bedroom had a whirlpool tub in the room. But were were only there for a few hours. We went to bed sometime after 1:30 AM and were up at 7:30 this morning. We had a quick breakfast, checked out, and then headed to Disney’s Animal Kingdom park.

The park opened at 9 AM and were there just a few minutes after it opened. The air was a little cool, but it warmed up quickly. We managed to pack in quite a bit. The first thing we did was the safari, which Kelly had never done before. Then we headed over to the Everest roller coaster ride, and Norm and I went on that while Kelly and Vicky waited. They actually saw us on the ride twice. It’s a pretty cool roller coaster. It goes backwards, there’s one good big drop, and some turns that probably reach 2-gees. We did more wandering and snacking and shopping. We caught a few shows. We had lunch. Eventually, we made our way back to Everest, and Norm and I rode it again, this time sitting in the front. Once again, the line was not long (we used Fast Pass). It was even more fun the second time around.

After that, we got some soft serve ice cream and headed for the park exit. Kelly lost her camera case, but it was a cheap one and no one was really upset by it. From the Animal Kingdom, we headed over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM) park. I’d never been there before. We got a wheelchair for Vicky (who is 5 months pregnant with twins) and who had done a great job on her feet for the first 4-5 hours of the day. Once we had that, I ran over to Star Tours to get FastPass tickets and then met up with everyone else. Vicky and Kelly decided to shop, while Norm and I hit the two big rides: Tower of Terror and the Rockin’ Roller Coaster. The Tower of Terror was fun, kind of like Free Fall, but more random and more dropping. I estimated about 1/2-1 second of true free-fall. But the Rockin’ Roller Coaster: Whoa!

The Rockin’ Roller Coaster is touted as the fastest, wildest ride of all of the Disney Parks and it lived up to it’s reputation. The ride “features” Aerosmith. When Norm and I got to the line, there was a 45 minute wait. We opted for the “singles” line and managed to get on the ride and get in the same car in 10 minutes. The ride itself was amazing, beginning with the initial 0-to-60 MPH boost in 2.8 seconds. There were loops and whirls and you name it–all in the dark like Space Mountain–only much faster. It was awesome! And best of all, they play Aerosmith while you zoom through the ride. strausmouse would love it!

After that we needed a rest and went to two shows. I slept through both. The first was only a few minutes long. The second was The Little Mermaid show. It was 17 minutes long and I slept soundly through the entire thing. By that time, it was dinner time. We had reservations at The Hollywood Brown Derby. The food there was excellent. We luxuriated through dinner, taking our time, talking, and really enjoying ourselves. Vicky and I had fillet mignon, Norm had duck and venison, and Kelly had salmon. It was terrific.

Finally, dinner was over and we made our way over to the “Hollywood Hills Amphitheater” for Fantasmic. This time, Vicky’s wheelchair managed to get us good seats. We arrived about 30 minutes early, but it was already packed and so the good seats helped. The show itself was great, although much-changed since I last saw it at Disneyland back in the 90s. Once the show was over, it was 9 PM and we made our way out of the park and to the Dolphin resort, where we checked in. Norm and Vicky’s room is right across the hall from ours, both facing east into the resort. Our rooms each have two balconies, very, very nice. The plan tomorrow is to hit the Magic Kingdom. It opens at 9 AM. We are meeting for breakfast just before 8 AM, so we should all sleep well tonight.

There were a number of amusing things that happened throughout the day, but I’m beat now. It was all I could do to write this all up before crashing. I’m getting in the shower and then heading off to bed. More tomorrow.


I’m heading out the door in less than an hour for my one and only mini-vacation between now and July and I am so excited! I nearly screamed a big loud, “Whoo-hoo!” as I left the office this morning. At this point, I’m all packed up. The house is in order. The chores are done. I’m ready to go. I’m going to have some lunch, and pack something to bring with me on the plane. Then I make a quick stop at the post office and I’m outta here!

My flight is on time (so far). I’m scheduled to get into Orland just before 5 PM, at which point I was for kruppenheimer to arrive. She’s scheduled to get in at 6:20. I confirmed with the car service that the driver will meet us at baggage claim at 6:20, then it’s off to the hotel to check in, followed by a quick hop over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge to meet Norm and Vicky for dinner at Boma at 8:30 PM.

I’ll have my laptop with me and be blogging and posting pictures as often as I can. It won’t be “real-time”, but I’ll try and get some pictures up at least once a day so that strausmouse and rmstraus can live vicariously through the photos.

Vacation feels great!