What I Learned on my Summer Vacation

  1.  Take time to enjoy experiences and people.  I was so struck with the non-hurried lifestyle of vacation. Not just our experience but the lifestyle we witnessed of those around us.   Of course, I am sure that there were plenty of locals who rushed about and felt that they were rushing but the atmosphere did not feel frenetic.  I liked the pace we set while on vacation but I don't know how we can transpose that feeing now that we are home.  I am trying to set more wiggle room in my calendar- prepare for interruptions, plan ahead for activities as well as plan fewer amount of items to do in a time period.  I am trying to enjoy the moments.
  2. Eliminate the clutter.  The apartment we rented in Vienna was very modern.  It wasn't spartan or minimalist but it certainly didn't have any extra frills and thrills.  It was refreshing.  It made me think about our home and all of its stuff.  Since we have returned, both my husband and I are in the process of decluttering.  I had mentioned once before that my goal is to eliminate 1/4 of items/stuff in each of our rooms.  I am getting there.
  3. Just because things have always been a certain way, doesn't mean it has to be that way.  I think sometimes we get so caught up in doing activities because that is how we have always done them.  Not that what we were doing might be wrong, but we never allow ourselves to experience something that might be different and possibly better.  I noticed this with European meals, especially breakfast.  When we landed in Italy via Air Berlin, our morning airplane "breakfast" was a sandwich.  At first I couldn't stomach it. We had been up all night flying and had had dinner in the air.  According to our flight times it was 2am EST but with the time zones, we were 8am in Dusseldorf.  According to our airlines, it was time for breakfast.   And according to our son who lived in Vienna for four months, breakfast might consist of what we think as "lunch" food.  We noticed more meats at breakfast in Florence, Rome and Vienna. Actually when I finally ate the sandwich, (waiting for our connection to Rome)  it was rather tasty.  Reminds me  that I don't have to fit into societal norms of what is "done". 
  4. It takes just as much effort to dress nicely as to dress sloppily.   Now that we are back in the states, it is hard to pinpoint what exactly was the clothing difference between the European dresser and his American counterpart. (baseball caps? logo and messaging t-shirts? sneakers? ) The people walking about in Rome, Florence and Vienna seemed so much more well dressed and more put together.  They appeared to be more civilized and respectful of others. (not that clothes are that important, but sometimes clothes doth make a man)  My husband and I noticed the difference this past weekend when we attended a local street festival in our home town.  In the middle of the crowded street I stopped and thought, "We were at some festivals in Vienna and this looks so different."  It wasn't until then, that it dawned on me that the attendees' clothing was what made it seem different. At this weekend's festival, people seemed so sloppy in dress, in speech and in behavior. 
  5. Be a sponge.   As always when we travel I realize what an ignorant rube I am.  I have so many things that I want to learn, to explore, to do.  Travel opens up curiosity.  It provides a different way to look at the current experience but I think it also opens up a new way to view the familiar. 

What about you?  Learn anything this summer?  Have you made any changes to your lifestyle? Do you want to make any changes?   How can you take lessons learned or observed and put them into practice? 

What did you learn on our summer vacation? 


No Grudges

"Who?  Me?  Did you want something?"

"Who?  Me?  Did you want something?"

What would our world be without our dogs? Less nuts, that's for sure.  

Our Jack Russells, especially the male can drive us crazy! When he gets fixated on something, he completely ignores us. We know that it is due to our poor dog parenting but we can call his name numerous times demanding that he comes inside.  No response.  Eventually he will turn his head and look at us with a glance, "Oh, were you calling me? Like there are a dozen Marley's from which to choose? 

The thing is, when he finally comes in we are exhausted and enraged.  How dare he not listen to us?  Don't we provide him shelter, food and plenty of toys? He is a dog and we are his masters.

He is infuriating. Of course, by the time he skips upstairs after his non-listening foray (generally this occurs after going outside @ 4am, doing his business and then barking at nothing until I am thoroughly awake from calling him to come in), he is all ready to continue with his normal routine: leap onto our bed, stick his nose under the covers, sidle next to me, place his head in the crook of my arm and sigh.  Acting like nothing was ever the matter.  He isn't at all bothered by the tone of my voice as I yelled at him to come in.  It doesn't bother him that I will kick him out of bed, possibly numerous times.  He doesn't hold it against us.  He will continue to try and snuggle.

Other times after we have yelled at him we have tried the tactic of completely ignoring him.  Doesn't matter, he will still try to engage us with a game of ball or tug of war. He will forage in his toy bucket for just the right chew toy to entice us to play with him.  His leaping, turning and rolling suggests that he is so happy to have someone with whom to play and you should be happy too. 

Guess that is why I love dogs.  They are so forgiving and loving.  They do not hold a grudge.  They continually remind me to enjoy the present: don't get hung up on the past and don't worry about the future. Nothing in life is ever too much to bear that a good chase of a ball won't cure. 

What about you?  Do you have any pets?  Dogs?  Cats? Hamsters?  Fish?  What have you learned from being around those creatures? 

NOTE: On Wednesday, April 12th the Upper Room devotional will be running my devotional entitled, "The Path of Mercy".  As readers, you can go online, Click Here and comment on the devotional.  I was asked to provide a follow up so you can read that there as well. 


Restful Reflections

I am looking forward to our vacation this year.  We have the privilege to go away to our beloved Cape Cod.  And I do recognize that it is a privilege.  Not everyone gets to go on a vacation. 

The thing that I love about going away is the preparation and anticipation of a time when things are not part of our normal routine.  We have time to sleep in, to have uninterrupted conversations, to spend time as a family, to have time to think and to dream. 

The only thing is that in my preparation I almost always overestimate the amount of time we have away.  Just like I overestimate a room's dimensions in my mind's eye especially in planning furniture arrangement, I think that we will have loads of time to bike, play tennis, go to the beach, kayak, canoe, stroll down town, attend a local play, go out to dinner, watch the stars on our lovely deck, sightsee in Boston or a neighboring town, visit one of the Islands, read the dozen or so packed books, mentally prepare for the fall and its activities.  Phew! Just listing all the things that I think we might accomplish is exhausting and goes to show that I need a restful vacation with no agenda.  

So, I have decided to just let the vacation unfold as it will.  Sure, we have our bags packed with our books, tennis rackets, bike and beach gear but there is no pressure if we don't use all of it.  I am giving myself permission to have a complete break if I want. The important thing is that I am going to try and be mindful and enjoy each moment. 

While the preparation and anticipation is fun for me, the real joy comes with the actuality of the life lived focused on the present.  

What about you?  Do you have vacation plans this year?  What types of vacation do you take?  Are you good at just chilling out or do you have a hard time turning off the "to do" list?  How can you focus on the present, whether that is during a vacation or your normal week? 

World Stage

On Sunday night my husband and I finally got to attend the local Shakespeare theater to see a play.  It was a much belated birthday gift to him, for when we originally planned it we got snowed out. 

Actually the day turned out better than if we had gone in January.  April in Washington, DC is lovely.  The streets are abuzz with visitors.  We had a delicious dinner at "our" restaurant before the show.  (I say this tongue in cheek. How often do you go to a place, one time and really enjoy it  and then act as if it is "your" restaurant?   If anyone asks about dining in DC, we mention this one.  Not that we are food critics but it is the only one we know!)

We saw As You Like It.  Even though I have read other Shakespearean works and was aware of some of the characters, I had never seen this comedy.   I always enjoy and appreciate the cleverness of the stage direction; how one prop from one scene is used in another way in subsequent scene.  While I enjoyed it, I didn't get as much out of this play as perhaps I have with others.  Might have been my poor preparation. Generally I like to be familiar with the play in question so that I can really get the meat out of the dialogue. This time I just didn't  have the time to preview the play.  So, I thought that I would watch it like the "great unwashed" those who would've seen it in Shakespeare's time- letting it unfold before me and getting whatever level of understanding that I could. 

Of course, I have ruminated over one of the most famous lines from this play, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."  The character Jacques who speaks this dialogue is considered melancholy.  A professional pessimist and all around "downer", he is viewed as comical. Although in his speech, he might be giving a a fairly accurate portrait of a man's (or woman's) life and so he is reminding the audience to be mindful of our lives and the things in which we become involved. It is also a reminder that there is no dress rehearsal for this life. Enjoy each precious moment and day that you have.  

 What is your world stage? Do you feel that you are merely a player in this life?  What type of character are you? Do you wish for a different role?  A redo of your entrance?  What can you do today to enjoy your life and today's "performance"? 

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII.