Life At Sea

Endless sea and sunset

Before I jump into the activities and adventures we did and had in our ports of call, I thought I would clear up the notion of a Sea Day. Until I took my first cruise, the idea of days at sea with nothing to do troubled me. I thought I would be bored. I assumed days floating at sea would be a waste of time and money. Many of my friends who have said they would never take a cruise vacation claim the “wasted days at sea” as their reason. I get it. I felt the same way until I had a day when I had nothing to do, no one to answer to, nowhere to rush off to, and the freedom to do exactly and only what I felt like doing. How many days do adults get like that in their busy lives? Not many.

A day at sea allows you to truly relax. It does not mean you will lack for things to do. Many cruise ships are like floating theme parks with water slides and zip lines and climbing walls. Cruises on Celebrity are aimed more at an adult crowd, though, so their sea day amenities are more about pools, spa treatments, casino time, and fine dining, but the lack of children tearing through the passageways and screaming and splashing at the pool more than make up for that. Cruise directors load the day with potential activities for those who want more and are looking for distraction. There are lectures and art classes, wine tastings and friendly on-board competitions (passenger versus crew pool volleyball and putting tournaments, for example). There are movies and games and ship tours too. At night there are karaoke sing-offs, live music performances, theater shows, comedians, and plenty of opportunities for dancing. If none of that appeals, you can read a book or nap in a deck chair facing the sea or play cards or watch for sea life. We enjoyed searching for dolphin pods and seeing them race and jump and flip alongside the ship. If you get bored at sea, you have no one to blame but yourself.

One activity that costs extra but is well worth the investment is a behind-the-scenes ship tour.Our tour took us through the galleys and into the belly of the ship where food is stored. We learned about how the ship processes recyclables and waste, does epic amounts of laundry, plans their shopping, and stores the food for the journey. On our ship, there were 1500 people employed for food preparation and service alone. We learned about what cruise life is like for those who live on the ship and work in its service. We visited the engine room and learned about what powers the ship and keeps it running smoothly and on time. The final stop on the tour was to the bridge where we learned about what training the captain and officers undertake for their careers, as well as how they bring these huge ships into port. It was fascinating.

When we finished our ship tour, we grabbed some lunch, gawked at the desserts, and then went to a wine tasting with premium wines and cheeses. After that, we sat on deck and enjoyed the view and the peace and each other’s company until it was time to dress for dinner and head to the Raw on 5 restaurant for Joe’s birthday dinner choice….sushi. We topped off our day with some silent disco because why not?

If the notion of a sea day or two on a cruise, where your every need is catered to, vexes you, perhaps it’s time to reassess your priorities. Do you not deserve a day where you don’t have to cook, clean, or care for anything or anyone other than yourself? Have you not earned a day or two with no obligations and thoughtfully prepared, delicious meals served with whatever cocktail calls to you? Come on. Live a little. Become reacquainted with yourself. When the sea day is over and you wake the next morning to find yourself in another exotic port of call, rested and ready to explore, you realize this is why you took this vacation. You’ve let yourself go in the best way possible.

The silent disco is a vibe

Ciao, Roma — Hello, Mediterranean

On the morning of June 11th, it was time to say goodbye to Rome. We had a shuttle arranged for 11:30 a.m. to take us to our cruise ship at Civitavecchia Port. Although we wanted to get to Greece, we didn’t really want to leave Rome. We decided to wake up early and soak in as much last minute street wandering as we could before meeting our ride.

Buongiorno, Roma

Very few people are out and about on Roman streets at 7 a.m. on a Saturday is what we discovered when we opened our balcony doors that day. This was not surprising as people were still out getting gelato and socializing on the streets below us at midnight. We packed our bags and took to the quiet streets. First stop had to be to our coffee place and then we were off to Trevi Fountain again.

Alone at the fountain

Although Steve and the boys had all previously taken the opportunity to throw a coin in the fountain to assure their return to Rome, I hadn’t braved the crowds to get close enough to do it yet. So, with coin in hand, we wandered the last hundred feet to the fountain to find it, for the first time, uncrowded. I had Luke snap a quick photo of me in front of it and then I tossed my coin in. Done. This meant I would certainly return, which eased my mind. From there, we took off in a new direction to discover the Spanish Steps.

The Spanish Steps were created to make the travel up the steep hill from the Piazza di Spagna at the bottom to the Piazza Trinití dei Monti at the top easier. The 135 travertine steps are the widest and longest staircase in Europe. They were not busy that morning, save for the people who were having others photograph them in various poses, photos we assumed would be gracing Instagram pages shortly. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the steps, but I figured you can’t go to Rome and not see them. So, we did. None of us posed for a photo on them for our Insta pages, though, deciding instead simply to enjoy the walk up.

While on our mission to extract euros from an ATM, I snapped photos of details in Roman architecture. I enjoy the small details placed on Roman buildings, intricate facades, imposing doorways, ornate door handles, window baskets filled with flowers. We miss these things in the United States, plopping down endless suburban streets filled with identical homes in HOA-approved colors. It’s all so banal. We have no flair.

I had one last thing I wanted to accomplish before we headed to the cruise port. I had, on our first evening in Rome, spotted a standee cutout of my favorite F1 driver. I only recently acquired a favorite F1 driver after watching Drive to Survive on Netflix in preparation for an upcoming trip to the Monaco Grand Prix next May — fingers crossed. I adopted young Charles Leclerc (he hasn’t requested a restraining order for me yet but he may eventually consider it). I decided to cheer for Charles because reminds me of my oldest with his green eyes, stubbly facial hair, and sweet nature, and he is from Monaco, making him Monagasque (a term I recently discovered exists and relish the opportunity to use). Now, like any mother, I get angry when Charles does not finish a race despite his flawless driving because his car fails him. I’ve tried to take this up directly with Scuderia Ferrari, but they won’t answer my calls. Still, I decided to take a selfie with my adopted son Charles because this is likely as close as I will ever get to him, especially once he gets that restraining order.

Steve tries out the infinity veranda

Eventually, we made our way northwest through the Italian countryside to the port in Civitavecchia. We had jumped through hoops to get to this point, having to pass Covid tests, upload vaccine cards, answer health questions, and swear a blood oath that we were not contagious with anything, but we had made it. We passed through the final embarkation procedures without trouble and boarded our home for the next seven nights, the Celebrity Edge. Our first stop after completing the mandatory safety briefing was to our staterooms. We had booked AquaClass rooms, Celebrity’s spa class, a slightly upgraded experience just below the suite class. Our rooms had the new Infinity veranda, which basically means we had a wall of windows at the back of our cabin that lowered halfway and became an in-room veranda.

We unpacked our bags and decided to tour the ship. I took the boys up to the pool deck and they took off on their own explore from there. We all met up at the buffet for a late lunch. After eating and some more exploring, we headed to the Sunset Bar at the back of the ship to claim a table. We wanted to get a good viewing spot for when we set sail. Steve and I grabbed some Aperol Spritzes, Joe got a Stella, and Luke had a Coke, and we waved goodbye to Rome as we headed south along the Italian coast on our way to the Cyclades.

For the finale to our first ship day, we booked a table for something called Le Petit Chef. We were seated at a table for four set with white linens and white charger plates. There was a set meal for dinner and, as soon as our wine was poured, the lights in the restaurant dimmed and a projection appeared on our table. Basically, the projection used the white tableau as a movie screen and on every table in the restaurant a story played out of a young chef who met a girl and fell in love. Together, they cooked for us. As soon as the projected chef finished preparing the food, servers brought plated food to the table and set it down on the chargers and the food became part of the scene. It’s hard to explain, so I am sharing a couple photos of different scenes on our table, along with a short video. Gotta say it was a pretty touching story as the young couple grew from the spring of their lives to the winter of them. Four courses, four seasons of life. I could have done without the reminder of my own place in the fall of my life, but it was a unique experience I am glad to have shared with the people who mean the most to me.

Next up: A much shorter post covering a quiet day at sea for Joe’s 21st birthday

Touring The Roman Forum, The Colosseum, And The Vatican Museums

Our local coffee spot

For our first, and admittedly only, full day in Rome, I booked us a couple tours so we wouldn’t miss must-see attractions. We all wanted to see the Colosseum and the boys were adamant about going to the Vatican. After grabbing to-go doppio espresso shots and a couple cornetti from a store helmed by the friendliest shop manager ever, we walked towards our tour meeting place near the Roman Forum.

Again, I have to admit that I remember next to nothing from my time studying ancient Rome in college. In my defense, when I studied ancient Rome, it was through the Classics department where I spent my time reading Livy and Virgil in Latin. I wasn’t mapping the Forum Romanum. So I was happy to have an actual Roman tour guide lead us through the ruins, some of which date back to 42 BC. The Forum was a gathering place. It began as a marketplace and over time morphed into much more, serving as central location for public elections, speeches, trials, and religious ceremonies, as well as business dealings. The Forum, the heart and soul of early Rome, expanded in size over time to nearly 5 acres. Walking among the ruins was awe-inspiring. Seeing the Arch of Titus, the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, was pretty cool too. The the view from Palatine Hill was worth the trek up there in the 90+ degree heat.

I think the least notable part of the Forum tour was the Temple of Divus Julius, the final resting place of Julius Caesar. I mean, I don’t know what I expected after 2,000 years, but the dull mound doesn’t exactly rival the Pyramids of Giza. I guess, in the end, it really doesn’t matter how important you are because you will end up a pile of ash just like everyone and everything else. And how many people of Julius Caesar’s importance or notoriety have there been among the multitudes of people since the dawn of upright humanity? Not many. Even the most notable of us today will be forgotten soon enough. It’s a good reminder not to take life too seriously.

After the Forum, we walked to the Colosseum to see what that was all about. Our Italian tour guide was brilliant. She was extremely knowledgable. I was happy that Luke spoke up and answered questions she asked. When she told him he should read SPQR by Mary Beard and he told her he already had, she was visibly impressed. At any rate, stepping foot inside the Colosseum was an experience. You can’t imagine the size and scope of it until you are there. It’s massive. There were elevators underneath the floor, operated by slaves, of course. Pretty cool way to make a wild animal appear on the Colosseum floor back in the day, I bet. The engineering was crazy. The tour guide debunked some of the myths about the gladiators, mainly that they weren’t exactly hardbodied like Russell Crowe in his Oscar-winning film and that many of the gladiator battles were more WWE than battle to the death. It was all about spectacle, and who the hell could tell what was really happening on the floor of the Colosseum from the nose bleed seats without binoculars anyway? The Colosseum was for entertainment and while some of that entertainment meant loss of human and animal life, not every event in the Colosseum was bloodsport.

When our tour of the Colosseum ended, we were starving. We’d not eaten since breakfast, and it was 1:45. We had to be at the next tour location for the Vatican by 2:30. So we high-tailed it to the Metro station, figured that out in a jiffy thanks for our time riding the Tube in London and the Metro in Paris, and made it to the meeting point by 2:15 with enough time to grab some Cokes and a couple bags of chips to hold us over.

Our tour guide for the Vatican may have been the most enthusiastic guide we had in our 11 days of travel. He was what Americans would term a stereotypical Italian, the type from the movies. Animated and over-the-top, full of gestures, and passionate about every last thing. I swear he knew every single item in the expansive Vatican museums, and he would talk ad nauseam about every item we passed by that grabbed his interest. So thorough he was, in fact, that we were all exhausted before we’d even reached the Sistine Chapel. Luke actually nodded off while we listened to him explain the ceiling of the chapel before entering. There are no photos from the Sistine Chapel because none are allowed. I will say that I was deeply moved by the artwork in that room. I will never forget my time there.

If I’m being candid, overall, I was a little bit disgusted by the Vatican museums. The artwork stored there is impressive, but it bothers me that a religious group holds that wealth and keeps it rather than using it to help the poor. I can’t help but think Jesus would agree with me. Just saying. Still, when the tour was over, we bypassed the museum gift shops (figuring they didn’t really need our money) and walked to St. Peter’s Square because it seemed like something that had to be done.

Then it was off to get dinner at another recommended place. We were told Hostaria Romana was a place locals frequent because it’s known for its Italian comfort food. Fried rice balls stuffed with meat, tomato sauce, and cheese, were offered up as complimentary starters. The bread just kept arriving. We had the freshest melon with the leanest prosciutto we’ve ever had. Then we devoured our pasta (even I ate pasta because the flour in Europe is vastly different and doesn’t make me ill) and shared the best tiramisu we have ever eaten. Dining al fresco in Rome. Is there anything better? Judging by our faces in these photos, I think not.

We waddled back to our rooms without using Google Maps because we were becoming that familiar with the area around the Arpinelli Relais. Although we were excited to be starting our cruise to Greece the next day, we were already missing Rome. When you book a trip to Rome, you may think you are going there to visit, but what you’re actually doing is inviting it to live rent free in your heart forever. It just happens. É la vita.

When One First Meets Rome

After missing out on sleep completely on the overnight flight from Denver to Munich, I was dying to get to Rome. While a layover in Munich is not a hardship because there are pretzels and Haribo gummi bears to be scarfed down there, Munich is not Rome. And, as I learned when I finally stepped foot in Rome itself, Rome is unparalleled. It reminded me of Paris without the fuss. Something about it being wild and chaotic, ancient and yet modern, made it more accessible somehow. I fell in love almost immediately.

I had rented two rooms at a guest house a stone’s throw from the Fontana di Trevi. When our airport shuttle driver turned from the chaotic main streets onto narrower side streets where the sideview mirrors were nearly clipping pedestrians, I started wondering if I had made a mistake choosing the Arpinelli Relais instead of a larger, more well-known hotel. My fears were unfounded. We were met by a lovely Italian gentleman who helped us move our bags into a small elevator that had to be as old as Rome herself, and then showed us to two well-appointed rooms (one with a charming balcony). There were bottles of Chianti waiting for us there, and then the gentleman sat down at a table long enough for a large Italian family and proceeded to map for us dining and sightseeing recommendations. Italian hospitality at its best and so much more personal than a large hotel. We already felt we belonged. This wasn’t a hotel. It was a home away from home.

With our check in completed and our first bottle of wine emptied, we took off on foot for an explore. First stop was Trevi Fountain, a whole two-tenths of a mile from our lodging. I was surprised at its size and how crowded and popular a location it was. It was a challenge to capture a photo that wasn’t loaded with giddy tourists and lounging Italians. It’s right in the middle of a popular area filled with gelato shops, so it’s no wonder the area is consistently packed.

Knowing we were a two minute walk from this fountain and could easily return, we opted to head to the Pantheon. I didn’t know much about the Pantheon. Honestly, I didn’t know thing one about the Pantheon. I knew only that the Pantheon was not to be confused with the Parthenon in Athens. I was blown away. I had seen photos of the exterior with its columns because our youngest is somewhat obsessed with all things Western Civ and he has spoken to me about the building and even shown me photos discussing its architecture. But holy crap, Batman. People obsess about the Colosseum, but the Pantheon is something else. Originally built in 27 AD by Marcus Agrippa, burnt twice and rebuilt finally in 120 AD by Emperor Hadrian, it is the best preserved ancient Roman monument that survives. The best part about the Pantheon is that there is no cost to enter it. No tickets to be bought. Just walk up, get in line, wander through the epic doors, and have a look around. It’s phenomenal. The dome is 142 feet in diameter, and light inside the building comes through the oculus in the ceiling, which is roughly 24 feet in diameter. It has functioned as a Catholic Church since 609 AD. And did I mention it’s amazing? Photos cannot capture its magnificence.

We gawked at the ancient Roman edifice for a while and then decided it was time to take one of the dinner recommendations passed along by our host. We chose to continue walking our way through the city.

The Italian gentleman at the guest house told us about a couple authentic, Roman restaurants, places where for a fair price you could try local specialties that were excellently prepared. He also told us the restaurant to which we were headed did not take reservations but always had a line before opening at 7 pm. We arrived at Da Enzo al 49 at 6:45 and there was already quite a long queue. It was long enough, in fact, that we debated looking elsewhere. But we had walked thirty minutes to the Trastevere neighborhood for this, so we decided to cross our fingers and wait it out. We were in luck. Once the waiters had busted through the line in front of us, we were given one of the last available tables on a patio adjacent to the restaurant and were quickly greeted by an efficient waitstaff. It was clear this restaurant had a system. We ordered Aperol Spritzes and a couple appetizers, including Carciofi all Giudia (fried artichokes). For dinner, we each ordered pasta dishes. Luke and I opted for the house-made gnocchi with Bolognese sauce. Joe had the Roman classic cacio e pepe and Steve stuck with a carbonara. It was amazing, and as much as we might have enjoyed lingering a bit longer we saw the rest of the line that had been behind us, hungry and waiting for their shot at a table, so we finished up and headed back to our rooms.

Once it was dark, we stepped onto the balcony and noticed the streets below us were still teeming with life. We decided we had enough energy in us for a quick walk to view the Colosseum at night. We were treated to this spectacle.

And with that we called our first day (well, half day) in Rome a wrap and headed back to our comfy beds for a hard-earned rest.

Next up: The Roman Forum, a tour inside the Colosseum, and the Vatican Museums

The Cats of Italy and Greece

My family returned late yesterday afternoon after a glorious 11 days in Italy and Greece. I’m jet lagged, watching a Stanley Cup Final game, and not feeling 100%, but I have a plethora of photos from our travel and thought I would go ahead and share some. So, in this light-and-fluffy post (quite literally light and fluffy), I submit for your viewing pleasure the cats of Italy and Greece. And in the upcoming days, I’ll write about the our travels and the memories we made on this family trip celebrating our youngest’s high school graduation and our oldest’s 21st birthday.

Find the cat

We started taking photos of cats (and some dogs) on this trip when we came across the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary in central Rome. I had no idea such a thing existed or we would have made a point of finding our way to it rather than just stumbling across it. The sanctuary, which has been in existence since cats moved into the excavated area of Torre Argentina in 1929, relies on donations to stay afloat. Approximately 125 cats a year are adopted into loving families through the efforts of the sanctuary every year. If you want to support their mission, you can do so here. I took this photo of a lone cat resting on a wall in the ruins. I was pretty proud of my effort. A couple days later, Joe showed me this.

Hope he has at least one of those nine lives left

I mean, seriously? Santorini is pure magic. Joe’s composition here was on point. Of course, his brother would tell you he gets at least partial credit for spotting the cat in the first place. We found so many cats to photograph in Greece, both of feral and the family varieties. Without our dogs to provide our daily dose of furry love, we substituted the cats we met along our journey.

Shade seeker in Rhodes on a hot, sunny day

When we arrived in Rhodes, the cat competition took off. It seemed we couldn’t turn a corner without finding another feral cat that needed to be captured by our iPhones.

Although Rhodes was fertile ground for our cat photos, we hit the jackpot when we arrived in Mykonos Town. So, so many cute cats in one of the most photogenic locations of our vacation. Joe and I disputed who took the better photo of this cat. I will grant that Joe’s composition is better, but I like my photo’s focus on the cat rather than its place in the environment because ginger kitty pops on that whitewashed step when he is the focus.

But we weren’t finished battling it out yet. The photo opportunities kept coming.

This next cat, though, he took the cake. Well, actually, he nearly took my phone. While I was trying to photograph him through the slats on a porch railing, he reached out and stuck his claws into my phone case. I went ahead and pressed the shutter button for him since he lacks opposable thumbs, and we ended up with this green-eyed kitty selfie (and some damage to my phone case). That is the price of art.

The eyes have it

So many cats, so little time in Greece. Anyone who knows me well, though, knows I am a dog person first and foremost. I can’t publish this post without giving a little love and attention to a canine furball. So I shall leave you with this fluffy pooch hitching a ride on a scooter. Man’s best friend indeed.

Wide Awake In Economy

I love travel. I love seeing new places and experiencing new ways of living on this planet. But being on a flight for 10 hours is not my favorite.

Wide awake at 40k feet somewhere over the Labrador Sea

As I’ve documented several times in several ways here before, I am not a great sleeper. I want to be. I really do. I just can’t seem to make it work for me. And in an already cramped economy seat after the person in front of me has fully reclined their seat so their head is in my lap and I can smell their shampoo, my ability to sleep disappears completely. Still, in a desperate attempt to break tradition and at last fall asleep on a flight, I drank my red wine, took some melatonin, and donned my Airpods Max noise canceling headphones. Rather than feeling sleepy, though, I find myself air drumming along the beat in my ears. No bueno, but at least I am burning calories.

I am halfway into this flight from Denver to Munich en route to Rome and I am suddenly aware of what a pampered house pet I am. I keep telling myself I can survive another 5 hours, but my tush is debating the veracity of my forced assertion. And there is only so much time you can spend wandering the aisles in the dark, tripping over outstretched limbs and fallen faux pillows before you begin to look like an anxious toddler or a junkie struggling through rehab.

Perhaps now would be a good time for a haiku:

Too broke for business

Packed in coach like a sardine

Sleep, please find me soon!

FFS

The siren song of Trevi fountain, the Pantheon, and pizza will pull me through tomorrow’s exhaustion, and then perhaps tomorrow night I shall at last get some rest. Until then, I shall daydream about sleep. That counts, right?

The Best Laid Plans

Hopefully all of this will look better in the rearview

You know what is really awesome? When you are just an hour into your horrific, five-hour drive through lower Wyoming and your son (the one you are heading to pick up) texts to tell you a friend whom he sat next to at dinner the previous evening just tested positive for Covid. This normally wouldn’t be a huge problem, but the next three weeks are big for us. There are two birthdays, scuba lessons, graduation, a graduation party at our home, and then a trip to Rome to board a cruise. We would really prefer to remain Covid-free. We kind of need to.

But, sadly, viruses do not give a flying fig about your plans. They’re jerks that way. So, Joe is going to be wearing a mask at home and eating and drinking and sleeping separately (even in the car on the ride home) until he gets through 10 days symptom free and with zero positive test results. Because a car is such a small, enclosed space, I might decide to wear a mask in the car even though Joe is wearing his, just in case the seal on his mask is not entirely optimal.

It’s possible Joe is fine. He was vaccinated twice and boosted last November. He had Covid in 2020. The same is true for all four of us. I know we are being a bit overcautious, but we are committed to doing everything within our circle of control to ensure Luke gets to attend his graduation in person. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Stupid virus.

WHYoming

I’m on the road again, on my way to pick up Thing 1 from his college in Washington. This will be my fourth journey to/from Whitman College, which means by the time we reach home on Friday I will have logged approximately 8,800 miles making this trip. And in the roughly 144 hours I will have spent driving from Denver to Walla Walla, about 40 of those hours (or roughly 28% of my travel time) will have been spent driving across Wyoming, a state I shall henceforth call WHYoming.

Five hours of this while being rattled like a rat in a cage

I have driven through WHYoming a lot, which makes sense. If you living in Colorado, WHYoming is the large rectangle that stands between you and other, more-often-visited western states, like Montana, Oregon, and Washington. If you’ve ever driven across WHYoming via the Interstate Highway System, either north to south or east to west, you know everything there is to know about it. First, it’s empty. It’s our least populated state. There is not much to speak of, except for sage brush, rocky buttes, rolling hills, and pronghorn. There are some snowy peaks in the northwestern corner of the state and, while they are stunning, they are completely missed by the Interstate System so you will not see them unless you drive down some state highways through more sage brush and desolate, empty space. Second, it’s windy as hell. Pursuant to the fact that there is literally nothing taking up the almost 98,000 square feet of WHYoming, winds gust through here nearly every day, rattling your car as you haul 80 down the interstate trying to escape as quickly as you entered.

While trying to get my car, bedecked with such non-aerodynamic features as a roof box and a bike rack, out of the state without being over blown over in an endless cycle like another omnipresent tumbleweed, I had five hours to think. I spent a small part of that time comprising a haiku and some potential state slogans.

WHYoming Haiku

More pronghorn than folks

and an endless bad hair day.

This is WHYoming.

New state slogan: “Wyoming: The barren, windy rectangle between you and better western things”

Or how about: “Wyoming: Tipping cows since 1890”

Or maybe: “Wyoming: 80 mph speed limit because we know you’re just blowing through”

Of the towns and cities in WHYoming, Laramie, home to the University of Wyoming, is actually pretty cute. It is also not far from the Colorado border, so I offer this slogan for them: “Laramie: Almost, but not quite, Colorado.”

Okay. Fine. I am being a snob. It’s an easy thing to be a state snob when you are from Colorado, with her plethora of purple mountains majesty (yes, “America the Beautiful” was famously penned here). Do we have our issues? Oh, absolutely we do. Traffic is a big one. (We have transplants from all 50 states who bring their unique driving styles to our highways.) And let’s not speak of the eastern plains because let’s just not. But we are blessed with mostly lovely views and hiking and biking trails galore and tons of sunshine. And did we mention mountains? We have a lot of those. Have you heard?

I have noticed, though, that we have been getting quite a lot of wind in Colorado lately. Perhaps we need to have a conversation about our rectangular, northern neighbor about that. I appreciate your wanting to share, WHYoming, but if you’re looking for a gift for us I think we’d prefer more pronghorn to more wind. Just a thought.

(Post script: Before all 50 residents of Wyoming gang up on me at once, I am just teasing. Mostly. Seriously, though, see if you can do something about your wind. The semi-drivers and I would appreciate it.)

And Just Like That My Calendar Feels Like 2019

The pandemic. Am I right? I lived the vast majority of my life never using that word. I vaguely remember reading that word in history books once or twice before I hit 20, but that was as much as my brain ever considered a pandemic an actual thing. In the past two years, however, I don’t think I’ve gone an entire day without mentioning it. Honestly, I am sick of the word. Sick. O. It. I am almost as sick of the word as I am of not having a day alone in our house, watching my hands bleed from relentless hand washing and sanitizing, running out to buy more hand lotion, wearing masks, hearing people complain about wearing masks, getting vaccines, hearing people complain about getting vaccines, taking Covid tests, hearing people complain about taking Covid tests, and trying to explain how science works to others and remind myself about it, as well.

I know. I know. We are not out of the pandemic. (There’s that word again). No one has any idea when we might be out of it. So we are in limbo. We’re going on a cruise next month. At least, we think we’re going on a cruise next month. It all depends on whether we can manage to stay Covid-free between now and then, even as cases are on the upswing again. Now, if this was 2021, I’d say that would be no problem. We’d just hole up at home and skate our way onto the cruise with a clean bill of health. But this isn’t 2021. It’s 2022, and 2022 is apparently 2019 again. No masks. No crowd size limits. No restrictions whatsoever. It’s a free-for-all. Everything is back up and running. Sold out playoff hockey games. Sold out concerts. Parties. Dining out. It’s all back, baby. And we are here for it. We are SO here for it, so ready to be here for it, that our May calendar is packed. No lie. Here is is.

Oh, wait. I have one free day on 5/23. Woot!

As you can see from the tiny dot underneath every date (save 5/23) between now and May 31st, we have something going on every day between now and the end of the month. I plan to keep the 23rd open for the nervous breakdown I will be having. Why is our calendar so full? Well, let’s see. There’s senior prom and all our usual appointments for therapy and haircuts and doctor’s appointments and the like. Then hubby and I are flying to Pasadena to see a concert, booked a million years ago before we had anything on our calendar. We get back late on Sunday night and then Monday I load a different, pre-packed suitcase in the car and drive to Washington to pick up oldest son from his sophomore year at college and then drive the 1,085 miles back home across five states. Then it’s our youngest’s 19th birthday. Then there are graduation parties for friends’ children and more events for our own son’s graduation. We are going to another sold out concert (in our city this time) on the 24th. The 27th is my damn birthday, but that should be low-key because hubby and I are in class that entire weekend trying for get scuba certified. Then it’s basically June, and we have graduation practice and will have family in town. Then it is graduation and woohoo! We’re almost done! But we aren’t because we are hosting a graduation party for Luke and his friends. Then on the 6th we have to clean the house for the house/dog sitter, buy dog food for our security beasts, shop for what we need for the trip, find our passports, pack, get Covid tests to prove we can take the trip, upload results of said Covid tests to the Celebrity Cruises web site so they will let us board, and get on a plane to Rome on June 8th. Did I mention we still have a puppy who is, well, a puppy and a senior dog who is, well, not exactly a puppy? What the hell was I thinking? Finish strong and you can collapse on a boat? They have limoncello and ouzo where you are going? Hold on, sister. You can make it. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

I realize this is a lot of sniveling from a white woman with an embarrassment of riches in the areas of wealth and good fortune, but it’s my full calendar and my introverted, whiny butt will complain about the lack of quiet, sit-in-bed-all-day time if it wants to.

Just please don’t remind me that in 2020 and 2021 I begged for my life to be, and I quote, “back to normal,” because of course I did. Who wasn’t wishing for that same thing after being stuck at home with spouses and children and pets for months on end? We all wanted out. Now we’re getting what we asked for. Don’t remind me I did this to myself. Of course I did. Be kind and please say a silent prayer to Jesus or Allah or Vishnu (or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster God of Pastafarianism) that my heart holds out, at least until we get to Santorini. Then I can die, exhausted, happy, and at peace at long last in an ouzo haze.

Puppy exhibiting how I can attempt to hide from those dirty obligations and celebrations

Perspective From Two Hours On A Flight Next To A Hungry, Tired Toddler

This was once my reality

Sitting in the small airplane, four seats wide, sharing the row with a young mother of three with a screaming toddler on her lap. Toddler is tossing everything she is handed onto the floor.

“It’s been a while since I had littles,” I tell her with as much patience and understanding and motherly wisdom as I can muster, “but I remember those days well. No worries.”

Her four year old son sitting behind me kicks my seat the entire flight, stopping only to push both feet long and slow into my lower back. Six year old daughter next to him bugging him for the iPad. The mom next to me looks exhausted and, boy, do I get it. Her toddler thrashes in her arms, grabs my hair and pulls. The mom is mortified and apologizes, and I nod with understanding. It’s been seventeen years since I last held a wailing toddler on a flight, but that experience never leaves you. The muscle memory of the anxiety and embarrassment remains fresh.

The toddler in her lap, likely desperately tired and frustrated, begins howling with increasing ferocity. The mom hands her off to her husband who is sitting next to their oldest daughter across the aisle from the young ones behind me. As her daughter thrashes like a shark in shallow water, the mom shrinks, puts her head in her hands, and shakes it slowly back and forth. I know she is counting the seconds until her tiny creation at last succumbs to the sleep she needs.

As she is doing this, I look out my window-seat rectangle with its rounded corners. I am grateful to be wearing a mask as the silent tears slip behind the fiber filter on my face. You see, I said goodbye again to my almost 21 year old this morning after I passed him the four bottles of wine we couldn’t fit into our checked luggage. And I’m heading home to my high school senior who will be moving away in four month’s time. The ache this mom is feeling as she wishes the time on this two-and-a-half hour journey would pass more quickly is a similar ache I am feeling as I wish these last few months would pass more slowly.

I would never tell her these things, as she will be in my shoes far sooner than she can fathom. She will discover in her own time the way childhood speeds up as it approaches puberty and adulthood. What starts as seconds moving as sand grains, imperceptibly draining through the narrow tube in an hourglass ends as deluge of sand dumped from a toddler’s beach pail. And this mom will learn, as I did, that those prayers for time to speed up aren’t selective. Time doesn’t speed for the rough moments without also speeding for the good moments. Time is brutal that way. Lucky parents will learn this the hard way, seeing their children mature in the blink of an eye and move on. We’re the fortunate ones, the ones who get to see their children reach adulthood. Many parents don’t have that same good fortune.

This is my reality now

For now, I say a silent prayer for this mom in opposition to her prayer to speed time up. I pray that she will embrace all the moments with some quiet, inexplicable gratitude for what they are because she will be like me sooner than she knows, with greying hair and reading glasses, hugging her adult son and handing him wine bottles. She will be both excited to get home to her high school senior and afraid to get there because she knows there are 46 days until graduation.

Parenting is the greatest purveyor of perspective I’ve found. It simultaneously breaks me and saves me over and over again.