Family Ties: A Snapshot of my Grandfather

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Pictures are like a time machine for feelings, because with the snap of a camera you can freeze a moment in time, and no matter how much time goes by, when you look at it again, some of those same feelings come rushing back to you through the memory, which is why a Christmas gift from my aunt Tracy is one of the most meaningful and special things that I’ve ever received. She put together a photo album for me and the eight other grandchildren of my grandparents, a personalized memento to remember our granddad, who passed away about two and a half years ago. When I say put together, I’m speaking literally, as the cover of the album is made up of neckties that belonged to my grandfather, neckties that I’ve seen him wear countless times, some ties that I’d actually worn before when I was on the debate team in high school, and I stopped by his house on Friday’s, the day of the debate match, so he could tie the tie for me. Before I even opened the photo album, just holding it in my hands and stroking the silky smoothness of his ties, I knew that this was special.
 
Inside the memories came flooding back, from the very first picture, one showing my granddaddy asleep in a lawn chair, hat pulled low on his head, chin angled down toward his chest, as he napped in the driveway of a beachside vacation rental home. Of the countless things to admire about that man, his ability to nap anywhere would certainly make the list. While you or I would probably get bored or restless waiting outside for your family to get ready to go down to the beach, my granddad, always the one to go with the flow, took the waiting in stride and decided to get a little rest and relaxation. Next was the picture of me with him and my two uncles, standing outside dressed in suits and ties, even me, who would have been no older than three at the time, either before or after going to church. I always enjoyed going to church with my grandparents when I was younger, because granddaddy was the preacher, and everyone there wanted to talk with him after the service and shake his hand and compliment him on his sermons. He was a rock star, and as his grandchild, I was a rock star by association, everyone shaking my hand and being friendly with me as I stood next to him in the foyer of the Southwest Church of Christ.
 
There were pictures of their new house, the one they built on “the farm” as we called it, ten acres of land that they bought just outside the Little Rock city limits years ago. Their previous house was only about two minutes away, and I remember after they bought the land, going over there with my granddad when that’s all there was and riding the four wheeler around on that blank canvas that would eventually hold their home. While they built the house, my grandparents lived in a mobile home on the property, one that would eventually be occupied by my great grandmother, grandma Laird, the mother of my granddaddy. The structure of the home was up by the time Christmas rolled around, so it was decided that we would have our first Christmas in the house, and it’s definitely near the top of my list of Christmas memories. There was no electricity or furniture, so extension chords were run through the house to light the giant open space that would one day become the living room, and folding chairs were brought in, arranged in a circle for everyone to have a seat, because nothing was going to stop our family from having a special Christmas together in that new house. I remember sitting around later that night, drinking apple cider for what I think was the first time, and listening to my Gran-Gran, my grandmothers mom, play her mandolin, and I was genuinely happy in that moment, sitting in the warm, comfy glow of the lamplight surrounded by family and lots of laughter.
 
Then there were the vacation pictures, from all the many trips my granddaddy generously took the family on over the years. There was the picture from our trip to Yellowstone, where we stopped somewhere along the way in the mountains to take some pictures, and I, excited upon seeing snow in the summer, ran over to it, then slipped on it and fell, covering the lower half of me in mud. In the picture I’m standing behind a wooden bench, which means that the picture was taken after the fall but before I got back to the car to clean up and change clothes. Before photoshop and airbrushing, there was standing behind large objects to hide things you didn’t want anyone to see. There were pictures from North Carolina, when we went to the Outer Banks, and one from when we stopped on the way in the town of Mount Airy, the town where Andy Griffith was from that inspired the fictional town Mayberry in his television show, which was my granddad’s absolute favorite. Finally there was a picture of the whole family in Destin, Florida. It was the last vacation we ever took together, the last time I ever saw my granddaddy. It was a good trip and I spent a lot of quality time with him, sitting out on the front porch in the morning, drinking coffee, reading, and just talking. I have so many great memories of my granddaddy through the years, and thanks to my aunt, I now have a time machine back to those great times and feelings we shared while he was still with us, something I will cherish for the rest of my life.IMG_4672

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Weekend Getaway: Holiday Fun in Branson

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When you were younger, did your parents ever load you up into the car on a cool December night and drive you around to look at christmas lights while holiday music played on the radio? Neighborhood after neighborhood you would slowly drive through while your mom, with her head on a constant swivel, called out to you which way to look to see the lights, as if the brightness of them didn’t automatically reveal their position. It was a special night, but before too long, you probably got bored, and might have even started to complain, ready for the ordeal to be over. Now imagine driving more than ten hours to look at Christmas lights. That’s what I did this weekend, and I managed to have a good time, so until you do that, I don’t want to hear your whining about half an hour in the car looking at neighborhood holiday displays, no matter how excruciating you build them up to be. Yesterday my wife and I went from Memphis, Tennessee to Branson, Missouri, where we met my mom, grandmother, youngest brother, and his girlfriend at Silver Dollar City, an amusement park that CNN ranks as one of the top 7 places in the country to see christmas lights.

We arrived around noon, a time of day my stomach likes to think it is entitled to lunch, so we walked around the park browsing the food options for a few minutes before deciding on sidewinder fries. If you don’t know what they are, sidewinder fries are kind of like potato wedges that are not as thick, and twisted into the shape of grooves on a screw. If you’re the boring and unimaginative type of person, you can certainly get them plain, but if you want to live a little and attempt a little fun in your life, you can do what we did, and get the fries topped with bacon and cheese. The word that best sums up my order of bacon and cheese sidewinder fries would be “fine.” They were fine, not great, and not bad, but somewhere in between, a few ticks past edible. If you ever find yourself at Silver Dollar City and are starving and desperate for something to eat, the sidewinder fries will certainly assuage your hunger, but it’s not something I would ever make a point of eating again. IMG_4562

After lunch we rode a few rides, then decided to watch a show, the It’s a Wonderful Life musical. It’s a Wonderful Life is a classic christmas movie, one of my favorites that I try and watch every year, and I generally like musicals, so I thought it would be great, combining two things that I like so much. I was mistaken. The show wasn’t terrible, but I found my concentration waning through the performance, not completely being sucked in to the story, wondering just how much longer the show could go on, and was happy when it finally ended. I couldn’t believe it only lasted an hour and ten minutes, because it felt like at least twice that. It wasn’t nearly as good as the movie, and thankfully they left out quite a bit of the story, keeping the audience from having to suffer through any more time than was necessary. There’s a reason those actors aren’t on Broadway.

When we left the theater it was starting to get dark outside, and by the time we met up with Landon and Maggie, who had wisely chosen to skip the show, the christmas lights were turned on. There is a train in Silver Dollar City that goes around the whole park, so it seemed like a neat idea to ride around on it an look at the christmas lights rather than having to walk through the crowds of people that, like us, had gathered to witness some holiday magic, but the line for the train stretched probably a quarter of a mile long, and suddenly walking didn’t seem so bad. So we walked, around the whole park, and looked around in awe at all of the thousands of lights hanging all around us. I can honestly say that I’ve never in my life seen anything like that, not even in christmas movies. It was nothing short of amazing, which is probably why so many people were there to witness it, and get in the way. IMG_4568

Leaving the park we were literally in stand still traffic, and I don’t mean in our cars. The amount of people trying to leave the park at one time was so many that it took us over ten minutes just to walk out of the front gate, while from the other direction, people were rapidly pouring through the gate having just arrived at the park. We got on the bus that would take us back to our cars in parking lot 5, but unfortunately, less than two minutes into the ride the bus stopped. There was another bus in front of us, and in front of it, was somebody lying in the road, surrounded by paramedics. The driver announced over the intercom that somebody was in the road and that the bus would have to stay stopped for an indefinite amount of time until the situation could be rectified. I thought about singing “Grandma got run over by a reindeer” to lift everyone’s spirits, but given the situation at hand, it seemed a bit inappropriate, so I refrained.

After a few minutes the bus driver announced that he was opening the doors to allow anyone who wished to get off and walk back to their cars, the opportunity to do so. Everyone in front of us got off the bus, so it seemed like the thing to do, so we followed suit. As we stepped out of the doors and into the cold night, the bus driver yelled out to follow the walking path straight across the parking lot we were in, and it would lead us directly to parking lot 5, where we needed to go. We followed the walking path until it dead ended into a truck, which as I’m sure you can surmise, was not parking lot 5, but luckily behind us were some locals, who made a point to tell anyone within earshot that they lived in the area and visited the park four or five times a year and claimed to know exactly how to get to parking lot 5. We listened to them, which turned out to be a mistake. We followed them under a bridge and ended up in a parking lot, a deserted and desolate parking lot 6. We could see lot 5 across the busy street, but it was separated by a big fence and speeding cars hurtling down the road. At least we weren’t the only idiots who followed the “locals” to the wrong parking lot. We eventually ended up running across the street in the few seconds when no cars were coming, and walking along the fence until it finally ended and we could get into our parking lot. The lights were great, and although the end of the night wasn’t the most fun, it will certainly be an experience that I remember for a very long time, and that has to count for something.

Weekend Getaway: Up and At ’em

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5:09 am- I wake up. My body doesn’t seem to care that my alarm clock is set for 5:30, just like how on weekdays, no matter when my alarm is set for work, or how late I stay up, I always manage to wake up, to my dismay, earlier than I need to. I normally wouldn’t get up this early on a Saturday, or any day for that matter, but I’ve got a full day ahead of me, making the early start imperative. My wife and I are going to Branson, Missouri, traveling the five plus hours from Memphis to meet my mom, grandmother, youngest brother, and his girlfriend to spend the day at Silver Dollar City. After spending fifteen or so years not going to Branson, this will be my second time going since September, and I’m pretty excited about it. It might seem like a long way to drive only to make that same five hour and eighteen minute drive the next morning, but I think it will be worth it. We’re getting on the road early enough that we’ll arrive in Branson before noon, so it won’t seem like we’ll be spending most of our day driving, plus, once we get there we’ll be at an amusement park, which is obviously more fun than anything I would be doing at home, so between a day of fun and excitement, or a day sitting on the couch watching college football bowl games that I don’t have any interest in, the choice cannot be any easier to make.

The rides and everything will be great, they were last time, but the park closed at six, and although we had a lot of fun, we weren’t nearly ready to go yet, and tonight we won’t have to. Once six o’clock rolls around tonight, the fun will just be getting started, because Silver Dollar City, much like many other parks this time of year, has a christmas lights displayed throughout, meaning the park will stay open until nine. I’ve been to six flags, universal studios, and even disney world a couple of times, but I can’t think of a single time that I rode amusement park rides after dark. That’s what makes the fair so much fun. I’m not huge on fair rides, but there’s just something comforting and exciting about the atmosphere of being at the fair, surrounded by all those lit up rides at night, so I’m very much looking forward to experiencing that in Branson, only with christmas lights, which are like, a billion times better than boring, regular lights.

I’m going to go ahead and wrap this thing up because we’re about to get on the road, and I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it, but it’s kind of difficult to drive and type at the same time, not that I can’t do it, but it’s just an unnecessary distraction that I don’t need to have in the early hours of the morning. Make sure to come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about Branson and Silver Dollar City. Until then, be well.

Moving to Florida

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The drive to Florida was a long one, but at least I didn’t die, I guess. If I don’t seem too thrilled about my moving to Florida, it’s because now I can look in the situation in hindsight, and what began as an adventure to live on the coast of the sunshine state, ended up being much different than I imagined, and if I could take it all back, there’s a solid chance that I probably would. Things weren’t all bad, but once I got there, it became harder to leave, which a couple of years in, is what I desperately wanted to do, but leaving Florida and moving to Florida were similar in that they both brought with them excitement about the future and starting a new chapter in life, and even though things may not have turned out the way I’d planned or how I would have liked when I made the initial move to the east coast, it was an adventure nonetheless, and today I want to take you back to the beginning of that adventure, back five years and five months, to that day in May where we moved from Arkansas to Florida. Grab some road trip snacks and get comfortable, you’re in for quite a ride.
 
Mid-morning, once my wife and I were done with classes for the semester, I picked my wife up outside of her dorm in the Nissan Frontier truck that my dad had handed down to me because we both knew that my 2001 gold Ford Explorer Sport that had been my first and only car I’d ever had in my life would most certainly not make the long drive from Searcy to Port St. Lucie, so rather than risking having me and my girlfriend murdered while stranded on the road in a remote town in Alabama, my dad gave me his truck when he upgraded to his new car. We had the truck completely packed, with all of my worldly possessions, save for the few boxes my parents let me keep in their respective homes, and then all of Leticia’s things that she had with her at school. The bed of the truck was literally full, as was the small space behind the two front seats, stacked all the way up to the ceiling, which was kind of fitting in a way, not allowing us to look behind us, not focusing on the past, but on the future and the road ahead of us. It was pretty smooth sailing for the first couple of hours, me driving and listening to music while Leticia slept in the passenger seat, the worst road trip partner in the world, but then we got to Memphis, and things took a sharp turn downhill.
 
I’d been to Memphis before, many times actually. I was born in Memphis and my dad and his whole side of the family lived here, so I grew up visiting Memphis a lot, and having driven there quite a few times on my own I was fairly familiar with the interstates and highways throughout the city, but something happened that day, perhaps a sign from above telling me not to go to Florida, but I got lost driving through Memphis. I had an iPhone at the time, but for some reason, probably because I’m an idiot and didn’t know about it at the time, we weren’t using the built in navigation system, but rather had opted to print out the step by step directions via mapquest, which unlike Siri, doesn’t tell you when you’ve made a wrong turn, which at some point we did, because we ended up in a part of town I’d never seen before, off the interstate on a two lane road full of potholes, which my moronic self continued to drive down for ten to fifteen minutes, still holding out hope that maybe if I drove far enough in the wrong direction I would reappear back on the correct road like in Mario Kart, but reality held no such luck.
 
We stopped at the least scary looking gas station to ask for directions, and by this point Leticia was awake, she had to be to guard the car. Somehow miraculously we were given coherent enough directions to get us back to where we needed to go, and only an hour behind schedule. After that setback the drive was easy for a while, driving up and down the monotonous hills of Mississippi, and small two lane roads through Alabama. We hit Montgomery around rush hour, so that wasn’t the most fun I’d ever had, but soon enough that was behind us and we were crossing the state line into Florida. I stopped at the Florida welcome center, not because I expected to be greeted as I made my official move into the state, but because I was very tired. It wasn’t dark yet, but I had been up since very early in the morning, and I desperately needed a nap before continuing on to Fort Pierce, which was still more than five hours away. This was at a time after I had been traumatized by the driving class I had to attend as a teenager, and didn’t trust anyone else to drive because the class taught that you must be cautious of other drivers, because they are irresponsible and terrible people and will likely be the cause of your death, so I wasn’t too eager for Leticia to take over the wheel, but she convinced me to give her a shot so we wouldn’t have to halt the trip while I got a few minutes of sleep, not that we were in any particular rush to get there, with no jobs or obligations awaiting us, but I agreed, and regretted that decision almost as soon as she pulled the truck which she’d never driven before out onto the interstate.
 
Maybe she was driving fine and I was just overreacting, or maybe she was flying down the road recklessly putting both of our lives in danger, but either way, it woke me up enough so that by the time we pulled into the parking lot of Publix a few miles down the road, I was fine to drive again. Apparently staring death in the face is a tried and true way to get a boost of energy. I took back over, but by the time we were nearing Tallahassee, I needed another pick me up, so we got some pepperoni, cheese and crackers, and ate it back out on the interstate, Leticia constructing the bite sized hours d’oeuvres and handing them to me while I shoveled them into my mouth like caffeine pills, but they did the trick, and we didn’t have to stop again due to my fatigue for the rest of the trip. It was late when we got to Jacksonville, but it was a city I’d never been to before, which added to the excitement as everything around me was new and fun, the interstates were bigger, the bridges were higher, and the street lights were brighter, or maybe it just seemed that way because of the situation.
 
The rest of the trip passed in a blur, but finally, sometime after midnight we arrived at our destination, and the palm tree lined street of St. Lucie Boulevard was majestic, with lights on the ground pointed up at the towering palms swaying in the breeze of an early summer morning. We arrived at the home of Leticia’s mom, where we would be staying for all of one day before we helped her move from Port St. Lucie to Fort Pierce, the next town over, but that’s a story for another time. It was great to have finally arrived, and there was just so much excitement surrounding the whole trip from Florida to Arkansas, and although it didn’t turn out exactly as I would have wanted, I’m thankful for the memories and the experiences that were enjoyable, like the trip down there.

Worst Restaurant in the World

When I went to France for the first time thirteen years ago, it was my first trip out of the country and I was excited both to see all of the magnificent sights that Paris had to offer, but also to experience and try all of the unique food that is renowned as some of the best in the world. Going in, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Sure my dad had given gone over some of the basics of French cuisine with me, getting me well acquainted with crepes in the years leading up to the trip, and talking about escargot anytime I needed a good laugh, but past that, I wasn’t really too knowledgeable about the food aside from the fact that it is considered to be really, really good. The food in Paris lived up to it’s reputation, leaving me to walk away from every meal full and completely satisfied. It’s almost like Paris is a dream world, because you eat and eat, sometimes spending a couple hours eating multiple courses for dinner, and by the time you leave the restaurant you are completely full, unable to eat another bite, but somehow you are able to summon the energy to walk back home like you hadn’t just eaten a four course meal that was so good you didn’t have the willpower to leave any food on the plate uneaten. So yes, for the first few days in France, everything was perfect and despite having never eaten any of that stuff before, I was really taking a liking to the food, but then one fateful night, we veered right, completely swerving off the path of traditional French cuisine, and ended up in the murky swamp of Parisian Thai food.

Sometimes when you are dating someone, that person can posses a certain amount of control on your mind, using that power to get what they want, say for instance, Thai food in Paris, which is exactly how my dad and I ended up in a Thai restaurant with my dad’s friend Brian, and his girlfriend, Laurence (pronounced Looo-honce). I think to the extent which Brian is to blame is only that he was dating somebody who liked this particular restaurant, because even though he acted like it was partly his idea and that he wanted to eat there, I think he was clearly urged in that direction by Laurence via the aforementioned mind control. We walked into the restaurant which was brightly lit, bathing everything in an obnoxious hue of yellow. This is one of the few things I remember about the décor which should tell you how bad it is that I still remember that bright light vividly more than a decade later. Where going toward the light is normally a reference to heaven, this was more like walking straight into the depths of hell but instead of being tortured for all eternity, it only felt like that long.

We didn’t have to sit on pillows around a low table, but honestly that probably would have been a lot more comfortable. The table we were led to was a small one that was fairly low to the ground with two benches on either side of it, which doesn’t sound all that bed, but that’s only because I’m not finished describing it yet. The benches, that were like rectangular ottomans were bolted to the floor, completely unmovable, which wouldn’t have been so problematic had there been more space between the bench and the table. As it were, the only thing that could have slid comfortably into that microscopic space was a single sheet of printer paper, which didn’t bode well for us humans. I put my left leg over the bench and wiggled it until it found breathing room below the surface of the table, then brought my right knee up, contorting my body like I was a member in Cirque de Soleil rather than an American teenager in a French restaurant, and somehow managed to slide that into place under the table without pulling something out of socket or tearing any major ligaments, which might be the most impressive thing I’ve ever accomplished.

The menu came and it was fairly big which is usually a good thing since there is a lot to choose from and you’re more likely to find something that looks good, but this menu was in a language that was foreign to me. I don’t know if it was in French or Thai, but it definitely wasn’t in English, not that it should have been, but the point is that I couldn’t read the menu at all and my dad seemed to be nearly as clueless as me. I probably could have asked Brian or Laurence for help translating, and that is absolutely what I should have done, but playing the part of the adventurous traveler, I just decided to point at something on the menu, and hope that it was edible. I think to that point in my life I had never eaten Thai food before so I didn’t have any prior knowledge as to what I would like anyway, so asking for a translation might not have affected the outcome at all, unless there was something on the menu called chicken tenders with honey mustard. The waiter arrived with the food, and sat completely at attention, completely still, partly because I was nervously waiting to see what I had ordered, and partly because I was so tightly wedged between the bench in the table that any movement at all was completely impossible.

The plate was set on the table before me; four green bundles stared up at me, leafs wrapped around something that hopefully looked more appetizing than the first impression that I was getting. I unwrapped the leafs like little gifts, optimistically thinking that good things come in small packages. After the small piece of twine was removed and part of the leaf flopped open to the left, as if it couldn’t wait to get away from whatever was inside of it. The air rose out from within the leaf, like the last stale breath before death finally sets in, hitting me square in the face, letting me know that I made a very bad decision. For the life of me I can’t remember what was wrapped in those leaves, but I know that I didn’t eat very much of it, picking at it with my fork and taking small and invisible bites until everyone else finished eating and we were able to leave my least favorite restaurant in the world behind. As we walked back to Brian’s apartment, the Eiffel Tower lit up the night sky, flashing it’s hourly greeting, reminding me that I was in one of the greatest cities in the world, and nothing, not even a terrible meal at a Thai restaurant could change that.

A Costly Mistake to Make When Flying

Hot black coffee on a cool, overcast morning takes me back to Paris, walking around the cobbled streets of the city enjoying everything around me, which is strange because the only time I ever remember having coffee on either of my trips there, I wasn’t  walking around the city at all, but was rather thousands of feet in the air somewhere between Amsterdam and Paris. I was on an airplane with my dad, fourteen years old, and outside of the United States of America for the first time in my life. I had survived my first flight ever, from Memphis, to Amsterdam, so was a seasoned and confident air traveler by the time this second flight rolled around, so I was more carefree, relaxed, and laid back, my stomach no longer clenched tight, and open to the possibility of filling it with whatever food and drinks the airline had to offer, which just so happened to include coffee.
 
This was the only coffee I remember having on the trip, and come to think of it, it wasn’t even black coffee. This was before I became a coffee purist, freeing my morning beverage of gallons of cream and piles of sugar, so it is strange to me why drinking black coffee on an overcast and cool morning makes me think of something that has no apparent connection whatsoever. It’s really fascinating to me, like I would love to have the kind of free time to just spend hours every day sitting around and thinking about why certain things conjure up memories of other things that seemingly aren’t related, but I’ve got a life to live and a blog to write, so I guess I’ll just go ahead and get back to it. While coffee on the plane was great, what I was really looking forward to was the food. I know, in hindsight it seems weird to me that I ever looked forward to airplane food, but having only been on one flight before, where one of the meals on the plane was breakfast, my favorite, so I hadn’t been jaded yet to the realities of airplane food.
 
The stewardess came around after the drink service was finished, offering one thing and one thing only, cheese sandwiches, which sounded absolutely perfect to me. Just bread and cheese, the title said it all, no unsavory condiments or slimy lunch meats; I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. My dad tried to warn me, tried to tell me the truth and bring my expectations back down to a reasonable level, and whether it was the high altitude or the excitement of trying new things in a new place I do not know, but I didn’t listen to him or heed his warning. I stuck out my hand for a cheese sandwich, making the single greatest mistake, even to this day, of my entire life of air travel. I opened the wrapping and between two large pieces of crusty bread, was cheese, yes, but it certainly was not the star of the sandwich. No, that role was saved for the half jar of mayonnaise that had apparently been dumped on the bottom half of the sandwich bread, the excess of which flowed freely out the sides of the sandwich, making sure the person who had made the terrible decision to accept this “meal”, would have a sticky and smelly reminder on their hands for the remainder of the flight. I knew within seconds that I had made a mistake, and the look on my face must have given me away, because my dad, a fellow hater of mayonnaise, sympathized with me and told me that I didn’t have to eat the sandwich. He had tried to warn me about the over abundance of the most disgusting concoction on the planet, but I hadn’t listened, thinking his hatred for the stuff was clouding his judgment, causing him to exaggerate, thinking foolishly that I would be able to scrape it off onto a napkin and it would go undetectable on my taste buds. Even though he told me that it was okay, that I didn’t have to eat it, I felt guilty about it, so I nibbled at the edges of the bread, hating every bite, for as long as I could, before giving up, rewrapping the sandwich, and shoving it as far down into the seatback pocket in front of me as it would go, like if I pushed it hard enough it would return back to hell from whence it came. For all I know that sandwich is still there, thirteen years later, stinking up a plane that makes the forty minute flight between Amsterdam and Paris, making terrible memories for some other poor soul.

The Problem With Vacations

Vacations are great, and one of my favorite things in life, but with only two weeks allotted for vacation time each year, tough decisions have to be made, and I for one, am tired of it. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the time that I do get, and appreciate the fact that there are people who aren’t so lucky and aren’t given any paid vacation time, I know because that used to be me, but it can get really overwhelming having to choose how to spend those two weeks of vacation. First world problems, am I right? Just give me a couple of minutes to explain, and you will understand why this is so difficult for me. I’m completely out of vacation time for the rest of the year, but I find myself already feeling the pressure of what I’m going to do with my two weeks next year, and am not sure what I’m going to do. Here’s my dilemma.
 
Just about every summer in my childhood I would go with my dad and his side of the family to my grandparents beachside condo in Orange Beach, Alabama, and aside from holding a special place in my heart because of all the good memories, it is one of my favorite places in the world. I wasn’t able to go this past summer, because somebody at my work had already requested off for the same week that the whole family was going to the beach, and although everyone was understanding about me not being able to make it, I could tell my grandmother in particular was upset by the fact that I wouldn’t be able to go. I hated that I was going to miss Orange Beach, but I assured them that I would put my vacation request in really early for next summer so that nothing would stand in my way of getting to take the weeklong trip, or so I thought.
 
While the tradition on my dad’s side of the family is to go to Orange Beach every year, with my mom we usually go somewhere that we’ve never been before, so it’s always tough when I have to miss those vacations, because I never know if I’ll ever have another opportunity to go to those places. Recently my mom started talking about vacation next summer and decided that she wanted to go on a weeklong Alaskan Cruise, so with the cruise plus the travel days, the whole trip would take the better part of a week and a half, which would mean that I wouldn’t be able to go on the trip to the beach, which I’d already said that I would go on. It’s not like I don’t want to go to the beach, I love Orange Beach, but I’ve never been on a cruise or to Alaska before, and this is my opportunity to do both, a dilemma that could maybe be solved if only I were given more vacation time, but guess what, even if I could go both to the beach and to Alaska, there would still be problems, because one of those vacations would be with my mom, and the other with my dad, and none of that time off would be spent with either of my wife’s parents, which we obviously would like to do, but even if we cast aside the Alaskan cruise, we still wouldn’t be able to go to Orange beach with my dad, and go visit both of my wife’s parents, because one lives in California and the other lives in Florida, which would need to be two separate trips, so really we’re in a lose-lose situation in terms of coming up with a fair way to split vacations with our families, because that seems to be practically impossible when only given two weeks to do so. I often hear that divorce is toughest on the kids, but if we’re being completely honest, I think divorce is way tougher on the adult children who have to make tough life choices about who to go with on vacation.
 
Even if all of that gets resolved and we find a way to spend meaningful time with all four of our parents, there question still lingers of when my wife and I could take a vacation on our own, to go somewhere we’ve always wanted to go and spend some quality alone time together. There’s just not enough vacation time for all of these different trips that I want and need to take, but after much deliberation, I’ve finally come up with what I think is an adequate solution. I’m going to quit my job and spend the rest of my days on the road, traveling around and experiencing all that life has to offer. That was a lie, which is really unfortunate because so badly I want for it to be true, but it’s just not in the cards for me right now. I guess I’ll just keep hoping that something changes in terms of my vacation time, like Donald Trump declares a federal law that everyone gets a full month off work every year. I mean he’s bound to do something good while he’s in office, right?