A New Adventure – Business Travel!

Before yesterday, I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve traveled by airplane. (Hard to believe, isn’t it? But it’s true. I’m a very inexperienced traveler.) So I felt a little anxious when a business client asked me  to come to Pittsburgh for a meeting, along with our company’s Vice President, Brian. I wasn’t nervous so much about the meeting itself. I’ve been the account manager for this client for a couple of years now and I speak regularly by phone with my contacts there. I’m comfy with all of them. What bothered me more was the thought of  navigating airports. I knew I could rely on Brian once we met up at the departure gate. I was just worried about making it that far on my own. In spite of the fact that I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing, I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing. But it all came out well in the end and I have a new experience behind me. I know I could do it again with more confidence, but business travel isn’t going to turn into a regular thing and I’m actually glad for that.

We had plans to travel to and from Pittsburgh all in the same day. I was all set to drive myself to the airport on Tuesday morning and made sure I had a good idea of where I had to go to park and get to a security check-point. Then the day before, my boss mentioned that I might want to check the parking ramp status online before I left home. If the ramp was full, I’d have to drive over to the other terminal and park, then take the light rail back to the main terminal. I tried not to show it, but this information  caused my anxiety level to jump to the next level. She said not to worry, though. I’d probably be fine. But the idea was planted and I worried some more.

Thankfully, Mark offered to drop me off on the morning of my trip and my friend, Tammy said she would pick me up when I returned. I could breathe a little easier knowing I didn’t have to worry about parking or traveling between terminals and trying to make it where I needed to be on time.

Monday night, I went to bed early, hoping for a good night’s sleep before my big meeting. I hadn’t been sleeping much the past week because I pulled a muscle in my back while bowling last week. Every time I turned over in my sleep, a sharp pain would wake me up. I was hoping it would ease up after a week but it hadn’t. Not much. I didn’t sleep but a few hours the night before my trip. It was partly because of my back and partly because I couldn’t turn off my brain enough to get back to sleep once I’d awakened. So I was wide awake and ready to head to the airport at five in the morning. Mark dropped me off and I found the security check point. There was a huge, snaking line of travelers and I went to join them. Two TSA agents were positioned at the entrance of the security area, checking boarding passes. One of them looked at my pass and said, “You have express check-in,” (or something like that.) He pointed to an empty lane along the back of the snaking lanes of travelers. “Just go right through here. You don’t have to take off your shoes or jacket.” I didn’t know why I’d earned this privilege, but I was happy. I breezed through security and was able to figure out pretty easily where my gate was and how to get there. Things were relatively quiet that early in the morning. That wasn’t so hard! I got started reading a book while I waited for Brian to arrive.

The flight to Pittsburgh was uneventful and after watching out the window during takeoff, I went back to reading. We arrived on time and Brian steered us through the airport to the tram. We rode the tram to where the rental car kiosk was and Brian took care of  the necessary details for getting a car. Soon we were on the road and headed to our client’s place of business. Brian paid attention to the GPS directions while I looked out the window at the Pittsburgh landscape. I noticed how some things were so similar to home and others were so very different.

We arrived at our client’s offices and were given a quick tour. We got to put faces to the names and voices of the people we’ve been working with for so long. After lunch at the Spaghetti Warehouse, it was time for business and our three-hour meeting began. I marveled at how different people appeared in person, as opposed to the images I had created in my mind of each one. And I also marveled at how closely the appearance of one person matched the picture I had in my head. One woman impressed me with her knowledge and passion. Another struck me as such a character. She chewed a wad of gum dramatically while she spoke and she had the biggest, hot pink water jug I’ve ever seen in my life! I swear, it was the size of an ice cream pail! The meeting itself was good, with nothing earth-shattering to discuss and we were simply able to affirm that the business relationship is strong, our client is happy and we’ll continue to grow and move forward with the services we provide. Our client had scheduled the meeting to go until four o’clock. We had a 5:23 pm departure.

Someone forgot to consider the effect of rush-hour traffic on our travel time back to the airport.

A wrong turn added another ten minutes to our drive and soon we were racing out of Pittsburgh and watching the clock while Brian commented that we were really pushing our time limits. I sat in the passenger seat thinking how much I didn’t want to spend the night in Pittsburgh. I was exhausted and anxious to get home to my family. Brian did his best to get us to the airport without drawing the attention of any law enforcement officials. We finally arrived and I checked the clock again. We still had maybe a half hour until take-off. Brian pulled into the rental car return and asked me where I thought he was supposed to leave the car. “You’re asking the wrong person,” I said. “Remember? I don’t get out much.” Finally, he pulled up in line behind another car and we got out. He asked me if he was supposed to leave the keys in the car. “Brian, I don’t know!” I said. Thankfully, an employee saw us standing around looking uncertain.

“Returning?” he asked.

“YES!”

“Take the keys to that guy over there in the booth. You have to do something before you go.”

The guy in the booth came out to meet us and took the keys. “Need a receipt?” he asked.

“Not today,” said Brian. We hustled across a street and into the airport where we came upon a line of travelers so long that we couldn’t actually see the security checkpoint. And Brian hadn’t printed out his boarding pass ahead of time. (And he had made fun of me for my lack of travel experience just a few days earlier!)

“Where do I print out my boarding pass?” he asked me.

“Brian! I don’t know!” I said. We looked around but couldn’t see anywhere for him to do so. He told me to hold our place in line while he went to look around. I was just standing there, thinking how I’d have to find my way back to the tram, then take it to the departure gate. I might have to manage it all without Brian’s help. I was nervous, but I’d come this far and knew that I could follow the signs or ask for help along the way. But I wasn’t even sure I would make my flight on time and then I’d be left to figure out how to get home on my own. This was all just so much for an inexperienced traveler.

I was standing in line, trying to read the departure board and figure out where my gate was, when out of the corner of my eye, I noticed someone waving. It was Brian, yelling, “Come on! I found it.”

We had to go up another level and I waited while he printed his pass. When he was done, he noticed a sign and turned toward a TSA agent. I followed close behind and saw what Brian was looking at, a sign that said Alternate Security. Brian confirmed with the agent that we could go there and we soon found ourselves in another snaking line of people. At least this time, we could see the security checkpoint.

Brian checked his watch over and over and kept saying, “We’re not gonna make it.” I had been excited to experience a new place, but by this time, all I wanted was to get back to Minnesota. I started praying that somehow we’d make it. As we slowly moved closer to security, Brian asked another agent if he could shortcut us to the front of the line. We were surely going to miss our flight. The agent had the decency to look apologetic but said he couldn’t help us. He pointed to another agent and said, “Once you’re a little closer, she might let you through.”

The line moved painfully slowly, and Brian checked his phone for other flights. He was that sure we were going to miss ours. He was just saying that we could catch a six o’clock flight, have dinner in Atlanta, and then go back to Minneapolis when the woman agent who’d been pointed out to us came over and asked, “You two together?”

“YES,” we said!

“Come with me.” There were only about five people ahead of us at this point, but she got us through ahead of them and we were grateful. After making it through security, I asked Brian, “Think we’ll make it?”

“No,” he laughed. “We still have to take the tram!”

“Sh*t, I forgot about that,” I sighed. But still, we hustled. We were standing, waiting for the tram when Brian held up his cell phone and said, “I missed a call. It’s a Pittsburgh number.”

He called back and I heard him say, “This is Brian X. I just received a call from you. Yes! We’re waiting for the tram right now. Thanks!”

He was smiling when he said, “That was Delta. They’re holding the flight for us but we’ve got to get there fast!”

Google Images

Google Images

The tram arrived and we boarded. I willed the doors to close so we could move faster and we finally made it to the right place. Our gate was in sight and suddenly we heard our names over the loudspeaker. “Brian X and Terri X. You have one minute to board.” I didn’t even wait for Brian. I took off sprinting and he quickly followed suit. The ticket agents scanned our passes and waved us through. As we were running down the ramp to the airplane doorway, a male flight attendant with a good sense of humor cheered us on, saying, “Mr. Brian X! Come on down! Terri X! Come on down!

We were laughing and out of breath as we walked between the rows of seats. I tried not to notice the disapproving looks on the faces of the other passengers as I located my seat and sunk down into it with a sense of complete and utter relief. I sent a quick text to Mark to let him know I was on my way back and then turned off my phone. I took out my book and picked up where I’d left off earlier that day and only a while later did I realize how tightly wound I must have been all day long. The lack of sleep and all the nervousness had caught up with me. My eyes felt like they would pop out of the sockets and my head was pounding. I just wanted to get back home. But as I sat there feeling completely exhausted I heard a woman’s voice behind me singing Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes…. And then the belly laugh of a toddler. Such a sweet sound. It made me smile. Not long afterwards, I heard the little one begging Mom, “Wanna hi. Wanna hi! Wanna HI!” Then right over my shoulder, I heard, “Ha-eeeee, Ha-eeee, HA-EEEEE!”

I turned around and saw the cutest button nose, a baby smile squished behind a pacifier, and a little set of eyes twinkling at me over the back of my seat. I realized that the little guy had been asking Mom if he could say hi to me. I couldn’t help but return his smile. He melted my heart.

“Hi!” I said to him. “What’s your name?”

“Whshwhshy” he said from behind the pacifier.

“Oh… how old are you?”

“Whswhsy,” he said.

I held up two fingers. “This many?”

Cutie Pie nodded at me and then Mom said he had to sit back down and that cute button nose disappeared again behind my seat. A while later I heard again, “Wanna hi. Wanna hi! Wanna HI!” But this time, Mom said no more. I was a little disappointed.

I couldn’t read any more. My eyes hurt. I couldn’t sleep either. So I rode out the rest of the flight just staring ahead. Finally, we landed. I texted Tammy to let her know I’d arrived and then called her to let her know at which door I was waiting. We chatted all the way home and when she dropped me off, I grabbed a quick bite to eat and went straight to bed. And slept. All night long.

I did it. Without making a fool of myself or getting completely lost. I’d do it all again if I was asked. But I’m not in a hurry.

Four Days in Arizona

011bIt wasn’t exactly what you’d call a vacation. There was too much purpose in our visit. But it was still nice to get away.

Our parents are ready to let go of their little winter home in Arizona. Mom’s health is best described as not likely to improve. She weighs next to nothing. The slightest exertion wears her out. She needs and wants to be near her kids and grandkids. The warmth of Arizona wasn’t enough to compensate for how much she misses her family.

My parents only returned to Arizona last fall with the intention of selling their mobile home in their fifty-five and over community. They were already settled on moving back to Minnesota permanently. There were a few potential buyers over the last couple of months but no offers to buy. Mom finally decided she’d had enough of sticking it out. My sister and I planned to visit for a few days and help pack up the things that weren’t necessary for day-to-day living. Mom said that after we returned home, she and Dad would likely follow shortly afterwards, whether their place was sold or not.

It was a nice four days. Mom and Dad welcomed us as if we were royalty. The fridge was stocked with beer, as promised! It was great to have time to sit and talk together in person, laugh together, cook and eat… and eat… and eat together.

The weather wasn’t fantastic. It was seventy-ish when we arrived on Thursday and it felt great. Thursday was our day to relax. The weather went steadily downhill from there and maybe that was a good thing. It was easier to be stuck inside working knowing we weren’t missing spectacular weather outside.

On Friday, the neighbor, Bill came by with a man who wanted to see the house. John took a look around and seemed to like what he saw. After he left, Mom, Cori and I were cleaning out the closet in the spare bedroom. Suddenly, a strange woman in her pajamas and bathrobe poked her head in the room.

“I’m Mary,” she said. “Don’t mind me. I’m just here to look around.”

And off she went down the hallway. The three of us looked at each other, baffled only for a moment until John appeared again and said, “I brought my wife this time.”

Strange. Very strange.

John and Mary didn’t stay long and soon were on their way again. Mom, Dad, Cori and I spent the next few hours sorting through cupboards, closets and drawers, filling boxes and trash bags until we heard a knock on the door. Dad opened it up and there was Mary again, still in her pajamas and bathrobe. This time she was with her brother, Paul. Mary plopped down on the living room couch and proceeded to chat with us while Paul toured the house and asked questions of Dad.

“Paul’s a talker,” Mary said. We said that was good. Dad is a talker too.

Eventually Dad and Paul found their way back to the living room. Mary and Paul stayed for well over an hour telling us about themselves. When they finally left, we weren’t certain if Mary was interested in buying or if Paul was, or if we’d hear from them again.

On Saturday morning, there came another knock on the door. It was John and Mary once again. Mary was still wearing the same pajamas and bathrobe as the previous day and she seemed not the least bit concerned about it. They wanted to make an offer. It was less than Mom and Dad were asking, but they were so ready to have someone take it off their hands that the offer was accepted. This was a huge relief all around. It was agreed that the new owners could take possession by March 1st. This made our packing so much easier. Mom and Dad kept enough clothing and a few other things to get through a couple more weeks and we packed the rest.

I’m relieved they are coming home. They’ve only been away a few months, but in that short time, it appears to me that Mom seems so much more frail. Dad’s health is good, but with his poor vision, he can no longer drive or do many things requiring clear vision. And I know partly, it’s a generational thing, but Dad does so little for himself or in contribution to the household. I know he could run the vacuum around. But he doesn’t. I know he could get his own juice from the refrigerator. But he doesn’t. He should be able to prepare himself a simple lunch, but it’s always up to Mom to do so.

Dad feels relatively good but he moves so impossibly slowly. He likes to get out of the house and wants to go places. But he needs Mom to drive him around and she’s often simply not up to being away for the amount of time it takes Dad to make his way through the grocery store or pharmacy. And it’s clear that the physical and emotional strain of it all is taking a toll on them. They’re not old. They’re seventy-two. But they seem so much older than their years. They seem to be lacking a sense of contentment and happiness that I wish they could have in their retirement years. Mom has said on more than one occasion that she wishes she didn’t have to ask so much help from her kids. We’re happy to do whatever we can, but I know she expected a better quality of life during these years. Her health has robbed her of that. Quite honestly, it made me sad to see the state of my parents’ lives.

LemonsBut there were plenty of good moments too, the kind that made me realize that it was good to be there. Cori and I got up early each day and took walks around the neighborhoods. We met the neighbors and the neighbor dogs. We picked fresh lemons, oranges and grapefruits. Mmmm, did they taste good!

We took our time cooking – big, tasty, fattening meals. There was shrimp and linguine and garlic cheese bread for dinner one night with a hearty garden salad on the side. There were breakfasts of scrambled eggs with peppers and onions, bacon and hash browns and pancakes. There were homemade lemon bars made from fresh picked lemons. We all agreed that it might be a good thing our visit wouldn’t be longer. We might all get fat.

And there was an afternoon visit to an old mining town. It was overcast and windy that day and we were bundled up nearly like we do at home in the winter. We only spent about an hour, but there were awesome views  and we were able to snap a few photos.

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It was hard to leave, not because I wanted to stay longer. I was missing home and family and my dogs. But Mom cried when I said goodbye and that told me just how badly she wants to get back to home; her real home. Just a couple of more weeks and Mom and Dad will be home again. We will all sleep a little easier then.

Gettin’ outta here

I’m getting ready to head to Arizona for a few days. Going with my sister to spend some time with the parents in their little snowbird community. I checked out the weather forecast and as far as Arizona goes, it’s going to be just okay. It’ll be warmest on Thursday when we arrive,. By Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the temps are going to slip down into the sixties and then the fifties. Still, fifties are better than – - – let me check the current temperature here – - – twenty; yes it’s twenty degrees. That’s pretty good for here. Fifties and sixties should feel pretty nice in comparison though.

luggage full and ready to travelIn spite of the beliefs of a few who thought I couldn’t possibly squeeze four days worth of necessities into a carry on bag, it looks as if I’m going to manage it. I’ll have my carry on bag and a really big purse. Okay, the really big purse is really a bag for my laptop, book, camera and small purse. But no one has to know that. If anyone asks, it’s a purse. A really big purse.

When checking my phone this evening, I noticed that I’d just missed a call from Mom. Since I’ll be seeing her in two days, I worried something might be wrong. I called back immediately to see what was up.

“We’re at the grocery store,” she said.

“Uh huh?”

“And we’re trying to figure out what kind of beer to get you. They don’t have your usual (my usual?) and we want to make sure we get something you like. They have that kind your sister likes, but not the one you like.”

In the seconds before I replied, I realized that my parents think I can’t get through a day without a beer or two. I wondered if I should be concerned about this. I thought about letting on that my beer drinking is pretty much limited to the bowling alley and other social occasions, but then I remembered I’ll be spending four days with my parents. And their very spoiled dog. And beer might just make things a little more… relaxing! You know?

“I’ll drink whatever you’re getting,” I told Mom. “Doesn’t matter if it’s not my usual.

It’ll be fun. It will be good to see Mom and Dad again. And spending time with my sister is always fun, even if our main form of entertainment while visiting will be helping the parents pack the place up so they can sell it and move back home.Yep, I’m all set. I’ll be within the luggage limitations. My alcoholic requirements have been attended to. One more day of work and then, Arizona, here we come!

Back from Bayfield

I’m back!

Had a nice few days off on our 8th annual vacation in Bayfield, Wisconsin and the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. It started out hot and humid, just perfect for a boat ride over to Madeline Island and a day at the beach. The rain held off until the evenings and by Sunday, the temperatures had cooled off a bit and the humidity had vanished. We had a nice breeze, just perfect for a morning of golfing.

The four-hour road trip started off as usual. The men piled into Bill’s big truck, the women into Julie G’s van. The women spent the drive talking and catching up as some of us really only see each other during these few days each year.

As we came into Washburn, Wisconsin, we made a stop at a restaurant called The Rustic Roost. We’d never been there before. Bill just thought it looked like a good place to stop for lunch. True to its name, it was rustic alright, with knotty pine walls and a north woods atmosphere. Our waitress, Marlene was an engaging woman, clearly not used to serving parties of eight. But she did her best to get the orders straight even while Bill was doing his best to tease and distract her. She gave him grief right back and wasn’t even flustered when she served the food and realized she’d never given Dave and Julie’s ticket to the cook. The rest of us tried to eat slowly but were mostly finished by the time Dave and Julie’s food came. Much fun was made of their predicament, and no one really minded having to wait a little longer. Interesting place. The beer and soda were served right in the cans, with an empty glass in which to pour them yourself. I’ve never been served a canned beverage in a restaurant. Must be a Wisconsin thing.

After lunch, it was only a short ride to the condos we’d be renting for the next few days. We checked in with Susie, the proprietor, and heard a few stories of the other guests she has encountered this summer, one of whom managed to shatter the glass on the oven door in her condo. How does one manage that? We promised Susie we wouldn’t break any appliances if we could at all help it.

Soon we were unloading our gear and getting settled in our condos. It was a beautiful day, so after we had settled in, we all piled into Bill’s boat and headed over to Madeline Island. We enjoyed some cocktails at the Beach Bar, then walked a half mile or so to The Inn, where they had a fantastic menu. I couldn’t decide whether or not to try the house special, whitefish, or the fish chowder. My mouth was watering looking at all the options. I finally settled on a Caesar salad with grilled shrimp. The sun was slowly beginning to set over Lake Superior and we had a gorgeous view from our table inside the restaurant. The beach was filled with people enjoying a fabulous summer day on the island and I could feel a much-needed calm beginning to settle over me.

Day two, Friday was another stunning day. First thing in the morning, I wandered out onto our deck to take in the lake and feel the sun warming me as it shimmered on the water. It was beach day. Unfortunately, Tammy had injured her back  the previous week and was feeling in no shape to take a bumpy ride across the waves. Bill said he only planned to stay a couple of hours, so I stayed back at the condo with Tammy while the rest of the group went off to find a new beach and enjoy the water. Tammy and I put our suits on and each grabbed a book. We settled on the deck and immersed ourselves in other worlds for a while until the group returned.

On Friday night, we were supposed to go into town for a ghost tour, but the skies decided to let loose and the tour was delayed. We enjoyed a night of board games instead. Dave wanted to play Cranium, and in spite of a few good-natured protests, I was ready to play. We were paired with partners, and mine was Dennis. Dennis refused to do any charades or acting when our turn called for it, so it was left to me to call on whatever acting skills I might possess. I gave it my all, even singing at one point… “The sun’ll come out… TOMORROW…. bet your bottom dollar that TOMORROW….” Do you think Dennis could guess that the answer was Little Orphan Annie after such a performance? He couldn’t. I embarrassed myself and everything, but he couldn’t remember her name. We lost, but it was fun.

When Saturday arrived, the sun was once again in the sky and it was another beautiful day. The day’s agenda included a trip into town where the women browsed the shops and boutiques, picking up a few mementos to take home from the trip. The guys made themselves comfortable in Morty’s Bar where they shot pool while waiting for the ladies.

The ghost tour had been rescheduled, and after dinner on Saturday night, we loaded ourselves into the vehicles and headed back to town. Our tour guide was “Mad Maud”, who lived in Bayfield in the early 1900s. She met us in front of the old Bayfield library and was ready to scare us with tales of the ghosts of the town. Maud wasn’t a frightening ghost, though. She kept us quite entertained as she led us on a tour of the town, pointing out historic homes and buildings and describing in great detail the history as well as the ghosts who still live within. She was quite a character and she kept me intrigued the entire time. I was sorry to see the tour come to an end a few hours after it had begun, but darkness had settled in and it was time to go back.

By Sunday, it was cool and breezy, a perfect day for golfing. Tammy, with her bad back, and Julie G, with her dislike of golf had decided on a few hours at the casino instead. That left me to enjoy a round of golf with Julie W. and Dave. I only learned to golf a few years ago and I learned specifically so I could golf during a vacation in Bayfield. We didn’t golf the last couple of years and the last time I did was probably the last time we golfed in Bayfield. I wasn’t sure I’d remember what to do. Dave and Julie were patient and helped me with what clubs to use, but by the fifth hole I was feeling bad for holding up the group and I apologized to Julie for being such a drag. She told me not to apologize. She was having fun and she even said that I was “a natural.” I laughed at that, but by the sixth hole, things started to come together and I was only one over par. Once I started to remember everything, I really started having fun and wished we could golf another nine holes. Good thing we didn’t though. The next day, muscles that hadn’t been used in a while reminded me why it was probably best to stop when we did.

After golfing, we met back at the condos where Tammy and Julie G soon returned from the casino, having won little to nothing. The rest of the day was spent relaxing out on the decks and enjoying some cocktails. Instead of dinner, we rounded up all of our snacks and hors d’oeuvres and had a smorgasbord. At one point, some of the guys were out on the deck and began to excitedly call everyone outside. Out in the bay, just below our decks was a family of six otters swimming, diving, splashing and catching fish. They seemed to be performing for us and we watched with amazement at how close they came to us. Mark had his spotting scope set up and we were able to take turns watching the otter antics as if we were only a matter of inches away. I had my camera out and snapped picture after picture. The otters were so amazing, and when I walked down the dock to try to get a closer viewpoint, they actually swam toward me as if expecting me to feed them. This gave Bill the idea to toss some shrimp out to the otters and they dove right after the treats he tossed them.

Later on, when the sun had set and we were all full from grazing on the hors d’oeuvres, Dave decided to take a bag of trash out to the dumpster behind our units. He returned shortly afterwards, looking a little pale and said, “I think I saw a bear.” Now Dave is quite a jokester, so everyone just laughed and said, “Yeah, right.” But Dave soon made it clear he was not kidding. He said he had opened the lid on the side of the dumpster closest to our condos and then tossed in the bag. As he slammed the lid closed, the lid on the other half of the dumpster popped open and he saw the silhouette of what he suspected was a bear. The disbelief soon turned to belief and the guys headed out with a flashlight to get a look for themselves. Mark asked if I cared to join them, but having a deathly fear of large animals, I politely declined. Julie G apparently shares that same fear, but her curiosity got the best of her, so she stood on the back steps while watching the crazy brave guys go in search of their prey. I was glad I hadn’t gone when I heard Julie shouting, “Oh my god, you guys, that’s huge! Oh my god, it’s huge!”

As the group came back inside, they talked excitedly about the bear and not long afterwards we had settled into some card games for the night. It was our last night of vacation and there was a reluctant sort of feeling in the room. But I was missing my kids and in spite of the stress I had been feeling before vacation, I was ready to get back to home and routine.

It was another wonderful vacation. See you next year, Bayfield!

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There Will Be Beer

My stress is dissipating!

No, I did not drink a whole bunch of beer, although, in hindsight, that probably would have done the trick too. I do plan to drink a whole bunch of beer (and blue vodka with lemonade) in the coming days, but for tonight, it was just a bowl of Joe Mauer ice cream that did the trick.

What’s that? You don’t know what Joe Mauer ice cream tastes like? Well, it tastes suspiciously like vanilla. I don’t know if Joe Mauer tastes like vanilla or not. I hope that people don’t start licking him to find out if he actually tastes like his ice cream! I can’t imagine he’d like that…Well, he might like it, assuming the licker isn’t a hairy, three-hundred pound guy with bad breath and missing teeth. (Don’t worry, Joe. I have no plans to lick you!)

Anyway, I bought the Joe Mauer ice cream because the bucket in which it came had a nice picture of Joe, crouching in his catching gear. Not sure why I felt compelled to have that. It will probably end up being the bucket I fill with Pine-Sol and water when I clean the bathrooms. Sorry, Joe.

Wow… went off on a tangent there, didn’t I?

Really, though, it’s not even the ice cream that is responsible for this newfound lack of stress. It’s the fact that today was my last day at work for seven. WHOLE. DAYSSSSS! Love my job, yes I do, but even dorks like me need a break from work every now and then. I’m a little bit worried about how they’ll manage without me. But if the worry starts to get to me too much, I’ll just crack open a beer.

Seven whole days. Yep. That’s right.

So you wanna know what I’m doing for seven days when I won’t be at work? Of course you do! Well, on Wednesday, I’m sleeping in a little. Probably won’t sleep real late because I’m incapable. Sleeping in means maybe 7:00, if I’m lucky. Might go for a morning run. Then I’m going to make some food and pack a suitcase and get some beer (because I believe we’ve already established that I’ll be partaking quite frequently.) There will be bowling Wednesday night, of course, because we all know how I love my bowling. And then, bright and early Thursday morning, we will be taking off for beautiful Bayfield, Wisconsin and the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. And when I say “we,” I mean, “not the kids.”

Yep, it’s time for the annual vacation without kids and with other adults. I hear we’re going golfing this year. I’m looking forward to golfing. I think the last time I golfed was two years ago while in Bayfield. We stopped golfing because one of the Julies doesn’t like to golf, to which I say, “Oh WAH! Suck it up!” But she’s not sucking it up. That Julie and Tammy are going to a casino while the rest of us go golfing, which means I get to golf with the other Julie, whom I enjoy immensely. She’s a good golfer. I hope I remember how.

The weather is supposed to continue in this hot and humid vein, which is perfect for drinking beer and for a vacation on Lake Superior. There will be plenty of boating and island hopping and beaching and beer drinking and of course, some time on Madeline Island, home of Tom’s Burned Down Cafe which is a must see, no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

There will be lots eating, both of the home-made variety and of the eating out variety. The hors d’oeuvres are always something to look forward to. We bought some Seriously Sharp Cheddar cheese. Seriously. That’s the name. Seriously Sharp. And we bought some fig sauce for dipping the cheese. Sampled it at the grocery store. You would love it, I’m sure. It’s a nice contrast of serious sharpness and figgy sweetness. I’m also making Texas Caviar. Tried it for the first time at work the other day and snacked on it all day long.

And did I mention there will be beer? There will. ‘Cause I’m pretty good at drinking beer.