What Can I Not Do?

I have been blindingly busy the past few weeks.  I feel like work and most things in my life blew up all at once.  I’m having a hard time seeing any light at the end of the tunnel and, quite honestly, all of my usual coping mechanisms seem to be failing me.

The care and maintenance of our two fish tanks and one turtle aquarium came up between Husband and I yesterday.  We just don’t have time to properly maintain them.  Husband was fretting about this so I suggested looking into a service.  He agreed.  The estimate came back at about $175 per time, every 6 – 8 weeks.  I ran that by Husband.  His response was, “Are they worth $1,050 a year to you to keep?”  Which means they’re definitely not worth that much to him.  I replied that I’d rather keep the fish and turtles than our house cleaners, who I don’t think do a super good job anyway.  No response yet from Husband.

So, since I’m thinking Husband is going to nix the aquarium service, that means that if I want to keep the fish and turtles, regular maintenance is going to fall to me.  Which has me sitting here at my desk, wondering, “What can I not do?”

I just don’t know.  I’m responsible for the vast majority of kid-related things.  I’m responsible for all our other animals, though the kids help with this.  I’m responsible for house stuff like banking, errands, cleaning beyond the monthly house cleaners, dinner, watering plants, laundry, etc.  At the moment, I’m responsible for finding a new tenant for our vacant rental.  And a host of other random things Husband dumps on my desk.  Plus, I work.

I’m not really complaining.  Husband and I made a deal awhile ago – he would work more and I would take on more stuff at home.  He thinks I’m inefficient with my time and cater to the kids too much.  Its an ongoing disagreement that boils to the surface periodically.

I’m not good at giving things up.  Somehow, I just need to squeeze a few more things into my day.  Because I kind of like my fish and turtles.


Squirrels and Frogs

Last Friday night, our power kept browning out.  After 5 or 6 hours of it, we called PG&E (our power company).  A truck arrived surprisingly fast.  The diagnosis:  Squirrels.  Squirrels had chewed through most of the main power line from the road to our house.  No, I did not have a pile of electrocuted squirrels in my yard.  I’m not sure exactly why . . . something about whether or not the squirrels were grounded while they were munching away.  (I don’t really understand electricity.)

Of course, this meant that our power had to be shut off to stop the browning.  I guess our appliances would have eventually been fried . . . or something.  So, there, we had our own personal power outage.  Yay.

Power outages at our house means no water either.  We’re on a well and the pump is electric.  Thankfully, we had all taken showers before we decided to call PG&E.  A crew came out Saturday morning to run a brand new line.  Maybe this one won’t be as tasty to our neighborhood squirrels.

And frogs . . . Last night I was on my way out of the house to dance class.  I was literally at the front door and already running late.  My daughter yelled at me, “Mom!!  I think my frog is stuck!!”  What?  Seriously?  A stuck frog?  So I dropped all of my stuff and walked down the hallway to her room.  Her little frog had wedged itself up in the corner of its aquarium and had one little froggy arm over its air hose.

I quickly thought through the problems in my head:  1)  The frog is jumpy!  Like, super jumpy!  If the frog got out, that would be the end of dance class because I’d be chasing the frog around the room for the rest of the night.  2)  The frog is little!  Which would make finding a loose, jumpy, frog all the more difficult.  3)  The frog’s skin is slightly poisonous (or so the pet store told me when we got it).  That meant I’d have to go find gloves if I were going to attempt to untangle the small, jumpy, frog.

With those things running through my mind, I quickly declared that the frog would be “Just fine!” and left for class.

That’s my life . . . electrical line eating squirrels and stuck frogs.

Monday Doldrums

I’m stuck in the doldrums today, without any wind to blow me one way or the other.  The seemingly endless repetition of the week is stretching out before me . . . get kids to school, get to work, pick kids up from school, afternoon activities / appointments, make dinner, answer homework questions . . . . its all mind-numbingly the same as last week, the week before that, and most likely, next week too.

Is this what “mid-life” is like?  If so, I understand why people freak out.  All novelty has worn off and everything feels like work.

Nothing is even the slightest bit interesting.

The Road Trip Lessons aren’t feeling very applicable today.  None of my other “snap me out of this” tricks or strategies are working.  I worked on cleaning and reorganizing my son’s room for about an hour but came to a point where I need his input.  I tried to eat lunch outside but today, the normal, one, annoying bee called in reinforcements.  The multiple annoying bees were a bit too annoying and I abandoned my lovely porch.

Maybe I’ll follow my dog’s lead and just go take a nap.

Overcoming Today’s Overwhelm

The week or so after my road trip with my Mom, I felt like my life was pretty chill.  I even made some progress on some longer term projects – like new artwork hung on the walls of our house.

That “chill” feeling has definitely gone out the window at this point.  Today, I’m back in the zone of “completely overwhelmed”.  This begins to happen when my “to do” list stops being a neat list and things are just scribbled on every corner of the paper.

20180913_124038.jpg  Its true that there are a few things crossed off, so clearly, I’m making some progress.  But its also true that there are bunch of things which need to be done but have not yet made it to the list; those items are just swirling around in my head.

So, faced with a busy afternoon, a large to do list, and a looming sense of never being able to get it all done . . . what am I going to do?  There’s got to be a way to tackle this, remain positive and avoid overwhelm.

Can my Road Trip Lessons help even here?  Maybe they can.

First . . . Sing!  Music helps move me along.  So, switch on the Pandora.

Second . . . Patience.  I have to remember that this includes being patient with myself.  Today, that means stopping Overwhelm in its tracks.  I need to stop, slow down, and take a look at what really needs to be done.

Third . . . Take time to appreciate the big and small things.  Right now, that’s going to mean eating lunch on my porch.  That always makes me happy and today, I’ll take the opportunity to remind myself that the things on my to do list are just a small part of life.  Some of the items on the list are necessary, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean they get to overwhelm everything else.

Fourth . . . Be grateful:  My afternoon is busy because my daughter is having friends over after school to get ready for tonight’s school dance.  There are lots of reasons to be grateful there – my daughter has good friends, she’s happy, she’s looking forward to the dance.  I need to focus on the reason for my busy afternoon, rather than simply that its busy.

O.k., those aren’t all the Road Trip Lessons but those are enough to get me started in a positive direction.  I’m off to eat lunch on my porch.

Practicing the Road Trip Lessons

A few days ago, I wrote about eight lessons I pulled from a 10 day road trip with my Mom.  I’ve tried really, really hard to put those into action this past week.  I’ve had some success and so, for maybe the first time, I feel like I’m actually sticking to a goal.  Yay!!!

The eight lessons are:

  1.  Be Positive
  2. Be Grateful
  3. Live Joyously
  4. Take the time to appreciate big and small things
  5. Be Patient
  6. Be Kind
  7. Be Friendly
  8. Sing!

Its really come down to re-framing things in a positive light.  For example, I was at work quite a bit longer than usual today.  Instead of my normal, “Uggghhhh . . . I was stuck at work Forever!!” thought, I looked at it as extra time to practice Spanish (which, I’m actually doing!).  That made the whole morning seem not so bad.

Another example:  My son’s high school promised to call him up to the office and tell him to take the bus home because I unexpectedly had to work.  The office staff neglected to do that and he didn’t get my text or email (cell signal at his school is pretty crummy, which is why I called the office).  So, when he called me about a half hour after school to inquire if I was picking him up, I was more than a little upset.  It caused a bunch of extra running around in my afternoon.  Normally, this would have set me up for a difficult afternoon because it put me behind, made me feel more overwhelmed than usual, etc.  Instead, when we all finally got home, I reminded myself that the important thing was that everyone got home.  And really, that IS what’s important, isn’t it?  That everyone is home and safe and, realistically, everything was o.k.  So what if dinner was going to be a bit later than normal?

I also worked on “Be Friendly” this week.  Instead of just saying “Good morning” to our door guy at work, I’ve taken the time to ask how he is.  Hopefully, that’s brightened his day a bit.  I know that its made me feel better.  At first, for some unknown reason, I was a little apprehensive to follow “Good morning” with “How are you?”  Not sure why . . . I’ll approach complete strangers when I’m traveling.  I’ve said “Good morning” to Wayne most mornings for the past ten years!

So, one week of practice down.  So far, so good.


A Day in Bryce Canyon National Park

I’ve always wanted to be a travel writer.  I love to travel and I really like to write so . . . travel writer seems like a perfect combo for me.  For years, I’ve emailed “daily reports” while on our trips to a very small group of family and friends (very small – like, 5 people.)  I thought I would finally throw one out to a wider audience for some more feedback, even though feedback terrifies me.  (Maybe just no one will read it.)

This is from the 10 day road trip I just took with my Mom.  Fergie is my beloved 2011 Toyota Highlander.  O.k., here goes (I know a few pictures would add a lot):

August 30, 2018    Bryce National Park


Today we spent the day exploring Bryce National Park.  Here, unlike Zion, the shuttle is not mandatory.  We considered taking it because it worked so well in Zion but, here in Bryce the shuttle only goes to 4 stops.  So, we decided to take Fergie so we could drive to the end of the road and see everything.

Bryce Canyon is way, way cooler than I thought it would be . . ..  not that I really had any expectations.  I had absolutely no idea what there was to see here.  Well, there’s hoo-doos, that’s what there is.  Hoo-doos and sunset striped mesas and cliffs.  And trees and sweeping vistas where you can look out onto forever.  It’s pretty amazing.

Hoo-doos are spires of rock that once were connected to each other.  Over time (eons) the cliffs eroded.  Softer rock, of course, eroded first.  Water caused vertical cracks.  In the winter, water froze in the cracks and the ice caused the cracks to expand.  Eventually, the cracks enlarged enough to separate the spire from the rest of the cliff.  Then, again, over eons, wind and water continued to sculpt the hoo-doos into fantastic spires.  Sometimes the spires get super skinny with huge tops seemingly precariously balanced on top of them.  One area that is a good example of this is called “Hat Shop” because the spires are skinny like a hat rack with a big floppy hat on top of them.  They’re super, super cool and they’re literally everywhere.

“Quick” eroding hoo-doos erode at the rate of about 1 centimeter per year.  Those are somewhere else in the world – I can’t remember.  It was in the Visitor Center display about “Hoo-Doos Around the World”.  Here, in Bryce, the Fairyland Canyon cliffs are eroding at about the rate of one foot every sixty years.  Not too quick.  But really, its kind of odd to think that, when you stand on the edge of the cliff, the solid rock you’re standing on won’t be there in the span of a lifetime.  Now that’s something to stop and ponder.

Bryce seems to encourage stopping and pondering.  I found myself doing it a lot.  When you’re standing at a viewpoint and looking out over the hoo-doos and deep canyon, if you just turn around (so your back is now to the hoo-doos and deep canyon), you’re looking at a forest.  Look one way – hoo-doos reaching down into a deep canyon; look the other way – forest.  Forest . . . Hoo-doos and canyon.  Hoo-doos and canyon . . .. Forest.  Do that a couple of times and really think about it.  Its like you’re standing in the middle of a geological process that you can really envision happening.  You can see it in the trees that are precariously hanging onto the edge of the current cliff face.

Another place to stop and ponder things is on the Bristlecone Trail.  Bristlecone is an easy-ish, one mile trail from Rainbow Point, which is the end of the road.  The trail takes you through a forest of Douglas fir and White fir.  It then opens out onto a sweeping vista with bristlecone pines.  The oldest bristlecone in the park is here.  Its been standing for about 1,500 years.  Right near by are little bristlecones that are just starting out.  There are also a lot of dead, weathered white, sculpted trees.  They’re very, very pretty, still standing tall against the blue sky.  The view here really is stunning.  You can look back and clearly see where the trees go right up to the edge of the cliff.  Better yet, you can look out and know that somewhere, not too far in the distance, is the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  There are mesas, deep canyons that look like snakes running across the land and even a volcanic cone formation in the distance.  Its easy to see and understand how everything works together.  It was super windy and a bit chilly, but I stood there for a long time.  If you ever get to Bryce, take this trail.  But make sure you have time to stop and think about things.

The landscape is truly sunset colored.  The tops of many of the mesas and hoo-doos are a grey-ish white.  They’re horizontally striped – grey-ish white to chocolate to orange.  The orange ranges from a deep orange-red in some areas to a light pink in other areas.  All of this is punctuated by deep green trees, some of which grow right down in and amongst the hoo-doos.  Stunning.

So, we basically spent the day driving to all of the viewpoints, ending at Rainbow Point.  There’s a lot of hiking to do here.  I would love to come back and hike down in the canyon to look up at the hoo-doos.  We talked to a ranger at one of the first look-outs who was watching a bit of trail down in the canyon because they were already looking for a lost hiker.  He told us that they have so many people get lost, dehydrated, twist an ankle, etc. every single day that they actually send out park rangers super early in the morning so they’re already on the trails when people start having trouble.  So, if you like to hike, are in excellent shape and are into emergency / park ranger type stuff, you can actually get a job that pays you to just hike around in the national park (at least here in Bryce).

After our driving tour, we hung out here on our porch for awhile and then meandered to the lodge for dinner.  I had a spectacular dinner . . . it started with a serving of warm, garlic sourdough (with big cloves of garlic in it!).  Then I had the seared salmon with a cilantro-mango-lime sauce, accompanied by roasted root vegetables and rice pilaf.  My glass of cabernet from 14 Hands Winery was very good.  To finish it off, there was a slice of caramel apple pie that was amazing!  Wow.  I’d eat that whole meal again!

Come to Bryce Canyon!!!  Walk the Bristlecone Trail and have apple pie at the lodge!  And do the hoo-doo/deep canyon . . . (turn around) . . . forest . . . . forest . . . (turn around) . . . hoo-doo/deep canyon thing.  And ponder.  And wonder.







Travel Planning Fatigue

I’m the family travel planner.  For the  past few years, we’ve taken a month long, summer, road trip every other year.  They take a lot of planning.  I also plan all our weekend trips and shorter getaways.

I completely re-planned the 10 day trip my Mom and I just took in 3 days.  We were supposed to go to Glacier National Park but a fire closed most of the sights, including the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  That, coupled with her bad asthma, made that trip impossible.  I gave her the options of rescheduling a trip to Glacier or planning a whole new trip.  “New trip!!!”  she said.  Sigh . . . o.k.  But, in three days, that was accomplished; hotel reservations, major sites, side trips, and all.

I’m good at trip planning.  Typically, I enjoy it.

But I am absolutely stumped for where to go on next summer’s family vacation.  We’ve driven across the country twice – so we’ve been to at least half, if not more, of the states.  We’ve been to a lot of national parks, a lot of museums, and a lot of other quirky stops.  We’ve been on cruises.  We’ve been to Hawaii (and are going there again in February).

I’m having a super hard time coming up with a trip that will make everyone happy.  And that we can afford.  Believe me, I’ve found lots of amazing things to do but they’re a bit out of our price range.

My 15 year old son is happy doing just about anything.  My 13 year old daughter . . . not so much.  She’s declared herself done with national parks and museums.  She likes “activities” – horseback riding, swimming, but not hiking.  She likes to sit on the porch of a nice lodge and have us all play a board game.  We all like excellent food.

I think I have trip planning fatigue.  With the whole world calling and my family saying, “Where to next??” I don’t know why I can’t come up with something!