10 Things I learned while on summer vacation

10 Things I learned While on Vacation A Pinch of Joy

10 Things I learned While on Vacation A Pinch of Joy

1)  Using a handful of shampoo is not smart if the house you are visiting has a water softener.  Twenty minutes later you might have the shampoo mostly rinsed out.  By the time you jump in your clothes and open the door – uncombed and no make up – there might be a cheering crowd waiting.  Just sayin’

2)  Many hands make light work and a lot of fun.  We had some really busy work days with family on both sides.  We inspired and encouraged each other, teased unmercifully and dared the impossible. We found out we remembered the same songs, even if some siblings remembered certain childhood happenings way wrong!  And we were unbelievably productive.

3)  Your sister has your back at all times.  Our combined eight sisters (and sisters in laws) have housed, fed, listened and shared, entertained and vacationed with us.  They always go the extra mile – like getting up at 6 am to fry a package of bacon for a salad I was taking to the next stop when I didn’t do it the night before and planned to leave at 7:30.

4) It’s a real adventure putting on makeup with a three inch magnifying mirror and a flashlight. 

5) Packing light means you’ll  be begging those accommodating sisters to use their washer and dryer.

6) Carry your own  breakfast in your suitcase.  Opening a packet of your favorite oatmeal or breakfast bar gives you a feeling of home on a long trip where you are changing lodgings every couple of nights.  It saves the hostess the headache of coming up with a breakfast when they don’t eat one or they have to be a work by eight am after a late night.

7) Being without a phone because your provider doesn’t cover that area is a pain only if everyone else has service.  If no one has phone service (except emergency landline), you will all survive and prosper.

8)  Iowa has fantastic rest stops – recently rebuilt, clean, functional and educational – that make a long road trip seem shorter.  Each one has a different theme according to its location and they do a wonderful job of tying the building and interior design,  outside art and informational pieces to the theme.  Nebraska has some pretty cool art installations at many of their rest stops, too.

9) You never know when you are starting a tradition.  My mother’s family started having reunions when they gathered to celebrate a fiftieth wedding anniversary years ago.  The family had so much fun that some cousins got together and planned a family get together the next year.  That became the family reunion  attended by 60-100+ people for the last 37 years.   New traditions have grown – like storming an ice cream store en masse on the night of the reunion while letting other customers go ahead, and helping clean up afterwards – we even mopped the floor once.  Meeting for breakfast the day after – then standing in the parking lot in little clusters to say goodbye for another hour or so before hitting the road. 

10)  Family is amazing.   We like to travel, see new places and do new things.  But the most enjoyable times we have are gatherings of family.  Thanks to each and every one with whom we swapped stories and laughed, shared a table at a restaurant, a picnic with way too much food or an ottoman with pizza, sweated and worked, got sunburned and sang songs, sliced corn and swung a paint brush, mixed laundry and hunted lost belongings, shared concerns and car seats, teased and cheered, cooed at babies and made way for the broken footed (a popular thing this year, it seemed), petted goats and toured new houses, watched a parade and crossed a mile long pedestrian bridge into the next state, conducted business and had a photo shoot!  We love ya! 

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Meet Kitten, Top Cat

A Pinch of Joy Meet Kitten, Top Cat

A Pinch of Joy  Meet Kitten, Top Cat

It’s time you met the other member of the family.  Kitten came to live with us when my brother and wife Deb were moving from New Hampshire to Arizona and stopped here on the way.     

Kitten was snug in her carrier when the house settled for the night.  In the morning, the carrier was empty.  From the crawl space to the attic, from the kitchen pantry to the bedroom closet, five adults peered into dark corners, calling “Kitten, Kitten.”   We searched duct work and took down dropped ceiling tiles in the basement.  We repeated the search with different people in different places. Closets were probed, bedskirts lifted, furniture moved.    Once more, even expanding the search to the garage.  No answering “meow” to the call of “Kitten.  Kitten”.  No response to the pop of the top on the cat food can. 

They had to leave.  Deb asked sorrowfully if we would mind having a cat.  Feeling her pain, we could only say we would take good care of Kitten. 

Three nights we put out food and water.   In the morning the food was gone and the litter box visited.  We continued to search.  No cat. 

On the fourth day, Bytes was at the desk in his office.  A gray cat strolled out of the closet behind him.  She stopped beside his chair, looked up at him, and jumped into his lap. 

She is Bytes’ cat.  I am an accessory with a spoon or a brush for the morning feeding and grooming.  Wheels is the stepladder to the back of the living room chair that Kitten  claims as her perch when Bytes’ is out of her house.  Otherwise she spends her time on Bytes’ lap, laying in the chair beside him, setting on his desk or sleeping at his feet.    

Except when she is ruling her house.  At dinner time, she is drawn by kitchen sounds and  gathers her humans to the  table by pacing ever smaller circles through the kitchen and dining room.  She targets the first person whose elbow movement indicates meat is being cut.  Patient for a few moments of intent watching, Kitten will begin to make her presence known with a tap on that person’s leg.  No response and she begins to reach higher and tap the arm holding the fork of meat.  The taps become more urgent until someone (Wheels, the softie)  gives her half spoonful of meat.  She wolfs it down and moves off, contented to rest until the next time these humans need direction.  

Kitten likes to check out her environment.  She will stand by the dining room window sending out ESP directions.  Sure enough, some human will come along and move a chair into the patch of sun for her morning nap.  Other times she races down stairs to round up a pair of legs, urging them to follow her back up the stairs.  There she will make a beeline for the window in Bytes’ office, jump on the lamp table below it and wait for the human to open the window for better sight and smell.

 Or she will stare at the back door until someone opens it, allowing her free run of the deck.   Sometimes she will doze for the better part of the day on a cushion.  Other times she is ready to come back in and go back out repeatedly . Half a day or half a minute, she heads immediately for her food dish for a treat.  We thought we were “training” her to come in when called.  She “trained” us to give her a treat every time she came back in the house, called or not. 

She also “trained” us to come running when she yowled. You know, that deep throated sound that carries for six blocks.   It started one spring when she had eaten grass outdoors and yowled before regurgitating.  We all came running.   It wasn’t long before she started to yowl when she wanted the upstairs window open.  Why walk downstairs and search for legs to follow her when she could summon humans from all over the house from her queenly pose at the top of the steps? 

She has an obsession with water.  Step out of the shower and exactly sixty seconds later, the bathroom door latch will pop and she takes a drink from the lip of the shower door.  Ten seconds later, she’s gone.  Leave a glass of water unattended and you know it will have had kitty nose and / or paws in it while you were gone.  Drink from a glass of water and she will sense it from the next room and come running to set at your feet until you give her permission to dip and lick water from her paws by setting “her” glass on the floor and pouring in some of your drink.  Take too long, though, and she will come to get your drink out of your hand with no apology.  She has crystal stemware next to her food bowl filled a couple of times a day with fresh water AND ice cubes.  And still demands we leave dixie cups full of water in the bathroom corners and a giant self watering apparatus in the basement.  Nothing too good for our princess! 

She is a lady with exquisite manners.  She always says hello when someone comes into the room – a little meowy, growly sound.  If she is awake, that is.  Thank you is a more mellow and drawn out sound. She tells us where she is going and when she will be back, when the back door is opened for her — we think that’s what those sounds mean.   She rises when elders come into the room – especially if they have something she wants.  Banished from the bedrooms because of her nocturnal habit of seeking armpits and toes, she lies peacefully in the exact middle of the hallway until a door opens.  She says an affectionate good morning complete with ear rub (for her) before racing halfway downstairs, where she comes to a dead stop and stretches.  It’s a way of waking the unwary who may be following too close.   You wouldn’t want to find her feeding spoon half asleep, now would you?      

Deb did find another cat in Arizona, two of them actually.  Plus another gray cat also named Kitten.  Still I feel guilty that our enjoyment of  the first Kitten came at the price of Deb having to leave her behind.   But not guilty enough to offer to take Kitten back when we visited them in their new home in North Carolina recently.  :-)

Do you have a furry member in your family? 

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Take time for you . . . .

Breakfast with scrambled eggs, sauted mushrooms

Wheels’ work schedule includes 12 hours each on Saturday and Sunday, the days people normally get together with friends and family, go to movies and church, and relax.  If we aren’t careful our lives become nothing but work – work at work, work at home, all day every day and half the night.  We have to be intentional about building in time for rest and renewal, reflection and rejuvenation. Usually we get a few hours here and half a day there, our daily half hour walk.   When I saw a story in the local newspaper about an unusual garden tour, we decided to set aside that entire day for us – no phone, no computer, just leisurely taking in whatever the day would bring.

Breakfast with scrambled eggs, sauted mushrooms

A big breakfast started the day.  Yes, that is dessert!  Who said you can’t have dessert for breakfast on a special day?

We drove an hour and a half to our destination, through quiet country side dotted by small towns.  A beautiful day of sunshine and rare blue sky!  The GPS didn’t lead us through the town near our destination but surprisingly wound us through beautiful hills the “back way’. And then, we were there.  Seventy-five  acres of rare conifers, glorious art and beautiful landscaping tucked in amongst the rolling hills.  Mr and Mrs. Schnormeier, owners of the Jeld Wenn Company, open their private gardens near Gambier, Ohio to the public once a year, free.  The gardens   are  beautifully planned, meticulously executed and well worth the trip – even if you live further than an hour and a half!

It was truly a day of renewal . . . a sabbath.  Sabbath is often thought of as a religious tradition, but it actually is much more.  It is a time set aside for rest and relaxation, yes.  Everyone needs down time of some sort.  There are sound psychological reasons to stop our busyness, to slow down and change our activity.   We stop what we are doing to read a magazine, talk with a friend, check out our favorite blog, pin a few on pinterest (anybody ever actually do a few?).  If we work in solitude, we seek out other people; if we are talking to people all day, we seek solitude.  Weekends are often just a longer time frame allowing us to pursue different activities than we do otherwise, but we are never far from from being scheduled and “busy” and productive.    Still those kind of breaks are great.  They help us avoid burnout from daily life.

Less spoken of, is the fact that we  also need a time in which we stop producing and just enjoy that which has been created.  We all have a long to-do list on paper or scrolling in our heads.  Lay down the list, stop the scroll!  Savor what has been accomplished. Admire your handiwork – the pile of laundry folded, the bills paid, the sleeping children, the weeded garden.  Give yourself credit for what you have done.   Give credit to others in the family for what they have done.  Does wonders for everyone’s morale!

If we can check out of our own world completely for a while and celebrate life, the benefits are deeper.  Some do this with daily meditation, others with weekly worship.   We can also do this with a relaxation break – a cup of coffee and just staring into the garden, beautiful music that brings us pause.  Sometimes people plan entire vacations, to “just be alive” somewhere different. We may not have that luxury, but a bit here and there is entirely doable!   I hope you can find something near you this summer, that gives you the gift of renewal!  In the meantime, here is a mini break – four minutes of music and beautiful gardens to explore!  Take time for yourself, to renew your spirit and rejoice in beauty.  May it remind you to search for these moments, no matter how small,  in  your life!

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I’m so glad you stopped by today!   Be sure to follow A Pinch of Joy so you don’t miss a thing! 

Subscribe by email  on the sidebar or follow on Facebook, RSS feed, bloglovin’ or twitter   using the links here or the blue buttons on the header!   Follow  my pinterest boards here.    If you found this helpful, please share on your favorite network by clicking one of the buttons on the bottom of this post.


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