What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Vacation. It’s a funny word these days in this house. As parents of three-year olds, my wife and I define vacation as pretty much any time we get to spend alone outside the normal bounds of our daily routine. An occasional dinner, for instance. Or even an overnight somewhere. But the old definition of vacation – taking a trip somewhere for a week or two – doesn’t really apply as a parent. Vacation, in the traditional definition, isn’t really vacation. Things like grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, showering or driving to work become “vacation.” Simply put, vacation for us right now is just parenting somewhere else and hoping beyond hope that everything goes remotely normal.

You hope for “remotely normal” because the odds are pretty much stacked against you. Remotely normal, in fact, would be an enormous win for many parents. Here’s what you’re generally looking at:

  1. You’re probably going somewhere with less space.
  2. You have less of their toys and books to use as weapons of mass soothing – you just can’t bring it all unless you’re J-Lo or Julia Roberts.
  3. Many kids don’t adapt well to a wholesale change in overall environment.
  4. You’re dealing with multiple three year olds. I shouldn’t have to explain that one, should I?

I am here to tell you that our vacation wasn’t even remotely normal. I can’t, by definition, say it sucked. But I can tell you it wasn’t ideal. But I don’t want to bog you down with all those gory details. Oh hell, yes I do! If I had to deal with it, you do too. It rained pretty much 5 out of 7 days. That was rather evil, as numbers 1 and 2 above were greatly exacerbated by mother nature, that bitch. You were so good to us all summer long and so mean to us on our vacation week.  We shake a finger at you. You can pick which one. So the weather didn’t help. It even caused one of us to make a trip home to pick up fall/winter clothes since the temps didn’t get past 65 for 3 of those days.

So yeah, that basically means that all four of those bullets above were operating full steam! That’s not good for anybody, really. The level of exhaustion was pretty dramatic. While we’re on the subject of dramatic, I should also mention how whiny a couple of three year olds can be. I should also mention I am not without fault. Because when you’re dealing with two whiny three-year-olds, you’re definitely getting a whiny 39 year-old as a result. Time doesn’t go by fast enough for anyone when you’re shut in for 3.5 days. At the beach.

OK, now – the good! Yes, there was good! We went to Plum Island, our vacation of choice each year. We just love Plum Island. It’s really an awesome little place. Every year we dream about having our own vacation house there! Anyway, if it rains (and boy did it rain) there are choices for the little ones. So if it wasn’t for the the mass of electric train sets at the Wenham Museum, the tidal pool creatures exhibit at the Joppa Flats, the clean, friendly people at Leo’s Super Bowl in Amesbury, MA or Gram’s in Newburyport, whose ice cream rivals some of the best I’ve had, this “vacation” could very well have been, well, shorter than a week. The sun finally arrived on Thursday and we did get to spend Thursday and Friday outside and at the beach, so it improved a bit, but the WHINING! Good golly gee, man. The whining.

But you know what? We’re going back next year, if only to capture moments like these:

Zachary free as a bird!

Or these:

Nathan, fly!

and yes…….this, the ubiquitous self-portrait:

What would my blog be if I wasn't somehow a focus?


I remember a conversation I had with Steph, maybe a year ago, about what was “next” for me. It started on a plane ride home from a business trip while still working at Ask. I had just gone out to San Francisco to basically fire someone and it affected me. It was without question the right move, but I still didn’t like doing it and it soured me on the corporate style life. Not that Ask.com was terribly corporate, but you get the point. On that plane ride home, I kept asking myself this question:  when I look back after retirement, will I be proud of my accomplishments at work? Will I have done something I am proud of?

I had a lot of good moments and pretty big accomplishments at Ask, but I couldn’t bring myself to the answer those questions the way I wanted or needed to. That started me down the path of trying to find something right. Now, I don’t know if one ever finds something completely right. Or, let me rephrase – I could make a pretty solid argument that there is no such thing as the perfect job. I’ll leave that one open to debate.

Back to my conversation with Stephanie – we started riffing about “the perfect job.” One of the things I mentioned was a documentary filmmaker, but not in the traditional sense, like Michael Moore or whatever. My interest in film wasn’t at all about guns in the USA, healthcare© or the Bush presidency. My interest was in your next door neighbor. What is/was their story? I find far more fascination in regular, normal people than I do celebrity, sports players or politicians. Because everyone has a story to tell. So I was sitting on that plane and I opened the airline magazine and read about a woman who had started a business doing just that, but only locally in the state of Arizona. I’d want to do it nationally, I thought. Or maybe globally.

Of course, life takes over as it inevitably does and the soul searching came and went. It came again in February when I committed to Pure Hockey and left Ask. A few months later, here I sit, totally happy with my decision (but still adjusting to a HUGE change across the board), I came across a book that my sister-in-law gave to me called Listening is an Act of Love. I think she gave it to me for Christmas in 2008 but I can’t be sure. I put it in the queue behind the fourteen other books I wanted to read and just in the last few weeks have finally started reading it. I tell you what, it’s a crusher.  These are stories of normal people’s lives, as recorded by StoryCorps, the best damn idea I think I’ve ever heard of. StoryCorps travels around the country, setting up audio booths and you just walk in there with a loved one or a friend and talk to them about their life. After you’re done, bingo – you have it on CD, recorded. Forever.

There are so many people, past and present, I’d like to pull into that booth for an hour, let me tell you. So many people.

Anyway, the stories range from run-of-the-mill, entertaining conversation to people who have survived plane crashes to the people who lost loved ones in 9/11. It is very interesting, moving stuff and it proved my theory (not hard to prove) that your neighbor’s life is way more interesting than Lindsey Lohan or Shaun White or whatever tripe is on the cover of People Magazine. You need to read it. Believe me.