Just say it

There is nothing subtle about this. The cat knows we are leaving and he wants to come along.
Cats don’t mess around. Give them what they want and they are pleased. Mess up in the delivery of water and kibble or forget to scoop the litter box clean and you’re bound to step in a warm surprise on the staircase.

It’s the same with children. Slip some water wings on Girl from the East, let her splash in a hotel pool until her fingers and toes turn to prunes, feed her a plate of macaroni and cheese, let her have a sugary dessert and all is right in her world.

Children let us know what they want. They ask. We answer. Sometimes there are tantrums. Unpleasant as those outbursts are, we know how they feel and they know where we stand on an issue.

Then we grow up and become vague adults. We assume things. We talk in riddles. We hold grudges and pile on the baggage. We don’t say what we mean or ask for what we want. We allow ourselves to be manipulated or attempt and fail to micro-manage the lives of everyone around us.

Then, one morning, someone stands up and shouts: Enough!

The morning after that someone else wakes up alone, with no plans for the day and asks: Why? What did I do?


Travel journal: Overpacking


I just finished packing for the annual family summer road trip. I’m looking at the bloated suitcases and tote bags lined up in the hallway and thinking, wow, I really overpacked.

“Just throw a few T-shirts, a toothbrush, and a few changes of underwear in a small bag and be on your way,” says my wash-and-wear friend, the one with the athletic build, perfect skin, and tousled beach blonde hair. Sure, it’s easy for her. She makes a shopping bag with armhole cutouts look like high fashion.  She traveled Europe for a month with a carry-on backpack.

“Just buy what you forget at the local Target.”

I told her I don’t think there are any Target stores where we are going.

“Well, Wal-Mart then.”

Um, no. The Evil Empire gets not a dime of my money. (Actually, I’ve read some bad things about Target as well. My sexy boyfriend with the bull’s-eye tattoo has some dirty secrets. Looks like I’m going to have to reevaluate that relationship.)

“You are being difficult,” she says.

Sigh. Yes, I am.

I harbor a great resistance to packing. I procrastinate. Then I panic and overpack. This wasn’t always the case. I don’t know what’s gotten into me. Actually, I do.

This is an act of rebellion. When I use an airplane to get where I’m going, I am so restricted not only in weight and dimension but also suitcase contents.  It makes me feel violated and oppressed. When I travel by car, I can take my entire wardrobe, my shoe collection, a stack of hardcover books, three types of shampoo in the full-size bottles.  I can fill a suitcase full of liquids and sharp objects. I can keep my shoes and belt on when I cross a state line.

Of course, I am not going to get the last laugh this time. My husband called; he wrenched his back. No heavy lifting for several days. You know what that means, don’t you?

Later, I’ll post pictures of myself carrying the kitchen sink up the side of a mountain.

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White bear, white bear, what do you see?


Like bears holed up in their dens for too long, we jumped at last week’s unusual day of sunshine and ambled outdoors to stretch our limbs. We dressed in many layers and headed to our favorite winter destination to walk off a few calories: The Detroit Zoo.

Within that destination is a favorite place: The Arctic Ring of Life, a simulated polar habitat that is home to arctic foxes, polar bears and seals. The animals here come to life in the colder months. This past December was one of our coldest, snowiest and iciest in nearly a decade. During our visit, the bears were practically dancing on their simulated polar ice cap.

One of the best features of this exhibit is the underwater viewing tunnel. I love how the shafts of sunlight shimmer through the blue water. I love how on one side of the tunnel, seals swoop and twirl in the current like flocks of birds while the hulking polar bears bounce like astronauts doing the moonwalk on the other. (The seals and bears do not intermingle, for obvious, food-chain related reasons.)

In this scene below, a bear sits with its back to the many human visitors watching from the tunnel. Within seconds, the bear plunges under the surface and swims directly toward Girl from the East. For a heartbeat, they are nose-to-nose at the glass. Girl then lets out a little shriek and jumps into my arms. The bear then paddles upward and stands atop the glass tube, looking down at us, swiping its massive paws at a seemingly unreachable human snack buffet.

The guy next to us shoots a question out the room: “Hey! What if that glass broke? We’d all be lunch!”

Nice observation to make in a room full of preschoolers. Even if we were all thinking the same thought.