The best week of 2009

We’re about to go on Family Vacation 2010! One week of peaceful retreat in the North Woods with my family and my Dad’s sister’s family. . . I can’t wait.

And I’m sorry–it’s not “Family Vacation;” it’s “Family Vacay.” A fruity HR character in the movie “Stranger Than Fiction” called it “vacay” and it was hilarious, so once I called it “vacay” as a passing joke. And suddenly, I find that I can’t actually say the full word “vacation” anymore. What was a passing joke became a permanent vocabulary ammendment. Please watch this movie and report back to me if it has the same effect on you.

The first Family Vacay was last year, and it was a Godsend. One year ago, my husband and I were about to move from Delaware to Chicago, and our apartment was a maze of boxes. Boxes which would shortly be loaded into this truck:

I was also in my last 2 weeks at a job that I can only describe as hellishly stressful. My boss (whose name I will not mention) was possibly bipolar, and had severe mood swings that took him from smiling to swearing in a matter of seconds. I only survived 3 years in that position because, well, you can do anything as long as there’s an end in sight (which was the end of my husband’s Masters program) and because of these two wonderful women:

Thank you Amanda and Lauren. Amanda, thank for every time we did Friday Fries (slathered in blue cheese and spicy sauce). Thank you for the Strawberry Daiquiri that one time that I really needed a drink. Thank you for encouraging me when I needed it–which was pretty much every day. And thanks for proofing my emails when I suspected they were getting a little emotional.

Anyway, my emotional strings were always wound tight when our boss was around, and I had to take frequent crying breaks in the bathroom. Especially when he threw or punched things. After years of working for him, my parched soul needed some refreshment, a time to let the peaceful hand of God restore my heart and pluck out the stress. So right before leaving that company, I exhumed my 5 remaining vacation days for Family Vacay 2009, a week of deep restoration and incredible change of pace. It was, in fact, the best week of that year by far.

This year finds me working for a great boss at a non-stressful job, but still ready to leave the noise and bustle of the city for a week. I had a nightmare just the other night, and in this nightmare the end of family vacay came and I realized I hadn’t once been kayaking. Apparently, deep down, that’s my greatest fear as family vacay approaches: that I will somehow forget to kayak.

Hah! When my nightmares resort to that, I know I am living a very stress-free life. And I love it.

The participants last year were:

Family #1: Mom and Dad, the 3 of us sisters, Heidi’s husband Mike, and my own hot little lovecakes man. Sadly, Heidi and Mike can’t make it this year because they just moved to Alaska. Aaargh! Stupid old Alaska. And Erica’s new husband Dave can’t make it because of his job. Aaargh! Stupid old job.

Family #2: My Dad’s sister Kathy and her husband Brian with their three kids, Luke (and his wife Kelsey), Steve (and his now wife Stephanie–you can read about their wedding here), and last but not least, Brianna.

And now let us revisit last year’s family vacay so that I can list the ingredients of this magic and restoring brew, in case you decide to mix one up for yourself:


This is an amazing game. It will soon be getting its own post.


This was one of the highlights of the vacation for me. As we coasted around the lake, I felt like I was in the center of a vortex of peace. Here we are last year on the dock, and in the water:


I owned that sailboat.

Just kidding, I was only in it once and did nothing at all to help do whatever needs to happen with the poles and strings to get it to go where you want.

And for the record, I was just pretending to fall out here:

Uncle Brian was the true master of sailing.

Cooking: dividing the duties

Last year there were 14 of us, so 2 people per day were in charge of getting groceries, cooking dinner and doing all the dishes. It worked out so well! That way no one got stuck with the whole grocery bill, or all the cooking and cleaning. Here is Luke, cooking his Pad Thai with intensity.

Paul Bunyan Fest

I don’t know what to say about this except that I saw no reference to Paul Bunyan anywhere. It just looked like a gathering of local and traveling craftspeople with their handmade soaps, paintings of wolves howling in the moonlight, and quilted granny vests.

We did pop into a number of antique stores, and considered purchasing Heidi’s wedding gown for her upcoming December matrimonial proceedings:


As much time as I spend worrying about my appearance in my regular life (do these pants make my butt look kind of big? Wait, has my butt gotten bigger?! Oh my gosh what is happening to my butt and does it always look like this!?!?!), I didn’t worry about how I looked at all. Most days I kicked around in board shorts, a bandanna, and a tank top–with no make-up! By the grace of God, I was able to spend 100% of the time reveling in the peace in my heart and the natural beauty God had put around me. It was truly one of the miracles of the week for me. I’m working on making this my life policy #3, and progress is being made. I think. I hope.

Biking and jogging

Steve and Steph did a lot of jogging, the little athletes. And some biking. In fact, their whole family is ridiculously athletic. It would be sickening if they weren’t also so darn likeable. At one point, a small bear jogged next to Steve as he biked. Yeah, that’s the only reason I don’t jog–’cause it’s so darn dangerous.

Long talks

There was no rush and no schedule. Relationships were at the center of the week. We lingered around the breakfast table, lunch table, and dinner table. We drank coffee and reviewed the difficulties and blessings in our lives. . . which were sometimes one and the same.

The stars

We could see the stars! I don’t think I’ve seen stars for about a year. It’s amazing how beautiful they are. When I have the chance to gaze at them, I always get the shivers because they remind me of how small we are in the midst of this universe, and how amazing it is that the Creator of all this loves me. And knows how many hairs are on my head. I can’t even wrap my mind around it. The only thing to be done on a clear night on the lake is to stare and stare at that vast, bright expanse with your head flung back, tingling to your very soul.

The dock

A peaceful haven for reading, conversations, or a solitary cup of coffee.

On a side note . . . tomorrow is our 5th wedding anniversary. I’m trying to think of something eloquent to say, and instead it’s sounding like a mere line-up of cliches– “I can’t wait to spend the next 5 years with him,” “We’re more in love now than we were when we were first married,” “it just keeps getting better,” “he’s my best friend and my soul mate,” “I can’t wait to come home to him at the end of each day”–it’s giving me a literary headache just looking at them. I guess that’s why I’m a blogger and not a Nobel prize winning poet. But the thing is, all these cliches all true. I couldn’t be happier. Really. As in, I can’t imagine a situation in which I could possibly be any happier than I am now, with my man, here in Chicago, in this very apartment with its slow bathtub drain, its creaking floors and its paint-spattered, rattling windows. Here we are during last year’s family vacay at Paul Bunyan Fest . . .

. . . and I can’t wait to have 50 more Paul Bunyan Fests by his side. Over and out.

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3 Responses to The best week of 2009

  1. erica says:

    I’m at the airport heading to family vacay, using dave’s blackberry. This post totally warms my heart, kiddo. Can’t wait to see you and revel in the peace and goodness of it all! Love you!!

  2. Vesselina says:

    wow, happy almost- anniversary sweetheart. and many more! love you :)

  3. Happy anniversary! Have a great time on your vacay. :-)

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