Lazy Days of Summer

I’m not cut out for summer. As a super pale British lass, who is probably the only person in the entire family who doesn’t tan, I’ve never been one for sun and sand. Only if I wanted burn and aloe, that is. As a kid, I tanned. Long days at the beach with my mom or at camp turned me blond and golden skinned, but as I grew, something switched and I am now pale, freckled, and I burn far too easily for my own comfort. I remember my parents taking me to the Caribbean as a child, more than once. Despite slathering on sunblock and wearing a hat most of the time, I got sunstroke and got violently ill. They, excited to take me to new places, also took me to Mexico. I woke up suddenly unable to see. I thought I had gone blind, started screaming, only to determine my pale skin had forsaken me, leaving my eyelids burned shut. Heck, despite a week in Vegas, slathered in sunscreen, I burned promptly once I returned to the Northeast and dared go outside for an hour. The sun is not my friend.

I’m also, to my husband’s frustration, reincarnated Goldilocks. I hate being too cold, or too hot, but mostly too hot. I can always throw on a sweater or jacket if it’s cold, but it’s not as easy to cool down. It’s certainly not cheap either, as my electric company tells me daily via emails that I am spending too much money to run my window unit AC’s just at night so that I don’t melt into my bed. The heat leaves me tired and drained, and if I’m honest, my neighbors probably have disdain for me this year, as yard work in 90 degrees isn’t happening, folks. Nope. Not mowing my grass when stepping outside makes my skin crispy. It’s starting to look like Children of the Corn out there, and while I feel inherently guilty and sigh sadly about it, I don’t get upset enough to drag my pale, overheated ass outside. Well, I haven’t, but today that may be a reality.

Today we planned to take the new kayaks out as a family. I figured since we live 5 minutes from the water, that would be an easy task. My husband, however, is determined that sharks are everywhere and that we would be best served heading to a lake. I was A-OK with the plan, until I woke up this :morning to a news story that at 7:30 AM all the State Parks were nearing or at capacity. WHAT? Folks packed up for a full day of July 4th partying and outside time at friggen 7:30 in the MORNING? The showered, got themselves ready, got kids ready, packed food, drinks, beer, and all the accoutrements needed for a full day out, packed the car, drove and arrived at a park by 8 am? Savages, I tell you. My goodness, folks, it’s like people don’t know how to celebrate the glory of a lie in on a day off. My ass slept in and I am still, at mid day, enjoying a lazy cup of coffee.

I’m a lazy asshole sometimes, is the point of this post.

For all my posts about my chaos, which is usually self imposed and keeps me busy, yet usually very gratified, my heart is lazy. My family, my pets (which are family), my projects, my work, it all keeps me insanely busy. And then a day rolls around where the joy is in the lazy. At least for a little while. Then antsyness will arrive in all it’s glory, and I will feel guilty about the laziness, and will need to MOVE, to have a PLAN, and to feel at least a teensy bit productive.

For now, I need to go hunt down oodles of sunblock and a hat, as well as another coffee to get me through this beautiful day. Happy fourth y’all!

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A Sailing I Will Go (Well, Kind Of)

After arriving back from Vegas, I swear I have been out of sorts. The time change, the sleeping hour changes, and staying busy have kept me losing track of time and feeling kind of always tired. I compounded these feelings by taking on some extra stuff, so I certainly have been busy.

The week after we arrived back, my best friend who I went to Vegas with went in for her knee replacement. Everything went really well and she is doing better than she anticipated she would. That being said, she is pretty much out of commission. She does the cooking in the household, so I stepped in and made about a week’s worth of meals for her and her husband to get them through. I walked in the door with loads of single portion servings of all the things she loved me making when we were roomates. Her husband looked tired and anxious, but oh so grateful for a hot meal that he didn’t need to really “cook” other than heat up. The next day I stopped by to drop off a treat for her and walked into her having just vomited, her husband looking like he hadn’t slept a wink all night, and lots of tangible stress. The visiting nurse was sorting my friend out, so I offered to run to the stores and pick up anything they needed. After a grocery run, I came back, cooked them lunch, sent her husband for a nap while I sat chatting with her, and then heated up dinner for them. I left them both smiling and feeling much more relaxed. I know they were super grateful, but to be honest, it was me who felt grateful to be able to help.

The same day I was helping them happened to be the 13th anniversary of my mom’s passing. Some years I cope really well, some years I don’t. I had tried not to commit to much that day in anticipation that the day might swing either way. I woke up feeling heavy hearted. I miss my mom, but mostly I miss having her celebrate all the amazing things that have happened. I miss having the chance to have her be a part of my kids’s lives. I know she would be so incredibly proud of my kids, and would delight in the role of grandmother. She’d spoil them rotten in all the best ways, and I know she would play a very active role in their lives. The fact she has been deprived of this has been especially difficult for me, and is a bit of a raw subject. My mother defied all the odds and lived far longer than estimated after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. I have no doubt her determination to meet her grandchild was a big defining factor. My kids are very lucky to have other people who have stepped into the role my mother had to leave behind when she died. My husband’s brother’s mother in law is a champion and treats my kids as though they were her biological grandchildren. She asks to watch them, spends time with them, has them sleep over, and does activities with them, especially my daughter. When I went to Vegas, she graciously offered to back my husband up with caring for the kids around his work schedule. My son has reached the teen years and likes to be alone or out with his friends but still enjoys hanging out with her, and my daughter LOVES to hang out with her and goes every chance she gets. My step mother also plays an active role in their lives, albeit from a geographical distance. The very best part is that they extend the offer with no hesitation.

I miss my mom’s advice, her laugh, and her sing song “hello sweetheart” in her heavy British accent. I miss her dirty sense of humor that always seemed out of place from such a posh accent, making people blink a few times in wonderment if what they heard was really what she said. I miss the cheeky ribbing she gave me, her endless support, and knowing that no matter what happened, she had my back. I miss her stories about the family. I miss her. If she was here I’d tell her I’m sorry for all the times she asked me to rub her feet and I declined because I felt feet were kind of gross back then. I would have been a less angsty teen and I wish I could have listened more and not been so damned stubborn. I wish I could tell her that while I look horrible in yellow, and it was never much a color I liked too much, I now gravitate to all things yellow because it reminds me of her and the sunshine she brought wherever she went. I would tell her I miss how things were when she was here. It’s different, and not bad, but a bit of the sparkle has left with her. I always have loved a bit of sparkle you know. I’d probably be better domestically too because I’d constantly worry she’d be shocked at how messy the house gets some days. I’d say I’m joking there, but I’m not.

I had started the day feeling not my best, as I mentioned, so I felt determined to turn things around. It is important to me that my kids know how much I miss my mom, but also how great she was. I spend time telling them silly stories about her, and trying to create a “visual” so to speak of who she was. I need to make her more than just someone who died. I started the day by coming down for my normal coffee, but then grabbing a box of little creme brulees I had gotten from Costco. I set to work with my little torch, doing the sugar on top until it was a crispy topping. My kids walked in and stared….were we having creme brulee, a favorite, for breakfast? Yes indeed we were! I said that in honor of my mom it was a special breakfast day. This kind of bit me in the ass when I went to drop the little off at her friend’s house. The mom asked if she had eaten, meaning lunch. My girl announced excitedly “Yes! I had creme brulee for breakfast today!” Oh well. We can’t all be perfect moms.

Looking after my friend was cathartic in so many ways. She knew my mom, loved her too, and she also lost her mom to lung cancer. We get each other and get how those anniversaries can be. As I puttered around in the kitchen, we chatted about the tough days. It felt good to be around someone who understood me so well. While I was there, I got a text from my husband.

A bit of background, I grew up on the water as a kid. When we came to America we always lived within a short drive to the beach. I instantly took to the water, always wanting to swim. Eventually my dad got a motorboat and I loved being out on the water. I’m not sure why he ever got rid of it, to be honest. As a young kid, my parents saw my love of the water and enrolled me in sailing school. I had my boating license many years before I could ever drive a car. I then took further classes, and before long I was sailing, windsurfing, and spending my summers in the water. We never got a boat or a windsurfer, but I sure loved them. As I got older and had kids, the idea of buying a boat was out of my price range. I did want a kayak, however. My dad and I had mulled over each of us getting one. He lives on a lake, and I live near the beach. It’s something we talk about every time I visit but neither of us has gotten one. For me, it’s not the kayak itself, but all the “extra” stuff that was daunting. My husband isn’t much into boating, so it would be something I’d probably do mostly on my own. Transporting a kayak was the biggest reason I never got one. I’d have to get a rack for the car, and to be honest, I’m so short I doubt I’d ever be able to safely load and unload a kayak on/off the car myself. It just wasn’t feasible. I don’t have the upper body strength nor the height to make it work. While at my friend’s we were chatting about it, and I found a bright yellow kayak that was inflatable on amazon. It was cheap, inflatable, came with a paddle, and an air pump. Even better, it was about a quarter of the price of a basic kayak. The reviews were great. Instead of grappling with fitting it on the car and buying racks etc, I could deflate it and put it in the back of my SUV! It was yellow, which is a color I associate with my mom. It called to me. I sent the pic to my husband, saying I might treat myself in the next few weeks. I got a text back a little while later that said “It will be here by Monday. I wanted to treat you today.”

He’s the very best, I swear.

Best of all? It’s a two person kayak, which means I can take one of the kids with me if I want, or my husband.

The other night, the husband and I were chatting about the 4th. What to do? He mentioned the kayak and said we could go out. After mulling it over, I went back on Amazon and bought a second one. Now there is room for all four of us!

Another cool thing is that my nephew just got a kayak. I’m hopeful that once I get comfortable, I may be able to go out with him on the kayaks and have something cool to do together. I’ll have to see if he’d be up for that. First I have to build up some arm strength to keep up.

If you see the girl with a big old smile, spending time on her yellow kayak, it may be me…just puttering away. The fact my husband knew it was the day I lost my mom and chose to mark the day by fulfilling a little dream of mine, in bright yellow fashion (my mom drove a yellow car and always said yellow was the color of life) was the very best gift he could have given me. It’s also the reason my mom felt he and I were such a perfect match. He gets me, he really does.

MUST DO activity in Vegas

I wrote a post the other day about my fun filled trip to Vegas but I also wanted to do a post just on our last excursion. Honestly, it was the best part of the trip for me, and I came away from it exhilarated, worn out, but all smiles. Before I tell you about it, know that the owners have no idea I am writing this, and I get no benefit for doing so other than sharing what made my trip to Vegas unique and amazing in my eyes. When we were initially planning our girls’ trip to Las Vegas, my friend handed me a list of excursions/shows etc we could do, for free, on her Chase points. I perused the list full of Cirque de Soleil shows (I recommend Ka, while I got a bit lost in the storyline the show itself was magnificent), some other options that weren’t really my thing, and then I saw it: UTV riding in the desert. I looked up excitedly and said “dune buggy things in the desert?” My friend’s head whipped around. “Would you DO that?” she asked, “because nobody else will do it with me and I want to!”. We booked it immediately. The company who runs it is OUI Experience https://www.ouiexperience.com/.

Fast forward to our trip to Vegas, and she got a text from Jake, who runs the operation. He explained that he would show to pick us up from the Uber lot at the hotel in a white unmarked van. He also warned us it might be a bit dusty (after all, we found out he and his wife live in the desert, so a little dust is normal). He gave us some flexibility as to when we wanted to be picked up, in case we wanted to bypass the sun’s strength a bit by going out earlier. He let us know the excursions were private, so it would be just us and him, no other people. We decided on 9 am as a meet time. My friend and I joked about the fact we were getting into a dusty unmarked white van with a stranger in a cowboy hat, and I mentioned it was a good thing my husband could locate my phone in an emergency to “find the body” (you all should know I have a dark, dry humor by now, but if not, you do after reading that).

9 am rolls around and we head to the Uber lot at the hotel. As promised, there is a large white van parked and a tan, smiling man in a cowboy hat chatting with someone. We walked up and he immediately introduced himself as Jake, and escorted us to the van. We hopped in and he turned the AC on which was certainly a welcome treat after the Vegas temps we’d had for the past few days. We headed out to the highway, with Jake filling us in on what we would be doing, how his company had special permits and permissions to go where other places couldn’t, and various other tidbits. Before long, I saw a sign indicating we were crossing into Arizona. The drive took about an hour or so, but it flew by with good conversation. You could tell immediately that Jake loves what he does, and his excitement became our excitement. I was staring out the window in awe at the landscape. I’ve been to Las Vegas once before but had never left the strip until that day. The views were beautiful but very different than anything I had ever seen. Next thing I knew, we turned off the paved road and onto a dirt road. I was laughing to myself how it reminded me of Breaking Bad when they are in the RV headed down dirt roads. I had always wondered how people found their way in the vast desert and here I was rambling down those very types of dirt roads.

Jake filled us in on how he met his wife, Ani, and his whole face lit up when he talked about her. As we pulled into their land, where they keep the vehicles, he beeped the horn, mentioning it was his way of always letting her know he was home, as well as a symbol of good luck. Ani comes out of the building where she does the paperwork and has the supplies and has a huge grin on her face. She helps us get equipped with helmets, does a quick introduction to the vehicle, and explains my friend and I will be riding together on this tour, which was fine with us. She handed us a GoPro to take videos with, and gave us a tutorial on that. Like a mother hen, she reminds us of the heat (honestly, no reminder was necessary…..116 degrees is not something you easily forget, trust me!) and tells us we must drink tons of water. We get bandanas to cover our noses and keep the dust out. Jake has a bag packed by Ani filled with ice cold water and anything we might need. She lets us know to be careful of rocks with the tires, as occasionally a rock, if caught the wrong way, can slash the sidewall. She also takes a moment to quickly quip about Jake, before assuring us we will be in good hands.

We set off. Jake leads the way and we follow. Slowly at first, as I learned to navigate the vehicle and the terrain. Before long we were going 50 mph down the dirt roads. Occasionally we would ride on little cliffs, and I had to go easier, being mindful of dips in the road so as not to launch us out. We hit a bumpy patch and my friend and I burst into hysterical laughter as boobs bounced mercilessly. Periodically Jake would stop and give us thumbs up to see if we were ok. We were feeling great.

It wasn’t lost upon me that this was an amazing adventure that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. I shouted to my friend over the roar of the engine how grateful I was. She decided she didn’t want to drive and said she was quite happy to let me drive while she filmed videos on the GoPro and took pictures. When we passed wild donkeys with a baby in tow, her whole face lit up. Aside from the wild donkeys, we saw free range cattle, including babies, as well as jackrabbits, bunnies, and even a roadrunner (meep meep!).

We first headed off to an abandoned gold and quartz mine. It was partially boarded up, but other areas simply had a few pieces of metal wire around it. I suppose not too many folks would be out that way anyways. Jake told us you might get some unsavory wildlife in there, so I was quite content looking around at some of the beautful rocks around the mine. We jumped back in the UTV’s and headed out down to Lake Mohave. As we started our way down there, the water looked a bright, crystal blue. In the dry desert heat, it looked a picture of heaven.

As we got down towards the water, it only got more beautiful. Suddenly we were surprised to see a few Apache helicopters (I think that’s what they were) zooming effortlessly above the water, looking to be mere feet above the waves. It was such an unexpected site I had to pause to watch. We headed all the way to the lakefront where surprisingly there was a building housing a toilet. Jake told us we could go in and change into our swimsuits if we like (they had told us to bring them so we could swim). My friend looked panicked. She had left them back at the startpoint by mistake. We decided, due to the heat, we’d just go in our clothes. After all, Jake said we’d probably dry off within no time. I was in awe at a tree growing quite far in the water. Just one, lone tree amongst the beautiful crystal clear blue waters. Jake informed us the lake often recedes during drier months and the tree must have taken root. We headed a bit further down to another spot and jumped off a small rock into the water, clothes, sneakers and all. I will tell you that the water felt like all my hopes and dreams after being out in that heat all day!

After a long, leisurely swim, we hopped back in for our final stop, which was at a peak of one of the mountains. We hopped out to appreciate the view, which was stunningly beautiful. I had to pause for a moment to take it all in. As a farmgirl from the emerald green fields of England, to the green, tree lines streets of New England, USA, to the dry, dusty, yet picturesque desert in Arizona. This area was nothing like anything I had ever seen in real life before. I wondered at the cacti that were spotted around, looked for wildlife, and honestly wondered how people navigated the area. The mountains had a reddish, earthy tone, and while it was hot and dusty, the dryness of the land against the crystal waters of Lake Mohave below was just something you had to take a moment to absorb.

We headed back to where we had started, all in all doing about 100 miles or so that day in the UTV. Ani came out to greet us yet again, asking excitedly how we had liked our day. I couldn’t really put into words how much I had enjoyed myself. After handing over the helmets and bandanas, we were handed another ice cold drink before the ride back to Vegas. This time, Ani joined us for the trip. I found ourselves asking lots of questions, which she was eager to answer, filling us in on her version of how she and Jake met, how they live in the desert, and what their days are like. She told us she also works as an English teacher. They live full time in the desert on about 8-10 acres of land, in a large RV that has sides that expand. I sat fascinated as she described life in the desert, the beautiful amazing parts, and the challenges too. Her and Jake mentioned how many nights, they take their jeep down to the lake and go jetskiing or swimming to cool off and relax.

Now it may sound silly, but when they dropped us off, they gave us a huge farewell, and I was honestly sad to see them go. Not only had I had an amazing, fun filled, memorable day, but it felt like I had spent it with old friends. And, if I’m really honest, in a world where marriages often struggle to survive, it was a joy to see a couple who seemed to really love not only each other, but the life they have created together. I turned to my friend and said “I really wish I could follow along with their story, they were just so fun to be around”. I will be rooting for them.

We arrived back to the hotel, hungry, dusty, and surprisingly not too sunburned! (Thanks for the sunblock Ani!!!).

After showering, getting prettied up, and feeling relaxed and sleepy, we headed out for a good meal.

It’s not all too often I write reviews, and it’s even less often I’d ever blog about a company, but here’s my 2 cents…..if you head out to the Vegas area, look up https://www.ouiexperience.com/ Spend the cash, and go. It’s not super cheap but I guarantee it’s a lifetime memory and experience. The excursion is a full day. We left at 9 and got back at 5, but you can make it shorter etc if need be. You’ll be back early enough to do dinner and nighttime excitement in Vegas. Not only that, but you’ll put your money in the pockets of two really great people who will be a joy to hang out with. This is a MUST DO experience, and you won’t regret it.

It was Vegas, Baby!

So I’m back! Back from what felt like a whirlwind girls’ weekend to Las Vegas, otherwise known as Sin City. Never fear, not too many sins were cast during our time there. I must say however, I had a grand old time, saw the sights, heard the sounds, saw a show, and had a wild and crazy time after climbing into a white, unmarked van (much of that I will get into in more detail in a later post, as that warrants it’s own post). Some of this may venture into the rated R level, so please be forewarned.

For those not caught up, my bestie is going in for surgery this week. For some reason, despite having many surgeries and hospital experiences throughout her life, this one in particular is bothering her a bit. She’s anxious about it in a way I haven’t seen her anxious before. To alleviate her anxiety, she decided to plan a vacation in Las Vegas, and I was her desired travel partner. We’ve been friends since high school, were housemates once upon a time, and have been through the best and worst of times. We laugh together, we’ve cried together, and most importantly, we’ve been there for each other. When she had a prior surgery, I cooked meals and dropped them off for her and her non-cooking husband. When my ex treated me badly, she scrubbed the toilet with his toothbrush. You get the drill. She’s one of my ride or die friends, the ones that are hard to come by in a world full of selfish people. Anything the other one needs, we’re there for each other. I trust her implicitly and I know she feels the same. I’m so very lucky to have her. We had talked about going on a girls weekend to Vegas since we were in our teens, but marriages, kids, and a world of responsibilities later, we never made it. She asked me to go. I said I couldn’t, because while my kids are cute as hell, they are EXPENSIVE and I just didn’t have the cash to swing it.

She told me to pack my bags, she was taking me on her dime. All I needed was some spending money. My husband said we’d make it work, he’d work short days, and my kids bonus grandma said she’d watch them when my husband was at work. How amazing is that? So with tickets booked, hotel room reserved, and bags packed, we headed to the airport on Saturday night. We flew out Mint on jetblue after 9 pm, arriving at around 11:30 PM Vegas time. Mint is extraordinary, with all the perks and seats that go into full on beds. I slept and awoke just before landing feeling refreshed. Off to the hotel we went.

Arriving at the Bellagio, I walked in feeling a bit underdressed, but excited. I had been to the Bellagio for a wedding years ago, but didn’t know all to much about it. I had stayed next door at the Vdara (which was awesome by the way….it’s a none gambling hotel and it is quiet and smells non smokey, which is a plus. The rooms are modern, calming, and quiet…plus they are well air conditioned, but I digress). Our room was up on the 26th floor, in the building on the left side of the main building as you’re looking up. We checked in, grabbed our bags, and started the LONG walk up to the room. Everything in Vegas is a long walk from everything else. The sheer amount of steps and miles I walked last week was unreal. Anywho, we arrive at the room, and step in. The room is clean, pretty, and has an AMAZING view of the Las Vegas strip, but not only that, we can view the Bellagio fountains going off throughout the day/nights! We had a prime view of Paris, as well as some other hotels. I immediately stepped to the thermostat to turn the AC on, after all, it was Vegas and it was warm in there. I tried lowering the temp, but it wouldn’t go down past 65. Also, the AC cut off. I went all the way back down to the desk, only to find out that the AC is on a motion sensor. This meant that the AC would cut off at night and when we left the room. “Do you understand this is the Bellagio? In 105 degree heat? Why does the AC turn off?” I asked. I know, not my proudest moment, but I HATE being hot at night. The person at the desk shrugged, apologized, and sent a fan to the room. I slept every night with a fan blasting me in the face.

Now, you can tell when long term friends, especially those who lived together, go on vacation together. Concessions are made, and adjustments to keep everyone happy. I am always hot, she is always cold. She said I should sleep near the AC vent, with the fan, and she got an extra blanket. This happened for the whole trip, each of us finding ways to “make it work” which resulted in everyone having a great time.

After checking in, and getting our fan, we wandered down to gamble a bit, and played for a few hours before turning in to sleep. We awoke early Sunday and headed off to see the casinos. She wanted to make sure I saw as many as possible, as well as some free shows or things that made each casino unique. We also found eating a big breakfast and then eating dinner worked best for both of us. We went to Caesar’s Palace, MGM, Mandalay, Mirage and some others. We each had points from playing the free “My Vegas Slots” game, which scored us free passes into the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef. I am a huge water person, always happiest near the water, so this was totally my happy place. They had some other animals and fish there, including a piranha who had had it’s lip bitten off, leaving it with a permanent toothy grin. The woman who worked there informed me he was one of the best eaters of the group despite the deformity. The shark tanks and tunnel were awesome, and I got a pretty great shot of a shark swimming right over my head. Beautiful creatures, but I must say seeing them up close confirmed my nervousness about open water caused by the movie Jaws many years ago. Speaking of Jaws, I am fairly confident that may be a movie that impacted multiple generations of people.While you don’t necessarily think “Jaws” when someone asks which movie has had a huge impact on you, if you spend much time near the water and think about it, I’d be willing to guess you have thought about that movie more than once when on the beach. If you are going to Vegas, play the free slot game…they give you free play money, you earn rewards, and you can earn points towards free food, experiences, and discounted or even free hotel rooms! Another side note, your ticket to the Shark Reef also gives you a free pass to Mandalay Bay’s beach and pool. Score!

Over the next few days, we did some more exploring of the various casinos, checked out people on the strip (Vegas is simply AMAZING for people watching) and hit up Fremont st. Now, speaking of people watching, Fremont street was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip. It’s a bit of a trek to get down there, so we caught an Uber. I had only Ubered once before this trip, so I had to get the hang of it, but I was very impressed. The Uber rides became a challenge for us. For those not familiar, Uber is an app you put on your phone. You select where you want to go, the app figures out where you are, and it offers you a few selections of cars, as well as how much each one will cost. Most of the time it was 8-10 bucks for where we needed to go, but the price can fluctuate a bit depending on time and how busy it is by the looks of it. That being said, all our drivers were prompt, had good AC (a total blessing in 105-110 degree heat) and chatty. My friend initially started chatting with them, and in no time, we had a game going…”which is your weirdest Uber driver experience?” This is a great game to play if you use Uber a few times, especially in a place like Las Vegas. Some of the stores were mundane, such as drunk vomiters who got charged a very hefty fine, but the winner winner chicken dinner of the vacation belongs to a driver in a Nissan minivan. He had a couple in his car, and they were headed to a bar. The boyfriend poked the girlfriend in the side, teasing her, but poked her hard enough that it hurt, making her angry. He told her not to be mad, and said “ok, you can bite my thumb if that makes you feel better”. She grabbed that thumb and bit part of it off. LET ME REPEAT, SHE BIT OFF A SECTION OF HIS THUMB. The Uber driver, mortified, said he didn’t know what to do, so he simply asked if he should divert to the local hospital to have the thumb piece reattached. The couple declined and said they still wanted to head to the bar.

I have so many questions.

Well, it is Las Vegas, so while he was the winner of our contest, I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised by severed body parts in an Uber minivan in Vegas.

Now, back to Fremont st. Some folks call it Freakmont st, and 5 minutes in, I could see why. When you arrive at Fremont, it is a flurry of activity. Normally, that’s not really my bag. I like things a bit more quite and low key in my old(er)(ish) age, but this was Vegas, so I was up for it. Fremont street is an assault on your senses, but it also tugs at your sense of humor and your heart as well. It’s a very interesting place, to say the least, and probably not a great place for kids. Although I notice some people are a bit more lackadaisical about what they expose their littles to than I am. At Fremont, you walk and there is almost a canopy overhead, with a lightshow. It’s bright and blingy. Also above you is Slotzilla, a giant zipline that goes very high up. You can zipline seated and Superman style, depending on your choice. Now, I didn’t do the zipline, and unfortunately its my one big regret on this trip. I wish I had done it, because it looked a blast. Now there is the main walkway, but along the sides there are these black circles. I was curious about these, so I looked them up online. Apparently street performers can sign up online to reserve a circle, which they get for 2 hours. They can then do basically whatever they want in the circle. The night we were there, I saw an “older” woman standing holding a sign that simply said “finish on my face”. I’ll leave that one there. There were two women in skimpy outfits offering to whip people. There was a guy in only a thong with KISS makeup, and he stood next to a “Little Person” who looked like Mr. T. One guy had a guy with a sign and a clown nose that advertised you could kick his friend in the nuts. (There were actually two guys who did that schtick. I’m not sure how they did it, but I have video.) Two guys did a “human gumby” routine where you could pose them any way you’d like and they would stay in that pose. Another circle was occupied by a small group who did dance routines, only all were contortionists and did moves that made me cringe. It’s not required to tip the performers, but most people would if they participated. It’s not the same vibe you get in NYC with some guy in a shitty Elmo costumes that curses you out for not tipping if someone takes a picture. It’s all about fun and crazy and freakishness. It’s Vegas on a street level, with fun and fabulous. There were a few vets hoping for tips. One guy used his time to complain about Hilary….which was about the saddest waste of time I could think of. Dude, you’re in VEGAS and she’s not president or impacting you…move on, or have some fun! There were free concerts with great bands, and the whole vibe was bright, flashy and most of all, a fun party atmosphere. The street performers were my very favorite, and most seemed to be enjoying their time. If I wasn’t so tired from the heat and walking from the day, I likely would have stayed well into the night, but I’m a British girl who wasn’t built for heat and sun. Freemont is free to go to, so definitely plan some time to spend there in the evenings. As long as you’re not prudish, you’ll likely have a blast. We topped off the evening with Hash House A Go-Go, where I got a little burger. Their portions are HUGE….like crazy huge, the food is reasonable, yummy, and the server and hostess were sweet. I got home full bellied, tired, and slept well.

Tuesday we had a lazy day at the hotel, starting off with a big Bellagio buffet lunch and a dip in the pool. I was coated in 100 SPF and tried laying out for a few but 106 degrees is a beast. The pool was lovely, albeit small, and there were plenty of chairs, to my surprise. We then went up to get ready to head to a show. My friend scored tickets to the Cirque show KA on her credit card points. We arrived at the theater, grabbed snacks and wandered to our seats. I believe we were about 7th row, not bad at all!! We were unable to take any photography once we walked in. Unaware of this, I took a picture of the side set, and was quickly asked not to take any more. The best way I could attempt to describe the side set is that it looked a bit like the Ewok village. There were people swinging from the set over the audience. The show hadn’t even started and i was already having fun! I’ll be very honest that I am not entirely sure what the plot was, and I left very confused but in awe. The cast was simply amazing, and some of the stunts I witnessed, as a mom, made me cringe with nervousness. These cast members were nothing short of athletes. Climbing, spinning, jumping, and doing feats that seemed impossible. I left the show saying “I have questions” when it came to the plot, but having thoroughly enjoyed myself. If you get the chance, go see it. You won’t regret it.

I’m not exactly sure whether it was Monday or Tuesday, but that was the day my mystery friend left. I was sad to see them go, to be honest. It started out with a hallway table and a simple pad of paper. As I made the long trek to my room each day, I noticed someone had written something on a pad in the hotel hallway. The next day, I wrote something silly back. As I headed back to my room, I laughed when I saw they had responded, so I in turn responded to them. Back and forth it went, until the pad stayed blank. I suppose they must have checked out. I was honestly sad to see them go, and wish I had met my mystery pen pal to see who they were. Such simple things, yet it made me smile.

Wednesday was the day I was most looking forward to. It earned every ounce of anticipation, and to be honest, was so awesome, it deserves its own post. We were able, through my friend’s Chase rewards points, to book an excursion to ride dune buggies in the desert. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted in. I’m more of a speed freak than a heights person, and this seemed perfect. I will post separately about the excursion because it was an experience to remember in all the right ways, and I was able to capture not only stunning views, but also met some awesome people who run it. If you are headed out to Vegas or anywhere near, check out OUI Experiences. You won’t regret it. We had a private, full day experience riding UTV’s across the Arizona Mohave desert, topped off with a massive jump into Lake Mohave for a swim in it’s crystal blue, perfect temperature waters. I saw wild donkeys, cattle, and plenty of cacti. The couple that run the tour have exclusive access to certain areas, and you feel like you stepped onto the set of Breaking Bad when they are driving the RV into the desert, except there’s nobody but you and the guides, and an occasional passerby once every few hours. It was without a doubt, my favorite part of the trip. That being said, it was 116 degrees out. Now, I know folks always follow that up with “but it’s a dry heat”. No joke, 116 degrees feels like 116 degrees, especially wearing a full helmet, bandana, and riding a cart that also got a bit hot in spots. Ice water became hot water in no time, so we were constantly chugging cold water to stay hydrated. I think I drank more than a bottle per hour, and topped the whole thing off with an ice cold beer at the very end. It was fanfriggentastic.

We arrived back at the hotel with just enough time to wash the dust of the Mohave desert off of us, pretty ourselves up, and Uber out to the Stratosphere at the end of the trip. We we tired from the heat and hungry as hell. My friend treated me to dinner at the “Top of the World” at the top of the Strat, as they are trying to rebrand the hotel. Now, The Strat as the call it, is at the far end of the strip, and the area has a much different vibe than everywhere else. It starts to look a bit dicey, and there are some drunks roaming. The casino part is alright, but the access to the elevators was through a doorway into a hallway. It left me uneasy, but I can’t really explain why. It’s not a place I’d walk to late by myself comfortably, nor did I feel comfortable in the darkish hallways. Once on the elevator, at the top where the restaurant is, it’s a totally different vibe. The restaurant is busy and the views are unparalleled in Vegas. The floor of the restaurant slowly rotates, which allows you to see everything around it, doing about a 360 degree turn in an hour. This means that during an average dinner, you can see everything surrounding the hotel. 107 floors up. Not for those who are afraid of heights, but I sucked it up and dealt. The meals aren’t cheap, and you can easily run dinner over $300 for 2 people with just a single alcoholic drink or two per person. That being said, the food was delicious and the ambiance was awesome. My bestie treated me. (Sadly, she’ll be treated to my less than stellar cooking for the next week while she recovers from surgery…it hardly seems fair). After dinner, we wandered up a floor or two to the bar. Not only is there a bar up there, but also RIDES. Yes. You heard me, and everything is there with the intent to see if you are a crazy person. I forgot to mention that during dinner, one of the sites we got to see was someone doing a controlled drop off the roof. God knows how they did it without having a heart attack, because I was freaking out just watching them!! They also had multiple rides which dangle you off the side of the building, 108 or more floors up. I got anxious just watching them and had to step inside.

We headed back to our hotel room via Monorail (I definitely recommend getting a pass before you go to Vegas, as there are some great multi day pass deals out there. Mine was loaded to my iphone and popped up on my watch whenever I got close to the monorail, making hopping on and off a breeze). After a quick stop in front of the hotel to video the Bellagio fountain show for my daughter, we headed back to the room to pack and stumble into bed. It was midnight and man, were we wiped. I was sad the trip had come to a close, to be honest. It had been so much fun having time with just my friend, seeing and experiencing so much. Had I had more time, I would have done one of the ziplines. Ah well, another time. 3 hours later,after a nap, we were on our way to the airport. I was so tired I felt it in my bones. We both crashed out on the plane. The Jet Blue flight attendants scored MAJOR brownie points when they made me an Americano when I commented how sad I was to have missed coffee (and how much I needed one!) They handed me one not long before landing, making me promise to keep the lid on for safety. Thank you, Jet Blue!!!!

It took us ages to get back to our area due to rush hour traffic. My kids were with their aunties and uncles at a local sandwich place, grabbing a bite to eat. I saw their location on the tracking app they have on their phones, and showed up to surprise them. My daughter came running to hug me, a smile but also some tears of happiness on her face. My son, the too cool 13 year old, gave me a smile and looked surprised but pleased to have me back. My husband looked so happy to have me back when I got home that I could have cried. Nothing like a girls trip to make you realize how amazing the world is, especially the little world you’ve created in your own home.

And I’m Back!

Well, I’m back from an amazing, whirlwind girls’ weekend to Vegas. I apologize for the delay in writing but it took me a few days to get re-acclimated to being back. Time changes, weird sleeping schedules, travel, and a lack of sleep will do that to a person. I see my stalker has been checking here on the regular, desperately desperate for information on what I’ve been up to, and I kind of hate to disappoint, so I’ll be writing about our adventures shortly.

At the end of the day, I arrived home tired, sore, and with aching feet. I also arrived happy, mentally refreshed, and with stories to tell. Being responsible for nobody else but myself for a few days was a big change. I’m waiting for some pictures to load and then I’ll write about my adventures in Vegas.

And we’re off! Well, almost.

So here I sit, in first class on the plane. We pull off, and I begin to brace myself for takeoff. I’m a nervous flyer. It doesn’t help that I’m kind of superstitious and it’s been one of those days. Just as I think we are ready to take off, we get pulled back to the gate to remove a passenger. I’m not sure why.

I woke up today, went down to get coffee, and my dog started barfing up all the water he guzzled. I went to clean it up, accidentally stepped in it barefoot and wanted to set my foot on fire.

After cleaning up, I went to check my flight status. Somehow my coffee cup toppled, full, right onto my keyboard. When I picked up my laptop, coffee poured out of my USB ports. I had to make an uncomfortable call to my boss. I then went to go to get my nails done and there was a weird issue with the color of the polish, meaning my toes and fingers aren’t the same.

I’m a little superstitious so of course this all made me nervous. We barely made it to the airport on time, but thankfully we did and we are now safely ensconced in these amazing bed seats. The food looks great and they have ICE CREAM!!! It’s the little things.

I am already missing my husband and kids. That being said I am so looking forward to a girls’s trip with my best friend. This is absolutely what I needed.

See ya from Vegas!

And as for me, I shall go somewhere…

If you have access to news, you’ll probably see there has been a rash of deaths of Americans in the Dominican Republic. Folks looking for a beautiful vacation at seemingly safe resorts ending up mysteriously dead, one woman dragged off the path and beaten within an inch of her life, and people mysteriously getting sick. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were targeting American’t specifically. I’ve never been to that region, so I’m not really sure what it’s really like. Folks I know who have been there say “as long as you stay at the resort and don’t go anywhere, you’re fine.”

Sounds friggen’ horrible.

Maybe it’s me, but I don’t much care to travel to a resort where I can’t leave, can’t experience the locals and the true place I am visiting. I might as well be visiting Epcot and experiencing the world that way. What good is it to travel and not fully experience the place? If I’m only allowed to stay at the hotel, and have to be frightened of being beaten or killed if I step outside their gates, then I’m thinking maybe that’s just not the place for me to go. It reminds me when I had an apartment I chose not fully knowing the area. Late at night, I sometimes heard gunshots. I remember singing, like Ariel “I want to be…where the gunshots aren’t. I moved to a place I felt safer.

The thing that concerned me, outside of the actual events of these people getting injured or killed, was how some people reacted. “I’ll never leave the US!” many said. “I have everything I need right here in the US!” Some of those commenting had likely never even left their own STATE I saw posted more than once on social media. It occurred to me how boxed in many people make themselves. To have this big, beautiful world, with so many cultures, foods, and places to see, and then to ignore it all, and not even TRY to get out there seems like such an inherent waste to me.

Look, I am far from a world traveler but I HAVE traveled quite a bit in my lifetime. There are many, many places I want to somehow visit in my lifetime. This world has so many beautiful opportunities and places that call to me. There is something different about people who travel to various places. They seem more worldly, often more tolerant of differences, and more open to new ideas. They seem less complacent.

A few of my cousins have set off on some major traveling excursions. I saw pictures of her at the airport, bright, wide eyed and looking excited. Over the next few weeks, I saw pictures of her show up on social media, meeting an elephant, sitting with an African tribe, and beaming with joy in some of the most beautiful photos I have ever seen. Pictures of African sunsets and the people that live there…each picture more stunning than the rest, yet she had LIVED it for a short time. I have no doubt she came back with an expanded mind from all she saw.

My other cousin went to India to work. I’d never much thought about travelling to India, but her experience opened my mind. I began to see how beautful some areas were and wondered why it had never really crossed my mind to go there.

Another cousin just MOVED to Australia. I was shocked. Sure, I packed up and moved 300 miles away from my parents. She moved half way across the WORLD. Each picture, each mention calls to my soul to go there. It looks amazing. I actually think I would suck it up and do the monsterous journey just for the experience.

I know, I know, for most, travel to foreign lands seems so out of reach. I often wondered how I could afford to get all four of us to England last year. I scrimped and saved, carefully watched prices on flights, and gave up a few little things. I stopped eating lunch at work. At $5-10 a day, that EASILY added up to a big monthly payment to put towards the trip. I made my own coffee at home, saving several dollars a week. I put the funds in a special account, not easily accessible, so I wouldn’t be able to pull them out and spend them on a whim. Such small changes made a huge difference.

Are there places in the US I would like to visit? Of COURSE! I have a friend who I believe will always be a part of my girl tribe, but I’ve never met her in person. I’m dying to fly down south to meet her sometime. I have friends around the US that I want to visit, and places I want to see. I want my kids to see new places, and experience new experiences they can’t easily do so here.

When I took my kids to England, they LOVED it. As in, they loved it so much they begged to go back. One child proclaimed they were seriously thinking about moving to England when they get older. They felt a light in their heart there. It is a slower, easier paced life, and they LOVED it. They loved having all their other cousins around, seeing things they don’t see here at home, and trying new experiences. It was eye opening to them. They came home with a fire, and I loved it. Hopefully we can get back sooner rather than later. Time to save those pennies!!

If you travel, find a place you feel safe and you can see more than just a resort. See the locals, the customs, the traditions. Taste the local food. Learn the local language (at least a few words) and make as many wonderful memories as you can. Right now, the Dominican Republic may not be the best place. Hopefully one day things will be better and it will be safer than it feels to many right now.

My point being, please don’t lock yourself into a mental box and think you shouldn’t travel. You SHOULD. It will make you a better person more often than not. It will open your eyes to so many things, and give you experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. Eat cheaply, save pennies, have a tag sale, whatever you can do to save a few bucks. Instead of buying that new outfit or new item you’ll be donating in two years, invest in yourself and invest in TRAVEL.