Hotel rooms

hotel rooms
View from my window, Florida, 2016

We don’t have cable. So our kids were, for the most part, raised on Sesame Street and Arthur and Reading Rainbow, and the like. They probably didn’t know what they were missing until they got a bit older and discovered there was a whole new world out there called cable TV.

This was never more clear until we had occasion (rare occasion) to share a couple of hotel/condo stays during certain cable TV marathons. The first was a Mythbusters Marathon. My older, science geeky kids (ok, we are all a little science geeky) ate it up. It’s not to say we didn’t leave the hotel room. It’s simply that when we were in the hotel room, we were glued to the TV watching Mythbusters.

Our next marathon was during a condo stay at Lake Tahoe for a family reunion (the one to which I hauled a giant Costco-sized birthday cake from Utah to California so we could properly celebrate Lindsay’s birthday only to drop the cake in the gravel driveway while taking it in from the car. Which meant my ox was in the mire and I had to go to Albertson’s on a Sunday to buy her a new birthday cake. Because if you have to be away from home (read: friends) on your birthday, you at the very least deserve a good birthday cake.). That happened to coincide with an NCIS marathon. OK, not a cable show. But at the time we didn’t watch much TV so we had never seen it. Again, it’s not to say we stayed in to watch, but if we were in, NCIS was on.

True story, I still watch NCIS. I usually close my eyes during the opening segment because I know someone is either going to be murdered or find a dead body and I don’t much want to watch. But the mystery part–even the unrealistic forensics miraculously rendered by the delightful Abby Sciuto in less than 22 minutes–draws me in.

It was during the Lake Tahoe stay I discovered something about myself. I/we crave simplicity/have too much stuff. Shane and the oldest two boys had to leave after the reunion to get back to Utah for youth conference. But I decided to keep the two youngest for the rest of the week (the way my mom’s time share worked, you booked for an entire week) and help my mom drive home.

It was heaven. No clutter. We had maybe a suitcase each which tucked neatly away in our closets. The minimal amount of carpet could be easily vacuumed every day (because, kids). We were down to bare bones in the kitchen, so cooking and therefore messes was simple.

As noted earlier, I rediscovered said love of being unencumbered in 2015 and early 2016 when I had some 7 week-long stays (along with a couple more shorter ones) away from home for work and also went to Finland. The simplicity of having all my possessions reduced to what I can fit in a small carryon and a bright colored backpack is indescribable.

I know I wrote about this before, but it bears repeating. Hotels allow you to be closer to places you could never afford to live.

Two examples.

One: While staying in Alexandria–with just about a 20-minute commute into the city–I relished crossing the river and seeing the monuments each day. “I could live here!” I said.

No. The reality is I could not afford to live anywhere near there. Most of the people I worked with during those weeks–people who make way more money that I do–had anywhere from an hour (by train–it would have been longer driving) or two commute. That’s one way.

Two: There is something to be said of standing in the ocean, bare toes digging into the sand for a foothold against the waves, and washing away your cares at the end of a long day. Also something I could never afford to enjoy every day. But a memory I will hold on to and appreciate forever.

[Day 87 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Lost in a good book

This, along with From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, were well-worn, dog-eared favorites I read over and over and over again as a child.

When I was a kid I used to sneak a flashlight and read under my covers until the wee hours of morning so my parents couldn’t see the light from my window long past bedtime.

It was while reading Shakespeare in my high school English class I suddenly knew I would go on to study English literature in college. Man’s Search for Meaning, All’s Quiet on the Western Front, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (language!) shaped me.

I used to be so much better about finding–no, making–time to read. Sometimes I would pick out a book (anything by Michael Crichton or John Grisham) that I knew would be intriguing enough it could help me wile away my minutes on the stationery bike at the gym. But then I would get caught up in the story and have to go home and finish it in the next day or two.

Willa Cather–particularly Death Comes for the Archbishop–is wonderful to leave on your nightstand and consume one chapter at a time at the end of the day. Wallace Stegnar’s Crossing to Safety by is another that is perfect for winding down your day just before drifting off to sleep.

I caught on to the delightfulness of the Harry Potter series early, but was grateful when it became such a phenomenon that I could go buy the next book in the series at Walmart in the middle of the night the day it was released and my kids were at just the right stage of independency that I could stay up all night and finish it sometime the next day and no one would be the worse for the wear (or, ahem, sight amount of neglect).

There was that one year, the year my mom was dying, when I read one book. The same book. Twice. “Where’d Ya Go, Bernadette?” It made me laugh. And after I finished it I knew it was quite possible there was nothing else that could make me laugh quite so. So I read it again.

Those days seemed to disappear since I started working full time. At the moment I am in the middle of at least three books I can’t seem to finish. (One is good and well recommended, but slow. The other has far too many words, but I want to persevere and see how it ends.)

That’s not to say I don’t read at all. True, I no longer finish books in a day, but if on Monday I realize book group is on Thursday and I haven’t read the book, but I did think ahead enough to procure a copy, I can still finish it by reading a few hours each night for the next three nights.

Which reminds me, I’d better see what we’re reading this month…

[Day 86 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Study abroad/regrets of what you did or did not do in college

dalene in liegeSoeur Rex at the Museum of Natural History in Liege

I had high aspirations while I was at BYU, and, while I try to live my life in such a way I have as few regrets as possible (you know, part of that isn’t so much in what you DID or did NOT do, but rather lies in living in the present and not the past and trying not to beat yourself up to hard for not being able to do or have it all), there were a couple of things I wanted to do but never did. Study Abroad was one of them.

I thought it would be cool to live in the French house and go on a study abroad to France and/or England. I can’t remember if I wanted to do this before or after I flunked out of French 101. Most likely before, as
1. I saw how cool the “houses” were when at least one of them was part of my freshman ward and
2. Usually I shy away from things I’m not at least remotely confident I will succeed in. Failing French would have likely doused any remote sense of confidence.

Ephiphany! I say that, but I just realized that my BYU experience proved me wrong on not just one, but two counts. I did end up learning French–and actually living in France–when I was called to serve a mission there. I suppose if I were devastatingly discouraged by failing French I could have chosen to not accept my mission call to serve there. In fact I did accept. I was known as the SYL (speak your language) queen of my MTC district and, in fact, used to make up words if I didn’t know the correct word (maison du fromage for cottage cheese comes to mind) in France in order not to break character. I returned fluent and even minored in French before graduating. And 2. I also failed (miserably) my first Humanities course at BYU. The art and architecture seemed beyond me. But I ended up graduating from the College of Humanities (in English) and did retake and earn an A in that very same Humanities 301 class. (Perhaps, in hindsight, the small-farm-town girl from Junction City, Oregon should have been less ambitious than tackling a 300-level humanities course at first go.)

In any case, I digress. The other two things I wanted to do but didn’t were 1. study abroad in the Middle East and 2. go to law school.

Instead I got married just before finals my second to last semester, worked for a year–miraculously in journalism, which was something I wanted to do–and then became a mother.

Becoming a mother was what I most wanted to do. And I did it. And at least one of my kids did that study abroad trip to the Middle East. And another is currently tackling grad school. And who knows, maybe one of my grandkids will go to law school someday.

In any case, definitely no regrets about being a mom to four wonderful kids and being around to watch them grow into who they were always meant to be.

[Day 85 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]