come sail away

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I was swimming in an aquarium and I couldn’t have been happier about it.  Striped fish puffed out and tri-color fish heaved in and small glassy fish sped past like tiny submarines.  When I got back to my beach chair, I told Jon that our next trip was going to be The Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  A classic tale of if If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.
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Reflecting, I’m wondering if I should surprise Jon with a pet goldfish?  Just go to PetsMart or Petco or Aquarium World and come home with a friend no larger than a baby pickle?  Bring a bit of the tropics inside our Minneapolis apartment?

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I went to Caribou Coffee when we got home, and I thought it was timely that they had a chalkboard wall asking about dream vacations:Image
Can you guess what I added to the list? Hint: not Jamaica or Australia.  Coincidently, I read an article about the kindness of nations a few hours later, and it made me think the chalkboard was missing a few important places:
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I’ve never considered the kindness of a place when deciding where to vacation, have you?  I’m usually flying to visit my aunt (Chicago), sister (Phoenix), or parents (outside Washington DC).  When I do get to choose, I’m usually just lured in with dreams of sunshine and beaches and adventures and foreign things (and budget, of course).  What about you: how do you decide where to go on vacation?

sparks on screen

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A wander into the woods would be lovely.  If the light would sparkle through the trees and the breeze would blow through my hair, that would be a bonus.  Once I found a clearing I would take out my journal and, under a crown of trees, write my thoughts and doodle my ideas.  When my hand ached from writing, I’d simply lay and enjoy the sun on my skin.  

The sun on my skin is the most revealing part of that little reverie.  In reality, I’m home from my tropical vacation and staring out the window as the snow descends as quick as rain: none of that softly fluttering stuff over here.  It was so cold when we returned to Minneapolis that our tires were frozen to the street.  Can you imagine?  I should have stuck that Jamaican sun in my pocket.  
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All this rambling is getting me thinking: do we have a natural habitat that we instinctively crave?  Do you prefer the mountains to the sea or the woods to the city?  A mix of all things, perhaps?
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I mentioned yesterday that the beginning of our vacation was, well, comical.  The second day, however, brought what Jon calls my ‘Peter Pan smile.’  Background: there is a childhood photo of me grinning like Elf because I’m going to see Peter Pan on *ice.*  My family always tells me to do the Peter Pan smile, but when I swam with the dolphins, it came out all on its own:
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We wanted to get the classic ‘kiss pic,’ but I was squealing too much and couldn’t keep my eyes open – it was that good.  The rest of our day was spent exploring on foot, but we found all sorts of gems:
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meet me at sunset

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Murphy’s Law tells us that anything that can go wrong, will.  If we’re cautious, we follow rules and take pains to finagle a felicitous outcome. In my opinion, all that extra work — the pains and rule following — is a waste of time.  Thing is, according to the law, things will still go wrong. 

Jon and I learned exactly how Murphy’s Law works on the first day of our vacation.  
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The airline lost Jon’s luggage the first time he met my parents, and he ended up petitioning my brother and dad for clothes.  A believer that lightning actually does strike twice, we now only travel with carry-on bags.  Unfortunately for us, that means all sorts of responsibility for getting our suitcase through security, onto the plane, safely through a layover, and to our final destination.  Sort of the airport version of over the river and through the woods, right?

Or maybe it’s suppose to be more simple than that.  Most people seem to manage, right?  

Well, not us.
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A five-hour layover created all sorts of opportunity for dining, shopping, reading, working (Jon), and napping.  With all the commotion (do we seriously enjoy the airport that much? It’s possible) it’s easy to forget (or convenient when it’s so gosh.darn.heavy) the whereabouts of your luggage.
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The final boarding call for Jamaica rang out, and, with a look similar to Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, Jon and I realized that neither of us had our bag (that’s right, we shared one bag).  
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“Wait here, hold the plane, I’ll find it.”  Jon took off running.

Hold the plane?  Are people allowed to do that?  What do I say?  We lost the luggage?  
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A notice about how terribly illegal it is to leave unattended luggage in the airport rang out.

Luckily, Jon found the luggage in the first place we visited (four hours earlier) and made it back to the plane.  
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Our trouble didn’t stop there.  

It was pouring rain when arrived at the hotel, and, what’s worse, the resort restaurants didn’t have any last minute availability.  Hungry and adventurous, we took turns sneaking into a buffet-style restaurant and bringing plates of food to an out-door patio table.  Did we get wet? Yes, of course, but we also got endless laughs.  
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That night, we realized that Jon’s flipflops were broken and his swimsuit was too small.  He lamented his misfortune and I laughed some more.  

I went to bed thinking about how much fun it is when things go wrong.  When else can you exchange Macaulay Culkin and have a forbidden picnic in the rain?  With any luck, we would be kicked out of the hotel and spend the weekend camping or exploring foreign places.  
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shades on, top back

in my suitcase

We’ll skydive from the plane and land below a waterfall and then swim away with the dolphins.  If I was 12, that little adventure would have knocked one, two, three things off my bucket list with  just one (very adventurous) day’s journey.

Thing about my bucket list, however, is that it seems to be a life-force of its own: constantly changing, growing and expanding.  Life experience prompts me to add new things to the list and, in a similar fashion, decide that other things are of less importance.

A bit of a thrill-seeker, I planned to skydive over the Alps when I studied abroad my junior year.  Well well well, the trip came and the adventure arrived, and I decided I’d rather go for a hike and make a picnic and read a book than sail through the sky (or I have a fear of heights – you decide).  To each his own, right?  And you know what, I was 100% okay with changing my mind — it took planning the trip to make me realize that I was okay with not experiencing every.single.little.thing.

The thing is, I try to get the most goodness out of the things that I do decide to pursue.  This world is large and the possibility for experience is endless, but if we make the most of the choices we make, the slice of life we are given, then it will be enough.  Do little things with great love.

Where is all this going?  Well, I recently finished The Light Between Oceans, and, as soon as I was done, I gave the novel 5 stars on Goodreads.  I also started thinking about the relationship of the lighthouse to character development (I’m a nerd), and, before long, I found myself longing to visit a lighthouse.  Lighthouse adventuring was added to the the bucket list just as easily sky-diving was removed.

And, good news: Jon and I made plans to visit a lighthouse when we’re in Jamaica next week.  I’ll be crossing 2 things off my bucket list while we’re there – the lighthouse is one, can you guess the second?
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full of heart

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I drove by Lake of the Isles this morning, and as the sun rose over the ice-capped water, snow sparkled in the trees and the clouds glowed a soft pink.  My heart felt so full.  Not only because of the scenery, of course, but the beauty of the landscape seemed to echo my feelings. Rain comforts the sorrowful and soft pink sunrises inspire the grateful.

Our wonderful holiday was filled with family and friends and love and cookies and snow.  The blessings of the season were more than I could have hoped or asked for, and I returned home feeling overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation.  I worked with my thesaurus to find a single word to describe ‘fullness of heart’ or ‘a heart full to bursting’ but my efforts were futile.

I wanted to share a bit of our holiday with you.  Or, more honestly, I suppose I want to record it here for memories sake.  You don’t mind, do you?

Christmas Eve we took a family sleigh ride through the woods.  The trip was as poetic as the thought, and the 5 degree weather ensured we were bundled and sipping cocoa for warmth.ImageImageImageImage
We went to a candlelight church service after the sleigh ride, and, despite the adventures of the day, managed a game of Ticket to Ride before bed.  In the morning, we exchanged gifts and watched how happy people get when you surprise them with something more perfect than they asked for.  They say Christmas isn’t about the gifts, and that’s true, but I’m always touched by the generosity and thought that goes into even the most simple presents.
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Can you tell I’m excited about the sewing machine? I’ve always wanted to make my own pillowcases, dresses, quilts, napkins, and, well, you name it, but I’ve never had the necessary appliance — well, guess what I’ll be doing in 2014? I’m already signed up lessons! If you have any favorite patterns, send them my way 🙂

The gift last in this post but first in my heart is a trip to Jamaica.  Before I went into surgery, Jon told me that we would plan a sunny getaway as soon as I came home.  That night, hopped up on meds and bundled in his arms, we watched TravelChannel videos and decided to spend a week in Jamaica.

To make the excitement last a little longer, we decided to book our hotel on Christmas night.  So, as promised, we spent Christmas night reading reviews and planning the details of our Jamaica vacation.  Our hotel is now booked and I’m so very excited about the getaway in just 3 weeks.

I’m forever grateful that Jon suggested the vacation when he did- the thought made me smile, and it gave me something to look forward to during a very scary time.  What a loving heart that man has.

Oh, and you might remember that today is his birthday? I’m hopping offline now, and heading for the kitchen to whip up his favorite cakes and cookies and candies. He opted to work today, but we’ll have quite the celebration when he comes home at 5 o’clock.

Me and my full heart are signing off.  Have a lovely day ❤