Someone Else’s Family Vacation

In my humble opinion, the only acceptable answer to “do you want to go to Hawaii?” is a resounding “YES”. Possibly even a “HELLS YEAH” if you’re feeling particularly raucous. In any case, an offer to journey to a tropical island paradise should never be met with anything but enthusiasm – especially if you’re a nanny. Which is why, when my bosses asked me to go with them to Hawaii, I had nothing but enthusiasm for the idea. It ended up being one of the most memorable and incredible experiences of my life, but it was not at all the easybreezycovergirl Hawaiian vacation I was expecting.

Depending on your level of familiarity with the nanny-verse, you may or may not know that some families ask their nanny to accompany them on vacations. Despite my extensive research on the career before throwing myself into it (and by research, I mean watching several Julie Andrews movies), I had no clue that this actually happened in real life. I had no idea that taking a nanny on vacation was a luxury available to anyone other than the one-percenters, but evidently, it is.

When the C’s (my boss-family) first asked me to travel with them, I was thinking we would take a road trip to a theme park or something similarly run-of-the-mill. When they dropped the bomb that Hawaii was their destination of choice, I had to politely excuse myself to scream and do a happy dance. To me, going to Hawaii was about as likely as going to the Moon – something a select few very lucky individuals do, but far beyond the realm of my possibilities. I consider myself lucky if I get to go to the Olive Garden more than once a year. Yet here they were, offering me this chance to see an incredible place with my favorite little dude at my side – a win-win.

In the weeks leading up to our departure, I spent every available moment scouring the Internet for tips on traveling with toddlers and suggestions for nannies vacationing with families. I read every possible article in the hopes that I could somehow prepare myself for something this huge. Let me be blunt here – there’s no possible way to prepare yourself for this. Traveling with a toddler is a challenge in and of itself. The challenge increases exponentially when you add the long flights, the unfamiliar situation, and the politics of working through someone else’s family vacation.

To be honest, I was sort of expecting the trip to be an easy way to enjoy a vacation on someone else’s dime. I was sorely mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy every minute of it (and I paid for very little – thanks, Mr. and Mrs. C!), but it was by no means easy. Working during someone else’s vacation is such a challenge, no matter how wonderful they are or how well you get along with them. It’s hard to know where you stand in that situation if you’ve never been there before, and none of us ever had.

I never knew if I was supposed to tend to Bug (the little dude, about 15 months old at the time of the trip) if the C’s were present, or if I should let them take over. Bug was also sleeping in my room, so I didn’t know how to handle it when he got fussy. I always felt guilty when Mrs. C would get up and come grab him after hearing him cry for a little while, despite my attempts to comfort him. When he went to bed, I never knew what my role became – could I go socialize with the C’s and their friends on the lanai? Was it okay for me to accept a glass of wine with everyone else? Could I joke with them? There were so many potentially awkward situations throughout the experience, and finding my place in their family vacation felt exhausting at times.

On top of that, I didn’t have much free time, unless you count Bug’s naps (and even then I couldn’t leave the condo). Most nights the C’s would go out with their friends who had traveled with us, or with their parents who met us there, leaving me alone with Bug. When we did go places, Mrs. C and I shared the job of entertaining Bug and keeping him occupied. I ended up working much longer hours than I do regularly, and I was pretty exhausted when we finally made it home.

The trip was still one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Once I adjusted my expectations and found my place in the picture, I had an amazing time. Sure, I was working, but I was working in Hawaii. Bug still had fits and my job still brought difficulties, but they happened in Hawaii. And best of all, I was able to witness my favorite little dude as he experienced so many things for the first time.

I got to hold his hand while he grabbed his first fistful of sand. He sat on my lap while we watched whales breach right next to the shore. I held him in my arms while the sounds of the gorgeous Pacific Ocean lulled him to sleep on our first night there. I identified each new plant and animal that he excitedly discovered. I filled a box with the plumeria blossoms he brought me every day, a box I will never get rid of (even now as the blossoms are years old and nothing but a pile of dust). Being in Hawaii was incredible, but it was nothing compared to witnessing Bug in Hawaii. For that more than anything else, the trip will always be one of my most cherished memories.

Being a nanny is hard sometimes. We work crazy hours. We face extremely high expectations and standards. We never know if we’re friend or employee, so we never really know where we stand. That being said, there are so many things that make being a nanny worthwhile. The love and connection with each charge in our care, getting to experience incredible new things, and witnessing the kiddos who become our best friends have some of the best days of their lives, to name a few. Being a nanny is hard sometimes, but it’s still the greatest job in the world.

We Can Be Both

Words are powerful because we give them power.

I’m a college student working towards my degrees in Secondary English Education and K-12 Reading Education. Words are a big deal to me. It should come as no surprise, then, that when a professor recently asked a group of us to choose an adjective for ourselves, I was ready. I love words, and I know the ones that belong to me. I chose “spirited.” My classmates, with whom I’ve been spending time for about a month now, were given an opportunity to consider my word before offering alternates if they did not agree. Much to my surprise, one immediately raised his hand.

“No offense, but that’s the opposite of the word I would pick for you,” he began. I tried my best to reserve offense, but we all know that “no offense” usually precedes a statement that will inevitably be, well, offensive.

“You’re quiet, and respectful, and so nice,” he continued. My offense faded a bit into the background. “You clearly think of other people before you speak. That’s the opposite of spirited, that’s gentle.”

His “no offense” comment may have morphed into a compliment, but I was still a bit unsettled by his words. I went home and thought about it all night, and all morning today, and I’ve finally realized why.

He believes, based on his comments, that somebody who identifies as “spirited” cannot also be kind, quiet, considerate, or gentle. In fact, he sees gentle as the opposite of spirited. But is that the case? Are these antonyms? My inner English nerd was on the case and rushed to the dictionary.

The dictionary app on my laptop defines gentle as follows: “Mild in temperament or behavior; kind or tender: he was a gentle, sensitive man.” Okay, so far so good. Gentle is decidedly not an offensive identifier. Spirited, then, is someone who is “full of energy, enthusiasm, and determination: a spirited campaigner for women’s rights.” Again, nothing offensive about that.

I may be wrong here, but nothing about those two definitions strikes me as particularly opposing. These words may not be synonyms, but they certainly aren’t antonyms either. In fact, I find the definitions rather complementary. A person who could describe themselves as both spirited and gentle seems like someone that I would very much like to be friends with. So why does this classmate of mine find these adjectives so contrasting?

Well, I can’t tell you for sure. I can’t read his mind, or interview him on the subject, or psycho-analyze him. What I can do, however, is speculate (something that us English nerds know how to do). Our society has created the understanding that if you want to be spirited, bold, and enthusiastic (and, as a result, powerful or influential or listened to), you cannot be gentle. You cannot be kind. You cannot be tender. And if you want to be kind, tender, and gentle, you will not be thought of as spirited or enthusiastic or determined. And I’m not just pulling this out of nowhere – you can see this in the media, in books and movies, as personified by leaders and politicians, perpetuated by protesters and bloggers and alt-right website owners. According to public perception, the Venn diagram of these two words is just a couple of separate circles on a page.

I would like to, respectfully, light this understanding on fire. Because, and no offense here to the kid in my class, it is just plain wrong. According to my dictionary, the opposite of gentle is actually brutal. And the opposite of spirited? Lifeless. I do not want to live in a world where my only choices are to be gentle but lifeless, or spirited but brutal. That world is dark, divided, and unproductive. In fact, it looks a lot like the world we live in right now. But it doesn’t have to! Our world can be light, united, and productive!

I think that this misconception that gentleness cannot accompany spirit is leading to a world full of people leaning into their spirit and, because they think that they must, into brutality. If they have an opinion, they are going to beat you over the head with it until you agree with them. We all know these people. We have all been these people. We’ve all yelled at the friend with whom we disagree, or posted the joke on Facebook that slams the other side, or watched the news network that calls anyone different from them idiotic or dangerous or wrong. There is no gentleness here, but for us to move forward as a country we have to find it.

I’m not perfect, and I have been that person more times than I haven’t. I’ve embraced my brutality, and my anger, on the quest to being spirited. But if I’m being honest with myself, I have to admit that it has never worked. Not once. Nobody has ever listened to me because I yelled loud enough, or lobbed the perfect insult, or let anger take over my mind. No, the moments that I was able to reach people were moments of gentleness. The moments where I reflected and chose to embrace my kindness and my tenderness were the moments that I was able to reach out and affect others. And I did not have to sacrifice my spirit to achieve those moments. I let the emotions work together, hand in hand, to speak with kindness and compassion and enthusiasm and determination. I was both gentle and spirited. I can be both. We can be both.

I’m not going to tell you what to do. However, I am going to make a commitment to let gentleness and spiritedness coexist more regularly in my life. These words are not antonyms, so I’m going to stop treating them like they are. I’m going to stop believing that to be heard I have to be angry, and that to be gentle I have to be silent. That doesn’t mean that I won’t speak up with passion against injustice or for progress. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to change my beliefs or be silent about what matters. It just means that when I do speak, I’m going to speak with love. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Braving the High Roller

Las Vegas, Nevada

The older I get, the more I am convinced that drinking alcohol to increase bravery is a valid and very effective coping mechanism. It should come as no surprise, then, that I turned to liquid courage when confronted with my very real fear of heights at the High Roller in Las Vegas, Nevada. Here’s what nobody told me, though: they don’t actually stop the rotation to let you on. Don’t drink and Roll, friends. Learn from my mistake – this is one attraction that should be done sober.

My amazing grandparents on my mother’s side spend their winters in Nevada, snowbird style. Every time I visit, we spend at least a day braving the wilds of Las Vegas. My Grams, more adventurous in her 70’s than I could ever hope to be, convinced me to go on the High Roller with her and my Papa. Walking up to it and taking in the 550-foot tall observation wheel from below, I was sure I could do it.

In giant observation wheels, as in life, perspective is everything.

We rode the elevator up to the boarding level and exited into a fully stocked bar. Vegas is a beautiful place. I immediately breathed a sigh of relief and ordered a drink heavy on the raspberry flavoring and champagne. My Papa ordered a Velvet Elvis, because when in Rome and all that, and my Grams elected to stay sober. See what I mean? Braver than I will ever be. By the time we got through the line to our designated pod, I was feeling the raspberry-infused buzz. I boarded the pod after my grandparents and the doors closed, all the while feeling pretty brave. That bravery lasted approximately sixty seconds as we slowly ascended until we were level with, and then above, all of the technicolored casino lights. I looked down at the tourists and flashy advertisements and felt very small, very nervous, and very tipsy. I huddled in my seat and sipped my drink, avoiding the clear glass walls of the pod.

That’s the funny thing about perspective, though. Eventually, you’re so far above it all that you aren’t the small one anymore. The buildings and revelers below grew smaller and smaller until, suddenly, I felt bigger and greater than the entirety of Las Vegas. I was enormous and strong. I was invincible. I was drunk (on power or alcohol, the interpretation is up to you). As we slowly rotated, the view became more like what you see from an airplane window and my head filled with bubbles. I bravely left the safety of my seat and ventured over to the window. I stayed there with my nose pressed against the glass for the rest of our rotation, staring down at Vegas.

Standing in the trenches, so to speak, Vegas seems so large and so bright and so full of life. As the wheel propelled us higher and higher, though, those lights grew dimmer and the Strip began to look flimsy and plastic. All of those beautiful people doing beautiful things grew very small, and I realized that at the end of their weekend they would drag themselves back to wherever they lived, hung-over with significantly less money, and return to their regular lives. Vegas, the great paradisiacal city in the desert, was nothing but a temporary mirage.

I may get a little philosophical when I’ve been drinking.

As we neared the exit level, buildings grew larger and I lost my magical above-the-world perspective. Heights were scary again, and I realized I would have to exit while the pod was still in motion. My Grams, pre-knee replacement and all, hopped out of the pod with ease and grace. I leaned over to my Papa and whispered in his ear, “Papa… you’re gonna have to drag me off of this thing…” The exit almost knocked us both over, but we made it out relatively unscathed. We exited into the gift shop (because Vegas) and I fought the urge to purchase approximately eight mugs to commemorate my champagne-infused bravery.

The High Roller was probably the second-coolest thing I did in Vegas (Jersey Boys reigns supreme and you can’t convince me otherwise). While I feel moderately proud of myself for facing my lifelong fear of heights, I feel very proud of myself for spending the rest of my Vegas vacation alcohol-free. Sometimes the best things we do are the scariest, and the view from the very top of the highest observation wheel in the world is something I will not forget anytime soon. I also came up with my new motto in travel (and in life): “If my Grams can do it, I can do it.” Here’s to being as brave as my 70-something grandmother!

I’m not making any promises, though.

A Peek Inside My Purse

 

Every good traveler is ready to drop everything and head out at a moment’s notice. You never know when Adventure will call, and wouldn’t you hate to have to put her on hold? Whether you stock a go-bag, a compartment in your car, or your regular purse, you need to make like a Boy Scout and always be prepared. Personally, I have an obnoxiously enormous purse (which I affectionately refer to as my Mary Poppins bag) that I take with me EVERYWHERE. To inspire you to prepare your own Emergency Travel Pack, here’s a peek into what I keep in mine:

1. Approximately 72 lipsticks. This one isn’t exactly a travel necessity, but I like to be able to change my look depending on where I go. I love that with a dab of my favorite shade of red, I can go from Nanny to Exotic Traveler in a moment. I probably look exactly the same, but I feel different. That’s what counts. Probably.

2. A handkerchief. You never know where travel may take you. You never know when, or for what, you may need this.

3. A small, hardcover notebook. Sometimes inspiration strikes. I need to be prepared to write it down. Also, I have a really hard time keeping track of grocery lists.

4. A second small notebook. Remember our motto from earlier? Be prepared. Mine is designated specifically for blog ideas. A great story or post idea may come to me as I’m having an adventure, and I need to be ready to jot it down.

5. A sewing kit. Sometimes, your pants may tear mid-adventure. Learn from my past mistake and BE READY FOR THIS.

6. A flask. Because reasons. [I do have to add a disclaimer here and say that 99.99% of the time this flask is empty. It’s like a metaphor, or whatever.]

7. Hand sanitizer. Keep those germs away. Mine sparkles and smells like peppermint.

8. Lotion. The west is a dry, dry place. Your skin will thank you. This also sparkles and smells like peppermint. What can I say? I cannot be controlled at Bath & Body Works. Sue me.

9. Tic-tacs. These are just for fun, and because my Mimi always stocked them in her purse when I was growing up. It’s nice to feel nostalgic sometimes.

10. A wide variety of allergy medications and nasal decongestants. I am very allergy-ridden when I travel (and, to be honest, every other moment of my life).

11. A Reviver. This thing is a miracle. It’s a small, fancy piece of cloth that deodorizes your clothes and hair (and anything else) with one swipe. Smoke, food odor, body odor – it gets rid of everything. You keep it sealed in its little plastic holder and it stays fresh and reusable.

12. A small bag containing a folded-down, reusable tote. This was a gift from my boss a few Christmases ago, and even though it may seem like a boring gift it is SO. DANG. FUNCTIONAL. Mine is a Loqi, and it has a picture of a cat on it. It’s on the shortlist for greatest things I own.

13. A compact mirror. This is nice for fashion emergencies and all that, but to be honest I mostly use mine for spying on the people sitting behind me on airplanes. I say I’m doing this to be aware of my surroundings, but really I just enjoy feeling like a secret agent.

14. A dual-function phone charger. I got this at a gas station years ago, and it is the handiest thing EVER for traveling. At first glance, it looks like a regular car charger, but it also has a little wall plug that flips out from the side. You can plug any USB cord into it, and it is the best thing ever.

15. And finally, my Pinch Minimergency kit. It has about a zillion things inside, and I have been able to come to the rescue of so many people thanks to this little dude. Mine is very sparkly, but you can find a variety of styles and themes on their website.

What do you keep inside your travel bag? Comment below!

My First Solo Travel Experience

Or, How I Became a Roving Stone

At some point, somewhere, every person catches the Wanderlust Bug (and if you don’t, I’m sorry, but you are a broken person). My family lives for adventure and exploration, so it was only a matter of time before I came down with it. My grandparents have pared down their lives to a camper and spend their retirement roving the country. My dad spent the better part of his thirties and forties living in a new place every six months. Basically, traveling is hardwired into my DNA. In another time, I may have become a nomad rather than a nanny and, soon, a teacher. Who knows, I still may (but probably not because I have way too many things that I’ll never be able to get rid of, like my cat and my books and my coffee maker).

As a child, we took the requisite family vacations: Yellowstone, Disney World, and visiting family throughout the west. From the bits I remember, they were mostly perfectly fine vacations. [On a side note, don’t take your five-year-old to Disney Anywhere. Her only memory will be the fact that she fell in the shower and “cracked her head open”, and the overpriced toys and costumes you buy her will be in a box in your basement by the end of the year.] My childhood was full of an adequate amount of travel, and I was mostly ambivalent about it. I certainly didn’t have The Bug.

That all changed the year I turned thirteen. My dad, thanks to an inner sense of wanderlust (or possibly a midlife crisis), made a pretty drastic career change from Salesperson to Set Builder roughly around the time I turned ten. The pay was low and the hours bizarre, but the job made up for its failings in two beautiful ways: travel and live theater. During his time in theater, he worked in about nine states and even more cities. I was thirteen when my mother finally conceded to letting me fly by myself to visit him, and I was ecstatic (and also terrified).

I took a whopping two-hour flight from my hometown of Cody, Wyoming to my dad’s new home of Phoenix, Arizona, but to me it was a massive excursion. I won’t dive into the fun times you can have in Phoenix, because to me that wasn’t even close to the best part of that trip. The best part was the feeling of absolute freedom that coursed through my little, naïve veins as I wheeled my suitcase through the airports. I looked around at the various flight boards and gates and felt like I had just been given the keys to eternity. I was convinced I could go to any one of the gates, hand them my ticket, and wind up literally anywhere in the world.

 

Of course, I’ve learned a lot since then about airport security protocols and basic finance, and I now know that a plane ticket isn’t a magic pass to anywhere I want to go. Even so, I can’t help but feel that same sense of wonder and longing anytime I’m in an airport. I connect to that little thirteen-year-old who’s just learned that a whole wide world is at her fingertips, waiting to be discovered. That first experience traveling alone taught me that I can go anywhere, anytime and I can do it by myself. It gave me my sense of wanderlust, which has only grown stronger thanks to several more exciting trips throughout my teenage years. I’m thankful to my dad for many things (helping to create me, teaching me to love football, and paying for my car insurance to name a few), but the greatest gift he’s ever given me will always be my wanderlust.

Resolutionized

Well, it’s finally here. 2017 is upon us. A new year has begun. You’ve already suffered through several of your “comedian” friends calling you to say “we haven’t spoken all year! ohmygod!” If you’re lucky (or maybe not so lucky), you got a kiss when the clock struck midnight, Cinderella-style. And, if you’re anything like me and just about everyone else, you’ve already written out some New Year’s Resolutions.

They may be silly, but I love New Year’s Resolutions. I love holidays in general, with their joyful celebrations and cheesy themes. I love that they are consistent – you can count on them coming around at the same time each year. Most of all, I love the corny traditions. I love singing Christmas carols and sharing what I’m thankful for and making gooey cards in the shape of hearts. So, of course, I love making a list of resolutions. It’s probably my favorite holiday tradition of all because it combines two of my favorite things in the world: festiveness and list-making. It’s my Type-A dream-come-true. I sit down, make a list of everything I want to improve about myself or my lifestyle, and enjoy the rest of the New Year’s Eve festivities feeling incredibly productive and self-congratulatory.

And I wake up the next day and don’t do a single thing.

And that’s the rub, isn’t it? We spend time making these lists of goals for the new year and then promptly forget everything we’ve said until the next New Year’s Eve comes along. But for me, this isn’t just an issue with resolutions. I have a really hard time following through with goals or commitments any time of the year. I go through phases of inspiring productivity, but as soon as the initial excitement wears off or an excuse to wane pops up, I am donezo.

For an entire month, I got up every other morning at 4:45 to do hot yoga before work. The last class of the month, I let myself skip because I had worked late the night before, and I haven’t been back since. One year, I signed on for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month) and dutifully tracked my word count for exactly three days, and on the fourth decided to watch a movie before working on the novel. To this day, the unfinished word document sits on my hard drive, mocking my lack of initiative. And, the biggest example of all, I have started about four blogs in the last five years. I get a boost of creativity, churn out posts for a good month or so, and slowly allow it to slip away. Then, when I’m ready to start again, I’m so ashamed at my own laziness that I just start a new blog so I don’t have to think about the old, neglected one. It’s pathetic, honestly.

Which brings us to here, today. January something. The first month of 2017. The start of something new. I’m posting what will hopefully be my last first blog post. I’ve made three New Year’s Resolutions for 2017, and following through on a creative project is one of them. Finally sticking with a resolution is another (so technically, if I actually do this thing, I can kill two birds with one stone – one roving stone). The last one is managing my money better, but I’m going to fudge a little and start that one tomorrow so I don’t have to feel guilty about spending startup money on a blog I may not ever look at again. See? I’m already off to a great start!

So, here’s to a great 2017. I hope you all stick with me, if nothing else to help me stick with this. I’m not sure what this year will have in store for me, or for this blog. I’m hoping for new adventures. I’m betting on many new lessons. I’m crossing my fingers for a little growth for good measure. And, starting today, I’m resolving for some dedication.

I’ve failed at twenty-two years’ worth of resolutions at this point, though, so maybe don’t hold your breath.

What are your Resolutions? Share them in the comments!