Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's an Inherited Genetic Disorder, Trust Me

Two of the Hula-gen’s will giggle at silly stuff, like:

Subway performers who play The Chicken Dance. Loudly. With a tuba.

People rolling around in giant hamster balls.

Cute little British ice cream trucks.

Cute little nuns taking pictures of Notre Dame.

Street mimes with no head and a flirtatious streak.

Things that spin when you sit on them.

And especially automated public toilets that wash their own floor after every use.

Really, we can’t seem to help ourselves, so please don’t tell us any flatulence jokes in public. If we can spend ten minutes entertaining a man from Texas with our delight over a French public toilet, we cannot be trusted with anything as dangerous as a fart joke.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Few Tips

I did all of our travel arrangements for our trip to Europe. I first looked at going with prepackaged deals or with specific tour groups but I kept hearing that we could do so much more for our money by scheduling everything ourselves, and that turned out to be true. We probably afforded two extra days of vacation by making all of our own bookings. It was a lot of work, however. The upside to that was that I learned a lot in advance about where we were going and the attractions, history and amenities of those places. That was a good thing. A time suck on the front end but well worth it in the end. So how did it all work? For the most part, really well. We had only one bobble along the way, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Here’s a rundown of the good stuff.

Affordability and flexibility: By booking our own stuff, we were able to make our own schedule and adjust it as necessary. If we were in a museum we especially enjoyed, we could stay as long as we liked. If we were at a dud, we could bail and move onto something else without having to wait another hour on a bus full of people. We had a lot of control over our time and our money, and that’s a very big deal on a vacation like that. Or any vacation, for that matter.

Museum passes: Most of the museums in London are free, but for the attractions that weren’t I bought our tickets online before we left. In fact, I started the trip with a big manila envelope full of vouchers that had to be redeemed at different places along the way. (I kept two copies at all times in case one envelope was lost, and I kept the emails in an email account I could access from London or Paris. Obsess much, Hula?) This was a tremendous time saver. For example, the morning we got to the Tower of London, the line for tickets was a mile long. We walked right up to the group ticket window where no one was waiting, showed our vouchers and walked right in. This happened on several occasions during our trip. The key to this is knowing exactly which attractions you definitely plan on seeing, because you will lose money if you don’t use the tickets.

It also ensures that you get into things that sell out quickly. I bought our Buckingham Palace tour tickets online about two weeks before we left. It’s a hot ticket this year, with Kate Middleton’s dress on display, and there weren’t many time slots available when I bought our tickets. The day we walked up to the booth to redeem our tickets, they were turning away people right and left because the tours were sold out. We would have never gotten in if I had tried to buy them at the door at any point during our stay in London.

Also, sometimes when you buy several tickets through a single tour vendor, you can get a bit of a discount or find a coupon code that saves you money. Just be sure to check the prices at the official venue sites. Some vendors jack up the regular rates quite a bit.

I also bought Paris Museum Passes before we left. Those passes get you in to just about every museum in Paris, including the Palace of Versailles. We would have spent far more on individual tickets for the attractions we saw than we did on those passes. They were worth their price in time savings, too. At many places, you simply waved your pass and went straight to the security line. We probably saved an hour and a half to two hours at the Louvre, just by skipping the ticket line. It also allowed us to pop into a museum where we wanted to see only one or two things, without worrying about paying an admission price that might have been a deterrent had we paid that individually. If you plan to stay a few days in Paris and see several museums, I highly recommend the Paris Museum Pass, especially during the high tourism season.

Subway passes: We relied on the Tube in London and the Metro in Paris for most of our daily travel, with some other trains in between. We utilized daily subway passes in London which worked well. Prior to the trip I had bought subway passes for the Paris Metro that allowed us unlimited usage for five days. We picked them up at the tourism office when we got to town and wore those suckers out. They came in a little cardboard pouch that we put in our money belt and we just whipped them out whenever we needed them. And we needed them a lot. One day in Paris, we literally lost count of how many times we got on the subway. We think it was seven. The passes also covered our train ride to Versailles and would have covered our Metro ride to the airport for our flight out had I not said to heck with lugging this freakin’ luggage up and down any more steps, I’m callin’ a shuttle. Best 50 Euros I spent in France, other than all that money I spent on ice cream.

And can I just say, the London Tube is spotless. You could eat off the floor of those subway cars, and that is not an exaggeration. New York and St. Louis could take a lesson (or four) from the British, although I honestly do not see how they are going to handle the extra subway traffic from Olympic tourists next summer. It’s already packed.

Airfare: I looked at twelve different online booking sites, getting various prices. Right before I booked, I went directly to the American Airlines site to check their prices and darn if they weren’t $30 cheaper per ticket than all the rest. I booked directly through them. Moral of the story-don’t assume Orbitz, Expedia or one of those is always the cheapest.

Lodging: I booked a really nice hotel in London through Booking.com, many weeks in advance. It turned out to be a great buy and in a really good location. Sometimes really nice deals do happen on the internet like they’re supposed to without buying them blind through Priceline. Lesson? Don’t be afraid to scour really nice hotels for deals. Sometimes they actually offer them.

In Paris, I rented an apartment. I didn’t even know this was possible until I stumbled upon it in a hotel review on Trip Advisor. I had booked condos this way in the US, but never thought about doing it overseas. For less than I would have spent on a tiny, mediocre hotel room in Paris (Geez, hotels are expensive there!) I got a nice apartment in Ru Cler within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower that gave us the opportunity to live like the French and have a quiet place to go to each evening. We could have cooked there if we wanted, but we didn’t. We had a fridge, a TV and free international calling. I called Hubby every night, and that helped to ease his anxiety level over his girls wandering around Europe without body guards. It also saved us a lot of money on international calls. I just didn’t call him much from London. I did sign up for international calling on my cell phone before I left. That meant I paid 99 cents a minute instead of $6 a minute for the few times I used my cell phone. I will cancel the international plan when the charges for this trip have been paid. This is a very common practice, and I don’t feel bad about doing it as the cell phone bill could practically qualify as extortion each month, in my opinion.

I ended up booking the apartment through Vacations in Paris, which is headquartered in the US. I paid in American currency, and they mailed us the key to the apartment before we left home. We were able to go straight from the train station to our apartment, drop our luggage and run to the Eiffel Tower. Vacations in Paris was great to work with. I looked at their properties online, made my selection and looked at it on Google Earth to make sure it wasn’t in a crappy neighborhood before signing the papers. It was great. I highly recommend it. You can also use VBRO for Paris rentals. Who knew?

Money-We exchanged most of our spending money at our local bank before we left. They gave us a rate as good as we would have gotten at most European banks or kiosks, and we had money in our hands for cabs, subways etc…as soon as we arrived in London and Paris. The other option to save on this item is to simply use ATM’s to withdraw it from your checking account while you’re there. However, I wasn’t keen on the idea of using my debit card around town, so I felt better getting cash ahead of time.

Money belt-Yes, they are a bit cumbersome. Yes, they make you look about ten pounds heavier ladies, but they are worth the trouble. Paris is right behind Rome and Madrid when it comes to pickpockets. It really is a bad problem there. While I certainly don’t think it should deter anyone from traveling there, I would NEVER, EVER carry money, credit cards or ID around that city in anything but a money belt. Why? I had my phone stolen on the Metro while it was in my front right pants pocket.

The phone didn’t fit well in the money belt, and I didn’t really feel like it was safe in the small backpack I carried, so I uneasily put it in my pants pocket. I wasn’t real happy with that idea, though. As we were entering the subway turnstile at Pere La Chaise, a guy ran up behind me, started shoving me into the turnstile and screaming that he didn’t have a ticket. I thought he was trying to get in free. Frankly, after having been jostled and shoved by 13 million tourists that week, it pissed me off that he was pushing me around, plus it hurt. I elbowed him as hard as I could and pushed my way through the turnstile. He took off the other way, and as soon as I ran my hand into my pocket I realized what had happened. In the middle of broad daylight, right in front of a ticket booth where a Metro employee was working and right under a security camera. I may or may not have said some ugly words.

We reported it at the closest police station which is how we ended up looking at mug shots in the middle of a beautiful Paris afternoon with a cute police officer who spoke excellent English. He basically told us that pick pocketing is as bad as ever there and that they’ve had a real problem with the pick pockets becoming more violent. Basically, they will use as much force as necessary to take what they want from you, especially jewelry or expensive electronics. The majority of thefts on the streets and subways of Paris are phones these days, and they are especially fond of iPhones. They call it “pickin’ apples”. Bottom line, we weren’t hurt, we didn’t have any money or other valuables stolen and a phone is easy to replace. It could have been a lot worse had I not been wearing the money belt. All of our valuables were tucked under my pants. You would have had to have grabbed my hoo hoo to get any money off of us, and that’s the way I will travel from now on. Money belt? Totally worth looking ten pounds heavier.

By the way, I did not have any valuable information in my Blackberry, and I was really glad. I never use it to access any financial accounts, and I didn’t have any pertinent information regarding our apartment in it. I had actually stored the front door code to our building in the memos section under a fake heading of “work locker” in case I lost the phone, and I was really glad I did that. I don’t think anyone would have recognized what that code was. All of the other information regarding our apartment was on a typed piece of paper in the money belt next to my Fruit of the Looms, thankfully. As soon as we left the police station, we high tailed it back to the apartment, called to have all of the phone’s service shut down, and I used Teen Angel’s iPod to change my FaceBook password. We also took off all of our jewelry and tried really hard for the rest of the trip to not stand out as American tourists. That’s pretty hard to do for two really white girls from Kentucky, though. We were under no illusions about our appearance. For any of my Blackberry contacts who get a call from some weird sounding French guy in the next few weeks, please ignore him and hang up. Unless of course, you’re interested in talking to a Parisian thug.

Like I said, that was the only bobble in our trip, and while it was upsetting at the time, it wasn’t horrible. Heck, we were off to dinner shortly after that. Everything else went swimmingly. If you’re looking to squeeze as much as possible out of your vacation and don’t mind a lot of research and homework on the front end, then don’t be afraid to book your own arrangements. The internet is a wonderful thing. If, however, you would rather someone else do all the work, then call Triple A. Just be sure to join first, so you can get the discount on their packages. And please, wear the money belt. Seriously. Wear the belt.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Little Bit Softer Now

I don’t know if it’s the sadness I feel for Mama J.’s death or just the sheer exhaustion I’m feeling right now, but everything seems so loud. People are talking too loud, the radio is too loud in the car, and all I’m craving is peace. A few minutes of solitude, where no one is making a sound, no one is talking to me, and I don’t have to talk to anyone else. Just quiet. And my thoughts. And gentle music.

I’m out of words right now. Perhaps, because I don’t want them cluttering my mind.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hula-gen Family Fun Fact #78

Five pounds of Hula’s and Teen Angel’s respective weights can be directly linked to Amarino’s Parisian Gelato, which has not only ruined American ice cream for us forever, but has left Hula frantically searching the internet for just the right cantaloupe gelato recipe.

Think the neighbors will notice if Hula puts a goat in the backyard for the goat’s milk this recipe requires?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Items Crossed off the Bucket List

Taking my picture in a traditional red British phone booth.

Standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Seeing the Mona Lisa in person.

Gazing up at the Venus De Milo.

Strolling among the cafes and shops of Paris.

Shopping along the Avenue de Champs Elysees.

Seeing Monet’s Water Lillies in all their glory.

Witnessing firsthand the beauty of the rose windows in Notre Dame Cathedral.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Almost Golden

Had Mama J. lived she and Papa T. would have marked their 50th wedding anniversary this December. On the way to the cemetery Saturday, Papa T. joked that she would have wanted to have a big celebration for that, and he’s right. She would have, complete with floral arrangements and matching tablecloths. But it’s like I told him, fifty years of marriage is worth celebrating. Their partnership has left me with an example of what marriage is about.

Their union was no more perfect than anyone else’s. I don’t think you can have a “perfect marriage”. It’s just too hard to work through the day to day of raising a family and sharing a home without some bumps along the way, but their marriage was unique in that Papa T. knew at an early age he would go blind as an adult. Mama J. knew that when they got married and agreed to support him when he eventually lost his eyesight. Glaucoma robbed him of his dream to be a veterinarian and of caring for the family farm. He changed his college major to education, figuring he would always be able to earn a living that way, even when he lost his vision. He was right. He had a very successful career as a teacher, administrator and eventually the superintendent of a local school system. Mama J. was right there beside him the whole time, making sure he was sharply dressed, that he didn’t show up for work in one brown shoe and one black shoe and generally took care of little details that could have made him less professional in the workplace as his eyes started to fade. In the last few years, when his eyesight left him, she was still making sure he got what he needed, administering his eye drops on time and reading the newspaper to him each day. Even though she hated sports scores. It wasn’t always easy for her, especially as her health declined, but she did it. In her death, he lost his eyes and ears, and that’s going to be hard on him.

As I pondered this during my run today, it made me think about marriage in general. In the past year, I’ve gone to a few weddings, and at each one I couldn’t help but think to myself that those newlyweds had no idea what lay before them. Marriage truly is a partnership. Help mates get us through life’s ups and downs. There are good times in marriage; the birth of children and grandchildren, great vacations, home purchases and just the fun of having lively family dinners together. But there are so many hard times, too, and it’s those hard times that break or cement a relationship. A successful marriage is sharing in the good times and the bad. It’s helping your mate pick out a casket for his parent, propping them up during grief over a loved one or a lost job. It’s trimming the fingernails of your elderly father in law when your spouse is afraid of hurting him. And it’s holding your mate’s head over the toilet when the flu has taken control and wiping up the mess that comes with that. Surviving those things gives you a connection with your mate that deepens your love for each other as the years pass. Life was not always easy for Mama J. and Papa T.. Besides the glaucoma, they buried two children, two grandchildren and a great grandchild along the way. But they had many good times together, and that will sustain Papa T. in the months ahead. Those memories will prop us up, too. We’ve had several laughs in the past few days about things Mama J. said and did. One day I’ll tell you the grilled cheese story. But for now, I’ll simply ponder the time between the beginning and end of their forty-nine years together and hope to do so well.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How Quickly Things Change

It's funny how you can be on top of the world one day and in a deep valley the next.  We had been basking in the glory of our trip and rushing around trying to get back into our regular routine when devastation hit us like a boulder Wednesday.  Hubby went to Mama J.'s and Papa T.'s house Wednesday evening to take them dinner, just like he does every night, and found Mama J. dead.  We tried CPR, but she was gone by the time he found her, and the EMT's confirmed our fears shortly after they arrived.  They believe she probably had a heart attack. 

While she had not been well for a while, she certainly wasn't giving us any signs of anything out of the ordinary, and we were completely shocked by her death.  We're still in shock.  We laid her to rest today, and for the next couple of days we will try to eliminate some of the complete exhaustion we're feeling.  I haven't been this tired since I gave birth to Teen Angel. 

Our next step will be trying to decide how to best care for Papa T..  We're not sure yet how we're going to do that as we don't really like for him to be alone at any time, and we can't be with him 24/7.  I'm sure the good Lord will show us the way.  We're just trying to take it one day at a time.  This is a difficult time, especially for Hubby and Teen Angel.  Hubby and his mother were close.  Teen Angel and Mama J. shared a special bond, and TA is without one of her best friends.  It all seems so unfair.  We've had so much tragedy in this family in the last ten years.  But it's not for me to ask why.  We'll simply put one foot in front of the other, and move forward.  Your prayers are appreciated, brothers and sister.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Things

People keep asking me what my favorite part of the trip was. Honestly, I think it was just the fact that I got to share so many neat experiences with my daughter. I think it’s one of those trips we will always remember and appreciate that we got to do it together. Even if she won’t admit that now, I suspect she will when she’s older.

As far as things we saw or places we went, I would be hard pressed to pick just one thing that stands above the rest. We squeezed in as much as possible, and I’m still trying to process it all. There was history on every corner and an ooh or ahh at every stop. Teen Angel brought back a postcard from every activity we did to give to a young friend of hers who collects postcards. On the plane ride home, she wrote on the back of each card what we did at that location and some thoughts about that activity. As she sifted through them, she said, “We did a LOT of stuff.” Indeed. We ran from early morning to late at night, trying to see all we could see. If memory serves me right, this is the list of things we did:

-Buckingham Palace tour (It’s only open in August & September. Kate Middleton’s wedding dress was on display.)
-Dinner at The Grenadier (Creator of the bloody Mary)
-Tower of London
-Westminster Abbey
-Big Ben
-St. Paul’s Cathedral
-London Eye (at sunset)
-Wicked Performance
-Train trip to Salisbury & Stonehenge
-Wrote our names on the wall at Abbey Road Studios
-Eiffel Tower ride to the top
-Arch of Triumphe
-Notre Dame
-Saint Chappelle
-Musee de Orsay
-Pere LaChaise Cemetery
-Musee de L’Orangee
-Musee de Louvre
-Lunch at Jardin de Tulleres
-Shopping in the Latin Quarter
-Window shopping at the Champs de Elysees (actual clothing purchases on Ru de Rivoli where it’s cheaper)
-The Catacombes
-Paris Beaches Festival
-Palace of Versailles
-Sitting on the law of the Eiffel Tower, watching the sun go down and the tower lights come on

And that list doesn’t include all the wonderful meals we had (or the theft of my phone, but that’s another post). When I look at that list I marvel at how much we were able to work in, given the long lines (thank goodness for the Paris Museum Pass) and all the subway rides in between. And can I just say Teen Angel and I are masters of the Tube and the Metro. We literally wore out those subways. It was just one adventure after another.

I have to say the most magical moment was probably our trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We arrived in Paris at lunch time last Monday via the “Chunnel” or Eurostar Train from London. We dropped our stuff at our rented apartment and immediately walked over to the Eiffel Tower. The line was terrible, and it was a loooong wait to get tickets and to eventually get to the elevators to ride to the top. As we got on the last elevator up it started to rain, and we were immediately disappointed. It was blowing light rain on two sides of the tower when we arrived at the peak, so the crowd gravitated to the two dry sides, making for a very crowded view of Paris. However, about five minutes after we got there, the rain stopped. I moved to the other side of the tower to take some pictures, and soon Teen Angel hollered over to me, “Do you see the rainbow?” “What rainbow?” She pointed behind her, and there was this big double rainbow stretching over Paris. It was glorious.

It felt like the good Lord has placed it there just for us. Of course, all of the other tourists probably felt the same way, but that didn’t change the way I felt. It was OUR rainbow. Our Paris rainbow, marking the moment we got to celebrate a bucket list item accomplished. We rode back down the elevators, feeling very satisfied.

We then walked down the street to the Arch of Triumphe, and while staring at it, we noticed other people looking in the opposite direction, pointing and taking pictures. We turned around, and there over the Avenue de Champs Elysees were TWO double rainbows. Two! Unbelievable.

Again, it was if they were there just for us. Honestly, I felt like pinching myself to see if it was real or if I was just imagining it. It was a great way to start our Paris leg of the trip.

And to end the trip, we went back to the Eiffel Tower at sunset on our last night, sat on the lawn and along with several other folks scattered on the grass with picnics and wine, watched the sun slide into the ground and the lights on the tower come one. Over and over in my mind, I kept thinking, “I can’t believe I’m sitting on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower.” Magical, I tell ya’, just magical.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Color me Exhausted

Well, we made it home safe and sound late Saturday night, exhausted but pleasantly so. We had a great trip. It was the trip of a lifetime, and we experienced many wonderful things. Especially French ice cream. Holy mother of Mabel, the ice cream from Amarino’s in Paris is to die for! As in I could have taken a bath in it.

I have so many stories to share that I don’t know where to begin, and I have lots, and lots of pictures. Exactly 959 pictures. Don’t worry, I won’t post them all (Facebook friends will eventually be able to see them all). I had to go back to work yesterday, and Teen Angel started college yesterday, so we barely had time to wash our underwear before the normal grind began again. We are still somewhat jet lagged, and we have so much to catch up on that I will simply hit the highlights in this post and share much more with you in the days to come.

A Few of our Favorite Things

The politeness of the British people (please mind the gap)

The Beefeaters at the Tower of London

Writing our names on the wall at Abbey Road Studios

The rainbow at the top of the Eiffel Tower

Sainte Chappelle

Amarino’s cantaloupe ice cream

Things we did not Like

Having my phone stolen in the Metro

Being crushed by the incredible crowds at several tourist sites and the rudeness of many line cutting tourists

The map at the Louvre (the definition of useless)

Magical Moments

The double rainbow at the top of the Eiffel Tower followed by the two double rainbows at the Arch of Triumphe

Sitting on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower at sunset watching the tower lights comes on

My first bite of Amarino’s cantaloupe ice cream

Things From Home we Missed


Thick toilet paper

Big bathrooms

Vegetables cooked with a dab of bacon grease with a side of buttery biscuits

Iced tea with LOTS of ice (I made Hubby stop right after we left the Nashville Airport Saturday night and get me a large iced tea.)

Again, it was a wonderful time, and I’m so glad Teen Angel and I got to share that trip together. It was an adventure we’ll never forget, including the whole mugging, stolen phone incident. I would love to return to Europe and visit several other countries, but I will admit that right now I’m glad to be home. That’s the thing about travel. It reminds you of why home is home. It’s great to be back with family, to not stand in line for anything, to DRIVE instead of riding the subway and to move at a much slower pace. Yes, we are more relaxed around these parts, and I have decided that I’m okay with that. Just as long as I can sneak out into the big wide wonderful world every now and then for a little adventure.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The OCD Gene

Hello, my name is Hula and I’m a control freak. And my husband is holding his breath while reading this, wondering if by some miracle of God I’m about to admit that I might be wrong about something. Let it out, honey, I don’t know if I’m ready to go that far yet. It’s hard enough to admit that I have issues with control. Although, I have managed to admit to him twice in recent months that I was mistaken about something, much to his surprise. And mine. Don’t let it ever be said that I don’t try to work on my flaws. But let’s not tell him I was mistaken Saturday night when I insisted it was NOT Jim Carrey’s voice behind Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. And please don’t be jealous of how exciting our Saturday nights are around here.

Back to the control thing. I’m not sure where this compulsion comes from. I’d like to blame it on all those years I produced live newscasts and had to shoulder the blame when something went wrong in a show for which I was held responsible. But it started before that. I remember at our wedding rehearsal when the preacher asked me to come down out of the audio booth and take my position as the bride since I could not walk down the aisle and run the audio, too. Never mind that the person running the music was a radio deejay or that I had already dubbed all of the music to coordinate perfectly with all aspects of the ceremony, including my entrance which was to coincide with the final timpani crescendo of Pacabel’s Canon in D. God bless daddy for following his cue on the wedding day as missing it would have prevented us from arriving at the altar on the final notes of the song and would have made me twitch throughout the ceremony. Obsess much, Hula?

It permeates several aspects of my life. At the risk of embarrassing myself, this would probably be a good time to admit that I’ve planned my funeral and will leave strict instructions for my family on how it should be conducted ‘cause I can’t stand the thought of being put to rest with the wrong music or attitude. I would really prefer my funeral to be a celebration of my life, complete with tropical attire and leis, rather than some mopey affair with that God awful music the funeral home drags out. Insert shudder here. Which reminds me, do you think it would be tacky to have them play Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress at my funeral? ‘Cause I really think that would be a hoot. If I’m REALLY honest, I will admit that if I develop a terminal illness, I will be tempted to hold my wake before I expire so I can attend and make sure it all goes as planned. And I am well aware of how ridiculous that sounds.

I don’t remember being this way as a child. It’s not like I used to line up all of my toys in a methodical way, although I would get cranky if my Salmon Pink crayon went missing. In fact, I was quite the slob as a child, and I played with anybody and anything. My brothers will tell you I liked to run the show when it came to us playing together, but I think that was more of a “bossy big sister” kind of thing than a need to control my surroundings. I don’t remember being a control freak in high school either, although I’ve always been one to formulate a plan and follow it. I always finished my homework on time. I graduated college in exactly eight semesters, never having a class before 9am and never taking any classes that didn’t count for something. I went right to work after college and followed the exact career path I had planned, up until about age forty.

Despite a wonderful childhood with no trauma or abuse, somewhere along the way, I developed this need to control certain things. Not everything. I’m perfectly capable of sitting on a beach for a week without a specific plan of how I will spend the days. I typically don’t sweat the small stuff on a day to day basis, and don’t fret if the day doesn’t go as I thought it would. Not enough clean underwear? Okay, throw on the swimsuit and go for a swim. No cream? Use up the skim milk and live with runny Alfredo sauce on the noodles. But give me a project or an event, and I’m large and in charge. For the last few months, I’ve been in charge of training the volunteers to run the new AV system at church. Even though we’re 95% through the training process, it takes all the strength I have to sit in the pew and stay out of the AV booth in the balcony on the days I’m not scheduled to work. Seriously, it makes me very uncomfortable to not be up there pushing the buttons; even though my brain knows the importance of letting people get the blessing they want from doing the jobs they volunteered for.

And this trip to Europe? Aye, yi, yi. I’m about to drive myself crazy with the details. I did all of the planning for it, opting not to use a travel or booking agency because I knew we’d get more for our money that way and have a more flexible schedule. We should be good to go. I’ve done my research, bought online tickets to avoid lines, printed maps of certain things we want to see and printed directions for things like getting on the right Metro line from the airport to our apartment. But I can’t stop checking and rechecking the details. I think part of it is a lack of trust in booking stuff online. I called our hotel in London Friday to make sure they had the reservation I made through booking.com, and the lady at the hotel acted like I was silly for double checking. Call me crazy, but I couldn’t stand the thought of arriving at our hotel at 8am Friday after having spent hours on an overnight flight and finding out during the height of the summer tourist season that the hotel did not have our reservation. I had a big sigh of relief when I opened up my email Sunday and found a message from American Airlines telling me they look forward to having me fly with them this week. That meant one less person I needed to call and confirm they still had my reservation.

I have left our online receipts on TWO emails accounts that can be accessed from any country in case I need to print them over there. I have in hand TWO printed copies of all the receipts, and I locked our passports and Paris apartment keys in the home safe to prevent them from being lost in a theft or a fire between now and Thursday. Never mind that if we have a fire in the next two days, we’ll be staying home. I have list after list of things I don’t want to forget. Flashlights for the Catacombs, a Sharpie for writing our names at Abbey Road, umbrellas and on and on and on. I had to go through my lists Saturday and throw away the ones I don’t need any more. When I get on that plane and actually get in the sky I know I will start to relax and enjoy the trip. And I truly have tried to build an itinerary that allows us to see as much as we can while still having some flexibility to change our minds about certain things, but sister mercy I’m going to drive myself crazy between now and then. For instance, I know I will check my purse at least three times on the trip to Nashville Thursday morning, making sure I haven’t forgotten my wallet and the folder of receipts. How do I know this? Because I do it every time we fly out of Nashville on a trip. After the first check (some ten minutes out of the house), I try to make myself stay out of my purse, but I end up pretending to dig for a mint while I’m really taking a peek at my wallet. It makes me crazy that I make myself crazy. I’m going to try to be really good and not be so obsessive these next few days, but honestly, if you gave me a chip for 30 days of good behavior, I’d just be checking my purse every now and then to see if it was still there.