Strategies for Surviving a Sweets Family Vacation

Every family has some form of vacation rules. Maybe you don’t wake up with alarms no matter what, or have dessert at every meal. Or you might prefer to never eat in the same place twice, because there are so many places to try out. If you’re really dedicated, there might be a no phones or wifi rule (which can be surprisingly relaxing).

Since I have so much fun with my family whenever we get to travel together (or really just are all in one place), I figure sharing my own family’s completely made up and not at all arbitrary vacation rules is a good plan. Buckle up for some weird, objectively silly, rules. Reasoning behind the rules comes after the list, assuming there is any reasoning to be had.

  1. Food Comes First
  2. Fashion – It must function, and it must be patently absurd
  3. Safety 3rd – No matter what the list is, or who the group, safety comes third.
  4. Erin (aka Sweets) has dibs on falling
  5. Do Not Let Dad Throw the Computer Out
  6. Yes to Dogs. No to Children.
  7. Diet Coke Has No Substitute.
  8. Sunburns are inevitable, bitching makes it better.
  9. Everything is Dad’s Fault. Yes, even that.
  10. No Matter Who Actually Wins, Madison Is The Best At 13.

First up is food! I really hope this one doesn’t need explaining. Come on now guys, it’s food. You know, the most important thing ever? That which no one shall take from my plate if they wish to live? (No, seriously, I’ve been known to use utensils as weapons to defend my noms. Don’t try it, if only for your own sake.) This one is first because if it isn’t taken care of, nothing else is going to matter. If you’ve ever been someplace really amazing, but they forgot to feed you, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. There’s a reason they let the celebrities have pizza or whatever else they want when doing all those live awards shows. Hungry people get SCARY. So look after the foods, and the trip should be okay.

Next up we have fashion choices. Now, you may be wondering why fashion comes second over important things like safety, blaming Dad for everything, and the holy source of all things good that is Diet Coke. Well, mostly because the number of people who wear uncomfortable but cute things bothers me in a fundamental way. Which is why I firmly believe that on vacation the most ridiculous clothing possible should be worn. With the caveat that you should not go spend all of your vacation money on absurd clothes, no matter how cool that would be, and that these outrageous outfits had better be functional. If you have photos from vacation and none of them are candidates for ‘wait, people wore those!?’ comments in the next ten years, reevaluate your life. I’ll wait. (I won’t actually wait, because I’m tired. Would you want to wait for that? Sheesh. I’m really going to sleep, and you can wait for yourself).

Third up! Safety! Now this is important kids, because the careful illusion of safety is what allows us to do really really dangerous stuff. Like jumping out of airplanes. Can’t do that without safety stuff. Actually, almost anything fun requires some kind of safety blah blah blah. Which means it’s best to work some of that really cool looking safety gear into your plans of following rule 2, because safety is always third. Even when the other rules jump around and change places. Just like those darn actual safety measures, always being relied on and supposed to be in the same damn place no matter what. So responsible. Look, let’s not ruin this whole irresponsible vibe here, and just pretend that this rule has to do with keeping all of your ice cream safe. Or something like that. Moving on!

This rule actually matters a lot. I have dibs on falling. No, not whoever says that has dibs on falling. Me, the one who wrote this thing, has dibs on falling. Which means none of you selfish attention seekers is allowed to fall on vacation and get hurt. You can’t even fall and just be slightly embarrassed because the cute person you see at breakfast sometimes noticed. I have dibs. So find some other ice breaker and move along. Besides, we all know that everyone has a finite number of falls in their lives, and that some of those falls are saved for when you really can’t afford them. I think of those as the hip-breakers. Now, I’m so clumsy that I’m no longer allowed to actually complete my falls most of the time, because I’ve already used up most of my allotted number of falls for this lifetime. So every time I fall now, I’m using a potential broken bone from racing in the halls of a nursing home (let’s be real, I’ll be there because I broke in to play with wheelchairs. Even if I need a wheelchair). TL;DR? The falling and all the attention that goes with it, as well as any broken limbs, are all MINE. So don’t try any of that losing your balance crap with me!

I really don’t think this one should be a rule. No, I’m not rooting on the destruction of perfectly good computers. Nor am I heartlessly urging people to make their laptops unemployed. My objection is that this is just…. I mean, who needs to be told not to throw away their computer!? This incident has already been earmarked for countless retellings, and will likely become a part of family lore to be passed on well past when computers take over the world. Probably because the computer literally needed five minutes on a charger and then a reboot in safe mode. That was it. It took Madison under 10 minutes to have it fixed, and five of those were while it sat on a charger before she tried anything. In a few years we might, might, let Dad throw away electronics without supervision. Maybe. Probably not. This is just too perfect.

Okay. We’re really getting into it now. Still with me? Let’s hope so, because I’m amusing myself, so I’m going to keep on and pretend anyone else talking is just unaware that it’s currently MY TURN. Ahem. As I was saying. Any good vacation requires a reminder to the young 20-somethings (those actively trying for children; I do not understand you at the moment, but cool. Skip this rule, go bang/get off, then move to the next one.) that we say YES to dogs, and NO to children. Dogs can be pet, are cute, and can be left by themselves without anyone calling protective services on you. Yes, even when they’re puppies. People puppies on the other hand, require constant supervision and care when being handled until they’ve turned into boring regular people. So just make the vacation better for everyone, and don’t bring the people puppies with on vacations that are meant for the people who are legally allowed to have alcohol. And yes, I do say it that way because calling me an adult is simply absurd. Let’s leave the people puppies home, kay?

Say someone is uncouth enough to have a people puppy near you, or – even worse – a people puppy is in the room adjacent to you. Well, you’re going to need something to get through the poor television choices made by the little chaos creature. Look, I get it, you’re small and have an as-yet underdeveloped vocabulary and reasoning skills. That is not an excuse to watch Barney, Dora the Explorer, or teletubbies. There is never an excuse for any of these. When I was a kid we watched Mr. Rodgers, Sesame Street, and Reading Rainbow. Now get off my lawn and watch some real kids programming or some cartoons dammit!

Whoa. Okay. I think that was some kind of mini-senior episode. One minute I had a tv show in the background and was wearing standard workout gear, the next there was classic Bach playing and I was in a robe with a cane. Pretty sure there’s a sword in the cane. So I’m a badass old lady in the future. Good to know.

Back on track! When old age tries to sneak up on you (or when that whole not sleeping deal teams up with jetlag to really get you), remember that Diet Coke has No Substitute. Now, this does not simply entail staring blankly at whomever may dare to utter those dread words ‘is pepsi okay?’ (No! Pepsi is not okay! It is never okay! Stop trying to push that inferior product!). This goes far beyond the simple attempts to substitute with inferior brands. What I’m talking about is the dreadful reality of regional flavor profiles. You see, when traveling, my Dad made a terrible discovery. It may not be a shock that products are different in different parts of the world – but the same product can also be different in different parts of the world. What’s that? I’ve lost you completely? Whoops. Okay, so Diet Coke in South Africa has a bit more of secret ingredient A in it, and none of secret ingredient B, but then just a hint of secret ingredient c. Then, in China maybe it’s the reverse. Go to England, and they’ve just gone bonkers for that secret ingredient B but don’t much care about the others. Am I oversimplifying this? You betcha. Is it still incredibly distressing to realize that your go-to comfort ‘food’ is not going to taste right until you’re home? For sure. Somehow, we still manage to get Dad to travel without him bringing along cases of the ‘right’ Diet Coke.

Alright. It’s vacation, you’ve got your very real but somehow not quite right Diet Coke, and you want to hit the beach. So you just throw a suit on and head out! BZZZ! Wrong. That’s going to turn you into a lobster. Maybe a cute lobster, but still a crustacean of the red variety. So, suit, sunscreen, sun! Maybe you go crazy and even re-apply the damn stuff while you’re out. And you’re feeling good about it, no way are you going to get burned this time. We all know where this is going, right? Good. Because, no surprise, back at whatever ‘home’ is, you will immediately discover the spot. The spot that you are absolutely sure you got, which has somehow managed to turn into your very own heat source. Now, this is definitely going to be an irritation for whatever is left of the vacation, but there is one proven balm to any sunburn – bitching. So long as you make sure to maintain a minimum on one bitching session/day, not to exceed 4 in a 12 hour period, this is a time tested treatment to ensure the remaining vacation is enjoyable*

*Terms & Conditions Apply. All bitching must be done in good humor; for full effects, combine with liberal amounts of self-deprecation.

Now, vacation is a time when we have to have everything go our way. Which means there needs to be someone to blame when things don’t go right. Stay with me here, I promise the madness has some kind of method. Now, I want to be very clear that this is not something that works when genuinely blaming someone or holding grudges. This is a way (at least in our family) to make frustrating situations easier to let go of, and to move from what my dad so eloquently calls ‘blamestorming’ to figuring things out. Basically, when things go wrong (the reservation was for two hours ago, the rental car we booked is on another island, the prince is in yet another castle…) we blame Dad. This ingenious strategy has saved all of us at one time or another, and likely will someday end up being the key factor in preventing a war or shape the world in some other ridiculous way.

If you’re still with me, you’ve made it to the tenth rule. Well, this is really the 13th rule, because the rule is that Madison is the best at 13. As I’ve tried to explain this game repeatedly and failed monumentally each time, I am forced to conclude that despite my ability to play and occasionally win, I really do not understand this card game at all.  Which is fine, because Madison is not only amazing at card games in general, but is scary good at this game. Seriously, if you end up playing 13 with Madison do not bet anything under any circumstances. I may or may not have learned the hard way.

You’re now officially… probably still not actually ready for a Sweets Family Vacation. We’re weird and very happy being that way. The good news is that, ready or not, you’re probably going to make it out alive.


Running Rumination


Tonight I want to go for a run. This time last year, I wouldn’t be writing about it, I would already be outside with my dog, on that run I want to be on. Okay, so I’m bad at running and there would be a lot of jogging involved. It would still be late at night, me and my dog, the world ours to explore. Tonight I won’t be going for a run.

There wasn’t some dramatic injury that now keeps me from ever running again. Truth be told, I should be running more than I am right now. Only… my favorite time to run in the summer is at night, when it’s just me. No sharing the world, no compromising or making space for other people.

Around this time last year – probably a bit closer to the end of summer – I was out with my dog for one of my runs. We met a man who came up to talk to us, and I haven’t enjoyed a late night run without another person since then. For the sake of not leaving you all wondering what the hell happened, let me give a little context.

Late night running can’t be before 10 pm. At least, not to my mind. This one happened at almost midnight. My neighborhood is quiet, enough so that I can go on these runs, and even on busier streets I can easily not see another person on foot. Lots of houses, major ‘things don’t happen here’ type of setting. But then with naked bike riders sometimes. We’re weird like that.

Anyway, we stop to ‘let Dakota pee’ (aka I need to re-learn how to breath and she’s happy to sniff), and a man from across the street comes up to me. Now, there’s nothing instantly threatening. He called out before walking over, had friendly body language, etc. To my mind he was just a somewhat nosy neighbor asking if I’d seen someone earlier.

Then I noticed he was holding a giant chef’s knife in one hand. That’s right. It’s midnight, there’s a dude holding a giant knife who just walked up to me, and once he realizes I’ve noticed the knife some attempted explanations begin. I think my favorite was the ‘I saw a lady slashing tires with it, and she threw it in the dumpster, so I picked it up. I don’t know if I should call the police though…’

Some kind of excuse was made (I honestly don’t remember what I said, I was busy trying to look calm and get the fuck away), then I had an extremely fast run home. Complete with decoy stop to make sure I wasn’t being followed.

So now I don’t feel so safe going for runs at night. The police never followed up or told me what happened to the man with the knife (though dispatch told me I wasn’t the first caller), and something I enjoyed was changed.

I don’t actually have any kind of wrap up here. Today has been a jumbled up hell of a time, and the realization of just why I wasn’t finding my sneakers needed to be put somewhere.

White Lace

This memorial weekend I was lucky enough to see my cousin and her now-husband exchange their vows. Watching my cousin get married felt strange. Then again, I suspect the first wedding I attended (no matter whose it was) after my divorce was to be somewhat odd to me. Ultimately, words cannot describe how happy I am for my cousin and her new husband. To see the way they look at one another is to see love, freshly bloomed.

Given the amount of discussion about marriage that often swirls around weddings, it is not surprising that I ended up writing what ended up being advice I wish someone had given to me. Maybe it would have changed things (okay, so it definitely wouldn’t have; I’m a stubborn ass and I don’t like being wrong, but I like to pretend). So… I guess if you want some really random advice or commentary on marriage (and relationships in general), keep reading.  Otherwise, well, ah… go eat some pie? Actually, eat pie either way.

When you come up on a wedding, you have no shortage of people telling you about your own relationship. Always let the woman do the cooking! (Because if he’s well fed, everything works out?!) He’ll never be able to find anything on his own! Insert gender stereotype here! Marriage is something that people say changes everything, but then don’t forget that it’s just a piece of paper. All that changed when I became a married woman was what box I checked on paperwork. That’s it. There wasn’t any magical change in my actual relationship. On top of it, all of those people giving the advice aren’t any more qualified than the ones receiving it. We just listen to the ones who talk loudest and sound the most earnest about what they’re preaching. Basically, you can be full of shit so long as you sound good doing it.

On to the actual advice. One of the most important things I’ve figured out about marriage is that being a team matters. In this case, you’re a legally recognized team – which can be really fucking scary. That doesn’t mean you have to be on the same team anytime there’s a games night. Then you should be trying to crush one another (lovingly) for bragging rights. Come on. But be a team for the big stuff. Back each other up and support each other. Here’s another vague, completely open-ended statement that could be about almost anything. Sooo helpful, right? Okay, so here are some concrete things.

  • Don’t trash talk each other. That doesn’t mean you can’t be frustrated, or that venting to your friends isn’t okay. Talking about your relationship is completely okay! But when you paint your partner in a bad light, odds are good that whoever you’re talking to will form a lasting impression.
  • Assume good intent and miscommunication. Wait, assume miscommunication?! That can’t be right. Welp; actually it is. Because it is a good idea to check in before moving to deliberate trust breaking or ‘screw you I’m what I want’ as a motive. Usually communication had a hiccup. Maybe you’re on the same book but a different page, or you’ve got different books but the pages don’t match.
  • No matter what it is, you can be a team. Seriously. One of you ‘accidentally’ ran over the world’s most beautiful sand sculpture? Great time to work together & problem solve! Let’s be real though, that would not be a problem. That’s a sign that your true calling is sculpturing; as a team. Go revolutionize the entire world of sand.

Even during an argument, you are a team now. Both with the job of understanding and recognizing the other’s perspective in order to come out that much stronger for having done the work.

Not to contradict myself, but each of you must also remain individuals. A partnership relies on two complete, mostly-functional, people choosing one another. Be two people, not one entity. Disagree about some things. Have separate activities. Exist when the other is away on a trip, or otherwise unavailable. No matter how much you love someone, or how happy they make you, no one person should ever be your whole world.

You’re probably thinking that this isn’t very romantic, or that I have a strange way about advice. Well, you know what? Sometimes me-first is how you’re a good partner. That’s something crucial I wish I had known a long time ago. Think about it, when you first fall in love with someone, it isn’t with a 1D snapshot. The special person who you love isn’t a snapshot – they’re a fully dimensional human. When you’re in a longstanding relationship it can be easy to slip into having things that are both of yours, letting the rest fall away. Only… those individual things are the same ones that make you each love the other so truly and completely.

So be your own people. Because you love each other. Also, keep dating. Each other, I mean. Most of you probably aren’t poly, which would make that cheating (If you are poly, keep dating in all the ways you’ve agreed to!). Cheating bad. Continuing to have date nights, flirting, and making each other feel attractive, good. Everyone likes to feel sexy. (Well, okay, I’m sure some people don’t, but I haven’t met them. That’s strange to think about. Back on target.)

If you only listen to me about one thing… well, first off, I’m not sure why you’ve been reading this only to ignore it. Then again, I do that all the time so who am I to judge. Anyway, if you only take one piece of advice from me on this whole marriage (or relationships) thing, I hope it’s this. Over-communicate. Talk to each other about all of it. From things that seem too small and insignificant to be worth mentioning (what do you call each other?) to something so huge it could very well come alive and devour you for daring to think its name. (I cannot even begin to list all of the things that start wriggling to the surface with this one.) Even the stuff that is somehow too trivial, yet also totally terrifying.

Over-communicate about it. That doesn’t mean you have to ‘fix” anything, or that something is wrong. It doesn’t even have to be a negative item on the agenda. Just keep each other in the loop.

My favorite way of doing this is not mine. I’ve just grown up seeing it happen. Every day when both of my parents first get home, they go to the Big Chair (basically a love seat). the next half-hour or so is theirs, and they spend that time discussing the day, what’s coming up, and whatever else suits their fancy.

So find your own Big Chair. Whatever that may be for you – maybe there’s a secret calling you need to discover for group painting – and talk about everything. Explore your lives and the world the two of you are building. Together.

Welp. That’s all I got. Relationships aren’t easy, but then most worthwhile things aren’t. Man, I give really good advice that I definitely also would have ignored. Also probably will forget to follow again in the future because that’s how I roll. Hopefully it was somewhat amusing or enlightening (dare we hope for both?) to whoever got stuck reading it.





Running Through the Mud

Most of us know what it feels like to wade through water. There’s an extra weight to each step, more effort in every little movement. Often it can feel as though the water is actively working against us – especially when we’ve got somewhere to be. Just now it feels as though I’ve got to make my way through mud each step of the way to even so much as get to the bathroom.

Okay, so I’m downplaying it. Holding my head up right now and breathing majorly sucks right now. I would also like to know who in the seven hells thought my skull was a good place to store sodden steel wool. I mean really? It’s heavy as all hell and it scratches at my brain in the worst of ways. The next obvious question is why am I making a blog post when feeling this wonderously craptastic.

Glad you asked! Well, glad I asked for you. I’m not really going to feel better in the near future. Slogging through mud is going to be my gig for a while, complete with extra exhaustion, piercing pain, and general gripes. Then there’s the fact that if I don’t give vent to the frustration from such a situation, I’ll end up doing something absurd. Like… crying over literal spilled milk. Then laughing at myself for crying over spilled milk. Basically it boils down to not putting everything on hold because I don’t feel good.

Since I seem singularly obsessed with mudcrawling today,  how about we go over some ways to cope when you find yourself in an unfriendly or unusually dense environment? No? Too bad – I’m the one with the keyboard just now. Guess that means I choose what to write about.

First things first – if you think you’re going through some unfriendly territory, or traveling through an menacingly dense substance, it’s probably a good idea to identify exactly what it is you’re dealing with. For the sake of, well… laziness, I’m going to only identify a few of the multitude of possibilities.

  • Mud – Sound Familiar? This is what I’m playing with right now. You can move, but those shoes keep nearly coming off, it takes a lot to get momentum going, and that squelching sound is just bad.
  • Water – Coming in waves of all sizes, water just never ends. It’s usually not too bad when you’re drifting aimlessly (or letting it pick the heading), but when you want to go anywhere, watch out.
  • Sand – This stuff just gets everywhere. At first you’re dealing with it in one, neatly sectioned off part of life. Then the next thing you know there it is in your shoes, joining you in the shower; and oh, what do you know, that’s some sand there in your hair. Don’t worry, I hear having an extra layer of grit is good for you.

Once you’ve identified your irritating substance there’s really only three options. Okay, well only three that I like. Stop being pedantic.

  1. Denial – This one is my favorite. Also, this is the first one I do even if I eventually go to another option. That squelch isn’t from mud, the wet feeling and splashing sound is definitely not water, and there is no way the tiny grains of broken down shell and rock are sand. Nope. Not a thing.
  2. Resignation – Sometimes this is all your can do. Apart from denying it. Just curl up in a ball and wait, hoping that eventually it’ll all work out in a way that isn’t totally awful. Usually this is not fun, and generally there is not enough ice cream in the city limits to make it okay.
  3. Flip the damn thing off – Okay, so I really like all of these options. Because yes. Flipping off whatever makes you feel awful is really satisfying. Which is why I intend to go flip my head off right about now.

To recap! Slogging through mud, sand, or water sucks. It’s part of life. You can be in denial, resign yourself to it, or get upset about it, ut we are all going to have to deal with it.


Tonight, I think I’m going to try out some denial through sleeping.




Swirling Glister

Eyes shut head bent
One two three one two three one
Arm twitch foot stamp
One two three one two three one
Watch them dance and long to join
One two three one
Catch the foot that taps along
One two
Stop and watch
Movement defines body
Beyond the grasp of the masses missives
Lithe dancers twirling twisting
Spinning into a new world where
They can open their arms to fly above
The miserable mudpit of humanity
Separated by 10,000
Hours bent over a bar
Bend and straighten, legs in line, toes up, down, back in time
Move slow and steady
Grace the world with
One two three one two three one two three one

For Virginia

Blood Spreads

staining the hand that feeds
unacknowledged by the donor who
gives night mares in heat to me
taking the moist slice as though it didn’t hurt
Healing Hands splatter blood
hits my arms face hair
soaks in to stain my shirt
how much blood can she spare?
flushing the old hurts that festered unseen for so long
trying to heal what was ignored
Two a day draw blood that hid but
17 x 2/day works just as well
watch the woman normally a giant
so small down below
hands on hips trying to do right for her daughter
still three after thirty
Feeling the weight of age that her mother wishes to take for herself,
she is thousands of years old.
aged prematurely by cares not her own
taken on because she saw the need.


I wonder
is she me in years to come?
will I feel old too soon and lose my youth
who will care for her daughter
when she is dried out from
giving her love to all who need
I hope to age fast

To Help Protect Your Privacy

Shut every window and door
flip latches, draw curtains
make sure no one is near
disconnect the webcam
turn the mirror away
Change quick
don’t pause or hesitate
throw on anything
hide the body
baggy and loose
Walk with head down
face closed off
hood up
move faster someone’s coming by
don’t look
wonder why you are afraid

Veto Power

We all know what it means to have veto power – its something referenced in sitcoms, discussed in overly serious political settings, and reverted to when ‘because I said so’ needs a leg to stand on.

When it comes to being in a relationship , sometimes having the ability to call off a course of action really matters. This is especially true when one person is signing their life away by agreeing to be at the beck and call of the US government. For myself and Justin, the agreement was simple; both of us had veto powers when it came to contracts with the government. Okay, contracts in general that impact the other person.

Thankfully, there was never an instance in which veto powers were required or called into play. After the first four year contract with the Marine Corps, we both were ready to be done and move home.

Book Racing

If you’ve ever read a book that you couldn’t put down or simply found yourself losing chunks of time to the world inside pages, you’re ready for a book race. All you need is someone to share that book with. No, I don’t mean you’ll each have a copy and will share moments of ‘oh my god I can’t believe Richard talked back to the enchantress and shot her down!’ You are two people; there’s one book.

How does this work? Well, there are some basic rules.

  1. The book needs to be new to both people. No fun if one of you already knows what’s going to happen.
  2. Once you start reading, the other person cannot take the book from you unless you have stopped reading for 30 minutes.
  3. The book stays in a neutral agreed upon location unless there’s an agreement.
  4. If you are ahead of the other person you damn well better hint at spoilers and taunt them. Just don’t actually spoil anything.
  5. No losing the other person’s spot. It’s a dick move.
  6. This is best played through a multi-book series.




I swore off sweets so long ago
no more snickers
someone else can taste the rainbow
That candy isle is
not for the likes of me
sure I look
just a glance!
at the reeses pieces romance


Then there was M&M
sitting quietly on the shelf
between the sour patches & Swedish fish
somehow misplaced amid the melee
I told myself I would put him back
Yet now M&M is my go to snack


I swore of sweets so long ago
Then my M&M came, and stole the whole show.