The Best Laid Plans: A Winter Getaway That Bombed

The weather in Chicago made even the most optimistic of souls cranky, tired and ready to move to Tahiti.  Full disclosure: I detest winter: the cold, the dark, short days.  Around October (sometimes, earlier) I start fretting about what’s to come.  I try my best to enjoy the day I’m in, but it can be a tall order.

This year was no different.  Earlier than usual–around the end of November–my seasonal affective depression began to kick in.  I found myself wanting to hit the sack no later than 9:30 and had to push myself to stay awake any longer.  My energy level sank like the Titanic.  The walls were closing in, and that there was no escape.  In truth, the only thing that prevented me from doing or saying something I’d come to regret was the fact that my husband and I had sixty-five days and counting before beating a path to Mexico for two months.

Yes, I hear you:  What the heck is she complaining about?   She has a get-out-of-jail card.  Lucky her.  If I had her problems (as my dear father used to say), I’d be taking golf lessons.

I understand.  I really do.  But I’ve worked hard to have the flexibility and, yes, hard earned money to get the hell out of Dodge.  

Here it is a matter of days before Xmas, and there is not a snowflake of snow on the ground.  The sun is doing its hide-and-seek game of flirting with light and then cruelly thrusting us back into gray.  

That was not the case a few weeks back.  There was no in and out.  Only out.  I meditated on being a bear, warm and toasty in my lair of hibernation.  Not a chance.  I was destined to complain and, oh, yes, suffer.

I had to get away.  My husband and I did our due diligence and researched cheap flights to somewhere warm.  Top two cities on the list: Tuscon and Miami.  The former sounded like a cultural wasteland; the latter had been a yearly stomping ground for years when my parents lived in Florida.  Since they’ve passed away, we have not returned.

“How about New Orleans?  Let’s check the weather there.”

Not exactly the Caribbean but warm and sunny enough.  (Besides, I haven’t worn a bathing suit in maybe five years.)  

“Yes, let’s go to New Orleans.  Great food (I’m back on Weight Watchers), wonderful music, warm and  welcoming people.

Yep, let’s skip town and head to the Big Easy.

We slam dunked a round-trip fare that normally would get us from Chicago to Detroit.  Booked a fairly inexpensive guest house.  Packed light jackets and a sweater or two.  Who needs layers in sunny, 60+ degree weather?

We did!  “Oh, you should have been here last week end,” they said.  

Little consolation.  We froze our butts off and, aside from one somewhat sunny day, endured chill and rain.  (We did take umbrellas.)  Still, a getaway to warmer climes it was not.  In some ways, it was even more depressing than in Chicago where friends didn’t hesitate to tell us that the sun had not stopped shining.  

Is there a lesson here somewhere?  Do we begin to realize that the grass is not always . . . Oh, crap!  I hope that’s not the takeaway.   Are the gods admonishing us for not sticking it out come rain or shine.  (Oh, brother.)  Or love the one you’re with?  I don’t know: nothing clicks.  

The good news?  It’s sunny and warm enough with lots of layers to take a few steps outside.  I’m going for a walk.

Who Celebrates the Winter Solstice? I DO!

The countdown has begun.  Actually, it began the day after the summer solstice when sun worshipers like me celebrated the longest day of the year and then, with a gut punch, realized that it was all downhill from there.

Now, I’m not talking about the Miami Beach-style sun worshiper who slathers her body with sun lotion, lugs her beach chair next to the pool, and sizzles like bacon until the sun dives down behind the high-rise apartments that line Collins Avenue.

No, I’m talking about the worshiper who wakes up in the morning as the sun begins to burn a slice of empty space under a closed bedroom window shade—who revels in the promise of unlimited possibilities and the boundless energy to follow one’s fancy wherever it may lead.

There are “only” nineteen shopping days until Christmas and FIFTEEN days left until the winter solstice— the shortest, often darkest day of the year.

Okay, I can hear some of you out there mumbling about how I shouldn’t be so focused on the outer world at a time ready-made for exploring the depths of my inner world—a world rumored to be rich with golden nuggets waiting to be mined.  (In fact, my yoga teacher basically pitched me this line last night.  I patted her on the back, said I expected said response but that, as far as I was concerned, it was a bunch of  bull—-.)  I have plenty of time on my hands when the sun shines to dive into my thoughts.

I don’t know where you live but, here in the Chicago area, we haven’t seen the sun for more than a total of twenty minutes in over a week.  I wilt a bit more each day.  With a modicum of hope, I check the weather on my iPad every morning and, to date, all I see are symbols for clouds, maybe even little snowflake icons.  And it’s only the beginning of December!

Hence, the countdown until the winter solstice and the subsequent increase in daytime hours.  Apparently, I’m not the only one who celebrates the Big Day.  Check out the Time article.  It’s a stitch.  People do some crazy stuff that day.  “In Japan, people traditionally soak in hot baths with the yuzu citrus fruit to welcome the winter solstice and protect their bodies from the common cold.”  Thousands visit England’s famous Stonehenge to “sing, dance, play instruments, kiss the stones and do yoga as they wait for the sun to rise.”

Maybe I’ll reenact my own Stonehenge.  Dance around the frozen grass and crumpled leaves in what was only two months ago a bouquet of fall colors.  Bundle up and head to Lake Michigan, stand on the rocks and do a few sun salutations.  Sneak over to my neighbor’s hot tub, pull off the cover and jump in.

Hail to the end of the descent and the beginning, albeit a crawl, of longer, sunnier days.






Well, it happened again yesterday: the blog I wrote two years ago about the apparent kabash on taking the Lord’s name in vain on HGTV shows like “Fixer Upper” and “The Property Brothers” generated yet another reader’s comment.  Frankly, I am amazed.  I’ve written blogs about teen suicide, aging, siblings—meaty topics that I expected would move readers and encourage their opinions.  Sure, I do hear from some of those who have found their way to my blog, but nothing like the number of people like A. who responded today:

“Thank you! What a relief to see this post. This Gosh stuff has been irritating me for a long time. Really guys?! Do they think God is a bad word!!! grrrrr . . . “

Or Bon:

“Haha, I have been on an HGTV binge the past few weeks and noticed this too. I wasn’t sure if it just seemed strange because of my sacrilegious Canadian ways.”

Or Don

“Oh, my gosh!  I thought the same things about God being coached away.”

Or Julie

“I could not agree more.  I think God would approve of using his name to express joy as well as dismay!  Drop the ‘Gosh.’  Drop “Oh, my word!”  What does “Oh, my word!” mean, anyway?”

To be fair, I did receive a comment from Lisa H. who is “a Christian” for whom God is a “HUGE part” of her life.  Instead of slamming me or the other readers for our point of view, she explained her “take” in a calm, honest manner so unlike most of the discourse taking place around here in the last two years.  If only there were more Lisa Hs!  The world would be better for it.

What an interesting perspective!! I actually googled info about this because I noticed it only in Fixer Upper. However, I was appreciative of it. I was looking to see if Chip and Joanna required this of their “guests” on the show. You see, I am a Christian and religion is a HUGE part of my life. However, I say “oh my gosh” because I feel like most of the time when people say “oh my God” they are taking the Lord’s name in vain and using it too casually…since I feel like it has become so casual that even atheists say it for something to say. I love God and never want him removed from anything…media, school, etc. I just don’t say it out of respect and honoring his holy name. I never saw the perspective that there are people thinking that God was being removed by substituting the word “gosh” in. I didn’t see it that some of the people who are using this phrase to proclaim their thanks to God. Thank you for the new perspective and hopefully you can see mine. It’s so good to learn different perspectives.

Lisa mentions Chip and Joanna, the hosts of “Fixer Upper” on HGTV.  I thought I’d give them a google (Can I say that?), and look what I found—the most recent Instagram post from Joanna:


Walked into Emmie’s bathroom this morning and my heart stopped for a second when I thought she had sharpied all over her vanity. And then I took a moment and really read what she wrote and thought, “Well that isn’t the worst thing to be permanent”. Then I touched it and realized it was erasable😅. I stared at her question and loved the thought of it and that that’s how she talks to God. May her faith always stay childlike and may I remember what she seems to already know. That God is the most relational and the most kind, and always near. ❤️

The question in question:  “Hi, God, how are you doing today?”  (I took the liberty of adding the correct punctuation.  I mean, if you’re messaging God, you’d better get it right.)

So, there’s a partial answer, Lisa H.  Joanna, and by, extension, Chip share a strong faith in God that supports all that they do in life.  If I were a betting woman, I’d wager that they do ask the home buyers on their show not to take the Lord’s name in vain.  For them—and from what I can gather the other hosts on HGTV—”Gosh” not “God” rules.

Alas, I could never be a guest on HGTV, even if the Property Brothers or Chip and Joanna offered to build the house of my dreams.




HGTV and Gosh v. God