This is the longest vacation we've ever take as a family. I fully understand now why the researchers recommend 2 weeks for vacation--not just 1 week. And even though I start hyperventilating thinking of what I have to do when I get back, being away for this long with the family really resets your brain.
So we arrived in California Thursday afternoon. You would think that driving in California--with four lanes on each side of the highway and loads of cars whizzing by--would be more stressful than driving in Charlotte.
You would be wrong.
Drivers in Charlotte are rude. They tailgate. They don't let you in to change lanes when you turn on your signal. They don't know how to merge.
To me, it feels like home when I drive in California. No matter how dense (or fast or slow) the traffic, everyone is polite. They signal. They let you change lanes. They don't tailgate. They know that we are all in this together. And it may be you who needs to get over three lanes today, but it could be me tomorrow.
So yes. Happy to be driving in California again.
Also, there's something about traveling at (um, yeah, sure) "middle" age that makes the experience different. I don't know if I'm going to the meteor crater or the petrified forest again. That might be my last time driving through Arizona. Well. It may be the last time I drive through it after I drive through it next week. I don't want to keep visiting the same sights again and again. But it's weird to remember visiting these areas 25 years ago and not having any idea about the "last time" I do something.
We arrived Thursday. Friday we went to the beach with my best friend from Grad School, Elisa, and her family. It was really fun. It was also really cool because I follow her whole family (and they follow me) on Instagram. So although I've known her kids in real life since they were children, I know them best from watching them grow on IG. Way cool to see and interact with them again at the beach.
Plus. The Beach!! And No, I didn't misremember how cold the Pacific ocean is. Or how cool (not hot) the beach is. But I TOTALLY forgot how strong the sun is, and we all were sunburned. Y'all: people in California are not tanned! They use the hell out of their sunscreen. We look like lobsters out here!!
Then, we scooted back to the hotel and I went out to dinner with some of my best girlfriends from grad school. Grad school was an amazing experience for me. It was where I finally met my "tribe." I have/had a lot of friends from that time. This is my group of friends where we had a LOT of crazy nights and amazing experiences.
We started the "Who'd you do?" game back in the '90s that the rest of you call "Who'd you rather?" Although in our version of the game, we picked out the grossest guys, politicians (e.g., Jesse Helms) and celebrities we knew and you had to choose which one "you'd do." We did allow one shot to the head if the choices were too awful.
We had epic Girls' Night Sleepovers with a SUBSTANTIAL amount of alcohol, food, and compromising pictures (which we FORGOT to take last night--trust me, Ellen brought the props!). I've never been as close to any other group of friends as I was to these women. We had white elephant gift exchanges which involved a small amount of money, a great deal of trash talking, and take-no-prisoners approach to getting the best gifts. On more than one occasion, I talked store owners into discounts so I get a great gift under the maximum price allowed.
How close are we still? We all showed up with the same color of nail polish on our fingers or toes. It's not a common polish. But we all were wearing it. That's crazy.
And one of the things I miss most about these women? Sharing secrets. There are some things I've needed to tell people that I could only tell them after a glass of wine. And learning secrets. Like the Hollywood trick (several of them have family/friends in the industry) of resting your face on your hand to take a prettier picture. As you can tell, we are not idiots: we did that. And my friends are all beautiful. Really. Beautiful women. I'm lucky to be in this group of women.