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Simply MJ 

by Mary Jane Butters


Vacations at home -- Taking a vacation can be as simple as staying right where you are. Announce your plans to everyone around you and find at least two days -- a weekend maybe, or better yet three to five days -- and take a vacation at home. Here's how.


Unplug your phone and e-mail. You really need a break, not a bit of a break. If you stay attached, you'll run the risk of getting pulled back in.


Clean your house before you "leave." Otherwise, the disarray will pull at you. Have the basics done -- floors, kitchen, bathroom. Don't worry about all those messy drawers. Maybe you'll decide to rent a bunch of movies and sit on the floor one drawer at a time sorting through its contents. Organize your photo album. Write letters. Certain kinds of work can be rejuvenating, especially when you accomplish them without interruption.


Think about special things you'd like to do, but don't obligate yourself to a single thing. Remember that tightly scheduled vacation that left you feeling like you needed a vacation? You may think that on Saturday morning you'll want to visit that nearby historic mansion you've always wanted to see, but when Saturday morning rolls around, you'd really rather lay in the hammock, stay in bed or take a long hot bath.


Stock up on wholesome, easy foods. This is the best part about a vacation at home. When you're on the road, it's just too easy to eat bad food and arrive home feeling wasted and worn-out.


Pamper yourself with a plan for being outdoors, some leisurely walks or naps under a tree. Wake up and stay put, letting your thoughts drift and float like clouds. In a short time, the daily chatter in your head will subside and your thoughts will become more reflective. Wendell Berry, a Kentucky farmer and poet, thinks a person shouldn't travel until they've slept one night under every tree on their property.


If you have even a bit of land or a willing neighbor, sit with a campfire in the evenings. Invite a good friend over to join you. There are people with a contained fire pit in the backyard of their city dwellings. Most convenience stores sell bundles of firewood.


If you're trying to vacation at home with little children, it'll be a challenge. The easiest way to do it is to pretend you're a kid again. Tell them you'll be joining them for a few days. They'll love the idea of it. Turn off your TV and show them you know how to take a running leap onto the bed. Eat "I scream" for breakfast. Make sure they know how to laugh with their mouths wide open. If you have pets, see if they'll let you dress them up. Play dress-up yourself. Find silly old hats and wear them. Remember the elaborate pretend games you used to play? Pretend the floor is hot lava and you have to go about the house from chair to chair running for your life in between. Build a tent fort with bed sheets over your kitchen chairs. Pretend you're living in a time before phones, TVs and computers. Cut up old magazines and make a collage. Look through your photo albums together. Let your kids decide the ingredients for a "hobo stew." Take naps on the living room floor. If you can afford it, buy a trampoline. A trampoline is a great way to exercise your tired eyes and circulate fluids to clean out your lymph nodes. As you jump up and down, keep your eyes focused on a fixed object. At night, use your trampoline as a giant hammock and spend the night together in sleeping bags. Eat plenty of popcorn and peaches.


Take a vacation now. Not in a few weeks after planning your trip and arranging for time off. Not after a long car ride or the hassle of airports. Not after you've wasted precious time packing. If you're traveling with young children, airports and cars are anything but relaxing. And if traveling makes you uncomfortable these days, then by all means you should stay home and recharge.


Think of this time as living on process time rather than deadline time. It's important not to schedule anything. If you do agree to meet up with an old friend for dinner or a walk, make sure they know you might decide to cancel. This is a time for you to be irresponsible and whimsical, to vacate and reboot.

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