Sorry. I can’t really write anything worth a damn – I’m still recovering from my vacation.

Its official name is desynchronosis. According to the Mayo Clinic it can cause muscle pain, insomnia, excessive sleepiness, dehydration, malaise, fatigue, headache, irritability, concentration problems, and indigestion. Some doctors treat it with Provigil, Ambien, or light therapy. It can take days, even a week to get over and yet, every day tens of thousands of us lineup happily for the experience. jet lag

And I’m here to tell you: jet leg is no joke.

I hate flying. I hate it for all of the usual reasons: crowds, delays, little dirty airplane seats. I also turn into a giant ball of anxiety – I’d be better off stuffed in an overhead bin than sitting next to some perfectly nice grandfather from Georgia. But I think the worst part of flying is jet lag. It’s not so bad on the way to the beach or a city hotel, but coming home to work and dirty laundry and two a.m. wakeups is torture.

Scientists from NASA have calculated that it takes days to recover from an overseas flight – specifically a day for every time zone the plane crosses. Because they fly around the globe for training with international space programs, astronauts are good test cases for jetlag remedies. NASA astronauts recover from jetlag two to three times faster than us mere mortals. Researchers have learned that our circadian rhythms go haywire when we fly through time zones mostly because of light. And like rock stars, astronauts wear dark glasses on airplanes – to control their exposure to light. Whether it’s natural sunlight or the ubiquitous glow of our smart phones, light at the wrong time can send our body clocks into a death spiral. Cavers, who sometimes spend weeks underground in the dark, report significant jetlag symptoms when they come up for air. They don’t cross over any time zones, but they do go weeks without any source of natural light. According to NASA, if we can control the light around us, we can minimize our jetlag symptoms. There’s no chance we will totally escape the time zone crunch, but we can learn to bounce back more quickly.

I was up at sunrise the day after we returned to Wyoming from Hawaii. Not because I was seeking light therapy – my alarm went off for the third time just as the sun hit the horizon. At my house we’ve largely ignored NASA’s advice but it’s true that the warm sun peeking over the just greening spring grass helped me peel myself out of bed for work. I’ll admit we aren’t readjusting very quickly from our four hour time leap. I’ve had to haul myself out of bed, but all three of my boys have enjoyed a slower, more relaxed reentry. We haven’t readjusted our internal clocks much at all. We’ve all a little woozy. Still, despite experiencing every jet lag symptom, our trip was worth every squeamish side effect.

Beach sunsetDiamond head hikeAs for now, I’m more interested in maintaining the illusion that we’re still on vacation. We sleep in and stay up late. We eat special treats. We lay like vegetables. Eventually our home will find its way back to homeostasis. And just as so many of us are willing to swallow the other discomforts of modern air travel for the chance to change perspectives; I’m willing to deal with 2 a.m. wake-ups and grumpy tweens in exchange for a few days of sand and sunshine. Next time maybe I will keep my sunglasses on for the flight home.

Pictures ….. from the traveling world..




So, it’s Spring Break and Keri and Sarah are both off to Hawaii. My husband and I are off to Florida on Monday, where we will visit his mother and also spend time on the beach and swimming in the Gulf. But as I began to think about this blog post, at first I was going to write about the joys of traveling alone, and about a particular trip I took by myself to a small island off the coast of England, but that’s not the way it’s going  to be.  Rather I am going to write a series of mosaics, small photos of travelers and would-be travelers.

Our Writing Center at Sheridan College is a dynamic and interesting place where people work, write, talk about writing but also talk about many other things. Allison, one of our student-consultants came in the other day and announced that she had decided that she was going to go to Bucharest. She has never been to Europe, knows little about Romania, but someone told it was cheap to live there.  I do not know if she will actually go, but she well might, and if she does, she’ll come home a different person.

Thomas, another student-consultant, announced a few days ago that he was going to Detroit. Now, in my mind, Detroit has none of the charm of Bucharest, but that is perhaps only because I have a romanticized view of Eastern Europe and a not-particularly positive view of decaying American cities. Thomas told me that someone told him that Detroit was “funky” and had an interesting music scene. Who knows? But Thomas is riding the bus from Sheridan, Wyoming, to Detroit and back this spring break. He will come home changed.

Last week, Jake, our third student-consultant, was madly filling out the last of his college applications for the institutions where he wants to finish his college education. All of his choices are in New York City. He will love the city, but he will also gain a new appreciation for his home town while he is gone.

One of my sisters once, in the 1970’s, took a cross country bus trip just because she wanted to. She got terribly homesick when she was 3,000 miles from home, but she made it back and was glad she did it.

When my daughter was a senior in college in 1999, she traveled to Vietnam with a group of students and two faculty members from her college. They spent a semester based in Hanoi, but also traveled around the country. She brought home a smattering of Vietnamese language, silk clothing, a set of small rice bowls that live in my cupboard, and an appreciation and love of a country and culture very foreign from her own.  I have a photo of her in a Vietnamese dress, and wearing the conical straw hat, straddling a bicycle on the street.  She doesn’t quite fit in, but she doesn’t quite stand out either.

When I was in my 50’s,  I went to England to visit my son and his family, but then I traveled alone from Carlisle, England, where he lives, to the Isle of Iona, on the Scottish coast. Iona is tiny. It is 3 miles long and 1 mile wide. It is the home of the Iona Abbey first built by St. Columba in 600 CE. It is a place of pilgrimage and meditation. Most of the permanent residents on the island (about 200) do not have cars, and other cars are not allowed on the island which is accessible by ferry from the Isle of Mull. Iona is a barren and wind-swept place. The abbey itself, reconstructed in the 19th Century, is beautiful and peaceful.  I spent part of a day on a whale-watching boat. We saw no whales, but many puffins and more barren islands. I left Iona on my third morning there in a cold, driving rain. But the train ride back to Glasgow, and then to Carlisle felt like I was re-entering another world. I carried the bells of the Iona Abbey with me in my heart.




Wanderlust Genes

Mom behind some sunflowers in Yellowstone NP

Mom behind some sunflowers in Yellowstone NP

I am convinced that wanderlust is inherited. My great-great-grandfather, Reverend Nelson William Crowell, was the first I know of in my family who loved to travel. He owned property near Manville, Wyoming and traveled between New York and Wyoming at a time when travel wasn’t as convenient as it is today. He was referred to as the “wanderer” in the Crowell genealogy book.This propensity for travel spread through my mother’s side of the family to me. Growing up, my mother worked several jobs to save for summer trips. We spent summers in the car traveling across the country, or we took short trips throughout Arizona. Often, I spent summers with my dad in Minnesota, North Dakota, or New Mexico.

Eventually, we branched out away from the United States into Scandinavia and Costa Rica. One summer, my mother and I toured Scandinavia, and that led to living a year in Sweden as a high school exchange student.

Getting ready to ski in Sweden.

Getting ready to ski in Sweden.

Another summer, we spent in Costa Rica where I learned a little bit of Spanish and learned to love coffee, and black beans. I can still remember the Costa Rican seasoning and the delicious hot sauce. I can’t duplicate it, but I’m trying.

Yet another summer, we traveled to Brice Canyon and Yellowstone, and that led to my desire to move to Wyoming.

When I moved away from my family and went to college, I thought my traveling days were over. I never thought I would make enough money to travel on my own. While my college friends spent spring break in Cabo San Lucas, I’d study, write papers, or work extra hours for tuition.

When I graduated, I struggled to find a job, and found myself living with my parents once again—this time in Nebraska. I worked for an advertising company and started paying off my student loans, again thinking my traveling days were over. But I couldn’t run from the inherited wanderlust. After a one-week vacation to Laramie, Wyoming to explore the University, I moved there. I lived at the KOA with my dog and loaded Geo Metro until I could find a house to rent. Two years later, I was a graduate student at the University of Wyoming.

As a grad student, once again, I found myself homebound, house sitting while my roommates jet set to Europe for three weeks while I read for class, practiced viola, and graded student essays.

Studying on the couch

Studying on the couch during spring break

For me, spring break wasn’t about traveling to exotic places and drinking to excess. It was about catching up on my schoolwork or my sleep. It was about getting ahead financially or starting on a school project. It wasn’t about fun.

Even as a full-time college instructor, I spend most breaks grading, preparing for the next semester, and reading. It’s relaxing, but I’m envious as I watch my colleagues travel to Italy, Florida, or even Phoenix.

It’s Spirit Week on campus this week, and that means a decorating contest. We decorate our area in the theme of our dream Spring Break destination. My dream? Hawaii…actually, any beach will do, but I’ve never been to Hawaii, so that would be nice.

Back in January, when the temperatures were below zero, and I was a little bit depressed returning from sabbatical, I knew I needed a little bit of hope to get me through the semester. It came in the form of an email advertisement.

Normally, I delete those, but this one, I followed the link. It lead me to various vacation deals. That’s when I decided it was time to take a real Spring Break. So, on Monday, March 16, my husband and I will be on our way to Oahu. We’ll spend three days and nights in Waikiki Beach where my husband and I plan to spend two days on the beach and in the ocean.

As people around me express their jealousy, I simply smile and say, “You’ll have your chance someday.” Hopefully, they will, but for now, it’s my turn, and who knows what this trip will bring. But I can’t wait.

~ Keri

Have Kids. Will Travel.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark Twain

crying frank

Tired traveler #1

crying luca

Tired traveler #2

I’ve long said that there should be a family section on airplanes. We used to segregate smokers, somehow expecting that little blue curtain to save us from carcinogen uptake. The first class cabin still ropes off their bigger seats and free drinks. Why not at least give parents the luxury of traveling with our brethren? That way at least we know that our kicking and screaming travel companions aren’t alone in their revolt. We could share snacks and mild sedatives in our own little corner of commercial airline purgatory. Business travelers intent on laptop time and stiff drinks might even pay extra to keep us caged.


Early wanderlust

I’ve written about the perspective that travel offers, about the necessity of understanding how big the world is, about how it makes time slow and eyes open. For some of us travel is a compulsion, even an addiction. Having a trip on the horizon – even just an interstate road trip – keeps me sane. I get a little crazy if my passport threatens to expire. And here’s the thing: I worry that wanderlust isn’t hereditary.

So I’ve dragged my kids around the planet. When they were tiny, Cody and I insisted that nothing would change – we’d keep pace. We added a port-a-crib to our tent and forced our babies to endure east coast road trips in traffic. When our oldest son revolted and refused to nap in his car seat, we conceded to a few changes.

We slow down. One thing a day. No more running ragged around a new city collecting sights like merit badges. We take our time getting out in the morning, prioritizing an easy breakfast and lazy wake-ups. And we quit early. An hour in the pool or in front of the TV makes the next day bearable.

We plan our food. Feeding four people in an unfamiliar place breeds anxiety and threatens marriages. We carry snacks, but we sit down for meals. This guarantees breaks for our kids and a beer for us.

We wander widely and stick close to home. Some of our best travel has taken us just one state away. We’ve spent a week exploring new places in a familiar city, forcing ourselves to see the familiar from another angle, pretending to be bright eyed tourists. We’ve also lugged a baby and a toddler to Europe. Both trips necessitated adult beverages and significant patience.

We practice the art of anticipation. In about two weeks we will take our boys to Hawaii for spring break. I’d planned an elaborate surprise al a whimsical Disney TV commercials: I wanted to tell the kids about the trip on the way to the airport. But the boys are far more perceptive than I give them credit for and my husband is a terrible liar. They discovered the ruse weeks ago. Now I realize I was wrong. Their travel joy might be measured in direct proportion to their anticipation. Had they not had the opportunity to plan and dream about our trip, the experience would have suffered. Besides, I’d miss out on the “how-many-days-till-Hawaii” whine. Every. Single. Morning.

My boys are big now and generally quiet on airplanes. My eleven year-old is almost taller than I am so his days of short-leg-induced-seat-kicking should be waning, but I’ve been that mom for years. I’ve always traveled with my kids. It was easy when they were tiny – I just schlepped them around in a sling. I boarded more than one flight without anyone realizing I had an infant strapped to my chest. I won’t pretend toddler travel was easy. I’m sure I was every flight attendant’s worst nightmare: two boys under three. But I soldiered on insistent that travel was as good for my little people as it was for me. I can hope that it will make my family’s views broader, more wholesome and charitable, but at the very least it will get us out of “our little corner of the earth.” ~ Sarah


Whose Business Is It Anyway?









Sarah and Keri and I have all written about our marriages in the last three weeks, but February has four Tuesdays, so I get to have another go at marriage. I could tell you more about my secrets to a long marriage (patience and tolerance) but I won’t. You, dear readers, will have to figure that out on your own.

However, I want to talk more generally about marriage especially since laws against same-sex marriage are falling around the country (except apparently in Alabama, which has managed to be on the wrong side of history more than once.)  This is all well and good, but suppose for a minute that we suddenly agreed that any marriage was none of the state’s (both individual states and the larger State) business.

If we think about a time when marriages, especially those among people who ran states (kingdoms etc), really were the state’s business because marriages meant alliances with allies, meant joining of properties or the acquisition of some sort of title.  In those times, marriages among common folk mattered little and were registered (if registered at all) in the parish records, which is where we look today if we are doing historical research. These marriages were sanctioned by and performed by the church.

During the Protestant Reformation , regulation of marriage was passed to the state because Martin Luther considered marriage a secular thing and by the 17th Century, most states had  laws about marriage. (Wikipedia,marriage).

I would like to suggest that it is time to loosen the bonds between marriage and the state. Is it really the government’s business with whom we cohabitate, with whom we have sex, even with whom we have children?  Among conservative and libertarian circles there is lots of rhetoric around getting the government out of citizens’ lives. Abolishing all marriage laws would be one giant step in that direction.

I can already hear the objections! But what if regulation of marriage reverted to churches? lf churches made the rules about how old someone could be or what sex they could be? Churches would have the right to make whatever rules they wanted for people who chose to get married under their auspices. If a couple didn’t like those rules, they could find another church or spiritual body that had rules that they liked. Clearly Baptists and Unitarians could have different rules. Marriage would become a spiritual act that not everyone would have to participate in.  Couples could also just decide to live together without marriage and it would be neither the state’s nor the church’s concern.

But what about children? The state does have the responsibility for protecting children, but we know that just because parents are married in the eyes of the state does not mean that they are adequate parents. Plenty of children are removed from homes where the parents are married. So it is not marriage that protects children. Having adults who care about them and treat them well creates healthy and happy children, not a marriage license. The state could still intervene if children were being harmed.

What about taxes? There would be no “married filing jointly” instructions. Each person would file his/her own taxes and pay them accordingly. Just because someone was married in the eyes of a church would not allow the government to garner wages of person whose spouse had not paid taxes.

What about health insurance? At some point, we will have health insurance that is not dependent on employers and each person will be covered by an individual plan. Health insurance could, for example, be assigned to someone at birth.

What about visitation in hospitals or the right to make medical decisions for an incapable spouse? Every adult should be able to create a document that designates the person or persons who would have those right. It is not the state’s business if one wants a sister or brother to be next of kin or if one wants the person with whom one has been living for years without a civil marriage certificate to be the person who makes medical decisions. This is simple to do.

Commitment to another person is a beautiful and wonderful thing, but I would contend that it is not the state’s business to regulate who can commit to whom. So, rather than working to allow same-sex marriage, might it make more sense to get the state regulation out of all marriages?