Why this summer is different from all other summers.

 We’re seeing and hearing words including “staycation” and “vacation stimulus” when it comes to the summer of 2009.  For the lucky people NOT affected by the economy, there may be that trip to Italy or a cruise to Alaska. They should find terrific bargains, a real bonus given their prosperous circumstances. The FEAR that has enveloped many others who are still hanging on to their jobs or are fairly certain they’ll survive any cutbacks, has led to a more austere rest period this summer. The vacations are shorter, not as far, not as grand and this can be a very good thing.
Adam & camp friends 2008

Adam & camp friends 2008

Several weeks ago, we had to deliver the unpopular decision to our son, that summer camp in New Hampshire would have to be cut in half. The cost has risen steadily every year since he started going to the overnight camp six years ago. This year was no different, but the change in my job status gave us pause on spending such a huge sum of money. Of course, Adam was devastated. He’s made incredible bonds with these kids for six years and didn’t want his time cut back. We also cut our planned two-week stay at a small, rented house in New Hampshire in August, in half. It’s all good. Here’s why:

I’m realizing there were so many things I took for granted.  Believe me, it was nice to not think too much about the bottom line when it came to everyday purchases, but living just a little bit smaller has led to more family meals at home (not that we ate out that much anyway), as well as a true appreciation for the days and evenings we go out with friends, family and to the Phillies games. I had paid for our Phillies tickets weeks before I lost my job, so I just looked at that money as “outta here,” (as the late Harry Kalas would say). The games are my night or day out. Maybe we eat in before going to the game instead of spending $30 or $40 on dinner. There are treats at the game. Perhaps ice cream or cotton candy for my son, but no extras. I bring soft pretzels and peanuts. And that’s OK. Nothing can spoil the joy I get from watching my boys of summer scratch and claw for every win.

My Neighbor Joanne on her birthday at the ballpark

My Neighbor Joanne on her birthday at the ballpark

Having this time to revamp, redefine and revisit WHO I am is probably a good thing. I see the faces of people and read the stories of desperate people taking desperate measures and it melts my heart. Losing your home, your job, your car, your friends and more is a burden no one should have to bear. But we survivors are resilient. I’m learning every day that sun comes up, that I have a calling to find another path and another way to serve. Don’t get me wrong: I adored working in radio news. I’m a news junkie and always will be. But I always thought about what else I could do. Now, I’m just beginning to find out as What’s Next Productions gets underway. There is so much to do. I’ll trip a bunch of times, I’m sure, but in the end, it’s all about how my years in journalism can help small and mid-sized businesses, non-profit groups and others find ways to raise their profile in the public eye.

Finally, spending time at home has made me realize how lucky I am to HAVE this home. We worked hard to get here. Fortunately, we bought our place some time ago and have about 11 years left on the mortgage. My vegetable garden is sprouting; I’m getting more time to week the flower beds and I love watching the many varieties of birds at our feeders in the yard. (Now if the piles to file in my office would just disappear, things would be even more fabulous.) We joined the neighborhood swim club again, so it’ll be nice to have a place to chill out that is just a short walk away.

For people who need to find some peace this summer, rediscover what is right in your own back yard: the historic sites that are just a short drive away; a nearby lake, the beach; neighborhood garage sales on the weekend; an evening with the nieghbors playing board games or just talking over adult beverages. The list is endless.  Find happiness amid these tough times, because it is a prescription for success in getting through this. You will find your new normal.

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