With all that is going on in the world it amazes me the media seeks out the important, mind-blowing stuff to report day in and day out.
North Korea causing trouble via military exercises aimed at South Korea?? People canceling vacations because of an out-of-control oil leak in the gulf??? Unemployment still near ten percent?? Sadly, no. Why? Because there isn't enough space/time to read the tough stuff.
Instead the front pages scream of POTUS enjoying his birthday dinner with Oprah and her best gal pal, Gayle (go ahead and roll your eyes--but be careful--mine got stuck mid-roll) at a swanky northside eatery...meanwhile FLOTUS travels with an entorage across the pond to an exclusive spa in Spain for a much needed girls get-away with eight-year-old Sasha (keep the eyes rolling--this will get them back where they belong).
Now, here is a shocking disclosure: I believe the Obamas, in the role as the President and First Family, are entitled to perks. Just as the family Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson were. Perks come with the job. Sure some of the perks they take advantage of seem to us mere mortals as bad judgement calls...nevertheless, they do what they do and travel where they travel and eat what they eat because the are who they are. And we aren't.
Now, I don't begrudge anyone with the money and means to take a vacation of a lifetime or to celebrate the milestone of a birthday in the restaurant of their choosing with the guests of their choice.
I don't expect the President of the United States to haul his Escalade through the drive-thru to take advantage of the dollar menu at McDonald's for his birthday dinner in order to "keep it real" with Americans forced to compromise during the difficult times. And I certainly don't expect Sasha and her Mother to head over the border and take in a water show in the Dells for mother/daughter bonding time because it's more than likely what I would do. But, as you might imagine, I do have a problem with it.
My problem is simple. My problem comes in the form of my President, when he sits with the hens on The View...looks straight into my eyes through my 42-inch HD screen...and lays the B.S. on thick when he says with a straight face... "it wasn't too long ago Michelle and I worried about the same things you do...wondering how we'd pay for college, vacations, and the like"...
Please...oh, Please...Mr. President...you don't want to go there. You are nothing like me at all. Your family is nothing like the majority of the families in the country. I'll even take it one step further and say once Malia gets back from sleep-away camp and gathers with you, the Missus and Sasha, and you reap the benefits of the organic garden ya'll sowed, you should take comfort in the lifestyle you've achieved and the perks of the office, while at the same time taking time to thank the good Lord above, your life is nothing like mine.
Be thankful you'll never have to endure the let-down associated with the vacation of a lifetime that I once did--all because I took advantage of the perks offered to me in the marriage to one Stash Stapinski.
Many moons ago, our family had our own "economic downturn". Years before it was considered chic and a nearly a decade before it was acceptable. Since we lived paycheck-to-paycheck week in and week out without the comfort and cushion of credit cards, vacations were nonexistent. An overnight stay at a local hotel complete with a quick dip in the pool and a complimentary continental breakfast was as good as it got for the kids to share when they wrote the obiligatory "what-I-did-over-summer-vacation" essay each fall when they returned to school.
Right around Christmas 2005, things started to swing our way. Stash's sixteen hour work day was beginning to pay off...bonuses were coming left and right...our week-to-week existence was suddenly every-other-week-to every-other-week. Happy days were once here again. We were looking forward to the promise 2006 might bring.
About a week before the kids were due out of school for Christmas break, Stash called me at home. He could barely contain his excitement. Seems one of his customers had phoned him at the office. Mr. Moneybags called Stash to thank him for all the help he had offered him during the year with his various accounts. He appreciated the "can-do-attitude" Stash brought to the table.
Now most customers offered appreciation like this via e-mails to the CEO...but this was like winning the lottery--a personal call. If this wasn't gift enough--Moneybags wanted to offer a bonus. It was the holiday season afterall and he'd had a "fantastic" year.
I listened as Stash gave me the details. Seemed Moneybags was out of the country with his family experiencing the vacation of a lifetime...in FIJI (this might not seem important now, but trust me, it will soon). It made him think of Stash and the kids he'd often talked about over the phone while taking care of business.
He wanted to offer Stash a Christmas bonus in the form of a family vacation of a lifetime. Just thinking about this conversation five years later still makes my blood boil and once you hear the story you'll understand why I'm a lucky, lucky gal.
Monte Moneybags asked Stash if the family could go (pay attention to the wording here--God knows Stash didn't) anywhere...no worries of cost...transport...time constrictions...etc...where, oh where, might the Family Stapinski want to go? Sounds like an easy enough question, right?
Nope, not really, not when your better half is one Stash Stapinski. Nothing is easy. God bless Stash, he's a people pleaser--wants to make everyone happy and the way to do that is through compromise. All the people are usually pleased--because of our compromise.
Back to the big question--as he informed me of the phone call and question of a lifetime--naturally, the gal who hadn't made it out of the tri-state area since her 1982 trip to Boston with the exception of an occasional trip to Phoenix to visit family...and the last time I was on a plane that touched down at Sky Harbor Airport was 1996 for funeral attendance...hell, we hadn't been out of the tri-county area since 1995...yep, this gal needed a vacation and thanks to Monte Moneybags we were headed to, what I can only imagine was paradise...naturally ideas flashed in my head like lightning.
We'd never been to Disney--World OR Land. From what I'd heard Colorado was beeeautiful in the Winter--at least that's what the Cruise's and Sheen's had said on Extra the night before--then my heart skipped a beat--could it be possible the Family Moneybags requested the Family Stapinski travel to Fiji for a joint vacation (a girl can dream, can't she??). My heart was racing a mile a minute...and then, as he often does, Stash slammed on the brakes.
My ideas of packing for warm weather ended with one sentence when Stash cut right to the chase: "Jen, we're going to Utica...Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort!!" Yea! For one brief moment I kidded myself into thinking he was pulling my leg...as he gave the details...I accepted that he was not.
If you're not familiar, Utica is near Starved Rock (a beautiful state park) in the middle of nowhere (not so beautiful)--somewhere before the exit where Moses left his shoes and right after the exit where life as we know it ends. The place was devestated years ago by tornado and like a phoenix, the town rose from the ashes in the form of Grizzly Jack...a vacation paradise I'm sure the Grizwold's would have taken advantage of had they not already confirmed at Wally World.
Stash assured me we'd be staying in a Log Cabin with fireplace, plenty of bedrooms, and, hold on to your hats, a beautiful kitchen where I could prepare ALL the meals...in the next breath he added that our ride to what equated to Stapinski Paradise would only be an hour and a half shot straight down I80...are you beginning to understand why I consider myself the luckiest gal in the world???
Long story short, what we thought (someone was thinking it) would be the trip of a lifetime slowly but surely became the stuff Stapinski dreams are made of.
A few days before the kids headed back to school in January, we packed two coolers full of food (steaks, burgers, chicken, brats, eggs, bacon, marinated veggies, lunch meat for sandwiches, brownie mix, cookie mix, cartons of OJ, cases of pop, and water, snacks, and the makings for smores.) We gathered bathing suits and towels, pajamas and a few changes of clothes and headed south toward our three days and two nights of paradise at the log cabin/water park/indoor amusement park.
The kids were excited. I had gotten over my bitterness of not needing a passport (or need to cross state lines, for that matter) to find paradise. Stash was happy to just get away.
Upon check-in, Stapinski reality started to rear it's ugly head. Seems Monte's secretary screwed up reservations--we were not in the Cabin--not even the deluxe family suite--we were in the basics baby...2 beds and a sofa--a tv--and a dorm sized fridge to hold our splurge on the food we'd cook in the "beautiful kitchen".
The snacks came in handy cause there wasn't a restaurant for miles. They had one in the main building but they offered buffets...and a pizza place near the amusement part of paradise. I managed to salvage the steaks...but everything else perishable was lost.
Since it was the last weekend before school started the joint was packed...suffice it to say, if I'm ever in the market for a tatoo, I got many ideas while lounging on the lazy river...Oh, well, the kids enjoyed the waterpark, all the rides, and having something to say when they got back to WJJD when all the kids were bragging about their holiday excursions (as long as they kept Utica and the Ink Art Convention out of the equation they'd be able to keep up with conversation).
I don't want to seem ungrateful...the trip, no matter where the destination, was completely unexpected and a wonderful treat for our boys...something, at the time, we could never have provided in addition to making sure the Christmas tree had plenty of presents underneath. For that, I'll be forever grateful.
We've never been back, but amazingly enough, every trip since has been that much better all because we have Grizzly Jack and the simply gorgeous town of Utica to compare it to.
I'm sure the Obamas have a similar bar they set in order to compare life's experiences. When you live at the White House, I'd imagine a trip to the Dells just wouldn't cut it for a summer get away, anymore than dinner at just any restaurant would make a 49th birthday special.
Now that I think about it, maybe the President and his family is just like us.