Utterly unforeseen

A day of merriment and monkey business in Roatan, Honduras, March 2011

A day of merriment and monkey business in Roatan, Honduras, March 2011

“…since life has an agonizing tendency to offer us the best and the worst at the same time, to give us what we ask for in an utterly unforeseen form, even fairly predictable outcomes prove unrecognizable upon arrival.”Robert Leleux

Even on vacation — or maybe I should say “especially on vacation” — things can go wrong.  (Just see Barb’s post here for proof of that.)  On our most recent Caribbean cruise, we got the unwelcome news that one of the stops we had most looked forward to had been changed due to some weather-related reason.  We would be docking at a different destination that day.  After a bit of disappointment, we decided to make lemonade from the lemons and do something we almost never do; buy a ship-sponsored tour.

Normally, I have no interest in packaged tours.  I like to travel “off the beaten path” which saves money and feels more like an authentic experience of wherever we are.  I actually prefer using the local public transportation to an air-conditioned tour bus, and it’s sometimes way more, shall we say, exciting — or at least more interesting.

But I didn’t have time to make a plan for this new arrival spot, and we didn’t want to waste the day, so we opted for a mostly self-guided tour of a local nature preserve.  It turned out the be the highlight of the trip.  It was my first and only chance to interact with monkeys who were not in some sort of cage.  That alone would have made it worthwhile, but the entire day was fabulous, with beautiful foliage and flowers, funny animals to watch, and swaying rope-suspended bridges to cross.

Cruises tend to be fairly predictable, and that’s one reason Jeff likes them so much.  But even with a schedule, life is ALWAYS unpredictable, and some of our happiest gifts arrive in wrapping that might be unfamiliar or even distasteful to us at first.  I’ve come to the conclusion that being flexible in such situations is a key to defeating despair.  Besides saving us a great deal of frustration, it can open doors to adventures we didn’t know we wanted.

Have you ever had something wonderful show up in an unrecognizable form on arrival?

One year ago today:

Expect nothing


  1. raynard

    Julia, we just got back home last night. Yes I can tell the difference in the N.C air and “the air” of people there”.. Seen alot of “texters” on the highway and just “kept it moving”.. I let my wife drive to the town of the wedding which was 3 hours.It was “darktime when I drove back… Just like your blog” I stopped listening to the GPS and just” went with what I knew. The interstate highway system was stet up for a reason( next time as a back up I’m going to have a paper atlas( I look looking at pictures and colors.( please dont get me singing that song”True colors I digress. your last line about something unreconizable was my friend’s sister from the wedding we just attended. I was looking for her after 35 years . She was right next to us in the wedding party and i didnt know it. Her brother ( the groom brought her over to our table)Hope Matt is have a speedy recovery, you and Jeff are”in the shade drinking lemonade”.. be blessed and have a good day..

    • Raynard, I’m glad you guys made it safely home from the wedding. It always freaks me out to see drivers texting on the interstate. Sitting in the passenger seat I see this way too often as we pass cars to our right. It makes me want to stay off the highways! As you have obviously discovered, the GPS is NOT always right!

      Reading your comment abut not seeing your friend’s sister reminded me of a joke my Daddy once told me about a man who went to his 40th high school reunion and when he got back people asked him how it went. He said “All those people had gotten so old, they did not recognize me!” 😀

  2. good morning amiga
    what a grand photo that captures the joy of the moment! sometimes those road blocks and detours are the best part of the day!
    mine was a long one yesterday.. one pickup taxi ride to a bus stop then three more bus termindals and changes in bus options before reaching my hometown at sunset yesterday. a good book kept me ‘lost’ in another world….

    now it’s time to shop and go home sweet home, though i’ll be offline.

    i should be back on thursday!

    • Thanks for being here, Z! I need to drop by your part of the world soon. Hope all is going well in your life. Enjoy your time offline 😀 and be sure to update us when you get back.

  3. Julia – Your life is a shining example of looking for the best and “making lemonade from lemons.” Sometimes we need to remind ourselves there is goodness in every situation and seek to find it. That is (sometimes) the difference between a loving, kind person and a grouchy one. 😉

    THANKS for linking to my blog post. 🙂

    • Barb, you’re welcome; I am glad I was right in feeling you wouldn’t mind my linking to it. I can remember the first time I read that story, thinking how much funnier it would be looking back on it than it was while it was happening. I am afraid I am far too often the grouchy one you describe, until (and unless) I am able to step back and look at the situation from a less reactive viewpoint. Thanks for writing that post as a reminder to all of us who struggle daily with these “first world problems.”

  4. Carolyn

    Good picture of Jeff. Hope you all have a great week. I will let you know about my eye appointment Friday.

    • Thank you Carolyn. We are keeping your appointment in our prayers and will look forward to hearing from you.

  5. I too never enjoy the organised tours which make me feel like the obedient student on a school trip. And the mechanical narration of the guide makes it all the more dull. Both of us prefer independent trips where we are our own boss. Of course they are more fun and thrilling. Once we went trekking. Deep inside the forest it was a bit scary, but luckily we were safe. It was a wonderful experience – the towering pine tress all around us, just us!

    • Bindu, what a perfect way to describe it – “the obedient student on a school trip.” Only I’m usually “the exasperating student on a school trip.” You know, the ones that are last back to the bus while the rest wait impatiently. I try not to be, but once in awhile I just can’t seem to get back on time. My friend Amy and I were on a bus tour in Germany and they threatened all sorts of humiliating sanctions for whoever was last to make it back to the bus (I can’t remember exactly what, but maybe having to sing aloud or something like that) but fortunately they did not hold us to it.

      It is definitely more of an adventure to go exploring without a herd of people along. I suppose the thought of risks (getting lost or other dangers) just adds to the experience, assuming we get back safely 😀 – but for a cautious person such as me, it probably feels riskier than it really is.

  6. When I was a youth, we took our one and only family vacation. Not out of a lack of desire, but a lack of financial means.
    My mom’s friend suggested a farm vacation that she and her husband found most enjoyable. It was a dairy farm in New Hampshire. So sight unseen we embarked. When we arrived we stopped the car and all were silent as we looked at our living arrangement for the week.

    It was a one level, dwelling with no running water, except for a pump that emptied into the kitchen sink, next to a wood burning stove. There were three bedrooms that would suffice for our family of five. But the toilet was, an outhouse-inhouse. No flush. I being handicapped would have to use that arrangment with my mom. My dad and brothers headed to natures head.
    We decided to give it a day. If not happy we would look for a hotel nearby. That morning I and one brother, who shared a room, were awaked by a donkey who stuck his head through our open window.
    The owners of the farm were great and friendly people of meager means. But they included us in their everyday running of the farm.(Milking cows and bailing hay) And we went to the top of Mt. Pinnacle, which was seen from our back yard, and overlooked the entire state.
    We also enjoyed some side trips that were most memorable as well.
    The one trip as a family that we took which innitially seemed a disaster, is still fondly talked about, by we brothers, today and is the only vacation we would truly share together.

    Within the most surprising challenges of life, there may just be hidden one’s greatest joy.

    • Alan, thanks so much for sharing this beautiful story! I think it would make a great memoir; have you thought of writing it in longer form? This is the type of thing that only comes to life when we are told it from a personal standpoint. I just loved the part about the donkey sticking his head through your window and waking you up. What a delight to any child! There is something very heartwarming about donkeys, I think.

      Years ago when my family and I were sitting by a hot dusty roadside one afternoon somewhere in Jamaica, waiting for the rattletrap public bus to pick us up and take us back to our hotel, I had cut my heel (just like Jimmy Buffet in Margaritaville!) and was having terrible cramps and not feeling at all as if I was in paradise (though that morning I had felt very much as if I was). I said to my Daddy, “Travel isn’t as much FUN as it is EXPERIENCE.” He laughed in a way that told me he agreed; of course, my mother and I were the ones who were always cooking up the travel plans anyway. But these things we tend to look back on fondly, as you have described here.

      Thanks again for sharing this wonderful story!

  7. And that Julia, is the story of my life! 🙂

    • That must be where all that lovely art comes from! 😀

  8. Sheila

    Julia, what a fun post (with that photo it had to be). I enjoyed the link to Barb’s post and the other comments of “what will be, will be”! Of course I must have a STORY but I’d like to share my “Utterly Unforeseen” experience that has evolved……my friendship with you, Julia. That does include the whole family! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Sheila, thanks so much…our friendship is proof that sometimes the most fun things in life are completely unexpected and unforeseen! ❤ Thanks so much for being here.

  9. Larry

    I am glad noone has tried to compare the handsome monkey to Jeff! He looked like he was surprised but happy to have that monkey on his back. We all face such awkward moments only to look back later and laugh at them ourselves. Mom was so proud to see that picture it even brought a little laugh.

    • Larry, Jeff and I had so much fun with those monkeys that we went back to “Monkey Town” (which is what they called that area of the nature preserve) at the end of the day to play with them some more. I was a little bit nervous after one of them got mad at another and showed some VERY SHARP teeth! But they seemed to like the people, although we were warned to hide our glasses and sunglasses if we ever wanted to see them (the glasses) again. Apparently the monkeys are very clever about hiding what they steal.

  10. Awwww, that is really an awesome picture 😀 Your Jeff is a cutie. I haven’t ever met a monkey either. I think it would be amazing because they’re so intelligent and looking into their eyes, feels like they know more than they can say. Mr B has been trying to talk me into a cruise forever. I think they’re too crowed and more like Las Vegas than I like. I keep telling him it’s something to save for retirement.

    • Boomdee, I HATE Las Vegas so I wouldn’t go near a cruise ship if it had that vibe. There is a small casino on board most ships, but we avoid that completely, which isn’t hard to do. Depending on what cruise line you choose, when you dine and where your cabin is, you can have a very quiet, private cruise, especially if you don’t take any ship-sponsored tours. I think Carnival and NCL would be more like you are thinking. Jeff and I prefer Princess and Celebrity, since they are for an older crowd and are normally quite reasonably priced. Also, we sail on the large newer ships, which are so big and spread out that even when it’s full it’s not too bad. Although you might have a hard time getting a chair by the pool, especially on sea days, but there are ways around that for an additional price. 😀

      • Thanks for the cruise tips Julia. There’s so many to choose from isn’t there? I think a river cruise in Holland might be nice. Or one that includes Venice maybe. But I honestly would prefer to just go to those places and stay for a while and explore. Hey! Welcome to the Vegas-Schmagus club. I have friends who love it there. ??? I do not see the appeal *at all*. The bad food, garish hotels and expensive shows aren’t my idea of a good holiday. I don’t shop, gamble or tan so it’s tricky to find something to do in the day. I’ve been when Mr B’s been at a conference and was bored silly. I mostly sat in our room and read, HA. What can I say, I’m a cheap date.

        • It used to make me crazy how many of the people I knew who grew up in Hawaii had only ever been to Vegas, if they’d been to the mainland at all. That was because the airfares and gambling-subsidized hotels and food made it the only affordable mainland vacation option for them. I tried to convince them that the mainland was NOTHING like Vegas but most of them thought it was wonderful based on the prices alone – which, compared to Hawaii, probably seemed a bit unreal. Still, I so wished they could see California – the east coast – the Rockies – ANYPLACE but Vegas! We stopped there one time en route to the east from California — during the height of their so-called “family appeal” advertising — all four of us hated it. I made sure to reserve a “normal” (non-casino) hotel off the strip but the carnival midway atmosphere was everywhere. Drew never wanted to eat at Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza after that, despite most kids loving it, because he said “this is just like Las Vegas for little kids” and I had to admit I saw the connection! 😀 If I was ever there for more than a day I’m sure I’d end up in the room reading too. What can I say my dear, great minds think alike, hee-hee.

          • I’ve been to Vegas twice, both times with Mike for a business trip. Since I don’t like getting drunk, I don’t gamble and I don’t smoke, most of it is lost on me. I was happy to go once to experience it, but don’t ever need to go back.

            Mike and I took a tall sailboat cruise many years ago and that was a lot of fun. There were only about 100 people on board.

            • I think one of those tall sailboat cruises would be wonderfully fun, but I’m afraid Jeff would get seasick. He has a hard time with that on smaller boats. Did you get a lot of motion on the boat? I would love being on the deck of a sailboat. On a large cruise ship, it’s easy to forget you are on the water most of the time. I like it at night when I can feel the ship rocking, it’s like being in a cradle!

              • I was horribly seasick for the first 24 hours. Nothing worked. I finally sorted out a dose of Dramamine (half of one did the trick, the pull dose knocked me out). But after the first night, they did all the open sea sailing while we slept, and then we were in the next port of call by morning.

                • Yes, Dramamine does make people sleepy. I never get motion sickness, so I don’t have to take it. I can even read in the car for hours without getting sick. But Jeff gets seasick on sailboats when the water is choppy. I’m glad you were able to figure out the magic dose so you could have a good time. Those tall ships are absolutely beautiful, I think.

                  • They are beautiful. We had a lovely time.

                    I’m envious of your ‘sea legs’. I can barely read a map in a moving car and do horribly in the back seat. I get airsick, seasick, and even got spin-sick, when my three year old asked to be spun around. LOL.

                    • Alys, some of Matt’s occupational therapists have actually told me that motion sickness is the sign of a well-developed and functional proprioceptive system. It’s apparently something of a dysfunction to be able to read in a moving car, since the visual input does not match the physical and auditory sensations that go along with being in a car. Part of Matt’s therapy when he was younger was actually to spin him while he was in a tire swing or something similar, to give him the neurological input to build a connection between what his eyes saw and what his body was experiencing. I’m sure I’m oversimplifying the description of it but hopefully you will get the idea. He LOVED to spin – never got sick – and I think that’s fairly typical for some children with autism. Supposedly they often crave the type of input they need developmentally, as all healthy babies do to at least some extent. It’s interesting that when I was little I would love to spin too. It would make me laugh. I do tend to get queasy if I do it now, though. Which is good, I guess! 😀

                    • Julia, that’s fascinating. I’ve never heard that.

                      C. too did lots of spinning, crashing and pressure therapy. We did the brushing protocal, had him crash on gym mats, I even tossed him onto the bed amid gales of laughter until he was just too big and heavy.

                      We also went through an AIT program with an audiologist. It was grueling, but we saw measurable improvement.

                    • Matt did the brushing and AIT and I thought both helped him, but we did not start those until he was in his teens. We had to discontinue both therapies because it seemed to make him more hypomanic and that was when he had already had two episodes and we were very wary. We had to be careful with anything that was activating for the brain in any way, at least we felt like we had to be, until we figured out how to keep him stable. Now that he’s been over nine years without an episode of full blown mania, it might be interesting to try it again. Did you ever go to Michelle Garcia-Winner’s clinic? I think she is from your area. I have her first two books. I sometimes wonder if things might be a bit different if Matt had had early access to some of these therapies.

  11. Michael

    Great picture. We saw some “howler” monkeys on a visit to Costa Rica. Did you see that according to Amazon- Alexandria, VA is the number one reading city and Seattle is number four.?

    • No, I missed that interesting bit of info. Is that based on book sales? Reviews? or what? Based on the traffic around here, I have this uneasy feeling people must be reading as they drive 😀 — or maybe it’s just all the commuters on the public rail systems.

  12. Michael

    That reminds me-yes everyone in Hawaii wanted to go to Vegas. Even my friends from Australia- the one place in the USA they want to visit is -you guessed it -Vegas.
    What a seedy place. I have no desire to visit there again. On our last visit with two junior high boys we were walking across the street in the intersection- a limo door opens and right in front of us a totally nude young woman in the back seat. She is laughing and obviously intoxicated. The boys were thrilled. I was appalled. You can take Vegas. Maybe I will put that in my memoir. Maybe not.
    The Amazon figures probably based on sales. I am still reading “Killing Lincoln.”

    • Michael, I’m glad we had no such memorable Vegas experience as that, though I remember something similarly bizarre from my own childhood, during the first time I can remember visiting New Orleans. It’s a shame that’s what comes to many people’s minds when they picture the USA or (for Hawaiians) the mainland. It might explain why some see us as so decadent. The ultimate example of a relative few trashing the reputation of many. I’m sure there are lots of people living in Nevada who are not happy about it either.

  13. PS Great picture and post.

    • Thanks! I’m glad you like it. We all need a little monkey business sometimes. 😀

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