What I did on my winter vacation...
So, I spent the last week in NJ with the parents. I will be going back to Maryland early Monday morning (new year's day) and going back to work the next day.
I always have mixed feelings about being in NJ, and how much time I should spend there. Part of me feels that I should spend as much time as I can - I feel bad sometimes that I moved away after college, and that I haven't spent enough time with the parents. As they get older, I also know that they won't be around forever, and I don't want to feel guilty that I haven't spent enough time with them when it's too late. I'm already surprised to see them age, how they have trouble climbing stairs and the like. My dad's 65 and will probably be retiring in the next couple years, my mom is 64 and already retired.
At the same time, after a few days, I find myself looking forward to being by myself in Maryland. I have a RePlayTV full of shows I haven't watched, and a basement full of crap I need to clean out. I look forward to spending some time with the handful of friends and coworkers I hang out with, being able to listen to my own music blasting and keep my own schedule and routine. I have very set habits of what I do when, so a change in structure always leaves me a bit confused. I'm looking forward to going back to my old schedule, my old habits, and my own music - my brother has a part-time job at a local NJ Christian music station, and has been filling in all this week, so my 'rents have been blasting his music. He's a good DJ, but I really don't like the music - aside from making me ask the deep questions about my religious beliefs and faith that I prefer to push to the back of my head, much of the songs deal with death - another thing I prefer to push out of my mind - and they play the same songs over and over again.
And even though I like spending time with the parents, I sometimes find myself out of things to talk about - they are pretty set in their ways politically, and like to spend lots of time talking about relatives I don't really know and about their church.
But I have been pretty busy. In addition to the usual holiday stuff, I've done some shopping - I drove down to Westfield to the one Trader Joe's in NJ that sells Charles Shaw wine, and at the same time tested out my new Pharos Drivemate 135 GPS (it worked well). I went to two old navy stores and bought some pants. Tomorrow is supposed to be the day that Target Christmas clearance hits 75%, and I plan to be there early to stock up on car wax gift sets and the like. Post-Chrismtas sales in general have been disappointing, though.
I've also been trying to keep up with my exersize and diet, a process made difficult because 1) I'm surrounded by a ton of Christmas cookies and other home cooking that isn't exactly healthy and 2)my parents have a treadmill, but it kind of sucks. It's the Yugo of treadmills, with a slider instead of buttons to adjust how fast you are going, which makes it harder to specify what speed you are going. My 'rents also keep the basement rather warm and humid, so after a short time I'm covered with enough sweat to drown a small country. I've been able to put in an hour and a half most days (in bite-size 45 minute chunks) but I'm curious when I get back to my scale how much weight I've gained this holiday season.
I've also been doing a lot of reading. I had specifically ordered two books from Amazon before I left - PJ O'Rourkes retelling of The Wealth of Nations and The Underground Economy - but neither one came in before I left Maryland. Instead, I read Double Billing and half of Stiff before the libary called to let me know that the copy of William Easterly's book White Man's Burden that I had reserved with my mom's libary card was in. I picked up that and just finished reading it, and am about to start Army of Davids by Glenn Reynolds, author of the mega-blog instapundit.
White Man's Burden was an especially interesting read - the author is a former IMF economist who sees attempts to majorly change economies of poor countries as likely to fail, and feels that Searchers with a bottom-up approach are much more likely to find succesfull ways to deal with poverty than top-down planners, who try to solve all the problems at once instead of to solve individual problems one at a time.
I was debating about going back to Maryland on New Year's eve, because I feel lame spending New Year's Eve with the parents. I had plans to go to a local bar with a coworker, but it turned out that the bar was actually going to be closed (one of the problems of a local bar that caters mostly to a college crowd that is away on break, and that is run by a basically retired couple who do it more for a hobby than anything else). I didn't want to end up tagging along as a fifth wheel on other people's plans, so I figured I'd wait and drive back Monday. I am looking forward to going back - I'll miss the parents, the home cooking, and having enough time with nothing to do that I could read a 300-page book in a little over a day, but I'm also looking forward to my routine, and human contact with people I'm not related to.