A vacation can refresh a poor, tired soul - Valerie Baldowski

I need to get a life. I really do. With my daily routine, and being in the habit of doing the same thing day after day, time slips away quickly.

The other day, I came across a couple of reminders just how quickly life can move. I was shuffling papers around on the top of the microwave, and came across two coupons for a free ice cream cone from a local drive-through restaurant. The coupons said to use them right away, but there was no expiration date.

I was glad, because I remember when we got those, in May of last year. I also found underneath those, a $50 gift certificate from a local Japanese restaurant.

That one does have an expiration date, and I've been meaning to use it, if my husband and I can ever find the time to go out to dinner as a couple. That expires six months from the date of issuance. I received the coupon Sept. 1, 2009.

It's easy to get into a rut. Keeping your nose to the proverbial grindstone and focusing on the same thing means weeks, months and years can slip by unnoticed. The other day, I thought to myself, for the hundredth time, I need a vacation.

The last real vacation I took, which involved getting on an airplane and actually going somewhere, was in September 2003. That's pretty sad. I have been telling myself I need to start researching how much three round-rip tickets to somewhere will cost. I know of a great little vacation spot on the coast of Southern New England, where we could go.

The beaches are great, and we could save on lodging by staying with family and friends. So, this summer when school is out, maybe, I'll carve out a chunk of time for myself, take the family, and disappear for a week.

Vacations can promote creativity, relieve stress, and help avoid burnout. They actually help an employee increase his or her productivity, as well as refresh and rejuvenate the mind. The cold weather makes me long even more to get away to a sunny, warm beach, with the sun in the sky, the sand between my toes, the smell of the salty, sea air, and the seagulls wheeling overhead, waiting to dive-bomb anyone careless enough to drop food.

Right now, the reality of the situation is 19-degree weather, finishing a load of laundry, planning dinner, and deciding which unpaid bill I should tackle first. Welcome to my world.

Right now, looking at our finances, maybe, what we should be planning is what would be called a "stay-cation," where you stay put and do your own thing near home.

My reaction? Blah. What fun is that? I've been doing that for too long for it to appeal to me. Is a "stay-cation" where you sleep in until 8 a.m., on Saturday morning? Or you put off doing the grocery shopping until the afternoon? Maybe, it's avoiding going over the checkbook and paying bills until Sunday night.

It's been so long since I've been anywhere that if I actually did hop aboard a plane and jet somewhere, my friends and family up North would be so surprised they'd turn themselves inside out.

The family down here would think we'd been abducted by aliens. I guess I'll need to change my way of conceptualizing vacations, before I start thinking that taking an hour to watch "America's Funniest Home Videos" on Sunday night can rightfully be called a vacation.

Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at vbaldowski@henryherald.com.