A holiday compromise

November 23, 2011|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

I am sitting in one of my favorite places in the world as I write this column.

I typically come here just once a year, during the week of Thanksgiving.

This year, I am especially thankful to be here, because I didn't think I would be able to come.

The place in question is a Victorian inn in the Lake Erie region. My husband and I had our wedding reception here and every year we bring our kids for a few days of chill time.

While the inn is a quaint treat to me, its accommodations are affordable. But this year, my husband and I feared that even affordable accommodations would be unaffordable.

In the past month or so, we were slammed with major unexpected expenses. We don't buy new cars, and would rather pay to keep a decent vehicle running than have a monthly payment. But we didn't anticipate that the engine in our car would die one week, then the transmission in our van the next. Ouch.

As we crunched numbers trying to cover the repairs, nixing the annual getaway seemed an obvious way to go. I thought about how I would be matter-of-fact and upbeat when I broke the news to our kids.

At the same time, I racked my brain for an alternative that would allow us to get away as planned. A swift executive decision did not come from my husband or me. We both were torn.

Our time together at the inn is so valuable to me not because it's an exciting, action-packed, vacation adventure. It's quite the opposite actually. It's a few days when activity, schedule and efficiency take a back seat to laughter, ease and play. It's a time when the noise of the world comes to halt and I can look my kids in the eye and listen to what they say.

Any decent parent should be able to do that without going away, I tell myself. Still, immersed in the family reality of carpools, homework, meetings, lessons, concerts, deadlines and household demands, I miss the mark more often than I'd like.

And so, we struck a compromise. In years past, we've gone away from the weekend before until the weekend after Thanksgiving, visiting the homes of each of our families and spending time at the inn. I work part time and am not salaried, so I when I don't work, I don't get paid.

This year, we cut the trip a bit short and adjusted the time we spent with extended family so I could work and retain the income. We also decreased our stay at the inn by one night to reduce expenses.

Whether going ahead with the trip was a wise decision, I am not sure. Judging by the lingering chats; the imaginary pirate ship adventure on the river dock behind the inn; and the popcorn stringing pow-wow —  sans household interruption — I'd say yes.

But surely there will be more financial adjustments to come to compensate for the auto expenses and our decision to go ahead with our time at the inn. I feel a sense of embarrassment for agonizing about this issue at all. I realize for many, if might not be a matter of a trip to a Victorian inn, but rather of having food, heat or even a roof.

With that in mind, I am earnestly thankful for having options. .

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter  for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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