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When I was a kid, we didn’t have even a fraction of the distractions we have
today. There was no Nintendo, no Xbox, no iTunes for iPods, no cell
phones, no Walkmans – lots of things just didn’t exist.
We had only three
television networks, which all signed off with the National Anthem at
then displayed a black and white bull’s eye with an Indian Chief’s
head in the center, with the most annoying, high-pitched, piercing electronic
sound, until 7:00 a.m. the next morning.

So, what in the world did we do?
Were we bored? I think not! We worked hard
and we played games - in real time, outdoors, getting hot and sweaty with real kids – like
Red Rover, Red Light Green Light, tag, chase, and lots of other games, until long after
dark. We told ghost stories and scary stories, like “Mary and the Onion Patch,” read
books, climbed trees, rode bicycles, watched lightening bugs flitting through the dark, ate
home made ice cream, went on weenie roasts and picnics, swam in lakes and rivers,
dunked in ice-cold streams, picked and ate wild blackberries, dewberries, strawberries,
persimmons, pecans, and pears. We read lots of books. Many evenings my parents
piled us into the car for a long ride (ah, cheap gas!) and I would watch sunsets from the
car windows. We rode horses, ducked and ran back and forth under their bellies until they
were completely unnerved, chased cows out in the pasture, chased chickens around the
yard, played dolls, made up stories, and fell into bed each night, thoroughly spent and
ready for some deep, refreshing sleep.

Even as a young adult I had a lot of fun. I no longer played those childhood games, but
I loved adventure and enjoyed exploring the world around me as I experienced
life in several large and small cities. I ran along beaches, splashing barefoot through
ocean water, collected sand dollars and small sea shells, explored parks and urban
areas, went to plays, gatherings, parties, and events, as well as museums, musical
performances, rock concerts, and film festivals.

I backpacked and camped (I even helped scare off a big black bear that was chewing a
hole in my friend’s borrowed stuff sack;
ah, the ignorance of youth), took trips, visited
friends far and wide, shared thoughts, ideas, and stories. I canoed with my parents on the
Buffalo River in Arkansas and the Arkansas River in Oklahoma.

I played an extra in the movie “American Graffiti II,” performed with various partners as a
street musician as well as in restaurants, bars, private parties and weddings, taught
myself to sing, play guitar, and write songs, and played flute on someone’s album. I sat
alone in coffee houses and pensively pondered life through my journals, pen in hand and
hot tea on the side. In everything I did,
my senses were engaged and I was
drinking in life voraciously, the only way I knew how to do it.

At some point I, ever the late-bloomer, finally figured out that I needed to go
back to school.
I was so serious about it that I became driven and attacked – yes,
attacked – my studies as if my life depended on it. If people did not literally drag me away
from my books, I doubt that I would have ever had any recreation time at all. In some
perverse way, though, I was still having fun – through pain.

After graduation, and by then almost 40, I found my first professional work
that wasn’t a musical engagement.
 I had been a single parent for awhile, but I
married my best friend and our family grew. The demands of partnership, parenthood,
and professional work drew me away from my past readiness to have fun at a moment’s
notice. Through a whirlwind decade, I returned to school for a masters degree, jumped
into work I had not done before, and found myself overwhelmed with the stress of
constantly learning on the job and hoping I didn’t make too many mistakes.

I lost my sense of fun. I forgot how to do it. When I accidentally had fun, I’d make a
mental note – something like,
“remember to have fun again soon,” or “don’t forget
how this feels.” Then I’d lose the note. When I did have fun, somehow it was always
something I accidentally stumbled into, like when I took my son and his buddy to Roswell,
New Mexico to look at the alien stuff and on the way home, just happened into White
Sands National monument, let them talk me into buying those saucer-like sliders, and
spent an unplanned afternoon sliding down the steep white sand dunes.

Recently, I was thinking about my old secret sure-fire formula for fun. Like spontaneous
combustion, spontaneous fun can be sudden, unexpected, and intense. Work and
parenthood prohibits some spontaneity, but it doesn’t have to curb all of it. I gritted my
teeth as
the realization washed over me – if I didn’t have some spontaneous
fun, and soon, I was going to spontaneously combust!

Spring break was coming. I knew that I could spend that week decluttering the house,
catching up on lesson plans, cleaning, writing, (anything but sleep) etc. Of course, my son
would start to feel like we had no life and long for school to start again, something that,
I’m sorry, is just not normal. I had been on the fence, but I made up my mind – we were
going to Disneyland!

I never got to go to Disneyland when I was a kid, but I always knew about it and I meant to
go there someday. A good friend invited me to go with my daughter when she was little,
and we spent two days there;
I was in heaven. I made up my mind, on that trip, that
someday I would go alone, no matter how old I was, and I would run from ride to ride to
ride, as fast as I could, and not have to negotiate on what I could do and when. That
hasn’t happened yet, but there’s still time, I will do it. In the meantime, it is great to have
my kids to share it with. To me, Disneyland is just about the most fun place on earth.

The week before we left, I found a hotel, made my reservations, and let my daughter know
we were going. She got excited and decided to meet us there. Her good friend, who is
also a friend of our family, lives in Los Angeles, and he decided to meet us, as well (he
calls us “The Gang”). My Darling Daughter (who I will call “Dee Dee”) declined a ride with
us and opted to fly, instead, to avoid missing a day of work.

I Googled a map, got directions, and headed for LA with my Sweet Son and his buddy.
The ride was long, but we had a great time listening to their music, talking, and stopping
as needed for whatever. We were doing fine until we reached Riverside. The Google
map led me through a strange detour and off toward San Diego. Something inside me
screamed, “This is not right!” but hey, the map said go, so go I did. Soon it was obvious
to me that I had gotten bad directions, something all of those map websites do on

I pulled off at a convenience store and bought a real map. The clerk patiently drew a line
on the map indicating where I had to go in order to backtrack and find Anaheim. All in all
we added almost two extra hours of travel time, but at least I didn’t go all the way to San
Diego before I figured it out. We made it to the hotel and collapsed, after some decent
Asian food.

The next morning The Gang, united in an important cause, converged on Disneyland. I
had not been there since the new parking garages and the Disney shopping mall outside
the park were built, and I felt completely lost. But we made it in, parked, trammed in to the
entrance, and entered the park.

With the whole day before us, and a late closing time, I felt better than I had in weeks;
the ONLY thing you can do in Disneyland is have fun. That is the sole purpose
in being there. Something in me immediately let down and I felt excitement bubbling
inside of me. We headed for Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Haunted
Mansion, and the day was beautiful, warm, and bright. I later learned that the previous five
days had been brutally busy; we went on a Wednesday, and the crowd was moderate.
The waits for rides were mostly less than 20 minutes and we rode every one of the best
rides at least twice and some even more.

We all entered into the spirit of fun. We laughed a lot, joked constantly, and had the most
relaxing day. The all-time best rides were the Thunder Mountain Railroad Runaway Train
and Space Mountain. Space Mountain, a blazing-fast roller coaster in the dark, has been
redone with flashing lights, optical illusions, and blasting loud music by Red Hot Chili
Peppers; we stepped off that ride exhilarated and energized.

When night fell, chilly and clear, on the Magic Kingdom, I knew the moments of fun would
too soon be over. The Gang had dinner together, then eagerly took in as many rides as
possible before they closed for the night. We had picked a great day to come, with
probably only half the usual crowd. We left with the stragglers, found our tram, had to
search for over a half hour for the right section of the parking garage, and were finally
dropped at our hotel, with a final farewell. Dee Dee had an early flight next morning so
she could make it back to work for the day.

Next day, the boys and I headed home after a good breakfast, making sure we visited the
dinosaur gift shop in Cabazon. Even without Googly detours, it was a long way home, but
we made the trip part of our fun. The feeling of joy and restfulness lingered for days after
our return. I promised myself that I would not wait so long to have fun again, and I haven’t.

Even short jaunts to the small town nearby, or to the city a bit over an hour away, break up
the usual routines of life and I am returning to my former habit of surprising myself with
where I end up and what I do. I am making more decisions in the moment. Just the other
day, half in jest, Dee Dee nagged at me to come visit her, a three hour trip one way. As I
resisted, and she accused me of not caring about her, I realized that this is what I
promised myself I’d do. So I did, and I had two days of not knowing what was going to
happen next. Dee Dee and I shared some great food, stories, and moments in our lives. I
helped her shop for some work clothes and we did some dog-sitting.
All simple stuff,
all meaningful to us.

There are so many ways to take little mini-breaks, longer
breaks, and downright vacations, all of which refresh us and
help us to find pleasure in our lives and our work.
After the Christmas
holidays, I received a photo greeting card from some friends who often take great trips. In
the sun-drenched photo they are wearing bright clothing and hats, standing on either side
of a trail sign, back packs on the ground near them. Their faces are peaceful, blissed-out.
Their hands meet on top of the sign, a gesture of intimacy, love, and trust. To me, that
photo reflects pure happiness and fulfillment, and I love it. I keep it nearby to remind
myself to take a break and have fun.

Fun is a state of mind. We can adopt that state of mind in just about
everything that we do.
Pam Germain, whose fitness website is called
How To Be A Moon Goddess, is absolutely passionate about viewing fitness
activities as play. Her website is inspirational and enjoyable to read and is a great place
to find ideas on how to find the fun in the things that you do. I first learned about her when I
was checking out the website of my friend,
Jinx Schwartz, who finds tremendous fun
writing humorous mysteries, inspired by life aboard her yacht in the Sea of Cortez in
Mexico, where she spends several months each year having more fun than seems
humanly possible.

Fun keeps us healthy and happy and makes life worth
living. In a world that seems plagued with serious
, unpredictable disasters, and terrorism, we need to remember that bad
news sells and most of the time, those things are just not happening in the here and now.

This is my Year To Have Fun, and I mean that! I invite you to
join me in setting goals for fun, as well as for work.
Take those
breaks, mini-vacations, and time-outs, and make them special. Find the humor in the
things that happen around you. Find ways to make work fun. This is your life, and it will
only be as interesting, and fun, as you make it. And if you have any really good ideas that
you are dying to share, send them on to me!

Please feel free to email questions, comments, and ideas for how to
have fun to Holly Whitman at

Copyright 2007 by Holly Whitman
Let’s Have Some Fun!
Copyright 2007 by Holly Whitman
Live and work but do not forget to play, to have fun in life and really enjoy it
– Eileen Caddy

We don't stop playing because we grow old;
we grow old because we stop playing
– George Bernard Shaw
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