I'm a compulsive Should-er.

Sometimes my Shoulds are pedestrian:

"I should try not to spend any more money this week." "We should get Watty's tags renewed." "We should drag all that crap from the basement out to the curb this Sunday."

Occasionally, they're insouciant:

"We should go to the beach." "We should eat Malaysian food tonight." "I should so totally buy a hula-hoop."


Most often, though, are the pie-in-the-sky Shoulds:

"I should go to culinary school."

"We should buy that house in Paw Paw and I should raise goats and make goat cheese which I should then use as my primary source of nourishment and you should have a go-kart track on some of the land and we should have a recording studio there, too, and also an art studio and a place for retreating which we should make available to our friends who should come out and stay for weeks at a time."

"We should retire in Ireland."

Shouldn't I say "Could" instead? Could is nicer. Friendlier. More hopeful. Could lets in a little more sunshine, I think, rather that dooming us to the dank Michigan basement of a certain future. So these ideas for dreamy scenarios flit through my brain and are out of my mouth in the form of Shoulds before I really even realize they contradict twenty other life plans we've laid out over the last decade-and-a-half.

One such Should is the current focus of our life. "We should try to get our kid to all of the lower 48 states before she graduates from high school."

This Should danced between us in the car one night, or hovered over the dinner table, or waved and flirted from the bed post in those drowsily batty moments just before sleep. I honestly don't know how or when it started, but here we are, boldly leaving the seventh grade behind us to embark on our second cross-country family trip.

I'm aiming to document the process, to ruminate on my own frugality, to have a clearinghouse for travel plans and options and ideas and Coulds. OK, and Shoulds. Mostly I want to record the experience of trying to focus our remaining years as a full-time three-piece by grounding us in this quest. The days fly quicker the older she gets, so for a little while, we're going to chart our time in miles.