Every year we leave the strife, tension and anxiety we experience here at home and go some place together where we can take the strife, tension and anxiety to a nicer climate.
Mary Ellen makes a list of things to do before we leave: Check passports, get immunizations, confirm airline reservations and arrange for someone to feed the cat ... you know, stupid stuff.
Not me. I like to plan my return instead.
That's why I always have a list waiting on my desk of things to do as soon as I walk in the house: Empty suitcase, wash dirty clothes, pay bills.
Mary Ellen says that worrying about things I have to do when I return is weird.
She suggested I tell my therapist about this compulsion.
I made an appointment for the Tuesday after we get back. It's on my list.
My wife doesn't like the way I stuff my suitcase, so I Googled "packing tips." My search turned up 694,000 Web sites.
I was overwhelmed at first, but then I realized that half the advice on packing is how to secretly bring a handgun to a family picnic or a church supper.
My approach to packing is slightly different than my wife's. I went to Kohl's the other night and found a suitcase about the same size as the drawers in my bureau.
For every day we're going to be away, I shoveled one in.
This is a pretty good system, if you need 32 pairs of underwear for a three-day weekend in French Lick.
Mary Ellen thinks about what to take on the trip. To me, this is as nutty as making out a shopping list before you head to Kroger.
She takes into account stuff like climate, how many days we're going to be away and whether there are any events that require special attire.
Can you think of a better way to ruin a trip? Where's the fun that I experienced in Alaska when I spent an evening in the Red Dog Saloon knocking back a few brews in Bermuda shorts and long black socks?
It takes a tough guy to be a girlie-man in Anchorage.
The Internet is full of sites titled Top 10 Tips to Help You Pack.
I looked at several dozen of these lists and it's a mystery to me how anyone ever made the trip west for gold without Ziploc bags, tennis ball cans and duct tape. Rolling up clothing was suggested as an effective to way to save space and prevent wrinkling in your suitcase.
This is not an option at the dry cleaners. "Mr. Wolfsie, would you like your shirts on hangers? Or for just a few cents more we can wrap them up into a huge ball."
Most travel Web sites suggest having a suitcase with an unusual color, like purple, so someone won't inadvertently take the wrong bag off the carousel at the airport.
It's unfortunate when that happens. I now own six pairs of orange capri pants that prove their point.
Finally, My wife has read every book and watched every DVD related to our trip on the Nile River.
When the Egyptologist attempts to wow us with fascinating facts about the pharaohs and pyramids, Mary Ellen will nod her head in agreement with each tidbit of his information. She does this every trip, which is why for her birthday I had a bobble-head made of her.
She still doesn't quite know why. I hope you can keep a secret.
I'm sure we'll have a wonderful trip.
I'm going to write a column about it when we get back.
It's already on my list.