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Marg-Ins Recharging The Batteries
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For the first day or two, my mind wandered to what I would be doing at that time if I was at work. You know, it's 9 a.m. Monday so I'd probably be looking over the Valley Home or Knights Ferry news columns or putting some final touches on the Escalon sports. Wait, it's noon on Tuesday and that means it's craziness, trying to finish up last minute editing and proofing news pages for Oakdale.

Then I sighed, smiled and (briefly) felt a tinge of empathy for those going through the weekly grind without me. And promptly went on about my own business of doing whatever I felt like doing at the time.

Vacation has rolled around again and, this year, it wasn't quite as far from home as last, not a 3,000-mile trek to my hometown this time. Which is probably one of the reasons my editor-in-chief Kim Van Meter called me on Thursday afternoon to inquire about this column. I assured her that since it wasn't due until noon on Friday, it would be in on time.

One of the benefits of the computer age: I didn't have to have my column done before I left (Sunday, June 22) for the paper that comes out (Wednesday, July 2) after I get back but it did have to be done while I wasn't there (Friday, June 27) to be ready for the Perspective page, for which material is due each Friday.

And if that didn't confuse you, congratulations, because I work there and it was very convoluted to me!

Regardless, as I was touring the Jelly Belly factory and getting a sample of the new chocolate jellybean, relaxing on a lazy Thursday, my cell phone alerted me to a new message. It was from acting editor Kim, a little concerned that she didn't have my column yet and making sure I remembered when it was due.

I may be on vacation but there are still calendars here.

So, as you are reading, the column arrived on time.

And as luck would have it, my sister lives in one of the areas that has been surrounded by fire, smoke and haze this week. We took a drive about 15 minutes from her house on Thursday morning, after the fire had been contained, and got a close up look at the devastation. Yes, I got some photos.

Even though my vacation is only about 100 miles from home this time, it is just changing the scenery, switching the routine that really serves to energize you. My sister and her family were gracious enough to welcome my daughter and I for the week and we have slept in, done a few tourist-y things (Jelly Belly being one) and have helped out with their nightly Vacation Bible School, the Power Lab version that many churches in our area are also putting on this summer. My daughter has enjoyed being enrolled and taking part in the learning, singing, crafts, and games while I have been in my element as the VBS (un)official photographer: a job my sister usually tries to juggle with registration and was happy to hand off. For me, it has been great, taking photos with abandon, not worrying about getting anyone's name or taking any notes about what they are doing: just shooting. It has been so much fun but my poor sister has hundreds of photos to look through to pull some for a slide show to wrap up the program. I even got some pictures of her, which they never have in the slide show, because she is always the one taking them. It has been a blast and, believe it or not, incredibly relaxing in its own way.

Even getting here for vacation was a bit of a different treat. My car has decided it is getting old and grumpy so it has spent more time in the shop than on the road in the past month and I really didn't feel like breaking down halfway between home and my sister's house to start (or end) vacation so we took the train.

For about the cost of a tank of gas, we hopped on Amtrak and got here in roughly the same amount of time, without the hassle of driving and worry about that 'check engine' light clicking on again.

Of course, we had to get an overpriced snack on the train, we sat so that we were backwards and saw where we had been instead of where we were going and endured being mooned by a trio of guys alongside the tracks somewhere between Antioch and Martinez but, hey, just something a little different - we're on vacation.

Marg Jackson is editor of The Oakdale Leader and The Escalon Times and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.