Joie de Vivre, however you pronounce that.

Joie de vivre.

This is a French phrase that means a cheerful, hearty or carefree enjoyment of life. Don’t ask me to pronounce it – I can’t seem to manipulate my tongue properly to spew forth such elegance (I’m Polish, remember?) – but I can embrace the philosophy. And I do.

Over the past year, I have been to a lot of far-flung places, ranging from Seattle’s Pike Place Market to the Spam Museum in Minnesota, Buddy Holly’s crash site in Iowa, and the Mandalay Bay Resort in Vegas. I’ve visited Mount Rushmore and Mount Bachelor and Mount Hood. I ate a buffalo burger in Deadwood, fried pickles in Ely, geoduck in Seattle. Rocked out to some of my favorite bands live – Built To Spill, The Black Keys, The Shins. And, of course, I published a novel. These grand adventures began a little over a year ago – on my own at first, and then accompanied by the woman I love. It’s been a fulfilling and exhilarating twelve months, and I have taken advantage of this prolonged stretch of freedom in a way I would never have imagined possible. In a way, I feel like this past year I finally started living. Joie de vivre. And I’ve found a kindred spirit who is equally passionate about squeezing every last ounce of juice from life. We only get one go-around (unless the whole reincarnation thing is more than just a big ol’ pile of wishful thinking), and I am all for living life to the fullest in the meantime. 

Naturally, this being the 21st century and all, I’ve shared these updates and check-ins via Facebook. And gotten a lot of comments along the lines of, you two sure get around – I’m WORKING and can’t afford to do half the stuff you do! Don’t get me wrong, I love and respect these friends and family members and appreciate their feedback. But for whatever reason, those comments put me on the defensive. I want to respond, get out there and have fun yourself – you don’t have to spend a fortune to do so! But I get it. I’m still looking for work, and the perception is because I’m jobless I’m destitute. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though. I “paid” myself a year ago with a withdrawal from savings that has enabled me to survive comfortably. Add in a sizable tax refund and weekly unemployment checks and I’ve barely felt the sting. I’m actually very proud of the way I’ve handled my finances during this time. You know, the great irony is, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this stuff if I had been working. Tara and I might never have gotten together (although, being a big believer in Fate, I’m pretty sure it would have happened eventually regardless). Granted, this won’t continue forever, and I’m at the point where I’m more than ready to return to the workforce, even if it’s doing a job I don’t love. I’m shelling out 9 or 10 applications a week. I’m no longer playing the part of Mr. Picky. Something is going to fall into place soon – I can feel it.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue celebrating life.

Plus, while it may seem like we’re jet-setting all over the place, most of our entertainment has been cheap. We get free room and board when we visit Seattle (thanks, Tracy!). Take advantage of coupons and two-for-one deals. Many of the live shows we’re seeing are the cost of a movie ticket. It costs nothing to stroll around farmer’s markets or go hiking in the woods. I didn’t buy the dogs playing poker tapestry I so coveted (damn it all). We shop at Winco (cheap groceries) and thrift stores (cheap everything). Sure, occasionally we splurge. But we are living well within our limited means.

As soon as we’re both working, though – world look out. I see a trip to Paris in the near future.

I kid, I kid.

So naturally, we had a mini getaway the other day. Drove to Bend, Oregon on Friday. Strolled through the quaint downtown district, pretending that it wasn’t cloudy and windy and 47 degrees because we had an engagement at the Les Schwab Ampitheater that evening to see The Shins perform. Checked into our cheap motel with the hard bed. Hit a place called Fox’s for some pool and inexpensive but good bar food. Enjoyed the concert without freezing our butts off. The next day we drove up to Mount Bachelor, where it was snowing. Hiked around Smith Rock State Park, watching all the crazy people with death wishes rock climbing. Drove up to Timberline Lodge, where it was snowing. And came home to a wild thunderstorm and flooded streets. Sunday was mellow. Today we’re having my parents over for a barbecue.

Tuesday we’re seeing a fave local band, The Moondoggies, in Portland. Wednesday we’re having a friend over for dinner. Friday we’re seeing Dark Side Of The Rainbow, a Wizard-Of-Oz-meets-Pink-Floyd show at a local theater. Saturday, we’re heading downtown for the Starlite Parade, Portland’s kickoff to the Rose Festival.

Another full week.

Joie de vivre.

The crowd, warming up for The Shins.
Getting ready to rock out!
You’d never know it was practically JUNE up at Mount Bachelor!
Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.
Crazy bastard.
A cloud-capped Mount Hood.

Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

27 thoughts on “Joie de Vivre, however you pronounce that.

  1. These last six weeks have been absolutely fabulous. It’s so great to be with someone that is willing to drive to the top of a mountain at the spur of the moment, especially after being with someone that would barely get up off the couch. I love knowing that we’ll never run out of adventures!


    1. The world is our oyster, baby. Which I suppose means you’re going to be wanting some pearls next…

      I also love how, like Esther said, even if we aren’t out on an adventure we still have fun just lounging around and watching TV or reading in bed together. Life is good!


  2. I love living vicariously through you two and I’m thankful that I can help you whenever you guys come up here. Enjoy all the time you have together and do as much as you can because unfortunately, when the 9 to 5 comes calling, you will only have the weekends. Mostly, anyway.

    Besides, it’s nobody’s business how and why or where you and Tara do things.

    Enjoy life indeed!


    1. That’s exactly how we’re looking at it, Tracy. Better to play now because before long we won’t have these opportunities. Thank you again for your continued hospitality!


  3. “get out there and have fun yourself – you don’t have to spend a fortune to do so! ”

    I so agree, Mark! I certainly don’t have a ton of money, but I can always find things to do or discover very inexpensively. I enjoy taking little and ‘cheap’ day trips out of the city, or popping over to NYC for the day on the bus.

    Okay, I am soooooooo jealous looking at these gorgeous photos of the SNOW and COLD. OMG… 47 degrees?!?!? It’s 90 degrees here today and I’m DYING. That’s it…I’m moving to OREGON!!!!

    “Joie de vivre.

    This is a French phrase that means a cheerful, hearty or carefree enjoyment of life.”

    Love that! And I’m so happy for both you AND Tara!

    Happy Memorial Day, to you both!

    P.S. great photo of you and Tara!


    1. I wish I could “pop on over” to NYC for the day, so the jealousy thing works both ways, Ron!

      Hope the weather cools off for you before too long. I remember how much you envied our cool summer last year – we’ll see if there’s a repeat in 2012.


  4. Gosh, you’re fortunate to get an unemployment check. Since Sara worked outside the US, she doesn’t qualify for one. Talk about tough.

    But, people have a lot of nerve making the I-can’t-afford-that kinds of comments. I’m afraid that might piss me off a bit.

    At any rate, it’s great that you’re enjoying life. You should. You deserve to. I’m so, so happy for you!



    1. Without a doubt, the unemployment checks have saved my hide. Of course, that same security blanket made me a lot pickier in my job search most of the past year. Now that they’re about to run out, I’m definitely just trying to get on base rather than aiming for the fences.

      Thanks for your wonderful support, as always!


  5. I am envious of your world travel itinerary. I was in New York for a week in 1985. and went to the mall. Two years ago. I am proud of you that you did not buy that dog thing. The one with the chipmunks playing miniature golf is so much classier.It is cool how you tilted the camera to get that picture of that bum crawing on the floor so it looks like he’s actually climbing that sheer cliff devoid of footholds of any sort. However. you did not fool me. We may take another trip to the mall in November.


    1. You’re onto me, Carl! I should have known the master of cut ‘n paste wouldn’t fall for such an obviously faked shot. 🙂

      If you do hit the mall again in November, just make sure it’s BEFORE “Black Friday.” Otherwise that place is a nightmare.


  6. Guess that was meant for me. I suppose when I made that comment, it was because I know how hard it is for me to hold the house down on my own and still have enough to play with. Honestly, I haven’t paid myself in 2 years. That means that once I’m done paying everything out, I’m left with zero to nothing. The most I can do with what I have left over is groceries. All the stuff you’re doing now, like the coupons and the all the fun stuff that doesn’t cost anything to do


  7. (sorry, that comment posted before I was done)
    All that stuff you’re doing now, we’ve been doing for the last two years. We have fun too, but it’s been hard lately with everything going up. Please don’t think I’m against all the fun stuff you’re doing, but I also have to remember you two are so new. Scott and I have been together for 10 years, so a drink for us at home is just as good as one out. Sorry if I offended or made you feel uncomfortable Mark, I’m not one to hold anyone back from having a good time.


    1. It wasn’t just you, Esther. Several people have made those comments (and I’m sure others are thinking them). I should just shrug them off, but I couldn’t help feeling a tad defensive and wanted to explain things. FWIW, you and Scott do a lot of the same fun things we do that don’t cost much – hiking, fishing, trips to the farmer’s market, etc. And you’re right, you ARE like an old married couple. (LOL – just kidding).

      Tara and I do sincerely hope you two can make it up here in August. We’d love to take you to Seattle for an overnight trip, but I understand that finances may be an issue. Even if we don’t get up there, we can guarantee you a cheap and good time just hanging out around Vancouver, if necessary!


      1. Several people may have, but you only quoted me. Thanks for putting me on the spot. We could have talked about this on the phone… I didn’t think you would get defensive about me making a comment about my own personal finances.


      2. I didn’t quote you! That was paraphrased, and like I said, more than one person said it. I hope Heidi doesn’t get mad next, because she’ll also recognize herself. Please don’t take it the wrong way. It’s all good. I was never offended enough to call you on the phone about it anyway – no big deal!


  8. Terrifique! Is that how you spell it?? I’m polish too. But you know how much I love traveling around, so I’m really happy for you guys getting to jet set around even while on a budget. That’s pretty key. You know, once you get there, South Korea is really cheap. I didn’t spend half of what I brought with me. Spent more money going to Toronto last year! Just sayin… I know you guys would like the food. 🙂

    Love your pictures! Am so jealous you saw the Shins! And I panicked for a short moment thinking that guy on the side of a mountain was you. Yikes!


    1. You think I’d risk this enjoyment of life by doing something nuts like scaling the side of a steep cliff?? Hell to the no, Jess. LOL.

      And I wouldn’t mind visiting South Korea sometime!


  9. Hahah love that your caption for the climber was “crazy bastard”. I was thinking the very same thing. On the living life part of your post? GOOD. FOR. YOU. You don’t need to justify enjoying your life and celebrating a bit. I think we’d all be a lot happier if we took some notes from you and made a point to seek fun and adventure.


    1. Well, I don’t mean to play the role of Happiness Advocate, but I’m inclined to agree with you there, Tori!

      And other captions for the climber might have been “damn fool” or “insane joker” or “suicidal jackass.”


  10. Looks like fun! I wish I lived in a place that had so much to do like you do! What a fun place to live and have your children grow up in. One day I hope to move up there to be close to my bestie! I love your pictures….I seriously got anxiety looking at the guy rock climbing..and my first thought was “crazy bastard” and then I scrolled down and saw your caption…that made me lol. So happy for you and Tara!


    1. I remember you telling me about your writer friend in Vancouver. It would be great if you can at least make it up here for a visit sometime – Tara and I would love to hang out and show you the sights!


  11. I don’t think you need to explain yourself to anyone! If you can afford it, that is your business. I just love reading your tales 🙂
    You make me want to live more. I have too many excuses. Gotta work on that.


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