It may not be funny to you, but it's relatively entertaining to me that i would come back to the blog to write in a time of anxiety. Especially when the last main post was about my anxiety.
Right now I'm stuck inside and around my property. I can't go anywhere except the grocery store and honestly, I don't even want to do that. Where I am is not a current hot spot for the COVID-19 virus that's sweeping the world, however, I certainly don't want to go about tempting fate by not following the mandates set out by the CDC/WHO.
So here's a few of the dozen or so reasons I am struggling with my anxiety right now:
I'll start with that last one first because it's the current source of frustration for me. I work from home. I have not been furloughed yet. I have now added to my full time job the homeschooling of my nephew. Right now it's a week on/week off for me. My sister does the other week. But I can tell you right now that I have anywhere from the same amount of time to myself to less than that. Every day I see countless memes and posts about how bored everyone is or how much they get to create. I'm so glad that they are healthy and able to lounge around all day but the rest of us who are still working, are kind of stressed out right now. I've had no time to create, I've been trying to read as much as I can in order to escape but I can only do so much.
Then there are the Facebook Groups. There's so much ignorance. People thinking that there are magical cures, people shrieking about their freedoms being stripped away (what about my freedom not to DIE Karen?), people talking about how we're all dumb and it's no worse than the flu, and my favorite...the outright conspiracy theorists who think it's the 5G towers. Oh, and the assholes screaming for their taxes back since school switched to online for the kids. Everyone is angry and scared and many are just outright stupid. Here's the thing though. I would absolutely quit. I would. But right now, those groups are also the only source of information as to where there are the supplies we need. Or which government offices are still open. Or any of the dozen other community things that those groups are designed for. So I go through, methodically "hiding" everyone so I can't see their bullshit. But it's just too much some days.
The concerts that are being cancelled just make me sad. I just had one that was for August cancel. August! It's still only April. I had an entire NYC weekend go up in smoke. And I get it. I really really do. We need to be safe. Doesn't stop me from being a little sad that I won't be able to see the shows.
I have a new niece I can't meet yet. This also makes me incredibly sad. I don't know when I'll get to. And I can't even go into the fact that a best friend's Mom died and I can't go do all the things a best friend is supposed to do. She can't even have a memorial/funeral. For her own mother.
I don't even know how to end this post. There's no point to it other than to get my anxious ramblings out of my head. I miss my family, I want to travel. I guess I'll just go work in the yard some more to try and get it all out.
I hope all you lovely muses are safe and well. Drop your anxiety in the comments. Just get it out. Festering does no one any good.
This weekend, before going on my own vacation, my nephew had STEM camp for the Cub Scouts. In the days leading up to the camp, we were given some very detailed information…for the overnight camp. Nowhere in the information packet did it tell us where to go when we got to camp, what time to arrive, to whom to speak…nothing.
I tried calling, but of course it's a camp so there's no one in the office. Literally at the 11th hour, I get an email with a vague description of a Dutch Hex Sign to look for and a moderately condescending "relax" from the camp director.
Cool. Cool. Coolcoolcool.
We arrive on the first day and the place we turned was NOT the place to go. Great. We figure out that we're supposed to be further down the road. Pull up and ask the first person we see where we need to go…met with a lot of blank stares and shrugs because THERE'S NOT AN ADULT IN SIGHT. In this situation, I have at least 20 years on everyone that is within a visual radius. Random teenager tells me he thinks we need to be up the hill. Awesome. They send us walking up the hill with very little direction and we come up to a camp with tents and…you guessed it. More teenagers.
Listen. The Boy Scouts are not going to let a bunch of teenagers be in charge of little children in the woods if they don't know how to take care of them. I get it. Every camp ever has teenagers doing the heavy lifting. The problem I do have, is when I can't find an adult and none of the teenagers seem to know what the heck is going on.
So. We walk up and ask if we're in the right place for STEM day camp. Uh…they guess so? They were just told to check kid in. Because I'm perpetually early we're the only people there and I'm sure as hell not leaving Nephew with four teenagers in the woods.
Side bar: I realized that I spent too much time in a big city AND that I read too many murder mysteries. I understand that this colors my narrative of the world. That being said, it really just goes against my nature to leave my nephew alone in the woods with no other kids and people he's never met. Even if it's already clear in about ten minutes of conversation that he's MUCH smarter than any of them.
Finally others start to arrive and I stick around until another parent asks if there's anything we need to do or if we're OK to go. I make sure Nephew is OK and I take off. But wait, what time should I pick him up? When I asked, it was 4 and to pick him up back at camp. When the other parent asked…it was 5pm at the pavilion. Super.
Showed up around 430 and the kids were at the pavilion doing since experiments. In getting ready to leave, I asked what time we should be back and where should we go. I get a moderate answer of "I think here at 9". Sigh. OK
Show up Sunday morning and there are just people milling about. WHERE ARE THE G-D ADULTS? I recognized one of the parents from the day before who I knew had stayed overnight. I asked one of the random people in maroon who are supposed to know what's happening…and he says he'll keep an eye on Nephew. Doesn't occur to me until I'm in my car that he failed to ask what nephew's name is. No sooner am I driving away than I see Nephew literally wandering off with one of the other kids and sans adult.
I pulled over and reminded them to stay together. I mean, they had a destination and they were hollering for another group to wait up. He's not going to get lost, but he might get left behind. And Nephew…sometimes he's really brave. Other times he's shy and timid and incredibly nervous.
All of things these together messed with my anxiety in a bad kind of way. I came very close to having a panic attack leaving him without adults present. I understand that this might just be how they do things around here but I kept imagining him sitting in the pavilion sad and scared because he got separate from the group or left behind when he went to the restroom or something. It's frustrating that the adults that I did come across eventually were so lackadaisical about everything. Maybe it's just me. I don't get it.
You tell me, am I over anxious on this? Or is this legitimately ridiculous?
Over the last couple of years I've been plodding my way through being a book blogger. We're a dime a dozen at this point so I haven't been as into it as I would like to be. It's a little discouraging when every time you turn around there's another person blogging about books. That being said, the one thing I've been following online for a while and never had the chance to attend, is BookCon. It's held almost every year in New York City and as a Floridian that just wasn't in the cards for me. If a Con isn't within driving distance, I'm not going.
This year since I'm living up north and am a three hour train ride from NYC I decided to go for the first time ever. I've been to plenty of pop culture and comic cons before. DragonCon and MegaCon are my two most attended and favorites. Last year it was Gilmore Girls Fan Fest which was its own unique experience. BookCon, too, was definitely a unique experience.
Since the con was in NYC I decided to make an entire birthday weekend out of it. I started researching some fun things to do in the city and eventually just settled on seeing some Broadway shows.
Friday night I hopped on the train and into the city I went. The train ride is around three and half hours from where I am so it seemed like Friday after work was a safe bet. I arrived before nine and took a cab to my hotel.
Quick note here…despite the idea that Lyft and Uber have taken over the city and are putting cab drivers out of work I had terrible luck with Lyft. Of the five rides I took while in the city, only one was a Lyft and he barely found me. The last attempted Lyft, I flat out walked instead. Hot tip: taxis now take credit cards (woot!). If you're not stoked by the idea of swiping your card on a card reader in a cab, I totally understand. I recommend the Curb app. Curb has a function by which you can "pair" you phone with the cab that you're in. There's a code on the TV screen and you just plug in the number and the payment on file in the app gets charged the amount.
I positioned my hotel to be moderately centralized to the location of the con and the shows I had chosen to see. I picked the Pod Hotel for its location (basically W 42nd & 9th) and its cost. It was cheaper than pretty much any other hotel. For three nights including fees and taxes and everything else, it was around $640. Yeah, that's a lot. Considering everything else I found was going to run me $800-$100, I took the $640. Now, that $640 has a couple of caveats. I was travelling alone so I was able to book the cheapest room with the smallest amount of space. The room itself was 115 square feet. That's not a typo. It had twin bunk beds, a desk with a safe, and a decent sized shower/bathroom area considering how small the room was overall. The other caveat here is that this hotel was not exactly user friendly. From the non-descript lobby in all black, the blaring hip-hop music, and the un-labeled and overly complicated elevators…it wasn't exactly warm and inviting. It served it's purpose though. The rooms were very clean, the windows were huge, and even though the beds were as hard as rocks I slept like a baby.
ON TO THE CON!
I wanted to make sure I did some stuff in NYC while I was there that I hadn't done before. I chose the NBC Studio Tour. I chose the first one of the day. This was incredibly confusing because there are ZERO signs to tell you where to go. I ended up asking four different people and then just guessing based on the information they gave me. The tour begins in the gift shop (surprise, surprise). You check in at the counter and then a couple of pages take you on your way.
There are no photos allowed so I wasn't able to snap any pictures. That was a little disappointing but I guess it makes sense security-wise. We got to stand on the stage where the Nightly News occurs and they told us all about the different screens and various capabilities of the cameras (robotic btw).
From there we went to see the Jimmy Fallon set which has one of the coolest random bits of TV history with the Muppet pipes. A left over of the Jim Henson years, these pipes were decorated as characters. When Fallon was renovating the studio, he left them uncovered and they have their own special section in the studio. The studio also has a state of the art sound system that cuts off sound to where there is no echo. The seats are covered in the leather used in Ferraris.
Next up…the Saturday Night Live studio. I love SNL. I love comedy in general. So many of my favorite comedians either graced that stage or got their start in that studio. They take you down the hall that you see on TV with all the black and white stills of funny sketches. They have a few costumes under glass including the Target Lady. We got to sit in the audience chairs and look down at the stage as they talked about how the show is produced and where the sets are made. I might have teared up a bit.
Lastly for all you extroverts out there, the tour takes you to a little studio room where you can film your own talk show. People can volunteer to be the host, the guest, the band, the camera operators, etc. They give you a script on the teleprompter and then film it for you. I chose not to participate but getting random people to be in something like that together was definitely interesting. And no, I'm not going to post the video.
Now it's on to the Con!
As unique as BookCon is, it's pretty much a standard con set up. There are areas for autographs, panels, merchandise, food, etc. I feel like I had a very different con experience than most. There are tons of tips that people give about ticket drops for ARCs (advanced reader copies), or following publishers on Twitter to figure out the secret stash stuff. I'm not that person. My con was very laid back. There were some things that I wanted to do and people I wanted to see, but I didn't chain myself to too much of a schedule. I got to the con around 10 and they had already let everyone in. Fine by me, I'm not a fan of the con entry line. Everyone's antsy and crabby because they've been awake too long. Now…if you like waking up at 5 am to go stand in line to get some unreleased item, by all means. Simply not for me.
The first thing I noticed was the Fierce Reads booth. Right out in front they were having a buy one, get a free arc sale. I ended up with the Chosen and an arc of the Merciful Crow. I found out later that there was some mass panic over the Merciful Crow arc drop at another booth. I more or less just walked up and got one without issue.
From there I just went wandering around the show floor. There was definitely a little something for everyone there. Some places had free totes or books. Some only had stuff for sale. Journals, stickers, bookmarks, enamel pins…there's definitely something for every book lover at this con. There was even a vendor selling some ridiculously good chocolate. Shot out to Chocolate Moonshine Company for giving us all life…and sugar!
I got to meet and do a photo op with John Cena. He was incredibly nice, but I was moderately disappointed by the conveyor belt feel to the whole set up. They walked you in, you had enough time to say hello and snap a quick photo, then they shuffled you off.
From there I wandered a little more. I ended up needing a bit of a break so I walked over to a random panel. Turned out to be a panel by Max Brooks and others about their book Winning Westeros: How Game of Thrones Explains Military Conflict. They talked for a while about trying to take something like Game of Thrones and attempting to tie it into current military functions so that the layperson can better understand exactly what our military does. It was an interesting panel and even though I have never seen GoT (I know I know), it sounded like an interesting book.
Next on my to-do list was the Neil Patrick Harris signing. I was incredibly lucky to snag a ticket for his signing. He couldn't have been nicer and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to meet him and have him sign his books for me. I immediately went from his line into Leigh Bardugo's line. I'm a relatively new fan of the Grishaverse but it's become my favorite world to dive into. She was also incredibly nice even with my inherent awkwardness and she signed a book for me as well.
After that, I'd had as much as I could handle for the day. I grabbed my stuff out of the baggage check and grabbed a cab back to the hotel. I was way to mentally energized to actually nap, but I at least took a couple of hours to rest and decompress. After a rest and dinner at Subway (right near the hotel), I went to see Aladdin on Broadway. I ended up a little turned around but made it to the show on time. The show was spectacular and totally worth the trip. You can read my review here.
After the show it was back to bed I went.
Sunday morning I was supposed to go to a writing workshop at the con. I decided to stay in bed instead. My next show wasn't until 2 so I needed to find something else to do other than lay around the hotel all day. I settled on going to the AMC that's right on 42nd street to see Rocketman. You can read my review here, but as a preview, I freaking loved it. So so good.
I booked it over to the Lyric theater after that. It was time for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It's a two part show with intermissions and about a 2.5 hour break in between performances. You can read my review here, it was an unbelievable show. One-hundred percent worth the cost. In between shows I had a reservation at a restaurant that I ended up not being able to find, so instead I walked over to Brooklyn Diner. It's a great little American Cuisine restaurant that has excellent chocolate cake. There was practically no one in there when I arrived so I sat and read my book Magic for Liars while I ate. It was the first of two books I would finish over the weekend.
The cool thing about doing the Harry Potter show in the same day is a) you don't have to wait to see the finale, and b) you end up sitting next to the same people you sat next to for the first show. Of course if you are stuck with a dud, this is problematic. Luckily I had some good people around me and the experience was enjoyable.
It was pouring when we left the theater and I had forgotten my umbrella back at the room. I ended up soaked after walking the two blocks back.
Monday morning I woke up tired. All the walking around and being bombarded by the energy of the city wore me out. I had original considered hitting up the Wax Museum or Midtown Comics. Honestly? This was going to be the last time for a few months that I was going to be 100% alone. No other people or animals to worry about/care for. So I laid in bed and read Magic for Liars and when I finished that I moved on to The Merciful Crow.
Made my way to the train station later in the day and ended up eating at the TGI Friday's in Penn Station before getting on the train to head home.
Overall I had an excellent trip to the city. I'd definitely do it again next year.
I don't have cable so I have no idea what the newscasters have been saying. Judging by the sheer panic I've seen over the last week, it can't have been anything uplifting. Having lived my entire life in Florida, hurricanes are just a way of life. They are for us what a blizzard is to the northern portion of the country. Unlike blizzards, though, hurricanes blow through for a day or two and wipe everything out. So why am I not scared? Why on earth would I live in a place where my entire livelihood could be wiped out in a day?
The answer to the first question is easier than the second. After Hurricane Harvey tore through Texas leaving the state flooded, there's an extra level of fear that seems to be pervasive. I'm not scared for two reasons. The first is that I am as prepared as I can be. The second is that I know that I can't change the outcome.
I imagine if you're not used to this sort of thing, it's hard to imagine preparing for a storm like this. We board up our windows. Stock up on drinking water in case the public supply gets tainted. We buy candles and lanterns and flashlights. We invest in generators, shutters, waterproof everything. We have evacuation plans and bins with important papers. We know exactly which mementos we can't live without. We know where we'll go in the event of a major event like South Florida is about to experience. My entire family lives along the Eastern seaboard in various towns along the way. All the way from Central Florida to South Carolina. A major storm could touch each and every one of us.
It's a little easier to not freak out when you know that you are prepared and that there is nothing that you can do. It also helps when you're not exactly attached to the place you live. Let's say the storm was coming to my current home as a major storm. I certainly can't stop it from doing so. If a storm comes and wipes out my apartment building and everything in it. I have places I can go. I have family I can stay with. I'd still have a job to go back to. Would rebuilding be awful? Sure, but that's how it goes sometimes.
I've been through plenty of hurricanes before so all I know how to do is prepare. It's just a way of life here.
My lackadaisical attitude towards the idea of losing everything at once my seem callous. You may not understand it, but it's just stuff. It's just things. Death is literally the worst thing that can come of this storm. The rest is ancillary.
So here I sit in my living room on a gloomy and cloudy Saturday. The storm isn't going to arrive until Monday so all I can do is wait. I have my books, food, water, puzzles, and my puppers. I'll feel some of the effects of the storm but nothing so scary I can't handle it. Everything is going to be OK.
I do not consider myself to be overly sensitive to being objectified. Quite frankly, even when I was thinner it was never an issue for me. It's definitely not an issue now. Recently, in an attempt to branch out with my social media circle in an effort to promote this blog, I joined a bunch of "nerd" communities on Facebook. I've found that there are quite a few issues with how these groups are run, but I'll save that for another post. Something that I've found that troubles me is the blatant and vulgar objectification of women. By both men and women.
Let me explain…
In multiple groups, a picture of a scantily clad cosplayer is posted. Sometimes by the cosplayer themselves and sometimes by a random person who "appreciates" the cosplay. What follows are crude comments about how hot the girl is (because it's always a girl) and how turned on these guys are by her and her cosplay and please excuse them while they go masturbate. For those of you who just went "uh…what?", I wish I was making that up. Grown(ish) men, online on Facebook declaring for everyone to see how uncouth they are.
Somehow we've decided this is OK. Women themselves, cosplay these outfits and post them online in these forums seemingly to obtain this sort of sexual validation. Maybe I'm old fashioned but I genuinely don't understand. While these posts should be about the cosplay and craftsmanship itself, they end up being the verbal equivalent of this…
I think that what bothers me most is that there is no longer a filter for anyone online. Granted this is part of a broader conversation in general about politics or religion or really anything; but my point here is the fact that people feel completely at ease with the complete deconstruction of societal norms. I can't tell you the number of times I have typed out an angry retort to something I have seen online that is rude or ignorant. I always have to stop myself and ask what purpose my angry response will serve. Is it just to make me feel better? Am I truly trying to change the minds of these people or am I just reacting to them in the way their desire in order to feed their need for attention? I then consider, why is it that I am wired to stop myself when others are not?
Nearly every convention I've been to has to remind people that Cosplay is not consent. In other words, just because someone is scantily clad, does not mean that you have their permission to put your hands on them. What I struggle with is why this has to be said at all. You wouldn't walk up to someone you don't know in the grocery store and put your hands on them. Why would you think it was OK to do so at a convention?
It's interesting to have seen this evolution occur. I'm old enough to remember a time without internet, but young enough to have been involved in the AOL chat room boom of the late 1990's. The internet was this amazing place where a person could be their true selves without repercussion. For someone like me who had a ton of social anxiety, I was able to speak freely and be myself and there were countless people who truly got me. There were trolls then too, but we ignored them because they weren't as prevalent as they are today.
It's hard to see the forest through the trees on this issue. You have women who are self-objectifying and men who think that ogling and making lewd comments is appropriate. I think we ought to get back to what we ought to have been taught as children in which we treat everyone with respect. We are not body parts. The idea that people (or their parts) are reduced to sexual objects that are fodder for masturbation is terrifying to me. Our respect for our fellow humans and our ability to connect on an emotional and intellectual level is part of what separates us from the animals. I have no answers for this issue, despite my want to wave a magic wand and fix it.
What do you think? Have you witnessed this yourself? Do you think that I'm overreacting and that this sort of behavior isn't that bad? Let me know in the comments.
Articles for further reading:
My to be read pile continues to grow. Right now between my physical shelves and my Kindle shelves, I currently have enough reading material to last me at least three years based on my reading speed. And yet, I still buy more books.
I can't help it. I continually look for deals and my wish list on Amazon for books alone is about four pages long. Three days ago someone introduced me to a website in the UK that also carries a good selection at a low cost. Normally I stick to Amazon. They typically have the lowest prices. Barnes and Noble has decent online prices as well, but considering I go to Amazon for literally everything else, it's easier to stick with them.
I was scrolling through my news feed and saw that someone had a paperback copy of the fifth book in a series that I have been waiting for. I've been waiting almost a year for the paperback. Along with being a book lover/hoarder, I'm also incredibly particular. If I start a series one way, then I have to finish that series in the same format. In other words, I have the first four books of this series in paperback. I can't just switch to Kindle or hardback now. It doesn't work that way. I see this book in my newsfeed and immediately asked where they got it.
Apparently the United Kingdom releases hardback and paperback books at the same time. Who knew? And why don't we do this in the United States? That's a frustrating thought for another time. The important part is that now I can get these books when they come out instead of waiting nearly an entire year. I know it's silly but it's partially about the cost and it's partially about the feel of the book in my hands. I treat books in a way that they will last a long time. The binding is never broken and when I've finished with them, you'd think it was still brand new and unread. Books are to be handled with care.
Being a book addict is problematic. The main issue is that it's expensive. Unless you're buying second hand, even a new paperback can cost up to $20 depending on the subject matter or where you're buying from. The second issue I face is time with its close companion, mood. Because I still work a full forty hour a week job, reading is relegated to my breaks during the day and when I get home from work. I can normally get through about fifty to seventy-five pages an hour depending on the subject matter so a 400 page book can be read in a six hour sitting. Those books I call brain candy. They tend to be all fluff and adventure. The ones that are more introspective and technical can take much longer.
On the bright side of things there are local libraries here in the United States where a person can borrow books for free at any time. Even better, there's a app called Overdrive that syncs your library with your e-reader or Kindle and it let's you borrow e-books and audiobooks through your library digitally. The possibilities are endless. The most exciting part of that for me is the audiobooks. Audible is a great subscription based service for audiobooks, but if I can get the same books on my phone for free through the library, then I'm set for a while.
So here's where I have an issue. I have all these books to read and yet I can't stop buying more. I have five tote bags worth to take to the used book store and the pile keeps growing. I follow people on Instagram that love to read as much as I do and every time I am scrolling by, I see another book I'd love to read. I've ordered twelve new ones in the last three days and won two via Goodreads giveaways. I inhale these things. Granted, it gives me things to write about so as to entertain you, but it's a lot.
I keep wondering when I'm going to find the time and then I find it. I don't know how but it just works. So what do you think? Are you as addicted to reading as I am?
If you read my last post, you know that my annual family vacation is meant to gather my family together for a week or two in the summer so that we can reset and enjoy each other's company. The tricky part of this is that we're a bit spread out. Travelling 1500 miles is a lot and most would fly. I had intended to fly this year but there were circumstances that prevented that from happening.
I found myself needing to drive the entire trip on my own which is incredibly daunting. For this particular trip I break it up into three days' worth of driving. It's about a twenty-one hour drive from my home, so it's too much to do alone in a day. I could technically do it in two, but I've yet to find a hotel that's at the halfway point that is clean, takes pets, and feels safe. I break it into three days. Eight hours to the hotel, six hours to my sister's and then six hours to the place where we all meet.
Planning something like that takes a little bit of time. Packing for a road trip is not the same as packing for a flight. Especially when you have a dog to pack for too. There are food considerations to make. Snacks and drinks are definitely cheaper outside of the convenience stores. I like to bake muffins for the mornings of the trips because you never really know what you're going to get when it comes to continental breakfasts.
This year the drive got off to a rocky start, I wasn't even fifteen minutes into the trip and I got stuck in traffic. There was a massive accident involving multiple cars and eleven people who had to be transported by ambulance back into town. What should have taken about thirty minutes of driving ended up taking two hours. After that it stormed. It stormed like I'd never seen before. I grew up in Florida. It's the lightning capital of the United States. I've driven through plenty of hair-raising storms. This storm made me seriously uncomfortable. I've never seen so many lightning strikes so frequently. The storm was so intense I nearly pulled over. If you're a Florida native, I hope you appreciate how serious that statement is.
Somehow I made it to my first stopping point unscathed. I didn't get there until 1am which was unfortunately but I had my audiobooks to keep me company as my dog snoozed in her bed on the floorboard. After checking in and walking around for a bit so the dog could pee, it was back in the car for some Taco Bell. It was the only place open at that time of night and even though I can't stand it, but it was better than nothing.
The nice thing about this extra stop is that I can sleep in the next day. There's no rush for the second leg of the trip to make sure I get in by a certain time. The second leg of the trip was totally uneventful (thank goodness) and I managed to get to my sister's house before dinner.
One of the things I like best about solo travelling by car is the total control over the trip. If I need to stop and take a break from being cooped up? I do. I can listen to my audiobooks instead of the repetitive radio stations. I leave when I like and I arrive when I like. It's nice in a way, to not have to make conversation, to be alone with your thoughts if you choose to have them. It's weirdly therapeutic to be able to focus on a single thing…driving…instead of the hundred other things that you normally think about in your daily life.
The downside to all of this is that with the longer road trips, if you're alone, there's no one to help when you get too tired to drive. This was the first year of driving this trip where I felt like I had to pull over and nap. I did it a few times. It's odd to sit in your car by yourself in a public rest area and sleep. I kept the car running with the A/C on. It is the summer after all and temps were anywhere from 85-95 depending on where I was and I was NOT going to get sick from the heat. Each nap was really only fifteen or so minutes long, but it replenished my energy and I was able to get back on the road and continue on.
Overall there were six days of my twelve day vacation that I drove during. I finished six audiobooks in that time. This was over last year's trip in which I finished four. My co-pilot puppers slept the entire way. She's cute, but not always the most engaging company.
I wonder about the other people on the road with me. Do they enjoy the drive? Or are they hating every minute of it?
What about you? Do you road trip solo? With your family? What's your favorite part?
My last vacation seems so far away. I returned a mere 15 days ago but it already feels like forever has passed. I meant to write as soon as I got back, but I lost my buffer day between the drive back and going back to work. I had to get right back into the swing of things.
It was my annual vacation with my family. Every year we travel to a family home together and spend a week or two just spending time and relaxing. It's a bit rustic. We're in the middle of the woods. The plumbing is…different by western standards. It's a septic system in the middle of nowhere. It's not exactly an easy thing to deal with or correct should something go wrong. There are bugs and dirt and no air conditioning. There is no phone, no TV, and no internet. This is the way it has always been.
For those of you who are like me and live in a world where those things are readily available, you may be thinking how one can survive without them. It's part of the charm for me. I like that my cell phone doesn't really work. I like that I have to get back to basics and tear myself away from social media. It's basically a blackout until we go to town. Now, we could get things like cable and internet and phone, but why would we want to?
We grew up without these things in general, one of my sisters and I were born in the 80's…long before the availability of thousands of channels or the internet. We put together puzzles, played cards for hours, colored in coloring books. We talked and got to know each other and ourselves. It's simple. It's what's missing from my world in general, but that's another post. I have countless memories of staying up into the wee hours of the morning just talking or reading. Hours spent playing cards with my cousin or making bracelets. Days spent entirely in the water doing nothing but swimming around and enjoying nature. Nearly every meal is eaten together every day. Even when we have a "fend for yourselves" meal in which nothing is prepared, you're usually eating with others.
I wish that we didn't get so far away from this. This idea familial community is so important to the livelihood of the family unit. There are countless studies that tell us this. How it's healthier for people who disconnect from technology and enjoy the experience of social interaction and for those who take the time to simply share a meal.
I know for me, since I live apart from my family, it's incredibly important for me. I don't get to see them as often as I would like and I don’t like feeling so disconnected from them. This trip is my reset button. It's my chance to step away from my life and focus on releasing all the stuff that's been building up throughout the year.
Now take that all away. Imagine a place where none of that exists. Just the wind through the trees. A light rainfall maybe. Just you and the open air. When you're done reading, take a moment to watch and listen to the clip I uploaded for you. It's only twenty seconds but I listen to it to remind myself throughout the year of the peace I feel when I'm there. I know how fortunate I am to have a place like this. It's a part of me and I'm a part of it. I miss it when I'm gone from it. It's a dull ache in my bones that never quite abates. You've already seen it. The trees in the pictures on the blog are the trees that are the main view from the porch of where we stay. I try and stay there mentally as long as possible but it's incredibly difficult to do. Life gets too loud.
Where is your "happy place"? What helps you to relax and get away from the stresses of your life?
If you've been following along for a little while now, you know that my dog was having issues with walking and with the strength in her front legs. If not, then check out parts one and two below:
Last week I toughened up and took her back to the neurologist for surgery. She had two discs removed from her spine. These were putting pressure on her spinal cord which is what was causing the issues and pain. I was completely fine up until we got to the doctor's office. You know that weird nauseous feeling you get in your guts sometimes? The one that feels like you're vibrating? That's what I was feeling when I dropped her off.
We got into the office and the gal behind the desk talked me through the policies and the paperwork and the deposit. She made sure I had all the phone numbers I could need should I want to get in touch with them. This is about the time that I started crying. It was one of those times where my eyes just spontaneously combusted and there was nothing I could do to stop the tears from falling. The woman was very understanding as I handed my puppers over to her.
Then, somehow, I was supposed to just get in my car and drive directly to work. I was going to have to pretend that everything was totally cool and that I wasn't distracted all day long. The surgery to remove the discs went perfectly. A nurse called me midday to tell me this and that the doctor would follow up in an hour or so. I went back to my desk and tried not to cry with relief. Then, hours went by. Three and a half hours to be specific. No call from the doctor. I had been in a meeting for most of that time so when I was done I called them. He was absolutely going to call me back in an hour. Then, it's 5:30 and I still haven't heard from him. I'm still being told that my dog is fine but the doctor will call me in an hour. By 7:30 I had run out of patience without much recourse. I called the overnight hospital where my dog was supposed to be staying and they took me through a few more details than I had before, but again assured me that she was OK.
The next day was moderately better. A call from the doctor himself! Finally! He tells me she's doing really well and just resting. I ended up calling a few more times throughout the day to check in on her. Always OK. Good.
The anxiety of not having her in the house with me was a lot to handle. I have a low level anxiety issue on a regular day so adding to it didn't help anything. When you're home with your pet you don't necessarily notice the energy they produce. It's something that you're used to. For me the emptiness of the house wasn't so much palpable, because that implies a thickness. Having her not home created a quiet void...an emptiness. The emptiness made me feel extra lazy and depressed.
I got to bring her home after forty-eight hours of stress. I finally get her in my arms and she's still pretty drugged up and so she wasn't entirely sure what was happening. That is until she got in the car and decided she needed to roam all over the car. Then in true Florida fashion is starting storming like crazy on the drive home. My stoned little dog curled into a shaking ball in the backseat as I tried to get us home as quickly as possible and in one piece.
Once home we rested. That was a Thursday. I was able to work from home the next day and all of the next week. Working from home is a dream come true anyway and I'm incredibly grateful to my boss for letting me do it. She's definitely been feeling better so she's thinks she can go and jump around now. Apparently I was supposed to keep her confined this last week but all they really told me was keep her calm.
When we went to get the stitches out they told me she could be on "room rest" and short walks. Oh…well, we've already been doing that. Hmph. Now I'm paranoid again. Every time she gets up, I'm looking for a limp or weakness that isn't there. The main issue is with me coming home. Yesterday I left to get the oil changed in the car and came back and she got so excited she was doing that thing she does when she flings herself everywhere.
This is when I wish that dogs understood logic. To where I can sit her down and talk it out. Tell her to take it easy. That she's got a couple more weeks of recovery and that she needs to calm down. Even then I doubt she'd listen.
I'm just glad that the surgery was a success and that the weakness in her leg and the constantly swelling in her neck is gone. I hate that it took so long and so much money to fix it but at least she's better. That's the most important part.
When I was in elementary school our library and administration coordinated pen pal letter exchanges. I’m not sure if this was something all kids did, or just the kids at my school and the kids at the schools that we wrote to. Back in the 80’s we didn’t have the communication devices we have today. Computers were just becoming a “thing” but we didn’t use them to communicate with each other. For my generation they were mostly for games and typing/word processing. If you wanted to talk to your friend who lived in a different state, then you had to write them a letter. If a friend moved away with their family? It was practically the end of the world. You’d likely never see them again and there are several people that I knew in school that I no longer know now because of this. Today of course you can text or video chat whenever you like on your phone.
I thought of this during a text conversation with a friend who is currently visiting her son in Japan. Here we are in 2017, it’s practically the next day in Japan and she and I are texting in real time.
Growing up I had two pen pals. One was Claire Ball. I don’t remember much about her other than she lived in England and that she sent me a silver bracelet where it clasped with hands instead of the typical clasp. I still have that bracelet. It certainly doesn’t fit my grownup wrist anymore but it’s got such heavy memory attached to it. The other was Nathan Stephens from Washington State. I can’t remember where exactly he was from…Auburn…Bellevue? It was a suburb of Seattle. I vaguely remember that he was a ginger and that I had the most ridiculous eleven-year-old crush on him. I couldn’t begin to tell you what we talked about. I’m sure it was a lot of “how are you?” and “school is great” or “I got a new puppy!” There was nothing else to talk about with strangers back then.
Even now that talking to strangers online has become a daily culture when you consider the comment section of Facebook and as an extension this blog, it still feels odd to me. It’s funny to me that we’re reaching out to others for connection but we’re limiting that connection by keeping it relegated to the computer. Back when I was a kid I would have loved to have met my pen pals. I can honestly say that I looked for them on Facebook but I couldn’t find them of course. Their names are entirely too common and I have no idea what they look like. But for a little while, we were in each other’s lives.
Waiting for the mail to come was exciting. Every day things would get delivered and I’d hope there was something in the mail for me. It made me feel important to receive a letter. There was little that was more joyous than seeing your name on an envelope handwritten by someone who cared enough to take the time to send it. Of course these days, letter writing is a lost art. Holiday cards and occasional coupons from my mother aside, all I get is junk mail and bills. With the implementation of the email billing? Well then all I get is junk mail.
So what about you? Did you have pen pals growing up? Or are you part of the millennial generation who has more or less always had Facebook to keep in touch? Do you still write letters?