Tuesday, July 11, 2017

ONE MORE UPDATE FOR NOW

For those of you who have been checking in on updates about my brother, I have another and unless something changes, this will be the last one for a while.

He finally got to come home on the 3rd of July and everyone was very glad.  He's been resting much better and I know he's much more comfortable at home without people coming in at all hours and poking him with needles.

Last weekend, he had to be taken back to the ER because of a fever, and they found he had an infection and several blood clots in his lung.  He was given medication for both and sent back home.  It was decided that it wouldn't be useful, or kind, for him to be sent back to the hospital.  He is now under the care of Hospice, and will be for the foreseeable future.

My mom now has help with a lot of the "heavy lifting" and hopefully that will take some of the stress off of her, and also we hope that being at home will make him happy.  There's really no way to know how long this will last, could be months or even years I guess, but we're just glad he won't be put through any more useless, frightening, and painful, medical procedures.

Thanks again to everyone who has checked in on him and that want to know how he's doing. It's not necessarily an easy thing to talk about, but it does help to put it out in the universe.  I'll let you all know what is going on as things progress. 


Monday, July 03, 2017

YET ANOTHER UPDATE

I've got another update about my brother and unfortunately it isn't as great as we had hoped last week.

Without going into a lot of detail, I just wanted to let you know that his surgery was unsuccessful.  We had hoped that the surgeon would be able to repair the damage from the last surgery, as well as fix whatever needed to be fixed, but it wasn't possible.  Tommy's problems are just too varied and complicated to repair.  They did implant a feeding tube and plan to send him home as soon as they are able.  We were all hoping for a different outcome.

The news isn't all bad, obviously, because the feeding tube will help feed him at least, and my mom will be getting help from home health, as well as from my sister and me. 

I'm very worried about my mother and the stress this will put on her.  She's the kind of lady who will try and do it all by herself and not ask for help until she just has to.  So, keep her in your thoughts and cheer her on from the sidelines, if you please.

As of now they are still in the hospital and they are very ready to come home.  We don't really know how things are going to go from here, but let's just hope that they can come home soon and get started on whatever new kind of normal they'll have from here on out.

Thanks for thinking of them.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

RANDOM ACTS OF BLOGGING

1) So, I have a new update on my brother! 

He was moved to a bigger, more well equipped hospital in Huntsville to get treatment, and so far he's doing better than he was. That's good news and we'll take that!  When I wrote before, he was very sick and weak from not being able to eat, but in the new hospital they have given him a feeding tube (?) which has helped him a lot.  He's still not doing great, but he's much more stable and a little bit stronger, or at least he seems to be.  I have gone to see him a couple of times and he seems to be in a better mood, but of course, if you know my brother, he's usually in a good mood. 

He will have to have another, fairly complex, surgery this Friday morning, and as long as he pulls through that with few complications, the doctor seems convinced that he will get back to the way he was before he got so sick, which would be a huge improvement.  Once again, keep some good vibes out there for him and my mom, who has been by his side this whole time.  She is a superwoman for sure!  I'm sure everyone would just like to go home and be able to get some normalcy back in their lives.

Thanks to everyone who's checked up on them and sent hugs!

2) Last Friday I had a bit of minor surgery, myself. I hate to even call it surgery, because it took all of two hours from start to me being back home, but it did involve actually going to the hospital and being sedated and all of that.  It was nothing serious, just one of those things that I knew I needed to do, and then kept putting it off until I just bit the bullet to get it over with. It's been a looong while since I've had anything more serious than a root canal, so a lot has changed since I was in the hospital last. 

First thing they did was tell me to take off all of my clothes and put on thigh high stockings.  Heh...yeah, I've head that before! It was like college all over again! :)  Actually, along with my blood-clot-fighting stockings, they also gave me some sexy, barf-colored non-skid socks, and a hospital gown that afforded me zero dignity.  Being a hospital patient is decidedly non-glamorous, no matter what ER and Grey's Anatomy might say to the contrary!  Everything seemed to go really quickly once my IV was in place, and then some very lovely gentleman gave me a shot that made me not care about anyone or anything, and they took me into the OR.  I remember saying "WOW, there's a lot of stuff in here!  I didn't think you needed all this kind of stuff!"  Stuff being lights and medical equipment, which in retrospect, makes a lot of sense.

I woke up in recovery, not really sure of what was going on.  I had been fitted with an oxygen mask and remember saying "Oh, good, I like oxygen." after asking why I had it on. They scratched my vocal cord with a breathing tube, and my voice is still a little scratchy from that, but not terribly. I also remember singing a little and then bursting out crying for no good reason, but I think it was just a reaction to everything.  The very sweet nurse talked me through it, so there's no telling what I said to her.  I probably confessed many private sins to that nurse, who now has to live with the terrible knowledge. I have no idea how long that went on, but it seems like in a flash I was back in one of the recovery rooms with Steve getting redressed and wheeled out to the car.  I wasn't completely lucid, though, because there are big chunks of the next couple of days I don't remember, but apparently I survived.  By Sunday night I was almost back to normal and trusted myself enough to send an email.  I still tend to burst out crying from time to time (stuff like, oh, God, I've been abandoned by everyone and every little thing sets me off so don't hurt my feelings, yo) but it is getting much better.  You'll also be happy to know I only had to take 3 of the heavy pain pills, and I behaved myself each time. Mostly. I wanted badly to get out of the house at one point, and so I hobbled into Publix to get some juice.  I had taken one of the pills before we left, and about halfway through our trip I kind of fazed out and found myself giggling and petting a carton of drinks.  I also got into a weird smiling fit, because the more Steve told me not to make "that face," the less control I had over making "that face."  He managed to pay for the juice and get me back home before I did anything embarrassing.  He was a good nurse, all told.  Anyway, I'm healing and hopefully very soon will be back to fighting shape!

3) I'm sure you've been waiting with baited breath about what I ended up naming my car.  I took a poll on Facebook and it was close.  I had an equal number of votes for "Joan Jetta" and "Other" and I had a couple of great suggestions from the "Other" camp.  My cousin Amy's suggestion was perfect.  Now my car has been christened "Brunhilde Farfegnugen" but I'll just call her Brunhilde for short.  I also liked the suggestion "Dave" but the car is clearly female, so what can I do?

So far I like the Volkswagen, with one exception.  When you connect the sound system to Bluetooth and listen to music from the phone, the sound will get louder and softer depending on your speed.  That doesn't happen with the radio, but I've almost deafened myself  when listening to my playlist because when you slow down, the music gets quieter, and not realizing it was a feature, I turned it up to hear what was playing, but then when I started driving again, the sound blasts out at you without any warning.  I hate that and haven't figured out how to disable it.  Don't tell me how loud I can listen to my crappy playlist, Brunhilde!  All in all, though, it's a nice car and I'm glad to finally have something reliable.

Now I get to take all of those road trips I've been talking about!  Imma visit everyone! 



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A CAR HAS NO NAME

So, guess what?

I finally got a new (well, new to me) car!  Aren't you excited? 

Can you at least pretend?  Thanks. :)

I've been saving up for a new car for a couple of years because my poor car was hanging on by a thread.  I was hoping to eventually save up enough money to buy whichever car I chose straight out, because I'd gotten very used to not having a car payment!  Unfortunately, my convertible was beginning to do some things that made me wonder if it was going to last long enough for me to save up the whole thing, which would have taken me a couple more years. Shakes, creaks, and bits falling off I can handle, but once the air conditioner starting skipping out on me, all that went out of the window.  Maybe it makes me a huge weenie, maybe it doesn't, but air conditioning is essential when you live in Devil's Buttcrack, Alabama, where it's 6 inches closer to hell than anyplace else on earth.  No, seriously, that's the town slogan. ; )

Monday night, Steve and I began looking online for some of the new cars I was interested in, but I got discouraged with how much the cars cost. I mean, I know cars cost a lot of money, and I was prepared for that, but it seemed like anytime we found a car I liked and maybe changed a paint color, or wanted an automatic transmission, it was adding on thousands of dollars over what I could afford.  Sigh. 

We stopped looking at the new cars and began looking at the "certified pre-owned" cars at the different dealers around town.  Most of them were either way older than I wanted, or way more expensive than I wanted to pay for a used car, but one caught my eye.  I'd never considered a Volkswagen (unless I could get one of those Mystery Machine type vans, and I'd still totally get one of those if I could) but out of curiosity I checked out their website and they had a 2016 Jetta that had several nice add ons for a very, very reasonable price.  It had 41,445 miles on it, but it had gone through the official check and had a great warranty, so we decided to check it out in person.

My boss was so excited.  He loooooooooves wheeling and dealing with sales people, and so he spent the first half of the day giving me pointers on how to pay lots less than they were asking on the car if I decided to get it.  He even called me on his way home to make sure that I "had my game face on."  Heh.  I assured him I did, but I'm not like him.  The man can walk into Wal-Mart and get a discount on something because he doesn't want to pay retail price, but I'm not that aggressive.  However, I figured I could do a bit of haggling. 

We got to the place and test drove the car, and is there anything more nerve wracking than test driving a car in after work traffic?  Add to that, that the windshield was covered in stickers and papers, and I'm just lucky that I made it to where we went and back!  It drove well, had some nice get up and go, and after I figured out how to adjust the seat and steering wheel, I decided that I liked it fine.  Maybe it wasn't exactly what I set out to get, but it was nice, and I couldn't find anything wrong with it.

We got back to the dealership and sat down, and I was all prepared to start to haggle over the price, but Steve...bless him, he wanted me to have a more reliable car so badly...tried to do it for me. When they wouldn't give him the price he asked for, he caved and agreed to everything.  I did interject and manage to get a little bit of money off.  Not a lot, but still a little is better than nothing!  (My boss was disgusted and wished he could have gone with me. I probably would have walked out of there with them paying me to take it, that's just how good he is.)  I also had to trade in Lois, my convertible.  Bless her heart, she was a good car that held on for a long time, but she was in bad shape.  They were only able to give me $750.00 trade in value on her, and that was being generous.  I checked Kelly Blue Book to make sure, and what they gave me was more than it was worth on there.

At any rate, now I'm the proud owner of a car that was made in this decade!  It doesn't seem to leak, I'm certain that the door doesn't hold water when it rains, air doesn't hiss through various cracks and crevices so loud that you have to shout when you talk, and so far it doesn't sound like it's cracking apart when I drive over bumps! Also, I can play music from my phone on the radio!  That probably doesn't sound like much to you, but for someone who had to make mixed CDs up until early last year (when the CD player quit working in the Seabring and trapped a CD of "Let It Go" in it's guts) it's fun to listen to music I choose!  The only downside of it is if I want to sneakily play a little Marvin Gaye, the name of the song pops up on the LCD screen before the first guitar licks of "Let's Get It On" even come on.  Tsk, tsk, tsk...

I'm also trying to name the car. It's just a thing I do, so don't judge me. I put a poll on Facebook for help choosing, but we've narrowed it down to these:  Joan Jetta, Jetta James, Jetta Li, Kenny "The Jetta" Smith (which is not named after my own personal Kenny Smith, but after the basketball player turned commentator on TNT) or The Cranberry.  So far Joan Jetta is winning, but as of now the car has no name. If any of you fine folks have a recommendation, I'd be glad to hear it. 

Anyway, here is a picture!
I hope we have many adventures together!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A NEW UPDATE

Well, this is not the update I was hoping to give, but it's the one I have.

My brother is not doing well.  He has been in the hospital since Friday night, and his body just doesn't seem to want to work the way it's supposed to.  So far, nothing the doctors have tried is working to make him any better.  He's being fed through an IV, and that's about all they can do right now.

I'm worried about him. I don't want him to be scared or in pain.  I'm worried about my mother, because she is doing everything she can to get him well again, and she won't leave his side longer than an hour at a time and she is stressed beyond reason.

There's nothing I can do, and it feels so helpless.  I don't even know how to pray about it.  It's too much.

He doesn't deserve this. My mom doesn't deserve this.

Every time the phone rings I'm expecting awful news.  I feel guilty every time I eat because I know he can't.  I don't know what to do. There's nothing I can do.

I hate this.

If anyone ever tries to me that all this is happening for a reason, I'll gouge out their damn eyes.

Friday, June 02, 2017

ANOTHER UPDATE

I haven't been talking much about my brother because up until a few days ago, everything was fine.  He wasn't eating much, but the doctor said that was to be expected.  We assumed that after a few months, he would get back to whatever new normal that his surgery would allow.

For the past few days he's been sick.  Not terrible, but not great.  I saw him yesterday when I was out that way, and he seemed OK, even though he hadn't been eating much.  My mom told me about him feeling sick, and she was worried, but he'd just been to the doctor a week before, so again, we assumed it was normal.

Today they had to take him back to the hospital because he wasn't getting any better and he couldn't eat at all.  Some tests they did show that his surgery came undone, and now he's back in the same shape he was before.  According to my mother, there isn't anything they can do for him now.  To try and redo the surgery is too risky, so they are going to send him home and hope for the best.  If he can't eat, then the best isn't so great, is it?

I don't really know what to say about any of this except that it sucks.  Again, please send prayers and good vibes towards my mom and brother.  I'm not sure what will happened from here on, but I know this is going to be very stressful and difficult.

Thanks in advance.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

TODAY

I took the day off today.

I lay in bed a bit longer than I should have, procrastinating the moment when I'd have to get out of bed and begin getting ready for what the day was bringing, but I finally got up and did what I had to do.

I dressed carefully.  I slid on the new, navy blue dress that I'd bought for a special occasion, but today it would be serving as a mourning dress.  I suppose a funeral is still a special occasion, but not the one I had intended the dress for.  I had to be careful about the jewelry I chose, because so much of what I have is big and flashy and inappropriate.  Luckily I found something subdued, my earrings and bracelet both reflected the occasion, having tear shaped pendants attached.  I only realized the significance later on.

I drove back to my home town, if you can call where I'm from a town.  I've been gone from there 17 years, but driving the old roads that I traveled so much when I was a teenager is still second nature.  I know where I'm going without even thinking about it. Things have changed, of course, but not a lot.  In places like that, change isn't much of a priority.

I arrived at the church, which I'd been to before.  Half the people I grew up with had attended it at one time or another so I was familiar with where I was.  I walked through a smattering of people, somber men and women and teenaged boys wearing football jerseys, and was ushered inside by the same smiling man that had presided over my own father's funeral almost 10 years ago.  He hadn't aged very much.

I thought I was running late, but the crowd inside was sparse.  Not knowing the man who sat by the coffin, I found a seat in the back of the church where I would be out of the way, not wanting to intrude on the people who had known the deceased better than I had.  I hadn't been sitting long before I felt someone walk up behind me and put their hand on the pew.  When I looked up, I saw my friend.  

His eyes were red and his face was swollen, but that was to be expected.  His mother had passed away after a long battle with cancer.  However, it's clear that even when you know death is inevitable, the knowledge doesn't dull the pain.  I stood and wrapped my arms around him tightly, hoping, in my way, that I could squeeze away some of the hurt.  My immediate question was "How are you doing?" which we both had a quick laugh about.  He wasn't doing great, obviously, but it seems like that is the question you ask first, no matter what the situation, doesn't it?

We stood in the back of the church and talked for quite a while.  How long had it been since we'd done that?  I'd met him in the band room one random day a hundred years ago.  He was a tall, skinny kid who played the bass drum and suffered from Pectus Excavatum.  Me, in my unfailing tactlessness, made a silly joke about his sunken chest and despite my bad taste, from that minute on we were fast friends.  That's how it was with him.  He was easy to know and easy to love, and I did love him fiercely in the way one does when a friend becomes more like family than anything else.  Of course, knowing how way leads on to way, we lost touch after I graduated high school.  I've seen him twice, maybe three times since, but I've always attacked him with a hug because to me, at least, nothing ever changed.  We talked of other things than his mother, catching up, and I hoped that taking his mind off of the elephant in the room for just a few minutes might help.  I never really know if that's the case, but we joked and chuckled for a bit as more people came in.

He introduced me to his best friend from college, and a steady stream of people from our days in marching band also went in and out of the church. There was a lot of hugging and chatting, as if this had become a combination funeral and class reunion.

The service was lovely and full of music.  His mother was a wonderful lady.  I remember her as a top notch "band mom" who was at every band camp, football game and competition.  She gave of her self tirelessly, taking us all in as her kids at one point or another.  She worked hard to make sure we had what we needed and helped where she could.  She loved our school, and had more school spirit than most of the students.  Her grandsons played football and she was very involved in the booster club. In fact, her pall bearers were all football players and the two coaches.  She was loved at the school.  Her fight with cancer was long and hard, and after a year of remission, it came back with a vengeance.  I sent her hats that I'd made so that she could keep warm during her treatments.  Her final days were painful and her family rallied around her, but ultimately she passed away in her sleep, surrounded by the people she loved and cared about.  You can't really ask for more than that, can you?

When the service was over, we watched as her casket was wheeled out of the church and the procession headed towards her burial plot.  I didn't accompany them, feeling that I didn't really belong at the more intimate service.  I feel bad that I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to my friend, but I was glad that I'd been able to see him and offer what tiny but of comfort I could.

Funerals are hard.  They are like parties you desperately don't want to attend, but can't get out of.  I used to never go to them, but in recent years I've come to understand that the support you give those left behind can be a lifeline to someone who is hurting.  Chances are, they will never remember who didn't come, but they'll remember the person to hugged them, who encouraged them, who made them smile, and the person who breaks through the shell of sadness and makes them laugh a little, even when their heart is hurting.  I hope I managed to do some good today, even if it was just a little bit.  As I drove back towards home, I thought about my friend and his family, and how they are going to have to heal from their loss, and I thought about all the people who'd been there to show their love and support. I know that ultimately, with all of those that gathered around them in their time of need, they'll eventually find peace.

Rest easy, Ms. Charlotte.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

NOPE

OMG!

No, wait, I don't think you fully got that. 

OH. EM. GEE. Exclamation Point!

One of the "pleasures" of living in the hot and humid south is that we have a certain type of wildlife that thrives in all the nooks and crannies of almost every building, every tree stump, in every tangle of vines and under every rock.  They go by several names: Water Bugs, Palmetto Bugs, the American Cockroach, but usually I just refer to them as the unholy bastard bugs straight from Satan's anus.  I hate them with a passion that I don't think I could adequately put into words, and for your sake, I won't even try.  Just imagine a series of guttural, spitty, choking noises and rude finger gestures and that will be close enough.

During the months when the air is heavy and dense and the sun is shining, these little monsters tend to stay in the nice shady spots outside, except for the ones that find a way to get inside a person's home or place of business, regardless of the amount and strength of the poison that one pays to have squirted about by professionals. They are wiley, and if I'm being truthful about what I believe, malicious and self aware.

Two nights ago, Steve and I were sitting in the living room when Steve suddenly says "What is that?"  The fact that movement caught his attention while he was absorbed in whatever it was he was watching on television should tell you something.  I looked up from my reading and saw what looked like a slipper scrabbling wildly near the door. It had, unfortunately, made it's way through the side of the door where the cat has shredded the weather stripping, leaving a gap. It was possibly the largest waterbug I've ever seen, and trust me, I work in an old building and have seen some shit.  I sat up in my chair far enough to realize that me going after said bug was an impossibility, due to the fact that I'm certain it had the size and strength to tackle me to the ground, and so it became Steve's job to get rid of it.  He did, after a fashion.  I'm not sure if he killed it with the Swiffer he wielded, or if he had to hold it at gunpoint and threaten the life of its children if it didn't leave, (I was cowering in my chair and didn't see) but the mutant bug was driven out of the house and out into the night.  Afterwards I liberally sprayed the doorway with a bug poison supposedly so powerful that it is only required to be applied once a year.  I use it more than that, just in case, because I live in fear of rolling up on one of those bugs in my house.  Our house is old, so yes, it happens occasionally.

I knew that I'd probably be seeing some of that bug's unholy brethren at some point, but I assumed that it would be in the house or in the garage.  I was not expecting to find one of them in my car. 

I don't think I need to state that our cars should be a good place.  Sure, maybe we always run the risk of accidents when we drive them, but aside from that, the interior of our vehicles should be a haven where we can have a bit of quiet after a stressful day, where we can sing to our favorite music loudly and without shame, and where we can unabashedly eat french fries by shoving our faces directly into a greasy paper bag so that we don't get our hands messy.  It should be a safe place, but now my safe space has been ruined.

When I was leaving for work, I opened the door to my car and another huge waterbug scurried around the frame of my door.  I know it wasn't happy to be discovered, because I'm almost positive I heard it curse under it's breath.  I stood frozen, nothing to protect myself with but my soft sided lunchbox, and wondered what to do.  I kicked at it, granted not the best action since I was wearing soft toed shoes, but instead of leaping to the driveway and running towards freedom, it ran across the door frame and disappeared.  It ran so fast I couldn't tell where it went!  I stood there for a moment, wondering if I should just call in sick to work and torch the car to be safe, but that seemed to be a bit excessive.  I still didn't want to get in the car until the bug was found, but unless I felt like disassembling the whole car, I had no choice.  I started kicking the car, hoping that it would scare the little hastared out of hiding, but no giant bug emerged.  I finally had to get in and go. The whole ride to work I just knew that thing would find it's way out of hiding and crawl up my pants leg.  If that had happened, I'd have either wrecked the car, or there would be reports of a pantsless women screaming and running through the church parking lot (although to be fair, I'm sure that happens at least once a week in this neighborhood.) 

I made it to work with no incident and parked my car in a parking spot that I hope remains so exposed to the sun that anything alive in the car will spontaneously combust, but since roaches and the like can withstand nuclear fall out, I'm not sure it will even get uncomfortable.  My car is visible in the security feed, and I keep expecting to see the thing hot wire my car and drive off into the sunset.

So now, here I sit, knowing that today is a Wednesday which means I won't be getting back into the car until almost sundown, and in the shadows of the waning day, I may be getting back into a car where the disgusting vermin is hiding, waiting on me to get inside and shut the door so that it can exact it's revenge on me for my past, bug-killing actions.  If my car is found empty, on the side of the road somewhere between church and home, you'll know the thing attacked and won. Don't let him get away with it!

AVENGE ME!




Monday, May 22, 2017

BLOGGED ALONG THE WAY: JERSEY GIRL EDITION - MAY 20, 2017

We had to get up at the butt crack of dawn this morning so that we could be on time for our plane.  I am not a fan of super early flights, but what are you going to do?  That's when the plane left.

We made it in due time to the airport and got checked in with little problem, except that the Newark TSA is freaking slow.  I blame it on the fact that we were traveling so early, but still...slow.  Not much of interest happened after that, and our flight out was much nicer than our flight in. I spent time returning emails and looking out of the window. You know...normal airplane stuff.

We landed in Atlanta and realized that we had lost our parking pass (totally my fault) and so it took us forever to get out of the parking garage.  Apparently they have to run a background check on you and decode your DNA if you lose your parking pass.  I don't know, I just know we were in there a long time and we had to pay a penalty. :(

Since we'd landed fairly early on in the day, and accidentally took a wrong turn somewhere, we ended up going through Duluth, so we stopped at a store called Super H Mart.  We'd been there once before a few years ago when we were visiting family, so we knew it existed already.  This is a big grocery store that caters to the Asian population of Atlanta, and so of course I had to go in an buy a bunch of stuff I wanted to try.  I don't know what some of it is, but I was feeling adventurous!  I do know at least one thing has cuttlefish flakes in it (which I didn't realize until I had already purchased it) but I'm willing to try it at least! I also got some really great shampoo.  At least I think it's shampoo. It smells nice and I've used it to wash my hair, so we're just going to call it shampoo and not look into it any further. We ate lunch there at the hot food place and I had some superior don katsu.  I can almost work chopsticks, too, so I managed to eat most of it with those, although from time to time I had to use a spoon.  Heehee.  Steve had sushi, and I still can't understand why. Yick.

Once we got back on the road I fell asleep.  I hate doing that, because I like to be awake to keep Steve company, but he said he likes to think his thoughts when we drives long distances, so it turned out ok.  I finally woke up when we weren't that far from home, and in due time we made it back! 

We're taking tomorrow off from church because we are both so tired from traveling, so we'll have a day of not doing anything in particular to rest up.  I'm looking forward to it!  I'm sad the trip is over, but I had a really great time.  It was a wonderful adventure.

BLOGGED ALONG THE WAY - JERSEY GIRL EDITION - May 19, 2017

We slept in a bit longer than we meant to this morning, and when I got out of bed everything hurt.  I had no idea that walking that much would hurt all of my bones.  Mostly it was my feet.  Even though I have been wearing sensible shoes, my feet are swollen up from all the walking/running we did. Boo!

We actually ate breakfast this morning before leaving again.  I"ve just realized we hadn't done that all week.  Huh. This time we didn't bother trying to find a train anywhere.  We were going to Liberty State Park so that we could catch a ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty and just decided to drive it! YAY!  We'd gotten tickets online earlier in the week, so we were all set!

This time, driving out that way was a lot less nerve wracking, although I still do that thing where I cringe and squeak when I don't think Steve is going to slow down in time.  He hates it, but I can't help it.  His driving makes me nervous, and riding with me in the car makes him nervous, so it's a trade off.  :)  We made it a lot more quickly than we thought we would, and got a chance to walk around for quite a while before we boarded our ferry.  On that ferry was also what seemed like 600 school children.  Look, kids one at a time are usually OK.  Small groups of children are sometimes OK.  Large groups of children are just evil.  That's all I'm going to say about that.

We landed on Liberty Island and saw the statue!  It was so beautiful! When you come into the docking area, you are at the back of the statue, so we took the long way around to go and see it.  It was so bizarre!  I've seen it a million times in a million different ways, but never in person.  I kept staring at it thinking "I'm actually here looking at this thing! It's not a movie or a picture, but I'm actually here looking at it!!!!"  I was so excited.  We had to brave a very large crowd, but luckily the statue is on a big platform and so it stands above everyone and no one can really get in your way.  I even managed to get a couple of pictures with Steve (haha, take that!) and we got a very good look at her.  It was a lot of fun, even though we didn't take a tour inside the base, or up into the crown, as it cost extra.  That's kind of the one thing that sucks, but as I worked in the tourism industry once upon a time, I do understand that getting people to pay for things in stages is a thing.  After getting our fill of pictures and looking, we departed on another ferry (I love the ferries!) and headed back to our car.

We'd thought about going into Brooklyn for a bit, but Steve wanted to head down to Red Bank, NJ to visit a comic book shop that he knew about.  Why drive to Red Bank, which is an hour or so away from NYC, to look at a comic book shop you may be asking?  Well, it isn't just any comic book shop! It was Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash, which is owned by Kevin Smith and has it's own "reality" type show called "Comic Book Men" that Steve regularly watches.  He wanted to look around and try to meet some of the guys that are on the show.  Me?  I didn't think that they'd really be there.  I assumed that they were only there to film, and then other not-on-television guys worked there the rest of the time.  I was wrong! We walked in, and three of the four guys from the show were there!  I immediately went into freeze up mode.  Number one, this was Steve's thing and not mine, so I got shy.  Number two, these guys were doing there thing and eating lunch, so I felt weird approaching any of them just to say "Hey! You're that TV guy!" and the thought of that made me feel very awkward.  Being awkward in a store leads to breaking things and breaking things leads to paying for things. I stayed in my own zone.  Number three...well, there is no number three, but three is a better number when you're listing things.

Anyway, I looked around and they really did have an interesting collection of stuff from the various Kevin Smith movies, as well as some cool pop culture memorabilia and comics.  It is a store, after all, and they do sell stuff.  I just kept to myself.  I give Steve props, too, he was very cool about the whole thing, and he got to meet two of the guys without seeming weird or intrusive, which is more than I can say about another guy who walked in.  I met one of them, Mike I believe his name was, because I asked a question.  He was very nice and helpful, and when I asked how offensive he thought "Buddy Christ" would be to Baptists, he said he hoped very, and gave me a gratis sheet of stickers of the character for my desk when he found out I work at a church.  Heh.  Steve bought a couple of things and we left.  He was happy and I got stickers, so it had been a productive visit!

Red Bank is really a cool place, but we didn't stick around for long after visiting the store.  I had wanted to see the beach situation there.  I was thinking more about finding out if New Jersey had the same kind of cheesy shops and culture that you see around the gulf, so we went towards Sandy Hook which the map said had a beach.  The drive out there was so interesting.  There were so many gorgeous and HUGE houses out that way, and they weren't like anything I had seen before.  We knew they were worth some serious coinage, because the ones for sale weren't being sold by Maggie Bee, your friendly neighborhood real estate agent.  They were being sold by Southby's and Christie's, which I didn't know had a hand in real estate. When we finally did make it out to the beach area, there weren't any houses at all.  Nor were there shops or restaurants, just beaches.  We tried to drive to the end where an observation deck was, but that was closed off for some reason, so we stopped by one of the public beaches and walked out there.  I hadn't thought about the act of actually going to the beach, even though I knew we were going to do that, so I was wearing blue jeans!  I rolled those suckers up and took off my shoes.  The sand area was really wide and full of rocks, so getting out to the water was like walking on hot Legos!  Haha!  We walked to the surf and I looked for shells. Weirdly, I didn't find very many sea critters.  I found lots of polished rocks, but only found shells up in the dry area of sand, so I figure that someone else must have pulled then out of the water and left them there. Eh.  I accidentally stood too close to the water and a wave hit me, getting me soaked, so we turned back fairly soon after that.  I was hot, sandy and wet, but I had some shells and my little baggy of sand!  I was happy!

We had thought of going to a few other places after getting back towards NYC, but we were tired.  I hated to just go back to the hotel, but by the time we got back, my feet were sore and I was messy from the beach and I was hungry!  We ordered room service for dinner and packed up our things.  We are leaving early tomorrow morning, so we have to go to sleep soon.  I'm honestly ready.  I really have enjoyed my stay here, though, and I'd like to come back one day and see a bit more!

Goodnight!

BLOGGED ALONG THE WAY: JERSEY GIRL EDITION - MAY 18, 2017

I had one job.

Ok, I had more than one job, but I had one important job and I screwed it up. I am worthless.

When Steve invited me to go on this trip, he basically left it up to me to figure out what we were going to do when we went to New York City. I'm not good at that sort of thing, because I am always worried I'll pick things to do that he won't enjoy, but I was determined to do it this time to prove I was at least capable of it and so that we could have a fun day.  I got some advice from a friend who'd beenhere before, and although I didn't schedule everything down to the minute (that kind of thing isn't any fun) I did have a list of what we'd do when we got there.  I also asked Steve to pick one thing he'd like to do, and he managed to get us tickets to see Phantom if the Opera at the Majestic Theater on Broadway, so all we had to do was work around our 2:00 curtain time for whatever else we did. Easy peasy!

Well...

As I've said, where we are staying isn't a big city or even a big town.  It's a bit of an extended suburb with businesses and homes, but not much else that I could find. The one thing that seemed to be perfect (and I mentioned it earlier) was that it had a train station with a direct train that would go straight into the city.  It was less than a 10 minute drive away from our hotel and should make getting to where we needed to go simple.  That was the cornerstone of my plan and we set off with the expectation that we'd be getting into NYC by 9:45 am.  

After a tiny GPS hiccup, we found the station nestled in the middle of a neighborhood full of houses. It was a lovely, clean, landscaped place and set me to ease at once about the NJ transit system. However, we figured out pretty darn quick that the town of Short Hills, NJ (or whatever this place calls itself) didn't want us, or seemingly anyone who didn't live there, riding on their train. There was no place for us to park. Every single parking lot we found was only for residents. You had to have a sticker to park there. On the street the parking was only for an hour or two hours, and although we parked illegally for a few minutes to look at our phones to figure out what to do, we couldn't find clue of what a visitor was supposed to do or where to go.  To be fair, and I'm determined to be fair, maybe we missed something obvious, but from where we sat, it was pretty clear we weren't going to be able to get on that train. Had we known this situation before hand, we could have called a cab, or an Uber to have brought us out there, but we didn't and time was by now slipping past quickly. We just sat there trying to figure out what to do. I felt terrible and wanted to cry because I hadn't made a contingency plan. I'd screwed up! The day hadn't even started, and I had already put us in a bad spot. Sigh.

Steve saved the day by finding that we could take a ferry into the city, but we had to drive through New Jersey to get to the port. Granted, there might have been an easier way, but for two people as unaware of public transportation and such as we are, we couldn't find it.  So we set off.  We figured if the muppets can take Manhattan, so could we!  ONWARD!!!!

Driving through New Jersey is a little like driving in Atlanta, if Atlanta were full of angry vikings that have a grudge against you, all driving SUV's like they are in a demolition derby, and if Atlanta was on fire and located in an unused corner of hell. WTF, people? I've been in traffic before, bad traffic even, but this was a different animal all together. Lanes would merge without warning, people just edge in front of you at ridiculous speeds, and sometimes they'd ride next to you in a single lane just to get in front of you. All I can say is that the people up here drive like assholes. A middle finger to them all! Also, WTF are toll lanes supposed to be?!  You go through the gate, and there are no lines past that, so everyone is just in one FUBAR knot of vehicles trying to weave into lines that barely exist!  Seriously, W. T. F?  That is NOT an efficient way to do things!  Steve was the real hero that day. I'm honestly surprised that he didn't get fed up with me twitching and squeaking in abject fear the whole time and just kick me out of the car and into moving traffic, but thankfully he didn't and after what seemed to be an eternity in some gothic netherworld of punishment for past traffic violations, we made it to Port Imperial. Whew.

I like riding on boats. :)

We finally made it into the midtown area on the ferry and started walking. It was hot, but not terrible, and we figured out where we were and where we were going pretty quickly. There was so much to see, and so many people.  It was a constant stream of sensory input coming from very side. I'm not sure where we started out, but we made our way through the streets and headed to Times Square. I'd never seen anything like it! There was so much going on, and unfortunately, although I try hard not to, I apparently stand out very clearly as a tourist. I mean, it isn't like I'm waving a selfie stick around and I'm not wearing a t-shirt that says where I'm from. I assume it's because of my wide eyed, mouth open stare as I looked around me.  Steve doesn't have this problem.  Steve looks mean and intimidating. Me? I look like a sucker, I guess.  Sigh.  We were approached many times by people who wanted to "give" us things...for a donation. We lied and said we weren't carrying cash, and those people snatched back their things and disappeared, thank goodness.  I didn't want their CDs anyway.  There were a lot of  "characters" on Times Square that you can take your pictures with if you want to pay. Two topless girls wearing body paint, a kind-of Mickey Mouse, a kind-of Elmo and the like. No thank you, please! I just want to be left alone to stare at things with my mouth open, if you don't mind!  At some point we apparently offended a local guy who was trying to talk to us. I was called rude by a New Yorker! I'm not sure if I should be ashamed or proud! Haha.

We walked across Broadway and we made our way to Rockefeller Center! I got to see the weird gold guy (Prometheus, apparently)  in person! I also learned that Steve doesn't like to take selfie pictures with me because it is "too hard'" so...well, ok, then. Nice. We went into the Comcast Building and looked around for a bit. We got tickets to Top of the Rock, another recommendation by someone in the know.  It's easier to get tickets to that than the Empire State Building and the view is just as good! We didn't actually have to wait that long to go up, thank goodness, and it was totally worth it!  I usually don't like heights, even in buildings, but I was fascinated at the view! There was so much to see and I took lots of pictures. A nice man offered to take some pictures of me since he saw me struggling to take a selfie with the buildings in the background.  I also managed to get in a couple of pictures with Steve, so maybe years from now people won't assume I was in New York by myself. Screw not wanting to take pictures with me!  I'd climb on his back and shanghai his damn phone if I had to. >:(  We stood up there for some time and I was duly impressed! New York is pretty freaking neato.

When we descended from the top, we decided get something to eat, and I'm pretty sure that saved us from being in a very bad place later on. I wasn't that hungry, and had it been up to me we would have just grabbed something quick so we could go back outside, but Steve was determined we should eat in a sit down place instead of just grabbing a snack. We found a burger place in the basement of the Comcast Building and had lunch. When we were done, We stopped and took some pictures of the Atlas statue and St. Peter's Cathedral, and started to notice a lot of sirens and emergency vehicles going by. At that point, we were walking towards the theater where we had tickets to see the show. We knew we would be a little early, but didn't want to run the risk of missing anything. However, when we were trying to walk towards 7th avenue we kept getting blocked by police.  No explanation, just that we couldn't walk that way. We wound up at an intersection where a crowd of people were standing and a veritable tangle of emergency vehicles, black SUVs and police were gathered, but we couldn't tell what was going on. We we were just told we couldn't go any further. Time was getting close for us to be at the theater, but we were told that the entire street was closed. We practically ran down every street and kept getting blocked, but I was determined to get Steve to the theater to do the one thing that he'd shown interest in! We finally found a place to cross over, which was several blocks from where we needed to be, but we made it just in the nick of time to pick up our tickets. It wasn't until we were waiting in line to get into the theater that we found out about the terrible accident that had happened in Times Square. It was then that I realized that had we not stopped to eat, there was a very good chance we would have been where that guy plowed through the pedestrians. I'm not saying we would have been hurt, but we probably would gave seen it happen, so thank goodness for Steve being hungry! I feel terrible about those people who got hurt, and the girl who was killed.  I hope none of the people who were hit were the people trying to give us stuff this morning.  I'm also glad, as much as you can say glad in a situation like this, that the guy wasn't a terrorist. We realized that might have been why the FBI (Steve recognized the black SUVs) had been called in, because cars running into crowds of pedestrians has been the MO of a lot of terrorist situations around the world.  Ugh. So far I managed to screw up the transportation and almost made us witness, if not an actual part, to a horrible accident.  Maybe I'm not the greatest travel director in the world.


We had very nice seats in the theater and the play was really amazing. I'd seen Phantom performed in Nashville by a touring company years ago, but seeing it again in a much more intimate setting was great! I'm very familiar with the story, but I have to say that this was the first time that the Phantom really creeped me out. I have also realized that now I am more fascinated with the props, costumes and stage "magic" than I am with the acting (although it was great, but my eye for technical and practical effects was much more keen.)  It was late afternoon when we got out, and we were going to take a Circle Line Tour, but we'd just missed the last boat before the night cruises began, and since we were exhausted, filthy (seriously, that city is very dirty), and still had to drive back to Short Hills, we ended up leaving. I would love to go back sometime when we didn't have anything planned and just wander the city. Find some good hole in the wall places to eat and see the museums, but you have to have a whole lot more time to do it than one day! It was a fun adventure of a day, except for the drunk driver situation.  I do like New York, but I'll need to get to know it better before I know if I heart it!

BLOGGED ALONG THE WAY: JERSEY GIRL EDITION - MAY 17, 2017

Today was supposed to be much different than it turned out, but that's ok.

When planning the trip up here, I knew that there would be two days I'd basically be on my own. The first day (yesterday) went about like I thought it would.  I wanted to figure things out and find out how and where things were so I would be comfortable getting out and about. My original plan for today was to go into NYC by myself and wonder around, a plan that was not well received by anyone (save one person and I adore him for that.)  I found a train in town that would go directly into the city and I could take the subway anywhere else once I got there.  Ultimately, when I went to bed last night I wasn't 100% sure I was going to go.  Lots of people tried talking me out of it when I'd talked about it at home.  I'm sure I could have done it without any problems, but the more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea.  Strangely enough, I wouldn't have been afraid to be in the city alone, but getting there was what worried me.  After not being able to cross the street without asking two people and losing my way three times yesterday, the idea of trying to navigate the New Jersey public transit system gave me the wiggins.  In the end, I decided I probably wouldn't go. I'm a bit ashamed that I punked out, but it was actually for the best in the end because I woke up sick this morning.  Well, let me rephrase, I woke up feeling ok and was fine for a while, but I dozed back off about half an hour after Steve left for work, and woke up again feeling very dizzy and all around yucky.  Nothing serious, I was sure, but my head felt like it weighed a thousand pounds and I had a slight case of vertigo.  Eh, walking straight is overrated anyway.  I lay there for a long time wondering which deity I had offended, but no answer came forth. I finally got up and made myself decent, as in, I put on pants, and since it was after 11 by the time I could drag myself around, I decided I should probably try to eat, so I went down to the rather elegant restaurant (thank God I put on pants) downstairs to get lunch.

An aside: I realized that when I was going through my clothes that everything I brought is either black or blue and it all pretty much looks the same. I didn't realize when I was packing. These hotel people are going to think I am wearing the same clothes all week! Heh.

After lunch I still wasn't feeling well, so I went back to the room and fell asleep for a looooooong time. Seriously, this is not how I wanted to spend my day, but I must have needed the rest.  I woke up feeling sicker than I had before, so I was glad that I'd not gone anywhere.  I am mad I wasted a day feeling sick, but after dosing myself with loads of medicine (I usually carry something for every ailment), I started feeling much better after a couple of hours. Thank goodness, because I didn't want to be sick the whole time we were on our trip. That would suck.

We had dinner with Steve's coworker again and walked around the mall for a while talking. He's a very funny guy and apparently a computer genius. I mean a legitimate computer genius and not in the hyperbolic sense, so he had a lot of interesting stories to tell. We had a great time. His wife is flying up here tonight and they are going to stay in the NYC over the weekend. What are the chances that we'll bump into them? Haha.


Tomorrow, Steve and I are going to travel into the city for the day and do some stuff! I hope I will be 100% better by then and that we will have a good time!