Posted in adventure, Dreams, escape, Goals, Learning, Life, Musings, People, travel

Finally, Boston

George Washington in Boston Public Gardens

It seems crazy that it’s almost been a week since I’ve been home. The funny thing about travelling is that it takes up your mind for so long after you get back. Not to mention how strange it is to have this momentous event in your life and then, suddenly, you are right back in the middle of your normal life, trying to get back in your groove. Maybe seasoned travelers don’t go through that, I don’t know. But for me, it’s been really weird.

On the third full day of our trip, we decided to go to Boston. I am not a big fan of cities, but it did seem like something that I shouldn’t miss, seeing as how I was going to be so nearby. So when my friend Alicia said she wanted to see Boston, I agreed. Boy, am I glad I did. We parked our rental car in a giant garage and took the train into the city. Honestly, for me, this was one of the coolest things ever. I don’t take trains, ever, so I just felt very sophisticated, even if it was kind of nerve wracking trying to figure out how to buy a ticket and which train to get on. Lucky for us, there were no lines and there were signs everywhere that said exactly which train went where. We hopped on with no trouble, and took the fifteen minute ride to the government center stop.

We wanted to walk the Freedom Trail, so we struggled for a minute to figure out where, exactly, that was. I told her to ask the guy dressed in period clothing in the Starbucks where we should go, but she chickened out, so…we were on our own. Luckily for us, it was not hard to find, as it is literally painted and bricked into the ground, so, after chugging down a familiar latte (I swear to God, there are Dunkin Donuts on every corner, but the Starbucks are few and far between) we quickly found our path. But before we could go more than a block, we stumbled across yet another amazing cemetery, and of course I had to go in. This one was tiny, wedged between buildings in the middle of the city, but WOW. King’s Chapel and Burying Grounds is beautiful. We wandered through, reading all the information, and I snapped a few pictures. Then we went inside King’s Chapel, and let me tell you- they don’t make churches like that anymore. The pews were like booths with doors, and from what I understand, you had to buy them? Maybe I’m not getting that right, but there were many placards describing the men who owned them, so…You’ll have to forgive me, I was very, very tired on this final day, and it’s all kind of a blur.

King’s Chapel Burying Ground
Kings Chapel burying ground
Kings Chapel
A typical example of the awesome headstones in New England

After that, we found ourselves at the State House, the site of the Boston Massacre, among other things. The museum inside was well worth the ten bucks, and we really took our time checking it out. I can’t emphasize enough how mind-blowing it was to read about the very early history of the country as we know it while standing in the places where history was made. It kinda…well, it gave me a bit of an emotional moment, honestly. It was just very cool. I’ve been much more interested in American History since I’ve been home, wanting to know more about how those days and years played out.

The State House

From there, we ran through Faneuil Hall, then made our way tiredly to Paul Revere’s old house. Very crowded, but so, so neat! I didn’t take any pictures because it was forbidden, but did you know that Paul Revere had 16 children? Yeah, me neither. Another thing- you can’t walk through that place without the words “The British are coming!” playing on a loop inside your head. It’s impossible.

After Paul’s house, we walked back to the Government Center, which by the way, passes right through what has got to be Boston’s Little Italy-I can’t believe I wasn’t hungry enough to try a legit cannoli. I’m still mad at myself. Anyway, we took an Uber from there to Cheer’s- not my idea, by the way, but…once you see it, it does cause a little nostalgic thrill. For people my age who grew up watching the show, it doesn’t suck. The inside looks nothing like the bar on TV, but so what? I had my Shirley Temple at the bar, and felt like I’d done something cool. Cheer’s is right across the street from the Boston Public Garden, so we strolled around there for a few. They have some serious squirrels in Boston, let me tell you. Fatter and far more spry than any I’ve seen here in California, there were so many of them that it started to give me the creeps. If they ever decide to organize, Bostonians will be in trouble.

Cheers! Or, the Bull & Finch, I guess.

Our final destination on our quick jaunt through Boston was the Museum of Fine Arts, and I am SO glad we went. My one regret is getting there at 3, just two hours before they closed, because you could truly spend an entire day in there. As it was, we saw a good portion, but we had to rush, which wasn’t the best. I was so excited to see Monet’s work in real life, but you know what? That wasn’t even close to my favorite. I loved the Egyptian display- it was thrilling to see things so old and so well preserved- and the Greek sculptures. There was so much more that I wanted to linger over- stained glass and fabulous paintings by who even knows who. My brain was just overwhelmed with the quality of the things in that museum. I learned another thing about myself on this trip-I REALLY love museums! I kind of knew that already, but living in a small town with just a few little museums, it’s hard to comprehend what a large museum is able to show to you. Unbelievable!

Just a few of the amazing sights at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

After a slow ride back in another Uber, through terrible rush hour traffic, our driver deposited us safely back at Faneuil Hall so that we could grab a few last minute gifts before catching the train back to our car.

The thing you learn on your first trip somewhere is how to spend your next trip there, right? I know now to never visit Salem in October, and that if I ever go back, I should give myself a few more days to spend on the things I love- namely, museums and exploring the little towns along the coast. But there are so many places I still want to see, not only in my own country, but in the world- who knows if I’ll ever make it back there? Seriously, though…I have a strong feeling that I will.

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Posted in adventure, Blogging, escape, fun, Goals, Life, living, Musings, travel

Day 2- Gloucester and Rockport

Since I can’t seem to get my body back on “normal” (West Coast) time, I figure I might as well go ahead and tell you all about day 2 of my trip. Day 2 wound up being my favorite day, and I learned some important things about myself as a traveler- namely, that I am happiest without an itinerary, and much, much happier in more idyllic settings, with far fewer people.

The day started off super slow- we were both so tired from the debacle in Salem the day and night before that we were not in a big hurry to get anywhere. To be honest with you, I actually felt hungover. I had been so tired the night before, but I couldn’t seem to fall asleep, and then I woke up way earlier than I wanted to, so I wasn’t very rested. I felt achy and dehydrated, and just generally shitty, but…when you are on a short vacation in a new place, you find it within yourself to soldier on. Which I am so glad I did!

Anyway, after an incredibly unappetizing hotel buffet breakfast, we hopped in the trusty charger and headed…north? North-east? Anyway, we headed out of Peabody and away from the more populated areas. The thing about these little towns off the freeway is that they are literally right off the freeway. The parking lot of our hotel exited onto the actual freeway. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. They also have stop lights on the freeway and places to make U-turns. Crazy. But we made it on safely and before you know it, you are in the middle of massive beauty. The bright red and orange trees, and water, just everywhere. I still don’t know which were lakes, rivers, or inlets, but I guess it doesn’t matter…all I really know is, for me, water is the key. I love being near large bodies of water. I just feel better.

Just off the highway, we stopped for the first time at a big old candy store in the middle of nothing. Nichols candy house has been in business for 86 years, according to the sign. They make all their candy on site, and the ladies running the counter looked like they might have been there when the store opened. Seriously, they were adorable, in a no-nonsense, getting shit done kinda way. I didn’t buy anything there, which is my one regret of the whole trip. Alicia did, and I was lucky that she shared with me, because they know what they are doing. My advice to you? If you find yourself there, buy the truffles!

This was the view from right outside the Nichols Candy House

Anyway, after that, we programmed directions to a lighthouse into GPS. This was one of many times that Siri failed us on this trip. We asked for a particular lighthouse, she steered us to the middle of a neighborhood in Gloucester and told us we were there. After that, she stopped speaking to us. I’m assuming she was embarrassed. So, here we are, lost, trying to figure out why the ocean was so far away from a lighthouse, and we turned a corner to find…oh my God, the most beautiful graveyard in the world. It was called Oak Park Cemetery, and I demanded to be allowed to wander through it. I could tell Alicia was hesitant (she’s got weird Catholic guilt) but I was going, no matter what. I am so glad I did. The wind was super chilly, but the sky was bright blue, and the trees looked like they were bursting into flames, and the cemetery…so peaceful, and so insanely full of history. The headstones back east are incredible. I wish I had taken more pictures, up close, so that I could look into the symbolism. But at that moment, I was just so happy to be there, experiencing REAL fall weather, ambling quietly through this beautiful place, surrounded by graves that were hundreds of years old. It was one of many perfect moments I had that day.

Oak Park Cemetery

After a while out in the cold, the warm car was a welcoming place. We got back on the road, missed another turn, and wound up in downtown Gloucester (pronounced “Glah-stah” by the locals 🙂 ). Sometimes those wrong turns are fortuitous. We easily found parking (yay!) and walked up the hill to a little coffee shop to get a warm drink and figure out what next. The place was called Drift Coffee, had a wonderful view of the water, and, much to Alicia’s delight, a full bar! I had a fancy latte, she had a glass of pinot noir, and we figured out our next move. I have to tell you, I had my next perfect moment sitting at that little coffee bar, staring at the street below and the harbor across the way. It was so beautiful, so peaceful, and so quiet…I was in heaven. THIS was the trip I had imagined, and I couldn’t have been happier to be where I was.

Drift Coffee

We wandered the down the cobbled street a bit, did some shopping and sightseeing, then headed down to the harbor to see the lost fisherman memorial. We saw our first drawbridge thingy- that’s what they’re called, right? Anyway, it was delightful. And I picked up some shells and sea glass to take home. After a while longer in the icy wind that was no longer quite as bracing and more like torture, we headed over, on the recommendation of one of the friendly shop owners, to Rockport.

The Fisherman’s Memorial

Rockport, if you can believe it, was even more idyllic and quintessential New England, (or what I imagined New England to be like, anyway) than Gloucester had been. We parked near a little white church with a tall steeple, and braced ourselves for the now freeeeezing wind rolling in off the ocean. Holy smokes! It was so cold. The first thing I did was find a store that sold beanies, and happily threw down 20 bucks for a super warm cap. Once my ears had recovered some feeling, we walked around a little bit, and decided to check out the little harbor. It was incredible. I know I keep saying this, but the sky there is just SO blue. Coming from the coast myself, there were so many similarities, but differences as well. The ocean smells saltier and brinier there, somehow. The scenery was just breathtaking.

Rockport

By this time, we were starving to death, so we found a little place called the Blue Lobster Grille, and grabbed a table. I had hot apple cider- it’s a whole different thing over there than any I’ve had here- and a giant plate of mussels, followed by seafood pasta that I could barely put a dent in. So, with full bellies and to-go bags, we raced to the car, waved goodbye to Rockport, and headed back to our room to get rested for our final day in Boston.

Posted in adventure, escape, fun, Goals, Holidays, Learning, Life, People, travel

Salem (My Trip, Part 1)

salem
Not my photo. I was not in the sky on this trip.

I’ve been home less than 24 hours, and I’m not (very) ashamed to tell you that I am still wearing the clothes I flew home in. In my defense, I wore stretch pants and a t-shirt, so they are kinda like pajamas anyway, PLUS…oh dear lord, I was so tired when I got home that I felt kind of drunk. We got up at 3 in the morning, which would be 12 midnight here, so that we could catch our flight on time, so the long and short of it is…I am all kinds of screwed up right now. It’s barely 4 a.m. and I’ve already been up for an hour. I have no experience with jet lag or time zone weirdness, but I’m learning fast. I got home yesterday, handed out gifts, hugged my children, ate some food, and passed out. I meant to shower and change, but I slipped into a coma instead, and that was that.

I’m going to break this down into three posts, since each segment was such a totally different experience, and I thought I’d start at day one- Friday- which was my first little taste of Salem. Little did I know it would be the most sane part of my visit to that particular town. Anyway, we flew into Logan, grabbed our rental car- I was expecting a Jetta, but apparently, a Charger is about the same thing (NOT), and either way, that’s what we got. My dear friend Alicia volunteered to drive, thank God, and we headed out of Boston to Peabody (pronounced Pee-biddy, apparently) where our lodgings were. After dumping our stuff, we hightailed it toward Salem, in search of food. Along our route into town, we saw a place called Kings, advertising the best roast beef sandwiches AND lobster (lobstah) rolls- two things I wanted to check off my list. Let Me Tell You Something!! That lobstah roll was good, no doubt, but the roast beef sandwiches on the east coast?! Holy smokes! I will be dreaming about that super thin, super rare, tender, delicious beef for years to come. Oh man. SO good! You know that feeling of disappointment when you realize you are going to be too full to finish your dinner? That happened. But the super friendly guys running the place wrapped it up for me, and I was able to have a little midnight snack later. It was still delicious the next day.

Best roast beef EVER!

Oh, that’s another thing I don’t want to forget to mention- the people we met, and I mean almost without exception, were the friendliest, chattiest, funniest, warmest people I’ve ever run into. I was in seventh heaven, as my chatty game is on point. I felt like I’d found my people. Anyway, onto Salem…

I do not know this man, but proof that people are extra friendly!

So, on Friday night, we made it into downtown Salem just in time for the end of the night market- I think this is a thing they do only in October. There were booths selling all sorts of Halloween or dark-themed items, and we wandered around, noting stores we wanted to return to the following day. We didn’t stay too long- it was already past nine and we wanted to be well rested for the next day, so we were in and out, after some oohing and ahhing over the amazing architecture and cobbled streets.

First evening in Salem

Saturday morning, we decided to Uber into Salem since we were worried about parking. The plan was to get there, Uber back in the afternoon, and then head back over in the evening for a ghost/history tour. What ended up happening, however, is that we decided to stay, from like 11 in the morning until around 10 at night.

Everyone said it was busy in Salem in October. I am not pretending like we were not forewarned. But “busy” isn’t exactly the right word for what we experienced. “Pandemonium” would be better, or “utter fucking chaos” even. It was intense. We couldn’t get into the restaurant we wanted to eat at, we couldn’t find a place to go to the bathroom, we couldn’t get into any of the stores we wanted to shop at. I mean, we could have done all of these things, but only if we wanted to wait in line for at least 30 minutes for each thing. I am not even remotely exaggerating. Even the stores had bouncers outside, letting in small amounts of people at a time. It was crazy.

A small taste of the insanity

Even so, we did have a good time. We had lunch at the Howling Wolf Taqueria, and I tried deep fried avocado for the first time. I promise you, it will not be the last. The service was great, and the atmosphere was happy and fun. We got to see the graveyard where the “hanging judge” John Hathorne is buried, and the graveyards back east are not to be missed.  I tried real hot apple cider and cider donuts, I drooled over the houses and the history and the greenery away from the crowds, and a few times, I managed to lose myself in the merriment of it all.

One saving grace of the day was the Peabody Essex Museum. Not only did it have the most amazing Maritime exhibit I have ever seen- and the east coast has an awe-inspiring maritime history,  let me be clear about that! But-and this is important-for the price of admission, you can come in and out all day, using their clean and uncrowded bathroom as many times as you please. I loved that place.

Stuff from the Peabody Essex Museum

Alas, the museum closed at 5, leaving us to wander the streets like pitiful, tired zombies until our pre-paid ghost tour at 8. So we wandered over to the Salem Commons, and I am so glad we did. We found a tree to park ourselves under and sat and watched the carnival on the periphery, and closer, families playing, and the big trees bursting with fall color. That was a happy moment. We wandered the side streets a little more, taking pictures of houses, and then made our way back into the fray, being swept along by the crowd, which showed no sign of thinning anytime soon. I saw the Bewitched statue, and managed to elbow my way into a store and buy hoodies for my kids. And finally, FINALLY, it was time for our tour. At this point, I had already clocked about double my normal amount of steps on my Fitbit, and I was tired enough to cry, but…

The walking tour was MAGICAL. Seriously, if they offer a walking tour in a town you are visiting, you should take it. You learn so much. Every time I have ever taken one, I’ve been so happy I did. This one was extra cool, though. I wish I could remember the name of the one we did- there are many to choose from in Salem- and I will definitely be doing some research to find out, as I want to give a good review on trip advisor or something. Anyway, our tour guide was a young woman and practicing witch, and she led us through town, telling us all about the history and the legends of Salem. Even as tired as I was, I could have kept going for twice as long just to hear more.

In the end, we made it back to the hotel in one piece, exhausted and definitely overwhelmed by our October Salem experience. I would definitely go back, no question about it. But not in October. No freaking way. That being said…I’m still, oddly, very happy that I had that experience. It was wonderful. I bet it would be even more wonderful in, say, June. Ha-ha!

To see all the pictures from my trip, follow or visit me on Instagram at : https://instagram.com/courtneyloreanneduncan

Posted in Addiction, escape, Goals, inner peace, Life, Musings, People, recovery

Time for Change

IMG_8898

On Monday, I was feeling grouchy and restless, like a caged animal after sitting here working all day long- that’s one of the drawbacks of working at home; when I worked in the office, I couldn’t wait to go home at the end of the day. When you work at home, all you want to do is go somewhere else when you clock out…except, if you are me, you are probably still wearing sweaty-ass yoga pants, no make up, and hair that looks like you stuck your finger in a light socket. So, I either have to summon up the energy to make myself look slightly less homeless in order to leave my house (how funny) or, give in to the beckoning call of inertia and flop on the couch to watch TV which will ultimately do nothing but make me feel even worse.

On this particular day, though, Camryn suggested we go to the library. We had books that were a week past due, and I really did need a change of pace, so I agreed. Plus, bonus- you don’t have to look nice at all to go to the library! After settling part of my outrageous overdue book fees, Cam got herself a drawing book, and grudgingly trailed after me as I wandered up and down every single aisle in the downstairs section of the Monterey library. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I hoped to find something inspiring and uplifting- something to shake me out of the funk I had been going in and out of for the past…I don’t know, 40 years or so.

I grabbed a stack of books, and we checked out and headed home after a quick stop at Trader Joe’s for some chocolate and blueberries, among other snacks. Soon as we got back to the house, I pulled out one of the books and started reading it. It was called “Martha’s Vineyard- Isle of Dreams”, and at first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get through it- it’s written in handwriting-like script, and there are hundreds of quotes and watercolor pictures throughout the book, so at first it’s a little jarring, as it doesn’t read like the books I am used to- books that have very few, if any, quotes, and generally no pictures at all. But within a few pages, I had forgotten all about the strangeness of it and was totally sucked in to the story.

Oh, and it’s not a story-story, by the way. It’s a biography of sorts, the true tale of a woman named Susan Branch who “accidentally” moved to Martha’s Vineyard and bought a house in the woods, after fleeing California when her marriage ended. She was looking for a house to rent, short term, and wound up buying a little house after being there for three days or something like that. The whole story takes place in the 80’s, which doesn’t matter other than the fact that you probably can’t buy a house there super cheap anymore, and anyway…I just fell in love, you guys. The way that she describes the changing seasons, and the beautiful simplicity of her life- her garden, and her walks in the woods, the ocean, the seasons, the quiet. Just talking about it right now makes me want to cry. It stirs such a funny longing in me. And it really makes me think, very hard, again, about the way I am living my life.

I have only been clean for a little more than three years. Which means that I am just now, at 43, learning about what kind of person I am, and trying to figure out what sort of life the person I am truly wants to live. I sort of woke up right in the middle of a life that I had stumbled into, and it is a GOOD life. I have this career, and security, good health insurance, stability…all of these things that people want, right? So when I think to myself “this doesn’t feel like the right life for me”, it is scary and I feel guilty, as if wanting something different makes me ungrateful. I am not ungrateful. I’m just…wondering. Wondering if I could survive, or thrive, or be wildly, giddily, in love with a different kind of life. And I shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to be happier.

I checked out the book on Monday evening. It is now Wednesday morning, and I have finished it. It was 368 pages, and I worked all day yesterday, so when I tell you that I did a lot of reading, you have to believe that I did. Because of this book, I made a batch of blueberry muffins with Camryn, from scratch, yesterday after work. Because of this book, after my meeting last night I went by myself to the beach, and sat on the rocky sand, as evening descended, and just soaked in the salty air, watched the choppy, steel-gray waves crash on the shore, and relished the cold. It really got me thinking.

I need to slow way down. Like, way, way down. Be outside more. Be quiet more. Be on Facebook WAY less. Read more books and watch less TV. Cook more often. Talk to actual people, rather than scroll past their faces online, clicking like instead of having conversations. I don’t have to- and I shouldn’t, I know this- uproot my life on a whim and move across the country to “find myself”. But I do need to examine these feelings, and see what I can do to honor myself, and my one precious life. I have faith that I will find the answers, that they are already there, just waiting for me to discover them. I have to stop losing sight of what really matters, and every time I check out- on the internet, or by binge watching twelve seasons of some stupid TV show- I am doing just that. Losing sight of what really matters. Checking out. No wonder I feel so restless…my spirit is trying to get my attention, and I have been ignoring that.

No more. It’s time to pay attention. Time to make some changes.

Posted in Depression, escape, family, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mindfulness, People

This Crazy Brain

anxiety

Sometime last week, I was driving home from somewhere with Camryn in the back, and she goes-“Mom, do you ever think about about the things you think? Like, isn’t it weird that you can think about your thoughts?”

And I was like, whoa- pretty advanced stuff for a seven year old to come up with, but I just said-“Yeah, actually, I do. Isn’t it cool that we can have thoughts and also somehow observe those thoughts?”

“I don’t know…I think it’s kind of weird.” She said worriedly.

“Well…you know, that’s why mommy meditates so much- so that I can learn how to not get too caught up in all that thinking. My brain makes me crazy sometimes- it goes and goes and goes, and sometimes I just wish it would settle down.” I told her.

“Maybe I should do that.” She said thoughtfully, “Because sometimes I wish I could just open up my head, pull out my thoughts, and throw them out.”

Uh-oh, I thought. She’s exactly like me.

Although I know I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have the brain that I have, sometimes it really would be nice to slow it down a little bit. I don’t mean physically- hell, I could sit still in a chair without moving once if the right channel was playing back to back episodes of a good enough show. As a matter of fact, I think the reason I CAN do this is because it cuts off the incessant thinking for a little while. Because my brain is exhausting. It literally never shuts the fuck up. I know that is what brains do, but I feel like (and I have zero proof of this, obviously) mine is just a little extra. It has the ability to run off in several directions at once while playing horrible songs from the 70’s on repeat. It likes to ambush me with terrible memories at the most random moments, and if one doesn’t upset me enough, it comes prepared with an entire montage of unrelated but equally horrifying past transgressions.

Sometimes I think my own brain is out to get me.

Yesterday I had an anxiety attack triggered by one of my weird bouts of catastrophic thinking. The pretty mild, innocent incident that triggered the attack was a missed phone call. I took a missed phone call, and my brain made some enormous, poorly judged leaps to conclusions that had me shaking, sick, and nearly out of my mind with panic. I just knew that something horrible had happened, I just knew it. But…I also knew that I was probably wrong, and that I was acting crazy, and that I needed to stop. Except I can’t stop when I get like that, I don’t know how. I know lots of things that should help, that, in theory, sound helpful- but in practice they simply do not.

One minute passed, and the phone call was returned, and I acted bright and happy and chipper, and everything was fine…except it wasn’t fine. I wasn’t fine. My anxiety did not retreat, even after everything was okay, not for the rest of my work day. And when it finally did calm down, I was so tired that I couldn’t function.

For dinner last night we had popcorn, ice cream and tortilla chips. We ate on the living room floor with the blinds closed because it was 4:30 and I was sick of the sunlight. We watched Sherlock Gnomes from a pile of blankets stolen off of both our beds, and every pillow we could rustle up, and Camryn thought it was fun, but I knew I was just hiding. Recovering. Trying to figure out what the fuck my problem is.

I tried talking to my mom about it, but she has her own shit going on, and she has a way of sort of dismissing what I’m telling her that makes me feel like I am just blowing it out of proportion. I know she is probably trying to make me feel better, but it just makes me feel like…like I’m being dramatic. Which I AM. Which is kind of the whole problem in a nutshell- my brain is super dramatic, and I can’t control it. That’s kind of what my anxiety looks like.

Anyway, I have a new day to start fresh with. Hopefully nothing horrible happens, like, I don’t know…someone doesn’t pick up the phone the first time I call. Or Camryn coughs once and I assume she’s choking to death. Sometimes I wish I could open up my head and pluck the thoughts out, too. I know exactly how she feels.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, escape, Life, random, recovery, twelve step

Slip Slidin’ Away

slippery slope

Sometimes, I forget who I am. I get a little too relaxed. I walk around my home without seeing how incredibly blessed I am to get to live here, in a house I can afford, where my daughter has her own room, and I get to have my dog, and I have a big old yard, and TWO bathrooms. I just get caught up in living my life without seeing how amazing it is. Same thing goes for my career- I can be whiny about my job, I get lazy sometimes, completely oblivious to the fact that the rash decision I made 13 years ago to go to night school, the credentials I gained, and the amazing opportunity I was handed when I was hired at the hospital where I still work today, changed my life. Completely transformed it. I’m not saying this is unusual- no one walks around in a state of constant gratitude. At least, no one I know.

But one thing I would do well to remember is the reason I get to keep the wonderful life that I have. The one thing that would save me, should the house go away, or the job wasn’t mine anymore. That thing is my recovery, and I haven’t been doing much for it lately. I really need to remind myself that if I didn’t have all these days in a row of not just being clean, but being clean and working on the person I am, working towards steadily getting better than I was before, I wouldn’t be sitting here, writing this right now.

Life can and will keep changing right before your eyes, and it is easy to get swept up in this thing or that thing, and let your focus change. I think that during those times, it’s pretty normal to stray from the path and wander off, but…do I think it’s a good idea? Nope. I think, in reality, when you feel yourself getting off track, you need to double down on the things that anchor you. I do, that’s what I need to do. I should be specific here, I am talking about me, about my life right now. I need to be closer than ever to my program of recovery, not just saying the words, but actively.

Listen, I am not in any imminent danger, but…my thoughts have been a little squirrely lately. Which, of course, is how it always begins- right in your head. I have been wishing for something to take the edge off, or blur the edges at least, just a little bit. I want something that will make me less…less worried about how ME I am all the time. Because I am messy and nervous and insecure, I think way too much, and take things pretty seriously, believe it or not. And my brain has been telling me stories about how much more fun I could be, how easy it would be, the exact way that I could lay all this heavy shit down and just fucking relax already.

Thankfully, I know my brain to be a liar. I know my brain, sensing discomfort, will do just about anything to make that feeling go away. I mean, my brain has been lying to me for yeeeaaars. So I don’t have to listen to any of it. I know there are no shortcuts in recovery, and there are certainly no days off. Not even when you could really use a drink or two. As a matter of fact, all these years that I have put in? This is sort of what I’ve been training for- the day when I really longed for an escape, or an easier way. This is the test I’ve been studying for this whole time. I’m not about to fail, not now.

I made a choice, I made a commitment, a long time ago, knowing there would be times in the future that it would be hard to keep that commitment. There have been these times in the past, and I kept at it, and I wasn’t sorry. There are always two paths, and I know where one of them leads me- I’ve been down it about as far as a person can go and live to tell the tale. The other one, well…the other one I don’t know as well. But I have a feeling that the woman I want to be is somewhere along it. So I think I will stay on that path. I think that is the wise thing to do.

slippery

Posted in adventure, Blogging, escape, family, fun, kids, Life, travel

Vacation Recap: Days 2 & 3

First of all, did you know that, in the world of a seven-year-old, free breakfasts at hotels are a REALLY big deal? Yeah, neither did I. I mean, aren’t all breakfasts free when you are seven? No matter, though, the free food at both of our hotels was a major bonus for Camryn, so it was a great way to get her out of bed a little earlier than she may have otherwise.

We said goodbye to the Quality Inn in Pismo, with its free breakfast, awesome pool/hot tub situation, and giant mud pit out back, and headed out about 9 on Saturday morning. I stopped at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf because I’d always heard about it, but never seen one. It was fine, nothing to get too excited about. And we made one final stop at the Butterfly Grove in Pismo, which was awesome. The really silly thing about that is, we have a Butterfly Sanctuary here in Pacific Grove (basically, a resting stop for Monarch Butterfly’s on their annual migration) but could I ever be bothered to stop by in the past 25 or so years? Of course not. Everything is cooler out of town. And by the way, it really was pretty amazing. The first thing we saw were two Monarchs who appeared to be…um…well, they were either fighting or getting it on, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t fighting. Camryn thought it was cute that they were “hugging” and we left it at that. Just beyond the Butterfly Grove is a really nice campground (empty due to flooding from the recent rains) and just beyond that is the beach, so we got a nice little stroll in before we hit the road.

The drive to Santa Barbara was really nice, it was sunny, traffic was light, and we came in on the Cabrillo Highway rather than 101, so I got a different view than I would’ve otherwise. I drove in through a canyon, and, even though I wasn’t that far away from home, the difference in the way the place looked- the palm trees everywhere, the flowering trees…I could tell I wasn’t home anymore. It was kind of thrilling!

sb zoo

We were way too early to check into our room, so we went straight to the SB Zoo. I haven’t been to any zoo’s in my life except for the one in Fresno, where I grew up (don’t tell anyone that’s where I grew up!) and it was so long ago, and my memories of it were just that it was SO FREAKING HOT there. This zoo was chill as could be. Perfect temperature, amazing views, not too crowded. Cam and I sat in front of the Gibbons for at least half an hour, watching them groom each other and swing around on ropes. Although it isn’t a huge zoo, it is a wonderful place. We fed the goats, went through the Eew! room (all the scary/venomous/poisonous creatures), played in the kids area where you can make music, slide down a grass hill on cardboard, and climb in a “spiderweb” made of rope, and Cam even did some crafts! We stayed for a very long time. By the time we left, it was well past check in time, and we were ready for a swim.

ramada pool

Our room at the Santa Barbara Ramada was really nice. The pool there was much bigger, and the pool area was much, much nicer, but the hot tub was a lot smaller. We hung out by the pool until we were starving, and then I was feeling lazy, so we just went to the IHOP across the street. Listen, if you aren’t in the mood for pancakes and you aren’t eating meat, IHOP might not be the place for you. Actually, it’s just pretty gross in general. But the service was good and all that, so it was fine. If I would have ventured just a little further down the road, there were several other places that I could have experienced, but I didn’t, so live and learn.  We hit the sack early and woke up bright and early for our third day down south.

moxi

On day three, after our second free breakfast, we again headed out about 9, and made our way to MOXI: The Wolf Museum of Science and Innovation (I think that’s right, anyway). It got talked up big time on all the travel websites for Santa Barbara, and sounded like something Cam would enjoy, so I purchased tickets the night before, and that was our first stop of the day. Because I am a paranoid freak about parking, we got there super early, but snagged a coveted spot right out front, and, rather than just sit there for 45 minutes and wait, I decided we would take a little walk. Boy am I glad I made that call! We were a block away from Stearns Wharf, and I hadn’t even known. So, we took a nice stroll around the AWESOME neighborhood, down the wharf, and got back to the museum just in time for opening.

The museum was great and Cam had a ball- they have pneumatic tubes that you can put a scarf in and try to watch where it goes in the transparent tubing, to see where it comes out. They have magnets and sound booths where you can make your own sound effects, and more stuff than I could possibly explain (mostly because I don’t really know how to.) The best part was the rooftop level, but not because of all the cool stuff up there- it was the views that I was super impressed with. Man, Santa Barbara is a beautiful city. One of the prettiest I have ever seen.

sb natural history

After a quick lunch at a pizza place next door, we headed to the Natural History Museum, which was offering discounted prices due to construction. This museum was right next to the Mission, and I am so annoyed that I forgot to stop by there. In my defense, after spending hours at two museums, I was just ready to drop, and my GPS took me back to our room a different way, or else I probably would have. Anyway, the Natural History museum was great- in many ways, a lot like every other Natural History museum you’ve seen, although they did have some really cool Chumash relics- like, a TON of them. Lots of little dioramas of daily life in ancient Native settlements, which I found fascinating. I think Camryn was most impressed with the blind owl she got to meet, as well as some type of snake she was allowed to touch (both were alive, and I don’t know the story of either thing).

We left there, stopped by the grocery store for a few things, and headed back to the room for a final evening of swimming. The pool and hot tub were deserted Sunday night, which was great for us, and we stayed out there forever, finally heading back to the room when the wind picked up. We had leftover pizza for dinner, watched a movie, and went to sleep.

Overall, I will say this- had I been alone, or with one of my friends, there are a lot of different things I would have done that I didn’t do on this trip. But the things we did do were PERFECT for a kid on vacation with her mom, and we had a ball. The smartest thing I did was make sure our rooms had a pool and hot tub- if that had been the only thing we did all weekend, Camryn still would have had the best time. She rated our vacation a 10 out of 10, and I got a LOT of hugs and “I love you, mom!’s” while we were there. It was good to be the good guy for a few days, at least!

And now we are home, and I need to recover from my vacation, and find my routine all over again…I can’t wait until it’s time to take another trip!

*** All of these photos are from Google images. I can’t get mine to upload to my stupid computer***