A lovely end to a long week

I was away in Indianapolis on a working vacation this week. On the night of Friday, April 17, I drove up to Kentucky so I could spend Saturday with my family. Then on Sunday, Mom and I drove up to Indy together to meet up with her sisters Bev and Sally.

The four of us stayed in a house on the northwest side of town that I found on Airbnb. It had two and a half bathrooms and a bedroom for each of us. There was a kitchen table that we used as a computer desk and a dining room table where we ate meals (when we didn’t eat at our computers). The house also had a comfy living room, a sunroom, and a pretty outdoor gazebo with a fire pit. The kitchen was well stocked with dishes and pots and pans. In sum, the house was perfect for the purpose of our trip, which was to sit around talking, cooking, eating, watching movies, and playing on our computers—basically, to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company. (We all live very far apart from each other.)

I was able to go on the trip because I combined it with work. I worked normal days, 8 to 5, from Monday to Thursday. The work I was doing was both mentally and physically draining for me, and I worry that I wasn’t very good company in the evenings. But everyone was very understanding, and I was at least very cheerful on the last day ;)

Mom and one or more of my aunts would always come up to see me at lunchtime. One of the days, we went to the Dairy Queen next door. The next day, Mom packed a lunch, but we ended up driving back to the house to eat it. The day after that, we went to an excellent Mexican place near my work, and on my last workday, we ate at the house again.

On the Sunday we arrived, Mom and I met up with Aunt Bev and Uncle Josh, who were staying in a hotel that night. We all had dinner at a nearby Cajun restaurant; it was decent. Once Uncle Josh had headed off on some business travel, Aunt Bev joined us at the house, and Aunt Sally arrived, and after that, dinners were all cooked at home. On Monday we had two small dinners: first roast chicken, then roast pork. On Tuesday Mom made her amazing chicken and dumplings; we also used the fire pit for the first time, though we didn’t have anything to cook over it yet. On Wednesday I was supposed to make almond chicken, but unfortunately I was exhausted that day…the thought of doing anything made my brain shut down, and I ended up just going to bed. I got up at around midnight after everyone else was already asleep, discovering graham crackers, marshmallows, and Hershey bars laid out on the counter in the kitchen. I microwaved a couple marshmallows and had s’mores, then warmed myself up some more chicken and dumplings. I piddled around online until around 3:30, then went back to bed. Thursday we had hot dogs grilled over the gas stove, as it was too rainy to use the fire pit. I think Aunt Sally thought Mom was crazy for grilling hot dogs on the stove, but I thought it was awesome. (I’m pretty sure we have done it before, too.)

On one of the nights, Mom, Sally, and I played spades online with my uncle Tom (their younger brother), who lives in Brazil. That was pretty fun, even though my team lost both games. (I only play spades like once a year. At least I succeeded in getting a nil and protecting my partner’s nil!) On another night, we watched two movies: Breakfast at Tiffany’s and An Affair to Remember. I’d never seen the former before, and I was pretty unimpressed with it. Of course, I adore An Affair to Remember, and I was pleased that everyone else enjoyed it as well. (I was a little surprised at how ableist it is, though…this is not something I had picked up on before.)

We left on Friday morning; Aunt Bev’s flight was at 8 am, and Mom and Aunt Sally didn’t see a point in sticking around, as we had to be out of the house by noon anyway. So Aunt Sally drove off north and Mom and I dropped Aunt Bev at the airport and headed south.

Since we’d left so early, we had a lot of day left when we got back to Kentucky. I ran some errands with AJ and we talked about music and home improvement stuff. Logan came over when he got out of school and we played pool and cards, and then Mom, AJ, Faye, Connor, Logan, and I all went to Cracker Barrel for dinner. It was really good; Connor and Logan each had a piece of Coca-Cola cake, which I shared with them :3

On Saturday, I packed up, goofed off online for longer than I really needed to, then hit the road a little before noon. The drive was decent; it was raining at first, but soon cleared up, and the weather was warmer and warmer the further south I got. I made it home at around 7, feeling very energetic and happy. When I finally pulled into the parking lot, I decided not to bother unpacking yet, and just see Sean first. I’d been looking forward to it for days.

The deadbolt was locked, and it took Sean a little longer than normal to open it for me. He raced back to his computer, apparently in the middle of something in his game.

“Busy?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Well, that’s a shame,” I said. “I had plans for you.”

He glanced up. “It won’t be much longer.”

I went back up to the parking lot and got my stuff out of the car, then set to work unpacking things. I had gotten mostly done and was hanging up shirts I hadn’t worn in the closet when Sean appeared.

“I guess it doesn’t happen very frequently that I’m ready to get you right when I get home,” I said.

“It never happens,” he replied in mock exasperation. “You’re always too tired.”

“Well, it happened today,” I informed him as we melted together. Eventually standing in the closet was no longer conducive to what we wanted to do, and we moved to the bed.

Afterwards, we took a shower together, kissing and talking. He was interested to discuss feminist issues and the film Maleficent. He also mentioned how I have ruined all movies for him by making him notice the treatment of female characters ;)

Finally, we got dressed and went to the car to head to Haru Ichiban for dinner.

“I’m so glad I’m home,” I said as he drove, taking his free hand.

“Me too,” he answered.

“Do you know what my home is?” I asked him.

“What?”

“You.”

I laid my head on his shoulder, and he leaned his head against the side of mine, and I closed my eyes and smiled.

Dinner was lovely; we had sushi and talked some more about movies and articles and what we’d done all week. Afterwards we went to Baskin Robbins, where Sean had a Reese’s shake and I had a soft-serve cone.

I was so happy, I ended up staying up really late last night chatting with a friend and reading fan fiction. When I was ready to go to bed, I went out to Sean’s desk to say goodnight, wrapping my arms around him and kissing his neck. When I started to pull away, he said, “Hold on,” then told his online friends he was going to bed too. We retired together, snuggling lightly and falling asleep.

This morning I awoke several times to the pleasant feeling of Sean’s hand on my ribs. I thought about getting up, but I didn’t want to move him, so I each time I stayed and slipped back into sleep. Eventually Sean was the one to get up. Watching him as he rounded the bed, I asked, “Are you getting up?” He stopped, came back to the bed, leaned over me.

After our second happy reunion, we went out for brunch at J. Christopher’s, holding hands across the table and chatting and smiling. I told Sean that my friend Kathryn thinks we are adorable. “Me being grumpy and you being cute is adorable, huh?” he said. “Hey, sometimes I’m the grumpy one, and you’re the cute one,” I countered. “We balance each other.”

In the car I kissed his knuckles and the flesh of his palm and he let out an extremely satisfying sound of appreciation and need.

It’s been really nice to be home, to be with Sean. I feel so happy and comfortable. I’m really glad I went on the trip, but I’m so glad I’m home.

Damn.

I just realized I didn’t write anything yesterday except work stuff. So I’ve broken my trend of writing every day. There’s not even something I could fudge and pretend counts, like a Tumblr post or something.

To be fair to myself, it was a long day. I got up and packed, went to work, went home to see Sean at lunch, left work at 5, and drove to Kentucky, arriving just after midnight. Sooooo I’m not sure when in there I could have written something. Maybe on one of my rest stops…

Sigh.

Bleargh

I’ve been staying up too late all week. Yesterday I ended up taking a nap in the afternoon, but then I stayed up until 12:30, and that seems to have thrown me off, because when my alarm went off this morning I felt like a zombie. I snoozed for half an hour, and when the alarm went off again, I snoozed for another 15 minutes, and when it went off again, I almost snoozed for another 15 minutes, but after about three I reluctantly roused myself and shuffled into the bathroom.

I was sitting on the toilet scrolling through Tumblr when I noticed it was 7:15…sleeping in doesn’t leave much time for morning prep. So I got dressed and went to work and felt dead until I finally got my morning protein shake into me.

My day was spent organizing things that needed to be organized and researching things that needed to be researched. When my day was over I came home and asked Sean if he wanted to do Thai tonight. He did, so he got in the shower.

(He didn’t work today, so when I got home he was sitting at his desk in his white undershirt, all rumpled from sleep, his hair going everywhere, looking incredibly sexy, and I am unhappy to report that my period started this morning.)

It was raining, so we had to cover our heads and run to and from the car, and I had to watch for the usual drivers who don’t seem to care when road conditions are hazardous, zipping around, tailgating, turning from the wrong lane.

Dinner was very nice; I tried the dumplings, which are filled with a paste made of many different meats, and the Penang curry, which was delicious. Sean had a spicy herb soup with chicken and fried rice with shrimp. This was the first time I didn’t have any jasmine tea.

The rain had slowed to a drizzle by the time we were finished, so the drive back wasn’t nearly as treacherous. We stopped at Baskin Robbins and sat in the car for a bit as Sean finished telling me about something frustrating that had happened with one of his gaming friends. Then we went in and I got two scoops of butter pecan and Sean got a mocha cappuccino blast.

We came home and I basically read fanfiction and surfed Tumblr for hours. Not the most productive evening, but my brain doesn’t quite seem to be in creative mode. I opened a new Word document, thinking I’d start on an idea I had earlier, but it doesn’t seem to want to come out right now.

I’ve sort of hit a snag with the longer fanfic I’ve been working on as well. I’m not sure what to do next. I have some pieces, but I need to fill in a lot of gaps. Hopefully I’ll figure something out tomorrow.

I have had some writing fun recently, though. This past week I wrote a series of unrelated five-sentence ficlets as part of a Tumblr meme. Followers sent a sentence and I had to write five follow-up sentences. I ended up writing 34 of them. It was so much fun. I want to do it again.

I’m really enjoying interacting with other writers on Tumblr. I am often intimidated by how talented and prolific they all seem to be, but I’m managing to keep from comparing myself to them too much. I’m just trying to do the best I can and enjoy it.

Tomorrow I plan to sleep in, then focus on writing. Wish me luck. :)

Muddled

Thinking about my photo trek to Gibbs Gardens, the Botanical Garden, and Piedmont Park, I can’t help but feel that I wasn’t really present for it, like I was going through the motions, like I had somehow forgotten how to do it.

I did have a good time. But I also rushed, and I don’t think I got very many good photos. And I don’t feel satisfied.

I wonder if I should try again this weekend. Of course, I will need to fix my camera first…

Beautiful weather, beautiful day

budding daffodil, Gibbs Gardens

Today was lovely :) I got up around 8, poked around online until 9, then headed out for a day of photographing spring blossoms.

First, after gassing up at Costco and picking up a Bacon Egg n’ Cheese Biscuit, I made the drive up to Ball Ground to visit Gibbs Gardens. Normally I go early and arrive right when the gardens open; since I was late today, I had to park in the secondary lot and walk back to the entrance. On the way, a lady approached and asked me if I’d been there before. She was new to the gardens, so I told her as much useful information as I could—including that I think the best time to visit is the middle of summer, when the crape myrtles are in bloom. Spring is pretty in a subtle way; summer is ostentatiously gorgeous.

The daffodils were out in full force throughout both of the main gardens, as well as in their own special woodland fields. I went through the Japanese Garden, spotting a cherry tree and a plum tree, then hiked up to the Manor House, where I saw that the distant mountains were clearly visible against the bright blue sky, and two ladies asked me to take their picture in front of the house. Finally I strolled into the forest of daffodils, and it was incredible. Last year when I saw them, it was sort of early, so there weren’t nearly as many. Today, they were neverending.

daffodils at Gibbs Gardens

The gardens were packed with people. As I was leaving, there was a line not only at the cafe and the restrooms but even just to get in the door! It was lunchtime, so I ate a CLIF bar in the car, then drove to downtown Ball Ground to get pictures of the flowering trees I’d seen on the drive in. There was a lot of traffic, and plenty of people were milling about near the Cajun restaurant and the German butcher shop, but I couldn’t tell if something special was going on, or if they were all just enjoying the beautiful weather.

flowering tree in downtown Ball Ground

I decided I wasn’t quite done taking photos, so instead of going home, I went to Midtown and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Parking was a little nuts, but I found a spot in the lower levels of the garage. On my way out of the parking structure, two men approached, and one of them asked hesitantly, “Excuse me, do you know where the botanical gardens are?” It is sort of confusing when you’re leaving that garage. “Yes,” I said. “It’s this way.” And I gestured the way I was going. The men thanked me and strode off ahead.

Like Gibbs Gardens, the Botanical Garden was filled to bursting with people. There was a bonsai exhibit set up at the entrance, and daffodils and tulips were everywhere.

me and many tulips

 

I had made it through the Edible Garden, the Fuqua Orchid Center, and the Conservation Garden and was trying to take a photo of a pretty white flower near the Great Lawn when my camera decided to stop working. It’s a known issue with Nikons; apparently I will have to take it apart to fix it. This put a huge damper on my mood, as I felt I had just barely gotten started. Annoyed, I took a few more photos with my phone, then made for the parking garage. I ended up not seeing the Japanese Garden at all.

As I reached the parking garage, I realized I was hungry, so I decided to walk over to Park Tavern at the other end of Piedmont Park. It would be nice, I thought; the restaurant had always been quiet and empty the other times I’d gone there, and I could take the opportunity to rest and catch up on Tumblr. So I strolled past the pond toward the other side of the park, stopping for a skyline shot.

Atlanta skyline as seen from Piedmont Park over a pond

Unfortunately for me, Park Tavern was not quiet and empty today. Every table was either reserved or filled with people. The outdoor section looked to have been expanded and it was still overflowing. I don’t know if I had just never been there at that particular time of day, or if something was going on—maybe everyone was watching NCAA basketball. Regardless, I left disappointed and hungry.

On the way back, a young couple asked me to take their picture in front of the pond and skyline. After that, I stopped to rest on a park bench alongside the pond. I read Tumblr and took a couple pictures with my phone until I was ready to walk again. I felt pretty good when I finally made my way back to my car.

On the drive back out of town, I passed my exit again, this time so I could pick up some Zaxby’s for dinner. Then, at last, I went home. I ate my dinner and surfed the web and took a nice, long bath. And now here I am recounting it all to you.

So yeah, it was a nice day. I’m glad I got to get out in the sun and see some pretty flowers. :)

Awake again

I slept for about two hours. I feel okay.

Thinking about the human need to share, and the human need to fix, and how incompatible these things are, and how frustrating that is.

Well, this is bad

It’s after 4am, and I haven’t been to bed yet.

I’m pretty sure I’m exhausted, but it’s hard to tell.

I had a frustrating conversation that lasted until about 1:30am. It didn’t really have a conclusion; I just said I needed to go to bed. But I didn’t do that; instead, I got on the computer and listened to the new episode of Welcome to Night Vale. The episode was pretty lighthearted, up until the end, so I thought I’d be able to go to sleep after that, but then the ending hit. And then I made the mistake of reading other people’s reactions to the episode.

My brain feels numb, or overexerted. Like it wants to do something, but is in no shape to do anything.

I am constantly struggling to prove or believe that my feelings are valid. That my choices are valid. That my life is valid.

It’s after 4am, and Dad just got up and offered to make me breakfast. Fried eggs and hash browns. Dad’s breakfast is another of my favorite things about visiting home. I accepted his offer immediately.

I wonder if I’ll sleep tonight? Or today, I suppose I should say?

Heat

There are many things I love about being home at my parents’ house. Talking with Mom. Hugging Dad. Having discussions with Connor. Being showered with affection by Logan. Joking around with everyone. Eating home-cooked meals. Walking in the yard I played in growing up. Listening to the birds. Driving through Nicholasville and seeing what’s changed and what’s stayed the same.

But one thing I am always happy about is how hot the water is.

The water at our apartment doesn’t get very hot, usually. Every now and then it does. But the water at my parents’ house gets hot enough to burn you. I love this. I love a searing hot shower. I love standing in a cascade of heat, sucking in a deep breath of air at the sudden change in temperature, letting the pounding water paint any tension away. I love how a hot, hot shower leaves me filled with warmth long afterward.

It’s so nice, especially when it’s been cold. It’s a relief. It’s a therapy.

Not much real writing lately

The past two weeks have been pretty light, writing-wise. My moments of strongest inspiration were a Night Vale one-off called “Brother” and Flace; otherwise I’ve been struggling with Opening a Door and its side story, trying to get back into the rhythm. It’s possible this writer’s block, or whatever, is contributing to the low moods I’ve been having. Or vice-versa. Regardless, it’s very irritating. I’m hoping being in a different place—my parents’ house—and being around lots of people who love me will help reboot my brain. I wrote about my moods separately so I could count that as today’s writing, because since I’ve been here I’ve mainly just been reading or spending time with family, and I haven’t written any fiction at all.

It is so easy to fall into “rumination,” thinking depressing thoughts over and over. My worst one lately has been questioning whether my writing is even worth doing, when there are so many amazing writers out there already. Who will read me? Does my writing really affect people? Does anyone care? Will it matter if I don’t write? It’s possible that these thoughts are affecting my motivation, even as I consciously fight them.

It’s also hard to feel good about my writing when the majority of what I’ve done so far is fan fiction. I think fan fiction is wonderful, and some of the best writing I’ve ever seen is fan fiction. Hell, much of our “legitimate”—culturally acceptable—entertainment is technically fan fiction, retellings of existing stories. But somehow it’s not seen that way; there’s an arbitrary distinction between the fan fiction that is licensed, sold to the masses, and the fan fiction that is just done out of love. “Do you have any original work?” one person asked me. “Oh, no, why are you writing fan fiction?” moaned another.

Honestly, I have just been trying to write every day. I’ve really been trying not to worry about writing something important. I want to write good stuff, but I’m not trying to meet any other criteria.

I want to have fun with my writing. It would be nice if it led somewhere. It would be nice if I could sell something I wrote. But it’s hard to profit on writing. You have to be far more prolific than I’m managing at the moment.

Let me just try to write what I want to write, what I enjoy writing, for a while longer. Let me get to a point where I feel like I can consistently put out a decent amount of writing. For a time there I was doing really well, but these past two weeks have been a significant bump. For now, let me just try to work through this.

Time to reboot

I’m home in Kentucky at my parents’ house for a long weekend. I wanted to get away. Do something different. See something different. At first I thought about going away somewhere. I considered Savannah, or New Orleans, or Charleston, or Orlando. But I’d be making such a trip alone, and I’m starting to think alone isn’t really what I need.

On the drive up here, I listened to two-thirds of a book called The Depression Cure by Stephan Ilardi. It discusses lifestyle changes you can make to combat depression. I think the recommendations make sense and might be able to help me with the mood swings I’ve been having. The book cites six key strategies: “dietary omega-3 fatty acids, engaging activity, physical exercise, sunlight exposure, social support, and sleep.”

Of those six items, I think I’m okay on at least one: sleep. Other than a couple times that I’ve let writing interfere with going to bed on time (like right now), I usually sleep well. I suppose you could also argue that I’ve done engaging activities (writing).

But my diet has been pretty terrible in recent months—takeout and fast food—so I’m sure my balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (ideally 1:2) is completely out of whack. While I do take the stairs, in the parking garage at work and to get from our garden level apartment to street level, I don’t get any other exercise. I haven’t been outdoors much this winter, so I haven’t had the benefit of sun exposure. And lastly, perhaps due to the writing, I’ve been spending a lot of time alone, even on my lunch breaks at work. (A week or so ago I actually had lunch with three other coworkers, and I felt amazing afterwards.)

I’ll finish the book on my drive back home—I’m just about to get into the part with actionable steps. When I get home, I’ll try to start making some healthy changes.

But here, now, at my parents’ house surrounded by family, I’m going to relax and listen and talk and hug. I’m going to let this little break rejuvenate me.