Monday, June 30, 2014

And the Problems Begin…

In an effort to be positive, let me start by listing some of the things I’m enjoying about Utah so far (most of which I would have predicted, as I’ve written about these particular aspects of Utah before):

  • The dry air is lovely. It doesn’t qualify as “hot” here, and in the evenings it is downright pleasant.
  • The mountains are beautiful, and we’ve got a close-up view from Melanie’s parents’ house. I don’t tire of the view.
  • There are many decent radio stations here. Despite the seeming abundance of commercials, there is a lot of good music.
  • The library system is superior to what we had in Atlanta and Tallahassee. We visited the local library today, and it was awesome. They have everything you can think of. They have tons of DVDs. Seriously, thousands, in this one little branch of the library. They also have a pretty nice kids’ area, which made it quite entertaining for our boys. There is a seat in the kids’ area by a large window, overlooking the valley below. Quite posh for a kid. I myself would like to sit there and read for a couple of hours!
  • Melanie and I have gotten our bedroom pretty much set up, and I quite like it. We’ve never had a TV in our bedroom before, but we do now. It seems luxurious and spoiled. I got the TV set up last night, and there are tons of free over-the-air stations here. We watched a DVD as we lay in bed, and it was nice and cozy. Very enjoyable.
  • The kids are also set up in their bedrooms, with their bunk bed having been restored. I figured out how to put it back together without any instructions, which may not be a great accomplishment for a lot of folk, but I’m pleased with myself.

And now for the complaining:

  • This carpal tunnel thing is terrible. I have been messed up for several days now. I can hardly do anything for more than a minute or two before my right arm and hand are aching and tingling. That’s my dominant hand, so this is potentially disastrous. I think it might be a little bit better than it was a couple of days ago, so I’m crossing my fingers (with my left hand) that it will continue to improve. Otherwise, I’m fearful this will lead to surgery or something. And, seeing as how we just moved, the insurance situation is a bit uncertain right now. Ugh.
  • It took about 48 hours of living here for the kids to break something. Like something out of a sitcom, they kicked a soccer ball, in the living room, right into a large decorative glass plate. The plate looked like a giant flower, more or less. It was quite beautiful, really. Now it’s smashed. I’m sure Melanie’s parents are overjoyed to have us in their home.
  • I woke up in the middle of the night last night with a nosebleed. My third night in town and the dry air is giving me random nosebleeds. I can’t believe I’d forgotten about that, but for whatever reason, I’ve always gotten random nosebleeds in Utah. Maybe it’s the elevation rather than the thin air. I’m just having that thought as I type this up. I don’t know which makes more sense, but it can’t be coincidence. I’ve probably had one or two nosebleeds in the last eight years, whereas I used to get them all the time in Utah and I’m already getting them again. I know I’m going to deal with dry skin issues here, and this is just the blood-red icing on the cake. I’ll look like a decaying zombie before you know it, with blood on my face and my skin falling off. Hooray for me!

Okay, I’m done. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Greetings from Utah

I’m writing this blog post in Utah. Because I’m in Utah. Because I live in Utah.


Melanie and I arrived in the Salt Lake Valley around 5 p.m. (Mountain Time) today. We’re now in the house we will consider our home for the next several months. Even so, it doesn’t seem real that we now live here and will not be going back to Florida. We’re used to visiting Utah during the summer every year, so this feels like a normal visit. Except, officially speaking, we’ve moved in.

I can’t think of anything interesting to report about our drive from Laramie, Wyoming to our new home in Utah. It was another day of feeling exhausted and fighting off sleep. It didn’t help that I struggled yet again in the night with dead arm problems. When I woke up at 5:45 a.m., I couldn’t get back to sleep for a while. My arm was too dead, and the hotel room was too bright. Despite the curtains being closed, their short length allowed a good dose of sunshine to flood the room by sneaking in beneath the curtains. For having curtains that actually close, this is the worst curtain situation I’ve ever encountered at a hotel. So, with lots of light and lots of pain, I moved myself to a desk chair and just sat for a while. Eventually, I ran my right hand under some scalding hot water, which can sometimes stimulate blood flow. It helped enough that I could return to the bed and catch another 20-30 minutes of sleep in relative comfort. (I’ve noticed something that I assume is related to this dead arm problem, and it’s that if I open and close my right hand, there is a kind of knocking in my wrist area. As I open-close-open, it does a kind of thunk-thunk-thunk. My left hand doesn’t do that, and I rarely have issues with my left arm going dead.)

The boys have had a lot of fun here at Grandma and Grandpa’s. They’ve played Minecraft and done a bit of swinging out in the backyard. Melanie and I felt chilled in the 66 degree evening weather. I loved it. I love the notion that we can sleep with our bedroom window open here, and it could actually be a positive thing!

Poor Edison, my anxiety-ridden boy, is struggling now that we’re here in Utah. He’s done amazingly well on the journey out here, and it gave me some false hope. Now that we’re at our destination, the worries are taking over. It’s heartbreaking that a seven-year-old can struggle with such relentless and profound anxiety. I hope this adjustment period passes quickly.

And that’s that. So our new chapter of life begins. Melanie pointed out that we’ve lived less than a full year of our married lives in Utah, while we’ve lived eight such years elsewhere. It’s strange to think that this is, in some sense, new territory for us when it’s otherwise such a hyper-familiar place for us to be.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Greetings from Laramie, Wyoming

Leaving Raton, New Mexico this morning, we found ourselves immediately in canyons. There was dense fog, and the situation was a bit intimidating. Thankfully, this didn’t last too terribly long, and the scenery soon became beautiful. While we encountered some of the arid landscapes that are a bit depressing to me, being at a higher elevation has been very pleasant. Today, we traversed in a northward fashion the entirety of Colorado, passing many charming and picturesque mountain towns along the way. If I didn’t think I’d have to worry about leaving my house in wintertime, I could see myself happy to live in such a town.

I have been extremely tired. Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting to stay awake behind the wheel. Dangerous, I know. Even engaging in conversation doesn’t always help. Sometimes I feel like my eyes are crossing or going a little crazy and darting randomly … only not in such an energetic way as the word “randomly” might imply. It’s more like they are drunkenly staggering around. After stopping for lunch in Ft. Collins, Colorado today, I made Melanie take over for the rest of the drive. I slept some, off and on, as we made our way to Laramie.

Overall, the drive was much shorter today, very slow traffic through Denver notwithstanding. It was nice to arrive at our hotel with more time to spare. Melanie and I both crashed for a few minutes, but the boys were antsy to go swimming. Our hotel features an “indoor heated pool,” but I’m not sure what obscure meaning of “heated” they are using. Whatever it is, it apparently has nothing to do with raising the temperature of the water. The pool was quite chilly. Luckily, there was also a hot tub, and that felt blissful for the last several minutes of our time there. I think it helped my right arm, which has circulation problems. (Probably some sort of carpal tunnel or something. It goes dead in the night often enough, but it’s remained problematic for much of the daytime over the last couple of days, which is unusual. Melanie thinks it might have something to do with driving, because her arm went to sleep after driving for a while.)

We splurged on dinner and went to Chili’s, much to the chagrin of our children, who wanted Burger King. (The play land at Burger King was certainly a major factor in their vote.) Melanie and I were sick of fast food and happy to do something more “real.” We had fun, and I enjoyed my meal even though the first two things I attempted to order were out of stock. There isn’t much to this city of Laramie, and I guess they don’t feel much need to replenish their restaurants all that often. Near the end of our meal, Creegan decided to climb over the seats to the abandoned table beside ours and start drinking whatever beverage the customer had left behind. Thankfully, we’re quite certain it was just water.

Leaving the restaurant, we were all quite chilled by the wind. Despite wishing I had a jacket or something, I felt very giddy. This dry air feels so sensational, and to think that the air can feel brisk in late June is just mind-blowing to me. It sounds absurd, I’m sure, but I think the dry air is really something I’ve missed. I’ve been homesick for that particular sensation. Not having it for the last eight years has made me feel out of place. I’m not kidding. It’s like something really important has been missing, and that’s what it is. I don’t know why it is so important and essential to me, more than the sight of mountains or other things that people might consider more important or aesthetically significant. For me, it’s a crisp, cool, dry breeze that my soul has been crying out for over these last several years. There’s something very nostalgic and comfortable about it. It feels like home and makes me feel safer and more secure. There must be a strong childhood association with it somewhere in my mind or something. It’s been important to me to feel it again.

Tomorrow will be our final day of driving, though it will be a decently long one. I don’t look forward to it. On the plus side, Melanie and I have listened to a lot of good music on our trek across the country, including albums by Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds, Counting Crows, The Doors, Duran Duran, Imperial Teen, The New Pornographers, New Radicals, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Steve Miller Band, Stiff Little Fingers, Tears for Fears, and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. I only brought along albums I think are extremely good, so I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. And I’ve still got several great albums left in our stash, from Hayden to Michael Jackson to Queen. Sometimes when nothing else seems to help me stay awake, a song that I love and can sing along with wakes me up and puts me in very good spirits.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Greetings from Raton, New Mexico

Today is the first day on our journey back to Utah that I got tired of being in the car and was grateful to reach the hotel. Even then, I wasn’t desperate. Just not really into the driving thing anymore. I’m grateful it’s gone so well. Most of the time, I can honestly say I’ve been enjoying the drive. It didn’t help that today we reached New Mexico, and the landscape is undeniably less interesting. I’m reminded of Utah and how dry and barren much of it can look. Even when you see trees and other assorted shrubbery, you can tell that it is all dry and brittle compared to what you’d find elsewhere (say, in Tallahassee). This reminds me of another sacrifice of moving back to Utah.

When we stopped for lunch today in the small town of Memphis, Texas, it was raining lightly. But the air itself was crisp and dry. I haven’t felt that in years. It’s something I miss—dry, crisp air, especially when it rains. This reminds me of another benefit of moving back to Utah.

The hotel tonight feels fancy. It has an indoor heated pool, and the inside area of the hotel that surrounds the pool is wide and open, making it seem somehow luxurious. The kids think it’s awesome. We went swimming as soon as we’d settled into our room. We’re now back in the room awaiting a pizza delivery, watching the Disney Channel after failing to find anything family friendly that’s better. (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has since started, which is awesome so I’m happy.) We feel nice and cozy. The quirky thing about this hotel is that the rooms have both indoor and outdoor doors. That is, you can enter your hotel room directly from outside the hotel, and you can enter your hotel room from inside the hotel. There is a door on each side of your hotel room. That’s a first. (No ceiling fan in the room, though.)

We got pulled over in Texas. Our license plate is balanced in our rear window rather than affixed in the normal spot. The Florida DMV told us that’s okay. The Texas state trooper told us it’s against the law. He also told us our tag was two months expired. “But it says April 2015,” we politely replied. “That’s right,” he said. We repeated this a couple more times before he more or less rolled his own eyes at himself and said he was mentally distracted by worrying about us having pulled over onto a very soft shoulder that he was unsure we’d be able to get out of. He then said he’d try to block traffic to allow us back on the road. He didn’t give us a ticket or even a warning, officially speaking. No reminder to get our license plate affixed. It was just suddenly over. He was actually quite friendly.

We had planned to stop at Cadillac Ranch today. We accidentally passed it before we realized it was there. It didn’t look very impressive. When I saw it, my initial reaction was a kind of disappointed, “Oh. Eh. Meh.” Kids were asleep, and we decided not to backtrack in order to see it up close. It really just looked like crappy old rusty metal poking out of the ground with tons of people standing around. I guess that’s what it is, but … well, yeah. We’re not sad about skipping it.

Pizza’s here. Gotta run.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Greetings from Lake Dallas, Texas

It has been another successful day of driving. Really, Melanie and I are quite amazed at how well we and the kids are doing with being in the car for extensive hours each day. I’m quite confident our kids spent more time in the car today than they ever have. They did great.

Most of today was spent driving across Louisiana and eastern Texas. We are now in a hotel just outside of Dallas. Kudos to Melanie for braving the Dallas freeways. I have been in the driver’s seat up until this afternoon, and of course, we hit the worst driving situations we’ve yet encountered. The abundance of interweaving, overcrossing roads left me feeling like I was in one of my recurring nightmares, quite literally. But all is well. We’re now safe at a hotel, and we even took the kids swimming. The main pool was a bit chilly, but the hot tub wasn’t as hot as hot tubs usually are, so the whole family was happy to spend a good chunk of our time in there. I think this was our first hot tub for the boys. They thought the bubbles were quite fun, although Creegan was a bit intimidated at first.

Now for some random tidbits about the last couple of days…

I find it interesting that both our hotel tonight and our hotel yesterday in Mississippi have ceiling fans in the rooms. We’re at normal hotels. Nothing fancy, nothing quaint. I’ve never encountered this before. It’s nice.

No burgers today. Complimentary breakfast at the hotel this morning, Subway in Shreveport, Louisiana for lunch, and Taco Bell / KFC hybrid for dinner here in Dallas Lake. I’ve been happy to diversify.

I did shed tears today. This change is hard. Last night as I lay in bed, I wondered if we had made the wrong choice to move. I thought of the people I was losing from my life and thought moving might not be worth it. It’s depressing.

Edison threw up last night. Too many treats, I think. He threw up around 11:30 p.m. When he woke me up to tell me, I felt like it was the middle of the night and I had been asleep for several hours instead of just one. I think that means I was sleeping quite well. The hotel mattress was very firm, but it felt so good. I dreamed about a cruel, demeaning mother who forced her teenage son to act like a dog. She would make him do things to earn treats. For example, she put a treat thing on his shoulder and made him try to flip it into his own mouth. It was meant to belittle him, and it did. She was also a very religiously “pious” and “devout” person.  I didn’t remember until I was telling Melanie about it that I had recently compared some attitudes I see in certain religious cultures to be like unto “obedient dogs.” I also dreamed I was applying for a job at 7-Eleven. Probably not a good sign, psychologically speaking.

Some creep was staying in the room next to us last night. Thankfully, his being next door didn’t affect us. I saw him in the lobby checking in with his daughter (approximately 6 years old). He would swear every few words, but he seemed to think he was incredibly charming. That’s the attitude he seemed to have, like he thought he was funny or something. When his daughter rang the bell at the front desk, he told her to “stop ringing that f---ing bell.” Charming, don’t you think? Melanie told me later that she encountered him on the elevator. Melanie had our three boys with her, and this man had his daughter with him. The girl had apparently just been swimming and was in a swimsuit. The guy kept trying to get my boys to check out his daughter, asking repeatedly, “Boys, look at her. Do you think she’s hot?” This is a guy that should probably be decked in the face, for one reason or another. Very disturbing behavior. I’m still bothered by it. I’m glad my kids are shy enough that they just ignored him, but I feel like this man violated every single person on that elevator. What a shitface.

There is a QuikTrip (AKA QT) gas station across the street from our hotel tonight. QT was the gas station Melanie and I always went to when we lived in Atlanta. It was the best. When we saw it, Melanie got all giddy and squealed in excitement. We stopped there for fountain drinks, and I secretly wondered if it could really be all that special now that we’re six years removed from going to QT on a regular basis. In Atlanta, they by far had the best fountain drinks, but that was back before we drank diet beverages. I also thought to myself that you kind of get used to what you have, and I honestly wondered if I would taste a drink from QT and find myself thinking, “Nope, our Circle K in Tallahassee is better.” Well, holy crap, the Diet Mountain Dew on tap at this QT here in Dallas Lake, Texas is the best “Fountain Dew” I think I’ve ever had. They really are superior! How can gas stations vary so much? What is the magical QT touch? I’m half-tempted to set an alarm and go out for a Fountain Dew in the middle of the night, knowing this is probably the last QT I’ll encounter for perhaps the rest of my life.

That’s it for today. G’night.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Greetings from Lucedale, Mississippi

We did it. We loaded everything we own into a trailer being towed by my in-laws, and we have officially moved out of our Tallahassee apartment. We are now on our way back to Utah, spending our first night as non-Tallahassee residents at a hotel in Lucedale, Mississippi. This is all becoming very, very real.

Melanie’s parents arrived in Tallahassee at about 11 p.m. last night. We started loading the trailer they brought out from Utah at about 7 a.m. this morning. It was rough—I was running on about 3.5 hours of sleep, and it was extremely hot and humid from the moment the sun came up—but we had lots of generous help. I tell you, it’s some amazing people who will show up at 7 a.m. on a Sunday to help you load a trailer. God bless ‘em. I was sweating like a pig, but it went really well and quite quickly, all things considered. I’m grateful. If you’re reading this and you helped, thank you.

The heartbreak is finally settling in. We gave up a lot of good things to move from Tallahassee. Part of me can’t help wondering if we made the right choice. It’s an understandable reaction. I’m in mourning. It’s funny the little things that can bring on the heartache. I never felt sad looking at my apartment as it became increasingly, and eventually totally, bare. I didn’t feel sad pulling away from our apartment, knowing it was the last time I’d be there. What caused a twinge of sadness was seeing Eddie’s Spider-Man bike sitting in the donation area of Goodwill when we stopped by to drop off our couches and computer desk. We’d left the bike there a few days before, and its appearance this morning seemed a symbolic reminder of change and the fleetingness of childhood and certain periods of life. (The bike is several years old at this point.) Just seeing it there, all alone and abandoned, seemed too appropriate. Loss. That’s what it felt like. And then greater sadness hit when we finally pulled onto the freeway, officially departing Tallahassee. That solidified the fact that Tallahassee is now largely a memory. It was a very somber moment.

Obviously, there isn’t much to say about our journey thus far. We didn’t spend nearly as much of our day driving as I thought we would. I thought we’d get a lot farther than this on our first day. But Melanie’s mom was going insane being stuck in a car, which makes total sense given all that she’s been through over the last several days. She couldn’t handle it when the GPS system we were using to guide us today diverted us onto smaller highways rather sticking to major interstates, which is part of the problem my in-laws faced on their way to Tallahassee. So, feeling a little stir crazy, she asked us to stop, and we stopped. The kids were excited to get to a hotel, so they were totally fine cutting the drive a bit short. I’m a bit concerned about how long our days of driving will be over the next few days, because I don’t think anyone is up for extending the amount of days we spend in transit. I wanted to get the longest day of driving out of the way first. As it turns out, today will probably be our shortest day of driving. Considering my lack of sleep, I’m rather surprised that I myself wasn’t desperate to call it a day, but I was actually enjoying driving the back roads of Alabama. It was pleasant and low-key, and I felt like I could’ve gone a lot longer. I’m worried I won’t have that sort of stamina tomorrow. I’m worried my lack of sleep will hit me then, since it obviously didn’t impact me much today. (And, truth be told, I think I’ve only had about 8 or 9 hours total sleep in two days. That’s definitely going to bite me soon.)

As I look forward to tomorrow, my hope is that we’ll find something new to eat, food-wise. Excluding breakfast, my last three meals have basically been the exact same thing. On our last night in Tallahassee, we used a gift certificate to go to Flying Bear, where I had a bacon mushroom burger with fries. This afternoon, for lunch, we stopped at McDonald’s. I had a Big Mac and fries. And tonight, because our hotel is located next to a single gas station and a single food place, I had a country fried steak sandwich—essentially just a fried burger—and yes, some fries. I also had some jalapeno poppers, which were a nice touch and spiced things up a bit (although more figuratively than literally).

My goal has been to chronicle this journey back to Utah, but I’m realizing there probably won’t be much to talk about. Aside from driving, we’ll eat. It’s kind of embarrassing to write about nothing but food. But if that’s all I’ve got to go on, so be it. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Final Post from Tallahassee

This will be my final blog post written from Tallahassee.


While we are mostly packed up and ready to go, we thought we were loading up a trailer this morning. As you may recall, Melanie’s parents are driving out to meet us with a large trailer that they own. That was to be our mode of moving, and we expected them to arrive last night so that we could load the trailer this morning. We then figured we’d officially depart Tallahassee on Sunday morning.

Then disaster struck.

On the way out, Melanie’s parents broke down. They had to get a new alternator. We thought this might delay them, but the work was done quickly and we were relieved to learn that they would still make to Tallahassee at the regularly scheduled time. But then, yesterday, their truck broke down again. Only the situation was much worse. The truck very nearly burst into flames. Everything under the hood was so hot that mechanics couldn’t do anything with it for quite some time. The heat damaged tons of stuff. The computer was fried, and before they even got done looking things over, they knew it would cost at least $4,000 to fix the truck, just for the parts. No labor included.

Moving postponed.

Although it’s not Melanie’s and my fault, we both feel some residual guilt that her parents are in this situation. I don’t know how they are handling it, but I feel terrible for them. The damage was so bad and would be so expensive to fix, they have decided to buy a new truck. Their generosity of coming out to help us move has resulted in them having to buy a new vehicle. They are already on their way to us again, and will be here tonight. We can then load up tomorrow. I’m not sure if we’ll try to leave soon after loading up, trying not to lose any more time, or if we’ll try to catch our breath and leave on Monday morning. It doesn’t really matter for Melanie and me, thankfully. But Melanie’s dad has taken time off work to come help us out. You can see how the guilt adds up, right?

To focus on good news, we sold several big items in the last week or so. We’ve sold many things for very little, so it’s not like we’re raking in the dough. That’s not the point. It’s just nice to simplify. And yes, we’ve given away some things for free. But the most wonderful news is that we sold our minivan, the one that gave us relentless trouble after we first bought it. The van wasn’t even in working condition when we sold it, so we feel pretty lucky. The guy that came and looked it over knew what he was doing and got it running. We then sold it to him for half of what we were asking, which is about what we had hoped to get out of it. We honestly thought it might end up being donated to Goodwill, so the fact that we got anything out of it feels like reason to celebrate. We are stoked. It will help us immensely.

And that’s that. Although I guess it’s worth mentioning that, even with our home packed up in boxes, I haven’t started to feel weird about moving. I thought it would hit me by now, but apparently it’s a delayed reaction. Or maybe I’m more mentally prepared for the change than I expected. I suspect it’s just a delay, but we’ll see.