‘Splorin’ Road Trip Across the USA #1 (Part 1)

In April of 2018, my now husband and I took a three-week road trip starting from California all the way to the East coast, hitting Virginia, North and South Carolina, Washington D.C., and made our way down to Florida, with many stops along the way. I was a month away from my 40th birthday and had only been to a handful of west coast states up to this point. Bear, on the other hand, had lived in the south when he was in the army and had taken one across the country road trip with his mother and one with his ex-wife. However, there were still plenty of places and states he hadn’t been.

I had expressed to him that driving across the country and eventually visiting every state was on my bucket list. When I was with my ex-husband I knew that was basically just a pipe dream since he didn’t like going anywhere or doing anything. Sure, I could have tried to make this happen with a friend or something but when I pictured this adventure it was with my significant other, my partner in life, my committed cuddle buddy. But, my ex-husband was no partner, and I didn’t even want to go anywhere with him. So, I gave up my dream of traveling.

Until, I left that marriage and moved back to California, which led me to my current and last husband. He loves to travel and luckily loves to drive. He was also hoping to find a partner in life that loved traveling and was as excited about exploring the country as he is. He was also hoping to find someone who was fun to travel with and… … you know someone with, uh, a bit of a personality, which always helps when traveling. I’ll stop there it’s bad karma to speak ill of the dead…personality sufferers.

Moving on…

We’ve talked about all the places we want to go, and when I first mentioned my desire to drive across the country, not for one second did I think it would happen so soon. You see, we had just started our relationship in November of 2017 and by March of 2018, my then-boyfriend says, ‘start packing because in April we are going on a road trip!’

My first reaction was something like, ‘shut the fuck up, haha you’re hilarious.’ But apparently, he was serious. I was shocked, to say the least, but true to his word on April 7, we got in his lifted white truck and hit the road.

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The first state we stopped in and stayed the night was Arizona. Our first get out of the truck and walk around stop was Oatman, Arizona. If you’ve never been and ever find yourself stopping there one day, I hope you like jackasses, otherwise known as donkeys. Also if you’re traveling with someone like Bear prepare yourself for plenty of ass jokes, or, if YOU are like my traveling companion, enjoy being the clever one making all the ass jokes and delighting the person you’re with.

As soon as you step out of your vehicle you are more than likely to be greeted by a very curious ass. Don’t be alarmed they’re friendly, at least the ones we encountered were and I didn’t witness anyone getting kicked in the nuts, or anywhere else. The donkeys seem to hardly care about your presence. They wander throughout the little town nonchalantly without a care in the world. They might even stop and let you take a selfie with them.

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Besides getting to pet a donkey (being an animal petting fiend, this gave me a boost of serotonin and made me very happy) you can take in the Arizona scenery and browse the little shops and pick up some souvenirs. 

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While I was snapping pictures and enjoying what the town had to offer my Bear wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get the perfect Facebook post picture. It was my own fault really, I should have known better to A. Turn my back on him around signs with the word ass on them. And B. Turn my back on him and stand in front of this particular sign. I take full responsibility for this picture. And I apologize for including it. But I, like him, can not help myself. I admit I found it somewhat amusing. Well, I should add after I was done being mortified, I found amusement in it. 

Soon we were on our way and eventually stopped to eat at Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, in Kingman, Arizona. It was decent food, but the best part was the real cherries in the cherry coke! I love me some maraschino cherries!

They also had a fun ambiance, with walls decorated with 50’s memorabilia. I, personally love diners like this. Unfortunately, one of two things I did not love about Mr. D’z was the restrooms. I only went in there to wash my hands before eating and when I came out I actually felt dirtier. I didn’t take any pictures of the restroom, which are right behind Marilyn and Elvis. To be honest I would only want to stop here again in a pinch. For the most part, these types of diners have good food, and you can’t NOT love the fun decor, but when I say they had decent food, I mean it was edible, but not entirely enjoyable. The picture I took before biting into the bbq western burger was much better than the actual taste of the burger. Now we come to the second thing I didn’t love, the bun was dry and oddly enough, even with all the bbq sauce, it was bland and tasteless. The saving grace of this sad burger was the onion ring, without it I probably wouldn’t have been able to choke down as much as I did. The bacon didn’t even help, can you believe it! Bear and I agreed the best part of this meal was definitely those cherries.

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That night we stayed in Williams, Arizona (or nearby) so in the morning we could visit Flinstones Bedrock City. If you have little ones (even if they’ve never seen the cartoon) I recommend stopping here on your family road trip. Or, if you’re like us and big kids at heart who grew up watching the Flinstones, I think you’ll also get a kick out of it. (UPDATE: I just learned after the summer of 2019 it will be closing and will be turning into Raptor Ranch, for birds of prey. Bummer. Couldn’t they put those damn birds somewhere else.) Anyways…

After playing around and reliving our childhood we set off towards New Mexico, but first stopping in Holbrook, Arizona at the Wigwam Motel to snap a couple pictures. (Which I do constantly because I’m a picture and documenting addict. I was already this way before social media.)

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When we reached New Mexico we stopped at a couple of large travel stops where Bear admired all their fun big boy toys. He was so sad to leave them behind.

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But life goes on and so did we, all the way to Amarillo, Texas that night. Where we had dinner at The Big Texan Steak Ranch, home of the 72oz steak challenge. Bear had been there once before and really liked it, and this was my first time, also my first time being this far east. I was a Texas state virgin, and I think my anxiety was starting to kick in. But, let’s get back to the restaurant because I need to express our disappointment. I hate to say it, especially since I had such high hopes after seeing this place on the Travel Channel, but I wasn’t super impressed. Bear agreed, he had a better experience before. Now maybe it was because we arrived at 9:30 pm and they close at 10:30 pm but they should still put in as much effort taking care of the customers and without a doubt making sure the food was on point. The wait staff were very busy, however not with patrons, with gossiping, and doing so loud enough for us to hear.

The staff aside I really wanted to love this experience and be able to rave about the food. But, I suck at lying. I know I’m kind of repeating myself saying how much I wanted to like it, but that’s how much this food hurt my feelings. My Ceasar salad, the dinner rolls, and his baked potato were the most decent parts of the meal. We would have liked a bit more edible meat on our steaks, most of it honestly wasn’t chewable, and sadly my favorite comfort food, the mac and cheese wasn’t the worst but extremely far from the best. I needed to add salt and pepper and even after that it barely had any flavor. It was noodles coated with yellow stuff, it doesn’t even deserve to be called mac and cheese. I know it could have been worse because on our last road trip I had worse at Lambert’s Cafe in Missouri. That mess was straight up Kraft (or an off-brand) boxed macaroni and cheese. It was pitiful. Not to mention the fact they have the nerve of charging three extra dollars to get that crap as a side dish. For $3 extra it better be some southern grandma home cooking mac ‘N’ cheese! I’ll get to my full review of the “Home of the throwed rolls” later on.

Now I know many people love and adore The Big Texan, but they were off their game that night.

After this disappointing meal, we found a motel and settled in for the night. The next morning the restaurant we ate breakfast at more than made up for our last meal experience, thank God in Heaven. That and more will be in part 2. This post is probably already too long, and we’re only in Texas!

Stay tuned…

Worlds Okayest Mom and Greatest Step Dad Diaries: When Mom is Sick

A couple weeks ago I wasn’t feeling well. My daughter and husband-to-be were trying to figure out what to have for dinner. Even though I wasn’t feeling my best I was having a craving for some cheap mediocre pizza, so my fiance (Bear) went out and grabbed two Little Caesars pizzas. I wasn’t about to do anything crazy like actually get out of bed, so we put the boxes on our bed and went to town inhaling pizza, while we all watched TV together. Best way to do pizza night I don’t care what anyone says.

It was no surprise to me that two days later the pizza boxes were still in our room with five pieces left in one box. Both of us remained a bit under the weather, with Bear a bit better off than myself. He had taken on most of the cooking, however come the third day of my being out of commission Bear had to be gone all day.

As usual my fifteen year-old was foraging for food. She comes in my room asking, “What’s going on with dinner?”

I lift my head from my pillow and tell her I don’t know yet. She turns her head towards the pizza boxes and says with shock and confusion, “Wow, you still have those?”

“Yep, and there’s still some pizza in one of the boxes.”

She opens the box and her big brown eyes widen in horror. “Why didn’t you put this in the refrigerator?”

“Do I look like I’m in any shape to be that responsible? Besides I thought I was going to snack on it here and there.”

A couple eye rolls later she asks, “Are they still good?”

“Ummmmmm…well it has been fairly cool in here, and I did take a few bites of a piece last night. But, this is day three soooooo…

We just stared at each for a moment. I knew where this was going and so did she. Neither of us sure of the consequences. Both of us aware there would be no turning back. Before I know it she has three pieces of pizza in her hands, and right before she walks out of the room I yell out a disclaimer, “You’re eating those at your own risk!”

You know, verbally releasing any fault and liability on my behalf.

I put my head back down on the pillow and tried to clear my mind of this crime against motherhood.

Some angry offended Mom Mob will be coming with torches and pitchforks any minute now. I’m certain the PMOA (Perfect Moms Of America) just heard everything.

If Facebook hears when I’m talking about DNA kits, and then I see nothing but DNA kit ads for the next 3 days every time I log on, then some Mom spy no doubt just listened in.

I decided to turn on the TV in an attempt to shut out the voices of guilt in my head. Did I really just let my daughter take and consume non refrigerated days old pizza? I’m horrified. My fiance surprisingly did not come home to me rocking back and forth in a corner whispering repeatedly, ‘I’m a good mom, I’m a good mom.’ The only thing I did do was continue to text her…yes from down the hall. C’mon, I wasn’t getting up unless I had to. Admittedly, I was sweating it out for a couple days, but after much prayer I’m happy to report she was just fine. However, to make up for it every night since my Bear and I have made home cooked meals…ok mostly him while I get better. He really has been taking excellent care of us.

We were going to start a new healthyish regiment anyway, with meals full of vegetables, so it worked out. Above is my Bear’s artichoke cream sauce chicken, and roasted veggies, with parmesan. (Damn, I love having a man who can cook.) I’m also happy to report my Mom guilt has officially passed, and I can now forget about it like it never happened…

My Dirty Secret

I feel like I have a dirty secret, even though nothing about it is dirty or much of a secret. It’s more like something I’ll throw out in conversation, but I definitely don’t go into much detail once it’s been brought up. Ok, so here it is (deep breath) I live with anxiety, and panic disorder (frequent panic attacks) with depression for the cherry on top. Insert eye roll for the people who think these are made up things that attention seekers proclaim they have. Trust me, I wish they were in the same category as unicorns and men who change the toilet paper roll. Unfortunately, some people add to the illusion that these mental health issues are a myth, and give us legit disorder having peeps a bad name. There are in fact those attention seeking basic bitches who love ugg boots with booty shorts in freezing temperatures, pumpkin spice lattes (nasty, no one makes a good one) wear way too much makeup, all around plastic and fake inside and out, and CAN NOT WAIT to tell you all about their anxiety and how shook they are because their latest Instagram selfie only got 8 likes, so they had to buy three new pairs of lululemon leggings to calm themselves down. ( I do love leggings though) But, enough about them.

When I was fairly young I knew what depression was. The circumstances I was living in as a child could chip away at any amount of joy or happiness that tried to make its way inside me. Sadness was so a part of daily life, that to me it was normal.

My father made every second of every day a lot more difficult than it needed to be. He was a bitter, angry and manipulative man. He never took a day off from his mental and emotional abuse. School wasn’t exactly a safe haven either. It’s the classic story of fat girl with glasses gets bullied. Ya know, mean girl (boss) tells mean girl (minion) to spit in my face, and then everyone has a good laugh. Classy, am-I-rite. However, was any of this the cause of my depression or was I born this way? I don’t know.

I didn’t know anything about anxiety, or panic disorders until 2012 at the age of thirty-four. I had my first full-blown physical panic attack three days after my mother died. I had every symptom of a heart attack and it sucked. I went to the doctor and had tests done and all that good stuff. For the next 2 years I was in and out of the doctor’s office quite frequently. Anxiety was now a part of my daily life and the panic attacks kept coming, so I started on some medication. I had also started doing extensive research on anxiety and panic disorders. And even though I don’t recall having a panic attack before that day, I started to realize anxiety may have been with me since my childhood. My mother would always call me a worry wort, or a nervous nelly. Turns out, it went a lot deeper than that. I felt I had it all under control for a while. The medication I was on seemed to be a good fit, and the first year I came off the meds everything seemed to be stable.

Unfortunately, my anxiety and panic attacks are currently far from under control anymore. It’s all back and worse than before, taking on different twisting, puzzle like forms. I-kid-you-not, looking up at a tall building has triggered a panic attack. Like, excuse me! How grossly rude is that! I mean seriously, I can’t even look up! Such bullshit. I can barely drive anymore, not that I was ever amped about it before, but now except for taking my kid to school it feels like an impossible task. Literally, impossible. That’s another thing everyone needs to understand. People with these mental health issues have limitations. They just do. It’s a shame that these legitimate limitations can make you appear selfish, stuck-up, lazy and sometimes even a crazy bitch. For instance if you ask someone with social anxiety to go to a party full of people they don’t know, and they explain that they can’t do that…listen to them. It is not that they won’t. They are not just nervous or shy. Now it doesn’t mean that they can’t work on it through therapy, or medication, and in their own time be ready to socialize the night away. Just remember, it is not something they can just chill out about. These mental prisons we live in will prevent us from doing things that are easy peasy for most people, including very regular, everyday things.

The real kicker for me right now is I’m actually happy. I’m absolutely positive this is the first time in fact that I’ve felt this elusive real contentment and happiness. (disclaimer: except of course when my daughter was born) Isn’t that just the cruel joke of the universe…you can without a doubt be blessed and depressed at the exact same time! Anxiety and depression have found a way to coexist in the same space as joy and happiness. Again…bullshit. I still thank God I found the most extraordinary human to share my life with. I literally could not have dreamed up a better and more supportive man. Of course we fight, we disagree, we have our stubborn moments, ya know like every relationship ever in the history of time and space. But, I have never felt more loved and cared for. It has been the most amazing shock of my life. There was this clear moment where I had the “happiness epiphany.” We had spent the whole day with my daughter, and they were really starting to bond. They were making fun of each other, they were ganging up on me…it was adorable. It was just a really good day. And on the drive home I was overwhelmed with a feeling, that made me think, ‘what the fuck is that?’ …Oh wow. Is this…happy?

Which makes it more difficult when you run into negativity of any kind. I must protect and guard my precious happy bubble like a newborn baby. I’m not a victim in any way, but after being born into a raw deal, and one bad circumstance after another, followed by poor choices, things that can only be categorized as learning experiences, paying my life dues one way or another, and never getting to live my own life, basically always having to do what other people wanted me to do. I have earned the right to be selfish. The good kind of selfish. Because, that is a real thing…I swear. For my own sanity I am no longer available for people pleasing until further notice. Which is actually EXTREMELY hard for me not to do. I like everyone to be pleased and content, and if I don’t do what someone wants me to do I feel like I’m letting them down. And that guilt leaves the door wide open for a heavy depression to set in.

I remember when I was 9 years old and my mom signed me up for swimming lessons. I was in a class of about 7 other girls my age. Our instructor was an arrogant 18-year-old boy. On the 2nd or 3rd day of class while we were practicing holding our breathe under water he starts to get angry and yells at me, “You’re not going deep enough under the water! I can still see the top of your head! Do it again!” Embarrassed, I do it again. When I come up for air he yells the same thing. I can feel my eyes getting ready to gush tears and the heat in my face from humiliation. Nonetheless, I do it again. When I come up he still isn’t satisfied. He comes over to me and without warning puts his hand on the top of my 9-year-old head and pushes down, and holds me there. I panicked under the water. When I was released I got out of the pool and walked out of the class, and waited for my mother in the locker rooms, who had seen everything from the bleachers.

That has been a large chunk of my life. Being forced under water. My ability to breathe has always seemed unimportant to the people around me. If I drown, I drown. So be it.

My mental and emotional health is important, and I have been trying to get to a point where I can say that with confidence, and without guilt. Any negativity, bad occurrence, running out of milk, irritating inconvenience, or one not-so-nice word from someone feels like an electric needle stabbing my brain, which then flows through my whole body. It’s like my brain says, ‘Oh hell no. That crap is not allowed under any circumstances. But since we are running into a problem let’s just get rid of all the good feelings we’re having and replace them with an ice pick in your head and crippling depression shall we.’ Cool.

The problem is with the anxiety being at an all time high and depression trying to be my best friend, I hate to say it, but my mind is too fragile. Not to be confused with being weak. I think another misconception is someone with anxiety/depression is mentally weak. And that is SO far from the truth. I simply have limits, which will not allow me to do certain things, or handle certain situations without some form of a breakdown. I can’t allow things anymore that will threaten my well-being. Even later that day when I had the “happy epiphany” something happened that wiped away my good, positive feelings. I wish I had the tools to not let that happen, but that isn’t the case right now. I can’t get on medication at the moment so I’m sorta just riding this out. I’ve been told to look into cbd oil, so I was going to do some reading on it.

This is crippling. This is debilitating. This is a prison. My mental health at the moment seems to be made of glass. A lovely, delicate, over priced glass vase in a well-to-do little shop run by arrogant, self-centered, snobby women and it must be protected at all costs or the owner will lose her effing mind, destroy everything in her path and end her journey heavily sedated in a mental hospital. However, the big bear like guard of the shop would never let that happen. (The man who is reading this as I type)

Thanks for reading!

Swamp Water

Wow it has been a minute since I added anything to this blog. I regret that but let’s try this again.

I’ve been back in California for two years now, and coming back almost didn’t happen. The fear of the unknown is very powerful. Not to mention the mom guilt of taking my 13-year-old daughter (at the time) away from her friends of seven years. (And then there’s California traffic, cost of living, blah blah) Plus, living in routine, no matter how unhappy you are is just a safe, comfortable and familiar thing. You start to believe that this is life, this is where your choices have gotten you, and now you have to live with those choices. The thought of making another choice to change everything seems crazy, ludicrous and downright impossible.

However, in 2016 I got it into my head that maybe…just maybe it was possible to change the direction of my life and find this elusive happiness I’d heard so much about. So, it came down to this: Do I stay in Oregon? Do I stay in an unhappy marriage? Do I continue to go through my days like a robot, purely running on the needs of the day, shut down, and never really feeling anything. At first I thought maybe I was just missing my friends and family, so in 2014 my daughter and I got on an Amtrak train to visit everyone. Upon my return to Oregon I had realized something. I had missed nothing. Not even my husband. The next two years I felt like there was an itch beneath my skin that I couldn’t scratch. I couldn’t live like this anymore.

And yet, I still wavered. Going through the motions and being unhappy was just normal to me. I knew how to exist and function that way. However, that was the problem, wasn’t it? I was only existing. Not living. I should add that by this time I had lost quite a few family members, including my mother. The thought of the end was always at the forefront of my mind. And this ultimately helped me to make this tough and scary decision. I felt if I didn’t change my current life path I would be drowning in regret on my death-bed.

When I spoke to family and friends on the phone they would ask, “What is really the problem?” I would eventually give them the details of everything about my marriage and life in general, but at first I simply said, “I feel like swamp water.” Of course the response was, “Huh?” Simply put I felt stale, stagnant, unmoving, unchanging. I existed in this murky loop that on my worst days made me feel like I might as well have been dead. It felt like I was dying. It felt like my internal organs would start shutting down at any moment. I had nothing to look forward to. Nothing seemed to excite me. I did what I was supposed to do as a Mom and a wife. From my daughter of course I could feel love and joy but one day she was going to venture off into the world and I would still be here in this state and in this marriage.

I approached my husband to have an honest conversation, at first about our issues, and my feelings about living in such an isolated area. His response, “You knew what you were getting into. You knew how I was.” Indeed I did. My bad.

I approached him again later expressing how my unhappiness was no joke. I was not ok. And that my leaving was real and going to happen. His response, “Who’s going to watch the dogs?” That’s what I got from the person I was with for 9 years. Not, “Let’s work on things.” Or anything of that nature. Only an expression of how inconvenient it would be. That cemented for me I was doing the right thing. This part of my life was over. Oddly enough I did feel bad about leaving the four dogs. I did take the one that was the most attached to my daughter, but I still miss the other fur babies. Anywho…………………

My daughter and I came back to California and were taken in by family. The first year and a half was amazing and tough. Full of emotional ups and downs. Many days of crying on the bathroom floor. Followed by laughter and joy just being with my family again. (I might fill in these gaps another time) I immersed myself in online dating, which gave me some interesting stories to tell to say the least, and surprisingly it worked out after weeding through some craziness. To sum it all up for now I had in fact made the right choice. Not just because seven months ago I met the most amazing human in the most unexpected and weirdest way, but because life feels full of possibilites. Not just because I found the most solid and real love I’ve ever known, but because I’ve never looked back.

Now I know they say not to look for happiness in another person, well I’m sorry but I’ve never felt so complete, and whole in my life. And I owe that to this man.

It feels like every decision, and every bad, terrible, and painful thing led me to him. And now it all makes sense. I was earning him. I’ve been paying dues from my childhood on through the age of 39. If he is the prize then absolutely everything was worth it. Now, at the age of 40 I know what love is supposed to feel like. I know what happy feels like. It actually feels a little terrifying but I suppose that might be because I’m not used to it. I’ve been programmed that this emotion isn’t allowed, or is just a fantasy, something for movies and other works of fiction.

My daughter is also happier. At first she was “salty” as she put it. But as it turns out she likes the school she’s in better and has made some great new friends.

For the first time I feel like I’m living a life that just might be on the right path. I’m excited. I’ve traveled. I’ve eaten new foods. I have a renewed sense of purpose. A renewed fire to go after my dreams. I’ve made some important promises to myself: To never fear a life changing decision. To not fear the unknown. To embrace and welcome it. And most importantly, to never ever become swamp water. It’s not fun to be infested with angry, bitter alligators. Nopity nope, I do not want that again.

So, let’s see what happens…