Lots and Lots and Lots

Lots and Lots and Lots

IMG_5611

My dad got married in Atlantic City at the end of August. I am… on the fence about it. There are numerous reasons as to why few are pleased about this circumstance, most of it revolving around just wanting my dad to be happy. My dad always told me he’d never get married. Then again, he proposed to my mother two or three times. This time, however, it wasn’t him that did it. It was her. And it was… ‘special’. Sarcasm doesn’t translate well with text.

I don’t really want to talk about it. I love my dad, for all his failings. I love him and I’m fiercely protective of him. We’ve been through a lot together, more than most parent-child relationships. In the end, he is married and I am his daughter, and nothing nor anyone can change that, no matter how much they try.

The trip to Atlantic City was an experience, to be sure. From the nine hour drive, to checking into a hotel for the first time by ourselves, and then thrown into the chaos of a city that centers around gambling… it was an experience. My aunt (dad’s side) was there, and thank goodness she was, because she’s the reason we had such an amazing experience there. It was a very short and exhausting trip, but it was an experience I’m grateful for.

We were up until 4am both nights. Whew. Also, I don’t like gambling (and no one is surprised by this.) Also, also, I married Rain Man. Continue lack of surprise.

In even sadder news, both of our respective grandparents’ health is failing. My grandma is not doing well and the husband’s grandpa is doing worse and worse with his Alzheimer’s. He’s in the end stages for sure now. It’s such a shame and a painful thing to watch.

My mother went to rehab… for a full four days. Yeah. So glad I took time off of work and hauled my ass up there. For nothing. At least I got to see my grandparents and my cousin with her kiddos. They’re getting so big!

We’re looking at houses. Seriously looking. In fact, we’re considering putting an offer on one of them. We started looking at houses with a realtor and found one we fell in love with, though it had a few things we didn’t like. Still, it was a foreclosure and had 2,100 square feet and a kitchen I adored.

146619_101_12

It’s incredibly close to work and in a small neighborhood. The issues: it has next to no yard, I hate the exterior, and all you can hear is noise from the interstate. It’s loud. Deafening, almost, when you’re outside. But the inside? Is gorgeous. Brilliant, even. And the fact that it’s a foreclosure means that we could get it for cheap. Unfortunately, someone was placing an offer on it. We’re not sure if it’s been accepted or not… so we found another house that we liked.

147268_101_12

This one is a distance from work (twenty minute commute), but nestled into a perfect suburb at the end of a cul-de-sac. It’s a corner lot with an okay yard. My husband was instantly in love with the neighborhood, as being a boy raised in the country (but a city boy at heart), he yearns for neighbors, community, and all those things. Silly man. I’ve tried to tell him that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

It’s a higher price than the other and it needs some work on the inside. It doesn’t have an awesome kitchen and the master bedroom isn’t even big enough to fit our current bed in. For reference, our apartment is fairly large, at around 900 sq ft with CONSIDERABLE closets. Seriously. None of these houses can touch the closets in this place! So our expectations are, understandably, high.

The interior isn’t bad and I do like the thought of turning the downstairs room they already started (it used to be a part of the garage) into a huge master bedroom… the price concerns me.

Either way, we’re going to a bank ASAP next week. We’ll see what happens from there.

Traversing Appalachia

Traversing Appalachia

My mother-in-law’s birthday was Saturday. For her birthday, she wanted to wander around our ‘great state’ and see nature’s bounty. To be honest with you, I was dubious. I do quite a bit of travel in my job and while some of the areas around here are ‘nice’, I wouldn’t quite dedicate the anniversary of my birth to seeing them. Still, it was for her and so we woke up bright and early at 7am to begin our adventure.

I was pleasantly surprised. It was fun. Even a little terrifying, especially when we were at an overlook, staring down into a deep valley.

IMG_5750

Everyone was making fun of me because I was borderline terrified. Sure, the view was lovely, but I’m afraid of heights and we were standing on a large rock. I’m sorry if I don’t put my faith into large rocks jutting out over a massive valley. I’m not Pocahontas.

IMG_5753

The husband tried to capture my fear, but I put on a brave face. I think it’s pretty brave looking, at least.

The mother-in-law was having issues keeping up with all of the hiking. She’s got a screw in her ankle, so I can’t fault her. Still, we had to remind her that it was her idea that we hike into the middle-of-nowhere areas of West Virginia!

IMG_5758

The husband was having fun stealing my camera and trying to take shots of me. As someone who enjoys taking pictures, I don’t particularly enjoy being on the other side of them. The husband tries to remedy this with his paparazzi-level ridiculousness of photo snapping. I do rather like the blur in this, though.

IMG_5760

We stopped off at a state park around lunch time and drove into the deepest parts of it to have lunch. It was a secluded picnic area and it almost reminded me of that place we stopped and grilled at when we visited Maui. Ah, Maui… how I miss you. I’ve been dropping hints to the in-laws that maybe we should go back, but I’m afraid that if we do, I really won’t leave this time!

I wanted to get a nice photo of my mother-in-law with the husband. I did get one, but I also got this, because my mother-in-law is a goofball. This one is more telling.

IMG_5765

We went to a lake in the same park, but it was closed for the season. My mother-in-law was disappointed that she would not get to paddle boat. Honestly, I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to see her trying to paddle boat!

IMG_5767

Next we went lower in the park (it’s on a mountain, by the way; what isn’t on a mountain in this state?) and saw an old grist mill. It’s still functioning and that’s pretty damn cool. I was impressed. Of course, mother-in-law was more interested in getting close to the waterfalls. When we got there, there was a dad and daughter duo soaking themselves in the falls, taking pictures. They had father-in-law snap a shot of them together under it.

IMG_5784

After that, we headed into the deepest part of the middle of nowhere. Seriously. It took us an almost hour drive down a road surrounded by a protected forest to get there and even then, we had to hike further back. I’m not sure how long it all was together, all I know is, we were seriously in the middle of nowhere. No electricity, no cars, no modern things whatsoever. You gotta use the rest room? Welcome to mother nature, go shit behind that bush. Thankfully, I was fine until we found some port-a-potties near the camping areas.

Many years of camping and boating with my grandparents prepared me for the horrors of ‘eco-friendly’ port-a-potties. They are essentially outhouses. Yep. Just you and a big, gaping hole that leads to a large area filled with piss and feces. Fun times. Good thing I still can’t smell!

The area we went to see was a tundra ecosystem. It was the southernmost area that this was found in, created by the glaciers. Apparently, this is a big thing to the people here… but to me, it just looked like my grandpa’s ancestral farmlands. Go figure, I looked at a map and the places this type of terrain/etc are found is where I am from in Pennsylvania. Still, it was pretty cool!

IMG_5805

It’s a protected area and pretty marshy, so you have to walk along this small boardwalk path that winds through it. It was pretty fun and immersive. We didn’t see any cool birds or critters, though.

IMG_5808

Finally, we went for a hike to find the Cranberry River. My father-in-law, who had visited this park many, many moons ago, claimed it wasn’t far. We hiked for an hour. Mother-in-law was dragging behind. There was no river. The forest was quite awesome, though. Very large and dense, and just pretty. So it wasn’t a complete waste of a walk!

I wish I had taken a picture of the path we walked. It reminded me of that Robert Frost poem ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.’ I bet this place would look exactly like that when it’s snowing.

IMG_5812

It’s worth mentioning that we didn’t get home until around 10pm. That’s right, we were gone for twelve hours! It was crazy. We stopped for dinner at Chili’s at the mall in the city here… and it was terrifying. None of us have ever gone to this place and we will likely never return. Everyone was rowdy, customers were loud and obnoxious, our waitstaff was unskilled, and the entire experience just left us thankful for our mall fifteen minutes away and not nestled in the middle of a city.

In the end, it was a really fun day. My mother-in-law apparently told my father-in-law that it was the best birthday she’d ever had.

Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012

We did Christmas in Pennsylvania. It was nice and it snowed! Luckily, we still made it home okay. It snowed A LOT, though. More than I’ve seen in years. I’m just glad it tapered off and was manageable by the time we left!

My grandma wanted to get a picture with us while it was snowing. This is what we ended up with. True to life, I think:

IMG_4999

We went a little crazy with presents this year. Everyone made out like bandits, especially gram and pap. We got gram a Keurig (and some sweet threads from Macy’s) and my pap a new laptop. He needed one, we found a good Black Friday deal, and this way my grandma can inherit his old one and toss the ancient laptop she’s been using!

I can’t lie, times like this make me miss my family being whole. I still got to see my dad and my other grandma, but it’s always just so weird. Being in these places with so many old memories, it just feels wrong to deviate from what I’ve grown up knowing and loving. I miss my dad helping my grandma cook. I miss everyone talking around the dinner table. So much has changed. We did most of the cooking this year!

IMG_4886

I didn’t want to go to my Aunt’s (which caused some drama, but whatever.) I want a classic (or as close as I can get sans dad) Christmas dinner, so I did a smaller turkey at my grandparent’s house. We all ate together–my grandparents, my mum and her boyfriend, even my middle cousin and his baby came over (which caused the issue, I think.) Either way, it was nice. It wasn’t the same, but it was nice to sit around a table. My aunt does more of a buffet style thing and that’s just… it’s not what I’m accustomed to for Christmas. Not with my family.

IMG_4940It was a good holiday. A good Christmas.

IMG_4836

Way Too Fast!

I haven’t been updating for a multitude of reasons… most of them involving some form of being too busy and another form of I just can’t seem to string together coherent thoughts for more than five minutes at a time.  This is my personal catalog to look back on, so it really makes me feel bad when I go long stretches without recording things!

We went to Key West around Halloween for a week and it was amazing.  We always go in July, but I am pretty sure we both want to continue going down in October.  In July, it’s hot and impossible to do anything because it’s so hot.  I can’t stand the heat, but my husband loves it.  Unfortunately, my loathing of the heat is not just mental, it’s physical.  I’ve been known to pass out quite a lot when it gets too hot.

The in-laws drove through the night, so it was quite the car trip.  Sleeping in a car is much better than sleeping in an air plane, I will say that.  We had to hurry because we didn’t want to miss the end of Fantasy Fest.  It’s like their version of Mardi Gras only a little tamer?  Or maybe not, I don’t know.  There were a lot of costumed “naked people”… I mean that in that they were wearing body paint!  Either way, we had an absolute blast and it was just the right thing to recharge our batteries.  Morale has been a bit low around here.

We were only home for around two weeks or so before the hell that was the week of Thanksgiving.  We left Monday, arrived late in the evening, hung out until Wednesday, where we had Thanksgiving with my family (although I did not get to join in with my dad’s Thanksgiving…) and were back on the road Thursday, only to go into work around 2am that evening/morning for Black Friday.

My mother, grandfather, aunt, and grandma.

My cousin recently had her second child, a boy, and we finally got to see him.  I’m not a baby person, but my cousin’s family always excites me so I am happy to see it growing.  Of course, I got to see her first daughter, who recognized me and was climbing all over me the entire time… which made things a little difficult, but it was still fun.  The entire trip was a whirlwind, though.  My husband commented that it didn’t feel like we even visited… and it didn’t.  By the time we were settled in, it was time to leave and the next few days were a blur of being exhausted and working.

It was all a big blur, I can’t find a better description.  I barely even remember Black Friday.  I had several energy drinks and didn’t sleep for over twenty-four hours… and I wasn’t even shopping!  Well, that’s a lie… I got off work around 3pm and hit some shops.  I don’t know how.  I must have been a zombie.  I wish I could have done more shopping, though, as that’s about the only chance I had.  Since Black Friday, we have both been working like crazy.  It makes me feel bad for my husband, who works his second job while I am at my job… but his second job is also a reprieve from the soul-sucking place he works 9-5 at on a weekly basis.

All this working has made the apartment suffer.  I can’t see our bedroom or walk-in closet’s floor because we never got a chance to switch from summer to winter clothing… as it stayed warm here until well into November.  So, there’s a mix of shorts and other summer things thrown everywhere while the blue Tupperware that usually houses off-season clothing has exploded in the closet.  It’s a mess and it’s driving me nuts, but we don’t have a time where both of us are off work and able to dedicate time to it… it’s a two person job.  It will have to wait until after Christmas.

Speaking of which, I haven’t even finished my Christmas shopping yet.  I’m probably just going to send my family cards, because we usually don’t exchange gifts when it’s not “our year”.  We send cards with money or gift certificates for restaurants and sometimes I send them flowers.  Unfortunately, we are spending Christmas with the in-laws and I have no gifts for them yet.  They don’t particularly go with the whole “exchanging gifts” tradition (hell, they barely do any Christmas traditions at all), but I still like to give gifts.  I love it, in fact!  I do have my husband’s Christmas gift shopping done, though… and he still has no idea what I got him.

His family is planning on actually getting together this year, since it may well be his maternal grandfather’s last Christmas (his Alzheimer’s has advanced exponentially and he’s deteriorating fast).  So, that’s definitely something to look forward to.  I’ll still miss my family, though… even if it’s never going to be the same as when my dad was around.  I guess I miss the memory of what it was instead of what it actually is now, even though my mum is sober now… it’s like you can never completely win, you just have to be happy with what you’re given.

Speaking of which, mum is still sober and her throat seems to be healing (as well as can be expected).  She says she has no desire to drink.  This is all fantastic news.  She even came down with her boyfriend to visit us on the weekend of my birthday.  We worked all weekend and she gave us no notice, so we only got to spend a short time together… but she got to see our apartment and meet Loki, so it was nice.

My husband’s keyboard died, so he’s using my nice, sleek wireless and I have my clunky, old keyboard… which hurts to type on.  So, I’m done.

Maui!

We went to Maui from July 30th to August 6th.  I was pretty apprehensive about the trip.  My mother was still recovering, but she was home and doing well.  Not only that, I had never been on the a plane before and the thought of airports made my anxiety skyrocket.  The night before we left, I felt like I was going to throw up.  We rolled out of bed, after maybe four hours of sleep, and headed to the airport with the in-laws at 6am.

Thankfully, our airport is pitifully small.  This made the transition easier for me.  The security wasn’t crazy busy and I had a chance to adjust to my surroundings.  It was very surreal.  I never pictured myself in an airport, getting ready to board an airplane.  I did, I got on one of the smallest freaking commercial airplanes without propellers!  We rode it all the way to Charlotte, SC which took all of 45 minutes.  We had to rush through the weird, long airport all the way to the opposite end to catch our next plane… which was a new, sleek airbus.  We weren’t riding first class, but it was pretty comfy and roomy.  We rode it for four hours until we reached Phoenix, AZ.  We had around a two to three hour layover, so we got lunch and I learned never eat Pizza Hut in an airport, they don’t use real cheese!  Gross.

Our flight to Maui was the longest.  We boarded a plane that looked like it had been in service since the late 70s, early 80s.  It still had little ashtrays.  It was supposed to be “bigger”, but had less passenger ‘flex’ room than the airbus did.  It also smelled like ass and feet.  The next six hours and thirty minutes dragged.  We were separated in groups of twos, so my husband and I sat together and my in-laws sat further up, together.  We each had to sit with a stranger… which is uncomfortable, especially when you need to ask them to get up so you can pee!

Because of the time difference (seven hours difference from our time zone), we arrived in Maui before dark on Saturday.  The airport is completely open air, so as soon as you walk out, you realize where you are.  It’s amazing.  The air is cool, but the sun is hot.  You don’t openly sweat unless it’s noon and you’re doing something in the sun.  Even if you do sweat, you just go hang out in the shade or near the water and suddenly, you’re cool again.  It’s the perfect kind of “tropical” for me.

We got our rental car and headed to our resort.  It was a pretty ritzy place, definitely a little classier than what I had expected.  I don’t have a picture of it uploaded, but the entire lobby and most of the resort itself was completely open air.  You stepped into the lobby and looked out at the ocean!  It was awesome, but we were all really tired from the lack of sleep and total of 11+ hours in the air.

We attended the welcome dinner hosted by my father-in-law’s company, swam in the pool a bit, and then all passed out by around 8pm.  The sun sets earlier there, so it definitely messes with your mind, too.  We had separate suites close enough to the private beach to hear the waves, so I kept our doors open and the ceiling fans going.  We didn’t even need the AC!

The first thing on the agenda was an unguided bike ride down a dormant volcano.  Most of us had issues with waking up sometime in the am.  I managed to force myself back to sleep, the husband never woke up except once, and my in-laws woke up around 3am and stayed awake.  We all met up at  7am, got breakfast at McDonald’s (which serves spam, much to my husband’s glee), and then met at the bike place.  We were drove an hour up the volcano mountain, past lovely little towns and beautiful countrysides.  Then, we were dropped off, given our bikes, and set on our way.  It was around 9:30 or 10 when we set off and we had until 4 o’clock.  I forget how many miles it was, but it was a lot and it was all down hill mostly.

None of us had rode bikes in years, so it was definitely an experience.  I can’t tell you the exact grade of the starting area, but it was steep.  We also had to deal with traffic, so that was fun, and hairpin turns and a bunch of other crazy stuff.  I had the hardest time at first.  The bikes had no gears, the handles were uncomfortable, and the seats were like a trip to prison.  They had to have disc brakes, or we’d never have made it… so thank goodness for that part.  I remember starting out, I thought, “why did I think I could do this?  I can’t do this.”  But I forced my fear down and away we went… it was amazing.  It was the perfect way to take in the beauty of all the places we passed.

We rode through a majority of the second largest cattle ranch in the US.  It was definitely not what you’d expect to see in a place like Maui!  But it was beautiful… the rolling hills, the beautiful backdrop of the towns and beaches below.  I’m so glad we all pushed through and did it.  We made it back around 12:30 or 1, I can’t remember now.  We were not the first ones back, but we weren’t the last, either!

After that, we went and checked out a beach of rocks we saw on the way.  We were all pretty beat after the bike ride, so we eventually wandered off back to the resort and rested by the pool and beach for awhile.  For those curious, Maui waves are not Key West waves.  They are big and they are brutal!  It was fun, though… riding on top of them and just feeling the ocean… I was never a big fan of Key West’s wimpy waves, anyway.

On Monday, we had a themed dinner with my father-in-law’s company, so we didn’t go very far.  We visited some of the shops nearby and hung out by the pool until 6pm.  We ended up having dinner at the aquarium.  We got to go in after hours and check out the sharks and everything else.  It was awesome!  I don’t have any pictures, my husband’s camera got most of the touristy ones… still need to upload those.  But it was amazing.  We even got to go in one of those water tunnels where sharks swim over your head!

On Tuesday, we went back to the volcano, this time to visit the state park located on top of it and to reach the summit! 10,000 feet up is no joke, folks. It’s a whole different world up there, one you’d never expect to see on Maui.  We drove all the way up and looked into the crater of Haleakala.  You could hike down into it and there were a bunch of random hiking trails on the way up, but we hadn’t geared up for any hiking, so we just looked in awe.

We went all the way up to the top before we turned around and went back down.  There were no guardrails, so my mother-in-law was freaking out a little.  We stopped off at around 7,000 or so feet at Hosmer Grove… which looks nothing like the pictures above!

It started off shrouded in mist.  It wasn’t raining, it was misting and it was foggy.  We heard some noises and managed to catch some wild Nene (the state bird) hanging out by one of the parking areas.  I jumped out and got a few pictures before they got annoyed and did the lower head aggression thing, at which point I ran off back into the car!

We stopped off at the Hosmer Grove camping area and cooked up some hot dogs in the mist.  It was like stepping into a forest that kind of reminded me of back home, but also seemed different somehow.  My husband said this is what the forests in the midwest/west look like.  I was suitably impressed.  He also said it smelled like God’s linen closet and it really did smell good…

While we were eating, we shared our food with a park ranger, who we found out was from Ohio.  He was hanging around because he does a child’s program about birds up there.  This is one of the best spots to see some of the birds native to Maui.  Sure enough, one of them decided to hop on over and check us out!

We used what was left of the day to go and check out the sights on the Road to Hana.  We couldn’t go the whole way, but we did get to go on some of the easier hiking trails back into the depths.  It’s definitely pretty back there.

We even got to check out a bamboo forest.  It was hard to get to, we had to practically crawl to it, but once it opened up, it was worth it.  There was water running through it and long, steep hills to climb down… all very fun.  By the time all of this excitement was done, we were dirty, hungry, and ready to head back.

Wednesday, we stayed around the resort and recovered from all our adventuring the previous day.  We hung out at the beach and walked down the path that stopped at our resort.  It led past the others located along the coastline and eventually went to the mall that was located in the area.  It was a pretty walk, but we went in the bright sunlight, so I had overexposure issues.

On Thursday, we left early to reach the other side of the island and search for wild dolphins! We boarded a catamaran manned by the Pacific Whale Foundation. It took us until the tail end of our trip, but we spotted some wild Spinner dolphins! There was a huge pod of them swimming along the shores. They came up and checked out our boat, too.

The rest of the day was spent exploring that part of the island.  We drove around the mountains there and skirted the lovely coast.  It definitely looked different than the one we were used to by now.

We saw a blowhole, but we didn’t get a closer look.  A day or two after our arrival, someone was killed at this blowhole.  They turned their back to it and were sucked in…

The road was small and it only got smaller.  It eventually went one lane, unpaved, and with only tiny, narrow spots to barely pull off into to let other cars pass.  It was stressful, but the scenery was worth it.  It was beautiful back there and we even got to go through a village of native Hawaiians.

We made it back in time to get a shower, change out of our sweaty adventuring clothes and change into something more appropriate for our goodbye dinner.  I forgot my dress at home, so I had to make due with a tank top and shorts.  Eh, that’s just how I roll, anyway.

We had hula dancers and a fire dude, which was awesome!  We also ended up sitting with a really nice family.  It was a good night, even if it was sad because it was the end.

We went back to our rooms and settled in.  The husband and I went down to the pool for awhile, as we had been doing each night and just hung out and looked up at the stars.  Eventually, we made it back to the room and started clearing out food items and perishables.  We had purchased a bottle of sour apple vodka earlier in the vacation… we’re not big drinkers, not in the least.  We’ve never even been remotely drunk, but it’s nice to unwind on a vacation.

Well, we paid good money for that bottle and it was barely touched!  So, we did something completely out of character.  I don’t know if it was the sadness of having to leave or subdued moral restraint from being on vacation, but we were determined to get rid of as much of that bottle as we could.  I fell asleep after I did six shots and I’m not sure how much my husband did, but I woke up to him crawling off the bed.  I asked him what he was doing and he said, he was keeping us from going out to sea.  Apparently, the waves were messing with his mind, haha.  It was hilarious.

Our last day, we had breakfast and then packed up and left the beautiful suites behind us.  Sigh.  Check out was at noon and we were out of there around eleven.  We left the resort and headed to the opposite side of the island to check out the other state park.  It was a lot more like a rain forest.  We spent a good while hiking through it until we were tired.  We ate some lunch, came back to the resort to swim, and then headed off to the airport around seven.  Our flight left around 10.

The ride home was miserable, but that’s fine.  The trip was worth it!  I’d move there tomorrow if it weren’t for my family.  There’s so much we didn’t get to see or do.  I’m amazed at how much I loved it, given how I hate hot places and beaches and whatnot.  I’m pale, I burn easily, and got I quite burned a few times there.  However, now I’m the most tan I’ve ever been in my life!  Of course, no one else notices, I just look normal for once, but I’m proud of it.

Sigh.  I miss Maui.

You can see more photos here.  I uploaded them for my family.  We still need to get my husband’s up.