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Reality in dreams
Saturday. 10.29.16 9:21 am
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One month
Thursday. 10.27.16 6:43 pm
...I tried this earlier, but NuTang didn't seem to want to work...

Has it really already been a month since I left Seattle to start what would become such a wonderful two weeks away?

I know that I've only been back for a couple weeks, but I miss it quite a bit. I mean, I love it here, don't get me wrong, but I'm really looking forward to the trip in December. Even with as short of a trip as it will be. I'm going to have to make the most of that, however, because when I get back I need to start focusing on getting other things in order, which are going to take up quite a bit of my PTO.

Halloween is on Monday {which I'm sure everyone is aware of} and I'm excited to be wearing this outfit that I have reserved for the day. The shift is going to be a little wonky; I'm working open to close so I'll be getting a bit of OT that day. I was already scheduled to close, but I volunteered to open since the coworker who normally opens had to leave for a family emergency starting today. I don't mind; coming in earlier isn't really all that challenging, it's the taking breaks earlier and, on days like today, the leaving early that feels weird. It's nice, but it feels weird.

Anywho, this weekend I have plans throughout. One of the things that got canceled last Saturday was rescheduled to this one, then I'm going to a friend's place for a small get together/dinner that evening. It's been long overdue; we both have taken vacations since the last time we saw each other so it's going to be nice catching up. Then on Sunday I have plans to hang out with another friend I rarely get the chance to hang out with due to school and work. It's a full weekend, but with people that aren't going to overwhelm me.

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Short and to the point
Sunday. 10.23.16 8:41 am
Since I'm no longer on vacation, and almost two weeks back to my regular routine, my life has gone back to being significantly less exciting.

The cost of the tickets went down a little from Friday, but as I've passed the "perfect buy time" window, they were still about $20 more than what I'd paid for the two week round trip. Now, that being said, I could have saved money had I gotten a connecting flight returning to Seattle, but after the fiasco of last year, I'd rather not have to call in sick the next day due to flight delays. Getting a connecting flight would also mean having to cut time off my visit, and I'd like to do as little of that as possible, especially with this trip as short as it is already.

Literally all of the plans I had for yesterday got postponed. I enjoyed the day nonetheless. I drove over to Alki for the sole purpose of getting a picture of Seattle, and the Olympic mountains, so that I could post something on Facebook about my anniversary here. I also needed to go for a little drive; once I was on the freeway heading South, there was a small moment when I was very tempted to just drive to Portland. It didn't happen... one of these days it will.

I was supposed to go grocery shopping yesterday, but I decided to postpone it to today. I'm meeting up with a friend here shortly {the one plan for the weekend that didn't get postponed} and the Safeway by her place has more options so I'll stop there on my way home tonight. I also need to get a dress of some sort that goes with my Halloween leggings I have, so that I can get away with wearing them to work on Halloween. Since I only own strapless dresses, I haven't a clue what style dress to own for this. I really only have two items of clothing that are 'wintery.' I should probably work on building that up this year.

Anywho, there's really nothing left to write about. Like I said, my normal life is far less exciting. I think next year I will try to do another every day challenge, just to see if I can do it again. 3 years ago, I think it was, I only missed 7 days the entire year. Maybe I can get that down to 5, or fewer. January is still a little bit away, but we'll see.

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6 years
Friday. 10.21.16 5:32 pm
6 years ago today, I drove in to Kirkland, WA. It was around 8pm, and I'd been driving since around 6am the day before, with several stops for food, bathroom, and an overnight rest. I think I clocked in 14 hours of driving the first day, and about 9 hours the second. Needless to say, I was tired.

I didn't actually see Seattle until the 22nd, which is why I normally celebrate the anniversary on that date. But this one has a much larger significance than literally any other anniversary date.

This marks the longest I've ever lived in one place, my entire life.

The longest I ever lived in one place prior to this was in MD, from Feb 1991 though November 1996. That's it. Even combined moves, FL and NV still only came out to about 5 years, total, each. Washington is the longest I've ever lived in one place my entire life.

It's kind of surreal, thinking about how long I've been here. Like how with many things, time can be perceived strangely; it goes back and forth between thinking I've been here longer, and thinking I've been here shorter. Only every once in a while does it really hit me how long I've actually been here. Even in this apartment, I've been in this little tiny pod for almost 5 years. Aside from MD, that's the longest I've ever held a single residence.

I feel like I'll have to get sushi tomorrow as kind of a celebration. Sushi was the first decent meal I had once I actually got in to Seattle, so to celebrate this occasion, I feel like sushi would be a good choice. Although, sushi is always a good choice ...

Anywho, I wanted to talk briefly about my trip back to DC in December. One of the things I was told I absolutely needed to do was visit the brand new National Museum of African American History and Culture. Which, at this point in time, is by ticket only. The tickets don't cost anything due to it being a Smithsonian Museum, but they're in high demand so they're hard to come by. My Aunt was able to obtain several, but they're not until December.

When I got back last week, I was curious to see how much PTO I'd have saved up, and I needed to know exactly what date the tickets are for, so that I could see if it was even feasible to get the time off, considering how close to the holidays it is. I'm not nearly high enough on the totem pole to get approved for time off directly around the holidays. When I found out the date, I checked staffing, calculated the PTO I'd have accrued by then {since I have zip now, from using 80 hours of it on the two weeks I was gone} and realized it would be almost guaranteed for me to get the time approved for a few days just before the influx of people taking time off.

The second task was to see what the cost of an airline ticket would be and, with the exception of today, it's been sitting a little lower than the plane ticket I'd bought for the two weeks. I'd take a connecting flight heading out, then a direct one coming back, since I'm only bringing a duffel with me this time, not a suitcase.

The third and fourth tasks would be to see if I was welcome to crash at my Aunt's place again, and make sure that I had transportation to and from the airport. Since this trip is much shorter than the last one, I didn't really see the point in renting a car. I also felt like it would be nicer to get that extra time with my relatives by them chauffeuring me to and from places. I'm sure if there's a time while I'm out there that I'll need a vehicle, someone will be nice enough to temporarily lend me theirs. I'll even put gas in the car, whether they like it or not.

All the cards lined up rather nicely for this, and I'm hoping that the cost of the ticket goes down a little bit tomorrow, since statistically speaking Friday is the worst day to buy a plane ticket. Either way, I'm making my purchase tomorrow. Unless it suddenly blows up to like $600. Then I won't be. Which would make me terribly sad...

So here's to hoping tomorrow goes well! That would be kind of the ultimate anniversary gift, actually, if I were to get reasonably priced airline tickets to go to the place I want to go. . .

Keep your fingers crossed people. You'll find out on Sunday how things went.

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Beach weekend
Wednesday. 10.19.16 5:55 pm
Friday night, after the monument tour, we went back to the apartment and hung out for a bit before crashing out, since we had an early start planned for the next day.

Alarms were set fairly early so that we could plan to be on the road by 9 toward VA Beach. It was a roughly 3 hour drive normally, but the later we left, the higher the odds of traffic. We ended up not leaving the apartment until a little before 9, and didn't get to leave toward VA Beach until closer to 10. We each had to stop at our respective residences to grab a weekend bag, and to drop off his vehicle.

Surprisingly, we only hit traffic once during the entire drive. The weather was complete shit on most of the drive down, however. He dozed off for a while; the route was pretty direct, and there was decent signage so that along with the GPS, I didn't need to wake him. About 2 hours in to the drive, I started to feel rather fatigued; I yawned a lot, but I was able to stay awake. I think once the rain cleared up, and I wasn't having to squint just to see the vehicle in front of me through the sheets of rain coming down, I was much more alert.

Once we got to the condo, we had to wait a little while for my cousin and his wife {who'd driven down Friday night} to get back from shopping. We got upstairs and just kind of chilled out before having to head to my aunt's place in Chesapeake for another family get together. Two of the three cousins who lived in that area came for dinner; they brought all the kids and it was a really nice evening. . . except the weather had turned to shit again.

That area was getting hit by the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew and they got between 9-10 inches of rain just that night. Roads were flooded pretty bad, so we ended up cutting the hangout after dinner short so that everyone could get back home before the roads completely closed. The food was delicious! Italian food is always a good option. I kind of wish there'd been enough for left overs.

Once back in VA Beach, we stopped at 7 Eleven to get some snacks for the condo, and the wind... oh man, the wind was crazy! The rain was legit going sideways. It was a challenge to walk in a straight line. My cousin and I ran in to the store, and even with parking right out in front of the doors, we were soaked by the time we got inside. When we got back out to the car, his wife brought up how the car just kept rocking with the gusts of wind.

We still had power by the time we got back to the condo, but the power went out at some point during the night because there was none in the morning. It wasn't pouring, but the wind was still intense, and the roads were even more flooded. We were supposed to leave back to DC on Sunday, but due to road closures from flooding, it was just safer to stay another night. So he was lucky enough to be able to move his plans that he'd had for Monday to a different day, and the group of us carefully made our way in to town to get some food.

We made our way to a Chili's ... that lost power about 20 minutes after we got there. Since they'd been able to make our appetizers, we decided to munch on those while waiting, and hoping, for the power to come back on. It didn't. We left to head farther in to town and ended up at the mall. Only about half the stores were open, but the food curt was open so they all got lunch and I just kind of picked a little, as I'd lost my appetite at that point.

Since most of the stores were closed, we pretty much made our way back to the condo after that. The power was back on, and although the wind was still strong, it was much nicer than the night before. We all decided to take naps at that point, except my cousin's wife, who went shopping. That evening we ordered some pizza for dinner, mostly due to the lack of wanting to get dressed to go anywhere else.

After dinner, the friend and I went for a walk on the beach. The wind was still strong enough that it picked up loose sand that had dried, and pelted us as we walked along the beach, so we made our way back up to the boardwalk {which was paved} and kept walking there. Despite having pretty much spent the last few days mostly together, it was nice getting out just the two of us. It felt comfortable. We walked and talked and just enjoyed each other's company. After walking maybe a quarter mile, we made our way up to the street to walk back toward the condo, so that we didn't risk getting pelted by sand in the face.

Once back at the condo, we all played a game called Speak Out. Oh man... hilarious!! It was sooo funny. I mean, seeing the videos online are pretty damn entertaining, but holy crap is it so much more fun actually playing it! There was even discussion of me getting the game, and playing with them via Skype. I'll have to make sure that I snag a couple mouth spreaders the next time I visit so that all I'll have to do is get the game {my cousin bought separate mouth spreaders and they had smaller sizes; since my mouth is smaller, the ones that come with the game are way too big and hurt.}

Monday was the day to head back to DC. We left earlier, since he had things he needed to get done at home, which was fine with me. I pretty much just kept hanging out with him at his place until around 11, when the family unit of my cousins made it back home. I met his mom and sister, and the crew of felines that his mom rescued. I even made a couple new friends. He cooked dinner for all of us; it was delicious. He made the dish from scratch... so. good. After dinner, he and his mom brought out their bagpipe practice chanters and played some, before she left to go do something and he played something on the piano for me. It made my heart happy.

Once back at my aunt's place, the two boys gamed for a bit, before we all called it a night. Tuesday morning was kind of somber, since that was the day I left to come back here. The two boys and I went out for lunch at this amazing sushi place. I'm so glad that my cousin had mentioned it; the food was so good. I ate so much good food while I was out there. I'm amazed at the fact that I'd only gained 3 lbs.

When we finished lunch, we made our way back to the house and just kind of hung out until it was time for me to leave. I think I cried like, 4 separate times in the span of two hours. It was rough having to leave. The closer it got to the point of actually going back to the airport, the more and more I wanted to just stay.

As I've said countless times, the two weeks I was there {with the exception of the very first couple hours} was absolutely amazing. I felt comfortable, welcome, at home there; something that's actually crossed my mind several times, for multiple reasons. Under specific circumstances, I would be very happy with a life there.

There were a few things that I'd wanted to do, or had thought about doing, while out there that I didn't get the chance to do, but one of those reasons is why I'm actually going back in December.

However, I'll talk more about that in the next entry because this one is already long enough. I'm sure there are details of the trip that I missed typing up, but just know, that was probably the best vacation of my entire adult life.

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Hustle and bustle
Monday. 10.17.16 5:24 pm
New York City. The Big Apple. Holy fuck there's so many people there. I mean, there's a lot of people in Seattle, but damn NYC.

I drove up to NY the day before my birthday. I'd made arrangements with my uncle, my dad's brother, to have dinner with him and the family. Two of the three cousins I knew as a child were there, along with the two new additions to his family from his more recent marriage, as well as my grandmother, and her sister and brother-in-law. So it was a fairly full house.

I was afraid it was going to be just as awkward in person as it had been over the phone, and ... though I wasn't exactly right, I wasn't really wrong either. It wasn't the same as it is with the other family members I've not seen in ages. Somehow, despite how close I was to my father, I never got terribly close to his family. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I never grew terribly close to my mom after dad died, but I get along so much better with mom's family than dad's. It's easy with them. I feel like family. My uncle was accommodating, and his wife is very nice. It was nice seeing them again, hearing about their lives. But I felt like a guest, not the long lost cousin returning for a visit. After dinner, I was anxious to get to the hotel so that I could have time to decompress.

That evening, I actually questioned why I'd driven up there. I knew I had to, and I do feel better, now, about having gone up to see them. I have a feeling, however, that the next time I find myself in that area, I may not mention it. They'll get fussy with me for not making plans ahead of time, but I also think they would understand. And if they don't? I dunno, guess it's good I'm not really all that close. It wouldn't affect me much either way. I think the biggest part of wanting to make sure I saw them all was mostly to do with my grandmother. She's 92 and, although it seems like she is going to live forever, I get that her expiration date is a lot closer than it was 10 years ago. If she passed between now and the time I get to NY again, I would be happy with this recent visit having been the final one.

Back at the hotel, I kind of unpacked the few things I'd brought, had myself a shower, and made myself as comfortable as I could in the strange place. I went to bed hoping that the next day would be better, since I'd be out on my own.

The morning of the 5th, I woke up around 5, but I'm going to chalk that up to being in a strange place. I looked through the few texts I already had, and swiped through IG and FB, but ultimately I wasn't ready to start my day yet. I dozed off and woke up again around 8. This time I decided to just get up and figure out what my plan was for the day. I had ideas, but nothing specific. I needed to figure out how I was going to get in to the city, which parking areas by the train stations were free, and if I decided to go with a paid one, how much extra it would cost me. {At this point in my trip, I was fairly broke, and two days away from getting paid, so I had to be careful with my finances}

I finally figured out a station that had parking and left with a little bit of extra time to compensate for getting lost, which I did. I got to the station in just enough time to catch the train ... except that someone was blocking the one spot I needed to get my car in to, and so I ultimately missed the train. Rather than get lost, again, looking for another station with free parking, I decided to just stay there and wait the 2 hours for the next train. I thought it was an hour, until the train pulled in and the conductor said it was going to be another hour before they were to head out again. Whatever.

Due to this, I ended up draining a lot more of my phone battery than I planned, but that's okay. Despite not taking nearly as many pictures as I wanted to, I still got plenty, and it was one of those few times that I was forced to enjoy my surroundings without the distraction of the phone.

Once in the city, I got to experience a handful of the touristy things. I started out at Penn Station, made my way up to the surface and decided to do the Empire State Building first, since that was a closer walk than to the theatre. I paid the extra to go up to the top floor, floor 102. It was ... anticlimactic. And a rather cramped space for so many people. I mean, when you're that high up already, going from the 86th floor to the 102nd floor only made a minimally noticeable difference. However, simply being up to the very top of the Empire State Building was still awesome. I've had a 3D jigsaw puzzle of it for years now, so I can actually point out where I was in the real thing.

After that, I needed to make my way to the Lion King theatre so that I could purchase tickets for that evening. When I got there, they still had tickets for that night {I'm not surprised; it was a 7:00pm Wednesday show} and they were advertised as starting at $129. I was willing to pay up to $200 for a seat. I lucked in to getting a fairly decent seat for only $99! I had a tall person in front of me, so I had to move around a bit, and sit up straight for most of it, but the show was AMAZING. Stunning. It gave me goosebumps. The actors are all fantastic in their rolls! But I am getting ahead of myself.

After stopping at the theatre, I still had an hour to kill before the doors opened, so I walked to Central Park. I'd been able to see it from the top floor of the Empire State Building and I'm glad I made the walk to the park. It was kind of cool how, once you were in the park, the city noise was almost completely shut out. You could hear the sounds in the distance, but it felt a lot farther away than just a block away. I didn't get to walk the entire park {another thing added to the list of things I will have to do next time} because I had to head back to the theatre, but I did walk around a little bit, for maybe 10-15 minutes.

On my way back to the theatre, I'd realized that I hadn't had a single thing to eat the entire day, so I found a little bakery right up the street, and bought myself a brownie. I didn't have cake for my birthday, which is oddly something I make as a requirement for myself, but I still had something snacky. It was a birthday brownie.

Once back at the theatre, as I said, I got a fairly decent seat. It was the last row in the left orchestra section, under the mezzanine, right up against the sound booth. I had almost a clear view of the stage, and would have had a great view if it hadn't been for the tall person sitting in front of me, who couldn't seem to understand the concept of sitting still. So I had to keep moving so that I could see beyond him. It's definitely a show that I will be seeing again. Perhaps I'll have the chance at better seats whenever it happens to come on tour. Or whenever I go back to NY. Perhaps I'll even do both.

After the show, my phone was dead, so I had to figure out how to navigate my way back to Penn Station without the assistance of Google Maps. Here I am, alone in NYC, at 10pm, navigating the streets without a phone. Yay for adrenaline! I actually managed to get to Penn Station fairly easily. I'd remembered at least one of the streets so I just followed the signs back to where that street was. I went in to the wrong entrance first, and was rudely redirected to the proper side. Apparently the Long Island Railroad only has one entrance. Whatever. I got back to my car, which was all that mattered.

That evening back at the hotel was very different than the night before. I was much happier with my decision to drive to NY. However, I was ready to get back to VA. I finally crashed around 2:30 or 3am. My birthday came and went without really talking to anyone. It was nice not having to explain to anyone why I was in NY. I'm sure most people there don't care though; they deal with tourists on a consistent basis and couldn't give two fucks why anyone not from there is there.

After charging my phone, and posting about my adventures, I received a message from a cousin who happens to live on Long Island, and we made plans to meet up for lunch the next day, before I drove back. So the next morning, I got up, packed up the few things I had brought with me, along with the few extra things I'd obtained {my grandmother gave me some old photos} and proceeded to check out, then make my way back in to Huntington to meet at TGI Friday's for lunch. This was the first time, essentially, that I was meeting my cousin, along with his wife. Lunch ran later than I anticipated, but that's okay. My only goal was to be back at my aunt's before midnight.

They took me to Michael's afterwards so that I could pick out flowers for my dad's grave site {he was allergic to real ones, and fake ones are much cheaper anyway} and I got these nifty looking black and red ones, with some shimmery crap sprinkled on them. I could have gone without the sparkles, but they looked cool so I went with those. Once we parted ways, I drove out to the cemetery.

It was the first time since we'd buried him that I was back. I ended up spending much more time there than I anticipated as well. Once I was there, I just couldn't bring myself to leave. So I just sat there. I didn't talk, I took a few pictures, and I played on my phone. Mostly I needed to figure out how to get back to the highway from where I was. And I discovered there was a way to get off the Island without having to pay any tolls. By the time I left the cemetery, however, it was rush hour so I spent a solid hour just sitting in traffic, getting lost, and sitting in more traffic. Let's just say I got the full NY experience.

I forgot to mention the tolls ... holy crap. It was $40 in tolls just driving from DC to Long Island! It was about half that going in the opposite direction. I think they care less about you leaving than they do about you coming in. I also took the Brooklyn Bridge to avoid the toll leaving the Island. Which also put me to take the Holland Tunnel. Apparently because of the amount of traffic, it creates a lot of stress on people. Perhaps it's because I wasn't on a time constraint, and I was on vacation, but I didn't stress once about the traffic. Or even getting lost. I just went with it and made sure to take my time heading back to the correct route. Which is funny to me because I'm usually super high strung and have a serious case of road rage, normally.

The drive back was a good way to help me clear my head, but the gravity of visiting the cemetery, and maybe of turning 30, hit me pretty hard that night. I made it back to my Aunt's place around 11, I think, and I was good for a couple hours, but then I just couldn't hold back the emotion anymore. Luckily, thankfully, I had two people who were there to just be there for me. I'm ridiculously grateful for both of them {my cousin and his best friend} because normally I just deal with it on my own. It was a nice change to have people there who weren't going to judge me, or feel weird or uncomfortable around the sudden wave of emotion.

It was a full three days, and I definitely had a new life experience that I'm glad I got the chance to have.

Okay, this is a lot longer than I figured it would be. Surprisingly, I wrote all of that in about 40 minutes. But alas, it's time to end this one. It's very possible that the VA Beach entry will be the same length.

Until then...

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