~ notes from an uncommon journey ~

Things I Accomplished in 2012

Near the close of many years in recent memory, I've felt disappointed and probably have even berated myself that I haven't accomplished much if anything toward certain life goals. Only relatively recently have I realized that one of the major reasons these goals have stayed largely out of reach relates to a health issue. Realizing this has helped me be a lot kinder to myself overall; perhaps that's one of this year's best accomplishments.

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Anyway, while this year I've felt a bit of that familiar disappointment, in addition to being a little kinder to myself about it, I thought I'd make a point to note what all I have accomplished this year.

So here are some of the things I accomplished this year that I'm proud of:
On my other blog, I highlighted size prejudice (here, here, and here) and started a new series. I also created a Facebook page for the blog.

I attended both Camp Widows--East and West. This included driving from Ohio to South Carolina and back--by myself, thankyouverymuch--for East and surviving a horrendous travel experience getting to San Diego for West. At West, I did my friend Judy's makeup for the banquet. Not incidentally, it was in a Camp Widow West session that I started to actually have hope that I might be able to find love again.

I bought myself a widow's ring, which helps remind me that Ron is always with me and helps strengthen my identity as a widow.

I left my part-time job at Bare Escentuals. This is an accomplishment because, while it was difficult to do (as I really loved that job), it reduced my stress and increased my free time.

I redesigned and expanded the scope of this blog.

I read and reviewed the book Therapy Revolution, which taught me how to hire a good therapist and what the therapy process should be like, and which led to being featured on the authors' blog Therapy Soup.

I read a bunch of other great books. Standouts include Evolving in Monkey Town and A Year of Biblical Womanhood, both by Rachel Held Evans; along with several memoirs of Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals who've experienced doubt.

I started featuring my own photography here.

Except for stocking stuffers, I made donations for all of my Christmas presents.

Looking at all of the above, I can honestly say I'm glad I've noted my accomplishments instead of simply regretting what I didn't get done. It's a good thing.

* * *

And now, because all the cool kids are doing it, here are my most popular posts of the year:
  1. Why I'm Leaving Bare Escentuals
  2. Camp Widow East 2012: The Glass is Both Half Empty and Half Full 
  3. Big Changes Coming to This Blog
  4. The Widowed Blog Slam
  5. Books That Made a Difference: Therapy Revolution
 
* * *
 
Do you ever wish you'd accomplished more during the year than you did? What did you accomplish this year? If you did a year in review on your blog, where can I find it?

How You Can Help Newtown

I'm no longer comfortable doing--essentially--nothing...except be devastated, avoid the news coverage ('cause I "take it in" too much), type a condolence message, hit Send.

If, like me, you want to do something to help the people of Newtown, CT, and to work toward preventing future violence in our world, here are a few ideas.

Help send the book It's Okay to Cry to the 700 Sandy Hook students.

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This is something that has the potential to truly help these precious children...and can be embraced regardless of political persuasion.

Eleven-year-old Tatiana Grieve Oliver lost her father when she was 2 years old. When she was nine, she wrote It's Okay to Cry to help other grieving children. She has written a letter to the children of Sandy Hook, so I'll let her tell us more:
I know what it feels like to lose someone. I watched my daddy die. I wrote IT'S OKAY TO CRY when I was nine. My little sister, Keira, illustrated it, and my Mommy took the photographs and helped me publish the book. It is about the things I went through after my daddy died. The feelings I felt. And the things that have helped me find happiness again. It has activities and helpful messages. I really hope it helps you get through the hard times.

My Mommy, Keira, and I are ordering, signing, and sending 700 copies of IT'S OKAY TO CRY to you because I want each of the children at the school to have one. We have faith that all of the people who want to send you their love will donate enough money to cover our expenses. No matter what, we will get them to you.
From Tatiana's mommy: "We will be getting all of the books to Newtown, Connecticut by December 31st with a note that includes each of your names." You can help get these books to Newtown by donating here. (Look for the Paypal "Donate" button.)

Are there other ways you know of that we can directly help? If so, please link them up in the comments.

As for working toward prevention...

If you think we need focus on gun control, partner up with organizations working to end gun violence. Here are two (each logo is linked to that organization's action/get-involved page):

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If you think gun control isn't the answer, feel free to simply choose a different method to help.

If you think we need to focus on improving access to mental health care, get involved with organizations working on that. Here are two of those:

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I'm sure I've just scratched the surface here. As I said above, if you know of other ways to directly help the residents of Newtown, or if you know of other ways to work toward preventing violence, please link them up in the comments.

Note: This post is not about arguing about gun control. Please respect the spirit of ways-to-help in your comments. Thanks.

"Well, Every Family's Dysfunctional!"

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dysfunction: abnormal or unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction within a group. (source: m-w.com)

This post is inspired by a conversation I had with Cassie, one of my widow sisters. 

Cassie and I have a lot in common, not the least of which is the fact that we both lost our significant other and experienced significant trauma in childhood. (I'll write about experiencing multiple traumas in a future post.) We were talking about our backgrounds, and at some point she pointed out that many people, when you relate that your family of origin was dysfunctional, are fond of saying, "Well, every family's dysfunctional." 

But here's the thing: I know people who grew up in homes where grace ruled the day. Where there was no impossibly perfect standard to live up to. Where the children were allowed to be themselves, to develop and grow naturally. You might even call it...functional.

We have conflated dysfunctional with imperfect. Yes, every family is imperfect. But when the whole dynamic is abnormal or unhealthy, that's another thing altogether. And to tell someone who's experienced true dysfunction, "well, every family's dysfunctional" is to--in effect--minimize their experience. Don't do it.

Wordless Wednesday 12/12/12


How We Do Christmas

I don't know exactly when it started, this disgust I have for what Christmas has come to mean in our culture. But it's been recurring for a few years now, like that sinus infection some people get every year like clockwork. And it only grows stronger, year after year. It's definitely not the only reason the season can prove difficult for me, but it's up there.

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Somehow, Jesus came to Earth as a baby, born to save the world has become We "must" buy each other things (and for many, do a lot of unnecessary stuff). Ugh.

Now, I get that many do not believe in Christ's deity but still choose to celebrate the holiday in ways that are meaningful to them. Of course, that's their right, and on the face of it I have no problem with that. But when one holiday "starts" before one or two others have even occurred in the year, and when people in shopping centers get trampled on Black Friday...it makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

Oh, and honestly, I'm not without any materialism--I can't say I haven't thought, on Christmas Days, "I hope I get a lot of really cool stuff." And, truth be told? There is some stuff I'd really like, though it's often way more expensive than any of my family can afford to spend on a present. ;)

But seriously? There's a lot of stuff I just plain don't need. I don't even use all the stuff I have. I need to get rid of a lot of stuff!

And the things I really want? Well, they tend to be things no one can buy.

For as long as I can remember, we've done wish lists in our family. But, of course, "If you could go back in time and prevent my most-cherished dreams from shattering, that'd be awesome!" is not something I write on mine. "Could you replace my depression/grief/loneliness with nothing-but-happiness, infuse energy, line up a life partner, increase professional satisfaction?" Yeah, I don't write any of that either. I don't even write world peace or an end to war, poverty, and devastation--as much as I would LOVE those! 'Cause  yeah, none of us can just magically give these things to each other.

Yeah, I know, this post is starting to sound like this song:



...but I wouldn't say that's a bad thing.

Fortunately I'm not alone in my family in feeling some of these things, and we've already started talking about scaling back, about including charities in our giving. I hope we make it a regular part of our holiday traditions.

* * *

About a month ago, I discovered an Internet gem called A Christmas Letter From Jesus. Now, usually, contemporary people claiming to speak for God make me roll my eyes. But I have to admit I like this one. Here's an excerpt:
While I am grateful for expressing your concerns, I must admit I have some concerns of my own. Even if you choose to say “Merry Christmas” instead of "Happy Holidays", you weren’t honoring me back on the day after Thanksgiving when you knocked over the person in Wal-Mart trying to muscle your way to the front of the line. I know you didn’t see her; that’s my point. And yes, that was a very nice letter to the editor you wrote when the city removed the creche from the front of town hall. But do you really think you are keeping Me the reason for the season when you spend more money than King Herod ever thought about! Folks, you spend more than 250 billion dollars a year on Christmas!!! During a recession!!!!! You could provide clean water for the world for only 10 billion, and you’d still have 240,000,000,000 left for presents. That’s a lot of 0’s and a lot of presents.

Speaking of Herod, he killed a lot of kids hunting me down. Now I’m not trying to be rude, but you need to hear this. You kill me - me, the Son of Man - every time a child dies from a lack of clean water. When someone dies because they didn’t bother going to the hospital as they didn’t have any health insurance; well that was me who died. When you spend billions on yourself while I lack a crust of bread, how can you think even for a moment, that you are keeping me the reason for the season? Folks, it's about time you learned that I spend my time worrying about more than “holiday” trees and nomenclature.
You can read the entire letter here.

* * *

How can we keep Christmas from getting so out of control every year? Is that even possible anymore? What if anything do you do to keep it in perspective in your life?

Wordless Wednesday 11/14/12


Surviving Presidents

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So we now know who will be president for the next four years. Many are delighted; many are dismayed. Me--I'm just delighted it's over.

With as crazy as this campaign got and as our political climate has become (more about that later), it was certainly easy to become distressed by it all. And I succumbed to that my fair share. But you know what? I also reminded myself often: "We will survive whoever wins this." We survived Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan*, GHW Bush, Clinton, GW Bush, and the first four years of Obama. (And I'm only going back as far as I've been alive.)

And--we will survive another four years of Obama. Barring the end of the world...we will very likely still be here in four years.

I'm not saying this because I voted a particular way and now need to console myself. (Actually I'll not be sharing how I voted--it's beside the point; plus, I don't think it's anyone's else's business). My concern here is the lack of perspective by many, the depths of despair by some, the outlandish claims by others.

So here's a little perspective for ya: Barack Obama is neither a god nor a demon. Same goes for Mitt Romney. Same goes for every political candidate of all time.
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On the despair front: the photo on the right. I mean, seriously?? Besides the fact that those look like a man's hands on a lady's body...it seems a bit much to me. (It appears this was created before the election, but I've seen it posted a few times in my Facebook feed within the last day.)

As for outlandish claims, there's always "I'm moving to Canada if my guy loses." Well, first of all...in 99% of the cases: no, you're not. But...if you're serious, you might want to prepare yourself for the fact that it ain't easy. And by the way, like that article says, Canada has universal healthcare (so it gives health screenings to immigrants and rejects those with conditions it deems too expensive), and gay marriage has been legal there for about 7 years. Oh, and in case you're thinking Australia:

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Just an FYI.

What concerns me even more, though, is the way many people are treating those who disagree with them politically. It has gotten way out of hand. In this regard, you gotta listen to this, the most recent episode of This American Life:


I'm thankful for the bright spot in Act One, the politically-opposed authors** who've looked for techniques that those with differing views can use in talking with each other. But on the whole: Ugh.

One of my friends posted this on Facebook today:
Love is wise; hatred is foolish. In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don't like. We can only live together in that way. But if we are to live together, and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet. -Bertrand Russell
And I can only say: Amen and yes, please.

How do you think we can better tolerate differing views--and those who hold them!, to improve our country's political climate and our relationships? If you have ideas for this, please share them in the comments.


*Reagan only made the list for completeness; I happen to think he was one of our better presidents.
**I've not read this book, so I'm not recommending it here, just pointing to it.

Wordless Wednesday 11/7/12

I Will Hold the Space For You


I will hold the space for you...

When the dark days come
And leave their everlasting mark
When past hurts
Color your everyday...
I will hold the space for you.

When small things
Unlock large wounds
When large things
Become just too much...
I will hold the space for you.

When others crowd the air
With words
When no words
Could possibly do...
I will hold the space for you.

When they offer
Unsolicited advice
Uncalled for platitudes
Unfitting verses...
I will hold the space for you.

When nothing will do
But strong coffee
And a thorough unburdening
And a listening ear...
I will hold the space for you.

I will be there
Allowing the pain
I will sit with you
And I will hold the space...
For you.

Inspiration: Express Yourself

I'm not ususally home during the day on a weekday, but I was yesterday, and I caught the Ellen show. Her guest was Madonna. Ellen told the audience that back before she came out, Madonna called her (though the two had never met) to express support and that she also sent her a quote by Martha Graham. (Now, whatever people think about Ellen coming out, her being gay, or Madonna supporting her...this post isn't about that.) Anyway, the quote reads, in part:
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. (source)
Martha goes on, and it becomes clear she was speaking to artists, about creative endeavor. But boy, did that speak to me--generally but also specifically related to my mission. Not that I doubt the rightness of my cause. But that part, "...because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.": Yes. Just...yes.

So--is there something burning to be translated through you? Go on, express yourself.


Books That Made a Difference: Therapy Revolution

Note: This is the first post in my occasional series Books That Made a Difference.

I've been through, already, collectively, years of therapy. The problem is: I almost never felt like I was getting anywhere. (I still feel I haven't really come all that far, so I guess that's fitting.) I say "almost" because, to be fair, there are a few things that one of my therapists in particular did help me see, things she helped me reframe; and I really value the new perspectives that helped me to have.

But--for the most part: I would go and talk for the better part of an hour, leave (often feeling drained), go back a week or two later, do the same thing all over again...and soon wonder if--you guessed it--I was getting anywhere. And, sometimes, wonder if I was paying someone to essentially just listen to me. And I'd think, "Well, I have friends for that."

So relatively recently, when I decided that therapy was something I still needed*, I decided to look into how to find a good therapist. (In the past I'd just taken recommendations from friends or whatever and never did much investigating. That's on me, but--I also didn't know how.)


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I'm happy to report I found that and much more when I discovered the book Therapy Revolution by Richard and C.R. Zwolinski. (Richard seems to be the primary author, so when I use "Zwolinski" or a male pronoun, I'm talking about him.) As  you can see, the subtitle is Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money. With one look at that, I was like: that's exactly what I need!

Here are some of the ideas from the book that I find the most helpful (all brand new to me).

First: If in therapy you're going to explore deep, painful stuff, the therapist needs to first ensure you have or help you build your emotional scaffolding.
When patients talk about painful events, they are at their most vulnerable. They don't yet know how to build their healed "new" selves because they weren't ready for the confrontation with their unhappy "old"selves. In fact, it is not uncommon to find that patients don't have the emotional scaffolding in place to deal with their pasts. Emotional scaffolding is our term for the coping strategies and skills that are taught to a patient by a therapist in order to help the patient manage and deal with the deep inner exploration that may be a part of psychotherapy. (page 6)
Who knew?!? When I read this it made complete sense to me, but, as I noted above, it was a brand new thought. How many times in therapy had I expounded on deep, painful things--and we had done no scaffolding building, or even checking, first? It was many. I don't think I've necessarily been severely traumatized by the retelling, but as I alluded to above, it was extremely draining. I would often leave a session feeling just depleted and sad. (Interestingly, he says you should never leave a therapy session feeling worse than when you got there--see page 129.) I had no idea that perhaps I was being done a disservice by our jumping into the deep end without first seeing how well I could handle it.

Spending a lot of time delving into the past may not be necessary. This is touched on in many places throughout the book. And most of the places where he said something like this, I was thinking, "Hmm, I don't know," because one of my therapists said to me once, "Trauma stays with us until we deal with it," and that made a lot of sense to me. Still does. I think his repeated emphasis on not dwelling on the past may be a response to styles of therapy he's seen where all they did was talk about the past...and get stuck there, just dredging up pain and not really resolving the pain and moving on. In fact, on pages 169 and 170, he says:
[Y]ou may need to check into your past at least briefly. You may even need to spend some time talking about it....And if your past has so traumatized you that you can't remember or talk about it, it might take some time, perhaps several months or longer, to approach the subject and work through it. But neglecting the present and the future in order to immerse yourself in the past can cause you to lose perspective and avoid responsibility for who you are now and who you want to be tomorrow....Because there are linkages between the present and the past, of course you and your therapist will want to understand your past. While understanding the past is important, it is more important to avoid getting stuck in it. (emphasis his)
If you're struggling with motivation to do the work of therapy, a competent therapist can and should help motivate you. (See pages 11 and 38-42.) I am a champion avoider of the painful. So much so that often when one of my therapists assigned me journalling, for example, to do, I wouldn't do it until I was in the waiting room waiting for the next appointment. Sad but true. I even asked this therapist once to get on my case more if I hadn't done my homework, because (good or bad) I knew that would motivate me. I was told I would get out of therapy what I put into it, so it was up to me. Now, it's not like I don't see where this comes from. I get that if I want my life to change, I'm gonna have to put the work in. It's just that that's one of the very areas I was struggling in, and I was told, basically, "you should just do it." Perhaps this even goes back to scaffolding: I probably didn't have the scaffolding I needed to journal about painful stuff...no wonder I didn't want to do it.

A competent therapist should respect--and be able to work with--your belief system or refer you to someone who can. (See pages 3 and 61.) I used to believe that I should only ever go to a therapist who was a Christian. Now, I think that there's probably a lot that any competent therapist can offer me, regardless of whether they're a Christian. Contrary to what some might think, I still have a filter. And--if a therapist works within the boundaries of my belief system or refers me to someone who can, no worries; if they disrespect or try to get me to go against my core beliefs, I'm outta there.

This one is huge: You can and should phone interview a therapist and check out their qualifications before beginning any sessions with them. (See chapter 3.) I remember that I did ask one of my therapists a few questions before meeting...but now I know how much I didn't know then about what kinds of questions to ask and what to look for in the answers. I specifically remember asking for references (that may've been the only substantive question I asked, come to think of it). I was told patient's names are kept confidential (which sounded like the most obvious thing once I heard it), but I was not then told I could ask for colleague references. I never even knew such a thing existed in the therapy world.

Zwolinski defines the major types of therapists (this one's back in chapter 1 on pages 12-17), talks about how to ask about their qualifications and how a therapist should respond, and tells how to verify those qualifications. He also suggests other things you should ask about, including their experience (especially in treating people with problems like the ones you're seeking help with), their rate of successful outcomes (the percentage of cases in which patients are generally doing well post-therapy), their clinical philosophy and theoretical orientation (the general approach they take to therapy), their ethics and values (and their ability to work with yours), and their fee structure. He even provides a phone interview checklist, one of several checklists in the book. So helpful.

Once you've decided to start seeing a particular therapist, in the first session, you should be continuing to evaluate the therapist, and the therapist should begin an evaluation, including a biopsychosocial history, of you. (See chapter 4.) Yeah, for me, none of this ever happened. As to the first part: again, I didn't know the questions to ask and perhaps even that I could ask more questions. As to the second part: how did my therapists know what all was going on with me or rule out other causes for my issues? They didn't.

For me this is perhaps the biggest one of all: There should be a written treatment plan and the therapist should not just share it with you but create it with you. (See chapter 5.) In a treatment plan, patient and therapist list the patient's issues, the therapeutic goals, and the strategies that will be used to meet those goals. It should be referred to throughout therapy to track progress. At the end of chapter 5, Zwolinski provides a checklist for all of the components that your therapy plan should include.

Remember I said I was never sure if I was getting anywhere? Well no wonder! If there was ever a treatment plan in my time with any of my therapists, I was unaware of it. I'm not sure we ever even really talked about goals. Certainly sounds obvious now. It's like the axiom: If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?

I could certainly go on; there's much more in this book that can benefit the therapy seeker. In fact, there's a lot of important stuff I'm not going into here; the above are just the ones that "hit me" the most.

I suppose the true test will come once I put the things I've learned from this book into practice. But now...I have confidence that I can achieve a better result. I feel armed with tools for navigating the therapy journey that I never had before. That is huge.

If you are considering therapy, I highly recommend you read this book.

Note: I purchased this book for my own use. This review was unsolicited and uncompensated. It represents my completely honest opinion.


*For anyone thinking "You don't need therapy; you shouldn't look anywhere besides the Bible," or other anti-psychology thoughts and may be harboring ideas of changing my mind: don't even bother...yeah, my mind's pretty made up. Thanks though.

New Series: Books That Made a Difference

Books!
Yep, I'm an "old-fashioned books" kinda girl. (source)

Soon I'll begin a new, occasional series I'm calling Books That Made a Difference. And it'll be just that: books that, in some way, have made a significant difference in my life. Most will be non-fiction, some not; some will be (that much-maligned category) self help, some not. Sometimes I'll review a book more extensively than others.

Of course, just because a book has made a difference for me doesn't mean it will for you, so, ya know, take it for whatever it's worth to ya. ;) Speaking of which...

Unless otherwise noted, all reviews will be unsolicited and uncompensated. My reviews will always be my opinions alone and completely honest.

I'm super excited about the book I'm working on a review of right now, so watch for that soon! (Update: Here's that post.)

Big Changes Coming to This Blog

Note: When this post was written, this blog a different name, Connie's Project: Reclaim, and it resided at conniesprojectreclaim.blogspot.com.

For a while now, I've had the urge to blog about a wider variety of topics than the title and scope of this blog cover. So--I've decided to expand it! And as a result, soon this blog will have a new name, a new domain (site address), and, to mark the change, a new design.

The new name will be A Road Less Traveled. As far as the new address, well--you've found it! And since most who come to this blog do so through links on Facebook and Twitter, which will continue to auto-post, getting to it will still be easy. The old domain (conniesprojectreclaim.blogspot.com) will display a link to this one.

So--what will I be writing about? Topics may include but will not be limited to:
  • reclaiming my life--I certainly won't be abandoning that topic. Speaking of which, all existing posts on this topic will have an additional "Project: Reclaim" tag added to them (meaning it'll show up in the tag cloud on the upper rightleft--and you can click on the tag to see all those posts if you're interested). For that matter all future posts on this topic will be tagged so, as well.
  • career
  • communications--language, grammar, typography
  • culture--books, music, movies, TV
  • adventures in Christian faith and doubt--including spiritual abuse, Independent Fundamental Baptist-ness, disillusionment
  • grief and loss--including widowhood and unwedded widowhood
  • emotional and physical health
  • makeup and skincare
  • music--as in my adventures in doing music
  • photography--my own and others'
  • relationships and singleness

So there you have it: new topics and a new look--coming soon. Stay tuned!

How I Successfully Formed a New Habit

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You guessed it...there's an app. for that! One day several weeks ago as I was thinking about how to really, finally make a habit out of, well, certain things I want to make a habit of. ;) And I was reminded of the idea that says that if you track something, your performance is likely to be better at it. Simply the act of tracking it can lead to better results. Then I figured that there had to be an app. that would help me do that.

So I searched the app. store for "habit tracking." Well, I originally searched on just "tracking" and got mostly results that were trackers for specific things that don't relate to my life. But "habit tracking" yielded the app. that I use now; it's called Habit Streak. Now, I'm certainly not here to "sell" you on this particular app. Just sharing my experience. If you're going to use an app. or any other external tool, of course, find one(s) that really work for you.

How this app. works is: you give a name and description to the new habit and choose a time of day that you want the app. to ask whether you did that new thing. The idea is that you would report on the previous day's progress...and the more consecutive days for which you can indicate "yes, I did this thing," the longer of a streak you build up--hence "Habit Streak."

The only things I don't like about this particular app. are: it only works for things you want to do daily, and it only reminds you, about all of the habits you're tracking, at the same time every day. Some things I want to be reminded of at particular times, like if I want to start taking a multivitamin daily with breakfast, I might want to be reminded of that at a different time than some other things. But--the company that developed this app. has another one that, from what I understand, allows for durations other than daily, so I may be giving that a try soon.

The interesting thing I discovered, though, is: once it got to the point where I was expecting the reminder (I'd set it for right before bedtime, so I guess that made starting to expect it easier), I would realize that if I hadn't done my new habits, I'd have to say "no." And of course I wouldn't be "disappointing the app."--I'd be disappointing myself.

Whoa. 

I guess that's the power of tracking! Who knew?!?

I've heard that if you do something 27 times, it's a habit. So by that measure I have formed two new habits and am in the process of forming a couple more. Someday I may blog about what some of those new habits are; for now I'm just thrilled that I can honestly say: This is now a habit. With the new things I'm doing, my health and my happiness are bound to benefit.

Why I'm Leaving Bare Escentuals

With Bare Escentuals Executive Chairman Leslie Blodgett
during her visit to our store in July, 2010 (source / credit: Photolosophys)

Well, my reasons aren't about Bare Escentuals (haha, made ya look ;), but yes, I am leaving the company. My last day will be Monday, September 10thSaturday, September 29.

So why am I leaving then? Well, there are several reasons. So, in no particular order....

I need the time back. I have a lot of things I need and want to work on in my life that require more time than I have now, and reclaiming that precious weeknight and weekend time will make a huge difference. (Reclaiming...see what I did there? ;-)

At the store holiday party, 2009.
I'll have less stress. Quite frankly, though it was my part-time job, it was never really a low-maintenance job. I mean, I always had to be in full dress code, and I always had to be in full makeup--and that all makes sense; but in that way, I always had to kind of "gear up" to go to that job. Plus, on weeknights when I had to work there, I'd have to rush over from the other side of town (where my full-time job is) to be on time. And while I learned to allow leeway, if there was a traffic jam...bam: more stress. Oh and I'd have to get dinner in there somewhere...and I almost always grabbed something at the mall. (I've never been good at that make-food-ahead thing....) Can't tell you how tired I am of the Tuttle Crossing mall's food court selections! Do I even need to mention: I almost never even stopped at home between jobs?

With Jamie and Naomi on what I call "LB Day" (see top photo above)

Then there's the fact that I cannot do another holiday season. With all due respect for how much business they bring in for the company, holiday seasons are a whole other level of stress. I could say a whole lot more on this topic, but...I'm just gonna leave it at that for now.

With Natália at the store holiday party, 2010

Last, but certainly not least: I didn't want to be there without Jill, our store manager, who's also leaving in a few days. While Val's the store manager who hired me, and I am forever grateful that she did, Jill is the store manager who's been there from the beginning (starting at the Tuttle store as an assistant manager). And I think in many ways, since becoming manager, she has been the heart of the store, keeping it together through all the changes and all the "craziness" that sometimes happened. In case it isn't clear, this been a long time coming for me, but it would not be an exaggeration to say that her leaving now "pushed me over the edge" to leave now too. (Plus, the actual retail holiday season starts...in a few weeks.)

With Jill on LB Day

Having said all that...I have loved this job. In fact I can say without any hesitation that it is the only job I've ever had--so far!--that I've truly, truly loved. I've said this publicly before, and I'll say it again: Working at Bare Escentuals has brought so. much. good. to my life. I will probably dedicate a whole other post to that soon.

So...it has been a great run. I've truly enjoyed it. My leaving will not be without any sadness. But--I feel good about this decision. It's a necessary step in my life.

I will carry my Bare Escentuals experience with me for as long as I live.

With Princess (at her going-away party), Dani, and Jill in 2012

The Amazing True Story of How I Lost my Ring and Got it Back Again

So my car's been having this issue. (How does this relate to my ring, you might be asking? Oh, all in good time, my dears.) A portion of the plastic (rubber?) shield that lines the car's underbody by the front passenger-side tire has torn, and now part of it is hanging down. Sometimes when I drive, it flaps against the tire and/or scrapes the ground. I've actually had another portion of that shield get damaged before. My trusty mechanic was having a hard time ordering a new one, so he called Honda, who said it was safe to drive without it. So I had him just take it off. Well, now the other side's come undone. Naturally. So this other part of it being torn wasn't a big deal; it's just annoying when it scrapes or flaps while I'm driving.

So this past Thursday morning, before going to work, I knelt down by the tire and tucked that plastic piece up under the metal lip (at the outside of the wheel well) so it'd drive better. I stood up and as I was walking around the front of my car, brushed my now-dirty hands on my pants. (Real sanitary, I know.) I got in my car and started heading to work. A couple blocks later, I notice: my ring's not on my hand. Yes, this ring--my widow's ring:

That says "Always in my heart & soul," in case you're wondering.
So I cycle back to the apartment. I'm thinking: I thought I put it back on, but maybe it's still on my makeup organizer in the bathroom. Or maybe I took it off briefly for some reason when I stopped in my bedroom to grab my phone. Nope. It's not in either place. It's not on the couch. It's not under the couch cushion where I usually sit. It's not on the coffee table or the bookshelf. (Looked in those last few places even though I didn't stop at any of them on my way out. Ya never know, right?)

I go back outside and check the grass--where I'd walked to the car, around where I'd parked the car and knelt down by it and brushed my hands off. I don't see it.

But I'm thinking, Well I gotta go to work, so...I'll have to deal with this later. So--I go to work. And just about all I can think about is...you guessed it--the ring! When I told a coworker about it, she said if I had a magnet, I should use that to try and find it in the grass. Anyway, I finally decided to take a half day and try again to find it. So I e-mailed my boss and told him I'd had "a bit of a personal emergency" come up and I was going to take off to deal with it.

When I got home, the spot where my car had been and the one next to it are empty, and the car that had been next to mine (on the other side) is still there. I park in the spot next to where my car had been, figuring that'd make checking the spot where it had been easier. I looked back and forth across that entire parking spot (and more of the lot) and across all the same stretches of grass I'd looked at earlier and more. I looked again in: the bathroom, the bedroom, the living room--this time checking some places I know it isn't...just in case. It's not in any of them.

So I decide to try the magnet thing. I own several magnets (mostly of the refrigerator variety), but one of the strongest is inside a makeup-brush handle of all things. (It's a single handle with which you can use multiple interchangeable brush heads.) So I grab it and head outside. I walked to the now-empty spot where my car had been and kneel on the curb. Holding the magnetic brush handle in my hand, I dragged it back and forth across that entire stretch of grass between the curb and where the grass ends by the first apartment. I probably looked kind of foolish. I did not care. But...that yielded nothing.

I start to wonder if any of my neighbors have seen it. So I start with the neighbors on one side of me. I've met this couple but, beyond saying "Hi" when we see each other and occasionally asking if they'd turn their music down, I've not interacted with them much.

The guy of the couple was home, so I tell him the situation, and he asks me many of the typical questions you'd ask someone who's lost something. We talk about it for a while, and he says he'll keep an eye out for it. I went back to look at the grass--again.

Mere moments after the he had closed his door, the neighbor comes walking out toward the parking lot. I don't know what he was headed out to do, but, just making conversation, I say "I've already done this--a few times!" So we get to talking about it some more. We check the grass. We look all around my car. We look in the now-empty parking spaces. We look under my car and under the other car sitting right there. We don't see it anywhere.

As we keep talking, the conversation starts to evolve from my ring and car into stuff about our lives. At some point he tells me a little story that illustrates trouble in his marriage. I don't know why he felt the need to tell me this, but he did. We talked a bit about our personalities and backgrounds. As part of all this he tells me a couple of things about himself: 1) he's an extreme introvert, and 2) he's hyper intuitive about people: he can read very quickly and very strongly whether someone's a scumbag or not. He claims that the vast majority of the time he's been proven right.

At another point in this conversation we start talking about holidays, and how Christmas has to such a large degree come to mean that we "must" buy each other things and how "so over it" we both are. He then complains about Sweetest Day. Well...as one who's lost her fiance, I feel a bit different about that one. He (my neighbor) doesn't know my story, and I didn't feel like getting into it right then, so I just said, "Well, let me just say: I'd give just about anything to have Sweetest Day mean something in my life." He seemed to understand the basic idea of what I was getting at and said "Yeah, OK."

After awhile I decide I need to go back inside and take it easy for awhile before having to get ready for my other job. But before I do, I ask for his number. Many times in the years I've lived here, especially if it's late and I'm tired, I've wished I could just text them to ask for the music to be lower...so I don't have to get up and go over there to ask. He says, "Or I could just call you and then you'll have my number." I say OK and give him mine.

Well, this is where it gets "interesting." I'm not inside for very long before he texts me, and...let's just say he hinted that he was going to "go crude" on me. I'll tell you this much: he asked if my phone accepted pictures by text. I'll let you figure out what he was going to do with that.

I told him I do not play that way, especially with a married man. By the way, this is now the 3rd (that I know of!) in-a-troubled-marriage-but-still-married man to come on to me, and I am sooo tired of it. It's tempting to think: Maybe I'm too "caring and understanding." But I know: this is their behavior and they--and only they--are responsible for it.

Before it was all said and done, he: gave me excuses for his behavior ('it's been so hard with everything going on in my life and it's just so rare to find someone who understands me'), tells me he has an impulse control problem (uh yeah, just a little!) and agrees with me that a) the fact that he responded to our one real conversation by going "right there" is a big problem, b) he does not, in fact, want to become "that guy" (the very kind he can supposedly "read"??), and c) counseling would be a good idea.

After this conversation is over, it's time for me to go to my other job. So I go out to the car, start it, and back out. And as I'm backing out, I feel a small bump. I instantly think, "Could that have been my ring?!? Should I stop? Probably not. Oh, wait--yes, duh! It's worth a shot!" So I stop the car (in the middle of the parking lot) and get out.

I look right in front of my car. I don't see it. My eyes travel from there to the parking space I have just vacated. But--rather than being right by where the car is now siting, my ring is...sitting on the asphalt...up by the curb (in the space I'd just vacated), reflecting in the sun.

So...what happened to it? Did it sit right there all day? No, no way. I certainly would have seen it in one of my many reviews of that very spot.

The only explanation that fits the evidence is this: It somehow slipped off my finger without my knowing it while I was adjusting that plastic flap in the morning and got lodged somewhere in the wheel well. And it stayed there--as I drove all the way to and from my first job, over 20 miles each way and most of it freeway--and then it got dislodged as I backed out again.

And you know what I think? I think I was meant to have that experience. I was meant to lose the ring, I was meant to return home when I did, I was meant to have that conversation with my neighbor--all of it...so I could speak some truth and wisdom into his hurting and, yes, messed-up psyche.

It's the only explanation that fits the evidence.

P.S. I have no idea whether he will or even intends to get the help that he needs, and I don't really intend to find out. I am now "on guard" about him, in case anyone is now worried. It's on him to change. I can only hope that he will.

The Camp Widow 2012 Message Releases

At Camp Widow East this year, we did something that was new at the time, a message release. In our conference bags they'd given all of us a glass heart, along with a small piece of paper and a piece of string to tie them together. We wrote whatever we wanted on the paper, wrapped it around the heart, and tied it with the string. Then after the banquet on Saturday night, we all took our hearts with us as we headed out past the pool and down the wooden sidewalk that lead right onto the beach. It was great: we were all in our finery, most of us barefoot in the sand (having left our shoes under a lamp by the pool), with glow sticks around our necks (so no one would get lost...genius!). And then, individually or in groups, standing back or wading in, at whatever moment worked for us, we hurled our message-encased glass hearts into the ocean. It was a great moment.

The thing is, what I remember about it, more than I remember the moment I threw that glass heart into the sea, is that I walked into and lived this experience with my beautiful new friend Kris, which is a good thing, but also that I was a little distracted--by laughing with Kris, by thinking about a CW attendee that I'd started to admire (and no, I'm not going to tell you who it is). It's not my biggest regret in life or anything (ha!), but I kinda wish I'd focused a little more, gotten more "into" the experience.

That was Camp Widow East.

At Camp Widow West, we again had a glass heart in our bag and were told there'd be a message release, but this time it it was going to be on the terrace. In other words: the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina, while it is near the water, is not right on the beach. So I kept thinking, "How are we gonna do this message release? We can't throw glass hearts from a few stories up!"

And, once again, I had paid a little less attention than I now wish I had. (Geez, what is my problem?!?) I hadn't read the note was inside the bag containing the glass heart, explaining the ritual--in truth, I hadn't known there was a note in there--so I didn't know that a) there were actually 3 hearts in there (and 3 small, blank pieces of paper) or b) that we were supposed to write one of the following on each: something you want to get rid of, something you were hoping to gain from Camp Widow, and something you're grateful for. Someone explained it to me right before we walked to the terrace, so I quickly wrote mine out and hurried to join the crowd already gathered on the terrace, listening to Michele explain how it was going to work.

It turns out they had 3 fire pits set up on the terrace, in a straight line but spaced apart, and we would walk to each one and toss one of the wrapped hearts into the fire by turn: in the first one, the thing we wanted to get rid of; in the second, the thing we wanted from Camp Widow, and in the third, the thing we're grateful for. 


Though I'd gone into it in a hurried, distracted way again, this time...I was unprepared for how powerfully this ritual would affect me.

Michele had asked everyone to do this quietly, so it could be a contemplative experience. And we did. It was amazing: a few hundred people, all virtually silent, as we carried out our personal ritual within the larger one, as we huddled in groups just taking in the event or went off by ourselves. I loved that silence. 

I'm not going to name what I wrote on that first piece of paper; suffice it to say it's a negative emotion. And as I waited behind others at the first pit, as I stared at that fire, as I dropped my wrapped heart into it, all I could think was, "I really do want to get rid of this." The tears came up from so deep and they came so fast and so strong, I was caught off guard. 

I can't remember exactly what I wrote on the second paper, but I know it had to do with the connection, the friendship, even the love we share as widows. Those 3 words are points along a continuum; they're all part of the same thing: the bond that the widowed share. It is like no other bond I have ever experienced. It's practically instant, it's very deep, and it is incredibly strong. Even for a widowed person I had a connection with but not even friendship yet, I would go to the mat for them if they had the need and I had the means to help.

I do believe I wrote "friendship" on the third paper. (Did I repeat myself from the 2nd paper? That's unlike me, but while I can't remember exactly, that's what my brain is telling me.) I do believe friendship is what I was most grateful for in that moment. Being surrounded by so many widowed people, many who have genuinely become my friends...I was and am so grateful for them and for the people and forces in my life that took me from a relatively alone-feeling place to Camp Widow the first time to meet all of them and become a part of their lives and they a part of mine.

And the spontaneous hugs when one of them sees your tears...No words necessary.

...except: Thank you, Tom. ♥



What I Learned at Camp (Widow West '12)

Some of the unwedded widows at CWW '12: Renee, Melanie, Brandi, Laura, and me

It's hard to believe I've gone to my 3rd Camp Widow already. (You can read about my CW '11 experience here and my CWE '12 experiences here, here, and here.)

Besides the saga that was just getting there, the weekend was generally awesome. Here are some of the things I learned (or was reminded of) at Camp:
  • I'll remember more from a session if I actually bring my laptop with me to take notes. On Friday it was in my room...just not in my hands.
  • It's OK to leave a session and slip into another one if the first one isn't doin' it for ya. This is one of those things I already knew but was reminded of. And for future Camps I'm gonna give myself even more permission to just not go to any session during a given time period if I'm not feelin' any of 'em. Actually I've done that once already, and I enjoyed it. The whole experience is something I'm doing for myself, after all. There's no requirement to attend a given session. There's no need to force anything.
  • During the social times, while it's great to reconnect with friends from previous Camps, we can't forget to incorporate new attendees. During the welcome reception, a new friend told me it seemed rather clique-ish. This is not good. It's certainly the opposite of what the Camp Widow organizers are going for. Not everyone is a social butterfly like me, and I think it behooves us more-experienced Campers to make a point to seek out and include new ones.
  • Michele Neff Hernandez (Founding President and Executive Director of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation and creator of Camp Widow) led a session called "What the Grinch Taught Me About Love." The big idea I carried away from that session was: Not only are there great men out there (which Ron first helped me see), but there are great men who can and will treat my widowhood with a great deal of sensitivity and respect. And some of these men are actually not widowed themselves!

    I could name numerous examples of this, as I now know many remarried widows. But here I'll just mention Michael Dare, Michele's husband. Michael is the CWW photographer and as such he regularly travels to and helps with an event where he hears--over and over--his wife talk about how much she loved and still loves her dead husband. And he basically thinks it's ridiculous that Michele would do anything but continue to honor the man who meant so much to her. Can I just say? The man is a gem. Anyway--and this is huge--men like Michael give me hope.
  • The big idea I took away from Debra Morrison's session was: I can think about the things that already give me confidence--things I do well, have succeeded at, that I like about myself--and use those things to raise my overall confidence so I can better handle whatever comes next. Debra said: "If we can search for ways to embellish our confidence we will be stronger at everything." That's so cool. On one level this could seem like an obvious thing, but this was a new way of thinking about it for me.
  • I attended Deborah Tucker's session about PTSD. I don't think I have PTSD, but don't think I won't carefully review the comparison chart (grief/bereavement to traumatic grief to PTSD) to see if I'm right. Even more valuable, as it turned out, than the session itself was a conversation I had with Debra and another (retired) therapist later. This was on Saturday night. We talked a bit about a kind of therapy called EMDR. The next morning at the closing breakfast, that second therapist gave me a bunch of really helpful information about this therapy, and I am definitely going to look into it. 
There's still more I learned, but I'm saving it for a future post or two. All in all a great Camp!

Oh, and I didn't just learn stuff; I had fun too!

That's Taryn Davis (Founder and Executive Director of the American Widow Project)
as Darth Vader and Tom Schmidt with me

Just Getting to Camp Widow West Was a Challenge!—or: How to Succeed While Failing

Last weekend was Camp Widow West 2012. I'll blog more about it later, but first I gotta tell you about the saga that is: the story of my just getting to San Diego.

My flight schedule was Columbus to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to San Diego. (There is no direct Columbus to San Diego, and in the ~18 years I've lived here, there never has been. I fail to understand this.) If everything had gone as planned, I wouldn't have landed 'til almost midnight San Diego time, and that would've kind of sucked, but hey, I stay up late every night, so no big deal, right? Oh, if only.

Before I got to the airport, I checked the flight status, and it was listed as on time. (Delta has an app. for that; thank you, Delta. By the way it has a lot of other great features, like the boarding pass right on your phone--love that. Highly recommended if you ever fly Delta.) But after I got to the gate, it slowly dawned on me that they were announcing a delay. (Despite the fact that the announcement was about my flight, it didn't immediately catch my attention for whatever reason.) The plane that would've taken us to Minneapolis was delayed getting to Columbus because of weather, and we were now scheduled to take off almost 2 hours later than we would have otherwise. And if I'd gotten on that delayed flight, I would've had less than 20 minutes to make my connection in Minneapolis. The Columbus gate agent said we were in danger of missing our connection if it took off before 10:30. Mine was scheduled to take off at 10:00.

The Columbus gate agent said something like, "If you don't want to wait in this line [which was already quite long, and of course I wasn't in it], you can come get one of these Need Help cards, and an agent will come speak with you." I'd never heard of a "Need Help card" before; it must be something new Delta's trying. And wouldn't you think everyone would want one of those cards, 'cause no one likes to wait, really? 'Course, if everyone got one, they'd still have to wait! Anyway, I picked one up, and the front said just (you guessed it) "Need Help?" and on the back were all the ways...you could get help yourself! (Such is the state of customer service these days.)

So I called the phone number that was listed, and the first option was "If you are in an airport, press 1." Bingo. Except--the woman I spoke with told me that there were no later flights from Minneapolis or from any other hub (on that or on any other airline) or if there were, they were all sold out. She suggested my getting on a plane the next day, flying Columbus to Atlanta and then to San Diego. Uh...no. My first CWW session started at 11AM on Friday San Diego time. There was no way, if I could help it, that I was going to miss any part of CWW, much less the whole first day. At one point I said to her (animated voice), "I can't miss what I'm going to! I just can't miss it!" I'm thinking, "You just don't understand." I didn't actually play the widow card, though it probably wouldn't have done me any good anyway. So--I decided to risk it in Minneapolis. I mean, it is my hometown so I know the airport really well (although--it is constantly changing, it seems like). And I'm not unwilling to run through an airport like a fool if I have to. And of course, worst case scenario, if I miss the connection and get stranded, I can always call my sister and say, "Hey, can I stay at your house tonight?" lol.

Right after I hung up, a man sitting nearby said to me, "Hey, there's a flight to Los Angeles tonight; it leaves from that gate right over there....I heard you yelling at that woman, so I thought I'd mention it." Well, I wasn't really yelling (honest!), but anyway. I was like, "Reeeally!" He goes, "Yeah." So I called the number back and got rebooked on that flight. I walked to the other gate, where the agent printed my new boarding pass and rechecked my bag. I then walked back over to the guy and thanked him. I again did not play the widow card; ergo, he doesn't even know just how much his sharing that little piece of information means to me.

While waiting for my new flight, I used my laptop to reserve a rental car in LA. Because I didn't plan on keeping it past that night, I made it a one-way. This cost me an (unexpected, of course) $125.

We landed in LA at about 11:40 LA time, and it was midnight before I got to the Avis counter. The Avis guy practically tried to trick me into buying insurance and in the process was slightly rude to me, but I caught the difference when I looked at the total and turned that down.

I have turn-by-turn navigation on my phone (thank you, Google and Android). It got me to Myrtle Beach and back, so I had every confidence it would work here. I even turned down a GPS unit at the Avis counter.

So I went to my car, figured out where everything was and adjusted the mirrors and stuff, typed the San Diego airport (where I'd return the car) into my Navigation app, and start following its directions. Soon I was on the 405 South.

Well, naturally, I did not know that the 405 South closed somewhere in/south of LA. It was one of those deals where they reduced it one lane at a time, before siphoning us all off onto some road called Seal Beach Blvd. I've never been to LA in my life, so I have no idea where I am; I'm just following what the GPS is continuing to tell me to do and what all the other cars are doing. Yes, it's a freakin' backup--at ~1 in the morning.

So there I was, on Seal Beach Blvd. in Los Angeles at ~1AM, inching along, at a mind-numbingly slow pace, with all the other cars. I didn't realize 'til later that all we were doing was getting to the next cross street, which would take us back to the 405, south of the closure. I also didn't realize until it was too late that if I'd gotten one lane over (instead of staying in the slower, left-most lane), I'd have gotten to that cross street a lot sooner. Of course, I had no way of knowing any of this.

At some point while I'm on Seal Beach Blvd., my phone beeps low battery at me. Of course. I said this of my previous phone and I say it of my current one (thanks a lot, LG and Samsung): "There's nothing for the life of my phone's battery quite like, oh, not using it." And of course, when you're using the GPS, it's constant communication with the towers, so...there ya go. I didn't have a car charger with me 'cause I hadn't expected to need one. The only one I owned at the time didn't work anyway! So, even though I was driving (it was really slow, remember?), I found my laptop case, pulled the laptop out of it, found the phone cord, and connected the two--'cause the laptop'll charge the battery. So, for now...whew. Finally, I did get back onto the 405.

At some point after I did so--in Mission Viejo, as it turned out--my laptop battery died. (Side note: Mission Viejo always reminds me of Greg Louganis, as he trained there for the 1984 Olympics, during which I, unaware of his orientation, pined for him. Good times.) So now, of course, I had NO directions. I wouldn't make it like that, so I stopped at a gas station. I went in and grabbed a bottled water to buy and said to the attendant, "I bet you don't have any actual maps anymore?" He said, "No, we do." So we were about to figure out which one would be the best to get me to the San Diego airport, when I said, "Unless you're willing to let me plug in my laptop long enough to call it up, and I'll write it down." He said sure, so I went and got the laptop, he plugged it in behind the counter (he was really nice!)...and the Verizon network decided not to connect me in that moment. He looked it up on his phone, and I wrote it down from there. I bought something extra from him 'cause he was so nice. At one point during this stop, I thought for a second I might've locked the rental car keys inside it. Thank God, that did not happen.

So after a bunch more driving, including getting onto the 5 South, I'm in San Diego. It is past 3 in the morning by this time. The street in San Diego that takes one from the 5 to the Airport is called Sassafrass. Like many freeways, the 5 has signs letting you know of the next 3, usually, exits coming up. Well, wouldn't you know, Sassafrass is not on any such sign. It was on a 'here's Sassafrass' type sign; it just wasn't on a 'Sassafrass is coming up' type sign. The reason I was looking for it on that kind of sign was so that I'd know to get off ahead of time so I could get gas and not have to pay the $9/gallon or whatever that Avis would've charged me to fill it back up. (As it turned out I might've been ahead, if only in reduced stress, if I'd paid it but...of course...I had no way of knowing what was still to come.)

Suddenly, there's Sassafrass. So I get off the freeway, and now...I have NO idea where the nearest gas station is. Can't call anyone or look it up on my phone or laptop 'cause...right, they're both dead. Again, it's 3-something in the morning. Almost every place is closed. The streets are practically deserted. Plus, I'm a woman alone in a (mostly) unfamiliar town. Yeesh. But I figure, I'll just keep driving. I had no concrete plan at this point. Obviously.

Before too long I saw a guy on the sidewalk. I have no idea why he was doing this at that hour, but he had a canister on his back and was spraying down the sidewalk. Though at that moment I didn't even wonder, "Why is he doing that right now?" I just saw a person! I pulled over and rolled down my window. Seeing this, he stepped over. When I asked if he knew where the nearest gas station was, he had to think about it (not a good sign) and then said, "I think if you go up to Laurel and take a right, it's ahead on the right-hand side, but I'm not really sure of that." Oh great. But it was worth a shot, so I said I'd try it.

Well, do I even have to tell you I was tired? I had already essentially stayed up all night. Three o'clock San Diego time is 6:00 Columbus time, sooo...yeah. As such I drove a few blocks without even looking at the street signs. At some point I realized, "I've probably missed Laurel." I decided to just keep driving.

Before too long, I got to an intersection where, off to my left, I could see the sign for the hotel. I thought if I could just check in now, extend my car rental reservation by a few hours (with someone giving me a ride later), then I could be done with this nightmare.

I pulled into the hotel, parked, and went in. I told the front desk agent that I was going to check in but first needed a phone so I could extend my rental reservation. She wanted to look me up first, which was fine, but she looked up both my and my roommate's names and didn't find us. I said, "This is the [Marriott] Marquis and Marina, right?" She said, "No, this is the Hyatt." Ughhh. So embarassing.

Fortunately, the Marriott is just next door. So I got back in the car, drove to the Marriott, and repeated the same thing to that front desk agent. She was very nice. A credit to Marriott, actually. She looked up Avis' number, dialed it, and handed me the phone. That whole interaction was (of course!) with an automated system, but "extend your reservation" was one of the first options. I gave the system all the information it asked me, guessing on what time I'd be able to bring it back. When we got done with all of that, automated lady told me it'd be $137 on top of what I'd already paid. NOT happening. I immediately handed the phone back to the gal and said "Hang this up." She then looked up how to get to the nearest gas station and then the airport and printed out directions and a map for both. I took them and headed to the car...and once I was there, realized, "How am I gonna get back here?"

When I went back and asked that...my memory is a little fuzzy on this point, but I think she may've asked me if someone could come pick me up. Um, yeah, at 4 in the morning, right. I asked if someone could just drive over there with me and give me a ride back. "We don't offer that service." Ughhh. So she called a cab company for me.

After I set that up, I drove to the gas station and filled up--another (unexpected, of course) $25, thank you. When I drove out of the gas station, I didn't realize I was turning the wrong way onto the oncoming side of the street. WOOPS! I realized it immediately, though, and snaked back into the gas station and went out the other way. The airport and Avis counter were just down the street.

While I was waiting to check in my car, the cab was pulling up. I asked the Avis guy (while he was helping someone else) if he needed anything from me, and he said no, so I went out and got into the cab. He delivered me to the Marriott...where I checked in and FINALLY got to my room...at past 4 in the morning.

And that, my friends, is how much Camp Widow means to me.
© A Road Less Traveled

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