Fiction Fix

Fiction Fix Friday: Vindicated

September 25th: You toss your phone into a public garbage can.  


Victoria casually tossed her cell phone into a passing dumpster.

The resounding clatter echoed off the brick walls on either side of the alley.

She paused, turned around, and strode the few steps back to the dumpster. She carefully popped out her blue-colored contact lenses and flicked them into the garbage as well. She impatiently wiped an errant tear off her cheek left behind by the irritant lens. She wiped the reddish-brown lipstick off her lips with disgust as she continued to walk toward the street.

She stepped into the circle of light cast by a street lamp when a car came to a screeching halt in front of her.

She smirked and grabbed the handle.

“You’re late,” she spat as she slammed the door closed.

“So, it’s done?” Her driver asked.

Victoria reached up and carefully peeled off the auburn wig. She paused a moment to comb her fingers through her short, black, spiky hair.

“It’s done.” she replied, her voice emotionless.

“How do you feel?”

“Vindicated,” she barked. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”


Three hours earlier …..

“Allison! Hey Allison!”

She twisted around to see who was stupid enough to call her by her real name here, of all places.

The person swept past her and gathered a middle-aged woman with bleach-blonde hair into a hug.

“Who was that?” her fiance asked beside her.

She turned back to give Jacob a sweet smile. “I have no idea.”

“You turned around like you knew him.”

She swallowed and lifted her head confidently. “We’re at our engagement party. Don’t we pretty much know everyone?”

She wanted to smash his cocky grin with her knuckles.

Jacob laughed and slipped an arm around her waist. “Of course. Though I’ll be honest. I don’t know half of these people.”

“It’s because half of these people come from my world,” she said while trying to keep her voice from betraying how annoyed she was with him.

Just one more hour, she thought to herself.

“So. When is this thing over with? I’m anxious to get you to myself,” he said while nuzzling her neck.

“Hey now. You two will have the rest of your lives to do that. I want to dance with my future daughter-in-law!”

“Dad,” Jacob ground out between clenched teeth. “You’ve had too much to drink. The band is not even …”

The band picked that precise moment to start their next set.

Jacob’s father laughed while tugging on Victoria’s hand. “Let’s go, kiddo. Let’s show them how it’s done.”

Victoria allowed herself to be pulled out onto the dance floor while shooting Jacob an apologetic smile over her shoulder.

She didn’t exactly like Jacob’s father, but she could have hugged him at that moment for getting her out of that public display of nauseating affection.

“You know, Jacob can be a dick sometimes.”

She sputtered a laugh in surprise, though she definitely wasn’t planning on disputing him on that fact.

“But he means well. He really does have a heart of gold. And I can tell he’s hopelessly in love with you. You’re good for him, Victoria.”

She squashed the white hot thread of anger that wrapped itself around her throat and forced a smile. “Thanks Ralph. We all have our moments.”

“Not you,” he said with a smile while twirling her around the dance floor and grinning like a fool to those they passed. “You are smart, beautiful, even tempered and the perfect complement to Jacob’s hot temper.”

“Well thank you, Ralph. I appreciate you saying that.”

“Call me dad. After all, we’ll be family in one more week!”

“Okay dad, you’ve hogged my future wife long enough, my turn!” Jacob cut in and virtually yanked her out of his father’s grasp.

She slammed into Jacob’s chest and let out a puff of air. She felt a headache coming on and she suddenly wanted to be any where but there. She just wanted it to be over.

“Jacob,” she forced a soft tone of voice, “I need to sit down for a bit. Why don’t you mingle?”

He nuzzled her neck and she had to swallow a lump of disgust at the smell of his sour sweat.

“Sure. We have the rest of our lives to dance,” he chuckled before slapping her ass and strutting over to his group of friends.

She fought the urge to roll her eyes and walked over to the open bar. “Whiskey sour,” she said. She checked her watch. Twenty minutes. She turned to look over the room at the pretentious assholes she had no intention of ever seeing again. She watched Jacob punch one of his friends in the chest, hard, and laugh at his buddy’s red face. So infantile. She watched Jacob’s parents hobnob with their snobby friends. She watched a group of stuck up teenagers try and act cool. And she watched the elders gesture and turn up their noses while spewing heated opinions about current events.

“What a bunch of losers.”

She heard laughter behind her and stiffened.

“Here’s your drink, miss.” The bartender handed over her drink. “That’s sort of harsh to say about your future family, isn’t it?”

She studied him over her glass. “Where does it say I have to like the family I’m marrying into?”

He laughed again and shrugged. “I guess you have a point there. I can’t stand my girlfriend’s parents. Is your family here tonight?”

She shook her head. “No. They couldn’t make it. But they will be here for the wedding next week.” She took a large swallow of liquor, effectively swallowing the huge lie. “Excuse me,” she said. He nodded and turned to help a young girl who couldn’t have been more than seventeen.

“Open bar, right?” The girl giggled while twisting a curl around a finger.

“Uh,” the bartender looked across the room hoping for an adult to intervene.

Victoria walked off with a smirk.

She reached their table and sat down, She kicked off her high heels, pulled her purse over to her then reached inside and tugged out her phone.

I’m in hell. Shoot me.” She text. She took another large swallow of liquor and welcomed the sting as it traveled down her esophagus. She watched Jacob grab one of his buddies, put him in a headlock and give him a noogie. “Idiot,” she muttered under her breath.

Her phone dinged.

Don’t you dare blow it now. You’re so close! Besides, I don’t have to shoot you, you’re in hell, so you’re burning to death. Do I smell burning hair?!”

She grinned.

Her stomach growled. She flagged down a passing waiter. “Hey. Would you mind bringing me a piece of that marble cake on your way back, please?” She smiled.

The waiter blinked at the sweetness of her smile and offered a grin back. “Would love to. Be right back.”

How is she doing?” she text.

Okay. She was able to keep a little food down today. She’s nervous something is going to happen to you.”

Nothing is going to happen to me. But I can’t promise the health and well being of the jerks here tonight.”

“Here is your cake,” the waiter said while placing it in front of her.

“Thanks.” She picked up her fork and cut off a generous bite. She popped it in her mouth and was getting ready to text a reply back when Jacob interrupted her.

“How many pieces are you going to eat?” Jacob asked while pulling out a chair and plopping down.

She darkened her phone, placed it calmly on the table and looked at him. “As many as I like,” she responded coldly.

“Wow. You don’t even have the ring yet and you’re already eating for two,” he grumbled then abruptly stopped. “Wait, you’re not pregnant are you?” His eyes widened in horror.

Her eyes mirrored his, equally horrified at the thought. “Good God, no.

“Good. No wife of mine is going to get fat on my watch.” He grinned while snapping his fingers to get a waiter’s attention.

She narrowed her eyes at him and pictured impaling his skull with an ice pick.

“Okay everyone, grab your seats. It’s time for the toasts,” Ralph said into the microphone on the stage. The band members walked off behind him, eager for a break.

Victoria glanced at her watch. Five minutes.

There was a general scuffle as people began heading back to their tables. Jacob’s mother, Margaret, sat down on the other side of her son and tenderly kissed his cheek. He grinned at her like a little boy.

Victoria felt a momentary stab of guilt as she smiled at Margaret. She was one of the few people she actually liked throughout this nightmare and she would regret hurting her. She honestly didn’t think Margaret knew anything about her husband and Jacob’s dealings. Margaret’s nice, tidy little life was about to get straight up messy.

“It’s a shame your parents couldn’t make it,” Margaret said while reaching over to grasp her hand. “I was looking forward to meeting them.”

“Yes well, daddy has a hard time taking any time off. I had to practically threaten his life to promise to come to the wedding next week!” She offered a gentle smile to the woman. She actually had no idea where her parents were and didn’t really care, truth be known. “But my sister promised to come tonight. I just got a text from her earlier and she should be here any minute.”

“Oh good,” Margaret said while patting her hand.

“Well, if she’s as pretty as you, maybe I can hook her up with one of my friends,” said Jacob.

Victoria’s hand clenched into a fist and she gave Jacob a hard smile. “She’s way too good for your friends.”

Margaret laughed while Jacob’s face hardened. He didn’t like when she got sassy with him. At least, that’s what he called it when she dared to disagree with him.

“Okay everyone, quiet down, quiet down,” Ralph said while tapping on the microphone to get everyone’s attention. “Why don’t we start with a little backstory. Jacob,” he gestured to his pride and joy. “Come on up here and tell us the story of how you and Victoria met.”

Jacob’s face turned a soft shade of red and he glared at his father before offering a false smile to those around him. He started to get up from his chair when Victoria wrapped her hand around his wrist and forced him to lean down to her level.

“Yes Jacob. Why don’t you tell them the real story and not the bullshit version you’ve told your whole family?”

He jerked his hand free then lowered his head to give her a hard, warning kiss. “Shut up, beautiful.” He laughed then turned to lift a hand as if to wave to his adoring fans and moved toward his father.

Victoria glanced at her watch. She leaned back in her chair, crossed her arms and smiled her first genuine smile of the night. She couldn’t have planned this any better if she tried.

Jacob took the microphone from his father’s outstretched hand. Ralph proudly clapped him on the back and stepped a few feet away to give his son the spotlight.

“It all started one hot, sultry night in the Caymen Islands,” Jacob began.

Her phone chimed. “SHOW TIME!”

Victoria’s heart began to race and she could feel pure rage building in her chest. Six long months of catering to this asshole, pretending to hang on his every word, forced to endure his sexual appetite, a doormat to his every whim, was finally coming to an end. This was the moment she dreamed about. The moment she vowed would happen. She started shaking and before she could second guess herself, she stood.

“Actually, dear,” she said, her voice dripping venom. “Allow me to tell the story.” She walked up to Jacob and snatched the microphone out of his hands.

“Victoria, what are …”

“We actually met in a strip club,” she chirped. She grinned as several mouths dropped open. “Your precious Jacob paid me for a private lap dance and let me tell you, it was NO big deal.” She smirked at Jacob before continuing. “The club, which is owned by yours truly over here,” she pointed the microphone at Ralph, “was a front for his disgusting human trafficking ring.”

Several women gasped and a few cried out. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Margaret but she was pretty sure she was one of the ones that cried out.

The sound of several doors opening with such force they slammed into the walls caused several people to jump in alarm.

“No one move! This is a raid!” said an officer holding a megaphone.

Several officers dressed in tactical gear stormed into the room. They looked like ants scurrying around the tables holding guns in front of their bodies.

Tables were jostled, glasses were overturned soaking tablecloths and plates crashed to the floor, food turning into mush under the feet of the officers.

“What the hell is this!” Ralph roared.

Three officers stood guard around Ralph and Jacob.

“You are both under arrest for recruiting, harboring, selling and transporting girls for human trafficking purposes,” said the officer standing in front of the men. “We have a warrant for your arrest. You have the right to remain silent…”

Victoria leaned over and whispered into Jacob’s ear. “This is for the girl you called Scarlet who you kidnapped and terrorized. My sister,” she hissed then reaching back, she punched him in the face. “And this is for all of the times your filthy hands touched me.” She lifted a knee and smashed it into his groin. “You sick son of a bitch.”

“That’s enough, agent,” barked the arresting officer.

“Oh, trust me, I’m done.” Victoria walked back to her table, snatched her purse off the table and paused to look into Margaret’s watery eyes. She opened her mouth to say something but decided it wasn’t worth it.

She walked out without a backward glance.

Can We Talk?

September 24th Thursday Thought

Today’s questions are …

What does it mean to live a good life?

To me, living a good life means being kind to people. To be satisfied with my life choices and if I’m not satisfied, then changing things in my life to MAKE it satisfying. Living a good life means being comfortable in my skin. To finally be happy with who and what I am. And to also be satisfied with my physical appearance. We are all uniquely different and that makes us uniquely special. It takes a long time to acknowledge and accept that fact and sadly, some people never accept that, but once you have made peace with yourself, it’s easier to make peace with other people. Living a good life means being patient and empathetic to others. Everyone has their own problems, their own history, which in turn shapes who they are as people. Recognizing and accepting that goes a long way to understanding, and tolerating, people around you. Living a good life means having faith in something bigger than yourself. To have hope. To have dreams. To accomplish goals. To HAVE goals. Living a good life is working hard, saving most of what you make and spending wisely leaving plenty left over to enjoy in your twilight years. Living a good life means being responsible for one’s actions, to thinking before acting. Living a good life means searching for, and finding, YOUR happiness, however that looks for you personally.

Why do we dream?

My explanation is: it’s your subconscious trying to get your attention. However, a better explanation comes from Psychology Today:

  • A component and form of memory processing, aiding in the consolidation of learning and short-term memory to long-term memory storage.
  • An extension of waking consciousness, reflecting the experiences of waking life.
  • A means by which the mind works through difficult, complicated, unsettling thoughts, emotions, and experiences, to achieve psychological and emotional balance.
  • The brain responding to biochemical changes and electrical impulses that occur during sleep.
  • A form of consciousness that unites past, present and future in processing information from the first two, and preparing for the third.
  • A protective act by the brain to prepare itself to face threats, dangers, and challenges

I know it’s fun to discuss, and try to interpret, Kevin’s dreams. He has some doozies. ha!

Where does your self-worth come from?

Most likely from your family. Your parents are an integral part of shaping who you are. If your family doesn’t have good morals, compassion, empathy, kindness and ethics, chances are, you won’t either. Hence the reason the nuclear family is SO IMPORTANT. I think surrounding one’s self with positive and uplifting people feeds a healthy self-worth. Unfortunately, many people do not recognize toxic people until their self-worth has been chipped away to virtually nothing. If do not feel good after spending time with someone, then it’s time to cut that person out of your life and move on to people who motivate and offer honest, positive feedback. It’s also important to recognize one’s own flaws and to actively work on correcting those flaws. Why are you impatient? Why do you lose your temper so easily? Why does it matter to you so much that someone like you? Why do you need praise? Why are you a perfectionist? Once you have those honest conversations with yourself, then you are in a better place to be honest to those around you.

Here is an excellent comment on a thread about self-worth:

“Self-worth is something that you can never derive from external surroundings, it is something you derive from within. It does not have any measuring scale. It is a position which one holds for oneself. Self-worth is an internal state of being that comes from self-understanding, self-love, and self-acceptance. Self-worth is steady and unflinching, and therefore, holds power to radically transform your life for the better.

Having a high degree of self-worth means feeling worthy of good things. It means feeling deserving of happiness, health, wealth, success, and love — irrespective of the difficulties you face, the disappointments you experience, or of people’s opinions.”

Writing Mechanics

How To Solve Writing a Mystery

A bug bit me.

And I’m not mad about it.

Have you noticed I’ve been blogging more? I think I’ve blogged more this past month than I have in the past two years.

I’m blogging more because I’m exercising my writing muscles. I want to start writing more fiction and to do that, I need to write SOMETHING.

I’ve been wanting to write a mystery. I love mysteries and have been really enjoying the mysteries I’ve been reading lately. (Pst – follow me on Goodreads). But the question is, how the HECK do I write a mystery?

I mean, I can WRITE the story, but how do I structure it? How do I write a story that the reader doesn’t see through in the first ten pages?

I’ve been watching a lot of writing vlogs lately. This one from Alexa Donne caught my eye.

Video summary:

1. What is a (bonkers) reason for someone to kill someone?
A. Motivation / Reason

2. Come up with alternates / additional reasons for someone to kill your victim
A. Red herrings / Misdirects

3. Third-Act / Climax (about 70/80% into the story)

4. Brainstorm of good victims – archetypes – list characters around the archetype

5. Who is the killer?

6. Who is the main character?
A. Outsider or an Expert

7. Construct the setting

8. How to approach law enforcement involvement
A. Local cops vs. FBI
B. How does legal authority play in your story?

9. How is the body discovered?

10. How does your main character get involved / find the body?

I have to say, this is helpful information. I’m a pantser, meaning, I write by the seat of my pants. I don’t outline. However, I’m working on changing that because though I can furiously write a story and it’s thrilling to see where it takes me, I inevitably get stuck, then frustrated, then disgusted and I end up tossing my story. I want a more hybrid approach. Where I’m outlining to a point, but then giving myself the freedom to see where it takes me. I think they call it the headlight method.

“Writing by your headlights simply means that you plan the first part of your story then write it. When you get that section written, you’ll be able to see what happens next and can plot out the next few scenes or chapters.”

Learning about the art of writing motivates me!

TueSLAY

TueSLAY – September 22nd

Listened to an excerpt on the Glenn Beck radio show (I know – I rarely listen to Glenn because he’s just so DRAMATIC) and he had a gym owner from San Francisco on his radio show. She was expressing her outrage over the fact that San Francisco is STILL shut down, save for government jobs and out door restaurants. She said her gym had been closed down for SIX MONTHS and how she owed her landlord tens of thousands of dollars in rent. It’s California ya’ll – everything in California is expensive. I can’t imagine trying to run a business. Her voice was wobbly, she could barely get her words out with tossing around a curse word here and there. She was upset. She talked about finding out state-funded gyms were not only open, but had been open since JULY. She talked about how she spent the money to make her gym extend outside just so she would be allowed to have some money coming in. She hated having to do that given that San Franciscoians have to step shit in the streets and how the air quality if poor from so much smog. But she didn’t have a choice – either do that or shut down completely. She found out the state-funded gyms were open from a police officer friend of hers. She approached him one day and asked him where he was working out. And that’s when she found out. She was furious! She went to a lawyer friend of hers to see if she had any legal recourse. She then admitted, and to me, this was the most telling part of the interview, that she hadn’t really paid attention to politics up to that point, but she would from now on. Now, San Francisco just announced that hair salons and gyms would be allowed to re-open on Monday. I”m sure some of this stemmed from Nancy Pelosi forcing a hair salon to open up so she could get her hair done. Screw the rest of you little people.

People. WE HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHO IS GETTING VOTED INTO OFFICE. These people are counting on you NOT to pay attention so they can do whatever they please and we, as sheeple, just bleat and meekly go along to get along. This. Has. Got. To. Stop.

Have any of you listened/watched Kayleigh McEnany, President Trump’s, press secretary, speak? SHE’S FIERCE. I have a girl crush. She is absolutely killing the press conferences. It’s so obvious that the reporters are trying their hardest to get her to slip up, or to push an agenda, or try and make Trump look bad, that I almost feel sorry for them when Kayleigh comes back with scathing comebacks. She is always prepared. She always carries a notebook full of things she’s predicting the media will ask her, and when she starts flipping through her notebook and prepares her comeback, it’s one of the most satisfying things I’ve seen in a very long time. And it’s so blatantly obvious the media has no interest in telling the truth, in getting the truth, or publishing the truth. They are so fixated on making the “Orange” man look bad that they don’t even ask the important questions. Like, why the Democrat governors and mayors refuse, REFUSE, to ask for help to run out the domestic terrorists, aka Black Lives Matters, out of their cities. Did you know that the riots in Portland have been going on for OVER 100 days? I feel sorry for the regular people in Portland who just want to go about their lives but can’t because their government is more concerned about their hatred for Donald Trump than they are for the safety of their constituents. Wow.

By the way, the man in the above video, Brandon Tatum, is a conservative YouTuber who I’ve been a bit obsessed with lately. It’s SO REFRESHING to see African Americans finally speaking out against the abuse against them from the Democrats. Black Americans have been hoodwinked for decades and it’s time to wake up and follow a team who will actually help them. Anyway, Brandon started “The Tatum Report” largely in response to the fact that The Drudge Report has started leaning to the left and no longer links to articles about the TRUTH. If you’re interested in reading stories about what REALLY happened, stories that you won’t hear/see/read on main stream media, this is the website for you.

I woke up to this today:

Not bad after 30 years of marriage!

I put one scoop, ONE SCOOP, of caffeinated coffee in my coffee maker the other day, along with two scoops of de-caffeinated coffee, and I had heart palpitations for most of the night. COME ON, NOW! It annoys me to no end that my heart can’t handle caffeine anymore. I really miss the days of drinking energy drinks and then a thermos full of coffee – I got so much done! I was so focused!

But let’s be honest, that’s probably the biggest reason why I have heart palpitations now – because I used to drink energy drinks and a thermos full of coffee every day.

*sigh*

I’m still fasting. I fast every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. I stop eating at 6:00 the night before and then I will eat a small dinner at 6:00 the next night. I try and avoid breads as much as I can and stick to more protein. I’ve also been drinking V8 juice, which isn’t my favorite but it does make me feel better. In fact, I convinced Brandon to start doing the same. I worry about his health as he hates fruits and vegetables. But he says he’s been drinking V8 juice and eating Welch’s fruit gummies, which isn’t ideal, but better than nothing, I suppose. Have I lost weight? Well, my clothes are definitely looser and I’ve lost about twenty pounds, but I seem to have hit a wall. I could amp my fasting up a bit but honestly, I don’t want to. My goal was to always get to a stage where I feel comfortable in my skin and I do. I have been using the treadmill more but I have to be careful with how much I do that because it makes my hunger pangs FIERCE, so I tend to space my walking sessions out a bit more. When I do walk, I carry hand weights, too, so that I can build a little muscle. I worry about osteoporosis because I work with a doctor that addresses that, has models to show patients and it when you have osteoporosis, your bones literally look like swiss cheese. No thank you. I have no idea when I will stop fasting. It’s become a fact of life now and I’m used to it. It has definitely re-wired my brain when it comes to eating when I’m hungry or eating when I’m bored. Most of the time, I’m truly not hungry so I don’t eat. Even on feeding days. Though I COULD eat, if I’m not hungry for breakfast, then I don’t eat breakfast. Now, that’s not to say that there are days I’m so ravenous I would push a 90-year old lady over to get to some food, but those days don’t happen very often. (And for the record, I wouldn’t actually push a 90-year old lady over, though I would be tempted. ha!)

Baby is no longer in the corner. Kevin and I realized the other day that we have a bedroom that we never use. Blake’s old bedroom. So I talked him into painting it a pretty mint green, hung some white curtains up, ordered a corner desk and chair, and shelf from Amazon and I now have a new office!!

The white curtains were free (thank you Tiffany!) and I’m thinking of taking them to get them altered so the length comes to just under the window and not onto the floor. The boxes on the shelves are my bullet journal supplies. I used to have them in the Merry Christmas box on the top shelf but I quickly outgrew it. The white box on the shelf has my eyeglass cleaner and is a space for other stuff is that currently cluttering up my desk. But I LOVE having my own space and I’m hoping it will motivate me to actually start writing. (*snort* How many times have you heard THAT one??)

That’s all for now. Time to go SLAY the rest of the week!

Podcast

Podcast: Ethical Questions Answered

 

Episode description:

How would you respond? Join us as we ask each other ethical questions. We like to challenge ourselves to look at all sides of the issue as one answer really doesn’t answer all.

Example: You’re getting married and you receive a present in the mail from your favorite uncle. He lives abroad and always sends one-of-a-kind gifts. When you open the present, it’s broken. Do you tell your uncle?

Tune in to weigh in on this question and more!

Florida 2020

Back from Florida

It’s a strange time to travel. Everyone is walking around with a face diaper, erhm, a face mask on and eyeing each other in anger or suspicion.

We were supposed to be cruising around Northern Europe right about now. But of course, 2020 (or China) had to be a bitch and ruin our plans.

Ruin a lot of people’s plans.

Actually, ruined a lot of people’s lives, let’s be honest.

We had booked this cruise last year. And I really thought, I was CONVINCED, in April that we would be able to go on our cruise by September because COME ON, this nightmare can’t last that long, right? RIGHT??

*SIGH* We had planned on flying to Amsterdam, driving to Rotterdam, catching the boat and cruising to Germany, Southampton, and France. We would have been gone nearly two weeks and I was looking forward to being gone for two weeks.

I was GUTTED when MSC canceled our cruise. Since the cruise line canceled, we opted to apply that money to another cruise with a $500 bonus (which means for us, specialty dinners on board which cost extra and something we would not pay for normally).  It sucks. And I’m trying not to be selfish and bitter about it, but I am feeling selfish and bitter. I’m optimistic we’ll be able to take this cruise next year, but with the way things are going, who knows.

So plan B. We wanted to do something. One, because we wanted to get away and have SOME sort of vacation, however selfish and trite that sounds considering a lot of people don’t even have jobs right now. But two, we wanted to prove to ourselves, and the world, that we were NOT going to allow COVID to run our lives. Not entirely. We’re already being forced to wear masks everywhere and not participate in certain activities anymore. I can’t take any more restrictions!!

We wanted to get away, but where?

My employer, at first, published travel restrictions – if you take a cruise, go to New York or leave the country, you’ll have to be tested for COVID when you return and self quarantine for 14 days when you get back. Which was a bummer because my first thought was Bermuda. We LOVE Bermuda and if you’ve never been, I highly recommend you go, if you get the chance. You will never find a more beautiful beach. Soft pink sands. It’s just gorgeous. But with my employer’s travel restrictions, we knew that was out of the question because one, there is no way in hell I’m getting tested for COVID. Ever. And two, who has the time to be off work for two straight weeks, and/or the paid time off to use for two straight weeks? (Again, I’m sorry if this sounds selfish to all of you that have been out of work – first world problems, I realize. But we all have problems that are uniquely our own).

So Bermuda was out.

We would have to pick something in the states, other than New York.

Kevin and I started talking about when the kids were younger and we would go to the Florida beaches every year. Then we discovered cruising and haven’t been back to the Florida beaches since. I started doing a little research and we decided on a short three-day stay in Clearwater Florida.

We opted not to stay a whole week for two reasons:

  1. Kevin really couldn’t be away from his work for a whole week
  2. The beach is great, but it gets a little boring after about three days.

We ended up staying at the Royal North Beach.

I wrote this next bit when we were actually in Florida.

Travel day –

I wasn’t very hungry before leaving for the airport so I ate half a doughnut and two pieces of toast, primarily because I wanted to coat my stomach before taking an Excedrin. I always take an Excedrin on travel days as it helps prevent travel/dehydration headaches and I tend to get a bit stressed on travel days. (Traveling is stressful, don’t deny it).  I don’t like to drink a lot on travel days because then I have to pee all day, hence, dehydration issues.

Besides, I would eat lunch, it would be fine. (Famous last words)

We got to the airport about 10:00 AM. We bought some coffee, put it in our thermos’s and waited for our plane to arrive, which was a few minutes late. If it had been any later, our whole day would have looked very different.

We got to Dallas just in time to make a mad dash to our next gate, which was boarding as we walked up. We didn’t have time to buy lunch or even water before we boarded the plane. We could have bought something, we technically had time as it was a full plane, however, the food lines were long and looking back, I’m glad we didn’t, because an airline person came on board as we were waiting to take off making note of empty seats and bringing standby people on. The plane was packed. So, if we hadn’t been in our seats they might have given our seats away. That would have sucked.

Which, side note, we absolutely did not social distance. However, it was mandatory that everyone wear a face mask – they wouldn’t allow you to fly, and they would bane you from future flights if you didn’t wear a face mask. Still – it was weird and uncomfortable to be that close to strangers as we have gotten used to NOT being around strangers.

So. We’re on the flight to Tampa, waiting to take off and neither one of us has eaten much since breakfast. No time for food. We were both fine, honestly. I’m used to fasting and Kevin seemed like he was fine. The no water thing though, that was what I missed the most. And the airlines are not serving any food or drinks during flights right now so … all we had was the coffee in our thermos.

But, shame on us for not having snacks. We’re seasoned travelers and we know better. But we just thought, meh, we don’t really eat snacks when we’re traveling and it’s just extra weight. Of course, the first time we DON’T take snacks is the time we NEED snacks.

Live and learn.

We noticed, as we’re taxiing in at Dallas and Tampa, that there are FLEETS of airplanes grounded on the sidelines. Kevin counted 37 American Airline planes grounded in Dallas. It was sad to see so many airplanes not being used. And that explains why they were packing us in like sardines on the flight out of Dallas – the airlines can’t afford to fly planes that are half full.

We get into Tampa around 6:30 PM. The manager of our hotel, (we stayed at the North Beach hotel in Clearwater), had called Kevin right as we were boarding our flight out of our hometown and told him, due to COVID, the office was closing. Kevin told him that was okay because we weren’t going to check in until around 8:00 PM anyway.

The manager then text us shortly after we landed in Tampa and gave us the key code to room 201 so that we could bypass the office and get into our room. We would then check in with him at 9:00 the next morning.

That took some pressure off us to hurry up and check in as again, we were pretty hungry when we landed in Tampa and we didn’t know if we would have time to get anything to eat before everything closed.

We navigated to the rental car desk, got our car and drove toward our hotel.

(Side note about the rental car. It’s a dark blue 2020 Chevy Malibu and I hate it. The headrests are too high up and every time the car jerks, my head would slam back into the headrests and the clip in my hair would loosen and dig into my scalp. Also, it has an “auto-start” feature. So every time we came to a stop light, the car would shut off! At first, it freaked me out, but it would easily start back up once Kevin pressed on the accelerator. I guess it’s suppose to save on gas, which I’m sure it does, and act more like a hybrid, but wouldn’t continuously shutting down and starting back up wear out the starter quicker? What do I know about cars. Anyway, that was a weird and scary experience, we thought we got a lemon at first. Kevin likes it; it freaks me out. I don’t care for that feature, at all).

We stopped at McDonald’s, grabbed a quick quarter pounder, then found a grocery store and picked up groceries for breakfast and lunch. (Our hotel room came with a kitchenette). We finally got to our hotel about 8:30 PM. It was Saturday night and there was a TON of traffic and lots of people walking around. We had to drive through downtown Clearwater to get to the north side of town to get to our hotel and it reminded me a bit of New Orleans – just the party atmosphere, the closeness of the shops, the number of people walking around.

Once we arrived at North Beach Hotel, we walked through the gate, walked up to our room, (which is a corner room), put in the passcode and voila, we were in!

I was a little worried when we arrived because there were some party goers in the pool and they were loud, but it quiet down about 11 and we both slept pretty good. I took some pictures of our hotel room.

 

Day One – Sunday

It’s raining. Tropical Storm Sally is blowing through – we’re on the western part of the storm, and though it’s not storming, it’s a steady rain. We are literally across the street from the beach but the weather is preventing us from truly enjoying it. Kevin went out this morning to check in and grab some coffees (we didn’t realize the kitchenette didn’t already have coffee or we would have bought some when we went grocery shopping last night). He said that he walked across the street to see the beach and nearly stepped in dog poop. People are so annoying and consideration is a lost art.

He said there were a few people on the beach and a couple was walking out with beach towels – they weren’t going to let a little water RAIN on their parade. (See what I did there?)

Since it was raining, and was due to rain all day, we stayed at our room for the morning and worked on our laptops.

It as a really relaxing day. Our hotel room was set up more like an apartment and it was very comfortable. After lunch, Kevin drove us up and down the coast. We didn’t have any plans, we just wanted to familiarize ourselves with the area and determine if this was somewhere we wanted to come back to on a yearly basis. Just long enough to separate ourselves from “real” life, recharge, regroup. We had to stop at a gas station and pay $1.50 for air (FOR AIR) to fill up a low tire. (It’s a rental … don’t they check that sort of stuff??) and then we stopped at Sand Key Park. We plopped on ball-caps and walked down the beach in a light rain. More of a sprinkle, really. But it was SO NICE. Very few people out. The temperature was pleasant.

I could be bummed that the weather was not cooperating, but what good would that do? The fact is, we’re not home, we’re staying in a very comfortable hotel room/apartment, right across the street from the beach (even though we can’t see the beach from our windows) and it’s quiet and soothing. Royal North Beach hotel is right on the outskirts of a residential area so it feels a bit like we’re part of the locals. We’re away from the mega hotels and it’s just … cozy. Did I mention it’s quiet??

After walking on the beach for a bit, we got back into our (lousy) car and located Pier 60, which was what we wanted to visit tomorrow and then went back to our room, watched Back to the Future two and three, ordered Domino’s pizza and just vegged out.

This is the kind of vacation we wanted. We didn’t want to have to be anywhere at a certain time. We didn’t want to have to get up at the asscrack of dawn, hurry and get ready, hurry out the door, to participate in an activity. (Like an excursion on a cruise). This place is awesome but the only thing to really do is the beach which again, is what we wanted. We just wanted a nice, relaxing, chill, do-what-we-want-when-we-want kind of vacation.

I am hoping for some sunshine at some point while we’re here.

I’m really glad we didn’t book the whole week because honestly, three days is about all we can handle – a whole week might have been a bit too much for both of us.

Day Two – Monday

Still rainy. Tropical storm Sally was determined to stick around. In fact, the Weather Channel made a lot of comments about how slow moving she was. We got off lucky though, it could have been pouring the entire time we were there. It did rain quite a bit, but there were periods of time when it either stopped entirely or just sprinkled. We took advantage of this to walk down to Pier 60. It was a little over a mile to get to the area. We got sprinkled on but it was actually nice and cool, until we left the coastline and started walking between buildings, then it got to be hot and humid. By the time we got back to the room I was dripping sweat. I get so annoyed with myself whenever we go any place tropical – I just can’t handle the humidity. It’s like it triggers my body and I just start perspiring like crazy.

We did stop to get some ice cream and it was nice to eat ice cream while looking at the ocean. Another check on the trip list.

When we got back to the hotel, it was still only sprinkling and was actually lightening up a bit so we donned our swim wear and headed to the beach. We spent a very relaxing two hours on the beach. You wouldn’t think sand is hard until you don’t have chairs and are forced to sit on the sand for a few hours. Kevin napped and I just sort of zoned out on the waves. It was so relaxing to just sit and veg out. I didn’t have to be anywhere, I didn’t have to worry about … anything. I was totally relaxed. It did sprinkle on us but again, it was nice. It was cloudy so we didn’t have to worry about being too hot.

Kevin and I walked the beach for a bit and he hunted Abalone shells – he wants to use them in a “project” though he doesn’t know what he wants to do yet.

We ordered pizza Sunday night and we made it last for three meals. So, we had pizza for dinner Monday night, too. Again, not exciting but very relaxing.

I’m quite sick of pizza.

Day Three – Tuesday

Another rainy day. Disappointing because once again, I was hoping for at least one sunny day but alas, Sally just wouldn’t move on and bother someone else. So. We slept in, had a relaxing morning at the hotel and then it started clearing up. We finished off our pizza (honestly, I can’t even stomach thinking about having any more pizza at this point – I’m so pizza’d out). We ended up spending the majority of the afternoon on the beach again. I tried to read but it sprinkled so I worried about that affecting my Kindle. Kevin went walking for Abalone again and when he got back to me he said he found a place where we could rent chairs and an umbrella. So I packed up our stuff and walked down to the pier (about a mile), rented chairs and we wanted an umbrella, but they were so slow that I think the guy thought he was doing us a favor by “upgrading” us to a cabana, though I wish he hadn’t. It stifled the air and we would have preferred an umbrella. But it was nice to actually have chairs to sit on and we enjoyed a solid two and half hours on the chairs before the skies started darkening again and we walked back to “our” section of the beach.

We got cleaned up but it was 5:00 PM by this time and I really didn’t want to put on a full face of makeup that late in the day so we Googled nearby taco places, found Taco Bus, went on to their website and ordered dinner.

We went and picked it up. It was a cool restaurant. It was made to look like you were ordering from a food truck from inside the building. Kevin got beef tacos, I got a chicken bowl and we got some rice, beans and chips/salsa. It only came to $21.00 but we had so much food we couldn’t finish it. It was delicious though.

We spent the remainder of the night watching “Storage Wars” and “Deadliest Catch.” We only watch those shows whenever we go on vacation because we’re too cheap to pay for cable. Actually, neither of us like watching much TV so it just doesn’t make sense to pay for something we’ll never use.

And that brings us to now and my final thoughts.

The hotel: We stayed at the Royal North Beach hotel and we really liked it overall. It was convenient, cheap, and more of an apartment than a hotel room. We had a full kitchen, complete with a kitchen. We bought groceries and were able to eat breakfast and lunch without having to stress where we were going to eat everyday. And of course, we bought enough pizza to last three meals. We saved a ton on food this trip.

I REALLY liked how housekeeping left us completely alone. They never came in to make our bed and we didn’t have to stress about getting out so they could do their thing. When we needed fresh towels, we put the dirty ones in a small clothes basket and put it outside our room. Housekeeping would then exchange fresh towels, a trash bag and toilet paper. So we never, not once, saw anyone from housekeeping. That may not be for everyone, but I LOVED IT and think more hotels need to implement something similar. It just took a lot of stress of being out of the room so they could do their thing.

I also really liked how we didn’t have a room key. We had an electronic keypad that we input a code for and that’s how we got in/out. So again, we didn’t have to stress about making sure we had a room key with us whenever we left the room and we didn’t have to worry about accidentally locking ourselves out of our room.

The only thing I really didn’t like about the room was that the floors were FILTHY. The whole apartment had tile floors, which was good, but they were so gritty and nasty that I had to literally wash my feet before getting into bed at night and/or wear flip flops to prevent having to wash my feet. I get that it’s probably really hard to keep the floors clean because of everyone tracking sand into the room, but this wasn’t just grit from the previous occupants, it was clear the floors haven’t been mopped in quite some time. I think I was especially sensitive to that because I have a thing about clean floors anyway.

But other than that, we really enjoyed staying there and would stay there again. There are four hotel complexes in a row near our North Beach hotel and I think we are going to try and stay at Hotel Cabana next time as we have decided that we are definitely going to stay in Clearwater again. We really enjoyed the area and how our hotel was just on the outskirts of the “busy” area so it was super quiet and we sort of felt like a native of the area given we were so close to residents.

We really want to find a place we can go to for a few days to enjoy the beach every year and Clearwater is definitely a contender.

It was really nice to see Kevin relax for a change. He’s the kind of person who NEVER relaxes, he’s always doing something. He’s one of the most productive people I know (I always joke that I married the female version of Heather, my doctor’s PA as she’s one of the most productive people I know of the female sort). He napped and was FORCED to do nothing but relax. In turn, that relaxed me. In fact, Kevin brought a little PS2 game console thing and he has spent a good portion of this trip just playing that. (And when we return home, he won’t touch it again until next vacation).

We had to air up our right front tire on our rental car several times. We came out one morning and it was 14 pounds of air! That was super annoying but I suppose that’s a risk you take when you rent a car. So, the low tire was always on our minds whenever we used it to go anywhere. (Which was only twice, the first day when we drove up and down the coast and when we drove to Taco Bus for food).

Now, we’re currently sitting in the Tampa airport waiting for our flight to Dallas to board. We have about a three-hour layover in Dallas so hopefully we don’t have to stress about getting off the flight and running to our gate in Dallas. But you never know how it will go, I suppose.

We’re being smart about this this go around and we bought water to put in our thermos’s, which was another smart thing to bring along with us, too.

I think we spent the perfect amount of time at the beach though Kevin says he wouldn’t have minded staying another few days. He really responds to the beach and feels like he could easily live on the beach. He used to CRAVE the beach when we were first married and the kids were younger but then we got hooked on cruising and we just sort of forgot about going to the beach. Now, because of COVID and who knows when the cruising industry will be up and running again, we’re back at it again. I have a feeling that this trip has re-awakened Kevin’s passion for the beach.

They are getting ready to call our flight so it’s time to wrap this up. I already miss it.

So that was our trip. It was short, sweet and wet. Again, the weather could have been so much worse so I feel like we were lucky to just get some sprinkles now and again. And the cloudy weather actually made the beach more comfortable than it would be if it was sunny the whole time.

We have so many frequent flyer miles built up that we’re talking about taking another small vacation in the spring. Maybe. It really all depends on what happens after the Election and this COVID nightmare.

But for now. It was fun to get away and thumb our nose a bit at the pandemic disaster.

Can We Talk?

September 17th Thursday Thought

Today’s question is …

The most surprised you’ve ever been….

I don’t like surprises. I like surprising people but not don’t surprise me. There’s something about losing that small bit of control over myself in the split second that I’m taken aback by something.

With that said, I haven’t been surprised often in my life. I think it’s largely due to the fact that the people in my life know that’s a sure fire way to piss me off so they don’t do it.

However, there have been a few times I’ve been pleasantly, and not so pleasantly, surprised in my life.

When I was pregnant with Blake and my water broke at 3:00 AM eight weeks before he was due to be born. I was in denial. I convinced myself I was NOT in labor because it was way too early and I just sucked it up and went back to bed. (My water broke on the toilet – a little TMI for you). When the contractions became too much to bear I finally cried uncle and called my doctor’s office at 9:00 AM. Whey they heard my story they told me to immediately go to the ER – Blake was born nearly three hours later – a whopping 4 lbs and 12 ounces. (He spent six weeks in the NICU because his lungs hadn’t fully developed). That was an unpleasant, and pleasant, surprise. And it shows how incredibly naive I was. To be fair, it was my first pregnancy and I was clearly clueless.

This next surprise was in our first house together. It was a rental house. Somehow, and I still can’t believe he pulled it off, Kevin hid a HUGE curio case in our spare bedroom. He covered it with a quilt, or something and I just never saw it. I know that sounds crazy, how can you not see a huge curio case? But I never went into that bedroom, we used it as storage and it seems like there were quite a few other big pieces in that room and I just never … realized that it was in there. He unveiled the curio case on Christmas morning. I had wanted something to put all of my Precious Moment figurines in, I was getting quite the collection and no place to put them, and he was tired of seeing them accumulate, I suppose. Anyway, I was GENUINELY surprised, and impressed, that he managed to pull one over on me. I’ll never forget that Christmas, it was fun. (Side note: Speaking of Precious Moments – are those still a thing? Kevin and I were talking about them the other day. I wonder if they are worth anything? Because I have quite a few to get rid of if that’s the case).

One of my most unpleasant surprises was in 2010. The kids were at school, Kevin was on his was to work, and I was pattering around the house when I got a call from an unknown number. Of course, I didn’t answer the phone because 1. I hate talking on the phone and 2. I especially hate talking to salespeople. But I (thankfully) checked the message right away). It was from a man I didn’t know telling me there had been an accident. I could hear the sirens in the background. He said that Kevin had been in a motorcycle accident and they were taking him to the ER. Kevin had asked the man to call me. I have never experienced such raw fear before that moment. I immediately changed into presentable clothes (because of course, I had been cleaning house and looked like something a dog would have dragged into his master’s house) and raced to the hospital. Kevin had shattered his pelvis and they were shipping him to a medical-teaching school for specialized treatment. (i.e. to put the bag o’ glass back into a pelvis – that’s how the ER doctor described his pelvis to me). I will never forget that stomach dropping, nausea-inducing, moment in my life.

Maybe that’s why I don’t like surprises overall, because the surprises that I remember are not GOOD surprises. Hmmm ….

Your turn.

Podcast

Podcast: What is a Conservative?

 

Episode description:

Do you know the difference between political “party” beliefs? We thought we did until we did a little research and discovered that question is a lot more complex that we first thought. Listen as we break down the different political parties and what each party believes. What party do you identify with?

TueSLAY

TueSLAY – September 15th

I AM …

I am from hardy stock.
I am from hard-working, honest parents.
I am from humble beginnings.
I am from a loving environment.
I am from a varied work environment.
I am from the Ozarks.

I am still in the Ozarks.
I am strong.
I am stubborn.
I am cynical.
I am healed.
I am renewed.
I am loud in sneaky ways.
I am a strict mother.
I am a devoted mother.
I am a daughter, sister, and aunt.
I am a faithful wife.

I am a computer nerd.
I am a reading fanatic.
I am an Introvert.
I am happiest when quiet.
I am blazers and turtlenecks.
I am hiking boots and clunky heels.
I am books, coffee, and comfy sweats.

I am a fiction writer.
I am an aspiring writer.
I am a writer who never finishes her thou…
I am a healthcare worker.
I am a multi-tasking aficionado.
I am a devoted Christian.
I am not your typical Christian.

I AM BLESSED

Time to go SLAY the rest of the week!