It’s 2018, we’ve moved halfway across the country, and life is beginning to show the signs of settling back into some sense of normalcy in our household. J went back to work and I am waiting on school to start and generally speaking we’ve got an idea of the next few months.
If you follow me on instagram, you’ve seen some of our recent local adventures, now that we’re back in southern California.
It’s been good to be out of the cold weather, and I can already feel my mental health improving. It also helps that not only do I have friends still here, but I actually have, somehow, more friends here than I did when we left three years ago. Some have moved here and others have naturally grown from acquaintances to friends from just being in my broader circle, and I’m grateful for all of them. And, unlike my usual moves where I don’t have a niche (which is an ongoing issue for military spouses, and one that I should probably blog about separately), I also have a cohort to join and which has already been welcoming and happy to meet me.
So all in all, things are good.
And what of the writing?
Well, I’m working on a couple of things. The first is a fresh media push for THREADWALKERS, including a local book launch sometime in the next couple of months. (I’m seeking book bloggers/vloggers/etc for reviews and interviews and all, so if you are interested or know someone who is, please get in touch!)
I’m also working on the next book… It’s not a follow-up to THREADWALKERS but a new thing entirely. It started as a pet project to get some ideas out of my head but has grown into a thing that might turn into a Book. We will see. There’s still a lot of work to do.
What can you expect in 2018 from me?
I’ll be going to some conventions this year (would a schedule on my About page be of interest?).
New content related to military spouse life.
New content related to writing.
More travelogue things because you know I won’t stop traveling and that’s what I enjoy writing about here the most.
So there’s the update! If there’s anything you’d like to know more about, just get in touch!
Somehow even though I’ve been counting down the months until we would move away from Chicago since, oh, 35 months out (what can I say, winter is NOT my favorite thing and there’s a LOT of it up here), this move feels like it snuck on me.
Maybe it’s because we just moved into the current place a year and a half ago. Maybe it’s because I’ve just got so many plates spinning (working and booking and grad schooling and bears*, oh my!) Or maybe it’s that this move isn’t like most of our moves before it, in that we’re going to a place we already know (and have friends waiting for us there) and that we already have a place to live (I’ll get back to that) and that I’ve already got my grad school program lined up to move with me and it has (so far) been a really seamless transition.
In any case, we leave Chicago in 28 days. Exactly 4 weeks from today. As in, 4 weeks from now we will be halfway to our first stop in Missouri and Leena will probably have puked at least once and I’ll already be regretting taking a road trip with cats but it’s too cold to fly with them and we still have to move the car so what can you do anyway except pack them and drive for 4 days straight and hope for the best.
All the same, I’m starting to feel it this week as we begin to experience the “Chicago lasts” before the move. We went to our last (probably, as nothing else is planned) theater show this weekend with the 40th anniversary run of A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre.
It’s a very good production and the adaptation infuses enough humor to balance the more serious bits, and the set pieces are gorgeous. It helps that the Goodman is just around the corner from the Christkindlmarket, which opened this weekend, too. I got my gingerbread and cider fix before the show, though I suspect that was not, in fact, our last visit to that particular place.
It’s not all fun stuff, though. I’m planning for my last day at work, my last day at Shedd, scheduling the last vet visit for the kitties, and just did the last big deep clean before we vacate our current place, too.
Then there are the unknown lasts that are a little weirder, harder to pin down. Like when it snowed two Fridays ago and it occurred to me that it might be the last snow we see here (and how much I hope it doesn’t snow on the day we load the moving truck). It might not be the last one, but you never know.
I do know it won’t be the last time I’m in Chicago, though. While I doubt we will ever live here again (see the aforementioned thing about winter), I have friends here I need to see sometimes. But I am definitely looking forward to being a tourist here and not a resident.
The firsts in San Diego are a little different. We’ll see the house we’re moving into for the first time in about a month, for instance. But moving back to a place? This is the first time we’ve ever done that, and it’s actually really nice. I don’t have to find a new vet, a new dentist, a new mechanic– I’ve already got them all!
And speaking of that new house– we’re also doing a thing we’ve never done and moving into a house we rented sight-unseen. That’s because we’re heading back into military housing (though a VERY different scenario than the last time we lived in it). The thought process (and application process, etc) will be a blog post for another day. But we know where we are going and might actually have our first door-to-door move, with our belongings never going into storage. That would be so good.
So that’s it. A lot of lasts and a lot of firsts and in about a month I get to put my parka into long term storage.
I am SO ready.
*No bears are actually involved in my life currently**, but it seemed the thing to say. Not even the Bears, which will likely be the only one of Chicago’s pro sports teams from my List that I won’t get to see. Cubs, Sox, Hawks, and Bulls– check! But no Bears. Oh, well.
**I feel like I need to stipulate that there are currently no bears because, being a zoo person, particularly who likes working with carnivores***, bears are always an option. And who doesn’t like bears??****
***Bears are omnivores. But you get where I’m going with it. I’m definitely a “lions and tigers and bears” person. And also wolves and sharks and snow leopards. Especially the snow leopards.
****If you don’t like bears, I don’t understand. I mean, have you SEEN a bear?
As I’ve mentioned previously, we’re moving this month. And next. And maybe for part of December, too, I’m not really solid on that front at the moment. Basically the Navy is sending us to a new place (again) and the never-ending adventure continues. We just figured this time, as it’s our first move that doesn’t involve crossing an ocean and water-tight shipping crates, that we’d make the journey into an epic. This is the beginning of that journey.
We left San Diego on Monday, October 20. As of now it’s Wednesday, October 22, in Mountain Time-zone. I’m in Colorado. I’ve never been to Colorado before yesterday. It’s rather beautiful. But how did we get here in two days? All. Of. The. Driving. There have been plenty of amazing stops along the way; we try for at least one big Thing a day. Monday we stopped for lunch in Temecula before driving late into the night to reach…
The Grand Canyon. It’s…. well, huge doesn’t quite do it justice. Monumental? Humongous? It doesn’t look real, I will say that. At least, not without hiking down into it I’m sure, and we didn’t have an entire week to tackle that. Suffice to say we’ve seen it and it is large and beautiful. As one of the US’s signature natural features, Grand Canyon National Park has been on my life-list for years.
Point of interest: We had lunch at El Tovar Hotel’s dining room and scored one of the best tables in the house overlooking the canyon. The hotel itself opened in 1905 and still has the old style and grandeur, plus the food was tasty and reasonable. I had the Navajo frybread taco, definitely recommend. Of course, I’d recommend anything with Navajo frybread… ~_^
From there, we drove on to Colorado and…
Mesa Verde. I’ve been fascinated by Native American culture since I was a kid, and it was amazing to actually get to visit these adobe cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park in person. For some size perspective, you can see an archaeologist surveying the site in the above photo. This is Cliff Palace, one of the biggest sites in the area. The cliff dwellings were built by the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in the area between 1500 and 800 years ago. There are over 20 tribes descended from them today.
Point of note: Getting in and out of the sites is tricky, and involves climbing wooden ladders. Between the steepness and the high altitude, this is rated as a “strenuous” climb and not for people who aren’t in at least descent physical shape. If you can make it down and back up again, though, it’s very much worth the trip.
The other major site we visited was Spruce House, which is the best preserved of all the dwellings because it sits so far back into the crevice that it’s protected from the elements a bit more. Though access also involved hiking down and back up, there is a paved trail with benches along the way for catching your breath, and not a ladder in sight, which makes it a bit easier. I still got more winded on this one, though, simply because it was a longer trek. Altitude is rough when you’re not used to it.
It’s gorgeously autumn here, with the leaves changing and all, and I’m actually enjoying the cooler weather. Cooler. Not cold. This is important, as I’ve got a whole heap of cold waiting for me at the other end of this trip… But that’s not for today. Instead I’ll leave you with this really cool monumental tower we passed today. Tomorrow we head south again, toward Petraglyph National Park. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?) More when I have internet again.
Well, it’s September 3rd. Where has this summer gone?
For starters, it’s gone to a lot of houseguests and fun things that we’ve done and Comic-Con and weekend trips and the like, but it’s also flown by because all too soon we’ll be leaving San Diego. There’s a road trip of epic proportions coming (and I’m not exaggerating). But more on that later.
For now, though, I want to savor September.
Monday was September 1, the day Hogwarts students board the Hogwarts Express and head north for another school year. My impulse to go buy school supplies and new shoes has mostly abated over the years, but I still get excited when I see the autumn decorations and Halloween things starting to appear. I walked through the craft store last month (craft stores are the only places allowed, by my mental checklist, to have fall things in the summer) and caught myself reaching for the cinnamon scented things and orange leaves.
Truth be told, it’s been looking like autumn here in southern California in a very bad way; the drought we’re in is the worst in five decades, and the trees are changing color because they can’t support their leaves any more. We need rain here, badly.
This is our last full month in California, and I’m going to enjoy every bit of it. This past weekend we went north to Temecula and enjoyed the scenery with a little wine tasting along the way. We explored Old Town Temecula and ate some wonderful food and generally had a good time. This weekend I’m not sure where the road will take us, but there’s a brief outing to Yosemite planned for later in the month, plus a couple of last days at Disneyland.
I’m really going to miss California, but another adventure is fast approaching. So we go.
UPDATES AND THINGS.
As Seen On:
I published this early in the month not expecting to have anything else post before September, but I had an article go live for Paper Droids a couple of weeks ago. Here are 6 Geek Chic Travel Accessories that I think are pretty awesome.
You can also find me here, with IGGPPCamp, teaching a class I dubbed “Iggle Trek” that’s essentially an introduction to the very basics of wildlife watching. I also sat on the Everyday Cosplay panel (fair warning: that video is 1.5 hours because we had a LOT to say!) and had a little too much fun as a camp counselor…. I might have eaten all the marshmallows…. Oops.
We’re still finalizing our travel plans, but it should be part ridiculous and part fantastic so if you see a head exploding, that’s probably me. Updates will turn up as I have internet, maybe.
Well, there’s not much else to tell for now. We’re heading to Chicago at the end of our road tripping so things will get a little (lot) different after that. Lots of new things to see and places to explore. I hope you enjoy the trip. ^_^
Over the weekend, J and I finally (FINALLY!) got rid of the last of our “extra” stuff. We donated the vast majority of it (including the last of our free furniture from when we were first married) to a local group that runs three thrift stores that benefit disabled veterans– Disabled American Veteran Thrift Stores. If you happen upon this and are in San Diego, I recommend them. They were easy to contact (there’s a form online to fill out), they come pick up your donations, and will take anything, including old TVs.
At any rate, we have been climbing over things ever since we first took delivery of our belongings back in October. True, we’ve only really been here for about two months, but it’s been a long, slow process to unpack and organize. The square footage (in terms of actual living space) is about the same as our house in Hawaii; the bedrooms are even a little bigger, I think. The difference is that we no longer have our own garage, and we don’t have storage space, except the two bedroom closets. So bear in mind: we lost a garage (which held all of the camping and outdoor gear), a large storage closet (we also had one in Virginia and it held all of the seasonal decor, including my plethora of Christmas stuff), a backyard storage closet (for all of the gardening and yard equipment), and (this is a bigger one than you might think), a staircase with hallway. So all of those thing I listed had to either go away, or find a home inside our condo.
Losing a hallway and staircase is having a bigger impact that we expected. There is no separation between anything, and the bedrooms open off of the living room. You would think that might increase the living space, and it probably does a bit, but there’s something visually about having two separate floors, or at least having the bedrooms in their own part of the house. Here everything feels on top of everything else.
The good thing that came out of all of this is that J and I have had to be smart in our downsizing. We finally had a reason to get rid of the “just in case” and streamline. We also got the push to pass on the things passed to us (like an end table from a neighbor in Virginia) that we don’t have use for anymore. And we discovered what was important to us, because we worked REALLY hard to find a way to keep certain things (like our saddleback bar stools that I love but don’t have a breakfast bar for them at the moment). We talked about renting a storage unit, but the cost (and the effort of having stuff in another place) was really more than we wanted.
At the end of it all, we wound up becoming extremely organized, moreso than either of us is naturally, and fit quite a bit. I’d say we gave away about 25% of our things when it was all said and done, which feels good now but was exhausting at the time.
So now, without further rambling, here’s the (finally put together and mostly organized) condo!
Today I went to get new license plates for my car. The old plates expired while the car was in storage, so when I got it back two weeks ago, I started the process of getting them. First I had to get it repaired; it needed a new belt and a new sensor, and that was a little expensive, but really not as bad as it could’ve been. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I went to an honest car repair place: they only charged me for work they actually did, so, for instance, one thing they did only took 20 minutes, therefore they only charged me 1/3 of their hourly rate for it. I appreciate things like that.
Next was the smog check and certification. Oh, California, and your eco-friendliness. I’d had the car smog checked once before in order to get military base stickers, but it had been too long ago to count toward the new license plates now, so I had to go back yesterday. I found a walk-in place about five minutes from home and was done in half an hour.
So then today at the DMV….
I’d made an appointment, for which I was very grateful as it meant I got to be in the very short line instead of the really long, walk-in line. When I got there, I hadn’t filled out all of my paperwork yet, but that was okay because they would inspect my car while I filled out the pages. I got all of that done, and got registered for new plates…. and then thought to ask a pertinent question:
“By chance, do I need to have a California driver’s license, too?”
The laws have recently (since I last moved) changed, so that military dependents must either be residents of their sponsor’s (so, J’s) home state, OR they have to update it every time they move. Apparently I now fall under the new law.
SURPRISE! I needed a new driver’s license.
The woman helping me was super nice, though; she handed me a new ticket, having put me into an open appointment slot, and I didn’t even wait three minutes to be called. Because I had a military ID, I didn’t need to go home for a birth certificate (which I haven’t quite located yet in the unpacking), and they moved me quickly through the process. They took my fingerprint and my signature and my money and my photo.
And THEN I found out I had to take a written test.
They asked if I wanted to study, but I decided to wing it. Thirty-six questions, of which I was allowed to miss up to six. Yikes.
The test was mostly logical stuff, but some of it was California-specific, and some of it required me to consider the physics of my car. But my favorite questions were the passive-aggressive ones:
Of the following, which is true about tail-gating (driving very close to the car ahead of you): a) it makes other drivers frustrated and angry
b) it is safer because it keeps other drivers from “cutting you off”
c) it minimizes collisions
Seriously. There were a couple of questions like that, mostly about driving too slow and creating hazards, and where to drive in relation to other cars (Beside them so the other drivers can see you?), and about merging.
Anyway, I passed. In fact, I only missed two– apparently it is illegal in the state of California to smoke in the car if there are any minors in the car with you. I don’t smoke so I wouldn’t know. And I missed a physics-related one. I think my favorite thing was that they just assumed I’d pass and took my photo and money first. Or maybe that’s how they force you to go through with it. No practice tests.
I also registered to vote.
So, I guess now I’m officially a California resident. Go me.
2a. The Safari Park was awesome! We didn’t get to see everything even though we were there about six hours. One of the things we DID get to see was the cheetah run– they have a cheetah sprint on a track for 100m. The one we saw did it in 6.01 seconds. Amazing! But the best part was that we got the behind the scenes cheetah tour, too… And got to meet the cheetah after the race! We stood down by the track, got to talk to the trainers, and then got our photos taken with the cheetah. It was very, very cool. I’ll have to post those separately.
3. San Diego is dry. Have I mentioned that? If not, well… It is. It’s is the driest place I’ve ever been and it will take some getting used to the climate.
4. We got a place to live! It’s a great little condo in a trendy, nice area of town and is within walking distance of Balboa Park and the zoo. Yay! Photos next week when we move into it.
5. I really like how many options there are here in terms of things to do. I doubt I’ll ever be bored, especially living so near so many cafes, shops, museums, etc.
I think that’s about it for now. I have other photos of the last week, including the ones from the zoo, but I will have to post those later.
Well, I’m sitting in a coffee shop to access wifi and generally realizing that during moves I drink way too much coffee and tea and whatever else I get at coffee shops. Probably not great, but wifi is awfully helpful.
We got places to stay lined up in California (including four nights in Anaheim!!) until the 9th, so that feels pretty good. I’m not worried about this move, other than the usual stuff that goes along with being unsettled. There seems to be a wide variety of housing available, too, which is nice.
This move has (so far, anyway) been a little TOO smooth, if that makes sense. We haven’t had on anything go really wrong or become difficult. I shouldn’t complain (and I’m not, believe me!), but I remember all the stress of coming out to Hawaii in the first place… Of course, the cats were with us then and now they are waiting in limbo for me to come get them in October, so maybe that has a lot to do with it. I don’t have to find pet friendly hotels, or worry about driving them around, or worry about crazy import paperwork and blood samples and all of that this go-round. It’s so… NICE. Ha.
I’m thinking I’ll do the request I received for un-pretty Hawaii photos before we leave. If I have time this week, I’ll take some. In the meantime, I have photos from my last zoo day in one of the sections where I volunteer. Big kittehs!
Aren’t they beautiful?
It’s nice having a big zoom and access to great views. ^_^
I know it’s a little early still, but today I found myself feeling nostalgic for a place I haven’t left quite yet and finding that small, insignificant things are making me a little sad. Breakfast, for some reason, brought back a flood of memories from the first two weeks that we lived here, having breakfast in the hotel and discovering things like guava jelly (which is amazing) and coconut syrup (which is too sweet for me) and fresh pineapple every morning. I remember being fascinated by the plumeria trees that were all in full bloom when we arrived and how frustrating it was that every time I tried to go to the pool, it rained.
I also remember how (this part of) Hawaii wasn’t anything like I imagined, with its awful traffic, dense population, and constant noise. Of course I’ve found lots of other parts of Hawaii since then that are much quieter, prettier, natural. Of the islands we’ve visited, the Big Island is still my favorite. I like that a huge part of it looks the same (except for the few roads) as it has for years, and there’s something amazing about walking on a volcano.
I’m sure I’ll have a lot more early-stage-nostalgia for you in the next month, but there’s also a lot to look forward to in California. It’s time to discover new things again.
Well, tomorrow I’ve got the movers coming to do a “pre-move assessment” which basically means they’ll look at all my stuff, guess how many crates they need (they always under-estimate this number– I’m betting on 7 crates), and then tell me I need to take everything off the walls and out of storage closets because they “aren’t contracted” to do those things.
Then next week I get to decide what I’m not letting them back and I have to hide it somewhere (probably in the car) and then on Thursday-ish they come and start boxing up everything I own.
And y’know what? It still creeps me out to have people in my house, packing my stuff. I know it’s a lot less hassle, but it just bothers me. I’d much rather be responsible for my own packing, as old as it gets.
Then again, packing is long and monotonous.
Isn’t there some kind of happy medium, where I can feel like I’m doing it myself and yet still have help? Probably not.
I apologize that this is neither funny nor insightful. I felt mildly guilty about not writing anything, and figured I’d at least explain why. I’m sure there will be much more entertaining fodder later this week when I start to go through the closet with all of my Christmas decor, which has also become the “Quick-we’ve-got-company-coming-over Closet” of late. Heh. Who knows what’s in there? I guess we’ll find out soon!