Caliventure Chronicles-Episode 4: Taking Flight

Caliventure Chronicles-Episode 4: Taking Flight

Today was my first full day in Redding, CA. Some people may elect to start such a day lightly. Maybe you go eat a nice breakfast somewhere or talk a walk through one of the many wildlife parks or maybe drive lazily on the roads, seeing what Redding has to offer.

Not me.

I decided to start the day by hopping into a little Cessna plane to take a visual birds eye view tour of the area from a couple thousand feet in the air. Go big or go home, right? Unless you die in a freak plane crash–then you aren’t going anywhere in this world anymore.

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Wow. I got morbid. Let’s move on, shall we? Spoiler alert: I did not die in a plane crash.

My adventure was to begin at 7:00 AM. I couldn’t believe I’d signed up to do this. What was I thinking? I probably wasn’t. I told myself that during Caliventure, I was going to force myself to step outside my comfort zone. This means doing things I may not normally do–like launch into the air and defy gravity.

I met my pilot Tex. Super awesome name and really cool guy. I’d guess he was in his early 70s, friendly aura, but he had a great sense of humor. He asked me why I came all the way to Redding. I explained to him that I’m writing a book and that I was doing a lot of research. On that note, I have to embrace being comfortable talking about my book. tenor-1I’m here for my  book so I shouldn’t be shy about it, right? That being said, I need to work on my presentation because whatever I told Tex was a mumbling diatribe of random things that kinda went like this: “I’m writing a book…..mumblemumblemumble…. superheroes and….. mumblemumblemumble…. Mt. Shasta summoned me….. mumbleuhwhydidIsaythat…. mumble mumble…”

Tex just smiled and nodded his head, but seemed genuinely excited about whatever he picked up from the words that exited my mouth. He locked onto Mt. Shasta, the geographic entity that drew me to Redding in the first place. As I had only paid for an hour flight, Tex told me that he could get me close to Mt. Shasta, but we wouldn’t be able to fly around it at all. I was happy just for the opportunity to see this beast, as well as the rest of the sights.

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Signing my life away, I climbed into this little plane, buckled up, and made sure my camera was ready, notebook in hand. I even got to wear a cool headset that would allow Tex and I to talk while in the air. I was nervous, excited, and a little terrified all at once.

Tex smiled at me and said, “Don’t worry. If there is an emergency while we are up there, I will try to stay calm and you may never know anything is wrong. More than likely what’ll happen is that I’ll lean over and tell you to kiss your ass goodbye and hope for the best.”

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I laughed because I was nervous and wanted to hide the fact that heart did exactly 459 cartwheels in my chest.

My fate was sealed.

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I’m totally relaxed. Totally.

Tex started the engine, communicated to the air towers (very official!), and up up and away we went.

I lost my breath. My heart stopped cartwheeling.

The view was nothing short of majestic.

Epic.

Absolutely breathtaking.

My tongue couldn’t even form words at first. Tex was talking to me about the area and all I could do was stare dumbly at the little trees thousands of feet below me. To gaze upon the rolling hills and mountains. To watch the rivers and lakes glisten like heavenly beings. There is really nothing quite like it. Is this what eagles and falcons and hawks see all the time when they are flying high in the sky? Is this what it feels like to be a bird? If so, I wouldn’t mind turning into one because it was so beautiful.

I could spend pages and pages detailing all the sights. Instead, enjoy this photo slideshow which includes:

  • Sacramento River
  • Trinity Lake
  • Shasta Lake
  • Turtle Bay
  • Whiskeytown
  • Castle Crags
  • Shasta Dam (602 feet high!)
  • Anything else I found beautiful or snapped pictures of because pretty

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The true theft of my heart came in the towering giant beast known as Mt. Shasta, the reason I am in Redding, CA to begin with. It’s set to serve as a key location in my Elementals novel. I have so many plans and ideas surrounding this mountain simply based on what I’ve read about it online. Seeing it? Well, now that’s something else entirely.

Tex told me that Mt. Shasta is revered by the Wintu Indian Tribe. It draws many people to it, tales of superstition and mystery provoking them. He explained that he and his pilot friends joke the clouds that kiss the top of the mountain are concealing UFOs, discreetly depositing aliens into the mountain. He said it’s because the shape of the clouds have a UFO look. I know he’s joking, but there are people who actually believe the clouds hide UFOs to deliver resources to the rumored crystal city Telos underneath the mountain–a place the last of the Lemurians are rumored to live. *cue dramatic music*

Tex even said that Mt. Shasta, due to is properties, tends to create its own weather. If you didn’t know, Mt. Shasta is a dormant volcano. Geologists conclude that one day Mt. Shasta will erupt. It’s just a matter of time. It doesn’t seem like something that’ll happen soon, but it’s crazy to think that this rocky beast is waiting to explode. The mountain offers trails, camping, skiing, and many other things. People have gone exploring on Mt. Shasta only to vanish, never to be found again. That should probably deter me from visiting Mt. Shasta. It won’t.

The best I can say about Mt. Shasta just from the view I beheld today is that it genuinely seems like its own character. It sits on the landscape like a king, lording over everything around it. Watching. Waiting. You can sense the mystery rippling off its jagged and elegant structure. If it had eyes, it would regard you with a regal gaze, consuming you and your soul in one fell swoop, piercing your very core.

Of course, I know I sound crazy talking about Mt. Shasta like that, but you don’t understand. You can’t understand until you gaze on this giant with your own eyes. While Mt. Shasta is home to mystery and intrigue, there is certainly no mystery as to why this beast holds the reputation it does. It is terrifying and beautiful and powerful. Pictures don’t do it justice, but here you go:

It will serve as a perfect element to my story; it’s something I will respect in my telling. It’s what Mt. Shasta deserves.

Call me crazy. Come. Visit the mountain. See for yourself. I promise you will not disagree with me about its majestic energy.

Keep in mind that I’m speaking from only gazing upon it from the air. I have yet to step foot on its surface. That’ll be a tale for another day.

I took tons of pictures. I took so many notes. Tex was a wonderful pilot and gave me all kinds of information. He even told pilots over the radio that he was showing a writer the views for a book. I’m not published by any means, but that made me feel good.

After my epic flight, Tex and I departed ways. I ventured into downtown Redding where I stopped at a local coffee shop called Brew.

I will visit it again. It was inviting and peaceful and great. It’s going to serve as inspiration for the coffee shop in my book–another setting that’ll play a big role in my plans. Perhaps the coolest thing about my time in the coffee shop was that I overheard a customer talking to the barista about writing and his adventures creating and writing characters.

Normally, I’d probably keep to myself. However, I’m forcing myself to step outside my comfort zone on this trip. Therefore, I pulled the generic, “I couldn’t help but overhear that you’re a writer…” Yeah, I know. I need to work on my delivery. I’m still new at this!

Anyway, I talked to a nice guy named Jack who is actually working on a screenplay. Those of you who know me, know that screenwriting is something I want to dabble in at some point. I took a screenwriting course and loved it. I was excited that I met another writer. Of course, conversation allowed me to share why I was in Redding. I was less awkward on my delivery, but awkward nonetheless. Regardless, it’s always neat to connect with other writers.

After I asked the barista for some food suggestions (and he gave me a lot of great ones), I decided to eat at a place called Cafe Paradisio. Why there? Well, they had an elk burger. Legit elk meat. Flashback to George the Elk I saw yesterday… sorry, George. Hope I didn’t IMG_2121eat your cousin or something.

Not only was the Elk burger absolutely delicious, along with the local beer, but it was the first time that I sat alone in a sit down restaurant. Okay. To be fair, I elected to sit at the bar to feel less awkward. However, it’s a step. Next time, I’ll force myself to sit at a table instead of the bar. Baby steps. Even though this whole trip is far from a baby step!

After my meal, I decided to visit the Sundial Bridge, something Redding is known for. You should know what led to the decision of me walking to this bridge. See, the barista told me all these wonderful places to eat. He mentioned that the Sundial Bridge was not far from where we were at all. Granted, that’s true.

If you’re driving…

I didn’t drive. I was under the impression that the bridge was in reasonable walking distance. Alas, I proudly began my journey. With a drawstring bag. In flip flops. Wearing a darker shirt and heavy cargo pants. You see where I’m going with this, right?

The walk was about a mile. Now, normally a mile walk isn’t bad. In fact, that’s feasible. However, throw in the fact that, oh I don’t know, it is literally 100 degrees out and the sun is merciless in its glory, then that mile is destructive. By the time I crossed various pedestrian walkways, marched down and up twisting hills, and found my way at the Turtle Bay Exploration Park (where the bridge is), I was nearly depleted in energy. My shirt was soaked. My feet throbbed because flip-flips, while cool, are not meant for longer walks like this. I already have a blister on one heel. The bottom of my feet hate me now too. Keep in mind that by the time I reached the park, I understood that I’d have to journey back. Life can be cruel.

Deciding I needed water, I popped into the air-conditioned welcome center and bought a Pear Peach Apricot smoothie (super delicious), a bottle of water, some souvenirs, and then collected touristy pamphlets. I felt a little more energized.

That didn’t last long.

The Sundial Bridge was stunning, but it radiated the heat of the day. It bridges the Sacramento River, sporting beautiful views. There are trails all around it, following the river. I think I read that one trail was 15 miles long. Had I been better prepared, I’d take that challenge.


Needles to say, after a few pictures, I journeyed back to my rental car. I was dripping with sweat, feeling like a melting wax figure. I threw my hat off and sweat splattered on the car dashboard. Gross. If you’re interested in more details on the beautiful Sundial Bridge, click here for some fun history and facts. There’s some really cool facts and info about it!

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I retreated to my Airbnb and took a solid 2.5 hour nap. Did I want to nap? No. I’m on vacation and supposed to be researching. A nap is wasted time, but I was spent. Plus, I think my body is still trying to register the time difference.

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The rest of the day was nothing too crazy. After my nap, I went out to buy some essentials such as insect repellant, sunscreen, snacks, water, and then I went for the big guns.

A pocket-knife of which I tell myself it’ll save me if a bear or mountain lion or snake tries to get me.

Spoiler alert: It won’t. Maybe it’ll be a noble effort. My plan of attack would be to stab my attacker in the eyes, but let’s be honest. It’s my eye that’ll be destroyed if I’m attacked. Or my neck. Yeah. More morbidity.

I also bought a can of bear mace spray. It declares it’ll spray up to 35 feet. I figure that’ll be effective–if I can aim and shoot accurately while a bear charges me. Instead, I’ll be too busy soiling myself and in the confusion spray my own face. Maybe the bear will realize how pathetic I am and leave me alone to whimper as my eyes burn. Or he’ll enjoy the free snack my body will offer.

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Hey, perhaps the spray will work against rattlesnakes. I hope it does. However, with my luck this act will end up pissing off Satan and he’ll chase me through the mountains where, naturally, I’ll be screaming and flailing my limbs in desperation until Satan bites me in the buttocks.

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Essentially, if I encounter wildlife on this trip, I’ll be meeting Jesus sooner than expected. But, hey, at least I’m prepared to try to fight for survival.

I also bought a $20 hydration backpack. I blame my experiences today for that. This weather is no joke. Hydration is key. If this trip ends in tragedy, it better not be because of dehydration. That’s all I’m saying.

Now, I sit in my bed wide-awake because I drank a large blended coffee drink from this magical place called Dutch Bros Coffee. Do yourself a favor. Look at their menu. From tea to lattes to lemonades to sorcery… the possibilities are endless. So. Many. Options. Apparently, there’s even a secret menu. Be still my soul.

So, it’s decided that I will visit Dutch Bros Coffee three times daily. The plan? A coffee type drink in the morning, a tea type drink in the afternoon, and a lemonade at night. Take all my money, Dutch Bros. You’re totally rad and I have no idea how I’ll decide what to order during my time here. If you’re reading this, and you check out the menu, what do you think I should try? Let me know in the comments and I’ll make sure to order it. You’ll even get a shout-out! Tonight I had the blended version of the Kicker. Suggest anything besides that!

Okay. This post was a tad long. I hope you enjoyed sharing in my adventures today. Tomorrow promises to be even more exciting. I hope to see you back for another episode of Caliventure Chronicles tomorrow evening. Here’s what you can look forward to:

  • Hearing about my journey deep into the Lake Shasta Caverns. Will I vanish beneath the depths of the Earth? Meet a caveman or cavewoman or two?
  • Hike around Lake Shasta, probably get chased by some type of beast, maybe lose a limb. Who knows? Endless possibilities
  • An evening horseback ride through the wilderness of Northern California. I hope to be best friends with my horse. For. Life. That’s all I’m saying.
  • Share the Dutch Bros Coffee drinks I try!

See you next time!

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Caliventure Chronicles-Episode 3: Ancient Giants

Caliventure Chronicles-Episode 3: Ancient Giants

Hey, blog fam! (Look at me talking all hip like my students do!)

This might be a slightly longer post as I’m going to talk about the past two days. I spent most of yesterday and the day before traveling along the coast, jaw unhinged. It was an adventure and, to be honest, when I stopped I passed out due to exhaustion. Therefore, that’s why the blog has been spotty at best. Now that I’m in Redding, CA I’ll be able to update regularly.

Let’s do a quick time warp back to Monday, August 6th after I got off my flight to San Francisco. When we landed, I felt exhilarated. Reality hit me like a crashing wave, sprinkling me in bits of awe and excitement. I mean… I was here. I was actually here. The adventure was to begin.

But first?

I needed my rental car. Despite having made an online reservation with Fox Rent-A-Car, I still had to stand in a long line to do all the fun processing and necessary paperwork. My 1:00 PM pickup date quickly got pushed closer to 2:00 PM by the time it was all said and done. I was notably frustrated, bored in line. As such, I began to read reviews of this place (something I should’ve done in the first place!) and discovered that the majority of people have a bad experience with this agency. 58673104505__FEE6BB24-969B-4227-8A4C-B4E0A38793C3I’ll admit that I was pleasantly surprised, receiving a white 2018 Kia model–which I don’t know the make off the top of my head. It looks sporty, fresh, and like a worthy travel buddy. To date, my experience hasn’t been bad yet! The bonding with this vehicle led me to the second adventure:

The drive out of San Francisco.

Admittedly, this was one of my more nerve wracking moments. I didn’t want to be overwhelmed by busy traffic and new sights. What if something went wrong? What if I got into an accident? What if my GPS failed me? However, despite my concerns, the drive wasn’t bad. It took me over the Golden Gate
Bridge which, to put plainly, is mystical in and of itself. Driving on the bridge, looking up at the huge steel arches and cables made me feel so small. A dense fog wrapped around the higher reaches of the bridge so that it truly felt like I was driving a roadway into another dimension.

 

 

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And honestly? Since I’ve been here, it does feel like I’ve been dropped into a foreign world, another reality. Every wind and twist of the road unveiled new surprises that made sure my jaw didn’t close. Ever.

I stopped at the Muir Outlook, which gave a stunning view of the ocean and rocky cliffsides. Funny thing, though, was that the temperature was much cooler there. I’m talking law 60s with a gentle breeze. A cool fog hovered in the area, creating a magical element that contrasted with the heavenly view. I took so many pictures and then retreated to my vehicle.
I had in mind to travel Highway 101 up to Eureka where I’d stay the night and head to Redding the next day. I allowed myself the freedom to stop as I desired. I put Eureka into my GPS and it told me to turn off CA 1, the coastal road, so I could hop on Highway 101. But this would mean sacrificing the views during my drive.

Not today, Satan!

There’s nothing like the lush green mountains hugging the shore, rocks jutting out of the IMG_2092.jpegsides of these colossal beasts as if they yearned to take a summer dip in the waves. The ocean water stayed to my left, glittering like an expensive jewel in the light of the sun. The roads twisted and turned so sharply, I felt like I would careen off the edge at a certain point and become one with the fishes. You ever have those dreams where you’re driving on a road that suddenly propels you into open waters? I felt like that as I drove. Not willing to sacrifice the views, I ignored my GPS and paid a timely cost. You see Eureka should’ve been reached within 3 hours. My journey was to become a seven-hour one because I wanted to stay on the twistiness of CA 1. Along the way, I would stop and take pictures of the ocean. One time I climbed down to the black, gritty shore and planted my feet in the crashing waves. I clambered up a rock in the midst of the waves, letting droplets of salt water christen my skin, thrown up from the crashing waves below.

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It was amazing. I drove and I drove and I drove. I could not get enough of the beauty and I didn’t mind the lengthening drive time–especially when I’m pretty sure I saw a seal swimming in a bay.

I drove through quaint little towns, the locals grabbing ice cream and smiling. I drove through construction work, an added challenge on my drive, and I drove under trees that couldn’t possibly be real. Little did I know what awaited me next.

Around nine, with three hours left until I got to Eureka, I decided that adventure had exhausted itself. I pulled into a Super 8 motel, figuring it best to rest and continue my journey tomorrow. I was surprised that it was in the low 50s when I got out of my car. I could hear the distant waves as I checked into my motel, confused at the temperature. After grabbing some dinner and watching the season finale of Euphoria, I crashed, blown away by all I’d seen.

Tuesday, August 7, 2019

IMG_2107.jpegThe next day I got up early and did the same exact thing.

Adventured.

I continued on CA  1 and stopped at a beautiful beachfront. I had to hold myself back a little bit for if I stopped at every little thing I saw, I’d never reach it to Redding, CA around 7 PM. That’s what time I gave my Airbnb hostess so I wanted to honor that. While the views were still beautiful, CA 1 became a fluid serpent, forcing me to whip around crazy corners in the middle of IMG_2106.jpegdark, vibrant forests. I know… dark and vibrant are contradictory adjectives, but that’s the truth. The vegetation and trees and plants were lush in green, but the atmosphere was dark due to the towering trees shielding the road from the sun. I’d be alone on this road for miles and miles. Due to the nature of the road, I began to get severe motion sickness. I took some dramamine, but it wasn’t helping too much. I decided to let my GPS take me to Highway 101 as I wanted to go to the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

I saw signs for the World-Famous Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree Park. Feeling both impulsive and carsick, I veered that direction. This drive took me to a 350 ft tall tree that I literally drove through. It was amazing. I can’t even put it into proper words. How is this planet Earth? Seriously. Again… little did I know what awaited.

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I finally drove Highway 101, following signs for the Avenue of the Giants, a Redwood forest you weave throughout. Trees, hundreds of feet tall, kissed the sky. They created a dark canopy above the ground, casting the forest floor in green-hued shadows at points. I wish I could capture every detail of that drive, but I can’t. It’s a magical experience best, well, experienced. One cannot truly understand such a view unless they witness it with their own eyes. IMG_2114

After stopping for some coffee and lunch in Eureka, CA, I ventured north to the Redwood National Park to see some elk. It was elk mating season. Enough said. I definitely saw elk–they weren’t mating, thank Jesus– and I even named one George as he stood in some pour soul’s driveway, sizing up the mans’ vehicle. The thing was about as tall as the man’s truck. I’m pretty sure George looked at me and spit out his tongue. But… let’s not get too silly, eh?

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I explored some of the Redforest trails, but due to my agonizing blister and the uncanny feeling of being watched, I fled. I mean if you’re alone in the forest, it’s deathly silent. Too silent. Like the calm before the storm. Maybe if you listened hard enough you could hear the trees whispering to each other in their ancient language. But I doubt you’d have that honor due to the thick blanket of silence that embraced the area like a sacred vow. Deciding I didn’t long to become a snack in such silence, I made my way to Redding, CA.

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The closer I got, the higher the temperature became. It went from 58 degrees to 99 degrees within an hour. I drove through more mountainous roads, telling myself not to think what one wrong flick of the steering wheel would mean as I careened around steep cliffside roads.

Redding, CA was a welcome sight by the time I arrived. It has personality. I can’t quite describe it yet as I’m still learning who Redding is. I have gathered how conservative its people are. I may need to be mindful of wearing my Black Lives Matter and Pete Buttigieg 2020 shirts.

The drive to my Airbnb solidified the start of a new chapter in this adventure. My hostess is very kind and helpful. After meeting her and unwinding a little bit, I rewarded myself with pizza, a local beer, and some dessert. I planned to blog last night, but upon my return I crashed–hard.

Which was a good thing because I had a date at 7AM to hop into a little Cessna plane and fly over the valley. That is an adventure I cannot wait to share with you, but you’ll need to look for episode 4 (tonight) to hear about that. It’s amazing.

So, that’s been my journey so far! It’s been scary, crazy, and exciting all at once. I’m awed. I’m inspired. I’m giddy. This place radiates so much beauty and wonder.

I’m excited to spend the next week here. More stories are to be told. More people to meet.

And maybe, just maybe, I will survive to tell the tale 🙂

Next time on Caliventures:

  • Journey in a Cessna plane as we get up close and personal with the mystical Mt. Shasta, the geographic entity that drew me here.
  • Coffee shop adventures
  • Hiking 101
  • And who knows what else?

Stay tuned!

P.S. I will probably create an album with more pictures. I’m currently having technical difficulties.

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Caliventure Chronicles-Episode 2: Vagabond (Sneak Peak)

Hey all!

I regret to inform you that I didn’t post last night. I admit that I checked into some motel in a place off the coast. I have no idea where I am, to be honest.

I have so much to share. Lots of beautiful pictures! In a nutshell? California is otherworldly. Beyond belief.

I’m driving on roads structures like an elegant serpent, twisting and turning around lush and rocky mountainsides. Glittery ocean water charms me from the left, beckoning me.

It’s wonderful. I continue my drive today. I will give a better episode next time! Until then!

Caliventure Chronicles- Episode 1: Vagabond Part 1

Caliventure Chronicles- Episode 1: Vagabond Part 1
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I hate selfies; I do. But this was me at the moment I sat down on the bus. Also, I love my shirt. That is all.

On this two-part episode of Caliventure Chronicles I’ll discuss some of the key moments of my first leg of the journey. I want to do a blog post a day, at the end of each day, to recap the adventures. The beginning of my trip certainly puts me in a conundrum there as my trip technically started August 4th when I boarded the looming Megabus and it has carried over into today, the morning of August 5th, where I am currently sitting in the Denver airport on a two hour layover due to a delayed flight. Wow. That was a long sentence. Forgive me. Anyway, I’m going this post will focus on what led me to Denver and I’ll post again tonight with the rest of the day’s journey.

So far the trip hasn’t been too eventful. I’ll be straight up honest with you all. I was panicking quite a bit last night. I boarded the Megabus, climbed to the second level, claimed my seat, and took a deep breath. Then the Megabus lurched into motion and Philadelphia was drawing nigh.

I freaked out, texting a few of my friends various GIFs that highlighted my emotions. I mean… I just got on a double-decker bus to solo travel to the complete opposite side of the United States! My mind was assaulted with a plethora of crazy thoughts: What if the bus crashes? Am I safer on the second-level or doomed? What happens when I get to tenorPhiladelphia at 1AM? Why if my Lyft driver can’t find me? What happens if the plane, like, blows up or gets hit by lightning or we land and I’m in a different timeline? Most of my family has no idea what I’m doing–if something happens…. wait… what if Bigfoot kidnaps me and serves me as an appetizer to his Bigfoot family? What if… what if… Look, these are totally rational concerns. Okay, fine. Most of them are. I’m telling you, though, the plane traveling to another timeline? It could happen! *cue Twilight Zone music*

My friends pretty much told me to relax, embrace the journey, and try not to get kidnapped by… Bigfoot, of course. So, I took another deep breath and decided to try to sleep. After a fellow passenger bought some food that, from the smell of it, he definitely should not have been eating and proceeded to crunch LOUDLY, I had to put my headphones in or risk going to jail. I don’t handle loud chewers well. And this crunchy spawn of torment was a bit excessive. So, headphones in, I let the Backstreet Boys and Coldplay serenade me to a very uncomfortable sleep.

I may have some regrets about not buying a neck pillow. They just look so… silly. Alas, I’m reaching the point of not caring what they look like. Probably would’ve been a lot more comfortable with one! My regrets only got worse when I got to Philadelphia at 1AM.

First of all, my Lyft driver was really nice. He talked about his family (two of his kids attended/will be attending Penn State), his job, video games, and his appreciation for teachers. It was a moment that made me excited because traveling alone means I will have a ton of opportunities to meet and talk to new people. Who knows what adventures that alone will initiate? When the kind driver dropped me off, I wandered through the airport, which was notably dead that early in the morning. It was a tad eerie, to be honest, like what an airport may look like after the zombie apocalypse. But as I explored the barren airport, it wasn’t zombies that attacked me. I painfully discovered my hiking shoes granted me a terrible blister on my right heel. Did I take the time to break the shoes in before my trip? Nope. Regrets were felt–again. So, here I am, all alone limping through the airport, wincing with every step.

After settling in the right lobby in the airport, I tried to sleep in a chair. Lo and behold, I couldn’t get comfortable, and opted for the cold, hard floor because certainly that would

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I just made myself at home on that terrible floor. And, no, we will not discuss the sanitary ethics therein.

be more comfortable. I mean… I did fall asleep for an hour or so before my alarm woke me up. So, that had to be a good sign. Granted, a little scary to wake up to find a considerable amount of new people in the area. Hopefully none of them paid any attention to the vagabond napping on the floor.

I did get really anxious about going through the TSA checkpoint. You read all these things about what you can and can’t have and then there’s exceptions and it’s just a lot to keep in mind. So, I snagged two plastic bins for my stuff, one for my shoes and pocket items and another for my computer and electronics. I was just following the signs and tv monitors like a good airport citizen.

I got yelled at.

“Whoa! Whoa! See? Already you’re using way too many bins!” yelled TSA agent Snatchy McSnatcherton who plucked my pocket items out of the bin and demanded I put them in my bag before he took the bin away.

I wanted to say, “Whoa! Whoa! Hear that? Already you’re speaking way too loud at 3:45 in the morning!” I practiced some great impulse control tactics there.

tenor-1I also had to throw away a sealed coffee drink I was excited to enjoy because, well, liquids are not permitted on carry-ons. It was a sad moment. I’d bonded with that Super Coffee drink, promising to love it by drinking it and here this guy was, snatching and snapping away at me. So, I said my goodbyes to Super Coffee. And realized that I’d need to find another way to energize myself.

To be fair, he was like that with everybody. He was clearly on a power trip and I had to resist glaring at him because, again, I don’t want to go to jail.

It’s been low-key since. The plane didn’t crash or warp into another universe–that I know of–and I’m currently in Denver. Fun fact: Did you know that Southwest Airlines

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I almost broke out in song, but decided my version of “Circle of Life” would be frowned upon on a plane of very tired people.

does not assign seats? You get called in A,  B, and C (my assignment) groups and it’s a first come first serve seating process. I wish somebody had told me this because once I got on the plane I was staring dumbly at my fellow travelers, trying to understand what I was to do. Realizing nobody was going to help the gawking fool blocking the aisle, I took a risk and claimed a seat by the window, right on the wing. I mean… the safest place of the plane… right? Nobody kicked me out of the seat. I won–and got a great view of the sunrise, too.

Oh! And one lady complimented my Pete Buttigieg 2020 Pride shirt. She became my best friend even though we only spoke once, and I’ll never see her again.

Sleeping on the plane was less than pleasing and, once more, I berated myself for not buying a neck pillow. But this is how we learn, right? You may be thinking, “Dude, go buy one at the airport stores?” But I refuse to spend $30-$50 on one! So, no thank you! I will suffer.

So, that’s my journey so far. I just listened to a flight attendant board his plane (not mine) as if he the passengers were being auctioned off. It was… uncomfortable. I bought some hippy stickers because why not? And I decided to do some writing before Part 2 of this episode begins in less than an hour. Which, on that note, this time change is freaking my body out. I mean… the whole airplane time warp theory? Pretty sure I lived it.

Anyway, here’s what Episode 2: Vagabond Part 2 will cover later tonight:

  • My (hopeful) safe landing in San Francisco at 12:20 PM (PST)
  • My daring drive out of San Francisco in a rental car. Pretty sure I’ll have high blood pressure.
  • Suspense awaits because beyond that, I have no idea where I’m stopping, what I’ll see, and where I’m sleeping tonight. I know the Redwood Forests will play a role in some way. Any suggestions along Highway 101?

 

To be continued….

Pre-Caliventure

Pre-Caliventure

Okay.

It’s happening.

It’s here.

In less than an hour I’m going to be on a bus to Philadelphia where I will arrive at 1AM and fly away at 5:35AM. Like, fly in a plane. No, I am not sprouting wings–though that would be fun. I’d never have to worry about snakes again–creatures I’m not prepared to encounter in California.

I will continually keep this blog updated with my adventures. It will be daily. Here’s a rough agenda over the next 24 hours:

  • Megabus to Philly
  • Fly out of Philly, brief layover in Denver, and arrive in San Francisco at noon tomorrow
  • Pick up the car I rented and try to magically survive driving out of San Francisco
  • Drive on Highway 101 with no agenda. Literally. I will stop and see anything I want as it comes up.
  • Where am I sleeping tomorrow night? I have no idea.

Now let’s hope I can get through the airport without too much adventure. If you aren’t following my blog, make sure to do it to keep posted on all the craziness that awaits! I will be journaling, taking pictures, and attempting some really bad drawings. I plan to share it all.

Ready…. set…. #CALIVENTURE!

The War, The Call, and the Leap into Adventure

The War, The Call, and the Leap into Adventure

You ever take a leap into a part of life you never thought you would? Like so much that the jump you’ve made has you both excited and, yet, terrified all at once? That’s me. I’m dropping aimlessly from the ledge I jumped off. 

Spinning. 

Spiraling. 

Eager.

You have to understand something about me first before I tell you about this crazy leap I’ve taken.

You see summer is the time of year us teacher folk look forward to. Life slows down a little bit. We can do things or we can not do things. It’s up to us. Our structured schedule gets a little respite. Netflix, sleeping in, playing video games, reading ALL the books—we’ve earned the right to be a little lazy. Sure, we still have some meetings to attend or planning to do, but it’s not as rigorous. 

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Personally, my summer has been lazy and low-key and, trust me, I’m 100% okay with that. This past year of teaching was, perhaps, one of my most difficult years. Ever. It broke me in ways I didn’t expect. Last year I was juggling way too much. No, really. I was. Here’s what I was doing: 

  • Planning/Teaching/Grading four different preps across two grades—7th and 8th English
  • Taking multiple grad courses online for my Master’s in English and Creative Writing. Lots of reading. Tons of writing. 
  • Planning, promoting, organizing, and directing the middle school’s production of The Lion King Jr. which had nearly 100 students involved. Long hours after school. Lots of demands. 
  • Trying to take care of myself.

But that last one? It didn’t work out very well for me. Actually, I broke and I broke hard. One of my best friends always says to me, “It’s all about balance.” He will also tell you that balance is not something I’m particularly great at. You see, when you spread yourself so thin that you can’t even take care of yourself and/or do what you want to do, consequences will be paid. It came at a high price. 

I entered a fierce war with both depression and high anxiety. I was a walking human (or not so human) shell. Most days I’d go through the motions at work, but then there’d be days I’d shut down and withdraw around my peers/team because I’d spent all the energy I had into the kids in my classroom and drama program. It was easier to cocoon myself. And it turned me into a soulless jerk at times.

tenor-2When I’d go home, I’d sit on the couch and stare at the wall for hours and hours sometimes too depressed to even turn on the TV. I’d sleep. I’d do nothing, which actually fed into my high anxiety because then all the things I had to do weren’t getting done. It’s a vicious cycle. While it seems easy to tell somebody like to me to push through it, it’s not always that simple. It’s like a parasite, leeching off you, drawing out your very essence and power. 

I wish I could say I was graceful in this battle, but, really, who is? With the help of my buddy, I agreed to see a therapist. It helped for a little bit, but depression is such a nasty monster. It adapted. It found other ways to bleed into my life, to cripple me, and suck me dry. Closer to the performance of the school musical, my teaching powers vanished. I lived at the school. My beard grew out, my hair became wild. I literally looked like a crazed mountain man. Really surprised the school didn’t call the police saying, “Um, yeah, so… this caveman has infiltrated one of our classrooms. Send help.” 

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Everything’s fine. I’m fiiinnneee. Don’t be scared, kids.

When the consuming work of the musical ended, my depression  still swung its fists. Understand that I adore my students, both in my classroom and in the drama club. I regret NONE of the time spent with them. They truly are wonderful kids, and, honestly, intuitive. Quite a few students regularly would ask if I was okay. I’d smile and say, “Of course!” but there were other days my patiences levels were so low it betrayed my struggle. And these kiddos endured and supported me and forgave me when I acknowledged moments I didn’t handle a situation correctly. Again, I love the kids I work with. And, so, I had to get better.

With both the suggestion of my therapist and a few of my closest friends, I looked into taking some medicine to help . I resisted at first, but that was only hurting myself. I was ashamed it’d come to this and for some reason the medicine seemed to be a physical icon, telling me I was weak. But depression is a crass liar. So, pushing past those lies, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least try. I’m glad I did.

I’ve been on anti-depressants since May, I decided to step down from directing the drama club at the school (a very hard decision), and I’m preparing to enter a school year where I can actually pour everything into teaching. Sure, I’ll be taking grad courses, but things will be much more manageable. This year will feel fresh. Different. Life-changing even.

But… this summer… something has been missing. 

Adventure. 

Don’t get me wrong. Reading the books I’ve been reading, watching the great shows on my TV, spending time with my doggo, and playing video games has been wonderful. But I haven’t gone anywhere.

So, what was I to do? What adventure awaited me?

Well, I got a new shiny story idea a few weeks ago. One that I am extremely excited to write and explore. I love meeting with the characters of this story, enjoying their company, their flaws, and their voices. I look forward to spending time with them. #WritersAreWeird. 

And then I started planning the setting of my story last week and it was revealed to me that the setting to my new novel would be on the West Coast, specifically Northern California. One problem, though. I’ve never been there. How could I write realistically about a place I’ve never been? Sure, Google is a powerful ally, but experience is even greater. And sure finances are not my strong point. You know how some people should never get credit cards? Well, I’m the poster-child for that.

But there was something deep inside me demanding this adventure. And the yearning to go to Northern California has been wildly intense. I know how that sounds since this tug has only surfaced within the past week. But I just feel like this is something I have to do. Something that’ll be good for me. Something, personally, I won’t regret. Let’s not ask my bank account, though.

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So, after some crazy and daring decisions, I board a plane to San Francisco in less than two weeks. By. Myself. I’ve never done a solo adventure trip like this. 

From there, I’ll rent a car, drive on Highway 101, stopping to see whatever I want, exploring the majestic Redwood Forests, and then settling into Redding, CA where I’ll be primarily stationed. I didn’t know a thing about Redding a week and a half ago. So, you may be wondering, why there of all places? 

I was drawn there by the call of the mysterious Mt. Shasta, which will play a key role in my new book idea. It’s perfect. Mt. Shasta has a ton of weird events and mythology surrounding it ranging from portals to other dimensions, to a mysterious underground crystal city called Telos where the ancient Lemurians are rumored to live, to people seeing mysterious figures roaming the area, to a haunted volcanic tunnel where a malevolent entity is rumored to reside. Also? Bigfoot sightings.

Fun fact: After I booked everything, I read an article that stated some people visit Mt. Shasta because they feel summoned there by the landmark and when they leave they feel changed. Weird, right? Not saying I’m buying into that. But could that explain my weird drive to explore it? Who knows.  Mt. Shasta is full of stories to be unearthed and explored. It’s scary and exciting. Don’t worry. I plan to be smart. I’m not going to jump into a portal to another dimension (as tempting as it may be) or have lunch with a malevolent spirit (or, rather, become lunch), or lodge at an underground crystal city (even if it sounds beautiful). At least, none of these things will happen intentionally. I will be smart. I will keep in contact with people at home and my hostess in CA. But the possibilities are endless. So, this trip is screaming adventure.

tenor-5.gifI’m a lone traveler. Me and the world—okay, it’s just California, but it feels utterly magical. It’ll be my first time utilizing an Airbnb. My first time traveling to the West Coast alone. My first time hiking and exploring nature solo. I feel like this trip will be powerful, spiritual, and needed after the mental war I fought this past year. This trip will take me right up to the near-start of the school year. I’ll end summer with a bang exploring the unknown, researching for my book, and taking risks I may not normally take. I’m giddy just thinking about it.

But wait, there’s more! 

I’m going to document it all. I have a traveler’s journal and pens sitting in my backpack.tenor-6 I’ve bought a few travel necessities, including a new backpack and hiking shoes. And I’m going to blog my adventure with words, pictures, and crazy sketches. The journey beings August 4th, and I’ll be updating my blog daily with my adventures. This is going to be a full-on experience. I’m going to remain mostly disconnected from social media and my phone (save for taking pictures). I’ve already disconnected from my Twitter and that already feels great. I just want to break away from society and immerse myself in a whole new world.

To embrace nature. 

To face adventure. 

To lose myself in creativity.

To grow wings and soar away from the ledge I jumped from.

Stay tuned.

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Quick Links to Caliventure Episodes:

Pre-Caliventure

Caliventure Chronicles Episode 1: Vagabond Part 1

Caliventre Chronicles Episode 2: Vagabond Part 2

Caliventure Chronicles Episode 3: Ancient Giants

Caliventure Chronicles Episode 4: Taking Flight

Caliventure Chronicles Episode 5: Cave Adventures and Horse Whispering

Caliventure Chronicles Episode 6: The Day of Weird

Caliventure Chronicles Episode 7: The Falls

Caliventure Chronicles Episode 8: The Power of Shasta and the Talking Crystal

Caliventure Chronicles Episode 9: The Mountain, the Journey, and the Creature

Caliventure Chronicles Episode 10: Adventures in San Francisco 

All GIFS taken from Tenor.com

Featured Image credited to: https://www.backpacker.com/trips/americas-best-trail-towns-mt-shasta-ca

Book Binge: January 2019

Book Binge: January 2019


Bought January 2019:

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

Literary Theory: A Complete Introduction by Sara Upstone

Books Read January 2019:

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

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Before we begin…

I got this idea from a collection of similar essay from Nick Hornby in a book I flipped through one Sunday afternoon at Barnes and Noble. It was called Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books. This book collects various essays from Nick where he listed the books he bought every month and complemented it with the books he actually read every month. I thought it was a neat idea; I was inspired. So, why not give it a go for myself on this 2019 journey?

Aaaaannndddd as you can see my reading game is pretty poor, while my buying game is killing it. The irony is that I have no money to buy the plethora of books I do. However, if I don’t buy books when I see them or when they are recommended to me, I fear I’ll forget they exist and they’ll always be lost in the Book Void. We can’t have that now, can we?

Even though I did read a total of one book during January, I managed to read most of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Talefor my grad course. You should probably know a few things about my life, which may or may not reveal why I only completed one book during the first month of the year.

  • I teach and grade five different English classes between 7thand 8thgrade for a total of four preps.
  • I am the director of our school’s musical production of The Lion King JR.and our rehearsal season has started in full. Hakuna Matata?
  • I’m currently working on my Master’s in English and Creative Writing. The current class? Literary Theory. Ya… it’s not my favorite thing in the world.
  • I do like to play video games, watch Netflix, and hang out with my dog (he’s very demanding).
  • I also like to write—even if my creative capabilities are currently hibernating.

So, as you can see, I have a lot on my plate. Reading time should be natural to me, considering my profession. However, it’s not. Sometimes my mind is so drained at the end of the day that the only thing I can be is a human vegetable in front of the TV while cuddled up with my dog. Oh, there is also the small detail that I bought a 3000 piece Power Rangers puzzle because, well, it’s morphin’ time. I completed the puzzle, don’t worry. It’s now hanging on my living room wall in all its morphinominal glory.

This will probably make things seem worse, but I finished One of Us is Lyingwithin a 24 hour period. I started one cold Saturday night. I fell in love with the four main characters and got so wrapped up in the mystery of the novel. I. Could. Not. Stop. After all, the premise is that five kids walk into detention and only four come out alive. Who killed Simon? I had to know. The next day I did some grad work and jumped back into the book because I had to finish it before Monday. Some of my students raved about the book, and I wanted to talk to them about it. Also? I didn’t want it to be spoiled for me. So I stayed up until 2:00 AM Monday morning to finish. It was such a wild ride. I enjoyed the characters and the building mystery. While I didn’t figure out who the killer was before the reveal, I did figure out one of the main character’s secrets (oh, they all have juicy secrets!) so I felt a little accomplished.

After finishing that mystery, I had to buy her second novel Two Can Keep a Secret, where it has been neglected since its purchase. Literally. I just took it out of the Barnes and Noble bag to place on my bookshelf last night. Poor book. One could say it was… kept as a secret. Beyond that, I went into a mystery crave so I bought The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, where a murder happens and the main character wakes up in the body of a different suspect every day. It’s been detailed as a “Groundhog day meets Agatha Christie” so I was sold on that. I’m supposed to read it alongside one of my best friends. She’s started it; I haven’t. Oops.

Dear Martinand Uncommon Type were both strongly recommended to me, so I bought them on a whim while I discovered This is Where it Endsand The Lost City of the Monkey Godon the Barnes and Noble featured tables. Honestly, their buy two get one free table gets me every time. The first half of January I was playing the latest Tomb Raider video game, so The Lost City of the Monkey Godcalled out to me as it details the true story of an expedition team searching for, well, a lost city of a monkey god, of course. This actually happened back in 2012. I’ve always been fascinated with treasure hunts with the full realization that I’d never survive a said expedition. Like Indiana Jones, I don’t do snakes. At. All. EVER. To prove my point the first two chapters of the book discusses a particular snake that is so venomous that it, essentially, melts away your flesh. This snake was going to be in their path and, despite this, they still went on the expedition. Fools. I am content to read about it from the comfort of my snake-free home. I never got past the first two chapters because of grad work. It’s become my read before bed book. Maybe I’ll finish it by the end of February.

I did spend the majority of the month reading The Handmaid’s Tale. I just finished the book yesterday, so I’ll add it to “read” list for February’s post. However, it was a witty and great read during January. There’s so much to dissect and it made me want to go back and watch the Hulu show all over again. Maybe this time I’ll actually get into the second season.

Well, that about sums up my first months reading adventure. I hope I fare better during February (sneak peak: so far, I’m not!) Anyway, hope you all have a great reading month. If you have any suggestions, let me know. See you at the end of the month!

2018: This Is Me

2018: This Is Me

Wow. 2017 is gone and I’m glad for it.

2018 has just begun. We are three days in. I’m still not sure how to respond to it. I mean the year started with my favorite football team, the Michigan Wolverines, losing their bowl game and bringing shame to the Big 10. What’s lurking around the corner now?

You know, I thought long and hard before writing this post. It’s the obligatory “It’s a new year, new me” blog post impulse. And you know what? Every dang year the same thing happens. I devise a list of goals certain I’ll succeed and then I fail. Do I dare set myself up for failure again this year?

Yes, because I’m a fool.

But maybe it’s also because I have a warrior deep within me that strives to rise up above failures.

You see, there seems to be something strangely different about this coming year. This past year has been a crazy one with friends, family, and this destructive political climate we are in. (Can 2018 please be the year Trump is impeached?!) I’ve endured things, learned things, and persevered through things I didn’t quite expect–I still am.

And maybe it’s not about going into 2018 a bit different. Maybe it’s just that I’ve decided that I’m done being the person people WANT me to be. Growing up, there was this expectation to live a certain way, to think a certain way, to be blind to a world of facts. To challenge that, to think differently, and to think for myself has been me with quotes such as “You have not changed in a good way”, or “What did we do wrong to make you like this?”, or “Where is this coming from?”, or even “There’s no hope for you anymore”.

It’s cost me relationships with both friends and family. I can’t deny that it might sting a bit, but I also can’t deny that it feels good to let go of such narrow-minded thinking and embrace who I truly am. Being who people WANT and HOPE me to be is exhausting. I’m breaking out of that mold.

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My favorite scene from Agents of Shield resonates with me right now. Break. Out. Of. The. Mold. Except I’m not Daisy Johnson 

I can’t be defined by the expectations of others. I should only be defined by the reality of who I really am. I can’t linger on worrying about what people in the past might think about me. I can only hope the people who matter will accept my freedom and champion me on the sidelines.

Therefore, I’m not making any apologies. I’m moving forward. I’m thankful that I have a small group of friends that I can call my family along with some dedicated family members who love who I truly am instead of being disappointed in who I am.

Trust me. 2017 has been a mess of me “disappointing” people who think I should be somebody else–somebody fake. Well, no more.

That’s all changing and as a result I’m trying to set my sights on new things and dreams. As 2018 cements itself into my life, I’m setting out to accomplish a few things. And I will not fail.

  • After being inspired by a friend of mine who did this in 2017, I’m going to run a 5k everyday of the year. I know it will not be easy and that I’ll want to give up, but I’m doing my best to stick to it. I’ve already accomplished it every day so far. If I can’t make a run happen due to knee issues, I’ll bike a 5k. No excuses. It’s literally a half hour out of my day and I should be able to manage that. With each run, I will envision myself breaking out of the past mold. It will keep me focused.

 

  • I’m only eating between 8AM and 8PM. I’m not having super strong dietary restrictions because that just doesn’t work well long-term. However, I’m a bit mindful of what I’m putting into my body. I’ve read that eating on a schedule like that actually maintains weight loss. I just know that I can’t make pizza and ice cream my main foods during that time period.

 

  • I plan to read two books a month at least. I can do it. It just means prioritizing my time better. I’ve really fallen in love with reading all over again lately. Good books, cups of coffee, and my little reading nook has been my favorite thing over the past week of my life. It’s been a nice shelter from negativity and a nice escape from reality.

 

  • I’m sticking to a budget this year. I’ve laid it all out and I’m committing to it. I’m not using my debit card unless it’s to pay for gas. Everything else will be cash payments to keep myself focused. I’m in an incredible amount of credit card debt and student loan debt. I’m a teacher so I don’t make big bucks. I’ve accepted I’ll probably be in debt until I’m 80 years old. However, I can’t just roll over and let the debt continue to build. I may be living paycheck to paycheck, but maybe in time and with budgeting, I’ll rise above the mountain of debt.

 

  • I’m hoping to finish writing a book by the end of the year. What book? Who knows. I’m still wrestling with my Aedonu Chronicles, still fighting my middle school story, and breathing life into a dark tale of Peter Pan. What story will come out victorious by 2019? Writing is my passion, but it’s also such a hard thing to do with my busy life. I just hope writing isn’t one of those dreams that just remains a dream. I hope one day it becomes a reality.

 

  • I’m also disabling my Facebook account for the month of January to see how much time I gain back. I might even keep it disabled longer. I’m always on there, scrolling through mindless posts and videos. Time to destroy that. Plus, it comes with unwanted drama. You see, I’m very political because I care about people and the world. It’s hard for me to be silent when the current administration doesn’t hold human beings and love at its core values. Therefore, time to axe out the negative and distracting Facebook. I’ll be on Twitter and Instagram instead which I spend far less time on.

 

And with that, I’m done ranting about 2018. Ranting does nothing. Action does.

Be who you want to be in 2018. Make no apologies This is me. Who are you?

I leave you with that question and with my new anthem, which I fell in love with from the movie The Greatest Showman. Listen to this song. Study the lyrics. Cherish it. This is what I’m going into 2018 with. Join me and make NO apologies about it.

2018 is the year of being free.

 

The Woes of Time & the Curse of Writing

The Woes of Time & the Curse of Writing

Remember that movie Click with Adam Sandler and Kate Beckinsale? The one wherein our protagonist happens to receive a remote that influences/controls life?

Yeah, I need one of those.

I started 2017 with all these hopes of dreams of making this a successful year. Foolishly, I made a resolution list even though I’ve never been known to stick to it.

I was going to be fit and have abs (look out, Captain America), write more (with dreams of publication), read more (an art I miss gravely), and save my money (which I don’t make enough of). So far?

  • I’ve been on a pizza diet which has rendered all sings of fitness and abs obsolete.
  • Writing? What’s that? Who has time to write?
  • Reading.. okay, I’ve been better here. Slightly.
  • Money… well, please see bullet point one. Also? Student loans. Also? I have bad self-control when it comes to all things nerd.
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Literally me leaping into 2017 with all these cool ideas

That’s how 2017 has been rolling with me so far. It’s definitely not a bad year! See below:

  • I have a nephew now of whom I’ve only met once due to living in a different state, but he’s a little guy I love to death.
  • I have a great job teaching middle school English and directing the Drama Club at my school.
  • I have a new car (yeah, maybe that’s another thing worthy to mention about finances).
  • I’ve enjoyed the company of some pretty great friends.

However, I have to say I’m hitting a wall in many ways, and, honestly, I’m super burned out. So… why not blog about it? I mean it only helps me procrastinate the Mt. Everest of things I have to do. Seriously, I have five to-do lists. They don’t get shorter fast enough.

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Lately, my desire to dive headlong into my writing has been growing exponentially. Ironically, this always happens when I have no time to write. Usually, my creative spurts occur at the worse possible times. I really think it’s a curse. If writing stories is my superpower, then the timing of the creative bursts in which I’m inspired to write is my ultimate weakness. I mean, with great power comes great costs and unforeseen side effects. That’s how it goes, right?

And maybe it’s not so much about time as it is that when I do get a moment to slow down from grading papers, I want to just sit and do mindless things such as watch TV (we all know I watch almost everything on the air) or play Destiny 2.

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And I think it’s becoming quite a problem that I don’t know how to fix.

Maybe the solution seems simple to those of you reading this. It may seem easy to say, “Josh, prioritize, for crying out loud! Do better! Make sacrifices! Turn off the TV! Stop playing video games!” but it truly is not that simple because in those “slow down” moments, my mind is fried and video games/Netflix is a loyal comforter that seems to whisper, “There, there, buddy! You’ve done a lot today. Just relax and we will ease your mind.”

Sidenote: Not sure why video games/Netflix just sounded super creepy there. Hmm.

Anyway, I come home from teaching and late night rehearsals with Drama Club, and I turn into a zombie (that eats pizza, of course). Papers to grade continue growing, lesson planning seems harder than it should be, and exhaustion sets in. This leads me to not want to make dinner, but order it–which has become a severe financial problem. When I’m not at home, I’m living, breathing, and eating school and, mainly, the Drama Club program. Sometimes it keeps me up at night, haunting me, taunting me in the form of my long-lost characters that are pleading with me to continue writing their story.

But their story is frozen because their creator is burned out.

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And it’s only the second month of school! One of my closest friends keeps telling me, “Dude, you have to learn to balance. Make time for yourself.” He’s 100% right (don’t tell him I said that!), but I don’t know how to do that. How do I balance such demanding tasks? How do I stop indulging in mindless activities when all my mind needs is a break?

I need one of those Click remotes.

Or maybe I need somebody who isn’t afraid to kick my stubborn butt into accountability.

Or maybe I just need more pizza. Pizza always helps.

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I don’t really have a solution to this blog post. This is a super rare occurrence of me just speaking what’s on my mind. Why? It’s therapeutic. Is it actively solving anything? Nope. But if feels good to air it out.

Yesterday, I was so pumped to leave my apartment the next day to go write one of my stories. But then I was bit by a tick, had to go to the doctor to get checked out, had to do laundry (literally the worst!), and now? Well, it’s midday and I have grading to do and school to prepare for by tomorrow. Not to mention my amazing middle school stars have a play in less than two weeks that I’m helping to oversee–we haven’t even touched the spring musical yet. That alone has a mountain of “to-do’s” that haven’t been started yet.

I just need time. More time because what’s happening to me right now?

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It’s stunting the stories I wish I could tell, locking away Chelsie the Orphan, AJ the Pastor, and Jamey the Hero in a prison within my mind. Their voices are being drowned out by the noise of life and, I fear, they are perishing ever so slowly to a fate worse than the one I have planned for them. If something doesn’t change soon, I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell their stories anymore. If I can’t figure out a way to figure out this balance thing my best friend told me about, my three heroes will never save the dark world I’ve intricately created (and destroyed) in their debut novel. If I can’t let their voices be heard, my unrelated middle school character, Garrett, will never truly figure out if his teacher is, indeed, The Crimson Watcher.

All these stories I want to tell are the very ones suffering because there’s not enough time in the day–or when I do have time, my mind is so far fried, I can’t transcribe the complex lives of my characters.

I can’t even manage to keep mine in order.

So… does anybody have a magic remote they want to let me borrow? Maybe even the Time Turner that Hermione Granger used in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? 

Or maybe you have an idea/some advice to offer so I don’t burn out completely, thus eternally damning my characters to an unspeakable fate?

Maybe I just need a vacation. Who wants to go to the moon with me? I’ll bring the pizza.

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The Day of Death, the Call of Legacy

The Day of Death, the Call of Legacy

The quick sputter of dirt and debris hitting the metal hull of my parents’ Rav4.

My mom’s gasp of terror.

The sight of a vehicle on the opposite side of the highway soaring through the air.

The sickening sound of metal crushing against the overpass behind us quickly followed by the earth-shattering thud as the airborne vehicle slammed into the grassy median.

It’s been almost a week since my parents and I witnessed the fatal accident–almost a week, and I’m still trying to grasp (or maybe unsee?) what happened.

Those sight and sounds we heard that day is something you’d see and hear in any high-action scene in a movie, one where maybe the hero of the movie is in the soaring vehicle I saw and, yet, miraculously survives to save the day because it’s a movie. Or maybe it’s the moment where the bad guys went and screwed up, suffering an instantaneous fate of crushed metal and gore. But, unfortunately, this wasn’t an action movie. There were no heroes or bad guys.

This was real life. And I was a witness to it.

I remember being shell-shocked as my dad continued speeding down the busy highway. I wanted him to stop, silently pleading him to stop, but I knew he wasn’t going to. I wanted to help, trying not to picture what the end result of the accident looked like. Pulling out my phone, I dialed 911 for the first time ever and gave them the details that I could: “On 475 North by Airport Highway…car soared through the air at full speed…slammed into the overpass…only one vehicle involved…I don’t know what caused it…yes, my name is Josh…we…we just passed it…”

Meanwhile, my mom was crying in the backseat, throwing up desperate pleas to God to be with the person in the car.

My dad, with a solemn face, seemed to sense my unspoken desire to want to stop–to pull over and rush to the aide of the victim. With a grave voice he said, “We can’t stop. I’ve been trained in first aid classes that when you see something like that, the worst thing you can do is stop on the side of a very busy highway.” He paused. “I hate to say it, but with that impact, whoever was in that car probably didn’t survive.”

My mom continued to cry for the stranger she didn’t know. That’s who she is, a woman with a heart for anybody.

I continued to stare ahead at the highway, moving closer to home. I mean I stared, but I don’t know what I was seeing because my mind and thoughts were miles behind us at this point. I knew my dad was right; I knew it could’ve caused another accident had we pulled over. But at the time I didn’t care. I’ve never seen something quite like that.

How could something like this happen? It had only been two days since Christmas, a day full of family and cheer. It wasn’t fair to whoever was in that car. It wasn’t right.

Our journey home continued, arriving to safety to turn on the news, very somber and in disbelief. Turns out the man behind the wheel lost control of his vehicle. The vehicle was wrapped around the overpass column. He was 52 years old with a family. My mom is friends with somebody who knew the guy.

Dead on impact.

I know I wasn’t in the accident. I know I didn’t lose anybody that day, but seeing something like that does weird things to your mind. And maybe that’s odd to say because maybe it’s detracting from the reality that a human life was stolen from the world. I don’t know. But how could it not make one think? The rest of the night that’s all I could think about. It’s all I could see. It’s all I could hear. Over and over and over again.

In mere seconds, everything changed for that man. Life ended for him.

Boom.

Gone.

No more.

Maybe he was on his way to see his family. Or maybe he was out to grab a bite to eat. I don’t know what his plans were, but I do know he didn’t plan on dying on December 27th, 2016. That’s usually not something people plan on. Death is just something that happens. It storms into life and carves you right out of it, leaving sorrowful holes in the lives of those left behind in its destructive wake.

What’s weird is that accident wasn’t the first time that day that we experienced the carvings of Death. No.

Hours before that accident, my parents and I were on our way to see Rogue One–my second time and their first. Naturally, I was scrolling through social media, excited for the movie, when five gut-wrenching words showed up on my feed: “Carrie Fisher Dead at 60.”

My heart had stopped.

I couldn’t believe it.

Death began scratching away at my heart.

Princess Leia, a woman I grew up admiring for her bravery and willingness to rebel against injustice–dead. And to find that out while we were on our way to see the new Star Wars spinoff movie? Weird. It brought a deeper meaning to the movie while we watched it somehow, even though Carrie Fisher technically didn’t star in this one.

After the movie, before we drove home, before the awful accident, I’d convinced my parents to walk over to Barnes and Noble since it was next to the theater. I collect Funko POPS! and I wanted to get one of Princess Leia to honor Carrie Fisher in some way. Maybe it’s silly. But I had to. I remember viscously searching the collection Barnes and Noble had to offer. Like a starving animal, I shoved aside the ones that didn’t interest me on the shelves, hoping I’d find one of her, but she was nowhere to be found.

Nearly defeated, I walked up to the help desk and asked the woman if they had any of her. She smiled at me with almost a sad smile, reached behind her, and offered me the Funko POP! of General Leia from Episode VII.

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“I knew somebody would come in today looking for her. Here ya go.”

Wow.

I grabbed that Funko POP! and almost got a little emotional because, I don’t know, the reality of losing an actress I respected kind of hit me and I felt like I held a small piece of her legacy in my hands. You can judge me all you want. I didn’t personally know Carrie Fisher, but I don’t think I had to in order to admire the woman she was–one who spoke her mind without a care about how it made her look to the world, one that was very open and human about her struggles, and one whom fans have reported to be absolutely loving and kind. She was a battle-scarred goddess.

Minutes later, after my purchase, I was looking at that same Funko POP! in my hands while my dad drove us home. I was holding the cartoonish representation of the deceased Carrie Fisher when the sound of crushing metal announced more death that day.

Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m trying to find meaning in something that has no meaning at all. But that day, to me, was a day of death in various ways. The death of a beloved celebrity and the horrific passing of a man I didn’t even know. In both situations, death had its way. It tore loved ones away from each other, only leaving unanswered questions in its wake like a penultimate episode of LOST.

Regardless, my mind hasn’t stopped going back to that day. Every day since when I’ve gone out to my vehicle to go somewhere I stop and wonder, “Is this my last time getting in my car? Will Logan, my adored fur-child (dog), get to see me again? Will my family get a call they never expected?” It’s hard to predict because you never know.

Or I’ve been going through my days almost apprehensive because I’m afraid that maybe I’ll get a phone call from a loved one reporting bad news. Why? Because Death plays its game in mere seconds, destroying all those around it.

These have been my thoughts over the last week. However, I want to be clear that I’m not sitting here wallowing in fear and pity. I’m not letting the possibility of death ruin me. No. I think what I’ve come to realize is that you can’t live your life in fear of death because it happens one way or another. But you can live your life to its fullest every day, despite how insanely cliche that sounds.

You can live your life with meaning and purpose, a life full of unadulterated passion.

You can live every day as if it is your last. (Yeah, I know, I’m getting deep into the cliches! Sue me–just don’t expect much money if you do.)

But is cliche so bad in this situation? Because if you adopt that mindset, you set yourself up for success no matter what you do. Living a life with no restrictions, to its fullest, doing the things you love, not letting excuses hold you back? Well, it changes you and impacts those around you. It doesn’t carve holes into peoples life like death does. No, it plants seeds of power in the lives of those around you–in the life you’ve been granted.

And isn’t that the beauty of being alive? To make those impacts? To nurture those seeds to fruition?

Because, after all, how you live your life is exactly the thing people will remember you by.

How that man lived his life, is how his family and friends will always remember him.

Carrie Fisher’s approach to life will always be scrutinized and studied by all those she impacted–or didn’t impact.

The fruits of life take years and even decades to grow while death, in all its power, ends it in mere seconds. However, death can’t undo the way you live your life. It has no power there.

Why?

Because life is a legacy and legacies can’t be truly destroyed. You never know when your time to build it will be up. You never know when that buzzer will ring, ending your watch, but when it does what will your legacy be?