The Little Things: On a Relaxing July 4 Vacation and Work

Happy late Independence Day to all of us Americans who celebrate. Understanding many of the nuances of this nation’s history gives me much to ponder on that day, but I suppose I can get down with good food and family fun, as well as knowing that I’m fortunate that people have worked hard so that I have what I do have.

And what I did have on this July 4th was mostly blessed quiet, the calm before the storm one might say. My wife just had one of her sisters over, and she threw some steaks, dogs, burgers, and even chicken on the grill. I ate till bursting, then topped the night off with some of her homemade butter pecan ice cream. That takes me back to my childhood, when we so often ate the boxes of that stuff my mom would get as it was her favorite. “Eat the strawberry I got for y’all” she would say. But such is life when you have kids I guess, as many times someone would not only eat all of her butter pecan, but also put the empty box back into the freezer.

Ah, the glory days. That piece of waxing nostalgic done, I return you to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress. Friday was more of the same, as I opted to take it off and not have to return to the office immediately after the holiday. I spent much of the day in a groggy fugue, as I had awakened kind of early. And I spent most of it indoors, as we topped out with heat indeces in the low 110s. That’s smokin’!

As that heat finally, sort of, broke over these parts on Saturday, my wife put up the summerish swinging bench she got for the back porch. That thing is pretty cool too, another piece of childhood though they don’t make them like they used to. My grandma had a bit metal swing chair thingy on her porch that I loved to sit on for hours, listening to the world go by. This one is more plastic, with a cloth canopy overhead and tables to either side that can hold cups or phones.

And as the heat continued to mostly hold off on Sunday, we took a stroll through Raleigh’s Dorthea Dixx Park so she could see and I could put my hands on the sunflowers. As we did so, a light, warm rain fell that actually felt good walking through. And, I got to feel and sit in a hammock, which I’ve often tried to visualize but could not quite understand. I love when I get to discover how things I’ve only read about actually work. That rope is kind of tricky to get into, and I could quickly understand how you could easily lie in or sit down on one. Cool.

So all of that had me relaxed and ready to enter what I knew would be a fast-paced week. My work is picking up, as we begin the training I alluded to in the previous post. Turns out I’m going to help someone at least acquire the basics of braille, and I will work with another on Customer Service stuff. I think the most enjoyable part of this is getting to express and expand my creativity as I work with others. It was a good day, just long and ending with a rewarding sense of exhaustion (there are multiple kinds of exhaustion). So just remember to ake heed of and be thankful for those little things that make up a life.

Half and Half

So we have reached the end of the first half of 2024. The beginning of fiscal year 2025. And it has been and continues to be a year like no other I’ve ever experienced.

The first thing that tells us in which part of the year we are is the heat. And it has been, for most of us East coasters, extreme. If you know me though, then you know it’s hard to keep me inside when it’s not raining. Note I do know to listen to my body and seek shelter/water when told to by my various systems to do so. But understanding my need for heat, my wife got me this cool Neck Fan. Up until a couple weeks ago, I didn’t know such a thing existed. Weighing about as much as a headset band, it fits comfortably around the neck and blows air out through upward-facing slats. I’m actually curious how it works, since obviously there are no blades to generate the air. But you can set it at three speeds, and I’ve found that at the middle speed it’s quite effective in keeping me cool and minizing sweat, which of course helps me retain said water. So that thing is going to make my summer a lot more enjoyable.

The second thing that tells me where I am in the year is the amount of books I have consumed. (Side note: do you said you’ve “read” an audiobook? Because my wife and I are having a little discussion about that as well. I guess as a practical matter you are listening to someone read to you, but assuming it’s still a standard book and not something that tilts more toward an audio drama I argue that you are still using many of the same brain components that are involved in textual reading.) Any way you slice it, I have taken in more books (45) than I ever had at this time of year. I think that stems from my low tolerance for stories that aren’t grabbing me, which means I sometimes flick through three titles before settling on one. Lots of historical fiction, as that’s what people seem to be producing in spades these days. I especially love travel and adventure, currently into one called The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West by Sara Ackerman in which a woman enters an air race from San Francisco to Hawaii in 1927. It has some of the same elements of a Lisa Wingate book, as there is a character in 1987 Hawaii who discovers that she will inherit an estate from her great aunt. I’m not sure yet how the stories are going to tie together, but I’m also enjoying these increasingly popular dual-timeline novels.

And the final thoughts I have regarding the first half of 2024 involve my job. I spent nearly these entire six months working with two individuals in particular. I taught one how to perform some actions required in customer service and to do some basic work in Excel. This was rewarding, as he grasped many of the concepts we worked on. But what I found even more rewarding is the work I’ve done with a woman who wished to start learning some JAWS skills. I’ve learned the art of repetition, and of coming up with strategies to try and make the material more memorable. When I informed her that our sessions would be ending, or rather transitioning into a larger course that I will lead on using JAWS with web browsers, she said “Aww, I want more!” This made me feel good, as admittedly I had hoped she was even enjoying any of it or at least feeling like our work was useful. It is still nice to do work that truly matters, and that I hope will help someone achieve their career goals someday.

and that’s what I got for you as we prepare to embark on the rest of this year and our lives. We shall see what kind of fun awaits us on the other side. How was your first half?

UNDERHEARD: Eating Out While Deafblind

If you are like me, you wonder how and among whom the restaurant custom started. The idea of eating out in a place humming with activity, where all sound seems to merge into a full-on roar at times and you are left at the mercy of the wave as you, hopefully, enjoy some good food.

And of course before continuing, I fell down a rabbit hole and discovered, via a website on The History of Restaurants that they were supposedly started in France in 1765. I cannot attest to the veracity of this story, and wonder if some other culture might also lay claim to their origins. Anyhow, it’s good food for thought.

However they started restaurants are a venerated tradition of U.S. holidays and continue to bounce back after the dark days of Covid. Well, sort of. I accompanied my wife, her parents, sisters, and my niece and nephew by marriage to Red Lobster. That particular establishment does not seem to be faring as well, with many having gone into temporary closure and the business as a whole in bankruptcy. I guess they served too many shrimp.

We went to celebrate Father’s Day on Saturday, as is usual for us. It’s often less crowded on this day than if we wait till the day of, though going to eat at Fullers, a delicious local (to Fayetteville, N.C.) eaterie that serves just about everything Southern you can think of for Mother’s Day on the Saturday before, the place was brimming. I joked that it felt like someone was drilling a hole in my brain, because there’s just no really good setting on my hearing aids to help me handle such ruckous. But I made it through, as I always do.

Red Lobster, by contrast, was relatively quiet. We arrived at just prior to 2:00 and departed just after 4:30. I conversed some with those in my immediate vacinity, and ate my fill.

Ok first I had one of those delicious cheese biscuits, which according to my last doctor’s visit I don’t really eed to be eating. But hey, I offset that with a side salad. When I chose to order that salad, I expected to get basically a bowl of lettuce with bleu cheese dressing (another of my guilty pleasures). But actually it was loaded. Little flecks of meat, another kind of cheese (I’m not food afficianado, though I did apply to a food magazine as editor and they told me my resume was good once), croutons, and other stuff. Hey, my wife and I joke that my food critique is as follows: Real good, Good, Ok, not good, nasty! So there you go. Anyway, I had to stop eating before I became full off just that serving.

As we broke bread, talking about work, home, and life, the main course arrived. As I had on my previous Red Lobster visit, I’ve only eaten there twice if you can believe that, I had stuffed flounder (real good) with some kind of seafood sauce) and fries. I decided to walk on the wild side and went for a glass of mango lemonade, (good, I guess)? I don’t eat a whole lot of seafood, but I suppose it can be good on occasion, and I know it’s generally healthy as well.

The last sort of interesting thing I want to think about as a blind person is how we handle visiting the restroom. I needed to go before hitting the road, and it just made me think about my general strategy for finding what I need to find in there. When I enter through the swinging door, I immediately move toward the right wall and make my way around in a counterclockwise direction. This is because, at least in most of the men’s rooms I’ve seen, the sinks to wash hands are just to the left of the entrance with toilets in front. If I move in that direction, I usually manage to locate a stall, exit it, and get to the sink without any embarrassing mishaps. This time? Well, it was sort of strange as I did bounce off of someone as I made my way to the sink. Naturally, he then began providing assistance. It didn’t go completely sideways at least.

So there you have it, a little look into my mind as I work to negotiate the social norms that surround a typical holiday in my family. I enjoy it mostly, and by this point I know that most of the concerned parties know about my challenges and do not think any less of me. But sometimes having these hearing problems can be a struggle. Like when I find myself on a paratransit vehicle with a new driver who loves to talk, but I can’t comprehend him over the engines, as happened recently. I’ve learned though that the best, and really only, thing I can do is make the other person aware of this and take it as it is. More of my shenanigans as the summer time unfolds.

BOOK REVIEW: Shelterwood, by Lisa Wingate

It’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed one of the books I read. In depth I mean, as of course I did talk a bit about the sci-fi series I’m enjoying. Anyhow, one of my truly favorite authors has just released her much-anticipated book. It’s called Shelterwood, and it’s by Lisa Wingate. I made a valiant effort to stay away from any chatter about the book prior to picking it up, so that I could have the pleasure of diving in and being immersed as I trust Wingate’s work to be excellent. So I think you can trust me not to give anything significant away, as I only wish to make you interested enough to check out this title for yourself.

This book deals with children and the mistreatment/orphanage of them throughout the years; abuse, lack of proper care from adult figures, and a forced growing up far too early. We see this impact both white and Chocktaw children in Oklahoma. The fact that it takes place there is enough to interest me, as I have read few if any books set in that state. One can’t help but feel sad that people were and are still faced with such hardships based solely on where and how they happen to exist in the world.

The story unfolds over two timelines: 1909, 11-year-old Olive Agusta escapes her stepfather as he becomes increasingly more dangerous, with Nessa, a younger child whom they’ve taken in in tow. They set off for what they hope is safety in the Winding Stair Mountains, and along the way they encounter a rich cast of characters speaking English and Chocktaw, accented and not. The imagery as they hike through southeastern Oklahoma really make you feel like you’re roaming that newly-admitted (at the time) state as well.

1990: Valerie moves to the region to become a park ranger after losing her husband in a horrible accident (not a spoiler as it happens prior to the story and is revealed sort of offstage). As she struggles with sexism and small-town life, she makes some discoveries with which some are clearly not happy.

I’m not sure how the stories are going to connect in the end, as I’m still making my way through it. That’s good though, as I would probably not tell you if I knew. I do know that the audio especially is very well narrated, primarily by Christine Lakin and Jenna Lamia. Other books i’ve read by Wingate that I would also recommend are:

  • Before We Were Yours
  • The Seakeeper’s Daughters
  • The Storykeeper
  • The Book of Lost Friends

I love all of her historical fiction, as I always learn about some new place or aspect. Or, she just causes me to see something I thought I knew plenty about in a different way. So I would recommend checking this out. I plucked up the audio on the first day it came out, which as a blind person for whom books were not always so accessible I still find exciting.

Why a Blind Man Watches Spacecraft Launches

And yes, I used the word “watch,” as it commonly refers to consuming video content. I “watch” TV or YouTube, or what have you.

I tried to watch the launch of the new Starliner spacecraft yesterday, but unfortunately they still haven’t been able to get it off the ground. Of course because it is a new machine, I’m sure they have to take every caution in putting it into the skies. But I find it particularly interesting to catch it, as this will be only the sixth different American craft created since the U.S. space program began.

My earliest memories of humanity hurling things out of Earth’s atmosphere are the same as many of my generation: the very sad Challenger space shuttle disaster. Because a teacher was going into space, all of the schools had us tuned in to watch this spectacle unfold. I think I only partially understood what had happened that day, because I was only 6 years old. But it gave me my first taste of a desire to explore and the dangers that could come with it.

This desire was deepened, oddly perhaps, by the little-known sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (one of my all-time favorite books by the way) called Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. In this one, Charlie ends up riding the elevator, I think from the factory, into space where he encounters aliens called Vermitious Knids. I guess they were a sort of stand-in for bad kids? Looking back on his writing, it seems maybe the author Roald Dahl didn’t like kids too much. Anyway, I remember the aliens smelling like eggs, and I was rapt by this nonsensical story. It even awoke in me a need to meet people not of my background who brought different perspectives and lived different lives.

As I got older I watched many of the shuttle launches, always feeling a thrill as all that audible power thrust them up, up, and away! I’ve read nearly every story written about the Apollo missions, and was most focused on how the astronauts felt as they left our planet, a slow ride at first with increasing G-force and speed until suddenly you go slack and float off of the couches. How I would love to experience that.

My interest in space and space travel went through the roof (clouds?) with the Apollo 13 movie starring Tom Hanks, which I got to catch in theaters. It was even more awe-inspiring to hear that power projected through a good sound system. And obviously getting those folks back home safely after everything unraveled is one of the best examples of the good we can do when we choose to work together.

Fast-forward to 2011 and the second-to-last shuttle flight. I sat in the lobby of my graduate school department building, feeling ho hum as I faced an insurmountable workload and had no clue how to deal with it. So I took a break and listened to the shuttle blast off. When I finished, I met a wonderful Lebanese woman who helped me get through that last, bumpy year and a half. I have an entire entry about her if you’d like to read it, but it again showed me the power of meeting and getting to know people from different backgrounds.

And as we are still stuck in low-earth orbit, I have read and am reading some sci-fi novels that take me many parsecs (I learned that a parsec represents roughly 3.26 light years) away and years into the future. The Noumenon series, by Marina J. Lostetter, is one of the most imaginative series I have ever read, and I’ve read many of them (the Frank Kitridge Mars series is also excellent). In Noumenon, she has them awake while traveling incredible distances rather than being frozen. I like how she takes care to represent all kinds of people, including multiple cultures and even people with disabilities (a deaf woman and one in a wheelchair play significant roles.) The books, three of them, are long but worth it. So if you get the chance, check them out.

So yeah, my interest in spacecraft launches and space travel overall stems from all kinds of experiences. Hey, maybe I’ll do as I told my mom and be the first blind man on the moon (I’ll plant my cane there!)

IN CASE OF BREAKAGE: A Needed Accessory for My Mantis

First, I shall note that I’m not getting anything for promoting this website because… I’m not that big of a deal. Yet! Ha ha. I’m just writing about it because the product I acquired is something I’ve been needing for a long time and I figure that someone else may need or just want it too.

I listen to a biweekly podcast called Mystic Access. It’s run by a blind couple who also oversees a company that makes tutorials on blindness technology products. On their show, they do demonstrations of some of these products, along with many mainstream solutions, and talk about some of the challenges and opportunities that come with living as blind individuals.

As I listened a couple weeks ago, I heard them mention having acquired a case for the Mantis Q40 from a company called Turtleback Low Vision. As an assistive technology training specialist, I have to carry my Mantis up and down my hallway at work. To this point I had been holding it against my body in its default case, which is little more than a plastic shell affixed to the back, and hoping not to drop it. I also like to take it with me on impromptu car rides and would prefer not to have to lug my backpack on these often short journeys. So intrigued, I took a look.

This case does cost a pretty penny, $145 worth of them in fact. But as you may remember in my post about the NLS display, I dropped the Mantis in my office, broke it, and had to shell out a cool grand to have it repaired. So my calculation is that having a case that adequately protects the unit and allows me to move around easily with it was worth the investment.

And thus far it definitely has been. I ordered the case on a Wednesday and was told via the auto-generated email that it would arrive the following Wednesday. It actually got there by that week’s Saturday, only 3 days later. It’s a sturdy-looking leather case with a rubberized bottom that keeps it from shifting when on a table or even on my lap. But what makes me happiest is there is a good-sized zipper pocket on top of the case into which I can fit my iPhone and even my hearing aid batteries. So I no longer need to take the backpack everywhere I go to make sure I have my most critical items. I only wish the USB port area were a little more enclosed, as I worry that in a significant downpour the ports might be in danger. But this isn’t a really big deal as I could just bring along a waterproof bag in the hopefully rare cases I find myself in soakers.

And finally, I like the magnetic clips that hold the case shut. Older cases often used Velcro, which wears down rather quickly. With the magnetic option, this isn’t a worry. I would say overall that I have been very happy with this purchase.

#GAAD: On CAPTCHA

Today, May 16, is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Its purpose is to increase awareness of and understanding around why sites and components of sites need to be accessible. Of course complete accessibility refers to much more, ensuring that all areas of life are available to persons with disabilities. But I think this day has a primary focus of digital and web accessibility. In that spirit, I want to show what can happen when the various accessibility issues have not fully been addressed.

I made a post way back in 2006 in Live Journal, (remember that? Almost 20 years ago now!) In this post, I railed against CAPTCHA, which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart (Taken from This site.) First, that’s a mouthful. And second, it has been the vain of my existence since its inception. In those days, those of us who were totally blind were pretty much left out of the experience entirely. This meant that, for example, we could often not sign into websites that had put CAPTCHA in place, because we couldn’t “type the characters you see on the screen.”

Eventually, and I’m sure with a lot of elbow grease and advocacy, web developers began to understand that there were a significant number of individuals who were being barred from accessing their products because of this spam-fighting tool. So they answered the call by creating audio CAPTCHA, where words or numbers are spoken aloud, often with some kind of noise in the background to make it harder for computers to pick up what is being said. The voice is also usually not completely clear. And this works for a lot of totally blind people, meaning they are able to “pass the test” and get done whatever it is they are trying to accomplish.

The problem? What happens if you have little or no hearing and partial or total blindness. I am totally blind and significantly hard of hearing, so even the clearest spoken language can be hard for me to follow. If they deliberately make it hard to understand what is being said, I will be lucky to get, say, two of the five words they say correct.

I had this happen just yesterday. While trying to complete a recovery of my Microsoft Outlook account (I locked myself out because I couldn’t remember the password, another issue about which I could write an entire entry,) I encountered one of these lovely CAPTCHA. I switched from visual to audio and must have tried eight different sets of words before I gave up in frustration. I’ll have to get that sorted eventually, but at least I’m still receiving email to my account. I assume it will be lost if for some reason I log out of my Outlook.

Ovviously, this can cause much bigger issues if one cannot access a site that uses either visual or audio CAPTCHA, and as far as I know deafblind individuals don’t really have a way to get past it without sighted assistance. I did try to have some of the various AI solutions locate and read the characters on the screen, but I don’t think they are easy enough to discern.

I guess I’m wondering why we even use these methods, in the age of two-factor authentication. Maybe a code could be texted to a user’s phone? I know this would not be a complete solution as some folks do not have phones that can read text, but it would allow many more to have easy access.

Alternatively, I’ve seen some sites that ask relatively easy math questions for the person to solve to prove their humanity. Whatever the case, I hope people continue to be aware of this issue and the very real stumbling block it puts in some people’s path.

SHIFTING SANDS:My Much-needed Trip to Myrtle Beach Part 3

Friday, May 3. I awake a little after 8 AM, because I love listening to a local radio morning show as this is one of the best ways to get a feel for the area. I can kind of simulate this on my phone with apps like OoTunes, although it’s not quite the same given that I just go in and select the city I want and find a station. And it can be hard to tell if the station is actually in Myrtle Beach and not, say, Wilmington North Carolina. Ah, sometimes I miss my good ol’ analog walkman. I suppose I need to poke around and see if I can find something that simulates that closely enough.

Anyhow, I find a station, Mix 97, that I think is local to Myrtle Beach. The only thing they really talking about was the latest celebrity gossip, but this probably stems from the fact that I didn’t find it till nearly 9. The earlier you catch the show, the better.

We head out of our hotel room just after 10 to one of our Myrtle Beach favorites, Hot Stacks. It’s an area chain of breakfast restaurants that, as far as I can tell, only operate in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. On this trip, I go with the sausage omelet and plain grits, eschewing something they have called Trash Grits. I would get these grits on Saturday, and they were actually much better than the plain grits as they had sausage gravy and flecks of some kind of meat in them. I joke with my wife that if they’d shredded napkins and straw wrappers into the grits, we the customers couldn’t really be surprised. We have that weird sense of humor. Hot Stacks also has delicious coffee, nearly on par with that found at Waffle House.

After eating, I get to explore again with my GPS apps as my wife heads over to the Carolina Pottery to check out some arts supplies. She’s made quite a business making rag wreaths, wooden signs and the like in particular and selling them via Etsy and Her website. If you’re into that sort of thing, check it out. At this location, she finds some hard-to-locate ribbons.

After a short jaunt back to the room to get ready, we head down to the beach with my cousin and his wife for the best part of the trip. The sun is dealt out in just the right measure, with clouds thrown in so we don’t become too toasty. My cousin and I sit on the shore and chat about our similar fields of employment. He is also an assistive technology training instructor, as many of us blind folks fortunate enough to have good jobs are. I just hope our work is starting to give people the skills to open more doors, though the larger change must happen at a societal level, as still too many think non-working eyes means incapable of work.

Anyhow, our wives frolic in the water as the tides roll in. Mine says she is nearly knocked down by a big wave and decides to migrate inland. I join her briefly in the surprisingly warm surf, heard the news say it’s unusually warm which portends a bad hurricane season. Let us hope not.

We wrap up our time waterside in a deliciously warm hot tub. Only I, genius that I am, neglect to take off my shirt as I enter the water. This made for a fairly cold, drippy walk back to the room. Y’all, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Beach time is chill time, so we sprawl on the couch a bit while watching the news before heading out for supper. We join our other couple for dinner, tonight at Giant Crab. They mainly have a buffet, which is kinda pricey at $48 a plate. But it is also pretty good. I have two crab cakes, two servings of mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and shrimp. As we eat, we all allow some of our unique marital inside language and jokes to come out. This is one of the joys of being with someone for a long time, the unusual way we come to understand the world and create our own world.

And finally, we head to my cousin’s room on the 16th floor, where we spend a little more time on their balcony and then inside of their much nicer suite. The balcony is up so high that the ocean is a little more muffled. And that cool breeze starts to get to me after a while, because yup, no long-sleeved shirt. But overall, the night and my trip were just the vacation I needed. They help to reset my perspective as I continue to try and help people broaden theirs.

SHIFTING SANDS: My Much-needed Trip to Myrtle Beach Part 2

Isn’t it funny how much easier it to wake up wen one is planning to travel? Heck, I also find it hard to sleep, mostly because I am and will likely always be a big kid.

After Wednesday’s tire craziness, we had decided we would wake at 10 AM. I am up by 8. I make my way to my mancave, taking care to grab my hearing aid kit (if I forget it I could have a very long trip indeed as it dries out wax and other moisture) and start packing. I try to remember to get a little of everything, jeans, shors, button-down shirts. But the one thing I don’t get and should have is a long-sleeved shirt. Hey, I can’t remember everything.

Before hitting the road, we make a stop at that venerable Southern institution Bojangle’s. The sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit they give me is actually tender and well cooked, and I’ll admit that this can be hit or miss as sometimes they’re hard and not very fresh tasting. But my favorite, the seasoned fries, really hit the spot. I settle in and prepare for the roughly three hour trip.

A big reason I love travel is the ability to discover. I have three GPS apps, and they all give me slightly different information as we zip through small North Carolina towns. Good ol’ Ariadne, in addition to being the one that produces maps I can tour with my fingers, tells me the exact street addresses and even some of the neighborhoods, if they are labeled. BlindSquare makes it easy to see GPS coordinates and nearby restaurants. And the Goodmaps Explore app displays real-time information on changing points of interest as we move, to a degree that BlindSquare does not. It can almost be too much information, but it is also fascinating to really get a look at what we’re passing.

Not that we passed too much as we wound down I-40 and Johnston County, to I-95 and Cumberland and Robeson Counties. Just over the South Carolina line, after passing through a town called Taybor City (Columbus County) on the NC border, we kind of lose the direct, interstate route and are forced to navigate a series of backroads until we finally arrive at Myrtle Beach proper, in Hory County.

We arrive at the Sea Watch resort at nearly 1:30, having made good time. We enter the North Tower lobby and are jostled about by excited passersby as they to get ready to enjoy their journey. Seasoned traveler that I am, I have my credit and ID cards out and on the counter practically before the person checking us in asks for them. We are given room 712 in the South tower, which in itself is 16 stories.

I remember during our last trip out of North Carolina prior to this one, way back in January of 2020 (because of Covid) we walked through an endless hall in a Tampa boutique hotel called West Wing and had a ta-da experience upon entering an amazing, large room. This room, while fairly large, was… let’s just say a lot less ta-da-ish. My wife said it still appeared stuck in the 90s, with a dirty landline phone (ever seen one of those?) rusty hangers in the closet, and spaghetti sauce droppings in the kitchenette. The Sea Watch is really a collection of condos, or rooms that different people owned, so you get a lot of variability from property to property. But then as someone on my Facebook said “you ain’t going there for the room.” True enough, though of course one still likes to have a place that makes one feel safe and comfortable.

Anyhow, we shuck our “road clothes” and don waterwear, me putting on a pair of shorts for the first time this season. But we don’t remain oceanside too long, because even with our nice new beach chairs, snacks, and cold water, the heat soon wins. Well I am not really too hot, mostly because I’m never hot. But I knew my wife had to be getting toasty with the sun remaining out, and I know that even if I’m not feeling hot I still have to be careful of sunburn and heatstroke.

Our evening wraps up with what is now a regular pilgrimage to Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, this time joined by my cousin and his wife. A lot of fellowship is had, with conversation having been improved by the kind hostess who saw to it that we were seated in our own section to accommodate my cousin’s and my hearing difficulties. While we chat, I scarf down some delicious meatloaf, the best fried okra I’ve ever tasted, and macaroni and cheese that was pretty decent (I’m a harsh macaroni critic). Oh, and the biscuits that arrive before the family-style entrees get there can nearly fill you by themselves, so eat with care. I don’t even need dessert after this meal.

And that makes up my Thursday. It is very much the kind of day I need, as I fully emerge from Winter’s lingering effects. And there is more where that comes from on Friday.

SHIFTING SANDS: My Much-needed Trip to Myrtle Beach Part 1

We’d planned this vacation just after Christmas, as my mom, wife, my cousin, his wife, and I sat in our humble home on the southeast Raleigh. Full off of some delicious eating at Logans, a chain steakhouse, we enjoyed relative warmth inside, and contemplated where outside warmth might be had.

The idea was to take my always-hard-working mom down to the beach, as she doesn’t do a whole lot of traveling. We decided the first weekend of May, this weekend, would be a good one, as it is typically warm but the beach is not yet crowded. My cousin and his wife have a timeshare, so they booked in their property of choice, the Sea Watch Resort. I then booked a room for me and my wife in that same hotel. And I felt happier already, because having this trip to look forward to would make staying on the work grind easier. It’s always better when you feel you’re working toward something, right?

So time passed, and a week or so out my mom said she would be unable to make it due to something having come up. Also we had initially scheduled to remain out there from Thursday to Sunday, but my wife asked that I move our checkout day to Saturday so she could get us back in time to relax a little before returning to her teaching duties. This was all fine and good, and I was just happy we would get to go in some capacity.

well… sort of. Our story begins, inauspiciously, on Wednesday night with a nail. The first thing we needed to do was get the dog to my sister-in-law’s house so she could be looked after. The nice thing about our tiny Pomeranian, and I know I’ve written at least one entry about her but am assuming you won’t feel like trying to find it, is that she is easily taken care of. She only needs food and pee pads and she’s good to go, similar to a cat.

So we made the 30-minute ride across Wake County to drop our furry child off, chattering and feeling increasingly excited about the days of sun-splashed sprawling that awaited. Went inside and chatted, as the dog in residence, a biggermix of Pomeranian and some other breed, greeted our arrival. He’s older, but still hanging in there. Fortunately for us, we’d only stayed inside for about 20 minutes.

as I slid into the front seat and buckled in, my wife said she was hungry and we began the usual dance of trying to figure out where to get dinner. As she started the motor however, we heard the ominous beep that means the car is telling us something. Turns out the PSI in the back right tire was dropping fast. The other three held steady at 37, while that one had already plummeted to 25. Being the glass-half-empty person I am (I know I know, I’m really trying to work on that mentality) I feared the trip was gonna be swallowed before we even hit the highway. And worse, we were already inside of the 24-hours one has prior to arrival that the hotel reservation could be canceled. So I’d also be eating $200+. Great!

Off we went, slowly losing speed along the way as the pressure continued to drop. She swung by her dealership, already closed as it was 6:30. So she plugged in (ha, ha) a query for places to fix tires, and came across a Pep Boys that would stay open till just 8. Happily it was only a little over three miles away, so we practically limped over there as the pressure was down to 21 PSI.

“Can you help,” she asked the woman as we got there.

“We’ll take a look,” she replied (there are four cars ahead of you.”

So I collected my things and followed her inside, where the temperature was set to frigid and the air smelled so heavily of rubber that my head immediately hurt. I tried to read, found it hard to concentrate as we contemplated the possilibity that we’d be parting with a big chunk of change for new tires or significant repairs. 7 became 7:30 became 8:00, and the place emptied out. Finally, mercifully, they got to our ride. As luck would have it, we were the last customers to be seen, well after 8 as we had arrived early enough. They told us, a little before 9, that she had inded run over a rogue nail and the tire only required a patch. $25 and lot of relief, and we were good to go again! And with that, your friendly neighborhood pesimist learned a lesson again in how things can indeed work out in the end. More, hopefully, on the actual trip tomorrow. Or Monday? Sometime within the week!