MiniMoon 2: Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach (Part 2)

To read about what we did last Thursday, check out Part 1. I thought I should start this post by talking about the unusual elements of this particular hotel stay. First, that couch on which I slept made it difficult for one to do much other than sleep. This is because the back was so low that I found it difficult to sit up straight. It was somewhat uncomfortable actually, save for modifications we made in the pillow arrangements. But, I guess this was not a particularly big deal as we didn’t spent a whole lot of time there.

The other unusual thing occurred as we awoke on Saturday morning. As I dressed for the day, my wife decided to turn on the TV and check out some of the programming. On doing this, she was greeted with the on-screen message: “Hello, Miller. The weather is…” and an ad featuring someone enjoying time at a Marriott property. We thought this was amusing, if not a little unnerving. It’s another step hotels are taking to personalize, I suppose.

We then prepared to leave the room fairly early by our regular travel standards: around 10 AM. We had no concrete plan, except to have breakfast which we did in one of our favorite spots. Cracker Barrel was not too packed or loud, and so I wolfed down a couple of sausages, some cheese scrambled eggs, grits, and biscuits. It was delicious and filling as always.

Then, it was time for the fun. We cruised to a parking deck on Market Street, after a considerable time trying to find somewhere to put the car. Of course parking is almost always going to be an issue in urban areas, and given that I’m more of a pedestrian/public transit person I don’t have a big issue with cities not being so built for it. But for those times that cars are used, I am glad that decks do exist.

When we hopped out with the intent to just stroll around downtown Wilmington, we immediately encountered a horse and carriage ride leaving in a few minutes. I had been on something of a horse and carriage when at Camp Dogwood, a facility on the shores of Lake Morman that houses blind people for weekly sessions throughout the summer, many years ago; but I had little memory of what that was like. This tour was fun, and bumpy as I sat somewhat precariously on the end of a tightly packed row. It was slow going though, so there was no real concern that I might be bounced. I kind of got the feeling that we should go back to traveling in this manner more often, though I wonder how hard it is on the animals to clomp clomp along that pavement day after day. The guide noted that all of their horses, and I guess they have a considerable fleet of them, were rescued from different areas. Also, the guy had to navigate down the streets while standing and watching traffic in front of and behind us while narrating, which sounds like a difficult feat indeed.

It was hard to hear much over the already noted clomping of those hooves and general roar of traffic, but I think much of the tour showed off some of the old Southern houses. One tidbit I did hear that interested me was about the pastor who founded Carolina Beach, believing correctly that Wilmington residents might want to flock down there especially during the summer. Of course in those early days, it was not as easy to venture long distances.

Once this relatively short ride was over, we hopped onto the boat for a longer ride along the Cape Fear River. The winds were blowing something fierce though, and so especially the outbound trip was a little nippy. This was fine, though. The tour, which my wife suggests was probably still new, was not as well-developed as that we took in Charleston. Basically, the only thing the driver told us was about the large container ship that had pulled into port a few days ago from Turkey. I think it was due to stay there a couple weeks before heading back out. He noted that they dredged the Cape Fear River, a previously fresh water body, so that boats could get farther in. This had the unintended effect of making the waters brackish and the river tidal, allowing for continuously increased salivation, killing some of the native trees and doing other environmental damage. Interesting. On the return trip, we simply listened to music blaring from the speakers, and I basked in the trickle of sun and much-diminished winds. This was a nice experience, though.

After this, we mostly just strolled. a quick walk through downtown, an accidental foot long cheese coney from Sonic (I’d only ordered a regular) and a swing by the hotel to grab some things, then we were off to Wrightsville Beach. She said some adventurous folks were actually swimming in the water, and others sat bundled up like Alaskans. We had secured only an hour of public parking, so we moseyed along heading out along the ocean. I could feel the lactic acid accumulating in my leg, and so kept joking that I would need a “back ticket” meaning I would pay some dough to hop aboard her back. There was less housing and/or hotels to see than on Myrtle, so we just enjoyed the sound of pounding surf until she looked back and realized she could hardly see the Johny Mercer Pier, our starting point.

“Uh-oh, we’re gonna have to book it back to the car,” she said as more than 35 minutes had expired. We made good time heading back in though, arriving with a out 12 minutes left.

Wilmington traffic can be a. bit insane, and so the stop and go of it lulled me to sleep until we stopped for a quick visit to Kure Beach. Here, I was struck by the slight difference in the waves’ sound. This area was even less developed than our former location, and we didn’t remain very long. But I liked that I could truly smell the sea salt on the breeze.

And that was the substance of our vacation. We made another trip to Kickback Jack’s, where I this time consumed a delicious buffalo wrap. And then, it was time to relax my tired body, enjoy some togetherness, and rest up for the jaunt home.

So, I don’t know what journey we will take next, but it’s likely to be to the fourth conference of the Norrie Disease Association in August. More on that soon though. Till then, I await another story.

MiniMoon 2: Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach (Part 1)

Because we haven’t necessarily been able to visit a truly exotic honeymoon destination as desired, (there’s only so much money to go around sadly), we have taken to breaking our trips into what we call “MiniMoons”. These began with a relatively cold trip to Myrtle Beach South Carolina in early February that served as a relaxing chance to bond among ourselves. And eat, of course we ate. Our proposed final destination in this series of trips is to take the cruise we were not able to take the year prior on our anniversary: January 27, 2019. But, we shall see on that. Even so, there is a lot of fun to be had in between.

So we wanted to schedule our second venture out during this period, as she has a prolonged time off. I opened the Marriott app, choosing as I have many times to use this large hotel chain because their booking process is accessible and I can often find decent prices. Conducting a search in the Wilmington area led me to the Courtyard by Marriott Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach. I booked Thursday and Friday nights, getting the former for less because it was still within the workweek, a good choice for budget travelers such as myself.

We arrived after a relatively smooth ride down on Thursday shortly before 2 PM. Actually, sleepy-head that I was particularly on that day, I am not really knowledgeable of how smooth or rough that ride had been. Stress and another long 3-day workweek had left their mark on me, causing me to get sucked under whenever not in motion. But that sleep was not only sorely needed, but its necessity would be augmented by our first activity.

Because we would not be able to check into the room until 4 anyway and it would close down by then, we jumped straight out of the car after a 2-hour ride and walked onto the Battleship North Carolina. It’s actually the USS North Carolina, but is more popularly called “the battleship”. De-commissioned in 1947, this vessel was sailed into Wilmington’s Cape Fear River where it has become a permanent tourist attraction, after having carried troops serving in World War 2.

These kinds of activities continue to fascinate me, as they allow me to experience objects I have only read about and am thus unable to accurately visualize. They do present an audio tour, but I gather this was largely useless as one would find it difficult to navigate the phone’s app while also focusing on walking in there. But the signs onboard are plentiful and give lots of first-hand information. She had warned me that the walking and climbing would be strenuous, and the low ceilings and tight passages added to a sense of claustrophobia. But I was still amazed by the size of that ship, and its solidity: there were parts on the main deck where it sounded like I was walking on a normal floor rather than a ship’s deck. We descended at least two slightly unnerving ladders whereupon I had to attempt not to go too quickly and overrun her while also noting that someone might be approaching from above, and that I should be aware that head could meet padded metal as I arrived at the lower level. We also came back up to the main level and went up a couple more levels as well. It was.. fun, says everything but my back and legs.

We saw the mess areas with tables secured in place, the fairly large kitchens and butcher rooms that fed the troops, the crazy sleeping accommodations for folks who had to wash, with beds in what must have been a steamy laundry area, and for the majority of troops who bunked five high on what felt like shelves with limited padding. We read that some chose to sleep on the deck instead but this came with its own risks, primarily being splashed with salt water as the ship turns. And of course officers and higher-level staff lived largest, with cabins that had private baths and sitting areas. While the ship did have a lot of space, I still couldn’t imagine living onboard with a couple thousand people and trying to navigate on rolling seas. Probably the tightest thing we did though, and one that had me questioning my sanity, was to wriggle into the gun turret. It was cool though, because everything became completely quiet and one could envision sitting on that perch and having such a commanding view of the war theater. What that meant in the end of course is a far sadder thing to contemplate.

One funny incident did occur. While standing stationary in one of the open areas, she suddenly began talking. Thinking she was speaking to me, I said something. Then, a six-year-old girl said “oh, is he blind? I’ll explain what’s going on in here.” We thought this was such a nice gesture, and I continue to marvel at how much more open-minded these kids are than those of my generation.

This tour largely made up Thursday’s substance. Afterward, we ate at Kickback Jack’s where I gorged on one of their delicious burgers. Then I passed out on that hotel room’s uncomfortable couch for nearly an hour and still slept like a rock that night. You do that and tell me if it doesn’t do you in!

Continued in part 2, as this is fairly long.

Going Virtual: On A Different Kind of Job Fair

having attended grad school, supposedly, has many perks. One of these, of course, is that one is able to establish connections and learn of events that will help to launch his or her desired career. For the past couple of weeks, I had been preparing for such an occurrence: the Bender Virtual Job Fair for persons with disabilities, that I learned about via my Queens University Career Counselor. They put this fair on through a platform called CareerEco, which seems to do this on a regular basis for organizations and entities like universities that wish to present opportunities to a wide variety of students all online.

One thing I did like about this Career Eco platform is that they clearly attempt to make sure that everyone will be able to use their website and its chatrooms easily, through tutorials on screen-reader usage and recommended technologies. It is heavily suggested that Windows with Firefox and NVDA be utilized when participating in the chats, as one is most able to hear the incoming sounds as recruiters and others send them public or private messages. But being the maverick that I am, I kind of figured I could probably still make it work with my Mac, which I’ve now owned for a little over a year and am making fairly decent progress on I should add.

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I know, I will likely install Windows 10 on here someday soon, because yes there are some things that the Mac definitely does not do as well. In this case though, I would say that it did ok.

First, I put in a nearly full day at the day job, which I of course will retain while considering other options. The challenge with this decision though is that by the time I launched the site, at around 3:15, many of the recruiters had indeed already taken off. Some had indicated that they would be around later in the day, but as I figured they began shutting down around 12 PM. The fair went from 9 AM till 6 PM after all, and there were probably only so many attendees. Plus, well you’d naturally need to take a break from the screen for a while.

That being so, I still managed a couple of brief conversations. I spoke with someone at the Federal Aviation Administration, because we all know I”m a travel junkie and would love to find a position within this federal agency. I also chatted with a Walgreens rep who noted that most of the positions for which they were specifically hiring were somewhere in Illinois, but that I could try and get on at any store. Walgreens does have a good track record of hiring people with disabilities, so we shall see.

I wanted to see about talking to Apple, but their person had closed up shop by the time I arrived. I’m not certain how much of a retail person I could be, and the Apple stores are fairly loud, but it did look like an interesting path to explore. It’s ok though, just because the fair is over the potential connections do not have to be.

Finally, I spoke with and looked up information on the organization itself: Bender Consulting. They have an interesting story: founded by a woman with disabilities who seems passionate about helping more of us achieve competitive, no pity employment. I am definitely going to continue looking into that and gaining a fuller understanding of what exactly they do.

I would say that on the whole, the online job fair was a unique and good experience. A couple of big advantages it has over in-person fairs is that one, that one being me, is able to hear everything that is said with ease, even as the crowd ebbs and surges, depositing questions and seeking answers. The other, as touted by the ad itself, is that everyone is able to present on a more level playing field, without regard to dress, obvious disability status, and/or lacking of linguistic and other bodily cues that recruiters might consider. Of course, if one were invited into an in-person interview, he or she would then need to present well in these areas, but I suppose it at least allows the conversation to be started.

So with that opening shot, my career preparations are now fully underway. I am getting a number of irons in the fire at the same time, and hopefully something will take shortly. Every little experience helps in firming me up for that to occur.

Have you gone to a job fair recently? If so, what kind of connections came out of it? I did become curious about who put on the first such event, and the answer to this question is hard to find. Do you know?

Read It And Share

Already a month since I’ve darkened these pages? Oops? I had intended for once a week, but I guess adjusting to this new life has caused that to temporarily fall off of the table. I shall make no further promises of the sort, but well we’ll just see what happens.

In today’s post, I thought I would discuss a big way that my wife and I are merging and/or sharing hobbies: that of consuming the written word. As I’ve noted before, I have to remember that allowing parts of myself to be shared with my partner and her with me is probably one of the most important things we can do for each other. Not as easy as it should be for one who has largely grown up in his own bubble most of the time.

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In addition to, and derived from, many of the NPR stories I referred to in the linked post, I have generated a vast love for reading. I like to think, perhaps wrongly but whatever, that I now have a decent understanding of the kinds of books those closest to me might enjoy. In an attempt to introduce my wife to the joys of reading for pleasure (she helps kids learn to read for academic reasons with the idea that it might extend to pleasurable consumption and does a great job at that) I opted for a title that is considered Young Adult (YA). Not too complicated or long and easily relatable to those of us who grew up in low-income households. This book is entitled Piecing Me Together, by Renee Watson.

The gist of Watson’s story is that mentoring can be a powerful, but also challenging, way to help bring people up. We follow Jade, a 16-year-old living in supposedly rough North Portland, Oregon. Jade already has aspirations to attend college, but her main immediate goal is to visit a Spanish-speaking country in the school’s study abroad program. Every chapter is given a Spanish title in fact with its English translation.

The story gets more complex as Jade encounters racism in the stores, is fat-shamed, and generally made to question her very essence. One of the school’s staff, Mrs. Parker, recommends Jade to a program called Woman To Woman, where persons are paired with mentors who also attended the elite school to which Jade has been admitted. Maxine, her mentor, has all kinds of difficulties herself that revolve mostly around relationships and job choices. This of course effects her interactions with Jade as well.

I like the pacing of the book: even as a somewhat difficult topic one still enjoys the humor that is throughout the story. I also appreciate the many references to Jade’s bus rides and the people she meets onboard, one of whom turns out to be a really good friend until their relationship also hits some snags. I often end up reading the bus ride scenes as I take my own commute with people who are all familiar to each other and now to me as well.

Every time my wife reads it for a bit, she manages to shoot way past me and I must then catch up. She still has surprisingly good comprehension of the content, probably due to having to learn scan-reading for academic purposes. I, on the other hand, must pick my way along slowly. But the important thing is that we are taking this in together, and it gives us something else to discuss beside life’s usual stressors. She has suggested that we do a classic, a biography and a historical nonfiction piece of some kind, and I am down with this idea.

This is not our first attempt at such an endeavor. We started Kindred, by Octavia Butler, way back in 2015 (boggles my mind that it’s been three years already!) but then life intervened. Butler is also well known for her ground-breaking science fiction meets black history stories though, and if you haven’t read that one I would recommend it. It seems to have heavily influenced another, more recent, one that I read called Long Division, which I may have written about previously in this journal.

So we have reading, some NPR, and of course the near constant ragging over Carolina/Duke that will be especially intense at this time of year. If you have a partner now, what kinds of things are you doing to share enjoyment and de-stress together?

The Cary Characters

How often have you moved to an entirely different town. I bet I could count the amount of times I have, as infrequent as it has been. Southern Poines, PineBluff, (though that’s hardly a different town) Durham, and now Cary. I guess one might argue that Cary is not all that different from Durham, as they too are neighbors. However the vibe in this town is different, quieter, wealthier, and composed of a certain aesthetic that one rarely finds.

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For this reason primarily, I wondered how I would be perceived by those I encountered along my journeys. While I had already taken some jaunts, to the DMV to change the address on my ID card and to Bank of America to get records for my employer, my first real trip was to work this past Monday. Of course, this was accompanied by the usual lack of sleep that follows such a major transition, but if there was a saving grace for that first day, it is that I didn’t need to be there until 8.

I deduced that I could take the bus from the Cary Train station to the Regional Transit Center in Durham, where the walk to my job consists only of crossing one street. Once I acquire my ID, I hope to finally get paratransit, the Cary Door To Door service specifically, to drive me to that station, but for the time being I have taken Lyft. On Monday, this proceeded mostly quietly, without me meeting anyone but managing to board the bus with minimal assistance from a station worker. But on Tuesday, when traveling at my more normal time of 6:30 in order to be at work by 7, I spoke with another individual who says she works for the EPA. She told me what I’d thought, that having Door To Door drive me to the train station and catching the bus, as she does, should be cheaper than having them drive me all the way to the plant. This local Cary service will do the latter if I need them to, only for work or medical reasons which I think I have already noted, but it is priced at a different tier.

Another, true, reason why I do hope I can still at least partially ride the bus is that it keeps me from being completely isolated. I don’t mind paratransit and all that, of course, but on the bus I tend to encounter a wide variety of folks who can help me make connections known and unknown. Already, the individual I noted earlier has introduced me to others she knows along the route. These could make me aware of more community resources around here, and more importantly I guess, other potential areas of employment.

Speaking of that, my return to the shop has actually been great. I was welcomed with open arms by those I knew and some I don’t actually remember, but all of their salutations were appreciated nonetheless. I have also been placed back in light sticks, my previous section, which makes me exceedingly happy. They modernized the systems during that short period I was gone as well, with an online program that allows viewing of pay stubs, time off, and other HR/pay-related issues. I have yet to be shown how this works, but it will be a major advantage to be able to keep track of such things myself. They also send out email with internal office positions to which one can apply, and I have already seen two that I would like. The only issue is you have to have worked for, either sixty or ninety, I forget the exact number of days, before you can apply for one of these. This is okay though, as I feel buoyed by the fact that I will know when such options come down the pipe, along with the fact that the HR staff were so supportive of me and my ambitions to have some kind of career.

Of course getting such a career to take off would only help my marriage, which is thus far off to a nice start. I had been told by many that once one marries, he feels and becomes more adult. I would like to think that this is the case for me, though I also freely admit that I have a lot of work to do on myself before I’m really where I wish to be. But I am, we are, having fun with each other, and even though she has resided here for nearly three years in many respects we are both still getting used to this place and all it has. One thing I really enjoyed is a jaunt to a local Mexican restaurant with her sister this past Friday, where we were mostly able to converse, and I chowed down on a beef taco, chicken burrito and beef enchilada. That and so many other things leave me with lots to look forward to as we continue to try and sort this whole thing out.

A SkyView Wedding

Some argue that the three most seminal events in one’s life are when one is born, marries, and dies. Well perhaps we could add “has children” to that, but that differs from person to person.

Anyhow, I have done the second of these, and am now married. Prior to my own, I think I’ve only been to four weddings, my Aunt’s, sisters, my cousin’s, and my now sister-in-law’s. And they’ve all been quite different from one another, as people nowadays see opportunity to put their own stamp on the proceedings.

Most ceremonies are preceded by a rehearsal on the night before, as ours was on Friday the 26th. Before going over to the venue, Skyview On Hay, we had a wonderful dinner at Grandsons Restaurant, wherein I consumed meatloaf, two fried chicken legs, green beans, Mac and cheese, and iced sweet tea. The only minor sadness was that the piece of Black Forest cake, chocolate with Cherry in the middle, was tiny. But honestly after all that food, it’s not like I could put away much more.

The rehearsal goes fine, and we were able to meet the DJ and photographer before practicing our walk down the aisle. The plan was for me to accompany my pastor from the church in Southern Pines that my mom attends, and where I went for many years.

But on this night, the pastor is not there, so my cousin’s wife takes me on the stroll. I mostly wonder about pacing, and joke that I’ll just run down and take my spot. We are accompanied by standard wedding music, but the bride marches to Why I Love You, by Major, a beautiful song that actually has a similar rhythm to the traditional “Here Comes The Bride” that is usually played. We don’t actually practive the vows, though I kind of end up wishing we could have, as told later.

After this, we make our way back to the hotel we have chosen, due to its being located near several restaurants and a Walmart, and meet my cousin and his wife in their room. Here, they throw us an impromptu bachelor/bachelorette party in which silly items are exchanged and laughs are had. I also get a delicious cupcake that is decorated with toothpick type things that say “I do”. I eat most of it, but become acutely aware of the mess I am making on my dress clothes, which are not the tux I will wear for the ceremony, but are nice nonetheless. The constant photos taken this week mean that I must look “the part” throughout.

Sleep for me is not a problem, as the day and truthfully the whole year prior finally catch up to me and suck me under. Once I wake good she has left to have hair done, so I relax by watching the 6 AM news and reading some. Then we head to breakfast at the Cracker Barrel with some of our closest friends. I know that a good coffee is probably needed, it won’t do to fall asleep mid-ceremony after all, and so I get this with Grandma’s Pancake breakfast, including two of those, eggs scrambled with cheese, three sausage patties all of which I do not eat, and hash brown casserole. The restaurant’s noise level is such that I am able to at least moderately participate in conversation, which is saying something for these establishments. I then went up to chat some with my cousin, the only one of us who decides against waking so early, and finally head down to the room to continue contemplation and meditation.

Tux on, because it is easier than carrying it over to SkyView, we complete the ride over during the 12 PM hour, mostly in silence. And yes, we know we have violated the tradition of not seeing one another before, but figure that TECHNICALLY SPEAKING, I am not seeing her prior. Ah well, it makes things a lot easier logistically, and if that causes us issues we probably had bigger fish to fry.

It is as I sit at the “sweetheart” table and listen to things being prepared that the nerves really begin kicking in. Until, in walks my father with donuts and stories, the latter which we also take into the “Vault” (this particular wedding venue was formerly a bank” and chat with the other guys in the party. And because we seemed to be relatively closed off from everyone else and I could use the stress relief, I pull out my iPhone and fire up the UNC Tar Heels game with NC State. We all cheer and moan as time winds down, with the game ultimately going to overtime and my Heels losing. (Ah, the Carolina-Duke rivalry is one of the things to which my wife and I are most looking forward, as she is sadly on the other side).

At approximately 2:50, someone signals us to exit the vault and I stand there with my father, wondering if he will indeed walk me down. As it turns out, my pastor has not shown up for some reason. We thus do as in rehearsal, and I just walk with my cousin’s wife. My wife’s father was to be the pastor for only the second half of the ceremony, but he goes ahead and starts. Most goes as expected. Our friend again sings those songs, even better both as it is the real thing, and the sound system is more fully set up. A prayer is said, then her dad reads 2 Corinthians Chapter 13, I think, the one about love, faith, and charity. We say words to each other, mine about her ability to both inspire me to aim higher in serious conversations and our side-splitting silliness borne of similar imaginations, and hers of the continued journey that started with our friends long ago, and especially on a fortuitous trip to Daytona Beach. For this reason, we may choose this place as our honeymoon destination later in April, assuminbMiami is overpriced. But who knows.

The vows. Well, I said most of them easily and well enough. But then there was a phrase I wasn’t expecting, and my hearing makes it difficult for me to pick up out of the blue statements like that. That was a little embarrassing, but ah well. Then I was concentrating on the act of having the ring placed on my finger, the wrong one as it turns out, and didn’t realize zi needed to repeat after him and say he words that solidify it as a symbol of marriage. He simply said “Say With This ring I be wed,…” and all was well. I guess I felt a little better though as even he had a small glitch, assigning us both an entirely new last name: “Everybody, please welcome Mr. and Mrs. Campbell!” This drew amusement from all.

Y’all, do we really have to have the picture-taking part? It’s torture! We spent nearly an hour naturally-but-unnaturally walking, kissing, holding hands, leaning in, combining and recombining participants, and yes even laughing. Nah it wasn’t that bad, I actually enjoyed the entire day. I was, however, glad to finally step out into the fresh air for a bit.

Our first dance was Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud, which has a great deal of significance to both of us. That really long wedding dress which I must have stepped on like 30 times meant we could only rock back and forth, and she admitted to feeling strange as every eye in the place was on us. I felt great though as I consumed food catered by Fuller’s Restaurant: baked chicken legs, delicious rice and gravy, Mac and cheese, green beans, corn, and a roll. This topped off by two welcome glasses of lemonade, as all that picture-taking parched me.

And that was most of the substance of it. The best man, (my cousin) and maid of honor, (her sister) did give nice speeches, as well as both of our parents. By that point, exhaustion was definitely setting in, and so I was glad when, after having the marriage license signed and witnessed, we finally took off.

And so here I am, still getting used to having this piece of metal on my finger and this wonderful individual always in my life. While our longer trip will happenlater, as I noted, we hope to take a little jaunt to Myrtle Beach this Thursday night which will help with the Winter-induced cabin fever. So, here’s to many more years and the joining of two great families.

License To Wed

Of course at this stage, the most salient thing happening in my life is my continued preparation for marriage and living in a new area. One thing I keep discovering along the way is how complex the process of creating this union is, at least in the eyes of our state and federal government (the latter barely functioning these days which may cause problems for many later, but that’s beside the point).

Anyhow, the next stage of preparation for us was to acquire a marriage license which will be completed after the ceremony, then filed to make us all legal. This process is a little more complicated for us, because the wedding will be held in Fayetteville and we are located in Cary, meaning constant back and forth driving.

So, she took off early yesterday and we headed down to the Cumberland County Courthouse, located of course in Fayetteville. First, we had to step through the metal detectors. Initially, she was uncertain whether to help me walk through, but the guy watching us told her to go ahead so I reattached and entered with no issues. I did wonder if they jammed all cell communications, because my phone began vibrating as soon as we exited the building.

Next, we located the correct room, housing the Register of Deeds. People milled about, and we stood in line for only a few minutes before presenting our ID’s to the woman behind the counter. My partner said she had been able to update her drivers license online, so the photo presented there had been taken about fifteen years earlier. This led to extended scrutiny, with the woman’s eye jumping back and forth between her and the picture on the card. Eventually though, she decided it was legitimate.

Next, we had to confirm that we were entering into the marriage willingly on both sides, which caused an issue with me because of my hearing. Once the lady was aware that I might not always pick everything up though, it seemed to get easier to do so. I found her to be quite friendly, actually.

Then came the hardest part. We had to go into another room to enter all of our personal and parental information onto a computer, including their addresses. This is a challenge, as it is not something about which one usually thinks from day to day. You have to remember to list your mother’s maiden name as well. We also had some issues spelling Mecklenburg County, as well as the street on which my father currently resides (I hope I got that right in the end).

Then it was back out to present to our friendly counter lady for verification and signature. Once we got everything spelled correctly, I then had difficulty signing. They didn’t mind me making a mark, as long as it was reproducible . Where the problem really arose was in my inability to remain in the correct line, as I slid down into the area that says “do not sign here”. She finally worked out that I should just sign against a ruler, which would keep me mostly straight. I keep saying I will get another signature stamp, as it would make this process a lot more painless, but I also blame said stamps for the loss of my ability to make a good signature. I had learned it once long ago, and most times at least I could keep it within the line without any sort of guide. But then I had a stamp for four years. Signatures are definitely a “use it or lose it” thing for me, but perhaps I can re-learn it.

After a final verification, we were done! She then explained how we need to wrap everything up post-wedding, which is going to involve at least one more trip down there. Just another piece in the endless and slightly unnerving paperwork with which I must contend in order to get this thing started.

Apart from the actual marriage, other things are going well also. I have accepted the offer to return to my old job at LC Industries pending a drug testt, which I already knew would happen. No worries there, of course. I hope I can get the same position I had before, but well we shall see. And, I am ever-so-slowly adapting to Cary. I wish they could expand bus service to this town, as after 10 AM it is difficult to get into Durham, but I have already sort of covered that ground. I know I will be able to at least get to work somehow until I get all of the paratransit stuff sorted out, which will also be fun as they have residency requirements, and are not answering their phone. All will be well though.

I hope you are finding this part of my story interesting. We are looking forward to applying a big seal this coming Saturday and celebrating along with family and friends. I will probably document the big moments therein on next Monday.

Let It Snow… Or Maybe Not

So, my time as a Charlotte resident, middle transition as I’ve called it, will come to an unexpected end. This is because we have recently been pounded by a fierce (yes, for us Southerners) snow storm that has ground everything to a halt. I was only able to work this past Tuesday, and even though they had opened the place on Wednesday I could see via the forecast that going in would only make for a circus return home around 10 AM. They also called off today and tomorrow already, due to excess ice at the location.

I stepped out front here though, and there is surprisingly little ice and strong sunshine. This is welcome news, as cabin fever is taking over. Pondering if I can get out of here and go somewhere? We shall see.

Oh, how this Winter is different from the last. I remember spending most of the previous January basking outside on the strip of restaurants near my Durham apartment, as temps were usually in the upper 60’s to low 70’s. While that of course is unusual, this year has also been unusual for the opposite reason. Last night, we dropped into the teens yet again. It would not surprise me if this month has had more days with teen or single-digit temperature readings than any other. We’ve spent a lot of it at least as cold as, or in some cases warmer than, some parts of Alaska. BRRR!

So I am kind of bummed about missing those last three days of work, as it puts me in a tighter monetary situation than I had anticipated. But isn’t that the way life works most of the time? We make plans, and God laughs? I am at least seeking to make productive use of this time, as I have re-applied to LC Industries in Durham and am waiting to hear back. Next, I have to try and sort out transportation in Cary, hopefully utilizing a paratransit service local to that area. It says they will take me into Durham or Chapel Hill if I need work or medical appointments, so there.

I am also thinking more broadly, and trying to figure out how or if I’ll get to use this Master’s Degree I spent a couple of years obtaining. I do now have the document certifying its completion, and it is still thrilling to put my hands on it.

And not much else. Of course I’m already reading strong out of the gate, what else is there to do when one is basically marooned for three days. Already completing books 3 and 4, the latter being Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward. She also wrote Salvage The Bones, and both of these titles are set in a fictional Mississippi town where we see people living in hard-to-imagine poverty up to and after Hurricane Katrina. She is a really talented writer, having received multiple awards for each of these books. So I will go ahead and dive back in, after perhaps finding something to eat.

If you too were blanketed by snow, I hope that your power is on and warmth persists. I know I am fortunate to at least be in a place where I am not freezing, as some are. Amazingly, I have just over a week till marriage, so my next post will likely be from the other side. Wish us well.

#FridayReads: A 27 Year-End Book Post

And, hello from a thus far sickly 2018 for so many of us. This is, in fact, the first day since January 3rd that I’ve felt even remotely up to writing. (The first was a travel day, and the second a readjusting to work day). Ah who am I kidding, I’m still readjusting to work.

Anyhow, I thought I would give a summation of the kinds of books I’ve read in the previous year. I think Stefanie Michaels (AKA AdventureGirl) will post my entire list of books with a little about my chosen reads soon in a guest post. Exciting, as she has a huge following! So, I’ll just hit the highlights.

I concluded the year having consumed 52 titles, the most ever for a single year. I think, amazingly, that I only read more than one piece by the same author (two by Clive Cussler, because he makes good fluff reading and has a lot of travel involved.)

In yet another sign that grad school has permanently infected my brain, I did something akin to Grounded Theory and lumped my books into different categories until saturation occurred, or in lay terms, I could think of no more new categories. Am I gonna be like this forever? Probably. The groupings are, of course completely subjective, and books c an fit into multiple categories but I chose what I thought was the primary one.

Heck, even the category of an author’s gender is to some degree arbitrary, as I do not always know if a title was written by a man or woman, but that doesn’t matter a whole lot overall. I’m mostly just curious to see if I am diversifying my exposure. According to my count, I read 24 books written by men, and 28 by women. I think I usually achieve about that balance in most years. I also read 40 fiction books to 12 nonfiction ones. That number surprises me, actually. I’m definitely reading more nonfiction than I once had. This can be attributed to the proliferation of “most popular” lists, and to sites like Twitter.

As for the more granular breakdown, I will list each of the other categories and one of my favorites therein.

Dystopian: 2. Well, I always enjoy titles from this grouping, as they help imagine the world if things went, well wrong. Not that we will have to “imagine” much longer, but that’s beside the point. The one that stands out most is The Last Tribe, by Brad Manuel. In this book, the planet is struck by a random plague that wipes out all but a sliver of the population. A family has to bond together, collecting other “survivors” along the way, and make their way to an area where they can continue to live and thrive, rebuilding society. It’s a fascinating story, but not that well edited. Looks like it may have started life as a NaNoWriMo novel, but I like it because it gives me hope that I may one day be able to produce such a thing.

Family, 6. Ok, I’ll admit this is a sort of catch-all category for ones I could not as easily categorize. Probably my favorite though is The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. I’d bet most of you have read this already, but it’s about a young black man who is gunned down buy cops while his female friend watches, and the complex reactions and interactions set into motion for her and her family as a result of this killing. It was especially topical against the spate of shootings that occurred throughout the U.S., and can help explore how these encounters can eventually cause major issues in whole communities. An honorable mention is The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson. It looks at race in the American south in a more unusual way, through older and younger family members who discover complications through a family secret, and end up with a mixed child, respectively. One you should get in audio, because that woman, the author, is just a great reader of her own work.

History, 10. This includes historical fiction and nonfiction, and probably my favorite was Someone Knows My Name, by Lawrence Hill. I think I reviewed this title earlier, but it is about a slave who makes the hard journey from the African interior to the U.S. mainland, and becomes famous over time, even venturing to England to meet Queen Charlotte. I didn’t realize that this story was fiction until I concluded it, but I think it is still based on a collection of people’s stories. Great stuff.

Memoirs, 4. I’m really starting to enjoy this category, as many are choosing to read in their own voice. My favorites were A Carlin Home Companion, by Kelly Carlin, and Endurance: A Year In Space, A Life Time of Discovery, by Scott Kelly. In the former, the daughter of famous comedian George Carlin tells what it was like to grow up in his household, and the many challenges she did and still does face. She is fun to follow on Twitter as well. Scott Kelly is also a good social media presence, and his story talks about that as well as life aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and all the work and improbable ads he had to overcome to get there. The bio and space residency are interwoven to make for a rich experience.

Mystery, 5. In this grouping, I mostly placed books that centered around who committed a crime of some sort. Two of these, Passenger 23 by Sebastian Fitzek, and All By Myself Alone, by Mary Higgins Clark, took place aboard cruise ships. I had actually read four titles that were set amid this floating venue, since the plan had been for me to experience that with the coming marriage as I already detailed in the previous post. They were all still good, and I think paint cruising in an interesting, hopefully overly dangerous, light. I more like the whole social, connectivity aspect.

Psychological, 2. These are typically the more disturbing books. The Good Girl, by Mary Kubica, was such a story. I probably also talked about this one, but it has a before and after where a woman was, I think abducted, and her life changed as. result. We see all of the therapy invested in getting her back on the right track.

Romantic Suspense, 2. I confess I don’t entirely remember which two I listed here, but I’d guess Seeing Red by Sandra Brown was one of them. After having listened to her in our local bookshop, I had to check this title out. I think it was my favorite by her thumb far, because the characters were more nuanced than usual. Kera the news reporter is following up on a terrorist attack she was part of as a child, and in so doing, she unlocks secrets someone wants hidden. There is a lot of travel involved, and of course the requisite sex scenes. But this book really gets at the idea of media frenzy following these kinds of events, and how hero worship can cause unintended consequences.

Sci-fi/Fantasy, 10. Also one of my most read collections year in and year out, I would most recommend Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel. I don’t know if this author intended, but his titles work best in audio as they have amazing characters. You’ll want to read the first in this series, called Sleeping Giants, before proceeding. They follow files including letters, interviews, and other such entries that note the arrival and actions, many of which are devastating, by an alien race. You… just have to read it.

Self Help, 1. Well one could argue that I’m supposed to be reading another called Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, but I’ve not quite gotten around to that one. I and my partner did complete one called The Five Love Languages, by Garry Chapman . I guess it does provide some insight into how you like to be “loved” which can be helpful to you, your partner, and the relationship as a whole.

Social, 2. This group consisted of the two texts I read during my school studies in their entirety, Alone Together by Sherry Tyrkle, and New Tech New Ties, by Richard Ling. They both tend to paint relatively dim pictures of what all this “smart” stuff is ultimately doing to us and our social relationships.

Travel and Adventure, 8. Probably my favorite of these books was The Winter Over, by Matthew Iden. In this, which I got via the Amazon First Reads listings, a group of people are residing in Antarctica where they work to complete experience and fieldwork during the long, dark months known as the Winter Over. It explores psychological issues that can plague a crew so isolated from the sun and most of the rest of humanity. A rather interesting, though the author concedes definitely fictional, look into life down there.

And that is barely scratching the surface of my massive book pile. But this post is already pushing 1,500 words. I hope you find something there in that interests you. Let me know if you want more details on any mentioned and not. More soon.

Finale

The last time I selected this subject line was roughly six years ago, as I met an unceremonious end to my time in the (then labeled) Rehabilitation Counseling and Psychology program at the University of North Carolina. A crushing blow, and one from which I was not sure I would recover. But it pleases me now to use that same subject line to announce completion of my Master’s program at the Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte! Well ok technically speaking, I have a presentation in which I must participate tomorrow, but it is largely informal. The real hard stuff, (i.e. that all-consuming Capstone project) is officially behind me though.

If you would like to get a sense of some of the coursework and such I completed along the way, view my Digital Portfolio, wherein I even included a fun video of me taken on campus by a kind student. (It was fun working out how to get that from her phone to mine, but I did). Getting it done showed me how resourceful and good at networking I have now become, though.

What is next? Well, I’m not entirely sure, other than what I posted in the previous entry. On relocating to the Triangle, I want to find a job perhaps on a college campus or with a nonprofit of some sort. I’m betting though that I will first have to return to the sheltered workshop there, as I am currently working at its sister location in Charlotte just to keep the account balance above 0.

RELATED: Job Days No. 5

With this dough, I must fund at least some of the remaining wedding expenses, as well as a hopefully relaxing short trip to somewhere like the Wrightsville Beach resort we visited a couple years ago. We’re thinking the longer more spectacular trip will take place later, but a couple days away still sounds grand. After all, she is celebrating completion of a dissertation, which I know is something I will probably not even attempt.

And what will I do with my time now? Well probably more of the same thing I’ve already been doing with it, lots of reading. I’ve already surpassed 50 books this year, I think because strangely the more stressed I become and crazier my life gets the more I wish to slide into the pages. I haven’t really analyzed which types of books I’ve most read this year, as that part will come at the end. But I bet I can get in four more titles before this month, with all of its holiday parties, draws to a close.

Finally, how do I feel about this achievement? Well, it’s oddly sort of anticlimactic, but I’ll likely get the full hit once I receive my diploma, which the school is supposed to mail out over the holiday break. It definitely removed a big ol’ ugly monkey from my back, as ever since I spent time as a Ronald E. McNair Summer Research Intern, I have desired to do what that program most aimed to help us complete and receive a post-Bachelor’s degree. So I am confident now that this has been done. Now to make it, and the not-insignificant student loan debt incurred along the way, worthwhile. But it’s a gamble one takes if one wishes to advance not only his life, but as I’ve always said, the lives of many others. We shall see how everything plays out.