tough

Today Keaton fell into a swirling tailspin of emotion and tears that I could hardly keep up with, let alone understand.

I kept wracking my brain trying to remember what even started it, but was too distracted by her red puffy face any apparent complete overload of sadness. I’m no help, I’m dumbstruck, what the heck even happened here, how’d we get from zero to one hundred? How can she be suddenly so upset, at everything and nothing all at once.

Later, after she’d calmed down a bit, she asked me, “Dad am I ruining this trip for you?” See, the thing is, she’s such an amazing kid. Thoughtful and kind and aware of others’ feelings. She’s also freshly thirteen and overloaded with a flood of new hormones.

“No, of course not,” I answered. “I’m sorry you’re having a rough day, but I’m glad I get to spend it with you.”

Later I made bread pudding and she sang and danced before bed, giving Sharaun and I each a hug and kiss, smiling.

Sheesh. OK.

where the dollar store is the only store

We out here in southern Kentucky, western Virginia.

We out here in coal country, church country, meth country. There’s one store in town and it’s a Dollar General, Family Dollar, or Dollar Tree. Nothing is really only a dollar, either, so even that’s sort of depressing.

When we checked in Randy was using Krazy Glue to piece back together the taillight on his pickup. He’d backed into the rig in accident and wanted it to look OK enough that his wife might not notice when she got back, long enough at least for him to replace it. He had almost all the pieces, a lawn & leaf bag full of empties and a pile of butts in the grill as proof of effort. “Pick whatever’s empty and what you like and pay whenever,” he said super friendly.

Later sitting outside on this complete fluke of a warm spring day, 78┬░ and not a cloud in the sky. The single washing machine worked but turns out the dryer didn’t, rugs were hung out in the sun to dry. Sitting in camp chairs listening to Stevie Wonder, reading and chatting. Gorgeous afternoon.

Kevin rolls up in a red golf cart on dubs. Yes, really. Fancy watch with a face the size of a small clock, thick herringbone silver bracelet with a red Type 2 med-alert charm in the middle, and a simple silver cross hanging from a chain on his neck. Black shirt tucked into khakis, brown dress shoes.

“Y’all play cornhole?” We look at each other, back to Kevin. “We’re trying to get up a game but ain’t got nobody to play.”

Later, during cornhole at Randy’s site, bought a quart of homemade moonshine from his fridge. White lightning, corn mash. Sampled amply before buying, may account for judgement. It’s in a mason jar under the dinette, guess I’ll use it for mixing when I’m feeling special sporty.

Kevin smokes menthols and only drinks on the weekends. He’s a social worker in Virginia and most of his cases are meth related. He’s had kids barbecued when their meth lab houses went kaboom. He’s been doing this long enough that he’s now taking kids from kids he once took from their folks. Kevin is a sweetheart who tries to take what positivity he can from his job, but he’s seen some shit.

Cornhole goes two rounds before the kids need something to eat. Randy and Kevin are genuinely nice human beings and we’re better for meeting them. They’re both gone when we roll out in the morning so we tape a “thank you for the hospitality” note to Randy’s door on the way out.

Rolling again.

driving

Warmer temperatures in Kentucky mean the welcome return of the shorts, t-shirt, and flip-flops regalia.

We go north, then south, then north again, moving generally eastward with each latitudinal jog. Soon we’ll be in coal country West Virginia. The landscape is already changing (again).

I’m reading Lonesome Dove. Have been reading it for longer than necessary but I stalled a couple times before the halfway point. I remember talking to my dad about literary genres, and he said that if you only ever read one western it should be Lonesome Dove (those little Louis L’Amour tomes were more his jam, because it’s what his dad read, I suppose). I’ve had it on the Kindle for years, and we were somewhere without connectivity so I landed on it while picking through what I had on-hand and un-read.

And, as much as I’ve grown attached to the colorful characters, I’m also fascinated by the description of the cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Particularly the geographic details, crossing rivers and plains and where the towns are and how things like weather and random chance effect the journey. Its honestly my favorite part of the book, the “man vs. nature” parts.

It reminds me of us at the moment, thinking about where we’re going in terms of getting to and getting past cites or mountain ranges or major rivers. Without having driven across this country several times now, I don’t think I’d have near as much appreciation for how absolutely critical rivers are to where people settled and cities grew large.

This country is incredible. Truly amazing when seen from the road or experienced by walking through it. In Call and Gus’s time, it was a lot more dangerous to travel through, but now we simply drive all the comforts of home wherever we want – at the press of a gas pedal.

Peace.

process

I am so happy I’m writing again.

I remember the times of old where I’d suddenly think, “Oh, I should write about this!” Decided, I’d then turn words around in my head, thinking about what I wanted to capture. I’d relive the moments a bit in the process, and if I was really taking my time I’d try to choose the perfect words to capture feelings and thoughts.

I’m having those thoughts again now, and I can’t help but think about what I wrote a few months ago regarding my mindfulness, or, more rightly, lack thereof. In that writing I asked rhetorically, “Dang; have I ever really appreciated anything? Do I just not stop and think often enough?”

Has writing been my ticket to mindfulness all along? At work my notes are my secret weapon, the action of taking them tickling some part of my brain into paying attention and storing. Maybe the reason I’ve been drawn to journaling for so many years is that it helps me pay attention to life, helps me savor living.

Further, maybe giving up writing for pleasure for the past several years is partly responsible for me feeling like I’m living too fast. Perhaps I’m just not allowing myself to process things in the way that best helps me appreciate them – writing them down.

Peace.

mixed

I miss my wife and kids.

I always do when I travel, but I’m finding it more pointed being separated from the state of closeness in which we’ve been living. I didn’t feel this separation as keenly as I’d expected on the flight out, instead I found I fell rather easily back into the predictability of travel. But waking up in a hotel room, alone, has always been the apex homesickness moment for me and that is unchanged.

Conferences seem to be the same across industries, though. Professionals networking, shaking hands and exchanging business cards, suits turned fratboy getting fearfully tossed at the mixers, pressing on the border of professional. All that and it’s New Orleans so Bourbon Street steals 50% of the audience from the morning keynotes.

On a plane again tomorrow and back to the RV.

Goodness.

spritz

Little pee splashed out and onto my left shoe at the airport.

Oh you think that’s disgusting? Sorry, my apologies but I can’t help you. Is a fact that, sometimes, a fine pee mist goes everywhere in addition to the urinal, and that’s when you’re being careful.

It’s the brown leather, so the the little specks will stand out like dark mahogany until they dry, which, thankfully, happens quickly. Right on the toe, a little spritzing of dark.

I notice the markings, and proceed to the sinks to wash up my hands. No soap though because this is really only for show, being honest. Run hands under water, dry.

Glance down again, still a visible pee misting. Darn. While folks are judging my outfit, if anyone looks at my shoes, which is highly unlikely, the jig is up. Dude pees on himself, definitely not depeche mode.

If I had just been outside I could play it off as walking through dewy grass or something, but nah, it’s pee. Could say it splashed while washing my hands, but let’s reserve that trick for more the conspicuous khaki splashback.

Walk it off, walk it off.

traveling┬▓

It’s 5am and we’re piling into a frozen rental car that’s parked in front of the RV. I went out a couple minutes early to start the engine and turn on the heat, it’s below freezing at the Indiana state park we pulled into yesterday.

I’m wearing light denim, a dark blue polo, and my charcoal sports coat with brown shoes and belt. I look a proper business commuter, if not for the somewhat shaggy beard. Neck and head freshly and neatly shaved, though.

Keaton and Sharaun are in pajamas, Keaton with her still-warm blanket wrapped around her. Cohen is fully dressed for the day, saying last night that he wanted to, “Get up at the same time you do Dad, and get dressed while it’s still dark. I like going to the airport when it’s dark.” They’ll keep the car while I’m gone.

There’s frost on the windshield and the heat fogged it up so I’m crouched down peeking out of the little clear spots where the defrost starts working first. Sharaun’s got a bag full of trash between her legs that she pulled from the RV as we were walking out, as the dumpster is unreasonably far from the campground and we can drop it off on our way out of the park.

We’re headed into Louisville, to the airport. Sharaun and the kids will drop me off and I’ll catch a flight into New Orleans where I’m meeting my brother-in-law and will attend an insurance industry conference with him and his CFO. I’ll be gone from the family for four days.

Insurance? Sure. He asked for some thoughts on doing technology related stuff and offered to fly me out. Leaving the family was a bummer, but I love my brother-in-law and New Orleans isn’t the pits.

I expect it to feel a bit odd, attending an industry conference for an industry I know nothing about, tagging along with company folks from a company I don’t work at, shaking hands and smiling and making connections that’ll end up going nowhere.

Until later then, love.