Rx: Toes in sand, stat

I want to start this little blog post by saying how truly humbled I was by the support I received after my last post. I feel like my spirit has been buoyed by those around me, and I have been particularly grateful for my faith community. My friend Annette (a fellow Unitarian Universalist) sent me a wonderful letter in the mail (a real live letter!) She closed it by saying: "Just hold on to the love that all of us feel for you. We will hold you up until you are ready to stand on your own." Wow wow wow. 

It's not easy to admit that your mental health has been in shambles, but I've felt nothing but support from friends and family alike. I'm feeling sturdier every day. 

Gaston ("My, what a guy, that Gaston!") is around four months old now. He's an absolute lunatic who is determined to use up most of his nine lives before his first birthday. The little dude is fearless. He'll jump into a kitchen sink full of knives and then climb the nearest window screen. He makes us laugh multiple times per day. Gaston's a pistol but I have zero regrets about adopting him. I fell asleep on the couch a few days ago and woke to find him snoozing on top of me, his nose just inches from mine. We joke that he has two moods: love-dovey and bitey-bitey.

After agonizing over our summer plans, we did end up taking a trip to the eastern shore last month. We'd originally planned to go in July but my kiddo got sick so we postponed it. We hit the road in mid August (with a teenager in the back seat complaining bitterly about the length of the drive and blowing through cellular data like tree branches through a wood chipper). We were supposed to leave on Friday and arrive at the beach on Saturday. We altered our plans a bit at the last minute. My dad and stepmom, who live at the beach, had a (possible) COVID exposure so we needed to wait for them to get their test results back. My sister and I had a Groupon deal (a very expensive Groupon deal) for an oceanfront hotel in Ocean City, Maryland. We couldn't check in until Sunday, though (hence the need to kill an extra day before our arrival). Our little family decided to take a detour to Cleveland, spending an afternoon at the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. I felt "okay" about it because they were limiting attendance and tickets had to be purchased ahead of time. The joint was not overly crowded and of course everyone was masked but I tell ya, people are so weird. There was plenty of room for everyone and yet, every time I stopped to read a display, a stranger had to read that very same information at the very same time. Wait 20 seconds until I'm done and have moved on? No can do, apparently. 

While we were at the Rock Hall, I got word that my dad and stepmom had received negative test results. So technically we could have gone straight to the beach but I had already made a pre-paid hotel reservation in Baltimore's Inner Harbor for that evening. So, we headed there after leaving Cleveland. I thought it would be kind of fun to walk around the Inner Harbor a bit, but it was pouring rain. We pulled up to the hotel with the expectation of using the hotel's valet parking. Nope, they don't offer it anymore. We parked and were about to enter the hotel when a tall man stopped us. He was bleeding pretty heavily from his arm. He said he had a room at the hotel but didn't want to freak anyone out by walking into the hotel and dripping blood everywhere. He asked us to tell the front desk clerk that he was there. I'm not really sure what happened after that. 

We checked in and loaded our suitcases into the elevator. We entered our room and found . . . a bed that had been slept in, as well as wet towels on the floor and carry-out containers on the nightstand. This has never happened to me before. I kinda thought hotels had this sort of thing down pat. We were soon re-assigned to a different room. Thaaanks, Baltimore. 

The next day we drove to Ocean City, arriving at lunchtime. We visited my dad and stepmom for a while before checking into our hotel. We were at one end of the second floor and my sister and three of her four children were at the other end. My brother-in-law stayed home to get some peace and quiet to work. We had zero complaints about this hotel. Oceanfront view, comfortable beds, and no weirdness. We took the stairs as much as we possibly could because elevators are another thing that's gotten weird in the age of COVID. People will see that an elevator is already full and hop right in. That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works. 

I know the media outlets love to show an aerial view of U.S. beaches and tsk tsk tsk over the crowds. I agree that large crowds are problematic, but it's possible to go to the beach and not be shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers. During our visit, we waited until around dinnertime each day to hit the beach; by that time most people had headed out and there was plenty of room to be had. 

We enjoyed several days at the beach and got to celebrate my dad's birthday with him. My oldest niece happened to be staying in Rehoboth with her Penn State roommates that week, so she came down and joined us for the day. We ate at a restaurant on the bay side of Ocean City. The outdoor dining area is right on a little beach; my sister's two youngest kids had fun playing in the water while we waited for dinner to be served.  

Before heading to my sister's place in Northern VA, we took a little trip to Assateague Island. We badly wanted to see the wild horses and scoured the island. We saw a handful of horses from a distance but that was about it. Then, just as we were leaving the island, one lone horse stood on the side of the road, munching some grass. We called him the Consolation Horse, thinking he was probably paid to be there so that tourists didn't feel short-changed when they left with no equine sightings.

The three of us stopped and visited my grandma in Arlington on our way to Centreville. I hesitated to visit but we decided to keep our masks on and keep the visit short. I had a gift for her so we stayed long enough to drop off the gift and chit-chat for a few minutes before leaving. If we had somehow passed the virus to my elderly grandmother, I would've been beside myself. Not many people my age have a grandma still around! Fortunately for me, my mom married a much younger man; his mom is the person I consider to be my grandma (a role she has fulfilled since I was in third grade). 

The next few days were spent with my sister, my brother-in-law, and their kids (the oldest was back at Penn State). Mostly, we just hung out. The kids splashed around in a pool that had been set up in the driveway. We played games and enjoyed a cook-out. I spent a lot of time hanging out in the sun room, which my sister prefers to call The Solarium because it sounds fancier that way. Their yard is heavily wooded so at night I would just hang out and listen to the creatures calling to each other and the insects buzzing about. It was very relaxing. My daughter and I did take one field trip to Potomac Mills (outlet mall) because she was in need of some ugly shoes as well as jeans that come with holes already in them. 

As we hit the road to head back home, we stopped at Glory Doughnuts in Frederick, Maryland. If you're ever in that neck of the woods, you must stop. So. Good. As Homer Simpson once said of doughnuts: "Is there anything they can't do?" No, no, there is not. 

After another hotel stay on the way home, we arrived back at our humble abode on August 24th, ten days after we'd left. Our house/pet sitter kept Gaston from killing himself while we were gone. The little bugger seemed to have doubled in size during our absence. 

I realize that traveling cross country during a pandemic was a bit risky. I am glad we went, though. We avoided crowds as much as we could, mostly sticking with carry-out for meals (other than the bayside dining for my dad's birthday). We stopped at a few rest stops, but got in and out as quickly as we could. It's not like anyone really lingers in a public restroom in Ohio even in the best of times. I had packed a cooler with drinks and snacks so that we could reduce the number of stops for food. People seem to be pretty good about wearing masks, in general. 

You may be wondering about my wig. Or maybe you're not. I dunno. I picked up my wig about a week before we left. I had a lot to learn as far as taking care of it, but I've gotten reasonably good at it. It wasn't cheap so I have an incentive to make sure it remains in service for as long as I need it. A stylist cut bangs into the wig for me. She was very kind and friendly. Acted like I was the most beautiful woman she'd ever seen. 

The wig helped my anxiety almost immediately. Meanwhile, I'm on a new treatment plan with my dermatologist and I'm starting to see some modest but hopeful results. In the meantime, I'll keep rocking the wig. In the immortal words of the poet for our times, Ariana Grande: "You like my hair? Gee thanks, just bought it." 

One thing nobody tells you, though: a wig is HOT. Not hot like "me so sexy" but hot like "are flames coming out of my cranium?" hot. That bayside dinner in direct sunshine? I thought I might spontaneously combust. I'm glad for falling temperatures here in the Midwest because I need a break from the summer heat. 

I'll wrap up now because my daughter says she's doing homework, but I need to investigate and confirm. Her school is fully remote (much to her disappointment) but she's muddling through. She's also taking driver's ed remotely. Her dad and I can't wait until she can take a shift on the summer road trip. Maybe we'll sit in the backseat and complain about how Ohio seems to have gotten even bigger since our last road trip.


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