Snowpocalypse 2015

Snow

I’ve heard that Wal-Mart designs their parking lot to be large enough to hold all the shoppers on the busiest shopping day before Christmas. If that’s true, grocery stores must design their parking lots to be large enough to hold everyone on the day before a blizzard. And when I say “blizzard” I am talking about the North Carolina interpretation of the word which is “5 inches of snow.”

I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a grocery store the day before a natural disaster, but I needed the food, so I had to dive in despite my hesitations. First, I tried Trader Joe’s. Bad idea. Very, very, bad idea. I cannot communicate how bad of an idea this was. I have not seen that much competition for parking since I was in college and we’d stalk people on the way to their spots while humming the Jaws theme. The lot was literally full and there were at least a dozen people circling the lanes and a guy in a van tried to back out into me until I honked my horn at him.

So I headed to Harris Teeter instead, where the lot was only 99% full, and I was able to park in the way, way back where I have never seen anyone have to park before. Important shopping strategy tip: grab a cart from one of the refugees in the parking lot like I did because there will be no carts available at the front of the store.

Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be inside. There was still plenty of bread, milk, and eggs. I didn’t see any brawls break out over the last can of Pringles. They had 12 lanes and the U-Scan line opened, so the line moved along at a good clip and was never longer than 3 people per lane. I was able to get in and out without too much fuss, and I got some extra exercise walking up and down the parking lot, so I suppose that’s good for me.

Late night snow

After all that, I would have been disappointed if we hadn’t had a southern blizzard. The snow started coming down around 9pm last night and we’ve probably got at least 4 or 5 inches of heavy, wet snow, though I haven’t ventured outside to do an official measurement. The lights flickered on and off at least three different times last night, but thankfully I still have power.

Unfortunately, I do not have internet, which really puts a crimp in that working-from-home thing. Of course, if I had to choose between power and internet, I’d choose power. I do enjoy heat, and even a snuggly kitty can only provide so much warmth. It’s funny how many things I do these days that depend on live streaming. Can I listen to songs on Spotify? Nope. Can I watch streaming movies on Netflix? Nope. Can I watch the shows on my DVR? You would think the answer to this would be “yes,” but it’s actually “no” because the Time-Warned DVR is stuck in some endless boot cycle that can’t complete without a live cable connection, so I will not be catching up on “Better Call Saul” today.

Loading....not

But whine, whine, whine, at least I am warm and safe and a tree didn’t fall through my bedroom window during the night. I saw some people playing in the snow an hour ago. Grown people, not children, who built a snowman and went all out with an actual scarf. It’s good to see some people having fun. It’s too easy to focus on all the things I can’t do today than on the fun things people can only do today.

Snowman

I’m going to try to post this entry using my phone, which has half a bar of connection strength. *Fingers crossed* That is the one good thing about being snowbound and unwired, it’s forced me to write a blog entry because there’s not much else to do. I’m like Bon Iver.

Let’s get physical…therapy.

Remember when I twisted my ankle and skinned my knee last December? At first I thought I was fine, but then my ankle started hurting ten days later. I hobbled my way through the Christmas holidays, spent an entire weekend indoors on the couch, and then waited five days for the podiatrist to come back from a loooooong New Year’s weekend to get a diagnosis. Turns out when I turned my ankle I strained a ligament on the outside of my foot, which caused the tendons and ligaments on the inside of my foot to work harder to compensate, which is why they only started hurting days later. As a result, I had to wear an ankle brace for a few weeks and now I’m doing physical therapy.

Part of me is depressed that I’m at an age where twisting my ankle requires physical therapy to recover. However, another part of me is kind of psyched to be doing physical therapy. I’m not completely sure why. I know it can be grueling, hard work if you’ve been significantly injured, but I only suffered a minor sprain, so I can focus more on the fun of experiencing something new.

After four visits I can say that:

  • I am getting really good at standing on one leg without falling over. The key is to lock your gaze on a focus point. It’s amazing how much the visual feedback helps. If you want a real challenge, try balancing with your eyes closed.
  • I can spell the alphabet with my foot really well.
  • I’m getting fairly good at lunges, though my knees sound like crunchy cellophane.
  • My ankle sometimes makes the most interesting clicking sounds.

We’ve been adding more exercises each week that I do at home between visits. It’s gotten to a point now where it’s definitely a workout, making me sweaty enough after a session that I drive home to take a shower. I’ve started bringing a water bottle to PT like I would to the gym. All of which has made me start to understand the appeal of having a personal trainer. It’s nice to have a scheduled time on the books where I have to exercise. Non-negotiable. Typically, I try to fit it in exercise when I can depending on how heavy my workload is or how much my headache is hurting. (Me and my headache, seven years together as of yesterday!) Of course, I can’t really afford a personal trainer, and even the physical therapy visits are $50 a pop, so it’s not something I can afford to do long-term. But I can see the appeal now.

The ankle itself no longer hurts when I walk, thank goodness. Currently we’re working to strengthen the muscles around the ankle so I’m less likely to twist it in the future. Evidently the strongest indicator of whether someone will sprain their ankle is if they’ve sprained their ankle in the past. Unlike the stock market, past performance is an indicator of future success.

Anyway, it’s just one more mark of wear and tear on the body I’m moving through life with. Injured ligaments. Grey hairs. Rosacea that worsens in my 30’s. Who knows what aches and pains I’ll develop next? At least with physical therapy I’m less likely to take another header on the sidewalk.

Another year, another vision board

It seemed like bad mojo when I couldn’t find the vision board I made at a vision board party last year. If you lose your vision board does that mean you’ve lost your vision? Yes, I had a picture of it that I’d taken for a blog entry, but that’s not really the same thing. I looked behind the bookcase I’d had it propped up on and…

Money behind the bookshelf

SCORE! I found twenty bucks! I have no idea how it got back there, but I ain’t turning Mr. Jackson away. However, I still had no vision board. After an extensive search of the apartment I finally discovered it leaning against my dresser in the closet, which triggered a vague memory of relocating it there myself a few months ago. Existential crisis avoided.

2014 Vision Board

I was looking for my board because the same friend who hosted the party last year held one again last week, this time as a brunch during daylight hours which made her house much easier to find, thank goodness. I took a look at the board and was pleasantly surprised to see that some of the things I’d wanted had worked out for me.

  • The little piggy bank with the word “Save” = I was able to make more money in 2014 than I had in 2013.
  • The image of a girl on a computer next to the words “Create Something” = I wrote 41 “real” blog posts (that were not playlists or book promotions) this year as opposed to 22 the year before. Yay for creative output!
  • “Trips of a lifetime” text next to passport stamps = Fantastic trip to Punta Cana last year.

As for the other stuff, uh, it didn’t all work out. I guess we’ll leave it at that. I did like having this little snapshot of what I wanted at that time in my life. It made me realize I had made some progress on things that I might not have noticed otherwise. Sometimes I feel like I’m just killing time and not moving forward in life, but I can see now that I have not been totally standing still.

Here’s what the vision board looks like this year:

Vision board 2015

I suppose you can try to interpret it for yourself. I’ll check in next year and let you know how it turned out.


Total tangent, but when I tried opening the photo of the twenty dollar bill in Photoshop I got this message:

This application does not support the editing of banknote images

In order to work around it I had to open the photo in the default Windows image viewer, take a screenshot of that, and then paste that into Photoshop, which for some reason did not trigger the counterfeiting warning. So bizarre.

My family didn’t exchange gifts this Christmas and it was awesome

I did not get these for Christmas

When my mother suggested that our family not give each other gifts this Christmas, I was somewhat aghast. I know the true spirit of the season is supposed to have something to do with goodwill towards men and blah, blah, blah, but the presents are the part that have always seemed the most important. You can take the candy canes and the reindeer, but please leave the presents. However, after letting the idea sit for about 10 seconds, I realized my holiday season would be a lot easier if I didn’t have to fret over what to buy my family members or brave the hoards of shoppers to obtain those things or spend money on the stuff in the first place. So I told her, “Well, it’s ok with me if it’s ok with everyone else,” though I really wished she’d floated the idea before I bought a book for my older brother off his Amazon wish list. My mom proposed the idea to my brothers and everyone was on board, which means there were no presents under the Christmas tree this year and it was a remarkably wonderful experience.

When I was a kid, Christmas presents were awesome because 1) I had no income and 2) even if I did, I had no way to transport myself to a store to buy things, and online shopping hadn’t been invented yet. So gifts were the only way I could acquire things I wanted. Birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, please-buy-me-this-She-Ra-doll-please-please-please gifts– they were all great. However, now that I’m an adult with my own income stream I find that if I want something, I just go out and buy it. Sure, I don’t get to unwrap anything other than the Amazon shrink wrap, and there’s no surprise about what’s inside since I already got the email receipt, but it’s nice to be able to get things for myself without being dependent on others. I can’t afford to buy every single thing I want, but I can afford what I need plus some luxuries on top of that, so I’m doing fine.

Everyone in my immediate family has a steady income right now, so none of us are in serious need of gifts to get by. And no one has come across a vast windfall of money that might make them feel like being more generous with gifts this year. As much as I love everyone in my family, I can’t say I know what to get them unless they make it easy for me, like by creating an Amazon wish list. When I think back over the years, I can’t exactly remember who got me what the past few Christmases anyway. There are a few things that stand out. One year my little brother got me a GPS, which is something I would never have thought to buy for myself, but I’ve used countless times to prevent getting lost. My older brother got me the video game Journey which I’d never heard of, but was one of the best games I’ve ever played. And my mom knows me so well she once bought me a sweater in the same style but different color than I’d already bought myself.

But other than these outliers, it seems like Christmas gift giving is a stressful way to get things you may or may not want by paying for things other people may or may not want. Sure, it’s a great feeling when you get someone something they really adore or didn’t even know they would adore, but it also sucks when you feel kinda lame for buying everyone gift cards with a bag of holiday M&M’s attached because you had no clue what else to get them. Then there’s that horrible, awkward, disappointed feeling you get when you receive something you don’t want or sense that you’ve given someone something they don’t want.

When I went to a doctor’s appointment in December, the nurse taking my blood pressure asked me if I was done with my Christmas shopping yet and I said yes quite happily even though I hadn’t bought anything except for that book on my brother’s Amazon wish list. I didn’t even bother to explain my situation to her because I felt bad that she still had to deal with that whole rigmarole. Once Christmas Day came, I didn’t even miss the ritual of opening Christmas presents in a circle, one by one. When I was with my family I got to concentrate on being with them instead of worrying over the gift situation. So yes, it still felt like Christmas even without the gifts. I guess those Whos down in Whoville were on to something.

The best gift that Christmas was not having to deal with the stress of acquiring gifts. I’m glad my mom came up with the idea and that everyone else was cool with it. I know that not all families would be willing to opt out of Christmas gift giving, but hopefully we’ll make this an annual thing. Who needs presents when the cats fill up the space under the tree quite nicely on their own?

Road trip

Filling my tank like it's 1999

It was probably a bit crazy to drive from North Carolina to Indiana by myself in a day, but I managed to make it both ways with only one of my toes going slightly numb. Normally I fly back home for the holidays, but I decided to drive this last year for several reasons:

1) I was spoiled by flying first class for Thanksgiving and the idea of stuffing myself into an economy seat was more depressing than the idea of stuffing myself into my Saturn.

2) When I looked at the number of rewards I’d earned at The Fast Park over the past few years, I realized my car has spent over two months parked at the airport. I thought parking it in Indiana would be a nice change. But isn’t it weird to think I’ve spent two months of rent on an empty apartment?

3) Gas prices were so cheap that I was able to make the round trip for only $79.87. Why yes, I do keep meticulously obsessive records. Want to see my spreadsheet?

4) Driving gave me flexibility on when I came and went, and I didn’t have to get anxious about getting to the airport on time. Instead I got anxious about getting through mountains before nightfall. (That’s when the goblins come out.)

5) No TSA! I was able to bring an entire bottle of shampoo with me. It was awesome.

6) This is a rather weird reason, I will admit. I’ve been watching the reality show Pitbulls and Parolees lately and it’s fairly common for the people who work at the pitbull shelter to drive long distances to deliver a dog to its forever home. I couldn’t help thinking, if they can drive from New Orleans to Tampa with a dog in the van, surely I can make it to Indiana on my own.

I was on the road for Indiana at 7:55am, just after sunrise. On my way to the Hoosier state I saw seven cops making traffic stops, various roadkill that I could not identify, and two dead deer on the side of the road. I also saw at least six roadside memorials for people who’d died in traffic accidents, which is a rather disturbing thing to see over and over, particularly when you’re already nervous about driving through the mountains. Those signs that say “Fallen Rock” and “Accident Investigation Site” aren’t very reassuring either. Driving is more dangerous than flying, and I kept being reminded of that as I made my way west, though it was rather interesting to watch the elevation level on my GPS as I made my way through the Appalachians. It started at about 1300ft and then went all the way up to 2800ft and then down again.

I took a break every 3 hours so I could eat or pee or stretch or let my right foot regain feeling in the heel. I don’t have cruise control, so I had to manually operate the pedals for the whole trip. I alternated between listening to music and podcasts because after an hour or two of music you wish for talking, and after an hour or two of talking you wish for music. I had lots of old RadioLab podcasts loaded on my MP3 player to keep me entertained. Once I hit the halfway point of the drive I felt more confident that I’d be able to make it the rest of the way. I just had to do what I’d just done one more time, right?

I always get a bit nervous when I hit a stretch of the drive where there don’t seem to be any gas stations or restaurants for 20 miles or more. It’s easy to forget that humans don’t occupy 100% of the world’s land. But it’s also nerve-racking to know that if the car breaks down or you have a medical emergency you are way far away from immediate help, and possibly out of range of a cell tower. I suppose a fellow motorist would stop to help eventually, but then I’d be in the situation of being a lone female depending on a stranger’s help, which is uncomfortable no matter how nice they are because you can’t help thinking they might be a serial killer trolling the highways for prey.

Anyway! The passenger’s side door did start to make a disturbing rattling sound outside of Lexington, but I eventually figured out it was caused by a pair of sunglasses in the storage pocket rattling against each other. I did get my car checked out before I left for the trip, so I was glad that hadn’t been for naught.

Whenever I go on long car rides I make friends with some of the vehicles. The guy in the blue Prius would pass me and then 10 minutes later I’d pass him and then 10 minutes after that he’d pass me again. I followed the yellow Estes truck down I-40 for at least an hour. Then I followed the Royal Cup truck through Tennessee. Actually, I followed a lot of trucks because I am evidently one of the slowest drivers on the expressway. Probably 80% of the drivers were passing me, and whenever I passed someone I was shocked someone was going slower than I was. It was a little sad when I parted ways with one of my highway friends at the interstate split. I don’t know who was driving or what their name was, but I still get attached to my familiar fellow travelers.

The last two hours of the drive were the worst, in both directions. It was at that point that any stiffness or tension in my muscles caused my headache to rev up, and my foot really started to hurt. But I figured it was just pain and I know how to deal with pain, so I kept driving. And I made it! I was so proud that I made it! It was a nice reward to pull up to an apartment with this inside:

Oh, Christmas tree

The Sunday traffic on my drive out was really light, so to balance things out the traffic on my way back was heavy. Did you know that the Dollywood area is evidently a very popular after-Christmas hot spot? The line for that exit off the highway was crazy long and caused a major traffic slowdown.

I’m not sure if I’ll try to drive to Indiana again. It’s good to know that I can if I need to. Fortunately this time around I had great weather. No rain or snow during either trip. If the weather were more treacherous I’m not sure how I’d feel about driving through the mountains. Actually, strike that, I am sure how I’d feel about driving through the mountains: terrified. I was not meant to be a racecar driver or long haul trucker, that is for certain. But I was able to make this one road trip, and for that I’m proud!

Trip Stats:
1407 miles
35.798 gallons of gas
$79.87 cost of gas
39.3 miles per gallon

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Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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