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February 19, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

My Trip, and A Few Pictures

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I arrived safely home on Monday from my trip, and I had a great time!

The flight up:

My flight left Friday night, about a half hour later than originally scheduled, because when the plane came in from the previous flight, they had to circle a few times while waiting for their turn to land.  Or something; I couldn’t hear the entire announcement.  I got the part about how nothing was wrong and didn’t worry too much about the details.

I talked with SS on the phone until it was time to board.  I was relieved when I buckled my seat belt and didn’t need to ask for an extender.  I put the arm rest down to see if I could have flown with just one seat, and it was snug, but I fit.  I honestly didn’t expect to fit into one seat, but I did.  (I rode the whole way home with the arm rest down, and it was fine.)

The flight was smooth and uneventful, and we arrived very close to on-time, despite taking off late.  The landing impressed me.  I have always been amazed at the technology that allows such a huge, heavy hunk of steel to fly above the clouds, but it’s even more impressive and amazing, to me, when the pilot can put the wheels on the ground so smoothly and make it seem easy.

My arrival and first night:

I called SS when I got off the plane, and I saw her shortly after, standing just beyond the security point, smiling and waiting for me.  Our airport reunions always involve wrapping our arms around one another and holding on, and it’s always as wonderful as the first time.

As we were walking to her car in the parking garage at the airport, we passed a pickup truck with snow in the back, and I couldn’t resist taking a picture with my cell phone.  Not the best picture quality, but I hadn’t seen snow in so long, it fascinated me.  (Boredom warning: if you live in an  area where it snows, you might find a good bit of this post, and my childlike excitement about the snow, a little monotonous.)

The snow captivated me even more than I expected it to.  I was kind of like a little kid, pointing and gaping with my mouth open.  On the way from the airport to SS’s house, I called Mom and Sister to let them know I’d arrived safely, and while I was talking to Sister, we passed a big pile of snow.  As I saw it in my peripheral vision, I first registered it as “sand” because it isn’t unusual, here in Florida, to pass a construction site and see a huge pile of white sand.  In the fraction of a second it took me to correct my first assumption with the knowledge that it was snow and not sand, I had to laugh.

We arrived at SS’s house and she gave me the tour.

SS is quite the romantic.  She laid dark chocolates out in a heart pattern on the bed.  (Funny, though; they’re the same Dove dark chocolates I bought her and put into a heart-shaped bowl with dark chocolate Hershey kisses and a little stuffed pink teddy bear with horns and a tail.)  If it’s hard to see in the picture, it’s the letter “I” in the upper left corner, then a big heart with an arrow through it, and the letter “U” in the lower right corner.

The little pink tulips on the corner of the bed are actually on a very cool greeting card she gave me.  On the back is a little bit of interesting trivia about tulips:

“In the seventeenth century fashionable French women wore tulip corsages, and the phenomenon of “tulipomania” began in Europe.  The bulbs became a form of currency with rates quoted daily.  People left their homes and jobs to become tulip growers.  One fanatic collector traded thirty-six bushels of wheat, seventy-two bushels of rice, four oxen, twelve sheep, eight pigs, two barrels of wine, four barrels of beer, two tons of butter, cheese, a bed, clothes and a silver cup for a single bulb!  In 1637 a decree was issued declaring tulip bulbs were to be sold in the same manner as all other items.  Speculation ceased, prices fell to reasonable levels and many people were ruined financially.”  – Linda Barthel

She had candles all around the room, and soft music playing, and something smelled really nice (she later told me it was her furniture polish and wasn’t actually a planned aroma).  On the nightstand was a vase of fresh tulip buds (that became more and more gorgeous as they opened over the next couple days) and candles, which we lit Sunday night.

I felt very rich and pampered, indeed, looking at those tulips over the weekend!  I wish I could have brought them home.  I was leery of trying to take them through security, though, and chancing having to leave them at the airport if I wasn’t allowed to take them on the plane, so SS has been showing them to me every night on Skype, and taking new pictures as they open up more and more.  As of last night, the black centers were visible.  Gorgeous!

SS just sent me some pics from this morning:

I’ve been collecting photographs and drawings of tulips for a while, along with different sizes and designs of frames, and I’ve been planning (for a few years) to make a tulip-collage for my bedroom wall.  I think I’ll work on getting that together by spring, and adding photos of these tulips, as well as some tulips SS gave me when she was here in January (I should post a picture of those, too).

I have about a year, yet, in the apartment I’m living in, before SS and I merge into one residence (a post about that is coming soon).  At that time, we’ll decide together what decor we want in our bedroom, and if All Tulips All The Time doesn’t do it for her the way it does for me, I can hang the collage in my office.  If I don’t go with the retro nostalgia-room thing I never finished putting together, that is.  Or if maybe I change the decor seasonally.  Something like that.

Ok, here is a picture of the tulips SS gave me in January:

But anyway, back to the topic of my trip.

I met Mr. Man Cat and we hit it off.  SS says he usually stays out of sight for the first day or so, when meeting someone new, but he came down the stairs as soon as we got in the door, looked at me, and as soon as I spoke to him, he came right up to us.  It took him a couple hours to be comfortable letting me pet him, but he warmed up pretty quickly.  He came up to me in bed Saturday morning for some chin scratches.  We’re buds now.  SS and I think he already knew my voice from hearing me over the phone and Skype, and my scent from the items I’ve sent up to SS.

Here he is, guarding his plate of catnip:

Emily sent Mr. Man Cat a toy for Valentine’s Day.  SS put it on his back and he walked around for the longest time with it there. . .

. . . before he finally got tired of it and rolled over to make it fall off.

Stuff we did:

We had dinner out Saturday night, to celebrate Valentine’s Day, as we were having her folks over for dinner on Sunday.  We went to an Italian restaurant that has an extensive gluten free menu.  The food and the service were both great.  I will recommend the restaurant here in my blog at some point, but since I don’t want to identify SS’s or my exact locations, I’ll wait on that, for now.  (Anyone who lives in or is traveling to the Philadelphia area of the US and who is looking for gluten free places to eat, feel free to email me and I’ll give you the info on the restaurant.)

We took a bottle of wine with us (I wasn’t familiar, before, with restaurants where you can take your own wine, but then again, I never had an occasion to take my own wine before).  We had Bruschetta and two other appetizers, and it’s hard to decide which was better.  We had sesame chicken over baby greens with a honey sauce that was really good, and Italian sausage with Broccoli Rabe and cannellini beans.  For our dinners, SS had chicken with broccoli and pasta in a white wine sauce, and I had stuffed shells with Italian sausage and marinara.  We ate well, and still took some of everything home.  It’s amazing, to me, to be able to go out to a restaurant and eat bread and pasta and sauces and know it’s all gluten free.  Everything was so good that I think that a person who doesn’t have to eat gluten free probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

When we went outside after dinner, I noticed the poor little trees in pots outside the restaurant were frozen and bent over, covered in ice and snow, and out came my cell phone camera.

I was equally fascinated by the piles of snow in the parking lot.  I took a few pictures, suddenly realized how bone-chillingly cold I was, and ran for the car.

After dinner, we went for a drive and SS showed me some of the places she goes on a regular basis, so I can picture them now, when we are on the phone and she is running errands.  Equally as fascinating as the snow, to me, was the icicles.  One might think I’d never seen them before (it has been 38 or 39 years, though).  They’re just so pretty.  I said, to Sister on the phone, feigning total ignorance, “They have gorgeous icicles here, but they’re made of frozen water, not plastic like the ones we put on our Christmas trees.  Imagine that!”

We came home and wrapped in soft blankets and watched TV and sipped wine in front of the fire.

SS’s Birthday:

SS’s birthday was Sunday.  We had a fun day.  We relaxed in the morning and enjoyed a nice long conversation over breakfast and coffee (that’s one of my favorite things about us; we have great conversations!), then we went outside to play in the snow.  Later, her parents came over and we visited and had dinner, followed by cake and ice cream.

I gave SS her birthday gifts Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday morning, one here and one there, because I couldn’t manage to save them all for Sunday.  I’m not too good at that.  Anyway, one of my favorites of her gifts was the set of mugs I had made with our avatars, since we met online.

Sunday afternoon:

We played outside in the snow.  A few people told me, before I left, that I should be sure to make a snow angel, and I kept saying, “Uh, no, I’m not gonna’ lie down in the snow.”

I succumbed to the pressure.  Yeah, I’m kind of glad I did.  It was fun.

These are my hands as I shaped our snow woman’s head:

And (drumroll . . .) this is our snow woman, Marley.  Can anybody guess what her eyes are made of?  ;-)

The flight home:

The flight went smoothly.  It was a little bumpy coming into Tampa, but not bumpy enough to make me nervous.  I was able to nap a little on the plane and enjoyed some nice conversation with the older gentleman who sat next to my empty seat.  We discussed weather, mystery authors, and a few other topics.  I liked him.  He was probably around my dad’s age, and very polite.  I shared my Jolly Ranchers from SS with him, for the airplane-ear-pressure thing, and he thought I was very kind.

Once I got home, Mom and Dad picked me up at the airport and drove me to work, where I finished out the workday, and I realized just how exhausted I was.  I came home after work and napped, then got up and wound up going to bed early, still.  It is taking a few nights of good sleep to feel rested and back to normal.  Very, very worth it, though.

Other stuff:

The trip wasn’t without a little melting down on my part.  I learned that, not unlike the way climate changes at home cause flareups with my Fibromyalgia, going from Florida to a northern state where there is snow on the ground and lower humidity levels than I am generally used to, is a pretty big deal.  For me, Fibromyalgia means emotional upheaval more than physical pain.  Of course, I do experience physical pain with it, and it’s a very recognizable type of pain that is different from other types of pain, but the part that is so hard for me to handle is the emotional part.

I had some more of those couldn’t-stop-crying times,* like I had in December when SS visited for the first time.  I wasn’t quite as hysterical or out-of-control as I felt in December, but it still bothered me to keep breaking down like that.  SS reminded me, in her loving and understanding way, that this trip involved some more big changes and big challenges for me, as did her December visit and the months leading up to it.  This time, after those years of living as closely to hermit-like as I could while still holding down a job and a few connections that drew me out of my cocoon on occasion, and having only begun to live a slightly “larger” life (which would still feel tiny to most people), I not only stretched my wings and went to see her for a weekend at her place and in her town, but I got on a plane and flew almost a thousand miles to do it.  (Even at home, doing anything out of my ordinary routine tends to set off the Fibro; after an two-hour round-trip drive to my sister’s for a visit, I need to dial down and rest for a day or two, and I go out of my way to avoid making plans for both days of the weekend.)  I faced the discomfort I had around the size of the airplane seats and length of the seat belts, and my uncertainty about what to expect in finding my way around an airport I’ve never been to and going through security.  (I’m discovering, lately, that not knowing what to expect is a big deal for me; once I’ve done something once, even if it’s unpleasant, like a medical exam or something, I’m ok when I have to do it again because I have a clear idea of what to expect.)  And there was also the prospect of meeting SS’s parents.  I’d met them on Skype before, but I was still a little anxious about it.  It went really well.  I like them very much, and I think they like me too.  Actually, I know they do.  I’m considered part of the family, and that is a great feeling.

SS is amazing, though, at handling when I start crying like I do.  Of course, whenever it is happening, my thoughts get caught into the loop of negative thinking that I was stuck in for so long, and I start to worry if I’ll keep doing that all the time for the rest of our lives, and at what point she will decide she’s had enough of it and tell me she’s done, and I worry whether it’s healthy or fair to even ask her to put up with me when I’m like that.  The Inner Critic starts in (yeah, he’s not completely gone all the time after all; only a lot more of the time than in the past) with things like, “See?  I told you you had no business getting into a relationship.  You’re far too messed up in the head to ask another human being to spend life with you.  She’ll get sick of it eventually.  Just wait.”

The difference, since around October or so, is that I don’t actually try to run away from the relationship, and I trust that it’s my perception that is off and that SS wouldn’t be with me, knowing me better than anyone else ever has, if she didn’t want to.  She’s a well-balanced, healthy individual, and she understands boundaries and the difference between what I’m going through within myself and what her own issues are, and she is able to be supportive of me and understand me without absorbing or taking on my problems as her own.

And, giving myself a little bit of a break, as SS suggested, understanding my limitations and how much pushing myself is ok vs how much is too much, and knowing now that I don’t respond to changes in the same way I did when I was younger, we kept our plans easy and flexible, and the crying jags didn’t last terribly long.  Next time, they might not happen at all.  I was much less tweaky during her second visit here than during her first.  I guess I just need to keep remembering that I’m still in the midst of major adjustments and still overwhelm easily.

SS and my therapist (who I saw on Wednesday) both feel I showed strength and a bit of bravery when, on the plane ride home, I calmly admitted to the gentleman I was talking to that I hadn’t been sure whether the seat would be large enough for me.  The topic came up in a natural sort of way; the plane was full and when he laid his coat on the seat between us, he said he would leave it there just until that person arrived.  It felt logical to me to mention that we’d have that empty seat between us for the whole flight, and then at that point, it seemed logical to just go ahead and explain simply that I had two seats because I hadn’t been sure if one would be large enough.  I didn’t see it as being that brave, but SS said I took a risk, not knowing how he would react.  He hadn’t struck me as a rude person, so I had no reason to think he would react critically.  I mean, he was being considerate enough to acknowledge that he would move his coat when the other person arrived.  But I guess, in retrospect, the fact that I was able to state the fact simply and matter-of-factly, without feeling shameful or embarrassed, was a good thing.

My therapist asked me to try, next time the negative thinking begins, as it did when I was crying and undoubtedly will again, to challenge it.  To ask myself questions like whether I really believe I have no business being in a relationship, or any of the other number of things that go through my head in those moments.  That will be difficult, as in those moments it really looks as if that is the truth, but I promised her I would try, and I will.

And in the mean time, I’m really, really looking forward to going back to visit SS and Mr. Man Cat again!  Easter is my next scheduled visit, unless any special airfares should pop up between now and then.  (Fingers crossed!)

* Update 10/25/16: It turns out those crying jags were related to Yaz. Check the Yaz category for a post explaining that.


  1. Comment by kate1975:

    I think you are very brave in everything that you did. Good and healing thoughts to you as you decompress and recover from your trip.


  2. Comment by davidrochester:

    Amazing. It is so exciting to see you progressing in leaps and bounds like this … as my therapist says, love is probably the greatest adjunct to healing. It’s really true.

    Those tulips are gorgeous, as is everything SS did for you … I’m kind of jealous!

  3. Comment by lifeischange:

    Thank you, Kate and David. I don’t always feel very brave, and I tend to vacillate on being able to see the leaps and bounds, but there are times when I can feel/see it, and I’m beginning to be able to do that a little more, lately.

    I agree, David, wholeheartedly, about love and healing. I wouldn’t have found near the motivation to push myself beyond where I was, had it not been for SS and the love I feel for and with her.

    ♥ 🙂 ♥ <— This is the goofy smile I walk around with, these days.


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