Paper lanterns

Vegas, Solo Flights, and Trying New Things with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Paper lanterns

Paper lanterns. Art by me!

I like trying new things.

Well, not all new things. I’m not going bungee jumping, and no I won’t taste that mayonnaise, and seriously you cannot convince me to watch The Purge.

But I like tasting (most) new foods and visiting new places and learning new things. I actually enjoy flying and I don’t mind driving, so visiting new places is especially fun. However.

I also have an anxiety disorder. I tell myself it’s not that bad, but it’s cost me a lot of things in life. A Master’s degree, I know that much. Probably a few friendships here and there. Definitely some new experiences.

Something changed with the New Year, though. I decided not to set some BS resolution I was never going to keep and instead decided on something more practical. I decided to allow myself to make decisions based on what I really want. Not what I think other people want me to do or what I think will keep my nerves in tact. So when my jewelry team started talking about going to convention in Vegas, I decided to go. And not just go, but to leave Kris at home.

I know.

It wasn’t bad at first. He couldn’t get off work to drop me at the airport, so my grandparents took me and we said our goodbyes and I sat in the terminal, watching ESPN and listening to soldiers fresh off the local base comparing station orders and I tried not to throw up. I’d never flown solo and I was no longer excited about it.

The first flight wasn’t bad. It was a short trip, just under an hour and I’d be in Charlotte. I scored a few Mii friends on my 3DS and played some games and it was no big deal. The flight from Charlotte to Vegas, though, was terrible. I had nice neighbors who were just chatty enough but once they fell asleep I got sick. I stayed sick through the entire flight.

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I’d never been to Vegas either. Guys, it is beautiful. It didn’t hurt that we stayed at Bally’s, right on the Strip with a view of the Bellagio fountains.

Bellagio's fountains

They’re awesome.

The room was nice, the company was nice, but there’s something else I didn’t mention. I’ve never been a big sorority person. I was in one in college and still have some great friends and memories of it, but it just wasn’t my thing. So a weekend surrounded by women I didn’t know half as well as I knew my old college girlfriends was, to me, not the idea of a vacation. My nerves started fraying  just thinking about it. And don’t get me wrong, they are great ladies, all of them. But to my frazzled, air sick, and jet lagged self, the weekend was stretching out before me like a long highway through Awkward Town, population: Me.

Things got better and I kept trying to put myself out there but I am super awkward in real life. Seriously. It’s not that I’m shy or introverted, I guess I just don’t like small talk or feigning interest in things I don’t like, and so people tend to think I’m stuck up or something. Who knows. If you find out, let me know?

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Convention was pretty fun once I let myself enjoy it. My nerves got the best of me one night and I spent the majority of it texting my sister and a few friends who completely understand life with severe anxiety. It’s not just being uncomfortable in a new place. It’s being utterly convinced that you’re a sham who shouldn’t be here and everyone around you knows it and why are you even still here, because no one in this room likes you.

I wish I had made myself enjoy it more.

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One of the women took me shopping and it was crazy fun. I got along with her like a house on fire, and I think that was the turning point for me. But Sunday was the big test. I was going to have the hotel room and the whole day to myself, and I could do anything I wanted. Part of me, the anxious part I’m sure, wanted to sit in the room all day and watch movies. You can’t walk around the streets alone, people are crazy, you’re not from around here. Cabs are too expensive and cabbies are weird. Didn’t you see that episode of SVU? Nope, no cabs. No walking, either, or someone will just snatch you up off the sidewalk and you’ll never be seen again. Better stay inside and watch Disney Channel.

But then I reminded myself this was the Year of Me, not the year of my nerves getting the best of me or the year of letting opportunities pass me by. I called Kris, tossed some stuff in a handbag and got dressed.

“How far is the Venetian? Can I walk there?”
“Sure. Cabs are too pricey and it’s a pretty cool area. If it’s a nice day, you should walk.”
“……..But is it safe?”
“Jess, yes, it’s the middle of the morning out there, you’ll be fine.”

Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how it went, but close enough. I grabbed my 3DS and headed out.

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It really was a beautiful day. I walked to the Venetian, back to Caesars, to the Miracle Mile and then the shoe store in Paris. I didn’t buy much; just a wispy maxi dress from BCBG and some shoes to match from the Paris shoe store. I took tons of pics, texted my friends while I was out, and kept my earbuds in just so people wouldn’t talk to me. I don’t think anyone even noticed me and it was awesome.

Back at the hotel that night, I had dinner with the only other woman from my group still in town and got ready for my flight the next morning.

The flight home was much better, despite being a total idiot and missing my flight out of Charlotte. I got home okay, just late and pretty pissed (mostly at myself, but don’t tell anyone) and actually found myself wanting to go back.

“Kris I was right,” I said. “Vegas totally looks like a Carnival cruise ship.”

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Vegas Strip

14th floor view of the Strip

Paris LV sign

Happy New Year!

Mer-horse?

I want this fountain.

Chinese New Year display

Chinese New Year is a big deal here.

Caesar's Palace

“Did Caesar actually live here?”

Caesar's Palace fountain

I also want this fountain.

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Ice Storms, Earthquakes, and Any Excuse Not To Write

I’m sure you remember the Snowmageddon That Wasn’t. It was great! A nice day to work from home, chill with my pups and my husband, and just generally take it easy. (Yes, I did manage to get quite a bit of work done, thankyouverymuch ^_~ )

Well, last weekend I went to Vegas for a convention (Look for a post on that soon). The day before my flight home, the weather here started to turn nasty again. Winter storms were predicted and people started looking to and laughing at Atlanta once again. Crazy ol’ backwoods Southerners, don’t know how to handle a little snow and already panicking. Most of us assumed it would be like the week before. Hubs made sure we still had enough charcoal to grill in case we lost power and washed as much laundry as he could stand while I was away. (He hates folding laundry.)

And then the storm hit.

It was clear from the beginning this was worse than the measly 2 inches of snow we got last time. This time, predictions called for 2-3 inches of nothing but ice. And we’ve gotten ice before. But keep in mind we get ice once every — what, five or six years? I don’t know. I remember the last time this happened but I don’t have any idea what year it was. I was in high school and I just remember how devastated our little town was and how horribly long it took to get home.

Trees fell and transformers blew all over the neighborhood. Kris tried to keep one tree from pulling our power lines from the side of the house. And while we had our money on the pecan tree or the tree over our power lines being the first ones to go, the cedar on the other side of the house had other plans. I struggled to find a picture of it, and I was kind of sad to realize I don’t have any except this one, from a snow day back before Kris and I were married:

Snow day selfie :3

It’s back in the corner. See it there, all stately and tree-ish?

Aaaaand here it is now, post-Icepocalypse:

Broken tree!

Sad 😦

I’m hoping we don’t lose the tree entirely, but Kris isn’t very hopeful. The trunk is split and from the looks of things, the top was already dying before the storm came through. But now we have a lovely piece of cedar wood inside, a bit Kris brought in after chopping up the branches that fell on our fence. (No major damage there, though, thankfully.) It’s actually quite pretty. And it smells divine.

All in all we escaped fairly unscathed. There’s some minor damage to our chain link fence, but nothing we can’t fix/replace on our own. Our power was only out for around 24 hours, if that. It came on after we’d abandoned ship and headed to the warmth of my aunt’s house. Before we chickened out, though, we tossed on some of our warmest clothes (it’s all hunting gear; no one here has winter jackets, you guys) and wandered around the neighborhood snapping pictures and breaking ice and being children. What else is there to do in weather like this?

And then, because ice storms and snow and power outages and downed trees aren’t enough, we went and had an earthquake. Seriously! Sheesh.

I’ll leave you with this interesting CBS News coverage of the damage in my little corner of the world, and then some of my less-than-professional shots of the aftermath of WINTER STORM PAX [cue dramatic musical score]

A tree! Not my car!!

Oh nooooooo

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Somehow, no damage to the car

A narrow miss!

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Icy sign

Just angle the shot up a bit and suddenly it’s ART

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Prissy Dog

Prissy Dog! Now with jacket accessory.

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Frozen garden flag

Our garden flag froze to the fence.

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K, cheesin'

The husband in his natural habitat.

The Snowmageddon That Wasn’t

So. I’m from the South. (Surprise, y’all.) Despite its myriad faults, the longer I stay here, the less I want to leave. I’m sure you saw the headlines about gridlock in Atlanta, the horror stories about some woman giving birth in traffic, people spending double-digit hours in vehicles for commutes that normally take 30 minutes, and more. We aren’t that bad at driving, you guys, we just do not have the infrastructure for all this. Plus, our urban sprawl is massive, y’all. We want the NYC lifestyle but the Dixie scenery. So we build these ridiculous highway systems and then don’t know what to do with them when things like this happen.

Anyway. (That sidebar was free.)

Snow in SC ©Jessica Hoffman

I posted last about how much I love nature and I really can’t express just how true that is. So I was pretty stoked when I got to work from home today. I didn’t run out and play in the snow, but I did take a few pics. I know that isn’t a great shot. I snapped it to send to a friend in Sweden via Snapchat, so I wasn’t really going for pro-quality. But how could I resist? We get exactly one snowfall every four years or less, so it’s kind of a big deal for us. (Obviously.)

Leo ©Jessica Hoffman

Massive Dog agrees.

I also know I don’t have the most photogenic neighborhood, but man, something about snow just makes everything look so pretty. Like my adorable car. Observe!

Snowy cars ©Jessica Hoffman

I love bad weather. I love violent thunderstorms, I love snowfalls, I love power outages and camping in the house and candlelight takeout dinners and whatnot. I love rain and wind and thunder and lightning. Nature is awesome, people; take a step outside and just really look at it.

Iced Berries ©Jessica Hoffman

Snowy berries ©Jessica Hoffman

I want to close with a shot that is not mine but is so quintessentially Southern I simply cannot resist sharing it. I live about five minutes out of the downtown area of undeniable horse country. It’s beautiful and perfect for horse farms, not to mention being the site of some pretty important horse races and other equine sporting events. There’s a road there, a little street called South Boundary, that is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life. Admittedly, I’ve not been to lots of places, and I’ve been out of the country only a handful of times. But this town and this street exemplify nearly everything I love about the South.

South Boundary ©Aiken Info/Facebook

Get outside and enjoy the view.

Sun, Snow, and Shots of the South

I’ve always loved photography. Even before I really understood the ins and outs and particulars of it all, I’ve been drawn to the art form. I don’t remember when I got my first digital camera, I took a digital photography course in college (and promptly forgot everything I learned) and have even toyed with the idea of selling some of my shots on Etsy. I love it. And lately my medium of choice, despite owning a pretty stellar Canon, has been Instagram,of all things. Like a lot of people I freaked out with that change in TOS and deleted my shots (not before exporting them to my computer, of course, as I am not a total moron) and, also like a lot of people, I regretted that within a week and came crawling back. I’ve reposted a few of my old shots but not all of them. Oh well. They’ve been replaced by some pretty worthy successors. Including one of my favorite shots I’ve ever taken.

Sunrise over Snowfields, ©Jessica Hoffman

My dad was visiting, and I’d stayed at my grandparents’ house, sleeping in my old room for the first time in nearly four years. For some reason I couldn’t eat breakfast without my phone and I ran back upstairs to grab it, and I saw this out my old bedroom window. I’m not the next Ansel Adams by a long shot, but sometimes nature just demands to be noticed.

I started this out intending to write about the hilarity that is the impending Snowmageddon (or Icepocalypse, depending on where exactly in South Carolina you might be) but I found this photo and just really wanted to share it. (I’m pretty proud of it.) But, in the spirit of Snowmageddon, I’ve got another shot for you, also from my personal trove. It’s another tree on the farm during the last Snowmageddon we had here, an astonishing 2-ish inches back in 2010. Cute, right?

Snow! ©Jessica Hoffman