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Got Our Kicks

9 Aug

The one thing I left out of my summer wrap-up was a biggie: our long-awaited Route 66 road trip!

We bought our Airstream nine years ago. And for those years, it’s been used as a guest bedroom and, well, as a piece of driveway décor. We hadn’t ever taken it out as a travel trailer!

In 2019, Mike started planning for an epic Route 66 road trip to take place in summer 2020. We all know how that turned out. (Thanks, COVID.) So we made 2021 our year.

Mike worked really hard to get the Airstream ready. He worked on the power system and singlehandedly installed a new air conditioner so we’d be comfortable as we made our way across the southwest. He bought a special trailer hitch and system for stabilizing the whole rig. Mike also did a ton of planning, mapping out how many miles to go each day, having a general idea for where to stay, etc.

And then it was time to go. Mike and Michaela drove off on July 10, all 48 feet of them (26-ft.-long Airstream, the 3-ft-long hitch, and the 19-ft.-long truck). They covered about 175 miles each day, braving windstorms and thunderstorms and heat, and having a great time together. I flew to Tulsa, OK on July 15 and they picked me up at the airport (if you’ve never seen a big truck truck towing an Airstream pull up at the Arrivals gate, you’re missing out!). We then drove to Mike’s dad and stepmom’s house, where we spent a few days with them and Mike’s brothers and their families.

Our Route 66 trip began in earnest on July 19, when we headed northeast to Carthage, MO. Route 66 stretches from Chicago, IL to Santa Monica, CA, but we knew we weren’t going to do the whole thing. That being said, from where Mike’s dad lives in OK, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Kansas and Missouri, which would let us cross two more Route 66 states off our list.

Route 66 was largely bypassed when I-40 was built, and the route was officially decommissioned decades ago, but there’s still a lot to see and do along the road. We went through small towns and a few big cities (Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque to name a few). We met lovely, super friendly people. We stayed in RV campgrounds, which I ended up really liking even though I wasn’t sure at first that I would. And we had lots of great together time!

A few stories:

We (well, *I*) decided before our trip that we (*I) wanted to come up with a hashtag for the trip. We tossed around some ideas, but when Michaela declared she wanted to name the Airstream “The Buff,” the decision became very clear: #WatsonsInTheBuff. I explained “double entendre” to Michaela, who was mortified that I would consider making the name of our trip something that also means “naked” but I persisted.

Mike’s part of a Route 66 Facebook group and posted pix of our trip in the group as we made our way across the country. At one point, we pulled up across the street from the Milburn-Price Culture Museum in tiny Vega, TX (pop. 884). A man walked out as we stepped onto the museum grounds and says, “Are you Mike Watson and family?” “Yes,” we answered. “We are. How’d you know?” “I’ve been following your trip on Facebook. We figured you’d get here today.” We were then treated to a lovely conversation, full of facts about the museum’s holdings and also a recommendation for delicious pie at the Mid Point Café (located halfway along the route, as you’d expect from the name).

I love free maps and literature. Love them. So at the state line in New Mexico, I of course grabbed a “Route 66 New Mexico” book so I could learn about what was ahead of us. In the book, I read about Watsons Bar-B-Que in Tucumcari and knew we needed to stop. We’re Watsons! It’s bar-b-que! There were pix of signs with cheeky sayings on them! We did and in spite of the fact that they were closing for the day, the owner Jimmy Watson was just as kind as could be. He made us heaping plates of his delicious food, chatted us up about town and our adventures, and was just all around great. There was one other customer in the store, who I ended up talking to and who was trying to sell me on moving to Tucumcari (nice people, low cost of living, everyone knows everyone so very safe). So it was extra hilarious that we ran into him at the store an hour or so later when we stopped for ice for our cooler. “Hey, Watsons,” he exclaimed. Small down indeed.

When we got to Santa Fe, we spent a couple of days hanging out with Mike’s mom and stepdad, who drove down to meet us and take Michaela back to Colorado with them for a few days. Then Mike and I made our way back home, just the two of us, skipping a bit of the route we’d done before and couldn’t do because of size restrictions on trailers (and skipping the boring part between the AZ border and San Bernardino). It was a great way to ease back into work after three weeks off (Mike) and two weeks off (me).

We need to do the Chicago to Carthage, MO part of the Route, and the San Bernardino to Santa Monica part. Another adventure for another day!

Catching Up

9 Aug

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted an update, but things have been good!

Michaela finished out her 5th grade year in homeschool. She and Mike did a great job teaching and learning, growing together and finding ways to make homeschool work. In fact, Michaela did so well that she tested into honors math at her new middle school!

Still we were all excited when the school year ended and it was time for summer. In June and July, in particular, the public health situation was improving and schools were out, so I could finally catch my breath on the work front. Michaela got to spend more time with friends. And once Mike got through an extremely busy graduation season (he livestreamed dozens of graduations in Los Angeles County), he was able to slow down, too.

Mike’s mom came to visit and she, Michaela, and I treated ourselves to a luxurious, long weekend near Palm Springs. We stayed at the La Quinta Resort, a Waldorf Astoria property that I love. It’s a beautiful spot with something like 50 pools and a handful of restaurants on property. It was HOT so we spent a lot of time in the pool. We also spent a day at Joshua Tree, which was gorgeous, and went into Palm Springs for milkshakes.

Mike and Michaela spent a week at an archaeological dig on Mt. Palomar. A local archaeology professor was conducting field school with his student, digging at the home of San Diego’s first African American homesteader. They had a great time and Michaela, at the ripe old age of 11, was able to dig with the college students. I got to go up on the final day of the dig to be part of a ceremony (held on Juneteenth this year) and it was so moving and impactful. A truly memorable experience.

Michaela also went to her first sleepaway camp this summer! She has been really involved in BSA (formerly Boy Scouts) and went with her troop to a camp in the mountains. She had a blast! Really good experience being independent and spending time with her friends, building her scouting skills, and more. She came back talking about what she wants to do next year.

And Michaela did a week of surfing camp! In Intro to Sailing, she learned the basics. She already knew some knots that are used in sailing thanks to BSA; now she also knows about the parts and pieces of a sailboat and has actually taken a small boat out into the bay all by herself. I, as a non-swimmer and non-boater, was super impressed. Mike has big plans for the two of them to go out sailing (and has been looking at sailboats, although I’m not ready for that yet).

There were lots of other smaller things, too. Michaela did pottery camp and she’s continued her gymnastics classes. We went shopping for school uniforms, since her middle school requires them. We’re trying to soak up the remaining weeks of summer, which includes zoo camp and a week of intermediate sailing camp.

Mother’s Day 2021

9 May

Today has been bittersweet.

Mike and Michaela made me a delicious breakfast and showered me with gifts. We went for a four-mile hike in the national park. And except for the uphill climb at the end of the hike, which kicked my out-of-shape butt, it was really, really nice.

Another favorite part of my day has been hearing from, and connecting with, many friends. My friends are pretty amazing people! They make my life so much more rich.

Of course, I was missing my mom today. This morning I found myself looking through my Google Photos, trying to find a picture of me, Michaela, and my mom. Turns out, I don’t have one. Not a single picture of just the three of us.

Still. I was lucky enough to have my mom for 41 years and I have lots of other great moms in my life, including two (!) mothers-in-law. And every day brings the chance to be a good mom to Michaela. She’s a very special person; I must be doing something right!

Civil Discourse

7 Apr

Excerpts of messages I’ve gotten over the last week from people who disagree with a policy decision my workplace has made:

“What an upside down cesspool you live in.”

“You people don’t know anything about the Constitution.”

“A communication spokesman-type person possessing well developed skills is sorely in absentia” [Note: I am the spokesperson]

“You need to lose your job.”

“Your organization is a pathetic failure, and so are you as ‘officials.’ Resign NOW.”

“You disguist [sic] me.”

“You are full of shit.”

“You are as disgusting as they get.”

“You must truly hate our country… Communist traitors.”

“Add Music Watson to the enormous list of disgusting San Diego toilet fish… You’re a freaking disgrace.”

“You are useless pieces of shit. Fuck you.”

“Tone deaf lazy fucks… You people suck dick, unAmerican [sic] pieces of human shit… You people are fucking lazy, stupid and retarded… FUCK YOU and eat SHIT and DIE motherfuckers.. Dick sucking, pig snout fucking trash.”

Aren’t people lovely?

Six Months

20 Mar

My mom died six months ago today.

I usually track it Sunday-to-Sunday, since she died on a Sunday. It was 24 weeks last week and in the ensuing week, I sort of lost track of the date. But this morning, I looked at the “on this day” feature of Facebook. There was a post from many moons ago today noting that it was my six-month wedding anniversary, and then I remembered. Sept. 20, our wedding anniversary. Sept. 20, the day my mom died. March 20, six months after that date.

I miss her.

We’re Still Here

5 Mar

Oh my goodness, how is it possible I haven’t posted since January?!?

I guess it’s because things have been busy. Fortunately, we all remain healthy.

Michaela is doing well with homeschool (Mike’s a great teacher). She recently did some testing and it showed she’s continuing to grow academically and has above average scores. She’s doing an in-person ceramics class one day a week, which gets her out of the house, and doing some masked socializing with peers. It really makes a huge difference, because Mike and I are definitely not 11-year-old girls.

Mike has been very busy with work. As the COVID-19 rates decline in our county, he’s doing more in-person video shoots as well as livestreams and Zoom-style recordings for clients all over the state. We had a couple of weeks where he was traveling a lot; now he’s home but will begin traveling again in a week or so.

All of Mike’s parents have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. My dad is scheduled to get his at the end of March. And I go get mine tomorrow!

I’ve been thoroughly immersed in TK-12 school employee vaccinations for the last few weeks, which has led to some extremely stressful long days. I realized last week that I was feeling as stressed as I was in March 2020. Considering that I nearly died from stress then, that was not a good place to be. It’s better now, mostly, but I have to continue to be conscious of my blood pressure and do what I can (exercise, rest, etc.) to keep it down.

In coming weeks, we will have a visit from Mike’s mom and stepdad, which we’re very excited about. And hopefully we’ll be able to do more of the stuff we’ve enjoyed during these strange times: talking walks around our neighborhood, going for hikes, playing boards games, doing puzzles, and spending (distanced) time with friends.

A Birthday Getaway

28 Jan

Not my birthday.

Jan. 27 would have been my mom’s 68th birthday. I was dreading it and decided to take the day off from work, so I could lay in bed and cry if that’s how the day went. Then I got the brilliant idea to take the whole week off, and then it turned out that it was a Zoom-free week for Michaela’s school. So we decided to take a trip to the Grand Canyon, which I’d always wanted to see.

Facing inclement weather, we took then less scenic I-15 to 1-40 route, which got us there safely and with minimal snow during our drive time. Good thing, too, because it proceeded to snow more than a foot on the route we would have taken!

When we got to the Grand Canyon, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen. There was snow EVERYWHERE. It was snowing. The ground was covered in snow. Buildings and cars were covered in icicles. It was in the teens when we arrived and highs were in the 20s during most of our stay. That’s a lot of weather for two San Diego girls!

Michaela loves the snow and had a blast diving in it, making snowballs and snowmen, and sledding. We drank gallons of hot chocolate and hiked around the rim on the canyon– which we couldn’t see! It was so snowy and so socked in with fog that we literally could only see quick glimpses of it when the snow slowed or the fog shifted. It was a real winter wonderland, and it was delightful.

Because of the weather, we ended up adding another night at the Grand Canyon, so we were there when the storm finally passed and the sun came out. So, on our last day there, we woke up at dawn to watch the sun rise over the canyon and then retreated to our room, which was in the park and had a view of the canyon, to warm up and soak in the panorama.

My mom always loved the colors of the desert and the idea of Arizona livin’ (sadly, she never went), so it felt right to be there on her birthday. Being there was a pleasant distraction, though I couldn’t help but miss her. It was weird to not buy a postcard for her on our travels. It was weird not to call her and tell her about our adventures. And of course more fundamentally, it was heartbreaking not to be able to celebrate with her by having breakfast, which was our go-to tradition.

I guess I have to get used to it.


5 Jan

Having a tween comes with highs and lows. The lows generally involve big emotions (hormones? the pandemic? personality? all of the above? something else?). The highs vary.

I decided that in 2021, I want to be better about doing #MeatlessMondays. I also thought it would be a good idea to get Michaela in the kitchen in a more intentional way. So I gave her a choice: Do you want to do #TweenCooksTuesdays or #TweenCooksThursday? (There’s no alliteration with the other days!)

She picked Tuesday and I charged her with coming up with something to make. She sent me this recipe for easy chicken ramen and said she wanted to make it; we had all the stuff on hand, so it seemed like a great choice.

Mike helped with the chicken. I supervised everything else. And it was a success! The soft boiled egg was probably the best I’ve ever had, and the broth developed a way better depth of flavor than I would have expected given the short cook time. Mike and I both really liked it. Michaela was on the fence. Which is actually a good lesson, and part of what I hope to impart through this process.

I didn’t cook as a kid. Most of what my mom cooked was from a box or a can, so I didn’t have a great example of cooking from scratch or culinary innovation. I’m hoping that by having Michaela cook more (and let’s be honest, there’s no way it will be every week), she will develop this important life skill.

Merry Christmas

26 Dec

Christmas was weird this year. I guess it’s to be expected. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. We can’t do anywhere or see anyone. My mom is dead.

We invited my dad and brother over for breakfast and present opening. That was before I remembered my brother had been diagnosed with COVID (can you tell we’re not close?). I ended up calling him on Christmas Eve to see what the deal was and he said his most recent test was inconclusive. When we talked, I could hear his seatbelt chime in the background so I asked what he was up to; he said he and the girl he’s dating were going to have dinner with friends. So I uninvited him.

I felt terrible thinking of him not being with family on the first Christmas my mom is gone. We should all have been together. But it didn’t seem like a good idea. In my opinion, he’s not behaving responsibly, and I don’t want any of us — especially my dad — to catch COVID because I indulged someone who’s making bad decisions.

So in the end, my dad came over and the four of us (me, Mike, Michaela, and my dad) hung out. Mike made and delivered from-scratch made cinnamon rolls to our favorite neighbors, and then we opened what felt like a million presents. We videochatted with Nana and Papa and opened each others’ gifts, and videochatted with our sister-in-law (Mike’s bro’s wife). By then it was practically noon and all we’d eaten was cinnamon rolls. My dad took off, we had brunch, and Michaela spent the next few hours playing with her new gifts.

Mike made a big dinner for some friends who’ve been going through tough times and we delivered that before settling in for the evening. We all had fun and enjoyed each others’ company. It was a nice day.

Making Lemonade

21 Dec

Michaela and I headed out last Friday, planning to drive across the county to deliver Christmas presents to my work colleagues. We’d gotten about 20 miles south, near the U.S.-Mexico border, when the tire sensor on my car went crazy. A minute later, there was a loud, urgent “thwap, thwap, thwap, thwap” sound that clearly had something to do with the driver’s side rear tire.

The part of town where we were didn’t have a shoulder to pull to, so we drove a few blocks until we could find a safe place to pull over. It was just in the nick of time, too, because the monitor showed my tired pressure ticking down like a second clock. I watched with grave concern as I waited for the light to turn green so we could pull over, and the sensor ticked down to nearly 0 PSI.

We pulled onto a side street and called Mike. After looking in the trunk, it was clear that my card doesn’t have a spare– not even a donut! (Ironically, the car does include a beautiful sturdy tire changing set and pristine white gloves so you don’t dirty your hands when working on your car.) So I called AAA, which dispatched a tow truck to see if they could fix my flat.

The person from AAA was super helpful, and the tow truck came quickly. The driver tried filling the tire so he could identify the hole, but the air came gushing out in a steady stream. He found a six-inch-long nail that had become embedded in the tire and told me he couldn’t fix it but we weren’t too far from a tire shop.

Then came the question of how were we going to get there. Because of COVID, you can’t ride in the cab of the two truck. Mike could have come to get us, but it would have taken him a good half hour (at least) to reach us. And it would have taken a while for an Uber to reach us, too. The driver said we could ride in the backseat of my car, on the back of the flatbed tow truck, so that’s what we did. It took some convincing– Michaela was scared (and rightly so! I am pretty sure it’s illegal at worst and a bad idea at best). But that’s what we did. We got into the car, were towed to Discount Tire, which was only a mile away, and the friendly team there got to work.

When I came in, the man who helped us said I was the cheeriest person who had ever come in on the back of a tow truck. I’m pretty sure I beamed. No one ever calls me cheery!

But that really speaks to the power of perspective.

We could have been on the freeway when I got the flat. It could have been a blowout. We could have been in an area with no cell reception. We could have been far away from a tire shop. And, as I learned last year, my car could have caught on fire with us in it.

So yeah, you can bet that a flat tire didn’t worry me too much!

We got to Discount Tire at the perfect time. They took my car right away, took the tire off and checked it out, and were able to patch it in addition to cleaning and checking the tire pressure in all my tires. And it was completely free! A half hour or so later, Michaela and I were on our way.

My mother-in-law said poor Michaela would probably grow up to avoid driving after these car-related issues. But I hope she’ll instead take from this that keeping a cool head in a time of crisis can get you a long way in the face of automotive disaster… And that it never hurts to have AAA.