2021-06-17 Security Camera Saga Part 1: The Analysis 🧐✅✅✅

A few days ago I posted a teaser that I was documenting my analysis of potential security cameras for our household and that it would be coming soon. And here it is!… Part 1: The Analysis. 

In that post I called the exploration into options for security cameras a “dragon cave.” It’s like a rabbit hole but much bigger and wider. There are dozens of companies that make and support camera equipment and literally hundreds of different camera models on the market today. I’m not exaggerating. Each has their standard features, what they are great at, and their shortcomings.

Not an all inclusive list, but here are some things to consider: Image quality, night vision quality, color night vision, field of view, motion detection, heat detection / AI / smart sensing of people, cars, pets, and packages, notification of events, data storage (local/cloud), wired, wireless, wire-free, weatherproof rating, app support, smart home support, base station / receiver, and customer support. And let’s not forget the biggest factor….COST!. The initial amount required for the equipment and moneys required over time for subscriptions for cloud storage and additional features. Whew…. It’s all a bit exhausting!!

When Jim began researching he quickly found himself thinking “I don’t have time for this.” That’s because the time it takes is not small. And you can’t just Google “top 5 security camera systems” and rely on the results. I mean, you can, but then you have to sort through the dozens of posts that review and compare options. That’s a lot of reading and after you get to the third one you start to lose track of what the first two said. 

It also matters what features are important to you, as a homeowner. You might be more concerned about smart sensing and notifications and the ability to easily control the rules, field of view, and sensitivity than the data storage or live streaming. So someone else’s analysis or review might not be that helpful. What is one to do??!! 

Enter stage left, the left brain, analytical  poet. 😜

About a week ago Jim asked me, in his sheepish way, if I would help with something— if I would look into and  research options. I’m sure my eyes lit up at the question. My brain certainly lit up. Because I used to do this for a living, I knew exactly where to start—with collecting the requirements. So I said, “tell me what’s most important to you.” 

He quickly rattled off a list and I opened a document to take notes. Keep in mind, I’ve never researched this industry so I had no idea what is currently the “standard” offering and what features would be considered “fringe.” 

I then spent the next few days exploring the “dragon cave.” Yes, I did begin with googling reviews but quickly concluded that a spreadsheet was going to be required to keep track. I also know that Jim doesn’t know much about the options out on the market so when he gave me the list of requirements, a little research and translation was sure to be needed. 

I looked into details about camera resolution, night vision, weather proof ratings and that helped me come to an understanding of what was going to suit our needs. My spreadsheet included a list of the top 20 viable options and columns for all the features we care about. 

Systems/Cameras

I did a fair bit of reading specs on different websites and filled out all the cells on my Google sheet. Once I was satisfied with my data collection I calculated the total cost for start up, 1 year of operations, and 5 years. 

Different companies have different models for how they are supporting their bottom line. For a few, the upfront equipment cost is high and expenses for actual operations over time are nominal. Other places have equipment that seems too good to be true for the price, but then support, cloud coverage, and extra features would truly bite you over a 5 year run. We are in this for the long term investment so it was an important part of the analysis. 

The other factor for us is that we are a little OCD when it comes to covering potential intruder threat risk areas, outside and in. So we’re talking about needing a lot of cameras. I’m not going to say how many because I don’t need any external grief about it. 👀I also ruled out anything that was PoE (Power over Ethernet) as I did not want to have to run ethernet cables to all the places we want cameras. We are fortunate enough to have lots of power outlets in the soffits of our house so plug in cameras were on the table as well as battery operated cameras. 

In any case, by the time I was circling back to Jim with my results, I had highlighted what I thought were the top 4 viable options: WYZE Cam V3, A Lorex System with LW4211 Cameras, Blink Outdoor, and a set of SWANN cameras. Incidentally, things like weatherproofing (IP-65 or higher), smart home integration (all work with Alexa), and basic resolution (1080P)  ended up being fairly unimportant in the analysis because the standard for all the cameras I looked at was about the same. I therefore picked my top four because of factors like cost, smart sensing/AI, and clarity of picture at night. 

When it came to discussing it, we only really needed to talk through those 4, which resulted in us narrowing down to 2 candidates. To be honest, when we got right down to it, I was fairly certain all 4 would be great options, so narrowing down to 2 was a conversation that had us googling together and coming to the conclusion that we were all about 1.) Instant Gratification and 2.) Try before you buy. 

The Lorex system was heavy on EQ cost up front, no way to buy just 1 camera and try it out, and their website was terrible to navigate to find the right products (since thy have a gazillion options). We crossed that off. 

Of the four Swann was the most expensive over a 5 year run because of the “optional” subscription cost and similar to Lorex, it looked as though the equipment up front was going to be more $$$.  That helped us narrow down to WYZE and Blink. For both, we could buy a single camera, try it out, and make our final decision from there. Which is exactly what we did. 

This purchase ended my analysis phase and within about 3 days, I had the cameras in my hot little hands. So begins Part 2: The Test Phase. 

But this post is way too long and boring already so I’m gonna cut it here and save that for another day. 

Until Then,
~Miss “Left Brain Poet” SugarCookie

2021-06-12 The Security Camera Saga: A Prequel 🎥

A prequel? Hmmmm… This is new. 

The briefest definition of “prequel” that I have found is a story or movie containing events that precede those of an existing work. And for sure I began writing this blog post several days ago with the intent to get into the weeds of the analysis I was doing at the time in order to come to a conclusion about what security camera system to replace our existing cameras with.

However, sometimes, when I begin to write, the words come out of nowhere and go in a completely different direction than I intend. It happens quite often actually and while I am sure it is all part of some grand plan, I’m left with little nuggets of treasure I don’t quite know what to do with. This one happens to be about writing bios. 

I’ve written and rewritten my bio dozens of times and included it in a hundred (plus) submissions. In the beginning a person really doesn’t know what to say about themselves. In 2017 I was at the beginning of a new chapter of my life and had just started rekindling my passion for writing. As such, I had nothing noteworthy as a writer to say about myself or my life. 

You can’t fake or fib experience and so all you really have to go on is your current status—Where you live, what you do, perhaps your personal familial situation or pursuits. My bio back then:  #ILikeTurtles. 😜

In 2018 I was tasked with writing my first bio by a publication that required it for their print poetry anthology. It was supposed to be about 50 words. I toiled over that because I didn’t have enough to reach the requirement. 

Now, after just a few short years, I have a tough time narrowing it down for those lit mags that have a 50 word max. I’m now faced with deciding what’s important or relevant to include and what I can let go of. It’s a nice  problem to have. 

For one, it means that I’ve been somewhat successful in my attempts to get my poems published. I now have a healthy list of publishers I can reference in the standard sentence that lots of folks include in their bio about recent work. It’s also good to have something about how a person is or has participated in the industry at large besides just being published. For me, that is my involvement with The Good Life Review. 

As I stated, I’ve now been through many versions of my bio and it hasn’t been just because of the aforementioned experience. It’s partly because my personal life has had a lot of big changes in the past couple of years too. Marriage, moving, and transitioning away from working at a traditional job to name a few. I feel like life has been a fast moving train since 2017 and is just now starting to slow down.  

Though my move was not THAT significant (same state and general metro area, just a different city), it did warrant a tweak to the bio. I also finished my MFA in writing AND had to up the kitten count from 3 to 4 when we got Gus Gus last year (yes, the number of cats I live with is important! 😂). 

Though there have been many iterations of my bio, the first bit about who I am and where I’m from has not changed much. I mean, those things are not going to change. I have shorter and longer starter sentences based on the word count requirement and have gone back and forth about the importance of folks knowing the state or the general area I grew up in. No matter the verbosity and specificity I’ve landed on calling myself an “analytical Virgo” and that’s just stuck in all the variations. 

Back when I was a practicing IT analyst, I didn’t have to include that detail but now that I no longer have a career where it’s inferred, I’m somewhat compelled to slip it in there. My analytical nature and affinity for left brain tasks are near and dear to my heart. It’s a double edged sword—the “thinkers curse.”

The big benefit is my ability (and passion) for digging into a task like researching options for replacing our security camera system here at the Castle. If you’ve ever looked into such things you know that it is less of a rabbit hole and more of a dragon cave! I don’t often use the word “Saga,” as I have done in this set of posts, and would never do so lightly. 

This is the part of the post where I was finally getting to my actual point, and was really super excited to document for all-time and perhaps even provide some helpful insight and value to individuals stumbling across my blog. Sadly, I ran out of time. Even more sad than that is that I thought about the best way to transition into that “real” topic and came up empty. But the saddest of all was that I actually started writing this on June 12th (it is now June 15). Life is a fast moving train indeed. 

I suppose the conclusion of this particular post (like a lot of prequels) is anti-climatic and doesn’t truly have much to say since the meat of the real story hasn’t actually been posted yet. And, if I were keeping true to the definition of the word “prequel,” those other posts would come first. But that’s not happening either. #fail 

Hopefully, though, all that noise will be ready soon.🤞 I for one am super excited about my new cameras!! Stay tuned to hear all about it. 😂

With Peace and Love and Bubblegum Bath Bombs,
~Miss SugarCookie

2021-06-07 Reactive 🩸

“Reactive” is the result of the COVID antibody test performed by the Red Cross from my latest blood donation. It’s now standard for them to do the test on every donation.

The explanation for my reactive result is that I have antibodies consistent with a person who has had the COVID vaccine, but did not have those that indicate I was exposed to the virus.

It’s true. I hid from the world at large for over 12 months, emerging from my castle a few times a week to mask up and get supplies. According to my latest antibody test I was successful dodging that Coronavirus bullet. 

I never had a nasal swab or a reason to go get tested during the thick of it all, when the frenzy was a pool of hungry fish, bubbling up for any morsel. Starved of normalcy, deprived of human interaction. Such a strange time. 

Now it appears we are on the other side of it. The population is under control just enough. The masks have been discarded. The shelves at the store full once again with toilet paper, disinfectant, and little bottles of hand sanitizer. It’s cheap now. They can’t give it away.

It’s just going to sit there for eternity like those end caps with masks of every color—blue, black, pink, and grey stitched to suit any outfit or occasion. They will hang there in their little plastic packages until the next time the end-times knocks on the door of humanity.

I can’t recall who I was talking to about 2020 lately, about the riots and forest fires—a fresh hell delivered to our doorsteps every month. For some quite literally but for me just figuratively, via my morning news report. How many times did I have to tell Alexa to stop? How many times did I feel so desperate in my hiding? 

Yet here I am still, living to fight another day. And isn’t that just amazing. Isn’t it just the best gift to step outside and feel the sunshine on my unkissed skin. 

I think I might spend some time today, in the shade, reading a book. Keep it simple. 

The hiding was not so bad—is not so bad as long as the world at large doesn’t interfere too much.

I’m a lucky girl. Or blessed if you believe in that sort of thing.

Peace and love and peanut butter toast, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-06-06 All the Life that Wants to Live

My neighbor Dick has touched over a thousand people’s hearts. Literally. In his prime he was a cardiothoracic surgeon who performed thousands of procedures. I can’t imagine having the kind of skill, knowledge, and expertise required for such things. It’s got to be a bit surreal to think back over your life and know that you have saved hundreds of peoples lives, extended ten times that, and had a positive impact on thousands of family members falling over each other with unyielding gratitude. Not to mention the weight that must come with delivering the worst news to the spouse, daughter, or parent of a patient. Watching as they clutch whatever is in their arms and hands a little tighter, pain and anguish climbing inside of them bursting from their eyes. 

Dick is retired now and though his career is long behind him, he still comes out every day to check the mailbox at the end of his driveway and on Tuesday’s to wheel his trash cart to our shared curb. His hearing and eyesight are not so good so when he sees me, he always walks closer to the small green space that separates our driveways. 

His greeting is familiar now, “Shyla, is that you? I can’t see so good anymore.” He hobbles with his cane a little closer. His smile is soft and genuine. 

“Yes.” I reply, walking a little quicker toward him so he doesn’t have to come too far and also so I don’t have to raise my voice in an unnatural way like I’m talking to an elderly person who is hard of hearing. “How’s it going?”

“Oh, you know,” he says with a smile. And I’m not sure I know but think I might. 

Recently I was working to tease the weeds out of the lilac bushes that live in our shared strip of green space. I was on his property on my hands and knees pulling out little saplings and Creeping Jenny that have planted themselves there. You have to really get them up from the root otherwise they will stubbornly grow back.

All the life that wants to live.

It wasn’t Tuesday. The mail hadn’t been delivered yet. Yet here was Dick outside and making his way across his driveway.

He smiles and says hi and asks me what I’m doing. I stand so we can be eye to eye and I tell him I’m pulling weeds. We survey the bushes in silence for a second. They have been neglected for far too long and are in rough shape but still working all their lilac magic to produce those wonderfully smelling blooms. 

I once heard something about plants that were nearing a rough patch or the end of their time. That they somehow put all their energy into producing whatever it is that will beget offspring. Like a pine tree producing twice the normal number of pine cones as its branches become brittle and brown. Or a flower blooming out of control before a bad winter it might not survive, somehow with a premonition of things to come. 

Dick breaks the silence and says the bushes look great. I don’t think we’re looking at the same bushes. They smell amazing though, and maybe with failing eyesight that’s what he’s basing his assessment on. 

I ask him how it’s going. He surprises me and says, “You know a person shouldn’t live past 90.” 

He’s 92. 

I’m not sure how to respond to that so I just smile and we stand there for another moment of silence. 

He reaches over his cane and grabs the tendril of a Creeping Jenny and yanks it away from the bush. It snaps, leaving the root of the weed intact. 

“I think I’ve got my work cut out for me,” I say. 

“You’re doing good.” He says. And then “I’ll leave you to it.” 

As he turns to walk back to his open garage door I can’t help but think that no matter how much good I do in my life, it will never amount to much.

All the life that wants to live.

I get back down on my knees and reach for another weed.

2021-06-05 Cliches About Time are Cliche Because of Their Truth

The push and pull of all these days blurs into a gravity that begs to be let go of. Time is relative. Emotions are relative. Thoughts are relative. The next thing can only be measured against the last and the moment in time that lingers longer than it should, repeating itself in the mind, becomes greater as time passes. It’s natural.

Funny how the more you want to let it go, the harder it holds on and the harder you want to hold onto it, the faster it slips away. Why? I often think that I’m not ready to work on answers to the questions yet, because I’m still working on the questions. Maybe in my last minutes wandering this waking world I’ll come to understand the questions. Maybe then, and only then, I will feel ready for the answers. 

Since the funeral on Thursday, I’ve been replaying the same moment in my head over and over again. Each time I think maybe I can get through it without that emotional swell that brings me to tears. 

My mom and I arrived 20 minutes early for the funeral and there was no one in the receiving line before entering the main part of the chapel. Even before I saw the line, I could feel my emotions rising through my body, in my stomach, and up into my throat. By the time I was standing in front of my ex, i was already full and bursting from the eyes. I attempted to maintain my composure as I gave him a light hug and offered my condolences. 

Next was his mom, who I had been most worried about and felt very sad for. She hugged me tightly and whispered in my ear, she loves me, she’s glad I came, thanks for sending flowers, and that I’ve done a good job raising the kids. 

See, I can’t think of it now without tearing up again. 

I was worried and anxious and had nothing to worry about. I wish I had been more prepared. So many unsaid things are in my head and it’s too late for me to say them. So now they are stuck inside of me. And now I realize it’s too late, their “stuck-ness” hurts. 

I proceeded down the receiving line. Kristy, Wendy, Scott, and Larry. Family that used to be my family. Family that would be my family had I stayed married. Family that I was separated from suddenly and unnaturally. It was the toughest part of my divorce and standing there I was reduced to my younger self, broken and exposed and not knowing what to say. 

I hugged each person in turn, followed by my mom making easy casual conversation with folks the way she does. Why couldn’t I have inherited her easy social nature? 

We proceeded into the church and selected a spot near the back of the room. The service was nice. The personal portion was touching and the religious portion allowed me to splay my thoughts in different directions. 

My children were there, sitting with their cousins and though I said hello to them, it felt like I was approaching strangers, not really a part of that circle. They are all so grown up. The oldest cousin having children of his own now. That’s life. 

We didn’t stay for the reception after. My mom was in a hurry to get going. I almost regretted bringing her as I may have stayed longer if it wasn’t for her. It was probably for the best. I don’t really belong anyway and it would have been awkward. 

That was 2 days ago and that 120 second clip of navigating the interactions in that line will not stop replaying in my mind. Two mornings now I’ve woke up thinking about it. The words whispered, the embraces, the flood of emotions. It leaves me wondering what I will need to do to release myself from repeating that memory. That’s the question. 

I’ve told three people, and each time I began to get weepy and still that did not help. I’m hoping writing this will help. I guess we’ll see. Time will tell. 

Time heals and time wounds. Time is forgiving and cruel. Time keeps its secrets until it’s too late, revealing the questions when the answers no longer matter. 

My former father-in-law is gone and I can no longer tell him how I feel about him and how much he means to me, my memories locked inside because I’m not able to sit around the table with the family and reminisce. 

I can’t reach back in time and change anything. I can’t rewind and ask my grandfather about his life. I can’t stay in touch with Stacey and convince her life is worth sticking around for or change the way I treated KS. Life goes on and as cliche as it is, it waits for no one. 

That’s a good a place as any to stop. There’s more I could say about family and attempting to spend more quality time lately, but it’s Saturday and going to be hot out and I need to water my plants. 

Another cliche but so true—there’s no time like the present.

With peace and love, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-06-03 Coming to a Few Conclusions

I’ve tried a few times so far this week to write something. It’s just not there, you know, and I’m not inclined to fight it. 

The rest of our KC road trip came and went and I began to write about that, but got distracted by life and stuff needing attention. 

I’ve wanted to write about my former father-in-law and how I felt a dull ache in my heart for days and angst over whether or not I should go to the funeral. I gave blood last week and began crying on the “table” during the donation and had to wave off the concerned Red Cross staff, letting them know it was something else entirely and I was fine.

The funeral is today and I’m going. I asked a few people if I should or not and wasn’t satisfied with any of the answers I received. Not because they didn’t make logical sense or because they were contrary to what I actually wanted, but because I was looking for someone else to tell me what to do and I suppose in the end I didn’t really want advice. I wanted to want advice, if that makes sense, but in my heart I already knew what I wanted, which was to go and grieve for myself and support my children. Isn’t that what funerals are for? 

Like much of life, it can be whatever you want, you just need to figure out what you want. The lucky among us figure that out with enough time left to actually act on our wants and desires. 

My mom is going to the funeral with me. I asked her yesterday and at the risk of sounding shady and cold, she owes me. A person should not have to go to a funeral alone. In my life I’ve often felt that it was better to face grief in a solitary fashion—work out me feelings for myself, but I’ve learned over the years that this is backward thinking. I’m not too proud to admit I was wrong. People need people. 

I won’t get to sit with my children, of course, as they will be with their dad up front. I just hope they don’t make my son cut his hair for this. I have a feeling his dad might. 

Sometimes waiting for a funeral is like holding your breath and I’m really looking forward to it being over so I can exhale. 

I’d like to write more about all of this, but the words are just not there. Such is life. 

Peace and love, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-05-29 KC Road Trip Part 1: It’s All Going to Be OK

This is new. My daughter is having her first “friend” road trip/weekend and I’m backseat chaperoning and trying not to backseat drive. She drives like a teenager—too fast, following too close, and extremely irritated when I offer pointers. I’ve seen what she calls her most social finger waving to me from the driver’s seat at least 4 times now. I have to bite my tongue.

Right now she has one hand on the wheel and one hand awkwardly gripping the top of her Starbucks cup, sipping some overly-sweet concoction that doesn’t even have coffee or espresso in it. In my head I imagine she squeezes too tight and the lid pops off and the seat of my car is irreversibly sticky, uncompromisingly ruined as syrup and melted whip cream seep into the seams of the fabric. 

I wince as she removes her “wheel” hand to pinch the straw and swirl it around the bottom of the cup. 

The miles stretch on as we pass semi after semi. She read somewhere that driving seven miles over the speed limit is “acceptable.” Acceptable meaning, you won’t get pulled over. Sometimes I have to look away, close my eyes, take a deep breath, and remind myself (in my head), that it’s all going to be OK. 

This is her trip and she’s waited a long time to get to do something like this. It would probably have happened during or just after her senior year of high school but the Coronavirus had other plans for all of us that year. So much of what was supposed to happen had been ruined and, at times, I feel like I am overcompensating–trying too hard to make it up to her. I feel like I might be doing that for the rest of her life. Letting her drive is such a small thing. 

I have to remind myself that I did this trip to KC when I was her age—a right of passage for many teenagers from CB and Omaha alike. We didn’t have chaperones. We rented a motel in town the night before we left, didn’t have reliable cars, or smart phones. Hell, we didn’t even have enough money for gas for the trip home. We didn’t think too far ahead and didn’t worry about breaking down or all the terrible things that could have happened. We just went and it all turned out OK.

***

It’s all going to be OK. 

Or is it?

***

When my daughter approached me with the idea for this road trip.. I was all for it. I would even have been ok with her and her friend going without supervision or help. They are very responsible girls and my daughter is a serious planner so she would have thought of everything well in advance. Well, only the things she knew to consider anyway. 

It was her friend’s parents that would not let them go without a chaperone which I happily agreed to do. I even said up front I would stay out of their way and let them call the shots (hence the driving situation). What I didn’t realize then was that the weekend they were planning was a holiday weekend and also one of the first of the season when the main activity they wanted to travel for would be bonkers busy. The destination I’m talking about is Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. 

All the planning in the world can’t prepare a person for the fresh hell we experienced at the park.

We arrived at our hotel in Liberty Missouri about 1pm and were able to check in early. Side note for all you young travelers—in these parts you can’t rent a hotel room unless you are 21 years old. It’s a good thing I was along for the ride! 

With no time to waste, we changed and drove a stones throw up the road to Worlds of Fun.

Parking? No problem.

Waiting in queue to enter the park? No problem.

Navigating to our first ride? No problem.

But that was the end of our problem-less sidewalk.

We surveyed the line for the first “starter” coaster we wanted to try. It seemed extremely long. We got in it anyway. In about 10 minutes time it barely moved. Red flag. 

The woman in front of us was eavesdropping on our conversation, part of which included the fact that there was a Panda Express right next to the ride and how absolutely gross their food is. After a few more minutes she says, “you guys know this line is for the Panda?” Ugh 😩 

So we wasted about 15 minutes in that line and quickly made our way to the correct line, which didn’t seem all that long. In fact, I kinda remember the last time I was at the park and it was equally as long. It moves pretty fast. I said to myself. 

It didn’t. 

And it’s one of those lines that you can’t really see where it winds around as the queue is out of sight. Well, you can’t see it until you’re already far enough that you’ve committed 40 minutes of your life to it, which is exactly what happened. And it wasn’t moving fast.. It was barely moving.

My daughter was the one who made the call. We dipped out of the line to go elsewhere. Mind you, we arrived at the park at about 2pm and now it was 3. She said “which way do we go?” 

I urged that we head toward the Mamba, which is the major coaster at the back of the park. She said “we can’t start with that one!” 

I said, “ok. We’ll stop at a few on the way.” The first one the girls were interested in (that was operational) was the detonator. An extremely tall tower that you sit in and it shoots you up like a rocket. There are two towers, 12 people at a time each. We got in line. 

Between people with fast passes and only one of the two towers being operational (and clearly incompetent people running the ride) it took two hours and forty-five minutes to get to the front of the line.

After dipping out of the line on the first ride, we were all-in on this one and no way we were leaving without actually getting to ride. It was horrible. The ride was good, but not worth the pain. 

When it was over, the girls looked at me for direction. I just shrugged and said “maybe if we hurry we can ride the mamba before the park closes.” The park closes as 7pm. We sprinted in that general direction. 

We got as far as the end of the line and made the call, no way in hell we were waiting in that line. We retreated and continued on the path to leave. It was now about 6pm and we had been at the park 4 hours and rode exactly 1 ride. I was one hot mama on the hunt to get my daughter a refund for the hundreds of dollars she spent on tickets for this weekend. 

En route to the exit, we stopped at the Zulu and waited in line 45 minutes to ride it. So 5 hours and 2 rides. I explained to the nice kid at guest services that my daughter paid in advance for three people for three days at Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun including a fast pass for three people for Sunday that she purchased while we were standing in line at the detonator.

They were ready. They knew that people were angry and it’s not like we live here or have season passes and can come back any day. No. This was a destination for us. This is the whole reason we came to this city. We wanted a refund. I told the kid “there is no way we are returning for two more days of this.” They gave her almost all of her money back, including the money for the tickets for the current day. What a relief. 

Sad to be so relieved to not have to go back to an amusement park, but true. 

We eventually found our car in the sea of departing vehicles and got in yet another queue to leave. Little did we know that the park was not done with us yet. The line to leave didn’t budge. We sat for 20 minutes without even driving 1 car length. There are a series of parking lots all connected by one road. One way in and one way out. 😩 

So we waited. 

My daughter had happily given up the driver’s seat and sat behind me googling directions on her phone. She said that there was another road in the map, an alternate way out. I argued that if that was the case, more people would be going that way. 

She pleaded and I was just desperate enough to listen and indulge her. I peeled out of line and went the opposite way. 

We arrived at a gravel lot where the road was crumbling, but I continued to follow it around to another paved road that had a sign—no guest access. The girls giggled from the back seat, “just DO IT.” So I did.

We wound all the way around the back side of the park and came to what was clearly an employee / service area. Then we hit the end of the road. A large metal gate blocking the path. We could see the main road just on the other side of that. We were so close.

My daughter wanted to try and move the gate, but it wasn’t latched and it looked electronic to me. I started to back the car out to go the other way and she pleaded again to let her try. 

I said “it’s not the kind of gate a person can move. It’s probably operated from a remote or keypad or button.” Just then, I surveyed the gate again and saw a button. I said “like THAT ONE!!”

I jumped out of the car and pushed the button and sure enough, the gate began to open. Huzzah! Something finally went out way!! 

On our way out, we drove past the long line of cars still waiting their turns at the final stop sign before the exit onto the main drive. We probably saved ourselves an hour by bending the rules. And I was ok with that. I Just hope that decision is not going to come back and bite me in some way. It might.

***

Despite it being almost 8pm at that point, we found a spot for dinner and still had time left after that to visit Wal-Mart and pick up a card game and some snacks. I crashed out about midnight and vaguely remember asking them to turn the TV off sometime quite a bit later.

Now it’s tomorrow and so far this day isn’t going as planned either. But it’s not my day and it’s not my plan and whatever happens, it’s all going to be ok. Right??!!

Until next time,

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-05-27 The Elephant in my Heart

After a time.. feel as though my hiding from the world at large is exhausting.

Maybe I’m just exhausted from lack of sleep. No matter how productive I am, it’s not productive enough. 

Still..  was looking forward to today when I woke up. Despite the dishes piling up, clumps in the litter box piling up, and mail requiring attention piling up, I’m still looking forward. The biggest question now is if I’m writing that because I want it to be true or if it’s actually true. 

My friend T texted she won’t be at the exercise class today, the one I vowed a few weeks ago I was quitting but too chicken-shit to tell her so I ponied up 50 more bucks for 5 more classes. 10 bucks a class is outrageous. The only way I can get my monies worth is to get the unlimited package and then go to like a gazillion classes. 

I need to grow a spine and just tell her. She probably already thinks I’m a complete flake, backing out of class after class. Then yesterday I went and lifted too heavy on biceps and hurt my arm. I’m going to start lifting with my husband instead. We have all this damn equipment at home I never use .. I just need another person to feel motivated to exercise (outside this treadmill walking). 

Why is that? 

I just need to tell T I want to hang out with her outside of a class, just you know, coffee or the zoo with her kids, or just sitting at one of our houses. 

Right now I’m avoiding the elephant in the room of my heart—the passing of my former father in law, my kids’ grandpa. He was a father figure to me for 18 years of my life and a genuinely wonderful person. I had a better relationship with him and his wife than my own parents who never paid any attention to me. His parents cared and they showed it.

And on it went like that through the duration of my 18 year marriage until the day I ended things with my ex husband and became enemy #1 in the eyes of my mother in law. I had to sacrifice my relationships with most members of his family for that decision, including the one I had developed with Larry. Sad that it had to be like that.

Just because I haven’t talked to them in years doesn’t mean I don’t feel grief. I do. I am hurting. I’m feeling it for myself, my ex-husband, my children, for the whole family. Funny the way it is when someone dies and you just don’t know what to say. I just don’t know what to say.

The kids are pretty closed up at this point, their first (close) grandparent to pass and just internalizing their own pain. They don’t want to talk about it and we’re all holding our breath in a vacuum waiting for news about services. The longer we have to wait, the more likely it willl be this weekend, which is in conflict with my daughters first planned road trip with a friend. She’s had so many disappointments from plans being derailed in the last few years, it’s disheartening.

I’m a little closed too, kind of feeling I have no one to talk to about how I feel about him or his dying. We all knew it was imminent, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I think most people would think I have no right to be upset, because it’s been so long but people feel how they feel. That is part of what makes us human.

For me this creates a bit of a conundrum about whether or not I should go to the funeral. If I had my way I would but Jim thinks I should not. I feel like it’s the respectful thing to do but he thinks it would not be right. It’s one of those situations where I don’t trust my own judgement and seeking counsel from others. Ultimately the decision is mine but I just want someone else to tell me what to do. But the fact that I’m resisting Jim’s advice is telling.

It has been 10+ years since I had interaction with the family. But I want to be there for myself and my kids. But they have their dad. But their dad might want me there. But he might not. My head goes back and forth and the worst part of my indecision is thinking if I go for myself that it will be selfish or self-serving like my mom saying she wanted to go to my step-moms funeral last year “for her kids” (all grown and not needing her and frankly not wanting to be there themselves). 

Still, maybe I need some sort of resolution for myself and I shouldn’t be so concerned what other people think. But I do care and their feelings matter. I just don’t know. 

If we were still in the middle of COVID, that would be a big reason not to go. But we’ve all been vaccinated now. I just don’t know. 

I’m not really feeling motivated to continue walking (or thinking about this) right now. I have so much to do today. Too much.

Deep sighs,

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-05-25 What’s In the News… 🗞

Happy mask mandate expiry day! It’s been a while since I’ve walked/written/had time to think about the world at large. Life is that way sometimes I guess. 

The last time I checked in I was pouring over my stabilizing good mood and trying to decide what, exactly, it was that made the tide turn in my favor. I’m happy to report that my happy has continued to be consistent and I’m still waking up most days looking forward to the day. 

I’ve continued to not over-commit myself and have not volunteered to do anymore talks or workshops. I’m minimizing meet-ups and really digging in for quality time with those I have had. 

Last Friday I had a 4 hour happy hour session with my friend M and that was fabulous. This week I have two or three meetups mixed in with my deep dive into reading for the GLR contest (which I’m very behind on for nonfiction). It’s my priority this week and I have a LOT to read! 

I’ve finished a first pass at poetry and also scripts and am ready to discuss with other editors. The only category I’m not reading is fiction. It’s just too much. 

Anyhow, that’s what’s on the agenda today after this much needed walk. I’ve tried to get back into the cardio thing but finding it hard to get motivated. I think part of that is that something in me is still recovering from that stomach virus I had last week. Was that just last week? It’s already blurry (my memory). 

In any case, my stomach is still off and my energy is low. But.. the low energy thing has been chronic so I can hardly blame that virus. It may still be a contributing factor though. 

Good gravy!… I haven’t written for days and THIS is still all I have?!?! I guess that’s a good thing as no news is good news. Right?!!

What about the world at large??

Locally, our mask mandate expired today and I’m very curious how businesses around town will react. Since the mask thing became so political, it will be a statement when the business owners either continue to require masks or not. I think most locally owned places will quickly and happily remove the signs from their doors whereas many major chains such as wal-mart or Costco might continue to expect customers to comply with the company policy. 

Not that it will stop ass-hats from refusing to comply. Those folks will do what they want no matter what someone else says. I saw a lady rudely refuse to put on a mask going into a Walmart grocery last week. I wanted to follow her into the store and give her a piece of my mind. Why is it some people think the rules don’t apply to them?! Cwazy! 

Nationally? I heard a statistic that the last few months has been the worst in history for “personal” shootings and gun violence. Has this become so common place that each incident isn’t even enough to make the daily news? Or am I so desensitized that I don’t hear it? And how much do “we” have to endure before new laws can be passed. Then again, my position in this has not changed. 

No law can undo what’s already been done. And I’m not talking about the past shootings, I’m talking about the sale of semi-automatic weapons or lack of background checks attached to gun sales. No.. if you’re a criminal or have mental health problems, homicidal tendencies, or anger issues, you probably already have the guns you want. 

Rights to bear arms means you can have a gun, it shouldn’t mean you can have one that can kill dozens of people with one pass through a crowded room. That’s my stance and that has not changed. 

Today is the anniversary of George Floyd’s death and while the fire of that still burns in the heart of many Americans, America as a whole is now doing what it does best… sweep history into the archives without doing anything to change things for the better. What will happen to the BLM movement? It will smolder until another event sparks the flame anew. And round and round we go, decade after decade. 

The global news feels very much the same (as in, hot topics coming and going as fast as people change their underwear). Not a squeak about Gaza or the Middle East; not an ounce about the Coronavirus, except that America is urging folks not to travel to Japan for the Olympics as Japan is way behind on vaccinations. The summer olympics? Is that still happening? Who the hell would want to go to that anyway on the heels of a global pandemic?! Good gravy!!

OK folks, that is probably enough for today. I’ve got to get on the productivity train. 

Peace, Love, and BBQ Lays,

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-05-18 Music as Inspiration and Other Rando Crafty Thoughts…

I’ve had my new phone for over a week and finally.. FINALLY.. got my music library loaded. So now I’m officially down to using one device daily. 💃💃💃

This morning, instead of picking a playlist, I’m listening to the ultimate shuffle—all the songs that are in my library. Another advantage of my new phone is that it has space to hold all the music I’ve loaded onto iTunes on my laptop, which is a fraction of the songs I’ve acquired in my lifetime. I only load artists, albums, and songs that I want to hear so as to avoid spending time skipping a whole lot of garbage that I’m not into.

In any case, listening to the ultimate shuffle today began with Mrs. Potters Lullaby by Counting Crows. That’s a song I once got inspired to write a poem about. One of the few instances (besides my Fall Out Boy poem) where I remember the exact circumstance—where I was and when.

I was at the Panera Bread in Papillion on 72nd street and it was just after a meetup with my ex, Matt. I sat in a corner chair—one of the bigger lounge chairs that’s not at a cafe table. I had my laptop out and was writing when the song came up. I was immediately immersed in the song and stopped writing. I couldn’t remember hearing that one before and I’ve listened to a LOT of Counting Crows. 

After the song was over, I hit the back button to listen again. And then again as I began to compose a poem. I let the song influence the poem, both in meter and rhyme. Each time I listened I pulled a line or two out to mingle with my own thoughts and I repeated the song until I was satisfied that the first draft was complete.

I then closed my laptop and drove home. 

Months later I found it again, perusing my personal slush pile and worked on revising, with the limited knowledge I had at that point (still early in my MFA). I didn’t spend too much time on it though, dismissing it because of the heavy rhyme and all the lyrics I’d hijacked and twisted to suit my needs. I wondered if the poem was too much of the song. Would that be considered plagiarism? 

Fast forward about two years and I’m revisiting my slush pile again, hunting for something to submit to workshop for my final MFA residency. I had a lack of new material and really wanted to push the envelope with something I felt was good and worthy of workshop, but would spark conversation about rhyme and “stealing” lines. 

It did exactly that and I was pleased with the outcome, yet, I have not submitted that one for publication and as I write this, I’m questioning why not. 

Perhaps that should be one of the next poems on the agenda for revision and research. Research because sometimes it takes a little effort to find a place that the poem would be a good fit for. Many publications I research actually say that rhyming poems are a tough sell and honestly, the poem itself is lacking tension and that’s probably a problem.

But tension can come in many forms. The subject itself can be edgy, the writing can be such that it surprises, or the tension can be more subtle—hidden in the play between the fundamental elements of the poem. Interruptions in established meter or form, changes in diction, or juxtaposing simple colloquial speech with complex rhetoric can all be effective means to create tension. I just have to decide what my poem wants—what would work with what’s already there. 

But… it could be that this is just a learning experience and the poem isn’t meant to be out in the world. Many aren’t. 

Maybe the experience I can learn from happened years ago when I first composed the poem, leaning into a song for inspiration. Maybe the daily reading of poems for inspiration can be expanded to include whatever song I feel moves me the most. 

Right now I’m listening to a song by Justin Bieber and that’s NOT inspiring me to write anything. I like some of his songs but listening to the ultimate shuffle, I’m still left skipping through a lot of garbage. Ugh!

Times up now anyhow. The taco Tuesday train is about to leave the station. All aboard! 🚂 

Peace, 

~Miss SugarCookie