A Quick Trip to Hot Springs

I don’t consider myself adventurous. I mean, I have had some adventures. Remember that time, Rob made me rappel into a Cenote in Mexico? Did I mention I’m afraid of heights?

Adventurous Lauren

Despite my lack of adventurous spirit, the week before school started, I decided it would be fun to take all three kids on a trip to Pisgah National Forest and camp out. Did I mention Rob wouldn’t be there?

We planned a quick trip–just drive up Tuesday, campout, possibly go tubing on the French Broad River, or go to Chimney Rock, then come home the next day. I had Chromebooks to pick up, schedules to view, and virtual open houses to attend at the end of the week for the kids.

We found a campground online called Rocky Bluff Campground. This put us about three hours away from Charlotte, and on the other side of Asheville. The trip there went well. Liam had a slight panic attack on the mountain roads. He doesn’t like heights either. When the GPS told us to turn left into the campground, I wondered how that would happen, since by all appearances we were on the side of a mountain, but the left magically appeared. The campground had wonderful stone work, and flat areas to pitch tents. Plus the other campers were at a safe distance, which also made me happy. The only minus was that we had to walk down stairs to bring all of our items to the campsite.

Also, my lack of camping-by-myself-experience led to some trouble putting up our pop-up tent. But we finally got it up, and we were all proud of ourselves.

Liam was hot and scarred from the drive by this time. Also, our tent platform was located in a shade-free area.

After we set up the tent, we went into town. Hot Springs is known for, well, hot springs. And we didn’t want to go to the springs, because they were in a spa, and also it was like 95 degrees. So instead, I blew money at the local store buying the kids lots of North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, and AT gear. Plus, Liam purchased a kazoo. Let’s just say that kazoo-player Liam is pretty talented and can match the tune to any song on a three-hour ride home.

Liam in the French Broad River

After the store, we went over to the welcome center. There a nice gentleman told Hailey and I that we could go across the street to find out about tubing, or drive 10 minutes up the road, and over the mountain, to find a trail that would run along the river. We chose the trail and planned on tubing the next morning.

Hailey in the French Broad River
Caden in the French Broad River

After the river adventure, in which I was not adventurous, we headed back to town to see if we could go tubing. We could not. The river was, in fact, too high. I was not upset about this at all. I wanted to go back to the campground to make sure I actually knew how to start a fire. So we made our way back.

When we made it to the campsite, I set up the propane stove and made hot dogs, plus corn. We also ate a lot of junk food, and played Uno about a billion times, while Caden took a nap. Liam was my savior as far as the fire was concerned. He made it, kept up with it, and we even had s’mores.

Liam, the fire starter
Liam, pretty proud of that raging fire!

Then the fun really came. Nothing will make you feel older than sleeping on the floor of a tent. I had a cushion to go under my sleeping bag and everything, but it did not help. First of all, there was a 10 year old who has no clue what personal sleeping space is. And then, Caden kept getting up, because his nap earlier had messed up his bedtime. Then it started pouring. I think I finally fell asleep at 2 AM. And I woke up at 6:30.

When I woke up, so did the kids. And they asked if we could go home. I asked if they wanted to stop at Chimney Rock, and they said no. And you know what, I was okay with that. It made me realize that trips are about the experience, spending time with the kids, and having fun. And camping–it makes you exhausted. I literally spent the rest of that day in bed watching Netflix.

I am hoping in the years to come, when my kids think of this period of COVID-19 and quarantine, they will remember these times we had together. These times I took them on an adventure, and we spent some quality time together. But you know what they’ll probably remember the most? Stopping by McDonald’s on the way home!

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I’m Back

I am trying to start writing again. I wrote for about fifteen minutes earlier today, in between work and child care–really more like teenage care now. Like most people from the United States, we are still stuck at home. I’m hoping the masks requirements start reducing COVID-19. Until then, the kids and I will be at home doing remote learning while I try to work, and Rob tries to work too. And I try to write again. Because I have been missing my writing–time to pick up the ink and quill.

We have had a wonderful time all together mostly. Nothing like spending time with your family 24/7 to show you how much you need them. We are exploring our new home of Charlotte, North Carolina, and we are really liking what we are seeing. There are several great day trips from Charlotte, and I am starting to explore them with the kids. We also were able to get away for a few days to Todd, North Carolina, just north of Boone to a wonderful place called Camp Big Fun.

This past week it has been hot! We’ve had heat indices up to 105 or so. I decided to take the kids to Hooker Falls. It’s in the Dupont State Forest, about two hours away from our house and close to Asheville. What an incredibly beautiful place! The water was freezing cold, but oh so refreshing!

Son Number 1 at Hooker Falls

I have also spent hour upon hour of playing Animal Crossing New Horizons. This may seem like a colossal waste of time, which might be better spent writing, but actually I have been playing with some family members and we usually talk while playing. It’s been fun to catch up with them and live on an imaginary island where you can make millions of bells by selling turnips. Also, my little character pretty much looks amazing in any clothes, including bear costumes and princess costumes so that’s a plus!

The title of this post while seemingly simple was inspired by Poltergeist, which Son Number 2 and I watched together. Did you know Poltergeist is rated PG? This movie scared the bejeezus out of me as a kid, but as an adult not so much. Still such an amazing movie.

I’m hoping to start posting a few times a week again. Not all of my post will be about writing. I will probably write about whatever I’m thinking about that day, or whatever issue I wish to further explore. I hope to delve into some short fiction again too, and I want to further explore this story idea I’ve been mulling over. I may post bits and pieces of it here too.

So what have you been doing with your free time–if you have any–since COVID-19?

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Journey of Words

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Yes, I’m a writer. I know, I know–I haven’t been writing as much. For awhile, I wasn’t writing at all. I’ve been thinking about ancient history a lot this week. You know, memories down the lane. I’ve been doing some soul-searching, but not in a nostalgic sad kind of way. More in a way that’s helping me come to terms with some of my decisions about the past. And of course, some of this is ending up in my writing, because you know that’s what writers do. For some reason, these thoughts and the books I’ve been reading: The Last Time We Met, Less, The Princess Diarist, heck even Born a Crime, made me think I needed to set my book in Buenos Aires.

And it’s strange. I feel like I’m traveling there again in my mind. I went to Buenos Aires in 1999. I had just turned 20. This was almost 20 years ago (I’m getting old, peeps). Their currency was still tied to the dollar. Everything was super expensive. I had a astrophysicist cabbie who couldn’t get a job because unemployment was through the roof. I walked by a Jewish synagogue frequently that had armed guards, because there’s so much antisemitism in Buenos Aires they were afraid the synagogue would be bombed. I saw a guy on a bike get hit by a car, and then the driver get out and yell at him in Spanish for being in the way, while the pedestrian writhed in pain on the sidewalk by my feet. My friend P’s host family called their Doberman Pincher gay, because he was such a nice dog (I wasn’t appalled by their use of this word as derogatory then, as I surely would be now). He would sit on your lap whenever you came into the apartment, because he thought he was a lap dog. I would watch game shows and Spanish soap operas with English subtitles to learn more Spanish with my “sisters” Sol and Paz (the daughters of my host mother).

I saw a country in love with Evita Peron still. A country suffering but beautiful. The colors of La Boca. The market square. The pigeons. Luna Park and Jamiroquai. The mothers of the disaparecidos protesting in the street, still looking for their loved ones. A country where you could sit in the park and have yerba mate then risk your life at the hands of a cab driver (why do they make lanes anyway)? I saw how much family meant to Argentineans. Young women stayed home until they married. Even my crazy host family had their extended family over once a week. They laughed, drank, ate, and loved. A city that awoke no earlier than 10 and when to bed no earlier than midnight!

I think, now, experiences like these are wasted on the young. How I love to travel. How I wish to go back to Buenos Aires and see how it’s changed. Is there still a little cafe/bar on the corner of Manual Ugarte and Cabildo where I sat and talked to a boy I’d later fall hopelessly (emphasis on the hopeless) in love with until 2 AM? Where I sat with friends and tipped the waiters so big they looked forward to our arrival every evening? Is that place still there? What about the laundromat that would pick up and wash my clothes, fold them, and return them to me? I swore they were shrinking my clothes, but I was really just gaining about 30 pounds on empanadas, alfajores, and full fat milk.

Someone asked me over the weekend what type of books I wrote, and I didn’t know what to say. None. Half-finished books? Books about love and loss and unrequited love and abuse and family and women’s fiction and southern literature and maybe literary fiction. We love to categorize everything, but I feel like I get into my writing the most when I just do it without thinking about what it actually is. When is springs forth from some burning internal question I’m trying to answer.

Writing is a lot like traveling to me. I can go back to Buenos Aires. I can picture myself there. Transporting my characters to worlds I’ve been but also to places I’ve never been. An exercise in empathy. A way to answer unanswerable questions or at least get closer to explaining them to myself. But mostly just cathartic. A journey to a better understanding of the human existence, this universe we call home.

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