TheRealSharon's Blog

{August 11, 2011}   On the road again

I just love getting behind the wheel of a car, getting comfy in the seat, starting the engine, and taking off for a nice long drive. Of course, you fasten the seat belt, too. If I am driving, then a road trip is so much fun for me. There’s just this peace I get as I sit back in the seat and get into the rhythm of the road. It’s very cathartic for me and healing…..Is this strange?

As you are reading this post, I am driving on a 4 hour trip, maybe a little more, to go visit some family. It’s just me and my mom and I am either having a conversation with her or she is reading a magazine while I am listening to the radio on low and enjoying the peace. Actually, we can add a third option because if she is reading, she probably has fallen asleep. Doesn’t matter to me which of the three SHE is doing because I am currently doing something that relieves stress for me and makes me feel new for awhile. Road trips give me excitement for days…..just the thought of being able to drive for a long period with no guilt. I would just drive all over everyday but then it would mean more gas fill ups for the car, which we all know costs tons of money nowadays. If only I could afford one of the electrical cars…but then that would be wasting electricity just so I could enjoy driving, right?

Oh well….for now I am on the road again, literally, enjoying a nice, quiet drive…..until I hit the big city and begin to deal with traffic I rarely experience anymore. But the traffic is fine and I can live with it because I love the place I am heading to. The place where I was born and raised. There’s just something about this city that brings back good memories for me and makes me forget the stress for awhile…..then in a few days, I will again partake of the drive back home, which I will love but saying goodbye again to family I will NOT love.

I hope everyone else is enjoying their Thursday…for now, I will focus on my driving! 🙂

*P.S. This post was done in my house and scheduled before the drive took place….no crazy woman was driving on the road and blogging!*

Part 2 showed some of the fun I had and some differences in the countries….This part will show you WHY I compare my missions trip to my honeymoon when it comes to negative experiences.

As I mentioned earlier, a day or two into the trip I started having headaches consistently. Since I didn’t have the option of just opting out and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss anything anyways, I ended up taking pill after pill JUST to manage every day. I only got to talk to my mom one time while I was in Wales. Back in 2001, believe it or not, cell phones weren’t as big of a thing and neither were laptops so I didn’t have a cell phone to just call people I loved whenever I wanted. Our leader had one, of course, and he arranged for all of us to call our parents for a short time after we arrived just so they could know we were safe. Of course, if there had been a problem, I’m sure we would have been allowed to call them as well.

It was lonely for me, though. I missed home ever so much and thank God for me having my own room that I could go to at night and cry and pray by myself. I needed that alone time when so much time on the trip was spent with new people. I also loved to gaze down from the window at the street below and wonder what the other people in the other buildings were doing at that moment. One day, as I was gazing out the window, I felt a drop of water hit me. It wasn’t raining outside so I was confused as to what I was feeling. I stepped back and noticed that not only was there a leak from up above dripping down but there was also some hair leaking through? Yea, I was completely mortified. It turned out the third floor shower was leaking into that room so that meant less showers and quicker ones for them and a bucket placed under the window. As I lay in bed, I could hear the water dripping every now and then and oddly enough, it didn’t keep me awake. I suppose because I was so tired. A few days later, the leak emerged down the wall next to where my bed was. I simply scooted the bed over a little and went on my way. All I cared about was that it wasn’t leaking on me.

Then, horror of horrors, came the night where I was laying in the bed and the water started leaking from the middle of the ceiling right above the light fixture. There was no longer a place safe enough to sleep in the room. The thought of having to move this late in the game, into the room where ALL the girls were, was frightening to me so I came up with my own alternative. The room at the end of the hall, right next to me, housed tons of VHS movies and while there wasn’t a bed in there, there WAS room enough for a mattress. I hauled my mattress into this room, laid it on the floor and that was my makeshift bed for the few remaining days of my trip. It might not have been the best situation but it worked for me and I could still use the other room to dress and store my stuff.

We eventually found out OUR shower was leaking into the daycare so all of us had to start taking really fast showers as to reduce the leakage factor. Like I said, this building had seen better days!

One of the things I had wanted to do on this Missions trip more than anything was to sing. I was shy, yes, but I loved to sing and I was willing to try to sing solos or duets, whatever was needed. Shortly after the headaches started, my voice started getting raspy and hoarse. I could talk fine but the singing wasn’t happening. That was hard for me because when I’m not able to sing, I feel empty. The fact that I wasn’t able to do something that I thought I could offer on a Missions trip above anything else really shot down my confidence and saddened me. So…headache, losing voice….pop more Ibuprofen to deal with the pain.

Then I walked into VBS one day and tripped over the bottom of the door frame. I ended up twisting my ankle and it HURT. Since I had no choice but to walk on it and A LOT, I popped more medicine to make the pain just go away. It worked, I didn’t feel my ankle hurting as bad, my headache was a distant aching pain and while I couldn’t sing, I could still talk fine.

By the end of the trip, I had gone through almost a whole thing of Ibuprofen…one of those big economical sizes. As we drove to the airport and got on the plane, there was a little bit of sadness in saying goodbye to Wales but I was also homesick and my body was giving out on me. I was exhausted. On the way to Pennsylvania, my headache came back with a vengeance and my back starting throbbing and aching. It seemed like I would never get home.

As we touched down in Pennsylvania, good byes were said and I was pointed on my way to my flight to Texas. Here I was again, on my own, all alone, walking to my flight. Kimberly had a connecting flight too, for Georgia, so luckily I had a companion for a bit of my walk. Then I found my connecting flight and got on. I freaked out when I saw I was seated next to two good looking college age kids. Great…here I am, a big girl with glasses, feeling like crap and stuck next to two guys….Good looking guys! UGh, kill me now!

The 3 hour flight to Texas seemed to drag on and on forever, my head wanted to explode and I began to feel nauseous. Oh no….please let me hold it until we get there!…….Perhaps, I should have been more specific? As we landed and were pulling up to our gate, I couldn’t hold back anymore and I had to grab one of those paper baggies in front of me…and yea, I think you know what happened next. I THINK the college guys were busy looking somewhere else but I am probably just deluding myself. When we got off the plane, I honestly could care less what anyone thought anymore, I felt horrible and I wanted my mom, I wanted my bedroom with my own bed and I wanted it now!

We still had a 2 hour drive to our house though and I lay in the backseat of the car, sick as a dog, all the way home. I got sick yet again on the road. 😦

When we got home, I went right to bed and stayed there for quite awhile. I later discovered I had strep throat, so it wasn’t that much of a shock that I had felt so bad. So why was my trip not so good? Well…a leak in my room, sick with a headache and strep throat for almost 2 weeks without knowing it, a very much probable close to overdose on Ibuprofen AND a twisted ankle….that’s why…

Do I regret my trip? No. Obviously, it would have been nice to not have been sick the whole time, but it was a growing up, life experience. I grew up so much from that trip, I learned new things about the world, I learned new things about myself and how much I can take and still overcome. I learned to be appreciative of what I have and how much I truly have to be thankful for. I had moments when my faith was tested in ways that I had never yet been exposed to at 17; eye opening experiences that really made me start to think for myself more and molded me into what I would later become in life. Before, I just believed things because it was what I was taught and I never really thought any deeper than that. There were tough questions I was asked by people that I was shocked that I didn’t have answers for. Though my shyness lingered for many years after this trip, on the inside I was changed from this trip and was slowly realizing that the world was about more than just believing based on what you were told. It’s also about searching out the truth for yourself and knowing the reasons behind WHY you believe what you believe. Learning to become confident and secure with not only what, but why you feel that way.

It was a great experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

In an older post, I mentioned a little bit about a missions trip I took when I was 17. If you’re interested in what led up to the trip and what started it off in a somber mood, then you are welcome to go back and read it.

I was asked recently about what made that trip bad…Well, I hate to go so far to say it was BAD completely because it was a life changing experience in which I learned so much and I grew a lot. It did rival my later honeymoon for negative happenings, though. Instead of responding about what exactly did go wrong on that trip in my comments, I decided I would go ahead and do a post about my trip. It WAS back in 2001 so forgive me if every little detail is not as fresh on my mind.

Back in July of 2001, I headed off for Wales on a missions trip. I was 2 months short of 18, had just recently graduated high school and while I had flown on a plane before many, many times, this would be my first time flying completely alone. I was excited but also scared…I had always been a momma’s girl and though I had been away from her before, this was the first time I would be away for 2 whole weeks in another country. I admit I cried after I said goodbye to her and got on the first plane. The first plane landed in Pennsylvania where I was to meet some other people and stay with all the others going on the trip for the night. I was extremely shy and nervous…I was going from Texas to Pennsylvania all alone, meeting complete strangers and spending the night at someone’s house that I had just met. To make matters worse, on the way to the airport I had realized that I had forgotten some medicine at home that I would need. We weren’t able to get it before I left so my parents actually got them to call it in to where I was staying and some of the people went and got it for me!

There was one girl I met that night, named Kimberly. Me and her hit it off right away. She seemed more of a loner type just like me and she was so sweet. It was a breath of fresh air to find someone that I felt comfortable with. The next morning, we headed back to the Pennsylvania airport and flew to Heathrow Airport in London. Of course, I was seated with some of the girls that were going on the trip so I had to make small talk and it was a hard thing for me, honestly. I enjoyed the plane ride, though. We had a personal TV on the seat in front of us and we could watch movies, tv shows, listen to music…it was pretty cool. It was a long flight though, about 7-8 hours long and since we were leaving during the day our time, we would be touching down early morning their time. So when we got there was basically when we would normally be going to sleep. I tried to sleep on the plane but it didn’t work. I’ve never been very good at sleeping in moving vehicles…whether on the ground or in the sky.

The first thing I remember when we got off the plane was all the people pushing and shoving in the airport without as much as an “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry”…I remember thinking these people were very rude! After we had got all our luggage, we headed outside to wait for our bus that was going to drive us to Wales. It turned out that the bus was waiting for us on another floor so we ended up waiting for well over an hour before the misunderstanding was cleared up and we were finally off. Then came the billboards and ads with half naked people causing my jaw to drop. Apparently Europe is a lot more secure in the nude body than America is….I had a really good shock to my system there. We also had a bit of a holdup at one point because some sheep were blocking the road. I thought that was actually rather funny and I did manage to nod off for a bit while we were stopped so no problem there!

We didn’t get to see much of London, to my great sadness, because I have always wanted to tour there but it was a missions trip after all, so it wasn’t supposed to be a tour or vacation really. We ended up stopping for awhile at this little convenience mart place that had food, drinks, a little cafe and a little store. Before this trip, I had been trying to avoid caffeine because my doctor thought it was triggering migraines for me so I decided to buy me a Sprite with some food. I don’t believe I finished that Sprite because the first sip I took of it made me gag. How very horrid! Who knew a soda could taste so different in another country? I thought they all tasted the same! Nope…there was no way I was going to be able to make it the whole time drinking that stuff. I ended up later in my trip buying a Pepsi and was very excited to note, it tasted the same to me! : )

While I like to see new things, sometimes a bit of what you’re used to in a new place can make you feel right at home!

Fast forward to us finally getting to the place we were going to stay, which was an old YMCA building in a part of Wales. We stayed on the second and third floors and there was a daycare on the bottom floor. It was a very old building that looked like it had seen better days but it was big and there was this huge living room space with tons of comfy chairs and couches for us to sit and have our little meetings and talks. Since there were so many girls on the trip, there was one huge room that had about a dozen beds in it that us girls were to share. It seemed like all the other girls knew at least one other person and they got to the room first, leaving only one bed that was far against the wall. Honestly, I left my bags at the front of the room, went and sat down on the bed I was to use and just cried. Other than the one girl I had hit it off with a little so far, I didn’t feel the love for any of the other girls and I felt extremely lonely. I had never been put into a situation where I was to share a room with dozens of girls and I was more than just a little nervous at the idea of having to change in this room with them. As a big girl, I had always changed in bathroom stalls at school or not at all. To say I was shy would have been the understatement of the year.

Luckily, I was looked on with sympathy and given a room down the hall from the girls room. A single room no one was using. I’m not sure if any of the other girls looked on me with hatred because they thought I was shown favoritism or something cause they seemed to enjoy being with their friends. I was just extremely overjoyed that I had my own space where I can change clothes and go to bed at night when I wanted to without all the chatter around me. I went to bed that first night clutching my pillow I brought all the way from Texas and I cried into it. I cried because I miss my mom. I was 17 and I missed my mom….I was in another country for the first time surrounded by people I just met and most of them, I didn’t feel comfortable around. There was a window in the room that looked out on the corner of a street and right below was one of those bright red phone booths I had always seen on television. This was such a new experience for me and so many mixed emotions were going on inside my head. Fear, Sadness, Loneliness, Excitement, Joy…..and I still had almost two weeks to go in my journey.

How would I get through it? Would I overcome and learn to love this experience or would the experience swallow me whole?

{April 13, 2011}   My Weekend in Review

This is just a recap of my weekend trip with my mom to Houston, Texas. I live about 2 hours from the outskirts of Houston so it wasn’t the FIRST time I have driven in Houston traffic and I’m not a fan of their traffic. Houston’s a big, busy city with people always on the go and in a hurry. At the time we got there, it was actually pretty empty for their traffic but still busy for someone who lives in a smaller city most of the time.

I got through the traffic in one piece barely. I consider myself a very good, cautious driver. That’s probably the only reason I made it to our hotel safely. At one point in driving, I was in the process of attempting to switch lanes once again (Dumb 7 lane highways!) when I almost got side swiped. I was easing into the lane from the right side and a SUV swung over in the lane from the left right as I was easing over. I looked over and saw the SUV just in time and swerved back into my lane. WHEW! Talk about an adrenaline rush!

I guess it’s a good thing I DID ease over….If I swung over when the other driver swung over, it wouldn’t have been pretty! And Thank God for having quick reflexes still. OK, so I made it alive and then we had a teensy problem finding where to go…..I had put in the address for the hotel but you had to park in the mall parking garage the hotel was inside….NOT a separate hotel parking garage. Ugh! But thanks to this nice man we saw walking around, we found the hotel and got ourselves parked.

No more crisis, right? Wrong…..You see, my mom hadn’t had her knee surgery yet so I had to push her in a wheelchair. Well…we had to find an elevator, which we found one and it took us inside Macy’s….we then asked a worker in Macy’s the location of our hotel and she sent us to Sak’s 5th Avenue.

First of all, I had never been in a Sak’s 5th Avenue. I am a plus size woman so I avoid stores where I KNOW the clothes would never fit me. I was very surprised to see that even IF I had a model body, I would still not be able to shop there! There were sections for Prada, Gucci, Donna Karen, Valentina, etc. OMG! I could just feel the glares from the people in there…Wondering what the heck I was doing in THAT store. After asking another lady in Sak’s, she led us to an elevator that took us to the parking garage……yea….BUT outside the elevators we met a nice woman who was very nicely dressed who walked with us back through Sak’s and pointed us to where our hotel entrance was. Right close to Nordstrom’s.

So we checked in to our convention and arrived in the hotel lobby. After contemplating the thought of bringing all our baggage through the mall again, I vetoed that idea, left my mom in the lobby and used the wheelchair as a baggage dolly and ran off to fetch our stuff. It was actually quicker this way….I walked out the side exit into daylight and up about 2 floors to our car and then brought all our bags back down and into the lobby. We checked in, I unloaded our bags in the room, then returned to fetch my mom and unload her into the room. Well, she unloaded herself actually but hopefully you get my drift.

We could have hired a porter, I suppose, but hey, I needed my exercise anyways. Plus, I doubt they would have liked our measly tip we could have afforded anyways. After settling into the room, I started perusing the hotel reading material and found that we could have breakfast delivered to our room. How nice! Then I saw the prices….$5.25 for HALF a grapefruit, $3.75 for ONE piece of toast, $6.25 for cereal(Cheerios, Raisin Bran, and others), etc. Not to mention 19% gratuity and sales tax included. You may call us cheap but that’s ridiculous…..and it’s not like WE picked the hotel. Our insurance group did. My mom had brought some breakfast bars and me and her ate one of those both Sat. and Sunday mornings. There was no free continental breakfast at all and everything seemed to have a steep fee attached. Guess that’s what you get for staying at a hotel in the most expensive part of Houston.

Going off course for a minute here, but did you know Houston was named after MY relative? That’s right! Sam Houston was my 4th great uncle. Shouldn’t I get like some special rights to the city? LOL….I wish!

We had meetings until late Friday but thankfully, there were snacks provided at the social they had. Nachos, egg rolls, jalapeno peppers, taquitos, pot stickers, beef wellington,etc. It was yummy! Me and my mom both got full on the snacks and they had plenty. Not sure what they did with all those leftovers. Should have told them to send them to room 1351 of the Westin Galleria.

The next time, we got a little tour of a teensy bit of the mall. During a small break, we decided to find the food court and watch the ice skaters at the rink.  I found out just how NOT handicapped accessible that mall was! We went down several elevators and then right back up when we realized that we had to take one down a couple floors and then walk a mile to yet another one that would take us to the rink floor. There were several escalators and stairs we passed but I had to walk past them and on for a good piece to get to the elevators. They really needed more elevators! Once we found the food court area, we watched some little kids taking ice skating lessons and oohed and aahed for about 30 minutes before setting out to find our way back to the hotel. Once we got back, we had about 30 minutes to get ready before heading to our lunch banquet. Oh my goodness, the lunch banquet was so good! I hate salad, in general, even though it’s good for you, but this one was so yummy! They had spinach, pecans, roasted tomatoes, and feta cheese with this really good dressing. Not sure what it was called….the waitress mentioned Le Fleur de something that was like 10 words long….and after seeing my confused face, she simply stated, “It’s really good with Spinach.” So I replied, “I’ll take your word for it!” and dug in….and it was heavenly. I finished the whole plate which is impressive for someone who usually despises salad! The entree was this to die for chicken with spinach and cheese inside along side wild rice and asparagus. I would have ate it all but I was getting full. Then for dessert was cheesecake(which I just ate a small piece of),some berries, a scoop of ice cream and a dollop of whip cream with one of those chocolate sticks emerging from it. It was the best meal I have ate in forever and we basically made that both our lunch AND dinner, we were SO stuffed.

And I had more to talk about from my weekend, but since this blog has already been so long, I feel guilty to take any more of your time so I guess I will continue this later!

et cetera
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