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Archive for Personal Life

The Narcissist, God, and Me

I am not a believer. If you’ve come here to read an uplifting story about belief, this isn’t the story. This is the story of how my unbelief became concrete for me.

I don’t know exactly how old I was when I began questioning the existence of God. I grew up surrounded by those that believed, and I think there was an assumption at first that anything they told me to be true, was true.

I know that when my mom first told me the story of Jesus’s resurrection, I was disturbed. Even at the age of 4 or 5, I knew that people couldn’t come back from the dead. Still, nearly everyone in my life believed in the Christian God, and while I felt uncertain and agnostic, I didn’t want to believe that the adults in my life believed something untrue.

The church I grew up around was a Pentecostal one, southern Baptist maybe? People spoke in tongues and talked regularly about God intervening in their lives. Church made me uncomfortable, but the music was great. All around me were adults having a concrete, real relationship with this omnipotent being. Their lives were full of miracles.

I challenged God to prove His existence. I silently prayed constantly, claiming “if x happens, then I will believe.” I have a vivid memory of sitting in a bathtub, praying to God to cause the floating bubbles to drift to the left instead of the right. I wanted to believe, but I lacked proof.

I searched for real physical, tangible evidence everywhere. I obsessed over the Shroud of Turin because it felt like something concrete that my budding scientific mind could wield against doubt. I had a framed holographic picture of the face on the shroud. I took it to Show and Tell.

My interest in the paranormal was an offshoot of this quest. I sought evidence of the existence of the supernatural and thus, evidence for the existence of God, even if I didn’t know it then. It wasn’t so much that I personally felt like I needed God, not at first. I wanted it to be true for the sake of my family, for them. Because I didn’t like what it said about them, or myself, to question like this.

My parents divorced when I was in the first grade, and soon after, my mother met and married her second husband, a man I will only refer here to as B. This man was good at first. He knew about rocks and fossils and had gone to college, unlike most adults I knew. He seemed to have a bit of a temper, but I wasn’t worried, not yet.

Over time, B. was abusive to both my mother and us kids. He would scream and shout and call us kids names, and he hit my mom. Sometimes he would shake us or spank us. I don’t remember being hit “inappropriately” like my mother, but I don’t remember B.’s time very clearly. I’ve buried some memories over the years, but there’s one memory of him that stands out as an important moment in my life and my relationship to religion. I have been thinking about it since becoming a father.

B. came home from work and he was angry. Raging angry, shouting angry. I don’t remember what about, only that I ran to my room and hid in my closet. In there, I prayed to a God I didn’t believe in. Protect me, keep him away. I’ll believe in you if you do.

He found me easily. It wasn’t a large apartment. He drug me out, pinned me against the wall, and shouted in my face. I don’t remember the words, but I do remember the spittle against my face. I don’t remember if he hit me. I don’t think he did.

The next thing I remember is that I’m laying on my bed, face down, sobbing into my pillow. I’m. So. Angry. Not at myself. Not at B. I’m angry at the God I don’t believe in. I find myself saying it then, outloud, into my pillow, between sobs: ‘You’re not real, God. You’re not real. I don’t believe in you.”

I wasn’t alone. B. was standing outside, listening, only he didn’t hear me clearly. He somehow thought in that narcissistic, rage-filled brain of his that I was declaring that I thought B. was God, and that I no longer believed in him. He stormed in again, forced me up, and shouted again, this time to the effect that he wasn’t God, that was a terrible thing to suggest, etc.

I was baffled at the time. Why would he think that I thought of him as anything but the Devil Incarnate? I knew I couldn’t tell him the truth. I said nothing and eventually he left. I let him go on believing that somehow I thought he was God, instead of the truth, which was that I had begged his God–the one he believed in–to protect me from him, and nothing had happened. No miracles for little Jeremy Tolbert.

I don’t know if that was truly the moment that I became a non-believer, but it was one of the last times I ever asked God for anything with any seriousness. It was probably years before I was willing to admit it.

My life wasn’t all that bad, in retrospect. I couldn’t put it into words then like I can now, but my opinion on gods is simple, and yes, informed by those days.

No god that lets children suffer is worth a single iota of belief or worship.

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Controlling Anxiety in a Complex World

I was talking with a friend today about the strategies I’ve developed to help control my anxiety when the world feels too large and scary. Here, I’ve boiled down what I was trying to describe to him in a few bullet points that might prove useful if you too find life in this era anxiety-inducing at times.

  • Limit information input. I do this by unfollowing and muting sources on social media that are key to increasing my anxiety. I may love you personally, but if your tweets are constantly gloomy and scary, I’ve probably had to mute you in my daily reads. It’s not personal.
  • Focus on what I can do. Anxiety is my brain’s way of feeling like it is contributing to a problem, real or not, and sometimes I can dispell it by doing something concrete, or acknowledging that there’s literally nothing I can do about the problem. So if I’m worried about something political, it helps to recognize maybe all I can do is send a letter to my congresspeople and make a donation to an organization. I can then put that anxiety to bed, sometimes.
  • Limit my time on websites that drive anxiety. Because so much of my day is spent at a keyboard working, I find myself drifting toward news sites and social media even when I know they’re bad for my heightened state of anxiety. I use Stay Focusd, a Chrome extension, to limit my ability to do this, especially during work hours.
  • Give my brain some work. I have in the past found myself worrying about things simply because my brain was bored. Even something as simple as doing powers of two or counting in my head can be effective in reducing extreme anxiety.
  • Take my meds. I’m a proud user of Prozac these days. My brain malfunctions and produces the wrong chemicals. There’s nothing wrong with my mind. It’s a problem with my meat brain.

Taking my medicine helps me a lot, and possibly even the most, but it’s not a 100% solution. The above tricks are also helpful in giving me some control over how my body produces stress chemicals and will hopefully help me live a longer life. The general approach that has worked for me makes my world smaller and more concrete. Anxiety brain wants to deal in what-ifs and outlandish scenarios. Forcing myself to focus on the concrete is good for soothing it.

How about you? Got any tips? Let’s hear them.

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Life Cycle of the Common Parking Lot Sandberg

When I was a boy, I loved the archipelagos that formed in parking lots towards the end of winter and the dawn of spring. Murky, sand-drenched snow-islands accreted around every lamp post, existing in defiance of air temperatures thanks to their composition of half grit, half ice.

They seemed towering, ephemeral Everests that demanded conquering. Often my siblings and I would try to climb them to the chagrin of my parents who only wanted us to get in the damned car so they could get home after a long day.

As spring bounded on each year, the islands wore ever downward, the warming tide against their shores, until nothing remained but a sea of asphalt left pocked by potholes. But for a brief few weeks, there they dwelled in the K-Mart lot, a temporary geography ripe for imagination, calling to be explored and to be dreamed larger than they really were.

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Some Thoughts on Solitude

I recently sat down to watch the first episode of Maniac on Netflix.  and I was struck by a line in the opening narration that went:

It’s quite terrible to be alone.

In truth, I was only half-paying attention up until that line to the rambling, philosophical notions espoused by the unnamed and unseen narrator in those early moments, but that line made me sit up and take notice because of simply how wrong I found it.

“There is the thought,” I said aloud to nobody because I was alone in the house in a rare moment, “of a person who doesn’t have small children.”  The kind of profundity issued by someone who has been able to use a toilet in silence more than once in the past four years. Parenting is a wonderful thing that has enriched my life in many ways, but one thing it takes away from you rather quickly is the option to be alone very often.

In solitude, I think we find ourselves best. You truly get to know yourself with only yourself for company; alone, we wear no masks for the show of others. We do not find ourselves moving along with the crowd while entertaining silent, private doubts.  Solitude is a form of nakedness, and I think for some, it’s absolutely essential from time to time.

I find my ability to truly be alone has weakened in this era of social media, however. Thanks to the internet, we can always distract ourselves with socializing in some way.  My early mental picture of the internet was a vast library, but anymore, it looks like an enormous coffee shop full of chattering patrons.  To be truly alone anymore, I have to discard all my devices and rough it out.  It’s uncomfortable at first, but it usually leads to some deep reflection that I need.

Consider me a champion for solitude, at least in moderation (like all things). And hell, I try to give it as a gift to those I love.  For Mother’s Day, I give my wife a day of solitude.  A day with me and the boy she can have any time!  We go on an adventure and let her rest with her thoughts in peace.  My wish for you is to find that time for yourself now and then.

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The Jeremiah Tolbert Method of Being Present

I am a scatter-brained type person – I have a tendency to live up in my own head more than some, and more than I should. Being “present” is something that I’ve struggled with for a long time. My wife constantly asks me “where are you?” At least, I assume she constantly asks me that, because I only notice the question about one time in five.

I have been refining a mental technique for getting myself to remain more present in my life. A “life hack” if you will, that reminds me that I need to stay focused and attentive to those around me, because this moment will soon be gone, never to be lived again. With my young child, it’s especially important to me.  My son is only four, and I already feel like I’m losing my grasp on some of the wonderful moments of the early days.  I look at this little person and sometimes, I miss the baby he was.

So this mental hack probably mostly works for science fiction fans more than ordinary people, but the way it works is, I try and pretend that I’m not living the moment for the first time. Instead, I’m revisiting it from the future.

The explanation varies – sometimes I pretend I’m dead, and in my version of the afterlife, I get to relive and witness my life again.  Other times, it’s a bit of a Quantum Leap form of time travel – I’m elderly and hooked up to a machine that lets me re-live the past as a passenger in my own self.  Doesn’t really matter.  It’s all pretend.

The key is pretending that, no matter how mundane or ordinary the moment is to me now, one day, I may look back on it so fondly that I would wish with all my heart to go back to it. Because even at forty years, I know that the things we remember most and the things we think are important at the time rarely align – or at least personally, I’m more wrong than I am right.

Weirdly, this works for me. It grounds me in the moment by causing me to perceive things more sharply.  I fix the moment in my memory better because of this too. It’s all nonsense, but it works.  I see the world more sharply when I pretend this, and my busy brain quiets and lets me be there, with my family.

Something that has grown out of this as a coping strategy for stress and anxiety is a realization that, looking back on particularly anxious or troubled times, I somehow managed to muddle through. One of the worst things about anxiety for me is that it tends to make small problems seem enormous.  Even when I’m in a moment now where a problem or worry seems insurmountable, the future-traveler me says “you’ve been through this before, you’ve been through similar, and you always made it out okay.” And a lot of times, that thought makes me feel some relief. Some problems seem big close up, but we rarely think about them once they’re receding into the distance in the rear view mirror of time.

That’s not to say that I don’t still need to do the work of addressing the problems I’m tackling now – certainly not. They don’t resolve themselves. But what I can do is spare myself the anguish of it all. I can take my problems seriously and not freak out about them.  Sometimes, anyway.

My coping strategies are my own, and they may or may not be useful to others. But I thought that I’d share a couple of them just in case someone else can get some use from what it’s taken me so long to start figuring out.

 

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Thoughts from an Ongoing Midlife Crisis

My name is Jeremiah Tolbert and I’m in the depths of a midlife crisis.  Nothing could be more boring and cliched than a privileged white guy feeling out of sorts and uncertain about who he is and who he wants to be, but here we are. At this point, I assume you’re only reading this blog if you have an interest in me as a person, so I feel comfortable being more honest about the state of my life. I turned 40 in 2017, and since then, I have been struggling quite a lot.  Especially creatively.  I have not successfully written a story in almost two years now, and I’m having to own up to some other project-based creative failures lately that has me taking a deep look at who I am.

The trouble for me really began in my day job as a freelance web developer.  After the Trump election, business took a steep decline – number of prospective clients shrunk, and budgets for those projects I did have tended to shrink also. I had been on track to potentially hire my first full time employee, but that was quickly discarded in favor of just surviving. I began to have to put in 10-12 hour days to keep things on track, and that left little time for writing.  Where once I had plenty of time for writing and dealing with other creative pursuits, paying the bills soon consumed almost all my waking time.

After about 10 months of this, I began to fall apart mentally and physically. I began to suffer back problems, I gained weight, and I slipped into one of the worst depressions I’ve ever experienced. I sought help pretty quickly and was able to mostly right the ship with a good therapist, but I’ve been left disarmed and stripped of defenses.  Business is still a lot more difficult than it was before, and it’s ticking up a bit. I’m trying not to get my hopes up.  I’m still very much in a recovery/survival mode there.

These days, I’m still working hard, but I have better boundaries between life and work.  I’m not always creatively fulfilled by the work I do (hence why I used to write). However, I’ve lost the bridge to my personal creative work. I’ve spent more hours staring at a blank screen in the past year than all my other years put together.  Motivation is an issue, but I’m also, well… blocked (another ridiculous cliche). I’ve tried taking on other creative pursuits, but I’ve failed at them too, disappointing people who were counting on me in the process.

I’ve spent a lot of time daydreaming about other work, feeling that my life would be on a better track if I just gave up on my freelance life and landed work doing some kind of dream gig. I’ve spent time playing around with game design, thinking that maybe that was what I really wanted.  To say that I’ve gotten “nowhere” would be an insult to “nowhere.” I don’t feel like I’ve even gotten that far.

The main thing I’ve learned in 2018 is that there is a big difference between the things I think would be really cool to do and the things that I am actually capable of accomplishing. So many things I think I’d love to do, I fail at ever doing for so many reasons (not the least of which being talent and time). It is probably time to learn that I can appreciate a thing without trying to learn how to make/do the thing too.  I’ve spent years chasing phantoms when I should have been establishing core competencies.

The hard realization that has set in lately is that I’m not the creative wunderkind I wanted to grow up to be. I really wanted to learn how to do it all, but life is too short and it takes too much time to become competent at more than a handful of items. I’m just a guy who builds websites and sometimes writes decent short stories when life doesn’t get in the way. It’s not even close to the full extent of who I wanted to be, but it’s going to have to do. Maybe that’s what a midlife crisis really is? Coming to terms with the limits your remaining life has. It’s when your dreams and the reality of your life start to overlap in a way that means they can’t really coexist anymore. It’s time to grow up and learn to accept some disappointment in yourself, and to become realistic about who you are and what your creative limits really are. My hope is that going through this crucible of realizations and disappointment will leave me with a stronger bedrock as a person.  Probably even more boring and mediocre than before, but hopefully a little happier and more grounded in reality.

I’m just hoping that when this period of crisis is over, I’ll let myself dream again. I miss it already.

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Thoughts on Nature

I went for a walk at the Baker Wetlands this morning. I’ve driven out there a couple of times before, and it usually makes me feel conflicted.

The Wetlands I spent countless hours working at in high school are gone. The place isn’t really recognizable to me at all, thanks to the SLT. I remember most the paths among the line of trees at the northern edge, and that’s mostly gone now, bulldozed for progress, or cut off from the proper wetlands by the highway.

Initially, coming back out here made me feel sad. So many of the nature landmarks from my early life are now strip malls or highways. But the new wetland does actually seem quite a bit bigger, and it teems with wildlife. (more…)

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Uzès, Day Nine: Markets and Social Blunders

Today was what we call a rest day – a day meant to allow us to recover from more extended outings like yesterday’s trip to the Pont du Gard where we focus mostly on in-town activities. I think it helps us not lose our minds navigating the French roads and it also allows the pre-schooler to recover from missing his naps. He’s on the verge of not needing them, but boy can we tell when he doesn’t get one.

We got a late start to the morning, heading up to the Saturday market around ten AM.  This was much later than our previous trips to the market, and we could tell just by the packed crowds. I would love to take some pictures of the stalls for you, but to do so would inconvenience people doing their shopping, and there’s nothing that sends me into a spiral of anxiety like inconveniencing people who don’t speak English.  Navigating the tightly packed stalls selling everything from fresh olives and tapanades to giant wheels of cheese to fresh duck meat with a group of four adults and one little one was nigh-impossible.  Eventually, I took some of the items on the shopping list and went off to collect them on my own. I just can’t seem to handle the anxiety of feeling responsible for four other bodies in such tight quarters.  We gathered up all we wanted and more (I don’t know how we’re going to eat all this cheese in time), and that allowed Sarah and I to wander back on our own while the little one played on his iPad with his grandparents.  I picked up a couple of French comics that looked interesting and yet more cheese (…so I think I have a problem).  Sarah bought some breakfast radishes. My muddled french gets me through basic transactions pretty well most of the time, and when they don’t speak English, Sarah is typically there to save the day.  This trip is a lot of work on her language skills, but I don’t know how we would do it without her, honestly.

With the shopping done, I settled in to get some work done on Ye Olde Laptop.  I’m working on my annual update to my base WordPress theme code.  I’m finally breaking things out into a core functionality plugin (I know, I know) and adding some new flexibility I’ve wanted for a while.  Along the way, I’m testing the new Gutenberg editor with the other tools that are needed for the complex sorts of back-end coding I use to build things like customized book pages.  So far, its awful and I hate Gutenberg. I hope they fix a lot of things about it before foisting it on us.  To my clients, I don’t recommend testing Gutenberg just yet. It’s still got a long ways to go before it’s ready for your sites.  But when it is ready, I’ll hopefully be much closer to being ready to develop custom blocks and such for it.

My code refresh is coming along slowly–I’m not sure that I’ll actually finish things completely before we go home. That’s probably okay. Maybe I’ll take things slow in June while I finish it up and get re-adjusted to Central time.  I really need to start earning money pretty quickly, though.  I wish there were about 50% more working hours in any given day, I swear.

As far as blunders, it took us until nine days to completely fluster a wait person at a restaurant.  Really, we should be proud, but the entire time I wanted to crawl under a rock. This was a pretty complex blunder, actually, so it took us some time to figure out what went wrong. There’s a nice pizza place a couple of blocks away.  We know it’s nice because we picked up a couple of pizzas from there as takeaway a few days ago. This is wood-fired oven, high quality pizza, very Italian style.  The two pizzas were more than enough for us. The problem came when we attempted to dine in and order roughly the same number of items.

The waitress tried in her English and then in French to explain that two pizzas was not enough food for five of us.  We tried to explain that we’d ordered take away and it had been fine.  Eventually, she went ahead and put in the order, but seemed pretty frustrated and annoyed by us.  Maybe not as much as we felt, but we apologized every time she came back, and I just wanted to run away and hide.

Sure enough, when the pizzas came, they were a bit smaller than the takeaway ones had been, or at least they seemed to be to me.  We tried to make up for things by ordering a lot of very tasty dessert. Still, I think they were happy to see us go. And it was a relief for us to get out of there.

Sarah felt especially bad because her French is the best of all of ours, but I think what we probably should have done was, when it was pointed out that we’d under-ordered, was went ahead and ordered a pizza for each person, as that seemed to be expected. These are the kind of stupid, low key social mistakes that haunt me for years for some dumb reason. I’ll probably have unpleasant dreams about it years from now, like those dreams in which you show up naked for a college final for a class you never knew you were signed up for.

Tomorrow will likely be another rest day – perhaps a visit to the local candy factory / museum in the afternoon, but otherwise, we’ll soak in some French life around the rental (and I think everyone is going to go to Mass except for me). Right now, it’s raining, the bells are ringing, and even the smell of the rain is different enough to remind me that I’m not in Kansas. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll make fewer faux pas.  And if not? C’est la vie.

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Uzès, Day 4

Another quiet, slow day, but a success on the jet lag front.  I may not have fallen asleep until 2 AM, but I was up by 9 AM and have yet to succumb to the dreaded afternoon nap, which gives me hope that tonight will be a completely ordinary full night’s rest.

Once again, I took the morning to find a bakery and pick up a baguette.  I had to range further than before because the usual place I’d been visiting was closed, but the place I found had far better bread, so it was a net win.  Because this town sees so much weekend tourism, a lot of local businesses are closed on Mondays.  It looks like tomorrow, things pick back up again.

Another trip to a grocery store was a bit of an adventure due to the heavy rain and our inability to read detailed product labels.  My father-in-law desired a clothing detergent sans enzymes, which proved very difficult to find. We spent at least 15 minutes reading labels, until I finally Googled the issue and found a recommended product.

Speaking of searching for difficult things, I have sought in vain a place that serves croque madames, my favorite French meal, but it seems that such a sandwich is a regional thing not available here in Uzès.  Instead, I had a tartine, which was basically an open-faced sandwich covered in greens, thin-sliced ham and cheese, and a heavy layer of tapenade.  Me, eating an olive-based product is practically a sign of the end times, but to be honest, I loved it.  Another confirmed kill in the war on my childishly limited palette!  Something about traveling helps me get over a lot of my food hangups and enjoy whatever is put in front of me.  Even Sarah’s fish soup, which smelled AWFUL, tasted good (not that I would want to eat the whole thing).

We spent part of the day planning the rest of the week, and we have a series of day trips planned around the region.  Tomorrow, we will go to a replica cave to see cave paintings by Neandertals.  It looks like a lovely experience, although I must admit I’m disappointed I don’t get to see genuine articles. Later in the week, we’ll be headed to Nimes to take in several Roman ruins — I can’t express in words how excited I am for that. I took Latin in high school for two years and those classes were as much about Roman history as they were the language.  I’m no expert, but I never really thought I’d get to see genuine Roman ruins.  My life is far more awesome than I ever expected back in 1994.

For years, I’ve had a certain type of dream.  In it, I am following the usual route home in whatever town I’m currently living in, and instead of going left at some junction, I go right, and I find myself in some entirely new location, strange, unfamiliar, and thrilling.  Being in Uzès is like living that dream every day. I spend part of each day ambling down the many narrow streets and alleys of the town. Each trip, I discover nestled avenues lined with quirky shops and art galleries. I don’t know what that dream says about my psychology except that it probably confirms my status as a neophile.  In life, I constantly seek novel experiences and places.  I have a bit of wanderlust that I suppress in order to keep a job and take care of my family, but if I could do anything I wanted, regardless of finances, I think I would travel nonstop.  Give me a small laptop and a couple changes of clothes and I would be happy wandering to and fro.

For those of you asking for pictures, I’m sorry–I’m not taking nearly as many pictures as I expected; the photos don’t really convey how I feel about the place.  My photography skills are more rusty than I expected, of perhaps it is the iPhone I am using rather than my standard SLR.  But I’m enjoying simply being here and experiencing it, though, and I am taking enough pictures to remember the experience decades from now.

Other than my quiet walks and spending times with the family, I’ve been reading.  I finished Wendy Wagner’s An Oath of Dogs last night, and quite enjoyed it.  I really look forward to seeing what she writes next.  Meanwhile, I’m about to crack open a collection of Roger Aickman stories next. I have never read anything by the author, but the description of his work I came across made me think that I would very much enjoy his work.  Having time to read something other than the internet for work is quite the blessing, and I aim not not waste it.  It’s been wonderful not feeling like I *must* spend time at the computer every day.  An hour or so to check on the status of my sites, run updates, and then write these posts.  How wonderful!  I do wonder if I might be able to make a vacation like this happen every year, even if it’s not overseas, but a disconnection from the internet annually could be quite good for me.  We’ll see!

No fiction writing as of yet.  I have half-formed ideas and thoughts, but nothing is begging me to write it.  So many half-starts in the past year, but nothing speaks to me lately.  I have relied for years on raw enthusiasm to carry me through the work of writing, and that enthusiasm has been missing.  My career has been going so well, and I wish I could find my joy for it again. I hope I do soon.  I’m hoping for this trip to help me with so many thing simply by giving me the space and time to think about them without worrying about work.  But enough about that. It’s time to read and relax once more.

Tune in tomorrow for details about the cave painting museum! I can’t wait!

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Personal Life, Travel

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Uzès, Day 0

Travel from the United States to a place like Uzès is not exactly easy.  We Midwesterners are used to traveling long distances to get to anywhere interesting, but I’ve noticed that especially for people not from the U.S., the distances and travel times don’t sink in until I walk you through them. Let me give you the nuts and bolts:

  • First, drive one hour from Lawrence to the Kansas City airport
  • Catch a flight to Detroit, about two hours long.
  • In Detroit, board a large plane to Paris for about eight hours.
  • In Paris, board a bus from Charles de Gaulle to the Gare de Lyon train station for an hour.
  • Wait four hours for your train to arrive.
  • Take a three to four hour bullet train from Paris to Nimes.  Get yourself a rental car at the train station.
  • Drive about 30 minutes from Nimes to Uzés on roads that probably were first laid out in the time of Caesar.

If you’re me, and you can’t sleep sitting up, this means you stay awake for a very long time (about 32 hours for me).  No big deal though when France is your destination! We pulled into town at about 7 PM on Thursday, after having been awake since 7 AM Kansas time the previous day. I was feeling the exhaustion, but my plan for dealing with jet lag on the first day was to roll on up to bed time local time, take my meds, and then crash.  So far, that seems to have worked.

After getting a lovely tour of our AirBnB from the owner, Pierre, we unpacked a bit and then headed out down the cobblestone streets looking for something to eat. We settled into a little pizza parlor on the place aux herbs.  We had a platter of meat and cheese, pickles, and various other finger foods, some wine, and for our main course, a couple of wood-fired oven pizzas that were delicious.  Uzés is positioned such that it has many different regional influences on its cuisine, and I don’t think these pizzas would have been out of place in Italy.

Within minutes of sitting down, a local boy a couple of tables over had roped Matty into sword fighting with him using a pair of plastic swords.  As the sun set and the fairy lights came on in the Sycamore trees around the plaza, the pair, who didn’t share more than a couple of words, darted around the large stone fountain and dueled.  We spoke with their parents briefly, who were very kind and welcoming and encouraging of their play.  We couldn’t have asked for a better welcome for our family in Uzès.  So far, everyone is incredibly kind, friendly, and welcoming.

By 10 PM, we headed to bed, and as far as I can tell, we all got a good night’s sleep on the local schedule. It’s now early morning of day one. We plan to stock up on a little groceries, unpack some more, and generally decompress. I expect a nap in my future after lunch.

Initial reactions: everything is amazing here and I’m never going home.

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Place aux herbes

Personal Life, Travel

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