Reviewing Disney Dining (for a book)

Back a long time ago….

Food Writing

I’d been writing reviews of meals for a long time, publishing them on Disney websites (for free). I got great feedback, so kept going.

One of the folks that read my writing was Susan Shumaker. She and her partner Than Saffel were working on a book on vegetarian dining at Disney World and surrounding areas. They asked me if I would like to collaborate by eating in a slew of restaurants they couldn’t get to because they didn’t live in Orlando and had to make trips back and forth to taste test for themselves. I jumped at the chance!

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The end result!

Dining Partners

I was in a poly relationship at the time with a woman and my former transman partner (who had not yet come out). We scheduled 3 weeks to hit all the restaurants on our list, staying in different Disney Luxury Resorts chosen randomly. Even though I was the one reviewing/writing, all three of us were fed for free. And, except for breakfast, also given fine wine, per course, at lunch and dinner.

I was the only one of us three eating vegetarian or vegan; they were meat eaters… and were served meat dishes throughout the tastings.

All of us loved red wine and drank copious amounts. (A separate post in the works.)

Memories! Like the corner of my mind.

Meeting the Chefs

It was a matter of course for the chef to come to the table to ask what my food preferences were. (No green/yellow/orange/purple/jalapeño/etc. peppers. Not terribly spicy. Love mushrooms.) We 3 had eaten (and paid for it) in most of the restaurants, so knew many chefs ahead of time. Sometimes, they’d sit with us and we’d talk about food and wine. Fun!

Sitting here almost 20 years later, I cannot recall even one time I was disappointed by food made by a Disney chef… on either coast. And I’ve eaten in Disney’s Fine Dining easily 200 times.

Restaurants We Visited

We did not just eat in fancy restaurants and I did not eat just at Disney restaurants. We ate at restaurants in different Disney Resorts, from Value Hotels to Moderate ones, and of course in the Deluxe Resorts. When I ate off-property, those places were ghastly! No vegan food at all and Stouffer’s Veggie Lasagna was almost always the meal I was given. I ate at about 8 different locations off-property, but close to Disney World. I got to see some fun shows the tourists flock to, but the food sucked.

Where it did not suck was at Walt Disney World!

Whispering Canyon Cafe, Wilderness Lodge Resort

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Whispering Canyon, Wilderness Lodge

We had breakfast at Whispering Canyon. Endless family style food. I was a vegetarian, so didn’t want the sausages. It was no problem at all. They asked what each person wanted to eat and if they wanted meat but were sitting with vegetarians, the meat was served on a separate plate. The food at that restaurant was yummy!

Whispering Canyon Breakfast Skillet
Whispering Canyon breakfast, Wilderness Lodge

Flying Fish, Boardwalk Resort

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Flying Fish, Boardwalk Resort

Besides being a lovely restaurant, food at the Flying Fish was awesome. I wish I had a picture of the foods I’d eaten at each place, but I do not.

heavy sigh

At a separate time, one of my friends having dinner with us was a Supertaster. He sat naming the ingredients in his dish… spices, too! We asked the chef to come over and test him. Amazingly, he was spot on with everything that was in his meal. The chef was impressed. I was stunned.

Artist Point, Wilderness Lodge Resort

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Artist Point, Wilderness Lodge Resort

Artist Point was my go-to restaurant, even having my entire family eat there with me several times. The food was fantastic and their wine list was a delight. I remember sitting in Artist Point for hours, slowly eating course after course, then having a dessert made especially for us. One of our favorite desserts was dark chocolate wafers with a dry Cabernet.

Mmmmm!

The chef got to know my poly partners and me and never made the same vegetarian dish twice. Always delicious! When I was eating for the vegetarian book, the chef made especially awesome dishes for us all. (One thing I remember about almost all of my meals was the pine tree-like rosemary sticking up from one mashed food or other.)

I haven’t been to Artist Point in at least 10 years, but know if I sat down there tonight, the meal would be amazing.

Kona Café, Polynesian Resort

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Kona Café, Polynesian Resort

Kona Café used to be the best place to get coffee at Disney World. The coffee beans were from Kona, Hawai’i and they really did make the most delicious coffee.

Researching right now, the space is actually a “casual dining” restaurant! With a sushi bar! The coffee is all but a footnote on the menu. I am sure it is still the best coffee in the World.

Cítricos, Grand Floridian Resort

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Cítricos Restaurant, Grand Floridian Resort

I’ve been to Cítricos only a handful of times. They serve seafood and Tuscan Italian food, which isn’t my favorite. It’s a gorgeous restaurant with great service and am sure my veggie dish was good (as I said I can’t think of one meal I didn’t like anywhere on Disney property.) and I don’t remember anyone complaining about their food but me. I do remember having Italian wine and missing the California wines I was used to.

Yachtsman Restaurant, Yacht Club Resort

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Yachtsman Steakhouse, Yacht Club Resort

The Yachtsman Steakhouse, obviously, serves steaks. Huge, giant slabs of beef. I cannot remember what I had, but do remember using a menu to hide Zack’s plate that had a pool of blood underneath his steak. Blech. Carnivores love the place and I might even like it now! I do have my steak medium well and eat it with ketchup. (I know… why bother?!? Kind of what I said for a long time as a vegetarian!)

Maya Grill, Coronado Springs Resort

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Maya Grill, Coronado Springs Result

I loved Maya Grill! And had a crush on Beatriz, the chef at the time. Beatriz took me back in the kitchen a couple of times, letting me photograph her hands as she prepped for the dinner crowd. One of the things she made was chimichurri, a dip I slurped up hungrily… until I saw it was made with green peppers. Then I couldn’t eat it anymore. Isn’t that silly? I know! But it just messed with my world view of hating peppers.

Mexican food is easy to make vegetarian and when we were food tasting for the book, my dinner was delicious… and very different from the other restaurants.

California Grill, Contemporary Resort

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California Grill, Contemporary Resort

Ahhhh, now the California Grill. I’ve eaten there dozens of times… as a vegetarian, vegan and carnivore. Never ever ever have I had to send something back. As the name suggests, the cuisine is California-oriented, and it is delicious.

If you are lucky enough to eat here, you must ask for Walter. He opened the restaurant and is still there 22 years later. He is worth waiting for, I promise.

Besides the food, the restaurant overlooks the Magic Kingdom. In the picture above, you can see the fireworks over Cinderella Castle and how lovely Space Mountain is covered in lights. While watching fireworks from inside is nice, I prefer the catwalk outside. In the olden days, very few people knew about that 15th floor perch and I took friends out there to impress them. And they were impressed!

Used to be you could just go up for the fireworks, but now you must have reservations to be allowed on the elevator up. So, make reservations! Eat dessert and coffee if your budget is on the small side (you do not have to tell the podium folks what you are going to eat… keep it to yourself!) or dinner if you’re wanting to spend some money on magnificent food and wine. Reservations around firework time are harder to get, so we usually made reservations either far far in advance or about 6pm and just eat several courses slowly. Tip your waiter damn good if you stay at the table for 4 hours!

There was a Dessert Chef we knew up there at one time and we’d sit at the small area overlooking the making of the desserts. Watching them being made is magic! Incredible soufflés, wondrous crème brûlée and then the most creative desserts for kids! From rice cereal sushi to bowls of dark cookie dirt with gummy worms hidden inside.

For the food review, I know we had an amazing time, a window table overlooking the Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon, with peeks at the Polynesian. That meal I can remember like it was yesterday. Exquisite.

I last ate at the California Grill with my daughter Meghann her family and my mama. We had a beautiful time! And yes, Walter was our waiter. As he was for Meghann’s honeymoon meal 10 years earlier and the server for many, many of the great meals I had on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort.

Serendipity

It was pure luck that I was able to go around the World and eat and drink so well for 3 weeks. We had so much fun! I think everyone should be able to do the same.

It’s your turn!

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Vegetarian Dish at California Grill

Our Trip to Lubbock (food is involved)

Heading to Lubbock

Meghann had worked in our Holistic Healthcare Center for the summer and Zack and I were driving her back to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Zack was driving his F250 and we had a new washer and dryer for Meggie in the cargo bed. The path from San Diego to Lubbock is one of the most visually boring trips in the country. Lubbock is in West Texas, in the middle of nowhere.

Now, I cannot pee outside. When I have tried, I have had it running down my legs and into my shoes. It’s just gross.

But then there is the issue of finding a bathroom that doesn’t make me gag. Unfortunately, sometimes gagging is involved with urinating in a public toilet.

The Stop

We stopped at the smallest gas station on earth to fill up and let Meghann and I go to the bathroom. When we walked inside the tiny building, the man behind the glass counter…. Yeah, the man behind the counter.

He had no teeth and was holding a half-cooked greasy hamburger (without the bun) in his hand. The grease was dripping down his arm. Lots of grease. A river of grease. Dripping off his elbow onto the newspaper he seemed to be perusing.

It was revolting.

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We knew the bathroom was not going to be pristine.

Meggie and I took turns in the bathroom, one guarding the other because there was no lock on the door. And what if that man wanted to wash his hands. (As if.)

Walking out, we took one last look behind the counter as the man took a gummy bite into his burger, the grease oozing down his arm.

When we got in the truck, we laughed hysterically, partially from fear release. We kept asking each other if what we saw was real and validated each other over and over. That remains one of the most surreal experiences in my life.

BBQ in Lubbock

Once we delivered the washer and dryer to Meghann’s new apartment, we headed out for some Texas BBQ.

Walking in and sitting down became an adventure in staring; them, not us. Zack is transgender, but had not come out yet so people saw him as a very butch lesbian. I’m guessing that LGBTQ people are not a big part of Lubbock or Texas Tech. The whole walking in experience seemed to be in slow motion, every step taking 5 minutes before taking the next. I swear the place went silent.

We were seated at a large table against a wrought iron room separator. Zack sat next to the fence thing and cooed a hello to a baby hanging over a mother’s shoulder. The mother shot up out of her seat and tromped to the other side of the table and sat down for the duration of her meal. I’ve always wondered if she thought the baby would catch The Gay from Zack.

We could not miss the hushed volume compared to when we first walked in, and the stares continued. Looking around, we saw many men in cowboy hats and Zack made the comment that if we were in San Diego, they would be the ones being stared at. True, true!

The next morning, Zack and I hightailed it out of Lubbock. I was never so happy to leave somewhere, barring leaving my daughter behind, even though there was the greasy hamburger man a few hundred miles ahead.

It seemed more than worth it.

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Photographer: Kyle Polzin

 

 

Who Is “45”?

“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.

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Intersectionality

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I am watching the Women’s March on Washington and while I had learned about Intersectional Feminism previously, seeing how women’s lives overlap with race, religion, genders, abilities, histories (jail, being on welfare, etc.) and more, live right in front of me, is profound.

And then, as I am writing this, I see that intersectionality itself has been a controversial part of the Women’s March! Well, the organizers made it clear, to me at least, that intersectionality is a major part of the event.

It did not come without conflict, even causing white women to stay away from the March after they felt left out of the planning and implementation of the event.

These reactions reflect an ongoing debate about intersectional feminism — the idea that many women are members of other marginalized groups, which affects their experiences — that is bigger than the march. The issue has especially heated up since social media has democratized and made public conversations about issues affecting women.

“Intersectionality simply means that there are lots of different parts to our womanhood,” Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, explained. “And those parts — race, gender, sexuality, and religion, and ability — are not incidental or auxiliary. They matter politically.”

intersectional

So, reading about intersectionality in general and the March in particular, I am learning the history.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at both UCLA and Columbia, is credited with coining the term intersectionality. She did this in her 1989 paper “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.”

Crenshaw also pointed out that she came up with intersectionality to address a specific legal problem: As she put it, “To capture the applicability of black feminism to anti-discrimination law.” An example she frequently cites in explaining the need for intersectionality is the 1976 case Degraffenreid v. General Motors, in which five black women sued General Motors for both race and gender discrimination.

I know that understanding where intersectionality comes from gives me context from which to pull.

I Am Intersectional, Too

I have written about how I collect descriptive labels. Interestingly, many, many decry labels and refuse to inhibit their identities with them. But, how does one eschew labels yet embrace intersectionality? Is that possible?

intersectional-identities1

I was raised completely different than who I am now. As a young girl, I learned the ways of the white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied and middle-class world. Yet  I am a super-fat mother & grandmother, a femme Dyke, Cubanx/Latinx (knowing virtually nothing about my culture), mentally ill, disabled, a-theist, sex worker, non-TERF feminist who loves a Muslim man and who learnt Spanish as an adult. I don’t know how I would figure out my intersections without all those labels… and the ones I forgot to list.

Watching the end of the March’s rally, I am incredibly happy to see the wide variety of women represented , many of whom do intersect with my identities.

I’m sure the arguments for and against the Women’s March on Washington are being formulated or written about even now, but I am extremely pleased… more than that… excited, energized, inspired… by the speakers, poets, musicians, singers and leaders who were on that stage today.

I wish I was there.

intersectional_feminist

Don’t Call Me an Ally

The Word “Ally”

I have chosen not to call myself an ally… first, because I don’t believe I can name myself an ally, but that it is a word given… graced upon one from the main group itself.

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Gee Lowery of the Onyx Truth explains in brilliant detail why I know I am not anywhere near ally status at this point. They say, in “Dear White Allies, I’m Not Really Interested In Being An Ally With You“:

The day your so-called ally status can prevent a cop from developing irrational fears of Black people & prevent cops from going into itchy trigger finger mode is the day you might actually become a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status you seek can get a cop sentenced to prison for taking the life of an unarmed Black person, you might actually become a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status decides to vote to funnel necessary funds into these Black communities that have high levels of Black on Black crime to create economic & educational opportunities so that Black people in these communities won’t have to resort to a life of crime, you might actually be a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status walks up to a political figure with an agenda that is SPECIFICALLY catered towards BLACK PEOPLE that deals with OUR issues ONLY…not this “minority” double talk bullshit…you might actually become an ally.  The day your so-called ally status allows for you come up from behind that computer or smartphone to venture off into the Black community to spend your money in Black establishments as much as possible in order to further help the wheels of Black economic empowerment roll along, you might actually become a true ally.  Until you can actually do that, then what the hell are you actually good for?

My Challenges

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Even to me, I sound like I am making excuses for not being more active, but I know these are my very real limitations: my disabilities (including my size), my mental illness and my financial status.

I cannot physically go out and demonstrate without being in amazing pain as well as the logistical issue of being trapped or hurt if a confrontation with people or the police occurred. I would be a liability instead of a help. Just writing that makes me sad, but I have to soothe my Activist Self with I have marched for LGBT rights, rights for people of size, against the Iraq war and any number of other causes and issues over the last 30+ years.

What I Can Do

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I might forever remain on that bottom rung of the Ally ladder, the top being awarded the Ally Medal of Honor, but I can only do what I can do. (I keep repeating that to myself to assuage my feelings of inadequacy.)

  • I can write: Blog posts. Comments to other blog posts and articles. Tumblr posts. Tweets. Comments to both posts and Tweets.
  • I can give rides to those who need them to get them off the street and out of harm’s way.
  • I can get a tattoo that represents my support for different people and their fighting oppression. At the moment, the Safety Pin is the concept with an LGBTQIA+ rainbow, a Muslim flag…not sure what exactly yet, but something from Islam…, a peace sign, probably a rainbow one combining the two symbols… a #BLM and a flag for immigrants… probably Cuban because I am born of a Cuban Refugee even though they/we are not the Refugees of the Minute. I want a tattoo to show my support… a symbol of support that cannot be taken off like a safety pin. Hijabis, Blacks, People of Color, Disabled folks and many Gay or Transfolks cannot just take off the parts of themselves that bring, not just oppression, but (especially now), violence and death. And I have been looking deeply at my motivation for the tattoo. Is it to make me feel better with my White Guilt? Or is it really as a demonstration of solidarity. At this moment, I feel it is the latter. I have until December 6, 2016 to figure it out.

I don’t want anyone to feel alone, especially in this political climate.

I am here and I am not going away.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy: We All Fall Down

I was talking to my cub tonight about The Election (groan) and we were sharing what news we had read during the day, what people talked about and our feelings about it all. Note that I do not watch or read the news (my therapist and Psychiatrist have forbidden it), but get information from Tumblr and Facebook. My cublet, on the other hand, is a CNN junkie. Between us, we can usually cover all the bases.

Reality vs. Political Statement

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AP photo

We got to the Silicon Valley investors wanting to “Calexit” the United States and began a discussion of:

Is this for real? Or is this a statement of protest. 

When the protests at colleges began the night of the Election and now that they have continued, including the #NotMyPresident hashtag, I started with “People are PISSED! They need an outlet.” The protests will mean zero to Trump’s White House. However, they are an incredible show of force of just how angry we are that this animal has become the President. I also believe they are laying the foundation for the election in 2020. (I am sure I’m not the only one watching to see who The Leaders will be as things unfold.)

Then the Calexit stuff… will they really try to secede or are they making a loud statement of distaste and anger. I believe it is the latter.

Next up was the Change.Org Petition to ask/beg/demand the Electoral College to not vote Trump in in December. My love was NOT happy about it at all, saying that we can not like what happened and be as loud as we want about it, but that asking that the Electoral College to do this is not the way our American System of Government works. I offered that it was yet another “statement” of anger and frustration and surely people will know that an online Petition wasn’t going to make one iota of a difference with what happens in December. He said that even some college educated people he knows who do know how the government works were demanding their friends go and sign the Petition, acting like if there were enough “signatures,” it would, in fact, sway the Electoral College. (At the time of this writing, there were already over 2 million signatures.)

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Whatever Means Necessary

I made the comment that I felt people were grasping for control in an uncontrollable situation because they are terrified for their lives.They are using any means accessible to them… the streets, the press, social media and even as out-of-the-ordinary as Calexit, people are going to find a way to shout their sheer terror so someone will hear them.

Maslow’s Hierarchy

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I commented that many of the Protesters/Protectors have been plunged from the top of the Pyramid (Self-Actualization) to the bottom two levels (Safety and Physiological) in the time it took to hold one Election Night. Even the most oppressed have fallen down the rungs.

Women (including me), the LGBTQIA+ community (including me), Muslims (including my cub), immigrants, the disabled (including me) and so many more are, quite literally, scared of violence against themselves and their families… violence that can lead to death. As we know, it has started already. This would be the second level in Maslow’s Hierarchy.

Desperate people, especially our trans brothers and sisters, are killing themselves, bypassing the bottom level and removing themselves from life altogether. I hardly have words to express my incredible sadness that this man has terrorized our country so intensely it seems hopeless to even try and fight with The System.

It’s Up to Us

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Within the span of days, I, along with millions of other, are galvanized to fix things… do away with the Electoral College, take Trump/Congress/the government to court if they attempt to stomp all over our Constitution & Amendments (thank you ACLU!)… and to reach out, speaking for and taking care of others who do not (and have not) had a voice for far, far too long because of the oppression this country has harbored since taking the land belonging to the Native Americans.

For the first time since the night of November 8th, I am feeling hopeful that we can begin to reverse the tragedy that’s taking over our White House in January 2017.

We can do it. I believe in us.

 

Stunned, Shocked & Saddened…

Started writing 11/9/16

… along with many of you.

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Stunned

I did not watch the returns last night. Instead, I relied on my cub to give me the information when something big happened. At one point, on a trip to the kitchen for a Diet Coke, I saw the map of the United States. And it was bleeding.

I was horrified.

By the time mi osezno went to bed at 1am, we knew what the outcome was going to be. And it wasn’t in our favor.

I was on Tumblr with hundreds of others, looking periodically at Facebook, and could see the emotional turmoil the results were causing, hearing murmurs that turned to cries, saying they wanted to die… that life without Obamacare, without LGBTQI+ rights, without mental health care, without disability services, without honoring a woman’s choice to abortion and birth control, knowing that people of color and Muslims wore targets on their backs, that the closing of our borders might mean not seeing family or friends for many (far too many) years.

I went into helper mode. I reblogged Help Lines, Hot Lines, Text Suicide Prevention Lines, messaged those who seemed especially desperate, left comments on several posts that expressed extreme despair and pain.

I did not cry.

helena-wierzbicki
artist, Helena Wierzbicki

Shocked

I went to bed at 3:30am after taking a few calls for work, slept eh… not the best… and got up for the day at 9am. I had to do errands and knew I wanted to wear black today, expressing my mourning for what could have been. I took a shower, put makeup on and then draped myself in black from head to toe, including earrings and bracelet.

I headed to Costco and was there at opening. I use the electric cart thingie and cruised around thinking, “Hmmm, you haven’t cried one tear over this. Maybe your head-in-the-sand trick of not watching the news lately has made you more in-the-moment than you thought!”

And then I was at the prepared cold foods part of the store and stopped from getting to the chicken I need for the dogs by a woman with her toddler poring over the enchiladas. She apologized and I told her I was in no hurry, to take her time. Then I kinda mumbled something about THE ELECTION and not having anywhere to go… and she groaned. She asked me if I could believe what happened and I said I could not, that I was baffled by what happened.

I said to her, “I never knew there was so much hate around me.” She did not answer (she is black). Being femme and white, I pass (too fucking much for my taste at the moment) and told her I was lesbian and had brown children so I feel some of their hate, too.

Then I started crying. She pulled her toddling daughter over with her and stepped towards me, putting one arm around my shoulder. I apologized saying I hadn’t cried one tear until that moment. And I looked up and she was crying! I reached up and we held each other crying for probably a minute or so. It was so tender. I can still smell her scent.

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artist, Jessica Rimondi

Saddened

I had to drive 70 minutes to the Endocrinologist after Costco and on the drive I had a thought.

When I was shopping, riding around on the electric cart, I found myself scowling… even feeling anger… towards the older white men I passed (and yes, I know, white women voted for him, too). I inwardly cursed at them, angry that they voted for that horrid man. Quite unlike me as I do not typically make negative snap judgments like that.

In the car, I thought I might have had the softest of whispers of what blacks must feel about white people. Blacks most certainly have cacophonous explosions compared to my measly sigh, but it was enlightening.

And I will not forget.

Once I got to the doctor’s office, I sat reading Facebook, then suddenly burst into tears. Luckily I had some napkins and blubbered as I fished them out of my purse. I tried not to make noise, but the crying became unruly and a woman came up and asked if I was okay. I sobbed and said, “I’m in mourning,” and left it at that. She touched my shoulder and went to sit down. After a few minutes, another woman came to see if I was okay. Did I need the doctor? “I’m in mourning.”

Thankfully soon after they came and took me in the back (the receptionist might have sent an SOS!) and I was able to get control of myself before seeing the Nurse Practitioner.

(Writing now 11/10/16)

I didn’t fall apart again yesterday until later that night (next post).

What a day it was.

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