She Rides Shotgun

Jernee, riding shotgun, post a Groomer’s visit on Saturday, July 10, 2021. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

Not to beat an already dead horse regarding Coronavirus COVID-19, but it appears, normalcy is trying to sashay its way back into our lives—at least, this is taking place in many cities and states in the United States of America. New variants, notwithstanding, people are venturing out more. They are making plans to seal deals on various flight tickets and jet-set their way into post-COVID happiness. I won’t lie to you; I feel a deep stirring in my body to regain my shoddy confidence and get back to traveling. However, the kind that involves flying is not yet on my list.

I am interested in loading up my car with various selected items, encouraging playlists, a full stomach, my partner-in-crime; my dog, Jernee, and whisk away to the majestic mountains of Western North Carolina for a few days or a week. The beauty of nature and its luring embrace is calling me. I much prefer a scenic drive to my places of interest as opposed to the “friendly skies.” If I can get there in about one to six hours, I will make the drive to that destination. And with a buddy who sleeps most of the drive to that place and hasn’t the verbiage to “backseat” or “passenger seat drive” to accompany me, it is usually something to which I truly look forward.

According to Julie Hall, APR:

More than 47.7 million Americans will take to the nation’s roadways and skies this Independence Day (July 1–5), as travel volumes are expected to nearly fully recover to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, this will be the second-highest Independence Day travel volume on record, trailing only 2019. Overall, just 2.5% fewer Americans are expected to travel this year compared to Independence Day in 2019. This represents an increase of nearly 40% compared to last year, when total travel fell to 34.2 million.

AAA Newsroom, June 22, 2021

With those estimated numbers, many Americans have moved from isolation and are back to what they find to be most appealing—the freedom of living. I have been toying with the idea of rising from the deep and heading toward the surface just as many others, but a familiar fear still hovers over me. My plan: to go about things slowly regarding this transition but eventually catapult myself back into a familiar world; a pre-COVID-19-like world . . . baby steps, though. Baby steps.

Jernee, my four-legged companion, is easy to please. As long as I accompany her, she will travel to the edge of the world if it means she can still have her daily walks and favorite treats. I mean, with those additions to an already spoiled life, why not? Having her beside me as I tackle the come-hither calls of an adventurous world, awaiting my attendance and participation, is welcome. I don’t think I could get the look of sheer contentment from anyone else in my car as I sing loudly to my favorite songs. No one else would be willing, I’m sure, to appreciate my sometimes alto, sometimes tenor, singing voice. But Jernee?! Jernee glances up toward me as if this voice of mine was made for her and for her only.

Another point from Julie Hall’s article, explains:

“Travel is in full swing this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue travel opportunities they’ve deferred for the last year-and-a-half,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the kick-off of summer, and all indications now point to a busy Independence Day to follow.”

AAA Newsroom, June 22, 2021

Traveling was on an upswing as we headed into the Fourth of July weekend. The travel bug had bitten me at that point, but I did not take the plunge. I still played it safe here at home with my favorite cuddler—oh, but I dreamed about blazing a few trails. The next holiday on the calendar for which many intend to travel is Labor Day. With September just around the corner, I long for a hike or two or three in the fresh mountain air but first . . . I have to get there. If I were a guessing person, which on most occasions, I am, I’m willing to bet Jernee is ready for a bit of adventurous action too.

Wouldn’t it be grand if I could actually interview her regarding this topic—regarding any topic? The mind of a dog has to be an exceptional place. I create an internal dialogue between myself and Jernee sometimes. I am not ashamed of this; it’s entertaining. So, on those semi-long driving trips we used to take, that internal dialogue could look a little like this:

Jernee: “Mommy, are we there yet?”

Me: “No, sweetness, not quite.”

Jernee: “How much longer?”

Me: “According to Google Maps, 1 hour and 23 minutes.”

Jernee: “That precise, huh?”

Me: “Well, what were you expecting? A guess?”

Jernee: “Not really. I thought you were going to just reach on over here and hand me another treat.”

Me: “Touche’, sweetness. Touche’.”

I tell myself the trips I’m meant to take with my favorite road dog are waiting patiently in the near future. All I have to do is to succumb to their welcoming arms once again. Regardless of when those road trips will take place, there is one thing of which I am certain, my traveling buddy will ride shotgun. It’s the perfect place for a traveling woman’s best friend.

on the cusp of an unknown

“they say” Elsa is on the way;
ready ourselves for the inevitability
of thunderstorms
yet the sun is skydiving
without a care in the world and
I’m growing skeptical.

I want to be prepared;
steer clear of windows and
shut down all electronic devices
in a timely manner;
I can’t help it–every time there’s
a storm, I hear my mother’s voice;
“Turn off those lights and
that damn tv! God is talking!”

shouldn’t I be mindful if
in fact, God IS speaking?

meteorologists are tapping their
pointers at markers on their
maps, unsure of exact touchdown
points yet “We should be on the
lookout” for damaging winds
and heavy rain
and every year, during
hurricane season, my anxiety
levels are heightened.

there’s a new storm named
ever other day, it seems . . .
why does the ocean argue
with the sky?
who is monitoring its raised voice
or defending the shores
and the pleading animals?

Elsa may show up with
a pent-up wrath buried inside
her and I say, “let it rip but
just have mercy.”
the souls of man
could use a cleansing.

How Watching “Luca” Made Me Want to Live Again

Maybe I am ready for the surface

Photo by Tiago Ebisui via Unsplash

On Saturday, June 26, 2021, after my fingers tapped away feverishly at my laptop and my eyes scanned several articles to which I set free into the world of vigorous reading, I slouched in my favorite chair — my heart at ease and mind ready and succumbed to the gift that is Luca. Disney+ has become my refuge — my place of entertainment and subtle peace.

Over the last few months, I’ve enjoyed viewing Raya and the Last Dragon, Soul, and various Pixar “Shorts” that have placed me in a state of sheer calm, maniacal laughter, overwhelming sadness, or complete satisfaction. But it was Luca that reminded me of what it feels like to want to get back out into the world.

Without spoiling the movie (too much), I will tell you it is of a young sea creature who befriends another and the two of them leave their home in the ocean’s deep to temporarily live on land among humans. Both of them yearned to scratch away at the surface and explore a world about which they had no actual knowledge.

Trying to meet their goal introduces them to a town of avengers who make it their life’s work to rid their waters of “sea monsters” and they find a friend in a young girl who has a goal of her own. Giulia/Giulietta gives the two friends a spark they needed and through no fault of her own, causes Luca and Alberto to fall into a verbal brawl that opens their eyes and changes their hearts.

But it was Luca that reminded me of what it feels like to want to get back out into the world.

If you are a sentimental being, then I assure you, this animated film will pull at your heartstrings. There is a connectedness to truly living and the longing to explore everything the world offers at every angle and from my chair — I felt the need to get up and out into a once locked-down-and-plagued-realm and live — seriously live. I haven’t felt this way in a long time.

From the deep, I saw myself swimming to the surface, gathering my pre-COVID-19 self, picking a place on the map, packing, and getting in my car to head straight to that very spot. I envisioned traveling again — more importantly; I wanted to travel again.

I wanted the fresh air of the mountains hovering around me. I wanted the expansiveness of the unfamiliar to reach out to me. I wanted . . . to feel free again and to act on it with no regrets.

I felt the need to get up and out into a once locked down and plagued realm and live — seriously live.

I wanted to be Luca.


As life would have it, things are slowly trying to reopen and people are re-familiarizing themselves with their favorite places — if those places are still up and running. They are taking flights to see family members. They are reconnecting with friends and holding newborn babies. Many of them are seeing and meeting with relatives who they have not seen in over a year.

While watching Luca, I wanted to be among this crowd too. I want to shed a bit of skin and drive back down to Asheville, North Carolina, or Southern Virginia or the tail end of Georgia. I saw myself with my carry-on, phone, earbuds, and books, boarding a plane to Alaska or Washington or Texas.

I think I’m ready to live.

I wanted . . . to feel free again and to act on it with no regrets.

The movie has a variety of quotes sure to stick with me as the future introduces itself. A few of my favorites are:

“Look me in the eye. You know I love you, right?” This is from Luca’s mother, Daniela, as she tries to make him understand why she does what she does for him — his safety is of the utmost importance in her eyes.

“Silencio, Bruno!” A mantra/motto for Luca to say — gifted by Alberto to get him through his fears — sort of a way to speak to that inner voice inside you that constantly hounds you and attempts to get you to not do what you intend to do.

“You got me off the island, Luca. I’m okay.” This is also from Alberto as he bids farewell to Luca right before he takes the train to go to school with Guilia.

“I’m not crying, you’re crying!”

I didn’t think an animated film could reach its hand out to me, lift me from my disillusioned state, and show me I can live again and I should at least try. Trying is the hardest part, though, isn’t it? I am one step closer to willing my body to press itself against the world. I simply have to put on my shoes, tie them, and place one foot in front of the other.

There is a world out there slowly opening back up, ready for me to take a damn chance. Maybe it is time I emerge from the deep and make my way to the surface. But then, I learn about new variants of a virus that blows through every system it touches, leaving people forever changed, and I am hesitant again.

I don’t want to be. I just am.

And then there are days when I shake myself free from my prison and say, “Let me just grab my mask, hand sanitizer, and various supplements, notepad & pen, music, and Jernee. I have places to go, people to see, and living to do.”

“Fifteen minutes at a time, though. Fifteen minutes at a time.” Deep down — in the wells of my wavering spirit, I plea not to pressure myself. And I won’t. But maybe, just maybe, it is time.


Originally published in Age of Empathy via Medium.

watching the fallen (revised)

nine-year-old girls aren’t
supposed to walk
in on their mother
losing her mind

they aren’t raised to
bear witness to the fallen
but she watched

and she knew her
mother would never
be the same

this became her gift
learning what to avoid

an adult before
her time

yet still engaged
to a world that
overlooks her and
neglects her efforts

she’s grown but not
mature enough to
understand the ways
of this world

“You can love someone
for years and never
truly know them.”

she thinks this to
herself often
is she giving too much
is she taking too much

who will accept
all of her knowing
she’s been through
hell and back

knowing she’s watched
the fallen and
has tried her
best not to fall too

I Am Afraid of the New Dating World and Think I’ll Pass for Now

Even if summer’s on the way, I’m still not ready

Photo by cottonbro via Unsplash

Nowadays if you’re not on one of the following dating apps; Tinder, eHarmony, Match, or Hinge (just to name a few), chances are, you’re still clinging to the traditional way of dating just as I am or I’d like to be. I did not have many miles behind me regarding the traditional way of dating prior to the Coronavirus, COVID-19 — it was the method with which I was most familiar.

If I wanted to, I could go to my local coffee shop, set up my mini workstation, order my favorite blend, and subtly eye God’s gifts that walked through the doors of the venue.

If I made eye contact with a woman or a man who sparked my interest, a small conversation would start and the two of us would simply enjoy one another’s company as we sipped our brews and meshed with our surrounding environment. If the connection was intense enough, we would exchange numbers. If not, of course, we parted ways. No harm. No foul. We were adults and acted accordingly (thankfully).

Today, I feel the stress and overwhelming disdain within me that comes with the idea of even signing on to a dating app to get back out into the not-yet-virus-free world. I could do it that way but I’d still have to meet up with the person after getting to know them online, shoot the shit, and hope the connection is as decent a connection in person as it potentially was online, eventually.

I’m a cut out the middleman kind of person, so . . .


I’d like to trust you, but I don’t.

With summer right around the corner, I would rather visit the various places I used to frequent during the pre-COVID-19 days, however, I don’t trust the people out and about mask-less since the CDC’s most recent update to their guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals.

If I have to go to the store (Instacart has become my best friend), I wear my mask, rush in, get what I need, keep my distance from others, and get out. And I’m a fully vaccinated healthcare worker who now works from home.

There is still a substantial amount of fear dwelling inside me as it pertains to this virus. When one has faced what I have dealt with (prior to my transfer to my current position) — fear is probably not going to subside soon.

Screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms and frequently coming in contact with patients who were positive was enough to keep me aware of the severity of thousands of cases and the seriousness of this pandemic.

Eager to start but afraid to begin.

I would like to get back to the life I had, but I also don’t want to rush into anything stupidly or hurriedly without weighing all safety options. What scares me the most is befriending a person who is not honest about his or her practices and precautions. Are they really fully vaccinated if they say so? Do they keep their visitations to and with others to a minimum? Are they cautious about who they allow in their home? How are their cleanliness and hygiene?

I don’t want to become that person who asks you to show me your COVID-19 vaccination card as proof . . . but . . .

I am not jaded. I would not find it fair for me to hit up my favorite spots or find new ones with this fear still lingering as deeply as it is. I would not want to subject anyone to the possibility of an early dismissal without a proper chance at developing something from nothing.

Kicking digital game isn’t my thing.

The horror stories I’ve heard from many of my friends about this new dating world via the world wide web are enough to keep me single and celibate forever — summer, be damned . . . Constant ghosting. Swiping left or right. Matching only to be swiftly unmatched. Breadcrumbing. Stonewalling. And the list goes on.

Is this what we’re now facing if we somewhat wish to give dating a try again? Impatience and the ever-changing world of I want what I want and if you aren’t it, I won’t stick around to grow with you? “Lies you tell.” — Tamar Braxton

When I was in my mid-twenties, I had signed up for one of the dating sites that had been popular around that time. I want to say it was Match, but I can’t be certain.

Met a guy. We hit it off. Things were good for about four months and then . . . things started taking a more serious turn, and he did not want that. I’m sure it doesn’t need stating that we moved on from one another. It was for the best. I’ve had a few summer and autumn flings here and there — with a few of those individuals scooped up from a couple online platforms I frequented. That’s as close as I have gotten to “online dating” since the previously mentioned guy.

It isn’t my comfort zone.

Summer is right around the corner. Should I come out of my shell?

I have a burning feeling welled up in me to stick my big toe in the water (so to speak), but I also know I’ll probably tip-toe to the water, overanalyze it, hesitate, and cringe instead of attempting to become one with what used to be familiar to me. I’ve seen so many people crowded together poolside, hosting barbecues and family functions, and jet setting without a care in the world, and although it is rather appealing, I can’t move . . .

I want to, I just can’t.

And this tells me I still have much work to do within myself and about this pandemic before I am ready to see what the new dating world has to offer. People can be more work than I am cut out to put in and well . . . I’ve been single for a long time, I’m in no rush.

But what will the dating world be like when I’ve finally given fear a run for its money?

I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.


Originally published in Prism & Pen via Medium.