Dear Gabby

Dear Gabby,

I’m so sorry, honey. I’m so sorry you’re gone. I’m so sorry you spent your last days with the man who would murder you. True, nothing is *proven* in a court of law, innocent until proven guilty, whatever. But we all know what happened. We watched the footage. Too many of us know exactly what was going on in that van no matter how hard you tried to play it down and take the blame. They always know how to talk a good game. They put on a show to the world and everyone says, “what a great young man!”

“She must be handful.”

“Y’all are so good together!”

But it’s not like that when you’re alone, is it? As easily as he turned it on for the police, he can switch it back off. No one would believe you if you tried to tell them how crazy it can get. How alone you feel. No you weren’t perfect. You were 22. You weren’t supposed to be perfect or even good at this whole life thing yet. But you weren’t supposed to be a victim either.

I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry you didn’t know that you didn’t need him. That you were so much better than him. He knew. I’m so sorry you never had the chance to learn any better. And you would have. You would have figured out that you deserved so much more. You would have outgrown him. Maybe you already were. Maybe that’s why you’re gone.

I’m so sorry, Gabby.

But we promise you this, your legacy will be bigger and longer than your sweet, short life was. We won’t forget you. And we won’t let them. We will use your story to hold them accountable. All of them. Your tragic tale, and so many others just like it, will be passed down to the next generation of girls. We will teach them the warning signs. We will teach them to stand up and walk away. We will teach them they are worth so much more.

And so are you.

Gabrielle Petito

1999 – 2021

The New York Times, Petito family

Titles are Hard: A Travel Journal

I haven’t written in awhile. Early on I foolishly fell into writing once a week. I don’t know why Thursday became my day to post or why I feel like I’m not allowed to post any other day. I like patterns and this feels like one I accidentally created for no reason but now can’t bring myself to break. I recently decided that once a week was too much so I talked myself into every other week. Twice a month doesn’t sound too overwhelming. But then last Thursday came and went. I didn’t write anything and I didn’t even feel that bad about it.

A lot’s been going on. We have the luxury of being able to pack up and travel at a moments notice but it doesn’t always feel like a blessing. We made the drive from Texas to Indiana then Mississippi and back.

Why not fly, you ask? Because we roll deep that’s why. We always take the dog with us. He’s a good, chill traveler and a lot less trouble than the rest of us. But we’ve also become whack jobs who travel with a cat. I know, man. He’s a pretty good car rider too, all things considered. Our first few road trips he puked within an hour of getting in the car but we were on curvy back country roads. This time we stuck to interstates and he did fine. I also pack for any trip like I might never come home, even though I cycle through the same eight pieces of clothing on a regular week.

Up to Indiana to visit an aging father. As good a visit as it could be. Good days and bad days, like us all. It’s a hard gig having to trade roles with your parents and make choices for them that they don’t necessarily agree with. As a kid, parents make decisions about your life because they’re older and wiser. (For most people. The sad reality is that not every kid grows up with any parent who gives a shit at all. As teens we hate them for caring so much. Only as adults do we begin to realize how lucky we were to have someone to hate.) But the fact of the matter is, given a long enough life, the kids will eventually end up becoming the guardians and voices of reason. A blessing and a curse. And the other side of the coin is that not every aging parent has children who will step up and care when the time comes. So to all the parents raising kids and grown kids re-raising parents, I know you’re struggling. I pray for you. Please know that you’re doing what you have to do and if everyone is happy all the time, you’re probably not doing it right.

Then we headed south to Mississippi. I wanted to see my babies (nieces and nephew for the uninitiated) before school starts. To be fair, only one of the kiddos goes to school. Two of our adults do too though.

Unfortunately I planned poorly because it was moving weekend for the kiddos and their parents. Literally moving next door but I really don’t think it matters, moving always sucks. They’re braver people than I am, that’s for sure. The sheer pain in the ass-ness of packing my crap up would have been enough for me to say no thanks and stay where I was. But they see opportunities and they’re bold enough to grab and run with them. That makes me crazy proud of them. And I also now know to ask more specific questions about what everyone has going on before we plan to come visit. Kidding. Mostly.

Finally back to Texas for a doggie doctor appointment and an unplanned beach day. First time I’ve been in a bathing suit all summer. Grew up in Mississippi, live in Texas, I’m an avowed Gulf girl. It was overcast and stormy with a crazy chilly wind (hello wild weather) and the water temp was like last kid bath water. Honestly, pretty perfect.

In the car again today heading back to the ranch. I feel so accomplished for getting this written because I’ve been in a much more reading than writing mood lately and I’m about to dive back into my book. I finished two great reads on this trip that I highly suggest.

I swear I haven’t forgotten about doing a post on our trip to space camp I just have some kind of writers block about it right now. It’s been three years and I still get tired just thinking about it. Hope y’all have a wonderful two weeks. I’ll be back in a couple of Thursdays. Maybe.

Travel time: six days, Recovery time: 4-6 weeks

Well I seriously misjudged how long it would take me to recover from our Orlando trip. I got back home to my boys last Tuesday and didn’t find the will to unpack or do laundry for a solid week. And that was only because I ran out of clothes I like. The rest of my house is a disaster too and I just nonchalantly watched the cat shred a paper towel all over the floor without batting an eye.

We had an absolute blast. Traveling with your parents as an adult is a very different experience that I highly recommend. My daughter and son in law are my two best friends and going anywhere with them is a riot. The final member of our traveling party was my 10 year old niece, who I learned so, so much from in five days. For example, I learned how to use “boom, roasted” in a sentence, and also how to Dab and when it is appropriate to do so. This one I can’t prove for sure but I have some anecdotal evidence pointing to brain aneurysms being caused by preteens rolling their eyes at you. Boom, roasted.

What I didn’t realize until after the trip was over is that I did not feel the urge to post at all while we were there. I took pictures, albeit far fewer than usual, but something about this trip seemed private, just for us that I didn’t really want to share with anyone else. No offense. I sat at home a few days after struggling to choose photos to share and a caption to go along with them. I’m feeling differently lately about what I want to share with the world and what should be just for my family and me.

As far as tourist swamped theme park trips go, we really did do it right. I’m loath to write about the private event at Universal because I like to think it’s my own personal secret. I discovered Orlando Informer and their meetup at Universal Studios in 2018. I went by myself that year and then mama and daddy got in on it in 2019. It is just about the only way to do Universal Studios. We took it easy in the mornings, had breakfast and played at the pool. Cleaned up and headed into the parks mid-afternoon, just in time for a monster storm. When the parks closed to the public at 7 or 8pm, depending on the night, we had them to ourselves until 12:30am or later. They never say exactly how many tickets they sell to these meetups but I’ve heard it’s capped at about 10% of park capacity and I believe it. Free food, cash bars and a DJ dance party set up in the middle of the street. I always think about how much fun a lot of things would be but I’m so glad I actually talked myself into this one. Mama says she’ll never do Universal any other way again.

The only downside to staying up all night at a private party came Sunday morning when I had to set my alarm for 6:50 to try and enter the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios. I don’t know if my reflexes were too slow from the late night or what but we didn’t make it in on the early window. I gotta say I was not terribly sad about it because I went straight back to sleep. When we all got up at a reasonable hour we had breakfast and then decamped to different hotels for the rest of the trip. Made it to Hollywood Studios by about lunchtime and bee lined straight for Tower of Terror and Rock’n Roller coaster, like you do. We did get into the virtual queue at the 1pm window which worked out perfectly.

My hands down, absolute, no question favorite part of the trip was introducing my son in law, Tb, to the Star Wars land, Galaxy’s Edge. Daddy is an OG Star Wars lover. Like, he and his friends made costumes to wear to the premieres, made the local newspaper and then got a letter from Lucasfilm saying, “Great costumes! Now stop it” OG, so I come by it honest.

Circa 1981

He and I got to experience the new land a couple of years ago and we were both beside ourselves excited for Tb to see it too. Both rides are great. Rise of the Resistance is only a ride in the broadest sense of the word. It truly is an immersive experience and so much fun to be a part of the story. However, I think Smugglers Run took the space cake. If Tb said, “I’m inside the Millenium Falcon!!!” once, he said it one thousand times. Not only was he inside it, he got to pilot the Millenium Falcon and he wore the biggest grin plastered across his face for the next six hours.

My last park day was Magic Kingdom and it was the quintessential Disney World train wreck. Honestly this day deserves its own post if I ever feel up to it because I don’t want to kill this fun piece by griping about how poorly Magic Kingdom seems to be running these days. They have their own giant shoes to fill if they want those of us who grew up with the Mouse to stay in the family and pass the love on to ours. Nostalgia can only take you so far.

All in all, so much fun, so exhausting and so very good to be out in the world again. I couldn’t have asked for a better travel group and I’m so proud of the kiddo for hanging tough with us. She’s so cool and mature I often forget she’s only 10 and I definitely forget what a pain I was at 10. And 20. And yesterday. I think she had a good time too because we’re already making plans for future trips. Next time we’ll probably do something more chill and relaxing though, like running with the bulls in Pamplona.

Goodbye Ranch, Hello Anxiety

I’m sitting in the airport for the first time in 18 months. Interestingly, or maybe not, I’m heading to the same place now that I was then. Just a few months before the world shut down and life as we knew it was gone.

Not gonna lie, I’m nervous. Not about getting sick or even Covid at all. I’m nervous about rejoining the world of the people. The Land of the Living. I like my little coccoon. I like seeing only the Boy, the Pind and the cat most days. I say I miss doing things and being around others but the few times I have lately it’s been very overwhelming. Overstimulating and stressful.

Of course I could have dipped my toe back into the public pool with a mini trip. To a place without big crowds of loud people. A quiet spa somewhere maybe. A training wheels trip if you will. But no.

I’m going to Orlando. Universal Studios. Disney World.

I will survive and it will be fun. I’ll be with some of my favorite people who will ensure a great trip with lots of laughter. But the nagging low grade anxiety is still there. In my defense, that’s always true going to Disney World, even pre-pandemic. Second only to perhaps an actual war zone, Disney World is arguably one of the most stressful places on the planet. Because nothing is easy. Nothing is intuitive. Deadlines to remember, reservations to make, plan every detail a year or more ahead or miss out. You didn’t book your dinner plans exactly 60 days to the second in advance? Oh well too bad for you. Even then it’s a crap shoot. Better obsessively check the app at the crack of dawn every morning like an addict looking for a fix. And 60 days is actually *better*, it used to be six months. Who knows what they want for dinner 180 days in advance??

Why is it that the people who line up the most hoops for us to jump through are the same ones that say, “Just relax and enjoy yourself!”

That’s not how it works, boo boo.

Cross my heart I’m really not as salty as I sound. It’s going to be lots of fun. It’s always fun and will be even with the new policies and procedures. It will be even if it rains every day. The people I choose to travel with are always fun even if we sometimes yell at each other in EPCOT. Now that all the planning and pre-vacation work is done, I do intend to relax and just go with the flow as much as possible. I’ve done all I can to make sure we have a good time and now it’s the little things, the happy accidents and silly predicaments, that will be what we laugh about when we tell stories about this trip.

I already miss my boys and my comfy chair on the ranch. I know the Boy will take good care of my sweet old doggie. And I’m honestly looking forward to a break from full time caregiver. No matter who you’re taking care of and how much you love them, that is a very draining role.

Now I say goodbye, it’s time for me to board. I’ll be home to my babies next Tuesday. I plan to stare at the wall all day on Wednesday but then on Thursday I may be recovered enough to write a post trip review and share some photos.

Y’all have a wonderful week and please pray for us as we venture out into the happiest place on earth.