So, Aruba. I spent 14 days in Aruba with my 10 year old. Here’s my thoughts about the trip, mostly from a things to do perspective.

TLDR - Recommended things to do

  1. The Rancho Loco Horseback ride to the Natural Pool. 

  2. Reflexions beach club

  3. Petroglyphs in the National Park

  4. Book a Snorkeling cruise 

  5. Climb California Lighthouse


You can certainly go to Aruba and just lounge on the beach the whole time. There are certainly tourists who do that, and hotel resorts that cater to that. But I’m the type of traveler that wants to do stuff. So this is stuff to do. There are lots of good places to eat/explore on the island. Do get a rental car to facilitate this exploring. 

Recognize that Aruba is a small island. 100k people, 20 miles long (the long way!) Like 6 miles across. Still, you probably want to rent a car. 

Also it’s a desert. Think Arizona climate (if you’re familiar with AZ), that also happens to have beaches. Beautiful beaches. On one side of the island (the west) are lovely swimming beaches. On the other side, they are super rough/rugged/don’t even think about getting in the water beaches. (Sad story: while I was there, apparently a vistor went into the water on the rough side after the tour guide said it would be ok. And drowned. Just don’t.) It’s always 80-90 degrees. Year round. And breezy. Super breezy. Make sure your hat fits tight, or has a chin strap. And bring a hat - it’s hella sunny out there!

There are lots of cool lizards out and about. Little ones, big ones.  I especially like the blue ones. And some sizable iguanas. The cat sized one that hung out by our condo we named Big Liz. They have the goofiest run. There are a bunch of birds around too which are fun to watch. In particular we saw Magnificent Frigatebirds (which we call demon birds because of their silhouette), brown pelicans, cool orange-black Troupials, and a wacky looking large bird which I think was a Crested caracara. Aruba’s national bird is a burrowing owl, but we didn’t come across any. 

^^ These bird pics aren't my photos, just ones I found that look better than the photos I took ^^

There is no fresh water source on the island, unless you count the occasional rains. Beats me how people used to live here in the precolonial/colonial times. We did see a cistern from colonial times that supposedly held 3-4months of water. But it barely rained while we were there. Again, not sure how they made it work way back then, maybe it rains more than I recognize? Today they have a desalination plant, and the tap water here is some of the best I’ve ever had. They even bottle it.

The main industry here is tourism. And like 70% of the tourists are from the US. (Even though it’s just 15 miles from Venezuela - you can even see the mainland on a clear day.) English is spoken everywhere. US dollars are accepted everywhere. I mostly used my visa, except for tips and that one bakery that was cash only.

Packing tip: you’re going to want to bring snorkel gear to look at all the cool aquatic life. Or at least a great pair of swim goggles. Bring sun protection. Bring water shoes. 

The highlight:

We booked an afternoon horseback tour at Rancho Loco to the Natural Pool. After about an hour on a horse, you get to a natural pool. It is the only(?) protected place to swim on the east side. And it was fabulous. Rough waves hitting the other side of the protected rock wall, spraying water high. And a calm pool to hang in. This is 100% bucket list material. It doesn’t get any better than this. 10/10 would go again.  This makes Ursula's "Best Of" list (a list that I've just decided to start).

If horses aren’t your thing, you can hike in for about an 1.5 hours each way. So 3 hours roundtrip. Or rent a off road capable vehicle like an ATV. ATVs are icky IMHO, and walking would be arduous in this climate for me, let alone for my 10 year old. But the horses, that was awesome, and the payoff of the natural pool was so worth it. I also liked the romanticism of pretending it was cowboy times while on the horse. Even if my butt was sore for 2 days after. (Note, the horses only take people who weigh less than 235 lbs. Even though technically the horses can carry larger people, the ranch doesn’t want to stress them.)

Other things to do:

And then some days you just want to sit at a beach club and chill. I didn’t really check out the options; I found one I liked and went there twice. It is called Reflexions, and it’s just a few minutes north of the airport. You can watch the planes land - the airport is close but not obnoxiously so. Sometimes people wait on this beach until they see the plane land before they go on a pickup run. We'd get there around 1pm, stay till sunset. Sometimes they have DJs or bands. There is a small swimming pool in the bar (which frankly got gross later in the day, but the kid loved it), lots of chairs with umbrellas or covers to be had. And some excellent drinks. And good food, a step up from your typical bar fare. 

There is a national park that takes up like 20% of the island. (That arid rugged east side mostly). You need a car or a tour to get there. In this park, about a 20 minutes drive inside the park is a cave with petroglyphs (and colonial graffiti). Also, bats inside. And lizards outside. It's cool, especially if you are keen on petroglyphs like I am. Definitely worth doing.  (Actually, that natural pool I mentioned above is also in this park. You’d ATV/hike from inside the park. The horses came up another way.) BTW: Google maps sent me to someplace that was certainly not the park entrance. Get close then follow the signs instead of wherever G sends you.

There is a lighthouse on the northern tip called the California Lighthouse. Not sure why it’s called that, something something about a ship called California that sank when it was being built? I’m sure you can google it. Anyway - Go! Pay the $5! Climb the zillion steep steps on the spiral staircase up! See the amazing windy views! Deal with your kid then being too terrified to climb back down! Good times. Also, at the bottom, get a fresh coconut from the coconut guy. And watch his pet parrot peck at your kid when she invades its personal space, terrifying the kid. Haha. More good times. Another $5 well spent. 

The final thing I really can recommend is take a snorkeling “cruise”. I did Jolly Pirates, but there are others. Some include lunch, some do not. Most all include an open bar. And they include your snorkeling gear. They almost all stop at the same 3 or 4 places. Though this one seems to have different spots (next time!) The snorkeling in Aruba is some of the best. One of the standard snorkeling spots called Tres Trapi is just offshore. You can actually drive to it, in case you want to go back and experience more snorkeling but not take a second cruise. 

We also visited the small free National Archaeological Museum Aruba. I like to hit these sort of historical museums at the beginning of a trip to get an awareness of a place’s backstory. It’s where we saw the cistern and learned about the petroglyphs, and about the pre colonial and colonial times.


No food recommendations - why? I’m not a foodie. I noted portions are large. I enjoyed everywhere I ate, but I’m so the opposite of picky. Also I was feeding a kid, so we didn’t try anything exotic. So we stuck with meals of burgers, pasta, chicken and poffertjes (dutch small puffy pancakes). So I don’t have much by way of food recommendations except ask around, and use your google-fu. The restaurants here are good, but it's not cheap. Expect US prices or maybe even a tad bit higher. 

We went to the closest burger joint called Local Store several times. It had this cool mural on the side that among other things, incorporated imagary from the island's petroglyphs. How cool is that! 

Other things:

Some things that we coulda shoulda done is 

  1. the gold mine ruins. 

  2. another rock & petroglyph site called Ayo Rock Formation..

  3. the butterfly house. If you go at the beginning of your trip, you can go back any time for the next 7 days. 

Saving these for next time!

There is also a “private” island beach club “De Palm Island”. It’s like $100 for a day of all-inclusive fun. I didn’t do it, but maybe next time. Maybe. I was pretty content at Reflexions. But on the other hand, seeing flamingos would have been cool.

There are on the southern side a few more beaches, and another town called San Nicolas. Baby beach is the big name, there is also a super deserted beach calle Boco Grandi. It looks very peaceful, but the kid had seen it before and said it was boring. So we didn’t go. San Nicolas has a bunch of cool murals, plus is known for the bar “Charlie’s” but I forget why. I do know the licence plate of my old camper is on the bar, as are a zillion other plates. It’s the Delaware tag that says “Guppy”. If you see it, send me a photo!

I didn’t really do any nightlife because I had my preteen in tow. I did get out for 1 night to the Renaissance downtown for a sunset DJ set and their rooftop (no kids allowed!) club. That was sweet, and would be cool to do again with adult friends. Assuming I can talk someone into traveling with me.


Horse ranch

National Park

Reflexions Beach Club

Jolly Pirates

Great travel piece.
I’m unnaturally puzzled by A J C Henrique. “Went in 5201M”? With some sort of tripod? Did they measure 5 kilometers from the carving?

After all that tooth-gnashing, we got a call from hospice this morning that a bed became available; they were able to prioritize us because they knew our situation was getting a little crazy.

We are waiting for the transport now.

It is crazy to think that these are the last moments Mom will be at her home.

She believes she's going "to the hospital" because she knows she doesn't feel well.  She said "It's time. I want to go to the hospital." 

Through the dementia and through the drug haze, I believe deep down she knows what's happening.

I know she'll be OK.  I'm worried about my dad. He's scared to live alone. The house is about to get very, very quiet, and very very empty.  

He's also replaying the day he brought his mom to a (kinda shitty) nursing home in Virginia so his mom could be closer to his sister. His mom said "You mean, I'm never going to see my little house again?"  And that damn near killed my dad in 1991 when that happened.  

And even though Mom is kinda excited to go (again, as she understands what is happening), Dad is wracked with guilt.


1,000 thank yous to everyone's comments on my last post. I love you all very much and am so happy and lucky to have this community.  You are the best.

I really hope you can get some rest.
I love you. I really appreciate you.
We just got home now from getting her situated in her new place; it is gorgeous. It abuts a farm, and horses come say hello. You can pet the horse face, and it is gooood. Also, they have a front-row view of the sunset; it's jaw-droppingly beautiful. And today was so beautiful out, so we got to enjoy Mom's private veranda, the view, the air, and she's gonna have a smoke. (Yup, for real.) And from here on out, she doesn't have to eat a diabetic diet, so it's real sugar and full-fat and smokes and morphine and hookers ^H^H^H^H^H and hot damn it's pretty freakin' sweet and a huge relief.
Can I come?
That is incredible news. So sorry for the stress you've been under, and for your dad's fear. My heart is with you.
I am, on balance and all things considered in the circumstances and at standard temperature and pressure, greatly relieved for all parties.
Thinking about you.
Thank you so, so much, my friend.
My aunt died in a hospice, some time before the plague began. Superb care, both paid and volunteer. Of the options I'm aware of, it's the one I would choose for myself i na similar situation.
Working in hospice is definitely a calling, and I am so, so grateful it exists. The volunteers are really, really special. (I normally hate that word, but I mean it here.)

I'm very happy your aunt received such compassionate care. When a loved one gets that kind of care, it truly comforts everyone, not just the patient. It's priceless.

It's funny...after caring for Mom so intensely for the last month, I find myself wanting to help when I'm visiting Mom here at the facility. I don't know how to sit back and leave things to the staff. At the same time, it's kinda beautiful watching the staff provide such loving, but such professional care. The way they move Mom around so gently but confidently... just... wow. These are the moves we just couldn't do at home, and here it's a graceful, well-rehearsed dance.

The relief we all feel is beyond words. Plus she seems to like it here, thank heavens.
Loving care is such a great thing to hear. I am glad your Mom is enjoying herself. I hope she enjoys as many moments as she can and that you and your Dad get to share a lot of them with her.
(also your brother and his family ofc, but I am thinking about you)
This sounds like, in many ways, a tremendous relief. I'm thankful for that.

Thinking of you guys, and of course, your Dad.
It really, really, really, really is. It's also only five minutes away from my folks' house up here, and it's off of Fairview Rd which is a neat coincidence because our old house in East Hanover was also on Fairview.

Thank you, m'dear, for the good thoughts, kind words, generous offers of lawn mowing, and just for being so wonderful. We're making a quick day-trip down to DE tomorrow because there's an important gathering at Matt's folks' place, but we're gonna come right back up here tomorrow night just so Dad doesn't have to sleep in an empty house quiiiiite yet.

Any thing, any time. Of course.

Also, your response to Lindsay's comment also makes my evening.
I hope the beauty and freedom of your mom's setting helps to relieve some of your dad's guilt. I'm so glad you were able to get her admitted there.
This location has really, really made an amazing difference to Dad. It's such a comfort. I mean, if you have to be in this rotten situation, this is the most beautiful place I can think of to deal with it.

Also Anne, I have a zillion OPW drafts saved, but one of them from a while back thanks you specifically; I learned from your advice and experience and it was so helpful. I had never heard of palliative care until you mentioned it, and it helped give me language I needed to talk to the doctors and staff. So really, thank you.
Oh, sweetie. I’m glad it was helpful.

Originally written for Instagram, so apologies if you're seeing this twice.

I keep wren houses, and I had announced on IG the chirping of newly hatched chicks a few weeks ago. And...

My wrens didn't make it. Something happened to the first batch of eggs, or the female had difficulty, and her second batch came late. And then they hatched... but it got quiet. Something wasn't right. I thought maybe it was the heat.

Yesterday, I came out to (who I assume was) the female, hanging from the birdhouse, her claw stuck in the nest inside. She was gone. She looked beat up, or maybe she fought to free her leg. I was so heartbroken when I found her, I didn't think to check her for sticky eyes, one of the symptoms of this mystery songbird illness. I was busy pulling her down and laying her to rest on the hill behind me.

Today, I gathered up several gorgeous blooms from my hydrangea in an effort to honor the situation, and also cheer me up. The hydrangea is having a banner year, surprisingly. I did nothing to protect her from the horrible winter we had, and did no spring prep on her at all. And yet, she is prolific in bloom and variety of color.

It helps.

Oh, Jesus, I'm so sorry.
We reluctantly took down our birdbath and stopped filling our bird feeder, based on the advice of PA Fish & Wildlife. I've noticed that robins and cardinals are looking unhealthy when I see them. They look like their feathers are greasy & dirty.

Did you bury the bird? I read that you should only handle them with disposable gloves, put them in a sealed plastic bag, and dispose of them with your usual trash, because there's a concern that whatever these birdies have could jump species.
No, I used plastic to pick her up and send her to the hill, an area I can't easily walk to. She did look a mess, but I couldn't say if it was grease or from a struggle.
Usually I'm sad that we can't have bird feeders up in the summer (because BEARS), but this year not so much.
Sorry to hear about the birdies. The hydrangea is lovely.
The blooms are still alive and going, and bringing such comfort indoors.
You're such a good soul.

Also, the flowers are lovely.
Same to you, Anne.

They are a little piece of my heart.

"Black Widow" passes early, with a brief conversation between Alexei and Dreykov about a MacGuffin.  Alexei later talks a little bit with his arm-wrestling buddies and guards too.  That's... maybe it?

I was just recently made aware of the “named character” addendum, so that may disqualify everything except that first MacGuffin conversation.
It’s a fun thought experiment, although as I understand it the point isn’t that every movie needs to pass the original test, it’s that the bar is so low and yet so few do. Since there’s no such problem in the inverse… but we know this.

Did a sketch of a drider since we're facing a bunch of them in Brad's campaign. This may make it all the way to finished illustration.

Or I may have a case of the ADHDs. Time will tell.

Heh. Now that I've stepped away from it for a few and I'm looking at it with fresh eyes - it looks like he has a bad toupee on.


More to come, but I'm kinda diggin this Hulk sketch I did sitting in the Omega Diner while waiting for the weather to clear a bit more.

Gotta say - I'm impressed with how well the Apple Pencil does for 'loose sketching'. I know I've been using it for many years, but I seldom do 'sketching for sketching's sake' with it.

Feels good.

The sketch lines almost make him look like he’s vibrating! It’s fantastic!
Shannie 7/11
Thanks! He is definitely 'high energy'.
I like it! Not sure why.
Thanks! It's messy, but it's fun. :)
Rob 7/12
Nice! Reminds me of a college art class I took. I have a very physical/tactile memory of the loose charcoal sketching we did of nude models. Looking at your Bulky Hulk reminds me of how that felt all over again. It was such a freeing sensation, all the quick, energetic strokes—I marvel at how you've achieved this electronically!

Can't believe the audience doesn't give that guy a little more respect for hitting that note. 

Also, yes, I'm getting psyched for the Foo Fighters new album. 

I feel like there was just *this* much awkwardness on his side that maybe it put the audience off. But, he really did do a beautiful job when he got to that note. I love this song.

Dunna Vetta

(or: My Life as an Insomniac)

It's lightening and thundering, though I can't hear it too well with the earplugs in. But the air is charged, and the cool breeze through the window is welcome. The soft boom and roll is comforting.

Rog is here in bed with me. (That feels oddly TMI and yet, why?) Anyway, we are test running the sleeping arrangements in prep for my family vacation in one week. He has the CPAP, the chin strap, the other sleep apnea device (Inspire), and I have the earplugs, the sleep mask, the sleep meds, and the cat locked out.

I think it's working.

I mean, actually working.

I am cheered by this thought. I don't know how the entire night is going to go yet, but I'll just take this little feeling and hold on to it.

This resonates for me. I have a feeling there's a CPAP in my future.
It's definitely an adjustment for all involved.
I read somewhere recently that there's new data that indicates certain types of night mouth guards may be as effective at keeping your airways open for some kinds of sleep apnea. Can't find it at the moment, but it's probably worth investigating or asking about if it looks like you need a little better O2 intake at night.
Not to hijack someone else’s post but , I know it’s something concerning my throat.
The mouth guard is a relatively cost-effective first shot. If it works, your partner will know pretty fast. Rog was not a candidate for that.

His particular situation was that he has a large tongue and a small pallet. Hahaha, the jokes we made. Anyway, he relaxes and his tongue plugs up his throat like a ball-valve (doctor's phrase). Top that off with weight gain as he aged, and the freight train comes through our neighborhood every night.

There is a surgery for it, but the first line is usually CPAP. With the mask that covers the nose AND mouth.

I am not a doctor, so you'll want to see one, but I hope it's an easy fix.
I can't see this comment.
How’d it go?
It went swimmingly until he rutched around to scratch his arm and I immediately woke right up. Ten minutes later, when he moved his foot, I woke up again. We tried some more for a half hour until we gave up and he left for the other room.

Not thrilled. We share a king bed at the motel, so here's hoping that's an improvement over my wee double bed.

This experiment made me realize how much worse my sleep is. Even if I may be getting more hours lately, I'm barely asleep.

The good news is we definitely have improved the noise (freight train) situation, and in separate beds (like most hotel rooms), we should be pretty awesome, and that's a relief.

Did some sketching in a physical sketchbook for the first time in a bajillion years. This one is of a fairly traditional halfling, hairfoot, or 'hobbit' (if you're not concerned with copyright). I did this one for comparison and as the 'default' for people to reference. 

Then, next, I did a rough concept sketch of a sub race that my buddy Brad and I are working on that we are tentatively calling 'dustlings'.

It took me wayyy too long to realize that I'd recreated a jacked version of Smeagol / Golum from the Hobbit / LOTR.

Back to the (literal) drawing board. 

I dunno, it's okay? Gollum's a scrawny, craven little thief. Your guys look like they work for a living. Less agrarian, more hunter/gatherer kinda thing.
Thanks! I did some more putzing around and come up with something I'm at least a _little_ more satisfied with.

Still, glad to know this very was functional. :)
rone 6/2
Yeah. Didn't mean to take it that far, but sometimes I get carried away. That's what I get for learning to draw by looking at superhero comics for decades. :P
Yeah. I imagine it really IS a little like if I was to get on a bicycle right about now...
"Art is theft."