12/11/2017

Christmas Reflections for Our Soldiers


I am sure many have read this over the years but it bears posting it again. Our armed services from all countries must never be forgotten over the Christmas season.  The poem below was written by a United States Marine serving.  

CHRISTMAS POEM

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,
HE LIVED ALL ALONE,
IN A ONE BEDROOM HOUSE MADE OF
PLASTER AND STONE.

I HAD COME DOWN THE CHIMNEY
WITH PRESENTS TO GIVE,
AND TO SEE JUST WHO
IN THIS HOME DID LIVE.

I LOOKED ALL ABOUT,
A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,
NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS,
NOT EVEN A TREE.

 NO STOCKING BY MANTLE,
JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,
ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES
OF FAR DISTANT LANDS.


WITH MEDALS AND BADGES,
 AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,
 A SOBER THOUGHT
 CAME THROUGH MY MIND.

 FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT,
 IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,
 I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER,
                                              ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.

 THE SOLDIER LAY SLEEPING,
 SILENT, ALONE,
 CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR
 IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.

 THE FACE WAS SO GENTLE,
 THE ROOM IN SUCH DISORDER,
 NOT HOW I PICTURED
 A UNITED STATES SOLDIER.

 WAS THIS THE HERO
 OF WHOM I'D JUST READ?
 CURLED UP ON A PONCHO,
 THE FLOOR FOR A BED?

 I REALIZED THE FAMILIES
 THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,
 OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS
 WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.

 SOON ROUND THE WORLD,
 THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,
 AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE
 A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.

THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM
EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,
BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS,
LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.




 I COULDN'T HELP WONDER
 HOW MANY LAY ALONE,
 ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE
 IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.

 THE VERY THOUGHT
 BROUGHT A TEAR TO MY EYE,
 I DROPPED TO MY KNEES
 AND STARTED TO CRY.

 THE SOLDIER AWAKENED
 AND I HEARD A ROUGH VOICE,
 "SANTA DON'T CRY,
 THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE;

 I FIGHT FOR FREEDOM,
 I DON'T ASK FOR MORE,
 MY LIFE IS MY GOD,
 MY COUNTRY, MY CORPS."

 THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER
 AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,
 I COULDN'T CONTROL IT,
 I CONTINUED TO WEEP.

 I KEPT WATCH FOR HOURS,
 SO SILENT AND STILL
 AND WE BOTH SHIVERED
 FROM THE COLD NIGHT'S CHILL.

 I DIDN'T WANT TO LEAVE
 ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,
 THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR
 SO WILLING TO FIGHT.

 THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,
 WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,
 WHISPERED, "CARRY ON SANTA,
 IT'S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE."

 ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH,
 AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.
 "MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIEND,
 AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT."

For any serving reading this, God bless you, keep you safe from harm and know those of us at home wish you the Merriest Christmas ever! 

12/09/2017

Lighting up Christmas

Oh my, as a child I loved Christmas Vacation thinking Chevy Chase was the man! All those
lights on the house, my little heart was broken when he went to plug in the lights and kaboom, the fuse blew and the fire hazard of the county only fired up for a second. I wondered why our home never even looked remotely like that!  So I was determined, when I grew up, my home would be a replica of his. That desire lasted very shortly, about the time I decided a rockin’ Christmas had more to do with other things than lighting up!  

The first house I moved into I was pregnant with my second baby on the way. I was twenty and already had a two year old child, Mike. My baby, or rather one to come shortly was due at Christmas.  The name I had picked out was Christopher, so sure it would be a boy born on the 25th of December.  We were moving to Northern Kentucky from Cincinnati, Ohio to our dream starter home, a bi-level house spending every last penny we had and borrowing enough to make a down payment.  The neighborhood was small in comparison to many nearby and everyone appeared to know each other there so we assumed we would fit right in.    

Our real estate agent failed to inform us our community was in the news practically every Christmas. Yes, we had landed in the Christmas Street of the city and county! It might have been nice to know so we could have budgeted for this.  So, here we are, first new home, struggling just to buy lawn hose, lawn mower, curtains, curtain rods, etc. thus Christmas lights and elaborate decorations for the outside of the house was low on the priority list.

Little did we know we were going to be targeted by the neighbors and fodder for gossip. It began getting filtered back to us by the very few that spoke to us.  We were seeing neighbors working diligently outside mounting things on their homes, stringing lights for hours, items appearing in their yard but I didn’t pay a great deal of attention. I had a small child I was running after and a painful back from a baby in an odd position in my belly. 

One night as we are sitting in our family room, we realize it is lit up in our house like a Christmas tree even though ours isn’t up yet. Approaching the window my husband yells at me to come look. Damn if the entire street isn’t loaded with more lights than Wally World has in inventory during the entire holiday season! And the creatures on the lawn and on the roof tops are too numerous to count. There were baby Jesus’s that had multiplied like rabbits as well as North Stars, snowmen and Rudolphs up to 3 feet above homes! 

As we stepped outside our front door we were met with another shocker, a sign hung across the entire street. It hung from one chimney to the other chimney’s house two neighbors living directly across from each other. It was made in big squares with each square containing letters and held together by a chain above it.  It read Happy New Year with Christmas icon pictures painted in huge colors so that each box was filled to cover the entire street with boxes.  We later learned each huge square was made water proof.  The sign was lined with lights so it was viewable at night quite well! Walking down the street we saw the other side said, as you drove up the street, Merry Christmas.

The entire street was like walking down the Las Vegas strip, as light as in the day, full of color and diversity of personality, except for our bleak looking black house, looking like we belonged in the projects.  I walked my wobbling fat bottom back up the hill to my house, leaving my husband gaping with his mouth wide open behind. I wanted to hide in the shadow of our house.

It wasn’t but a few nights later, I begun to hate those neighbors.  My son, Mike was a very light sleeper who woke up when he heard the heater kick on at night. Well, to add to the Christmas cheer, the neighbors blasted Christmas music for all the cars that began hitting our street, stopping and walking it. There was young and old. There were cars stopping on all sides, blocking driveways so if you went anywhere you couldn’t get back in your driveway until you found where the car blocking your driveway was and the same was true when you wanted to leave.  As I was having cravings, this made it rough when I had ice cream or pickle cravings.  Imagine being pregnant under these circumstances.

The music played every night from 6 p.m. to midnight.  So the only time I got a break from my dear son was gone!  He was either frequently caught peeking out the window at the throes of people outside or whining about having to listen to Santa is coming to Town every night at least 10 times, asking me to make it stop!  Our weak TV couldn’t over blast it.  

That Christmas, our first year in a home, I saw how Christmas lights can become a competition as the neighbors constantly talked of what they were adding the following year. When one wasn’t outdoors, the others would talk about how they were going to outdo each other. I was glad to know that no one was talking about how to outdo me!  I made sure, from that Christmas on, that was never a problem! Decorate by never being the one everyone on the street hates.

As Christmas drew near, my spirit began to soar. I put my Christmas candy in candy dishes being a candyahlic, requiring a lot less working than climbing ladders stringing lights all over the dang house and roof. When I came home from church one Saturday night, my husband and I noted the dish was empty.  As we looked at our dog, Max, our golden retriever had a few pieces of red and green foil stuck on his doggie collar. There was a chocolate thief in the house!  And you know what the means?  Someone is going to made piles of a chocolate mess all over the floor!

So, thank God for the light works on the street because our vet informed us for the next 3 hours we had to take turns walking him up and down the street.  This drudgery was to be done until he either vomited it up or pooped it out. Max never did either but enjoyed the lengthy walk.  To this day, I have no idea what happened. He never developed diarrhea but I, in my pregnancy state, developed severe leg cramps as we lived on a steep hill.   I swear that dog was laughing the entire time manipulating us to get the longest walk of his life out of us.  Bah humbug, I never bought those damn chocolate mint Christmas bells again!

Finally Christmas arrived and no baby.  But I knew the days of hearing Christmas music playing all hours of the night would be behind us so that was cause to celebrate. Too often, the neighbors were forgetting to turn it off and we were hearing the music in the wee a.m. hours now! 

Bright and early Christmas morning, our doorbell rang. You know how the early hour is, you are in your pajamas, your hair looks like you were in a wild windstorm, and you look half-awake.  My husband and I looked at each other. We both were challenging each, who is going to address the door, and also wondering who comes to the door that early on Christmas morning.  So, for some reason, we both headed that way as Max ran to the door. We knew one of us would have to hold him back as his Merry Christmas would be a wet kiss regardless of the absence of mistletoe.


Opening the door, expecting one person, we were shocked. On the other side was a group of what appeared carolers. But no, this congregation was about 10 neighbors, all looking
wide awake and bushy tailed saying Merry Christmas!  They said as new neighbors they wanted to give us a gift and held out a package for us to open. My husband then gave me the honors. As I opened it thinking maybe I had somewhat misjudged them as being way too much into Christmas.  With the first tear, I realized my gut is a good judge for staring me in the face was a box of Christmas lights. My husband was slapped on the back with a “Now there is no excuse for you next year to get your house all decked out with lights, here’s your first strand to get your going Mike, Happy New Year bud!”  And with that, they walked away.  I smiled at him and said “Merry Christmas Chevy!”  

11/22/2017

Caribbean Cruise Fun - Part 2


Continuing my reflections on a recent cruise:




On the Grand Caymen Island the most common adventure seems to be the stingrays. Signs around call it  Stingray City. So not to miss out on the experience we boarded a boat to see
what we had missed all our life. We went in shallow water with our fellow tourists and stood in a small circle as stingrays swam all around us and between us. Such an odd feeling and I tried to clear my mind of Steve Irwin. We were told not to react or move even though this large creepy creatures were swarming all around us as our leaders were feeding them so they would feast in our area.  They said the worst thing we could do was everyone’s first inclination, run away, back to the ship.  

On the agenda was for each of us to take turns holding one while one of the crew held it and then we were to kiss the underneath belly side of the stingray. The reason for kissing a stingray is legend has it that it will bring you seven years of good luck. Okay, I did it but how gross did that feel, that slimy skin.  Oh and that side is right by the mouth.
 Petting it was rather odd, though many said how cute. I am not sure that is the adjective that came to mind but I am an animal lover at heart.  As I turned around, after my turn of kissing said creature,  while one man held one, he placed it up against my back and it climbed up to my neck while he said “whoa” and I tried to remain calm. That was the weirdest feeling!

Another crew member gave me a squid piece and told me to hold its dead head away from my hands a few inches under water so a sting ray could suck it out like a vacuum. Keep in
mind this is the same woman who hates handling worms on a fishing hook.  Can you even imagine my face handling dead squid and waiting for a huge stingray to come back and suck it literally out of my hand?  The crew member walked away quickly leaving me standing there with a dead squid in my hand as stingrays began encircling me. My husband began shaking his head letting me know in no uncertain terms he was not taking it from me!  So I dipped my hand down, multiple times, with my eyes side open cringing and not once did one grab it. Each time I was waiting to have my hand gobbled up. A few times I hear a few folks in the water get slight stings.  After a few of them swarming around  began either caressing my legs and seeming to suck on them, I was adequately freaked out enough to hunt down another man on our ship and literally say “Take this squid, I am heading back to our boat!  I had had enough.”  As I headed for the boat, my husband trailed letting me know the stingrays were trailing after me. It did not matter, I wasn’t looking back by then, making a beeline to the ladder and figured I’d admire them from the safety of the ship. Apparently the delicacy of the squid smell, I was told, must have been hanging on my legs.  How wonderful.

The snorkeling stops were next and were unbelievable and so beautiful in Grand Caymen! So many fish and coral to view!  I must admit this was a highlight and the area we were allowed to explore expansive. Exactly what a snorkeling excursion should be. The last one was over wreckage providing plenty of nooks and crannies to find creatures’ large and small hiding that you might not otherwise see in the ocean.

Showtimes on the ship are 7:30 and 9:30 every night. Doors open one half hour in advance. It never fails people show up late or right within five minutes of start time and obstruct others view.  One night as we are sitting behind friends, a couple decides to sit to the left of them, dead center in the middle of the row just a few minutes before the show. They inform our friends they are saving seats for a group coming shortly. As time ticks away slowly people come to the row, and each time, every one of the eight in the group we know have to repeatedly stand up to let each person walk past them. By the time the fourth came past, it became quite funny as our group were growing frustrated. 

One finally asks the initial couple if they know how many more people are coming so they know how many more times they are going to have to stand up with their drinks. It is starting to look like a Catholic Mass and the entire row we are sitting in is laughing by now. The latecomer tells them t she is not sure.  One suggests the next time they come earlier or sit closer to the end!  Finally the either simply stand and are left there for five more minutes while folks dwindle in over that timeframe into the first few minutes of the introduction of the show as more people come from that group.  People are just plain rude.   Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean you ignore etiquette.

Next the port of Aruba.  When we boarded this catamaran, immediately the full sails went up and we were booking it faster than ever. We had high winds and it was so memorable and
the shoreline was well within view. This part of the excursion was gratifying! The crew explained post snorkeling we were allowed to drink from an open bar they would operate.  However, immediately after telling us, we all noticed they were pounding down the drinks themselves. It was hilarious to see a crew drinking and driving on the high seas without pirate hats on!  Were we witnesses to their blasphemy?  The irony of paying to be on a tour where we are being served water as a crew guide drinks liquor was not lost on me!


 In Aruba, the snorkeling was exactly what nobody wants to do, be in a traffic jam in the water. This is when a crew puts you in a small area with tons of people where you can literally not swim with your legs straight without kicking each other. The space was so small several folks got out of the water within five minutes due to crammed quarters. 
Again, I am long-legged for a woman, a former basket-ball player in high school so suffer right along with the men in the boat. I found my way to the perimeter by found quickly ropes anchoring our boat and a few other boats in the area impede your movements, haha! And were beyond where we were supposed to go as several crew members yelled at me and a few others that dared to go that far from the mass crowd that looked like Black Friday in the water.

Finally one of the crew members on the boat jumped in and pulled the borders out beyond another boat and allowed us to move beyond. I think they realized someone was going to drown a few folks so they could move, whether intentional or accidental. Plus, how do you keep track of head counts in the water with all that congestion?  It really had no effect and it was the shortest snorkel experience I ever had but the viewing was nice. 


The ride to the beaches in Aruba was short but the time at the beach was splendid. The beaches are some of the prettiest I have ever seen! There could never be enough time there because the water is so clear.  I will forever hold that memory dear!  The beaches lined with tiki huts and beauty as far as the eye can see.


One night I experienced the rockiest night on the ocean ever. Everyone was walking as if they were drunk. This was the only night in the entire vacation you could truly not separate the sober from the not. The waves were so heavy they were creating white tops on the ocean.  I quickly learned that I do not experience sea sickness any longer. Everyone walked down the hallways zig zagging so much that it was quick easy entertainment to literally open your door and stare down the hallway.   You could only go up or down the stairs holding the guardrails or risk falling over.  It was pretty funny to see the dance crew that night perform live and have some unexpected tumbles with some added giggles.

Bonaire was where we had trained to be, biking 5-6 miles a day. We picked a biking expedition that had electric bikes knowing we would have assistance, lots of it as the ride
was 20 miles around half of the island. However, surprises were in store for us!  When we arrived, after being transported to where the bikes were housed (!) the bikes electric was only a slight assistance and we would be pedaling the entire time.  And the ride was 25 miles!  OMG was my immediate and frequent response. 

As we started, for some reason, my husband and I opted to be the last in line as we started our trek and our guide, who was lucky enough to get to ride in his truck said we must ride single file. If anyone had a problem, they were to raise their hand and he would be looking out for them. The bikes had a feature where you could raise the level of the power of the electric motor to help assist you from 0 to 6.  Onward we started with a horrible headwind as he had forewarned us.

As luck would have it, who in the group landed up with a bike malfunctioning? That would be moi!  Yes, my bike’s button would not work so as everyone else is using assisted motors mine is stuck on 0 traveling for over a mile or two with a strong headwind trying to pedal as fast as everyone else. We are in heavy traffic as my husband is trying to shout sensing something is wrong with my bike, since I am waving backwards at him. Once we hit the outsides of town, some 4 miles out and the rest of the group is well out of sight and he has been raising his hand upwards to no avail to our trusted leader, he motions for me to pull over. He finds a small button that he can use his pocket knife to knock on my electric motor but he can only get it up to level 3 or it bounces back to 0.  Onward we go pulling back on to the road to attempt to catch up pedaling as if we are in the Great Race or the Tour de France. Unbelievably this is where our conditioning comes in and we actually manage to get within eye sight of the last biker after several more miles and finally the tour guide truck has, by then, pulled the entire group over to see what happened to us! 

As we are met with angry faces of other bikers because we apparently slowed down their
methodical ride, we are then told that my bike was just picked up from the shop the night before. Oh, and the real clincher, the guide informs me that he had not had time to check it out to see if it was working.  I glance at my husband to see his nostrils flaring. Somehow, after much finagling between him and my husband they get the electric motor to a level 4 and he tells me not to touch it and flag him if it moves. For the remainder of all those miles, no matter how strong the head wind was, unlike other riders, I could not elevate to a 5 or 6. And when it dropped I had to ride until we could get his attention to pump it back up. Note: with miles separating the front rider from the back riders and a curvy road, what do you think the chances were of him seeing our hands up in the air signaling to pull over?   I am forever grateful my husband stayed behind me so I was not stranded or I would still be out there pedaling without moving forward in that headwind! As we headed back onto that cruise ship, we asked each other “How great are we?”   Back in Florida, we find our measly 5-6 miles biking is a total piece of cake now!


Our toilet had a little problem towards the end of our trip. And apparently our next door neighbors did too as we heard the plumbing crew working on theirs also, loud swishing sounds or rather whoosh at odd times of the day and night. The first time it happened we had returned to our cabin after a night out and argued over who had gone in there last and forgot to flush!  When it didn’t work after pushing the cute little button several times to no avail, we had to call Housekeeping.

Waiting for someone to come up, not knowing they could access it without entering the room, we found ourselves at midnight lying on our bed fully clothed in formal clothes for an hour!  And the whole time we weren’t sure if we should be laughing or frustrated. After the third time it stopped up in four days, we thought about buying our neighbors a drink to commiserate the misery of the plugged toilet issue as we were trading the issue. Note: we had the bonus of unlimited drinks on the cruise so it would not have been a budget stretch to buy them anything they wanted at the bar! Perhaps the next batch of travelers were lucky and not backed up with a clogged john.

The adventure of going to 5 ports over 11 days was an experience for sure!  Each had its
own unique personality and showed a different sort of culture of the people living there. The
one thing that is hard on a cruise is the short time in port limits the time you spend there so
you get to see but a snapshot. Having said that, at some, that is all you may want to see!  We enjoyed each of them for varying reasons!  I would have liked more time at all of them though. Call me a lover of the Caribbean islands I suppose! All in all, it was a fun funny filled adventure I remember for a lifetime!


.




11/18/2017

Caribbean Cruise Critique - Part 1


Norwegian Jade

What fun is a Caribbean cruise if you can’t share parts of the experience with others!  So as I stepped on the majestic midsize ship for an eleven day trip to 5 ports, I knew I was going to reflect back on it when I stepped off.  This was going to be a new experience for me, being in 5 ports in 11 days with plenty of material good, bad and well, you judge!

My mornings must not begin without my drug of choice, chai tea. Off I would go to my quickly found Java Coffee Station promptly before breakfast!  This is a religious experience
Java Coffee but I called it
Java Hut, missing from pic:
my Fav Bartender!
for me and anyone traveling with me quickly finds it is a Godsend I get there. On this trip, no matter how early I hit the stand, I seemed to be the only one ordering caffeinated morning drinks. Everyone else was in line with requests for Bloody Mary’s, Daiquiris, and Mai Tais. Apparently, drinking alcohol has no time limits for folks on cruise ships.  The staff and I often exchanged mutual looks of wondering why in the world people can’t wait till after 8:00 am to drink alcohol!

Speaking of eating breakfast, the service is quite unbelievable on the smaller sized cruise ships.  Every time I went in the line to eat and sat down, once completed, my dishes were promptly removed from the table. The only problem with this was if I blinked they were removed. If I put down my silverware, apparently that was the signal I was done eating and out of nowhere, a waiter in white suddenly appeared and whisked my hard earned carefully picked food selections away!  My husband and I literally had to guard our plates if one of us so much as leaned over to reach for a lost napkin or God forbid got up from the table to refresh a drink! However, having service this exceptional was wonderful.

Our cabin, for the first time, was an inside room, thereby much smaller. Anyone that knows me well is well aware that I have very long legs.  Well, bluntly put the bathrooms are teeny. More to the point, if I sat on the commode with my legs in front of me, my knees were locked on the wall. If I huge wave were to come and topple over the ship, I need not fear falling off the seat because I would be literally lodged on the seat. I had to sit sideways like anyone over 5’9” did if they didn’t want their legs rubbing on the wall. In fact, if I wanted to, I could brush my teeth, while on the john and possibly wash my hair in the shower. I suppose this is considered convenient but I found it a bit cramped. But I adapted, with a purchase of Ben Gay!

Don't laugh, you are looking
at the bathroom!
The actual room is said to sleep four.   Yes, the bed centered in the room with just barely enough room to shimmy sideways on the side is considered ‘roomy’! Hanging on the wall, on my side was a big box that contained a bed that would fold down if needed to sleep two more, God forbid. As if I was not claustrophobic enough, this arrangement would have done me in, if it had been used!  If down and in place, not only would I have no room to move my arm to the side without hitting the side wall, any time I lifted my head, I would have hit the bed up top of me.  The oxygen would be cut to a minimum.   Add the motion of the ocean, help me!  And they definitely would not be allowed to have sex up there!

Oh, one night I got sick on a meal and was vomiting through the night. I kept fighting it and asking my husband for nausea meds. He slept thru the requests and by the time he heard me and was getting up to get them, I told him to forget it. On my mad dash to the commode, I nearly took him out, as the room is small.  It was hard to miss him as he seemed to be throwing a basketball pick. My usual way of dealing with nausea is to sleep on the floor of the bathroom. Can you guess the problem?  My tall body could not, would NOT fit on the floor of the bathroom, not in any form of crunching up, even in a fetal position!  So I was forced to make mad runs, actually hop or skips, while lying at the base of the bed.

Every time you turn around in the evening, there are photographers wanting to take your
My husband and I with one of our favorite photographers
picture. They are like peddlers on the street, stopping in front of you saying things like “Don’t you want to capture this moment?” “You look so beautiful.”
  Anything to get a pose, translation, more proofs to get you to spend money on prints you may never look at again but will feel compelled to buy. And so, you stand in the posed positions that look perfectly posed, with the same outfits that look like you were on a cruise ship and at the end of it, drop money on those images you will never look at again. Who is the bigger fool, the photographer or you?

As with most luxury cruise ships, there is an on sea spa treatment center. As a treat for my anniversary, my husband splurged and purchased me a deep stone massage.  In walks petite Zimik, a Korean woman who looks shorter than I was at birth.  I quickly learned her hands were as strong as Goliath. I had previously asked her to not give me a hard pressure massage and she said she would go easy. Thank God because at times I was certain, being on blood thinner, my body would be bruised in the morning from her touch.

I had told her I am a chronic migraine sufferer and thus, have a sensitive head. I guessed I reminded her of someone she despised because her deep rubs to my head were mind-blowing, and not in a good way. I had a friend tell me afterwards I should have told her. At the time, I could not think of anything except of the hammer on my head!

I must admit the clanging of the hot stones and the feel of them on my body was the coolest feeling in the world!  She had me convinced they had helped draw out and release not only the toxins in my body but the evil demons.  This was the refreshing part until her demonic side came out, her unrelenting sales pitch where she began telling me to properly remove my toxins I would need a treatment daily of $195 each  for the 11 day cruise plus an acupuncture treatment.  The good news was that “George” the acupuncture doctor would only charge me $145 for his. I was so touched to get offered such a deal, certainly worth rescheduling our excursions to rid myself of toxins.  But when she explained many would involve seaweed I decided I would get plenty of that on my snorkeling excursions so bypassed the treatments.


We learned new lingo in Jamaica and got quizzed on it by our tour guide regularly.   Everything must be followed with “Yeah man!”  If you want to say no, you must say “Eh-eh” with a bit of a grunt.  “No problem” is often said because nothing is an issue there.  And the last important thing to remember is all tourists are told to come back next week, continually and by everyone!  The folks there are the friendliest funniest group, great culture!  The poverty though is striking which makes it surprising that everyone says no problem.  

Jamaica was my first zip lining experience and what an eye-opener, in more than one way. I was so grateful for my psychology degree. First, due to the guides and the lead trainer enjoying our group, they had us do a record nine lines that day so it was one after another with not nearly enough water breaks though! The drop off the platform each time was the scariest part for me. We had one woman who was every man’s fantasy girl, she screamed all the way through from start to finish, every single time! The rest of us were amazed at her stamina for the yelling! What a trouper!  I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit I followed her and didn’t make a sound.

We learned far too much about our crew that day. Thanks to my amazing ability to ask questions and draw people out of their shell and confide in me we learned the drama in
Zip Crew lady telling me partially
married! lol! 
their 
lives. Once the Pandora’s Box was opened, can I just say, it could not be closed?  The head trainer was in the process of getting divorced, from the only female crew member.  Yes, and that explained why they were never at the same station nor speaking to each other. The guy that called himself Big John and certainly looked like it claimed he was the reason and even I had enough sense not to ask any further questions on this claim!  Another one of our crew that I was silly enough to ask why he looked so down was just dumped by the love of his life for the past five years. Is that enough of the drama we learned that day? Well it wasn’t! Once they learned I had an empathetic ear, high above the ground on NINE lines everyone was unloading on me and the rest of our group was laughing their asses off enjoying the entertainment of a real life reality show! By the way, we only tipped the lady and the man getting divorced but not Big John as we felt he musta played a part in their marriage woes! 

After zipping down the lines, we took a nice long downhill walk
Hidden from view, I am soaked in full clothes here
and with one sprained toe, possibly broken said ship Dr!
that seemed more like a jog where brakes were needed. Across the street was a waterfall with a pool at the base. One guide told me to take his hand and look at his face as I stepped into the pool, fully clothed with nothing removed but my shoes and socks. Splat, that was me going down on my behind! My toe hit a raised rock edge and rolled back, quite painfully leaving me with either a broken or sprained toe. The worst part was I had to put back on my tennis shoe and walk back up that horrendous mountain of a hill to return to the jeep to return back to town. Ouch or stronger language was emitted frequently on the return trip. But, it was worth the zipping but my mouth did not remain zipped!



Samuel aka Kirk, known to take off shirt if helps open gates for
passing thru properties he needs to cross! Added benefit for
female tourists! 

Hitting Curacao was just the most picturesque views; everywhere you looked was a picture for the house in the making!  It was impossible to capture the true beauty of the island.  And our guide, who was named after Captain Kirk of Star Trek looked like anybody but Kirk was quickly, renamed Samuel by me. Early on, I got everyone in our small group calling him Samuel, even he went with it!  As we progressed along a rocky terrain to the area of the island owned by the government uninhabited we were taught about the history of the island and the plant life. Samuel had his hands full too with a jeep full of pranksters and wise crackers that he never knew what was coming out next. He learned to roll with it quickly.

As bikers were approaching our jeep, innocently one in our crew didn’t see them. She had a piece of fruit Samuel had cut off a cactus.  She strong armed it behind her nailing one of the

bikers dead on in the chest!  His hand went up with a non-friendly gesture with angry shouts as we yelled at Samuel to step on it. He did not knowing what his tourists had done now. Further up the road, I informed him and he, once the shock wore off, laughed hysterically. We told him he was going to get arrested or have to bail us out. He decided to continue fueling us with fruit so that we could attempt to hit more bikers along the route for the remainder of the tour. Apparently he liked living on the wild side as much as us!


With that I think I need to give you all a break from reading my reflections of 11 days cruising. Honestly, by the fourth port, I forgot which island I was on!  And to make matters worse, I had so many beautiful colored drinks, it was getting stressful to know which one to order at the bar. Oh, such is life of a cruiser. Heck one lady had been on that particular boat for 60 days! Too much for me. My liver, sense of balance and blog readers would need a break, like right about now!  Be back on soon! 

*Both ports are beautiful to visit but Curacao is a must see on your Bucket List*

11/04/2017

The Last Petal



She may seem breakable
 Like a ceramic doll,
Even fall apart
 With one heart-breaking phone call.

But those who know her
 Intimately over the years,
Have seen her crumble
 And wipe away her tears.

She is filled with such strength
 That many do not possess,
And the fire within her
 Is never completely at rest.

Her life has been filled with challenges
 Of hurts, hurdles and those who let her down,
But not one has prevented her
 From picking herself up off the ground.

For to be a quitter
 Isn’t her protocol.
She always comes back
 Standing tall!

You can see shattered glass,
 Someone broken with pieces amiss,
But you would be missing,
 God’s ability to give ladders to those in abyss.

She has an ability
 To see through the bull,
She may not say a word
 But this woman’s no fool.
  
So judge not the petal
 That is the last one on the vine,
For the last one hanging
 May be the one most divine. 

11/03/2017

Optional Cruise


I think, after packing for a cruise I am opting for a clothing optional one next time! I don’t care what anyone says, even packing the essentials is stressful, especially on a longer length cruise. By the time everything is piled up on the bed and you examine the size of the cabin,  reality sets in.  This pile of garbage is never going to fit in that small box of a room and leave you room to sleep and maneuver without you standing out in the hallway to change clothes. So why bring any? Note: If in hallway, please look out for room steward so as not to shock him with your nudity while changing!

I started out with a very positive attitude packing for my 11 day cruise.  Even though it is business casual for dinner, why not dress up for dinners. Seemed like a great idea since it is a vacation on a fancy boat and picture opportunities are everywhere. But looking at the back of my door, reality set it. I have just enough girly girl in me to want to do the matchy matchy gig.  Women know what that means, starting with the dress, jewelry, shoes and hair accessories, if worn must coordinate.  With a two week cruise, the odds of all being worn more than twice were slim so all the sudden I feel like somebody’s personal shopper.  Hell no comes out of my mouth quickly and casual outfits overtake the idea of fancy spancy.

When did hair and beauty become so complicated?  Why do women have so much product to use on their hair and face?  I think the au naturelle look if one opted for a naked cruise would be the best choice!  It would complement the body well! And the luggage would be so much lighter.  Instead, I sit among a sea of lipsticks, eye shadows, mousses and of course my specialty shampoos that cannot be left at home wondering why is my bathroom so complicated. How can I transport it to a bathroom that is the size of my refrigerator without walls?

I kinda like what my neighbor Pat said to me this morning, buy it.  Pack what you want and buy the rest. But, again, if clothing was optional, why would there be a need to buy much of anything. Think about it for a moment, why cover up when no one else is?  You would look like the odd one, the nerd! 

Why were men not born with a keen sense of color?  Anyone married knows part of the job of packing is matching outfits for the husbands. God forbid you’d get on a cruise, walk out to dinner and the man you are with has on green shirts with a red shirt!  Oh, and we all have seen it.  Call it a daring fashion statement but it is a sorry bloke who got no help packing! 

Undergarments are the easiest part to pack, grab ‘em and run!  Count them and off you go. Thank God there is one part of packing that is easy.  Because every other part is stress-city! 

Shoes kill me.  I try to limit the number I pack because they take up room but they have to be comfortable and conform to your clothing.  And there has to be a variety.  Shoes seem to be the one thing too, you don’t want to have buy on a trip.  I wonder, on a clothing optional trip, what shoes you wear. I suppose, being naked, dress shoes are out so you are wearing flip flops, don’t you think? I mean anything more might look abit overdone, hence that makes packing easy. Zero options.

Men, it is clear from talking to several, bring all of their swimming trunks. This consists of two!  I can’t recall ever having only two bathing suits! Wow, would that make packing easy!   Women need to vary for tanning lines, different looks, mood swings, you know, all sorts of reasons.  We have the sexy ones, the practical looking ones, the barely there, the too tight, too lose, the old ones that should be pitched but are just hard to say good-bye to and the “I feel fat” day ones.  On vacation, I prefer to bring the ones that make me feel 20 years younger than I am. Too bad none of those exist!

Let’s call it daywear for the clothes you pack to put on for excursions and days at sea when you aren’t romping around in your bathing suit. Here we go again with the matching game, shorts and shirts. If you’re smart you pick solids on one end, top or bottom, to make your life easier! I gave up trying to match up jewelry for these outfits during the days and instead found throwing things in a jewelry bag for an in-house game of basketball was much easier and put an element of fun and chance into packing.  


There are so many other miscellaneous things to pack that it is like being a project manager who isn’t getting paid for doing a superb job. Your only reward is spending the first day of vacation recovering.  However, back to my main point, clothing optional cruises would enable you to truly enjoy each and every day of the vacation without this added hassle.  Before you Deep Six this idea, ask yourself would you rather be evaluated on your clothing when on a vacation or just focus on just having fun?