allergies, asthma, and aha’s

i was close to twenty years old, living in Hawaii and JUST found out that i had allergies. nothing severe, but enough to make springtime in the island of aloha slightly more annoying than beautiful. for the first time ever, i discovered MY sinus, where it was located and that it was the source of a great deal of distress. dis-STRESS! and it was another ten years before i experienced my first asthma attack. again, nothing major. it came with a bout of bronchitis that had me down for a week. i may have used my aunts inhaler a few times over the next two days. in the long run, it seems i was lucky.

that luck has come in pretty handy when dealing with the one and only SuperBoy! being the parent of a child with allergies is rough business. i am unable to imagine how i could be helpful to him if i didn’t have firsthand experience. that’s not to say that those without allergies or asthma are of no assistance, just that it provides a level of “comfort in knowledge” for he and i. i have more comfort asking him about his pains and ailments and am more able to help him define the specifics of what’s going on.

while mild for me, allergies and asthma are very serious where SuperBoy is concerned. he has been in anaphylactic shock three times, hospitalized on three occasions for other allergy related ailments, and spent the better part of his six years being triaged, diagnosed and treated in emergency rooms, urgent care centers and doctors offices. i have spent his college fund and any vacation monies on prescription and over-the-counter medications. this is, in fact, why i call him SuperBoy. he’s a trooper. he takes it all in stride and embraces the reality of his condition. he doesn’t resist much (‘cept SHOTS) and is quite charming, as always.

today, SuperBoy saw a pulmonologist! a certified professional assessor of breathing (and asthma and allergies as they pertain). she is an amazing doctor who started our visit with a quick handshake and an immediate verbal interaction with my son. he was a bit bashful today and so we moved quickly into the “getting to know you” phase. she simply stated “i see he has a strong history, tell me all about it, I’M HERE FOR YOU NOW“. and that, my friends is what’s known as bedside manner! needless to say, she had the obvious knowledge and experience of someone who’s been helping children breathe and improving their quality of life for as long as i’ve been breathing and alive. her words brought me an instant feeling of compassion and understanding. she’d read his history (as requested of me with the intake paperwork) but exhibited a real interest in the QUALITY of my son’s life.

i led her through the milestones and major events of SuperBoy’s amazing existence. all the while she took notes but rarely took her eyes off of us. she asked what she wanted to know but already knew the answers. she kept her eye on him and soon asked him join her at the examination table. still bashful, he resisted, but she appealed to his gentlemanliness with requests for assistance in opening some drawers that doubled as steps. SuperBoy can’t resist a damsel in distress! she examined him and listened thoroughly to his breathing (remember? he had bronchitis two weeks ago, and the stomach flu last week). she spoke briefly with a young resident (medical school intern student person along for the ride) and returned to the chair next to me. again, she floored me with her understanding of us (i paraphrase):

he’s a good boy. handsome obviously, and smart. his lungs sound good. clear. he has been fortunate, he’s had some good doctors, BUT HE HAS A GOOD MOM. the doctors have guided you along the way, as they should, but you’ve done a good job making the right choices for him and you. my job is only to assist you further in maintaining a good quality of life for him in which he can be a child, be a boy, play and do sports and you’re both comfortable. we need to change a few medications and tweak a few things and it will all go smoothly. we will test his allergies and find out where he stands and keep an eye on everything. tests can only tell us this or that. but what you see with your eyes and what you know is what is true. what you experience is what is true. ok mom, let’s go over his medicine.

a weight was lifted. a weight i’ve been carrying for almost six years. you can never hear “you’re a good mom” enough. i believe the words but have doubts, as i think most parents do. i’ve been told by family, friends, coworkers and other doctors, but this time it really soothed my soul. i’ve spent so much time and energy worrying about my choices to limit certain foods and activities. questioning my own judgement calls. this lady is a doctor of breathing! and she gave me kudos for keeping my son breathing. it was the best pat on the back i’ve received in a looooooong time.

after changing pounds to kilograms, she tweaked his prescriptions, gave me a list of medicines to swap out, requested a phone book sized list of tests, showed me a short video and had her nurse demonstrate a few things, we were on our way. before leaving, i was given the option to request any additional foods to test for allergies. an option? for me??? i’ve been waiting for this!! for three long years!!! to pick and suggest things that iiiiiiiiiii think could be affecting him. happy happy! joy joy!!

perhaps (at this point) you’re (a little) unaware that this may possibly have been the best doctors appointment for me where my sons allergies and asthma are concerned. THE. BEST. after almost six years of battling allergies and asthma, after three long years of dealing with food allergies and reactions, after years of colds turned bronchitis within hours, years of missing school and work and fun — we have someone telling us that not only could it not have been avoided, but that we have been doing the right things all along. HALLELUJAH! she requested a follow-up visit in three months to assess her assessment.

being sick can be hard. having asthma and allergies is harder. and caring for yourself during those times is nothing less than excruciating. caring for a child who is sick because of asthma, allergies and food allergies is one of the most painful things a parent can endure. it’s a sit and wait type deal. you have to watch everything they eat and come in contact with, while trying to keep them as normal as possible. you have to teach them how to protect themselves and deny themselves yummy treats if you’re not there to examine and approve said yumminess. and if something does happen, you do what you’ve been trained to do and then you have to wait. wait for the reaction, wait for the medication to set in, wait for the breathing treatment to work. wait wait wait. all while involved in a life or death situation.

as the parent of a child with life threatening allergic reactions…. you worry, you question and you fear the worst, everyday. you arm your little one with emergency medications, information, phone numbers and the like. and still, you worry. if you’re lucky, you get a doctor who can explain it to you in a way that makes you comfortable, yet informed and prepared. if you’re luckier, you get a doctor who says “don’t worry, you’ve been doing it right all along”. this was that doctor for me and this was that day.

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my first, my little man, my SuperBoy.

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bah, humbug!

that’s right, i’m a scrooge. i don’t deny it. but it’s not that simple, let me explain… it’s october second and i can see christmas decorations. of this, i am not pleased.

my earliest holiday memories included the last quarter of the year. we would bid g’bye to the summer with a labor day bash and settle in for the winter with family, friends, fires and festivities. the seasons would (actually) change, the leaves would fall and that was the cue… that the holidays were to begin. october brought us halloween. candy and costumes! what’s not to love, right? november would peek in and before you know it, we’d all be gathered together for thanksgiving!! more family, friends and food. snow would fall (somewhere, it’s too hot where i live) and december would bring the best holiday of them all: christmas. more family, friends and food — but this time, with GIFTS! and since you all know me so well, you know i’ve always looked forward to the new year. not really the year as much the party to issue in the new year. but these days.. i just want to change the calendar and move on. i’m frustrated by the holiday season and it bothers me.

i spent the larger part of my childhood with my grandmother in a sweet little suburban southern california town. she had a group home for developmentally disabled men. there were no less than six of us in the house during those years. she cooked breakfast lunch and dinner for all of us, everyday. by herself. she also entertained the larger part of our extended family for the holiday seasons. she was an excellent grandmother and she excelled at all things in the awesome homemaker category (i could be a little biased).

we decorated the house for halloween as conservative as possible. usually just two carved pumpkins at the top of the stairs leading to our front door. sometimes with that spiderwebby stuff. on halloween night, my gramma would open one of the windows and play a spooky halloween record — you know the one with the creaky door, the ghost moans and chains.  good stuff.  classic. we always had our porch light on, we always gave out candy and she always let me go trick-or-treating door-to-door as long as i remembered to stay away from “those” houses. which houses? it’s hard to say… my grandmother had an innate sense of OHHELLNO and didn’t like certain things for her own reasons. i think i have it too.  but either way, halloween tradition carried on until the bestie and i determined that we were too old to go. saying goodbye to october meant november! and thanksgiving!!!

thanksgiving was a situation. it was intense. my grandmother would start her round of calls early in the month to check in with the family and find out who’s doing what. she would pull the dinnerware from the shelves and cabinets and start in on the cleaning and polishing. that’s right!! polishing the silver. a lost art, if you ask me. such a time consuming chore, so full of detail but the reward that comes with a full table, completely set and everything aglow with it’s own shine and sparkle is worth it (again, if you ask me). it obviously was to her.

the days of november would dwindle. my gramma would collect her head count and about a week before, there was the shopping. the mountainous, endless, heavy, grocery shopping. the menu never varied so the list was always the same. she would put everything away, count the sleeping spaces, wash the linens and prepare herself for thanksgiving week.

tuesday of thanksgiving week was beginning prep: the cleaning, pruning, and dicing of any and all ingredients. tuesday evening she would bake a pan of cornbread, the size of a twin-sized bed, to the most beautiful golden brown with dark edges and burnt corners. she would set it out to cool, always scooping a corner out for herself to “try”.  wednesday was when the kitchen really started movin’… for this was the day she made DESSERTS!! sweet lord baby jesus the desserts!! again, always the same: peach cobbler (mmm!), sweet potato pie (mmm!), pecan pie (mmm!), lemon ice box pie (mmm!) and POUND CAKE (i just had a heart attack!). sadly, there weren’t many dessert leftovers. she would end the day by greeting the over-nighters, helping them get settled and finally putting the turkey in the oven.

on thanksgiving day, my gramma would be up before the sun. i don’t think she slept much as she would get up periodically to baste and check the turkey. when the rest of the house was brushing it’s teeth, she would be assembling all of the  need-to-stay-cold items. and from there it was nothing less than master chef. she really was amazing:

  • turkey with giblet (eww!) gravy
  • a HAM! (with cloves and pineapples, and NOT from honey baked)
  • sage cornbread dressing (i would slap you r’now for some)
  • mashed potatoes (lump free!)
  • green beans
  • corn
  • okra (uhh, i don’t like okra)
  • cornbread (but i DO love cornbread)
  • dinner rolls
  • cranberry sauce (i like the cranberry salsa or chutney or something that the bestie’s dear sweet aunt ruth used to serve with pillsbury crescent rolls)
  • waldorf and carrot & raisin salads (fruit +  mayo = wth?)
  • black eyed peas (occasionally)

she did it all herself. we didn’t help much, she didn’t ask for much and everything went as planned. i remember one year having about 12 or 14 people at the table. we had to add two leaves to the table and still didn’t have enough room. my grandmother’s china collection was stunning and when it all came together (at one o’clock) it was truly divine.

there would be laughing, playing, tv watching, cheating at cards and general familial mayhem. my gramma didn’t drink much so we didn’t have too many drunken outbursts. everyone would hug and love and just enjoy the day. most of the family would leave at sunset — stealing my desserts and always loving her up for feeding them so well. the next day, the only clue there had been a thanksgiving FEAST would be the leftovers. by the middle of the next week: homemade turkey soup. ahhhhhhhhhhhhh– the good ole days.

and in begins the christmas season. we used to go to a christmas tree farm (obviously weeks prior) and have them cut the tree that we had chosen. we would spend the evening decorating a live fragrant dirty dusty sappy beautiful christmas tree. we used the same ornaments for as long as i can remember. they were always carefully placed and stored in the same boxes marked “xmas”. the tree would be lit every night from dusk to bedtime. on christmas eve we would turn the lights on and they would stay on until the end of christmas day.

my grandmother always played santa and surprised me with something that would be over-the-top. my most favorite christmas morning surprise was a HUGE box of books. really? yes! it was a box from May Co. and it was big enough to hold king sized bedspreads, so, IT WAS HUGE and it was filled with books. i still have some of them.

the christmas spirit, leftovers and remnants of packaging took us through to new years eve. we always watched dick clark and we would light the christmas tree (for the last time) and waved to the year gone by. sometimes i made it to see the new year, other times… not so much. on new year’s day, we would disassemble the holiday season, pack away our holiday cheer (and every last decoration) and make resolutions that we never intended to keep. 😀

but NOW! now, we can hardly get through august without seeing ribbons and bows peeking through. and as i pointed out, on october second there are decorations hung for purchase in the local stores. what kinda $h!t is that? why would you do that? to sell more? are there really people out there just frantic to buy decorations before the rest of the free world? they don’t have anything from last year? why? there are people still putting up those nasty huge bulbs (i call um ghetto bulbs) from 1982!!

my list of questions could go on for days, but the point i’m trying to make is that selling things and marketing have taken away my holiday cheer. things change as we age and mature and especially when we have kids. but for me, the real holiday season was wrapped up in everything i just mentioned. in the family and friends. the celebrating. not in the buying, the receiving or black friday (which i avoid like the black plague). i can carry on with my family traditions, but it’s not the same and i don’t think it will ever be that way again.

the holidays used to be a warm time: filled with family, friends, food and good cheer. it was a way of celebrating the old year and celebrating the new year. it was a time to reflect and pull fond memories and share them with thoughtful gifts or handmade goodies. a time to forgive, to bond, to share. but now it’s just a marketing scheme. a horrible gaudy expensive marketing nightmare. people camp out in parking lots to buy the new craze or they just bogart the local toys ‘r us with pepper spray and take what they want. thanks, but no. i’ll stick to sugar cookies and turkey dinners with the ones i love. you can bombard my senses with your holiday crap but i refuse to accept. i can’t see your ornaments or fake trees. and i certainly don’t smell those God awful cinnamon scented migraine inducing pine cones or hear that holiday music. i’ll have my christmas when i’m ready, thank you. right after thanksgiving. you can take your marketing scheme and shove it, i’m not shoppin’ here no mo!

air hockey hindrance

i’ve been a parent for a little more than five years. the fact that my son and i are both still breathing, eating and conversing let’s me know that i may, MAY, be slightly successful at it. but don’t hold me to it…. just yet. everyday my son absorbs and learns something new. and so do i.

sometimes teaching a “concept” is not as easy as it seems. for instance: learning about his physical self was something he had to experience on his own. i could (and did) warn him a hundred times over that he could bump his head while passing the kitchen table. but it didn’t matter until he actually bumped his head. he looked at the table and then looked at me with a certifiable look of “why? why didn’t you tell me it would hurt?” this was more prevalent and far more serious when he ran into the arm of the recliner and mashed his little man business. he was horrified, upset, hurt and suddenly aware. you get my drift? no amount of conversation was going to bring to light what he was feeling. he had to experience it in order to know that he never wanted to experience it again.

it is almost impossible to teach something without simultaneously learning. most times it’s just a shortcut to the end result or maybe cutting out something unnecessary. yes, parenting is a torturous lesson in teaching lessons. all the while we must maintain simultaneous levels of care, concern, fairness, equality, just, discipline, fun, guidance, respect, admiration, and sprinkle it all with a little friendship. just a little now, we don’t want them getting the wrong idea.

yesterday we went to Balboa Beach. a classic beach town with a very seventies nostalgic feel. we went to a vintage candy store specializing in salt water taffy and items that are not stocked at the local liquor store. we walked and talked and oogled the standard beach related fare. we saw some crabs, some barnacles and too many birds. we found a tall ropey-climby thing:

the ropey-climby thing

i cannot resist climbing… i was at the top before my son took his shoes off.

my son is five, so his world revolves around him. good thing there was that strategically placed arcade. my aunt got some tokens and he played a few games. he was mostly interested in riding a fake motorcycle. it took a few minutes but i was finally able to convince him to play skeeball. you remember skeeball don’t you?

skeeball!!

probably the most classic arcade game ever. besides pinball, of course.

after a round or two of good ole skeeball, my son bounced about on silly little token wasters. those store front rides that barely move, a game or two with buttons that didn’t really work… but, hey, what’s that in the corner? is that an air hockey game???? well sweet potato pie from the sky!! cut off my legs and call me shorty…. WHO WANTS TO PLAY? my son accepted the challenge… poor little human.

air. hockey.

let the tail-whoopin’ commence! i don’t care if you are 5!! oops.. did i say that out loud?

now. we, obviously had to get more tokens. and when the plastic puck was ejected and the soft blanket of air was on…. I lost all of my parenting skills. all of them. i was not interested in teaching fairness, sportsmanship or rules. i wanted to whoop some five year old ass and walk away with an I-WON-WITH-ALL-FIVE-TO-YOUR-ABSOLUTELY-NO-SCORE victory. i really did. and with the first few volleys of the puck, my PARENTING senses came back and i knew that it was my job to do the exact opposite of that. but i’ll be truthful, it was difficult.

you might think that i’m exaggerating, but i’m not. NOT. i spent years at the local skating rink playing air hockey, frogger, and 1942. i would consider myself an air hockey semi-pro. true story. so, you understand how difficult it was for me to hit softly, ignore his pulling the puck back to”try again” and the worst of the worst… to leave my goal wide open????? it hurt. it was painful. i actually had to look away to LET him score because if my eyes were to see the puck hurling toward the goal my arms and hands would instinctively smack the holy bajeezus out of that plastic green puck and send it in reverse at five times the speed and fifteen times the velocity and watch it crash into the back of the goal faster than my son could focus.. but ARGH! i was not allowed to and i DID NOT commit this travesty against childhood. but dammitalltohell if it wasn’t hard!!!

here’s the end result. he won. he smiled. we all cheered for him. shortly thereafter we left and i can’t seem to shake the fact that i HAD to LET him win. isn’t that just awful? I can tell you this… he better practice because when he’s old enough to THINK he can beat me, the tail whoopin’ will commence, and when it gets down to the wire, i’m gonna hafta dig real deep to possibly let him win. sad? I know. at least i’m truthful.

here’s something to smile about:

i’m part pirate.


watch one’s words

hello my faithful fans! it’s so nice to see you all. thank you for your continued support and interest.

today i would like to present to you an idea that hits very close to home: watching what you say. has your mouth ever gotten you in trouble? you ever overstepped your verbal boundaries? your mouth ever written a check your @$$ couldn’t cash? doesn’t it all feel like it goes against who you ARE? like you’re being changed or morphed into someone that is NOT you. today we are going to discuss those verbal boundaries, the rules of vulgarity and even some workplace do’s and don’ts.

in case we haven’t met before, i’m Tanisha. i say what’s on my mind. sometimes in a few choice words… other times, in thousands of words posts. i am a self-proclaimed and extremely guilty potty mouthed sailor. i enjoy talking and connecting with others — on multiple levels. i have a plethora of opinions, stories and jokes to help me do so. i am becoming more settled in my body and personality everyday and have come to the understanding that no matter how much i want to always be me and remain true to myself — there are times when I am not what’s needed. sometimes it’s better to just be, than to be me.

i recently participated in a very interesting personality assessment. i have an extroverted personality. i know it’s hard to believe, but yes really, it’s true. this was not news to me (or you). as much as i enjoy sharing and again, connecting with others, there have been more than enough situations where i could have toned it down. it’s hard to filter my thoughts without flinging words about. i think out loud. occasionally, this can be a hazard. you gotta know your limits and know when to say when. or when not to say when.

years ago i was a police dispatcher. i had a lot of fun at that job. i met some great people, made some great friends and shared some amazing experiences. as i walked into the dispatch center, on my first official night working, i realized in an instant what i had gotten myself into. there was a buzz about the room like a hive of bees. an array of sounds and noises from all directions flooded my ears and alerted every other sense in my body. i felt a slight tensing panic. phones ringing, verbal radio traffic, the pressing and releasing of the foot pedal, subtle conversation. hours later, as i fought sleep a coworker, melissa, came to chat with me. she was checking up on me and has done so ever since. 

years later as i settled into the job and we shared laughs, tears, jokes and food we also shared workplace hijinks. one night as we were horsing around just as i pushed the foot pedal and began speaking to a police unit. please accept the vagueness of the radio traffic transcript and also cover the eyes of any nearby children:

<police officer> : four-adam-twelve

<me> : four-adam-twelve

<police officer> : please show me on scene, at this location, doing something or other

<me> : four-adam-twelve, i copy, on scene at that location, doing whatever

let me pause here. understand that melissa and i enjoyed messing with each other’s chairs. there were several types of chairs that reclined and tilted into a variety of positions to accommodate the many bodies of the many dispatchers for many hours at a time. in the wee hours of the morning, you would most likely find the graveyard dispatchers in a reclined and very relaxed position. the main lever allowing the chair to recline was wound pretty tight. hitting that button at the wrong time could literally eject you from the seat. well, you guessed it. just as i pushed the foot pedal for the radio transmission, melissa smacked that lever with her foot. my chair went from a forty degree recline to more straight up than would ever be comfortable. so you can imagine my surprise. surprise + potty mouth = shame.

<police officer> : four-adam-twelve

<me> : four-adam-twelve

<police officer> : please show me on scene, at this location, doing something or other

<me> : four-adam-twelve, i copy, on scene at that location, doing whatever >>SMACK! goes my chair<<  fu¢ke®.

oh. em. gee. did that just happen? my affirmation of the officer’s radio traffic went out as:

four-adam-twelve, i copy, on scene at that location, doing whatever, fu¢ke®

melissa and i looked at each other and while she started to ask me “did that go out?” we both reached for the recorder. i hit the rewind button and much to my chagrin, it did go out. yes, my bad word bounced outta my mouth, across the microphone and out into the world… live and in living color. i instantly received dispatch instant messages from my police world. i had to call the watch commander and advise him of my bad deed in case he received a complaint from a citizen, a coworker, a city official or perhaps the f.c.c. (Federal Communications Commission). i. was. mortified.

still to follow was the instant message from the police officer that the horrible word was seemingly directed towards. her weren’t happy. i sent a blanket message to anyone that could receive it and explained the dynamics behind the horrible word. i didn’t live it down for several days. i still cringe when i replay it in my head. the potty mouth killed it. without that one word, it wouldn’t have been noticed. but, that’s not what happened. my habit of being carefree had just clashed with my need to be professional and ladylike. boooo.

i think that maturing is learning what your reaction to something is going to be and heading it off at the pass. making choices based on a realistic understanding of the long term affects and consequences. it is a feat to learn to not just let anything fall out of your mouth. being open, honest and forward has nothing to do with quick, vulgar or funny. the witty comeback is not the only comeback. perhaps it’s the fact that the mouth and the brain are so close and this allows no time for the thought to be filtered and censored before being spoken. it proves to be a sincere challenge requiring daily maintenance and monitoring. effort.

there have been countless words evoked and inspired by pain, verbalized and yelled out of angst that can never be unheard. words can do so many things. they can explain, explore, examine and they can also exact excruciating emotions. words can hurt more than any physical pain. they can also inspire, motivate, romance and entertain. the choice is yours… and mine.

a college professor once told me “talk ten percent less”. i would have never guessed it would be so difficult. i don’t think i’ve knocked two percent off, much less ten and it’s been a little more than three years that i’ve actually been making a conscious effort. i don’t know if my brain to mouth filter is broken or if it’s that innate desire to be me overriding the undeniable logic of just shutting up every now and again.

this proves especially true for the workplace. we are all hired for our capabilities and productivity. if we’re lucky, we are chosen for our personality and disposition. don’t let it go to your head though. they might like you, but they will not allow you to feel so privileged as to not obey the rules and basic conduct standards. test it. see what happens. maintaining a favorable position with your employer is of the utmost importance. they pay you. they make your life possible. do not disrespect them by proving ungrateful. you’ll be sorry and your position will be filled by someone else.

in that respect, you have to treat your workplace and your coworkers like preteens. like twelve year old kids that are impressionable and old enough to tell on you. i have just come to this realization. honestly. but within the parameters of your job description (loosely, people, be a team player), your physical work location and a reasonable work load, they can ask what they choose. they. pay. you. they give you money. respect them for that and do what is expected of you. outside of attendance, your word choice is paramount at work. be careful. watch what you say, how you say it and whom you say it to. it’s simple. it’s hard to do, but it’s simple. be conservative even if you’re not.

i am guilty of signing employment contracts, memo and the like without actually reading them. aren’t we all? no? just me?? hmm, oh well. almost all employers provide a detailed explanation of rules, regulations and procedures required legally and in the best interest of both parties. if you didn’t read the document or choose to ignore your employer’s request, you do yourself a disservice. the excuse of “look at so-and-so” is childish. when at work, worry about yourself. don’t make yourself subject to discipline because of someone else’s actions that you decided to accept responsibility for. will they accept financial responsibility for your obligations if a termination should ensue? yeah, i didn’t think so. cover your @$$.

in the course of daily work, should you be advised, warned, coached, counseled, briefed, memo’d, emailed, written or faxed anything about attitude, performance, appearance or PERFORMANCE — you need heed the warning. should you be reintroduced to any policy or procedure, you need heed the warning. don’t let your understanding come with a pink slip. if you’re ever in a meeting and something comes up and you have the thought “oh, i hope they’re not talking about me”, you need to act like they are. you need to leave that meeting and change your conduct accordingly. if you think it’s you, act like it really IS you.

from an overactive mouth to a potty mouth or an outside voice that’s inside, we must watch our words. we have to be careful not to put things out there that we can’t get back. some things can never be unheard. ever. use your words to inspire and encourage, not to berate or condemn. not to infuriate. words tend to boomerang and they sure pack a wallop on their way back at your head. do not sacrifice your livelihood to prove the point that you (and your fabulous personality) will not be stifled. that’s not a point you need to make.

where children are concerned, one must be almost overly cautious about what you let fall from your lips. children are curious, inquisitive and relentless. they are miniature detectives and professional peeping tom’s (not in a weird way, but in a quiet “i wanna see what you’re doing” way). they hear everything. during the twos, threes and fours they repeat what you say. be mindful of what you say when a child is within hearing range. not only will you provide them with the entirely wrong thing to say, they will choose the entirely wrong time to say it. think of them as the ultimate auto-correct-failure. you will spend a lifetime trying to undo the damage that can be done.

we are all role models. whether we want to be or not. whether we choose to be or not. whether we are worthy or not. children latch on and look up to the adults that are around them. they don’t have to know you, care about you or love you. if you are in their world, they are receiving from you — whatever you are putting out. make sure, MAKE SURE, that what you are sharing is appropriate. it’s not just the words they absorb. they gather context, respect and their version of like and love from the things that we share with them… and how we share with them. if you can’t handle that responsibility, you’re kinda just plain ole $h!t outta luck. watch your mouth or don’t be around any kids. ever.

if anyone is guilty of embarrassing themselves because they didn’t filter and censor before speaking, it’s me. so, i speak from experience and humility. think before you speak. choose words that convey your thoughts and feelings, but just know that your thoughts and feelings might not be needed — all the time. there’s a time to be you, to be me and then there are times to just be. don’t get them confused. save your profanity infused self loathing opinions and obnoxious jokes for your blog, not your debut at work or in front of the kids. you will benefit from this more than anyone else.

Never Let ‘Em See You Sweat. Literally.

You’ve seen sweat marks on clothing before, right? If it wasn’t on your own clothing, on the clothing of someone in front or beside you… ? It gives you a sense of “Uhh… ewwww”. I am one of those people; with sweat marks on my clothing. Did you just say “Ewwww”? I know, I did too. It’s saddening, maddening and thoroughly disappointing. Trust me, when I tell you that if I could do something about it, I would.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had sweaty palms. Clammy hands. It’s not ideal, but it’s not the worst thing to suffer from. It always seemed to happen at the most inopportune time: while crafting, reading, cooking or socializing. My mind would be doing one thing, and my hands would be… getting moist… like they were crying or something. They would be uncomfortable, TO ME, making me uncomfortable all over and making me conscious of sweat in general. Sometimes I would sweat from my underarms or in my elbow-pit. O_o Nothing stopped it. Nothing paused it. Nothing diminished it.

Somewhere along the way, I remember watching a movie and a woman said:

“My hands are all sweaty, now I’ve got to go wash them with hot water”.

Before her suggestion, I had no understanding of how to get rid of, or momentarily suspend, the clammy hands.The very next time the clam tried to hit me, to the bathroom I went. Washing my hands furiously with water hot enough to cook noodles. WHEW! And upon returning from the bathroom, settling into my previously occupied seat, BAM! Clamminess redux. Not instantly, but soon enough to make me realize just how temporary that fix was. DAMN!!!

This went on for years. Years. I found that when I was crafting, my hands would go clammy. When I was studying or writing, my hands would go clammy. Whenever I was doing anything with plastic, my hands would go clammy. Ugh.

Eventually, the clamminess spread to my feet. Clammy feet? Yes, clammy feet. Most people have no idea that your feet could be sweating, but your underarms… well. That is the worst. The most socially hindering, difficult to deal with, embarrassing, shameful show of personal display. There is nothing like showing people who you are. It’s liberating and powerful! But, there’s nothing worse than showing people something you don’t want them to see. Or can even explain. It’s embarrassing.

Honestly, I suffered like this for years. I say suffer because that’s how it felt. I found, and sometimes find, myself to be awkward. Not out of the ordinary awkward, but just awkward enough. The sweaty clamminess though, brought me into a whole new realm of “awkward”. People associate “sweaty” with athletics or “nerves”, but people emphatically associate “clammy” with “nervousness”. I honestly didn’t want to meet new people because I didn’t want to have to shake their hand. Sad. You can’t just NOT shake hands with someone .. or you couldn’t, back then. There was no such thing as a “germophobe” and you were not given a pass on the solid social standard of shaking someone’s hand. Not shaking hands meant that you were rude. Plain and simple.

My hands would clam up for specific things. Working with plastic, material or paper. When I was warm, but it was cold around me. Whenever I used lotion, I could feel the sweat pushing its way through the lotion, breaking it down and creating a runny, liquidy situation. Did you just say “Ewww” again? I know. I was also clammy when I was nervous. I could (and can) put my hands on a glass surface and watch the area surrounding fog up. I could (and can) touch a mirror and see my fingerprints clearly. I could (and can) smear ink that has been dry for weeks with one fail swoop of the side of my clammy hand. 😦 Booooooooooo!

As time went on, I just dealt with it. I would have sweat stains on my shirts. If at all possible, I would use a hair dryer or automated public restroom hand dryer to dry the underarms of my shirts. Neither of which was a staying solution. The clamminess took over and often. I spent more time clammy than I did dry. OR normal. I couldn’t (and can’t) put lotion on my hands or feet because it sets the clamminess to an all-time high. When reading, crafting, embroidering or sewing, I have to stop and wash my hands frequently to ensure the quality of the project.

Eventually, this wore on me. I didn’t do anything major, just chatted with my primary care physician about it. He advised me that he had known of such problems, and if “I” considered it a problem or a hindrance, he could refer me to a “specialist”. Wow! That sounds promising, right? I did consider it a hindrance and I did take that referral.

The specialist’s office called me for an appointment. As the days passed until my appointment, I tried to track my clamminess. I wanted to be able to provide a clear-cut example of how and when it would happen. It’s not that I didn’t know, I just wanted to be certain (My hands are clamming up right now). The day of the appointment came, and for some reason, I had already found relief in knowing that there was a specialist and that he or she might be able to help me. I went to my appointment with bells on!

With bells on, I checked in, sat down and waited. My hands clamming. My name was called and I went to the exam room and waited. Hands clamming. I waited and waited. Hands clamming. The doctor came in, introduced himself and asked me:

“So tell me about your sweat issues.”

Bahahahah! Doesn’t that just sound horrible? It was. As I explained things to him, he nodded and took a note or two. He asked me to describe the WORST situation and try to help him understand the gravity. There was once a time when I could hold my hand in a cup-like formation, fingers pulled taut together and my palm curve like a bowl; the sweat actually pooled up in my hands and created a little watery lake in the middle of my hand. ACK! (I hated typing that out right now. It seems too horrible to admit). Upon revealing my most horrible and worst sweaty-palmed story he looked at me and said:

“That’s nothing. Well, let me say that I am sure it’s horrible for you, but I have patients that cannot even hold pens or pencils because their hands are not moist or clammy, but WET.”

WTF? Are you serious? That’s beyond comprehensible. You mean to tell me that there are people out there who can’t hold a pen or a pencil because their hands sweat too much??? I don’t feel so bad now. But then the doctor explained to me the key ingredients in this whole situation (doc talk/BSB chatter):

The sweat, the clamminess the discomfort is DIRECTLY related to your nerves. It doesn’t mean that you are actually nervous or scared, just that something was going on inside and this was how it was manifested on the outside. I can accept that.

There are major nerves that control the upper and lower portions of one’s body. One major nerve to each limb. That’s science, that’s biology and I love both of those. I can accept that.

The only way to eliminate the problem is to cut contact. To clip the nerve. OK, that’s reasonable. I think I can accept that.

Once the upper nerves are clipped, there could be an adverse effect of HYPER-stimulating the nerves to the lower half. “You won’t sweat from your underarms or elbow-pits EVER again”. I would love to accept that.

But. (what?) But, you might sweat from other places. WTF does that mean?

You might sweat MORE from your groin or behind your knee.  Uhhhhh, well…that doesn’t sound right.

Don’t discount it yet. It could be the best thing to ever happen to you. Let me explain a little more. You will never sweat from your upper appendages again. Nothing, nada, ever. No armpit sweat, no elbow-pit sweat. OK. Again, that sounds great. Is it outpatient?

Well, no.(what?) No, it’s not outpatient, and this is why. The nerve that we need to clip is down deep, so what we would do is sedate you, and then roll you onto your side. We would deflate your lung, make a small incision about 1/4 inch wide, clip the nerve and be done with that side. We’d then roll you onto your back, re-inflate that lung and roll you onto the other side where we would duplicate the procedure. After that, you’re all done and the next day you can go home. You won’t even have any scars really. How does that sound? O_o

Why are you looking at me like that? Did you say ‘deflate your lung’. I cannot accept that.

Yes, it’s not that big of a deal, we have to move the lung out-of-the-way to get to the problem nerve. Thanks, but no. I don’t need anything that requires my lung to be deflated.

Well, just think about it. We can get you in as early as two weeks. Just think about it and call me and let me know what you decide. No, that’s ok, I don’t need to think about it, I’ll pass. Again, I don’t want or need anything that requires the delay, albeit temporary, delay of a major and most important body function.

Don’t make up your mind right now, go home and weigh out your options and let me know. No, that’s ok. I don’t need time.

Well, here’s my card, just in case. No, that’s ok too, I don’t need your card. I’m not going to do anything with it. I thank you for your time, but this is not for me.

Are you sure you don’t want to think about it a little longer? Doc, I’m so positive that I don’t want you to deflate my lung for anything over than life saving surgery. I’m so positive that I can live with clammy hands and sweaty pits. I’m so positive that I will never EVER want to sweat MORE profusely from my GROIN or anywhere else. SERIOUSLY, I thank you for your time, but THIS is not the option for me.

He looked at me, sternly, shook my hand and said:

“If you need me, you know where I am.”

I nodded, while gathering my belongings and mouthing to myself “I won’t EVER need you”. That might seem harsh, because after all, I respect his knowledge, his expertise and his time. BUT! Hell-to-the-no, you ain’t collapsing a lung. No, not ever. EVER! The security that I felt walking into the office diminished when collapsing my lung came into play. There is just no need for that.

My hands and feet are a little clammy, right now. My hands get clammy when I touch or handle hard plastic (keyboard keys) or if there is a temperature conundrum: I’m warm, but my hands or feet are cold, or vice versa. There are many situations that claim the clammy. I simply choose not to let it bother me any longer. I choose to just accept it as part of who I am, like not being able to say Worcestershire or play basketball. I’m not coordinated enough for either one of those.

So, there you have it. I’m the sweaty chick. Totally gross? A turn off? I’m sorry. But there is nothing I plan to do about it.. other than wash my hands in warm or hot-as-I-can-handle water, dry my armpits with an automatic hand dryer or just change shirts. That’s it! I refuse to have my body cut, invaded, altered, manipulated and possibly permanently disabled because someone out there thinks that clammy hands are gross.

I was made this way. This is my body and I love it. It took many years for me to come into the love, but I’m here and I’m happy. I cannot change the fact that I have nerves and they create situations that might be difficult to navigate, socially. Then again, I don’t really care about that. If you know me, like me and love me, you know about it and it doesn’t bother you. If you don’t know me and are introduced to me, you’ll soon find out. If you can’t deal with it, hey, thems the breaks. I can live with it. It’s not a choice, it just is.

Sweaty or clammy hands tend to come off as gross. They aren’t. You know what’s gross? Not washing your hands frequently enough. Door handles. Belly button lint. Those things are gross. Clammy hands is just a side effect of an overtly excited person. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, to run away from or to mock. It’s no different from a lazy eye or a shorter leg. Clammy hands are part of me. They are part of who I am. Shake us or leave us. We’ll be here, happy and clammy, either way.

vacation elation: part 4 ~ off the ship and on the shore

hello, hello, hello my darlings!

i hope that i haven’t bored you all to tears with my detailed explanation of How To procrastinate, deny and eventually get to your vacation. and once i got you on the line, i took a four-week long hiatus, right? sad. my apologies, darlings! the perils of the working girl have revisited and pained me beyond belief. however! i am forging ahead and doing my best to keep all avenues open and alive. so, with that said, i have returned (after a hard day at work and picking up my son) to bore you with more about my beloved vacation (also after a fight with my mouthy four-year-old about WHY i get to use the computer and he doesn’t).

so, let’s go with a little quick review:

  1. this was my first vacation in ten years. it was required, needed, wanted and thoroughly enjoyed.
  2. it was a gift. yes, a gift. the whole thing: one giant gift.
  3. while on the cruise, tropical storms detoured us from our original itinerary and had us visiting other places sooner than we had intended, and skipping other places that we’d rather have seen (those places being St. Thomas and Puerto Rico).

and now that we are caught up, let’s get moving…

our first scheduled stop was to Nassau, Bahamas. i had a late night the night before (hahhaha… or every night) and didn’t get up in a timely manner. once we (me: the one who gets ready and them: the three that say they are getting ready) were all together, we headed out to shore. i think it was about a quarter-to-one in the afternoon and we had to be back on board the boat by two-ish… so, we went into the customs office slash tourist trap, bought a fan (omg it was so humid), a pina colada and took a few pictures, we got back into the almost-hour-long line to get back on the boat. it would suffice to say that we did not have the opportunity to enjoy very much of the Bahamas. but, while we were there, Makeni and I did enjoy a very real, very authentic Pina Colada. it was delicious. the only other thing i was able to do in the short time that we were there was COMPLETELY MELT. the humidity in these tropical places is what makes them tropical, beautiful, inviting and two blips to the left of completely miserable.

the official "Bahamas" sign with "How Many miles To" arrows posted on it and a line of people waiting to be photographed with it. i skipped the line, held the camera high and snagged this very impersonal shot.

our next stop was supposed to be St. Thomas but that tropical storm pushed us on to Grand Turk Island. we were going to stop there, on day six or so, but here we are! day three and to Grand Turk we will go!

Grand Turk island is approximately seven miles long by three miles wide. it has a beautiful white sand beach (with a buncha rocks) and there are beautiful white and blue chaises and umbrellas for rent. you can’t get far without hearing about Margaritaville. yup! you guessed it.. the Jimmy Buffet song inspired Margaritaville (~singing~ wastin’ awaaaay again in Margaritaville. lookin’ fer my lost shaker of salt). so i went to the beach with the “say they are’s” and the rocky beach really put a cramp in my style… mostly by just being under my foot. so i left! i left the beach, i left the girls and went off my own. and whaddya know, there was music playing…

that’s where i found:

the DJ on the ones and twos that had MVille on full tilt!

um, sorry, that’s BSB for “this is the man that played wonderful music and brought the party, kept it alive and made it the most memorable inebriated event to date”.

Margaritaville is huge. huge on a 21 square mile island? either way, there was a bar and restaurant, but what caught my eye was the twisty windy waist-high swimming pool that didn’t seem to end. and, and, AND!! it had a swim-up bar. holy sweet tea on ice!!! that’s not what i had to drink, but boy was i excited. i got there at the same time as the other girls at our dinner table: Li and Shantel.

Shantel(L), Liana(R) and myself(M). LIVIN' IT UP AT THE 'Ville (that's right, me and the Ville are on a nickname basis)

so i met up with these two ^ and we shed our outer layers, grabbed our oversized shades and headed off into the crowd:

yup, into THIS! crowd

the crowd actually got bigger and bigger and closer together. this is a photo from when we first got there. i refused to take my phone (that’s where my camera is) into the water and so, pictures of the Ville are limited. after we got in, got familiar and sauntered over to the bar, we found these folks:

where you from? the Bay areaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

i apologize to those whose names i do not know… however. in the back row, from left to right: Stretch, Norm, Vange and “OH! I shoulda bought me some Monster, can I buy one from you?” and in the front, also from left to right is: Jay, the Homie Romie and The Mystery Man. 🙂

they brought a party, bought a party and let us join their fun. jell-o shots by the tray with tequila on top. really? can you do that? i didn’t think so either, but they did and then we did and we all did and it was all good.

mmm hmmm.. J & N lovin' up on the jell-o

i don’t know why Nikki is not in those pictures. but she is also from the bay area and she introduced me to her very fun, very generous and entertaining friends.

Vange, me and BabyCakes, havin' more fun than is legal for mothers away from their children (not really)

can you see the tequila in my eyes? hahahahah.. it was such a fun day. we had such a good time. i haven’t been that water logged since i was half the age i am now.

Stretch and Rome kickin' with the PrettyGirls

you see those smiles? look again. from the first “bay area” photo: not so much in the smile department, then Jay and Norm ensuring that a good time was going to be had, and the next two photos ain’t nothin’ but TEETH. good times, people. good times.

after the jell-o, the tequila, a mai tai (naturally), the push-up contest and the beginning of the “shake whatcha mama gave ya” contest, i was shriveling like a prune. i slowly made my way back to the boat. i got held up by security/customs/Turk-Island-Naitve who told me that i was not allowed to leave. it was his way of flirting. he was nice. i waved and kept it moving. i think it was that night that we saw Charlie Wilson. (i just consulted the itinerary and i was right, see my previous post for the goods on Mr. Wilson).

the next morning, i stumbled upon the bay area, having breakfast and perusing the photos from the day before (all taken by Vange on her fabulous evidence catching iPhone):

breakfast! with the bay. (sorry for the bright spot)

this day we spent at sea and BabyCakes (that’s Nikki) and i spent the entire day on the upper deck soakin’ up the sun and sharin’ a few laughs. we were donned “cruise celebrities” later that day and all we could was laugh and smile. we certainly made our fair share of friends and acquaintances. Rome came to hang with us later in the day and the three of us shared some of the buffets afternoon yumminess: nachos, chicken strips, french fries and as many cups of ice water that would fit on a tray. the only thing that made us depart was needing a nap before dinner.

the next day was thursday and our destination was key west. i think i gave you the low down on my aunt spraining her ankle on wednesday night. getting off shore on this day was difficult due to needing a wheelchair and all that other nonsense. it was just shy of painful. also, i know that i have complained about the tropical climate and the humidity but hear me now: key west florida is no less than four minutes from hell. apparently we made it ashore just after a little thunder storm. it was beautiful outside and very inviting but just beyond the threshold of the air condiditoned boat was air so thick with water that you could hold out a glass and quench your thirst. again, i was soaked from head to toe. we went ashore in search of key lime pie which seemed to be in every store, including the jewelry store.

“engagement ring? sure right here. and while you browse, here’s a piece of pie.”

Makeni wanted to find a key lime meringue and i was just done. i had hit my limit on the little shuttle. it was awful! awfuuuuullll! and then! my aunt said:

“look neesh, they sell Monster.”

holy smokes and artichokes! i honestly left my aunt, in her borrowed wheelchair, while i crossed the street and entered the smallest little store i have ever been in and found that sweet-glowing-jazzy-energy-in-a-can:

yessssssssss!

i walked out, Monster in hand and she said:

“i know you didn’t buy ONLY ONE. you’ve been complaining about Monster since we got on the boat and you only bought ONE?”

yeah, huh? so i went back in. spent everything i had and came out with an armful! we piddled around a little bit and then i had to protest:

“it’s just too damned hot for me, we gotta go back, i can’t take it anymore!!!”

i got on the boat buzzin’ from the charge of being Monster-sober for a week and then getting my first gulp. mmmmm mmmm. but before we go, let’s look at the few pictures i took before i melted on the sidewalk.

Mallory Square, where the shuttle dropped us off and picked us up.

the Shipwreck Historeum. doesn't it look like the ultimate treehouse or the lost extension for the Swiss Family Robinson monstrosity?

between the car and foot traffic and the unbearable humidity, this is the only picture that came out worth a hoot.. 😐

the intersection of humidity and hell... or somewhere in key west florida

shortly after staring at these two street signs i had myself-induced heat attack and went off ranting like a melting lunatic. seriously. i was just so darned hot. we went to the shuttle pick-up point which was next to a little indoor mall… WITH AIR CONDITIONING. lord love a duck.. i took my time walking in, walking around and just breathing. and then the horrible reality hit that i had to go back outside to get on the trolley and then stand in a line OUTSIDE to get back on the boat. geez. i’m not made for this. i’m a city girl, with country girl swagger. i’m not an outdoorsy camping type. i’m a hotel girl. i don’t mind being poolside, but i need less humidity and more beverage. yes, more beverage please!

out of the mall, melted. on the trolley, melted multiplied by melted as we waited for others and the loading of the wheelchair. off the trolley, melted. in the line to get on the boat, MELTED. up the ramp, through the metal detector, bag search and finally, into some air that was mostly void of moisture. sweet beans and histamines!! i hate to be so redundant about the humidity but just thinking of it makes me feel sticky.

on our last day we went to Freeport on the Grand Island of the Bahamas. there was much confusion over where to go and what to do. as one fellow shuttle-mate stated “it’s crunch time” and if you hadn’t done anything, now was the time to try and do it. i think the boat was empty that day. we went ashore and after another taxi cab squabble and a short ride we were far from where we actually wanted to be. i was with all of the girls when the day started, but once we got disparaged by the confused location, i split from them and joined up with another group of Cruise Crew members. Coincidentally, we all ended up at the same beach.

the groups merged and formed volleyball teams and a few amateur jet skiiers.

baby pine trees that were actually perfectly straight, but with the momentum of the craziest taxi ride ever, they appear bent

willie and torie. too cute. married forever and so in love.

volleyball at Taino Beach, Freeport, Grand Island of the Bahamas

me and torie. the non-volleyball players. enjoying the music, the sunlight and the company.

the winning team engaged in a group high-five!

Ruben. the best taxi driver ever.

the gang. the last outing of the last day of the cruise. that's Hank Sr. on the left and that's Hank Jr.'s on the right in the second row.

we had a lot of fun on this last day. we all tried to go to some other beach that was not what it was supposed to be. it was too far away, tiny, laden with rocks and generally lacking in all areas. we all ended up at Taino Beach. a picture perfect landscape with a little bit of everything: a bar/conch restaurant, jet ski rental, banana boat rental, sun bathing spot and impromptu gift shop. there was a group there before us that had most of the rentals tied up. so our groups split and played volleyball.

shortly there after, dwayne and i went jet skiing. whooo hooo! what fun. the water was choppy and it made for a less than smooth ride, but that had nothing to do with our fun. we fell off the jet ski twice and laughed so hard that i had a hard time getting back on. we skiied down a private channel and saw some very impressive homes. i told him “this makes me want to work twenty four hours in a day so that i can enjoy this life in the future”. it was inspirational, to say the least. we returned to the beach, to the taxi and to the boat. that last night i procrastinated and pondered on whether or not to actually go to the captain’s dinner, but i had to show my favorite server Tatiana some love and appreciation.

me and dwayne.

a good time was had by all. friends were made, experiences shared and memories forged to last a lifetime. i have relived the experience over and over again, always finding a new reason to smile. in the future i would do these things:

  1. take more pictures: you can never have enough pictures. i am going to look into the waterproof camera as suggested to me by Erika or “little miss ‘where’s my husband'” and her husband Chris.
  2. budget a little better: a few extra dollars would have given me a cushion of comfort.
  3. prepare to be solo: there’s nothing wrong with a group trip, with a group outing, with a group anything. but sometimes, it’s good to separate and take time to oneself. now, i can’t say that i didn’t enjoy a fair amount of time on my own, but i felt bad about it (at first). as if i had let the group down.
  4. get up and get out: when the boat docks, no matter where, get off the boat and see what’s going on. there’s no reason getting on a boat and taking a cruise with destinations if you’re only going to stay on the boat. don’t waste the experience.
  5. do not waiver: vacation is not the time to be timid or shy. if you want something, want to try something, want to do something, do it. it’s as simple as that. again, don’t waste the experience. like my early morning run in miami. when would i see the sun rise in miami again? i didn’t know then and i still don’t know now, but i’m so glad i got up and did it and snapped a picture to remind me.
  6. enjoy yourself. on every level.

and this concludes part four. also belated, but worth it just the same. i have one more part and that will be about the food. i hope i’ve convinced you all to think about a vacation, save for it and actually start planning it. you won’t regret it. we all take time off, we rest, we chill, we relax… on the couch, out in the yard or wherever we happen to power down at. but this! this was a vacation. a complete disconnect on every level from everything. it was needed, it was worth it and i can’t wait to do it again. so, until the next time my darlings… stay sweet.

vacation elation: part 3 ~ the cruuuuuise

drum roll please!

and now.. for the part you’ve all been waiting for. the part that tells about the people, the parties and about the pool… the part that details the events, the activities and the food. i present to you… the cruuuuuise.

did ya like that? i tried to present it to you as a gift. this experience that i am about to share with you was a gift to me. uh huh. it’s true. my aunt has been traveling with Blue World Travel and their Festival at Sea for the past five years. she has tried to get me to go with her, for at least four of those five years. each time i denied. sometimes due to finances, sometimes due to childcare, but mostly because i was nervous to cruise. flat out scared.

“… just floating out there in the ocean? i dunno.”

“it’s not like that, you’re so busy doing other things that you won’t even notice.”

“i dunno. it sounds scary.”

“you would have so much fun. i know that once we got on the boat, i wouldn’t see you anymore… except maybe to change your clothes.”

“i doubt that.”

this was the conversation between she and i for years. years. last year i made the decision to join her. knowing that my last vacation was a farce and that i needed to get away for a while, i welcomed the excitement of knowing there was a “vay-kay-shun” on the horizon. during the year that we had to prepare and ponder, a lots of things happened in a lot of different areas. at one point, i was uncertain if i still wanted to go. we went back and forth a bit over whether to take my four-year-old. for a little while, he was included in our plans. then we decided that perhaps he should stay at home. he stayed home.

during that year, my aunt continued to tell me to buy clothing and other vacation stuffs over time so that i wouldn’t be bogged down at the end. somewhere along the way, i lost my job and buying things became the least of my worries. my very generous aunt extended this gift to me, as well. as she shopped for shoes and dresses, i did the same. i was very reluctant. i didn’t want to spend her hard-earned money more than i had to and i felt that she was dramatizing the desire to have so much on hand. i was wrong. for a little while i felt that i had taken too much clothes, shoes and makeup. but now i can see that without having taken what i took, i wouldn’t have felt as comfortable as i felt. i like having options.

there was also a whole discussion on the number of swimsuits needed for a seven-day cruise. she told me i would want five or six or seven. say whaaat? ummm, no. i don’t think that’s necessary. i resisted that idea to the hilt!

“what? seven swimsuits? that’s ridiculous.”

“i’m serious. you’re going to wish you had them when you get there.”

“i haven’t had seven swimsuits in seven years, why would i want seven swimsuits for a week-long vacation?”

“you should trust me on this.”

“i dunno. that just sounds crazy.”

*sigh* again, i was wrong. i think i took five, but i actually used three the most (because they were of the same shape and design and i could stick to the same set of tan lines). however, i wish that i had two for everyday. they were so much fun. i enjoyed the ultimate amount of time in the sun. more than my skin could handle. when i left California, i was a nice even paper sack tan. upon return i was a smooth burnt buttermilk biscuit brown. no lie. my nose peeled twice on the boat and i had to stop wearing foundation because it didn’t match my skin. still doesn’t– at all.

ok. so let’s get on with it. the cruise, the flights, the hotel, the clothes, the haircut and the pedicure were all courtesy of my aunt. she treated me to everything. including pre and post-cruise meals and drinks as well as treats, snacks and keepsakes. she is unlike any other person in my life. she gave me the best gift i could have ever asked for. a cruise vacation after a ten-year vacation hiatus. to that i say:

“thank you, Danise, for your love, your friendship and your gift. you were right about not seeing me other than to change clothes and the number of swimsuits i should have taken. i needed this vacation so much and i don’t know how to thank you enough for asking me to go with you one more time, or for handling all of the arrangements and for keeping me and SuperBoy safe during this time (and all other times). your love knows no limits. i thank God, in the Heavens above, for you and wish you nothing but the best in everything that you do. i am forever indebted and will never forget your care, concern and kindness. I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH.”

ok. mushy stuff aside, let’s get on with this cruise! we left on a red-eye flight with two layovers getting us to Miami (push-off point) the next morning. after a couple of slight delays, we made it in about lunch time. there were two days of pre-cruise party fun to be had. we got in, got settled and stared out our window for at least an hour (even the rusted roof was a welcome sight):

looking at Miami from our hotel room. cruise countdown: 48 hours.

we soon met up with Melinda and Makeni, completing our quartet. with sunglasses on and little purses in hand, we were on our way to dinner.

me, Danise (my aunt), Melinda and Makeni ... ready to start our vacation with a meal together.

we caught a taxi to Bayshore Village and ate at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. them’s some good eats! they were served to us by Lenin (he was so nice, but the air conditioning in the kitchen and in our part of the restaurant was busted. so the poor guy sweat just bringing us drinks and napkins. i hated to ask him for anything additional knowing that he had to go into the scorching kitchen to get it):

Melinda, Lenin and Makeni

Danise, Lenin and I

we followed up dinner with a walking tour of the village area. it was crowded. there were lots of people, lots of shopping, eating and entertaining. there was a “concert in the park” type event going on and we stopped for a moment and enjoyed the music:

it's not the best picture but you get the idea. we were seated on concrete amphitheater type seats. people were dancing about and clapping along to the music.

i found a store selling Monster energy. aaaaah. sweet glowing amped-up goodness in a can. melinda and makeni found ten-minute chair massages. when we left, we actually got into a verbal argument with a crappy cab driver who wanted to blatantly over-charge us. he was rude and bordering disrespectful. but we didn’t let him steal our shine. we battled him back with our words and he eventually surrendered to our undeniable logic and walked away. hmph. chump.

upon returning to the hotel, we found a lobby full of fellow cruisin’ party people. it was apparent that my vacation was well under way. two of our four retired for the evening. Makeni and i stayed afloat in the lobby making friends, playing cards and getting to know some of our fellow cruisers. we were kicked out of the lobby at around 4 o’clock in the morning so they could clean and tidy up.

me. sportin' Wild Bill's pterodactyl feet slippers (he actually challenged me on the spelling of pterodactyl and was shocked when i busted out my phone and looked up the spelling right then and there. hmph).

i was up before i ever laid down. up dressed and ready to go. we decided to spend some time out and about and we started with lunch:

lunch on South Beach...where i had my first and my best Mojito. cruise countdown: 24 hours

our lunch was followed by some actual factual time on South Beach, in Miami. what a hot spot. (pssst. i saw some topless sunbathers there. say whaaat? yes. fa real.) the humidity in Florida has got to be somewhere near the same as the Amazon rainforest. i have never been in such a humid environment. ever. i honestly don’t know how people can live in this area. seriously. it was that bad.

after swimming in the beautiful water, in my dress-- i melted.

we left the beach, walked around the area and did a little shopping. i think we spent the most time in the Walgreens because of the outright air-conditioned environment. eventually i stopped going into the stores because it was so nice and there and so miserable outside.. i couldn’t stand the bi-polar-ness of it and just stayed outside awaiting three women shoppers. whew.

we returned to the hotel and naturally we went swimming:

me, Makeni, Danise (my aunt) and Melinda: pre-cruise party poolside fun. this lovely photo is courtesy of Jeffrey Walker.

we agreed to retire to our rooms respectively and get ready for “the Party”. the pre-cruise party. cash bar, finger foods and at least half of the anticipated cruisers. a nice way to meet more people before setting off to sea. this is where the division came in our group. some people get ready and some people just saaay they are getting ready. i was part of the former group. i was done and out the door and didn’t see the other girls for at least thirty minutes.

ready! and touring the scene with Wild Bill. (see there? hardly a noticeable tan.)

and that does it on pre-cruise party photos. hahahah. i made many acquaintances. shared many laughs and several drinks. i danced. i posed. i spent the majority of the wee-morning hours outside by the pool.

the beautiful pool, first thing in the morning, ready and waiting for the day's antics to begin.

that’s where i met my girl Nikki. it was her birthday and she treated herself to this lovely vacation. she was dancing to her own beat and i just jumped right in. we met r’here but we hung TIGHT throughout the trip. here we are days later, closer in friendship, sharing drinks and livin’ it up at the fantastic swim-up bar at the phenomenal Margaritaville on Grand Turk Island:

aka: SugarPie and BabyCakes (and a whole buncha other folk), kickin' it hard at the 'Ville

we’ll talk more about Margaritaville later. after the pre-cruise party, there was no time to sleep. i had stayed out until dawn. Nikki retired for the evening to get a little rest and get her luggage cruise ready. my luggage was ready, my “get on the boat” clothes were ready and i was anxious. i used my nervous energy to take a run. huh? yes, i’m serious. an “i’ve been out all night, but still can’t go to sleep, might not ever be back in Miami at dawn” cleansing morning run. here is the picture i stopped and took:

Miami at dawn... my cruise awaits, i better turn around...

upon returning, i walked a mile in the hotel gym (yup, i did that too), swam some laps in that lovely pool (i know, right? where am i getting the energy?) and eventually got ready to go. i laid down for maybe an hour and for some strange reason my eyes closed up tight. hmmm.. go figure. before we actually left the hotel, i called home to talk to my son and the sitter. they were both doing well. my little man told me “love you mommy”. *sniff*

the next two hours went something like this: out of hotel, on the shuttle, off the shuttle, through customs, through cruise check-in, through cruise doors, photoed and then photoed, onto the boat, into the room, to Makeni’s room, to Melinda’s room, up and out to the lido deck for food, and then a break to have an emergency meeting at our “unlikely” but potential emergency meeting stations. then back out for some much required, highly anticipated fooooooooood.

lido deck, push off, time to get this party started... and the countdown is OVER! cruise INITIATED.

the horn blew, the boat pushed off and we were well on our way. that’s the electric slide contest above. the first of many dance contests, line dances and group dances. it was fun. there was a “Freeze” factor added in and that made it all the better. the three girls below (from left to right: striped dress, yellow strapless and denim shorts) were like mannequins! mannequins i tell you!:

the freeze champions! if you ask me.

and that my friend, set the tone for the next six days on this wonderful boat. i met so many great people, made new friends, added at least a dozen or so folks to my facebook and got tagged in tooooo many pictures. but most of all, i had a great time. honestly– one of the best times ever. there was music, dancing, eating, laughing, drinking, swimming, and lots of smiling. and not necessarily in that order.

now, i’ve set the scene for you because i wanted you to feel the excitement and know that fun was around every single corner. i can’t walk you through every hour of every day, so i will hit you with the big stuff.

me. poolside. if you're looking for me, you haven't been in, near or around the pool.

i spent the first three days, right here. everything else i did, excluding the formal dinner, the scheduled entertainment or hanging out at the “club” was done very near here.

the Festival at Sea is planned. there are activities planned for the majority of everyday. and that’s just on the boat. there are plenty of things to do when you go ashore, if you go ashore. they had exercise classes, prayer meetings, speed dating, dance contests, line dancing, dance classes, bingo, crafts and more. each night had a theme and the appropriate dress was requested for dinner. it was a lot of fun. the first night was relaxed and then! the next night! Sunday night was the Cool White Night Party as well as Mardi Gras.

Harold, Danise, Makeni, Melinda and Ron... i'm not in it, 'cause i took it.

Harold and I on Cool White Night

the Girls: Makeni, my aunt Danise and Melinda

and here’s everyone else (please forgive the blurry photos. i had not taken many “night” shots prior to the cruise. as well, up on deck and in the area above the deck it can be windy. just as one hits the “snap” button a gust of wind will help you “snap” a different shot completely):

Cool White Night Deck Party

... and the line dancing begins...

probably fifteen hundred people, dressed in white from head-to-toe

the next day i was poolside (see the poolside photo above) and that night, Monday night, we were entertained by the one and only Patti La Belle:

Hank Sr. screamed out from the crowd: "Patti! I love youuu!"

Patti was so gracious. she wasn’t feeling well and apologized throughout the show. she said that seasickness gave her indigestion.

“makes me feel like i have to burp, but i don’t.”

when she first came out on stage she was wearing some grey patent leather Christian Louboutins. nice. she talked to us like we were her friends. she sang a song and then she kicked those shoes off in Patti LaBelle style! (and naturally, she asked for her RedBottoms back).

out of nowhere (i didn’t know him then) Hank Sr. yells out that he loves her.

Hank: I love you Patti.

Patti: huh? say what, babe? what’d you say?

Hank: I love you!

Patti: oh, you love me? i love you too boo. are you married?

Hank: NO!

Patti: no? uh oh. c’mere, lemme see you.

Hank came out into the light and after direct instruction from Patti to “let the man go”, security let him up on stage. he was beaming and i was almost blinded. she asked him whom he was on the cruise with and he explained that it was a graduation gift to his son, Hank Jr. sweet, right? she called Hank Jr. onto the stage. she hugged them both and posed for a photo opportunity. before they left the stage Hank Sr. kicked his shoes off. a little less gracefully, but with just as much drama. good times.

it was a great concert. she sang my favorite Patti songs. sadly, though, she really wasn’t feeling well and had to excuse herself from the stage more than once. if she wouldn’t have told me, i wouldn’t have known. she almost brought me to tears when she sang “Somebody Loves You”. such memories attached to that song.

i apologize for the month long hiatus between part two and part three. my world at home has taken a turn for the better and left me with less time to share my thoughts. i came home to a job offer, followed by pre-employment testing, physicals and examinations. then i woke up to a toothache! total bummer. shortly thereafter i actually started working without any particular mode of transportation (i carpooled, borrowed and prayed for a ride) and just recently signed my name on the dotted line to call a little car: my own. with that said, i have to pick up where i left off and that has all become a little fuzzy over time.  it’s a good thing we kept every scrap of paper and took so many photos to help me replace my shoddy memories with real ones. SO! let’s move forward, shall we?

next on the list! “Charlie, last name: Wilson.” do you know who that is? i hope so, but if not, i’ll tell you: he was the lead singer of the Gap Band (and i know you know who the Gap Band is). we were up in the rafters for Patti, but we were ground level for Charlie. and boooooy was that a show!! he really really put it on. and! and! he wasn’t feeling well either. he confessed that he had food poisoning and that he wasn’t up to par, but if you ask me, even his not-up-to-par was phenomenal.

Charlie! sharing stories of his personal battles including: drug and alcohol abuse and prostate cancer. he was happier to share that he has been sober for seventeen years.

after the show, i wandered about looking for nikki. i perused the crowds this way and that and made my way up to the lido deck to check out what the midnight buffet had in store. nothing interesting… to me anyway. as i continued on my way, i was verbally accosted by a group of men (just kidding, they asked me if i was lost because i was wandering). i sat down and low and behold it was a fair share of the gentlemen that i had just seen on stage:

Aubrey on the left, Bruce on the right

 Aubrey made me laugh out loud, really loud, with his editorial commenting. he bought me a mojito and told me i was hilarious.

Bruce seems extremely serious, but he’s actually very sweet. i wouldn’t wanna cross that line though, i’m sure his serious side is his well paid side. 😀

(pssst~ i can't remember his name) playin' the bass

mr. man on the bass was busy. maybe he wasn’t busy, but his eyes sure were.  like a kid in a candy store.

me on the left, and the sweetest dancin' girl on the right

and that sweetheart of a backup dancer was just so pleasant. she complimented my famous foam flower, shared her workout routine, told me not to keep the boys up too late and then flashed her pearly whites for my mojito-driven photo session. 😀

good times.

thus far i haven’t mentioned Jon Saxx & Endless Possibilities. they were onboard entertainment also. Jon Saxx is a phenomenal saxophone player and his band is B-A-D! they were on deck, in the Atrium and they also entertained at the Gospel Breakfast.  i enjoyed watching him make connections with his audience as he serenaded everyone in the crowd —  personally. this is a photo of him on the last day we were on the ship, but he was there the whole time and i enjoyed his sound and the passion that he instilled in every note he played.

serenading the scene with his saxxophone..

there were also two comedians. aj jamal and jay lamont. both guys are truly hilarious. i met aj jamal poolside and jay lamont mingled with me and the CW boys (that’s, uhhh, Charlie Wilson band fellas). i would be a liar if i said that i hadn’t seen them both a million times on the television, but being side by side and actually having conversation was far more entertaining. i got a photo-op with aj jamal:

me and aj jamal

but my opportunity to showcase a photo with jay lamont was sabotaged by a dead cell battery. boooo. anyway! i had a great time mingling with the entertainment, and i think they had a good time hangin’ out with me. i hope they did anyway.

well, my faithful darlings, i’m going to end this extremely long post here. i will return much sooner than before and i promise to tell you more about the food and the people i met. until then… stay sweet!