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.

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Hey, Neighbor!

What kind of place do you live in? An apartment? Condo? Town house? Perhaps you’re two shakes shy of the Looney bin? I live in a house. It is a nice sized house with my aunt, my son and all of our hopes and dreams. I don’t think it really matters which one you occupy, because (with the exception of a ranch, farm or villa), we all have neighbors. You know, those people who live near us, around us and sometimes above or below us. As you might know by now, I like definitions, so let’s see what we find.

neigh·bor: noun \ˈnā-bər\

Definition of NEIGHBOR

1: one living or located near another

2: fellow man

Our first Neighbor. Mr. Rogers.

Say it with me: naaaaaay-burr. Do you know your neighbors? Have you met or introduced yourselves to them? WHY NOT? Without attempting to know your neighbors you cannot live an all-inclusive happy life at home. Bear with me here and read what I have to say.

Neighbors bring something to the table that shouldn’t be dismissed and that is comfort, security and possible friendship. They provide a valuable service that should not be disregarded. We should all get to know our neighbors. We should communicate with them and in special occasions, we should like and appreciate them.

My grandma used to refer to a time when her family lived with unlocked doors. They lived in a rural area of Oklahoma and the only people around were not only known, but were welcome. She said they “had no reason” to lock the doors. Doesn’t that seem almost surreal? I have known such environments and even fostered one of my own. Growing up, the bestie’s house remained unlocked and still does during normal hours. And when I had my own apartment, in a very small complex, my front door was also unlocked during normal hours.

It seems that as time passes and we become familiar with the events of the world, we start to fear the “possible”. Of course, we are always changed after a situation or tragedy. My aunt’s apartment was once broken into. She wasn’t home, she moved shortly thereafter, but she remains uneasy and uncomfortable. As most people do, which is entirely understandable.

However, this is not about burglaries or other crimes. This is not about leaving your door unlocked. This is about simple neighbor maintenance. When you share a neighborhood, share streets and yards, you should share other things too. You don’t have to share your innermost things, just exercise kindness and courteousness because it can only serve to benefit you and yours in the future. So, are you ready to talk about being neighborly? Ok! Let’s do it.

  1. Welcome. Would you believe that when we moved into this house, our neighbors (and now our friends) welcomed us to the neighborhood with a plate of homemade cupcakes? Seriously. The lady of the house and her two little ones came over with big smiles, a warm hello and a plate of chocolate cupcakes. “We just wanted to welcome you guys to the neighborhood”. When was the last time you heard of someone doing that? Did someone do it for you? Have you done it for another? It was such a wonderful gesture. It was a few weeks later that I returned their plate with my own homemade goodies. We’ve continued this interaction for five years now. I’m so glad she started it. It certainly made us feel welcome. It sparked a neighbor-friendship that has grown and thrived throughout every day, week, month and year. We’ve shared ideas, recipes and I made her family true fans of Red Velvet cake.
  1. Be cordial. Now, I’m not saying that you should bake for everyone on the block and certainly don’t bake for each and every apartment that becomes vacant and then occupied. That is, if you bake at all. But, please, do these things:
    1. Smile. Yes, smile. It’s not hard, it’s not expensive and it goes a long way.
    2. Wave/Nod. When people look at you, wave. Or nod. If they wave to you, wave back. Or nod. It’s easy to establish boundaries and set the parameters of a potential relationship. You don’t have to invite them in for tea and cookies, just be cordial.
    3. Introduce yourself. You don’t have to share your life story, but just say “Hi. I’m Tanisha. Welcome.” If you feel uncomfortable with this, then just say “Hi. Welcome.” I cannot find a reasonable excuse to NOT say “Hi” to someone, but that’s just me.
  1. Maintenance. Take care of your home. If you can’t afford the upkeep, you should probably move. I know it sounds harsh, but don’t move into the white picket fence neighborhood and park a car on the lawn, let the grass dry up and allow the pool to turn into your own little bayou in the backyard. You tarnish the entire area. Again, I know it sounds harsh, but you need to be aware of where you’re moving and what you can maintain. If you can only afford to pay the internal bills and cannot afford the external maintenance, you’ve moved into the wrong area. Sad? Yes, but true. Landscape. If not, then landscape. There’s just no way around it. Hire a professional. If you can’t pay for it, do it yourself. If you can’t do either of those, check with your neighbors. Perhaps one of the local kids will mow the lawn or rake the leaves. Attempt! To match the yards around you.
  1. Pick your fruit. If you have fruit bearing trees, when they fruit, pick them. If you do not enjoy the fruit or do not know what to do with it, share it with your neighbors. The key point is to NOT allow your lemon tree to turn into a moldy festering pile of pseudo-lemons spoiling and oozing in your yard. It’s a waste, it’s unattractive, stinky and it attracts critters. No one wants critters.
    1. If you share your fruit, you are not entitled to the by-product. However, if you receive some fruit, you should share the by-product. It’s just the neighborly thing to do. Capicé?
    2. If none of these options is favorable to your taste, chop down the tree.
  1. Pick your papers. Do you receive the newspapers? Do you read them? Or do you leave them in the driveway to collect as if no one lives there? If you receive them, no one truly cares if you read them, collect the coupons or throw them in the trash, just do not leave them in the driveway. It doesn’t give an illusion, it’s a straight out statement: We. Don’t. Care.
  1. Pick UP after your dog. We, as a whole, really need to be conscious of our pets. Where I live, there are two rules to a dog. 1) in your yard or 2) on a leash. Anything beyond that is trouble for you. Also, where I live, you’re required to pick up after your dog. It’s your dog, it’s your responsibility and it is should not be the problem or the worry of your neighbors. Truly. I don’t have a dog, therefore, I do not want to pick up after a dog. Nor do I want your dog “watering” my plants and flowers. Please and thank you.
    1. I’d like to add my own twist in regards to spaying or neutering your pet. I am not a bleeding heart for every cat or dog. Nor any pet for that matter, but enough is enough. There are so many unwanted pets wandering the streets. If you do not want the worry and responsibility of caring for, getting shots for, naming and picking up after a litter of offspring, spay or neuter. If you’re not going to keep your pet in your yard or on a leash, spay or neuter. Please.
    2. Also, if you keep your dog in your yard never to be seen, you still need to pick up after it. A heaping pile of dog poo is nuclear in the summer heat. It’s better for all of us, especially your dog and anyone who lives downwind.
  1. Rare and/or dangerous pets are exactly that: rare and/or dangerous. Treat them as such. Check on them, double check on them and then check again. You run a huge risk having something rare and/or dangerous in your home. You run an unfathomable risk having something rare/or dangerous outside of your home. Be conscious of what you are exposing yourself and your neighbors to. If the risk is too high, return it or sell it.
  1. Prepare for parties. We all like parties, don’t we? My favorites are family oriented backyard hooplahs with lots of food, music, kids and fun. That’s what I like. My neighbors might not be so fond. If you’re going to have a party, be conscious of your party.
    1. Parties are unpredictable. Accept responsibility for your home, your guests and everything related and included. That means parking, drinking, smoking, laughing, yelling, fighting and eating. If you have a zero tolerance policy on any of the above, MAKE IT KNOWN to your guests before arrival.
    2. Keep your party at your house. Don’t let your guests wander the streets and disrupt your neighbors.
    3. Warn your guests about parking. You know where you live. If you live in a cul de sac, tell your guests. If you live on a one-way street, tell your guests. Give them an idea where to park and be certain to tell your guests to be mindful and respectful of your neighbors.
    4. Keep your bathroom stocked with necessities. Please. For all of us.
    5. In the event your party is spectacular (as we would all like for them to be) make sure you stay within your boundaries. If your boundaries find themselves expanded, make sure you conduct yourself accordingly. Here’s an example: my friend’s dad has a great party house. I’ve been there many times and stayed until wee hours of the morning. While out and about one night, he and the other bar-goers were having such a good time they didn’t want it to end. So, being the host that he is, he invited the bar back to his home. They kept the party going until well beyond reasonable. The next day, my friend’s dad purchased bottles of champagne and sparkling cider and personally delivered them to his neighbors with his sincerest apologies. His neighbors were not only surprised, they were appreciative and honored. He showed that he was conscious that they existed, could have been disturbed and that he wasn’t so much regretful as he was apologetic. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen again, but if it does, I’m sure they will be calm about it.
  1. Mind your music. Whether it’s from your home, your car, or your teenager’s garage band… mind your music. This is coming from a music lover! But the fact is, not everyone enjoys and appreciates music the way I do. And eve\n if they do love and appreciate it, our tastes and preferences are varied. Just be mindful. Not everyone wants to hear Nina Simone belt out “Where the Chilly Winds Don’t Blow” at the highest volume during the latest hours.
  1. Return what is not yours. Isn’t it amazing how a ball always ends up in the backyard? Kids. Give the ball back. Don’t keep it for your grandkids, don’t throw it away, give it back. Please. For some of us, that ball has been at our house for a total of 3.7 seconds and now it’s in your yard. Please return it or for the love of all things holy, or this boy (my boy) is going to rant, rave, scream and cry about it for the next week because he knows it’s in your yard. He doesn’t understand that I can’t just hop the fence, fight off your German shepherd and get the ball. So, please, just give it back. Thank you.
  1. The Pros. Now, when you’ve got neighbors that you know and trust, you have someone to pick up those papers when you’re vacationing, someone to check the mail for you, pull your trash out and to even hold a spare key in case both of you get locked out. You have someone from whom you can borrow milk or sugar when you’re in a jam. Someone to help you fix a flat, change a tire or get the sandbags off the leaky roof. You have a friend.

If none of that convinced you, let me share one last tidbit. A most important and convincing tidbit. You might be familiar with the phrase:

“Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself”

Moses.. receiving the Ten Commandments.

Does that sound familiar to you at all? It should! It’s in the Bible. It’s concept is part of the Ten Commandments. The phrase itself is repeated and stressed many times over throughout the Bible. I believe it is the essential ingredient in the Golden Rule. You’re familiar with that concept aren’t you?

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Both of these concepts are older than anyone you or I have ever known. They have stood the test of time. These ideas have been used to devise laws and as a basis for punishments. They are key to the care and concern of the human spirit and mind and are representative of the status of the human condition. If you didn’t know it then, you can’t say you don’t know it now. Treat others as you would want them to treat you. Common courtesy. If that’s not enough, do it because God said so.

I was going to end with “in short, what I’m saying is”, but as you have probably come to know, nothing I say is “short”. And what “I’m saying” is what I’ve said and what you read. I am a self-proclaimed non-expert on everything. I am not trained or certified in neighbor relations. I can only tell you that this neighborhood and these people are some of the nicest and friendliest I’ve ever known. The majority of them have introduced themselves at one time or another and always share a smile or a wave (except for that one lady who I hope somehow finds this website, blog and post and knows it’s about her).

There is a couple that walks their dogs in the morning and we’ve only exchanged “hey howdys” and a little chatter about their dogs. But I wouldn’t be worried to ask them for a jump for my car, a cup of sugar or to use their phone. There are several seniors that walk in the morning and always seem anxious and eager to share their brisk morning smile and energetic waves. These people are technically strangers because I don’t know much beyond their walking routines. But, we share a common thread. We live in the same area, we share the same streets and zip code. We are neighbors. We should conduct ourselves as such. So should you.

vacation elation: part 5 ~ delicious delectables

what a ride!

we’ve been through almost every detail of my vacation. did you feel like you were there with me? that was my intention: to describe it and share it in such a way that you felt involved. i hope that in your eyes, through my eyes and words, you were able to do just that.

so let’s get you what you want. i know you’re waiting to hear about the food. at least, that’s what Charles keeps asking for. 😀 thus far, my sharings on the meals and culinary delights has been minimal and that is for one good reason: it wasn’t that great to me. say whaaaaaat? yes, it’s true. while i have heard many legends about the food, i have to be truthful and admit that it was not all that it had been cracked up to be. i know, i know.. but let me explain.

  1. my tastes are simple. the bestie says “you have a child’s palette”. and she’s right. i have no room in my flavor saver for anything out of the ordinary and that’s a huge separation in my world.
  2. i do not like condiments. this includes most actual “condiments”, as well as the majority of dips, dressings and sauces.
  3. if i don’t know what it is, what it contains or how it was prepared, i will not consume it. period.

now, i know what you’re thinking: “what a fuddy dudd”. and you’re right! i’m the first to admit it. chef skills are wasted on me. good flavor is all i need. techniques, skills and the sheer fabulosity of five-star dining is not for me. i’m a simple girl where food is concerned and when it comes to eating out, i stand reserved. if coerced into going to a fine dining restaurant, i am usually uncomfortable — feeling pressured to enjoy the experience and “try” something but so apprehensive that i stick to any and everything that appear to resemble something i am already familiar with. i know, i know..and to think.. i once wanted to be a chef.

while the entire menu everyday was not stellar, to my boring standards, i did find the many options, the endlessness and the made-to-order dishes quite divine. i didn’t sleep that much, so every few hours i would cruise the buffet and find something to nibble on. that was the best part. there was always something. always.

i started my mornings with a made-to-order egg white omelet with peppers and a little cheese. after the first morning, i never had to say it again. the young man who fashioned this marvelous breakfast treat for me each day knew what i wanted when he saw me. i am still amazed at the service. i don’t know how he was able to remember MY request while serving two thousand nine hundred twenty-eight other people… i’d like to think it’s because i’m unforgettable (hahhahahhahhahahah). along with my beautiful HOT well done omelet i added two slices of wheat toast, strawberry yogurt and a wedge or two of both cantaloupe and honeydew. there was plenty of options for the rest of the cruise to choose from: bacon, sausage, pancakes, scrambled eggs, oatmeal with the deluxe fixins (brown sugar, raisins and the like), grits and cold cereal. that’s just what i can remember! i know there was more.

my aunt ordered her breakfast in and enjoyed it in the stateroom while preparing herself for the day. they would leave the door hanger menu each day and you could order as much as you wanted. this was not my interest, mostly because i do not like food served to me that has been under a lid — cooling off, or warming up and sweating all over itself. but! that’s just me. my aunt loved her breakfast and reminded me that i didn’t have to get up five minutes after i had laid down. hahahha. after the first two mornings, i made an effort to be up and up before 8 or 9 when the majority of the boat was attempting to dine. at that time, the omelet line would be twenty or thirty minutes long. i found my quiet early morning, poolside, breakfasts quite pleasurable. i met several like-minded diners and enjoyed first morning conversations with them.

with breakfast secured, i often went poolside to catch some morning-turned-midday sun. this is not a surprising fact. as the day wore on, the satiety would subside and the hunger would surface. i mostly skipped over the lunch buffet with the day’s masterpieces. i think i ate at the burger bar everyday. that is where my other friend would greet me with

“hello ma’am. veggie burger with cheese, right? no onion?”

how did he know that??!?!?!? there was a line of hungry folks in front of me and twice as many behind me. but no matter what, the same smile, the same question and the same acknowledging head nod. super fantastic! next to my condiment-less veggie burger i would pile golden fried chicken strips that weighed no less that half a pound each. followed by beautiful crunchy skinny french fries and topped off with a pile of chips drowned in bubblin’ hot nacho cheese. most times i would fill a plate with the little plastic cups of water and then place my plate of food on top to maximize my trip and to always have enough to share.

since i have such simple tastes and prefer the simplicity of food, i CHOOSE not to try things that i am almost certain i will not like. i know that takes the adventure out of it, but what can i say? it’s just not my style. i can assure you that i gave everything a good long glance and considered several new things. perhaps my creature of habit habits talked me out of actually taking the plunge and TRYING everything. we’ll never actually know. don’t be too disappointed. i had fun, i enjoyed myself and i didn’t starve. i also did NOT gain the expected complimentary five to ten pounds that most people gain on a cruise. yay, me!

every night, we attended the formal captain’s dinner. this is pretty much the only reason that i was not poolside. i would retire to the room about 5 or 6 and give myself time to get pretty for dinner. i was delighted that i did because it was so much fun. there was a theme every night and each night there was a standby menu (just for folk like me) and the day’s menu holding all of the food secrets and surprises for that specific night. it might not be obvious at this point, but i pretty much stuck to the same ole things. on day two, i was spoiled ROTTEN by our server Tatiana. i arrived each night to find a cheese platter just above my place setting so that i might enjoy that huge chunk of bleu cheese with my salad. i have yet to find a bleu cheese that i enjoy as much as that one. she spoiled me to the hilt.

my favorite dinner was the vegetarian black bean enchiladas. they were truly delicious. i left thinking about them and spent a couple of days surfing the internet, the Carnival website and the cruiser blogs until i found the recipe. i have yet to make it, but you can be assured that when i do, you will know about it. they really were good and with my eccentricity where food is concerned it takes something quite amazing to knock my socks off. my socks were off! my eyes were closed and i’m pretty sure i was drooling and groaning like a toddler just getting control of her hands. they were goooooooooooooooood. but, the rest of the days… ? meh. nothing to take note of except…. dessert.

the real treat for me was the treats. i have a wicked sweet tooth. wicked. and every evening there were three new yummies to choose from. Tatiana is a dessert lover and she and i would discuss the dessert menu at length with one another before i made my choice. the best recommendation, the best choice and the best dessert was the crème brûlée. hands down. i do not have any photos of the foods i ate, but we’ll make do with this one:

ohhhhh.. the layers of deliciousness...

and while we’re at it, let’s get a definition of it:

Crème brûlée ( /ˌkrɛm brˈl/; French pronunciation: [kʁɛm bʁyle]), also known as burnt cream, crema catalana, or Trinity cream is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. It is normally served cold. The custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla. The earliest known reference of crème brûlée as we know it today appears in François Massialot‘s 1691 cookbook.

sweet candy and Jessica Tandy! (thank you Donna Tubbs-Brown). now. tell me, what is not delectable and inviting about that photo? tell me you don’t wanna bite it. i do! i can almost taste it right now.. that rich vanilla custard base, so smooth and flawless. covered by the thinnest layer of heaven, i mean, burnt caramelized sugar and topped with a few berries. oh lord it was good. how could you deny a recipe that’s eighty-five years older than the country we live in?? — well, that i live in??? and truth be told, this was my FIRST crème brûlée. before i dove face first into the shallow dish, i had flashback from a favorite movie, Amelie, when she discusses her love of the little nuances in life; including cracking the caramelized sugar with a spoon:

it is the impish grin that eludes to the joy contained within a crème brûlée

and immediately looks into the camera to ensure that you share her excitement.

i know that when Tatiana placed the dish before me i sighed. she said “and for you, crème brûlée” with her estonian accent and that added to the loveliness. as she walked away she said “enjoy TAH-knee-SHUH” and winked at me. i sighed again, picked up my spoon, closed my eyes and took a second to revel in the anticipation of the delight before me.

3, 2, 1 — SMACK! the crunchiness crunching and then the first bite. oh, heavenly goodness. so rich and delicious. it was everything i had hoped for and more. the joy of cracking the caramelized sugar was fun and i think i wore that same smile. i don’t know if there was conversation. i didn’t feel the boat rocking or moving as i did at every other sitting. i didn’t see or hear anything. the crème brûlée devoured me, and i in turn, devoured it. i wish i had one now.

so, all in all, i had basic breakfasts and lunches. nothing outstanding or rare. i had one memorable dinner and one unforgettable dessert. i have no complaints. at all.

my darlings! we have come to the end of this cruise adventure. the elation of the vacation has come to an end. thank you for walking slowly with me down this detailed recount of everything that i could remember. i know that i will think of more later and perhaps, there will be a part six. only time will tell. i so appreciate your time, effort and attentiveness in continuing to return for more.

the cruise is over, but the memories are forever burned into the soul of Brown Sugar Britches. this was an experience unlike any other. i am grateful for having had the opportunity. i am more grateful now that i’ve had time to simmer with the ideas and relay the awesomeness to you. until next time… do stay sweet!

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!

vacation elation: part 2 ~ the ship, the staff, the service

have you ever had service so wonderful and surprising that instantly all previous service failed in comparison? the kind that makes you struggle hard to believe that anything before this exact moment was service at all? i had that experience just a few weeks ago while on my very first cruise on the Carnival Liberty. believe me, it was service unparalleled. the ship itself was impressive.  the staff was equally impressive and they delivered this phenomenal service that has me grinning from ear to ear. i stayed at two very nice Hilton properties during this vacation, and the service was also very exceptional, but it was still unlike the service delivered on the boat. i was in awe and very grateful.

the Carnival Liberty on the left... floating boating fun (docked at modified stop No. 2 ~ Grand Turk Island. home of Margaritaville. <-----this is where you should look FIRST, if a group of us Cruisers come up missing).

first, let me get you some actual factual information about the ship itself:

  • 13 passenger decks (several more that are not passenger friendly)
  • Specialty restaurant (Harry’s), 2 dining rooms, buffet (prepared fresh for breakfast (including omelet station), lunch (including stir fry station, burger stand, burrito bar and deli) and midnight buffet), ice cream parlor, pizzeria
  • Wi-Fi, in-room safe, refrigerator (pssst! there was no refrigerator available in our room, perhaps in one of those bigger rooms with room to spare…?)
  • 3 pools (1 indoor), children’s pool, (don’t forget the water SLIDE!)
  • Fitness classes, gym, hair salon, 7 hot tubs, sauna, spa, steam room
  • 9 bars (i think i visited each one, at least once), casino, dance club, library, showroom, video game room
  • Children’s programs (ages 2-17)
  • Laundry facilities, laundry service
  • Internet terminal

deck nine, the lido deck, (where the party was at), and the home of the water sliiiiiiiiiiiiiide

here is some information that was provided by ship staff:

  • 2,929 passengers (on this cruise)
  • almost 1,200 staff (including doctors, nurses, security, bar servers, food servers, bartenders, housekeeping, maintenance, chefs, fire department, sales and management)
  • the boat extends approximately twenty-seven feet underwater.
  • this is the funnel burning exhaust and paper waste:
  • the funnel... extending high into the sky, above every other accessible part of this humongous floating party

  • approximately eight tons of food waste per day (i made sure to clean my plate after i heard that news)
  • there are at least fifty-five nationalities of employees on this cruise ship, all born and raised in their native countries and fluent in their native languages, as well as English.

we had a quaint little room. it wasn’t “little” per se, but it was “to the point”. we had a total of three closets, four drawers and two cabinets in which to live from during our seven-day stay. as well, there were two drawers under the couch that made for excellent and adequate shoe storage. the bathroom was also “to the point” but seemed to handle two women in it’s midst without much complaint. we also had a window. a nice sized window, not the round porthole that we most associate with boats, but a window big enough for me to sit in. to sit in and gaze out into the endless world. where the ocean goes for miles and the sky goes for miles and they come together somewhere in the distance.

... where the water meets the sky...

i truly intended on taking a photograph with each staff member that i made a connection with. but as i went through my days and nights, i came in contact with so many that i fell short on photos from day one. either way, i made connections and i would like to share some of the wonderful people that i met.

myself and Tatiana, the spoiled and the spoiler... respectively

Tatiana from Estonia: Tatiana was my formal food server for the Captain’s dinner every night. she was a delight from day one. she spoiled me rotten and i would be a complete liar if i said i didn’t miss her. she knew right away what i liked and didn’t like (because my food tastes are elementary and simple) and she made special requests for me. i have never been so privileged. i enjoy a simple salad with a chunk of bleu cheese and every night, when i arrived to the table, my cheese plate awaited me. when there was no simple salad option on the menu, she still managed to get me one. i tried to leave early on two different occasions but she kept me in my seat by presenting me with the dessert menu and saying “sweet time?” flashing that little twinkle in her eye. we oooh’d and aaaah’d over creme brulee together and each night we gave the dessert menu our own personal review. the last night on the ship, i debated all day over whether or not to go to dinner. i was having fun and getting in my g’byes as i passed fellow cruisers. after some debate, i decided that Tatiana deserved a proper goodbye. she had been so wonderful to me and i didn’t want to leave her that last night without thanking her for her service, advising her supervisor of her wonderful service and ensuring them both that as soon as i had a chance, i would write to Carnival Cruises and tell them about the magnificent service i had received.  she was amazing and i will always remember her.

Luis from Mexico & Dokphikun from Thailand: after boarding the ship and attending the mandatory emergency meeting at our assigned location i was completely lost. i could not find my way back to the food so i decided to go to the room and see if our luggage had arrived. after entering the room i was soon greeted by Luis. he wanted to know if there was anything i needed. he was so wonderful and he called me by name. he didn’t attend to me anymore during our trip, but he did work down the hall. he always said good morning, good afternoon and good evening and his response to my asking him “¿como estas?” was always, always “todo bien”. it’s all goooooood.

towels. folded like a frog.

towels. folded like a dog (i think).

just a few moments later i met Dokphikun. she tended to our room and kept us in tip-top shape the rest of the way. she also used my name from the first time through the last time i saw her. i don’t know if this is standard practice, if it was special for our cruise group, if it was because it was on our door (i don’t think that mattered at all) or if it’s just something that she does… either way, it was wonderful. i would often see her in the hall during the morning or evening and she always said “hello Tanisha”. it was music to my ears. and to think, when i was younger, i would cringe at people using my name. i made it my mission to talk to all of those that came to my service, to ask them about them and find out as much as i could. Dokphikun and Luis set the tone and it was delightful.

towels. folded like an elephant. all the handiwork of Dokphikun.

Orlando from India and Ketut from Indonesia: two of the best bar servers ever! these guys were on a mission to keep me well hydrated and very spirited while i spent my days poolside. they ensured that my cup raneth over and over and over. always serving with a smile and calling me “Neesha” (say whaaaat? seriously? seriously. like we’d known each other for years) when they requested my signature. i know that we shared several hi-fives, a few knuckle bumps and at least one hug each. i know that at one occasion i waved my hand in the air, blindly, and within a few minutes Orlando came to my rescue asking me “you needing something ma’am?” hell-to-the-yeah!! that’s what i call service, sir. great guys, both of them.

Joseph from Thailand: the bartender that i had the most one-on-one contact with. when i approached the bar, i greeted Joseph by name and asked him how his day was going. he served me next and always asked me to try my drink and make sure it was to my liking. he’s my kinda bartender. 😀 he cared that i was satisfied and wanted to make sure that he had met my expectations. that’s certainly a way to ensure repeat business if you ask me.

Eliana from Romania(?): how rude, right? i don’t remember exactly where Eliana was from but she was my bar server at dinner. she was tall and elegant. her accent was gorgeous and made “may i bringck you sumzing from zee bahr?” sound like “how many carats do you want in your diamond ring?” i’m not sure if i ordered from her because i wanted a drink (bahahaha) or if i just wanted to hear her repeat everything (moh-heet-toe or jhin-jher hale or nuh-sing?). she was equally as personable and pleasant as the rest of her service team.

Kristian from Hungary: Kristian came to deliver a wheelchair. unfortunately while on vacation, my aunt suffered an injury. when exiting onto the Lido deck  she fell into a unmarked drainage hole and severely sprained her ankle. she had to get x-rays and e’rythang. sad. the next day we docked in Key West Florida. we didn’t get off the boat until late, but we still went ashore and tried to find the ultimate Key Lime Pie and a little something to bring home. in order to do so, we needed a wheelchair. Kristian was the gentleman that delivered the chair to our room. he was very happy, very helpful and very handsome (hubba hubba). he was upset to learn the nature of the accident and expressed his concern.  we used the chair to eventually make it off the boat and onto land. it was probably eighty-something degrees but it was also eighty percent humidity. i don’t know the actual numbers but it was horrible sticky madness. i was elated to find a mini-mall with air conditioning, a liquor store with Monster and even more elated to get back onto the air conditioned boat.

sadly, i do not know the names of two of my regulars: the gentlemen who served me daily an egg-white omelet with peppers and cheese and my staple “veggie burger with cheese ma’am?”. they were both at a distance and reading their name tags sufficed to be a challenge. they worked two of the busiest stations and trying to converse with them just held up the line and got us both dirty looks. both men were polite, helpful and happy. it was a common thread throughout the entire staff. it was simply beautiful to see and made my vacation a little more vacation-y.

and last, but definitely not least on my list is Jayash and Lany, both from India: both worked in security. i came upon Jayash quietly surveying the happy dancing crowd on the night of the Mardi Gras Cool White Night Party. such a large crowd in close quarters makes me a little uneasy. i chose to cruise around up top where i could see everyone, but also enjoy the ocean breeze and gaze at the stars.

up top, near the dj booth... and away from the body heat

 i started here, on the dj side, and made my way around to the forward side. people were filling up each level as they arrived from dinner and it got more and more crowded. it was my first white party also, so it was quite interesting to see an entire boat full of people ~ all dressed in white. and dancing. once i made my round around the top i came down i landed next to Jayash. he was quietly examining the crowd.

the party from Jayash's point of view...

i asked him a few questions that led to so many answers. it was great. he took me on a tour and i felt so much more comfortable… at sea. we had good conversation. i shared my fear of cruising and plans to become a big-name published writer and he shared his daily at-sea routine and his plans for a future together with his girlfriend. after our introduction, i would see him throughout the days and nights. i introduced him to the other ladies in my party and anyone i happened to be loitering around with when i saw him. he was very attentive and kind.

Lany was also very kind. he would often wave and say “good evening ma’am” as i usually saw him around dinnertime. he wore a very genuine smile and was chivalrous, opening doors and bowing slightly as he saw me in and out. on our last day, we had checked our luggage and were supposed to meet in an early group. due to cane return and wheelchair complications, we were singled out and blasted over the intercom as we were late. when i finally made it to the right area, Lany was there and he said “you! we’re waiting on you?” he shuffled me this way and that and shook my hand as he said “goodbye ma’am, it was a pleasure to meet you”. i told him that i would write about him, made him write down the blog address and told him to say goodbye to Jayash for me as i had not seen him since early in the day before. he nodded and said “my pleasure ma’am”.

the ship sufficed as more than a home away from home. and the outstanding staff and exceptional service definitely made my vacation experience something to write about. i was thoroughly impressed from start to finish. my only hope is that the other passengers and guests recognized it in the same way i did. i found this to be one of the most memorable and touching vacations i have thus experienced. i will hold all levels of service next to this one and hold my expectations high. i have been spoiled by the Carnival Liberty crew and i don’t think i’ll ever settle for less. i am writing that letter, i am singling each and every one out for their good deeds and outstanding service as a whole. they have made a friend, a fan and a sailor out of me.

share your exceptional service experiences with me. did you tell that person that they had provided you with outstanding service? did you tell their superior or write a commendation to their management? tell me what you think great service is. until next time, when we return for part three ~ the cruuuuiiise… stay sweet, darlings!

vacation elation: part 1 ~ traveling to travel

excellent? fantastic? stellar? none of these words seem to do justice in describing my most recent vacation. in fact, i have so much to share that i had to write four pages of notes and break up the experience into parts in order to have some sort of method to my madness. in short, it was a great time. better than i could have imagined and or expected. my aunt has tried to get me to go with her for five years. can you believe that? it was the mere thought of cruising and floating about in the ocean that made me not want to go. i, inherently felt more than a little nervous and claustrophobic at just the thought. she kept telling me “i just know i wouldn’t see you, other than to change your clothes”. well, i went and she was right!!! once i got in, got settled and familiar with my surroundings, i didn’t see her much. i tried to keep close and continuously say “thank you, thank you, THANK YOU”, but even that doesn’t seem like enough to share the appreciation for such a generous gift.

once out of the house i came to realize that this was my first vacation in ten years. yup, ten years. the last vacation was also memorable as it was the week of the World Trade Center disasters (September 11, 2001). that same week my grandmother had a quadruple bypass (September 10, 2001) and i woke up with a sinus infection and ended up spending my then-boyfriend’s birthday (September 12, 200i 1) in the emergency room of Kaiser hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. this, however, is a much better, much funnier, much more exciting story. so let’s move forward, shall we?

as i have decided to tackle this monstrous event in parts, i will begin with “traveling to travel”. in order to get where you want to go, you must travel there. whether it be literally or figuratively, getting from one place to another can be a feat. this is one such occasion. as i stated, this was my first REAL vacation in ten years. i have stayed away from home for a couple of nights here and there, went to a weekend bachelorette event and, of course, spent time with the bestie and the babies, but none of that compares to a plan for almost eleven days away from home. the longest time away from my son since the day he was born, more than four years ago. the vacation plans have been in the works for an entire year. it consisted of a two-night stay in Miami, Florida (known as the pre-cruise party) followed by a seven-day cruise known as the “Festival at Sea”. some return to the initiation point for more post-cruise fun, but i was unable to commit to fourteen days away from Super-Boy.

with travel comes plans, itineraries, tickets, reservations, confirmations, identifications, passes, passports, tags and receipts. this is what some of that looks like:

here is MOST of what i needed to complete my travels.

without any one of these items, your trip could be ruined. not just ruined, but ruinT! you could get held up, delayed, denied or rerouted. and even with all of these items, you could still get held up, delayed, denied or rerouted (i did).

  1. flight itinerary: ya gotta know where you’re goin’ and how long it’s going to take you to get there. for the first time ever in my travels, i had layovers. two, to be exact. layovers have always made me uncomfortable. not because of the on and off the plane (even though that is annoying) but because of the luggage. i have always feared that my luggage would be lost and this seems like the easiest way for it to happen. it didn’t happen, but with every change and every delay, i felt more uneasy and certain that i would have only two outfits: my travel outfit (chosen for comfort, not for style) and my pajamas. i would have toiletries, but no swimsuit, no hair fixins and noooooo makeup. not to mention my only shoe choice would be running shoes. brooks. not ideal for twelve days away from home.
  2. boarding pass: required for boarding any mode of travel. i guess if you’re all snazzy and whatnot you can skip the printing and scan your iPhone… but i’m just not that snazzy yet. so with three boarding passes printed (for each way), i was set.
  3. luggage tags: i did not manage to keep the original luggage tags required for my luggage to make it to the same place that i do. with layovers, the case may be that the luggage gets to go on ahead on a straight-through while i’m stuck touring America’s airports. in what universe is this alright? i, the person, have to play airplane hopscotch to get where i need to be but my clothing items and hair fixins are waiting, impatiently, at my final destination. booooo. the tags you see here are the tags to get my luggage from the hotel to the cruise ship. a whole other matter entirely. but, another set of paperwork just the same.
    1. let me take this opportunity to bring up heightened security measures and how i can’t take a can of shaving cream over so many ounces and had to pop the razor off my razor and the constant removal of my shoes and being body scanned and the 3-1-1 rule and no cords (it’s a cell phone charger) and no scissors (they’re for my eyebrows!!!) and no jacket and no sunglasses and all that other blah-tey blah blah madness. if you’re going to travel, RESEARCH, and know what you’re up against. don’t just go and then have to throw out your hair gel, favorite cologne and just purchased 1-liter jug of carbonated goodness. trust me on this.
  4. cruise itinerary: again. it’s nice to know where you’re going, an estimate of how long it will take to get there, how long you’ll be there and what time you’re leaving. since “a tropical storm” decided to hitch a ride, we had to skip stop two (St. Thomas) and stop three (Puerto Rico– my WHOLE reason for going) and just jam right on to stop four (Grand Turk Island — which turned out to be the party of all parties, we’ll get to that in part three) and fill the rest of the time with stops in other places not listed on the ITINERARY! i’m sure one of you is saying “it’s a plan, it’s not set in stone” and to that i say “it’s written in BLACK and WHITE”. i’m not complaining though, really. i wouldn’t want to take on Mother Nature, particularly while at sea.
  5. cruise ticket: required at customs along with your passport to prove that you have a valid and verified reason for boarding a boat with 2,928 other people. and for some reason this magic piece of paper says “ticketless”. hmmmm. this same paper was also required at the cruise check-in location to verify confirmation of my reservation prior to the verification of my identification.
  6. hotel reservation confirmation: prior to boarding our cruise, we spent two nights in Miami, Florida. it allows folks to get acquainted, get familiar and then get crazy at the Pre-Cruise Party the night before push-off (that’s cruise talk for setting sail). you need confirmation of your reservation, followed by the verification of your identification, again… i’m so glad i planned ahead and had all of this ticketless paper madness in one place.
  7. courteous door tag: our cruise-tastic cruise director “The Mayor” donned the doors of his group with a lovely greeting and welcoming. it also served very helpful in finding the oooooooone room amongst the many rooms when the Mojitos set it. it was purely a courtesy but much appreciated.
  8. detoured, delayed, denied and rerouted: mmmmm.. yes. well, the weather detoured our cruise and subsequently our flight home. the detour caused a delay. the delay caused us to be completely denied requiring us to be rerouted. on the left is the luggage tag given to me as i checked my carry-on, thinking, “i won’t need it, i’ll be home in 5 hours”. on the right is the denied and rerouted paperwork received when i tried to scan my delayed boarding pass. details? our flight from Tampa to Atlanta was detoured due to weather. we were detoured to Huntsville for fuel. several hours later we resumed our flight to Atlanta, obviously delayed. upon landing our connecting flight to Ontario was already gone. we were denied exit from Atlanta for TWENTY-FIVE hours and requested to return to the Atlanta airport the next night. we made it home sunday night instead of saturday night.
  9. passport, key cards and “Sail & Sign” : (clockwise) a) your passport is your life. do not travel to another country without it. if you don’t have one, get one, keep it safe. seriously. b) key cards are almost as important as passports since they open the locked hotel rooms where one’s passport currently resides. and c) the “Sail & Sign” card as issued by Carnival Cruises. you must have it. it’s the only way to do ANY and EVERY thing on the boat. it’s your credit and your key. don’t lose it. might i suggest a clear plastic waterproof lanyard? i wished i had one. as i mentioned, the weather changed our itinerary and we made a stop in Key West, Florida. prior to disembarkation of the ship to Key West we were notified via loudspeaker that in order to reembark the ship home, we had to show either 1) our passport and “Sail & Sign” card or 2) our legal state issued identification and BIRTH CERTIFICATE. say whaaaat? yup. serious.
  10. receipts: i didn’t NEED receipts for anything. but it’s good to keep them, because when the final bill comes and i needed to make sure that i consumed hundreds of dollars worth of Mojitos, Mai Tais and Red Bulls over a seven-day period, receipts were far better at recollecting what happened that my shoddy memory. they added up faster and easier too. (there are waaaaaay more receipts than what is pictured here).

it pays to think ahead when traveling. i had all of the items above (minus the key cards, the “Sail & Sign” card and the receipts) inside clear plastic sheet covers, assembled accordingly in a bound notebook. i kept the notebook with my carry-on luggage and as i made each stop and checkpoint, i was prepared and able to move on quickly. included in my handy notebook was emergency contact information, a brief medical history (i’m allergic to a few things) and a few select pictures of my son. it might seem a little overboard (is that a boat joke?) but it worked out really well. any and all paperwork was organized and at my fingertips. i did the same for my aunt. it gave us a sense of security, which is needed when traveling.

so, now that we’ve talked about the paperwork, let’s actually talk about the traveling. yes, i still have more to say. it can be difficult to budget for a long trip. be sure to account for long-term parking, shuttles and taxis. be sure to have some singles to tip your drivers, baggage handlers and bellmen. if you’re going to stay at a hotel for several days, include money for meals and go to the local store to purchase snacks. even at touristy prices, they will cost less than inside the hotel or airport. speaking of snacks, here’s a question: how long has it been that they stopped serving food on airplanes? and since when did 0.42 ounces of peanuts suffice as a “snack”? that is a pitiful shame and a farce!

that brings me to the topic of airport yumminess. there tend to be an outrageous amount of mini restaurants, bars and eateries inside most airports. i had the pleasure of enjoying Charley’s Fresh Grilled Subs in Atlanta on our way to Miami. egg, cheese and jalapeno type omelet served on a fantastically fresh and warm roll. served to me by some of the happiest working women i have ever seen. laughing, joking and all of them smiling. but with that said, beware of eating in airports as it is expensive. seriously. my sandwich and soda was close to ten dollars. while most of it is very delicious, where a budget is concerned i wished i had stopped outside of the airport and grabbed a bite.

airports also tend to be loaded down with reading material. hours on a plane can provide ample time to knock out several magazines, peruse pictures or read hundreds of pages in a long-anticipated current read. i suggest getting this stuff elsewhere. listen… the airlines and the airport are getting their money. they once provided us with room for ourselves, our luggage, carry-on items, headsets, meals and snacks — all for the cost of one ticket and a tip to the porter. but these days, you’re allowed one bag. any additional bags, cost. any overweight bags, cost. parking, meals and extra thoughts, cost. save yourself some trouble and some cost and plan ahead.

one more item before i let you rest is that you can’t beat interesting conversation with another traveler. sitting between my aunt and i from Ontario to Atlanta was Mr. Grover C. he was on his way to his niece’s wedding. he was just as sweet as pie. as my aunt napped, he and i engaged in conversation. we talked about everything in the few hours we were together. two things stand out: our conversation about how clouds look solid, yet fluffy and delicious and also about my writing, my blog and of course his encouragement of me going back to school. i gave him a bookmark with my blog address and i hope to hear from him soon.

Melinda and I, leaving the hotel and ready to start the cruuuuuuuise! (i was operating on NO sleep).

in the future i would do the following to make my traveling just a smidge easier:

  • tag all luggage with the exact same indicator. ribbon, bow, tag, whatever. all of them the same.
  • clear plastic waterproof lanyard to hold the “Sail & Sign” card. it was hard to keep track of while i spent the first four days in the pool. it’s not something you want to leave lying about.
  • take beverages of choice. we were allotted unlimited water, lemonade and iced tea on the cruise. everything else was at cost. inflated cost. i would bear the brunt of a case of water and a case of carbonated goodness.
  • pillow. i hate other pillows. i don’t even know why i try.
  • waterproof camera. it’s too hard to keep track of cameras and phones when you’re spending so much time in the water (perhaps that’s just me). it would have been ideal to have a waterproof camera near so that when the moment struck i could snap the shot and keep on keepin’ on instead of having to get out, dry my forearms, dig into my bag, dry my forearms, turn the camera on, aim, try to shoot, dry my forearms and take three really bad pictures before giving up.

from the Hilton Miami Downtown to the Carnival Liberty.. "Welcome Aboard"

so this, my lovelies, is part one ~ traveling to travel. just a hint at what it takes to leave home for a total of twelve days and if you’ve never done it, just a little glimpse into what you can expect. i hope it was helpful. if you think of something to share, please let me know. i love and appreciate your comments. i’ll return soon with part two ~ the ship, the staff and the service. until next time, my darlings…. stay sweet.