Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Parenting 101

Man, you try so hard to learn from your mistakes with the previous child so you will do a better job each time. Why can't I learn to not push Andy so hard and make him feel like he never quite lives up to my expectations! I don't really feel that way but I know that's how I come across. Just carrying on the fine tradition my mom started with me and that I do to myself as well. He is struggling with not wanting to be in orchestra anymore and just wanting to get through the year, and I just need to let it go and be okay with that, and encourage him in other classes and sports, etc. I have been accused by both him and Lindsay of trying to make them do what I would do and be like me, and that is painfully close to true, much as I hate to admit it. It's certainly not my intent, but that seems to be the result anyway. I want him to know I love him and am proud of everything he does and that I'm okay with whatever he chooses to focus on. Why is that so hard to just say? You'd think this would get easier after all these years, but not so much . . .

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Is That All There Is?

Well, got the blahs again. Happens many Sundays. Just am not feelin' it at SOBC right now. I have so many friends there, and I love to see them every week, and I love Paul and singin' in the choir, but other than that - bleh. Just not much to get excited about. I know it's not all about me, not even really much at all about me, and I know that probably the issue lies with me somewhere in the space between me and Jesus, but I just feel like I want something more. Don't know what though. That's the problem. Just feel dry and thirsty. Sometimes I feel like that song - Is That All There Is? It seems to catch up with me most on Sunday, and then I spend the afternoon feeling blecchhhh and unmotivated, when I should be enjoying my day of rest. Ha ha, day of rest. That's so not true for so many dedicated Christians - we've made it into the busiest day of the week for many of our members who wish to serve. Something just rubs me the wrong way about that.
Just my opinion.

Take the gun, leave the cannoli . . .

Well, we had a Godfather trilogy marathon this weekend. Well, not really a marathon since we spread it over three days, but nevertheless. Parts I and II, which I personally view as one film, are my second favorite movie(s) ever (To Kill A Mockingbird is #1, always and forever - that movie shaped me in a big way), and it's been a long time since I've watched them all in a row. Part III is not really great, just okay, but is much better if you watch it just after watching I and II, because there's a lot left unexplained and many gaps in Part III that you forget about unless you've just seen the others. I have seen these movies so many times that I have begun to catch the little continuity errors and timeline problems (although I solved one last night that I thought was an error but in fact was not). It annoys Jay. He doesn't care, just wants to watch the film. It's just a funny quirk of mine. Andy had never watched all of them all the way through, so it was fun sharing the movies with him, and being able to answer his questions. I am not sure why I love this story so much, but to me it just achieves a perfection in acting, sets, music, costuming, everything. Al Pacino was so cheated out of an Oscar for both Parts I and II, as was Robert Duvall (also ripped off for a Lonesome Dove Emmy). Anyway, I don't know why I'm writing about this, but there you go - stream of consciousness I guess.

Friday, August 26, 2005

My Sleep Number is . . .

I read a funny quote by George Clooney this morning, in an interview about some serious back surgery he had. He said "I've learned that after you're 40 it's just about plugging up holes in the boat." Yep, we have found that to be true around our house. Every doctor visit turns out to be "well, you're just getting older." Ha ha. On that note, we recently got a Sleep Number Bed. Now, I will grant you it was a semi-pricey investment, though not as much as I thought. But worth EVERY PENNY! We got one with a pillow top, not the top of the line, but close to the top, because we went in the store and laid down on all the different beds and this one was by far our favorite. We also got memory foam pillows ($100 each!). I never thought I'd pay this kind of money for a pillow, but since I got it, I have not wakened with a stiff neck even ONE TIME! I used to sleep with two pillows, which was kind of too much, and one wasn't enough and I was always having neck and shoulder pain, and of course Jay frequently had pains due to his arthritis. ALL GONE!

Now for the downside - well there isn't REALLY a downside, but we sleep so well on the thing that without an alarm, we might sleep half the day away. I have never been so comfy on a bed in my life. And our sleep numbers are funny, kind of matching our personalities. Mine varies from 45 to 60, depending on how I'm feeling that night, and Jay's is at about 40 or 45 and he leaves it there (you know Jay, if something works, why try anything else?). He wanted it lower, but I kept rolling to his side because of the difference, so I raised his number a little and he's okay with that.

I know this is probably boring, and sounds like a commercial, but I slept until almost 9:30 this morning because I was so comfy, so it was on my mind. If you need a new bed and can afford one of these, get one! If you have any kind of back pain, etc. it will solve your problem!

On a related note, got my dog Jason a doggie bed yesterday, and now I have to figure out how to get him to sleep on it instead of being afraid of it. He's rather neurotic about strange new objects.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Gettin' Too Old for This

Had a blast on the rafting trip! But wow, I'm wondering how many more years I can do this, physically. Long road trips and camping and rafting are pretty taxing and I just am not quite as mobile as I used to be. HATE THAT! Had a lot of laughs on the trip - Jody and Kris are so funny, they entertained us pretty much the whole trip. Acting out scenes from Phantom, cracking all manner of bodily function jokes, etc. And Josh and Christi are great - Christi had never been camping or in the mountains before, she's not much of an outdoor girl, but she was a trooper (except for a little melt-down on Friday night). We told her "there's no crying in camping!" Took a sight seeing trip to Breckenridge - that was so much fun. They have an alpine slide, minature golf, etc. in the summer. The weather was unbelievable, just reminding me again that I wish I lived in a mountain climate. I have truly never seen so many different, fabulous flowers in my life. Everywhere you look, baskets, pots, gardens, just an abundance of incredible color! God's country, for sure! Wish I had more to write about this, but just want to sum up - great time - if you get asked to go rafting, you should do it! It's like a Six Flags ride only real! Very exciting.

The Art of Guilt-Free Laziness

Is there a book on this topic? If so I need to read it, immediately. I was in the dumps yesterday because I am constantly struggling with the "I must get some projects done/I want to lay by the pool and surf the net and generally goof off" dilemma. Same song, forty-third verse, if you will. I was raised in an environment where my folks worked hard and I was an only child expected to help around the house and pick up after myself. Add to that a mother with addiction problems (alcohol, prescriptions, self-destructive behavior, depression, you name it) and growing up in the 50s-60s when the model family was portrayed on TV, and my way of coping was to be very neat and orderly because that was the only thing in my life I had control over. Mix it all together and you end up with someone who desperately wants to be able to just relax and let it all go and live in the moment and enjoy doing whatever I FEEL like doing rather than what I SHOULD be doing, but I just cannot seem to figure out how. I spend lots of time thinking about it, trying to analyze it, getting mad at myself. Jay and I were talking about it yesterday and I came to the conclusion that I have just never mastered the art of guilt-free laziness. Jay says I just have never given myself permission to be lazy, and he's right. It just goes against every grain I have. I have a short window of time where I'm not working at all, and it's not that I'm sitting around eating candy and watching soaps, but I do spend a lot of time reading stuff on the computer, and occasionally having lunch with someone or laying by the pool (I justify that one by the fact that soon pool season will be over so I must do it while I can), reading, and generally finding ways to use up the whole freakin' day and having not much to show for it. That's the problem - I feel I must have something to show for it. Apparently being here and available for my family and taking care of cooking, groceries and laundry is not enough. I need to be cleaning out closets, painting trim, hanging pictures, etc. All worthy projects that I need and want to get done, but I have not gotten one single one of the completed. But then I remember all the times I have read that you won't regret the projects you didn't do, you'll regret not spending more time doing things that really matter. So, I know all the right answers, I just can't seem to get myself to apply them and really enjoy my freedom instead of beating myself up for yet another day passing with no projects even started. Geez I'm neurotic . . . wonder where I got THAT?

Today, I got up at 5:45 so I could shower, etc., take Andy to school and help bake cookies for the orchestra fundraiser. Came home about 10:30, and it's 1:15 and I've done pretty much nothing except stuff on the computer and having something to eat. So productive . . . I think I need counseling . . .

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Will Work for Cash

Here's the thing . . . I'm done with school, waiting on my magical piece of paper that says I can legally charge money to ply my trade (love that phrase). In the meantime, I'm startin to sweat this unemployed status. So I had lunch with my good friend Julie today, who is also on a similar "start a new career and be self-employed" journey, though hers involved getting a Masters Degree (go Jules!) and she is actually gainfully employed as a freelance writer/editor, in fact employed to the point of being too busy. She has hired a person to assist her, and may need another person to do some part time editing at home. Now that's just right up my alley, anal retentive wordsmith that I am, so I'm pretty excited that it might provide just that little bit of extra income to help things along as I'm getting my massage therapy clientele built up, and also just to keep my brain exercised as well as my body. She also mentioned a possible part time gig doing some financial stuff if her relative who is doing it now takes another job. My dilemma is that I also enjoy doing finanical work (go figure, since I hate math, but there's something rather satisfying about balance a checkbook, etc.). I don't think I will have time for both part time ventures (though I might at the beginning), so I don't know which to choose if they both in fact become a real possiblity. But I am encouraged that there might be some work I could do at home that will work around my already flexible massage schedule. I guess the scariest part (and Julie struggles with this some too) is that all this flexibility and being your own boss means you must be responsible for your own work habits and no one is going to make you do it - you have to make sure you work enough to get everything done on time, and that it's all done right, etc. because there's no one breathing down your neck (well, Julie does have deadlines, but you get my drift).

I hope one of these things works out so that I can ease my mind (and Jay's) by having a little income in the interim. This extended vacation is fun, but pretty soon the anxiety of no money coming in is going to overshadow the joy of a free schedule.

Dr. Visits

Okay, so I went to my retina doc today for my yearly check to make sure my retinas are still attached. My appointment was at 11:15. I was ten minutes late because there was a train at Abrams and Cooper that delayed me for over 10 minutes! So I sat in the waiting room until about 50 minutes had passed (from the time I arrived, not my appt. time), and finally went up to the desk to politely inquire. She checked in the back, and said "they are just about to call you in to dilate your eyes." And sure enough, about 5 minutes later (or less), they called me back. Now, call me cynical, but I'm convinced that they just move you to the front of the list when you COMPLAIN loud enough. I guess I'll never know, but I have strong suspicions that had I NOT gone to the front desk, I would have sat there for quite a while longer. I've had this same experience at my regular doc's office too. So, at this particular doc, they dilate your eyes (which involves putting several types of vile drops including numbing drops which not only make your eyeballs feel weird but also somehow affect your nasal passages - I think they are all connected). Then you sit for another 20 minutes or so, then the doctor sees you and shines impossibly bright lights in your eyes while making you look directly INTO the impossibly bright light WITHOUT blinking! Then you look up, down, right, left, etc. while the bright light is causing your eyes to water like nobody's business. BUT, once again, all is well and nothing has changed, which is good news! I finally left there about 1:35! Spent approximately 10-15 minutes with the actual doctor. Grrrr.

So that's my theory on the waiting time at the doctor's office. Whoever gripes the most gets to the head of the list . . .

I'm such a nerd

Okay, I am officially an internet-surfing, blog reading nerd! I swear I could spend an entire day just surfing the net, reading useless entertainment stuff, random news items, and the blogs of any and everyone I come across. I LOVE reading other people's blogs - it gives me so much insight into them and I just find it interesting from a human study point of view. I guess it's the writer in me. Observing others is fascinating to me. No judgments, just observations - people are just so weird and diverse and curiously unique. BUT, I find that hours just disappear when I am on the computer, it's like time stops. Probably not a good thing . . .

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Opposites Attract . . .

Isn't it funny how two people as different as Jay and me can have such a great relationship and have so much fun together? If you want to see examples of how different we are, read some of his blogs and then read some of mine. Yeah, we're different. I spill out all my random thoughts, and write about stuff that happens and how I feel about it. He write intellectual discourses. But he really is very funny and we laugh a lot - it just doesn't come through on his serious blogging style. Just strikes me funny. Sometimes you can tell a lot about a person through their blogs, especially if they are very candid like in a diary. But his blogs are for a particular purpose, so they only show one facet of his personality. But he would never just dump it all out like I do. Just one of the ways we are very different. Of course, sometimes I dump it out way too much . . . but he loves me anyhow! Go figure . . .

Monday, August 08, 2005

Living in Limbo

I'm in a really odd place right now. I am not working since I finished school and during the period while I'm waiting to get my temporary license. This is the first time in my whole adult life, except for maternity leaves and vacations, when I have not had to go to work. I am so content just puttering around the house, running errands, swimming, sleeping in a little, spending time with Sam, etc. But underneath the contentment is the knowledge that it will end soon and I feel some unease that I should (there's that ugly little word again) get a bunch of household projects done. I mean, even during school, basically since April, I've had much more free time, and yet I've barely gotten any projects done! I spend way too much time reading stuff on the computer, writing emails and blogging, and just doing basic tasks. But I should (there it is again) be working on my novel, working on my stuff to get prepared for my massage career, and doing stuff like painting and cleaning out closets, etc. But I'm so enjoying just having the time to do whatever, including reading out by the pool, which is such a huge, huge luxury! So even now, in one of the most content periods I've ever experienced, I struggle within myself between what I WANT to do and what I SHOULD do! It's so frustrating! I dawdle a day away, enjoying every second of it, and then later anguish because I got nothing accomplished. Geez, do I have a split personality or something? And of course, I'm having conversations with God, but I'm not going to Bible study, etc. Why can't I just allow myself to just enjoy this brief time of rest and relaxation for what it is?

I am getting prepared to begin working, and I am starting to get a little nervous about building up my business so that I don't run us into bankruptcy. I believe, still, that God is blessing this venture of mine, that He ordained my meeting with Carol and put all the puzzle pieces together for me and made it all work out so well, so I have no reason to believe things will go badly, but I guess I just need to believe in myself more. It's hard to be in school and be all pumped up and ready to go and then have to just sit and wait! I hope I can find a good balance of work hours and time at home and still make a good living. One of the points behind all this was to have a flexible schedule and to be my own boss so I'd have more family time. I just need to dig in there and not get easily discouraged - I know that it will take a while. Jay has been so supportive and patient. I just don't want to get lazy while I'm in this limbo period. I am liking it an awful lot . . .

I'm just a pain in my own behind! Lord save me from myself . . .

A Rafting I Will Go . . .

So, I'm off on another adventure. I am going on the college rafting trip, because Peter and Tiffany can't go due to Smoke on the Mountain not being performance ready or even close. Hope my knee holds out - I'm getting too old for these things . . . but I always have a great time! I'll write about it when I get back. We are leaving at 5:30 freakin' AM! on Thursday. It's a long drive! But, it's the Rockies in the summer, which is pretty amazing - fresh clean air and cool nights - yeah baby! And I'll get to hang out with some cool kids and Josh and Christi!

Interesting Movie . . .

Went to see The Chumscrubber last night. Very weird, very interesting movie. Kind of like a nightmare version of Desperate Housewives. All I can say is I hope most parents are not as clueless and stupid and self-involved as these parents. But I know many are, which probably explains why so many teens are so screwed up these days. I recommend this movie but be prepared for weirdness and perhaps some offense, but it's a twisted social commentary. I love twisted and weird social commentary movies, so it may not be your cup of tea. I think it's worth a look, good performances, pretty subversive. I liked it a lot.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Baby Let's Cruise . . .

Okay, up front warning, this is a REALLY LONG post, but I wanted to put down all the details of our cruise while I can still remember it all!

Hands down, the best vacation I've ever had! Eatin, soakin up the rays, eatin some more, strollin on the deck in the great breeze, eatin some more, watchin the parade of beautiful and not so beautiful people, eatin some more, shoppin for jools, eatin some more, swing dance lessons (what a fun and humiliating experience), eatin some more, snorkeling, (ohhh that turquoise sea), eatin some more, singing karaoke, and again, eatin some more. Yep, that's pretty much a cruise for ya.

If you have not been on a cruise, I cannot recommend highly enough that you go. Preferably with some really fun friends like Big Pete, Tiffany, Big Daddy James and Ange! (and of course Andy, the coolest son a person could want!) I have never had so much fun in my life, or laughed so much in one week! Or eaten so much food . . . BECAUSE I CAN!!!!! That was our motto for the week - I think I'll have some (insert delicious food item here) BECAUSE I CAN!!!! The coolest perk of a cruise is the food - I'm sure you've heard that, but I just have to repeat it. Can you say 24 hour pizza and ice cream? Yummmmmm. And many tasty, foofy umbrella drinks as well. Not that I had a lot in a row, just tried a variety over the course of the week. I felt so pampered and rich!

So I'll start at the beginning. We arrived in Galveston, parked down on the Strand and went to a shop so Tiffany, Andy and I could get our temporary henna tattoos for the cruise! That's right, we're cool! (And Andy also wanted to go to Captain Bubbie's Army Surplus Store since he missed out on mission trip. He bought a goofy hat.) So we are walking around sweating because it's mid-afternoon in July in Galveston, need I say more? And the tattoo lady cannot put the one across the top of my shoulders that I want because I'M TOO DANG SWEATY! Gross. Anyway, I got a cool butterfly on my shoulder. Tiffany got a little flower thing on her shoulder blade, and Andy got barbed wire on his bicep and a Chinese symbol on his forearm. Now I would never get a real tattoo for several reasons, but the temporary ones look real for a while and it was fun for a trip like this. For $10.00 . . . So, our ship leaves at 4:00pm, and it's a about 3pm by the time we finish all this and we have to drop us and our luggage off, take the cars to the lot and the guys must catch the shuttle back. Now the cruise terminal is about two blocks away, so I'm not worried at all, but Jay (I love you honey) is in full stress-out freak mode, afraid we'll miss the boat. So they drop us off, unload all our luggage and he and Pete speed away to the lots. Very nice porters load our luggage on these big carts to take them to the entrance door. Mine was nicer than Tiffany and Ange's. He put all my stuff on, then started for the entrance and then I asked him to wait until they were coming too, and for some reason their guy was taking forever (probably because Tiffany had so much luggage (I love you too Tiff). She was struggling under the weight of her carry on bags and my porter offered to go back to where she was and he put her carry on things on my cart (her guy was just going to let her carry them). Anyway, we went in the terminal and as soon as Peter and Jay got back we got in the line to get on board. It all went pretty quickly and smoothly, and before you know it we were walking up the gangway to the ship! Woooo hooooo!

We walked in to the large atrium with the ceiling that goes all the way to the top with glass elevators, a bar, a spiral staircase, etc., which is the required "oooooh, ahhhh" moment. Then we went to our rooms, which were all right next to each other, another cool thing. They tell you that your luggage may not get to your room until midnight, but it was all there except on of James's bags I think by the time we got to our rooms, sitting right by the door! (That $20 tip did the trick all right!) The cabins are small but very comfy. Ours of course had an extra bed for Andy but the ones with just the king bed weren't too bad. You don't spend much time in there anyway. But the sheets were high quality, and there was a very nice, silky soft down comforter and fluffy pillows and nice fluffy towels. Very nice. One of the neatest things on a cruise is that every evening when they make up your room, they make the cute towel animals and leave them on your turned down bed with your little mints. Every night a different animal - we couldn't wait to get back and see what we had. I am going to try to post my pictures of my animals and some others when Jay gets home and can show me how. We had an elephant, a monkey, a dog and a pair of seals! I bought a book on how to do them and a little beanie baby size one in the gift shop (it's a dog and he's on my bed).

We had a dinner time of 8pm in the fancy dining room every night, and ate there most nights except one I think. Our headwaiter for our table, Clifford, was from Jamaica and he was really nice and funny and gave us great service. At dinner, they have starters, salads, entrees and desserts and you can order as many of each thing as you want! On formal night, we all had steak AND lobster (except Jay). If you don't like something, just order something else. It was very gourmet and fancy, and sometimes we weren't sure what the items were, but hey it's all paid for so you might as well try stuff! Andy only ate dinner with us once, and the rest of the time I think he just ate pizza (the pizza was really good!) On the last night the waiters were dancing and the guests were dancing with them, so Peter and Jay got up and danced a little - yeah baby, yeah! Jay did his church lady dance and his newest addition, the Kevin James "can't stop it" moves from Hitch.

One interesting note, nearly every crew member we met was from somewhere other than the US. Lots of folks from Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union countries, including Macedonia! Lots from Australia and New Zealand, Jamaica, Dominica, Indonesia, etc. Some spoke English, many did not speak much which made for some interesting exchanges. The Cruise Director, Rebecca, was Canadian and sounded like a DJ or a newscaster or someone else with much professional speaking experience. Very polished, very attractive, very efficient and nice. She made all of the announcements heard around the ship every day. The Captain and much of his crew were Italian, and the head chef was from India. Quite the international crew, for sure!

Speaking of Andy, after the first night we didn't see him but once or twice a day, except for random sightings around the ship. They have a dance club just for teens and he met a group of kids there and they pretty much roamed around the ship hanging out, eating, playing ping pong and basketball, dancing, and just having lots of fun. He came in about 3 each morning, slept in (except the two excursion days) till who knows when. He said it was the most fun vacation he'd ever had too. I'm so happy that he had a good time. It was pretty funny when he would walk and not see us so we could just observe him in his natural habitat, if you will. He's pretty easy to spot in a crowd. . . We tried hard not to embarrass him by talking to him unless we had to.

We went to the karaoke bar three nights after dinner and that was hilarious! Pete, Tiffany, Ange and I did Love Shack, and Tiffany did Sin Wagon (great job too!), and Pete and Tiffany did Summer Nights from Grease, and James did a You Never Even Called Me By My Name. Big Paul and Mike were the highlights of the regular performers. Also the DJ would make you get up and sing if he caught you not clapping, and he got to pick the song. Yeah, those were funny . . . Of course the fun part is singing along with everyone. The trick with karaoke is to pick a fun song everyone knows, so then they sing along and don't worry if you don't sing it very well. It's kind of a group interactive experience. Much fun!

We didn't go to any of the shows, except one comedian who was just raunchy, not too funny. But we did do a swing dance lesson. Okay, that was really fun but very humiliating. I just haven't danced in so long that I've totally lost all coordination. Jay was such a good sport and was doing okay, but he was just so funny, and I was laughing so hard I could never get the turn right. Pete and Tiffany and James and Ange did much better. Pete got to be the model for our instructor, a stunning English brunette, and he got a little tongue tied when she asked where he was from. Pretty cute . . .

Our first port was Progreso, which was a detour since the port at Playa del Carmen was damaged. We pretty much felt gypped, but it couldn't be helped. They only offered a handful of excursions, and all but one involved a long bus ride and hiking and climbing stairs at ruins, etc. Of course the beach one filled up fast, so we opted to just go to town, shop a bit and walk over to the beach. The guys told us later that "wow, I would have enjoyed seeing those ruins," or "gee, I would have enjoyed touring those historic haciendas." Grrrr. But where were they when we were trying to make decisions about our excursions? Not interested, that's where. Oh well. The market at Progreso was about the size of the square at Granbury, maybe smaller, and all OUTSIDE, in the unbelievably humid, hot, thick, sticky heat. At one point while Angela was getting her hair braided, some of our group went across the street to get Cokes, and it was a pollieria (a chicken butcher shop for those of you who don't speak Spanish). Apparently it was quite fragrant with warm chicken guts and blood smells. Yum. And to think I missed it all! So we bought hats and a couple of other things and then walked to the beach, just a couple of blocks. It was okay, but the water was kind of murky greenish, not the beautiful blue we expected. The girls went in the water, and the guys sat under a little thatched umbrella sipping their Cokes. Then we caught a taxi van back to the ship to avoid the lines for the shuttle bus from the market. $15 well spent, and we ended up double tipping the guy so he made a nice income. Fortunately we had James along who speaks really good Spanish to help us with taxis, etc. Most of the drivers speak a little bit of English but not much.

Next day we ported at Cozumel. We had signed up for a snorkeling excursion that started at 11am, so we had some time to shop at the stores right at the pier. I have never in my life seen so many jewelry stores. The little shopping area there is a couple of blocks long and very, very clean and nice, with colorful storefronts and nice brick paved streets (no cars). It's pretty much tailored to the cruise tourists. I must mention here our great Super Shopper on the ship, Kayleen. She was from New Zealand, and I want her job. She just goes to the different stores in port and negotiates discounts and great deals and free stuff, etc. for Carnival travelers, and she gives a great and very entertaining shopping talk on the ship, telling you specifically which stores to go to for the best deals, etc. She gave away some stuff and James won a bottle of some liquor which they call Mexican Viagra (it has some long Aztec name). So anyway, while we were in the pier shops, Jay was looking at a Caribbean topaz ring that he really liked and was waffling and Kayleen came in the store and got him another $100 off the price! It's really pretty - Caribbean topaz has many different colors - pink, purple, dark blue, orange, it's just gorgeous.

Then it was time for our snorkel adventure. We were in a large group and basically just broke up into small groups in taxis to the beach, which was not too far away. They gave us basic instructions and our equipment, and they had a nice locker room where we could change. I have never snorkeled before, nor had Jay or Andy. The hardest part was getting in the water, because instead of sand like I expected, it was limestone because we were at a reef, so me with my wimpy tender feet had a hard time walking out to where it was deep enough to put on my fins (which appeared to be about 4 feet long!). Then the guide had to hold me up as the tide bounced me around and I struggled my fins on. But once I got them on (by the way it's nearly impossible to actually walk in those things, but they are quite nifty for swimming at a brisk pace), I went out to the drop off and was able to float (we had life jackets of course) and then it was great. I quickly figured out the whole breathe only through your mouth thing and off I went! The water is just otherworldly - it's the color of a brilliant turquoise stone or a deep blue topaz stone. Just really unreal - clear and just the most beautiful thing you've ever seen! Even looking down off the ship in port, the deep water was a sapphire blue and the foam even had a bluish tint! Have to see it to really believe it. I didn't have my glasses on but I could still see the fish pretty well so it was fine. I only had one drink of Mexican margarita (which is what our instructor called the salt water). He was very funny. Jay and Andy fell behind as we were snorkeling and going out deeper, so I went back to look for them, since from a distance all the heads bobbing in the water looked the same. I ended up missing some of the larger groups of fish that everyone else saw because the guide threw out some food, and I didn't try holding my breath and going deeper, but I will next time. All in all, it was loads of fun but I would have liked to have more time. We could have stayed as long as we wanted, but we wanted to shop also.

Andy didn't want to shop, so he and Jay went on back to the ship and the rest of us went to the recommended shopping area. James and Angela wanted to shop first, and Pete and Tiffany and I were hungry so we walked about a mile down to the Shrimp Bucket (it's a long story but needless to say we would have been smarter to get the taxi to drop us at that end instead of the other, but we didn't plan ahead too well). Anyway, we had the most delicious fresh beer battered and coconut shrimp lunch! It was just the best. And our margaritas were large and tasty, doubly so since we had walked almost a mile at a good clip in the heat and humidity) and then our very nice waiter brought us complimentary Kahlua shots at the end of our meal. Very very good. Now I don't drink very often, pretty much only on special occasions, so don't get the wrong idea, but a nice frosty margarita sure tastes great on a vacation on a very hot day! Yessireee!

Then we trekked back to find a couple of shops we wanted to hit, realizing it was about 3pm and we had to be back on the ship no later than 4:30. About the middle of the strip which was almost a mile long, I wanted to stop at the loose gemstone shop, so I told Pete and Tiffany I'd catch up with them. Well I found some Caribbean topaz stones at a great price and they said they could mount them in some earrings for me right away. So I was pacing around worrying that they'd think something happened to me, and the sales girl suggested that I go find them and then come back. So I race walked about five blocks I think, maybe more, past all the guys hawking their stuff, etc., melting with sweat, and my legs were aching so bad. About a block and a half to the end I saw Peter go into a store, so I finally caught up with them. It was kind of creepy, all the tourists were gone, headed back to the ship, so we really kicked it into gear then. They paid for their stuff and then we all three race-walked back to my store (by this time it's close to 4pm and we are rushing!). When we got to the store, the sweet sales girl was standing on the steps outside holding my bag with my earrings! I should have given her a tip, but we were in such a rush! Pete hailed a cab immediately and we got in and headed back toward the pier, but the traffic was so heavy. Our driver was chatting on his CB with one of his friends the whole time, and now and then we'd catch an English word. We got back to the pier about 4:15, and I could just imagine Jay sitting on the ship tapping his watch and saying "they're gonna miss the boat and get left behind . . ." We started walking through the long corridor of duty free shops right at the end of the pier and this really, really drunk woman and her friend staggering through, and this woman was hollering, really loud, "How you doin?" to literally EVERY person in her path! All the way to the gangway of the ship! She was so loud and drunk and obnoxious!

We went to the shorter gangway line, got back on the ship and I went immediately to our cabin to find Jay and let him know I had not gotten left on shore or kidnapped, but he wasn't there. I then proceeded to spend about 45 minutes looking for him, to no avail. (By the way, this happened to us enough times that next time we are taking walkie talkies - the ships are so big you could spend all day passing each other and never find each other). So I went back to the room to take a shower, and later when we met up I found out that he had been waiting for us at the OTHER gangway and didn't see us pass by.

I'm backing up here but we had great fun on formal night too. We all dressed up and went to the Captain's Cocktail party and then dinner and took some really great pictures. We spent a lot of time just walking around the ship, sitting on the deck people watching or laying in the sun, just talking and laughing, etc. The non-duty shops on the board put new stuff out every day so we looked there a lot.

Jay bought me the most gorgeous tanzanite and diamond wide band from the ship gift shop. They had some incredible jewelry at great prices and they have a one year guarantee. I was just looking while Angela was trying on rings, and I saw this one and just thought I'd try it on, and "Waaaaaaaaaa" it was love at first sight! I told Jay he didn't have to get me an anniversary present for several years since this ring is so awesome. We found out that tanzanite has tripled in value in the last few years since they can only get it from one mine in Africa. The value goes up with the size and depth of blue of the stone. Then Peter bought Tiffany this gorgeous earring, necklace and bracelet set of blue topaz and peridot, and surprised her with it. And James came back and bought Angela the tanzanite ring she had wanted, but then it was too big and they traded it for another, and then while in Cozumel found an even prettier ring with a larger stone and a better bargain, so they got that one and returned the one on the ship. We girls all got lucky with some beautiful bling from our great hubbies!

The last night we toasted our wonderful trip with some champagne that Peter had won earlier in the week. Clifford iced it down for us and brought us glasses and strawberries! Then later in the night we had some excitement. Andy had been coming in about 3 and for some reason I was having trouble sleeping, and about 3 I was awake, and he was still not back at 3:30 and I was a little concerned. Then a little before 4am an announcement saying "Attention all crew Operation Bright Star Empress Deck starboard side." Well I knew that was some kind of emergency and my son was not back in the cabin, so I did what any mother would do and threw on a denim jacket and flip flops with my gown and made a beeline for that location. It was the big atrium area, and as I walked down the hall I could see people milling around and my anxiety level was rising, but as I came into the atrium area I saw Andy standing over by the staircase, and he pointed up. He said that some guy fell, and at first I thought he meant one of his friends had fallen over the rail into the atrium. But what happened was a really really drunk guy fell between the stair railings in the corridor behind the atrium, about four decks down to a carpeted area. Andy and his friend we walking down the corridor to come back to their rooms and they heard a thud, and walked around the corner and saw this guy lying there with a huge gash in his head, and Andy said he was unconscious and gurgling. The people who had been with him were standing there and they had called the doctor and brought a stretcher, and the crew shooed everyone away and that's when I found him. He was a little shaken up, because the guy was clearly in a bad way. On the way back to our cabin we met two other moms who were looking for their sons because they had heard the announcement and their kid wasn't back yet. We assured them the person who fell was an adult, so I'm sure they found their kids. We had a bit of a time getting back to sleep after that, needless to say. But of course the next day we heard nothing about it and I've seen nothing on the news so I assume he recovered, hope so anyway.

The journey home was kind of rocky because the captain was dodging storms in the Gulf, so we noticed the movement of the ship quite a bit more, but it never really bothered me much. We arrived in Galveston early Saturday morning, but they let you off by decks, so we had plenty of time to eat breakfast, etc. and got off the boat about 10:30am. We didn't want to leave!!! Can't wait to go back again . . .

So, inside jokes . . . look at those nostrils . . . mmmmmmm hmmmmmm . . . BECAUSE I CAN! . . . HOW YOU DOIN? . . . do they have pancakes? . . . there goes the Shrub . . . are we leaning? . . . let's have some pizza/ice cream/dessert . . .what happens on the ship STAYS on the ship (or in Mexico). Great memories, great friends, great times . . . let's do it again!

Better Late than Never, Right?

Okay, wow, it's been a loooooong time since I posted. The last month or so has been a blur. I finished school, completed my internship and graduated (yay me), went on mission trip, went on a cruise (more about that in a separate post) and now I'm unemployed until I get my temporary license from the good ole State of Texas, yet I still seem to be finding more things to do than I have time for. How the heck did I ever do all this stuff while I worked full time? I have a large list of errands, tasks, etc. to do, and I've already done a bunch of them this week so far!

So, on to mission trip. So glad I decided to go, God blessed as He always is faithful to do. We had a safe trip down, though I drove my car alone since everyone wanted to be in the vans where the fun was (don't blame them). But it was okay. When we arrived in Galveston, our rooms weren't ready as it seems there was a miscommunication and the night manager (it was about 10:30pm or so) had no idea we were coming, but thought we'd arrive on Monday night instead. So several vehicles idled in the Wal-Mart parking lot next to our condos while Josh and Christi gently strong-armed them into getting our rooms ready, etc. Somewhere shortly before midnight we got our rooms, but with the understanding that some of us might have to move the next night. We were supposed to all be in the same building, but the first night we just had to take what was available. Some of the rooms didn't have enough beds for the people assigned to them, so we had to do a little shifting, but all in all, by the second evening, everyone was settled in and mostly happy. The condos were quite nice, though small, and across the street from the beach. Now if you've never been to Galveston, let me just say that it is not the most attractive beach in the world, but it is a beach, so many of our kids were quite excited. It was very humid, of course. A couple of times I walked out of our condo onto the balcony and my glasses fogged up! We had wonderful A/C and kept our unit quite frosty all week, which felt great when coming in from the heat. The pool was very nice, but kind of like bathwater, not too refreshing but at least it was wet.

Early on in the week, lots of the kids seemed a little uncomfortable that here we were on a mission trip and we were staying in a really nice condo at the beach, not suffering in a crowded gym like we did in Mexico. Seems lots of them felt guilty for having such luxury, and were a little unsure that the people in Galveston could be as needy as the ones in Mexico. Fortunately, as the week went on they soon began to see that there are hurting, poor and lost people everywhere you go, people who need to see and feel God's love through the touch and hugs and ministry of others. I won't go into great details, but we did VBS sites, worked at a homeless shelter, and did some ministry at Josh's dad's church as well. My group had to improvise some as our planned VBS at a neighborhood park got no response, so we took bottled water and salvation bracelets to the Seawall and set up tables and gave them out free, and talked to people when given the opportunity. The kids did all the work, and they were AMAZING! I am waaaay out of my comfort zone talking to strangers on the street, but they just went up to everyone with such enthusiasm, and people were generally very appreciative, though many of them were suspicous of why we would give a way free water, what was the catch, some even tried to give us money which we declined. Then the last two days we went to the Shriner's Children's Hospital burn unit and visited and played with some of the kids there. They were all from Mexico and had varying degrees of burn injuries, some quite serious, and none spoke English so our young Spanish speakers (and Bushy) got the chance after all to use their skills. That hospital is incredible and they cover all costs for medical care for the kids and for housing their families while they are being treated. Burns are a horrible thing, but these kids seemed just like any others, having adapted to their injuries including lost fingers, limbs, hair, etc.

All in all, it was a great trip, and Josh proved to be a great leader and able to quickly deal with whatever circumstances arose without losing his cool. He and Christi are a great team and this week really forged some bonds between them and the kids. And he didn't mind when we made fun of him for his walkie talkie lingo . . . "Attention all van drivers, attention all van drivers. This is Josh. We will be taking exit 5-7-1, that's 5-7-1, in approximately 3.2 miles. " and so on. Hilarious, but it worked. No one got lost or separated, etc.

Of course there were many inside jokes, Poooooop Deeeeeck being the main one. There was a restaurant we passed every day called the Poop Deck. And for my room and some others, there was Kappa Kappa Chino, the first Chinese sorority (love you Cami!). And many more. Much fun was had. God is good, all the time! I don't know what I'll do when I'm too old to go on youth trips . . .