Lessons Learned: One Way of Cruising

My husband and I recently came back from a cruise to the Western Caribbean. We absolutely loved it. This was our second cruise ever and our second cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). I’ve decided that I really like cruises. I like being able to:

  • Dine when and where I want to. We went with a group of friends, and we gathered every night to eat dinner together at one of their “included” restaurants. The last night on the ship, we had dinner with a show (that one we paid a little extra for). Since we weren’t eating until later on, Mike and I went down to the buffet for a small snack to hold us over. They were serving prime rib. Lean, juicy prime rib. How could we refuse? What a snack!

 

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Who knew? Sliced bananas with faces!

 

  • Have unlimited beverages. When you start drinking a few in the afternoon and then finish the evening with a few more (not to mention the drinks in between), those fun drinks can add up—if paying for them. At home, I normally drink beer. Not on these cruises. Give me beach drinks. I’ll worry about my weight later.
  • Attend the free entertainment. This last trip was awesome. In fact, the free entertainment was better than the two we paid for. Burn the Floor and Million Dollar Quartet were fantastic shows that had awesome dancers and singers. The comedians were funny and gave us a good laugh. Dueling pianos was fun as well. I had no problem watching one of the piano players. No problem at all…
  • Wear what I want. People wore all different kinds of outfits from fancy, sparkly, long gowns to shorts and tank. No one forced you to dress up. That made me happy because after a day in port, I liked wearing relaxed chic. I was on vacation. Comfort overruled.

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Cool dude wearing Mike’s glasses.

 

There were a few disappointing things that happened, but I can’t say that the events wrecked my trip. They were minor. In fact, I was double charged for the paid entertainment on the ship. When I called to explain the issue, the guy couldn’t help me yet (I had to wait a few more days to see if the credit went through). In the meantime, I booked our next cruise. Oh yeah.

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Tick Season

My hubby and I own land in Northern Wisconsin where we camp in our RV. Last year the ticks were terrible. This year the ticks are supposed to be just as bad. We went up to Landstuhl (what we call our place) on Saturday with the understanding that the little ticks were out. I was prepared. I brought a spray bottle of tick repellant—distilled white vinegar, water, and peppermint oil. I sprayed myself, my hat, pants, and shoes when we got there in the morning. I was happy that I found no ticks on me after a morning tick check. Mike found one on his stomach. He didn’t use the repellant.

In the afternoon, Mike found two ticks crawling in my hair as we put up the gazebo. I hadn’t put tick repellant on again so I’m not sure if it helped or not. However, they weren’t crawling on my skin or attached. I sprayed myself again with the repellant. No more ticks for the day. Yay!

Sunday morning, after my shower, I found a tick attached to my leg right below the knee. Not too long after, I found another crawling on my leg. What the hell? I think I’ll need to douse myself with tick repellant before going up, during, and after our visit up north.

Here’s to another season of feeling those little buggers crawling all over me. Grrrrrrr.

Spring

Rainy and cold days at this time of year can be good and bad. The bad part about it is that I want nice, warm weather. Isn’t this SPRING after all with sunny skies and flowers blooming? After the cold of winter, I long to soak up the sun and walk barefoot outside. I want to sit on the porch and enjoy a morning cup of coffee with my hubby. I want to listen to the birds sing and the neighborhood kids play ball in the park.

Spring fever takes its toll on me. I always think that April/May should have warmer weather than what it gives us. We get blasted with wind, rain, and sometimes snow. I have to be a little more patient before the winter chill leaves us and I can open the door to summer.

The good part about this time of year is that we get the rain to help turn everything green. It also keeps me indoors a while longer so I can focus on my writing. I don’t mind sitting up in my office at my desk. I don’t feel guilty because I can’t enjoy the beautiful warm day outside. Now is the time to focus and get The Calling – Book Two completed. I’m halfway there.

Manuscript Editing

I’m in the home stretch of completing my edits for my novel “The Calling” before I send it to the editor. Editing is time consuming and tedious, but rewarding as well. I love how the story transforms into polished work. The main errors that I look for in each chapter are adverbs, sentences over 30, and repeat words. There’s other edits as well that I will look for (consistency, typos, etc.), but the three noted above are the ones that I don’t “see” when I read my own work. I am too close to the story to notice the errors. I use a software program to point them out to me.

For those edits, the majority of adverbs used in a story are unnecessary. I mainly look for “ly” words. I’ll remove 90% of them. If the “ly” word is used in dialogue, I won’t remove it. In both books I liked to use the word “just.” Funny how a simple word can be used way too many times.

Sentences with over 30 words are easy fixes. I will break the one long sentence into two or three sentences. The hardest errors for me to find are the repeat words. Even when repeats are right in front, screaming at me, I still can’t see them, until they are highlighted in bold. In two paragraphs I had “dangerous” written four times. Four times! To correct, I determine if there’s another word I can use to replace the repeat, or if I have to restructure or delete the sentence. At times, I will keep the repeat if needed. Fixing repeat words takes the majority of the time. I’m not a pro, but I am getting better.

With that said, I need to edit another chapter….

Lessons Learned: Appreciating Parents

Normally, you always look “up” to your parents and appreciate how they’ve raised you, what they’ve done for you, or know how much they loved you. Today, I have a renewed appreciation looking “downward” for parents. Instead of my parents, I’m appreciating my daughter and her husband as parents. We just had our daughter and 18 month old grandson over for the weekend. Zander has more energy and spunk than I remember my daughter having at that age. It’s fascinating to see our grandson ping pong from one interest to another.

Yesterday was his first visit to the zoo. He loved seeing the animals, except when we were on a boardwalk next to a parking lot. The cars, trucks, and a van were more interesting than the lions sleeping in their den below us. He liked watching the gorillas, but wouldn’t stand next to the gorilla statue. He loved watching the polar bear, seeing him swim in the water. He loved walking around and exploring all the new and exciting things around him. He ping-ponged from one area to the next.

We took him to work today, first to Mike’s work and then to mine. He went from cube to cube, walked down…no, ran down the halls. He tried pushing a big pillar (that was holding up the building) out of the way. He took a ride on a wheel cart and in a desk chair.

The only time he’s quiet is when we’re reading him a book. Otherwise, he is constantly on the move. The three nights they spent with us, Mike and I fell into bed exhausted. That one little guy wore us out.

Willow and Zander just left. Yes, we were ready. But were we? I’m already missing them.

Lessons Learned: Puzzles and Brains – Puzzles Part 2

Last week I talked about jigsaw puzzles and relating it to writing. Tonight, I’ll write how puzzles helped my mom. Along with my sisters, we consider puzzles as a crucial part to her recovering from a stroke.

Our mom had a massive stroke in October, 2010. She is obviously a tough spirit because she survived when the doctors didn’t think she’d make it. After the hospital, we placed her in transitional care, at a nursing home, where she stayed for 100 days to recover and learn simple tasks like walking, eating, and taking care of herself. We knew that being with her, supporting her, and helping with her recovery was important. We knew that “working” her brain was a way we could help. What better way than to teach her how to do something she loved: jigsaw puzzles.

Before the stroke our mom had been proficient at putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle. After the stroke, she couldn’t put two pieces together. I believe we started with a 10-piece puzzle. We showed her how to look at the different pieces, how one curve could fit into another. She had to feel each piece to figure out the shape and then feel the edges in the puzzle to determine where it should go. We taught her how to look at the picture and try matching the detail with another piece. We showed her how to turn her head to look to her right to find pieces waiting to be placed. At the time, she couldn’t see anything on her right side. As she put it, “It’s blank.”

Once she accomplished the 10-piece puzzle, we continued to move upward. Next were 25 pieces, 50 pieces, and then 100 pieces. All of this took time, but she did it. Today, four and a half years later, she spends her time working on 1,000-piece puzzles again. Those puzzles keep her occupied and sharpen her mind.

If we hadn’t taught her how to put the pieces together, I don’t think our mom would be able to work on puzzles today or do other things that require detail. So keep in mind, when a person you know is recovering from a brain injury, like a stroke, find something they had enjoyed doing. Teach them how to do it once again. Start with basics and then advance in difficulty. You’ll be amazed at what the mind can do. We were amazed, seeing her progress and working on those puzzles once again.