October 10th, 2009

bundled up, walkabout, snow

Our last day at Sea

This morning, I woke "early," determined to milk the last day for all its worth. We ate breakfast in the Blue Lagoon Café. It was the first time we ate in the limited-menu restaurant which happens to be closest to our room. I had a cinnamon roll, apple juice and an egg croissant. Flar had an omelet, white toast and orange juice.

I had dressed ready to spend the day at the pool, after a few detours: I hadn't tackled the rock wall yet, and I had a bit of shopping I wanted to finish. Flar went with me to the rock wall with his trusty camcorder. A family had just gotten there, so I settled back to watch before I signed up for the climb. The first to attempt the wall was a teenager, who couldn't quite hang on tight enough with his hands to find higher grips for his toes. Uh oh. The more I watched him struggle, the more I questioned my ability to tackle the wall. He actually gave up, and then his father had a go at it. He made it all the way to the top and rang the bell, but when he got done, he was sweating and commenting on what a work-out it was. This was a guy who was lean, and obviously in good physical condition. That's when I decided that the rock wall would be something for me to tackle on the next cruise.

Aside from my not-so-stellar hand strength, the other reason I wimped out was the after-effects of the volcano. Wednesday night, I was mostly foot sore, and the oil and gel took away the pain. Thursday morning, I woke up with very stiff quads and pecs from my exertions, and I was still feeling the burn this morning. I actually had rubbery legs, as my left quad would threaten to fold up my leg for me when I put weight on it. I'm slowly walking it out, but elevators were definitely my friend today.

Flar was really sweet about me wimping out on the wall. He went poolside to find a nice place to sit, and I went on my other errands. The most important was gathering up Norwegian Pearl souvenirs in the shop. I took those on up to the room, then met Flar poolside. He had put his stuff at a table in the shade, and he was dangling his feet in one of the pools. I joined him in the pool, after adding my stuff to the table. I tread water and paddled about at his feet. It felt wonderful. Eventually we moved to the tble for drinks, and when lunch was served I helped myself to a hamburger.

Flar decided he didn't like his suit clinging to him, so we went back up to the room. I got my book, and showed him the souvenirs that I'd found, then decided to get a dry change of clothes for the afternoon, so I wouldn't have to head back to the room. Flar changed out of his suit, and then returned to the pool. He sat in the shade for a bit, while I splashed in the water and read in the jacuzzi awhile. When I got out of the jacuzzi to lay out in the shade, I meandered over to Flar's seat and got him to stand up and hold my hands while I danced to the Calypso beat. It's our version of dancing together, since he generally doesn't like to dance these days. But he humored me, and then went off to have his own fun on the ship while I spent more time poolside.

I alternated between reading, and dancing behind the bandstand. The bandstand backs up to the overflow tiling of one of the pools. They keep enough water in the pool that the overflow tiling is covered with about 2 inches of water, which is perfect for sloshing through while dancing. When the Calypso Band took a break, it was time for pool games. Only this game wasn't in the pool, it was poolside, and involved clapping in a circle. The idea was to clap, then point to someone else in the circle, who would clap and point, etc. We practiced a few rounds, then he started eliminated people who missed their cue. Then he added in counting. It turns out counting to 10 is a lot harder when you're already concentrating on looking for your cue and clapping, etc. It was lots of fun, and I stayed in until there were four of us, so that felt pretty great. Interestingly, the two winners were one of the youngest and one of the oldest.

There are a lot of retired folk who cruise, so the average age, especially on a long cruise, is kinda up there. I actually find it kind of encouraging, because we saw lots and lots of people in their later years being very active and alert and involved. It's a pretty uplifting view of the future, looking from my "young" 48 years. :)

I stayed at the pool another half an hour, then I went up to the Spinnaker Lounge for a question and answer session with Sharkbait. I got there early, so the Country Line Dancing class was still going on. They had just finished one dance, so I watched them all learn, and then dance to, a Canadian stomping song. When the next dance was announced as NCL's version of the Cotton Eyed Joe, I decided to join in. The dance was similar, but there was no kick and familiar yell.

Sharkbait are the juggling team that added the greatest fun energy to the entertainment lineup. The question and answer session was intended to be able Clown College and the circus, but they pretty much fielded any questions thrown at them. After the talk, I bought some juggling balls -- which are way easier than socks. I'm getting pretty good at two; I need to get my "stupid sissy hand" throwing more accurately, then I think I'll be ready to add the third ball. :)

The Q&A ran long, so I missed the Crew Talent Show. Instead I meandered by the half-price sale for jewelry and found a tiny pair of emerald studs that I could actually afford. Woot! And Flar was pleased and everything. :) When I was entering stuff in my calendar last night, I included "Find Star Bar" and "Find Shabu Shabu." I was determined to have seen everything there was on the ship. It turns out that the Star Bar is the bar outside Cagney's, also known as the Concierge Lounge. I finally asked at the dining reservations desk about Shabu Shabu. It turns out that Shabu Shabu is a style of cooking. The Asian fusion restaurant, Lotus Garden has a few tables with cooking elements built into the center, for Mongolian Hot Pots, which are kind of an asian fondue.

We decided to got to an early dinner at Shabu Shabu, then go to the Comedy show. Shabu Shabu is a sort of drawn out affair, so we missed the early show. The food was delicious, and I even found a kind of sashimi that I like: fruit sashimi, served for dessert. It's thinly sliced fruit, served with a mango sauce and coconut syrup for dipping. I liked it so much that asked for seconds.

Since we missed the early show, we had time to start our packing before leaving for the late show. Flar directed me, while I packed. We never argued about where anything would go, just kind of talked through what we'd be using in South Beach, and what could be checked. We're staying one night in the hotel before flying home, and we wanted to reduce the number of bags that we open in the hotel to a minimum.

The show tonight was James Stevens III, a very talented man. His act was part stand-up, part impersonator, part musical. He heckled late-comers, interacted with the most of the front row, and pulled a couple of guys up on stage with him. He sang, he played the piano, and he alternately made us laugh and amazed us with his broad range of musical repertoire. He raises money to provide laptops and other educational aid to disadvantaged kids, and I was going to just donate some toward that, but I decided I really wanted to get a copy of his DVD (all proceeds go to the money raising). He is also a minister, who led services the last couple of days. Which explains why I didn't notice church services in the morning before he got on the ship. :)

After we got back from the show, Flar helped lead me through packing all the rest of our stuff, and we got our bags out into the hall before the deadline. They move luggage all night - they don't wait until the 2am deadline to start. I had put three suitcases in the hall, and when I came out with the fourth, two of them were already gone. I looked down the hallway, and there he was - the suitcase fairy, carting away our suitcases. :)

Sleep time. Tomorrow we dock in Miami and find our way to South Beach.
Idol 6

An introduction for LJ Idol, Season 6

LJ Idol Season 6 - Intro

I just returned from my best vacation ever. We sailed from LA the day after my 48th birthday, and docked in Miami this morning.  I wrote about it as it was happening, but really the very best part of my vacation was the time I spent with my husband, Flar. We have been married over 28 years now, and celebrated our 31st sexiversary during the cruise. In the past few years, our relationship has been pretty rocky, but during the trip we really got to enjoy each other and in 15 days, we didn't have a single fight. This was a vacation first for us. 

Flar is a kidney patient, currently in peritoneal dialysis. Our vacation was almost "ruined" by an offer of a transplant the Monday before we left. If you've type O blood and feeling a bit of a Seven Pounds itch, message me. 

We have two sons. Critter is almost 20, and Tigger is 15 and a half. Critter is a sophomore at UK, studying mechanical engineering for an aerospace certificate. He lives on campus, but we get to see him at least every other week, when he comes home to use our washer/dryer.  Tigger is a freshman in high school, and he just showed that he could survive two weeks "on his own" with our friends roina_arwen and knightaudit looking in on him for us.  Both of my sons are the best you could ever hope for: loving and kind-hearted, each with their own unique personalities, interests and goals for their lives. 

I was born and raised a Navy brat with born-again Christian parents from Houston, TX and one older brother. He was born in the Phillipines; I was born in Key West. I am a wholehearted follower of Jesus, although my path has been a kind of messy one, from praying for forgiveness and salvation at 2, to fully offering my life to Him at 44. If that builds a specific picture of me in your mind, you might be surprised.
  
My church community is at Quest Community Church, in Lexington, KY. We live in Nicholasville, just south of Lexington. 

I earned a BA in computer science a year after Flar and I married, and I worked as a systems programmer until Critter was born. I retained my fascination with technology, but not currency in the industry over the years  Now that I'm interested in reentering the job market fulltime, I'd rather find a comfortable job as a computer savvy administrative support type, than tackle the current programming world. Currently I have a parttime second shift job in data imaging. 

When I write in my journal, it tends to be the dear diary stuff of daily activities, or events of note. Occasionally I write about deep thinking or just silly stuff. Until my vacation, I hadn't been updating very frequently. I tend to cycle between too much time on the net and ignoring it almost completely.

Nearly all my journal is public, and I welcome friends but also feel no insult if you drop me from your reading list. I tend to respond to LJ friendings in kind, and then once or twice a year trim away people that have dropped me.  I rarely stay up-to-date with my friends-list reading, but I tend to be responsive to comments, inbox messages and email.  I'm also on facebook & Twitter, and wordy me actually likes the shorter format for updates. I especially appreciate the "like" option on busy days. :)

This will be my third season of LJ Idol, and I'm looking forward to the social interaction it brings. 

Good luck everybody!

--

This entry was written for inclusion in The Real LJ Idol writing competition on Live Journal, Season 6, Topic 0: Introduction.
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South Beach

Last Day of Vacation

We woke up before my alarm went off at 8am. It's funny really. Every time we've been particular about when we had to wake up, we set my alarm, chose a ringtone that would be loud enough, etc. And every time, at least one of us was awake before the alarm sounded.

We each got dressed for the day, then we packed up the morning bits, and swept the room for left-behinds. We had paid a service charge per day but decided that our housekeeper deserved more, and by definition our butler and concierge were not included in the shared tips. We found Tita to give her a present personally, then went up to breakfast with the other tip money, in case the concierge was still there. He was already arranging debarkation, so we enjoyed our last breakfast on ship. I had my favorite fruits & yogurt, and ordered steak and eggs. Flar had the same entrée along with his grapefruit half and grapes. Every time we ate at Cagney's for breakfast, lunch or dinner, we were always greeted by one particular server who remembered our names after our first meal. She noticed when we chose to eat breakfast elsewhere, and seemed to look forward to seeing us. She was the one server I wanted to tip additionally, so Flar gave me money for that.

After breakfast, I filled out our customs form and wrote thank you letters to our butler and concierge to put into envelopes with their tips. Then we saddled up our carry-on luggage and moved on out. Our cabin was an aft balcony, and the VIP debarkation took place next to the Stardust Theater, nearly all the way forward. At first we attempted the promenade deck, but the regular debarkation line completely blocked passage from aft to mid. So we rode up to the deck above ours, and wound our way past all the service carts in the endless passenger hallways. The housekeeping staff was very busy turning over the ship for the next set of passengers, yet each one stopped and wished us safe travels, thanked us for sailing with them, and hoped to see us soon.

Once we made it to the front of the ship, we simply walked out, through the guest card swiping and onto the gangway. Our longest wait was in the line for customs, which was really not too long. The Miami terminal was much nicer today than two years ago, when we went from the ship to the Big Room of All Luggage and had to locate ours, find the customs agent, then walk out into the Florida sun to guard our bags while Flar got his car. Today, we went to customs straight from the gangway, then down an escalator to carousels that were clearly marked according to baggage category. Porters found us, packed our bags up on a cart, and then hailed us a cab. Amazingly, the standard shaped cab held all our luggage. That trunk had to have a tesseract in it.

Throughout the morning, we kept seeing other passengers that we had met during our cruise. I got to introduce Flar to both of the couples who teamed with me for the Quest Game Show, and we stood in line for customs behind a couple who went into the mud volcano with me. It was almost like everyone on the ship knew me. ;)

Our cab whisked us to The Savoy South Beach, right on the corner of Ocean and 5. It's a great location, since we both love just walking up and down the sidewalk in front of all the cafés along Ocean. After we cooled off a bit in the room, and made phone calls home, Flar went off to the beach and I took a bubble bath. When he came back, he cooled off a bit, and then we went to Ocean Drive to select a restaurant for lunch. We picked Lazio's, a member of the Bongos chain of Cuban restaurants. I had a great sandwich, and Flar had a spicy looking shrimp dish. We lingered over our food and watched the passing parade.

When we got back, Flar napped and wrote my LJ Idol entry. After that, we went swimming together, then dressed for dinner. We ate at Prime One Twelve. The place was packed with people, but we got a table after only 45 minutes at the bar. You would think that 14 days on a cruise ship would have put us in shape, but oh my those portions were huge! Matt treated me to chocolate martinis while we were waiting, and the combination of yummy drink and delicious was absolutely soporific.

Tomorrow morning, we fly home to Kentucky.