Wednesday, April 30, 2008

May Flowers

A hint of Spring, and then cold weather set in again. It appears to be a brief visit, I can still feel the promise of warm weather. My first night of golf season began last Thursday, and I couldn't have ordered up better weather. I even had a rather decent game for the first night out, parring two holes. Now, the pars were surrounded by tens, but two pars in a night is damn good for me!

So I'm currently watching American Idol, which I've been sporadically interested in this season. Brooke just got kicked off, and I say good riddance. She's not STAR talent. But the thing that is irritating the piss outta me watching it is how all the other contestants have now deemed it appropriate to get up and surround the person who gets voted off while they sing their swan song. I would be so irritated. It's the last chance you get up there, you should be able to enjoy the limelight on your own for the last time. If I was up there, I'd push 'em all off the stage. Do you think Madonna would have allowed them to steal her spotlight? I think not.

Now that I've crossed into rambling, unimportant topic territory, might as well continue. What is wrong with this country that we're so appalled by Miley's naked back - who cares?! It's her BACK. My friend Rita commented on the real issue at hand, Miley just looked creepy the way they lighted her, with a strong resemblance to the scary chick in the movie The Ring. If I were Miley I'd be ticked they made me look like a character in a horror movie.
It's a light-happening week for me, for once I'm short on words. I've got big plans for May, with getting my garden spot ready, cleaning and cute-ing my back porch, as well as finally doing the last little bit in what should be our dining room area of the house. Exciting stuff, all of that. I did notice that my bird family has rebuilt their nest, in the same spot as last year, wedged between the gutter and the house. So I need to get that porch underway in order to watch my little family grow again this year.
Toastmasters has been busy lately, with my deciding to run for one of the open officer positions for the coming year. Elections are in May. I'm going to run for VP of Education, which is the 2nd highest position in the club. It's going to be a lot of work, with the bulk of the work requiring me to put together a monthly schedule and assigning roles. I think it'll be pretty easy, I'll build it in Excel and create an Access database to house all the member information. Kenny groaned, said, "Oh, great, one more thing for your to constantly bitch about!" I would have to agree with him, I do complain about having to do almost anything, even stuff I enjoy, like golf! I guess I just don't like having to do stuff, but I enjoy it once I get into it. My inherent "lazy gene" presides, it seems. Of course, when I do have a free evening to myself and could do all sorts of wonderful things, I instead choose to nap on the couch and watch inane television. I even have a really good book I'm reading, but that would have been too much "work" so I napped instead. In my defense, I have had late nights all week so far, not getting to bed before midnight since Sunday. That's not enough sleep for me.
On that note, I bid you a goodnight. I'm going to read a little bit and get into bed early tonight since Ken's running movies. He did think of a great name for the production company he's starting, I'm excited about it. His editing software arrived yesterday, and he's been diligently researching movie cameras. Dream big, baby! Maybe he'll be the next Kevin Smith! If I ever get my book written he can turn it into a movie for me - what a great team we would be :)
Peace and Think Spring.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Living Wisdom

The cruise wrapped up with an uneventful day spent at sea on Sunday. It was a weird itinerary, because we weren't actually cruising anywhere, we were just anchored out at sea. That could have been planned a little better, because let me tell you, anchored without a breeze made for one hot, stagnant day. I tried to go atop and read a book, but that lasted about ten minutes before I was roasting and went down to the solarium. Where it was green-house hot. I hung out there for a while sipping lemonade, but even that wasn't ideal. I know, I know - poor me: It was too hot on my cruise ship.
We arrived back home after a smooth flight only to hear a distressing message on our answering machine: Kenny's Grandmother Helen was in the hospital. He made a series of phone calls and finally connected through to the hospital, where we were told to hightail it up there as quickly as possible. We dropped everything and ran out of the house, still in short sleeves and sandals, and made it to the hospital moments before she died. Kenny said a few words to her and she slipped peacefully away. Everyone thinks she was waiting for him, she had been in the hospital since Friday, but we were of course unreachable. Helen died on Kenny's father's birthday, so it was quite symbolic for the family, with his father being dead and then Helen waiting to hear from Kenny before dying, going home to her son (Kenny's dad). The week was naturally busy with funeral details, the wake scheduled for Thursday and the funeral on Friday. Helen was a devout Catholic, and I had given her a cross I had purchased while in Rome, it had been "blessed" by the Vatican and it was very dear to her. The family asked if they could bury her with it, and the answer was of course, yes. So it was a very strange week for Ken, the high of a vacation brought down by the death of his Grandmother. Such is life, for sure. You just never know what the day is going to bring.

Friday afternoon, after the Mass and burial, I headed to Ann Arbor with my friend Katie on our quest to see the Dalai Lama.
We purchased tickets months ago and were eagerly awaiting our enlightenment. It was a beautiful day for a drive, and we checked into our hotel around 4:00 p.m. The hotel provided a free shuttle service, and they drove us to the heart of the downtown area where we walked and shopped and dined and shopped some more. We purchased these, Dolly Lamas:

I am sure it's wrong on some level, but it was too funny not to purchase. We were told they were actually Alpacas, but we insisted they were Lamas, since we were there to see the Lama. The store missed an ideal marketing opportunity, in my opinion. We bought three Lama's, one for each of us and one for Katie's sister, Rita.

We posed them in a variety of scenarios, which I'm sure we're going to come back in our next life as a snail or something for doing so.

The Daili Lama with the Dolly Lama:


Friday night we attended a talk on the correlation between art and spirituality, and we had a surprise guest of Richard Gere in attendance. Now, Richard Gere has been my lusty movie star desire since back in The Day - the day of Officer and Gentleman, Breathless, American Gigolo, etc. I would see any-and-everything he was in - I still do. So I could barely contain myself, I had to remind myself it wasn't a rock concert and it would be inappropriate for me to shout out something like, "Show me your wiener!" - which I wanted to. I'd like to kiss those lips of his. Man alive, I had impure thoughts during the entire discussion. We captured one covert photo, not good, but we were defying the rules to even pull out the camera. Dick Gere is on the end, with his hand supporting his head. He's probably bored and thinking of me.


Speaking of bored, wow, was it a boring discussion. Difficult to understand, difficult to follow, just plain difficult. It wrapped up and Katie and I headed back to the Sheraton, calling it an early night.

Saturday morning we had our tickets to see the Dalai at Crisler Arena. The shuttle dropped us off, and we planned on leaving around 1:30 and scheduled a pick-up. The discussion was scheduled from 10-12, with a 2-hour intermission before it picked back up from 2-4. Katie and I lasted one hour. Wow. It was difficult to sit through. The arena was steamin' hot, and once His Holiness began talking in his native language and everything required a translation, it was slow and hard to follow. The initial prayer was really nice, and it was cool to hear the silence in that big arena when the Dalai came out. Everyone was really respectful, which is surprising to see in a crowd. We didn't see the demonstrators or any type of big shenanigans, which I was somewhat looking forward to. So that was that. Our entire encounter with the Dalai Lama lasted one hour. But we did get a book. I think this might be better in the self-study mode.
Since I was home so unexpectedly early on Saturday, I hooked up with our friend Vera, who was dropping Pete off at the house to hang out with Kenny. Pete's sister is some type of a chauffeur for a production company and they were doing some filming in Cleveland for an upcoming movie called Soloist starri
ng Robert Downey Jr & Jamie Foxx. With Pete's connection, Kenny and Pete were able to get a tour of the Cleveland set downtown, roaming around and checking things out.


They had a good time while Vera and I went shopping, eventually hooking back up with the guys at Jigsaw Tavern for a cocktail and appetizers. Pete's still rockin' the neck brace from his surgery a few months ago. He should be all healed up next month. They're going to Vegas with us in June for the birthday bonanza, should be a really fun time with them along.

And that wraps up a very long week. It was full-speed-ahead busy, with life and death situations marking the passage of time. I did get the plastic off the windows and Spring was invited in.
Peace, and have a respectful week. Namaste.

The Paradox of Our Age

We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time;

We have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgement;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness;

We've been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet
the new neighbor.
We built more computers to hold more
information to provide more copies than ever,
but have less communication;

We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods
but slow digestion;
Tall man, but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It's a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.

H.H. The XIV Dalai Lama

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Saturday, Key West


Just a short week ago I was enjoying a Cheeseburger, in Paradise. Literally. We docked in Key West and had to go through the rig-a-ma-role of immigrations since we had been outside of the country in CocoCay. Everyone had to participate, even if you weren't getting off the ship. We were done with that around 9:30 a.m. or so, and headed directly off the ship and onto land.





We walked and shopped, purchasing a couple of necklaces from some street vendors. I picked up a a couple of really cool glass necklaces and a handmade bamboo necklace, made by a dude who spends his life sailing and selling these necklaces to support himself. He had seriously long dreadlocks. Picture-worthy, in fact, but I thought that might be rude to ask for a photo of his hair. I did ask to touch it, and he told me that I didn't want to feel where that hair had been and advised against it. I heeded that advice, but bought the necklace anyway. I believe I have a blurry line of rude/non-rude behaviors, because asking to touch the hair didn't strike me as being rude, but a photo would have. I did get my photo taken with these giant folks, they didn't mind at all.

The day was really hot, much hotter than the prior day in CocoCay. I am definitely not a hot-weather girl. I'm sizzlin' enough on my own, apparently! Luckily we reached our first destination, where icy cold beers awaited.

I was already beginning to show the beginnings of sunburn, despite the liberal amount of sunscreen I had applied before we headed off that morning. The Landshark beers helped cool it all down just fine! Landshark is my new favorite brew, a product of Margaritaville. It's Corona, only better - without the bitter aftertaste. Ah, pure refreshing bliss!

Don't know why we bothered looking at the menu's, we had to get cheeseburgers! We also ordered conch fritters, you can't be in Key West without having something conch.

We had ours with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes, big kosher pickle and of course an ice cold beer.

First chomp: YUM!! Man alive, was my face on it's way to a beautiful shade of red.

Maybe the flowers are really just sunburt, too. I was on my way to matching the shade:

We had a perfect view by the open-air window next to the street, ideal for people-watching and being "in the action" from the cool comfort of the bar. Two of our dining companions strolled in and we invited them to join us at our prime location. Their names were ... Joe and "Other Guy." And I'm really not sure about the Joe part. I'm bad with names. They were older, they have been friends since college and are now in their later 40's. NOT GAY (not that there's anything wrong with that!) as they kept insisting. I told them they reminded me of the two guys from Sideways and Other Guy really liked that comparison, he loved the movie. We had a few more rounds of Landshark before heading in our separate directions. Kenny and I still had a lot of island to explore.

We walked by a very ornate building, what used to be a movie theater and is now a Walgreens. How disheartening.



The little sidestreets were quiet, in sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle of Duval Street:

I convinced Kenny to go on the Hemingway Tour with me, even though I had seen it before I enjoyed it enough to do it again, and it would be a first time for Ken. And I knew Rob would be so proud that we walked around and saw stuff that didn't involve a casino!!

I enjoyed the tour the second time around even more than the first time I saw it, I had better company on this trip :) We paid our due respect to the 47 cats on the premises.



We saw a Hemingway-Widda (we call all black cats Widda, after our black Widda cat), Polydactled of course, which is the norm for a Hemmy cat. Check out the size of that paw!

After touring Hemingway House, we walked to the Southernmost Point in the continental U.S. for the obligatory stop. It was a long, hot walk back to the ship, so we made one more stop at Sloppy Joe's Bar, which is where Hem liked to hang out back in the day. We had some beers, and noted the seriously defined camel toe on the waitress. Well, I noticed it and pointed it out to Kenny, who hadn't been paying attention. Am I the only one who checks out everyone's crotch area that intently?? In my defense, it was right at eye level when she was serving us. But maybe it is just me! Whatever, I noticed it and then Kenny couldn't stop looking at it. It was old camel, not young, but we left her a big tip anyway. She rocked the 'toe, might as well tip her for it.

I was definitely looking the worse for wear in the heat, and we headed back to the ship. It was a bit of a hike and we got back there around 5:00 p.m., about a 1/2 hour before we were scheduled to depart. I took a shower and the full effects of my sunburn set in:


Kenny had a sunburn, too:
He obviously did a better job with the sunscreen than I did. He had one little patch, just above his sock line.
We pulled up anchor and said goodbye to Key West.....

....and then sailed off into the sunset.....
And gone.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Continued....Friday

Friday sailed effortlessly into CocoCay, Bahamas bright and early. We had a hard time getting out of bed - it's just the best sleep I've ever had, the cold dark room, heavy blanket on the bed double-wrapped in sheets - and Kenny gave us both a pretty good mock: We had to sleep more to muster up the energy for a day of laying around on the beach. That's the definition of a lazy vacation!
Our ship, tendered off of CocoCay:


Lazing around pretty much sums up the day. The private island is beautiful, with azure waters cradled in the nooks of white sandy beaches, coconut trees swaying with the breezes. The temperature was on the cooler side of warm, which was a pleasant surprise that deeply south.
Here's how the day was spent, with heavy doses of CocoLoco's, the drink of the day. They were topped off with the most delicious rum, which is made in the US Virgin Islands and not available in the States. My liver was relieved to hear this.


We found our lounge chairs nestled underneath a tree. This was my view, not too unpleasant at all:
I was unable to resist the allure of the water, and took a dip. I was a little apprehensive because I had heard there was an abundance of jellyfish in the waters for some reason, so I was cautiously excited. Luckily I had brought my water shoes with me, after our trip to Labadee (where the beach was quite rocky), I learned to be prepared for unexpected beach hazards.
The water was chilly! I managed a quick float around, but the chill and the jellyfish prevented me from dawdling for too long. Some kids were trying to catch the jellyfish in a cup. I advised against that, I don't think they'd be too happy to be "caught" by a group of crumbgrinders. Who knows if they listened, but I didn't hear any screams....well, other than those from the group of New Yawkers who took up residence on chaise loungers behind us. Good Lord, at the risk of stereotyping, they are a loud and annoying bunch. That accent and the screeching - oye vey. I NEEDED the rum drinks to numb the noise!

The cruise ship provided a beach luncheon which we meandered over to enjoy. It was a little.....off-putting, to see the flies landing on the burgers & such, but I got over myself pretty quickly. They're ISLAND flies, not like typical Cleveland Trash Flies. I wouldn't die if i ate a burger that a fly had landed upon. I'm happy that I'm not that uppity - I do know some people who would snub their nose at the mere mention of it, but come on - I'm not that hoity to not be able to appreciate a hamburger and fresh fruit on a tropical Bahamian island. I hope I never get that full of myself. And guess what - I didn't die, nor even get a twinge of sickness! You can live if a fly lands on your burger! I'm sure the rum acted like a stomach antiseptic anyway. Medicinal rum :)
After some quick shopping on the beach huts (we purchased a hand-carved wooded elephant), Kenny headed back to the ship to play in the slot tournament (he was done with the sun anyway). I found an empty hammock where I lounged away the remainder of the afternoon. How lucky am I that this was how I spent April 11th? Lucky, I say!
After our day soaking up the island breezes, I headed back to the ship, took a quick shower and then another nap. All that laying around can wear a girl out! I found Kenny and he reported that he did very poorly in the first round of the slot tournament (unlucky number 6 machine), so we knew we weren't going to place for the money. Ah, well, it was still fun and free! Kenny was a little Budweisered up by the time I found him at the 3-card poker table, making friends with everyone.

For dinner we joined our new-found friends and I dined on roasted duck and a fine glass of Robert Moldavi Merlot. Not sure what Kenny enjoyed, filet of some sort, I would venture to guess. We ended the day relaxed and buzzed and happy, falling into bed sometime very late, a good day tucked deep in our memories.

Saturday, Key West.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Life and Death Situations - Part 1

Life was fun and sun-filled for the past four days. Thursday Kenny and I were off for our April cruise on the Enchantment of the Seas for a long weekend. Even a short cruise is a great cruise. It's official: I love the cruisin' lifestyle. Best vacations I've ever had! I totally relax and melt into the rhythm of the days.

We had a smooth flight down to Ft. Lauderdale, enjoying a whole row of seats to ourselves. They showed an inane in-flight movie, Mad Money (with Katie Cruise, Queen Latifah and Diane Keaton - I think those were the three, not sure and don't care enough to Google it for correctness) - the movie was so bad it couldn't hold my interest when I had nothing else to pay attention to. I tried to get involved with a book, but settled on my back issues of People that I haven't had a chance to read of late.
Here we are on the way to Vacation, already relaxing from the week-before-vacation stressors I place on myself. Which, by the way, I'm pleased to report that I have matched every wayward sock in the house, had all laundry washed, dried and folded and the house was presentable. Kenny's mom was coming over to kiss cats and clean litter and I had to have it respectable!



Upon boarding, we took care of the first order of business:







Our balcony stateroom overlooked the pier that docked the Queen Elizabeth 2. The QE2 has been afloat since 1969 and is set to retire this year. We watched her last departure from the United States, travelling back to England, never to return again. There was quite a bit of pomp & circumstance, with an orchestra on the pier giving the Queen a dignified send-off with the Stars & Stripes. Our ship was to set sail prior to QE2's departure, but our Captain announced we were going to depart late and give the Queen her much-deserved honors and we would follow. It was a moment, pretty cool to witness. We saw her off in the distance for quite a while, until we finally ventured off on another path.

QE2 was too big to fit all in one frame, here's her front half:

Thursday was spent at sea, with a quieter day of getting settled in to the rhythm of life on the ship. We had some drinks and had to take a nap - it had been a long day. At 8:30 we met our dining companions for the duration of the cruise, they included a nice couple with their parents and two guys who were college roommates taking a trip together. We were all on the same free cruise offer, with the slot tournament to look forward to, and so we had one thing in common right from the start. By the end of the trip I had exhanged emails with one of the ladies and Ken and I have an offer to come and stay with them for a few days before we ship out of Miami in the Fall. This was their 49th cruise. I assume they have a little bit of money behind them, they have a condo right on South Beach. That would be a fun pre-cruise trip, maybe our paths will cross again.

Thursday evening I enjoyed the Welcome Aboard show while Kenny found his spot at the Three Card Poker table. We checked out the activities offered on the ship and called it an earlier night, sometime after midnight. We wanted to be refreshed and ready to go when we docked in CocoCay Friday morning.

Stay tuned.....

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Teasing Spring


Dare I tempt Mother Nature by taking the plastic off the windows this weekend? I feel such a blatant act of the defiance of Winter will poke the Lion into another fit of Roar. Best to leave it alone for a couple more weeks.
Is it any wonder the cats run from me? I can't keep my lips off of them. Girlie got her fair share of hugging and kissing. Stanley is my lap cat, but we have an understanding: I keep my lips off him for the most part, don't try to hold his paws, and keep the hugging to a minimum. In return, I get a constant furry companion near my lap.
Another beautiful Sunday greeted me this morning, sunlight streaming in from the bedroom window, teasing me awake at the early morning hour of 8:30. I considered going back to bed, but then thought I'd just embrace the morning and start getting things checked off my "to-do" list. So far, I've broken the coffee pot filter, updated my MySpace site, added a friend to my new site Sisters Connection and took more pictures of the cats. I'm never ceased to be amazed at how I can squander precious time.
My faithful reader knows the tribulations of my coffeepot woes. Well, I'm relieved to update that my laptop wasn't ruined after last Sunday's debacle. Our high-tech ISD team's solution was, "Well, turn it on and see what happens." I laughed right at him and told him I could have done that without sitting on hold for twenty minutes. So anyway, it booted up and worked, although there is a coffee smell to it. ISD Dude told me I did the right thing by taking out the battery right away and using the hairdryer to blow out all the wet. I mused that maybe it would run faster since it was all hopped up on caffeine now.
So that brings us to a new weekend for fresh coffeemaking drama. I made a pot Saturday morning and all seemed to go well, kinda. Some weird shenanigans were going on with the filter, it wasn't draining all the way - it was filling up too far before it would drip out. I watched to ensure the grounds weren't running over. They didn't, but this morning I figured I'd clean it out really well and proactively fix whatever problems were peculating. Somehow I popped this little spring and rubber thing out of the filter and for the life of me don't know where it even came from or how to get it back together. I was still able to make coffee by leaving the lid off the pot and letting it just drip into the hole, then screwing the lid on when the pot was brewed. That method will actually resolve a host of issues and I'll never have to worry about that cotton-pickin' filter spraying coffee all over the kitchen ever again. But it still irritates me that it's not the way it's supposed to work. My coffeepot should have it's own Blog, The Coffee Dramas: A Life in Rebrew.
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Sunshine and saltwater breezes await me in four short days. I, naturally, have saved all my house-gettin'-ready work for today. I have an abundance of laundry to do today, as well as general scrubbing, cleaning and sorting. And I'd like to get our suitcases out and pre-packed with warm-weather wear. I'm heading off to the gym shortly, I'm sure I can lose 20 lbs. before the trip on Thursday. Five pounds/Day + Four Days = Twenty Pounds. Simple math.
If asked how my week was, it would be summed up with the word "good." It was a good week. My presentation on Monday went really well, the team I'm working with is much less critical than my normal gang. I had enough after-work activities to keep the week busy without being overwhelming. Met with the tax man on Tuesday, we're still trying to figure out my business situation. Hopefully he'll call me on Monday, he doesn't appear to be great with follow-up so far, which isn't a good sign for a tax guy. But he's bow-chica-bow-bow Hot so I'll give him a few more chances.
Saturday afternoon I joined Sisters Connection for a worthwhile fundraising event. After, I bought dinner and took it to Sophie's where we enjoyed a nice meal together and chatted into the early evening. She's turning 91 next month. She finally went to the doctor for those pains she's been having in her shoulder and he went over her "with a toothpick" according to Sophie. Deemed her to be in remarkable health, although he's concerned with the amount of weight she's lost. She's down to 128. Considering she used to weigh about 185 - she's always been a sturdy woman, built with plowing fields in mind - so it is a little disconcerting to see her losing weight. She tries to tell me that it's a natural part of getting older, but I argued and told her it's a direct result of how much she eats if there is no medical rationale behind it. I asked her to please try and have two pieces of toast for breakfast rather than one, and do some simple increases. And then I played the, "You don't want to get sick, lose so much weight they have to put you in a nursing home to recover" card and she seemed to get it. She ate two big pieces of chicken and I left her with a large slab of apple pie. Plus the doctor told her to take Centrum Silver, which she has been doing. The dark circles under her eyes seemed to be lessened, but I'm not sure the vitamins could really work in a matter of days.
I'm off to the gym before I wile away more of the day.
Peace, and Think Spring. It's going to be a jam-packed April, first cruise, then Dalai Lama, and golf season starts on the 17th. Need to find my swing!

Friday, April 4, 2008