Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Another Drab Day

Stupid cold is sapping my strength and energy. Forced myself to walk this morning but amazingly enough I was as sleepy when I got home as when I left and it is freakin' cold around here these days. People must have thought I was drunk. Swear I wasn't even walking in a straight line at times. And when I got home, I had to take a quick nap. Amazing I still got to work by 9 this morning. Must be the cold pills I took the night before, or so I thought. But it's 1:42 p.m. right now and I am dying to go back to bed.

So, my little cruising post has to wait. Folk ask about it and yes, I had a great time but I don't gush very often and it was everything I expected it to be so no disappointment there. Just wish I had my own little servant woman to pack and unpack my stuff at home. Husband did his in one fell swoop the day after we got back. Three bags and a carry-on's worth. I only had one bag and carry-on and both of them still have remnants of things that I need to put away. Eventually. I'm a little busy right now with the final touches for the big job my business has been preparing to do this fall, while blowing my nose in between thoughts and reading email.

I hate being sick and I hate being cold and darn it, I am dealing with both right now. Here. Look at this picture of Mr. T. lying on the beach in Antigua instead of listening to me whine. Antigua has 365 beaches but I honestly don't think you'd want to spend a whole week there unless all you want to do is lay on a beach. Better to visit and move on.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cute Cloth Critters

I'm still slowly, oh so slowly, getting back to normal life. I started a post for ya'll but I don't have time to finish it before tomorrow so I'll just do a few photos for you for now. It's a theme; some of the animals our stateroom attendant Chun amused us with nightly. This was on Royal Caribbean but Carnival does it too. You just never get tired of having one of these little creatures greet you when you come back to your room at night. I wonder if they get tired of making them?

I didn't capture all of them. There was dog in the mix too but I can't recall the other 1 or 2 he did for us. I'm sure there is photographic evidence somewhere in Husband's digital camera. That bed, by the way? Short for a man as big as mine but soooo comfortable. I remember that about Carnival too. The beds make me feel like no one else has touched them, unlike most hotel beds. They are in my top three of all-time most comfortable and cozy beds ever! Makes you wanna book your vacation right now, huh?

Just wait! There's time.

A Quick Cruise Primer

Well, it's been a busy time since we got home. I've been doing more cleaning and Mr. T has finally painted the foyer and stairway walls so I am happy. I got about half my to-do list done while the kids were away but they are on their way home as we read and time is up. School starts Thursday and the routine picks up again. So before I lost all cruise momentum, here's a little info for those of you who have never been on a cruise or if it's been a really long time. It's in no particular order:

1 - Have ID. Now you need ID to travel anyway, most likely a passport, but carry your driver's license too because some parts require a picture ID in order to get back on the Big Boat - as my Son calls it - and you may not want to carry your passport around with you.

2 - Cash. This is a huge one. Credit cards are fine on the ship and you may want to use one for your ship account. You can use more than one even and have 2 or more separate accounts running on the ship but if you want to use cash for that too, you can. Just tell them the limit so they can let you know and you won't end up oweing more than you have on you or can access quickly. On the islands, credit cards aren't going to be accepted for a lot of things like the taxis or the local vendors. Some yes, but not many. Plus, there is a lot of tipping going on so be aware. The baggage handlers at the airport; the various taxi drivers getting to and from the ship and on the islands taking you around; the people handling your bags before you get on the boat as well as the ones handling them afterward. And yes, you can carry your own stuff but letting a porter do it when we came home got us in a taxi in about 5 minutes while others were waiting. You also tip the people who served you on the boat - the head waiter, the waiter, the assistant waiter and your stateroom attendant. And you tip per person in the room. For us that come to $68.25 for each of us - Husband and I - following the tipping guidelines they gave. Trust me. These people treat you like royalty. They deserve it but you don't want to be shocked by that at the end of your trip.

3 - Know what you want to do. One friend who had never cruised before went the week I got back and she inspired this little addition. I know from experience that Carnival has a camp for kids, as does Royal Caribbean but those camps may really only appeal to the young. Some ships may not have enough activities to engage the older kids, although RC Adventure of the Seas does have the rock wall, ice skating, arcade, mini-golf, basketball court and inline skating, as well as teen hangout with TV and bar (noon-alcoholic, of course) and Johnny Rockets. You need to think to yourself - and be honest - do I need or want to take the kids but don't need or want to hang with them? Then get a cruise that will cater to the age of your child because they don't all do it. I don't want you to be miserable or the kid bored to tears. Cruisin' is fun!

4 - Travel light and shop at home. Or go as light as you can. Presently, you can take 2 suitcases per person for free and 1 carry on plus one personal bag like a purse or your computer case. After 2 bags, you pay $50 per bag. If the bag is overweight, you pay $25. So don't stuff it because you are going to buy stuff when you get to your destination(s) and it will add weight coming home. You may also want to think about what kind of stuff you'd want to buy as well so you can start looking at prices close to home. Frankly, the "deals" you find on the islands, in our case, may be about the same as what you can get at home. I don't care what the cruise shopping expert or island vendors tell you. Plus, often we found that things in he docking areas or at the airport were the same price or even cheaper than on the island itself. Mr. T. bought rum and it was dollars cheaper at the airport. You never know but you can scope it out early if you have an idea of what you want already.

OK, that's what stands out for me. When I get home, I'll have to post more pictures and that shall be the end of that. It's a new day, a new school year is in the air and and the fundraiser my business has created for a local high school is under way so that is where my attention now lies. No more vacations for me but another friend is going to Vegas next week. That may be oour next destination for next year.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Back to Reality

Yep, I'm back. And I brought a cold back with me, which doesn't surprise me with the air conditioning and warm weather I was running back and forth between. Plus I came back to the same rainy state I left! As a result I can't see very well right now so I'll blog later and leave you with this little view of the pier in St. Lucia taken from our stateroom balcony. Did I tell you I went cruisin'? Probably not. Beautiful huh?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tried to blog day 1

Tried to blog day 1 but had issue with national access on cell. Photojournalism will have to wait until I get home. Boarding soon.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What is Wrong With This Picture?

The red is mine. The black is his. So why does my husband need more than I do? That is just him - and maybe it is a little bit of a metaphor too. Whatever. To the airport!

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I felt like publishing myself today. As I go through the boxes in my office, it is truly amazing the stuff I have forgotten about over the years. Found an old diary I wrote in from the ages of 11-13, though it wasn't a daily thing. Sporadic but enough to preserve some times I've never forgotten and clearly was influenced by. I also came across this poem I wrote back when I had my one child and we had an incident with the Department of Children and Families all because of a grabby 2-year-old girl. This poem arose from my anger at that time:

Duty-bound, you only did the practice you had learned.
I did not act as you expected and so I seemed unconcerned.
But you know nothing of the depth of this mother's love.
You know nothing of the life she'd give to save her Own.
You know nothing of the circle of compassion that surrounds us day and night.
You know nothing about our way, our dreams, our hopes, our frights.
You look to scientific means to guide your daily moves.
I look to higher authority and strive to act in love.
You listen for indications of all you have been taught.
I listen to my inner voice, the Spirit within my heart.
My Spirit speaks of mercy, my Spirit speaks of peace.
My Spirit dwells in others too whose counsel I sometimes seek.
My Spirit calms my clawing fears and gives me the ability.
To be the parent I dream of, the one I pray to be.
The patient one, the loving one, the one who's by his side,
the maternal one with spiritual bonds weaker only than hers with God.
I am so very proud to be the one chosen to raise this son.
This is a job for me and mine. You are not the one.
Instead maybe you should spend some time studying how things are supposed to be.
The father, the mother, and the child, God's familial trinity.

M.O.M. Blogger Monica - April 13, 2001

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

T Minus 2

With 2 days left before my departure, I am swamped at work trying to make sure no one is wanting before I leave and then I come home trying to stay on my cleaning schedule. I want the office done before I leave so I can come home and get into the kids' rooms.

I won't pack until Friday night so tonight I clean out 2 more boxes, read a bit, wash clothes and of course blog!

I should be making a list of what I want to take with me but honestly I don't want to overthink it. In case I haven't made this clear yet, I hate excess baggage in every sense of the word so too much planning means I'll bring too much and since I'll have to lug my own stuff, I need to keep it easy breezy. Besides, no one cares what you wear on these cruises. You don't know them so why should you care either? But, just for argument's sake, let's see:

Driver's license
Never leave home without it.

It was tenuous there for a moment when I found out too recently that there was a backlog, but it appeared right on my schedule; thick, brand-new, pages with a multi-colored sheen ready for stamping. Mr. T prefers his. Mr. T is just jealous.

Ordered last Friday but not yet arrived. Here's hoping it gets here by this Friday. For some reason I found this on the shelves once years ago and haven't found it since. The FDA must have decided not to let it stay in the states but I love the stuff. Ombrelle by Loreal. Non-greasy, no scent, easy on sensitive skin, long-lasting, no sweating. What's not to love? Plus my skin ADORES tropical weather so put the two together and I can be out all day. I'll come back at least 2 shades darker I'm sure but so worth it.

Limited variety of shoes for variety of uses
Walking, hiking, lazing about looking cute. Yep. Think I'm covered there. If I can't wear it more than once, it doesn't go. You know. That excess baggage thing again. But no crocs, OK? Hate 'em. Yeah, yeah, they're super comfy. Yeah, yeah, lots of colors. Yeah, yeah I bought my daughter a pair because she needs something for the water and I could not find a pair of flips or flops to save our lives. They are just too much for me. Some smart person came up with them and lucky, lucky them. Wish it had been me! But Daughter having a pair is far enough.

Clothes for romping. Clothes for repaste. Clothes that you can wear more than once and it won't be obvious. That's right. I said more. than. once. You wanna lug that stuff on a cruise, be my guest. But experience says you won't wear it all anyway. So you pack everything and then take half of it out. Very true. I've bought some stuff just for this vacation and those must come but there's only one suitcase going so pare it down!

Who came up with this word, anyway? Toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, lotion, chapstick. Check, check, check, check, super check. I've got to make sure anything I really love stays in the suitcase. The recent trip South showed me that we aren't quite lax yet on bringing these items onboard planes. My babies' juiceboxes and Son's ice pack were confiscated - but Daughter's icepack was not. Don't know why. I've got sensitive skin so my stuff ain't cheap. Though I wonder, why is under the plane any safer than in it?

Eh hem. Eh hem. I'm sorry, I keep having to clear my throat there. Gotta pick that up tomorrow because I'll run out in the middle of the trip otherwise. Not yet ready for Baby #3.

What else? What else? I'm sure something else will come to me soon. The cell phone. The charger. The camera. The like. I'll be ready. For now, I've got more clothes to wash and 2 more days to wait.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Putting It Into Practice

WARNING: This is no short post. You may want to read it in bits and pieces.

My time management book continues to be the center of my life right now. I read it cover to cover and just passed it on to someone who I hope will get as much out of it as I did. I started it a week ago. I think I read a huge Stephen King book faster once upon a time when I was not quite 20-something and living carefree at home, but with my life right now - sans kids for the next few weeks - finishing a book in a week is pretty good. I'm two chapters now into another one I'm reading with my writing group and I want to finish that before Saturday, so boy will I feel accomplished - and empty-handed - when it's time to board that plane!

This one was good though. Really good. And this is how I know it's timely and meant for me to pay attention. This is from the most recent newsletter from Valerie, the life coach I follow:

We can sometimes buy into the notion that following our passion is supposed to be fun and exciting, but living purposefully is journey of character-building and evolving into the person you always knew you could be. The process is not always fun, but it does bring us rich rewards. I took an honest look at my life. It wasn’t bad, but “not bad” was not the goal. Admittedly, my schedule was a bit unruly. I managed to get a lot done, but with very little structure in my life, I was feeling scattered and ineffective. While I was not excited about embracing more discipline, I knew a change was needed. What I discovered in the process is that discipline is not about taking things away, but about giving you what you truly want.

This week, I challenge you to take an honest look at an area of your life where you know you are not living up to your potential. Consider the five key areas of your life: Relationships, Health, Work, Finances and Spiritual Life. Perhaps you need to exercise discipline when it comes to eating junk food or watching television instead of going for a brisk walk. Perhaps you need to be more discipline by leaving the office on time so that you have more time for yourself, family and friends. Maybe the area where it’s time for more discipline is spending. It’s time to take control of your finances by increasing what you save each month, taking steps to increase what you make and decrease what you spend. You know the area of discipline is that’s calling you. Your next step is to embrace the change, then enjoy the reward.

So this book is very encouraging in terms of wrangling that elusive creature that most, if not all, mommies seek - balance. How do you have and do it all? Well, I know and I've said before that you can have it all - whatever that means for you - and you can do it all. It just can't be all done at once. You have a whole life to acquire "it all" and I believe that's how you have to take these things. Plan for it over the span of your years, assuming you shall have the full amount you should and even if you don't, you still would have led a full life if what you do every day is another step in that direction toward a fulfilling, meaningful life. You do nothing, you get nothing. You do one little thing and all your little things eventually add up to big ones so make those little changes and revel in the fact that you did something. Many people choose to talk about change but never make it because they are too busy, they will do it one day, or they are looking to make a huge change all at once. Your baby steps actually will put you ahead of the game.

So now I am done reading. Allow me to share what I am taking away from this book. That is to say, these are the things I started implementing as of the moment I read about it. I am doing my best not to think beyond today in doing these techniques because I am hoping to simply convince myself to do them every day where necessary and to one day look up and see I've been doing it long enough now for it to become a habit. I know it takes about 30 days to makes something a habit but instead of counting to 30 days, I'm just going to celebrate every day I can do what I want to and just see what happens.

So having said all that, this is what I liked and I am doing, in no particular order:

1 - Assessing my current state of balance

This little task has to do with assigning value to every one of Wetmore's 7 facets of life and then seeing just how balanced I think I am, as well as thinking about what kinds of improvements I need and want to make in order to get that balance. There is a chart in the book and the example shows that you want to rate everything from 1 to 10 but in an ideal world, you may not choose to rate everything a 10, or the highest value to you. I do.

Health - 4. I've been higher.
Family - 6. Kids absolutely need more of me.
Financial - 6 and that's an improvement over years before.
Intellectual - 5 mainly because I don't read as much as I used to.
Social - 5. The friends see me even less than the family but they all know the deal so that's good.
Professional - Now this depends. My job is a 9 for sure. If I didn't have to commute, it would be a 10! My business is a 7 because we still aren't as organized there as we should be. But we're working on that as I write. Things go off for the rest of this year and we'll at least be at an 8 and 8 is great! My writing is a 5 because I don't do it like I should. If I did, I'd have a shorter procrastination list. (See that later.)
Spiritual - 5 because I don't do anywhere near what I used to when I didn't have kids. But I am working on that right now. (See The Waking Hour.)

Now if I multiply my ideal by my real, a balanced life for me would be a 700. With these numbers - using an average in the professional areas - I'm at a 380 right now. Just past half way. Man I have a way to go! But part of making this assessment is also determining what changes I want to make now. For me, it's not about what I want to change overall, it's about what can I honestly do right now and feel good about because it's that small step in the right direction. That I can't spell out for you - too much information! - but the numbers will come out to a 510. Significant boost and the things I did weren't big but they will make a difference for me.

2 - Index cards

I like this one. It's simply a method of notetaking that allows you to transfer it anywhere at any time. Surely I can keep a notecard on me, huh? One of the things Don said to do was to write out birthdays and such on these cards, one for each month, and clip that to the appropriate month in your planner so you don't forget. Well I don't plan to have another written planner so my PDA will be set to remind me of things. Still, I like the note cards for the other stuff - hear about a book? Write it down. Pull out the list next time you're at the bookstore and wondering what to get. Someone say something good for a Christmas gift for the hubby? Write it down and when your shopping time comes, the list is already done. One thing I like was an Irritations list. Every time something bothers you - car making noise, clogged sink, etc. - but you can't do anything right then and there, write it on your irritations list. This is part of reducing the stress in your life because stress makes you do crazy things too.

3 - 7x7

This is where the baby steps come in. Don Wetmore says that in order to effect the change you seek, just do one little thing - an improvement - in each of the areas every day and you will have made thousands of little improvements in the course of a year. Now, my challenge is to find little improvements to make in every single area but right now if I can do something every day in even one of them, I'm good. Still, it's not easy figuring out what they should be. My little changes would be the same as my big ones most of the time but I am thinking about it. Notes to the kids and Mr. T. - used to do that a lot once upon a time. Gotta do that again more regularly. Compliments. Learning a word a day. Saving a dollar a day. Stocking up on something you use a lot to avoid running out at the wrong time. Choosing NOT to do something. All that counts.

4 - The Waking Hour

Ah. Here's the real challenge that I am finally going to try to accept. I am not a morning person in the least. Wetmore says that everyone takes about an hour to wake up, whether you choose to do it at home or at work, it takes about that long to leave the alpha, dreamlike state you are in when you awake and enter beta which you operate in otherwise. His thought is to get up an hour before you need to and start the day slowly. Let it set the tone for the day, which should be stress free and in as much control as one can be on this side of heaven. 15 minutes of sitting on the edge of your bed and just visualizing, he says. Then 15 minutes of some sort of inspirational reading. Then go outside and walk for 30 minutes and THEN start your day. Now, I've known about that whole waking up an hour early thing and I detested it. Still do hate the thought of being up early for anything EVER. However, for the past 2 days I did it. Now that first 15 is a wash. It takes me that long just to get myself together - sit up ALL the way, go the bathroom, throw on something to wear for that time - so I take advantage of the next 15 and read my Bible. Presto! An improvement in my spiritual life. Just like that. This alone will help me feel that closeness to God again that I too often let slip because I get caught up in life. (Sure glad He doesn't operate like I do!) Then off I go, walking around the neighborhood for 30 minutes. Chango! A benefit for my health AND spirit as I continue talking to God as well as visualize. (See? That first 15 minutes got back in there after all.) This might even be good for the social life if I finally start talking to the neighbors I don't know but so far they haven't been out. I've only spoken to other strangers on the street and the trash guys. I suspect when the kids come home, I'm going to have to push this time back from 6 to 5:30 so I can be home by 6:30 to start getting my slowpokes together. But I don't want to think about that. I'm living in the now. And for now, I come home feeling pretty awake.

5 - Keeping it All in Check
Part of keeping the balance is keeping the information straight. I started straightening up my office again. I still can't do what I need to because I still don't have what I need to get the stuff physically organized. But I'm going through boxes, tossing what I can and just making it neat to my eye. That tends to make me want to go deeper and I'll do what I need to in time. When you have a whole house that needs little things here and there, it adds up so some things have to wait. That was a huge sidetrack! Anyway, I came across a calendar I tried to deal with back in 2004. Too big. I have one in a purse at home right now that I've been carrying for the past year. Not too big but it's very presence bugs me. So that's where the previous PDA discussion came in. Still on my to-do list for next month. In addition, it's time to put a Family Calendar on the fridge so everyone knows where everyone else is as much as possible. I'll do both of these before the end of September and let you know where I stand in December.

6 - More reading
Having the chance to read when the kids are gone really makes me miss it. I'm hoping to make it a habit again so my goal is a book a month. That taps my need to improve the intellectual side of my life and it may help the professional from time to time too since I love to read business books that apply to what I do. I've got a little list going on already in my Amazon favorites and on my trusty index card too so I should be set for quite a while.

7 - What do I value?

I think I answered this question once a long time ago. Probably while I was in job transition. The idea is to know what matters to you so while you are doing other things, you can keep it all in perspective. Some things are simply a waste of your time if it's doesn't somehow enhance what matters to you. Getting a huge job with big money is great but if family is what you truly value, that job may actually take away from the time you need to spend with them and then is it really worth it? Probably not. My values are pretty simple I think: family, friends, faith and freedom to be me. My job is a blessing because it doesn't compromise any of that. Nothing I do does. But I need more time for the first three, that's for sure. Thus my current foray into self-evolution.

8 - Procrastinated Items
This is one thing I need to do and I am procrastinating about. Actually, not so much. It's just that I know I won't do what I need to do right now so why fake the funk? My mission? To write that darn thesis. That requires calling the college to find out if it's simply too late and I need to let it go and forever have to say that I completed some grad work when in fact I completed ALL the classes and just didn't write the book. And speaking of, I have my children's book and another adult-focused one to finish too. Hmm. I'm sensing a theme. I know I can do it because I have a NaNoWriMo award to prove it. I write for my job regularly. I can do it.

One day at a time.

Friday, August 03, 2007


So as I read this book this week, I am just about ready to take the plunge. Managing my time better has always been something I wanted to do and never really got around to doing. I tend to go with the flow but I usually know where the flow is coming from first. I hate schedules with a passion so I don't like dictating to myself what I am going to do everyday and when I am going to do it. I do however, love To-Do lists and feel somewhat discombobulated without them. Hmm. Is that a little conflicting? Don't know. Anyway, the challenge, as I've written before, is to keep the list with me and to keep the other stuff I need on me too in order to stay somewhat organized - my calendar, my business idea notebook, my cell phone to remind me of things. The thing is, my job is the one place where I've managed to be pretty organized and it's time to carry that over to the rest of my life.

So Dr. Don Wetmore is the author of this book and I think I've mentioned him by name before too since he came a couple of times to one of my business groups to talk about time management. Now, just to talk about this book for a minute, I've heard the man talk so I know his style and this book is so him - his way of talking and his wit. His thoughtful examples. Plus, this book has pictures! Lots and lots of pictures. You can breeze through a chapter not only because he gets your attention but also because the little amount of text there actually is on a page so you just have to finish a chapter because really, it's just not that long. I took this with me while dropping off the kids and I read about 6 or 7 chapters in that time.

Now the man has some good thoughts about how to organize your time. Some of it I've heard from him before but re-reading it is good and makes me think about what I'll want to take away from this. One thing I did was assess where I stood on the 7 things that make up a person's life. (This book is about managing ALL your life. Don believes in life balance, as I do, so he is trying to help people figure out how to keep your various facets of life in balance. Those seven things, just so you can think about it too, are:


Basically you rate these on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 meaning you are satisfied with this area of your life. You think about each area and consider all the things you want to accomplish in each area as well as assess how it really is right now. Wherever you are falling short, you may be thinking you don't have the time to deal with and that's why it's lacking, but Don thinks you do and so do I. It's about prioritizing and thinking about how one area affects another before you decide to do or not do something.

Well, this got me to thinking about ways to sync up my various calendars (mostly mental calendars) and I think I am about to do what I never wanted to do - go tech. The fact is I had already been thinking I need to put up a family calendar on the fridge. We've had too many mornings where Son needed something for school and we had to scramble to get it though we knew about it for a week. And Daughter will be in kindergarten in another year. So a calendar will kept the upcoming weeks before us and we can keep the peace.

I keep things in my cell phone, I write them down on to-do lists. I have an address book which is at home and never with me at work when I seem to address letters the most. I have my idea book for my business and I've lots of time when I thought about something I wanted to write and had no paper to write it down. The problem really is my disdain for carrying loads of things. I think I loathe that even more than tech gadgets, which is why i am now considering a PDA. I could, in theory, keep all the above mentioned stuff in one little streamlined place and that, along with my cell phone, I should, in theory, have no problem carrying around. Right now I don't imagine I'd want a Blackberry or mix of PDA and phone because I prefer flip phones and these portable computers don't flip. I don't think. Who knows. But I don't think I want to merge the two just yet. That would be going too far.

So do I want to go PDA? I'll look to buy one next month, if I decide it can do what I need it to. I'll still need to handwrite some things because after all I am a writer and I like the feel of pen to paper. But this search for easier and lighter feels eternal and I really want to bring it to rest now. It's time to sync up all my calendars and try to keep all my crap in one portable place. So if anyone has a PDA and wants to regale me about the virtues of this device, feel free. You can knock it too and tell me what works for you because I'm open to the discussion - this month. After then, I'm taking the plunge.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Waiting Games

This is what I am looking at right now and for the next hour and a half. I took the kids down yesterday, got to my parents house after midnight, took about a 3-hour nap and then my father drove me 3 hours north to Atlanta to catch a 9:33 am flight home. Orbitz called to say the flight was delayed 45 minutes so we stopped to eat. That plane sat on the runway so long they were about to give us jobs. When we got in, we then sat and waited for the gate people to show for so long we were ready to heave ho the apparatus ourselves. So my next plane left sans me. And here I sit book in hand, happy as a lark praising Jesus this did not happen yesterday when my bundles of energy, as one nice man put it, were in rare form. Well, now I get time to think. I think I will enjoy my book.