Wednesday, January 31, 2007

In search of green jelly beans.

Today I went in search of green jelly beans. Our TIM (Teens in Ministry) Team needed some for a skit they are doing with our kids this evening. The skit is on jealousy and coveting the things of others. As I looked for a green jelly bean (or useful substititute) I was struck with some jealousy myself.

I put a lot of work and stress into the church here and I say it is for the kids, but most of the time I'm working so hard that I don't get to spend time with the actual kids I'm supposed to be teaching. Often my favorite part of the job is given to others (who are often forced, coerced or otherwise begged) to volunteer for the job. There are days when i wish I didn't need to spend my days searching for the random prop or yet another substitute teacher or craft activity. I wish I could go back to volunteering with these kids for the joy of working with them alone. I treasure the time i spend with these kids. They are my kids and I celebrate with them the joys of their lives and greive with their sorrows.

It pains me to see the parents who drop them off at Sunday School to go out to brunch. These are the same parents who I know don't talk about faith at home. So my hour (or two) a week becomes my own chance to reach kids and teach them things that are important. An hour to teach the love of God, the grace Jesus' death on the cross, the gifts of the Holy Spirit. An hour for sin and temptation, for covenant promises, for practical applications. An hour for word and sacrament. An hour for connection and safety. An hour for peace and love.

And my day is spent in search of green jelly beans and Sunday School teachers. But I am grateful. Maybe the hour with the green jelly beans will be one that sticks with them. Maybe I will reach parents with my endless calling and pleading. Maybe I can remind them of their baptismal promises. I wish I could spend more time with these kids. I wish I had more hours to teach them, to reach them before ipods or cellphones or cynicism takes over. I hope that I make a difference. I hope the search for the green jelly beans is worth it.

In the end I found some green jelly beans. They were jelly belly Sport Beans which helpfully add vitamin C and electrolytes to them. It makes me wonder, if we are so busy that we need our vitamins from jelly beans now, what hope is there for my one hour. But maybe this hour or the next or the next is all that I'll need. God's grace is larger than I can tell or guess. So maybe there is hope for me yet!

Monday, January 29, 2007

There is a God!

How do I know for sure? Because today I went to try on jeans and I found multiple pairs that fit and worked well. If I can find jeans that fits that must prove a higher power is watching over me! LOL

Hooray for successful jean shopping and coming home and not feeling like inhaling Ben and Jerry's! Woohoo!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Random Thoughts

* I'm so thrilled for my friend Kerry and her family. Her triplets were born early this morning! The babies are:

Triplet A: Ewan, 2 lbs, 5 oz (all of them are about 14 inches long)
Triplet B: Noel, 2 lbs, 9 oz
Triplet C: Mairin, 2 lbs, 4 oz

And can you believe she and her husband already have a 2 year old? Ack! Please send them thoughts and prayers. I don't know any details about how they will be in NICU but I'm sure they'd love prayers.

* Another good friend is due any day now. Please send her labor vibes. She is ready to have the baby OUT!

* I've got a Church council retreat this weekend. It will be interesting probably but hopefully will be energizing as well. Sometimes it is good to get away and talk about vision.

* Laundry: a Haiku

Nothing left to wear
Massive heaps surround me
Patience wearing thin

* If you are ever an associate pastor, do not abbreviate your title: Ass Pastor. It just brings up bad implications. However the gag gift t-shirt possiblities are numerous.

* I'm amazing how relaxing coloring can still be. Perhaps this is why I'm in Children's Ministry. Seriously, try it. It can be fun! Here is a coloring sheet for you! I made it myself! Aren't I talented with Paint? hehehe. Don't answer that.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

FFC - Part 3 - Photos!

Well, did you make it through my epic? Hehehe. Sorry for the extreme posting. I was trying to get it all down and I don't know whether it is enjoyable or not. Here are a few pictures for you. I didn't take to many and i have lots of non-digital ones too but haven't scanned any of those. So you get what I can find right now!

Here is our ship: The Enchantment of the Seas

Chris and I at our Muster Station for the Livesaving drill

The Mayan Ruins

Pretty water :)

One of my Turtle friends from Grand Cayman

More Turtle Buddies.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

FFC - Part 2

Sorry for the delay in the story. I was fighting some sort of cold which didn't make me feel all that bad but made me really tired. It has almost seemed daunting to write the story of the cruise and somehow it makes me miss the tropical weather and calmer pace of life even more. Despite the fact that we did a lot on the cruise there was a wonderful sense of relaxation that only a vacation brings and now, three weeks home, I really miss that. I find myself daydreaming as I write this up, but missing the cruise won't bring it back, and there are stories to here we go.

Travel -or- Where's my passport?
When we last left our fearless family they were in NC for Christmas. We spent the day of the 27th frantically repacking and searching for all those last minute things we needed for the cruise. There were errands to run and laundry to do and the general chaos of vacation prep. We all got to bed about midnight that night, and then our alarms went off to get 3am! Our flight was at 6:30 which means we had to get there at about 4:30ish which meant we needed to leave around 4, so hence, 3am! We packed up most of the van the night before so there were only minor details to take care of in the morning and 8 of us set off in a 12 passenger van stuffed to the gills with luggage.

We got there with good time, which was good because our people checking us in were either still asleep or lacking in certain job skills. They kept calling us up in different combinations and trying to check us in and it took a LONG time. So really once we got to our gate we only had about 20 minutes to wait before boarding. It was a fairly small plane that took us from Greensboro to Miami. It was two seats on each side of the aisle and the 8 of us took up quite a bit of room. The flight was ok. I got to watch the Sunrise from the plane over the Atlantic, which was cool, but I don't need to see again if it means getting up at 3am!

We got to Miami without incident - or so we thought. Once we landed we were hurried off the plane (I think it had a quick turnaround). We went down to get our luggage and all of a sudden Gan realized that she didn't have her passport anymore. So began the frantic search through all her carry on bags (she had more than one for medical stuff and that type of thing). No luck. My MIL quick runs to get someone to check the plane (we were on the wrong side of security by that point). No luck. We call Greensboro airport (she did have it to check in)... No Luck. We call her travel agent who says, go to the cruise, we'll get them to let you on, and I'll check everywhere. (I really liked this travel agent, she really went over and above).

So oh well, on to the cruise...we'll figure it out later I guess...

And we got on a bus to get to the ship. Our bus driver was great and we got on the first shuttle over to the cruise. When we got to the docks they were letting people on already (it was noonish) and we were told no one got on til 2 so we got on early and they were serving lunch too. The weather was glorious and the boat was really nice and clean and it was so nice to be done with the travel part of it all! We soon met up with my parents and Chris' aunt, uncle and cousin. That brought our party up to 13 total!

On the Boat -or- Grandma's Indian lover
The boat was amazing! It was huge and yet sort of small. You got used to its size and it still seemed managable. I know that there were places that I never got to explore, but nothing seemed too far away and once you got used to it it was almost cozy! Perhaps it was the small quarters in this large boat that added to that though. The pool deck was by far the most crowded and the times when people lined up for dinner or to go ashore. But for the most part it was lovely. One of my favorite places was the stern of the ship. You could watch the horizon and the wake of the ship. It was great.

On our first night there after we'd pulled away from Fort Lauderdale, it was time for dinner. They have the ship set up so you get to have the same head waiter, waiter, and asst. waiter every night. Our Head waiter was a fellow named Ajay from India. Our water was Fanderson, also from India. And our asst. waiter was Dane from Jamacia (I think). Now being a table of 13 and full of relative extraverts, or at least my father and MIL are, we hit it off with the staff right away. And naturally the staff are hired for their ability to schmooze it up with the guests.

Ajay greeted us all and tried to figure out how we were all related and such. When it came out that Gan was the reason behind our trip (not to mention the vacation sugar mama) Ajay proposed for the first time. It seems an American passport would be great :). The joke continued throughout the ship as he would come over and cut up Gan's food for her and get her more drinks and smooth talk her. He was quite good. During one dinner we had a birthday cake for her and he took some frosting on the fork and fed her after she blew out the candle. And on the last night we got to meet his wife (She was another head waiter and from Romania). She was great and more than willing to give Ajay up to Gan if she wanted him! (Oh, and the joke continued into things like ..."i waited for you last night, but you never showed..." "Can I have your door card for tonight? Will your roommates be there?...etc) He was very sweet with her.

Fanderson and Dane were wonderful too. Dane learned the first night that Chris and I were diet coke-aholics and kept them coming nonstop. Also, I should mention that the food was fabulous. The portions were just right and dinner was 4 courses or so. Sometimes we couldn't choose between entrees and so they'd bring you two. My dad did this a few times. It was so good. Yum! One night they had mini chocolate cakes (really two bites) paired with another desert and i asked for more and he brought me a whole plate to share with the table. Yum indeed!

We did do some other stuff on the boat too. We made it to two of the shows (both were comedians and were quite funny.) We lost some money in the casino playing nickel slots and a bit of roulette (nothing major though). We got to spend the afternoon of the Key West day lounging on deck (the sunny spots were taken.) We hit the pool and hot tub once or twice and went to a midnight buffet for good measure (obviously they couldn't have been feeding us enough...or not). I'll tell some other stories as I get into the different days but in general the ship was big and clean and beautiful. Most of the time you couldn't even tell you were moving unless you paid attention. We had great sunny weather the whole time so there were no really rough seas either. We had one late night bumpy patch and with a bit too much wine or rum the swaying was more noticable but nothing to worry about. So onto our ports of calls and days!

Key West -or- The six-toed cats and the motorcycle
Well our first port of call was Key West. It had been a slow pace down around Florida over night and we found ourselves landing in the early morning. I actually woke up to the engines steering us to the the dock. I had been to Key West before but E and Chris hadn't. Most people decided to do this and that that day. G went on a motorcycle excursion, H and V rented bikes and rode around the island, Gan, B, and some others went on a tour of the Truman house and my father (J) went snorkeling and my mother (C) went to some museums.

So E (Chris' sister remember) and Chris and I went walking around. The first thing I realized was that I had forgotten my sunglasses on the ship. Now originally I forgot my sunglasses in my car in MN, so I bought a Target pair in NC to have on the trip, and I forgot them on the first day. So there were a bunch of shops on Key West and Chris wanted to get some old man sunglasses if he could since he forgot his too (Old man sunglasses = they fit over real glasses). So we went into a sunglass store and both got a pair. I got my first semi expensive pair of sunglasses. They were Ralph Lauren (not that it matters) but what a difference between a real pair and the target versions. Wow! So now I'm hooked on real sunglasses, so I hope I manage to keep hold of these for a long while.

So E, C and I wandered around Key West in the vague direction of the Hemingway house which we wanted to see. When we got there we were lucky because a free tour was starting in 5 minutes, so we joined that and got the full tour. It was a cool house and much as I remembered it (I'd been here once when i was younger). Hemingway had this attic room over the garage (servant's house?) and he had a skyway installed to get there from the house. Even though the skyway didn't make it in a hurricane a while ago the room is still there and it is really weird to think of him writing in that room on his little typewriter. The tourguide said that 28 Pulitzer Prize winning authors have called Key West home at one time or another...Makes me want to move there and write the next great American novel.

Also at the Hemingway house are the famous six-toed cats. He had bought a six-toed cat and raised it there and when it had kittens they had six-toes too. And they bred and bred. Now the six-toed cats run the place :) They have names and there around 60 of them living at the house. They only keep the six-toed ones of the litters and generally let the girls have one litter before they are fixed. They only keep the most social and work to keep them that way. The vet comes out every Wed I guess! They were cute and really did have the run of the place. In the front room there was some furniture with a "Please perserve history, stay off the furniture" sign and there was a cat curled up taking a nap on it. So we know who ranks higher at the Hemingway house! :) They were smart cats too, they knew just a what point on the tour the guides talked about the cats and when they got there they came to get their treats and show off. Oh, I found out there is a Hemingway cat webcam if you want to check it out.

We walked back along one of the main streets (think Burbon Street (New Orleans) meets Grand Ave (St. Paul)). We stopped when we saw a place (The Blond Giraffe) that had Frozen Key Lime Pie on a Stick. We'd seen it on the Food network on some show so we had to go try it. It was super sweet and tart at the same time and lot more sugar than a midmorning snack should be but it was delicious. Then we finished our walk back tot he ship and got on board around 12:30. So we went to have lunch and then got our suits on and found lounge chairs and waited for the ship to depart. It was due to leave at 2:00 so we all had to be on board at 1:30.

At about 1:55 the loudspeaker come on. Would P. G. please come to the excursion desk. Then another announcement a few minutes later. Of course this is my FIL, except they flipped his name around. It is really G. P. but that is the curse of having a last name as a boys first name too. E immediately thought, "Oh no, he isn't on the ship" And I tried to reassure her that he must be and her mother must have been trying to reach him. Anyway, 20 minutes later we pull out to sea and forget about it. Until M, E's aunt, walks by and says "Did you hear G almost missed the boat?" Apparently he walked on just in time, he even had to get on the boat by the crew's entrance because the other one had been closed already! He says "I thought we had til 2:30, I was on my trip and got back and was walking around and decided to come back a bit early!" Um, nope...late. And several people had told him 1:30 because he is exactly the type of person to forget something like that. Luckily he made it onboard. So we didn't lose any family members after all. Nearly though :)

Oh, and in the afternoon (after swiming and lounging) we went to a wine tasting with some of the family. A very nice treat with 8 partial glasses of wine! Yay! Dinner was a very calm affair after that!

Cozumel -or- Boats, Buses and Ruins
Port #2 of the cruise was Cozumel, Mexico, though we did not spend any time on Cozumel the island itself. Gan had purchased tickets for all of us (except my mom and dad who did their own thing) to go to the Tulum Mayan Ruins on the mainland of Mexico. It was an all day excursion, getting us back just in time to get back on the ship and make it to dinner. It was an interesting day too, but LONG. It took a long while to even get there. First of all you had to take a ferry ride across the channel to get to the mainland. It was ROUGH and many people in our ferry got sick. I was amazed that no one in our party did, but we were all definately green by the time we got off. So it was not a great start to the day. The ride, the heat and the sun were not the best of combinations. Once we got off the ferry (kiss the ground!) we had to get in a bus to drive to the ruin site. It was an hour drive which went fine but still not the best part.

We stopped halfway there to visit a more "local" shopping area, but it was still basically a tourist shop. The funniest part was they had carved flutes out of wood, but the carvings were parts. (Bait AND Tackle *blush*) And you can guess where you blew...OK, enough of that. everyone get your mind out of the gutters, this is a cultural post now! *Ahem* There was some cool stuff and I got K and L my sister and her husband a present since they weren't on the cruise...NO, not the aforementioned item...and I'll get it to them once I figure out how to ship it!

Finally we got to the ruins and were able to see them and our tourguide gave us a brief tour. But for all the travel we only ended up having an hour and a half there before we had to go back. The ruins were cool, the ocean was amazingly blue and the history was fascinating but in the end I think it too a bit too much effort for my taste and I would have preferred a nap on the beach. Still, it was a once in a lifetime sort of thing. We then took the bus back and the ferry (it was much smoother on the way back and we took some dramamine for extra measure). That night at dinner we were all pretty tired out from the long day. Chris fell asleep after dinner with his clothes on (shoes, glasses the works) and didn't want to be woken up to go to the show so I went with the others. He ended up sleeping straight through the night. He'd taken two dramamine rather than one so we think that was part of it. He slept for 14 hours that night!

Grand Cayman -or- Turtles, Stingrays and Rumcake!
I did finally wake Chris up in time to go on our excursion in Grand Cayman. This had to be my favorite port. We went on the Turtle/Stingray excursion and got to see two of the most popular sites on Grand Cayman. The first place we went though was Hell. It is a small area on the island with some unusual rock formations. So we stopped there for a brief time. (They have a postoffice so you can send things postmarked from Hell...hehe) The formations were quite strange.

Then it was on to the Tortuga Rum Cake Factory to sample some Rum cake and rum. Both were excellent. We bought a sampler pack and they delivered it up to the ship for us so we didn't need to carry it around. If you are good and ask nicely I'll share some rum cake with you all (it last for 6 months so no need to is potent stuff!)

From there we were taken to the Grand Cayman Turtle Farm. This is a huge facility on Grand Cayman that raises sea turtles. The have about six different kinds and some they breed and release and others live there. There were hundreds of them. I got to pick up a sea turtle (about a year old) and he splashed me and got me all wet but he was really cute. It was amazing to see all the turtles in one place! (Oh, and Chris almost fell into the turtle pool...He was reaching for a turtle and lost his balance and was *this* close to falling in head first! He didn't want to pick one up after that).

From there we went in our little Toyota bus to the place to pick up the boat to Stingray City. We had a to wait for an hour or so which was annoying but it was because others were out on the boat we were due to go on. But eventually we got on a boat and sailed to a big sandbar quite aways out from the island. Once you got to the sandbar the ocean was only 4 feet deep or so and there were tons of stingrays. The guides told us what to do and we all got into the water and started feeding the stingrays and swimming with them. (Ok, not everyone, some people were too afraid). The water was so WARM and the stingrays were amazing. They swam right up to you and you fed them whole squid. You stuck it in your hand underwater and they'd come and slurp it right up from their mouths on their underside. They were mini vacuums! When you had food 6 or 7 of them would swarm you and make it hard to keep your balance, but overall they were incredibly gentle. I even held one and gave him a kiss! (At the guides prodding). The guides were careful to show that these are gentle creatures and that what happened to Steve Irwin was a huge improbabilty. One even held the sting ray and pointed out the sting and then stuck it against his tongue to demonstrate. I believed him before he did that though so I thought that might have been a *tad* excessive! Still this was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. Worth the wait.

But once we got back on the ship we realized that the delay meant we were cutting it very close to the last tender (the boat to take us to the ship). In the end the tender was delayed for our group by 20 minutes or so. Since we were on their excursion they had to wait for us after all. It did make it hard to make it to dinner that night. Dinner started at 6pm and the doors locked at 6:15 and we didn't even get on board until 6:10 and it was a formal night due to New Year's Eve. (This made me stressed and cranky and I sort of took it out on Chris a bit...poor guy). But our head waiter Ajay called our room and told us not to worry and to come when we could. He was so nice about it and made it possible for us to still have dinner with the family on New Year's Eve. So I was sorry that I'd been cranky about it.

New Year's Eve -or- More Champagne? Why thank you!
The day on Grand Cayman was also New Year's Eve. After a decedant dinner we all went to the show and saw the headlining comedian. He was good (he did a bunch of voices) and had been on Leno apparently. It was a fun time. Then we split with plans to meet up around 11ish in one of the bars. Chris and I went to the Casino and lost some money there and then wandered til we met up with folks. The champagne was really flowing starting at 11 with waiters handing it out (it was the only time you didn't have to pay for a drink). We all had some champagne and Chris disappeared and reappeared with a shot for everyone (A Baby Guiness - Kahlua and Baileys floated - super good and tastes like chocolate together somehow). Not everyone wanted them so Chris and I had two each...and finished our champagne and such. It was so nice to know that you could sleep in and not worry about driving someplace. We went to the Centrium to watch the midnight balloon drop and countdown the year. Then we slowly split up to go do our own thing.

Chris and I hung out for a while and then went an ordered room service (free and included!). We needed to balance out the alcohol at this point. The pizza was good and at about 2 we were ready for bed. THe only problem being that when we were putting our tray in the hall a water glass fell down and shattered. We called for them to come clean it up but an hour later and most of the movie Click they weren't here so we went to bed anyway. We had to be careful to wear shoes in the morning though.

Day at Sea -or- Good for you!
We got up late on New Year's day and had brunch in the dining room rather than the buffet. Then we went and played bridge with my parents in the afternoon. Since it was a day at sea it was nice and relaxing. We watched the ocean, played cards, sat on the deck, did a little swimming, etc. Very nice. That evening was another lovely dinner and that night was the Gala buffet with all sorts of huge gorgeous desserts and ice carvings and stuff. It was amazing and beautfiul and the dessert was good too!

We went back to the room in the late afternoon and had some time to get ready for dinner...So Chris and I took advantage of it. We were enjoying the benefits of our room...ahem....when the phone rang. We didn't answer it and didn't think much of it. At dinner that night someone asked where we'd been when they called. And I say, "Oh, you were the one who called, what did you want?" So someone asks what we were doing..."Yeah, we were occupied" At which point my mother says loudly, "Good for you!" and my MIL says "We wouldn't have answered the phone this afternoon either?!" TMI but a funny story so I'll share it with you too!

Bahamas -or- Jellyfish and Coco Locos
Our last day was Royal Carribean's private island in the Bahamas, CoCo Cay. I'd like to say I've been to the Bahamas but I haven't really, just an island with a theme parky vibe. Nevertheless it was a fun day. Some of the family went kayaking early in the morning and then a bunch of us met up at 10am or so and went snorkeling. E, Chris and I were once again together as we explored the island. The snorkeling was great. There were all sorts of cool fish and some people even saw some Rays though we didn't. They had a BBQ on the island for lunch and then we went snorkeling some more. I wish I'd had an underwater camera. They had a plane wreck which added to the reef and the fish really liked and some deeper spots as well. We did explore a bit and I was sorely tempted to get my hair braided but it was rather expensive.

After snorkeling at first E said, I think I scratched myself. And I looked on her back and there was a big red welt. We also found one on her wrist and shoulder. It turns out they were jellyfish stings. We didn't actually see any jellyfish but apparently they were there. But a quick trip to the first aid hut and a spray of vineager later everything was fine. E liked to tell everyone she was stung by a jellyfish though. She especially liked the reaction of her mother!

There was a bit of a line once we wanted to go back to the ship since everyone was on the island so we got a CocoLoco to pass the time. It was a rum drink with pina colada, pineapple juice, grenadine and of course rum. E had a sip and didn't care for the rum. But what was funny was that her mother saw her and then wanted her to repeat the face she made for the camera, but it was a reaction face so her mother asked her to take another sip to recreate it. Nevermind that she's 15...hehe. But it was a good drink and a relaxing day.

That night was our last meal and we had our birthday pary for Gan as well. Since her birthday was the cause of this whole vacation it seemed only fitting. My parents, thankful for the chance to tag along, came up with a poem for the occasion...well a song really. Anyone who knows my family knows that embarrassing, clever, touching and otherwise memorable poems, songs, etc are used in big important occasions. The rehearsal dinner at our wedding was practically a roast for example. (But I'm Show Biz Liz, I can handle it!). They wrote a poem for Gan in which she was a pirate...Gory Gan. It was a big hit! Also there was the cake incident with Ajay and Gan (see above!). It was sad that it was our last night but our colds were starting to catch up to us and we were tired so we faced the end of the cruise knowing we had a great time. We had to pack the night before and put our luggage in the hallway and then only have a small bag to keep for the next day. That wasn't so bad though. We went to bed knowing there wouldn't be time for anything but breakfast before we got off the ship. Too bad we couldn't have just keep sailing away from Fort Lauderdale and not back to it.

Travel Part 2 -or- But I know that bag was here a minute ago
Travel days are always hard and this was no exception. It was a LONG day. (oh did I mention that Gan got her passport back? Though we are unclear how exactly somehow the travel agent tracked it down at one of the airports and got it too her. I think they shipped it to one of our ports and got it and put it in Gan's state about service. So she had that back.)

In the morning we got up (I woke up late because I misset the alarm, ugh.) and packed our last bit of stuff and then went to our holding area. They sectioned people off and dismissed areas one at a time to avoid the mob scene. When we got off we collected our luggage and found a porter to help carry the luggage of 8 of us. (My parents and Chris' aunt, uncle and cousin were seperate because they had different travel plans). The porter created a huge pile of luggage on his cart and it helped us bipass a good portion of the line. Once we got outside we were able to find a shuttle to take us to the airport.

When we were in line for the shuttle our porter moved to the front to deposit the bags He didn't cut in line but went beside it to take the bags off his caddy. I went with the stay with the bags (I'd been in the lead). At this point two women began muttering loudly about the rudeness of people cutting in line and such. They were going on and on and I got really pissed off. If you know me at all you know I'm not a big confrontation person, but I started to explain that I was staying with the luggage and not cutting in line. And they said "You think people would have a little common decency in life" And then the other woman accused the (black) porter of trying to get to her rum in her bag? It was totally bizzare and I was livid. I said that they should talk and there were plenty of spots on the bus for everyone in line and perhaps they'd had too much rum already." When the bus driver started taking bags and loading them I bowed and urged them to go ahead of me, because I could wait. They sneered at me and went past. i've never met such foul people, especially when I hadn't. actually. cut. in. line.

Finally we all got on the bus (the bitches included) and we went to the airport. He made a couple of stops and the different airlines. When it was our stop our family waited until everyone else got off and then got off ourselves. We gathered up our luggage and I noticed that my carry on bag was gone. It had been under the bus and then it wasn't. And because it was my carry on it had my jewelry, medication, camera, etc in it. The bus driver left and we weren't sure what to do. In my evil thoughts I thought the bitches had taken it, but I figure it was just someone who was in a hurry (there were a few). So we went inside to try to find it and I called Royal Carribean to report it missing/stolen. I felt better after they had a report and we checked in (what were we to do after all.)

Luckily I still had my purse seperate and Chris was able to call and cancel the few remaining travelers checks we had in the bag. By this point, we had split with B, G, and E who were flying straight to MN so we called to give them the update and make sure they didn't have the bag too. In the end we got on our plan to Charlotte, NC and then on a second to Greensboro. It was H and V, Gan and Chris and myself. When we got there we got our minivan (they actually had one this time!) and drove to Gans. On the way there Delta called me and said they had a bag with our name on it in Fort Lauderdale. I explained the situation and asked them to turn it over to Royal Carribean. Apparently, when whoever took our bag realized it they just left it in the airport. I don't think they turned it in at all, I think it was "found." I'm really lucky they didn't make the damn thing explode. Who does that? ugh.

Anyway we made it to Gans to discover that her security system had gone off while we were gone and that her bathroom had flooded. We cleaned up and went and grabbed some dinner and all went to bed early. The next morning after making sure that Gan had everything she needed we drove back to the airport and hopped on a flight to Philly and then on to Minneapolis. (there are no good flights to NC apparently). It was another long day but eventually we made it home.

We got home THurs and on Friday we still hadn't heard from Royal Carribean that they got the bag so Chris tracked it down (or left messages to track it down) while I headed back to work. Then at 6am on Sat morning Delta called again saying that Royal Carribean hadn't been by to pick it up (they were supposed to drop it off?) but we got them to fly it right to us instead. So we got the bag back and everything was in it! Yay! So no real harm done.

Oh and the next week Royal Carribean called and said they found and unmarked bag that must be ours and were sending it too nope. not ours. Thanks for playing. Don't you love the travel industry?!

Final Thoughts -or- Rum and Purell cocktails
So that was our trip. It may sound like a disaster in places but really it was a great vacation throughout. It was so much fun to see the family for an extended period and great to have some vacation time with just Chris too. I hadn't realized how stressful the fall had been. I never thought of myself as the cruising type. It sounded nice that's true but I didn't see the allure of the decadence or even the Carribean and I do have a neurotic fear of the norovirus. But, I've changed my mind. It was so nice to have everything taken care of. To see the sun and feel the ocean breeze. To relax or be as busy as you want. I may not have the $$ to go again any time soon but I would recommend it. The place was clean and not too crowded. The service was impeccable and friendly and they really seemed to have fun doing what they were doing. We got to meet interesting people from interesting places and expand our horizons. Heck, we had a horizon to look at that wasn't gray or brown. If you have a grandmother turning 80 i'd convince her to go this route with it, or fork over the cash and go yourself. It is worth the money (even mine if I had some!).

Thanks for your patience with the story. I'll post some pictures too so you can see stuff. I hope it is interesting! Oh, and I promise I didn't make this stuff up. It just sort of happens that way in my family!

Family Fun and Chaos Part 1

Here we go...are you ready? Ok, this has been a long time coming but I've been getting over a cold and trying to catch up at work. But I think the time has come to begin the tale of the Christmas/Cruise of 06/07, which will be now referred to as Family Fun and Chaos or FFC. I will share a few pictures but most will come in later weeks as I get some good ones from the family. First of all, I feel as though I should start with a disclaimer. I had a GREAT time during this vacation. All situational comedy or complaining is merely a function of the wacky, crazy family that I'm a part of, and thus any stressful situations are merely humorous now removed from them. So please read it with the same sense of glee and don't worry that our vacation was a spectacular disaster or anything! Also, if it is hugely long and boring I'm sorry, I'm trying to write it all down so I remember it too. So without further ado: Family Fun and Chaos (FFC)

North Carolina -or- Help I'm allergic to your house!
Chris and I left MN on Saturday morning before Christmas. We flew with his parents (B and G) and his little sister (E). This is always a fun experience because no one in our family likes to fly all that much. But we managed to get to Winston-Salem without incident. When we arrived at Gan's (Chris' grandma) house, we went out for Carolina BBQ with her boyfriend Amos. It is really cute to see grandparents date again!

Most of our time in NC was spent getting ready for Christmas and/or the cruise, so our time was fairly short. We were all staying at Gan's house (H and V - Chris' brother and his fiance) joined us shortly too) and it made for a crowded house. The house is a glorious testament to the 1960s and 1970s. I particularly liked the avacado green oven! Also, Gan had put various Christmas decorations in every room, most of which played a variety of Christmas Carols when you moved. (hehehe). That in an of itself wasn't bad but Chris and I were staying in the basement and unfortunately we discovered that my mold allergy hadn't completely disappeared. I was allergic to her house is a bad way. So I didn't feel the best throughout the stay there but it was fun and when I managed to get out of the house some it was better.

Oh, and when we first arrived, I said "I smell gas." It turns out that others could smell it to, so since it was Friday before Christmas we quick called the gas company. They came right out and found out that Gan's pilot light was out on the old stove. (Gas leak #1) But that didn't fully explain the smell. So it turned out the the neighbor's meter was leaking (Gas leak #2). Then H and V showed up and the first thing they say is... "I think the lamp post is leaking gas" (Gas leak #3). It was an eventful first day!

The Van -or- I'm hot! I'm cold!
When we had arrived in NC we attempted to get our reserved mini-van from the car rental place. They of course, had given it away to someone else. But they did have a 12 passenger van that they'd "let" us rent for the same price as the minivan. Left with little option, we became the new drivers of a bright red 12 passenger van for the remainder of our trip in NC. This was benefitial because we could fit everyone from the house in the van, but it did lead to a bit of a feud.

You see, E was recently diagonsed with a irregular heartbeat that had been making her pass out from time to time. (It isn't anything hugely serious, more of a consequence of being a teen athlete and she will likely grow out of it) As a result of this, when she gets overheated or anxious she can be at risk of passing out. So she's supposed to stay cool and drink lots of water.

Now it was still winter in NC and as it got dark it did get rather chilly there. When we would all pile in the van to go somewhere (church, party, etc) the back of the van would be quite cold. (Back story - E and V don't really get along in general so increased together time made them both frustrated) When we would get into the van V would ask for the heat to be turned up. Almost immediately, E would feel hot and demand that the heat be turned off. Which would lead to a trip long battle of the heater turning it up and down with much rolling of eyes and whatnot. Being in the middle it was frustrating yet somehow funny. E never did pass out and was fine throughout so it merely became a battle of wills between two (soon to be) sister in laws. I'm sure glad they both like me ok... ;)

Christmas -or- Psst...Don't drink the coffee yet.
For Christmas we had a lot of fun. By this point we were all trying to fight off minor colds that the allergic house was trying to give us all, but we managed a full Christmas schedule nonetheless. On Christmas Eve we went to Gan's church downtown. A huge Presbyterian church with a great big sanctuary. We got the complusary "this is where I got married" tour from Chris' mother and went to the Advent 4 service. They had an orchestra and a choir for the day and they were playing/singing some wonderful Bach stuff. Which made it seem downright Lutheran and lovely.

Then that night we went to a Moravian Love Feast Christmas Service. This was really amazing. Winston-Salem has one of the largest Moravian populations and they do this Love feast thing on important holidays. It is a worship service but it is also a hymn sing and you have a meal - coffee and a roll - plus you all light candles at the end. It was very cool and fun to sing through all sorts of great hymn. It did seem odd to eat a roll and drink coffee in the sanctuary though. It was funny though, you are supposed to wait to eat and drink till the pastor eats and drinks first. But Gan was worried about us not doing it right and so she urged H to start passing the coffee before he was supposed to and he got the look from an usher. Gan, who is the expert, messed us up! :) So just remember, always wait to drink the coffee until the pastor does.

Christmas Part II -or- But I didn't even tell you what to wear!
Christmas day we all gathered and opened the enormous pile of presents. We actually all had lunch first and then opened the presents. We all got a lot more than we deserved considering we were also being given a cruise vacation. We did manage to surprise both Gan and Chris' parents with some thoughtful gifts tho (If we do say so myself).

Back story: In July I was talking to Chris and thought that it might be good to get a family portrait done of the kids for B and G. Particularly since our wedding photos don't have V in them (H's fiance) and their wedding isn't until this summer. So we thought it would be good to do a "kid" shot for them. Cut to the 4th of July picnic in St. Peter (the same weekend I started this blog incidently enough). They were having a silent auction for the Race for the Cure and one of the items was a free sitting at a local photo place. So we bid for it and won and got a $50 sitting for $40 bucks and helped a charity. Great!

We managed to find a day in August to take the photos. H and V were literally in town 12 hrs before they had to leave for college (back from VA where they were that summer). Chris and I went to town on the premise of having a dentist appt. I think I did even manage to get one for that day. And Chris wrote a permission letter giving E permission to miss part of swim practice to come take a picture. Though we had some close calls we were able to get the picture taken and his father didn't even ask why we came to their house all dressed up and then changed in to casual clothes. And they took us all out to lunch so we got a free meal out of the deal too.

A few weeks after the photo, E has several people come up to her at school saying "That's a really nice picture of your family" And E doesn't know what is going on. It turns out that the photo guy printed a large photo and it was put up in the local bank as a publicity photo! Eek, this is a small town where it would definately get out to the ILs if it stayed up. So we had to call the bank and ask them to take it down, and we still managed to keep the parents from knowing.

We managed through the fall to get the print picked out and framed and H picked it up since he was driving to NC via VA. When we got it to NC we had another close call. We were talking aloofly about it at the BBQ place and H slips and says that "the picture" is fine. And Chris's father is right there! But luckily, he was oblivious.

So we did manage to get to the unwrapping without them knowing about it (barely!). We had all traced our hands on the brown paper it was wrapped in and this immediately got B crying. As she opened it further and looked at it the tears kept coming. The first thing she said was "But I didn't even tell you what to wear!" Hehehe. She loved it and I think G did too. Gan got one too but by then she knew what it was. Gan also was given a ring with every child's birth stone (even in-law grandchildren's). She also loved that!

The day after Christmas we had Christmas Part II with the extended family. That was fun and I was able to meet some cousins who hadn't been able to come to our wedding. The family was great and I'm really glad that I got to meet them. I even got some quality baby time with one of Chris' second cousins, even thought everyone kept saying things like... "Oh know, who let Liz hold the baby," "She's got it bad," or "I've seen that look before, make sure she doesn't leave with the baby." I can't say that I don't deserve it. ;)

Anywho...that is the first part of the post. My fingers are tired from the typing right now. So I'll give you part 2 another time. I hope this was worth the wait!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Back to business

Hi everyone! Chris and I survived our whirlwind Christmas/New Years/Cruise adventure. We had a fabulous time and have lots of stories to tell. But I'm trying to dig through office piles at the moment to be ready for Sunday. Check back tomorrow as I begin to tell you all that happened. (Just a preview....highlights include: almost missing the boat, marriage proposals, stingrays, rum (LOTS of rum!), family feuds, stolen bags, lost passports, multiple flights and did I mention the rum?)