Cheers to Another Year

Cheers to Another Year

I just celebrated another birthday. Cheers to that! It was not a biggie…you know, one with a zero at the end. But still one where I sat and realized I’m not that much younger than my early memories of my own grandparents. It’s a weird feeling. It’s almost like I hold my breath every time I look in a mirror. Will this finally be the day I look in the mirror and see my Mamaw staring back at me….silver, short grandma hair perfectly coifed. Nice, tailored dress with an apron over it. Sensible shoes. Perfectly polished fingernails. My grandparents were of the generation with that stereotypical “grandma look”. This “look” was beautiful and precious to me as a kid….but I don’t particularly want to stare at it every time I pass by a mirror! So please pass the hair color and the fancy skin care my way!!

This birthday, though. This year that sees me 4 years short of the next “zero at the end” birthday. It’s all caused me to stop and do some reflecting. I’m not really surprised that one of my very first real memories is of a birthday. My 4th birthday was a year my parents threw a little party for me. This shin dig was at our house, which was a sweet single wide mobile home in Fort Walton Beach. I can remember being super excited about my friends coming over…I can’t tell you a single one of their names today. And I can remember NOT being excited about the nap my mom insisted I take before the shenanigans began. But she let me fall asleep on her lap as she sat in her chair…that I DO remember. My head on her shoulder. Her arms wrapped tightly around me. Being warmly embraced by the love of my mother. That memory is much stronger than the names or faces of the kids who came to my house or the presents they brought for me.

Why? What would make me remember anything about a day fifty something years ago? I’m sure it’s because of the love I felt that day. Because love is a powerful thing!

And now these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”…1Cor 13:13

Little me looking adorable enough in our “nap chair” that this could’ve actually been the day of that 4th birthday party.

With love powering my sentimentality and with birthdays on my mind, I’m not surprised that memories of birthday’s past have been filling my head this week.

  • Year 15 was celebrated at a local and newish water park. This was 1978 and water parks just weren’t all they are today. But by late 70’s standards, this one was…well…standard. I only remember it having a few different big water slides. I remember the brown bikini I had that summer, certain it showed off my tan all the better. I remember the friends who joined me on this day. And the plethora of cute lifeguards hanging around for me and my teenage friends to gawk at…I mean to save us if our lives were ever in peril from the swishing, raging water! I also remember feeling incredibly loved because my parents knew this outing would make my heart happy . And they were right!
  • The following year we were in a new town. It’s H A R D to move to a completely different state when you’re 16. The summer of this milestone birthday found me knowing pretty much zero people. We had only been in small town Texas for a few weeks, school had yet to begin, and our neighborhood was devoid of anyone even remotely near the ages of myself or my sisters. But this birthday made my heart smile because even in the simplicity of our family of five sitting in a Pizza Hut eating strangely amazing pizza, I felt all warm and cozy inside. It was my birthday and my family, who I knew loved me, surrounded me as we munched on my favorite food together. I think your favorite food and love will always go hand in hand!
  • How can I ever forget my next momentous birthday? I turned 18 in 1981. My friends and I celebrated with an overnight party and our first legal drinks. We made strawberry daiquiris and planned to wake up in time to watch the wedding of Charles and Diana. Because why not? What could be more special than royal love! I really needed this time of friendship and love on that very day. When I left my friends later that morning , after basking in the richness of this royal wedding and all the birthday fun, I learned of the death of my beloved Papaw. How sweet of God to surround with me so much fun and love right before what was one of the worst days of my young life.
  • By far my most memorable adult birthday was the big 4 – 0 ! This day saw my one and only surprise party. Somehow my husband was able to pull off a full fledged unexpected gathering of new friends, old friends and family from near and far. How I managed to not notice the line up of my Texas family’s cars as I strolled through the parking lot to the fellowship hall could only have an act of God. The love I felt that day bowled me over. As I walked through the different “layers” of friends and family who had come to celebrate this day with me, the affection we shared was sweet. It was almost like a glimpse of heaven.

Looking back on these birthdays from the past, I’m struck by one thing. The REASON I remember them. There was a very evident strand of love weaving through each of those days. The love of my mother’s arms…the love of a group of friends….the love of family. The feeling of being seen and known and loved is a powerful, grounding feeling. It’s a necessary one, I think.

We all want to be seen.

We all want to be known.

We all want to be loved.

God made us to need these things. Maybe that’s because HE sees us and knows us. And He IS love. Perhaps when we’re craving love, we’re really craving God. Hmmm….because as good as human love is, His love is a million times better. It just is.

So cheers to another year. A year to be loved and seen and known. A year to love and see and know.

Until next time…

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Not Exactly Yesterday

Not Exactly Yesterday

Our oldest son had a birthday this week. I remember the day he was born like it happened this morning. The weird thing about this is while this memory from 26 years ago is immediate, I have to stop and think a minute about what I had for dinner last night. Can I get an amen from my other 50-something’s ?!?

Son #1 was actually due on my birthday. One of those biggies with a zero at the end. I think about turning 30 and how old that made me feel at the time. It must’ve been all the raging pregnant hormones! Thirty is awesome! But exiting my 20’s just felt huge. Like I was suddenly gonna wake up into a brand new level of maturity and experience I didn’t have even the day before. I think I’ve felt that way with each passing year but as I approach this next birthday that will launch me to the other side of my mid-50’s, I think I’m over feeling ancient over the calendar changes. That was so 26 years ago! Maybe!

But I digress. That mid July day in 1993 started like most of my summer pregnant days. It was four million degrees in our corner of Georgia…at least. And the humidity was just as bad. I’m sure my hair was awful as I drove my enormously pregnant self to my doctor’s appointment that Friday morning. (FYI…. I’ve slept a few times since this day and may not remember this part exactly right. My Man may have gone with me and been in the drivers seat. We may have even stopped for donuts on the way! Who knows?? ) I was just happy to have the morning off work. I planned on dilly dallying and getting to work really late. I didn’t know as I buckled my seat belt that morning just how long my delay back to work would be! My doctor gladly cooperated with my dilly dally plan. Seemed I was in labor. (I had a tendency to be in labor and not know it…please don’t hate me mommas !) He sent me immediately to the hospital, likely afraid I’d spit out this baby over the weekend and totally ruin his golf plans! My labor with this third child of mine was the roughest and the fastest. Sweet baby boy nearly came while the doctor left me in the “c section recovery room” to find me a real labor suite. The full moon had labor and delivery packed to the gills and I was far from the first one there ! There was nearly “no room in the inn”! My man had also left the room to go tell his mom what was going on. Now before anyone goes bashing these men for leaving a laboring woman all alone, all was well when they left. In the 10 minutes they were gone,however, this sweet child of mine got in a real big hurry and was almost born with no audience! Yikes! But the doctor returned just in time to deliver my bouncing baby boy!

Oh the memories! It really IS hard to believe 26 years have passed. But then I think about all that has changed since 1993 and it feels like eons ago.

In 1993, the average cost of a new house was $113,200. The price of a gallon of gas was around $1.16. It cost $4.00 to go see Jurassic Park or Sleepless in Seattle in a theater. And we had to see it in the theater because , well, no Netflix or Amazon Prime Of course we could wait for movies to come to Blockbuster, but the pressure to “be kind and rewind” or to return said movies on time was large! Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey could be heard blaring from our car radio speakers. Bill Clinton was president but had not yet “not had sexual relations” with that woman. The World Wide Web was still a tiny baby . Cell phones as we know them today were still a dream but big boxy car phones were all the rage if you were well-to-do. When new parents took photos of their babes, they held their breaths and hoped for a decent shot because they wouldn’t be able to see the picture until the film was developed. Commodore released the Amiga CD32 and Atari had the Jaguar. But the Playstation was still a year away.

And of course, there was Sears Portrait studio for all your baby’s first professional photo needs. Don’t you love how they disguised my steadying mommy arm with that amazing furry backdrop?

Today I look at my 6ft 2 son and wonder where the time went. I mean,wasn’t I just swaddling him and laying him in his Jenny Lind crib; just singing our made up “big buddy buckle up ” song every time we got in the car; just packing his little backpack for school ? But that car phone thing? That makes me feel like we walked with dinosaurs back then and I realize 26 years ago wasn’t exactly “yesterday”.

A lot has changed over the years. But one thing has remained constant. The days may feel like they’re dragging … especially when the crying seems to never end and you’ve stepped on the 110th Lego and they won’t eat their peas even with cheese sauce and they roll their eyes at you one more time…

But the years are short.

In the blink of an eye, that adorable baby becomes a curious toddler who turns into a messy elementary kid who barrels into teenage rebellion. And before you know it, he’s a grown, married man with a job and bills to pay and little furry mouths to feed. Just as it should be.

So parents of yunguns, cherish those moments . Even the ones that make you want to claw your eyes out in frustration. Stop wishing time away. Stop always looking forward to the next amazing thing your child will do and simply enjoy the things they ARE doing. Now. In this moment. We can get so wrapped up in the next best thing that we don’t even see the now best thing. And I bet that even in those pesky pre-teen years where they’re trying so hard to be the boss of themselves and they’re on your last nerve all. the. time…..even then there’s something they’re doing that’s their now best thing. Find it. Love it. Brag on it. And in the proper time, you’ll all gracefully slide into the next little piece of greatness .

So Time, thank you I guess. Thank you for faithfully doing your thing and always marching on. Thank you Time for the weird ways you cause us to think you’ve stopped because those moments are filled with delightful memories. Thank you for the times that drag and for the times that seem to move forward too quickly.

And to that little boy who grew up too fast (and all his siblings) and to all the other children who seem to do the same …. my prayer for you…

“May God bless you and keep you. May God smile on you and gift you. May God look you full in the face and make you prosper.”

Until next time…

Six Tips to Keep You From Becoming Another Cruising Weight Gain Statistic

Six Tips to Keep You From Becoming Another Cruising Weight Gain Statistic

Because the Mighty Google knows the answer to most things I need to know, I posed this question to her recently.

What is the average amount of weight people gain on a cruise?

I needed to know this because, well, if you’ve been following my blog for the past four months, you know I’m on a mission to get my 50-something self back into shape and to a healthy weight. And you probably know that within that four month time span I also went on a cruise. So this was a serious concern for me! I certainly didn’t want my dream vacay to mess up my dreamier weight loss goals.

The answer Google Girl gave me to my all important question was flabbergasting! According to cruise reviewers, whomever they may be, the average weight gain on a 7 day cruise is 5 – 10 lbs!!! Ummmm…NO THANK YOU!!! I didn’t like that answer one bit and had zero desire to become another cruising weight gain statistic! The cruise we were planning was 7 days so I knew I needed a way to break the “spirit of cruise weight gain” and mess up that average some! I had worked pretty hard to lose 30 lbs in the 3 months prior to our cruise and I didn’t want my dream vacation to send me on a backwards spiral to that place I once was.

But what was I to do? From what I had heard from my cruise lovin’ friends, the food on these ships seemed to take on their own very appealing lives. The vittles were the very thing so many of them looked forward to. In fact, if the grub wasn’t up to snuff, the cruise wasn’t either. Someone even told me it was plain old dumb to be on a “diet” while on a cruise!! Trust me! I agree with that last sentiment! “Diets” ARE dumb!!

So I did what I’ve become accustomed to doing when facing any sort of dilemma. I had a chat with my Bestie about this. And He simply told me, “Trust me. It’ll be OK”

And you know what? It was. The day we returned home from our 10 day trip I sheepishly stepped on the scale and held my breath. I closed my eyes and hoped for the best but I was nervous. Because I HAD eaten way more than normal over the previous week. But when I opened my eyes, I got a sweet surprise. I was only up half a pound which was basically nothing. Because three days later when I stepped on that scale again, I was four pounds less than the day vacation started. HallelujahthankyouJesus!

So how in the world did I do this, you might ask? How did I make the gain of cruisers past my loss? Especially with every food temptation known to man set before me! Because it’s still vacation season and because someone reading this may be worried about packing on unwanted pounds while traveling, I thought I’d share a thing or two that helped me bust right through the “myth” that all people on cruises come home heavier!

Actual burger with actual bananas and peanut butter eaten on our actual vacation. It was a temptation…but not to me. My man enjoyed it and lived to tell about it! Those tots though. Scrumptious!!

Thing #1…I never deprived myself

Yep, that’s right. Don’t you deprive yourself either. The second you tell yourself you can’t have something, what happens? Yep, you think you just might shrivel up and die if you don’t have it. The desire to eat that pizza or that piece of cake or whatever is screaming your name becomes so all consuming that it’s all you hear. And the longer you wait to bite into the delectable yumminess, the greater the craving gets and before you know it , you’re a shriveled up mess crying in some corner for your mommy or you’ve taken an entire pizza to your room where you can eat it and not be seen. So as soon as this very odd peanut butter banana hamburger and tater tots were set before I us, I didn’t think twice. I hope the burger doesn’t make him sick but I’m totally eating half those tots! And I did . Which leads to….

Thing #2…I didn’t over indulge

Yep, the tater tots were fried little chunks of potato perfection that I likely shouldn’t have had. But my self control with food is better than it’s been in years. So I knew I’d be able to have a few without eating them all. Side note…I wouldn’t have been able to do this with chocolate cake. There are still things I don’t even let myself take one bite of because I may not know when to stop! Which brings me to the next thing…

Thing #3 … I ate desert every night

Wait, what? Didn’t I just say I couldn’t stop eating chocolate cake if it was set before me? While the likeliness of that being true was high, I knew I didn’t want to deprive myself. So every night, no matter where we were eating, I asked for their sugar free desert option. There was always at least one. So every night on our cruise, I ate whatever this offering for the day was. I ate Black Forest Cake, Lemon Sponge Cake, Tiramisu and the best mint chocolate chip ice cream ever. It was actually that ice cream that made us ask the chef one night if the sugar free stuff was truly sugar free. That’s when we learned that their “sugar free” deserts were actually just “no sugar added”, which is a bit different. Still….better than a full sugar anything. These nightly less sugar treats curbed any craving that might come out of nowhere for it’s more sugary cousins.

This was the exception to my “sugar free” desert options. This was brought to our table on our first Gala night . Everyone at our table was celebrating an anniversary so we all got this along with a rousing performance of a “Happy Anniversary” song from our servers.

Thing #4…We ordered room service often

Who doesn’t love the luxury of someone bringing them a big fluffy omelet, some delectable fruit and a hot, steamy pot of coffee before you even get out of bed! The benefits of this go way beyond not exposing your lovely bed head and morning breath to the world. The biggest benefit I found in doing this was no exposure to all the breakfast lovelies set out on the buffet each morning. It’s easier to not have cinnamon buns and pancakes and a plate piled high with bacon if you never even walk by them! Ordering our breakfast the night before while our senses were still sharp certainly helped me stay in the healthy zone of eating that I truly wanted to be in. On the few mornings we actually went to the buffet to eat, I just made a bee line to the Amazing Omelet Making Man. I’d just wave at the pancakes and the waffles and the sweet gooey morning treats as I zoomed by them.

Omelets to the rescue! There were 23,400 eggs consumed by passengers on the Oosterdam the week we sailed. I made sure to eat my fair share!! On Weight Watchers Freestyle, eggs are F R E E!! And speaking of no point foods….

Thing #5 … I gave myself permission to make good food choices

I’m on a cruise. Vacationing in places far from home. Food choices and restaurants filled with delectable full fat, full sugar, high carb amazingness all around me. I could’ve had my fill. But I reminded myself of how gross I would feel if I filled my body with these foods. I remembered how fabulous I’ve felt since I started making good food choices and have been eating more lean meats and fruits and veggies. I wanted to feel nothing but good on this vacation! So I gave myself permission to skip the junk and fill up with the good stuff. Every day I could eat chicken or fish instead of hamburgers or bacon. Every day I could have vegetables cooked in a variety of ways or fruit presented like it was a gift. Oh wait, it was a gift…free fresh fruit was delivered to our room daily! I’d get my fill of these healthier foods that cost me ZERO points then I’d have more of my daily points leftover for the treats. But getting full on the good stuff really caused me to not want the junk as much. (Oooo, I sorta love the Spiritual truths of that statement as well!!)

Thing #6 … We went on excursions with pretty trails

While we did our fair share of lounging by the pool or in the spa or on our beautiful balcony, according to that little Health app on my iPhone, we managed to walk well over 10,000 invigorating steps every day. That didn’t count the steps I took on the treadmill in the gym or while doing laps on the Promenade deck. (Three times around was a mile!) It didn’t count the many hundreds of steps we made just getting to all the places on the ship we needed to go. And for the record, I now just get a good old chuckle at myself for ever praying for God to place our room on this cruise “near all the things” so I wouldn’t have to walk so much. Bwahahahaha!! Oh sometimes we’re just so naive, huh? My favorite walks, though, were those walks in our port cities that took us down luscious forest trails, by water falls and streams. Even the strolls down the city streets were marvelous. All the walking we did on vacation really made me wish our non-vacation lifestyle could be a bit more active.

I’m certainly no expert on this subject but I’ve discovered some things that have worked for me. On March 1st, thoughts of this June cruise to Alaska caused me to get serious about getting healthier. I set a goal before myself and I reached it in the days before we set off on this journey. I couldn’t do this on my own. I had tried many times in the past to lose weight and just overcome a stinky mindset by my own power. Every time I started the solo trek to a healthier lifestyle , I’d get sidetracked before I really even got started. But in March, I set off with the One Perfect Weight Loss Partner…the One who is always with me, who always encourages me and always gives me strength. Four months into this great adventure, my relationship with food is different. It’s changed. It’s better. Food isn’t the boss of me anymore! I’m half way to my ultimate weight goal. Vacation , summer time, holidays, date nights, family gatherings…none of these things have set me back. If you’re struggling with your weight right now, I’d love to leave you with these encouraging words…

You can do this! You’re able ! You’re worth it!

I’ll say it again!

You can do this! You are able! You are worth it!

Until next time…

PS….since I’m half way to my goal and I’ve been sharing this journey here on my blog since the day it started, here is a current “Before/After Pic”. A little more than my hair color has changed. Today’s Me feels so much better than the Before Me.

Who’s Gonna Clean My Room Now and Other Memories of a First Time Cruiser

Who’s Gonna Clean My Room Now and Other Memories of a First Time Cruiser

It started as a dream. A little one that seemed to grow as time passed. We’re not hugely adventurous vacationers…though we want to be. Our travels haven’t taken us much further south than Gulf Coast Florida beaches (there was the Cancun honeymoon though). Williamsburg was our great “let’s head east” trip. Heading west means we’re going to Texas to visit family. And does North Carolina count as “north”? So when I started dreaming about possibly taking a cruise one day, it felt like just that. A dream.

I had all sorts of reasons why the likelihood of this cruise ever blasting out of dreamland would come to be. I have claustrophobia and I’ve never seen cruise ship cabins bigger than a thumbnail! And don’t get me started on motion sickness. I wore those lovely motion sickness bracelets the entire time we were at Disney World because those Teacups spin mighty fast!! The thought of being cooped up in a cracker box while barfing up my breakfast for 3 days wasn’t terribly appealing. Then there was the cost of taking our family on such a trip and well…..

Nonetheless, as more and more friends talked about their love for cruising and how fabulous it all was, my desire to try sailing the big blue-green pond never really left me. And as I learned more about Alaskan cruises and saw all the magical photos my friends had taken on their Alaskan adventures, I knew that if one day I actually lived the fulfilled dream of cruising, it would be to Alaska.

I knew God would have to step in to make this dream happen simply because there were way too many preconceived obstacles floating around in my head. I’d likely be sea sick the whole time. We’d be stumbling all over each other in our way too tiny room. Blah blah blah!

As our 25th anniversary year approached, though, for some reason I forgot all about the lame barriers I had put before myself and declared out loud to my family, “No need for any fancy party or extravagant gift for our anniversary. We’re going on a cruise to Alaska.” From my lips to God’s ears, I guess, because He made it happen.

As I was busily planning our next summer beach trip earlier this year, my husband declared that he was taking me on that dream cruise to Alaska for our anniversary. He was in contact with a travel agent and the wheels on this trip were already spinning. We’d take Holland America’s Oosterdam from Seattle for a 7 day Inside Passage cruise up to Juneau and Hubbard Glacier and back.

I almost couldn’t believe this was happening. It would be a trip so full of firsts, it was doubtful I could keep up with them all! We’d be further from home than we’d ever been together and we would have long stretches of time where we couldn’t even contact our family.

So with no other cruise to compare it to or any other trip to the Pacific Northwest/Alaska in our back pockets, here are a few of my impressions. Was it as dreamy as I’d hope??

In one word… Y E S !!!!!

Now because I have a difficult time keeping any sort of response to just one word, here are the rest of the words…and a few photos of our adventure! (I apologize in advance if this becomes a Word Press Long read and you’re not in the mood for a long read!) I’ll label each section with what it’s about so if you don’t what to know about Seattle, you can move on to the next section and so on.

First Seattle!

Our cruise started here. So fun because this was another first for us with this vacation. We spent two extra days in Seattle , trying to do all the “iconic” Seattle things. I expected to be reminded of Grey’s Anatomy the whole time I was there . But there was only one moment where I even vaguely thought of my favorite hospital drama….and it was on the other side of Pike Place Market while we were sitting on the deck overlooking the pier. Remember the episode where Meredith “drowned” and almost died? How many times has she “almost died” anyway? Anyway, I didn’t actually take a picture of the pier because big old majestic Mount Ranier became the boss of where my eyes would land every time it was in view. Definitely one of my favorite Seattle things! How is it that I only have two photos with my new favorite mountain in them? I guess I”ll need to go back!

Besides staring in awe at this unreal looking snow covered beauty , we did a few other great things in The Emerald City that I can recommend to future travelers. These were our “go to’s”.

  • Pike Place Market! But be prepared for the smell of fish everywhere….catch one if it flies by you! Also be prepared to face the desperation of the homeless in the city and the strip club across the street. These things threw me , to be honest. Regardless, just experiencing the atmosphere , the FLOWERS, the fish market, the produce and the water views was not something I’d want to miss. Oh, and buy your bottle of wine for your cruise while you’re at the market! Amazing locally made wine ! If you wait and buy your wine on the ship, expect to double your price per bottle!
  • The Space Needle ! We took the monorail from near our hotel to get there. Sadly (or embarrassingly!), I really had no clue what the Space Needle was all about before we got there. I didn’t know it was built for a Worlds Fair. Or that it was built so quickly by men who really had no protection from falling off…yet didn’t! The views from the top, of course, were spectacular. The revolving glass floor moves ever so slowly and was a fun and different view from underneath your feet. You can get a snack at the top and a cup of Starbucks coffee…of course! There’s a virtual reality experience available for no extra cost if you’re dying to know what it would be like to bungee jump off the Needle…I wasn’t. But I appreciated the fact they didn’t charge you more to do this. The gift shop is great and full of every imaginable Space Needle souvenir you can imagine. I got a shirt. Because, you know, why not?
  • Chihuly Garden and Glass! We almost skipped this because we’ve seen a Chihuly collection at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. But we were both so glad we did this. So much beautiful artwork in there. And it was all sitting out, unprotected from being bumped off its pedestals or shelves by curious little(or big) hands! There was a sign telling people not to touch and that was all. But since I wasn’t stepping over any shards of broken glass, I guess the visitors that day were careful and obedient! This is a definite must see if your eyes delight in beautiful, colorful, imaginative glass work! It was all just stunning. And conveniently located right next to the Space Needle, it was easy to get to.
  • The Museum of Pop Culture (or MOPOP) was the last thing we saw in Seattle. This was on my husband’s “must do” list and I’m glad it was. The building itself is so fun and unique that you just know it will be filled with great things. And if you’re a fan of the music of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix and Prince you will super love spending time there! We explored all the musical highlights of the museum but found ourselves too exhausted to see the other areas, which included Fantasy, Horror, Sci Fi, Movies. I probably would’ve enjoyed this more than the music exhibits but the old dogs were barking!

The Ship..MS Oosterdam

Next, the ship!! As I said before , this was our very first cruise so we have nothing to compare it to. But I have a strong feeling that we spoiled ourselves to any other cruise line or ship in one fail swoop here. As “older adults” traveling without children, this ship was perfect! While there were things for kids to do on the ship, the entertainment was certainly geared more towards adults. There were no water parks or go karts or zip lining or anything like that. Just a couple of swimming pools…which were always full of kids. And by “full”, I mean a couple dozen. I know there was a Kids Club on board but since we took zero children with us, I have the same amount of knowledge of what exactly happens in said Kids Club.

So some highlights of the beautiful, magnificent MS Oosterdam from the eyes of this first time cruiser.

  • Its size was perfect. According to good old Google, the ship holds 1964 guests, is 936 ft. long and 105.8 ft wide. In other words, it was big enough to get a good workout in every day with all the walking we did while on board (three times around the Promenade deck was 1 mile!) but small enough to get pretty darn close to Hubbard Glacier on glacier day! Was it so small, though, that we stayed sea sick the whole week? In my research, I found that you are less likely to feel the motion of the ocean in larger ships. When you compare the size of the Oosterdam to , say, a Royal Caribbean ship that holds twice as many people , it’s on the smaller side. So yes, we could feel the movement of the sea but it was only bad on our one sea day. On that day, we couldn’t walk in a straight line if our lives depended on it. The ocean was rough and it showed on board. I never got sea sick or even felt a twinge of discomfort but from the low attendance at dinner that night, I’d say I was one of the lucky ones. Can I just say that taking one doTerra DigestZen capsule a day may have been my lifesaver! After that one tricky day, it was smooth sailing the rest of the week!
  • We were offered a cabin upgrade a couple weeks before the cruise and we took it. Remember the claustrophobia issue I mentioned earlier and my certainty that all cruise ship cabins were cracker boxes? Well, our room for the week was just evidence to me of how God sees me and cares for what concerns me. The Signature Suites on the Oosterdam are H U G E!! Yes, our room was very large. It had a King size bed, a sitting area with a sofa and coffee table, a desk with shelves, an additional desk area that made a perfect “vanity”, two bedside tables, three closets, plenty of drawer space , a large bathroom with a separate shower and a jetted tub plus double sinks. AND we had a large balcony with plenty of room. The bed was super comfy and in all honesty, the cabin itself was as big and cleaner than the Westin hotel room we stayed in while in Seattle. It was cleaned no less than twice a day by our amazing room stewards. Who cleans their room twice a day? I miss that!
  • Speaking of our room stewards….oh man! So kind! So gracious! Always smiling! They’d see us from the other end of the mile long hallway and they’d wave and call out our names. Actually, all the crew members and staff were great people. We didn’t pass a single person with a Holland America name tag on who didn’t greet us . And can I just say that the vast array of accents we were greeted with was amazing. The Oosterdam is staffed from 38 unique nationalities. We loved that! We were personally served by precious souls from Bali, France, Jamaica, India, Indonesia, England, Norway, France … just to name a few!
  • I had heard that the walls of cruise ship cabins were super thin. Hmmm….we barely knew we had neighbors. Not once did we hear noise from the cabins on either side of us. The only time we ever over heard conversations was while we were all sitting outside on our balconies at the same time. Our cabin was so quiet!
  • The ship was decorated in a very classic, beautiful, ornate way. I loved that it so often felt like a throw back to a different era. It was also exceptionally clean. Maybe that’s because there was ALWAYS someone cleaning something. Every time we left our room, we’d find people cleaning the banisters or the windows or vacuuming the hallways. Almost motivates me to keep my house cleaner when I think about it…almost!
  • The entertainment was delightful to our music loving souls. From string groups playing movie tunes at Lincoln Center Stage to dueling piano playing singers sharing songs from many decades in Billboard Onboard to the more upbeat music at BB King’s Blue Club, we enjoyed it all. We danced. We sang along. We drank adult beverages. But it wasn’t all about the musical entertainment. There was Justin Rupple, who is a comedian and voice actor; Jessica Jane, who is a “Magical Entertainer”; and in America’s Test Kitchen, which rivaled any cooking show on TV, we learned to cook many delectable treats. All good stuff!
  • A couple of little extras we had on the ship were 7 day laundry service. We’d gather up our dirty clothes , make a call and our room steward would pick it up. By the next morning, our clean clothes would be returned neatly hung up or folded. Sigh….I miss that! We also had 7 day access to the spa, which included a hydrotherapy pool and heated ceramic loungers with an ocean view. After a day of exploring the ship or one of our ports of call, it was soooo nice to be able to relax in the spa. The only disappointing “extra” we had was the internet service. We got our money back for that one.
  • Lastly, the food. One of the things I so commonly hear from cruisers is how incredible the food is…how they want to eat all the time…how it’s so readily available. It’s almost as if the food itself becomes a planned activity to look forward to. Don’t get me wrong. Our food was good. There was only one meal we had that turned my stomach a bit….but I don’t do food with eyes! Or mushrooms that literally taste like dirt! But everything else was tasty…just not “slap yo momma” good . So we were able to eat reasonably without feeling like we were missing out if we weren’t constantly eating. Neither of us gained any weight on this cruise. I hear that’s pretty uncommon! Big thanks to the No Sugar Added Desserts every night!

Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria

So how do you choose a cruise with a fabulous Alaska itinerary? If you’re planning your very first cruise to The Last Frontier , just pick one. It’ll be amazing no matter where you stop to stretch your sea legs! Seriously, it didn’t take me long to decide God must somehow favor Alaska . Because He gave this state an abundance of breath taking , amazing, glorious, awe inspiring scenery. The phrase “pictures don’t really do it justice” must’ve originated with the first person who shared pictures of a snow topped Alaskan mountain or icy glacier. Oh blessed Alaska Dwellers, please never take for granted the beauty you live within!

Now , somehow, I’ll try to put into words some of our favorite times in our five ports of call. After that one rough day of sailing through choppy water, our first stop was Juneau. We opened our black-out curtains that morning to our first view of Alaska land and even though it was cloudy, the beauty before us was stunning. We didn’t arrive in Juneau until after lunch time, so I spent that morning getting a pedicure in the spa. Yes, I’ve had a million pedicures in my life so why pay more to do something I can so easily do at home ? Because I can safely say I’ve never had a pedicure with such a view! And honestly, here I sit two weeks later and my feet are still baby soft! So y’all, pay the extra bucks for a luxurious foot treatment with a view!

Our only disappointment of this trip happened in Juneau. I had spent a good bit of time polling friends and researching the best excursions. The one excursion that 90% of my friends loved the most or regretted not doing was a helicopter ride to the top of Mendenhall Glacier with a guided walk along the top. This particular excursion was highly rated and had even been featured on Good Morning America. We went back and forth over this one because it was so pricey! We decided it would be the most “Alaska-y” thing we could do so we bit the budget bullet and decided we wouldn’t regret it. However, as we pulled into the Port of Juneau, I had a feeling our dream excursion wouldn’t happen. It was drizzly and overcast with thick clouds. Here is where I have a BIG TIP to share...plan ahead and book the excursions you really don’t want to miss . They do fill up. However, have a Plan B in mind in case something happens. Like thick cloud cover that helicopters can’t see through. Yes, we were super bummed that our first excursion was canceled. That one disruption in our plans for our Juneau day changed the whole course of my carefully planned day. Being flexible while traveling is super important as well. There’s just no room for grumpiness over things you have no control over! Determined to not let this ruin our day, I pouted about this for as long as it took us to walk to the booth selling whale watching excursions…which was about 60 seconds! We booked our Evening Whale Watching Excursion as our Helicopter trip was being refunded. Yes, the refund was nearly instant so we were grateful for that! Booking all our excursions through Holland America came with a big safety net…we’d not be left behind in a port and refunds for canceled excursions would be quick!

Because our whale trip would be in the evening, we had time to get a $90 round trip bus ride to Mendenhall Glacier, which was 20 miles away. Seemed like a lot to spend but it was worth it. The glacier and the waterfall were truly a sight to behold. And making the 2 mile round trip hike to these beauties in boots not my own showed me that perseverance in spite of blisters pays off ! We spent some time ooing and aahing over the glacier before we hiked back up to the visitors center where there was a small exhibit on all things glacier . We were a bit rushed, though, because we had to be back on that bus in time to get us back to the port where our whale watching excursion would begin.

As much as we had been looking forward to that helicopter ride to the top of this big old glacier, our “Plan B” whale watching excursion ended up being my favorite thing we did on this trip. After we boarded another bus to take us to a different pier and I was assured there would be warmth, food, drinks and bathrooms on our little boat, I was ready for this experience. Our “little boat” had two levels of heated cabins where they had a really nice spread of food , including some Alaskan delicacies. We took our seats but as soon as the captain spotted the first whale, we braved the elements and headed to the outdoor decks to get a better view. This was our only super “Alaska cold” cold time. I never took myself to be someone who would be mesmerized by the site of any sort of creature in the wild…until that first mighty whale poked his humpy back out of the water for us to see. Whale after whale showed their tails and with each one we were more awed. But it wasn’t just the whales that thrilled us. The mountains surrounding us, the clouds, the mist, the rainbows…all just visually stunning. So much of God’s glory wrapping us up in a big old hug to our senses. Then just for fun, this buoy filled with seals taking a free ride across the waters delighted us with their cuteness! Such a great time!! So whale watching somewhere on your Alaskan adventure is a must!

Our next day was Hubbard Glacier, which was basically a sea day with the most spectacular views ever! This was a day we were prepared for more “Alaska cold” , but as the sweet waiter roamed the deck of the ship with his “free hot chocolate when you buy the $5 souvenir mug” , not many people were buying because they were too busy taking off all the coats and hats they were wearing. It was a strangely warm day. High 60’s and sunny! Not exactly hot chocolate craving weather. I guess it wasn’t a good day for pea soup either. I heard Holland America cruises also offers free pea soup on the deck on Glacier Day but I never saw this happening. Because God blessed us with such spectacular weather that day, the captain was able to steer this big old ship closer to the glacier than he’d been able to get in a while. Of course, he may tell all his glacier loving passengers this to make them feel like they’re getting the best up close views. But seriously, we were able to get much closer than I anticipated. We spent some time out on the main decks of the ship but we were basically having to compete with others for the best views. So we ordered a pot of coffee, grabbed some snacks and headed back to our suite where the views from our own private balcony were ours and ours alone. No competing for that primo rail spot! From our balcony we could hear the thundering sound of the glacier preparing to calve. Then it was like a a game of “Where’s Waldo” as we scanned the surface of the glacier to find the spot where the ice would break away and fall into the ocean. This is yet another Alaska thing I had no idea would grab me so sweetly and entertain me for hours. As our ship finally pulled away from Hubbard Glacier that day, I was already longing to go back.

Our next stop was Sitka. My only knowledge of Sitka came from the movie “The Proposal”, which took place in Sitka but wasn’t actually filmed there. I never saw any Ryan Reynolds or Betty White wannabes. Most of what we saw really didn’t look much like scenes from the movie. Except perhaps the water and forest scenes. And the Native American regalia Betty White wore in the dance scene. Remember that? Our one excursion in this cute fishing town was a tour called “Historic Sitka”. We were lead by a wise native Sitkan of Tlingit Indian descent. He took us to the Sitka National Historic Park where we saw and learned alot about totem poles and Tlingit history from a native woman who shared much of her hand made regalia. Cue the Betty White reference here. We learned from our tour guide that the low man on the totem pole was actually the most important person because the story the pole told was about that “low man”. We also learned a lot about salmon and how they fill the river that runs through the park during their season. We saw bald eagles flying around like they owned the sky. We walked through a refreshingly cool rain forest and saw trees and flowers unlike most we’ve ever seen in Georgia. Our tour guide also took us to the earliest Orthodox cathedral in the New World, which was full of historic artifacts. We went to the Sheldon Jackson Museum and ended with an entertaining Russian folk dance show. Sitka was our only stop with enough time to explore a bit after our excursion ended. So we walked through the two block downtown area and enjoyed a little bit of shopping while being awed by the snow capped mountains, the 60 degree June temperatures and the all out beauty around every corner. We even stopped for a bowl of stew at the Sitka Hotel…a bowl of reindeer stew. I’ll admit I had a hard time thinking about eating reindeer but after the first bite, it became easier! So delicious!

Our Friday stop was Ketchikan. This was adventure day!! Now I’m not much of an adventure type girl but this trip sparked a big old dose of adventure seeking in me that I didn’t even know I had. Our excursion for this day even had this thrill-seeking word in its title…Adventure Karts! Now this go cart riding adventure through the Tongass Rain Forest would take up most of our time in Ketchikan. So we decided to get up super early and explore this adorable town in the hour we had before our excursion began. And it was early. 7am is just early on vacation and by this point in the week, our bodies had acclimated to the four hour time difference between Alaska and home. So we scarfed down a quick omelet (we ate SO MANY eggs on this trip!) and headed to Creek Street, one of the most popular, historic sites in Ketchikan. It was a short walk from the pier to the creek where this stilted boardwalk street nestled itself on a slope. Creek Street is now lined with shops , restaurants and museums but it was once home of a brothel or two. One of the first buildings you walk by is Dolly’s, which is a brothel turned museum. And before 8am, it was one of the few things open for business. As a woman ,authentically dressed for the part, encouraged us to come in for the 15 minute tour, I almost felt like I had been transported back in time and my husband was being “propositioned” by one of Dolly’s house “employees”! We just walked on by, telling her we where short on time! I barely made it past her!

After a quick photo-taking jaunt down Creek Street, we made our way back to the pier where we caught our bus to the Adventure Karts location. Now we were excited for this trip because we really had never done anything like this before. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the temperature was a perfect 65 or so. It would truly be a great adventure…I mean the only restroom available once we got out there was a port-a-potty and some tall trees!! We got to the site where we were suited up with helmets and rain coats. Not a drop of rain in sight or a cloud in the sky but we were told we might want to use the rain gear to cover up our bags and keep our back sides dry on the seats. These locals let us know that the seats of the carts held on to water and in spite of the fact that their town was actually in a drought (in rainy Alaska??), we may appreciate the booty protection. After learning all the safety guidelines and rules of the “road”, our little group set off in our carts built for two, following Duncan, our young guide. As a “gift” to my husband, I let him drive the whole 14 mile path. He’s a little more risk-taking in his driving than I am and I knew full well he’d not have as much fun with my more cautious driving style! Honestly, though, I really just loved being his passenger as we whipped safely through the cool canopy of the forest. The views were obviously breathtaking because we were still in Alaska and all things in Alaska are amazing to look at! We made two stops with our group and had a snack together…a granola bar and water. The water was especially appreciated because the snack we had previous to the granola bar was d i r t !! Because it hadn’t significantly rained prior to our trip, the road we traveled was dry and dusty. And when you combine that with an open cart and fast speeds, well…the term “eat my dust” took on a whole new meaning! By the time we were finished with this seriously fun adventure ride, we were filthy and I was wearing a nice layer of dirt lipstick! Still, I’d do it all over again. Maybe after it has rained, though!

Our last stop before making the final journey back to Seattle was Victoria, British Columbia. Now I made zero plans for Victoria for a few reasons. I was not 100% sure we could get into Canada without a passport. The consensus was split amongst my friends on this issue. All we had were our birth certificates and drivers licenses. Also our time in Victoria was late…6pm to 11pm on a night when we’d be expected to have our bags packed to be ready to disembark the fabulous Oosterdam bright and early the next morning. So we were iffy about doing anything beyond dinner near the port. Yet, when we got up and moving the morning of Victoria day, we decided all would be well and we booked a tour called “Highlights of Victoria.” For the record, you CAN get into Canada without a passport. All we needed was our room key (which was loaded with all the info pertaining to our place of birth) and our drivers license to get off the boat and step onto Canadian soil. Easy peasy! So the good and bad of our tour of choice…it was a total bus tour of the city. Two hours long! The bus was nice, comfy and warm and outside the bus was very chilly and blustery. Even though the bus stopped once to let everyone out to stretch their legs and ooh and aah at some gorgeousness, it was soooo cold the leg stretching was quick! The good part of this tour is we saw a good portion of Victoria, which would’ve been difficult on foot, while learning about the city from our great tour guide. We drove through Beacon Hill Park, full of peacocks! We drove through town and saw The Empress Hotel and flowers hanging from all the street lights. We saw Chinatown…which I didn’t know Victoria had. We drove through gardens and neighborhoods and parks. Victoria has got to be the most beautiful city we’ve ever seen. So clean. Flowers everywhere. It was just spectacular. Definitely a place we want to return to and spend more time. 90% of our Canadian photos were taken from the inside of our moving bus. Not too bad for an iphone camera! While this was a good and informative tour for first time visitors of Victoria, I’m looking forward to seeing Butchart Gardens and maybe a castle or two next time.

Well if you made it this far into this little old blog post, congratulations. You’ve finally made it the end. Thanks for coming along on my walk down memory lane. This was easily the best trip we’ve taken as empty nesters! Over the past two weeks, a lot of people have asked me what the best part of this trip was. And while I want to say all of the above things you just read, my true favorite part was simply spending an entire week with my husband, no distractions. No pulls from the Internet or social media. No messages from work to contend with. Just the two of us having fun together, doing new things together. Remembering why we’ve spent the last 25 years together!

When can we do this again?

Until next time,

The Good Fight for the Skinny Jeans

The Good Fight for the Skinny Jeans

I had finally done it! That long awaited, can-I-really-do-it goal was mine! And with it came a post card from a popular blue jeans company. The nice lady at the Weight Watchers meeting handed it to me when she announced that I had made Lifetime…HALLELUJAH!! I still remember that day so well. Taking that shiny postcard and checking the box that said YES SEND ME MY FREE SKINNY JEANS!!! Asking these folks to send a size pants I hadn’t worn since I was a senior in high school felt surreal! Would they really believe I was the size I said I was?! Mailing the card …snail mail was still a valuable tool back in 2004! Receiving that package a few weeks later with those glorious jeans wrapped neatly inside! Putting them on for the first time and that feeling of giddiness and pride that those teeny tiny jeans fit! I was certain those jeans would be my favorites forever because they symbolized the fact that I can really do whatever I set my mind to.

I also remember the feeling when I looked at those teeny tiny award jeans hanging in my closet just a few years ago. They hadn’t fit in years. I looked at them in disgust wondering if my big toe would even still fit in them. Like most women , I had hung on to my “skinny” clothes well after they no longer fit . But on that day, I realized the fight in me was hibernating so soundly I really had no reason to hang on to the skinny things in my closet. All they were doing was taunting me…

Hahaha! Look at you! You’ll never fit in us again!

I hope you enjoyed your time wearing us because look at you now.

Why are we still in here? We don’t fit you and we neeeevvvveeeerrrrr wwiiiilllll!! Bwahahahaha!

I couldn’t get those nasty, mean pants out of my closet fast enough! The sound of their mocking voices sent me into a fit of silent tears and woe. The messages they were sending me as they hung there next to my pants 6 sizes larger were too negative for me. But they were right. I was too big for them and I always would be so why keep them .

I found a box and filled it with everything in my closet that didn’t fit and never would again. My resolve to load my closet with nothing but larger sizes was strong. I threw that box of rude small clothes in the donation pile in my garage and commenced to filling my closet with as many upsized clothes as I could. And with that one move, I closed and pad locked the door on any motivation I could muster up to be fit again. But I didn’t really care. Nope, not one bit!

Until, of course, I did.

I’m three months into my journey back to healthy. And the fight in me is stronger than it’s ever been. I honestly can’t remember a time in my life when I felt so determined to do something. I mean, one night last week I actually stopped watching TV at 9pm and instead of heading to bed, I welcomed good old Leslie Sansone onto my screen so I could walk, walk, walk, walk, walk. (If you’ve ever done a Walk at Home video I’m sure you just read that in her voice, huh?)

I can hear the old me screaming “Why would you do such a thing? That’s so weird!!!”

But something has clicked in me that has finally caused me to realize my health and my fitness at almost 56 years old is a fight worth fighting! At this age, I feel the natural state of my body is plain, flat out rebellion. It wants to sit still because moving makes all the achy things ache. It wants to gain weight whenever I look at food because why not? Does my metabolism even still exist?? It wants to fall apart because it’s getting old and worn. It’s worse than a rebellious teenager sneaking out at night to do those teenage things parents tell them not to!

So yes!! It takes some work , a healthy dose of motivation and an amazingly good attitude. Sorta like parenting those rebellious teens! But my GOOD health is worth FIGHTing for. Being able to move with ease is worth fighting for! Not feeling 110 is worth fighting for! Having more energy is worth fighting for!

I spent the day at a spa with my oldest daughter this past weekend . We did some amazing, relaxing things…facials, massages, hot tubs, saunas. Aahhh! But we also worked out! Say what?!?! And when my daughter looked at me on my fancy treadmill and said with a bit of amazement, “Mom, you’re JOGGING! GOOD job! ” …..well that moment let me know that my worthy FIGHT was paying off !

While my ultimate goal is to live a healthy life and to forever believe I can, my little “side goals” involve losing weight. When you have 80 lbs to lose to get to that elusive healthy Body Mass Index, it’s smart to set small achievable goals along the way. That first 30 lb goal is within a half a pound…so what the heck. I’ll just call it because I like to round up! With 30 lbs comes the need to dig out the size “less than” pants or just buy smaller clothes. This has been fun. But remember that day I threw out my skinny jeans? I threw out ALL my skinny clothes.

Or so I thought? Procrastination and hiding things from myself real well sometimes pays off!

I was searching for a paint brush in my garage this week. I’ve been working on refinishing my beloved but very weathered front porch rocking chair. It has needed to be made new just as badly as I have! As I was digging through the things in my way to where I thought this paint brush might be, I literally tripped on a taped up Amazon box. My first thought was “What did I order that I threw in the garage and forgot about?” But then I saw the box was slightly open on one end and what appeared to be clothes was peeking out. I held my breath. Could it be?

YES!! The box was filled with pants of all the “less than” sizes I once determined were only worthy of donating. It was filled with the lie that I never would or could be at a healthy weight again.

But as I dug through the box and found those teeny tiny award jeans from 2004 , I knew something with every fiber of my being .

The GOOD FIGHT to get back into those teeny tiny jeans is worth it because I AM WORTH IT!! I WILL be in those jeans again. They may be horribly outdated by then but hey…jeans are jeans right! And at least they’re not bell bottoms!!

So I’ll persevere however long it takes. I’ll stand firm in my conviction to be a better, healthier me. I will fight the GOOD FIGHT and finish this race.

And I will win life!!

Until next time….

Travelin’ with the Oldies…Another Imperfectly Perfect Tale

We’d been on the road for what felt like hours. Queen blaring Platinum Hits from the car speakers with occasional outbursts from our road guide, Weazer the Almighty Waze Voice.

“Stay on this road for 30 minutes then turn left.” ” Careful, car on the side of the road ahead.” “Keep right, then stay in the left.two lanes.” “Cracker Barrel at the next exit. Take it. You need to eat”

OK, our handy dandy speaking road map didn’t actually say that last thing. But it wouldn’t surprise me if one day it could! Technology knows no bounds, does it? There’s no reason for me to believe that one day our cars won’t automatically pull off at the nearest restaurant when it detects its passengers are in need of nourishment!

We were hungry , though, having been on the road a sufficient amount of time to need food and drink. After noticing a billboard advertising a decent place for grub at the next exit, we took it and began looking for the tell tale white chicken in the red circle marking our stopping point. But then Weazer pipes in and tells us we need to turn left at the next light. That didn’t seem one bit right, but we had been obedient to her directions all day and saw no reason to stray from her guidance . Traffic was horrendous as it is most every where on a holiday weekend so scooching into the left lane was no simple task!

We ended up missing the turn we were suppose to take and ended up in a shopping center parking lot. But that was OK. Surely the restaurant we were looking for would be in this general vicinity. Because you know, Weazer wouldn’t lead us astray and all that!

But no sign of the white chicken in the red circle anywhere. Frustration was mounting and we were getting H A N G R Y !!!

Then like a little birdie whispering in my ear, it hit me. We had exited to get food, but we hadn’t told Weazer to change our destination. We’d just said it out loud. And so far, this particular technology doesn’t have ears and it couldn’t hear us. So faithful Weezy had been rerouting us back to the Interstate we had just exited! Her one and only task was getting us to our resort in Myrtle Beach! But since we were so tuned into her guiding voice AND we were delirious from starvation, we didn’t clue in to the fact that we hadn’t aligned our need for food with Weazers need to tell us exactly where to go.

Once we realized what had happened, we started cracking up at ourselves. Oh my!! Being 50 something certainly has it’s hysterical moments!! We did end up getting back on the Interstate and found a place to eat at the next exit. And when that voice came over our speakers again, telling us to get back on the designated route, we just looked at each other and started laughing all over again, telling this electronic leader NO!! WE WILL NOT FOLLOW YOU WE’RE GETTING FOOD THIS TIME!!!

Aren’t we adorable? Bless our hearts!

This “senior moment” has had me thinking about things over the past few days. There’s more than one marriage moment to share out of this story of our laughing together at ourselves. And they are things that I’m certain have helped get us to now.

Moment #1…Find the humor in every situation! Laugh more!

Oh we’ve had stages in our lives when we growled at each other more than we even cracked a smile in the other’s direction. We are both married to an imperfect person with the capacity to drive the other bonkers!! So before anyone reading this thinks all we do is laugh and be hysterical, know that truth!

In fact, it wasn’t too long ago when I realized we were taking just random stuff way too stinking seriously and we needed to lighten up and laugh together more. Just being mindful of that turned things around again. The faster we can find the hilariousness in any given situation, the better we feel. Laughter is just good medicine…Proverbs 17:22 assures us “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Y’all, as we get older, we don’t need help in the drying up of our bones. The suddenly new aches and pains and stiffness in the joints gets real!! So no crushing of the spirit …..just a big dose of cheer please !!

The little hats are funny! But they’re not as hysterical as me trying to dance….which happened shortly before this picture. There’s no photographic proof of how hilarious my dance moves are but I’m certain that if any of my adult kids had been present, they would’ve been adequately embarrassed!

Moment #2…Some times in life (and in marriage) we need a redirect!

On this traveling day, we were obviously very tuned in to the voice of the Waze chick. So much so that even when we veered off course to do something of our own choosing, we followed her re-direct. It didn’t matter that we didn’t think she was leading us to an actual restaurant! It was just important at that moment to be obedient to the voice coming from our car speakers!

In the course of our 25 years together, I’d be lying if I said we have stayed on the right track and done all the things perfectly and never veered off course. It would be more truthful to say MARRIAGE IS TOUGH!! There have been times when we have totally sucked at it! There have been times when we wondered if we’d survive till the next anniversary. But one thing we have done well…in the midst of every single trial , we’ve found our way back because we let God take the reins and redirect us to the proper path.

Every. Single. Time.

And quite frankly, that is the biggest reason I’m even sitting here able to write these little blog posts celebrating our grand and glorious silver anniversary! So my biggest advice to young marrieds, old marrieds…shoot ALL the marrieds… is this. Let God be in control. Period! If you stray off the path of a great, healthy marriage and think you can find your way back by your own power, rethink that. It was your own power that got you off track in the first place! Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of You; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

When God’s voice has been the loudest. When His voice has been the one we allow to guide us. Those are the times when our lives and our marriage has flourished. The more closely we follow the path God sets before us , the better off we have been. I could go on and on about this because it’s probably the most important marriage thing we’ve done. But that could be a post of its own.

Moment #3…Sometimes it’s OK and even beneficial to change the way you normally do things.

Now this is a subtle point in this imperfectly perfect story. Maybe you picked up on the fact that this little excursion was to Myrtle Beach and it was on Memorial Day weekend. We had planned this short getaway to the beach months ago. At that time, we were just looking forward to a holiday weekend with our toes in the sand as we listened to the waves crash to shore. We are certainly a couple who loves just chilling on the beach and not bothering with much of anything else!! What we didn’t know when we booked this long weekend trip was that Memorial Day at Myrtle Beach has a long standing tradition. I’m not sure why we didn’t think about the fact that this South Carolina beach town has hosted the largest African American Bike Rally in the United States for the past 39 Memorial Day’s!! This is an event that has hosted crowds as large as 400,000. That’s a lot of bikers folks !!! Now we could’ve braved the crowds and just headed to the beach as planned. But we felt the need to keep the crowd around us a bit more PG rated than what we encountered when we simply went to pick up some groceries!! And since I like to keep this little blog of mine PG rated as well, you’ll just have to imagine some of the things we saw while we were out and about.

So we didn’t do this beach trip like we normally do. We could’ve let disappointment rule but instead we chose to embrace this change in the norm and enjoy ourselves. What we discovered was this new plan was good! We had a short walk to the massive pool area at our resort where a nice, comfy lounge chair awaited each of us. There was always an inflatable pool ring ready to carry us down the Lazy River. The drinks were plentiful and the music was cheerful. The people lounging around us provided us with good conversations. We didn’t have to go far for a snack or , most importantly , the bathroom!

What a great weekend where we learned there’s more than the normal way to enjoy a beach trip! Getting stuck in our ways can be oppressive and we don’t even realize it . It can be a joy to be “an old dog doing a new trick”!

So be encouraged today to not take yourself so seriously that you can’t find the cheerful things God has placed in your day. Be encouraged to make God’s voice the loudest in your life and in your relationships. And be encouraged to do old things in new ways.

Until next time…

Tales from an Imperfectly Perfect Union…Part One

As My Man and I quickly approach our 25th wedding anniversary, I suddenly felt that nudge to celebrate that fact on my blog. Because a 25 year marriage is something to celebrate and talk about and share stories from. It’s something to honor! Not because we’ve done the past 25 years so perfectly and y’all will learn so much from how we’ve so grandly done marriage. But sorta the opposite! We’ve been so IMPERFECTLY perfect at most things over the past 25 years that someone is bound to see a bit of themselves in us and think “Shew! I think we can make it too!” Because as lovely as marriage is, it’s just hard at times.

So I’ll start from the beginning…because why not?

Valentines Day 1994 found me drinking a glass of champagne with a ring in it. Because I’m NOT the romantic one in our relationship, I had actually forgotten this detail of our engagement . Shocking, right? How could I forget any details of my long awaited engagement? Even though I longed for this moment when My Man would finally pop The Question…for real this time…I was probably so exhausted from single momming our seven month old son and my two young daughters that this memory likely got caught behind night time bottles, diaper changes and homework !

Hey wait a minute! Back up a second!! Hold please while I rewind this a bit…….

Late November 1992 found me not drinking a glass of champagne. It found me drinking nothing but water. Because I was pregnant. And not married. In the early 90’s, being unwed and pregnant wasn’t as hip and socially acceptable as it is in 2019…at least not in my church going, Jesus loving, God fearing mind. As a 29 year old divorced mom with two young children, I was still not fully grasping how big and deep and enormous God’s love for me was. So while I fully accepted and already loved the baby I was carrying, I felt shame for doing things backwards. I knew I needed to be married…and soon. So when My Man and I digested the news that we were going to be parents together, it was just sort of decided that we would get married. No grand gesture of a proposal was made . There wasn’t even a ring. There was just the decision that we’d get married over Christmas break. We invited my family out from Texas and we’d have a small, intimate ceremony…somewhere. But it didn’t happen quite like that.

My family did come for Christmas that year. But it was mostly to help me lick my wounds from the broken engagement that really never happened in the first place. My Man wasn’t ready to get married. And while I saw ALL the reasons TO be ready to tie the knot, somehow he was able to see the wisdom in not getting hitched right then and there simply “because we had to.” He had no raging hormones coursing through his body at the time to make him feel the false urgency I was feeling! Pesky old hormones!!

Sometimes God tells us “Not yet”. He stalls us with a “holy hold on” because HE sees the big picture! And He simply loves us too much to urge us down a path we’re not quite ready for. There was so much for us to grasp and learn in the journey to the day when the love we had for each other was true and real and not forced because we had to. There was so much God in the journey that got us to that Valentine’s Day in 1994 when I almost drank my engagement ring in a glass of champagne!

We trusted the journey and in the process we learned a valuable life lesson. One we’ve clung to many, many times in our 25 years.

WAIT ON THE LORD!!

Isaiah 40:31 tells us “They who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint”

If we had run ahead of God and gotten married too soon, I can only imagine the added heartache we would’ve endured. We both feel certain we would’ve ended up divorced after just a few years because we would’ve married for the wrong reasons. If we had gotten married too soon, we would not have built up the strength to endure the inevitable hard times. We would’ve fallen short of making our marriage fly. We would’ve grown weary of doing the right things because in the back of our minds, we would’ve always been doubtful that we had even started with the right thing.

Our marriage is certainly a mix of questionable decisions mixed with some excellent ones. Whose isn’t? But I have to say that NOT deciding anything in the heat of a moment and truly waiting to hear from God has been one of the excellent things… something we’ve gotten good at. We may have gotten off to a slow start but God took that…our humanness…and He made something beautiful.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11

I have more to celebrate and I’ll do that here over the next many weeks leading up to our big day. So until my next tale…

Still Calm and Knowing

Still Calm and Knowing

As I look at the calendar today, it’s almost shocking to me that we’re at the end of yet another school year. Our school district is on an early start/early end schedule so our seniors will actually graduate a week from Friday! We have sat at the graduation ceremony of all five of our children now. Not one of them any easier than the one before them . Graduation is a stark reminder of how quickly time passes. It seems just like yesterday we were bringing home our brand new, fresh from God newborn and yet today , there they are. Walking across a stage or a football field, ready to take on the world on their own. It hardly seems fair!

Every so often on this blog, I’ll resurrect a post from my former blog if it’s fitting. Today is one of those days. Because it won’t be long until another set of parents will be on the verge of launching their baby birds out of the nest and into the world of adulting. And we can all use a reminder of Who is ultimately in control, not only of our lives, but our children’s. So once again…or for the first time…be encouraged and calm and know that our beloveds are in far better hands than even our own.

I put them in a car to spend their first weekend away from me. It didn’t matter that the person they were leaving with was their dad. They were 2 and 4 years old and I had legitimate concerns. Would their hair get brushed in the morning and would he know how to attach the all essential hair bow in that mane of hair ? Would their clothes match all weekend? Would they eat the right things? Would they be afraid at bedtime because I wasn’t there to tuck them in? Would they sleep OK in a bed they weren’t used to? Would they play in the street or fall off a swing or skin their knees or get eaten by a pack of hungry mountain lions?? Would they miss me as much as I missed them?

And a little voice deep within my soul gently whispered to me, “It’s OK. You’re their mom but I AM God.”

It was kindergarten registration. I sat with my sweet little 5 year old boy on my lap in a tiny little chair that I’m not sure I would’ve fit in comfortably even if I was 5. As I sat and watched other parents come in and out of the room with big old smiles on their faces , anticipating the freedom that was about to ensue in their lives as their kid finally started school, I sat with tears streaming down my face. Oh I was about to go into the full out ugly cry right there in front of 24 other beaming parents and God Himself. Then the sweet kindergarten teacher came and sat next to me, patted me on the knee and said she understood how difficult it can be when it’s time to send your first born to school. I looked at her with tears welling up into big Lake Michigan sized puddles in my eyes and said ,”He’s my FOURTH child!!” Then I proceeded to release the dam of tears that was blocking my vision from filling out the mountain of paperwork required to send your precious baby to school. Would he make friends? Would he be too shy to even say a word? Would he eat his lunch? Would he fall off the monkey bars during recess ? Would other kids make fun of him? Would he get eaten by a pack of hungry mountain lions roaming the playground? (Those darn west Georgia mountain lions!! They need to leave my kids alone!!)

Then a little voice deep within my soul gently whispered to me, “It’s OK. You’re the mom but I AM God.”

We were standing out on the front porch, about to go shopping for this , that and the other when she looked up at me and very matter of factly said these words. “ I know I’m only 13, but I’m pretty sure that if I could drive, I could completely take care of myself and have my own house, pay my own bills and all that.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at my darling baby girl. This wasn’t a fit of teenage rage, mad at me and wanting to be away from her family as soon as possible. She was a 13 year old girl wanting me to know that she felt she could handle life on her own one day. I loved her spirit of confidence and independence but the thought of my first born child on her own, away from me, doing her own thing….forever…..well. Was she really ready to face those pesky mountain lions? I wanted to cry….she was growing up too quickly.

Then a little voice deep within my soul gently whispered to me, “It’s OK. You’re the mom but I AM God.”

The music started. It was a familiar tune . My vision blurred. Babies in long black robe- like garments with weird looking hats on their heads began marching in from the other side of the football field. Oh wait….they’re not babies. They’re full grown mini-adults finishing high school … or college. Ready to make their marks on this big old world. Ready to face life’s challenges and excitements and adventures. On their own. Without their momma’s by their sides. I’ve done this seven times now (5 high school graduations, 2 college graduations) and I still have at least 1 more college graduation to go. Will it ever get easier? Will I ever be able to watch my children pack up and leave the safety of our home without getting a big old lump in my throat? Will I ever stop having mini panic attacks when I think about those proverbial “mountain lions” waiting to pounce on my kids and devour them whole?

Then a little voice deep within my soul, One I’m way more familiar with now that I’m older, gently whispered to me, “It’s OK. You’re a good mom. But I AM a GREAT God.”

I am Mom……not God.

Let me tell myself that again, just one more time.

 I AM MOM…..NOT GOD!!!!

Ok, so I yelled it that time but sometimes I just need that loud reminder that as a parent, there comes a time when I just have to trust that I’ve done a decent-ish job as mom and let go and trust God with the rest.

When they want to drive a car…..God is riding shot gun.

When they want to go off to college and haven’t invited me to be their roomie….God is there with them.

When they have to make those first grown up decisions and they don’t want my opinion….God is waiting to guide them.

When they become parents themselves and they see Mom through new eyes…….God gently starts this process with them.

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And a gentle voice will speak into their souls just as gently and persistently as He did mine, “You are Mom ( or Dad). And I am God.”

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”..Luke 1:45

The Gift of Lessons Learned

What would you say is the greatest gift you’ve ever received? Maybe it was an item of some sort you’d been longing for. Maybe it was a relationship you had been praying would work out. Maybe it was a lesson well received and needed.

I’m currently living in the middle of one of my greatest gifts … healthy life lessons learned. Progress towards a goal I never thought would happen. New habits formed when I thought the old ones would never die. Seeing God do things I. KNOW. I. COULD. NOT. DO. ALONE!!

LESSONS WITH FOOD

I love to eat. The only food I’m allergic to is walnuts. So you can keep those nuts of death but pass me everything else. And therein lies one of the deep roots of my weight problems. You have to eat to live. But I have spent so many years living to eat. Cheese, bread, sugary treats, buttery goodness… I did not have a grasp on healthy portion sizes. I didn’t have a desire to avoid things I knew would pack on the pounds faster than a cheetah racing to his next meal. Nothing felt off limits to me.

“”I have the right to do anything”, you say – but not everything is beneficial.”I have the right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive.”

1 Cor 10:23

Over these last two months , God has shown me the enormity of this lesson. I had been living life “high on the hog” , exhibiting my right to have anything I pleased. What He’s shown me is that by doing that, I was putting way too many things in my body that had ZERO BENEFIT to me.

Not only has He killed the great Sugar Beast that was always raging inside of me, He has shown me that I don’t have to have 4 slices of bacon on my sandwich to enjoy it. One slice is good enough. When I break it up and spread it out, I still get a taste of bacon in every bite and isn’t that the goal of bacon anyway? Also, bread isn’t always necessary! This grilled chicken sandwich from a nearby fast food restaurant was delicious wrapped in a leaf of lettuce! Truly! Who knew?? See the bacon? And the yummy sauce? Still very WW friendly and low point when you take off the bun!

He’s also shown me that there’s more than one way to enjoy old favorites…in a more beneficial way. I’ve discovered pancakes that are different but so delicious. Sugar free maple syrup, warmed up, and in a small portion…not dripping off my plate…is good enough! And just look at this cheesecake. If you were to walk in on me eating this, you’d likely think I was having a “cheat day” or that I’d decided to heck with this diet thing. But nope….this one piece of cheesecake is exactly zero WW points , made with non fat Greek yogurt, sugar free pudding and eggs. Crazy huh?

Lessons with Exercise

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

1 TImothy 4:8

Did you know the bible actually talks about exercise being good? Valuable even! I’ve gone through phases in my life when exercise was important to me. Fun even. But for the past 14 or so years, exercise was nowhere on my radar. Working out became boring for me. Then it became difficult as I put on more weight. I’d get winded way too easily. I’d break a sweat. And neither of these things was even remotely desirable for me. But that’s what happens when you become content with “Fifty, Fluffy and Fabulous”.

But as God has been transforming the way I look at food, He’s also done a work in me on the importance of MOVING MY BODY!! Our bodies were made for motion and quite frankly, walking to the chair on the back porch or to the car in the garage is not enough!! So as I began this journey, I had to tell God “Exercise is H A R D and I don’t want to do it . But I know it’s important so PLEASE HELP!! I’m sending out an S O S !!!”

And just like that, He heard my plea and answered! In this second month of my journey back to healthy, I’ve embraced the fact that I need to bump up my workout routine. I’m not a “go to the gym” kind of girl right now. So Jesus and I have been meeting 5 days a week in my living room and He’s been getting an ear full from me as I’ve started jogging and carrying weights and high intensifying myself into an hour long sweat fest! Oh He’s had His work cut out for Him with me, that’s for sure. Slowly but surely, though, I’m starting to enjoy each day’s time with whatever “walk leader” is on tap for the day and , of course, any time I can “cry out loud to my Ultimate Walk Leader ” is time well spent. “Oh Lord do we really need to do this? Can’t you just zap me into physical fitness? Please keep my legs from buckling and the sweat from blinding me. And oh yeah, please don’t let me die!!” And what do you know…I’m still alive and kicking and ready to do it all again tomorrow!

Lessons with Attitudes

When my thought process was… “I’m over 50. I don’t burn calories like I used to. My metabolism is shot. Menopause has my hormones whacked out. I’ll never lose weight again.” …I was right. Nothing happened anytime I attempted to lose weight. When my attitude shifted and I began to let hope sneak in to those dark places of “I can’t” and my thought process became ” I absolutely CAN AND WILL do this! To heck with my age” , I was also right.

Working on getting healthier is a good thing. Moving easier is a good thing. Not being controlled by my appetite for junk food is a good thing. Losing weight is a good thing. This I know to be absolutely true… “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (James 1:7)

So my attitude when I have a slow week and only lose a pound or less is one of extreme gratitude! THANK YOU LORD!! Every ounce I lose at this stage of my life is a G I F T!! It should be harder than it is. But it’s not. And I know it’s because my attitude is in the right place. My faith is on point. And my Helper never leaves my side. I had a goal to lose 20 lbs in 2 months. I did it. Or I should say “we” did it. Because I know I didn’t do this by own strength.

As I close this post, I’d like to offer a prayer for anyone reading this who may be struggling to lose weight or to just have a better mindset about food and exercise.

Lord, we can do all things with You by our side. You are our strength when we feel weak. You are the Yes You Can to our No I Can’t. You are our biggest cheerleader , always on our side. Give us eyes to see the things that are beneficial for our health and help us to walk away from those things that aren’t. Thank You for the gift of Your presence as we walk this road of healthy living. In Jesus Name…Amen


There’s More Than One Way to Make a Pancake

I love pancakes. I want pancakes almost as much as I want pizza and tacos! It’s true! Homemade pancakes. Good old original IHOP pancakes. Cracker Barrel blueberry pancakes…..sigh…can we just pause a minute and reflect on their buttery, blueberry goodness.

In the Name of Jesus who gave us blueberries and pancakes….Amen!

Let’s move on quickly now because temptation and all that jazz! This should kill the urge for all the WW journeying friends reading this today. Three of these lovelies with butter and syrup are 27 points…TWENTYSEVEN!! (this is straight from my WW App that calculates all the points so we don’t have to!) Oh Satan get thee behind me!

So, what’s a pancake loving fool like me to do when the pancake craving comes a calling. I’m certainly NOT going to give up an entire days worth of points for a plate of pancakes. Just ain’t doing it!

A couple months ago, a friend shared a recipe for lemon blueberry pancakes she found that was very WW friendly. Today, though, I was fresh out of blueberries and in need of some pancakes. I did have bananas…and chocolate peanut powder. So I made some changes and came up with a variation of the lemon blueberry pancake that is pretty good.

Now if you make these scrumptious CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER BANANA PANCAKES, know this. They are very WW friendly …only ONE POINT per pancake. But they do not have the taste or exact texture of traditional pancakes. If they did, they’d be 9 points a piece. So don’t expect them to taste and feel and be just like a yummy old plate of IHOP goodness. Close…but now quite! Go into this pancake experience grateful that there’s a pancake alternative that you can eat without guilt or fear of all the miles you’re gonna have to run later on to get rid of the calories you just consumed!! But they’re also really tasty!

So without further ado, I present to you CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER BANANA PANCAKES!!!! (Because you didn’t really come here to just hear me talk about pancakes, ,did you?)

GRAB THESE THINGS FIRST

  • 2 bananas (or 3 if you want a more banana-y taste)
  • 2/3 C self rising flour
  • 1 C nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 C unsweetened chocolate almond milk
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 T chocolate peanut butter powder
  • 1/4 C sugar free maple syrup

THEN DO THESE THINGS

  • Beat the egg whites in a bowl until fluffy…like the above picture if you’re wondering how fluffy is fluffy enough
  • In another bowl, smash one or two bananas. I just did one today. Next time I’ll do two. The choice is yours as to how much banana flavor you’d like
  • Add the remaining ingredients (except the syrup) to the smashed banana. Once all the ingredients are happily intermingling, fold in the beautiful, fluffy egg whites.
  • Using your 1/3 C measuring cup, pour batter onto a hot griddle. Flip the pancakes once they get bubbly on top. Continue cooking until other side is light golden brown. Because these pancakes are made with yogurt, you may notice they don’t brown on both sides exactly like you’re used to and they made seem a tiny bit “squishy” . This is OK. They’re done.
  • While your amazing low point pancakes are cooking, make your banana syrup. Pour 1/4 C of sugar free maple syrup into a small skillet and add a cut up banana. Heat and stir until it’s as hot as you like!
  • This recipe made 8 1/2 pancakes. That half pancake is great for your small child who is begging you for a bite, bite, bite!! Each pancake is ONE POINT….truly! So have as many as you want! This amount of syrup was good for 3 pancakes and adds 1 point to your meal.

There ya go. I hope you like these as much as I did. If you try them, let me know in the comments. And if you’d like to try the lemon blueberry version that inspired today’s recipe, find WW Pound Dropper on Instagram or Facebook. She has TONS of great low point recipes I’m sure you’ll love.