I bet you think we are going to write about a grand adventure partying in New Orleans, crowded with people eager to watch the Sugar Bowl, parades, grand times. I could – but our visit was a little different.
AdventureMan and I DID have a grand adventure – taking the 6 year old and 3 year old grandchildren to New Orleans for three days. We were a little aghast at the enormity of our undertaking, but AdventureMan did a little investigating, and found a wonderful solution – The Audubon Nature Institute has an annual family membership which gets you into the New Orleans zoo, the Aquarium, the Butterfly Garden and the Insectarium, and invited to special events, for a year.
Even better, the cost of the year-long family membership is so reasonable that our first trip to the zoo paid off the entire membership. The next day, the children voted that we visit the zoo again, and the third day we visited the aquarium. We can go back all year, walk in through the membership gate (that is a great feature, beats standing in line for tickets) and get a membership discount in the gift shop. This is a real deal. You can find it at Audubon Nature Institute, you can join online and print out your temporary membership card. What a great value for the money.
(This is not the actual slide; the YMCA slide is indoors, and has two loops)
Our brand new YMCA has opened in Pensacola, and it has TWO pools – and a water slide.
Yesterday, there was one swimmer and one wallower as I entered the swim area for water aerobics with two of my friends. This was the perfect time. I asked the life guard if he could open the water slide long enough for us to go down.
My friends looked at me like I had grown a second head.
“If not now, when?” I asked them. “We’re not getting any younger. Who knows, tomorrow we might not be able!”
They were game. They followed me up the stairs, then others began to follow. It occurred to me that there was no going back, and that I had put myself in this position, where I couldn’t back out.
The lifeguard turned on the gush of water that lubricates and speeds your ride through the tube. I didn’t wait to let fear claim me, I jumped into the entry and went.
It was dark. It was fast. It was terrifying. You come out twisted and disoriented, not sure which way is up. It’s a lot like being born – there is NO light in the tube, and when light appears, there is a big gush of water as you are thrown out into the pool. I cam up sputtering.
Everyone did. We all looked proudly at one another and agreed that we are glad we did it – once. And never again.
“Grandmama, I need to tell you something,” my little 3 year old granddaughter looks up at me earnestly.
“What is it?” I ask, kneeling down to be at her level.
“I am SO SO SO HUNGRY!” she states, holding her little tummy and making her eyes big.
“I have peanuts for you!”
She just looks at me.
“Or here is a little orange!”
“I want a COOKIE!”
This is easy.
“You know it’s just Baba and I living here. We don’t have any cookies because we don’t eat cookies.”
She just looks at me, boldly. She is not defiant, but there is something unbending in her posture, and in her unwavering eyes.
Then those little eyes do a quick flick to the table, and back to me. Very quick, almost imperceptible, but I catch it, and I can’t help it, I start to laugh.
She’s right. We do have cookies, they are in the assembly of items I have to take to our Thanksgiving gathering. I had forgotten, but this sharp eyed little minx spotted them.
“You’ll have one on Thanksgiving, I promise you. And look, here are the snacks we have for you (all her favorites) for the drive down.
Telling my friend about it later, she asked “You didn’t open the package and give her a cookie?”
That had never occurred to me. “I should have?” I asked.
“No, I wouldn’t have, either,” she laughed.
“But I would have,” interjected AdventureMan. “I never say no my my grandkids.”
LOL, that is totally true. I am the one who doesn’t want them thinking they can have sweets every time they ask, and AdventureMan is the good guy, who gives them whatever their little hearts desire. They both adore AdventureMan. 🙂
Up at dawn after a wonderful night’s sleep – we have to have our bags in the hallway by 5 a.m. for pick up and taking to the ship.
Venice at dawn:
We decide to go to the big buffet today, and, while the buffet is lavish, the dining hall is crowded and noisy, and service is slow and confused. We are nostalgic for our breakfast the day before, quiet, serene, plentiful if not lavish, enough. We could make our own cafe mochas. We go back to our room and debate whether we have time for another vaporetto ride before the shuttle to the ship, and decide we probably don’t, but we do have time for one last wonderful walk. This hotel is in a great location for uncrowded walking.
By 10:30, there is a large crowd waiting, and we are lined up to go aboard the shuttle to the ship. It is a short trip, then we are offloaded and we walk about a quarter of a mile to the processing terminal. I mention this because we don’t really enjoy being a part of a herd, and because people considering travel on the Viking sea cruises need to know about the walking involved, especially if they have mobility issues.
There is a demographic who is on these cruises. No children. These are “destination” cruises, and while they have entertainment on board, entertainment is not a big draw, nor do they bother with casinos. They are destination rich, and enrichment lecture rich. They have a gorgeous spa, and nice fitness room, plus a jogging track on deck 2 and a fitness deck on deck 8. But many people in my demographic begin to have mobility issues, some use canes, some are in wheel chairs, and they struggle with these aspects of the trip, the herding, the walking, even though it is a short distance.
Another snaking line and then we are photographed and given ship cards as we process. Our bags go through screening, and then we enter the ship, to wait in one of the lovely ship spaces to be able to go to our cabin. It isn’t a long wait, but I am stewing a little. We are wasting time! We are in Venice! We don’t have to stand in line; we could come later and process in! We have a quick lunch and head to our cabin.
Our cabin is lovely. We took a “penthouse” because to us, the cabin matters. Philosophies differ, many people choose small cabins, or cabins closer to the fine restaurants because they don’t intend to spend much time in their cabins. We are less social. We like the destinations, we like the spa, and we take our meals in the restaurants, and we spend time in our cabin. We love having our own “veranda” and we like having enough room to lounge around and not bump into one another. This pretty much fits our needs.
One thing we loved is that it is sparkling clean. We also love that there is fresh water waiting for us, and it is refilled every night. Viking excels in these small, but important touches. Notice that there is room for two people to pass each other between the bed and the storage units.
Lots of places where you can charge up your phones, iPads, computers, camera batteries, etc., and the outlets accept a variety of plugs, and the outlets are plentiful.
A double closet, in the hall way so it doesn’t inconvenience a person sleeping in a bed or the other person who might need to get into the closet while the other person is sleeping. Small matter? It matters! There is also a safe behind one of the drawer units, and up top, an in room individual coffee maker. I never used it because coffee was available everywhere on board, and you could drink it in lovely areas.
One person on Cruise Critic criticized that the coffee was bland and never felt caffeinated. I didn’t find the coffee bland, but I also wondered about the caffeination. But a little less caffein is probably not such a bad thing for me 🙂
Storage under the flat screen TV with two sets of three drawers each, and two great shelves for shoes., under which is a longer drawer.
Another of those small things that matter. We had bedside lamps, and we also had these more focused individual bed lights so that one could read while the other slept. Lovely touch. When I didn’t have enough hangers, Fernando, one of our cabin stewards, quickly brought me more; he and Dina made us feel like treasured guests, and every wish was fulfilled with a smile.
More drawers on the right, and a pull out drawer / refrigerator on the left. Contains champagne, which we didn’t drink, and whatever beverages we wanted – we are so boring, we had a little beer, a little wine and mostly coke and ginger ale. Never touched the hard stuff.
I neglected to take a photo of the bathroom, which was beautiful, all beautiful surfaces and glass, with drawers and shelves to hold all the things you keep handy in bathrooms, and lovely toiletries so we didn’t need to bring any hair shampoo, conditioner, soap, shower caps, or even a hair dryer. While some mornings were chilly, the floors in the bathroom were heated, oh what sweet luxury. The towels were oversized and thick, and the bathrobes ample and warm. Some people wore their bathrobes to the spa, one man even showed up at the fire drill in his bathrobe!
Our veranda. We loved being able to sit or stand outside as we entered or departed a port, but it is hardly private. There are people just like us with verandas on either side, so you can’t help but overhear one another’s conversations. We are sort of private people, so we rarely talked while on the veranda, or even if the door to the veranda was open.
Storage, TV, water . . . we loved that there was a bridge camera, and that the TV also showed the time. It was a huge relief NOT to watch TV, with the utterly vicious election going on.
We had booked ahead, having heard about the super restaurants on board. We ate dinner the first night in Manfredi’s, an Italian food restaurant. The food was really, really good. In the bread basket the table was this very unusual bread, just a thin thin sheet, sort of like peanut brittle, only savory, with slices of garlic baked into it. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it was delicious.
The food was delicious. And we never went there again. We cancelled our second reservation. The food was wonderful, but too much. We had no control over how much would come. The tables were very close together, and some the people spoke very loudly. The staff was attentive and helpful, but there was also a lot of loud inter-staff co-ordination, a lot of clatter as they picked up dishes, and clanking as flatware and tableware were picked up together. It was noisy, and not private, not elegant dining. The staff sent in orders by cell phone, and to do that effectively, you have to be paying attention. It wasn’t working for us. The food is delicious, but I can’t even remember what we ate.
We explored the ship, and unpacked and fell into bed. At some point, I felt a slight bump, and could sense movement, so I went to the veranda – and we were leaving Venice. I opened the door, which squeaked, and wakened AdventureMan, who joined me, and we sat whispering to one another, watching the lovely sight of slumbering Venice at night drift by. We know that we had extraordinary luck; Venice in late October can be really rainy. We would take that chance. We would go back again in a heartbeat.
This article is from Forbes Magazine, and talks about the relationship between styles /content of eating and longevity. This is just a tiny excerpt from a long article because I loved the last line :-).
Results of two recently released studies, published in the journals Age and the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN), show that consuming cocoa flavanols improves cardiovascular function and lessens age-related stiffening of arteries and burdens on the heart in healthy adults. The studies were part of an EU-based project called FLAVIOLA.
Marc Merx, M.D., professor of Cardiology at the Klinikum Region Hanover and FLAVIOLA’s project coordinator, reports that the studies’ main finding was cocoa flavanols’ effect on vascular aging and blood pressure. “Blood pressure and increases in blood pressure are important factors associated with age-related morbidity and with mortality from cardiovascular disease,” he says. In fact, he was personally surprised that the findings showed flavanols to be capable of lowering blood pressure as effectively as exercise.
You can read the entire article for yourself, New Studies Confirm Role of Diet in Healthy Aging, here.
For a year now, I have taken this class next to Leilani, who stands just a little shallower in the pool than I. Today, as we were warming up, one topic led to another. We were talking about getting rid of “things” and she told me a niece had asked for her lighthouse collection, and how was she going to mail them all to her, some of them were almost two feet high?
“Easy-peasy,” I said, “You know those storage tubs people buy at Target? You can use bubble wrap and ship them in those containers. They give fragile items a lot of protection.”
Leilani laughed and said how funny it was she didn’t know that because her husband had been a postman after his retirement from the military.
“Nice!” I said. “Two pensions!”
“Not really,” she said, “The day he retired he came home and handed me divorce papers. He’d been planning this for a long time. ”
“Another girl?” I asked.
“No,” she laughed sadly, “He was greedy. He said ‘You’ll never see a penny of my money.”
“I hope you got a good lawyer” I said.
“I did.” She didn’t look happy. “I had raised the four children, so I got parts of both pensions AND alimony. I don’t need a lot. I was happy.”
I asked if he had been the kind of man who had planned to walk out on her and leave her with nothing, if he had also been mean and stingy during their marriage, and if a part of her found peace when he left. She said because of the four children she would never have left him, but that yes, her life was better when he was no longer there.
“Money doesn’t make a person happy,” she said. “Things don’t make a person happy. You know he went and got a beautiful luxury apartment, and died just a few years later. He had emphysema from smoking all the time. No one to help him. So I went there every day, took him a meal because he couldn’t do for himself. I sat with him at night. I was there when he took his final breath.”
“And you know what he would do while I was out of the room? He would take out his money and count it. It never brought him any happiness.”
My pool friend is one of the sweetest hearted women I have ever met. In all this time, she has never said a bad word about her husband, and she was there by his side as he died. There is no bitterness in her, no anger; she didn’t resent him, she let all those feelings go and did the kind thing for a dying man.
I call this cross-cultural, because she is Hawaiian, and I have seen this kind of serenity in my Hawaiian friends and acquaintances. They are willing to let go of grudges, they are willing to move on. They have generous hearts. I feel like I learned something from her today.
My first encounter this morning was in the locker room, with the young water aerobics instructor I really like. I was glad to have a moment with her. I needed to thank her for helping me out the week before, when I started swimming classes with my little “I’m two, almost three” adorable granddaughter.
(This is a photo from the Prescott YMCA, this is not me and my granddaughter )
These are those classes where the parent/grandparent/foster parent is in the pool with the little one, helping them to be slithery fishes, or to safely enter and exit the pool, and we were having a great time until, in her two year old way, she suddenly looked at me and wished I were her mother.
Her face got all screwed up, and I was afraid she was going to cry, so I tried distracting her and it just made things worse.
“I want Mommy!” she cried, little tears streaming down her face. “I want Mommy!”
So I’m trying to explain that Mommy has to work, and that Mommy is not at home, I’m being all rational and my friend, who is also instructing that class, comes up and looks her in the eye and says “It’s OK to be sad! It’s OK to want your Mommy.”
I am so embarrassed to tell you this, but this was news to me. I grew up with a Dad who said “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” It wasn’t just my Dad, it was a generational thing. Crying was unacceptable. I think maybe being sad was unacceptable.
Little grand-daughter stopped crying. Her face showed such yearning. My friend, the instructor told her it’s OK to miss her Mommy and that for today, maybe she could have fun with her Grandmama, me, and little grand-daughter agreed.
From then on, everything was fine.
So I said “thank you for helping me out. We had a great class together Thursday. I’ve been thinking about how you handled her crisis, and how we never said things like that to our kids, but what a difference it made!”
My friend, the instructor also has a two year old, and just grinned. She explained to me about the effects of validation, and that we all need to express our feelings, and to have our feelings acknowledged, and then we can move on. It’s not something I know how to do very well, but I have seen it how effectively it works and I think I am going to learn how to do it myself.
Really, this was more a cross-generational difference, but generational differences are also a sort of cultural difference, are they not?
I’ve added a new category; I’ve written so many posts in this vein, and it looks like I will continue so to do. Might as well add it as a staple: Stranger in a Strange Land.
Probably the first mention of that phrase in literature is in Genesis; Moses kills an Egyptian and flees to the desert where he meets a nice girl and marries her. He refers to himself as an alien, a stranger in a strange land. Both Jewish culture and Islamic culture put a high value on taking care of the stranger. Our bible is full of references to taking care of the alien.
Here is one of my favorite stories about what my friend Donald Rumsfeld calls those “unknown unknowns. It’s what you don’t know you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
I was at a party, and in a conversation with two women who are widows. We were talking about some of the difficulties, and what has caught them by surprise.
I said I didn’t know how they got through it, that I had a feeling if AdventureMan goes before I go, I’m going to be really really angry, tearing my hair out and shrieking angry, shredding my clothes angry, not wanting to be around other people angry, so so so so angry because if I let myself feel sad I don’t know if I can ever pull myself out of that abyss.
The newest widow just looked at me like I had said something culturally inappropriate, which, it turns out, I had. There was one of those brief silences, you know, it may only be seconds but it feels like it goes on forever because you don’t know what you said.
“If you were from around here,” she said, “You’d know what to do. You go into Southern Belle mode. We’ve all seen it all our lives, so we know how to do it. You pick out your clothes. You smile and shake hands. You put your guests first. You stand and smile until the last guest has gone.”
I was stunned. “You hold yourself together through all that?” I asked.
“Well,” she said with a smile, “You have a plan. You know where you can go with a friend or cousin after the funeral, a place where you are safe and where you can get knee-walking drunk and do your wailing where you need to and no one will ever know.”
She didn’t even have to say “You must not be from around here” but I heard it, loud and clear. There are standards. No weeping and wailing, no public display of emotion, no lack of self-control, oh-my-goodness, I think I must be back in the Middle East. I am in my own country, and still, very much a stranger in a strange land.
When I got home from my volunteer job yesterday, I chatted with AdventureMan while I puttered in the kitchen, and asked where we were going for lunch – it was his turn to choose. It was hard to hear him, for some reason he was hanging out in the entry hall around the corner. He asked where I was and I told him I was in the kitchen.
“Let’s get going,” I said, as our grandson needs to be picked up when he gets out of school.
“Ahhhhhk! I can’t stand it! I can’t wait!” he said. “Please come here!”
He was still in the hallway, looking out the window, so I looked out the window and he told me I was cold, and getting colder.
I turned around, confused, and then I saw them – perfect, long stemmed white roses, surrounded only with white baby’s breath, oh, it’s a combination that always makes my heart flutter.
” . . . . ” (That’s me, not knowing what to say, stunned.
“But it’s not my birthday!”
He had a doctors appointment in the morning, and is doing well. So well, he had one of those epiphanies, when you are happy and you know it (LOL, clap your hands!) (It’s a children’s song “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap clap) . . . )
He’s happy. I’m happy. We had a sweet lunch together at one of our favorite eateries. Life is sweet.