Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cruisin' in May.....

May has proven to be unusual in my quest to accomplish one new adventure each month. As many of you know, I took an 8-day cruise to Bermuda last week, which is a new destination in itself. I've been to several Caribbean islands and a few places in Mexico, but had never ventured that far out into the Atlantic before. I could check that off as my one new thing and sign off until next month, but that wouldn't be any fun, would it?

There was much more, as it turns out:

  • Working out is a big part of my life, and YES....I DID work out on the cruise ship! (As a matter of fact, I came back exactly the same weight as when I left, so I did something right.) But now I can say I did the core fitness routine three times on a wildly rocking ship. After we left port, word began to circulate among the 2200 + passengers that we were skirting a tropical storm, the first of the season. My fitness routine is challenging enough without the floor gyrating under my feet. Plus, I had to match my movements to various styles of music that happened to be playing in the ship's fitness center, everything from techno dance to R & B. (I hope my dance instructor is reading this. He will be amazed.)
  • Did you know a lifeboat is called a "tender" when it's merely moving passengers from the ship to a port-less shore? Me, neither. But Newport, Rhode Island is a beautiful town with no port for huge cruise ships that visit....we had to get to shore somehow, though. Never done that before.
  • Here's another one: The Coast Guard will bring a helicopter over 200 miles out to sea if you have a medical emergency on a ship. God bless them. At least it wasn't me, but we got to watch as they arrived, hovered next to the vessel, and then slid over the pool deck where they hauled an elderly passenger up in a basket. 
 An 8-day cruise offers a floating playground of 24/7 experiences, most of them new to me, neophyte passenger that I am. These are just a few, so stay tuned for future installments. Next time I'll tell you about the 18" bridge, the careening taxi, and the downpour in Boston.

"Ships are the nearest thing to dreams that hands have ever made."

-Robert N. Rose

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Growing a soul........

Remember those car signs that alert drivers around you that there is a "Baby on Board"? I had one when my daughter was a tiny little thing in her car seat. They probably still have them, but I don't see them as often as I used to. Anyway, I think the person who devised that particular product felt that it would proclaim "Precious cargo on board! Be careful around me!" And that's not a bad message.

But my reasoning was different. (Oh, great surprise, right?) Here's what I was thinking when I affixed that plastic suction cup to my back window: When I go around corners slower than you think I should, give me a little slack, OK? The kid is sleeping in her seat (she always fell asleep as soon as we backed out of the driveway) and I don't want her head to flop from side to side when I turn corners.

I thought about that sign last night as we tried to find our way to a hotel in a strange city. In my six decades (plus a few years), I have accrued many experiences in a plethora of driving a baby around a huge urban area in a moving container of flammable material, wishing that the guy behind me would be a bit more patient  as I tried to protect the most precious thing in the world to me. 

All of this life experience has given me lot more empathy for what might be happening to those around ME. Maybe that grouchy person in line in front of me lost her job yesterday. The distracted neighbor who normally speaks to me might have had a disagreement with his partner before leaving the house. Or the car in front of me who appears to be a little lost in the dark might be from out of town.

Last night the disembodied voice in the GPS took a coffee break just when we needed him most to get us to our hotel in a city 14 hours from home. It would be nice if the local folks driving behind and around us would take note of the out of state license tag and the tentative way the car was manuevering from lane to lane looking for the big green hotel sign. But no such luck. They wanted us out of the way, NOW! I guess people in unknown settings don't get any such breaks.

Experience is a great thing if it helps us move through life in a kinder, gentler way. Without getting run over ourselves.

“Life is just a chance to grow a soul.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A few golden threads.....

Friendship is a funny thing. Take it from a former military brat who tried desperately to keep in touch with people as we moved from base to base, duty station to duty station, town to town. The primary lesson I took away from all of that angst was expressed in the old axiom of "Out of sight, out of mind."

The longest I had ever lived anywhere was during my tenure at Florida State University, back in the dark ages. That was when I couldn't leave the dorm without a skirt on. Yes, for real. We even poured tea from a silver tea service on Fridays in the dorm parlor, the dorm mother (I think that's what she was called, it's hard to remember past all the intervening years) overseeing our education as young women of that time.

I lived in Reynolds Hall, a dorm that sat perched on a hill. It had a peculiar bottom floor, with only about 10 rooms stretching down a short hallway with a communal bathroom at the end. Yes, we all showered together back in the age of dinosaurs. Twenty teenaged girls (no such thing as coed dorms back then, either, and I must say, thank goodness) showed up our freshman year with our steamer trunks and other assorted valuables from home, and met our roommates for the first time.

To say we had fun would be a gross understatement. Even for a bunch of girls who were definitely not wild women, we managed to have a great time. Many of us stuck together throughout the four years of our experience in a collegial setting, even when we moved off campus our senior year. Those years meant a lot to me, the military kid who had never had a friend longer than about a year.

My college roommate and I got together this past weekend, our men in tow. It's strange....and the decades slip away when the ties are long. We lost touch over the years, then reconnected, and now have plans to bring some others from those college days back into the fold. 

A few weeks ago I traveled to visit another one of those folks who hold a connection with me, someone of newer vintage in the scheme of friendships, but that tie between us is just as valuable. And just as strong. We ate, we laughed, we caught up on our lives in the precious hours we spent together. The distance in both miles and years fell away as the sun moved across the Florida sky. As I got ready to leave in the heat of the late afternoon, we vowed not to let the distance devour any more time in the future. 

Maybe some of those lost connections from my childhood would have lasted. I don't know. I wish there had been more of them, but in the end, we need only a few golden threads running throughout our lives that we can cherish forever.

Friendship... is not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything. Muhammad Ali