Magic Moments on the Zaandam

Special, calm, peaceful, magic moments.  That’s why I cruise again and again.  It doesn’t matter where the ship is going, I’m just happy to be on it.

With a relaxing cruise ahead of me, I’m looking forward to sharing one magic moment a day.  The simple pleasures on the ms Zaandam that will become sweet memories all too soon.

Day 1 – Always a hectic day.  Rude alarm clock in the pre-dawn hours, two flights to catch, luggage to check with hopes of retrieving later, long lines, taxis, shuttles.  Finally to the ship, finally some French onion soup… but still… so exhausted.  And then the moment literally came wafting over me.  My bags  were unpacked, the plump pillows awaited me, and the sharp citrus scent of that Elemis soap in the hot shower let me know I was back in my home away from home.  I love that shower gel.  Thank you, Holland America, for never changing this shampoo and soap.  Truly… it’s what made my day!

Day 2 – We’re crossing the Pacific on our way to Hawaii, so plenty of slow, relaxing sea days.  Tonight was our first formal night, and much could be said about the lovely clothing and the ever-so-tender filet mignon… but my magic moment for the day was dressing for dinner.  Actually, watching G in front of the mirror putting on his cuff links and button covers.  I love that we have these ships where our hurried lives take a break, and we waltz into a world of tuxedos and velvet.

Day 3 – Who can resist a 75% off deck sale?  That would be me, along with the darling crowd I love to call “my peeps”.  It’s no secret that the average age sailing with Holland America is a few years beyond my own.  So there we were, rifling through the pretty little Alaskan sweatshirts, then draping our finds over our arms, waiting in line while Hawaiian luau music played softly over the speakers.  Today’s magic moment had me grinning at the thought of having a matching sweatshirt with a group of great-grandmothers from Vancouver!

Day 4 – Live entertainment after dinner is always a highlight of our cruising day.  Tonight’s  performance was truly grand.  After a delicious dinner with the events coordinator – a young man we met a few years ago and always love crossing paths with on cruises – the three of us attended “Classique”.  The show was even more special and fascinating because of all the behind the scenes things we had learned over dinner conversation.  For some of the young singers and dancers, this was their first performance ever on a ship.  And they gave us a dazzling evening.  Those costumes and that finale of Bohemian Rhapsody… a magic moment indeed!

Day 5 – The day was perfect, the evening was perfect.  I kept wondering how I would select one special moment.  On this formal evening we chose to eat in the Pinnacle for “An Evening at Le Cirque”.  I had anticipated that butternut squash soup, and thought my first taste might be THE magic.  And oh, it was grand.  The night was perfect… the meal, the entertainment, the dancing, the stroll on the Promenade… but the shining moment came when least expected.  Waiting on our bed, beside the sweet towel swan, was a little gold silk crate with two miniature drawers behind a tiny door, each one holding a white chocolate truffle.  There was a note from the restaurant wishing us the perfect ending to our evening.  Thank you for spoiling us!

Day 6 – On this final sea day before reaching Hawaii, I attended an afternoon concert by Henry Kaleialoha.  There was none of the polish and pizzazz of the marvelous evening entertainment.  This was a gentle performance by an aging musician who has been a star in the world of Hawaiian music.  He was in the orchestra of “Blue Hawaii”, and was the linguistic coach for Elvis in that movie.  Today he needed help onto the stage, and into his seat, but he never missed a note with the music.  As he played the ukulele for an audience mostly from his generation, I was quite overcome with bittersweet emotions.  I felt so privileged to be part of the crowd.  Another special moment for my collection.

Day 7 – The day began with a magical scene.   I was awake in dark, sure it was morning, waiting for my alarm to go off and prove me right.  I was eager for today to arrive… not because we would finally be reaching land, but because we would be touring Pearl Harbor for the first time.  I knew this would be an emotionally charged day.  The view from my balcony as our ship approached Oahu was breathtaking.  Dark mountains against a dark sky, outlined by the twinkling lights of the waking island.  The mood and beauty of my day – captured perfectly before the sun came up.  Today was a day of tears as we toured World War II Memorials, but also a day of amazing moments.  Our small group had signed on for a day of touring not only Pearl Harbor, but other military bases on the island.  After lunch at Schofield Army Barracks, to everyone’s surprise – and totally by chance – we were greeted at Fort Shaftner by Four Star General Vincent Brooks.  Photos and handshakes all around as he thanked the veterans in our party.  A great day from beginning to end.

Day 8 – The most beautiful island views for me have always been those with water in the foreground.  So my favorite moment of the day came as the sun was setting behind the massive Mauna Kea on Hilo, while I watched it from my dining seat at a wall of solid glass.  The bright strip of hot sunshine reflecting on the blue water gave way to a shimmering sea of silver and the sky turned a soft turquoise with rose highlights.  The top of the mountain eventually became a black silhouette with the peak soaring high above a layer of clouds as our ship slowly pulled out of the bay into the dark night.

Day 9 – I love long cruises and I love small ships.  This one holds 1400 guests… small by many standards, but quite large to me.  Getting into a routine, learning the names of several in the crew, I always feel at home.  This morning as I approached the breakfast counter the chef grinned at me and said, “Three eggs over medium?”  What fun to have a personal chef!  Another delicious start to a beautiful day.  Speaking of delicious, my favorite thing about Maui today was my raspberry shave ice!

Day 10 – Our first time to Kauai.  What a beautiful island. And what a marvelous treat to watch the approach into Nawiliwili Harbor this morning from the front of the ship, then to stand on the back deck as we left this evening.  That was my magic moment… slowly slipping back out into the open waters of the Pacific under the heavy clouds of sunset.  Our four days in the Hawaiian islands have been perfect.  But how I love the sea days!  So this evening we had a lovely farewell combined with the joy of knowing the cruise is far from over.

Day 11 – After your first cruse with Holland America you become a “mariner”.  As the beautiful cruising days go by, you’re rewarded with sweet little perks… champagne with the captain and the all important laundry discount.  The mariners’ brunch is always a special time for me because I can’t wait to see the new Delftware coaster given as a gift on every cruise.  My collection is growing, and I keep dreaming of the project I’ll put together someday.  A table, or perhaps a kitchen backsplash.  Not sure yet.  In the meantime, I’ll keep working on that collection.

Day 12 – There was nothing to do today.  Nothing.  I sat on a reclining deck chair and looked at the Pacific Ocean… and looked at the Pacific Ocean… and looked at the Pacific Ocean.  It was pure bliss.

Day 13 – Just before our afternoon classical violin and piano concert, we had an appointment with a photographer to look at the photos from our shoot a couple of nights ago.  They’re all in black and white, quite romantic… and to play upon our emotions, this lovely young woman from Hungary had soft music playing as she began the slide show.  The magic moment of the day arrived right on cue.  Gary and I both loved the photos, and for the very same reason.  And this was the explanation for my tears to the sweet photographer…  One day you wake up and realize you’re middle aged.  So… there we were… all dressed up… as much in love as we’ve ever been… with wrinkles around our eyes… smiling at each other in the string of photographs.  We bought a few.  They captured the mood of this cruise for us.  It’s been a strenuous year, and these two weeks on the Zaandam are washing our cares away.

Day 14 – After dinner dancing to “The Neptunes”… it’s always a favorite time on every Holland America cruise.  This band has been exceptional.  The piano player/singer reminds me of Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole at the same time.  The knee surgery this year has put a damper on my dear dancing partner’s fox trot, but he still twirls me on the wooden floor every night.  Our touching moment tonight came while we danced to “Sentimental Reasons”.  One couple entered the dance floor ever so slowly… as the man could only take the tiniest of steps.  There they swayed back and forth in the same spot to the beautiful music.  I hope we’ll still be dancing even when we can barely walk!

Day 15 – Last day at sea.  More beautiful music, more delicious food, sun and shadows playing on the ocean under moody skies.  One final night to dress to the nines.  But this is what I choose for the best moment of the day… knowing that it was also one final afternoon to completely relax… and choosing to take just one more nap.  Ahhhh… I am well rested.  How grateful I am for that.

Day 16 – Today we toured Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia  The most enchanting gardens I’ve ever seen… with a wonderful story of how they came to be.  If this cruise must come to a close, then this was a lovely ending.

Day 17 – There are no magic moments on disembarkation day.  But arriving home to our purring Peloton after a very long day of traveling is always special.  Now it’s time to start dreaming of the next voyage!

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Nothing Funny About Fungus

It’s been too long since I shared a limerick!  I laughed myself silly writing this with my nephew a few weeks ago.  He was telling me all about the business he was about to launch, and quite frankly… the subject matter was just begging for a rhyme.

So, here’s to my nephew in Sugar Land, Texas!  Wishing him great success with his new business.

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Check out his website… Nail Correct!

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They’re nasty, they’re bumpy, they’re gross

You’ve gooped them up dose after dose

If you’re walking among us

Nails covered in fungus

The cure for your mess is quite close

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It’s a laser you need for those feet

If the fungus you’re going to beat

Just do it today

Let us zap it away

Your toenails will finally look sweet

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Flourish

My roses were just beautiful first thing in the morning.  The nights have been cooler, we’ve had lots of magnificent cloudy skies, I’ve been doing my best to combat the caterpillars… so this fresh outpouring of rose buds was all set to make a splendid appearance.

And this morning when I went outside with my morning coffee, the bouquets covering the bushes couldn’t have been lovelier.

But alas, the weekend brought with it a terrible heat wave.  Those roses were getting used to kinder temperatures… lulled into the sweet security that summer was going to tip toe out.  They just weren’t ready for the relentless 105 degree blow torch wind that blew all day. This evening the beauties were just fried, and it made me sad.

There are days when we all feel their pain.  Days when we start the morning thinking we have the tiger by the tail, but by sundown it seems the tiger has us.

One step forward and two steps back.  There have been many days that have felt that way this year.  Nothing major.  Just aches and pains, delays on the job, disappointments.  You try to start fresh and the hot wind knocks you down.

If you’re right there with me, remember this.  We know for certain that cooler days are coming.  Those roses will flourish.  And so shall we.

Psalm 40:11 – You, O LORD, will not withhold Your compassion from me;  Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.

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The Game

A friend recommended the movie to us and said we’d love it.  We were headed to Amarillo to pick up supplies for a remodel project, making it a perfect afternoon to look up a matinee showing before we drove back to Portales.

Searching on the tablet for a place to see the show led to the reviews… which were abysmal. One piece did concede that audiences gave the movie a much higher rating than the professional critics.  We decided to trust our friend’s judgment and go to the movie – even though one of the reviews warned you should only see it if you were in need of a good place to take a nap.

I’m willing to place a few bets about the people who gave this movie less than 20% approval.

I’m betting they don’t have a brother-in-law who was so weak after a series of medical treatments that he didn’t have the energy to stand, so he coached his high school team to victory by rolling around in an office chair at the practices.

I’m betting they don’t have a dad who still loves to reminisce about the ballgames he played in the 1950s.

I’m betting they never stood on the 50 yard line and brought a marching band to attention while the student body roared out applause.

I’m betting they don’t have nephews who buy matching shirts and ties and stand shoulder to shoulder while teaching young men how to handle pressure on a ball court.

I’m betting they don’t have cousins who spend hours and hours driving their children to little league events of all types, proudly posting their darling photos in their sports uniforms all over Facebook.

I’m betting “Friday Night Lights” is not a phrase in their vocabulary.

I’m betting they’ve never yelled themselves hoarse while huddled under a blanket at a freezing game between rival schools.

I’m betting they’re clueless about people like me who really don’t care much about the game of football, but who dearly love the grand tradition played out all over America every fall.

The movie was wonderful!  It’s the story of legendary coach Bob Ladouceur, and the winning streak of the De La Salle football team.  I hope you’ll go see it.  Our teenagers need movies like this.  We all do.

“When the Game Stands Tall”

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Banana Nut Ice Cream

What can I say about this ice cream?  It’s grand.  It’s simply grand.  I’ve just had a little bowl for breakfast.

Here you go….

2 Bananas

1 Can of Eagle Brand (that’s sweetened condensed milk)

½ Cup of Sugar

1 Quart of Half and Half (that’s 4 whole cups!)

1 Dash of Salt

1 Dash of Vanilla

1 Cup of Pecans

Just mix those ingredients up with a mixer – except for the pecans – and pour them into your favorite ice cream freezer.  When the mixture is getting good and ice-creamy, add the pecans little by little.  I like big chunks of pecans.  I broke halves in half.

Make a batch of this, then come back here and let me know if you love it!

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Small Town Classmates

I wrote this for my weekly column in my hometown newspaper.  I’m literally surrounded by classmates here in Portales, New Mexico.  In my mind I can so easily hear the chanting at pep rallies… “Class of ’81 – - is BEST!”  I truly believe it.

Here’s to growing up in a small community.  An amazing blessing!

And here’s that column…

Another school year begins.  Today I’ll share some thoughts with the high school students who are blessed to be attending school in our small community.

Don’t be too quick to determine who has the good looks.  There will come a day when you look back at the senior pictures of your classmates, realizing that every young man was amazingly handsome, and every young woman was beautiful beyond compare.

Be nice to everyone.  The person you hardly know will someday be your next door neighbor.  The shy and quiet girl may give birth to a son that your daughter will marry 25 years from now.  You will buy lumber from the cheerleader, and hamburgers from the football player. One of you will become the mayor.

Look around you.  Choose five people from totally random groups.  Down the road you may very likely sit around a table with this mix, talking about old times, family members, maybe even aches and pains.

You will join together to buy flowers for funerals of those who will pass too soon.  You’ll understand that you have more in common with one another than you ever dreamed.

Trust me on this.  Make the most of this year.

~

 

Just a Saturday

It was just a Saturday.

Just a day at the end of another hectic week.  A day set aside to get caught up in the office without phones ringing every 8 minutes.

I treated myself to coffee on my glider in the morning, while tiny drops of water fell from the sky for a few moments.  The rest of the day was spent writing checks, transferring money around to cover taxes and payments, filling in spreadsheets, keeping an eye on Facebook so I could see what all my people were doing for Saturday fun.

G worked on house plans all day.  And the cobbler’s children actually got a pair of shoes.  For stress relief he worked on our bathroom sink which has had problems for about a year now.

And at 6:00 in the evening I was all caught up with a beautiful, clean and organized desk.  So off I went to my barnyard to relax with the task of pulling tiny little weeds from my huge blanket of grass, chatting with my cat.

And I wished my day upon the world.

A day of feeling caught up.  A day with enough money in the bank to cover all expenses.  A day without terror or persecution.  A day of simple chores finally accomplished.  A day of security.  A day of green grass and healthy crepe myrtles.

My Saturday… how I long to give it to those suffering at the hands of terrorists.  I wish I could give the peace of that day to friends and family looking for light at the end of difficult tunnels.

It was just a Saturday.

~

 

Touring France

Every July I spend three weeks in France.  It’s been a grand tradition for over ten years now, and I find it’s a wonderful way to get through the long hot days of summer.

The entire country is mine to enjoy, from the beautiful fields of sunflowers and lavender in the south to the Alps along the Swiss border. I always end my journey on the streets of Paris, marveling at the sites on the Champs Elysees.

Day after day I take helicopter flights over the lush countryside, sometimes stopping into quaint little villages.  This seems to be the best way to view ancient castles and cathedrals.  I love the history lessons that accompany the flights, and treasure every chance to go inside these gorgeous buildings.

Of course I’m there to watch the Tour de France, cheering on riders as they claw their way up steep mountains, flying along narrow city streets at dangerous speeds.  The colors of the peloton are mesmerizing as they undulate through rolling hills. It’s a thrill to be there every pedal of the way.

The race is coming to a bittersweet close this weekend.  What in the world will I watch on TV next week?

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Pursuing Peace

“Seek peace and pursue it.”  How I love that passage from Psalm 34.  And I love it that a hardworking fisherman turned apostle quoted it in one of his letters.

And oh, how I try to pursue peace!

It’s easier said than done.

But evening after evening I take my little gardening shears in hand, and I dead head my roses.  Lots of roses.  I try to lose the cares of the day while I clip away, taking delight in making everything fresh.

It’s not always easy to lose the cares of the day.  There’s a battle in my heart.  I want to fix problems.  I want to heal marriages and rescue alcoholics.  I worry about lives that seem to be imploding right before my very eyes.

And over the years I’ve lost a lot of peace in my life trying to make everything better.

And thus, the battle.  Pursue peace, stay removed, try to make a beautiful rose garden?  Or jump into the fray, shed the tears, pick up more scars?  Am I the only one who feels guilty while pursuing peace?

The Amplified Bible says to crave peace and go after it.  And so I shall.  And I’ll keep working toward getting rid of the guilt that comes with not showing up for every function, not getting involved in every crisis, not serving on committees, not confronting every problem.

That’s my path right now.

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Taos Memories

I have this Jd Challenger mug.  A gorgeous portrait named “Wears Eagle Medicine”.  And how I love the story of this wonderful coffee cup.

All my nieces are incredibly beautiful and smart and talented… you know that by now.  But there’s one girl who holds a special place in my heart, because I was right there with her the moment she was born, and together we’ve shared some great adventures.

Three years ago my mom and I took her on her first visit to Taos, New Mexico.  She was only 9 years old, and she was enchanted with the place.  I tease her about that little vacation because she was also enchanted with every single store we walked past.  She had to have everything any little Choctaw descendant could ask for in the land of Native American treasures.  Jewelry, feathers, drums, pottery, leather pouches.  The girl wore me out!

She inherited her grandmother’s artistic talents, so even as a little girl she appreciated fine art, and knew to marvel at the paintings in the grand galleries we visited.

On the last day of our vacation we went into the Jd Challenger Gallery.  I told Lizzie I was buying something for myself for a change.  How I have loved that coffee cup.  It brings back the sweetest memories.

Last week my mother and I were fortunate enough to take Lizzie back to northern New Mexico.  She’s no longer a little girl.  She’s a delightful young lady with an artist’s eye.  She had some dollars of her own to spend, and she chose marvelous keepsakes from the Taos Pueblo.

She’s a girl after my own heart.  Photographs… that’s what she most wanted to bring home from our amazing time together.  And that’s what I wanted to bring home as well.

No new coffee cup this time around.  No need.  This one will always remind me of the beauty of Taos, and the joy of spending time there with my niece and my mom.

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About Your Uncle…

Last month I spent some time praising our nephews for my Father’s Day post.  They’re all nice young men, and I was happy to give them the pat on the back.

Today their uncle is another year older… so to celebrate his day, I thought I’d give these guys several reasons they’d be wise to use him as a role model.

As a teenager, he was already running his own small construction business.  Every dollar and everything he owns came from hard work, determination and heaping doses of integrity.  He has always gone the extra mile with his work – getting up early in the morning, working into the night, answering the phone when it rings.  He is fair and honest, and always has been.

You would never realize what an incredible athlete he is, because he’s quite humble and keeps his trophies and medals in a closet that only he sees.  (And they’re only on display because I put them there.)  Triathlons, racquetball, spearfishing, basketball, running… he has always come out on top.  I admire his quiet self-discipline.  I wish you could have seen him water ski back in his twenties.  He was phenomenal.

He genuinely knows things about other people because he loves to listen and learn.  You won’t hear him talking very much about himself.  Instead, he’ll be asking questions of others… letting them tell their stories.  If they ask to hear his stories, he’ll tell them.

And speaking of talking… he’ll happily engage in conversations of all kinds.  Where to get a good brisket, the NBA finals, the most beautiful places to go hiking, loan amortizations, quail hunting, travel plans, where to buy granite.  He’s good at making people feel comfortable.

I remember the time we showed up for dinner with some friends, and they’d cooked something that always nauseated him.  Literally.  They were so excited about the meal they’d prepared.  He whispered to me as we entered their dining room, “I will eat this if it kills me.”  He’s a man of patience and good manners.  Spend a month with him.  You will witness this over and over and over again.

He was an incredible trumpet player in his younger years.  He loves grand music, and if you were to borrow his Ipod you’d be impressed with the variety of styles.  Although he’s so busy with his working world that he has to have daily print outs to keep up with all the places he has to be, all the people he has to talk to, all the connections he has to make… on Saturdays before he leads the singing on Sunday mornings, you’ll find him quietly at his computer for hours choosing his songs carefully, searching the internet for perfect photos to place into his power point presentation.  Many Sundays he’s at the church building shortly after sunrise to make sure everything is perfectly ready.  I love it when he leads our worship.

He does not lose his temper.  I can see when he’s boiling.  Others don’t.  He is a master of self-control.

What a man of adventure.  All this traveling we’ve done around the world, these places we’ve lived… they’re his ideas.  While some men may waste their time on the internet looking at things to be ashamed of, he spends his time clicking on travel sites, finding good prices, making reservations to take us to the next exciting destination.

And now, young men… hear this.  He has never looked at other women.  Never.  Not in real life, not in photographs.  He looks at me, and he treats me like a queen.  He loves to make me smile.  In our thirty plus years of marriage there has not been one single time I’ve had a reason to feel insecure about his love for me.

Gary… perhaps the nephews will read this, perhaps they won’t.  I mean every word of my admiration for you.  And yes… I’m sincere in this… those young men would do well to emulate your actions.

Happy Birthday to most incredible man in the whole wide world!

~

 

Journey of Hope

They come from all across America, young men on this Journey of Hope.  And every year when they ride those bicycles through New Mexico, spending the night in Portales, I am overwhelmed by this dedicated group.

These young men from Pi Kappa Phi devote themselves to raising money and awareness for people with disabilities.  From sea to shining sea they ride their bikes an average of 75 miles a day, put on puppet shows, and visit with Americans… spreading genuine encouragement.

I invite you to take a few minutes to look at their website.

Push America – Journey of Hope

A little group from our church has made it a tradition to feed these guys a “stacked supper” every year.  My contribution tonight was ten pounds of shredded cheese and a huge bowl of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

In return, I was treated to an evening of fantastic conversation with interesting, incredibly polite, amazingly focused college students.

Safe travels on your Journey of Hope.  Enjoy that long, long stretch across Texas.  When you arrive in Washington, D.C. on August 2, you’ll have completed an amazing feat… one that you’ll talk about for the rest of your lives. Godspeed!

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