Monday, June 27, 2016

Cruising--Then and Now

 Thirty-nine years ago, hubby and I went for a cruise on the Oceanic to Nassau in the Bahamas. We were celebrating our first anniversary. The ship could hold 1,600 passengers and 560 crew. We stayed in a small cabin with two narrow beds--separated from each other. There was a very small closet and small bathroom. Of course, we didn't spend much time in our room. There was plenty of entertainment and plenty of food--six meals a day, which included a fancy midnight buffet.  There was gambling, too, but hubby and I don't gamble.

This year, for our fortieth anniversary, we booked a cruise on the Carnival Sunshine to see the town of St. John in New Brunswick, Canada.  The Carnival Sunshine can hold 3,006 passengers and 1,150 crew, making it huge in comparison to the Oceanic.

Our cabin was compact but larger than the one we had on the Oceanic with a lot more storage space along with a bed big enough for the two of us together.

One of my daughter's friends compared it to a floating mall because in addition to lots of entertainment, the ship also has plenty of shops--all with sales, of course.

In the past 39 years, the cruise industry has perfected the art of parting you and your money. The key card used to open the door of your cabin is connected to your credit card. You swipe it for every beverage you drink along with every extra service or purchase you make. I purchased the Wifi for $35, which was the "value" Wifi. If I wanted a faster connection, it would have cost much more. But the value Wifi was all I needed to stay in touch via Facebook Messenger with my daughters.

Since it was an anniversary cruise, we were granted several extra amenities--a free bottle of wine with dinner, a meal at one of the exclusive restaurants, a free photo, and spa services. I didn't use the spa services, but everything else was great. :-)

While the Oceanic boasted six meals a day, the Carnival Sunshine offers twenty-four hours of food. The Sunshine also has more of everything and many, many options. My favorite places on the ship were the quiet places--like the Serenity deck or the Library. The Lido deck was always noisy--though in the evening there were movies on the big screen, which was awesome. Hubby and I enjoyed the Piano Bar where every evening Jimi played popular songs and everyone sang along. However, some nights the Piano Bar was too crowded--so we didn't venture in.

Our trip on the Sunshine was only four nights long--far too short. I think a longer cruise which stopped at a few more ports would have been more interesting. As it was, we were in St. John for a very brief amount of time.

Thirty-nine years ago, on the Oceanic, when we were in our cabin we could hear the engine grinding away all the time. On the Sunshine, we didn't hear the engine in our cabin. However, I did feel the bed chug-chug-chugging along with the movement of the ship. There wasn't much swaying back and forth, but the ocean was fairly calm. I'm sure there would be more swaying if the ocean was rough.

All in all, it was a nice diversion spent in pleasant company and it was over far too soon. It was wonderful to be pampered for a while.

Friday, June 17, 2016

New Cozy Mystery!

One of the Prism Group authors, Julie B. Cosgrove, is writing a new cozy mystery series. Here's the book blurb:

As Janie and Betsy Ann go for their morning jog, the city sanitation vehicle follows its normal five-mile Tuesday morning route through their retirement community of Sunset Acres. The two Bunco-playing biddies spot a leg dangling out of the dumpster when the truck lifts the trash container high in the air. Someone diced up one of their newest residents—a grouchy loner named Edwin Newman. Did he unpack too much of his dicey past when he moved in last weekend? 

This is what one Amazon reviewer said, "Living in a retirement community is supposed to be quiet and peaceful. When bunco loving friends happen upon a dead body, they decide to ensure their community is safe by solving the crime in this delightful book, full of humorous situations."

Check it out at the links below. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Flowers in My Garden

Evening Primroses

I love flowers but it takes a lot of effort to create a beautiful garden. I've been trying for years. My sister, the horticulturist, has helped me by giving me hardy perennials that are difficult to kill. The Evening Primroses she gave me bloom faithfully for the entire month of June and a patch of Brown-Eyed Susans perform equally well as summer wears on--though the deer like to munch on the Brown-Eyed Susans.

My sister also gifted me with Dames Rockets, an invasive weed that resembles phlox but blooms during May. Dames Rockets have a lovely fragrance and the deer don't eat them, which is a good thing in this part of the country because the deer feast on flowers, vegetables, and anything else that pleases their palates. Deer are voracious.

In another section of the yard, I have Soapwort, also known as Bouncing Bet. My sister tells me these plants are difficult to eradicate once they get started, but in my case that's a good thing. I need plants that do well without much encouragement.

A patch of hardy, thread leaf coreopsis doesn't seem bothered by drought, attracts butterflies--but not deer,  and blooms for a long, long time.

Do you have any suggestions for a brown-thumb kind of gardener? Any flowers that never fail you?

Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Best of Heroes

My father passed away. He was ninety-four years old. A World War II veteran who became a journalist and worked for over forty years at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City. He rarely took a day off from work. He helped form the newspaper guild and was president of it. 

He loved to talk politics. He was funny, smart, and honest. 

He supported my mother and four children on his salary. That involved becoming a Do-It-Yourself expert in household repairs. He made sure all four of his children went to college. When he retired, he bought a camper. He and Mom traveled to Florida in the wintertime and Canada in the summer. 

When Mom's health declined, he took care of her. When she died, Dad became my responsibility since I lived closer to him than my siblings. When he broke his hip, we sold his house and moved him into a senior apartment complex very close to our home. 

For several years, he remained fairly independent. He walked to the grocery store and bought all his food. He made new friends in his building. He made even more friends online. He kept up with the family and all his grandchildren on Facebook. 

Then he had a stroke. After two months of rehab, he was back in his apartment--this time with live-in help. His aide cooked for him, did his laundry, and made sure he didn't fall down, but he dressed himself and spent plenty of time online detailing his experiences as a young man during World War II. I became his editor and computer guru. He called his aide his associate. 

He was happy. He kept up with all his friends, went to the movies every Wednesday night and attended the Friday breakfasts as he had before his stroke. We took him out to restaurants on the weekend and he went to all the family get-togethers along with his aide.  

Meanwhile, I worried about Dad's finances. The money from the sale of his house rapidly depleted in paying the aide's salary. I applied for the Veteran's Aide and Attendance Benefit. I was told it would take twelve to eighteen months. I contacted my congressman. He didn't have any success in getting the Veteran's Administration to move any faster. 

Dad began to get very weak. He didn't care about Facebook anymore. He didn't go over every item on his bank statement anymore. 

He didn't read the newspaper. 

One day he had a seizure. After an MRI, we learned he had metastatic brain tumors. The oncologist wanted to treat him with radiation. We said no. 

We brought him back to his apartment with his trusty aide by his side. We called in the Visiting Nurse Association's hospice team. Dad had more visitors than ever before. 

A reporter from the local newspaper interviewed him for a Memorial Day article. 

Then Dad took a turn for the worse. I was by his side as he took his last breath. 

He was given military honors at the gravesite, which was nice but it would have saved me a lot of sleepless nights if he had received the Aide and Attendance Benefit from the Veteran's Administration. Nevertheless, there was enough money left to bury him next to my mother. 

I'm going to miss his daily morning phone calls, his presence at every family gathering, his lively conversations, his politics, and even his constant questions. The journalist's Who, What, Why, When, Where and How never left him.

Dad was the best of heroes.