Photos of Brady

Monday, February 28, 2005


I had planned to spend the entire day writing yesterday, and indeed I did get quite a bit accomplished. After sitting at the computer for six hours, I got up to stretch, and decided to fix a bit of dinner. I had just come back into the office to get back to work when I noticed the monitor was black. Thinking the screen saver had been activated, I sat down and wiggled the mouse. Nothing happened. That is when I noticed that the yellow light was on. Although I knew I hadn't turned it off and the bells started clanging in my head, I pushed it anyway. Nothing.

A computer wiz I am not. This has no bearing on my worth as a person, or in how I feel about myself as a whole until something like this happens. Like an idiot I sat there, alternately wiggling the mouse, pushing the monitor button off and on, and checking the cable connections. Still nothing. Now this isn't a good thing, since I had been in the middle of a chapter, although I had saved everything up to that point before I left to go eat dinner. (I may be slow, but I have learned something in the past two years).

As I sat in my chair going over the few options I had available to me on a Sunday evening, inspiration struck. I dropped to my knees and crawled under the desk to inspect the cables there. It is not good when you can see silver wire shining through the black plastic cord. The light was limited, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a cat had been at work.

Would anyone like to adopt a black cat who is on death row and in the final days of his young life? Yes, as judge and jury, I convicted the culprit, who came sashaying into the room about that time, walked right to the cable in question, and proceeded to munch on it. At his point it was already DOA, so the best I could hope for was that he would chew into it far enough to take care of the problem for me. Nothing like self execution by way of electricution. No such luck.

Living in a rural area presents problems every day, but as I already mentioned, this was a Sunday evening. No opportunity to get one until Monday morning. I did call Springfield, which is an hour and fifteen minutes away, and the store I called said they had some in stock. After deciding to take a vacation day and go get one, I thought it best to double check. I called back to the same store, got a different guy, and he told me they were out of the cable I needed. None in the store, none in the warehouse. Typical.

So. This morning I took the day off, but stopped by work to hand in the report I did get done, thank goodness, before the whole cat/cable/monitor fiasco began. In relating the reason I wasn't going to work today, I was given a cable, which evidently and obviously are not in the rare category I had been led to believe by the two guys I had spoken with the night before.

Eureka! Now I am up and running again, my chapter is still saved and accessible, and I still have a cat that is on a very short thread. Scrappy needs a new home. Of course now that I told on him, no one will want to adopt him. My boss cheerfully offered to 'take him out' for me. Permanently. I am not sure that murder is something I am going to be able to live with at this point in my life.

I will spend some time today finding a way to keep Scrappy away from the cables and wires that connect me to the world. Hey, I got a free cable. I'm feeling generous.

Until tomorrow,


Sunday, February 27, 2005


Yesterday was such a beautiful day, and I spent it getting everything done I needed to in order to be able to spend the day writing today. The result? Perfect. Today the sky is gray, temps are colder, and it is a perfect day to sit and write. A cup of hot tea, my cats Scrappy and Paddy are asleep on either side of the computer, and I have the whole day in front of me.

John is running his marathon as I write this, and I know you all are with me in wishing him dry weather and Godspeed. The important thing is for him to finish free of injury. I will have to check his sight for an update this afternoon.

Well, I am off to get a bowl of cereal, a cup of tea, and then settle in at the keyboard. For those of you who pray for Ellen Crush, we need to redouble our efforts. She received even more bad news last week, and it is imperative that we keep her in our thoughts and prayers. She is fighting a very large battle, and we need a miracle for her and Curtis. Drop her a line today and encourage her.

Enjoy your day, and I will see you bright and early in the morning.....here on my country road.

Until then,


Saturday, February 26, 2005


Finally the weekend!

The sun is up and shining through the trees of the big woods, and the skies are blue. Today we are to have a beautiful day with warm temperatures, so I am dusting off my lengthy to do list and applying myself seriously to getting things done. I want to write tomorrow, so that means getting everything done today that time allows for.

This morning I have a play date with a friend at my new gym. Since she has been a member there for more than ten years she is well acquainted with the various equipment. I am hoping to learn the ropes so that I can get serious about a new fitness routine. I may have met my weight goal, but I am a long way from being where I want to be with tone and fitness.

I wish you a happy weekend, whatever you choose to do. Time is getting away from me, so my mantra for the day? Nike says it best, Just Do It.

Until tomorrow,


Friday, February 25, 2005


Last night I went out to visit my son and daughter-in-law. They are so excited about the baby, and she had been to the doctor’s office to have blood drawn for her appointment today. She said she was having trouble believing that she is finally pregnant, as she doesn’t feel very different than she did. Thank goodness, I say. At least she isn’t suffering morning sickness. Once the doctor tells her when the baby is due, it will seem more real to them.

I had a nice visit with my counterpart, Aimee’s mother, who had already found a playpen, crib, and car seat for her house when the baby visits. I am a little behind with all of that I guess. Right now I am just happy for Jonathan and Aimee. They are embarking on a wonderful journey. Since twins run in Jonathan’s family, it is possible that we could be doubly blessed. I will keep you up to speed as events warrant.

This has been an odd week. We have had sunshine and temperatures in the 60’s, and gray skies with snow and sleet. Yup, it’s February in the Ozarks. Yesterday morning I had to scrape the ice and snow off the windshield before I could leave for work, but when I came out of the building after work I didn’t need my coat and the sunshine was brilliant.

Since this is TGIF, it is going to be a wonderful day. Eight hours from now I’ll be headed home and two days of being home will stretch out before me. I have a to do list a mile long, but then that is the point, isn’t it? Hopefully the temperatures will be mild and I can get a lot done so I can write on Sunday.

The only low point to the week was the stray dog that was dumped out last weekend. One of the problems of living on a secluded country road is that it draws people who are looking to rid themselves of unwanted cats and dogs. We all felt sorry for the poor thing, but we all have pets already and there was just no more room at the inn, so to speak. He looks a great deal like my brother John’s dog Hobo and was starved for both love and food. After several days of him breaking into my garage and stealing the cat’s food and generally making a nuisance of himself I found out that he was doing the same thing at both mom and Rocky’s and Davey’s house. Although everyone felt sorry for the poor thing, he was creating a great deal of havoc. Wednesday morning when I came out of the house to leave for work it was cold and sleeting. Evidently the poor thing had slept on my front porch, but he was cold and shaking. When I came home he was gone. He was evidently taken to the pound.

I hate things like that. I feel so sorry for the little unwanted critters of the world who find themselves at the mercy of owners who no longer want them. It is a cruel world sometimes. I can only hope that at least the dog is warm and dry and has food to eat. I have been trying not to think about his fate.

Sunrise awaits, so I have a cup of green tea steeping and a place on the couch calling my name. Take a few minutes today to appreciate nature and all of it’s beauty. Happy Friday.

Until tomorrow,


Thursday, February 24, 2005


Coming home to Smalltown is always a bittersweet thing. I have written before that when I think of “home” my first thought it Shawnee, Kansas. I suppose because that is where I grew up, and where my brother, dad, Matt and my friend Diane are near. I always have a hard time leaving there, but by the time I am within an hour from Smalltown and things look familiar again, I begin to unwind.

Once I turn down my country road, and pull into my drive, I also feel “home”. The comforting sight of the big woods, the towering white pines grandpa planted for grandma so long ago, and the curving road that has defined my life for over thirty years is a balm for my troubled heart. I usually sit in the car a few minutes, taking in the familiar sights and trying to comprehend that I have really been to another exotic destination. My world has been broadened. Matt has introduced me to so many wonderful places, cultures, food and experiences this year. It has changed me, challenged my thinking, and expanded who I am. I suppose that those who travel so much become jaded to the wonders and beauty of the world, but for me it will always be a dream come true, an exciting adventure I could only dream of, and I will always feel as though I am seeing it for the very first time.

It takes me a week or so to get back into the swing of things. I have a shelf by my computer that holds the vacation pictures that are precious to me, and my collection of beautiful shells. Taking the souvenirs to family and the neighbors is a surreal experience. It is difficult to explain to any satisfactory degree the places I have been, but I try to relate the differences in culture, food, and scenery in a way that makes them feel as though they were a part of the trip as well. It is true, for anywhere you go, the people you love go with you. It is why it has been said that home is where the heart is. Home is always within us.

Yesterday my son Jonathan called me during my lunch break. He and his wife Aimee are going to have a baby. Of course we are all excited, for this is a natural part of life. I have mentioned before my list of fantasies, and being a grandmother is on it. This year I have realized so many of those dreams, and adds to the list the multitude of things that has made my 50th year so special.

I am so blessed, and so very grateful….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,


Wednesday, February 23, 2005


I can’t believe that we were up, through immigration and watching the sun come up over Houston while eating breakfast by 7:00am. Getting off the ship is a great deal easier than getting on one. It is sad. Going home is a natural part of going on vacation, but I never want the trip to end.

Since I wrote about the trip home last week, I won’t do it again here, but there are many things that I will remember about the cruise and the ports of call we visited. On the plane trip back and each day since the memories swirl around in my head, and I will never forget what a magical trip it was……..

The first sight of the ship, the bustle of passengers, the mountain of luggage and baggage stacked on the docks waiting to be loaded, and the lines through immigration. The excitement of walking up the gangway, walking through the final door and being admitted officially to the ship. How beautiful the piano music was in the Crystal Court, being shown to our stateroom, and escaping the life boat drill. The ship was so beautifully appointed, the staff was so friendly and helpful, and it was home, at least for a week.

I love hearing all of the different languages being spoken, the different foods, the subtle nuances that make traveling to exotic locales so exciting. Being called “Madame”. How great is that? Dressing in formal evening clothes and feeling like a princess on the arm of the most handsome man on the ship, at least in my humble opinion.

In contrast, walking along the newly laid sidewalks in Cozumel, how good the icy Corona tasted in the festive atmosphere of the little cantina by the marketplace. The smell of good food wafting our direction from the various restaurants, and the hottest kiss I have had in a very long time as the guitarist serenaded the patrons.

The lush verdant jungle of Roatan, Honduras, and how it felt to zip through the trees like Tarzan and then sitting on Tabyana Beach and talk about it. The beautiful white sands and clear aqua waters at the beach were very different from the humble little stalls set up by the docks. The little children selling shells, helping to take care of the smaller children, and hoping the tourists would buy some of their wares. I have such vivid memories of the little boy we bought my tiger shell and the seahorses from. Such a good boy, intelligent brown eyes filled with hope and pride. What kind of life will he have there?

I will never forget taking the tender by myself into Belize. The cleanliness and order of the town, the British accent of the people, the friendliness and helpfulness they offered. The water is a little different color there, but still so beautiful. While Matt was scuba diving at the reefs I explored the shops and enjoyed a cold beer at the Wet Lizard. Just sitting there enjoying the day, drinking a beer, looking out at the tropical waters and the ship docked beyond, it seemed unbelievable that I was actually in Belize, Central America.

And then there was beautiful Cancun. Bustling, hotels everywhere, Calypso music, and hot afternoon sun. It is more commercial there, at least where we were, but different from the other ports of call. The memories at Margaritaville and the volcano nachos are special ones. I remember saying to Matt that I am such a lucky woman. It is so very true. He took me out of Smalltown and showed me the world in all of its beauty and wonder.

Some of my favorite memories will be the rolling of the ship, the sound of the ocean, laying in the sun by the pool, watching the sunrise and sunsets each day, sharing it all with someone I love, and how unreal it all seemed for me to be there. I kept thinking how very far away I was….from my country road.

Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, February 22, 2005


The ship had made good progress during the night, but once again the rough seas in the Gulf of Mexico were tossing the ship. It isn’t good when they take down the flags. By this time the rolling didn’t bother me as much, but we did take a pill Thursday night just in case. We had stayed up to go to the Decadence Gourmet Chocolate Buffet, and it was difficult to keep your balance. The buffet was absolutely fantastic. I have never seen so much chocolate all in one place before. We opted to fill our plates and return to our stateroom to eat it in comfort and peace. Heaven. Pure and simple. When we were finished, putting the plates outside the door does the trick. Like magic someone picks them up and takes them away during the night.

We woke to gray skies. Although very windy, the temperatures were still warm, but we had to eat inside to keep our things from blowing off of the tray. After breakfast, we went to a lecture, but I suppose the late night and the tossing of the ship caused everyone to sleep in, because there was no one there. Instead we went by the photo gallery to decide what pictures to get, attended the debarkation briefing, and went by the onboard cruise consultant’s desk to pick up some catalogs. By the time we accomplished all of that it was time for lunch, so we ate a bit before attending a lifestyle lecture in the afternoon. The motion of the ship and the quiet of the lounge was enough to make me sleepy, so after we were finished with that, we opted to workout. That was enough to wake us right up again. After that we decided a good soak in the hot tub was in order. The water felt wonderful, and while the bubbling water did its magic we talked and alternately just relaxed. There was sun in the afternoon, which meant a sunset for the final evening. After a good hot shower, it was siesta time. My eyes just wouldn’t stay open any longer. Knowing it was the last day onboard I hadn’t wanted to miss anything, but I was tired.

We woke just before sunset, so changed clothes for the deck and went topside. Everyone had the same idea, for there was a good crowd at the rail. It was so windy it was hard to stand upright, but it was worth the wait to see the sun set over the ocean one last time. When the sun went down, the temperatures cooled a bit, so we changed for dinner. After wearing tropical clothing, it seemed odd to have to wear long sleeved clothes again. Just one more reminder that the week was coming to an end. I suppose that this was on my mind, for dinner was a bittersweet affair, although no less spectacular. We took a stroll out on the deck after dinner, listening one last time to the waves, feeling the wind and mist on our faces, and enjoying a kiss under the night sky.

The evening cabaret show was a combination of magic and comedy, but my heart wasn’t in it. Just like there has to be a first everything, there has to be a last everything. It had been a relaxing day, but tiring. Knowing that we had to be up early to see the Immigration officials and pack, we went to bed. Come morning, we would be back in Houston.

Until tomorrow,


Monday, February 21, 2005


Thursday morning found us coming into port at Cancun, Mexico. The sunrise was brilliant, and we watched the coastline go by our stateroom window. Since the water was so shallow, we had to anchor quite a distance from shore. We had talked to Captain Lars at a cocktail party the night before, and he said that there would only be six feet of water under the hull where we would sit at anchor. Quite a difference from the 11,000 feet of the open water in the Gulf of Mexico.

After breakfast in the sunshine on the pool deck, we watched as people left the ship for the various excursions. We hadn’t planned any, so we had the whole day ahead of us. Matt has been to Cancun many times in the past, so we just wanted to shop and walk around a bit. I had only seen Cancun from the airport when we went to Tulum last October, and since we arrived after dark, I hadn’t seen very much. It is a large city of 450,000 people. The huge hotels are everywhere, and it looked like every one of the city’s residents were driving in town that day. We took a shuttle bus provided by the ship to a shopping district, as I wanted to go to Margaritaville. We did our shopping first, as we had to be back at the dock for the last tender back to ship at three o’clock. After we finished with that we got a table in Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. I have been to the one in New Orleans, but this was bigger and a lot more festive.

We ordered drinks and I had volcano nachos. Matt opted for strawberry shortcake. After having healthy and five star food all week, I was in heaven. When the order came, there was enough food to feed a family of five. I did my best, and since Matt had never had nachos before, tried some. I believe he proclaimed them ‘not bad.’ I would rather have nachos or pizza any day over sweets, so I went to work on them. We caught the tender back to ship, where we saw the most people I had seen the whole cruise. Everyone waited until the last tender, it seemed. We had cold Corona on the dock, so I was content to nap on Matt’s shoulder during the thirty minute ride back to ship.

After putting away our purchases, we went up on the pool deck to watch Captain Lars guide the ship out of the shallows. We had wanted to see the sunset that evening, but because the ship turned so many times navigating the channel back into open water, we had to keep moving to see it. You could see how shallow the water was as the water is so clear. Half an hour later, Cancun was a distant memory, and we were on our way back toward Houston.

While on deck we found out that the second formal night and portraits were that evening, so we made out way to the room to get ready for dinner. After having our pictures taken we went to our favorite restaurant, The Four Seasons, for the Captain’s farewell dinner. It was a wonderful meal, and I tried both the pâté and the Parisian escargots. We also had Bourbon Street Shrimp Brochette, braised pork with apple and brandy sauce, and Steak Diane, flamed in Cognac. For dessert we had Baked Alaska and Strawberry Margarita Mousse.

We finished with dinner in time to see the early Cabaret show, which was a musical tribute to the 70’s. It was lots of fun, and at the end the cruise director introduced the support staff that had taken such good care of us during the cruise. Of course they got a standing ovation, as the service was excellent. I couldn’t help crying. It had been such a wonderful week, so many new experiences, and soon we would be back home.

We walked around the ship after the show, enjoying the festive atmosphere. Tomorrow we had no plans, as it was our last day at sea prior to docking back in Houston Saturday morning. Deciding to take advantage of the warm tropical air before getting closer to the states, we stood at the rail and watched the wake. The ship was going too fast, and I had to wonder why good things always have to end. It was a glorious evening though, and the stars were beautiful against the inky black sky. At least I had a romantic kiss at the ship’s rail, which is every woman’s fantasy. What a wonderful end to the day.

Until tomorrow,


Sunday, February 20, 2005


Yesterday I watched Under The Tuscan Sun. I had waited until I had the time to enjoy it properly, as I had been told by so many people that it was a wonderful movie. It was a good movie, just not the story I had pictured in my mind. I suppose that is the case with many things in life. We have a preconceived idea of how things will be, so when they happen differently we are often disappointed. This follows the setting oneself up for failure and disappointment scenario. I am going to take the time to watch it again today and really enjoy it.

I have a full list of things to do, which is always a good day. This afternoon I am going to begin the journey of fianl edits and retyping the manuscript for my book into Word. You can rest assured that I will be putting it onto disc or floppy this time. Actually I am excited about it, as this is the final leg before sending it out to agents and publishers. I have a goal of 60 days for this, but no later than May 1, which is probably more doable.

I have to make a decision about going to a seminar in Saint Louis next month for authors. I am not sure that it would be worth the weekend it will take for it. Am thinking that my time will be much better served just staying here and typing. Something to think about.

Since today is going to be a cold gray one, I am going to have to make my own sunshine. This morning I was awakened by a cardinal singing the most beautiful song to his mate. They are so joyful even before the sun comes up that I couldn't lay in bed any longer. I hope that whatever your plans you have a wonderful day.

Cruise travelogue will continue tomorrow for those of you following the story.
Until tomorrow,


Saturday, February 19, 2005


Happy Saturday!

The travel monologues will returen Monday, as many of you read your blogs while at work. Today, however, I am thrilled to announce that my move to DSL has finally been completed and dial up is a distant memory.

The bad thing is that I have a new email address. It is as follows, and I will be glad to hear from you.


Have a wonderful day, and I will see you in the morning. I am making the trek to a new gym this morning and will be joining there. It seems this is a week of change! Keeps you young.

Until tomorrow,


Friday, February 18, 2005


We had an early wake up call, as the ship arrived in Belize during the wee hours of the morning. Matt had to leave ship for a scuba diving excursion by eight a.m., and I was scheduled for a massage in the spa at the same time. We watched the activity in the bay while we ate breakfast on the pool deck. There were two other cruise ships already at anchor, one a sister Norwegian ship, and the second being a Carnival ship. This would be the first time we had separate activities, but I am not certified to scuba dive and had never had a massage, so the choice seemed logical to me.

The spa was isolated and adjacent to the gym facility. Beautiful soothing music was playing, which was calming in itself. After being on a busy itinerary for several days, I was looking forward to this experience. The young woman who was to be my masseuse was from Romania. Her accent was lilting and quiet, and from the beginning I was wondering how I would stay awake. For the next ninety minutes I was in heaven. They use a hot oil scented lightly with lime and employ several massage techniques aimed at total relaxation. It was a wonderful experience.

After leaving the spa, I changed for the tender to the British commonwealth of Belize. Matt would be gone for the biggest part of the day scuba diving the barrier reefs, so I wanted to do some sightseeing and shopping before the ship sailed at 5:00p.m. I took the tender to shore, walking the shopping district and enjoying the sights and smells of Belize. Like Honduras, it is lush and green, with beautifully maintained buildings rich with history. Like much of Mexico, there is a rich Mayan history and influence, and there are many ruins of temples and palaces. It is believed that Belize was the heart of the Mayan civilization at one time. Belize is bounded on the north by the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, and the south and west by Guatemala. There are wonderful and varied cultures, languages and ethnic groups in Belize. Among them are Creole, Garfuna, Mestizo, Spanish, Maya, English, Mennonite, Lebanese, Chinese, and Eastern Indian. There is wonderful harmony and religious tolerance, and Belize is known for its friendly peoples. English is the most widely spoken language, with Spanish becoming more widely spoken, but you can also hear Creole as you stroll the marketplace. Belize is unique in Central America. It is a true democracy, operating under the British parliamentary system. Freedom of the press is practiced without censorship. The population is only 280,000, with 50 percent being under the age of 18 years old.

Belize is known for its marine environment, and boasts the second longest barrier reef in the world and three major offshore atolls. Matt had been excited about the scuba diving here, which was the main reason we took this particular cruise. I had wanted to take a city tour, but since I couldn’t experience that with Matt this trip, I opted to step off of the main plaza and shop the little market stalls the next street over. I like to see how the people really live in each destination, which gives a truer insight to the culture than the tourist district by the docks. The people and market were immaculate. I found them friendly, helpful and eager to visit. The smells of their midday meal cooking reminded me that I hadn’t eaten yet, so I started back toward the docks. On my way there I found a unique little gallery featuring art and craft items made by the local people. I picked up a few things there before going back to the Wet Lizard. This is the entry point back to the tourist district. I didn’t want to eat without Matt, as we had planned to eat together onboard around two or so, depending on his dive. I ordered a bottle of locally brewed beer, which was all they had. I took pictures from the second floor bar area of the bay, and the many people who were shopping and sightseeing. I bought a T shirt from the Wet Lizard to commemorate my first solo excursion from the ship. While I took the tender back to the Norwegian Sea, I wondered about what Matt was experiencing on his dive.

I was aboard, had packed away my souvenirs, and was laying in the sun on the pool deck half an hour later. I spent a wonderfully lazy afternoon in the hot tub, enjoying the magazine I had brought, listening to the Calypso band, and the warm tropical sun. I ordered a cold Corona to tide me over until Matt arrived, but he was delayed more than an hour from what he thought. Since I felt pretty pink and the grills were busy preparing a barbeque by the pool, I changed clothes and decided to eat. I had just settled with my plate when I saw him scanning the deck for me. I had moved into the shade since I was burned ( I wasn’t looking forward to Matt discovering that, since he had warned me to be careful of the hot tropical sun). Not seeing me, he went in to the restaurant. I set aside my food, and looked for him, but didn’t find him. In the interim there was an ice carving event going on by the pool, so I perched on a deck chair to watch. While scanning the crowd on the upper pool deck, I saw the most handsome man leaned against the rail watching the carving demonstration. My heart always skips a beat when I see Matt, and as long as I live it will be that way. He was watching intently and didn’t see me, so I made my way to him. He had his shirt off, warming in the sun after spending the day under the sea. It was wonderful to hear about his day, tell him what I had experienced, and just relax.

As we watched the ship, maneuvered by the capable hand of Captain Lars, leave the beautiful waters of Belize, we shared barbeque meats prepared by the staff at the huge grills by the pool. We sat in the lounge chairs until the sun set and the ship was back out in the open water bound for Cancun.

Back in our stateroom, I showed Matt the treasures I had found, and we showered for dinner. There was just a little time for a short nap, which was wonderful. It had been a good day, but I didn’t escape being chastised for cooking myself in the sun.

Dinner was festive. We had oysters Rockefeller, and several other dishes I had never tried before. We had wondered why there hadn’t been any cheesecake as yet, and tonight was our night. It was a poppy seed cheesecake with a raspberry sauce. Excellent.

As we went to sleep, Captain Lars was guiding the ship to Cancun, which was our last port of call. Just another day in paradise.

Until tomorrow,


Thursday, February 17, 2005


After such a relaxing day on Cozumel, Captain Lars set sail for the Bay Islands of Honduras while we were at dinner. The seas were calm now and as we walked on deck the warm tropical temperatures felt wonderful. When we went to bed, the gentle movement of the ship lulled me into peaceful slumber.

Tuesday morning dawned bright and clear. We watched the sunrise from our window before we left for breakfast. It was such a beautiful day we ate poolside to enjoy the sunshine and warmth. After a nice workout we decided to go up to one of the lounges which had a wall of windows and enjoy some quiet time. I took some magazines and Matt took a book, but when we entered the lounge a dance class was in session. It was still quiet, as the group was small. Alternately watching the class and reading, the warmth of the sun coming in the window was intoxicating. Such a nice interlude. Oh for a nap, but I didn’t want to miss anything.

We arrived in Roatan, Honduras shortly before noon. We ate lunch on the pool deck so we could see the sights of Roatan as we sailed into port. I was surprised by the lush green trees that cover the island. It is hilly instead of flat, and looks like a tropical rain forest. The Bay Islands are located 36 miles north from mainland Honduras, with Roatan being the largest of the eight islands, but only forty miles long and four miles wide at the widest point. It is a fishing island, with main exports being lobster, shrimp, conch, and fish. There are no traffic lights on the island. One of the island’s most popular attractions is the offshore reef system. The second largest barrier reef in the world lies along the Caribbean Sea, and offers the most spectacular diving and snorkeling in the Western Caribbean.

We had booked a Canopy Tour, which included zip lining and snorkeling at spectacular Tabyana Beach. We had a short walk through a local marketplace to catch the shuttle, but it was great. We were approached on every side with local wares, and mostly by children. We planned to shop on the way back from the tour, but the sights, sounds and smells of the market stalls were haunting. It was plain to see that Roatan was a much poorer island than Cozumel.

The ride to Tabyana Beach was an experience. The cars and buses drive wherever they want to, and local police widely ignore this. We drove by both poor homes and fabulous ones under construction. Thick lush jungle was everywhere, but when we came down the hill to the beach, the white sand and clear aqua waters were beautiful as billed. We had an hour to lay on the beach before our tour, but the water was too cold for us to want to snorkel.

The zip lining was wonderful. For some reason I wasn’t afraid to do this. I suppose because Matt had done so much of it and loved it, his enthusiasm was contagious. The harness took quite a while to get into, but once that was accomplished, a few simple instructions were all we needed to take the first line. For those of you who don’t know what it is, you have a metal clip that attaches you to the steel cable- about the size of a pencil in diameter. Once that is done you simply sit, lift your feet, and off you go. It is a fast ride through the tree tops of the jungle, and as you come into the next platform, you slow yourself by pulling down on the cable behind your head. The guy on the platform catches you before you hit the tree, unhooks you from the cable you came in on and hooks you up to the next one. You have to take a little hop up to accomplish this, on a platform about two feet wide. All in all it was thrilling. I felt like Tarzan swinging from tree to tree, and we were making our way from the top of the hill where we started back down to the beach. The smell of the lush undergrowth, the sight of the lush greenery of the jungle, and the sounds of the tropical birds and monkeys was amazing.

Before we knew it we were done. On the walk back to the beach, we watched the others in our group come zipping in. Quite a sight. We had a cold beer before being taken back to the markets. I had several things to buy, but the shell selection was spectacular. The young boys gathered them and cleaned them for sale, and what cost around twenty dollars anywhere else could be had here for just a few dollars.

Once back aboard ship, we stood at the rail and watched the sunset over Roatan. It was a quiet, peaceful end to a wonderful afternoon. We had a relaxing dinner before attending the Cabaret show, which was a musical and dancing tribute to Grease. It was a lot of fun.

Captain Lars had successfully navigated us out of Coxen Hole and back out into the sea toward Belize. Our time was going too fast. Slow down the ship, Captain Lars!

Until tomorrow,


Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Monday morning we woke to dazzling sunshine. Looking out the window we could see land out the window, but we weren’t due to dock in Cozumel until 11:00am. Since the day was to be a full one, we ate an early breakfast. Matt and I had decided the night before to attend the kick boxing class on the pool deck at 9:00am, and since the sea had calmed and the wind had stopped blowing at last, we went.

The warm weather and sunshine had drawn everyone up to the pool deck, and while we exercised we could enjoy the sight of everyone strolling by, eating breakfast, sitting in the two hot tubs, and laying in the sun. After the workout, we decided to sit in the hot tub a while. We changed into swim suits, and gathered a book for Matt and my pen and tablet so I could write. We arrived in Cozumel around 10:00am, so the pool deck was pretty well deserted. We were an hour ahead of schedule, which always thrilled Captain Lars. Must have been the tail winds. He announced our arrival and the weather, and wished us a good day of shopping and excursions. The people who had booked excursions were the first to leave the ship, and since we didn’t have any for this port of call, sat in the hot tub watching passengers and all of the activity. The hot tub was wonderful but the lure of the sun was strong, so we stretched out on deck chairs like two lazy cats. It was wonderful.

We ate lunch aboard ship, and after showers and a change of clothes, we left the ship.
Cozumel is called the Island of Swallows. There is a huge Mayan influence there, and they considered Cozumel to be a sacred shrine. Women made the twelve mile journey by boat from the Yucatan peninsula at least once in her lifetime to worship Ixchel, the goddess of fertility, wife of Itzamna, the supreme Lord and Sun God. Life was relatively quiet until 1519 when Cortez arrived, marking a bitter struggle for Cozumel. The Spanish destroyed many of the Mayan temples and left a legacy of smallpox, which decimated the population. By 1600 Cozumel was completely abandoned. Pirates took advantage of the island’s isolation, but the island wasn’t re-inhabited until 1848. When Jaques Cousteau proclaimed the waters of Cozumel as some of the best in the world in 1961 the quiet island life was transformed into a world famous dive center. The island itself is only 33 miles long and 9 miles wide and considered the Crown Jewel of the Mexican Caribbean. With the clear aqua water and powdery white beaches, it is easy to see why.

We had no plans, so it was wonderful to stroll through the shopping district. Guitar music could be heard everywhere. Workers were busy with handpicks which were being used to remove old concrete sidewalks. The new ones were beautiful. Half of the sidewalk was a pale blue fashioned to look like the waves of the ocean. The other half was pain concrete, but there were birds etched into it. We ducked into Senor Frogs and Carlos ’n Charlie’s for a look see, but the young crowd was in abundance and the party atmosphere in full swing. We had spied a little cantina selling dollar Coronas, so we got one to drink while we shopped. We watched an old man hand carving wooden bowls and dishes in various shapes. They were beautifully rendered. After I finished with shopping, we went back to the cantina and sat down at a table with another ice cold Corona. I like to experience the little out of the way places that offer a more authentic flavor of the local life and culture, and this was it. Tourists were taking pictures of the guitarist who was strolling among the guests singing lively Mexican songs. This is my favorite memory from Cozumel. Sitting at that wooden table, people laughing and clapping, the thrilling crescendo of the guitar music, the various languages being spoken all around us, the taste of the ice cold beer and the tangy bite of the lime, and holding hands with Matt and sharing it all with him. He has been there many times before, but I hope that seeing it through my eyes and seeing my enthusiasm made some special memories for him as well. We had a wonderful interlude there before heading back to the ship.

After a relaxing siesta, we had a good workout in the gym. Dinner was a wonderful mix of flavors. We chose steak and roast duck for entrees, and of course the requisite three desserts. The highlight of the evening for me was the stage show. I wasn’t sure when they announced him that I would enjoy it, but Christopher Riggins was a wonderful surprise. He is a tenor, and has sung for Presidents and royalty alike. The minute he opened his mouth, my heart soared. His talent is amazing, and the concert flew by. He sang many of the famous works written for tenors, but the highlight was from Phantom of the Opera. You could have heard a pin drop in the lounge, and he received a standing ovation. Nothing lifts my spirits like good music, and it was a wonderful end to a perfect day.

Life just doesn’t get much better than that.

Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Sunday morning the ship was still tossing and the wind continued to blow hard. Although it was rough, there is a hypnotic quality to the movement of the sea that reminded me of being on a passenger train.

With no sun and the cooler temperatures we couldn’t lay by the pool, so after a nice breakfast, we went over the shore excursions for the four ports of call. This took some time, as they are many and varied. There were thirty-seven different tours that were offered for Cozumel, but in the end we decided to just enjoy the culture and shopping district on our own.

Each day Captain Lars gave a navigational update over the PA system. He had a thick Scandinavian accent, so it was difficult sometimes to hear him. His talks were entertaining though, and I enjoyed doing an impression of him.

The casino did a brisk business, and there were various bingo events throughout the day. Daily art auctions were held with complimentary champagne and art raffle in the thousands of dollars. They featured a different artist each day, but this was original art, and therefore very expensive.

Of course there were cooking, Spanish, napkin folding, sports, fitness and spa, and dance lessons throughout the day. Oh, and for those who missed the sail away life boat drill, there was a makeup drill. The big event for Sunday however, was the Superbowl. In the afternoon the sun broke through the clouds, and the Corona helmets began to gather out by the pool where the pregame barbeque was going on. The game was to be broadcast on the TVs in the rooms, but there were no commercials. The network feed was broadcast on the big screen TVs at the various lounges.

As we came from a late lunch, the Calypso band was playing by the pool. Since the Captain’s dinner and formal portraits were to take place in the evening, we decided to work out and run at the gym before getting ready. It was a trick to stay on a treadmill due to the degree of ship motion, but by holding on to the bar we made it. It was extremely warm in the gym for some reason, and although I didn’t get motion sick, I did get overheated and thought I might disgrace myself by fainting. A cool towel and sheer willpower saved the day, and the air conditioning in the stateroom snapped me right out of it.

Dressing for a formal event is fun. I hadn’t worn a gown for a very long time, so it was like being a princess. Matt always dresses up well, and as we stepped out of the room, we looked striking in our black formal attire. The portraits didn’t take as long as I thought they would, so before I knew it we were being seated for dinner.

The meal was wonderful. We had cocktails, Russian caviar, soup, salad, Maine lobster, and shared three different desserts. The service and food were impeccable. As we walked to the cabaret show, the score of the football game was very close. The show was a musical tribute to the Oscars, Tony’s and Grammy’s, and was well done. The production team is young and full of energy, and by the time the finale was over, I was exhausted for them.

The cruise director announced the New England Patriots ahead 24-21, with a few minutes remaining. By the time we made our way out of the lounge, the score was final. We had intended to stay up and do some dancing, but the romantic music didn’t start for another hour, and after two cocktails we didn’t think we could make it until 11:30 just to dance. So, hand in hand we made out way back to the stateroom.

Somewhere the Superbowl victory party was in full swing, but I didn’t hear a thing. The moon was shining in the room, the ship was rocking more gently now, and we were going to wake up close to Cozumel. That of course, is a story for another day.

Until tomorrow,


Monday, February 14, 2005


After landing in Houston, Texas, we claimed our baggage and took a cab to the dock to board the ship. I was excited, having never been on a cruise before. Matt provided helpful and interesting conversation along the way, but nothing could have prepared me for how big the ship was. Sitting at the dock, the Norwegian Sea was magnificent. She was appointed in white with blue accents, and in the afternoon breeze the flags were flapping smartly.

Immigration was festive. Matt and I were reminded of the vast difference from immigration in Cancun when we traveled to Tulum. Norwegian Cruise Line is very efficient, and in no time we were registered, handed our room keys and were posing for the traditional photo by the ship and life preserver. Once that was accomplished, we were free to board the ship.

I will always remember the walk up the gangway. I was secretly hoping for the opening scene from Titanic I suppose, but the boarding process is far removed from that in the modern age. There are no throngs of people, family and friends waving from the dock, no confetti or streamers, and no bands playing on the upper deck. In reality, it was spectacular in a different way. We walked quietly up the gangway, which gave me an idea of how awesome and huge the ship really is. When we stepped through the first doorway, the hostess swiped our key cards. Our pictures popped up on the computer screen, identifying us. Once clearing this last hurdle, we stepped into the beautiful Crystal Court.

Here, the reality of being onboard a real cruise ship hit me. Piano music was offered by a man in a tuxedo playing at a white grand piano, the sound of water tinkling emanated from a huge crystal water feature in the middle of the court, and both the reception and Dive-In desks were doing brisk business. It was a struggle to keep the tears from falling. It was so beautiful. Even more so than I had seen it in my daydreams. Another dream realized. Our stateroom was on the same floor, so I followed Matt to the room to leave our carry on bags. I had been expecting a little porthole, but we had a large rectangular window. After freshening up a bit, we realized we were hungry. There was a little daily paper on the vanity, so we found where the restaurants were located and enjoyed a nice late lunch overlooking the docks of Houston. Probably the most impressive sight from the ship was the mountains of luggage. Everywhere. Somewhere our bags were sitting with the purple tags indicating our floor and room number. Simply amazing.

After lunch we strolled the pool deck and watched the activity. This was the deck that the confetti, streamers, and waving crowds of people would have been in previous years. Instead Matt and I stood alone, but in my heart there was confetti, streamers, waving crowds of people and music. The air was a bit cool, so we went back to our stateroom. As I wrote briefly last week, we were able to skip out on the life boat drill. Our bags had already arrived, so while the ship prepared to sail and the anchor was cranked up, we unpacked and stowed the bags under the bed. Although compact, the room was beautifully appointed. The Captain, Lars Bergstrom, announced us underway at precisely four o’clock, and the ship slipped silently away from the dock.

Matt and I decided to work out in the gym, and were able to watch our first sunset from there. While we were running on the treadmills, Captain Lars and the crew gained the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Having already seen weather reports indicating a strong turbulence in the Gulf, we weren’t surprised when the ship began to roll. I must say that I was surprised I wasn’t sick, but the rolling of the ship presents challenges.

After showering and dressing for dinner, we ate at a wonderful table for two overlooking the ocean. The restaurants are five star, so I wasn’t surprised at the quality of the meal. We toasted the voyage with champagne, and Matt told me about the events that would unfold over the next week while we enjoyed dinner.

The evening show was a surprise. I was expecting singing and dancing, which there was a bit of, but the headliner was a comedian from Hannibal, MO. I wasn’t surprised when he stepped out on stage in a cowboy hat, but he won me over with being really funny. The whole routine centered around the size of the bathrooms in the staterooms and the amenities of same.

By the time we finally got back to our room, we were exhausted. Even though the ship was rocking, I was finally able to fall asleep. The day had been so exciting, and the week stretched out ahead of us…..I was a long, long way from my country road.

Until tomorrow,


Saturday, February 12, 2005


Greetings from the only person I know with a white bow in the middle of their back. Of course, forgetting the sun block was an honest oversight on my part, but it can be the same fashion statement as having your hair braided with beads in the Caribbean. AND, a far cry from the legions of guys walking around with the Corona helmets full of beer.

At any rate, reality came back with a thud and more than a few raindrops when I landed in KC this afternoon. A wonderful time was had by all, and I will of course write about it in some detail once I return to Smalltown tomorrow.

I have been enjoying pizza and beer with my brother George, and my best friend Diane and her family. Diane arrived to welcome me home with a whole Cheesecake Factory cheesecake, knowing how sad I would be to be back already and heading home tomorrow.

One can't eat Cheesecake Factory cheesecake alone, so George provided the Captain Morgan rum in honor of my return from paradise. All in all it was a grand welcome home celebration. In the morning I will be headed south to Smalltown.

Thank you for all of your good wishes, and I hope that in your lifetime there is a fantasy trip like this. Pictures will have to be relayed to my brother John after developing. I have no skills at that sort of thing.

Until I return Monday morning,
Becky, just off the boat


Monday, February 07, 2005

Ola From Sunny Cozumel!!! 

Greetings from the sunny shores of Cozumel. This is our first trip ashore shine embarkation on Saturday morning. It has been a rough couple of days, but I am proud to say that I haven't disgraced myself by getting sick. Last night was our formal night, and we had pictures made. For all of you Kansas City folks, the black gown was the winner. Glad I was correct in my thinking there.

We have had caviar from Russia, lobster from the shores of Maine, champagne, but today it is all about the $1 Corona and shopping for bargains in the shopping district. This morning we did kick boxing by the pool, yesterday and Saturday jogging on a treadmill looking out at the ocean.

I hate to rush, but there is fun to be had. We are going to stop at Senor Frog's on the way back to the ship for more Corona. I'll have one for you. Tomorrow, it's zip lining in Honduras.

Until next time,
On a Mexican street in Cuzumel.


Saturday, February 05, 2005


My chariot awaits to whisk us off to the airport for an early flight to Houston. There we will board one of the Norwegian ships for eight days in the Caribbean. This should be so much fun, and another trip of a lifetime.

My mother is a fan of the saying "Good things come to those who wait." In this case, it was a long wait, but dreams do come true. Take care while I am away, and I'll see you next weekend when I get back.

May God bless and keep you,


Friday, February 04, 2005


Good morning from Shawnee, Kansas. I made the trip just fine, even after three attempts to leave Smalltown. I would get a mile or two down the road and remember something I needed to go back home to get. This resulted in being an hour behind schedule before I even left Smalltown city limits.

The drive was terribly foggy and gray, but an hour out of Kansas City the sun broke through the clouds and I could see blue sky. An omen. It is always wonderful and heart wrenching to come back to the neighborhood that I grew up in. My brother George bought a house on the next street up from where our family lived. We go by our old house any time we go to town for something, and I always think how small it looks now. The yard looks different, and the old neighbors have all moved away.

Some things change over time, but one thing does not. Friends. I spent the afternoon with Diane, my best girlfriend from teen years. We had a wonderful time shopping, eating, and catching up. We always laugh a lot, cry a little, and enjoy the time together. We are so different in many ways, yet we have a common bond that is like coming home every time we are together.

After dinner, which was her treat by the way, thank you very much, we went back to my brother's house. After unloading my bags and visiting with George, Diane left for home and I went to bed.

Today I am a lady of leisure. Sipping tea, watching the Today show, and resting before appointments in the afternoon. That will hopefully help fend off the cold that is trying to take hold of me.

Off for another cup of tea and an English muffin.
Until tomorrow,


Thursday, February 03, 2005


I am glad to report that the Philippine man who came to take his tests yesterday passed the hardest part. He still has two more to take, and he will probably finish up this week. After watching his frustration and stress of the past two weeks, it was a beautiful sight to see a huge smile light up his face when I told him he passed.

This morning I am leaving for Kansas City. I will be able to post from my brother’s house tomorrow and Saturday, but after that I will be gone on a Caribbean cruise with Matt. I will return to Smalltown February 13.

I am finishing up my packing this morning, have a few errands to run, then will head north. It was just one year ago this week that we were in Hawaii. What a magical year it has been for us. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to take a cruise to the Caribbean, and next week that dream will be realized. To be sharing it with Matt makes it perfect.

I trust that you will all take good care while I am away, and since I cannot post from the ship, I promise to tell you all about the trip when I return. Today I will be spending the afternoon with my best friend Diane when I get to KC. This is always a power babble event, and if you can believe it, I usually do more listening than talking.

Have a wonderful day. May God bless and keep you.
Until tomorrow in KC,


Wednesday, February 02, 2005


For the past couple of weeks, we have had some men from the Philippines taking driving tests for commercial license in our offices. I have empathy for them, as they are trying to get licenses so that they can get jobs and earn a living. Although we have tests in nine different foreign languages, the commercial tests are not offered in translation.

I supervise a traveling crew, which means that I drive to a different town each day to administer the driving tests. In order to test each day, these men have to be driven from one town to the next. It is a hardship, yet they greet us each day with a big smile. At this point, two of the three men have completed their tests. One has a little harder time with our language, so he is yet to pass any of them.

I can guarantee that this morning when we arrive at our station, this man will be waiting. It literally takes him all day to take the three tests he needs to pass, due to the language problem. Our area is in the middle of a winter storm warning today, so business will be slow. I plan to help him understand the questions, which will hopefully help.

Many people in our area have strong feelings against those who come here from other shores to make a new life. This attitude is apparent in the faces of those we deal with each day. I believe it stems from fear, rather than a real belief that foreigners should go back where they came from. Not knowing how to deal with people who are different than we are in any respect evokes strong emotion. It is my job to not only guide the people I work with toward tolerance, acceptance, and helpfulness, but the people that visit our stations.

Yesterday I wrote about someone needing a smile. These three men arrived first thing. It was easy to offer them kindness. There were several unlovely and obstinate local people that gave us problems, however. The more you try to help some people the more hateful they become. Should I stop trying? Absolutely not. Do I lose my temper and ask them to leave the office? Of course not. Would I like to at times? A resounding yes! I am human after all.

Today it is my challenge to help this man from the Philippines get through three tests. It is tedious and nerve racking to find a way to communicate the questions. I have become very good at drawing pictures and using my hands to help understanding. Cross your fingers for both of us that today will be the day. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the happiness in their faces when they pass.

I would hope that if I were to be in a foreign country someone would help me as well. That is the triumph of the human spirit, and what separates us from the animal kingdom. I just know that you will come across someone in need of a kind word or smile today. Be the first to offer that smallest kindness, and you will feel ten feet tall!

Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, February 01, 2005


My alarm clock must hate me. I set it just like I always do before I went to bed, but for some reason it didn’t go off until exactly an hour past when I set it. I have been taking cold medication, so I didn’t wake at the usual hour. When I did wake, it was with the awful feeling that something was wrong. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

I’m sure that my brother John could diagnose this phobia, but I have a fear of sleeping too late and being late for work. Knowing this, I always set the alarm with plenty of time for me to write my blog, attend to email, eat breakfast, and get ready for work. Wouldn’t you know that this morning is trash day, so I have to remember to take it out and put the bills in the mailbox for the carrier to pick up.

I know that you could say that there was some cosmic force or unseen hand making sure that even though I went to bed early, I got to sleep another hour this morning. It is useless to reason why, as now I have to deal with the result of the snafu. Added to that, one of my crew has already called in sick.

Is it too late to crawl back into bed, pull the covers up over my head and start all over again? What I really think is that I am being tested. I get hassled all the time because I am what people have labeled a “happy face girl”. I have found that others for the most part are irritated by happy, positive people who greet the day with joy and anticipation. When they ask me how I am or greet me with a half hearted good morning, they get the full blast of a mega watt smile.

Usually I greet people first. It is just the way I am wired up. They know this about me, so there are no surprises. When I have a hurdle to jump before leaving the house, like this morning in losing a whole hour, I try to focus on being more cheerful than usual. Someone out there needs a smile, or a word of encouragement.

And so, it is with regret that I bid you a hasty farewell. I have an hour to make up, and I can’t wait to find out who it is that is in need of a friend today. Happy Tuesday!

Until tomorrow,