Saturday, February 26, 2011

Now what? Or maybe the journey resumes...

Stumbling around on the 'net last night, I came across a site listing writing prompts to inspire mere amateurs like me. Except that they all started with, "List your top 10...(favorite cookie flavors, phobias, most embarrassing dates, etc, etc.)"

Yeesh, people, I couldn't have come up with that on my own?

I rather prefer the rant, the improv, going wherever the ideas take me. It's the initiation that's difficult for me; once the fingers start typing, words and ideas come out line after line and it's actually more challenging to know when to stop and how to wrap up.

I suppose I could list my pet peeves here (when I'm trapped in a snarl of traffic on the turnpike for hours, as I was last week, every irksome detail instantly comes to mind and I could type away madly--if I had the laptop with me).

But there is always that trip journal I want to re-start. And the day to be documented is a low-key day: a transition day from land to sea. Maybe that works?

We rise early, complete the final packing of our bags, convene in the lobby awaiting our minivans. We watch the other cruisers mount the sleek bus, their bags being hurled in the hold beneath the seating area. Keep an eye on our bags lest they become intermingled with those travelers' belongings--we all have ID tags attached in advance, identifying the cruise line and the cabins. The other travelers seem more sophisticated than we are--a bunch of ethnics from Buffalo NY and suburban Philly, with gangly teens in tow and a hypercaffeinated 4 year old hopping amongst us.

The bus departs, clearing the way for two oversize vans to appear and we shuffle ourselves into two equal groups. Plenty of room, except for backpacks which are convenient and not, simultaneously. I can never figure that out--how a backpack is the best way to carry books and personal items since it prevents arm strain and is less likely to be left behind. And yet try to get into a car and they expand dramatically, crowding laps, getting dropped on feet, and generally being bothersome.

Our driver is a woman, looking to be of Hispanic origins, and she has an amazingly leaden foot. We zip along the motorway at speeds approaching 90MPH, leaving the official Crystal bus far behind. In addition to her hyperactive foot, she is quite the conversationalist. Well, my dad goads her on, asking her all sorts of questions about the UK, her heritage, the shuttle business, the port of Dover...I lose track of the topics they cover and instead focus on the delightful place names of Britain, pointing out the more amusing ones to the kids.

It seems easily two hours, maybe more, before the landscape becomes more rugged and I can tell we are approaching the White Cliffs of Dover. Decorated with the ruins of a castle, of course.

The Cliffs really aren't white; they weren't white when I saw them at age 18 heading to the ferry that would take me to the Continent. Today they are a creamy beige but still impressive as the blue waves crash against their base, over and over endlessly. We'll be on those waters soon. J decides that we must return to Dover, and soon, to explore that castle. Her transformation to Anglophile has been rapid and complete.

I don't recognize the port, despite having been there twice; I guess the world changes over 30 years? I am surprised that ours is not the only cruise ship departing; I had never envisioned Dover having the type of cachet that merits being a cruise port (equal to imagining Royal Caribbean departing from Penn's Landing. Sorry, can't be done). But it is old and new and somehow everything flows and we are in a newish blue painted building being welcomed by Crystal staff and having our passports and documents checked.

It's really happening. Wow.

My vision from now until the rest of the day is blue, aqua blue. The customer service center, the uniforms of the staff, the gangway, the tags on our suitcases. We board and the first order of business--is lunch. The deckside cafe is aqua blue and it is our first meeting with Kiko and the other staff, their smiles welcoming. Truly a feeling that all things are possible...want a Shirley Temple? Want two?

The breezes, gentle, cross the deck and brush over my arms. Instant relaxation. This is going to be some adventure.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day Two

I narrowly escaped the house this morning: I first awoke at 8:02, squinted at the clock, still felt drowsy. My next glance at the clock revealed it was 9:56. Two hours later. It's been a difficult week with a lot of work stress; I believe I'm working hard but cannot manage to meet expectations in the 50 hrs I'm allotting. Matters were not helped by a late phone call from an insurance company inquiring about my credentials: "we haven't been able to contact anyone from your internship site" (circa 1990). "Of course," I respond. "It was 20 years ago. They're all dead." [For best effects, roll your eyes as you read that line.]

Additionally, I needed to dig through 11 months of charts--shoved into my desk drawer in a perfectly random order--to find notes from a patient I saw back in, um, July? In some ways I was grateful to be the only one in the office, blasting Beethoven at full volume, kneeling unshod on the dusty rug and tossing papers into piles while stapling madly. Better my co-workers not know what a holy disaster my office became. It didn't help that hubby was out, #1 son was at a friend's house, and kids #2 & #3 were ignoring the phone. When I finally got through they were starving...but of course no one had the presence of mind to call Mom and say, 'Where are you?" (Or to listen to the message I left on the machine.)

I reheated some coffee this morning and plotted my getaway--I had a coupon for a treat at a local coffee shop--alas, I heard the thump of teenaged feet and had to (partially) admit that I was going to go out. To the dry cleaner and library and farm they really need to know about treats when a half-dozen of their fav bagels are sitting on the counter?

Ugh. A pile of work papers is waiting for me at home. But first, can I buy a new shirt, drop off the used books and the empty egg cartons, talk to Mrs. Yong about the crud on THE BACK (!?) of my son's suitjacket and how she might be able to remove it?

I think I need another Saturday this week. But at least: I wrote today.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I resolve...

So somewhere around August, all my blogging stalled out. Heck, I still have over two weeks of vacation to share--the ship hasn't yet left the dock. And yet I am paralyzed by...well, guilt, maybe? Or perfectionism?

I had ideas, plenty of them, that floated through my head and deserved a post of their own. The mid-term elections. Getting my kid through the college applications process. My thoughts on healthcare versus big business. What "family values" should mean. And does mean in many European countries. The recipe for quick cinnamon-swirl-in-a-pan that I heavily modified from a magazine ad. Living on the east coast. Why the little electric vehicles in Zermatt are so cute (wait, that's vacation again).

But there was always a deep pang when I considered going "off-topic": I've got to finish the vacation blog. I must finish telling about the vacation. Notice how effective that's been in encouraging me to write?

I typically don't make New Year's resolutions because my success rate is pitiful. I always vow to exercise more, lose weight, send greeting cards for the birthdays of family and friends, clean out the closets and the garage. And it doesn't happen. After enough repetitions of this pattern, I had to acknowledge, even accept it was futile.

But this year I experienced a bit of a shift: I volunteered to write a brief article for an online newsletter posted on my employer's public website. I get the assignment at the end of December, having mere days to put something together. I want something timely, with a bit of a research base, of interest to the community, and on a relevant topic (the month prior someone wrote about the dangers of synthetic marijuana. Okay, then). The answer: New Year's resolutions, which a small study from Scranton PA shows can be successful. If done right.

Well, the article had an affect on me (heaven knows if anyone else read it). So I chose two tasks that were simple, concrete, and achievable...and meaningful to me.

#1 was to improve my asthma (I had been hacking since Thanksgiving with a junky cough that wouldn't quit). Not completely accomplished, but major improvements occurred once I saw my new GP, changed meds, and worked on getting more sleep, being better hydrated, and watching my weight. Oh, exercise has gotta be a part of that too, but give this poor woman a chance!

#2 was to write. Blogging would be a good way to do that.

I used to commute by train to my previous job, and I loved the train. I would read, sometimes chat with my co-worker when we left together, and eventually I realized I could write. So I journaled at least one leg of the trip, every day. And I had disciplined myself to blog on other days.

And then I left that job for my current one, which meant replacing the train with a 45 minute drive (or slog, depending on traffic), and replacing blogging/journaling with audiobooks. And now the challenge of trying to find the place and time to blog. And to imbed the discipline of writing back in my life. Writing is part of who I am; I'm not so willing to let it go.

So, finally in month 2 of 2011, I have sat down to write. Can you all serve as my conscience, reminding me to express myself at least once a week? If I can floss daily, I can certainly write once a week. At least. No guilt about undocumented vacations needed.