adventure

Cruisin’

For the first time in a long time, our family went on a full-fledged vacation together. It took several reschedulings, but we made it out on the Anthem of the Seas this past summer.

I had never been on a cruise. I have friends who swear by cruising as a travel way of life. After making my way around the Caribbean and coming back to land, I will say that cruising is it’s own kind of thing. I can see why people love it, for sure.

Here are some of my ups and downs of cruising:

The biggest plus…It’s all done for you. We come from a restaurant family. When we go on vacation, we generally always pick a place to stay with a kitchen and cook for ourselves. On the cruise, I loved never having to cook or clean up. Just grab a plate, have some food, and away you go. It was an amazing break. It helped us all to actually relax. No laundry to do. Even the bed was made each day. Bonus was ordering coffee to be brought to the room at 6 am each day. Which leads me to my next cruising kudo…

The water, of course. Our cabin had a balcony. I don’t think I would go on a cruise without it. Waking up, rolling out of bed for coffee delivery then taking 10 steps to sit on the balcony and watch the water, the rainbows, the dolphins, all of it. It was soothing at all times of the day and always the perfect view.

Endless entertainment. There was always something going on..usually many things from early morning yoga to late night ballroom dancing. I loaded my app with activities I might be interested in, from trivia at all hours to Elton John tribute performers, to a pretty amazing ice show (yup, an ice rink on a ship!). We played mini-golf and rode the water slide. Even a roving piano player who fit into elevators. I don’t drink, but drinking sure is a way of life on cruises. So was gambling (which I also skipped). And shopping, which didn’t really hold much charm on the ship. But the shows and activities were interesting. You could see the ship was designed to appeal to many different people and interests. (Kids clubs, teen events, adult pools, etc.) There were lots of families on board, and people of all ages. There was also a tour group of about 500 teens from Brazil who were quite busy taking insta-photos most of the time. So, you can customize things as you see fit, doing as much or as little as you like. We went to the gym each day, walked on the deck, grabbed a water for trivia, and just took it all in.

Learning as we go… There are so many little quirks to watch. People who are clearly cruising pros had towel clips to claim their deck chairs first thing in the morning. Cute little magnets for their doors signifying events or celebrations. The carpets in the elevators change to remind you what day it is. All the little lingo things that make cruising unique. It’s interesting as a lifelong learner and observer.

I also love the towel creations. I seriously looked forward to this each day.

As for the downs, there was just one major limitation…

Ports of call. We had a lot of fun doing some excursions. Swimming with the pigs in the Bahamas, kayaking and snorkeling in Haiti, but the strange thing is that I don’t feel like I can say I’ve been to either of those places. Whether it’s for ease of movement or to keep your dollars going to the cruise line, you don’t just get to traipse around the island at your ports. In our case, there was no way to leave the Haitian port of Labadee and the Bahamas stop was the cruise company’s “private island.” Both were nice breaks, but just sort of surprising to a person who likes to go to little local spots when visiting a place. Each spot felt like its own little cruise line amusement park. Not good or bad necessarily, just interesting.

Would I go again? Probably, but I don’t think it would be a regular thing. It was quite the opportunity to relax. I might hop a cruise with a few friends just to get away and have it all taken care of. You can really focus on just chilling and not worrying about pretty much anything. After you book it, the work required is minimal which is a break from the research-intensive part of travel (which I enjoy). I’d love to see what they do on a more upscale cruise line (even Disney!)

Chalk it up in the experience books.

balance

A Peaceful Stroll

Today I took a quiet stroll.

Alone.

My stroll wasn’t preplanned rather it was spontaneous. Off I went. The air was cool and crisp. The shade of the trees added a drop in temperature to 8-10 degrees lower. Unexpected chill but maybe that alerted my senses more.

Hands in pockets watching the trees blow around me. Enjoying the scents in the air on this morning. My path wasn’t set. I was just shuffling along. Sometimes on pavement. Sometimes on gravel. I had the option of grass but didn’t drift that way.

On my stroll I thought about many things. I listened to many sounds. I viewed and observed all of what was around me. I genuinely felt thankful for where I am in life. For the good times as well as the bad times. Sometimes taking a back seat to your own life allows you to see your fortune. Not the fortune of money rather the fortune of life and living it. Experience.

I have experience. I can bend and flex and fit into any mix of people or settings. A skill I have worked on all my whole life. Experiences have helped me mature enough to know when I need to bend and flex. When to reframe the gloomy outlook. When to spark creativity.

My mind works in overdrive during the oddest times. Sometimes it’s in a sleep state. Sometimes on a random stroll. The beauty of a quiet mind yields results. I had a recent conversation with a teenage boy. He mentioned how long it takes him to fall asleep. I questioned why. He noted his mind takes time to wind down.

How I related in many ways. In life we all must find a balance for not only us but those closest to us. Kids especially have an always on mentality. Even more so than me. The younger generation is overactive online making it hard to flip the off switch. They are less likely to take the stroll alone I mentioned above. Therefore we should check in on those around us to see how we can help them recharge in non-traditional ways.

Sports or working out of sorts helps as the fatigue will wear one out.

A day at the beach can help. The sun. The sand. The limited reach of electronics. All add a level of fatigue.

An outing such as a hike, bowling, top golf, go-karting, kayaking, and so on. These little outings can provide a change of scenery. A lot of laughter. An escape from the planned days many are accustomed to. Adventures will let the mind settle and possibly add a dream state of what could be next.

Add mindfulness to your day or week. My Apple Watch tells me it’s a thing. Something to remind me to do daily, however I already know this. I am hopeful this post will spur thoughts or action in you or inspire you to influence another. 

Practice mindfulness.

Set a goal of peace for yourself.

Challenge yourself to do something different.

Riding your bike to work one day not driving may be just the variation you need. Not all can do this but if you can, try it. See how it goes. 

balance

Life being Lifey

Life is being extra lifey these days. War, weather, mental stresses, financial hardships, on and on and on. It’s everywhere. My work life, my personal life, family friends colleagues acquaintances are all full of it. People are messy in their best times. Now, their messiness is more like a shambles that spills out and spreads all over.

Assume people will get sick, have issues and set backs and not be able to execute. Assume extra tasks, jobs, and responsibilities are coming as a result of the balls that others will drop. It’s just how things are right now. How can I thrive, survive, persist, stay sane in light of these times?

Here’s how I am hanging on for this bumpy ride:

Eat well. There are certain things I don’t farm out to anyone. Nutrition is number one. I own every step of that process from planning it to shopping for it to cooking it to packing it up. I don’t like being off plan and I don’t always make great decisions when it’s left to the last minute, whatever I can get my hands on. I know that eating well makes me feel better and do better. End of story.

Exercise first thing in the morning. The only possible exception is Sundays. Exercise helps me manage stress and gives me a sense of accomplishment and strength right off the bat. Extra boost if I see my friends and get the social sweat aspect of life first thing as well, but this isn’t always possible. Movement always is!

Stay ahead on things, knowing curveballs are coming. Busy season is about to kick up. When I have an idle moment, I try to think about what task I can push one step (or more steps) forward. Throw the laundry in. Clean something. Stock the pantry with two instead of one. Hopefully, when deadlines come or something is needed, I am ready instead of behind the eight ball trying to juggle and patch things together. Being ahead on what I can eases my stress.

Sundays. Sundays are my reset and ready-for-the-week day. I try to protect this if at all possible. It is often the only day I start with an extended coffee time at home. I write. I pull out clothes for the week. I make lists. I try really hard not to drive anywhere further away than 10-15 minutes unless it is a soul-serving adventure. Looking ahead on the calendar, keeping Sundays “sacred” will get harder and harder as fall’s busy-ness kicks in. Even as I write this, my Saturday and Sunday has flipped for this weekend. But I still try to keep one day with fewer commitments. Go-go-go all the time wears me out.

Notice nature. Get out and immerse myself in nature as often as possible, even for a few minutes a day. Flower farming has been amazing for this. I have a couple of hours a week in our field, just cutting flowers, watching bees and butterflies, soaking up the fresh air. I keep our flowers with me at work and home so I see them many times a day. They always make me take a small mental pause and smile.

What could I add? I need to write more often. I need to stretch. I need to meditate. These fall too low on the to-do list right now and I know each of them would help. This paragraph is a challenge to myself!

These last few weeks have been a lot, at times bordering on “too much, I can’t handle it, get me out of here.” There have been times I’ve considered drinking alcohol, which I don’t do. I’ve considered massive carb-and-cheese-laden meals of things I don’t typically eat. These things float through my mind, I notice them, then remind myself what works for me.

“Self care” has been a buzzword over the last couple of years. It comes with these challenging times. Life being lifey just beats many of us down and we need to take care of ourselves. I am a firm believer that you can’t pour from an empty cup, meaning you have to keep yourself cared for before you can care for others. Self care looks different for everyone. For some, it means doing whatever you want, regardless of the craving and what it costs. For me, self care does not mean self indulgence. Sometimes it means reminding myself what my goals are and what makes me feel healthy. A cocktail isn’t self care for me. Or a piece of chocolate cake. Might feel good for a moment, but then I’m left dealing with the fallout from my own impulsiveness.

In the end, I can only try to control my own decisions, my time, and my attention. I have to redirect myself when the decisions others make upset me. Boundaries are ok to set and adhere to. I only have to explain myself to those select few people who warrant it. But for most people, “no” can absolutely be a complete sentence.

adventure

Staycation

I had a staycation this spring break. It was amazing. I didn’t need an expensive beach trip. I didn’t need the crowds of Disney. I didn’t need to figure out travel restrictions from state to state.

Instead I opted for easy. Simple. No frills. Just a local staycation. I stayed and played. Lunch dates sitting outside enjoying the sunshine and company. Outdoor activities with friends and family. From bike rides to hikes to just playing fetch with the dog in the yard.

A little catch-up on the home to do list. A little planting. A little too much shopping. Some driveway car washing. Home cooked meals some which were good and some not so good. That is funny in itself.

Slept in a few days because I could not that I should. A little mix up in the routine and mundane. Let the laundry sit in the dryer an extra day. Spent some time visiting on the spur of the moment. A little thing I missed during the pandemic.

No rules. No have tos. No timelines. Come and go as I please. Something as simple as camping in your own yard or toasting marshmallows over a fire pit can seem like a vacation. Whether you stay or whether you go is up to you. You can make memories either way.

For me a staycation was just right for me. Now my family may say otherwise but this Chick enjoyed the stay. As simple as it was.

mental health, perspective

The Web

Can you see the web hidden in the dew and the sunlight? If you can’t it’s okay. I will tell you about it.

The web is masterfully crafted. Many layers. Anchored skillfully. It was a beautiful web. There were spiders to the eye. There were no prey woven in. It was a midnight masterpiece I’m sure. One that a skillful spider crafted while I slept. 

When I awoke it caught my eye in sun. It was hard to get a picture but the dew and the sun made it stunning to admire. Not many can say they found a web stunning but on this day I did.

It’s craftsmanship had me interested. Much like life we live with many tangled layers similar to a web. Carefully crafted relationships. Overlapping work and pleasure lines. Family connections. Friend circles. All interwoven to fit what we call life.

I was drawn to this web today. A simple part of nature. Many won’t see. Many will take for granted or even wipe it a way in an instant. But the beauty of it all is a spider will get back up and craft a different web. Maybe one that can withstand more than just a simple wipe away.

This was a firmly build web. Anchored. Robust. How does your life web compare? Is it flimsy? Can it be wiped away easily? Are you memorable like this web was for me? Can you say your feet are planted firmly in life?

Life is so full of many ups and downs. Sometimes you have to pick yourself off the ground and start fresh to build a better life web. The beauty is we are all capable of doing this. 

Get after your day today. Look at your web. If it’s tangled, worn or flimsy look at options to refresh your web of life. If it’s robust and built sturdy look around and see if you can share your gift of life stability with others. Somebody nearby may need help with their web.

Enjoy your day.