Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Journey Finally Began

One day late, the weather gods cooperated, the fog lifted and we were able to board our Delta flight for Atlanta and San Juan. On time, we left, transferred, left and arrived to glorious sunny skies and 83 degree-temps. We caught up with friends and took a bus into Old San Juan to roam and dine. With one day cut out of our trip on the head end, we postponed our kayak tour until the tail end of the trip, where we will have more time.

Our first full day saw the boys heading out for deep sea fishing, while the girls went to the Bacardi factory tour. It was fantastic -- another perfect day, with brilliant blue skies and light airs. The boys caught some mahi mahi, and the girls caught some rays with our mojitos.

Today, our group is splitting up, some to Old San Juan for touring and shopping, others to the pool or beach to bake. I'm taking my camera to Old San Juan, with full intention of holding off any shopping until after the cruise. We board the ship late this afternoon and cruise all night to our first island, St. Martaan. Who knows what will happen there, but we plan to head over to a clothing-optional beach. We've been warned about heavy use of sun block and avoiding the ravenges of gravity. I think I'll stay clothed, since I don't private parts peeling!

Hopefully, I'll have funny stories to report from on board ship.

Ahoy y'all. We're off on our big adventure. More later.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Journey Begins with the First Step

Or with the first flight cancellation.

Eight friends have planned a trip to the Caribbean for a year. We live in Northern VA, Nashville, Salt Lake City and at Smith Mountain lake. We booked a cruise leaving San Juan on Saturday and gave ourselves three days to get there.

Day Zero (the day before Day One): An ice storm is forecast for most of the traveling area, except Salt Lake City. My husband Terry and I decided to head to Roanoke early and stay there overnight. "Just in case." No sooner than we had we arrived than Delta called with the anticipated news: Our flights the next morning were canceled and we had been rebooked for the next day. Figures.

Day One: We are supposed to be flying through Atlanta today, Wednesday, Jan 28. Instead we are "vacationing" in Roanoke. We decided to stay, go to the Taubman, go to a movie and hassle Delta about our return flights. Our Northern VA friends got out early this morning from Dulles and are in Miami. Brats! Others begin their travel tomorrow. We'll see what Day Two holds.

We always knew the weakest link in this whole trip was air travel. Alas, we were once again proven right. We have the weather gods on one shoulder and the Delta devil on the other. We still don't know who will win. Stay tuned.

As Bilbo Baggins said (paraphrased, of course): the road goes ever on and on, out from the door where it began. We thought we'd get farther than 25 miles from home the first day, but. . . .

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

And Now We Must

After an interminable wait, the inauguration has come and gone with the right balance of spectacle, ceremony, and solemnity. I never thought I'd see an African-American sworn in as President of the U.S. I thought Dr. King's dream would be realized in my children's lifetime, but I was happily proven wrong. Once again, the combined wisdom of the American people elected a leader we hope will bring positive change to life in the United States, an improved economy (although the stock market dropped 4% yesterday -- so much for the Obama bounce!), two wars must be brought to conclusion, and we need to work to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. We can make the dream of change a reality if we all pitch in and work together. We can differ, but we must stop undermining each other. Doesn't work. Never has. Never will.

The Cheney-Bush regime is now history. I watched the smooth changing of power as Bush left office and Obama came in. I hope our enemies got the message: you don't need revolution, invasion, bloodshed, and wars to change power. The people will vote for what's important. If you trust in them, you can move any country forward. One of my friends, Glenn Cruickshank, was on the mall yesterday. He captured an image I had to share with you. No boos. No jeering. Just a wave off to life as a private citizen.

And the present is upon us and it's our turn to help out. I spent half a day on Monday in service to our community picking up trash along our highways. I filled no fewer than eight garbage bags in two miles, carefully separating recyclables from regular trash. Given the number of empty beer cans and fast food containers, I bet most of the trash blew out of the backs of pick up trucks. I wish people would secure their garbage, but I will never want for community service as long as I am the garbage lady.

What can we do to help turn things around? One is not to become part of the problem. Live within our means. Pay our bills on time. Don't buy more than you can afford. Live within the law. Don't speed, drink and drive, sell or use drugs, injure others. If we live like the good citizens we know we should be, we can do a lot to turn around the economy and our image in the world.

To our armed forces everywhere: I am so proud of you for serving our country. You are our eyeball to eyeball ambassadors. Please keep up the good work and come home safely.

We can do it. We must do it. Please join me in living within your means and helping out others who are less fortunate -- or who litter our streets and highways. There's plenty of work to do. Let's get started.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Social Security

Once upon a time, I sat around with my friends in our dorm and bemoaned the fact that the government took money from every skimpy pay check to feed social security. I knew there would be nothing left when I was ready to draw on the fund. But I rationalized the deductions in two ways: there was a damned thing I could do about it (without breaking the law and going to jail) and it would help my mother when she was ready to draw social security.

Well, yesterday I turned 62 and officially am eligible to begin withdrawing from the "account" Uncle Sam set up for me when I was 18. Not that I am going to do it, since today I am gainfully employed, but I am happy to say I was wrong back in college. Social security is still around -- nominally at least. And boomers like me are beginning to tap into the fund.

Yes, I know the fund is a myth and that there really isn't a pile of money bags lying around in Fort Knox waiting for me to hold out my hand. And I know Uncle Sam and his elected representatives have been syphoning from that mythical fund for decades. Still, for the nonce, it is nice to know that it is there and that I can actually begin drawing on it any time now.

So, happy birthday to me. Onward to the next part of my life.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I do not believe in making New Year's resolutions. I don't make them. But. . . if I did, they would look something like this for 2009:

1. Remain healthy. I can rationalize this by saying I already eat an extremely healthy diet, take my supplements, exercise (except when injured), don't smoke, follow the red wine diet daily, do yoga, and get an adequate amount of sleep. But then, I've been doing all of these things for the past thirty years, so. . .
2. Lose weight. Like most of the rest of the population, I need to lose about 15 pounds. If I continue with #1 above, then what I would change is to eat less, exercise more. Sigh.
3. Be a good friend. That means staying in touch with friends and family, promise what I can deliver, and deliver. I can do that.
4. Go digital. I'm on my way. Televisions are ready for digital reception, thanks to Comcast. My camera is digital. I have a slide and negative convertor for translating them into digital format. A good rainy day project. And what about all those audio tapes and vinyl? (Some of us remember vinyl as an album.) I have software and tools to convert both to CDs. I'm about 30% through tape conversion. Vinyl is next.
5. Declutter life and mind. See #4 above. Quarterly I go through closets and donate anything I haven't worn in the past year. I swap books on Paperback Swap. I send out more books than I order, but use my credits for books I really want to read but might not want to keep. I try and banish thoughts that stress me, but the economy keeps creeping in.
6. Reduce carbon footprint. Easy one. I recycle everything. I switched to curly lightbulbs. I work ina home office. And I cluster my trips so that I don't return to the same place an hour later because I forgot something. If I don't need what I forgot, it waits until the next clustered trip.
7. Write. This is like breathing. If I don't write, I go nuts. I could break this down into smaller units. Finish Mad Max book 1. I locked it over the holidays. All I am waiting for is the last proofreader to return her manuscript. I have to complete the "business" of getting ready for more submissions: query letter, short synopsis, longer synopsis. Finish draft of Mad Max book 2. I should reach the end of the initial draft within a month. I'm about 55,000 words into it, but haven't started any rewriting or tuning of the manuscript. Begin research for Mad Max book 3. I have the first books on my table and am working through them. Blog. My friend and colleague Becky Mushko would like me to blog daily. I don't have enough to say that anyone would want to read, so I don't. Sorry, Becky. I'll try and do better.
8. Solve global homelessness and hunger. I'd suggest feeding the homeless to the hungry, but too many people don't understand satire. Besides, something like that was already proposed by Jonathan Swift a few centuries back.
So, I don't make resolutions. I'd break them all in the first month.
Must go. Mad Max 2 calls. Bye.