Guess Who’s Back? Back Again!

Shady’s back! Tell a friend.

Just kidding, it’s Missy, not Slim Shady. But I can see how you would mistake the two of us. We are both thin, pale, and have an unmistakable penchant for rapping and driving hella fancy cars.

But no worries, I don’t murda people.

So as most of you know we just got back from a fabulous spring break, one for the record books (in more ways than one) and I have had several people message and text me and ask how it was, and specifically, how we liked taking a cruise because they are thinking about taking one or thinking about using the cruise line we did for their next cruise. So I decided I would write a blog about our trip to help all y’all out cause I am real lazy like that. So without further ado… wait, there is further ado. Before I get started let me write a disclaimer.

**Disclaimer**

This is my experience on a cruise ship, specifically the MSC Divina. This may be different than your experience on a cruise ship. This may be very different from Royal Caribbean or Carinval or Celebrity. If you have had different experiences I welcome you to comment about them on the comments section of my FB post so friends who are shopping for cruises can benefit. But please remember this is how I feel, not how you feel. How in the hell would I know how you feel anyway? We haven’t gotten drunk together and cried over REO Speedwagon songs while we slip into a coma of nostalgia and regret together. Or have we? Doesn’t matter. Just remember, my thoughts and opinions, not yours.

Okay. Let me start off by saying right out of the gate that if I EVER decide to take a cruise again (very unlikely) it will most definitely be with Royal Fucking Caribbean! I don’t know if y’all know about RFC, but those ships look like the fucking BOMB! One of them pulled into every port we were at and the three of us were all like, “HOLY SHIT! You think they would notice if we snuck on?!” Also, shout out to my girl Kelley who was on one of these ships while we were on ours and I was seriously looking at her pics of her husband zip-lining and her kids climbing a rock wall and I was all, where the hell is Kelley? Turns out she was on a RFC ship! The Oasis of the Seas to be exact. GD man. GD. It looked nioce!

Anyway, let me start with the things we liked (sort of a compliment sandwich, if I may). We liked: Our stateroom. It was a balcony room. It was much bigger and had more storage than we anticipated and there was a king size bed and a couch that folded out into a queen bed. It worked great for us. In fact, it was more than we needed.

The particular package that we chose also had free wi-fi (well, 900 mb of it for free, of which I used only 700mb the whole week), it was free wine, beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner, and we each got an extra 12 drink coupons to use on anything! So Jackson could get milkshakes or juice with breakfast, and Jerimiah and I could have mixed cocktails. Now this was all included in our particular package. So this would be the first tip I would tell people who are cruising for the first time. Look over the packages and really consider them. Jerimiah’s mom booked our through the government’s vacation site because she is military, so we may have had different perks, but searching on my own led me to seeing that different packages offered different things.

My first disappointment was the parking situation. Parking was not included in our package, and from what I understand it rarely is. So we drove to Miami, only to leave our car for a week in a real sketch, gravel parking lot and be shuttled to the port and back. We had to pay for this of course, like $100 I think, and then we had to pay for the shuttle. We also had to pay, on top of the cruise fee, $200 in tips the day we left. So when it was all said and done we spent more on this cruise than our trip to Disney last year (and we didn’t even pay for Jackson’s cruise, my MIL gifted his ticket). So, yeah. My first thought for anyone who has never been on a cruise or to Disney is GO TO FUCKING DISNEY! You will have a much better time and you may, depending on how you do it, save money! (But that is a whole other blog post!)

My next disappointment was the “Kids Club”. It seemed pretty hectic and disorganized, and the first and only time Jackson went he had an awful time, citing kids arguing with each other over Legos and them basically just being made to watch a movie the whole afternoon. Now, I have heard marvelous things about the kids clubs on other cruise ships, so I am gonna chalk this up to a “MSC Fail” , but be aware that the kids clubs may not be all that great, especially if you have a kid who plays specific games or likes certain things or is shy or gets anxious around crowds.

And dear God, the crowds. We went to the pools only one time. There were never open chairs. The day we did go we only got some because it was Bahamas day and we were over the Bahamas in like three hours (Nassau kinds sucks, definitely pay for Atlantis) and we high-tailed it back to the ship. The water was cold, it is salt water and from what I can tell it is pumped into the pools everyday, so if the ocean is cold, the pool is cold. Pretty simple rule of thumb. We don’t mind salt water, but some people were very surprised by this.

Now some silly things happened that can be expected anywhere you are, like our shower head fell off and needed replaced. But it took them three hours to replace it. Again, I can only speak to my particular cruise ship for that, but it seemed absurd to wait three hours for someone to come and screw on a new shower head. Also, I had to call them five times during that three hours, so I was cranky.

But something that was a big surprise to us was the “Medical Help” on board. On day number five Jerimiah lost his footing going up the stairs of the theater and his toenail caught the top of the step and sort of stayed there when his foot came down. There was major blood because, why not, and we had to schlep all the way down to the fourth floor for medical help. It isn’t really marked very well, and we had to find someone to help us find it. When we got there they were “closed”. Apparently for lunch or something, so I had to go in search of a phone to call the “Emergency number” then they seemed agitated that we had an emergency on their allotted lunch break, then we had to wait for them to get there.

When they did get there the first thing the nurse said was, “We have to cut it off. It will cost a lot of money, okay? Follow me.” So Jerimiah, who was sort of in a blur of confusion, followed her and I was all, wait a minute. How much is “a lot of money” for cutting off a toenail. Turns out it is $400 US dollars. Okay, so as you can imagine J decided (I decided) J would get it bandaged up and come home Sunday and have Urgent Care remove it for $5 US dollars. But we wanted to make sure that we filled out a form, an “Incident Report” so that our insurance would cover the “Bandage fee” of $300. US. Dollars. Not kidding. But in order to fill out an “Incident Form” to submit to your insurance you have to have a consultation with the Doctor on duty, which costs $125 US dollars. I wish I were making this up. But I am not. So we could have paid $825 on the ship or we could do what we did. Go back to the room, bandage it up, and wait till Urgent Care opened at home on Sunday and have them cut it out. Of which they did and our co-pay was $5 US dollars.

Hmpf. So, don’t get sick or hurt on a cruise. Best case scenario. Or maybe take your chances with a hospital at a port. Which is a good reason to always have your passport when you exit the ship! Just FYI! In case of injury or in case you murder someone and they put you in a jail. Both would require a form of id.

Well. So. Did we have fun? You bet! We have fun wherever we go and whomever we go with because that is how we live our life. In fact, the day that our shower head went out and Jerimiah just really wanted to wash the blood off his dangling toenail we found ourselves drinking alcohol in our “regular coffee” we ordered (because no one on the ship was from America, so they didn’t really understand that we didn’t want Bailey’s in our coffee everyday) and laughing about how absurd life is sometimes, and how we would most likely live forever in St. Maarteen!

Which leads me to the ports! The ports! Oh my!

The Bahamas was a necessary evil. Look. It is what it is. We had a nice time at this real sketchy beach, we endured the homeless people, the people trying to sell us beads, and the people trying to braid my hair! But we found a Dunkin Donuts, Score! And Jackson learned how to play a Conch Shell! We bought it for $5 and he’s been playing it ever since! I always knew his musical talent would blossom at some point!

Puerto Rico was on my bucket list, so I was so excited the day we pulled into Old San Juan. It was everything I had read about. It was clean, it was nice. There were police everywhere, not because of crime, because they wanted to assist you and help you have a great time. There was so much history. The city is so vibrant. The people so polite. And bonus: It’s like being in the US! You can trust all the post offices and police stations. Everyone knows English and they all commiserate with you about how awful Trump is. It was a great day! We saw the two military forts, walked about 15 miles, and took some amazing pics! We even had authentic Puerto Rican food, which you really can’t beat.

St. Maarten. Whew. Y’all this place is like a magical land I never knew existed. I know there are better beaches in the world, but I saw the best one I have ever seen in St. Maarten. We first took the water taxi over from Philipsburg, where you dock at. Then we took a taxi (which are all government owned) to Maho Beach, AKA “Airport Beach”. You’ve probably seen it on the Travel Channel. It is the beach that butts right up to an International airport. It is unusual because there isn’t much island to the “island” so the landing strip has to start right after the beach, which means when the planes take off and land they do so about 100 feet above your head. It is pretty cool. Not at all the “relaxing” beach, but fun to see and experience one time!

Our taxi tour continued to the French side of the island. One half is The Netherlands and they use Gilders as money, and one half is French and they use Euro as money. Pretty cool and a little strange. Sort of like Kansas City being split down the middle! Orient Beach on the French side is the place to be. You can see islands (British Virgin Islands) in the distance. You can rent jet skis, you can parasail, you can buy fresh $5 coconuts from a man with a machete on the beach. For $10 he will put rum in it after he cracks it open. We had one coconut and Jackson jumped on a water trampoline! We relaxed and swam in the warmest, most crystal clear water you can imagine. I could have stayed there forever.

Alas, one downside to cruising is when you find the perfect spot, you still have to go. We were glad to leave the Bahamas, but oh so sad to leave St. Maarten. That is one of the reasons we don’t think cruising is for us. We needed more time. Less time finding stupid ways to fill our days at sea, and more time exploring the lovely ports we get to visit.

So I would say that my biggest takeaways from our cruise are this: If you like structure, if your idea of relaxing is sitting by a public pool, if you prefer to play card games and waste your days away on a boat in the middle of the ocean drinking a bunch of alcohol, if you like to have specific times to be somewhere, including dinner, if you enjoy meeting new people and learning about strangers, if you don’t mind crowded elevators, then cruising is for you! If you prefer to be on your own schedule on vacation. If you like to pack a lot of experiences and places into a short amount of time. If you don’t like to have a lot of “downtime”, if you want to linger at places you like, and leave places you don’t, then cruising is not for you.

Also, gamblers and shop-a-holies would REALLY love cruising! Those are the two main things to do on the ship and off, besides drinking, and people take pride in doing it. I wanted to strangle most of them, but hey, to each their own! I did learn to play Roulette and I got pretty good at it! ūüėČ

Hope this helped and entertained! See y’all around. But on land!

M.

Unexplained

As I sit down to write this today I am looking at our suitcases on the floor, all four of them, and I thinking that I should be packing. I am thinking that I should be planning for my three-hour long class tonight, I am thinking that I should be doing laundry. I should be making my son’s bed. I should be emptying the dishwasher. But what I really want to do is take a nap. It’s been a long couple of weeks.

Last week Jerimiah and I met with our lovely doctor, who by the way, is beautiful and smart. She is kind. She is optimistic. She is matter-of-fact. She is humble. She sits behind her large desk, in her khaki-colored room, her degrees hanging on the wall, next to her plaques that say, “Charlotte’s Best of the Best”, “Voted Number One in Charlotte”, “Best Doctors of North Carolina” and she says things like, “I don’t know why people have a hard time getting an appointment with me!” And we laugh, knowingly. It took us four months to see her.

But what I love most about her is that she is thorough. This is new for us. Our PCP is the same. They take the time to listen. They want you to know everything. They want to give you all the answers so that you can make a very important decision. They don’t like it when a test comes up short. They don’t like to look at us and say, “I don’t know”. But that is what our OB said to us last week. “I don’t know”. She doesn’t know what the problem is. In fact, she doesn’t see a problem at all. By her account, and the tests we have both been through, there is no reason why we shouldn’t have three kids if we wanted them.  We are young-ish, 35 is no longer a death sentence (that was good to know), we are fairly healthy (we are both working on losing weight), and internally our bodies are doing exactly what they are supposed to be. His little swimmers are strong and many. My tubes are clear, my eggs are abundant; together we are a powerhouse of baby-making potential. So what the hell?

“Unexplained infertility,” that’s what she said with a cringe. She didn’t like to say it. It bothers her. She is a student of science. Of medicine. Of finding out why something works or doesn’t. She was as frustrated as we were. Then came the statistics. About 20% of couple suffer from this. There are various success rates for the various “help” you can get. There are three tiers of “help”.

Tier one is doing nothing different, just tracking on your own and keep trying. Keep a positive attitude. Don’t make sex a chore. Try to reduce your stress levels, y’all know I’m real good at that…

Tier two is “some help” by way of a medication taken daily that would help release eggs. Then we could choose to be monitored via ultrasound to make sure they are working. The sperm could be collected, cleaned up, then inserted to give us the best chance of conception.

Tier three is the mack-daddy of them all: IVF.

We had made it clear to our doctor early on, that because infertility is not covered by insurance, that IVF is out of the realm of possibilities for us. The cost is too crazy, the risks are too high. We felt we would be better served to take that kind of money and put it into the adoption process. Now I am not bashing anyone who has done IVF. If it were free or greatly reduced by insurance, I would have said sign me up! In fact, with the technologies they have now, they could all but guarantee that we would not have another child with a chromosomal disorder. We could choose how many eggs we wanted, I’m sure there is even a way to make your kid a rocket scientist during that embryo procedure. And for many it is the only way they can have a baby. But for us, knowing that we have been successful twice before at this, it doesn’t seem worth it. Besides, if nothing works we still have one amazing kid, so we are already lucky!

Tier two sounded appealing, I’ll tell you why. Tier two doesn’t ensure that we will get pregnant, none of the tiers do actually, but tier two makes it feel natural. It makes if feel holistic. Tier two makes you feel like it is possible and that the help is just that safety net under your high climb.

So we went with tier two. Kind of.

It isn’t a drastic step. We know this. And the pills that she put me on, Clomid, aren’t exactly magic. In fact, they have risks and side effects, but what pill doesn’t? The side effects, she explained, can last for up to three weeks a month, even though you only take five pills. The side effects can range from a little moodiness to full-out PMS symptoms. I think Jerimiah’s eyes got pretty wide when she said that. Who wants me to be PMS-ing for three weeks at a time?! I don’t want me to be that way. He certainly doesn’t want it. But you take the good with the bad in a situation like this.

She assured me that the worst that happens is I decide I don’t want to hang anymore and I quit. The risks are a little bigger. A normal couple has a 1% chance of having twins. On Clomid that number goes up to an 8% chance. Now some of you might be thinking, that is not a lot. And some of you might be thinking, well you want a baby, what is wrong with two? Nothing. Nothing is wrong with two and I would happily have twins and hug them and love them and spank them just like a singleton. What scares us, after having been through what we have, is two babies mean double the risk. Double the problems. Double the chance that they sit us in a darkened room one sunny afternoon and tell us that we lost one, or two babies. Two babies means anxiety.

So, we sat silent for a bit. We listened to our doctor say she was sorry. Say she wished, and didn’t wish, she would have seen a problem. And we agreed. Problems would have had different solutions. Or problems would have been bigger hurdles.

So we didn’t fully commit to the WHOLE tier, just the medicine now. I can only take it for three months, then we have to reevaluate. But she is confident. And we are optimistic. And somewhere, someone probably needs month-long PMS Missy in their life. Even if it is just my neighbor Dennis who needs an ass-kicking every now and then.

So as we embark on this fabulous, fun, family vacation this week I just have to carry an extra pill bottle with me. But it is fine, my Xanax won’t be lonely! I will start popping them on the cruise ship and then I may or may not commit mass murder two days later when someone looks at me wrong at the breakfast buffet. I mean, I dunno, I will keep y’all posted.

M.

Free Lunch

I read a status that a woman posted today about receiving free lunch as a child and it took me back. Way back. To my own free lunches. There are things about our lives, irrevocable things, things we wish weren’t there. Things that make us ashamed and embarrassed, and for years, free lunch was mine. “Free” in this case, is a misnomer. Free means that something is given at no cost. Receiving “free” lunch may fill up a hungry child’s tummy, but there is so much more to it than that.

I was the child of a single mother. A bastard child. The result of a love affair years in the making. Unfortunately, my father was married to another women. Had other children at home to take care of, so I was not on his list to care for. Which means all the responsibility rested solely on my mother, and she did her best.

She was a housekeeper, a bartender, a babysitter, she was even a “lunch lady” working in several of the lunchrooms around the district, going in early in the morning to bake those soft buns we all enjoyed with our chili on cold November afternoons, and staying until the last child brought their tray back to be washed.

Now my mother’s job barely afforded us a place to live and electricity. So I could wish all I wanted for a cool, new, sparkling lunchbox every year and yummy named-brand treats to fill it up, but I never knew that kind of life. I was the recipient, instead, of a “hot lunch”. Day-in and day-out I walked through the line, picked up my plastic trays, grabbed my carb, my vegetable, my protein, and my chocolate milk. I walked slowly to the woman at the desk and gave my name, or my number, or my bright yellow punch card that signified my difference in the line. That set me apart from all the kids behind me.

A free lunch kid. Free means something good, something fun. A surprise! Free to my son means he gets to have a good time on someone else’s dime, or finds a surprise in a bag of cereal. Free means that he doesn’t have to save up his own money, it means someone treated him to something. Free is good at our house! Free is exciting.

But when I walked into the lunch room every day “free” was not fun. And it wasn’t fun for the people paying for my “free” lunch. It wasn’t fun for the cafeteria workers and the teachers whose salary depends on how many “free” lunches were given away. It wasn’t fun for the people arguing in our town about cutting taxes. And it certainly isn’t fun now. Because like most programs that helped people like my mom and me back then, it was a short-term solution to a problem that is not short-term. It was a half-assed attempt to help “needy” people. And after a while, it doesn’t seem to matter how big your heart is, some people get tired of helping needy people.

Now please don’t mistake my morose words for ungratefulness. I am grateful. I am grateful for the government, the State of Kansas, the school district, the teachers and staff, and the people in the town I grew up in who may have been financially burdened because of my “free” lunch. I am now far enough removed to realize that the burden it lifted off my mother’s shoulders outweighed my adolescent embarrassment. But it was tough for a bit. Really tough.

Middle school is tough. I don’t need to tell y’all that. Anyone who has spent a day in a public middle school knows what I mean. There were days that I didn’t go through the lunch line. I instead told my friends that I wasn’t hungry and sat at the end of the table and watched them laugh and eat their Pop-Tarts, PB and J sandwiches, and deli sliced turkey. I would watch them read the cute notes their mom’s would pack in their lunch boxes. I watched them poke the straws through their Capri Suns and unwrap their Oreo’s. They would ask of I wanted a bite. No, I would lie. Say may stomach hurt.

But the reality was, as a nervous and anxious kid, I sometimes just couldn’t deal with walking through the line and punching my card. I could feel the anger, the condemnation, the uproar that having a “free lunch” meant in my community. I couldn’t see the woman working the desk look at me with that knowing smile. The one that says, I know you don’t have any money. I know your mom can’t pay for your lunch. Go ahead, take an extra milk. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take the pity.

Now I am not sharing my story today to make you look at me in a different light. I am no longer that kid of the single mom who couldn’t afford lunch. I am now the kid of the single mom who found a way, against many odds, to care for her child in all aspects of life. From free lunch, to borrowing money for field trips, to going to the Christian Associates for school supplies. I am the kid of a mom who knew how to care, whose heart is the biggest part of her body. I am the kid of a mom who put everything she could into her baby, and I hope she is proud of whom and what I have become.

But I am also a kid straight out of “the system”. I am also that kid who didn’t always have news shoes when I needed them. Who had to say no to party invites because we couldn’t afford a gift. I am the kid who almost slipped through the cracks in second grade because my teacher was concerned about the kids whose parents had the time to spend in the classroom or who volunteered more or who gave more money to the school, then the quiet girl in the back with a 6th grade reading level and a mother who cleaned houses for a living.

I am simply sharing my story with those of you who didn’t know that life. In hopes that the next time you talk about, or read about, or argue or complain about “free lunch”, that you realize it may not be exactly what you think it is.

It may not be exactly who you think it is.

Instead of passing judgement. Instead of complaining about tax dollars, instead of moaning about people taking care of their kids, just know that they are taking care of them. The best they can. And for some kids this “free lunch”, well it is the only thing they will ever know of free. It may haunt them. It may help them. But in the end, most of them will strive to never have to be looked at with that kind of pity and blame ever again.

M.

There is a Time for Everything

“There is a time¬†for everything,¬†and a season for every activity under the heavens”

Last week a friend of mine sent me some words of wisdom¬†from her daily devotional. She was thinking about me, and my upcoming appointment with the doctor, and thought I might need to hear them. One of the points said simply, “A time for everything, and everything in its time”. As the words came across the screen I was suddenly¬†back in the 1980s. No, I wasn’t standing at a New Kids on the Block concert in my Jams and a Care Bears t-shirt. I was on the floor of my sister’s room listening to Terry Jack’s sanguine tribute to life and death spinning around on her¬†record player. “We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun, but the wine and the song, like the seasons have all gone…”

We’ve all had one of those fleeting moments, right? A¬†memory that creeps into your head, seemingly out of nowhere, and encapsulates you. A smell, or a sound, or a phrase that sparks such strong emotion¬†that you wish you could reach out and touch it with your hands. A memory so engrained in a particular season of life, one that you know you can’t get to, that its nostalgia (though¬†tarnished from¬†the messiness of life) still has an immeasurable power over you. It makes you yearn for a different time and place. That is what happened to me when I read that message. And that nostalgic feeling has followed me around since.

Thursday afternoon I was naked from the waist down on an x-ray table. Four doctors watched a screen as they injected dye into my you-know-what with what I suspected was a light saber. But there I was, calm, quiet, mesmerized by that memory.

Thursday evening my husband called to tell me he was going to Urgent Care because he had been having chest pains and wanted to get checked out. I wanted to scream at him. Tell him he should have told me sooner. Cry because I was scared. But I didn’t. I simply sat and listened to the doctor tell him that it was stress. All the while the memory blazed in my mind.

Saturday morning my lungs were struggling for air and I was struggling for the motivation to finish my 5K, when a stranger ran alongside me. He introduced himself. He told me I was going to finish. He told me not to give up even when the pain came. He finished the race with me. I didn’t know him, but that familiar memory was there.

It was there, in the back of my mind. The spinning of the record calling me back to a different season of life. I don’t understand the power that memory has over me, and I am not sure that I ever will, but I am beginning to understand the season of life in¬†which I find myself today.

Scared.

Nostalgic.

Anxious.

Motivated.

That is where I am. Not exactly where I would have hoped to be at thirty-five, but maybe none of us are exactly where we want to be, ever. Because each season brings its own challenges. Its own burdens. And also its own light. Each season shines a light in the darkest of times. Each season makes us dig deeper than we ever thought possible. Each season beckons us, the faint whispers of what we have experienced, collide with the anticipation and yearning of what lies ahead.

And it is scary.

And it is so scary.

And sometimes, if we have the right attitude and we set our sights on the right goals, we can change course.

And sometimes, if we surround ourselves with the right people and we look for the light, we can change others.

And sometimes, if we learn from the past and make way for the future, the season doesn’t change us. We change us.

There will always be times in our lives where we are sad and afraid. And there will always be times in our lives when we are happy and brave. And all these things might come at you at once. And you might stay a little longer in times of sadness, or you might radiate happiness out of you like a moonbeam all of the time. But we have to remember that we are not alone. That we are not bound to the old. We are not bound to a time or a place, to a season or a memory. We are only bound by what we tell ourselves we are capable of, as cliche and un-fucking-original as that sounds. It is true.

We are only bound by what we tell ourselves we are capable of.

So stop telling yourself that you are too old. That you are too young. That you are too fat. That you are too weak. Stop telling yourself that you had your chance and you missed it. Stop telling yourself that you will never get your chance. And start living the season of life you find yourself in right now. Let the season tumble you around. Let the season teach you. But don’t let it define you. Allow it to give you memories so strong that at 2 am on a Sunday you feel as though you can reach out and touch them one more time.

Just take a deep breath and give into it. Like that time you finished that whole cake by yourself. That cake is fucking tasty. So g’head, get messy.

M.