"" Writer's Wanderings

Monday, November 20, 2017

Over The River

This is an article I wrote quite some time ago--at least 12 years since we have been married 49 years now. My mother-in-law passed on a few years ago but the stories still remain and many more are being told. Golden stories will circulate at everyone's Thanksgiving table. Cherish them.


GRANDMA, THE STORYTELLER

 “Over the river and through the woods…” begins to play in my head about this time of year. Actually, it is more like “over the interstate and through the town,” and it’s not always to Grandmother’s house we go.
For more than thirty-seven years now, we have attended the Robbins’ Family Thanksgiving. Over the years the number in attendance has fluctuated between 25 and 40. Many of those are overnight guests who arrive at the host home on Wednesday evening. Six or eight cooks stay up most of the night to make two turkeys, stuffing, and gravy. It takes that many because there is always the debate to stuff or not to stuff. Then sentry duty to be sure the losing side doesn’t attempt any covert operations. Oh, the stories I could tell about those late nights.
The rest of the meal is brought in by assignment. My assignment for thirty-six years has been the relish tray. Everyone has a special dish, most of which have been handed down through the generations. My husband inherited the onion casserole from his uncle, and his brother whips up a broccoli casserole from an aunt’s recipe. These are very important assignments. They keep a family legacy alive.
Great Grandma Robbins (my mother-in-law) inspects each dish as it arrives—not to see if it’s made correctly, but rather to honor the memory of the family member it represents. As each dish arrives, the stories begin to flow. Helen used to teach literature…Dave was quite a woodcrafter…Arch was stationed at Okinawa… The stories are rich in history as well as genealogy. They give a glimpse of times past and a connection to the present that promises hope for the future.
“Storytelling is a monumental act. In its finest hour it becomes a psalm of praise and thanksgiving for the love and connection of family,” says Eileen Silva Kindig in her book, Remember the Time…? Whether people gather around campfires or kitchen tables, stories passed on through generations become the thread that binds relationships and preserves history. Family stories give us a sense of who we are and where we come from. They give our grandchildren inspiration, a sense of humor, courage, and confidence.
Children can see pictures or visit museums full of old cars that need a crank to start them up, but a story about Uncle Henry who fell on his face in the mud while cranking up the old Ford captures their imagination—especially if Uncle Henry was on a first date with his new lady friend.
Family stories are more than just history. They can teach morals and ethics as well. They tell about patience, inner strength, hope, facing fears, and heroism. They instill pride and pique curiosity.
My two-year-old granddaughter already knows how to operate a simple computer. Someday I hope to tell her stories about life before computers. Those days when we had to use pen and paper, envelopes and stamps. I will tell her about the computer that her Grandpa put together in our basement, how it sprawled across half of the unfinished room, and had huge tapes that spun around as it “thought.” All of that now fits into a device you can hold in your hand, use to talk with someone, and instantly send photographs of the Thanksgiving Day turkey.
I can hear her in a few years exclaim, “You didn’t have a computer when you went to school, Grandma? How did you survive?”
And Grandma, the storyteller, will just smile and say: “We managed. Pass me some more turkey and I’ll tell you how.”



(Published at Inspired Parenting.Net, November 31, 2005)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Cruising - Pool Deck Etiquette

Unfortunately, the most popular place on a day at sea is the pool. Not necessarily that everyone wants in the pool. No, you'll find few actually getting wet. What you will find though is are plenty of loungers. They will grab their lounge chair as early as possible and spend the day there. I don't mind their spending the day in a lounge chair. I do mind that they place their books, bags and towels on a chair and then go off to who knows where and not return to the lounge chair until much later.

You will find that there are notices to say that any unattended lounge chair for more than thirty minutes will be vacated by the pool attendant and you will come back to find your things removed to somewhere else where you will have to collect them. I have yet to see this actually happen. And who can blame the pool attendants. They run the risk of facing the ire of those who feel ownership of their lounge chair.

It's an age old cruising problem that has yet to be solved. One of those things in this world that will not change until the hearts of people change. Territorial disputes have started plenty of wars and the cruise ship pool deck could be a microcosm of that very thing. I think I missed the boat (or in this case the ship) with the plot in my mystery, Death Among The Deckchairs. I should have had the reason for the murder involve a lounge chair dispute. Oh well, maybe I'll write another one- Death Among The Deckchairs 2.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Power Of A Word In A Foreign Language

If you have ever ventured out on your own in a foreign country you have probably found at least one or two instances where no one around you spoke English. Most areas where there are tourist attractions have locals who speak enough English to understand and be understood. Off the beaten track however is a different story.

One of my favorite memories of our 18 days through Europe in an Audi is getting lost on our way to Stresa, Italy. We were traveling with Bob's brother and his wife. The boys pulled up to some men along the way and got out the maps and tried to explain that we wanted to go to Stresa and were lost. The two men were very animated as they rattled off in Italian what we assumed were directions. All seemed good until one man pointed in one direction and the other pointed in another direction. Huh??

Bob and his brother got back in the car and we waved goodbye. We set off down the road and I asked if we knew where to go now. No, came the answer and our Italian isn't any better either. Thankfully not long after that trip rental cars came with GPS.

It's always good to know a few words in the language of the country you visit. Thank you, how much, please, and hello are good. Rest room doesn't always work and neither does bath room. You may end up in a lounge or a Turkish bath. Toilet seems to work well in most places.

Knowing the words for gasoline might be helpful if you are driving. I found a fun article at Smarter Travel. It's a good smile read.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Cruising-Testing The Water

Not sure if you would like cruising? Here's a way to try it out. Take a short 4-5 day cruise. Many are very affordable and you can eat, be entertained and have a room often for less than $100/night. Most of the cruises visit the Bahamas but there are some that do a port or two in the Caribbean and if you live on the West Coast, ports in Mexico.

A couple of years ago we took a short cruise on the Norwegian Sky. We had never sailed with the Norwegian Cruise Line so it was our opportunity to try out a line as well as just take a few days of pampering. What we had forgotten until we showed up in the embarkation line to check in was that it was spring break. We were surrounded by a flurry of 20 somethings, most obviously dressed for the pool to save time. Around us here and there were a few gray heads and a couple of families. We looked at each other, laughed and decided it could be an interesting couple of days.

We were impressed with how the ship's crew handled all the spring partying by setting up a buffet for the young people so they didn't have to leave the pool deck if they didn't want to. That kept the dining rooms less busy. There were still a lot of seats in the theater even if you got there just before the show started. Since we were up "early" and to bed "early" we didn't run into the partiers all that much. Someone wanting to camp out around the pool might have been disappointed but it didn't bother us as we're not sun and pool people.

What did happen was we had a good time, good food and were duly impressed with Norwegians service and handling of the Spring Break situation. Because of that we booked another cruise with them for this year.

Four and five day cruises don't interest us that much. We are avid cruisers and even a seven day stint doesn't seem long enough but it might just be what you are looking for if you want to try it out, not spend a lot and have to worry about whether you like it or not. Want to test the waters? Here's a link to a Cruise Critic post that lists several different short cruise options.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Books For The Road- The Little House On The Prairie

My book club gets me to read things I never would have chosen myself. It gets me out of my mystery/detective niche that I find myself in more often than not. The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder was more popular in the 70s about the time that I was elbow deep in diapers and baby food. I did watch the series though with Michael Landon and enjoyed it. So, here I was faced with reading a book written more for a younger audience.

I couldn't find the first books in the series in ebook format so I ended up with the third, The Little House On The Prairie. The books, written by Wilder, are about her childhood as her family became part of the great settlement of the West in the late 1860s. I didn't know quite what to expect but I was drawn into the story and enjoyed it. I may even be tempted to read the whole series.

Here's the teaser about the story:

The adventures continue for Laura Ingalls and her family as they leave their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin and set out for the big skies of the Kansas Territory. They travel for many days in their covered wagon until they find the best spot to build their house. Soon they are planting and plowing, hunting wild ducks and turkeys, and gathering grass for their cows. Just when they begin to feel settled, they are caught in the middle of a dangerous conflict.

If you are looking for a feel good book with a bit of history and want to learn about life as a pioneer, this would fit the bill. It would also work as a great audio book to listen to with the kids on a road trip--that's if you take the batteries out of their electronics.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Scoring Onboard Credit

Almost every time you book a cruise it comes with some kind of onboard credit. Depending upon who you book it with and when you book it will make a lot of difference in the credit you find in your account when you board your ship.

A travel agent will often give you credit as a thank you for booking with them. Sometimes we've found that it is credit for booking at a specialty dining venue rather than just outright dollars to your account. More and more though we've found that agents are giving dollars credited to your account for spending on the ship.

When you book while you are on a cruise you will also get onboard credit from the cruise line. It's one of the incentives for booking your next cruise before you finish the current one. (Bob's incentive is that I won't get off the ship until the next one is booked--or so he says). Usually the cruise line will only ask for a minimum down payment and if you change your mind about the cruise you chose, the down payment can be applied to another cruise you choose later.

There was one time where we truly scored big with onboard credit. We were cruising with a line we hadn't used before and were given credit for being newbees. When we registered with Cruise Critic on the roll call list for the cruise someone contacted us and said that if we would say they recommended the line to us they could get credit and we would as well. Cha-ching. And then our travel agent graced us with a little more credit. We ended up having so much left at the end of the cruise that we went on a shopping spree in the gift shop--something we almost never do.

Be aware that sometimes the credit will be applied to your overall bill so depending upon the conditions of your cruise booking, you may just let that credit be applied to the gratuities you accrue. Be sure to check your bill a time or two while you cruise just to be sure you don't leave that credit onboard. You can't save it. So if nothing else, if it looks like you haven't used all your credit, indulge in the spa, eat a special dinner, or go shopping! There's always a sale day at the end of the cruise.

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