"" Writer's Wanderings: March 2018

Friday, March 30, 2018

Last Day Of Countdown Deal! $6.99

Today is the last day that Ruby (Kindle edition) will be on sale. You still have time to save a dollar off the regular price.

Here are some teasers about the book:

Secrets can be cruel especially when they span generations. What Hope Morgan learns from her mother’s love story turns her world inside out. How many secrets did Ruby keep from her daughter?

A love grown quietly over the years. A war calls and decisions must be made in haste. What secrets will need to be kept and how will they affect generations to come?

Love found. Faith found. But will the war destroy it all or will the secrets kept destroy love and faith?

Hope Morgan thought she knew all of her family history but when an illness threatens the life of her mother, Ruby, secrets are revealed that change her perspective and make her question her own identity. What generational secrets shaped and formed the family she thought she knew?

Sound intriguing? Get a copy of Ruby at Amazon at this link. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

How Not To Overspend On A Cruise

It can be overwhelming. The moment you step on board your ship you are faced with all sorts of options for dining, drinking, relaxing and being entertained and many of them are at an extra cost. If you want to throw caution to the wind and not be bothered with worrying about what you are spending, just sign up for all of it. Understand though that when that last night of the cruise comes around, the bill may be overwhelming.

A better plan is to decide ahead of time what things you truly want to take advantage of and what you can pass up without feeling deprived. For those who indulge in wines and bar drinks, a package deal may be good but if you are not one who is going to drink that much or want to keep a rein on what you are imbibing, you may want to pay as you go. The same goes for soft drink packages. There is no way the two of us could ever drink enough Diet Coke to use up the package cost. We have however enjoyed a couple of specialty coffee packages on some of our cruises. Know yourself, your habits and your limits.

While specialty restaurants are fun and often a nice evening out and away from the main dining area, they can get pricey. There have been times though we have found that the main dining room food has been as good or sometimes better than the specialty restaurant. Note that many of the specialty restaurants are turning to ala carte charges or charging extra for the more expensive items like lobster or premium steak in addition to the service charge.

And then there's the spa. Not only will you pay for the massage, mani-pedi, facial, etc., but you can be sure that you will be coaxed into buying those products that will continue to make your body feel so much better and skin look so much younger. Be strong--unless you really think you need it and you can afford to include it in your cruise bill.

Beware the automatic gratuity. We are so used to tacking on a tip for services on land that sometimes we forget that there are automatic gratuities added to your bar bills and spa bills on board. I got a manicure once before I wised up and didn't pay attention to the bill I was signing. When I saw the tip line, I automatically filled in a 15% gratuity. Later I realized that they had already added an 18% gratuity on the bill so I had tipped on the whole thing! No wonder that little girl was so friendly every time I saw her around the ship.

It also goes without saying that the retail and casino area of the ship can be dangerous for those with a penchant for shopping or gambling. No one really wants to worry about budgets on vacation but then no one wants to live with regret and have to pass up the next cruise because you overspent on the first one.

Still Counting Down A Deal! $5.99

The regular price of Ruby (Kindle edition) is $7.99 but today it will be at $5.99. Tomorrow the price goes up another dollar so if you are considering a copy or need to tell someone it's on sale, do it quickly!

Here is a review from one of my readers:

I loved the story of Ruby. The author Robbins takes her readers back to the Great Depression and a family of struggling carnival workers, who harbor secrets, hunger for more than just food, and make do with what a scratched-out living can give them. Astonishing love, guilt, sacrificial love, abandonment, love that will not die, and just rewards. One night, when I really needed all my sleep, I finished this book in the hours close to midnight because it kept me that riveted to the plot and characters. Well done, Karen L. Robbins! Thank you.

Get your copy from Amazon or gift a copy to someone. Here's the link.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cruise Gratuities--They've Changed Over The Years

When we first began cruising tipping or gratuities were usually done with cash and handed out in envelopes on the last day or two of the cruise. It was a little bit of a hassle sometimes trying to find everyone you needed to give a tip to and some of the people you never even saw until the last day. You really didn't know why they were supposed to get a tip when you didn't see them or have direct contact with them until it was tip time.

That has changed. At first it was an option where you could ask that the tips be added to your final bill before disembarking. At least then you didn't need to have cash at the ready to put in the envelopes. That did make it a bit easier.

Soon the option became a part of your cruise package. Tips or gratuities are now automatically included in your daily charges. This wasn't a problem for us until we encountered a really bad stateroom attendant once. He would forget to service our room or leave clean towels among other things. By the end of the cruise we were frustrated with knowing that the automatic gratuity was going to get to him. We went to guest services and were assured that our complaint would be noted and the attendant would not receive a tip from us. I don't know that they followed through but at least the situation was noted.

Since there are so many other changes from old-time cruising, like so many more dining options, it does insure that the tipping gets to more people who have served you as you cruise. But it also goes to some that you may never see. An article at Cruise Critic talks about gratuities and how so many crew members rely on them to supplement their income. It's not unlike some in land based service positions, waitresses for example, who make a low base pay and rely on tipping to see them through. The article is very interesting and gets into what the base salaries of many on the ship are.

When you are booking a cruise you may want to look at the price and add on what you know the gratuities will be. An all-inclusive cruise package may look expensive but if it is including the gratuities in the pricing, it may be the same or even less than another package where gratuities are added on daily.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Countdown Deal Goes To $3.99!

The Countdown Deal for Ruby (Kindle edition) continues for a short time today at $2.99 before it goes up to $3.99 and higher as the week goes on. Don't wait to get your copy!

Here's another teaser:

Secrets can be cruel especially when they span generations. What Hope Morgan learns from her mother’s love story turns her world inside out. How many secrets did Ruby keep from her daughter?

Hope Morgan has always had difficulty understanding her mother, Ruby. Now as illness threatens to take her mother’s life she discovers that her family history is not what she thought. Ruby begins to reveal secrets that have been kept for generations.

Who was Edward Fields in her mother’s life, Hope wonders, and why has she kept his letters for so many years? What was the butterfly love story they shared? And did Hope’s father, George know about it?

While Ruby weathered the Great Depression as a child and the sorrows of World War II as a young bride, her faith grew and the promises Edward shared with her gave her strength to see her through. Will she have the strength to finally reveal the last secret she holds?

Get your copy at Amazon here!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Countdown Deal! $2.99!


Beginning Sunday, March 25, Ruby (Kindle format) will be at a special price of $2.99. But don't wait to take advantage. Each day that you wait the price goes up $1 until it returns to the original price of $7.99 on March 31. Spread the word!

Here's the teaser:

Hope Morgan has always had difficulty understanding her mother, Ruby. Now as illness threatens to take her mother’s life she discovers that her family history is not what she thought. Ruby begins to reveal secrets that have been kept for generations.

Who was Edward Fields in her mother’s life, Hope wonders, and why has she kept his letters for so many years? What was the butterfly love story they shared? And did Hope’s father, George know about it?

While Ruby weathered the Great Depression as a child and the sorrows of World War II as a young bride, her faith grew and the promises Edward shared with her gave her strength to see her through. Will she have the strength to finally reveal the last secret she holds?

Find it here at Amazon!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Dillies On No Name Key

No Name Key? Did the Spaniards run out of names? There are over 800 small islands that make up the keys that stretch for 113 miles from Key Largo to Key West. The earliest maps one researcher could find that listed the island at all was from the mid-1800s and the island had its no-name name already. (Can you imagine having a big family and running out of names? The youngest would be No-Name.)

In 1868 a farmer, Nicholas Matkovich, settled on No Name and proceeded to clear acreage for his farm. It was a difficult job between the heat, the humidity, the mosquitoes and then the poor soil but he managed and began farming. Meanwhile his wife after seven years and three children, decided they needed more money and went north to find work. Word has it she was delighted to do it since she was fed up with the weather and the mosquitoes. There is more to that story that is in the book I'm reading but I won't go into it here.

By 1904 when Flagler initiated his plan for a  railroad, an engineer named William J. Krome met Nicholas who had gained quite a reputation as a fruit farmer. He had gathered, planted, and nurtured a wide variety of fruits including one called sapodillas or "dillies". At this point I hit my head and realize that I'd seen that fruit advertised on signs in an area of farms just outside of Homestead. So what, I asked myself, are sapodillas? Later.

Krome learned from Nicholas and then went about getting his own farmlands established outside of Homestead. Okay, we're back to the sapodillas.

As far as I can tell the sapodillas grow on trees and look a bit from the outside like brown kiwis and are about the same size. The flesh varies from shades of yellow to shades of brown and may be smooth or granular. Ah, but the flavor. The flavor they say ranges from a pear and to crunchy brown sugar.

Next time I see a sign for sapodillas we're stopping!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Vaca Key or Key Vaca?

While reading The Florida Keys, A History Of The Pioneers, I keep coming across the mention of Key Vaca. Going through my memory of the keys between Key Largo and Key West, I could not recall an island by that name. I figured it was one of the really small ones that are rarely mentioned. When it finally got the better of me, I looked it up.

Amazingly we've been there--or through there, several times. It is located between Duck Key and Marathon and is actually a part of the city of Marathon which sits on Key Vaca according to some of the information I read. On the Google Map, to the north of it is a Dolphin Research Center and to the south, the Marathon Aquarium Encounter.

The name of the key dates back to the 1500s when it was first mentioned on a Spanish map. The Spaniards named it Key Vaca. Vaca meant "cow" and the speculation is that it was named so for the manatees in the area which are called "sea cows".

Along with Key West and Indian Key it was one of the first settlements and catered as did the others to the wreckers (salvaging companies) who needed supplies and a safe harbor for ships.

When Flagler's railroad was built connecting the mainland to Key West, Marathon grew with the many workers who settled there as the building took place. Later it would become a center for fishing and tourism when the hurricane destroyed the railway and a road was built instead.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Key Largo Pineapples?

Right by the elevator in the condo building where we stay in the winter is a planter that is on the outer wall. On one end is a bougainvillea. One the other end is a pineapple plant. I don't know who lays claim to it but it is fascinating to watch it grow and mature into a pineapple fruit. This year we were able to see that it actually blooms with little bluish flowers before forming the fruit.

I was surprised to learn that back in the late 1800s, Key Largo was known for pineapple production. There were acres and acres of pineapples on fields that were cleared and burned. The pineapple slips for planting came from Cuba originally.

Unfortunately it was difficult to get them to market in the northern states before they would spoil. The pineapples had to be shipped by schooners and the wind and weather was not always cooperative. About 25% of the fruit would spoil before getting there.

Life was made a little easier when the railroad extended to Miami and pineapples could make a shorter schooner journey and a faster trip to their markets by rail.

In 1906 a devastating hurricane hit the keys and destroyed much of the pineapple fields. It was followed by a blight which did in the pineapple farming business.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Floating Lighthouse

Today's Carysfort Reef Lighthouse
Reading along in the book about the early Florida Keys (The Florida Keys, A History of the Pioneers by John Viele) my interest was piqued by a place called Garden Cove just at the northern end of today's John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and where the Overseas Highway (US 1) makes a sharp turn and heads south through Key Largo and on to Key West. The way Garden Cove got its name was very interesting.

The reefs along the east coast of the keys were disastrous to ships who were unfamiliar with the area. Lots of shipwrecks brought about the big business of wrecking, the term in those days for salvaging from shipwrecks. The government decided to commission a floating lighthouse, a ship that would anchor on the reef and warn ships away with two lanterns and a bell.

The first ship that was sent fell victim to "dry rot and fungus" and had to be replaced. The replacement was called the Florida and was made of rot resistant live oak. But that was not the only problem John Whalton, the captain of the ship would have to deal with.

Supplies were not only hard to come by, they were very expensive so he had the crew go ashore and establish a vegetable garden on the shore. This is where Garden Cove got its name. Unfortunately it would eventually be the end of Whalton and one of his crew.

There were several uprisings of the Seminole tribes in Florida in the mid 1800s and during the second Seminole War, Whalton and his men went ashore to find themselves ambushed by the natives who were armed with muskets. Whalton and another crewman were killed immediately and the others ran for the tender and rowed for their lives back to the ship.

The floating lighthouse, the Florida, served until 1852 when it was replaced by the present day Carysfort Reef Lighthouse.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Wrecking Profession of the Florida Keys

Yes. You read the title correctly. Back in the early days of the Florida Keys' history many of the natives and the non-natives were in the wrecking business. That didn't mean they went around wrecking things actually the things they were looking for were already wrecked--ships with valuable cargo.

Way back in the day before GPS and smartphone apps with directions, the ships would set sail to travel from one side of the globe to another and often went through the Florida Keys. The area was strewn with reefs, dangerous ship eating reefs that set many a sailor scrambling for shore in a life boat. Needless to say there probably wasn't much time to save the gold and jewels so those went down with the ship.

At first the Spanish hired natives to help salvage what they could from the Spanish fleet that sunk there in the early 1600s. Many of the natives were good divers and could help out especially with those ships that sunk rather than just ran aground.

Along came the industrious wreckers, the guys exploring the coast line looking for where ships, most Spanish, went down and they would salvage what they could for resale or ransom. While many of them came out of Cuba, they needed a place in the Keys to put ashore. Key West had a beautiful natural harbor and it became a perfect place for a small colony of settlers to set up a town and trade for supplies and, I'm guessing, get a little entertainment as well. After all it was Key West!

Now some of the wreckers just anchored off shore and waited to hear of a ship run aground. They would not only salvage cargo but also crew and of course it was all for a price. This was a business after all--excepting the pirates though. I'm sure they had their own agenda.

Eventually courts needed to be set up to judge disputes over property rights and the like. Laws needed to be made. Hmmm. I'm wondering who the early lawyers were. Back to the history book. . .

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Early Floridian Keys Diet

Sea Grape
Last year we visited the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center and I was intrigued by the history of the Keys. I purchased a book and have just now gotten around to reading it. The first chapter struck me when it mentioned the early diet of the natives that inhabited the keys early on. I assumed a diet of food from the sea and I was right but didn't think about it including manatees. According to the author though the manatees were reserved for the chief and other bigwigs.

But what did they eat with it? After all a good healthy diet needs some fruit and veggies. The paragraph went on to say that they also ate coconuts (a given) and a variety of wild fruits that included sea grapes, coco plums and palm berries. Now you can't take an Ohio girl and put her in a tropical climate and expect her to know the plants so I began a little search for knowledge.

Coco Plum
Sea grapes are a familiar plant seen often near the shore line in many southern beaches. I remember seeing warning signs in several places telling people that sea grapes are a protected plant in Florida. The plant can grow quite large and offers a lot of shade to areas where other shade trees may not be able to grow. They produce grapes similar to those we find to make wine from or eat as a snack. The sea grapes I learned are not particularly palatable on their own. They have a sweet acidic taste. You only eat the dark purple ones and apparently they are more seed than flesh.

People who do harvest them for consumption usually make a jelly from them. Just be aware that in Florida you can only harvest from plants grown on private property and you absolutely need the owner's permission.

Another fruit that apparently should be made into jelly for eating is coco plum. I didn't realize how prevalent this plant is in the landscape. One report said that the fruit tastes like "astringent sweet cotton." I'm not sure what that means.

I have seen palm trees that have berries rather than large coconuts but never knew that they were acai berries. Where have I been? Acai is one of those fruits held in high esteem for curing all sorts of things and slowing aging. I used to buy them in the store because I liked the taste of them covered in chocolate. (If I found a good recipe for chocolate covered broccoli I might start eating more of that).

Acai Berry
The trick with all of these is to know what is a good berry and what is not which makes me wonder how many natives died or got really sick before they discovered the difference. Oh, and wash them down with good water. There were several places in the keys where there were actually fresh springs or pools of water.

Well, now that I've learned all that it's time to go back to reading. I'm to the part where the Spaniards and the British are skirmishing over the rights to the Florida Keys. And let's not leave that close neighbor Cuba out of the dispute. Then there's that upstart country called America. I hear they won out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Dolphin Mania!

Each night about fifteen minutes before sunset people at our condominium gather together to watch the sunset. It's a great way to make new friends, catch up with others, share how the day went and often where the best places to eat are.

Lately the sunsets have not been the greatest since there have been several fronts that have moved in at the wrong time. (Not complaining. No snowy Nor'easters) Sunday night was another bust as a wall of clouds covered the sunset and all we got were gray skies. There was however a lot of entertainment.

A pod of dolphins (we think there were five) were spotted. A couple of them were coming close to shore and I went out on the dock to get a closer look. I tried taking a couple of stills but couldn't catch the dolphins surfacing. Guess my finger just isn't quick enough on the trigger and it was hard to tell where they would come up next.

So after several misses, I decided to video the action. Was I glad I did! We were entertained by a dolphin who'd caught his dinner but instead of eating it was tossing it in the air, catching it, swimming in a circle then repeating the whole thing.

I think I could have labeled this "Stop playing with your food!" I left the sound on the video because I think it's neat to hear how excited and in awe we all were.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Books For The Road - The Other Einstein by Marie BenedictA

Not sure what to expect, I began reading The Other Einstein with great curiosity. I had never thought about Albert Einstein as a husband or father and so I'd never really wondered about his wife or if he even had one. Marie Benedict has taken her research into the marriage of Albert to Mileva Maric and created a fascinating look at what their relationship may have been like.

Mileva was a brilliant physics/math student at Polytechnic in Zurich, Switzerland, when Einstein met her in the early 1900s. A romance blossomed albeit a little quirky with two such great minds centered on science and the most pressing theories of the day.

In the 1980s, some correspondence between Albert and Mileva was discovered that began to stir a controversy in the scientific world. In it Albert refers to several of his theories. Some he refers to as "my theory" and others, "our theory." It all sparked speculation that perhaps Mileva had contributed heavily to his theory on relativity.

Benedict plays off of that discovery of the letters and explores the possibility that Mileva had a lot to do with the theory. She also delves into what it must have been like to be a woman in a scientific world of men and the choices that a woman had to make between family and career--not terribly unlike what we have today although today's woman is not looked upon quite so unfavorably when she chooses to juggle family and career. Still daunting, then and today.

This is a great read although Albert does not win any great accolades for husband or father of the year.

Friday, March 09, 2018

ARK - Give Me A K!

Most people get off of a ship after a rough journey and kiss the ground. Those of us on that 8 day tour of China in 2007 got to the cruise ship and kissed the deck. I wonder if Mrs. Noah kissed the ground on top of Mount Ararat where the ark came to rest? The Bible tells us Noah’s family worshiped there at an altar they built. And what final advice would Mrs. Noah have from that mountain top?

 Know that He is God wherever your journey may take you.

Lots of good things happen on mountain tops. That’s why we call them mountain top experiences. My literal mountain top experience came on a trip to Alaska.

We were in Denali National Park and halfway up a mountain when our tour bus made a rest stop. By the way, even the porta-potties there were better than the squat toilets in some places in China. There were cups of hot chocolate passed out and I took mine and stepped away from the people surrounding the buses to take in the beauty of the landscape before me.

As I stood in the stillness of that moment and took in the valley below me filled with gentle streams and lush green grass and tall fir trees and caribou grazing quietly and then looked up to the rugged mountain that was before me to its snow capped peak that rose to the sky as a tower of strength, I heard the word “majesty.” And I suddenly understood. When we are asked to worship God’s majesty, it is his strength, his beauty, his watchcare over us, his touch of love, that calls us to give our hearts and our lives to him.

He calls us to “Be still and know that I am God.”

The journey God has put me on has not only included the wonderful opportunities of traveling and writing and speaking but also of being a Grandma. I've told this story before but it is a favorite:

When Tyler was three, we arranged to meet him and his sister and our DIL, Lori, for lunch one day halfway between our house and theirs. Bob and I arrived a little early and so we were waiting for them at a table when they arrived.
Now Tyler, being the self-confident young man that he was, always entered a place as if everyone was poised, waiting just for his appearance. It wasn’t any different this afternoon. He strutted up to the table, nodding at people as he went along, then made his announcement to us.
“I’m gonna be a daddy.”
“You’re gonna be a daddy?” I asked hoping for clarification.
“Yup.” He shook his head and sighed as if it were a heavy burden. “Mommy will tell you.”
Well, you don’t mention becoming a daddy and not perk up a grandmother’s ears. I immediately looked for my daughter-in-law to confirm what I suspected.
“Tyler’s gonna be a daddy?” I blurted out as my DIL finally caught up to him.
 “You can thank your son for the daddy idea,” Lori said. “Tyler noticed the hair on Ron’s chest the other day. Ron told him it was daddy hair and when he got hair on his chest, he could be a daddy, too. The other day in the bathtub, he noticed he had hair on his legs and he figured that was good enough—he could be a daddy.”
It wasn’t the answer I was expecting, but there was no disappointment. Ron and Lori haven’t planned past two and those two promise to provide a lifetime of entertainment.
“Well, if we shaved the hair on his legs, does that mean he could be a mommy?” I asked.
To her credit, Lori politely asked me not to plant that idea in his head.

Whatever lies ahead for Tyler—daddy hair and all—I hope he will learn:

A -- Adventures of a spiritual nature often come in unusual and unique ways.

R --Remember God’s grace in all the storms of life and take refuge in Him.

And  K-- Know that God is God wherever the journey may lead. 

Thursday, March 08, 2018

ARK - Give Me An R!

If Mrs. Noah were to continue to reflect on her ARK cruise she might say:

Remember, as you sail on in your spiritual adventure, to ask God to calm the storms.

Jesus often used boats to preach from and to journey back and forth across the Sea of Galilee which was actually a lake much smaller than Lake Erie. The disciples were pretty used to these boats and the sea. Most of them were fishermen. But as they traveled with Jesus, they often forgot to pack their sense of adventure.

On one particular occasion, they were in the middle of the lake when a great wind blew up. Apparently this was a problem in this area and even though the lake was small, a gale would really toss those boats around. It started to get swamped.

Let’s get the full picture. The sky is dark. It’s probably lightning and thundering. The rain is whipping them in the face and the waves are washing over the boat. But there’s Jesus—sleeping in the back of the boat.

Finally, someone gets his nerve up to quit bailing and wake Jesus up. I’m wondering if the disciples woke him up to get him to help bail.

Someone pushes a cup in his direction and yells, “Don’t you care if we drown?”
Jesus gets up, looks around at the wind and the waves and yells out, “Quiet! Be still!”
For just one moment, I’ll bet those disciples thought he was yelling at them.
But then the wind calms and the waves recede and all is at peace again. And Jesus asks them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Faith is key to any spiritual adventure. There was a time when I, like the disciples, was asking God the same question: Don’t you care?

The year was 1984. Like Mrs. Noah life had been pretty good to me. Sixteen years earlier I had married the man I love and we started a family. We enjoyed our church activities, his career took off—as did mine as a homemaker, a PTA activist, and a mother. After three boys, we decided to adopt to get our girl. She came with a brother and that brought the total of little mouths to feed to five. We were a happy group.

And then life happened.

It started with the sudden death of my mother then my infant niece. Like the disciples, I questioned whether God cared. It took a long journey of faith building before I finally realized that I needed to turn to him and ask him to calm the storms of life. It was a hard lesson to learn but when other storms came, I remembered to turn my face to him and ask for calm.

In all of your trials, your journeys of life, in all of your spiritual adventures, remember God’s grace and in all the storms of life, take refuge in Him.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

ARK - Give Me An A!

If you were to ask Mrs. Noah about her cruise aboard the ARK she might start by telling you that:

Adventures of a spiritual nature often come in unusual and unique ways.

I've blogged about our trip to China. It was part of a cruise we took through the South China Sea in October of  2007. The first 8 days were spent on land exploring Bejing, Xian, and a few other cities before boarding the cruise ship to sail to Vietnam, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. The terra-cotta warriors, the Great Wall and the panda bears in China were all fascinating to see and I don’t regret for a moment the opportunity to have experienced China’s culture and tradition. But the food and the restroom facilities were truly something else. This is where that sense of adventure was supposed to come in that our travel agent had told us to pack.

Our first night in Bejing, we strolled up to a pedestrian mall dodging traffic at a few streets we had to cross. There are no traffic rules it seems and pedestrians are low on the food chain. The best advice we got from one of our guides was to close our eyes, step off the curb, and keep walking. If you stop you disturb the flow of traffic and there will be an accident.

At the pedestrian mall, there were lots of nice shops and then off to one side was an alley that led to the “real” China. Food booths lined the cramped and crowded alleyway.  There was all sorts of weird foodstuffs on a stick—bugs, snakes, seahorses—if you’ve ever watched the fellow on the travel channel who eats all the weird things, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The smell was enough to put you off of wanting to sample anything.

From Beijing we went to the Yangtze River. There for three days we cruised down the Yangtze River on a Chinese river boat. On board, the river boat food looked a bit more appetizing but much of the time was unrecognizable. Our China adventure was the only trip I’ve ever taken where I actually lost weight.

Before we left for China, I knew that we would be experiencing some tough days of travel, different foods, and cultural shock. Overcrowding. Trust me, our western style toilets are a luxury. So I had asked God to get me through it by showing me God Moments where I could see Him at work in this Communist country where people worshiped Buddha and gods of other Eastern religions.

One afternoon we transferred from the river boat to a smaller tourist catamaran that was to take us down a tributary of the Yangtze and through what they call the Lesser Gorges area. It was a beautiful area even though we saw most of it through a cold drizzly rain. We listened as our Chinese guide told us about the history, and pointed out the monkeys and other wild life that we met along the way. When we got to the turn around point and headed back, our guide began to tell us about local customs and traditions. Then she sang us a Chinese folk song. When she finished she asked that we help her to learn a song in English that she liked. She asked us to sing—Amazing Grace. One hundred voices rang out in the middle of the river in the middle of Communist China. It was the most beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace that I’ve ever heard.

Adventures of a spiritual nature often come in unusual and unique ways. But wait! There's more from Mrs. Noah. . .

Monday, March 05, 2018

My Ship's An ARK!

How many of you have ever said, “I’m waiting for my ship to come in?” I used to hear that term a lot when I was growing up. Every time my dad was dreaming of getting something big or doing something special he’d always dreamed of, he would say he had to wait for his ship to come in.

Have you ever wondered what that ship would look like? Perhaps a big yacht? Or an oil freighter? Or maybe a cruise ship?

I think Noah’s wife was thinking cruise ship when Noah started talking about his ship coming in. Mrs. Noah, was probably very excited when she heard her husband talking about a cruise—a forty day cruise no less! I can see her sitting at her kitchen table, sipping coffee and turning pages of the latest cruise brochure.  Dreaming of exotic ports of call, warm sandy beaches, chilled fruit smoothies.

And then Noah handed her a hammer and said he needed her help building the ship.

Well, wives are pretty resilient. And I’m sure Mrs. Noah after a bit of negotiating with Noah, decided it was better to help build the ship than to not get to cruise at all. The ship began to take shape. Of course then she had to endure all the gossip about what was going on in their backyard. She took to telling people in the grocery store that their ship had come in—it was just in pieces and they had to put it together.

They finally put the finishing touches on the ship, oiled all the teak, and were ready to begin embarkation. Mrs. Noah got all her cruise wardrobe packed and set the suitcases out for the porters to take on board. She happened to see the porters as they picked them up and she wasn’t happy with the way they handled the luggage. The only way to describe them was: they were gorillas!

She boarded the ship and took her welcome aboard drink from the server who was decked out in bright feathers and kept squawking “hello.” Something seemed odd about this cruise already but she just couldn’t put her finger on it.

The cabin was a bit small but comfortable and with a window. She’d wanted a balcony but Noah had insisted it wouldn’t be necessary. When her luggage arrived in the room, she tucked away all the clothes in the bureaus and closet and then went up on deck to watch the other passengers board the ship. 

She was appalled! They were real animals! Some were hairy and loud. Some were rather large and clumsy. Others, well, it was just not the kind of company she’d expected to have dinner with in the dining room.

Mrs. Noah sighed and took out the book she brought to read, found a deck chair and then slathered on her sun block. She sat back and closed her eyes to enjoy a few rays of sun only to be interrupted by her husband.

           “What are you doing?” he asked.
           “I’m relaxing a bit,” she told him. “I think I’ve earned a little rest and relaxation after all this ship building.”
           “I think you’ll want to get your rain gear out,” he told her.
           “Rain gear? What are you talking about? The sun’s out. I want to get a tan.”
           Noah took her to the side railing. “Honey, take a look out there. Do you see any water?”

Mrs. Noah looked out on a dry sandy soil. There wasn’t even a backyard creek running through the yard. Now she realized what had been bothering her. How do you cruise on a ship when there’s no water?

           “What kind of a ship is this if there’s no water to cruise on?” she asked Noah.
           “It’s an ark. God’s gonna provide all the water we need and we’re going to save all the animals of the world and have a wonderful cruise as well. You did remember to bring your sense of adventure, right?”

Now when anyone tells you to bring your sense of adventure on a trip, you know you’re in for something unusual. Trust me on this. That’s what our cruise company told us when we were going to China. It truly was a unique adventure.  

For the Noahs, this was a real Do-It-Yourself cruise. How many of you have ever gone camping with the family or taken one of those vacations where you rent a condo for the week? If you are like most wives and mothers, you packed, you cooked, you picked up after everyone, and you may have even had to clean and do the laundry. Can we imagine it was any different for Mrs. Noah?

First there was all the rain. That at least floated the boat but there wasn’t much opportunity for lounging in the sun on the deck. And incidentally, all those passengers needed looking after. What do you do with a seasick elephant?—give him lots of room. And what about those rabbits that seemed to be mathematically precocious? Where was she going to put them all?

Yes, it was a real adventure and I’m sure Mrs. Noah was happy to see the top of Mt. Arrarat appear in the distance as the sun broke through once again. Incidentally, the forty night cruise turned into 150 days before they set foot on dry land. That’s an around the world cruise today!

I’ll bet she was glad to see the cruise end but at the same time, what an amazing journey—an adventure unlike any other. Something to tell her grandchildren about for years to come—As a matter of fact the story is still being told. It was truly an adventure of faith.

Now if you asked Mrs. Noah about that cruise what do you think she might tell you? Stay tuned. . .

Thursday, March 01, 2018

A Look Back At The Everglades

[Haven't had a chance to visit this year. Where did time go? We'll be back! This is from 2013]

A trip to south Florida isn't complete without some time spent in Everglades National Park. Over 1.5 million acres in size, it is an important habitat for many rare and endangered species. Originally, water flowed freely, albeit very shallow water, from the Kissimmee River south to the Florida Bay which is just at the top of the Keys.

When development in Florida took its toll on the land in the early to mid 1900s, an area was set aside to conserve the natural landscape and prevent more damage to lands, plants and animals. In 1947 the Everglades National Park was established.

Today, there is still a threat to the eco system with further development based on Florida's popularity as a vacation or winter escape destination.

While we have visited the Everglades often on trips to Florida, this latest trip amazed us with what seems like a population explosion of vultures. At Palm Court, they line the Anhinga Trail we love to explore and hop out of the way as you walk through them. Need I mention they have a face only a mother could love. Worse, they have a taste for the rubber gasket that runs around the windshield, the wiper blades, and anything else vinyl and rubber on your vehicle. The park provides tarps that you can use to protect your vehicle. We didn't use a tarp but parked in the sun which works too, according to the sign.

Apparently the vultures are one of nature's "snow birds" migrating south to Florida for the winter which probably explains the increased population when we visited in February. I'm a little more familiar with the turkey vulture which, in our neck of the woods are called "buzzards" and signal the coming of spring with their return to Hinckley, OH, every March.

Once you realize the vultures aren't interested in you--after all, you are still alive and moving, their presence isn't a deterrent to enjoying the other flora and fauna along the Anhinga Trail which is mostly a boardwalk that runs through a section of the park. Along the way you'll see plenty of alligators and all sorts of other interesting and prettier birds, many who will put on a demonstration of their fishing skills.

We paused at several places long enough to see a wood stork and several cranes and herons of different sizes as they worked their way along the water's edge, wading and waiting and making a lunge to grab a tasty morsel of fish. All the while keeping an eye on their own predator, the alligator.

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