Camp NaNoWriMo, Prompt Fiction

Make Her Suffer

My lips curled into what I hoped passed for a happy, relaxed grin.

I tuned my girlfriends’ incessant chatter out as I sat and stared at the woman on the platform. The woman began to sway her hips and suggestively gyrate to the club’s bass-heavy music. She arched her back thrusting her breasts front and center immediately drawing the attention of nearly every male in the vicinity of her toxic fumes. She swung her long ebony hair over her shoulder and fixed her gaze on a good looking business man seated near the stage. She licked her lips suggestively and gave the man a lascivious wink as she slithered around a greasy pole.

I hated her on sight.

I imagined my hands around her throat, my fingers giving her a necklace of bruises, her breaths becoming short and choppy as her eyes bugged out of her head from lack of oxygen.

My lips curled into a genuine smile at the thought of squeezing every last drop of life from the bitch.

“Girl, it’s so good to finally see you smile,” my friend Chelsea chuckled while giving me a friendly nudge.

I tore my eyes from the Medusa on stage and turned back to my table of friends.

“What are you talking about, I smile all the time.”

“You don’t smile, you grimace. You haven’t been truly happy in a while.”

I sighed and lifted a shoulder into a half shrug. “What is there to be happy about? Jeremy left me.”

“Now listen here,” Nora started, her hand going up as if to shush the rest of the club so she could say her piece.

“Jeremy,” Tara placed a hand on Nora’s shoulder to quell her tirade, “is a confused piece of shit that doesn’t know his head from his ass. You don’t need that drama in your life. You’re better off without him.

I disagreed. He was the best thing that ever happened to me. “Sure, okay,” I acquiesced with a toss of my head.

“He’s doing his passive denial thing again,” Nora said with a flick of her wrist. “Listen sweetie, he may have been your first lover but he won’t be your last. You have to learn from your mistakes so that you can recognize the real deal when it slaps you in your face.”

“I loved him, Nora.”

She released a heavy sigh and placed her arm around my shoulders giving a small squeeze. “I know you did, love.” She briefly placed her soft lips to my cheek before jerking back. “Girl, did you even shave tonight?” She leaned back and rubbed a hand over her lips.

I chuckled despite my dark mood. “Of course, two hours ago. I’m telling you, I’m Sasquatch incarnate. I fucking hate facial hair!”

“You could always look into laser hair removal,” Tara mumbled behind her glass. She had lifted as if to take a drink but her eyes were focused on something across the room.

“Yeah, I could, but I hear it’s expensive,” I murmured, distracted by Tara’s suddenly pale face. I arched a brow at her to silently ask, “what is going on.” Tara quickly shook her head and took a large swallow of her drink.

Nora surreptitiously glanced over her shoulder to try and see what Tara was looking at and then just as quickly whipped it back around to face our group. “You know what, this place is a dump. Let’s go somewhere else.” She downed the rest of her drink and made to get out of the booth.

Chelsea shook her head at me as if to say, “I have no idea why these two are acting so weird” look.

But I knew. I knew without even turning around what was happening behind me. I could feel the small, but strong electric tingle worm it’s way up my spine and my groin tightened. This was always the reaction I had whenever Jeremy was close by.

“He’s here, isn’t he.”

“Yes baby, he is,” Tara said while reaching across the table to grab my hands and squeeze them.

I looked at Nora. “He’s not supposed to be here, He’s supposed to be on his way to Chicago tonight.”

She nodded. “Something must have changed.”

Nora and I stared at each other, a silent moment in time to give our brains a moment to adapt to the change in plans.

I knew Jeremy’s schedule intimately. I knew where he was at all times. I knew this because he is a creature of habit, he likes to stick to a schedule because it gives him control over his life and helps control his chaotic confusion.

His confusion being me.

I didn’t dare turn around, I knew he was there. I could sense him near. I could even pick out his throaty chuckle underneath the obnoxious music blaring from all corners of the club. What had changed? Why had he postponed his flight? He had been talking about this important meeting, ad nauseam, in Chicago for months. I knew how important it was to him, I knew how important it could have been for both of us.

A catcall from the audience caught my attention and my eyes darted to the girl on stage.

Her. His change of plans had to be because of HER. I narrowed my eyes at the harlot and ground my teeth together to prevent myself from saying anything that might incriminate me later.

“Oh shit,” Chelsea said and subconsciously slouched down in her seat. “I think he saw us.”

All three of heads turned in his direction. I looked at each of my friends’ faces and taking a breath, turned around in my seat.

Our eyes locked across the room. Jeremy was the first to look away. He turned to address one of his friends who slapped him across the back and pointed to the stage. Jeremy smiled and nudged his friend in the ribs. I released a breath not even realizing I had been holding my breath.

So that’s how he wanted to play it.

“What an asshole,” Tara hissed. “He didn’t even acknowledge you.”

I shrugged, swallowing the bitter feeling that had formed in the back of my throat. “I’m not surprised.”

“What do you mean, you’re not surprised? You guys dated for nearly three months!” Chelsea shouted to compete with the music.

“Shut up, Chelsea, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Chelsea started at Nora for a long moment, realization dawning as she turned to look at me. “No one knows you dated for three months”

Tara gasped. “Are you serious? How does Jeremy’s friends know he’s not gay?”

“Because he never told them,” I snapped. “He was trying to figure things out. He wanted to keep it quiet until he sorted it out in his head. No one in Jeremy’s world knew we dated.”

All eyes searched out Jeremy’s posse of friends again as they took a table near the stage. The witch performing paused a moment in her routine to blow a kiss at Jeremy. He caught the pretend kiss and placed it in his pocket. His friends whooped and hollered in appreciation.

“Gross,” I muttered.

“Oh my God,” Tara gasped again, “I’m so sorry, Kyle. We had no idea. No wonder you’ve been so tense lately.”

Jeremy’s chair was positioned so that he was facing our table. Our eyes locked again. I gave him a small salute of acknowledgment.

Jeremy got up from his chair and asked a friend of his to switch seats so his back would be to us. His friend looked toward our table as he took his seat, learned forward to say something to the rest of his table which prompted loud laughter all around.

“His friend knows,” Nora said quietly.

“Yeah, it looks like it. That’s Brian, Jeremy’s bestie. I never met him but Jeremy talked about him. They grew up together and are now working to partner on their new project.”

“I can’t believe he did that to you, Ky,” Tara said.

I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. “It is what it is. I can’t make someone love me. He has to sort it out with himself before he can give himself to someone else. I’m just not that someone else, I suppose.”

“What do you want to do?” Nora said quietly. She was studying me closely and I knew what she really wanted to ask me was, “do you still want to do this?”

I lifted my dirty martini to my lips and watched the witch on stage flirt with Jeremy. She was ignoring the businessman she had flirted with earlier and I could see the man was getting irate at her lack of attention. With a huff, the man stood up, nearly knocking his chair over in the process, threw down some bills and stomped out of the club. Jeremy’s friends noticed and started laughing again.

I gave that man the best three months of my life. I know that sounds melodramatic but it’s absolutely true. I had never felt more comfortable with someone in my life and it was the first time I felt like I could truly be myself. I had never felt more complete and secure and to have that ripped out of my hands was devastating. But I didn’t blame Jeremy, how could I? I loved him. I know how hard it is to come to terms with one’s sexuality and I couldn’t blame him for trying something new and different, it just wasn’t a good fit.

But HER. I shifted again to give my full attention to the whore on stage. She I could blame.

She didn’t come out of nowhere. She-who-shall-not-be-named dated Jeremy in college but things got rough when Jeremy met me. They eventually broke it off. But she never knew why they broke it off, only that he needed some space and to focus on his career.

The bitch didn’t know about me.

Jeremy agonized over their relationship. He felt so conflicted. He knew she was supposed to be part of his plan, according to his family’s expectations, but he just didn’t feel anything for her. She was manipulating and sometimes cruel in some of the things she text him and how she treated him. But he got used to her.

She was safe.

No one, outside of Jeremy, his close friends and me, of course, knew about the bitch’s side job. She wasn’t very bright and when Jeremy broke up with her, no longer supported her, she needed to make money to keep up appearances that she was an excellent catch so she turned to stripping to maintain her “lifestyle”.  I knew Jeremy’s father would be livid with the bitch’s life choice and would pressure Jeremy to marry her to get her off the streets. The fact that Jeremy hadn’t taken that “easy” route spoke volumes.

I could see what was happening now. Jeremy’s father must have been pressuring him to get back with the bitch. He needed a wife to complete the corporate picture, to help him with his all-important career. And he caved. Jeremy was weak.

But I still loved him. I knew, in that moment, that Jeremy and I didn’t have a future together, it was never going to happen. Jeremy’s world would not permit it. But perhaps I could help him find happiness in other ways.

The bitch’s raunchy routine was over and with one last kiss and a kick of her leg, she waved and left the stage.

I shifted my gaze back to Nora. I tightened my jaw and never felt more determined than I did in that moment.

“You know what? I have an early morning tomorrow. I’m going to call it a night.”

That was the cue.

Nora stood up and smoothed her skirt. “Yeah, me too. I’m going to run to the bathroom, I’ll see you guys later.”

“I’ll go with you,” Tara said while slinging her purse over her shoulder.

“No,” Nora said. “Why don’t you and Chelsea go to the bar and pay our tab? We’re treating Jeremy tonight. Besides, he’s been drinking and I don’t want him driving. Why not just take him to my place? he can crash there. He has a key.”

Tara and Chelsea gave me pitying looks and nodded. “Of course.”

As they walked off, I turned to Nora. “If I was straight, I would marry you,”

She smiled and patted my cheek. “And I would accept.” She patted her purse. “Now go. You can’t be anywhere near here when it goes down.”

I leaned forward and gave her an affectionate kiss on the cheek. I whispered in her ear, “Please make her suffer.”

Nora winked. “Oh sugar, it will be my pleasure. I’ll meet you back at my place later and show you the video.”

Post Seven
Camp NaNoWriMo, Dear Diary

Dear Diary – Ten Years from Now

7-6-2029

Dear Diary,

Retirement is close. I can see it but I can’t touch it yet. It’s within grasp, but just out of reach. I can’t believe I’ve been a medical assistant for nearly 20 years. Where has the time gone? I never thought, in a million years, I would 1. be working in healthcare and 2. STILL working in healthcare. But I’m old, it’s too late to start looking for another job now. My doctor is getting close to retiring, too. He’s about seven years younger than me but surgery is hard on the body and I can see it’s taking a toll on him. He can’t last much longer. It’s hard to believe that our physician assistant is still with us as well. She’s so smart and beautiful I’m sure she could have made way more money with another doctor/hospital/specialty but my doctor and PA have a special relationship and they have worked together for so long I guess she figured it was easier to just stick with what you know.

I know the feeling.

There are times I miss our old nurses. We’re on our third nurse now in the past ten years. Babies grow up, opportunities present themselves and our nurses have gone on to greener pastures: it’s just me, Dr. So-and-So and our PA.

The three amigos. The clinic has gone through so many people over the past ten years I’ve truly lost count. I’m one of two left standing from the original crew. I’m either stupid or loyal, I haven’t decided which yet.

I’ve written so many stories and even submitted a few but have only received rejections. I suppose I shouldn’t give up but it’s hard to keep going when I feel like I’m the only one who likes what I write. I suppose I can really hit it hard when I actually retire.

Kevin wants me to retire in two years but I’m thinking it will be closer to five or six. I feel like retirement will be like my years when I was a stay-at-home mom and though I don’t regret staying home with the boys when they were little, I was bored out of my mind. Will retirement be like that? Other than reading and writing, what else is there to do? Kevin would respond with, “You could always do housework,” which my retort will be, and always has been “haha, I’m not your mom, when are you going to realize that?”

I think I could have rocked being a nurse. No. I don’t think, I KNOW. I’m a great multi-tasker and think quick on my feet. I toyed with the idea, briefly, in 2019, but I had zero interest in going to school, studying and of course, going into debt to pay for school. Not to mention ….. PEOPLE. They just exhaust me. At least, they used to, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t be everything to all people. All I can do is my best and I know, in my heart, that I give 150%  and that’s all I can give. You can’t please everyone so why not just be true to yourself? At the end of the day, does it really matter? In the grand scheme of things, Earth continues to rotate, the sun will set and the moon will rise and a new day will begin regardless of how crappy the day before might have been. I’m glad I didn’t listen to the people who were trying to talk me into going into nursing, I just don’t think it would have been a good fit. I’m empathetic but only to a point, the bottom line is, I just don’t have enough patience to deal with …. PEOPLE.

I would have rocked it though. You and I both know it.

Kevin is nearly 70. I can’t believe how OLD we are. It sounds old, and there are certainly days we feel old, but in a lot of ways, we are still those 30-something people who were just starting out with life juggling careers and young boys. I don’t feel my age in my mind but unfortunately, my body does feel my age. I know I have a good 25 (plus?) years left but I do find myself thinking about death more and more. I pray that Kevin and I both go at the same time and in our sleep. I would hope for something quiet and painless. I want to go together because honestly, I can’t imagine my life without Kevin. We’ve been married nearly 40  years – I can’t even remember my life before him. I certainly don’t want to think about my life after him.

I do find myself thinking about what will happen in our second life, when Christ comes back for us and raises us from the dead to inherit paradise on Earth. Will we know one another? Or will we be two strangers assigned different rewards and lives? Not knowing each other, or not knowing our children and extended family really makes me sad. I try not to think about it too much as I trust God and I’m sure it will be great, but I would be lying if the thought didn’t bother me.

A lot.

Blake is 37 and Brandon is 35. Blake is still not married but he’s dated a few quiet girls here and there. It used to bother me that he might not ever get married but I would rather he be alone and happy than be saddled with a woman who isn’t nice to him and miserable. Brandon is doing well. I’m really fond of my daughter-in-law, thank God, and their little girls are the apple of mine and Kevin’s eye. I love seeing them with Kevin, he just dotes on them. I always wondered what kind of dad he would have been if we had had a girl. He’s been an amazing dad to our sons and he’s a pretty great grandpa.

Blake is a manager of a retail store. He has really stepped up to the bat and proven his organizational skills. People respect him because he’s a man of few words and that keeps people guessing about him.

Brandon is a game developer and lives in Belgium Brussels. It really bothered me at first, him living so far away with the grandbabies, but it gives us an excuse to fly over and see him and his family and honestly, Belgium is a really cool place.

Roy still lives across the street from us. His dog Misty died and he now has another Shih tzu who is a bit more spirited than Misty was but seems to adore Roy. His tremors are worse now and we think he might have Parkinson’s. He hasn’t been formally diagnosed but he sees a neurologist in a few months so we’ll see.

Kevin finally broke down and bought a new(er) truck. His old truck finally bit the dust about six years ago and he has another Ford 150 that he’s driving around. He and Roy still go around to estate/garage sales and collect things but they don’t do it as often as they used to. Kevin sold his Genesis. It was a great car but he never drove it, so he sold it to make room in the garage for more thrift items to put in his booth and to make himself another workshop as he continues the challenge of fixing things up.

I bought my dream car, a Fiat Spider, black. It’s completely impractical but so much fun to drive! Not to mention, I look GOOD driving it. ha!

No plans to sell the houses. I mean, why? It’s just the two of us, we certainly don’t need anything bigger though I’m not going to lie, we do talk about maybe selling at times to maybe buy something smaller and using the excess money to put into investments or to add to our retirement accounts. We always wanted a brick home and I’ve always thought it would be nice to have a basement, but I’ve gone this long without one, I don’t suppose I need one now.

Our parents are doing well. Kevin’s mom is still with us though she’s slowed down considerably, she’s living with Kevin’s oldest sister. Kevin’s dad passed away about five years ago. Mom and dad are still going strong though I feel like dad is looking more frail but goodness, he’s over 80 now. I try and go over and look after them as much as I can.

Who knows how life will look in another ten years. I try not to think about my own mortality too much. I really don’t know why it bothers me so much, maybe I feel like I haven’t exhausted life yet.  Whatever life throws at me, I pray I have my mind, my body and am not a burden on my loved ones.

Post Six
Camp NaNoWriMo, Work Stuff

I Don’t Play, I Slay

(Fifty points if you get that reference).

Work is going well. I took two weeks of vacation off in May to go on our cruise. Our cruise was 8 days so I had nearly a week left of vacation when we came back and I spent that time doing whatever I wanted to. *snap* It was a time to recharge my batteries, Lord knows, I needed it.

I went way too long between vacations. By the time our vacation came around in May, it had been a year since I took any time off and I was going crazy, not to mention my attitude was BAD by the time April rolled around.

I won’t do that again. For my own mental health.

I love my job as a medical assistant. I work for neurosurgeons and there really is never a dull moment. You’re never caught up and there is always something to do and learn. Especially for me, since I didn’t come from a medical background, I just sort of fell into this job. (I was a scheduler and the hospital decided to eliminate my position and said, either become a medical assistant or bye Felicia).

It’s pretty much the same job, day-in-day-out, just the characters change. I think the biggest challenge is making people understand that ultimately they are responsible for their own health, that there is no magic solution, pill, or surgery that is going to fix them. It may help them on their way, but when push-comes-to-shove, people have to take responsibility for their life choices.

Another big challenge is reminding people to keep their expectations real.

For example: Dr so-and-so is going to cut you open, use surgical retractors to keep you open, move organs aside and expose your vulnerabilities to the surgeon working on you. He is then going to cauterize your vessels to keep you from bleeding out, drill and saw into your bones, move your muscles back into place, sew several layers of skin back together before closing you all the way up and stapling the incision closed.

Now you tell me, do you think you’re going to experience pain afterward?

Let me answer that question for you – DUDE, YOU’RE GONNA HURT.

Do you think the doctor prescribes muscle relaxers and pain medication because he thinks you might need it? Trust me, you’re going to need it.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who call us after major back surgery to complain of being in pain. I’m not talking unusual, something is wrong pain, THAT’S when you need to call, when something hurts so bad you can’t breathe and it won’t go away. I”m talking about people who call and complain of intermittent muscle/nerve pain. That’s completely normal.

These calls got so bad that our clinic came up with spine camp to help offset those calls. Whenever someone is going to have a fusion, meaning, something is going on with the back and it’s severe enough the surgeon feels like the patient will need hardware placed in their spine, we send them to spine camp. This is a two-hour meeting where the nurse teaching the class goes over everything to prepare the patient for the procedure. From getting things ready at home, to what goes on in the operating room to what kind of pain and experience they can expect in the hospital after the surgery.

Since implementing that class, the number of calls we’ve gotten has DRAMATICALLY decreased. It’s because we have done a good job of teaching patients realistic expectations.

It’s a fine line between being real and being … polite. Patients need to understand there are consequences for poor choices. If you smoke, you could get lung cancer, or COPD, where you are short of breath simply sitting down and trying to have a normal conversation. If you eat too much, you will become obese and suffer from the problems that come from that issue. And speaking of that, I have a “too fat for surgery” speech that I have to give some patients. That sounds crass and mean but it’s true. If your BMI is too high, which is doctor speak for too fat, then you can’t have surgery because the risks of surgery outweigh the benefits (pun intended). For example, you’re under anesthesia for longer because it take the doctor longer to get to the issue because there are layers and layers of fat to swim through first. This in turn, is stressful on the heart, which is already stressed because the patient is too large to begin with. It takes longer to heal and if you’re carrying too much weight, that puts too much stress on the spine and the surgery won’t if the spine continues to be under stress, the surgery will not be successful.

It’s harder to intubate a large patient. Wounds tend to take twice as long to heal on a large patient. And the list goes on.

And yet, I feel sorry for patients in that situation because sometimes, they really need the surgery but they have to get their weight  under control first. When that happens, the surgeon recommends bariatric surgery to help kick start their weight loss journey. (Side note: my spell check does not like these medical terms).

Luckily, I’m a pretty good communicator and I can take my cues off the patient’s tone of voice and body language as far as how to handle them. Some patients are very no-nonsense, so I need to be no-nonsense. Some patients need to tell their story because it helps them understand and process what is going on with them, so I simply sit and listen to them. Some patients need some TLC because they are scared, frustrated, angry at their situation and just want someone to help them.

Being a specialty, we often times get patients that at their wits end. They have seen multiple doctors and have been told, repeatedly, they can’t help them. Sometimes, when patients find out our doctors can help them, they will burst into tears because finally, FINALLY, they see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I have to tell you, I didn’t go into healthcare with the thought it would be my career, like ever, not once did I even contemplate it. But now that life has thrown me into it, I have to say it’s SO SATISFYING whenever someone comes back in after surgery and they are doing well and so happy to have their life back. I can’t imagine how a doctor must feel when that happens.

Anyway, I got off topic.

The purpose of this post is tell you that when I’m at work, I’m there to work. I’m not there to play, to gossip, or sit around and watch the clock hoping that 4:30 will hurry and get here. I’m one of those people that give 150% and have little to no patience for whiners, complainers and people who like to make excuses. You don’t have to like me but if you are fortunate (!!) enough to work with me, then by gosh, you better get the job done. Am I a bitch? Depends. We all vent, it’s how we cope with stress and frustration, I do it as well. But if you have an excuse for everything and you are always asking for help when you can clearly do it yourself or you’re being friendly to my face but ugly behind my back, yeah, I don’t like you and I’m not going to pretend otherwise.

Will I be professional? Of course, but don’t expect me to care about you, or your life. The hospital is paying us to co-exist and give the best care we’re capable of giving to the patients, anything more than that is bonus material.

However, with that said, I am very fortunate to work with some pretty amazing people. They are professional, compassionate, knowledgeable have great senses of humor. We all have bad days, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t, but we all get along and that makes working alongside these people that much  more enjoyable.

I think people are a little scared of me, if you want the truth. And since we’re being truthful, I’m going to say that I sort of dig it. If you’re scared of me, then you’ll take me seriously and think twice before crossing me.

I tell people all the time that you have to have a line when you deal with the public. I will allow you to push me, scold me, and get me in my face if that is what it takes to get whatever is bothering you off your chest, but there is a line – if you start cursing or getting hateful or disrespectful then all bets are off. I use my “professional firm voice” and trust me when I say, I don’t give a rats ass if I piss you off or “offend” you.

Enough is enough. Back off, check yourself.

And people are so self-centered and selfish nowadays. It’s amazing how often you have to steer a conversation in another direction and point out to people that there are two sides to a story. Just because you heard this way or want it this way does not mean IT’S THAT WAY. You know?

I”m awesome to work with, but don’t cross my line.

Post Five

 

Camp NaNoWriMo

Happy 4th

Now if we went to a fireworks show like this, I would be more excited.

 

But alas, we don’t.

The kind of fireworks show we see is more like this:

*yawn*

Since Kevin’s parents sold their house and moved into an RV full time, and we used to go to their house to shoot off the fireworks we bought at their house, we no longer make the effort. Now, we mooch off the country club’s fireworks show about a mile from our house.

It’s nice, don’t get me wrong. And it’s free, so there’s that, but honestly, it’s not that big of a deal.

Blake, our oldest son, loves the 4th of July. In fact, it might be his favorite holiday. He loves the “splosions”, as he used to call them when he was a little boy.

However, poor Blake has to work on 4th of July for the first time, ever. He works from 3:00 PM to midnight. He used to work for Kevin as a bookkeeper, but Kevin “fired” him, in essence, (don’t feel too sorry for him, it had to be done for a number of reasons) and now he works at Walmart as a stocker. (Again, don’t feel too sorry for him, his starting pay is nearly what he made when he worked for Kevin. Walmart is actually a great place to work. Shelve your preconceived notions, please).

To say he’s bummed out is an understatement. He won’t be joining me, Kevin, Brandon and LeRoy to watch the country club’s mediocre fireworks display. I feel so bad for him but honestly, this is real life. It sucks to be an adult sometimes.

This is one of those times.

Happy 4th of July everyone! God bless America!

Post Four
Camp NaNoWriMo, Can We Talk?

Would You Do It?

Whenever you go cruising, one of the things the cruise lines do is take your picture.

They take your picture whenever you disembark at a destination, usually with someone dressed up to represent that country’s culture. Or it could be with the cruise mascot. Or something as simple as a sign depicting where you are in that given moment.

Photographers also take your picture when you’re at dinner. Our last cruise, the first night at dinner, a person dressed up as a pirate ran around the various tables and pretended to hold a cardboard knife to your throat.

Photographers are stationed throughout the ship to take your picture on formal night, or any night really.

The point being, the cruise line is giving you another opportunity to take a piece of your vacation home with you by offering to take your picture.

You can buy a photography package before you even go onto the boat. You get so many of this size, so many of this size, etc.

The photos are usually decent and always available throughout your cruise to buy, if you so wish.

The cruise lines have a photography section on the ship where you can browse through the photos at your leisure. They usually categorize them by event, “First night in the Golden Dining Room.” “First formal night” and so on. They do this so if you know your picture was taken at that event you’ll be able to find your picture.

We have gotten some pretty decent pictures of ourselves this way. The photos are expensive but you can justify it by classifying it as one of your souvenirs from the trip.

Kevin and I did have our picture taken the first formal night of our last cruise. The pictures were decent but unfortunately, we picked a background of colored dots and it just looked too busy and we didn’t buy any.

It was disappointing but as with any photo, you run the risk of them not turning out – it is what it is.

After reviewing your pictures, you have the option of discarding them in a recycle bin. That way, the photographers know you’re not interested and you’ve cleared some space for some other people’s pictures.

This is a standard service on all cruise lines.

By the end of the cruise, everyone who is interested, starts crowding around the photo galley to check one last time on their pictures. Because if you opt not to buy any pictures, they are thrown away and lost forever. To my knowledge, there is not an opportunity to see, or buy, any pictures after the cruise is over.

The last day of our last cruise was an at sea day. Kevin and I went to the library and were playing Scrabble when we started noticing people coming in with stacks of pictures. One group was laying all of their pictures out on the tables in the library and sorting through them. We knew, hearing their conversation, that they had bought the photo package and were trying to pick out the pictures they wanted to keep.

After a while, smaller groups of people started coming in with stacks of pictures as well. Only, they weren’t laying them out to look at, they were trying to find a secluded area to lay out their pictures and then take pictures of them with their cameras.

It got to the point about four or five couples were doing it.

It started with one couple – she would lay the pictures on the floor under a table, and then she would lean over and start taking pictures of them with her phone. She would then look around to see if anyone from the photo galley was around and then take several more pictures. The photo galley was right outside the library.

Another couple would come in, see what the first couple was doing, figured it was okay for THEM to do it and would start taking pictures with their phones.

After a while, so many people were doing it, Kevin and I simply stopped playing out game and started watching with our mouths hanging open. It was amazing to just see people’s audacity – to openly steal and not give a shit who saw them.

Kevin actually got up at one point to try and find a photo galley employee but there was no one around, which was part of the problem, I suppose.

I’m not talking about taking one or two pictures, people, I’m talking STACKS of photos. Like, these people took every opportunity to have their picture taken while on the cruise, with no intention of buying any of them because they had every intention to steal them after the cruise was over.

And yes, they STOLE those pictures.

Would it have been stealing if people had simply used the backdrops that were put out in preparation for the photographers to use but they weren’t there to take the pictures? I don’t think so. You’re not abusing someone’s time or using his/her expertise. You’re simply using something that is already there, using your camera and taking a picture of yourself.

Taking pictures of pictures is the same thing as downloading someone else’s music for free. You know you should pay the creator but if you can get it for free, why not?

Remember how much trouble Napster got into? Same principle applies here.

Kevin and I talked about it at length afterward. Is it stealing if you’re taking pictures of pictures of yourself? After all, you’re the subject. And the pictures are so expensive … you’re just taking what is yours, right?

Wrong. The cruise line has hired photographers to take your picture. You have wasted their time and abused their expertise. Will the photographers get paid regardless? Probably, since they are likely employed by the cruise lines, but have you stopped and considered WHY the photos are so expensive?

They’re most likely expensive because assholes like those on our cruise STEAL them. The cruise line has to recoup the losses somehow. Nothing is free, people. NOTHING.

Kevin and I went so far as to alert the cruise line that was happening on our after cruise survey. The cruise line probably already knows that is happening and if that is the case, they need to take steps to prevent that from happening in the future. Instead of putting those pictures out for anyone to grab, they need to digitize them. If you wan your pictures, then here is a disc of them for such-and-such price. I believe Disney cruise lines already does this.

Would Kevin and I be tempted to take a picture of a picture we really liked of us. Sure. We’re human after all. But would we? Probably not. We would feel too guilty because no matter how much you sugar coat it, it’s stealing.

Not only were we shocked by what happened, literally right in front of us, but we were shocked by HOW MANY couples did it. It was like it was no big deal, everyone else is doing it so what’s the problem? Kevin did end up taking a picture of the initial couple that started the whole thing. I don’t know why, it’s not like the cruise line would have asked for photo evidence or had done anything to the people if they did ask for it, but we have a visual reminder of how people just don’t have any morals anymore. We live in a society where it’s all about me and screw you. It’s so sad.

I remember feeling SO ANGRY when those people started doing that. I was angry for like hours. It’s one thing to talk about people doing things like this, reading about it, hearing it the news, but to witness it? It’s shocking and terribly disappointing. I feel like people just don’t have values anymore and it infuriates me and saddens me at the same time.

This sort of behavior is the reason why our world is in the shape it’s in today, people.

Think about that for a minute.

Post Three
Camp NaNoWriMo, Can We Talk?

You Need to Calm Down

I like Taylor Swift’s music. Have you seen her latest video?

So much to talk about. Ready?

First of all, it’s so catchy. That’s one of the biggest reasons I like Taylor’s music – it’s just fun and catchy.

This video is fun, if not a bit insulting but HEY. it’s okay, I’m not upset and it’s certainly not going to ruin my day but damn girl, depicting people who don’t agree with homosexuality as idiots is a bit harsh, don’t ‘cha think?

I mean, to each his own, I guess. I know there ARE people who look like that, missing teeth, rat hair, holes in clothes, poor education, basically meth heads. But to imply that those are the kinds of people who disagree with your opinions is just … stupid.

People are ignorant. I won’t dispute that. But ignorance is present in coastal states too, not just the Midwest bible thumpers.

I understand where Tayor is going with this video and this song. And she’s right, there are WAY too many people who are offended and outraged over well, everything. People need to calm down.

You don’t agree with homosexuality? Okay. Life goes on.

You don’t agree with abortion? Okay. Life goes on.

You don’t agree with one particular politic party? Okay. Life goes on.

To sum up? People are not ignorant, evil or crazy if they disagree with you.

It’s called LIFE.

You need to calm down.

Taylor says people who are against homosexuality need to calm down – I say – same sweetie.

People who think straight people are devil incarnate also need to calm down.

People who have differing opinions have just as much right as you do, it’s called freedom of speech. Do you have to stand there and listen to those opinions? Nope. You can disregard and walk away. But those that try to bully and threaten their way to “being right” need to swallow a dose of reality. It’s not all about you and your life choices, hunty.

Everyone, take a chill pill AND CALM DOWN.

And one last thought – why is it okay to have one whole month dedicated to gay people but if we try and plan one whole month to celebrate straight people, the world goes apoplectic?

So gay people have chosen to dedicate one month to celebrate being gay? WHO CARES? You do you, boo. But DO NOT get upset when another section of our population would like to do the same for their life choice. You can’t have it your way and only your way, people.

You need to calm down.

This song goes both ways, this song goes ALL ways. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

People NEED to get over themselves. Truly.

And I’m going to be straight up honest with ya’ll – people honest to God DO NOT CARE ABOUT HOW YOU LIVE YOUR LIVES.

They really don’t.

Everyone, CALM DOWN.

<rant over – for now>

Post Two

 

Camp NaNoWriMo, Vacations

A List of Past Cruises

We just got back from another cruise. Well, we didn’t JUST get back, we went mid-May.

If you didn’t know, Kevin and I are BIG cruisers. It’s fun and most importantly, we feel like we get our money’s worth.

When you mention cruising to people they immediately discard the idea. “It’s too expensive. Cruising is for rich people.”  I can tell you right now, neither is true.

As with anything, you have to budget for a cruise but when you break down the cost and really see what you’re getting for your money, it’s actually a really good deal.

I mean, just the cost of the room and food nearly justifies the cost alone. But when you break down the number of places you stop, each port that you visit, again, you can’t beat the cost. Imagine how much it would cost you if you flew to each of these places? Then the cost of a hotel room and food on top of that. Don’t forget entertainment and taxis, tips, etc.

You honestly can’t beat the cost of a cruise – and I’m speaking of experience on that; I’m married to an accountant!

Kevin and I try and go on one cruise per year. We have an American Airline credit card that builds points toward airline tickets each time you use it. We also started using the Barclays card, which builds even MORE points toward airline tickets. (Honestly, we HIGHLY recommend looking into the Barclays card). We use our credit cards for everything – I can’t even tell you the last time I used cash for anything.

Now, keep in mind, we pay our cards off every month. Building points toward airline tickets only pays off if you’re not paying crazy high interest payments each month. But we figured, we’ll be buying this stuff anyway, why NOT use a card AND build points while we do it.

However, even though we build a lot of airline points each year, we don’t typically have enough accumulated by the time we’re ready to go on our next cruise the next year, so we have been alternating years we fly somewhere with driving to a nearby port other years.

For example, the last four years, we flew one year, the next year, we drove to New Orleans, then flew the next year, then drove down to New Orleans again.

That way, we continue to build points, don’t pay for flights, and we still get to go on a cruise every year.

In fact, I can’t even tell you the last time Kevin and I paid for airline tickets.

The points cover our airline tickets, it does not cover checking baggage. But still, it ends up costing us maybe $100 dollars to fly when we cash in our airline tickets – FOR BOTH OF US. I’d say that’s quite a deal.

Even though building points sounds great, and it IS great, there is a downside. Cashing in your points means you’re at the mercy of the airline. The available dates and times are limited. Which means, there will be times you have to fly at odd times, or have one or more layovers, or, you have to stay over someplace an extra day or two because the flight plan doesn’t exactly match your travel plans. And yes, then you have the extra cost for the hotel and food but even after factoring that cost in, it’s still cheaper than paying full price for airline tickets for each of us.

In short, it’s worth it. And if you have to stay over someplace, we take that time to do a little sight seeing – when are ever going to be back? Might as well take advantage of the time we’re there.

So again, win/win, really.

And that is how we manage to go on a cruise every year. Remember when I said you really need to budget for vacations/cruises? Well, Kevin has set up a cruising account made up of investments, and that’s the money we use to go cruising. So, we’re saving for retirement and basically cruising on the interest from our investments.

Another perk of being married to an accountant. 🙂

When we were driving back from New Orleans in May, (it takes about 10 hours and it’s really not a bad drive at all), we got to talking about how many cruises we’ve actually been on in our lifetime. We took our first cruise for our tenth anniversary. (Blake was about 8 and Brandon was 6 – they stayed with my parents for half the week and Kevin’s parents the second half of the week). We started naming them but honestly, we knew we were missing a few. (How sad, and how awesome, is it that we lost track of how many cruises we’ve been on? What a great problem to have!)

Kevin, being the super Excel geek that he is, made a spreadsheet of our cruises and I’d like to list them now, have a record of them, because if I don’t list them somewhere, we’ll lose track again.

  • 2000 – Honeymoon cruise – we left out of Miami and cruised to San Juan/St. Thomas/Virgin Gorda – Carnival Paradise
  • 2009 – left out of Miami and cruised to Belize/Honduras/Cozumel – Carnival Valor
  • 2010 – left out of New York and cruised to St. John’s, NB/Halifax – Carnival Glory (this was right after Kevin’s’ motorcycle accident – he walked New York streets with a walker!)
  • 2011 – left out of Port Canaveral and cruised to Orlando/Nassau/Freeport – Carnival Sensation
  • 2012 – left out of Vancouver and cruised to Astoria OR/San Francisco – Holland America Zuiderdam (this was only a three-day cruise – TOO SHORT)
  • 2013 – left out of Vancouver and cruised to Alaska (rode the train into the Yukon territory) – Holland America  Statendam
  • 2014 – no cruise – we vacationed in Las Vegas that year
  • 2015 – left out of Honolulu and cruised to Hawaii (big Island)/Kauai/Maui – Norwegian Pride of America (This was our 25-year anniversary trip)
  • 2016 – left out of New York and cruised to Bermuda – Norwegian Breakaway
  • 2017 – left out of New Orleans and cruised to Montego bay/Jamaica/Grand Cayman/Cozumel – Carnival Dream
  • 2018 – left out of San Juan and cruised to St. Thomas/Antigua/Barbuda/St. Kitts/St. Lucia – Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Sea
  • 2019 – left out of New Orleans and cruised to Key West/Freeport/Half Moon Cay/Nassau – Carnival Glory

 

So I’ve been on 11 cruises, and Kevin has been on 13 cruises. (He took a cruise with the boys and LeRoy a few times without me).

Looking over that list, I would say … my favorite cruises were; 2000 (it was our first cruise and everything was new and exciting), Alaska, Hawaii, Bermuda and the one we just got back from.

2012 Alaska is AMAZING and we will most definitely be back.

2015 Hawaii was fun and so beautiful, but it was expensive and we were in a port every day, which was fun, but utterly exhausting. Tip: book a cruise with at least one, or two sea days. Give yourself a chance to relax and catch your breath.

2016 Bermuda is breathtaking. The beaches are pink and super soft. We both loved it and will absolutely be going back for more.

2019 This past cruise was so smooth, literally. Every day the waters were smooth as glass, very little rocking. It was awesome and VERY unusual. If you go on a cruise, you need to plan for one or two patches of rough seas. The captain does everything he/she can do to stay clear of rough seas but sometimes it’s inevitable. You’re on the ocean after all, what do you expect? Just take a Dramamine, sit, relax, drink a ginger ale and the waters will smooth out eventually. Whatever you do, don’t walk around. It makes the sea sickness worse.  This past cruise was also awesome because we sailed to Carnival’s private island, Half Moon Cay. It’s a private beach, plenty of room to enjoy the beach (you just have to walk away from the crowds a bit but it’s worth it), and there are no vendors there trying to shove their wares in your face. We will MOST definitely be back for more.

My least favorite cruises?

2009 The cruise itself was fun and this was the first time the boys cruised with us but I hated the ports. Belize/Honduras were pretty but super hot and humid and they had armed guards walking around with guns. Not fun.

2012 The cruise was just … meh. it was a short cruise and we just didn’t really have time to enjoy ourselves. And Astoria Oregon was beautiful but boring.

The rest of the cruises were fun, just nothing spectacular about them. I mean, every cruise is great, don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful, but certain trips are just … perfect, others, are just fun.

If that makes sense.

We are planning our next cruise. It will be our 30th anniversary next year so I want to do something extra special. We have been saving our airline points and plan on flying to Barcelona Spain to take a Mediterranean cruise. It will take quite of bit of planning, the flight itself is about 14 hours long. And we will likely have to stay an extra day or two in Barcelona before flying back but somehow, I think we’ll find something to do.

Post One