Welcome Aboard!

Welcome Aboard!

Our cruise launched yesterday from Barcelona and so far so good! When we were first considering a cruise, my friend Reva, who is a cruise veteran, wisely suggested we start with a ‘smaller’ ship. (If 600 people, not thousands, makes this a smaller ship, that is.) The size of the ship is very manageable, and while it may not have features that other ships boast, like a rock wall, we’re not rock wall people. It seems like a good fit for us.

During the first day’s mandatory muster drill, I overheard a man talking to another couple of cruise rookies about why he loves traveling by cruise so much. “You get to see a new city every day, and somebody else does all the driving & cooking,” he said. His wife quickly chimed in, “and you only unpack once!” All good points, and the latter was definitely a selling point for us.

Thanks to a generous interline (travel industry) discount, we justified upgrading to a suite. While this is the size of your average hotel room, in cruise terms it’s quite roomy from all we’ve heard. Lots of people say you don’t need to splurge on a bigger stateroom on because you’ll have so much to do you’ll never be in there. I would tell those folks, if you had this cabin maybe you’d hang out there more. This is a 10-day cruise, in a new port every day, so we’re pacing ourselves and yes, enjoying our suite & its balcony during some down time. We left the balcony doors open last night & were lulled to sleep by the sound of the water & the cool ocean air.

Today we visited Valencia, Spain. As with many cities in Europe, it’s a great blend of old and new world. There are remnants of the Medieval city gates, as well as a futuristic Arts & Sciences complex designed by Valencia-native Santiago Calatrava, who also designed Atlanta’s Symphony Hall that’s only about a mile from our house.

When giving us advice, Reva also said, people either really enjoy cruises or they really don’t, there’s not much in between. With just the first two of 10 days behind us, looks like we’re really going to enjoy this!

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Baby, Let’s Cruise

We’re in Barcelona where we leave tomorrow for our cruise on Oceania’s Nautica. We’re both fairly well traveled, but neither of us have ever been on a cruise. Our itinerary takes us from Barcelona to Rome, with the French Riviera and Amalifi Coast among the highlights along the way.

Today we did a quick tour of some of Barcelona’s best sights & heights, including the Park Guell which offered spectacular views of the city. Despite my fear of heights, we took an elevator to the top of the Barcelona Cathedral & walked around among the scaffolding (repairs are in progress) for more great views.

One funny anecdote from the day. We were on the hop on/hop off tour bus and as we were driving through the port area we passed a huge yacht. The man behind us said “that’s somebody’s boat.” I turned & replied, “it’s ours.” The man said, “if that was your boat, you’d be on a private tour.” “All our money’s tied up in the boat,” Jeff deadpanned.

Here’s a picture of it, pretty sweet!

Our hotel is in the Port Olimpic, just across the street from what was the Olympic village for the 1992 games. We’re looking out at the Mediterranean, which we’ll see a lot of in the next 10 days.

Life is good, indeed.

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Songs are a Marker to History

Apple founder Steve Jobs died last week. Among his many accomplishments, the most significant in my life was the fun that comes from random music. Like many of you, my iPod on shuffle is a veritable smorgasbord of musical dissonance. Want to go from Carolina Beach Music to Hip Hop? Just cue my iPod to shuffle.

I’m not the first to say that a single song is like a marker in history. It might remind me of driving to the beach house (Rock the Boat), of a high school football game (We are the Champions, how cliché!), or of the first dance at our wedding (Van Morrison’s Someone Like You). Or, thanks to my iTunes currently on shuffle on my laptop, a wacky Friday afternoon at the office when we all danced to The Knack’s My Sharona!
I’m also remembering all the playlists I’ve made for special events, or the songs I’ve heard while friends had their own iPods on shuffle that I later downloaded. Unfortunately all of my playlists were lost last time I got a new computer and moved everything over. Just another reason to create some new soundtracks for life’s events.

I recently had an assignment that connected my love of random music to my professional life. I Co-Chaired the Chapter Awards for the GA Chapter of PRSA, where we recognize professionals at all levels of their careers for their accomplishments. I was asked for suggestions on walk-up music for the award winners. It got me thinking about what I would want playing as I walked up to win an award. Hard to say, though it might depend on what pops up on shuffle that day.

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Reveling in Random Knowledge

Just wrapped up my weekly ritual of watching CBS Sunday Morning. Every week, Charles Osgood brings us an in-depth look at current events, celebrities & other artists, and good old random stuff. This week, for example, there were stories about the latest in prosthetics technology, a look at the Occupy Wall Street movement, profiles on Samuel J. Jackson & Ellen DeGeneres and kids playing competitive shuffle board. How random can you get? And more poignantly, there was a moving and detailed feature on how a young fallen soldier’s family was notified of his death, and how the soldier came home and was laid to rest. The “dignified transfer” they call it in the military.

In other words, in a mere 90 minutes, I laughed, I cried, and I learned a thing or two. I am, by nature, rather curious. I love learning new things. That tendency was recently validated by a numerologist. It’s not just me, it’s in my numbers. One of my numbers, a 7, corresponds to processing data. The numerologist said that a typical 7 might be an M.I.T. scientist. That, I am not, but she said it does explain my curiosity. Or, as my friend Reva would say, I like to “study up” on things.

Take some time today to study up on something new. As Yogi Berra said, “you can observe a lot by just watching.”

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Tech Envy

During a recent trip, I sat tethered to a high-speed connection line on my laptop while my friends Jo Ann & Maggie surfed un-chained on their iPads via 3G. The wireless connection in our room wasn’t working, and making a too-long story short, the hotel’s IT department was less than helpful getting it fixed. So there I sat, at the desk, watching from afar as my friends enjoyed their tablets out on the patio. They were dancing with wild abandon with those slim little gadgets. I was sitting. And I was sad.

I have a major case of tech envy, and I’m not embarrassed to say that. The Amazon Kindle Fire looks super cool, and the price is great, I just don’t know if I can wait that long. We’re off on a Mediterranean cruise soon and I would LOVE to be able to whip out some quick blog posts or other social media updates on a tablet. I’m surely not carrying my clunky laptop all over the place.

Jeff has an Acer tablet, maybe he’ll let me borrow it to get a fix.

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All Creatures Great and Small

There’s a crew of workers up on our roof today, fixing damage wrought by a team of clever critters. Our attic was invaded by raccoons this summer. They were affectionately known as Rocky, Ricky and Three. By #3 we were so over it we stopped naming them. We live practically in the inner city, and we have raccoons? Our neighbor had a possum, inside the house, so in relative terms we got off easy. That’s Three on the right, waving goodbye.

“Oh but they’re so cute,” a friend commented about one of the pictures online. “Not $1,000 cute,” Jeff replied. There are so many more fabulous things we would have loved to buy, see or do with $1,000. A last-minute discount got us a lovely, 5-night, all-inclusive resort stay in St. Lucia for $1,000 earlier this year. We could use it to have full internet access on our Mediterranean cruise (surely it’s not THAT expensive?). We could have booked a 5-star hotel in Rome for an upcoming trip for $1,000. OK, maybe only one night, but it could have been SPECTACULAR! Actually, we probably never would have done that, but isn’t the thought nice? Nicer than a family of raccoons in the attic. Check out Rocky above/left.

In case you’re wondering, we used Urban Wildlife Control, a wildlife removal service that uses live traps and releases the animals to the wild…in the woods far, far away from our house. We highly recommend them, A.J. is a raccoon whisperer & our new best friend. Here’s baby Ricky on the right.

We’re sure that Rocky, Ricky & Three will live a joyous full life in Atlanta’s eastern suburbs & wish them Godspeed. We love animals; we were even really fond of the 5-foot black snake that was living around our yard. That is, until it was brutally murdered after he scared the City’s yard waste removal crew. We weren’t there to stop it because we were enjoying that lovely long weekend in St. Lucia when it happened.

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The Hum of the City

I grew up in Savannah, Ga. on a street that might have seemed busy for such a laid back place. Washington Avenue, in Savannah’s Ardsley Park neighborhood, was a divided street, with an oak tree-and-azalea lined median. This meant, as a child, that I was strictly forbidden from crossing the street without a grown up present. That was especially challenging sometimes, given that our first cousins lived catty-cornered across Washington Ave. & Harmon St. The instinct was to just look one way, run to the middle, look the other way, and run across. But oh no, you didn’t do it. The other reality of our street was there was a dip in the intersection. On an otherwise quiet street, if a heavy truck went by, or even just a car driving too fast, you heard it bump over that dip in the intersection.

When my parents moved from Washington Avenue out to Turner’s Rock, on the marsh abutting the Wilmington River, the silence was so evident. Instead of being jarred awake by trucks that were going too fast and bottoming out, you would wake up to birds, or frogs, or simply that unique sound of the incoming tide lingering into the marsh and the mud sucking it all up.

These days are the time of year when Atlanta is at its finest. We can open our windows to the cool weather and remember how much we enjoy the screen porch that is too hot in the summer. Which means, the windows of my office are open, or I’m working in the ‘kitchen office’ with the doors to the screen porch open wide to the cool, refreshing air. And we’re sleeping with windows open wide to the Fall air.

Here in Atlanta the hum of the city from our back porch includes the constant zip of cars on the Downtown Connector, the merging of I-75 & I-85 that goes through downtown Atlanta. If you looked at a map of Atlanta, our home is just to the right side of the Y after the highways go their separate ways. As one of my cousins once said, the hum is not a bad sound; if you can hear it, you’re close enough to it to get around quickly. The sound from here also includes the rush of the MARTA train every few minutes. When Jeff takes the scooter to the MARTA station on his commute I hear it & think, there he goes, off to work to push tin at the airport! And sometimes the hum includes the sound of a concert from Piedmont Park, like Paul McCartney, or the Eagles, or just some random band out there to entertain.

The hum of the city might be a dip in the road, a frog in a marsh, or a siren on a highway. It is never consistent, but it is always reliable as a soothing sound. Just in time to soothe me to sleep. For tonight, I’ll drown out the hum of the highway & imagine it’s the sound of the sunset and an incoming tide over the coastal marsh.

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood


My neighborhood in Atlanta, Ansley Park, has just been named one of the Great Places in America: Neighborhoods by the American Planning Association. One of the first ‘suburbs’ of downtown Atlanta when originally developed, today Ansley Park would be considered in-town, not suburban, living. The neighborhood boasts a wide range of architecture, tree-lined streets, numerous parks and a location that’s within easy walking distance to shops, restaurants and some of Atlanta’s best cultural attractions. But to me, it’s just home.

When I first bought my home 12 years ago, the previous owners gave me this photo that was taken when the house was being built, in July of 1929.They told me that one day a young man rang the doorbell and explained that his grandfather was an architect and hobby photographer in Atlanta in the 1920s. He loved to explore different areas and take photos. He precisely logged the address and the date for each photo and signed his name on the back. After he passed away, his grandchildren found boxes of these photos in the attic and thought, what better way to preserve history than to bring them to the current owners of those homes.

I loved to show off the photo to my friends. But for many years it sat in a drawer encased in a plastic sleeve. It was cut in half and taped back together, perhaps because at the time photos could not be printed in 8 x 10 format. It sat in that drawer for years and a few months ago I brought it out for some reason or other. My husband and I realized it was a treasure of the past, and recently had the photo restored & framed.

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I Like Me Here

This weekend is my annual girls’ trip to Canyon Ranch in Tucson, AZ. It’s the perfect place to relax, reflect & reenergize. There are opportunities to try new fitness classes (Beaming, anyone?) or to pamper yourself by getting scrubbed with mango sugar. There are even chances to stretch your limits and get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes you realize that there was a reason something was out of your comfort zone, and that’s OK too. In the end, it’s usually a great learning experience.
Tomorrow we go back to reality, but life in the Canyon Ranch bubble has been delightful, as always. As my dear friend Jo Ann says, I like me here.

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Nice to see you!

Welcome to my blog & thanks for checking it out. I hope you will find it informative as well as amusing on occasion. Hope to see you here again soon.

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