It is 10:00 AM. I’m currently at 24 degrees.03.72 N and 080 degrees.031.90 W. Trying to see my position on the map, but they keep showing the OTHER ships, not ours. I know I’m 426.8 nautical miles from Cozumel.

Thoughts so far:

  • Airport- Standing in line at check in, I was telling Delaney a story of how people get sneaky to get around the “one carry-on and NO personal item” policy of airlines like United. I told her that I suggested to another person in our cruise Facebook group to slip things inside her CPAP case. I then realized that we had not brought our CPAPs. Panic ensued, as the CPAPs make us not only not snore, but not…well…die when we stop breathing at night. Fortunately, we were flying out of San Jose AND our flight was delayed, so Aaron had time to drive home to get them. While he was gone, the girls and I went and got a booth for lunch at Sonoma Chicken Coop and waited for Aaron.
  • Flight- Quite relaxing when I could ignore the sibling rivalry (which was really not as bad as it could have been). I brought a ton of stuff to work on (only one thing that actually HAS to be done before Monday), and spent the entire flight playing Word Mocha, doing a tiny bit of Facebooking, and reading many, many news stories. Food was about a C-. Aaron and I barely touched ours and McKayla had about 4 grapes total over the day. The plane on the second leg was older and a little less comfortable (and my tray table was broken), but, seriously Jodi, it was first class. Get over yourself.
  • Airport- We were all cranky when we got off the flight. It was a million o’clock and we were hangry and tired. Also, the Orlando airport is about the size of Iowa, so there was that. We headed toward baggage. Delaney and Aaron heard different instructions about where baggage claim was, so there was some pissiness there. Aaron turned out to be right. Unfortunately, this was after we went to the other location and the right one was as far away as it could be- literally. By then, *I* was just done and needed space, so I went and sat as far away as possible, playing Word Mocha while Delaney was on her phone on another bench and Aaron and McKayla waited for bags. By the time they arrived, our moods had all lifted and we were ready to head to our hotel…
  • Hotel…which is INSIDE the airport. Yes, we stayed there 6 months ago, but I still think it’s the Best. Idea. Ever. Room was a normal hotel room with a ginormous patio (about the size of my classroom), where Aaron spent the next couple of hours unwinding. Planned our outfits for the next day so that we could have our bags completely ready to go in the morning. Delaney was struggling, so I tried to help by having her pick a random color. She asked Siri. Siri said “sorry..” So even our AI has a guilt complex! I tried to get comfortable enough to sleep, but the bed was clearly made of concrete. At about 2:30, I gave up and moved over to a chair. I also took a painkiller, as I felt like I’d been run over a concrete truck, looking for its family. Once that kicked in I was able to get about 3 hours of sleep.
  • I always wake up before everyone else. Always. Home, travel. Always. I was in the bathroom taking my meds when I head a loud pounding on our door. I ran out to see who was there, but by then, everyone was up. It was a Disney guy, there to pick up our bags so we wouldn’t have to carry them to the shuttle bus ourselves! This was a FANTASTIC idea, but, because we didn’t know anything about it (we rented a car last time), we weren’t ready to give them to him yet. He told us he would come back in 45 minutes. Got everyone moving and dressed in really cute clothes so that we would look great for all of the inevitable embarkation photos. Had to wait for the guy to pick up our bags and it took him more than like an hour and 15 minutes. We were feeling severely caffeine deprived at this point and I was already uncomfortable in my cute dress and shoes. This will be important later.
  • Once the guy took our bags, we headed downstairs in search of Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts (McKayla is headed to rehab on these), and shorts for me to wear under my dress. Found all 3 and headed to wait for the shuttle. During this time, though I had only been wearing my cute shoes for maybe an hour, I had a huge blister developing. Covered it with a bandaid, which was woefully insufficient. Had to wait maybe 5 minutes before they put us onboard. Uneventful ride, other than finding out YET AGAIN that we suck at Disney Trivia. Did have the Perkiest. Driver. Ever.

Terminal- Easy peasy. Aaron got a 2 plug extension cord (more like a box) taken away, which surprised me because we know better. Got to walk past a HUGE line of people waiting to get on the ship to our superspecialfancy check-in (if you’re ever considering upgrading to concierge level on a cruise, DO IT. Your kids may not be able to go to college, but it’s completely worth it). 5 minute Check-in and then they had an escort (not a hooker, that’s a whole different package) take us through our own secret entrance onto the cruise. Walked up the comparably short gangplank, passing two opportunities for cute photos.

Ship- Got inside, had our names announced, and headed to the Concierge Lounge. It’s smaller than on the Wonder or the Magic, which are the “small” ships, and there are no windows, so we didn’t stay long. We met our concierge team and got our itinerary and headed for the concierge only lunch. Somehow, we got seated at a table that wasn’t assigned to a server, so we had to wait a bit to order. McKayla actually ordered something new (mac and cheese) and had 3 bites! She finished off a plate of chicken strips without taking a breath.

Room- SO awesome. It feels bigger than the rooms on the Wonder and the Magic, which it likely is. The girls each have their own sleeping areas, separated by a curtain. The “master bedroom” has sliding doors on two sides so we can be as social or antisocial as we please. We had them shut pretty much the whole time 🙂 I napped, and it was heavenly. Headed up to the “muster” drill where the blister was bad enough that I had to stand with one shoe off. Finished that just in time to take McKayla to her mani/pedi at the spa. Chilled in the room until dinner.

Dinner- Disney has “rotational dining,” which means you cycle through the three restaurants with the same server and assistant server each time. We were in “Animator’s Palace,” which, on the other trip, is covered with “pencil” drawings of the Disney characters, who (SPOILER ALERT) get animated by the end of dinner. On this ship, there are screens that look like bulletin boards with drawings pinned up on them. About 10 minutes into dinner, the screens become an underwater scene (somewhat disconcerting on a ship…ARE WE SINKING?). Crush from “Finding Nemo/Dory” came on and said a bunch of cute things and went away. When he came back, he started having conversations with people about where they were from, etc. McKayla was one of the people and she had such a joyful response I had to capture it on video. When I figure out how to add that without internet, I will.

After dinner, headed up to the room with the intention of chillaxing and reading. Within a minute and a half, I was falling asleep. It was like 7 pm. We had gotten custom pillows the night before, and they did their job. Out like a light. Woke up once when my heel hit the blankets as I turned. Screamed so loud Delaney asked me if I was okay. Slept again until 9 am. The blacked out room made me convinced it was like 3 in the morning. Headed out to the Cove Cafe (my favorite place to get coffee and relax, and they have killer cinnamon rolls), which is LITERALLY about 30 steps from our room. I’m there now. Gonna go get Aaron and head to trivia.

Trivia: TV Theme Songs. Killed it 🙂 12/15 (missed Game of Thrones, Ally McBeal and Mary Tyler Moore, but somehow managed to pull “Thirtysomething” out of my ass…think I watched that show once and I was very much not 30). We each got a cool baseball cap (usually the prize is luggage tags or keychains. We could open a shop for these at this point).

Lunch: Did the buffet, where the food was unremarkable (like any buffet, really), but “Cheeseburger in Paradise” was playing, so we knew that we were being welcomed. Headed back to the room and McKayla was dressed to swim and Delaney was barely waking up. It was 12:15. Ah, vacation. We’re now in the Cove Cafe (yes, again. It’s 57 steps from our room. I counted). Haircut is at 2:15 at the spa- which is 27 steps the other direction from our room. My life is SO hard.

5:45 pm: Anxiety is an asshole. Haircut turned out to be color, about a 10 minute head massage (where I believe every product on the ship was put into my hair) and blow dry. She didn’t have time to cut it because she had another client coming. So yes, the color looks nice, but it’s still in my face, which pisses me off. I have to go back at 7:30 in the morning tomorrow for the cut. I asked if it was possible to get a pedicure any time before bed tonight, as we are swimming with dolphins tomorrow and my last pedicure was on my LAST cruise, 6 months ago. They booked me in for 4:45. This would have worked fine if I hadn’t been made to wait a half hour. With dinner at 5:45- and it’s formal night- I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make it, though even on formal night, my “getting ready” is tossing on the 25 dollar dress from Amazon and going. I watched over her shoulder while she was booking it, and she kept trying to find time for the fancy/expensive “Fire and Ice” pedicure. I saw that and told her that I just needed the simplest pedicure they had. I don’t want any fancy treatments, or even foot massages because of the gaping, open sore on my heel where the blister was hanging off my foot so I ripped it off. I literally just want either the last vestiges of polish that are on my big toes removed or something new put on. That’s it. I asked if they could fit me in after dinner or even in the morning, and the only time she could reschedule me was 6:45, so I would have had maybe a half hour to eat once we got served. So, frustrated, I went back to the room to get ready. I put on the dress and realized that there was no way I could wear the shoes I brought for it (the ones that caused the blister in the first place). I tried to wear my sneakers, thinking it would be fine because the dress was so long. It wasn’t fine. You could see them every time I took a step. By this time, I had ratcheted up the anxiety of everyone in the room, mostly mine. There was no way I was going to be able to go to dinner without ruining everyone’s night. I told them to go without me. I went back to the spa and told them I was no longer limited by dinner and asked if they could move me up so that the stateroom host could clean the room. They told me that it would have to be at 6:00, which was 20 minutes away, which seemed like eternity. By this point, all of the bottled up emotions and frustrations broke through and I started to cry. I hustled out of there because I really don’t like crying in front of people unless it is theatrically induced. Headed back to the room and just as I started to relax, one of the 47 phones in the room rang REALLY EFFING LOUDLY. I jumped up, answered, and it was the spa telling me to come now. I changed into flip-flops and shuffled over. From the second I walked in, they treated me as if I was a live grenade. They handed me the ridiculous “consultation form,” which is basically all of the info that they need to try to upsell us massages, facials and miraculous body wraps that would take “1 to 3 inches off instantly.” (Seriously, the before and after pictures are so fake that McKayla could’ve been able to tell….blindfolded). They wanted a list of EVERY SURGERY and medication I was on. I left it blank. There was absolutely nothing relevant in my medical history to getting a simple pedicure, other than perhaps a latex allergy, which THEY DIDN”T EVEN ASK ABOUT. Not that I’m allergic to latex, but seriously. I was very carefully led to the pedicure station and showed the…seriously…I don’t even know the word right now….pedicurist? Technician? Salesperson? I’m sure there’s actually a word, but I don’t care enough to search my brain for it. I tried to show her the giant open sore on the back of my foot and she said that she saw it. She led me to the chair and I kicked off the shoes and tried to pull the bottom of my “joggers” (sweats with an elastic cuff at the bottom) up to mid calf. She stopped me and said “I do that, Miss Jodi”-oh and that Miss Jodi thing gets old REALLY FAST. She proceeds to push them up and immediately cut off the circulation in my legs. I try to scoot them down and am immediately scolded again. I pull out my phone and start playing Word Mocha, my newest addiction/way to tell people I don’t feel like chatting. During the next 45 minutes, she grabbed me by my heel three times AND rubbed exfoliant into it. She asked me questions about my trip and my family- small talk. I HATE SMALL TALK in the best of circumstances, and these just weren’t. She laughed at EVERYthing I said, and trust me, I was not my usual, witty self. She would then be critical of the shape my toes were currently in: “Oh, Miss Jodi, it’s been a long time since you have had these done.” “Oh, this has been on so long it’s like a gel.” “Do your toenails usually grow in split like this?” I did my best to acknowledge the questions without actually engaging. She kept pressing, only now she was repeating questions from before! “Where are you joining us from?” “Do you have kids?” “Are they here with you?” Seriously. I already told you all of this and PLEASE STOP TOUCHING MY HEEL. Over the 45 minutes, she apologized for “what happened to” me about 20 times. It was clearly “hey, it wasn’t MY fault, please still tip me,” which was completely my intention anyway, as I believe in tipping heartily no matter what. We finally finished with yet another apology. Though the spa automatically adds 18%, I added another 10, because that’s what I do. More apologies with a promise of “If you need anything else, just ask for me.”

Headed back to the room, realizing that if I didn’t eat, the rest of the night would be a wash. Fortunately, I love the chicken strips and tomato soup from room service. Went to order it and the menu said “Just pick up your phone.” I picked up the nearest phone. Could find nothing but a message reminding me to take my documents with me on my excursion tomorrow. Tried another phone. Nothing. Tried the loud phone next to the bed, thinking it would be like any other hotel phone, with buttons for the different departments. Nothing. At this point, I was about to punch through a wall. I took a Xanax and looked up the lounges closest to me, with the intention of doing shots of tequila until I could erase the last few hours. Aaron and Delaney came back from dinner and listened to my saga. They asked if I was going to go to the mainstage show, and I said I was planning on trying…after copious amounts of tequila. Delaney became immediately concerned that I would end up being loud and “screaming” through the show. I get her desire to not have her mother embarrass her any more than normal, but I also didn’t need the tequila police on my ass. I left, walked the 54 steps to the cafe where I get my coffee in the morning, which conveniently has a full bar. Ordered a margarita and have been typing since. I just ordered another one, and the only bartender/barista on duty actually left for 5 minutes. She came back with a glass, so I guess they were out. But I was literally alone. I could have climbed behind the bar and stolen all of the bottles. And the plates. And the cool espresso machines.

Margarita 2 in front of me. Gonna drink it and search for food. Delaney is supposed to be finding out if there is special seating for the fancy people that we are so that I don’t have to deal with a line of 400 people under 4. This is for one of the “Broadway-Style” shows (yeah, no, keep kidding yourself) that they have- either “Believe” or “Wishes” or “Yeah, no, we’re not ready for Broadway.” Fingers crossed. (There was no fancy seating, but we still managed 4th row).

DAY TWO: You know that cool thing that your phone does when you have to adjust for a time zone change? Where it just resets itself? Yeah, not unless your WiFi is on (which makes complete sense, but my brain just wasn’t capable). To make matters worse, my FitBit clock has to sync to my phone in order to get the right time. So, when my alarm went off at 7:20 to wake me for my haircut, I was startled, but got up. Then I looked at the room clock (which the stateroom host changed last night) and realized my mistake. Reset the alarm for an hour later, got dressed in the dark and headed over to the spa. Because I was completely unable to describe how I wanted my hair cut, I ended up with almost the exact same style, but about 2 inches shorter. Whatever. It will grow. I do like the color, though it took time for me to figure that out. The manager came over at some point to ask what had happened the night before. I boiled it down to the original 30 minute wait messing the original timeline off. I didn’t mention the stuff that happened when I actually got my pedicure, because much of my reaction to that was my own anxiety working its way up. She said that they were giving me 20 percent off of the pedicure, which seemed fair.

Left the spa and headed down to deck one where the medical office is, hoping for something to cover my raw skin on my heel. The second the doors closed on the elevator (I was on the 11th floor), I got a notification on my DCL app. I opened it and saw, from Delaney, “Are you going with us? We’re leaving in 10 minutes.” I checked my watch, which said 9:36. I thought our excursion didn’t leave until 10:35, but sometimes there are steps that you have to complete first. Got out on the 9th floor and headed back upstairs. Opened the door to the room and it was completely dark- nobody awake. Quickly figured out that the message had been from the night before, and the time stamp was just when I opened the app. This is one of the stupidest parts of an already stupid app. Perhaps more later on that, but just…it’s stupid. Headed BACK down to the medical office and it was locked. I looked at the time and it said that they opened at 9:30 and it was 9:45. Then it dawned on me….time zone. Duh. Headed back up for coffee and to get ready for our Cozumel excursion-

SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS! Seriously, this could be the coolest thing I have ever done, and I’ve given birth twice! We got to the “Dolphinarium” and, as we were waiting in this “pre-before-soon-no really” waiting area, Aaron noticed a tiki bar. And it turns out, drinks were part of the wholelotofmoney that we paid for the excursion, so we had two. The number of children under the age of ten made that completely necessary, trust me. I did everything I could to engage the less annoying ones that had obviously already driven their parents crazy. One family was really cool and let me completely lie to their children for my own entertainment- though their dad started it when he told his son that the coolest part of the excursion was when we got to cook the dolphins ourselves! He made a face and I told him that there would be plenty of ketchup. We did this to these kids all day. My favorite was when the 7 year old girl kept playing with algae and wouldn’t listen to her mom when she told her to stop playing with it. I leaned over and said “Kaitlyn, you know that’s dolphin poop, right?” She immediately threw it away from her, while her brother said “Wait, *I* wanna play with dolphin poop!”

While we waited for our group to get our life vests and instructions, the sky opened up and a storm that a Florida summer would have been impressed with poured down. Then Thor made his entrance, and the thunder and lightning started. I looked at Aaron, ready to start the process of telling our children that there was no way we were going to get to do this. By the time our group was called to actually leave the sheltered area, the rain completely stopped. It started pouring while we were waiting for the taxi and stopped just in time to head into the Starbucks where we were dropped off. I’m pretty sure my mom was responsible for all of this 🙂

So…the DOLPHIN! We went down about 5 steps into a medium sized pool-ish area with a sand bottom (loved that…I don’t do beaches, but I love the feel of wet sand on my feet). After we met our dolphin (Olympia) and got to pet her a few times as a group, noting these huge scratch marks on her, which were apparently where other dolphins had bit her. I was horrified but apparently it’s like when puppies play and bite. ANYway, I was called up to go first for my one on one with Olympia. She kissed me on my cheek and then I kissed her snout. We hugged and then we got to dance fin to hand. Then the trainer had her splash me. Not cool, Olympia. But it was all SO amazing! I was literally tearing up when I went back to the group. Everyone got a chance and we each had some variance. When we were done, we went into the gift shop, where they had monitors where we could look at the pictures they had taken. These things were so good that they looked photoshopped. We were choosing every single photo, and then we looked at the price. These are very shrewd businessmen, knowing that people like us would pay pretty much anything for photos of these memories.

Only real down side of the day was that they made me take off my necklace after we had locked everything up in our locker. I’ve had this necklace for more than 20 years and have taken it off probably less than 10 times. I was distracted by my anxiety, and I handed the necklace to Aaron, who was distracted by dealing with everything we were doing and now being asked to do more immediately. He handed it to Delaney, who told him to put it in her bag (or something like that). When we got back to the room, I asked for my necklace and we were unable to locate it. Aaron was incredibly upset by the whole thing, and Delaney was upset that he was upset. I actually held it together pretty well, though I wasn’t happy. I mean, seriously, we just KISSED DOLPHINS. the necklace was a thing- something that could be replaced. I changed into dry clothes and headed to the Cove Cafe, to give all of us a chance to chill ourselves. At some point, Delaney texted Aaron and I, asking where we were because McKayla was freaking out. Aaron told her that I was in the shower (I wasn’t) and that he was headed back to the Dolphinarium to look for the necklace. While he was doing this, Delaney and I went to guest services to see if they could call someone at the Dolphinarium (I just really like typing that word) and see if it was turned in. They called someone who called someone who called someone. Haven’t heard back from anyone, but it’s a pretty good bet that it’s gone. I will live.

Naps happened after that, and dinner was really not great. Had the sugar free dessert choice and it was not bad. I’ll probably hit up room service in a bit. Headed to Grand Cayman now, and hopefully, a much easier day.


It’s 2:38 on our last day. I need to catch up. I know I’ll miss a lot of details, but I want to get as much in here as I can.

Grand Cayman: We did an excursion where we got to go in a submarine many feet (I have no recollection of how many, except that every child on the thing screamed out the countdown. I did not punch any of them, I swear). After about 15 minutes of taking pictures of the same small blue fish over and over, I was uncomfortable and bored. These things are not made for the asses of anyone over a size 12. I sat forward and sideways most of the time, except when Delaney pointed out that the 7 year old behind me was standing, so I sat back a bit. After about 50 pictures of the same little blue fish with one or two interesting things (stingrays, cool reef shapes, and a cinder block), I asked Delaney how much longer she thought we would be on this thing, and she reminded me that it was a 2.5 hour expedition. I immediately began to panic, feeling extremely claustrophobic. I tried to distract myself with Word Mocha on my phone. BIG mistake. You know how some people get carsick when they try to use their electronics or read in a car? Apparently, that’s me in a submarine. Blessedly, we started our ascent at the moment that it first hit me. I leaned forward, trying to get the air to blow on my face. When we hit the top, our group was going to be the last to get out and we were at the end of that line. My wonderful daughter asked if I could get out first, and they let me. Unfortunately, this was onto yet another boat, to take us back to the pier. The fresh air helped, though, and I started feeling better. Just in time to be hit by a squall that could have been in any “stranded on the ocean” movie. Rain was coming in sideways faster than the guys who worked there could tie down the panels to protect us. Lasted maybe 10 minutes and then bright blue skies. Just in time for us to get out and head to lunch. Again, I’m pretty sure that was my mom, making her presence known. Headed to Margaritaville for lunch, with no objections from either child (weird). Way more food than we needed, and they were playing loud non-Buffett music, but it was nice to just chill. The gift shop, as usual, took me hostage until I gave them all of my money, but we managed to get Delaney a shirt for pirate night (“Yes I am a pirate, 200 years too late) THAT SHE ACTUALLY WORE AND I HAVE PHOTOGRAPHIC PROOF!. I don’t remember much of anything after that. Perhaps I can fill in the blanks later.

Next day- Jamaica: When we selected the excursions for this trip, we tried to really pull ourselves out of our comfort zones. We have skipped excursions on most of our cruises because they used to be such a nightmare, before McKayla was diagnosed and she and Delaney were both medicated. But we figured that the time was right to try again. In Falmouth, we went to a place where we rode bobsleds (we did not qualify for the Olympics or have a feel-good movie made about us), rode a tram up and down a mountain (I was surprised at how nervous this made Aaron), and did 5 separate zip lines down the mountain. We started with the bobsleds, and I was REALLY nervous. It was really simple, actually. It was about the size of a rollercoaster car, but you sat in it with your legs out in front of you. There were hand brakes on either side to slow you down (which I consistently forgot to do, as I was flipping out so much that I resorted to singing show tunes so I wouldn’t scream. Ironically, “Defying Gravity.”) The zip lining was somewhere in the terrifying realm, but we had so much safety gear on that I don’t think that there was any way possible to get hurt. I was mostly right. We got to a platform with the rest of our group, similarly geared up (there were about 20 of us). We waited in line to climb up on a box, get hooked to both lines with about 3 safety caribiners, “sat” back and waited to be pushed. The first time, I nearly cried just before he pushed me, but I immediately felt completely peaceful and at ease. Unfortunately, the guys that work there think they’re funny. The one on the “catch” side started screaming “No, Ma’am, not so fast! Hit the brakes!” There are no brakes, but when you are barreling towards a tree wrapped in a bright blue wrestling mat and someone screams for you to hit them, you panic. You’re supposed to lift your legs up onto the wooden box on the platform, but in my panic, I didn’t, and scraped the Jonas out of my leg. Ugly, but didn’t hurt much. We did this down four more platforms. I have to say, I am really glad that I had this experience, but I don’t know that I would seek it out again. Mostly because the guys that worked there, particularly one guy named Michael, thought they were hysterical. However, they used the same three jokes over and over. It got old. On the hour drive back to the ship, I caught up on Facebook, carefully avoiding anything political.

When we got back to the ship, all any of us wanted to do was to cool off. We had promised McKayla that if she got through the day (well, the second half of the day) without whining, we would go swimming with her- specifically that we would go on the Aquaduck, a giant tube slide that towers over the ship that you ride inflatable rafts down. By the time we all found our swimsuits, Delaney was over it and took a shower to cool off. Aaron, McKayla and I headed out, but as we hit the top of the stairs, the lifeguard said they were shutting down until the lightning stopped. We headed back to the room to chill while McKayla went out every half hour or so to see if it was open. When it finally was, we went with her. It was fun and I acted more terrified than I was because McKayla thought it was hysterical. She and I shared a raft and I screamed the whole way down, much to her delight. We headed back to our room to dress for pirate night, a staple of any Disney Cruise. However, we do our own half-assed version of pirate night, which is basically pirate-themed t-shirts and the “buff” that they give us that says “Pirates in the Caribbean.”

We all decided to skip the dinner in our assigned restaurant, because nothing looked appetizing. McKayla did her own thing, and Aaron, Delaney and I went to Cabanas, which is a buffet most of the night but at night is a sit-down restaurant. The menu was very similar, and I was getting really bored with my choices. I also realized that there is such a thing as too much shrimp and lobster.

The next day: SEA DAY- Normally, sea days are my favorite. You get to sleep in, be a slug all day, the shops are open (they are closed when we’re in port) and just do your own thing. Aaron and I had both started books that neither of us could put down. Mine was “Adequate Yearly Progress” about a school under scrutiny because of low test scores and a new superintendent who thought he was all powerful. No idea why this appealed to me so much. Tore through that book and tried to find another one by the same author, but I only had a little of the 40 dollar internet package I bought on our second day, and didn’t want to waste it trying to download anything. Found another book to start, but napping was calling me. When I woke up from my nap to head to dinner, it was obvious that I had pulled a muscle doing the incredibly dangerous thing of laying in a bed that is so soft I’m pretty sure it’s made of cotton balls. I couldn’t walk or sit without pain, which got worse when Aaron, Delaney and I crammed into the extremely tiny booth at the restaurant for dinner. I was getting up to head to the room for ibuprofen and was stopped by the Head Server, who brought me two packs of two pills each (on a little plate…it was cute). I took those but got no relief. Headed up to the room to start my book but it hurt too much to lay down, sit up or stand. Grabbed one of the emergency Norco tablets that we keep in our travel bags, and that was magical. Settled in for a night of watching “The Good Place” on my iPad while playing Word Mocha on my phone. Unfortunately, for some reason, my iPad had not downloaded episode 4 of season two, so I was stuck. Switched on Ghostbusters on the room TV and watched that until I fell asleep.

At about 2 in the morning, I was extremely uncomfortable, but not just because of the bed of kittens I was sleeping in. I was having a massive sneezing fit and my nose would not stop running. This is problematic when you are wearing a mask on your face to keep you alive at night. After much time trying to work through the discomfort, I finally gave up and took the mask off. I’m sure that the rest of the night was difficult for everyone around me, as my snoring was likely horrible because A) I didn’t have my mask and 2) I was starting one of my patented 12-hour head colds. This was confirmed when the alarm went off at 8:30 and I just wanted to die. Normal people have a cold that makes them uncomfortable and yukky for 4-5 days. I get a cold that makes me want to die for 12 hours (and it is almost always within 30 minutes of the 12 hour mark). Aaron and the girls headed out for Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay and I fell back asleep, waking up around 10. I headed out of the room so that the stateroom host could clean. I got my coffee and sat down in my quiet nook to read, but two off-duty staffers decided to sit in the chairs opposite me and have a hearty conversation. I left, seeking a quieter place, and headed to the concierge lounge. Two of the three concierges were at Castaway (no doubt delivering the margaritas you could order with the push of a button that I had been looking forward to this whole trip), but the one who was left noticed that I was miserable. She pulled out a box the size of three shoeboxes of medicines. It was like Elvis’s medicine cabinet. I chose some DayQuil and she told me to keep the box. I headed down to the juice/smoothie bar in the spa, just outside our room, and got a 6 dollar, 8 oz cup of freshly-squeezed but grossly warm orange juice. Drank that and read until napping happened. Woke up feeling MUCH better (orange juice is almost always what makes the cold go away), so I decided to start packing, as our bags have to be outside our room by 10:30 tonight. Put some music on my iPad and worked on separating out dirty vs clean clothes and predicting what everyone would want to wear to bed tonight and home tomorrow. Organized all of the souvenirs into our duffle bag that we bring precisely for that purpose. Ordered lunch at about 2:30 and got 2 small orange juices with it, as my symptoms were beginning to return. Took another couple of DayQuil and my sneezes and sniffles are slowing down noticeably. I *am* on my third box of tissues, though. Just waiting for the fam to get back from their day of fun in the cabana/sun now. They’ve stayed out all day, so I’m assuming that there was some actual fun. I just hope McKayla bathed in sunscreen, as it was on this island on our last trip that she got sun poisoning. All-aboard time is in just under an hour. Back to my book!

I’ve Got the Music In Me?

We brought our personal shower speaker with us on this trip because I cannot stand taking a shower without singing, and, for some reason, I cannot remember lyrics when I sing a capella. So I’m singing along to the “Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert” Soundtrack, and I realize that I want to sing. With an audience. I didn’t go to Crazy Karaoke last night because the suggestion was met with an excitement somewhere between the “you need to get a vasectomy” conversation and “I think a musical based on the books of Anne Rice sounds like a great idea” scale. Not wanting to bring someone along unwillingly to watch me, most likely, embarrass myself, I went back to the stateroom, read more chapters in a row than I have in a long time, and fell asleep 10 minutes into episode 9 of season 1 of “Smash.”

Now read that paragraph backwards. It will make more sense.

I’m sitting in the D lounge, alone, waiting for “Family Karaoke.” I know. I spent a fair amount of time explaining why I do not like family karaoke in my last blog/rant/random gathering of words. But I feel like singing. And my new hairstyle, wet, is really cute and deserves to be seen by people who won’t realize that they appreciate it until they’re going over their head in their day later and say, “Hey, remember that one fat chick with the really good hair who tried to sing ‘Part of Your World’ earlier? Why did her shirt smell like teriyaki?”

There are two 12 year olds doing karaoke on the “dance floor.” They just moved chairs out of the way to make room for a handspring. I resisted the urge to go all mom/teacher on them. I was kind of curious what would happen if an unsupervised child broke a wrist on a Disney cruise. The child did a bad cartwheel and said it was a handspring.

I am the only adult in here without children. I think someone is going to call guest services and report me. A waitress just asked me if I’d like something to drink. I asked for water, though my brain screamed “YOU NEED A SHOT OR TWO OF TEQUILA, YOU IDIOT.”

Just went through the book of songs for my standards. Found far fewer than I expected. Of course, my karaoke career was back when singing a Deniece Williams song was avant garde.

Ended up singing “New York State of Mind.” I enjoyed myself, but quickly remembered the best part about going to karaoke, particularly “family” karaoke- watching some kid be ridiculously amazing. This 12 year old got up there and sang “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana.” I had goosebumps the entire time. Of course, I was also conducting the entire song, because I cannot resist an Alex Lacaimore orchestration connected with a Lin-Manuel Miranda lyric.

Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious. Sorry. McKayla just told me some story about how they had to give a password to the captain or the ship would explode if we dropped below 50 knots per hour or something like that. She insisted that she spelled it right. She showed me her spelling. It was hideously wrong. I can’t spell out loud, but I can in writing, so I had to do that. Just pointing out that my iPad knows the made up word from Mary Poppins is spelled right, but doesn’t know the Tony and Grammy Award winning orchestrator. (Edit over a year later- I’m the one who spelled it wrong. Dammit. Spellcheck does, however, now know the word. Gotta love progress).

I’d rather be sailing

I’m sitting in the Crown & Fin Pub aboard the Disney Wonder as our ship waits its turn to go through the last locky thingie of the Panama Canal.

Yes, that is an image on a tv screen. The view from the outside is of one side of the ship or the other, so it’s mostly of buildings with Spanish labels on them that I’m proud of my ability to translate (“Casita de trabajadores,” I decided is “Worker Shack,” which I then immediately sang as if I was a washed up B-52). It’s dinner time, and I decided to forego the fancy restaurant tonight for tortilla chips and chicken wings, as well as the chance to reserve a booth for “TV Tunes Trivia” which starts in an hour and a half. We also have had an unusually long bout with reliable cell service, and, after downloading four new books and reading all of the Facebook, I’m just about running out of things to do. I almost started writing curriculum, so I decided it was time to blog.

The waiter just came up to me, called me by name, and asked me to sign for the margarita I apparently didn’t pay for 2 hours ago. I don’t know whether to be flattered that he remembered me or embarrassed that he remembered me.

While I’m loving today’s connectedness, I have to say that the complete unplug was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. The first day, I practically had the shakes, so Aaron let me get my 50 mb of free WiFi. I went through it in 14 minutes. That was enough to show me that I didn’t need it. Facebook, like Heaven, could wait. I have many books, full unwatched seasons of two shows and partial seasons of three others. I know there was supposed to be punctuation in there somewhere, but I’m on vacation. I’m also distracted by the people at the bar (the only other people in the pub) loudly complaining that they can’t smoke, have sour cream or hear the song “Panama” until 6 pm. Which is in one minute. Antici-

Loving the fact that my children are still young enough to enjoy many of the magical moments, but not demand to stand in line for every character meet and greet. Not sure how we got out of the Captain America meet yesterday, though Delaney has been spending most of her cruise with a younger man…

Is it really blogging if there really isn’t a theme and it’s pretty much stream of consciousness babbling? I don’t know the rules (which I literally almost spelled “rools,” and I am very much sober). I started reading the blog of the woman whose book I am reading- Jenny something- I’m afraid to click out of this app for fear I will lose everything. Google Docs has spoiled me. The book is “Let’s Pretend this Never Happened.” I mentioned to Aaron that there was a chapter he needed to read because I’m pretty sure that someone was spying on us and just wrote down a conversation that we had had. When I told him the author, he said that he had heard of her and was going to recommend her blog/another book to me, as he had heard about her on NPR a while ago. He checked his reminders on his phone. He was right. It was there. From THREE YEARS AGO. I shook my head so vigorously it almost messed up my newly adorable hair. Almost. See, whenever I ask him to do something that requires more than 4 feet of movement, he asks Siri to set a reminder for him. 90% of the time, he then instantly forgets the reminder and Siri, who wants me dead, but will settle for happy and unfulfilled, does not do anything to help him remember. There was a kind of satisfaction seeing three years of incomplete reminders. I didn’t look too closely, afraid I would see things like “Verify cockroach exterminators” and “divorce other wife” on there.

I have my glasses off so that I can see my iPad screen. Therefore, I cannot see anything more than four feet away with any clarity. From what I can guess: The view out the porthole in front of me makes it look like we’re on an airport runway. As I said that, a car drove by us. Like, right by us. Maybe 10 feet away. I am going to go take a picture now. And maybe get a nacho or 10.

Yeah, so the picture doesn’t do it justice, but that is a road right next to us, and we’re about 10-12 feet below it. It’s really kind of cool.

The people at the table next to me just said, “And he told us he’d be happy just being a swing in the ensemble.” My ears perked up and I almost said “HEY, theatre folk! I’m one of you,” but I’ve already frightened too many people on this ship with that kind of behavior. At the very first day of trivia, there was a woman sitting across the room wearing a “Hamilton” shirt. I bounced over and sat next to her and said “My people!” She instantly had fear in her eyes. I explained that I was theatre folk, etc. She asked if I had seen “Hamilton,” and I naturally told her that we’d seen it four times, with 2 being in San Francisco. She mentioned that she had seen it there, too, and that she was from San Jose. I may have gotten a little too excited when I said “ME TOO,” and she then said that she was actually from Santa Clara. She mentioned that her 11 year old daughter, who was on the cruise with her, loved “Hamilton” too. See previous sentence about the “ME TOO” excitement level. I told her to come check out our stateroom door and leave her chat number so that we could hook her daughter up with McKayla. I never heard from her again.

Waiter just brought me ice water. What is he trying to say?

We just moved through the skinny part of the channel thingie. It was really fast and really cool and I totally missed it, though I jumped up and ran to the porthole.

So now we’re sitting in this James Cameron sized pool looking thingie and the thing in front of us does not look like it moves. At all. I think this was all a ruse and they’ve just kidnapped thousands of Disney fans just to get us out of the parks for summer. It’s brilliant, frankly. But apparently I’m wrong, as the top half of the thing (how many times can I say thing in just this section?) is moving and is already halfway gone. This is some serious Indiana Jones crap. (Answer: three).

Oh, and there were no nachos. Just tortilla chips, salsa and sour cream. No fake, melty cheese, though two of the “pub grub” menu items are advertised as having “beer cheese” and “nacho cheese.” Why do I care? I don’t, really. I’m just pissy because of the severe lack of snacking chocolate on this ship. I almost paid 9 dollars in Cartagena for a box of what was, basically, 3 Twix bars. I put them back just because it was a million degrees and I knew they would melt.

75 year old drunken woman at the bar said that there is karaoke after dinner. I have not done karaoke yet in the 6 nights we’ve been aboard for two reasons: 1) I really don’t like doing karaoke with little kids because everyone thinks they’re adorable even when they completely suck, and their parents get kind of pissy when you steal their stage time, 1b) my own children, though having beautiful voices, refuse to do karaoke. They will sing onstage in front of hundreds of people at home (and at times wearing a pleather bra), but not here. 2) I often suck at karaoke and the parents of the small people are rarely drunk enough to “woohoo” me through a song, choosing instead to look at me with a mixture of pity, “good try,” and “now get off the stage so Kierstie can sing ‘Let it Go.’ Again.” But tonight is “Crazy Karaoke” and is billed as 18+. So there will be alcohol. And possibly voter registration. I’m hoping it’s one of those “ninja karaoke” things where either the DJ picks your song or you just say a completely random number and you have to sing whatever comes up. Then it’s likely that everyone will suck equally.

If I was to do a for real, like daily/weekly/periodic blog which I could, someday, turn into a book deal that would eventually be picked up by Sony Pictures, which I would insist star Joan Cusack as me (though I’d probably push for Audra McDonald or Laurie Metcalf when it gets inevitably adapted for Broadway), what would be my overarching theme be? What could I specialize in? What audience would I be looking for? I’ve been thinking about what topics I could be considered an expert, or an authority, or at least not a total fraud on. I’ve narrowed it down to: parenting, parenting with a mental illness, parenting kids with mental illnesses, teaching, teaching with a mental illness, teaching kids with mental illnesses (you see a theme here?) There’s also things like my obsession with contemporary musical theatre, weight loss like an obstinate 12-year-old and the humor of the word spleen. And some of these blogs that I’m looking at are like a sentence long. Sometimes they have a link to something that the author wrote before they were cool enough to have a published blog, sometimes a link to another site, or sometimes just a sentence. And how do I know if people just don’t care what I have to say? And what if I don’t care if people care about what I have to say?

Still sitting in the James Cameron pool thingie. No DiCaprio in sight, but lots of cool lighting and the fancy people on the front deck are dressed better now, and everyone has finally stopped going the “King of the World” pose.

People are walking into the pub saying things like, “Yay, baseball! Finally! They’ve had every other sport- basketball, soccer.” I’m sorry, but did they have figure skating and archery and I missed it?

I turned my head away from the window and it is suddenly dark. I tried very hard for a “Little Shop of Horrors” joke there, but just couldn’t get to it. I’m on vacation.

How long can I make this and expect people to actually read this? I know people are going to pretend that they read it, and will comment on the first couple of paragraphs or the pictures. I feel like I should put a quiz question at the end. I also feel that I should end this soon so that I can post it. The cellular connection has been spotty, and the other road looking thingie is opening now, and we’ll be on through to the other side soon. Who knows how communication works there?

How many words does Dumbo speak?

The family, including our adopted family from Seattle (who we met on Facebook before the cruise, but is clearly secretly related to us..see photographic evidence below) should be here any minute. The dessert menu didn’t look great tonight. Oh, no photographic evidence maybe. All pics are on phone and I can’t get them over to the ipad on which I am writing. Maybe later.

I must to post now. I hope.

The other shoe…

I’ll start with this email, which was not a surprise because I had these results as of 8:50 this morning, but the very gentle wording is both amusing and alarming at the same time. It also set up what may turn into a rant…haven’t decided yet.

So, yeah. As a result of being found to “not meet standards” by one or more of my evaluators (it’s so cute that they think it’s a secret…we literally SIGN the reports after we read them before we send them to the TQP, who then sends out this lovely form letter). In my case, it was one evaluator. I have had 4 in the time I’ve been at WGHS. 3 have never done anything but rave, marking me as “meets standards” in every conceivable area and writing narratives that sound like my mother would have written them (but with less self-deprecation). As a matter of fact, I have never gotten anything LOWER than a “meets standards” with the exception of ONE area in my first year of teaching. It may have been classroom management, and that was on a scale of “does not meet,” “needs improvement,” “nearing standard,” “meets standard,” and “exceeds standard.” I got a “needs improvement, and it was generous. That was the year that I threw the desk. I was not very good at that management thing. I was very much out of my element, teaching 7th grade reading and language arts. Read that slowly. SO many red flags from the very beginning.

I didn’t meet this evaluator’s standards in my first observation cycle this year, either. So I did something very different for me: I took the notes. I didn’t just decide that he was an idiot and I knew better. I listened to what he wanted me to improve. I worked with the coach he assigned me (she was amazing and taught me more in 2 months than I learned in 4 years of methodology classes), I pushed cooperative learning on my kids when it didn’t feel natural. I stopped routines that we had developed with each other because he didn’t find them educationally valuable, though I knew they were important for the social and emotional well-being of 80% of my kids. And truthfully, about 90% of the changes made my classes run smoother, my days easier, and my kids loved the structure of the lessons.

When I would meet with said evaluator after my second semester evaluations, he would be beaming. He would try desperately to find something negative to say, but he wouldn’t have anything. Literally. Everything. He. Said. Was. Positive. Yet, none of this was on my official evaluation. It was very disheartening.

His hands were literally shaking when he came in to give me his report. I almost felt sorry for him, but I knew when I saw them shaking what the outcome of the report would be, and I just didn’t feel like being kind. I get 5 days to write a response. I forced myself not to write anything all day because I want my response to come from a place of logic and education and not emotion and anger.

Things I will miss if I am not reelected for this job (and I loved how that was in a smaller font, btw):

  • I know it’s cliche, but that “light bulb” moment that I get literally every period from some kid who has just had his mind opened or changed or entertained by something we’re listening to or reading or discussing.
  • Buying Jello in bulk to give to kids with no lunch
  • A team of administrators who “get” what I’m trying to do
  • Seeing the new theatre that I helped to design
  • Directing in the new theatre
  • Creating my tech theatre class
  • Taking our Thespians to local and state festivals
  • One-act competitions and showcases
  • Lip-sync throwdowns
  • A booster club that truly puts the needs of the kids first
  • Learning the names of the other 70% of the staff members
  • Fully embracing the Google Drive
  • Directing my children in their final high school productions
  • Directing someone through all four years of high school productions
  • Watching one of our kids become an Honor level Thespian or higher
  • Seeing one of our kids go to the Jimmy Awards (though this very well may happen this year)
  • Creating the district-wide one-act/monologue competition I really want to create
  • Bringing group-interpretation to California
  • Watching my kids direct their senior Showcases
  • Turning more students from “I’m John, and I’m dropping this class,” to “This is my 3rd show!”
  • Seeing an EL, or Special Ed, or 504 student decide that they don’t need an accommodation I’m giving them because they’ve totally got what we’re doing DOWN.

Okay, I can’t keep going on this train of thought, because I’m either going to start weeping or play frisbee with my iPad.

Aaron always says that things will turn out the way they’re meant to. I will have the job I’m supposed to have. If I don’t have this one, it’s because I’m not supposed to.

I’m just not there yet.

Those Magic Changes…

Making just a small change in my life seems to have had a huge impact on my attitude, my physical health, my mental well-being and my overall place on this earth. I’m very “hello” about 90% of the time, and the time that I’m not, I’m usually tired or hungry. There’ve been times that overwhelmed has tried to sneak in, but my support system is recognizing the cues and slapping it down.

2 weeks ago today, I started Weight Watchers….again. I really want to say that this will be the last time- that this time will stick and my inner, bratty, fat girl (I’ve named her Regina), will stay quiet and leave me alone and let me change (for the better and for good….c’mon, you know I was going there). Leaving for weigh-in in about 10 minutes, but I’ve never liked to be surprised on the scale there. I do not have a good poker face when it comes to my weight, and I know how hard it is for the receptionists to deal with someone visibly disappointed. I’d rather have that moment in private. So, I weigh myself at home. My home scale is about .6 pounds heavier than WW’s. If my math is correct (and it’s usually not), I am down about 10 pounds in 2 weeks. 8 pounds the first week (totally expected….week one is always a huge loss of water weight), but week 2 is supposed to be impossible- losses of about a half pound. But I EARNED this big loss this week. Which leads to another change.

Because I got my dream job at JUST the right time, I get to be a part of the design and renovation of our cafetorium into a brand new, working, beautiful, theatre. It’s the dream we hung onto at Andrew HS, which didn’t come to fruition until long after I graduated. The renovation goes out to bid next month, but we had to get everything out of the theatre space, which included my somewhat-attached classroom. This left me without a teaching space.

After over a month of uncertainty, on the Friday of the weekend we had to have everything out, my wonderful boss tells me that he has arranged for me to move into our community space, the Mickey Long Center. Not only is this a HUGE space, nobody was in the classroom area, so I was able to move immediately, instead of waiting for someone to pack their things and get out.

Since moving there, I’m walking more to and from various locations, because it’s not in the center of everything like my last classroom was. There’s also SO much room that I can pace around my classroom, going in between rows to keep better eyes on my students. Finally, I have positioned my desk and all of my stuff (refrigerator, supplies) so that nothing is within hand’s reach. I actually have to get up if I need something. My FitBit is also keeping me motivated.

I feel healthy. I’m energized. I look forward to every day. Yes, there are still challenges. But I feel like I will face them and be triumphant, not crumble to the ground.

Kinda liking 3.0.


It’s almost 11 pm on Christmas Eve. I have managed to stay smiling and positive all day, despite what, truthfully, have been very minor setbacks. Packages didn’t arrive. Things didn’t get wrapped. Numbers of gifts were uneven. But it’s all good. I’m “hello.”

But I’m not. I miss my mom. This is technically my first Christmas without her, but my last Christmas when Chicago was still home was 1997. I’ve spent nearly 20 years wishing her Merry Christmas on the phone, or waking up in a hotel room, or celebrating Christmas with her days later, or months earlier. So the day on the calendar isn’t really what’s getting to me.

I grew up in a household of tradition. Part of it was our strong, Irish (ahem) heritage. Looking back on it now, a large part of it is how much we were all suffering from anxiety and used our traditions to help us cope with that. But we didn’t know that back then. Heck, it’s only really hitting me now that this is the most likely explanation.

Christmas traditions in my family- in no particular order:

• The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Mom’s special recipe from that small French town, Tollhouse

• A magazine and a bag of candy in our stockings, which would be tied with curling ribbon to the top of the metal railing that kept us from falling from the 1st floor to the basement.

• Hanging our own star ornaments on the tree every year. We each had one. Of course, it eventually became a competition to see who could hide theirs the best.

• Waking up and the very first thing we would look for would be who had the biggest present. It was always my younger brother, Jason. Always.

• Decoding Mom’s tag “system.” A tag that said “Love, Mom and Dad” could be anything- even the socks and underwear we were threatened with every year for not making a list. “WITH love” meant it was our big present. “With MUCH love” meant it was something having to do with the big present, but not the present itself, but must be opened after the big present.

• The penguin in the nativity scene. Mom had so many Christmas and winter tchotchkes (yup, it’s a word AND it’s spelled right) in the house, it was hard to avoid them- the Nutcracker and the walnuts we were not supposed to touch (though Dad always did and it drove her crazy), her needlepoint/crochet/cross-stitch holiday designs, and the styrofoam igloo with the penguin stuck on top with a toothpick. One day we were horsing around and we broke the penguin off the top. We tried to glue it back on, but it wouldn’t work. Finally, we just hid the penguin in the nativity scene, right next to the camel with no legs and the 3 wise men. She didn’t notice until she was putting everything away on January 3 (every year- the day after Dad’s birthday). She was….displeased. And yet, that penguin lived there every Christmas thereafter.

• Opening one present before breakfast. Then having to show willpower beyond our years to wait for the rest. Because we didn’t often get to have a big, hot breakfast like that, mom and dad would take their time. It was worse when Christmas fell on a Sunday, because it was one present before breakfast, one present before church, and THEN the rest.

• The cardboard fireplace at the top of the stairs. I don’t know how many years we had that thing, but it seemed very important at the time. I think we thought that’s how Santa got in.

• Christmas Eve at Grandma Ashum’s with the entire extended family. Mom, the aunts and Gram all cooking upstairs. Grandpa in his chair watching television and yelling for Gram. Eating downstairs on the ping-pong table (which was 2 giant pieces of green plywood and a net on top of the pool table) because it was the only place that would fit Gram, her three kids, their spouses, and the 10 children between them. Watching for Rudolph out the back (front) porch window and getting a little freaked out when we would see the red light in the sky.

• Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” so often that we could quote the last 15 minutes word for word. We would watch it on one channel, then flip to another channel that was showing it, and watch until the end. Repeat. Annoy. Repeat. Whaddya know about that? Merry Christmas!

• Christmas ham. That just popped into my head. That’s what we had for dinner every Christmas. Ham. I think it was the kind from a can. But I remember that mom did a criss-cross thing on it and put a honey-mustard glaze. I would copy this the first time I would ever cook dinner for a guy.

• Mom always apologizing for how “lean” our Christmas would be that year, and then we would wake up and the living room would look like Santa had vomited all over it. Every year, no matter how little money there was, our parents would nearly kill themselves to make sure that we got everything we wanted. And there was always, ALWAYS something we didn’t put on a list- something we didn’t think they even knew we wanted.

I have kept many of these traditions in my family. Some work, some don’t. Some we’ve adapted to fit our family and the times. We made cookies this year, but I didn’t get to smell them and McKayla didn’t even like them. The stockings are filled exactly like they were when I was a kid, but they’re laying on the TV stand- and they include a stocking for my niece, one for her boyfriend and one for the son I never knew I wanted 🙂 Penguins are still big. Mine was in my “Bedford Falls” village (my version of a nativity scene) until I brought it to school to insert subtly into our set for “It’s a Wonderful Life” (passing that on to my kids and my “kids,”) and he disappeared. Used the tag system on presents for each of the girls.

There will be no “Oh, honey, I miss you guys so much” from my mom tomorrow. No tears in her voice. No story about how silly her doggies are being. But she’s here. She’s in my heart and in my family.

Love you, Mom.

Merry Christmas.



Today, I was worried. I’ve spent much of the last two days on Amazon, clicking the “show only one day delivery eligible” button, or whatever it’s called. I spent a crap ton of money, trying to catch up to the Christmas spirit that has been eluding me thus far this year. I’ve had a smile on my face. I’m binge watching “Grey’s Anatomy” and reading…well….the Internet. I’ve had no stress, or anxiety. I didn’t even realize that tomorrow was Christmas Eve until McKayla pointed it out. Oh, really? Cool.

So, am I manic? Am I on a high that is going to crash at JUST the wrong time? Am I going to ruin Christmas, or the trip to Seattle? And I think about it, and no. I’m not manic. I’m not chemically altered by substances inside or outside my brain. I’m just….

a 5 letter word that starts with H.

I don’t want to say the word. Yes, I’m not Irish, as I grew up believing, but I was raised to be superstitious. The H word to someone with bipolar is like the M word in theatre. I do not want to jinx it. I’m telling Aaron this story, and we come up with “hello.”

…so I’m hello. And I’m going to try to ride this out as long as I can. And I know that the next 36 hours will be high stress (I literally have 20 packages arriving “by 9 pm tomorrow” from Amazon and my present-wrapping strategy of “pay someone better than me to do it” will not likely work this year, as my present wrapper did all of my shopping and is not…hello.

But I think I can do it. This is likely going to be the hardest Christmas I’ve had in a long time. I lost my mom. I’m worried about my job. My kids are struggling. My passion makes me crazy. My “person” and I are having our moments. But everyone around me has my back. And I can actually feel it. It’s not often that I can feel it the way I do right now. But I do.


So, hello—-