Wednesday, April 30, 2008

CN and the Doctors

On Saturday afternoon, I made strawberry shortcake for CN. He loved it.

But after he ate, he said he didn't feel well. After some jokes about how I am poisoning him and/or not washing the strawberries, he decided to lie down. I joined him, because I didn't feel well either (little did I know, I was hours away from getting a migraine, and this was my body trying to warn me). Besides, my calves were killing me, thanks to my trainer's brilliant idea that I do 150 calf raises AND 30 pound lifts (45 times) on the calf weight machine at the gym. I would spend the weekend trying to stretch out my calves, only to end up hobbling around on my tippy toes, like some geriatric Barbie doll.

After our nap, I felt a little better, but CN felt worse -- much worse. He had nausea, dizziness, bloating, lower back pain, chills and....let's just say that "things" weren't "moving along". So I spent the evening taking care of him. I felt helpless, because nothing I did seemed to make him feel much better. I tried to stay up late with him -- he was in so much pain that he couldn't sleep -- but I konked out around 11pm. "Wake me up if you need anything," I said drowsily. I suck at being a night owl.

This pattern went on through Saturday night, all day Sunday and all day Monday. CN would eat, feel terrible, lie down, writhe in pain all night, then wake up feeling slightly better in the morning. And he had to go to extreme measures to get things "going", if you know what I mean.

To make things even worse, I woke up with a mild migraine on Sunday, so I was feeling pretty miserable, too. Thanks to a lot of caffeine, I managed to keep most of the pain at bay. So we went to Wal-Mart. But that was it! By the time we left, both of us were feeling worse. We laid around in bed for the rest of the day, feeling like crap!

"Wow, we are one exciting couple," he said.

On Monday morning, CN went to go see Dr. Quack. I call him Dr. Quack because when CN went to him last year, complaining of um....something really gross that can be a sign of something REALLY bad, he told CN to "just cut back on alcohol".

WTF?? A young, otherwise healthy man comes to you, complaining of unexplained bleeding, and you tell him to cut back on beer??! ARG!

"I really wish you wouldn't go see him again," I said. "He's a quack!"

"Well, I already made the appointment," he replied.

CN comes back from the doctor and calls me at work. "Ok, Dr. Quack says I have a kidney infection."

"But you have been complaining about gastro-intestinal issues," I replied, confused.

"Yeah, I know. But he tested my pee, and it came back infected. So I'm on antibiotics."

I remembered his lower back pain -- it must have been in his kidneys. That kind of made sense. I asked him if Dr. Quack said anything else about his other symptoms.

"Yeah, I told him about the dizziness, and he said I probably have congested sinuses, so he told me to go buy some Mucinex," CN replied.

"Do you have congestion?" I asked.

"No," CN answered. "But I bought some anyway. Just took the first dose."

Who the hell is this doctor?? I thought to myself. And why is my normally intelligent boyfriend just accepting everything he is saying as gospel?? Doesn't he see that this doc is a moron?? Apparently, I am going to have to just do all this for CN, because he cannot be trusted to be in charge of his own health. This is so ridiculous.

That's when I recognized this particular Voice in My Head: It was the worst voice of all. It was the voice of The Czarina. I was turning into my mother before my very eyes. As terrifying as it was, I couldn't stop it. It was like a ventriloquist had taken over my body. I was the dummy on her lap, saying whatever she would say.

"Ok, well, I will come check on you when I get home today," I replied. [Czarina Voice Translation: When I come over today after work, I am going to make you go see a real doctor who gives logical answers, because I am pretty sure this doctor got his MD from the back of a cereal box.]

By the time I got home, he was feeling a lot better, but he hadn't really eaten anything that day, so we went to grab some BBQ. As soon as he finished eating, he felt terrible again. Seeing the pattern of eating --> illness, I tell him I really think he should go to see a gastroenterologist. I was worried he might have IBS, diverticulitis or an intestinal blockage -- or worse.

We go home, and he's now really uncomfortable and lying on the couch. "We might need to go to the emergency room," he said. I explained (ok, Czarina's Voice explained) to him that if we go to the emergency room, they will put him at the bottom of the list because he's not bleeding to death and he doesn't have any heart/lung issues. Then, once they get around to seeing us at 4am, they will probably tell us to pop some vicodin and call your regular doctor in the morning.

He agreed and decided to stay put for the time being. He took some tylenol for the pain. To make him feel better, I stayed at his house in case he needed anything.

He felt ok yesterday morning -- not great, but ok. I went to work and came to check on him at lunch. It was time to visit a REAL doctor. One who didn't prescribe medicines for non-existent symptoms.

"But I've already been to the doctor," he whined.

"My coworkers recommend Dr. B," I said, ignoring him. He was going to the doctor whether he liked it or not. [Czarina was in full swing now.]

"Shouldn't we wait until the antibiotics really kick in? I mean, I'm fine! This is no big deal!" he said.

That's when I lost it. I gave CN a tear-filled lecture about how worried I was and how he's got to go to the doctor, if only so that I can stop worrying. I listed off all the reasons I wasn't happy with Dr. Quack and told him a bunch of scary stories I had heard about unresolved gastro-intestinal issues. After about 20 minutes of nagging, lecturing, guilt-tripping and begging, he finally caved in and agreed to call.

Dr. B couldn't see him for 2 days.

"Ok, yeah, Friday is ok, then," CN said into the phone.

"No, it's NOT!!" I hissed. "You need to see someone TODAY!!"

We called the doctor recommended to us by Dr. B's receptionist.

"Tomorrow morning at 9? Sure, that would be ok," CN said into the phone.

By this point, I was ready to grab the phone away from him and do it myself. What is it with men and doctors??!!

"Does he specialize in gastroenterology? Ask her if he specializes in gastro-intestinal issues," I asked. CN asked receptionist #2.

"No, he doesn't," CN told me. He went back to talking to receptionist #2.

"My chief complaint? Uh...I don't feel good. Just, ya know, in pain, in my back, mostly," he said.

"No!! You are having severe abdominal pain and nothing is making it better and you need to see someone TODAY!" I practically yelled. I was hovering over him by this point, like a helicopter.

CN made the appointment for the next morning at 9am. He got off the phone.

"Ok, we are calling a gastroenterologist this time," I said.

"But I just made an appointment with a family doctor for tomorrow," he said, confused.

"Yes, I realize this, but you need a gastroenterologist TODAY. Tomorrow isn't good enough. If you don't take health problems seriously, they will turn into serious health problems," I said. I gave him the number I had looked up in the phone book. He called and made an appointment for 2:30 that afternoon.

I took off the rest of the afternoon so that I could go with him.

"This really isn't necessary," CN said, as I made a list of all his symptoms and all the foods he had eaten in the past 48 hours. "I'm a big boy. I can go to the doctor by myself."

"Oh yeah? You can? What happened last time?" I asked.

"He told me I was congested. And I'm not," he mumbled.

"What else?" I asked, shrewishly. I was on a roll, now. This was Classic Czarina, spewing from my mouth. My hands may have even been on my hips.

"And I forgot to tell the doctor all of my symptoms. Or ask questions," he mumbled again.

"I'm going to the doctor's appointment with you, even if they make me sit in the waiting room the whole time." I announced, one eyebrow raised. "Besides, look at you. You're in so much pain, you can't even sit up straight. You can't drive like this."

We went to the doctor, complete with the list of symptoms I had written and all his medicines, including the over the counter stuff. They let me go into the exam room with CN.

The doctor comes in, and we tell him everything. I make CN show him the list I made.

The doctor tells us that sometimes, when someone gets any kind of infection, it can mess with your gastro-intestinal tract. So it was probably the kidney infection causing the gastro-intestinal problems. The doctor asked CN some questions, just to rule out anything serious. CN was fine. Just a little backed up, was all. (Finally! Some answers!!)

"So what's up with the Mucinex?" I asked.

The doctor turned to CN. "Are you congested?" he asked.

"No," said CN.

"Hmmm....I bet Dr. Quack meant to write down 'Miralax', an OTC laxative, but he wrote down 'Mucinex' by mistake. So stop taking the Mucinex if you don't have congestion. Let's get you some Miralax instead, ok? You can get it at drugstores or grocery stores. It's over the counter," he said.

Oh my gawd. You have got to be kidding me, I thought. Jeez Louise. If CN was allowed to do what he wanted, he'd be dead or buying snake oil from some infomercial. I am just going to have to run this show from now on.

"Tell him about your prostate!!" I whispered to CN. CN has an enlarged prostate. It is hereditary in his family. His dad has prostate cancer right now, in fact, which is something you are at a high risk for if you have an enlarged prostate.

CN tells him all about the prostate issues.

"Ok, so let me get this straight. You have a urinary/kidney infection and an enlarged prostate?" asked the doctor.

"Yes," said CN.

"Well, what does your urologist say?" he continued.

"Um, I have never been to a urologist. Dr. Quack just told me to take saw palmetto, that herbal supplement that is supposed to help," CN explained.

You could have knocked the doctor over with a feather! He was visibly shocked. "You mean to tell me that you have prostate cancer in your immediate family, a history of enlarged prostate symptoms AND a urinary/kidney tract infection and you haven't been to a urologist??!" he exclaimed.

Thank you, you genius doctor, I thought. I have been telling him to go to a urologist for months.

"Um. No." CN mumbled.

"I'm referring you to one right away. You really don't need me, you need a urologist," he said.

We made the appointment at the urologist's, paid the bill and drove home.

"Thanks for coming with me, babe," CN said.

"You're welcome. Sorry I had to get all Czarina on your ass, but I was worried sick and you acted like you weren't concerned, and I got scared, which brings out my inner control freak," I said.

"No, I'm glad you did. It shows you care. I was kind of scared that there was something really wrong with me, and I didn't want to deal with it. Thanks for making me talk to a good doctor. I feel a lot better," he said.

"So I wasn't totally obnoxious?" I asked.

"No! You were great. I really appreciate it...Czarina."

"Shut up. Don't call me that ever again," I mumbled.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bahamas Pics

Hello, dear readers. You have all been waiting patiently for my vacation photos. *crickets chirp* I'm sorry it has taken me this long to get them up, but I have good excuses!!! Look:

Sammy didn't stop barfing until Sunday. I had no paper towels, clean rags or carpet cleaner left by the time it was over. Ugh.

I had a migraine all day Sunday. And my trainer KILLED my calves at the gym on Friday night. My calves STILL hurt today. But it's much better than the last three days, where my calves have been so tight that I have had to hobble around like some kind of geriatric Barbie doll. People were staring at me, actually, I was walking so awkwardly.

CN has been having MAJOR gastro-intestinal issues since Saturday evening, and I have been worried sick about him. We are going to the doctor as soon as I post this, actually. We almost went to the emergency room last night, because he was in so much pain. He's not in too much pain right now, but let's just say that something just isn't right with him, and I'm getting really concerned. I don't want to go into the gory details, but there's a laundry list of issues he's having right now. Remind me to tell you about Dr. Quack. (That might be tomorrow's post.)

Alright, on to the pics. Maybe some of you still care to see them?? I dunno.

Can you see the "fever" of stingrays in the water? Yes, that is the correct term for a group of stingrays. I looked it up. Of course. They were kind of creepy, the way they "flew" underwater.
This is the view from the ferry we took to the island with the stingrays. This is some big resort in Nassau.
This is some government building in Nassau. It's really old, and I love that it's pink -- so Caribbean, no? It's hard to see, but the seal of The Bahamas, there on the portico, has a blue marlin and a pink flamingo on it. I thought that was so cool. Very exotic.
This is a shot of the beach area where we swam after we finished swimming with stingrays. Isn't the water beautiful?? Even with the rain clouds overhead, it's still gorgeous.
This shot is just to the left of the last photo. The yellow hut is the first aid stand, I think.
This was the view from deck when we pulled into Freeport the day before. (Yeah, these are out of order. Sorry!) That wall you see jutting out into the water is where the boat parallel parked! Can you imagine parallel parking a cruise ship??
CN's feet are pale. Mine have long toes. Freaky feet!! This was on the ferry as we went to go swim with stingrays.
This is what the deeper water looked like in the Caribbean. So pretty.
I got a good close-up shot of a stingray!

I know these are not the best photos ever. I'm just not artsy like that. And most of my pics (obviously) include me or CN. Since I am trying to cling to what little shred of anonymity I have on here, I am not sharing them. Besides, I don't want to put up pics of CN without his permission. So if you are wondering what I look like, just imagine....I look like Jessica Simpson. Or Scarlett Johanssen. Yeah. I'm the spitting image.

Ok, I'm off to take CN to the doctor. Yes, he needs a chaperone, trust me. *groan* More on that tomorrow.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sick Puppy

Note to readers: This is one of those posts where you should not eat and read. So put down your lunch.

This is a photo of my dog, Sammy. Yesterday, Sammy went to the vet to have some teeth pulled. Yes, I know I should brush my dog's teeth and yadda yadda yadda. Trust me, I have a pretty hefty guilt trip about it and I have sworn on all things holy to start brushing his teeth ASAP. But it was too late to save a couple of them, so he had to be put under so they could be removed. Just like humans, dogs must have empty tummies before being put under anesthesia. So poor Sammy didn't get to eat that morning.

After I got off work, I picked him up. The combination of anesthesia, pain killers and antibiotics left him looking pretty ill. He was lethargic and wobbly. The vet said that he will be like that for maybe a day, because the anesthesia had to wear off.

I took him home, and waited an hour to feed him, like the vet told me. I fed him half of what I normally fed him, and added water to the food so it would be soft, just like the vet told me. I also gave him one of the painkillers the vet had given me. Since Sammy was sick and I had a headache, we vegged out on the couch together all night. He was really not himself, poor little thing.

This morning, everything seemed to be fine -- Sammy was a littler perkier and seemed more like himself. So I gave him one of his antibiotic capsules before I forgot. Which was stupid of me, because I am Barf Queen, and I should have remembered one of the Laws of Barf:

Empty tummy + antibiotics = barf

So the medicine came back up. Realizing what I had done wrong, I decided to give Sammy some canned dog food and then tried again to give him his medicine.

He was starved, so he pretty much wolfed it down as usual. I followed it up with the antibiotic. Everything was fine for about an hour.

Then I went to go get ready for work. I came out of the bathroom a little later to find....

Tons of barf. It was everywhere. And not just in one spot, either -- it was like Sammy had made a lap around the room, barfing as he went. There was a giant circle of chunky, pinkish-reddish barf in my living room.

And of course, true to my level of luck, it was all on the carpet, rather than the easy-to-clean linoleum. I sighed and looked at my dog.

Sammy had that look on his face that he has when he does something wrong. Aw. My poor baby. He thought he was in trouble! So I reassured him that everything was ok, and began cleaning it up.

"Well, his tummy just needs to calm down still. I will try feeding him tonight when I get home," I thought. Worried, I decided to call the vet anyway. She said that it is just taking him longer to recover than usual, and just to give it time, and don't let him eat any more food for a while.

I went back to getting ready for work.

Sammy barfed again.

And again.

And again.

Seven pools of dog barf later, I was totally out of paper towels and rags. I was now running late for work, and my house smelled like carpet cleaner. Aw, man! I wish Sammy could just barf once and get it all over with, you know?

Hurrying around to get ready and clean up, I suddenly remembered that I had some leftover dog medicine for vomiting, from a while back. So I gave one of the pills to Sammy before I left for work today. CN is going to check on him in a little bit, but hopefully he will be ok now.

Poor little guy. He hasn't eaten in two days. :( And he looks so pathetic!!!

In other news, I went to my Big Brothers Big Sisters orientation. I am so excited about volunteering for them!! But first, I have to have a 2 hour interview, where they will ask me all kinds of stuff, including, but not limited to:

- my use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco
- whether or not I own firearms/have them in the house
- my living situation (ie, roommates, pets, etc.)
- my sexual orientation (I'm sure they will have questions about CN, since he lives so close to me)
- any abuse/neglect I have experienced in my life
- what my childhood was like and what my relationships with my family members are like
- why I want to volunteer for them

I figured these would be the sort of things they'd ask me about. And it's fine -- I totally understand, and I'm glad they ask the important questions. But I am afraid I'm going to cry during the interview!!! There's no way I can answer these questions without talking about my brother's death, my father's death, all the alcoholism in my family, my own alcoholism and the sexual assault I had in college. (No, I was not raped, but it was an act that I was forced into and I was physically restrained during it. So it's not exactly the highlight of my college experience. It's not a huge deal for me to talk about it, but it's not a picnic, either.)

It is about 4 weeks until my interview. So I have time to mentally prepare myself to talk about pretty much all the crap in my life in one go. Ugh. Anyway, after that, if my references check out and they like who I am and what I say during the interview (ie, I am not a danger to any child), they will start to look for a Little Sister for me. I was disappointed to hear that this process might take about 6 months. :( But it's just that they want to make sure they pair you up with someone who you can hang out with over the long term. So I understand.

They have encouraged us to think about what kind of a Little we are looking for. We have to think about what sorts of issues we are willing to deal with: behavioral, abuse, domestic violence, physical disability, etc. It's kind of a weird feeling, to sit here and think "yes" or "no" about some kid's life experience. A kid who has been having a rough go of things. And here I am, deciding what I can tolerate. But I understand why they want us to do this. Not everyone can handle every type of situation. And sometimes, if you have been in the same situation as the kid, you are a better match for them. So in the long run, I think it's good, the way they do this. You don't want to go through the whole process, only to back out of it 4 months later. These kids have enough problems, without you getting their hopes up.

Another thing they encouraged us to do was to do free or low-cost activities with the kids. Not only do you not want to feel resentment towards the kid about the money you spend, you don't want to spoil the kid or cause a rift between you and the parent. Most of the parents in this program don't have a lot of money, and you don't want to swoop down with your credit card and "save the day". Splitting the cost with the parents and doing something special for the kid's birthday are fine, but you don't want to be a walking wallet. It's just not a good idea. This is fine with me, because as we all know, I am trying to budget, anyway!

So I guess that is all I have for right now. The ball won't really get rolling until I go to my interview and cry when the lady brings up all my personal stuff! :P

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Back to the Grindstone: Budget

Obviously, my cash flow is on the low side after my cruise. It ended up costing about $700 total, which ate up the majority of my tax refund.

So it's back to the grindstone as far as budgeting is concerned. Here are some bright spots:

1. I just transferred my old Visa balance to a new 0% interest rate card. I am going to make $200 payments per month (more than double the minimum amount due) so that I can get the debt down to about $1,000 in a year. That is sooooo much more manageable. Once it's that low, I should have it paid off completely six months later. In theory.

2. April = mild temperatures = low electricity bill.

3. I have already paid off the cruise. Entirely. WOOT -- that was hard to do, but I decided to be the responsible adult for once. Go me.

There are some challenges:

1. I would like to get a part time job. It would be strictly for savings account/credit card debt purposes. But how can I find a part time job that won't interfere with my gym/exercise regime? I need to have time to work out. And it needs to be a job that won't leave me totally exhausted, so that I can still hit the gym afterwards. Anyone have any good ideas? Here is a list I have made of ideas:

* could try to be a Clinique girl again. Plus: free makeup! Downside: putting makeup on some people is gross. (Have I told you my stories??) And if you've ever worked retail, you know that it has its own type of suckage.

*I could wait tables. Plus: lots of exercise while I work! Downside: I come home smelling like food. And say good-bye to weekends. And getting enough sleep.

*I could be a PT librarian at another library. Plus: It pays very well, and the work is easy. Plus, libraries are always cold in the summer. Downside: Even more sitting on my ass, being bored. And one library here in town is still pissed at me for quitting, so I know they won't even consider hiring me back.

2. If I got rid of my Internet at home, it would save me $45 per month. That adds up quickly. I would love to get rid of my Internet at home, especially since I never use it. CN already told me that if I needed to, I can use his computer for Internet. So what's the problem? I use my computer to charge my iPod and use iTunes so that I can work out. I canNOT exercise without music. No Internet = no iPod = no exercise = fat VB. And that cannot happen. Does anyone know how I can get around this? CN's work computer won't let me use iTunes and his USB ports are broken, anyway. So using my iPod at his house is out for now. And I don't want to leave my iPod at work to charge. Obviously. Does anyone know if you can still charge your iPod even if you don't have Internet???

And there are some goals:

1. I have another credit card, which has a balance that is quickly getting away from me. It's hovering around $6000. I know that's not that bad, but I need to get a hold of it. Because it's nothing to be proud of, either. The bad news? The APR is......oh, jeez, I am embarrassed to say. It's a long story. Anyway, I think I need to transfer this $6000 balance to my old Visa (the one whose balance I just transferred to the 0% card), because the old Visa's only got a 9.9% interest rate. Which is much better than the current rate. Am I correct in saying that this is a good idea? Or will this look weird on my credit report?? At least the balance won't be growing astronomically anymore, right? It will just know, about 50% slower.

Are you loving it that I am asking my readers to be my pseudo-financial-advisors? LOL

Anyway, this sounds like a good idea in theory, so I am going to call the old Visa peeps on Thursday to ask about transferring this $6000 balance onto my recently-emptied card.

I am on a mission to be in less debt on December 31st than I was at the beginning of this year. I am determined to pay down these credit card balances!! And maybe even have a savings account again!

On a totally unrelated note, have I told y'all that MJ has no credit card debt? And that CN has ZERO credit cards? Yeah. My freak of a boyfriend has no credit cards. The only debt he has is his mortgage and his car payment. He doesn't even have any school loans from college left -- he already paid them all off. He is obviously concerned about my credit card debt. And I am, too. But I keep trying to tell him that most people have far more debt than I do.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Cruise News, Part 3

As much as I have complained about the cruise, it was not all bad.

Friday, we were in port at Freeport. We decided not to go on any excursions that day, in order to save money. Besides, we were only there for about 7 hours, and none of the excursions sounded like they were can't-miss. Freeport is, according to all the travel websites and books I consulted, not anything worth seeing.

CN and I did look at the little tshirt shops that were literally right off the gangplank. I finally got to listen to someone speak in the local Bahamian accent. It sounds very similar to a Jamaican accent, but not as thick. After about an hour, we had seen everything there was to see, so we got back on the boat.

That night, we had our formal dinner. We went to the cocktail party beforehand, where we had yummy appetizers and drinks--all free. CN and I did a little slow dancing, which was nice (aw). For dinner, most of our group opted for the surf n turf combo: filet mignon and lobster tail. Aside from the lobster tail being rubbery and overcooked, it was good food.

Everyone changed into more comfortable clothes immediately after eating dinner, which doesn't really justify getting all dressed up to begin with. (Note to self: VB, you enjoy vacations which do not require formal wear.) Everything was going pretty well, and CN and I even managed to stay up with the rest of the group for about an hour. But by then, we were pooped, so we went to bed.

At some point that night, we were jarred awake by extremely loud banging on our door. At first, I imagined we were in the midst of some kind of Titanic-like sinking, or there was a big fire on board. CN, who was closer to the door, jumped up to see who was banging at the door.

No one was there. No one was even in the hallway.

Waking up in a panicked state is probably my least favorite thing in the whole world. So I was pretty pissed. "Stupid kids..." I mumbled, as I rolled back over to go back to sleep.

That's when the phone rang.

CN answered it.

"Hello?" asked CN.


*click!* went the phone. Larva hung up on CN.

"It's Larva," explained CN. "I know him. He's not going to stop."

I groaned.

That's when the banging started again. As soon as CN would get up to tell Larva to stop, Larva would run down the hall, giggling, and finally ducking into his room in the nic of time. CN would come back to bed, and as soon as we had gotten comfortable and closed our eyes, the phone would ring again. Ignoring the phone did not work. It just kept ringing. Taking it off the hook caused it to make a very loud beeping sound. So we were forced to deal with the incessant ringing.

This went on for at least a half an hour. Banging. Ringing. Burping. Giggling. Repeat.

After round 3 of this, I had had enough. I stood up and informed CN that although Larva is his friend, I officially hate him and never wish to ever hang out with him again. And that this bullshit had to stop. Now.

CN was way ahead of me. He was even more pissed off than I was. "That's it. I'm punching him in the face. I'm going down to his room and when he opens the door, I'm clocking him," he announced.

CN went down to Larva's room. I can't remember how long he was there, since I was groggy at best. But I remember that CN came back frustrated that Larva wouldn't even answer the door. Neither would his wife, Sandra. (We found out later this was because she had PTFO.)

We tried to go back to sleep, but ended up tossing and turning for about an hour, since we were so wound up. We didn't sleep very well that night.

In the morning, we tried to get in better moods, despite Larva's lack of an apology. *grrrr* We had breakfast and then got ready for our port-of-call in Nassau. We all decided to spend $65 (each) on a 4 hour excursion and go together as a group. At 9am, we got onto a ferry for a 30 minute ride off the coast. By this point, the water was breathtaking. It looked like this, but better. I don't really know how to describe it, other than to say that all those photos you see of the Caribbean do not do the real thing any justice. The weather was perfect, and there was a nice breeze. Ahhh. So far, so good.

The ferry took us to a small island, where there was a beach, a bar, a souvenir shop and a snack shack. We had our photos taken, and then put our stuff down on some lawn chairs. Then, we went to a little roped-off area where we grabbed snorkeling equipment.

It was time to go swimming with sting rays.

Oh yes. The same animal that killed the Crocodile Hunter. Only these were de-barbed for our safety. Whew. On a side note, these animals are really creepy, so the barbs are really superfluous, IMHO.

I put on my snorkeling equipment and began swimming around the sting ray area. The creepy sting rays move like underwater birds. They tend to herd together and swim in schools. If you have ever seen a horseshoe crab, the sting ray looks like a flattened version of it! [Note: These two animals are not really related. Sting rays are related to sharks and horseshoe crabs are related to spiders and ticks. Sorry for the geek moment, folks.]

I am giddy with excitement about this whole experience. Not only were there sting rays of various sizes and colors, there were also white, blue and yellow fish. I am pretty sure some of them were Angelfish. I have gone snorkeling before, and I absolutely adore it. It's like being in a giant aquarium. So I was really enjoying this.

Until I realized........that I had no idea where my boyfriend was or if he was ok.

The same boyfriend who cannot swim.


I pulled my head up to look for him. I expected him to be in ankle-deep water, just watching everyone else, or practically drowning somewhere. He wasn't. He was only a few feet behind me, snorkeling!!! I was totally shocked. It turns out that he can sorta-kinda swim and doesn't start freaking out until the water is as deep as his chin. "Plus, the flotation device is helping," he said. (The flotation device was part of our snorkeling equipment.)

I was so proud of him.

Even if he jumped and squealed like a little girl any time one of the sting rays came close to him.

After letting us swim around for a while, the sting ray guides (keepers? handlers?) told us to line up into two lines and face each other. It was time to feed the sting rays. Cool! The sting rays must have known what the two lines meant, because they began to swim very quickly and swarm around us, rather than ignore us as they had moments before.

The guides (keepers? handlers??) then went around and handed each of us a handful of chopped up, raw squid. Um, thanks. Then they told us how to feed the sting rays by holding the squid under the water, just above the sand. The sting rays would swim over your hand and hoover up the squid parts. "They use suction to capture their food," the guide explained. Ew. Kind of like an underwater vacuum cleaner.

Thanks to my overactive imagination, the only image that came to mind was my arm, trapped inside a very angry sting ray, which was doing its best to suck the flesh off my bones as I screamed bloody murder and writhed in agony in the shallow area of this wading pool full of horrified cruise vacationers.

So when a sting ray came near me, I held the squid part under the water for a second, only to let go too soon and watch as the snack, intended for the sting ray, was snatched up by a fish. Oops. Sorry, Mr. Sting Ray. Next time, don't be so creepy, ok?

Next, I was shocked to see that some people were actually touching the sting rays. Didn't they realize they were risking their lives?? That their appendages could be shredded in an instant, much like a garbage disposal would, subjected to the unpredictable will of these shark cousins with extremely powerful suckage mechanisms in their mouths??? Were they insane???!! These are the pool drains of the animal kingdom! Keep your fingers and hair away, people!!!

"Cool! How does it feel??" I asked the guy across from me.

"Slimy!" he replied, excitedly.

"Oh, wow. I wanna touch one!" I said, suddenly forgetting my imagination's vivid and gory warnings.

The guy was right. They are slimy. Firm, but slimy. But as cool as it was, I didn't feel the need to touch them again. Once was plenty.

I looked down the line to see what CN was doing. He looked nervous and tense, and still jumped and yelped any time one of the sting rays came near. I couldn't help but laugh.

I found out later that a great deal of the yelping and jumping had to do with the fact that Larva had put squid parts in CN's pocket, so the sting rays were swarming around CN like bees.

Tee hee. As obnoxious as Larva is, I had to give him credit on that one.

After the sting rays, we had lunch and then hung out in the beach area for a little while. CN and I were enjoying the water, when we noticed a wild, fully barbed sting ray in the water. This was not one of the captive, tame ones we had just fed. It was huge, and it was headed our way.

This time, my overactive imagination threw potential newspaper headlines at me: "Couple, 29, Killed by Wild Sting Ray: 'It was just horrible to watch' witnesses say" and "Wildlife Community Warns of Vacation Danger: Man Never Had a Chance, Experts Say". So I grabbed CN's hand and practically dragged him out of the water lickety split.

"Gee, thanks, Mom," he said sarcastically.

"Shut up! I just saved your life! You can't swim!" I said.

He doesn't know that I was actually more scared of it than he was!!

Then it was time to go, so we all got back on the ferry and were, well, ferried back to our cruise ship. CN and I spent the rest of the day shopping in Nassau.

It was so nice to get off the boat, even if everything was just tshirt/souvenir shops. There was the occasional luxury goods store (Gucci, Bulgari, Fendi, Breitling), but the prices were still outrageous, even duty-free.

Like so many foreign cities around the world, escaping American culture was difficult: Ford cars on the streets, KFC was open for lunch and the U.S. Dollar was the currency. And everything was made in China. ;)

After wandering around for a while, I was very excited to see the big tent where they sell the fake designer handbags. I freaking love these things. They never look like the real thing, but they are still great-looking bags. This time, I got a big, yellow patent-leather Prada. (I will share a pic soon, promise!) I also got a small, black Coach and a large, black Coach tote. I got all three for $100. Yippee!!!!

I tell you what, if you ever go to The Bahamas, make sure you can make up your mind quickly. Everyone there is extremely pushy. They certainly do not take "no" for an answer! CN ended up buying a cigar from a kid, only to get him to shut up and go away. And they expect you to buy anything you look at longer than 5 seconds. I inspected one handbag for a good minute, only to tell the lady that I was not interested. She was really pissed and told me that I wasted her time!! "Well, you need to sell cuter fake handbags," I thought. Hmph!

By about 4pm, CN and I were pooped, so we went back to the boat and took another nice, long nap. It was the perfect end to a great day.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cruise News, Part 2

This is Day #2 of the cruise.

Our gang spent most of their time hanging out by the pool. Although I don't like getting sunburned and I tend to get bored sitting by a pool all day, I decided to join in anyway. I was sitting on my chair, reading a magazine, as everyone else in our group was in the pool, drinking. They had been drinking since about 9am, so by this point, the group is quickly getting rowdy. They invited me to go down the pool's water slide with them. I had to admit, it looked like a lot of fun. So everyone put down their drinks and we all got in line. The slide was SO FUN!! After going down it, I hung out in the pool for a bit with everyone. It was all going fine and dandy, until CN asked Larva: "Hey, Larva. We've been drinking all morning, and we have all had to get out of the pool to go pee except you. Don't you have to pee??"

It turns out that Larva, a 35 year old father of 4, had been peeing in the pool.

And when I slid down the slide, I had gotten water in my mouth.

So that was the end of the pool for me, folks. At this point, I was starting to dislike Larva, but since he's CN's old college buddy, I decided not to say anything at that time. I just excused myself and took a shower. And a nap.

I hadn't really thought about it beforehand, but being on a cruise ship means that you are stuck with about 1,500 strangers, and you cannot escape them. Everywhere I went, it was impossible to be alone. I know this doesn't sound like a big deal, even if you are a people person like me, but trust me -- it is. Forget having romantic walks on the deck after dinner -- you will be joined by 50 total strangers, most of whom are loud and drunk. Forget having a nice, quiet breakfast with your sweetie -- you will have to eat with a table full of strangers, and you will feel obligated to make small talk. You will have the same small talk conversation with strangers every morning. This gets old quickly. Even finding a nice chair where you can read your book quietly is impossible. I read somewhere once that having at least one hour per day where you are totally alone helps relieve stress. You know what? It's true. Each day, I felt my stress level rising.

By the second day, I was starting to get cranky. Between Larva's antics, the disappointing food, the icky shower and being surrounded by strangers everywhere I went, I was getting a little irritable. Luckily, I kept it in check. My daily mid-afternoon nap helped. That bed made everything better. And thank goodness for the Discovery Channel -- I watched a lot of cool shows. But dammit, I could have done that at home for free, you know?

I would like to say that at least I wasn't bored, but I was -- hence the Discovery Channel binge. It was probably because I don't drink. All the drunk people seemed to be having a blast, especially if they were in the college-age range. There was always a spontaneous party at the pool, complete with dancing and drunken antics. I had fun doing that stuff when I was younger, but now, I'd rather read a book or go see a museum. (I am a frumpy, old dork. Trust me, I know.) It didn't help that everything was scheduled all the time. It made vacation feel like work. When I'm on vacation, I don't want to worry about being late for anything. I want to make my own schedule. Not be subjected to the whims of some cruise director.

There was always something going on, I will say that. A lot of people hung out in the casino. But CN and I don't gamble, so the casino didn't hold our interest. The bingo and trivia contests were at bad times for us (ie, nap time), or just didn't sound worthwhile. They had an art auction, but I didn't have the money to do that -- plus, the art was hideous. I really don't like musicals, so the night shows didn't sound fun to me. We kept hearing that the stand-up comedian wasn't very good, so we decided to skip that. I am not really the sort of person who wants to spend time learning how to make towel animals or line dance. All the activities felt like they were just something to do to kill time, not something I would normally want to do.

What I really wanted to do was go to some historic district, eat local food, go to a museum, take an old homes tour, check out local art and architecture, explore a wildlife preserve, or even just shop.....but none of these things can be done when you are on a cruise ship. I am a Culture Vulture, and I was stuck in a Cultural Wasteland. I know that most people have fun doing the stuff they had planned for us on the boat, but I am just not normal. I am a big nerd. I enjoy learning stuff in my spare time. That's part of the reason I am a librarian! Because I'm a total dork! I read random articles on Wikipedia when I'm bored! *sigh of frustration*

This is why I spent the vast majority of my time eating and sleeping. With a little reading and tv watching thrown in. And I paid about $400 to do this. Yeah. So I'm pretty mad that I wasted all that money. I wish I could just have fun like normal people do. But bars, cigarettes and drunk people annoy me, as do large crowds of total strangers with misbehaving children (seriously, I know you are on vacation, Mom and Dad, but does this mean your children literally get to do everything they want???? Ugh! Supervise your kids or leave them at home!).

I guess the highlight of each day was dinner. That was the meal where the food tended to be the best. Dinner was fun, because we got to eat with our group and no one else. Roger and Grace are really nice and fun people, so they made dinner really great. But we often didn't see them at all except at dinner time. As the days wore on, CN and I tried to avoid Larva more and more, since he was bugging us so much.

When you eat a big dinner at 8:30pm, it's hard to stay awake unless you proceed to go get drunk right afterwards. And since CN had been drinking all day, up until dinner, he was ready to pass out every night after dinner -- he just can't drink for 14 hours, like Larva can. The bed was the only fun thing I had found on board, so CN didn't have to twist my arm to talk me into hitting the sack at 10pm most nights. Plus, this was the only time he and I could be alone.

I know I am being really negative, but it's not all bust. There were some really fun times. I will talk about those tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cruise News, Part 1

It's good to know that so many of my readers can relate to my vision problems! Wow, did I get a lot of sympathy on my last post! I did end up going back to the eye doctor before I left, and she put me in stronger contacts. Apparently, I am "in-between" lens strengths, and the weaker one isn't enough. Don't ask me why it wasn't enough when I left the first time, because I can't figure it out, either. I guess my eyes just don't fully adjust as quickly as they should. I can see pretty well with the new ones, so I'm going to just go with these.

I think the thing is, since I don't know what it's like to really be able to see perfectly, it is hard to gauge what is "perfect vision". I feel like I should be able to see China when I put my contacts in, so anything less seems too weak to me. But I did a check with CN on the way to Jacksonville. For the first hour of our trip, he had to listen to me asking: "Can you read that green sign yet? Or is it still fuzzy? What about that license plate in front of us? Can you read that?" -- I wanted to know if I was seeing what he was seeing. Since he has 20/20 vision, I figured that is a good test. We were seeing the same things at the same time, so I must be good.

I know you will be disappointed to hear this, but I don't have any cruise pictures yet. I will post some as soon as I can. We took a lot of them on CN's camera, so he has to learn how to upload them before I can share with you. For now, I will give you the first part of the trip.

CN and I had so much fun driving to/from Jacksonville together. We talked and laughed and teased each other. He has a Sirius radio, and I played dj on the trip, which was great for me, but not always great for him--he hates rap. He liked all my serenading, though. I had fun making him guess what song was playing. He knows an incredible amount of music trivia. So we had a blast on our way to meet up with everyone.

CN and I went on the cruise with two other couples: Larva & Sandra and Roger & Grace (yes, these names are totally made-up or nicknames). We had met Larva & Sandra before, as Larva and CN are old college buddies. We were meeting Roger & Grace for the first time.

CN and I met up with the two other couples about halfway between Columbia and Jacksonville, at a Burger King off the highway. The first thing they say to us is this: "Ok, before we head down to Jacksonville, we have to make a pit-stop in Savannah."

CN & I: "Um, ok. Why?"

Sandra: "Well, because Larva didn't get his birth certificate stamped with the official seal, so if we don't get it, they won't let him on the boat."

[Insert VB & CN irritation here.]

It turns out that Larva, who has had WEEKS to get his paperwork in order, thought that he could bullshit his way through security with just a photocopied birth certificate. He had even gone with Sandra to the health department just 2 days beforehand, when she went to get hers. "You're sure you don't need one?" she had asked. He told her "no".

When he announces this little tidbit of information that morning to Roger & Grace on the way to meet us, they told him he was an idiot and that his little plan would not work. CN and I agreed.

I still can't figure out why Sandra was not furious with Larva about this. "If you had pulled this stunt," I said to CN, "You would be dead meat right now. I would get on the boat without your ass."

"Trust me, I would never do something that stupid," he replied. "I practically gave myself a heart attack double checking all that stuff!"

So our plan was to take a detour to Savannah to hunt down a health department, pray they were open and cross our fingers that it would not take too long to get a proper birth certificate. Thank goodness Larva was born in Georgia, rather than somewhere far away, like Utah. After some exasperated sighs on my part, we all get into our cars and drive into Savannah.

CN and I begin to follow everyone through Savannah. We seemed to be going nowhere. When our motorcade did yet another u-turn, CN calls Larva to ask him what the hell is going on. It turns out that no one has a CLUE as to where the Health Department is in Savannah, and they were trying to find it through sheer luck.

More exasperated sighs on my behalf. This is not a good way to start a vacation.

Luckily, CN saved the day and found the Health Department with his GPS system. (Thank you, Garmin company.) A few minutes later, we were at the Health Department and were glad to see that there was no line or waiting period needed to get a proper birth certificate.

Fifteen minutes later, we are on our way to get on the boat. We are about 2 hours behind schedule, but it's no big deal. We still got on the boat in a short amount of time. Getting on the boat was very easy.

While we had been waiting on Larva at the Health Department, I told Sandra how I was worried about getting seasick. She told me to take a half a Dramamine the first day, and I should be fine for the rest of the trip. She's a nurse and an experienced cruiser, so that's what I did. Aside from the first night, when I was feeling a tiny bit woozy, I was totally fine for the rest of the trip. I was very relieved, because that was a big worry on my part.

CN and I got to our cabin. The bed was AMAZING -- seriously, y'all, it is a miracle I ever got out of that bed. It was big, soft and clean, and the thread count on the sheets must have been 500. The pillows were the perfect mix of squishy/firm. Our steward changed the sheets every day...ahhh. It was bliss.

Too bad I can't say the same thing for the bathroom. Now, I was on an old ship (built in 1987), so I knew not to get too excited about the bathroom. But the shower was totally gross: it was tiny, moldy, dark and felt "germy". It didn't have the most effective drain, either. I think it was the rubber mat on the floor of the shower that really bothered me. All I could think was, "Ew, athlete's foot!!!" So I took very quick showers. And I know I'm probably being a little harsh/germo-phobic, but I have a thing about bathrooms. I am picky.

We unpacked and freshened up and went up to the pool deck to meet everyone else for lunch.

All of my hopes about the kick-ass cruise food were quickly destroyed. The cafeteria on the pool deck smelled like a mixture of fried food, mold and body odor. It was so bad that I had to cover my nose every time I went in there. It literally made me nauseous. I grabbed a burger, some fries, some pasta salad and a couple other things. I did not eat a lot of food from this cafeteria again, instead opting for the dining rooms, which at least didn't make me want to barf. That smell was seriously unbearable.

This first meal was no different from all the other meals on this trip: average to bad. Half the food on the boat was totally disgusting, to the point that it was inedible. (Example: the caesar salad tasted like fish. Now, I know that caesar dressing has anchovy paste in it. But this tasted like it was 100% anchovy paste. Ew.). A lot of dishes were overcooked or flavorless. The rest was ok. I didn't eat any veggies the whole time I was on board, because everything from the salads to the steamed veggies were just awful. A lot of the seafood was overcooked and rubbery. The fruit was not ripe. The pizza was soggy and tasted funny. The escargot was cold. The mashed potatoes were stiff as a board. The desserts were average at best. The cakes, cookies and brownies were all dry and bland. The sandwiches, eggs and pancakes were so-so. The French toast was not very good. The cheesecake was gross. The only things that waere pretty good were the beef and the pancakes. So I ate beef almost every night for dinner, and pancakes for breakfast.

How do you mess up cheesecake and pizza???!! This completely blew my mind. CN agreed with me about all the food. Everyone else thought I was nuts as they chowed down. Maybe I am nuts. *shrugs*

I can't tell you about the chocolate buffet, because it was held at midnight that night, and I missed it. But I doubt I missed much, based on the forgettable desserts I had the rest of the time. By midnight most nights, I was enjoying the heavenly bed in my cabin. I'm not much of a night owl.

The only thing that really impressed me was the coffee -- it was perfect. Oh, and there was this chocolate lava cake that was really good, too. But that was it as far as food excitement was concerned.

Overall, the food was average/bad at best. I can cook better food myself. The food I get in restaurants here in Columbia beats anything they had on their ship hands down. So if you are going on a cruise, don't get excited about the food if you are used to yummy Southern cuisine.

The good news is, I only gained two pounds--and I think that was more from not exercising than anything else! :)

After we ate lunch, the ship left the dock. We all agreed that you can feel a lot of motion in such a small cruise ship. CN and I went to the front of the boat to watch the huge bridge go over us. It was pretty cool.

We hung out by the pool with the rest of our group after that. Everyone proceeded to start drinking heavily! We had a good time just people-watching, hanging out and dancing to the music played by a dj. I really liked Roger & Grace right away. They are super fun and friendly, plus, they are hilarious. After a bit, we went to our cabins to change into dinner attire.

Dinner was apparently forgettable, since I don't remember anything I ate. :P

After dinner, CN and I were pooped. We had been up since 6am, so we were exhausted. I think we went to bed by 9:30. I slept like a rock!

Ok, I will write more tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Blind as a Batshit Crazy

Y'all know I have problems. I have problems that could fill a book. But I don't think that I have shared with you my eye problems. So here goes.

In my family, you either get the good eyes (Dad's side) or the good teeth (Mom's side). Well, I am blind as a bat. If I am not wearing glasses or contacts, I will literally walk into walls. Yes, it has happened before. That's how I can say that. If glasses or contacts did not exist, I would be legally blind, and probably fluent in Braille. Unless it is approximately 3 inches from my face, I cannot see diddly squat.

To make matters even more complicated, I have astigmatism in my left eye. The way I understand it, this means that my cornea has a little ripple in it, when it's supposed to be just a smooth dome shape. It takes a little more effort to find a contact that fits my left eye, because it has to line up with the astigmatism just right, or else everything will be blurry. (And in case you're wondering, this would also make LASIK eye surgery more challenging, too.)

I also have vision that is progressively getting worse as I age. (This eliminates me from the LASIK option entirely.) So I have to go to the eye doctor whenever I run out of disposable contacts, because by then, they aren't working for me, anyway. Oh, so much fun. $$$$$$$$$$ *sigh*

The icing on the cake is that I detest the eye exams. Unless you have less-than-perfect vision, you will not know what I'm talking about, but basically the doctor shines lights into your eyes that are so bright, your eyes water profusely, and you are convinced that you will burn your retinas away. Just thinking about it is making my eyes water as I type this. It is so uncomfortable, you clench your teeth and squirm in the chair. Then, they stick things in your eyes, blow air into your eyes without letting you blink and dilate your pupils (which makes your eyeballs feel all numb and weird)....ugh. To be honest, I'd rather go to the dentist. Eye exams SUCK.

When I went to my old eye doctor a couple years ago, I decided to spring for updated lenses in my glasses, too. That way, I would have the option of wearing glasses or contacts. The contacts came out great, but the glasses didn't. I could see okay up close, but I could not read the road signs when I was driving. I took the glasses back, and it turned out that one of the lenses was flawed, so they replaced it. I tried the glasses again. They were not much better. I took the glasses back a second time. I passed the little eye test, and the doctor declared that my glasses were fine. But I still could not read the road signs. The eye chart you have to read to prove you can see 20/20 is easy -- it's maybe 7 feet away from you. But when you're driving, you need to see road signs sooner than 7 feet away! I didn't take the glasses back a third time, because I would look like I was a crazy person. So I have not been wearing my glasses for the past few years.

I was so frustrated, I never went back. I have "updated" lenses in my glasses that don't even work. And they cost $100. Whatever.

So this time, I picked a new eye doctor. When I went in yesterday, it all seemed to be going well. She recommended a different solution to clean my contacts with, and I like it a LOT better. She is concerned with how bloodshot my eyes are all the time. I told her I sit in front of a computer all day, so that's probably why they are like that. (None of my other eye doctors have ever been concerned with this, so she scored some points with me for trying to solve my red eye problem).

Then we got to the eye exam part, where the doctor figures out the strength you need in your contacts/glasses. This involves her putting different lenses in front of your eyes and asking you which lens works better for you. She was no different than any other eye doctor I've ever had: she rushed through it, expecting my eyes to adjust to different lenses in the blink of an eye. (Sorry, that was a bad pun!) Well, my eyes must be stupidly slow, because I had to keep asking her to show me the choices a second or even a third time. And the differences between the lenses were so minor, it was hard to tell which ones worked better. I did my best, and she put some new contacts in my eyes. She said this was my new prescription, and they seemed ok as I blinked and looked around.

I instantly noticed how comfortable they are -- much more comfortable than my old brand. And I could see just fine in her office, so I went ahead and told her everything was great.

"Ok, wear these a few days, see how you like them. If we don't hear from you, we are going to order your new contacts on the 12th so you can pick them up after your vacation. Sound good?" the doctor explained.

I nodded and thanked her. Then I paid for my exam and left.

On the way home, I kept "testing" my new contacts by seeing how clear the road signs were. How soon could I read them? How clear were they? Was it better than my old prescription? Or were the signs fuzzy? And my new contacts seemed ok. Not great, but adequate. I thought, "Hmm. This is funny. Usually I can tell there's a huge difference when I have a new, stronger prescription in my contacts. Everything is crystal clear. These are...about the same as my last prescription." But I didn't worry about it too much, because they were so comfortable and I figured my eyes needed to recuperate after my eye exam, full of crazy bright lights. I decided to see how they were today before I made up my mind.

I put my contacts in this morning -- they feel FANTASTIC. Between the different brand of contact solution and the new brand of contacts, my eyes feel great. They are still red, but they feel fine.

But I can't see shit. Anything 6 feet away from me is blurry. I was in a meeting this morning, and I couldn't read a single word on the presenter's screen at the front of the conference room. That is just not right. Not to mention unacceptable. I could see MUCH better with my old contacts -- the prescription that is 2 years old.

These new contacts aren't even as strong as my last prescription, when they are supposed to be stronger!! AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGH.

I'm starting to think that maybe I have an eye disorder. Or that I am just plain crazy. How can they work fine in the doctor's office, but not when I'm driving??? That makes no sense. Especially when I could see ok yesterday, but today, it's abysmal. It is noticeably worse. Same contacts, same eyeballs, same road signs. But I can't see shit. I am losing my mind. I have now had the same problem with two different doctors! What the heck is wrong with me??

I thought maybe it was just one contact that was wrong, so I covered up one eye. Then I covered up the other eye. Nope. Both eyes are equally blurry. Both contacts are bad.

"Do you have the contacts in backwards? Maybe you put your right contact into your left eye," my coworkers have been suggesting.

This is impossible, I explained to them. Putting a regular contact into an eye with astigmatism is massively painful. I would know instantly if that were the case. I honestly don't know what the heck is wrong.

I went ahead and made a last-minute appointment for 2:30 this afternoon. I am worried that when I sit in her little chair, and read her little eye chart, I will pass the 20/20 vision test, in her professional opinion. But I KNOW I won't be able to see anything out side of those four walls!! I really want to get to the bottom of this. Not being able to see is such a pain, especially when you're shelling out so much money!

I am frustrated. I am blind. Hopefully, I'm not crazy, too. Wish me luck.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Cruise Preparations

Most of this weekend was spent prepping for my upcoming vacation.

Friday night, I went shopping with MJ, who helped me pick out some cheap-o hair dye (my roots were bugging me, and I didn't want to be all rooty in my cruise photos). I got some hair products to protect my highlights from fading in the almost-Equator sun and a cute black bikini from Target. (I love bikinis with little shorts on the bottom!)

Then we went to dinner to discuss her new guy. Since I am now happily hooked up, I live vicariously through her single-girl love life. So this new guy is from Myrtle Beach and works for the same company MJ does, just the Myrtle Beach branch of it. So it's not like they technically work together, which I thought was good. So far, they are just enjoying each other's company. MJ doesn't sound like she's looking to jump into a relationship right now. Besides, he was engaged to his last girlfriend, and took the breakup kind of hard. I'm sure he isn't looking to jump into anything, either. But apparently, he's a hottie and she's really enjoying having someone to flirt with. Woo hoo! Go MJ!

Saturday, CN and I went shopping. On our list: swim trunks for him, a beach hat for me, sunblock, body lotion with the self-tanner built in, travel sized goodies and ear plugs (in case our cabin is loud). Aside from the beach hat, we got everything on our list. CN wants to know why he isn't allowed to use my self-tanner body lotion, and I explain to him that it is for girls and that he will have to be rugged and manly and just get his tan the old-fashioned way. Which should be entertaining, because he makes Nicole Kidman look tan. (I made sure to stock up on SPF 55 for him!) I tried to get CN to buy some water wings, since he can't swim, but he didn't go for that idea, even when I tried to bribe him with my self-tanner lotion. We are going to pack a lot of that blue sunburn aloe gel stuff, too. I think we will end up needing some....between his transparent skin and my "D'oh!" moments in the sun safety department, this is probably a good idea.

I was pretty let down in the hat department. I want a wide-brimmed straw hat that will keep the sun off my ears, face, neck and shoulders. I could only find church-style hats with voluminous bows and feathers or inadequate baseball caps. Arg. This might really cramp my style, sunburn-wise. Plus, I wanted to have my very own Pretty Woman moment, with my elegant, chic movie-star beach hat. When paired with big sunglasses, I'd be glamorous AND mysterious. Oh well. That fantasy will have to wait.

Shoot. Just realized I don't have an adequate bathing suit cover-up. Hmmm. Will have to come up with something. I have some shorts...

Yesterday, I decided to tackle my back yard. It was full -- FULL -- of weeds. If I didn't do something quickly, it would become a small Amazon rain forest by the time I get home from my cruise. Because he is awesome, and because the Braves game was inexplicably not televised (yessss), CN helped me. I think making him a big pancake breakfast helped my cause. While weeding, I screeched every time we came across a cricket. I hate crickets. We found two fire ant mounds (and sprinkled with ant killer accordingly). We found 2 little frogs and 2 spider egg sacs (we left them alone, because spiders eat crickets). I was happy to see lots of ladybugs and wormy things in the dirt. I know those are good signs....of something.

"Wow! This is quite a little nature adventure, isn't it?" I said. "Hey, babe, is this grass or a weed?"

"You're not much of an outdoors gal, are you?" he laughed.

"Um, no. Not really. I figured that growing up on a farm, I've done my time with Mother Nature," I replied.

"That's a weed," he explained, yanking it out of the ground.

"But it looks like grass," I said.

He sighed and laughed at me again. Apparently, I am a little rusty on Mother Nature stuff.

Three hours, two trash bags and three filled trash tubs later, my backyard was 90% weeded. And that is good enough for me. By 5pm, I was filthy, I had a farmer's sunburn (oops!) and was totally exhausted. My poor hands are trashed. I had started out wearing work gloves, but didn't feel the blisters on my fingers until it was too late. I took them off to realize that I have four skinned knuckles, and they hurt. I have washed my hands a million times, and I cannot get the dirt and green color out from under my fingernails. My hands are still red and swollen from all the work. They ache. I have new sympathy for those in the lawn care industry. And I vow to never EVER let my yard get that bad again. (Does anyone know how I can make my hands feel better, softer and cleaner??? I really tore them up!)

After a long, cool shower, CN and I watched tv the rest of the day. I took a nice nap on his lap. Although I was tired, I did run home to make him a salmon quesadilla for dinner, since I was so grateful for his help.

All I have left to do is: go to the bank to get some cash, clean my house, return a bottle of sunblock (I don't think I will need four...), paint my toenails, drop Sammy off at MJ's house, bake a cake for MJ to express my gratitude, burn a CD for the drive to Jacksonville and pack!

WHEW. I'm glad I took Wednesday off. I will need a whole day to do all that!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Mr. Comedian & The Cruise

A conversation with my boyfriend, via text message:

Me: I just saw your twin! [On a side note, this guy looked so much like CN, I did a double-triple take!]

CN: You saw Brad Pitt?

Me: *playing along* Yes! He's on campus for some reason.

CN: Tell him he owes me 8 bucks for that Meet Joe Black movie.

And earlier today on myspace:

Me: Babe! Did you know there might be a chocolate buffet on our cruise???!!

CN: Well, I guess if we get separated, I will know where to find you.

Ha. Ha. Mr. Comedian.

I haven't told you about the dream I had, have I? I had a dream the other night that CN and I were getting married. I was arguing with the lady at the dress store about the design of my wedding dress. It was (oddly enough) strapless and blue and white striped. The fabric was silky, and the stripes were small and even-width. There was embellishment at the bust. The dress looked very strange, actually. Ugly, even. No offense to you if you like striped wedding dresses., but this one did not look good. Obviously, if you are reading this and you know CN in real life, you are NOT allowed to inform him of this dream. On penalty of death. Dude, I'm not kidding. Zip it.

I know I said I would talk about the cruise today. Here's some stuff I want to share:

1. Our ship, the Celebration, is the second-oldest ship in the Carnival fleet. Its maiden voyage was in 1987, and the decor reflects this. (Hell-o neon signs and super-bright colors! Ugh.) But word on the streets is, they make up for this with their fantastic service. The maitre d is supposed to be hilarious. The Broadway-themed show is supposed to be great, one of the comedians is a riot and the waiters remember what drink you like to drink at dinner. The room service is super-quick and the cabin attendants are thoughtful. I know all of this because I have been reading all the passenger reviews on Cruise Critic.

2. This will be kind of a special cruise, because the Celebration has recently been sold to a Spanish tourism company, and this summer it will be re-fitted for that cruise line, which does not sail in North America. We will be on the next-to-last sailing of this ship for Carnival. And since we will be sailing out of Jacksonville, we get to go under this huge bridge when we leave port. It's supposed to be really cool. I will try to take pics so I can share.

3. The showers in the cabins are difficult to control. The water will run from icy cold to blistering hot, and then back again, with no warning. This will piss me off, I can already tell you. But if this is the biggest complaint, I think I will be ok. :)

4. I am living in fear of getting sea sick, since we all know I am Barf Queen. I am coming prepared with the following: dramamine, ginger snaps, ginger altoids and those magnetic bracelet things. I should be fine -- I was on a small boat cruise around Lake Michigan once, and I was fine. But I'm still freaking out. If I do get sea sick, at least I will not be able to eat anything and I will lose weight, right??? But dude, if there's a chocolate buffet, I am eating it, even if I am sick. I don't care.

5. A month or two ago, right after embarkation, the captain of the ship was notified by the U.S. Marshals and the FBI that he must not go into International Waters quite yet. Why? Because there was a convicted murderer on board, running from the law, and they needed to arrest him before they hit International Waters. Yeah. Wowza. How did I know about this interesting little factoid? There's a website that keeps track of all the reports of insanity and zaniness aboard cruise ships. You can also look up the safety record of all the ships.

I encourage you to browse around it if you're bored -- some of the stories are hilarious, like the drunk guy who climbed into the life boat. He grabbed an ax (don't ask me where he got an ax) and began chopping away at the rope holding the life boat. Security approached him and told him to stop and climb down. He did. But he was so drunk, he jumped the wrong way -- into the ocean. What a dumbass.

Other people submit their rants about being on the "cruise from hell". One family, which included two small children, found themselves on board a cruise that consisted mainly of swingers. LOL now THAT is funny. How would you handle that as a parent, you know? LOL I imagine it's something like this:

Little Bobby: Hey, Daddy, that man over there said that he wanted to come to our room tonight to party with you and Mommy. I told him that would be fun, because you said I don't have a bedtime while we are on the boat!
Daddy: *gulp!* Uh...ok, we will have to see about that.
Little Bobby: Daddy, what's a rubber?

6. Of course, we all know what I'm really excited about: the food. Duh. Between the burgers, ice cream, pizza, chocolate buffet, Mexican buffet, pancakes, waffles, bacon, filet mignon, salmon, lobster, shrimp, chocolate hot lava cake, free room service and all the Diet Coke I can drink for $20, I am really looking forward to it! I can order as many dinners and desserts as I want! This truly sounds like heaven to me. *Realization about the reason for my weight loss problems set in* Crap. I am going to gain 10 pounds. Crap. Crap. Crap. Ok, I will pack my work out clothes in the hopes that I will want to go for an on-deck run. Which sounds like a blast, actually.

7. There is a penny slot machine in the casino. I am not much of a gambler, but I do have a penny jar I am not using....WOOT. There's also trivia contests (CN and I love to do those), bingo, karaoke, chess, putt-putt golf, game show-type things and a hairy chest contest by the pool.

"You should enter that!" I said to CN.

"That's not funny," he replied. CN has approximately 4 hairs on his skinny little chest. LOL

"But that's why you will win! Don't you see? It will be hilarious!" I exclaimed.

He did not agree. But I'll try and talk him into it. Perhaps I can bargain with him by participating in karaoke. (I am NOT a karaoke person. I can't sing for squat, and I don't like being in the spotlight, literally or figuratively.)

8. The locals in The Bahamas are nice, but very pushy when it comes to selling you things. I am hoping there will be a plethora of fake designer hand bags, prices negotiable. And some cute jewelry.

Ok, that's all I can think of right now. I'm sure there will be more to share after this weekend. I have so much to do before I go:

find a beach cover-up
stock up on self-tanner and sunblock
find a wide-brimmed hat
possibly buy a new bikini
dye my roots (I can't take it anymore! I do not want yucky roots in my photos!)
weed my backyard
get Sammy ready for his trip to MJ's house while I'm gone
clean my house
burn a CD to commemorate the trip
give myself a manicure and pedicure
clean out my fridge
learn how to operate CN's new camera (he won't take the time to learn, he said)
start packing!!!

I leave on Thursday morning, so I will probably post again before I go. WOO HOO!!! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Notes from My Brain

Random, random list......this is what happens when nothing big happens, and I don't post for a week. Sorry, peeps.

1. Have I told you about my stalker here at work? Yeah. His name is Cleveland, and he stalks me. He tries to talk to me and ask me questions about my personal life. He has asked me for my phone number and if I have a boyfriend, etc. Needless to say, this is pretty awkward and not really welcome on my part. Not only do I have a boyfriend, but I would never date a student here at the school where I work, anyway -- it's just not a good thing to do professionally. Cleveland became so persistent that I had to tell him that my boyfriend would beat him up if he saw him talking to me. I also dropped heavy hints about my boyfriend's "temper", "weight-lifting" and "gun". It got so bad, that I began to wear a fake engagement ring to work, and walk to my car with other people.

He disappeared randomly and suddenly, last fall semester. I thought I was in the clear. Until this week: he requested me as a friend on myspace. It kind of freaked me out because my page is private, so there is little (if any) identifying information to be found by random people. He had to have sat there and hunted me down from some big list and remember what I look like. It kind of creeps me out. I denied the request and didn't reply to his drunken e-mail. I hope this will be the end of it. If he tries to talk to me again, I am going to call security. But part of me is freaking out a little, because what if he's a psycho and this will just royally piss him off??? Ugh.

2. It's official: I suck -- SUCK-- at dieting. At this point, I figure I might as well give up until after the cruise, because let's face it -- I'm not going to eat well while I'm on that boat. There will be a chocolate buffet, people. A chocolate buffet. Take a minute to imagine that. Yeah. I'm toast. This is in addition to the 24-hour pizza and ice cream station. So really, it's a lost cause. But I swear on all things sacred that I will go hard-core diet when I get back. I have to. Or else I will truly be a heifer. No, seriously -- it's starting to piss me off. There's no reason I can't lose at least 20 pounds. That is not even that much. I am being ridiculous, y'all. There's really no excuse.

I have been pretty good this week, after totally blowing my diet last weekend--more on that in a minute. Thank goodness I have very little junk food in the house right now. That helps a lot. I am still working out a lot, but not quite as much as I used to.

3. Speaking of last weekend, I went shopping with Barbie (aka the girl that Repo dated after me) and one of her friends. We had a good time, and I got some really cute stuff: a square-neck "going out" top in this color, an embroidered, tie-back, semi-see-through summery top in a pale dusty blue color, a cable-knit sweater for work in this color, a pair of jeans, a green/lavender/white-striped sundress and a new pair of black flats (old pair had been chewed by Toby). I also used my Sephora gift card from Xmas to buy some Nars blush. Thanks to some gift cards and great sales, I only ended up spending $100, including lunch at Steak n Shake.

Oh, how I miss S&S. We used to have one here in Columbia, but it closed down. They are my favorite burgers and shakes EVER, so I have been experiencing some withdrawals. My cheeseburger with pickles and half-chocolate/half-vanilla milkshake were so freaking delicious. It's kind of good that the closest one is an hour away from me. Or I really would be in serious diet trouble.

Although I had fun, I did get kind of annoyed hanging out with Barbie and her friend. They are both 23, and I had forgotten how immature 23 year-olds can be. I'm sure I was the same way when I was their age. So I was glad to get home at the end of the day, and away from all the drama and hyper-active ditziness. They are fun girls, but I need them in small doses.

4. I was supposed to get some Magic Hat beer for CN while I was in Charlotte. He loves it, and they don't sell it in SC. But I couldn't find any in the areas we were in. I felt really badly, because he was looking forward to it. So to make it up to him, I made him breakfast on Saturday morning: fried eggs, turkey bacon, sausage, french toast, hashbrowns and biscuits. He brought the orange juice and we had a feast!

By dinner time, I still felt like a lame girlfriend for letting him down, so I made him dinner, too: Chili Mac, which he had never had before. It's a dish popular in the midwest. You put spaghetti noodles on the bottom (NOT macaroni noodles, as some imposter recipes call for!), chili beef (which has been cooked with chili spices and beer) on top of that, then kidney beans, diced onions and lots of cheese. It is soooooooo good! It is very similar to Cincinnati-style chili, only I don't put cinnamon in it. But if you ever get the chance to try Skyline Chili or any other Cincy-style chili, you will love it! I know the cinnamon sounds weird, but trust me. Nothing beats this meal on a cold, rainy day.

5. I am still doing pretty well on the budgeting. But I can see the effects of the increasing gas prices: although I am buying the same things I buy every week, my Wal-Mart bill has been slowly creeping. All the stuff I used to buy for $50 is now more like $55-60. Ouch. In order not to de-rail all of my budgeting hard work so far, I am only bringing $200 with me on the cruise.

I figure, I have already paid for my ticket, which covers all my food. I don't drink alcohol. I will probably drink tap water for most of the cruise (I don't really drink sodas anymore). I don't gamble. I won't use their over-priced spa/salon. CN and I have decided not to spend any money on the $100-a-pop excursions. Instead, we are just going to find a beach and pop a squat. If we order sandwiches from room service before we get off the cruise ship in the morning, we can even avoid paying for lunch! The only things I am planning to spend money on include: half of the parking at the port and a few souvenirs. So I am thinking that I will be able to only end up spending about $150.

6. I am really excited about my upcoming orientation for Big Brothers Big Sisters. It will be in 3 weeks!!! I hope I do ok on the interview. I hope I like the little girl they pair me with. I hope she likes me! I was thinking of some fun activities we could do together. Here's what I've come up with so far:

take Sammy for a walk
bake a pie or cookies
color in a coloring book
play with Barbies
paint our fingernails and watch a movie (maybe a Disney princess movie??)
play a card game/board game
read books (I like reading books to kids)
go to a museum or the zoo

What do you think? If any of you (Becky!) have little girls, please share some fun ideas with me! I don't really know what kids are into these days. I'm worried she will be let down that I don't have any video games at my house.

7. I know a lot of you also read MJ's blog. Well, she doesn't really blog about her personal life anymore. She now does a dog-related blog. So that means, any dirt about her dating life will have to come from me. I would love to divulge some stuff for you, but I need to talk to her and see what she is ok with. I don't want to step on her toes. But I'll see what I can do.

8. CN and I just celebrated our 7 month anniversary. Hate to get all sappy on you, but it has been the happiest 7 months of my life. He is everything I have ever wanted or hoped for in a relationship. I honestly didn't think that men like him existed. And I know he must feel the same way, too, because he FINALLY dropped the "L" word a few weeks ago and gave me a key to his place. Aw.

Ok, more on next week's cruise coming up in tomorrow's post!!!