August 28 Editorial

There are times in life when we all fall on hard times. Thanks to our recent move that has now put not only the responsibility of a mortgage but also rent on us, we are feeling the pressure. And with an upcoming vacation that has been planned for months, now just days away, something’s got to give. But apparently it won’t be Carnival Cruise Lines.
Every year we, along with our friends, book a cruise for a week-long vacation extravaganza we like to call Cruise-a-palooza. Like always, we called our travel agent with Carnival to book while the sales are at their best early in the year. Unaware that our housing situation would drastically be changing in the coming months, we splurged a little this year with a premium balcony suite that cost an arm and a leg.
I spent weeks lurking on the website, waiting for the perfect room to be available at a reasonable price, and when I found it….we booked immediately. With the cruise paid in full, I sat back ready to count the days until I had a hard working bartender serving me drinks poolside. Little did I know, I may be spending a little more time in that room than I thought.
We moved into a waterfront rental home, ecstatic to be exactly where we wanted to be even though our home had not yet sold. Knowing that we were financially stable enough to float both the payments for a few months until either a buyer came along or we procured a renter, we felt like things would fall into place long before our trip came along. We were wrong.
Now, here we are 18 days away from heading to New Orleans to board our cruise without the stash of cash we usually bring along. I logged on to the Carnival website, surprised to find that a last minute sale was going on making the rooms dirt cheap. Although we already had a suite, we stood to save nearly $1000 if we could downgrade to the “rat level” rooms. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
I called our travel agent and explained the situation. He told me that it was Carnival’s policy that if a reservation need to be changed or cancelled and rebooked within 30 days of sailing, that there would be a 50% penalty of the purchase price. I was blown away. By those standards, we would be giving up our balcony suite for an interior room with bunk beds, but would only be saving $175? No thanks.
I hung up the phone and got to thinking. We had been loyal customers for over 10 years, never changing or cancelling our reservations, always leaving positive feedback on the staff (as well as our travel agent), and never asking for an upgrade or any special perks, but you mean to tell me that “nothing can be done” about the stupid penalty rule. The more I thought about it, the more it angered me.
I called back and asked nicely for a little consideration on the matter in hopes that you do in fact catch more flies with honey. Well, scratch that. You don’t catch a thing but a temper tantrum. I hung up again feeling defeated. I was going to have to take this higher up the chain.
I composed an email to a supervisor at Carnival explaining the situation and asked that the fee be waived as we intended on immediately rebooking a lower level room and that we were willing to give up our perks like casino credit and on board credit to do so. A few hours later, I received a “thanks for trying you idiot” type of response that really burned me up with a “Thank you for choosing Carnival Cruise Lines” at the end.
I guess it could be worse. At least our super cool, gotta have it, splurge room is still paid for. But you bet your sweet behind that we’ll be those people smuggling in alcohol and eating our body weight in food just to show them who’s boss. I only hope I can keep my husband from stealing a bathrobe.
Man, I hate cruising. Maybe next year we’ll go snowboarding instead. Look out Carnival. Here we come! And it isn’t going to be pretty!

August 21 Editorial

This week I, like 40,000 other people, ventured out to everyone’s favorite little beach bar for Kenny Chesney’s Flora-Bama Jama. It was inconvenient. It was hot. It was crowded. But it made for one fantastic weekend that I can’t wait to experience again next year.
When the announcement was made that free wristbands would be available online at 8 am, I like a million other people, logged on promptly at 8 in hopes of snagging a ticket to one of the coolest beach concerts of the year. By the time I finally got through, not only were all the wristbands gone, the waitlist was full too.
Thinking that my concert dreams were over, I put the idea out of my mind. That is until my best friend called with news that she had rented us a condo that came complete with six wristbands. I was in.
When the Friday before the concert rolled around, I packed my overnight bag and made the treacherous one mile trek to the condo. I hit the elevator and headed up to the 17
th floor. Even though we only live a mile away from the beach, there’s nothing like seeing the beautiful scenery from way up there. Not to mention the amazing breeze and intoxicating sound of the surf. Nothing compares.
In less than five minutes, I was sitting in the sun with a beer in my hand. This weekend was going to be amazing. Five beers later, we decided to get something to eat before we drank ourselves silly on the first night. Like a herd of tourist, we took to the street to walk to the nearest restaurant. Again, the drinks kept flowing.
The next morning we all woke early looking like Courtney Love circa 1997 with a pounding in our heads that could’ve been a stampede of elephants. Knowing that I needed to get myself together fast, I did what any weekend warrior would do. I downed a Goody’s powder with a little “hair of the dog”, put on my sunglasses, and lathered up with sunscreen for the long day ahead.
We called a cab and within minutes we were passing through those legendary doors into a sea of people that made a Mullet Toss crowd look like a ghost town. We made our way inside, not realizing how hot we were about to get because in a horrible twist of fate, the air conditioners were broken.
We made our way to the bar to get a drink to keep us cool. We ordered Bushwackers, only to find that they were no longer frozen, but a cup full of milky mush. Seeing as how I had sweat pouring off of my face, I guzzled it anyways.
Two hours later, the concert had yet to start and we were nearing heat stroke status. People were dropping like flies. At one point it looked a scene from the Hunger Games. Someone would hit the floor and in swooped the paramedics to scoop them up within seconds, leaving no evidence that there had ever been an issue.
I turned to our now melting group and suggested we attempt to brave the enormous crowd outside in the sand to reach the water for a little relief. We all formed a line like kindergartners, holding hands while dragging each other through the crowd so no one got lost, and made a bee line for the beach.
It took nearly an hour, and at one point seemed like a huge mistake, but when we hit the beautiful clear waters of the gulf, it was like entering the gates of heaven. The relief we felt was indescribable.
An hour or so later, Kenny Chesney took the stage to a crowd of 40,000 screaming “No Shoes Nation” fans. He started with his new single, appropriately named ‘Flora-Bama’, followed by his entire repertoire of hits. There wasn’t a soul in sight who wasn’t swaying and singing along.
When the show was over, I was impressed by the organization of the event as getting 40,000 people out of the area at one time is no easy task. Within minutes we were outside and in a cab, headed back for our condo for another crazy night of partying.
When we arrived, we all made a beeline for the showers. We ordered pizza and made plans for a big night out on the beach like we used to do back in the day. Instead, the pizza came, we ate, and we were all in our pajamas by 10 pm. Yep, we are officially old.
The party was over, but that’s okay. Truth be told, there was nothing I would’ve rather done that night than sit around with my best friends telling stories and laughing like we used to. Only now, our husbands have to hear the ridiculous, although hilarious, details. Poor guys never knew what they were getting themselves into.
Sunday came, and we all packed our things to leave. The weekend had gone by too fast and we realized we hadn’t even taken a single photo. “We have to have at least one picture to remember this weekend,” I explained. “We all look like crap warmed over,” replied my little friend, Sarah. I barked back, “Who cares….now get your booty in the picture.”
As we stood there in our old t-shirts with crazy bed head hair, no makeup, and hung-over bags under our eyes, my friend Jennifer said, “This is not going to be something we want to remember.” I think she just might be wrong about that. Like Kenny said, “A hundred years goes faster than you think, so don't blink.”

August 14 Editorial

Sometimes I feel like my life is a comedy of tragedies. We’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants couple. By that, I mean not organized. So you can understand my dilemma when trying to dig myself out of the chaotic hole I have created through the moving process. Just when I think I have it under control, I realize I couldn’t be more wrong.
For the last week, my husband and I had been wearing workout/yard-work clothes while moving in heat that would’ve made even Satan sweat. I hadn’t worn make up in 8 days, and was showering with Dawn dish detergent because I didn’t have a clue where I had packed our shower essentials. By Sunday, I looked in the mirror and realized that I had gone from a decent looking girl to a homely troll who needed a hairbrush….desperately.
The final blow came on Monday.
My husband, who works in a hospital, was getting ready to go back to work. “Have you seen any scrubs,” he asked. “I can’t even find my shoes, so I’m going to say ‘no’,” I replied, annoyed. I mean, couldn’t he see that I was drowning in boxes that contained things like both bras and garden hoses? I was seriously questioning the state of my sanity while packing, but I find its best not to beat myself up about it.
No big deal I thought to myself…most of the laundry is clean, although it is residing unfolded in baskets in our room, since we never seem to get around to putting laundry away here. Sure enough, I rustled up some clean, albeit wrinkled, scrubs. I threw them in the dryer in hopes that he wouldn’t look like a walking disaster at work. Sure enough, he didn’t even notice. He also didn’t notice the thongs stuck to his back due to static cling as he walked out the door, but thankfully I was there to snatch them off as he flung the door closed.
Later that night, I attempted to once again put my life back into some kind of order. I opened a box that consisted of underwear and dog leashes, deciding that running them through a wash cycle probably wasn’t a bad idea. I turned on the washer and headed back through the kitchen to grab the laundry basket when my ADHD kicked in and my attention turned to putting away groceries from the pantry. An hour later, I made a trip back out to the laundry room and within seconds all hell had broken loose inside.
First, let me give you a little background. My dog is - to put it delicately - simple-minded. Although we had moved with him before, I had forgotten that he isn’t well-equipped with coping mechanisms of any kind. For days he had held it together, with the grace of a cat, but now he had let his inner moron come out….and it wasn’t good.
I could tell he was anxious when I started unpacking because he becomes extremely melodramatic when faced with even a trivial amount of uncertainty. He started following me everywhere, pausing every so often to flop to the ground in an exaggeratedly morose fashion, because maybe that would make me realize how selfish I was being by continuing to place things in new spots around the house despite his obvious emotional discomfort.
I had spent just mere minutes in the laundry room, and when I returned to the kitchen, I noticed something hanging from his mouth. I walked closer and realized it was a long string. I opened his mouth and pulled out what appeared to be a sliver of fabric. Then I noticed his gums were bleeding.
I began to freak out, wondering what could’ve happened in those five minutes, but he seemed eerily calm. Almost like he was relieved. I noticed a couple of similar strings on the floor leading to the guest bedroom. I followed the “trail” and flipped the light switch. The disaster I encountered blew my mind.
The only room that I had officially unpacked, the guest room, was destroyed.
I had spent months searching for the perfect comforter to compliment the expensive silk upholstered headboard I had finally talked my husband into letting me order. Not only had I found it, I loved it. So much so, that upon getting the keys to the new house in my hand, I rushed over to set it up. It was perfect.
My sweet little “angel” had, in an instant, ripped it to shreds. The headboard had a hole about two feet wide down to the wood frame, and all that remained of the comforter was a pile of ruffled cotton stuffing. In a moment of blind rage I sprinted to catch him, but thanks to a doggie door, he was spared. It’s amazing how fast I can run when I’m angry.
I sat myself down on the couch, had a good cry and a glass of wine, and realized that while I loved that bed, my fluffy buddy was more important. He had been quietly sitting beside me in hopes of earning my forgiveness for about an hour when I reached down to pet him. I was still mad, but in the grand scheme of things, stuff is just stuff. It can always be replaced.
Now on to my next task….finding a way to explain the massacre to my husband.
So long, beautiful guest room. If only someone would’ve been able to enjoy you. It looks like I’m back to sale shopping, working extra, and begging and pleading for a few months to put that room back together.
That dog better be glad that I love him.

August 7 Editorial

This week, we finally moved into our “little shack” on the water, and though it wasn’t easy and it looks like ramen noodles are on the menu for the next six months, it was well worth it.
We had been preparing for the move for nearly a month. The boxes were packed, the services had been transferred, and the truck had been rented. I thought I had this all under control. I was wrong.
When moving day 1 rolled around, I grabbed the boxes that contained things like kitchen utensils, cleaners, and laundry detergent. I headed to the house with a mission: get set up quickly and efficiently. Little did I know that when I opened the front door I would find that the cleaning crew did less than a stellar job. The floors weren’t even swept, let alone mopped, and the kitchen cabinets were so filthy that I actually dry heaved a little. I nearly lost my marbles when I opened a cabinet to find bugs and dirt so thick, that I eventually gave up and decided not to use that particular cabinet. The jury is still out on how to handle that one.
I spent the entire day cleaning, getting nothing on my agenda finished. I was already set back an entire day according to my OCD schedule. It was only going to get worse.
Day 2 rolled around and we picked up the moving truck bright and early. I made the mistake of putting my husband in charge of recruiting a little muscle to help us move the big furniture, because come moving day, there was no one in sight. “Didn’t you say you had some people coming,” I asked. “Well, I had a couple of people say they would come help,” he replied. I knew we were on our own.
An hour later, I decided that no one was coming to help and this stuff wasn’t going to move itself, so I was going to have to man up and get it done. The first three pieces we moved weren’t so bad. Then I threw my back out moving the couch. I winced in pain for a minute or two, but kept moving on.
When the day was over, all the big furniture and appliances were moved in, but I was a mess. I had bruises all over my body, a pulled back, cuts and dried blood all over my hands, but I was determined to do what I had moved in here for. I smelled like a wildebeest, but I instantly felt better when I popped the top on a beer and sat my stinky behind down on a chair in the sand.
I listened to the sounds of the water, and watched the boats go by. In the blink of an eye, the horrible weekend that we had just endured was all worth it. This place was once my bliss when we lived here almost three years ago, and nothing had changed. There’s just something about the sun setting on the water while you can feel the sand between your toes that makes everything seem calm.
Two days later, I am still making trips from the other house with loads of little things that never seem to have a place. Each load I take never seems to make the remaining pile smaller. I contemplated selling it with the house or having a “house” sale instead of a garage sale.
It may take me a week or even a month, but I’ll get it done. As long as it doesn’t cut into my “cocktail” hour at sunset.
In the end, we now have a mortgage and rent, not to mention moving expenses, deposits, transfers, etc. It’s a little scary to look at our budget, as we have put ourselves into a tight spot for the next couple of months until our house either sells or gets a tenant.
But the thing I’ve learned from all of this is that is you want something bad enough, go get it. Don’t wait until it’s too late to find your happiness. Life is short. In just four short days, our attitudes are better, I’m sleeping better, and we are more affectionate towards one another. We wake up happy and relaxed, and have already spent more time outside with our family then we have in the past year.
We may be broke for a while, but being a beach bum suits me just fine.