My Thankful 30

Usually I’m not one for Facebook trends, but I do like the 30 Days of Thanks I see some people doing.  As I came back to Facebook mid-November I missed the thankfulness bandwagon so I figured I’d create a blog with 30 things I’m thankful for in recognition of Thanksgiving tomorrow.  These are in no particular order and will combine the sentimental as well as the silly.

1.  My mother and father.  As a kid you always think your parents are invincible as well as know the answer to everything.  I just turned 27 and I still believe that about my parents.  They seem to solve any and every crisis even with being 3 hours away, everything ranging to “What temperature do I cook fish on?” to “My car won’t start.”  They’re just awesome, and I wish they weren’t nearly 3 hours away, but every chance I see them is always a happy and fun time.

2.  My boyfriend Jason.  He is just plain wonderful.  I never get tired of being with him and treasure every weekend and evening hour we get to spend together.  He is just so genuinely sweet, and I won’t embarrass him by listing all the cute little things he does, but he makes me smile a lot.  My life with him is just very content and peaceful and I enjoy every minute of it.

3.  My sister Kasey and her boyfriend Erik.  These 2 just make laugh and I wish I could spend more time with them.  My sister has made me so proud and reminds me of myself in more ways than I think she realizes.  Erik is just an all around nice and funny guy who I’m really glad my sister found.  Now if I could just convince them to make the drive north to visit me…

4.  My house.  Sometimes I love the convenience of living in a small town and sometimes I hate it.  Sometimes I love little details of my house and sometimes the flaws of it drive me crazy.  I’m just glad to have a nice comfy place to live.

5.  My computer and internet.  I would give up television and even my cell phone if I had to, but never my computer.  I’m on it too much, I know, but I’ve gotten better.

6.  Speaking of television… I’m thankful for The Vampire Diaries and The Originals.  Amazing shows.  Great cast, intriguing stories, sexy guys playing every lead role… let’s just say that if someone ever interrupts me while I’m watching either one, someone better be dying.

7.  Chocolate.  Particularly dark.

8.  My extended family.  While I don’t get to see most of them near as much as I’d like, and some I can’t even tell you the last time I’ve seen, I still have lots of great memories from visits as a kid and I love them.

9.  The Miami Dolphins.  I’m grateful for as many games as have actually aired in this area this year that I’ve been able to see.  Yes, even those games that have caused me to swear at the television when our defense couldn’t pull it out in the end.

10.  Italian food.  I don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad combination of noodle, sauce and cheese.

11.  My health.  Life isn’t worth anything unless you’re healthy enough to enjoy it.

12.  The smell of track season.  The only people who have any idea of what this is are Eastern York track athletes/former athletes.

13.  Music… country, pop, rock, soft rock…  I have varied tastes and love it all equally.

14.  The ability to run.  This is the greatest form of exercise in my opinion because it’s the most mentally freeing.

15.  My coworkers both past and present.  No matter what job I’ve had or how much I’ve liked or disliked it, I’ve always worked with great people.  I’m grateful that I still have my “Weis buddies” even though few of us work there anymore and I can always count on them to be up for going out when I go back to York.

16.  Chocolate milkshakes.  Someone really needs to build a Jim Macks in this area because while I’ve found good places to get ice cream, no one makes milkshakes as big or cheap as they do.

17.  Books and reading.  I’ve never understood how people don’t like reading.  There is such a vast selection of books in this world to cover nearly every topic and interest.  It’s my favorite way to escape from reality next to running.

18.  My Facebook friends.  I’ve established some pretty good relationships particularly with people I went to high school with thanks to Facebook. 

19.  Movies.  Lord of the Rings will forever be the greatest set of movies ever made.  Anything with Jason Statham or Joseph Gordon-Levitt ranks up there near the top as well.

20.  My job.  While I don’t love spending my days answering telephone calls, overall my job is fairly decent.  The people I work with are great and the benefits are nice as well.  I still wish I had a job related to athletics, but at least I’m living comfortably.

21.  Holidays.  Not only are they now paid days off for me, but most of them I just have always loved because I’m a traditionalist.  I curse anyone who dislikes Christmas… it’s the most wonderful, magical time of the year if you make it as such.

22.  My car.  It makes me regret trading Ford for Chevy some days, but it gets me where I need to go and is the most valuable thing I own.

23.  Jason’s cat.  I could definitely live without her, but I know my irritation of her has brought much joy and laughter to those whom I complain about her to.  Her stupidity and fatness always provide comical entertainment for Jason and me.

24.  The seasons.  Winter is too long and cold, but I’d rather live in a state with 4 defined seasons than one that’s the same all year long.  The variety makes it more interesting and pretty.

25.  Vacations.  I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to go on at least one vacation every year since I’ve been born.  I know not many have that luxury.

26.  Indoor plumbing.  Would you want to go out in the cold to pee?

27.  Hot showers.  I try to be an environmentalist and conservative with most things, but I can’t resist a long hot shower.  That’s until Jason opens the bathroom door to let all the steam out and I get cold again.

28.  A backyard.  Our yard now isn’t nearly as big as the one I grew up with, but it’s still got space.  I’ll never understand how people can tolerate apartment or condo life and not having some green space of their own.

29.  A comfy bed.  Add to that recently purchased pillows from Carnival Cruise’s website and it feels like a luxury to go to sleep.

30.  Every person, past and present, who has left a memory with me.  There are many of them that I miss, who I wish I could talk with and reminiscence about old times with again.  At the end of the day though every moment I’ve been through in life has brought me to where I am today.  My life is very content and happy and for that, I am truly thankful.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

So it begins…

Winter that is.  Well not officially given the actual start date of the winter solstice isn’t until Dec., but anyone living in Pennsylvania will attest that for us it definitely begins well before then. I just went to weather.com to look for any accumulations predicted for tomorrow.  Why I do this I’m still not sure as I know their meager prediction of 1 inch could very well equate to nothing beyond flurries to up to a foot.  Oh and throw in a thick sheet of ice just for good measure. 

I’m surprised there aren’t school delays or closings listed.  This area (northeastern PA) is notorious for delaying, closing, or letting out schools at the mere mention of the words “snow, sleet or freezing rain.”  Sometimes even “heavy rain” will merit a cancellation.  I get it, everyone wants to keep the kids safe and no one wants the guilt of letting buses on the roads and risking an accident.  Seriously though if we had missed as much school when I went as what the kids in this area seemed to last year, we would’ve never learned a thing.  Throw some snow tires on the buses, drive with caution and at least wait until some snow has fallen before delaying or closing.

I honestly wish there wouldn’t be the technology to predict the weather.  The pioneers of the olden days didn’t rely on dopplar radar or Iphone apps to tell them what was coming; they just looked outside and went with it.  I’m an absolute anxiety-ridden mess when it comes to driving in bad weather.  I don’t even like driving at night in the rain.  To me I’d rather not spend my 8 hour shift agonizing over what’s waiting for me when I leave work after listening to people’s own weather reporting.  It always seems as if the predictions grow as the day lengthens.  The irony of it is that the worst predictions tend to result in next to nothing while when no forewarning is issued it seems the roads are the most hazardous.

Another thing I find completely humorous in the weather related paranoia is the naming of winter storms.  “Boreas” is apparently sweeping towards the Northeast from the Great Lakes as I type.  Boreas?  Really?  I had read last year that the decision to name winter storms was to help raise awareness of the seriousness of them, similar to the naming of hurricanes.  Apparently it also makes them easier to identify in news reports as well as in historical tracking.  I personally never had an issue in just referring to them as “The Blizzard of ’96” and such. 

Having worked at a grocery store for over 3 years I can attest to the fact that people do not need any more warning of a storm, and naming it has no bearing on how seriously people will take it.  Mention the word “snow” and trust me, all Hell breaks loose within hours.  It doesn’t matter how much bread, milk and eggs someone has at home (are we all going to live off of French toast?), he or she will certainly be running out to get more.  It’d like an innate paranoia.  Or maybe a media-induced frenzy designed to boost the economy.  In either case it’s not fun to deal with and I beg you, unless you honestly need to go out for something or are doing your regular grocery shopping, stop flooding your local stores in hordes.  I promise that you’ll be fine.

With all of that said I will most likely be watching any and every flake fall tomorrow as “Boreas” comes, hoping that the roads are actually salted for a change, and that everyone is staying put until I leave work.  With any luck nothing beyond some cold air and rain will fall.  Then of course we’ll just sit and wait until the next one comes along so everyone can begin the worrying process all over again.

Learning Direction

I don’t think that anyone can really discern whether or not he or she has a good sense of direction until one learns to drive.  Up until that point most of us really pay no mind to how we get to certain places as long as we arrive there.  Once we are put in charge of navigating ourselves to those same places, however, everything changes.  All of a sudden that short trip to the grocery store may become a little more complicated than we remember.

I have never had a great sense of direction.  When it comes to reversing directions I am even worse.  It seems as if the only way I become an expert on locating a destination is if I have been down the same route over and over.  The first “far away” place I ever managed to drive myself without issue was to Hershey Park.  Had it not been for the multiple trips in middle school there as a year end reward or the cross country trips there for Districts and States, I would’ve never learned the way. 

My family has gone to Ocean City MD on vacation every Aug. since I was born.  While the route deviated its normal course a few of the trips, my dad typically takes the same way down each year.  The older I became the more of the route I learned through various “landmarks”.  There was the Turkey Hill that we stopped at for a snack.  There was the old building with the fireworks sign on the side.  There was the pink house on the corner right before we reached the highway that required 50 cents to be thrown in the basket.  There was the Air Force base where if I was lucky, I got a glimpse of large cargo planes.  There were the various McDonalds that we passed along the way, the key one being in Rehobeth when we would finally stop for breakfast and the main indicator that Ocean City wasn’t much farther.

I drove to Ocean City for the first time in June 2007.  I was nervous but determined to make it there following the same route my family had always taken.  I must admit I did slightly cheat in that I wrote up directions to reference if needed though most of the navigation was landmark based as opposed to actual street names.  I was thrilled when I was able to complete the journey.  On the way back I began my attempt to reverse the directions within my head only to get back into PA and realize I didn’t recognize where I was thus resulting in the use of my Garmin to get the rest of the way home. 

A GPS is a wondrous invention.  When it works correctly.  While I feel more confident in having one especially still being a newbie to the area (I reached 2 years of residency in Sept) I worry about detours and not knowing alternate routes.  I feel as if I can always trust the GPS to locate my home; it’s locating other places that I don’t always trust it.  I have had my Garmin take me through the tiniest of towns only to arrive on a dead end back road on my way to Knoebels in 2011.  I have also had it try to make turn the wrong way down a one way street.  Driving through cities seems to be the worst as streets are closer meaning that “turn right in 500 ft” instruction quickly becomes “turn right” without warning.

My mother suffers from the same condition of “inability to reverse direction.”  My father, however, seems to have compass and set of maps embedded within his brain.  Unlike me, who normally has to drive somewhere myself at least once to learn a new route, my dad seems to be able to just learn it as a passenger.  He then can typically replicate it, and even if he doesn’t drive it again for months, will still retain the knowledge of the route.  Even if he ends up “off the beaten path” due to a detour or some other reason, he never panics (I nearly hyperventilate) and seems to just have an innate knowing of which way to go to get back on track.  I confirmed this even more after I moved, and my dad came to visit.  My parents only visit every few months, yet my dad seems to know his way around my small town as well as I do.  He also can find his way to the mall, and even when I take him to new places he registers the location. 

I am convinced that if someone was to drop my dad in an entirely different state that he would be able to learn his way around and find his way home without any issue.  I am sure there are other people out there like him as well.  Personally I’m just proud of myself if I can get somewhere new without difficulty or find my way home without a GPS.

My MIA month from Facebook

I’ve read a lot of articles and blogs that people have written about giving up social media, and while it seems everyone is in agreement that it proves we waste too much time on there, I’d still like to provide my feedback on my experience.

I never intentionally set out to leave Facebook.  Living nearly 3 hours from my family and most of my friends it was even more useful after I moved than even prior to it.  As I began blogging more though I realized that I enjoyed writing more elaborately and thought provoking things than what Facebook seemed to allow me to do.  Sure I could post a recent news article that stirred me up and write a ranting comment to be “Liked” or commented after, but it wasn’t the same as fully expressing my thoughts.  The growing amount of ignorance within current events that seemed to be spouted about daily on statuses kept eating at me over time.  Also, the number of personally irritating people that I longed to delete but feared backlash from grew as well.

So I randomly deactivated my Facebook without warning.  It honestly felt like a relief.  No longer did I feel compelled to publish my day to day happenings, read through nearly every new update every time I logged in, or obsessively sign into the site in case somehow something amazing occurred since I last signed in a few hours prior.  I expected to miss it, to feel left out of my friends’ and family members’ lives and that my curiosity would drive me back.  Instead I found myself reading books more often, blogging more, and reaching out to friends via text instead.  True to the statement that social media is a time sucker, I found “lost time” in the morning and evenings.  While I did sign into my mom’s account a few times (she insisted I look at various pictures that had been posted), it was never more than a few minutes as I found I really didn’t feel a need to check up on everyone any longer.

Why I have I then returned to Facebook?  The simple answer is I wanted to post pictures of my most recent cruise for friends and family to see.  The pathetic answer is my birthday is coming up this month, and I get a sick pleasure from seeing how many people tell me happy birthday regardless of whether or not they talk to me at all the rest of the year.  The overall answer is that I do still generally find it handy to keep up to date with people particularly those whom I consider friends, but not close enough friends to constantly text or call.  I do find that I don’t desire to be on it as long as I used to nor do I read all the posts on the news page anymore.  I haven’t written many statuses, and I probably won’t in the way I used to as I find it much more fulfilling to spend time blogging if I’m going to write. 

I encourage everyone to take a hard look at how often they find themselves on Facebook or any other form of social media.  Realize that when you complain that you don’t have enough time to do certain things that even if you start with cutting out social activity for one day that you’ll gain time back in your week.  Instead of just “liking” someone’s status or commenting, try communicating with them in other ways.  Find new hobbies or take back up old ones; I guarantee you’ll find a lot more fulfillment in your life from than than anything that social media provides you.

First Cruise Review

As you may have noticed my blogging has been silent for a week… that was due to the fact that I went with my boyfriend on our first cruise.  I wrote up a summary for Carnival’s forums so rather than re-write a new one I’m going to just post it on here for anyone who might be interested in cruising:

We (my boyfriend and myself) sailed Nov. 3rd-10th out of Baltimore MD to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Freeport.  I’m going to put things into categories to make it a little easier to read.

Pre-cruise:  We booked through a AAA agent which was a great choice for us as first timers.  She handled everything for us including booking our hotel for the night before, securing our travel insurance, and completing the online check-in.  We drove to Baltimore MD Sat. evening and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Baltimore at the Stadiums.  The hotel was great… nice staff, clean room, and I felt secure leaving our car parked there for the week as only hotel guests can access the parking lot.  The shuttle driver was really nice and took care of loading our luggage once we arrived at the cruise terminal.  Once we entered the terminal there were lots of Carnival workers pointing out where to go which was incredibly helpful as I would’ve been lost without them.  We had taken the 10:30am shuttle to the terminal and were checked in and seated before 11:30am.  We boarded the ship sometime between 12:30 and 1 if I recall correctly.

Ship and Cabin:  We sailed on the Carnival Pride and had a balcony stateroom on deck 4.  The ship was gorgeous and our cabin was more spacious than I expected.  I would strongly recommend getting a balcony especially if you’re more of private people and enjoy time to yourselves as my boyfriend and I do.  We spent a lot of time especially late at night on the balcony watching the water and stars.  The ship is really clean especially given how many people are on board.  The cabin steward cleaned the room including making the bed twice a day which kept that really clean as well.  The bed is the most comfortable one I’ve ever slept in; the pillows are amazing. The only slight complaints I would have are having only one outlet (though I took a surge protector per the advice of these forums which was a good idea because I brought along an alarm clock to have plugged in the whole time and needed other outlets for my blow dryer and straightener) and that all the shelves in the bathroom are above the sink; there was no where to put our shower items other than on the shower floor.

Food:  The food is great and plentiful.  We had breakfast brought by room service nearly every morning and they only made one error in bringing orange juice instead of apple juice one day.  When I realized I could get french toast up in the buffet area though we ate breakfast there.  We ate at David’s Steakhouse the first night; my boyfriend had a steak and I had rosemary infused chicken.  I forget his appetizer but I had a crab cake and we shared a cheesecake for dessert.  It was definitely worth the money especially since we went on the first night which entitled us to a free bottle of wine.  My boyfriend is more adventurous than I am so he sampled frog legs, escargots and other unique items throughout the week at dinner.  He claimed to have not had a bad meal the entire trip.  The only meal I found so-so was the meatloaf.  I tried chilled melon soup to be “adventurous” and really enjoyed it.  The chocolate melting cake was good though not as great as I thought given the rave reviews I’ve seen from other people.  Also, we had pumpkin pie and cheesecake that tasted more like the Jello no-bake desserts than anything else; the cheesecake in the steakhouse was much better.  I loved the deli for the fact that they put most of the sandwiches on a pannini press which just made them even better; my boyfriend loved the pizza and I ate plenty of chocolate ice cream.

Entertainment:  We enjoyed the various evening shows though we didn’t go every night due to being tired.  We made it to one comedy show which was good.  We liked the different trivia events particularly music ones that they held.  Our favorite was “Guess that Song” in the piano bar.  The piano bar was one of our favorite places to go as it’s smaller and not quite as crowded as other bars, and the person who played the piano and sang did a really great job.  The only thing we noticed is that most of the activities we were into were all in the evening which made our 3 total sea days (Mon, Tues and Sat) fairly boring during the day.  It seemed as if you’re stuck either gambling in the casino, drinking or hanging out.  We actually spent a lot of this time in the cabin watching movies which unfortunately aren’t too varied.  I think I saw The Hobbit and The Croods 3x each and The Longest Yard twice.  I guess if we were more social butterflies this wouldn’t have mattered, but we preferred each other’s company to that of strangers.  We did go for drinks a few times though the biggest disappointment to me is that they don’t have Captain Morgan at their bars.  This is my favorite and one of the most common rums so that made absolutely no sense to me especially given that they sell it in their gift shops.

Destinations:  The islands we visited were by far our favorite part of the trip.  We stayed in the Margaritaville area of Grand Turk by the beach.  We loved that the palm trees provided shade and Omar made frequent trips to bring everyone’s drinks so we didn’t have to leave our beach chairs.  The ocean is beautiful though when entering it has rocks and I saw more than one person with a cut leg or ankle so I’d suggest water shoes.  Out of the places we visited this was the best for souvenirs… we bought 5 tshirts, a hat, and a water globe for around $150.  Half Moon Cay was our favorite though we had to rent a clam shell to be assured shade (we both burn easily) but for $20 for the day it was a good deal.  The water was crystal clear, allowing us to see our feet even when we went far out.  My boyfriend’s not the strongest swimmer so he loved the calmness and lack of waves.  We booked a glass bottom boat excursion for Freeport as we were told there wasn’t much to do there otherwise and I would agree with that.  The excursion was worth the money; nothing too elaborate but we got to learn about the island on our drive to and from Lucaya where we got on the boat, and we got to see fish and some sharks.  My boyfriend tried a conch burger before we got back on the ship and really loved it though said the Bahamian beer he tried didn’t taste much different from domestic beer he gets here like Miller Lite.

Overall:  We definitely had a good vacation though we did get seasick Mon. morning.  We took Bonine which made me sleepy but once I napped and had some lunch we were both ok the rest of the trip.  So many people told us that you don’t even notice you’re on a ship… well I don’t know if we just had rougher waters but 95% of the trip we could definitely tell we were on a ship especially in the dining hall in the evenings.  We loved the islands we visited, but think that next time we’ll just take a plane and stay at one of the islands.  The ship was nice and well worth the money, but the days at sea just got a little tedious for us so if we cruise again in the future we’ll probably stick to a shorter cruise with less sea days.