Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wednesday - St. Lucia

We arrived in St. Lucia at 7:00 am. The island was picture postcard-pretty.

I checked with the excursions desk to see if there were any more tours available. Here Wayne and I were scheduled for a dolphin and whale watch tour, but again I cancelled, afraid I'd end up with a deeper burn than I already have. Wayne went scuba diving for the day. I took a bus tour. We stopped first at a silk-screening studio. They showed us how they silk-screen items, and then we went through the gift shop.

I bought a couple of things there, including a silk-screened t-shirt for Wayne. Next stop was in a banana plantation, where they showed us how the bananas grow on the plants. The next stop was in the fishing village of Anse-La-Raye. The villagers have souvenir stands along the streets where they sell jewelry, hats and everything else you can think of. I bought a bottle of banana ketchup there. Another crochet sighting - there were colorful crocheted hats there.

The next stop was at the top of a lookout point for a photo opportunity to view Marigot Bay. What a beautiful place that was. There is a resort there in the bay - it turns out that Wayne had his buffet lunch at the resort. The final stop was at St. Mark's Place, which is a house built in 1942 on top of a hill overlooking the port. We viewed a few rooms there and they told us a little of its history. The family that owns the house actually lives in the house, closing off the private areas to tours. It was a nice picture vantage there too.

Another crochet sighting here too - a woman was selling crocheted dolls, doilies and baby clothes. I feel for the people who need to make a living selling to tourists. One ignorant passenger on the bus made comments regarding all the vendors. He's lucky he's not in that situation. Overall, the people were nice and didn't badger you if you politely declined to purchase something from them. According to our guide, a certified teacher in St. Lucia makes about $125 USD a week. Same with a nurse - a far cry from US wages.

When we returned to the port, I checked out a few of the shops, but didn't buy anything else. The tour guide was entertaining and overall it was a nice way to spend the morning.

Wayne returned from his dive at 4:30 (the tour was late returning - a good reason to book your excursions through the cruise line. They have to wait for you!). The excursion company's boat broke down and they had to transport the divers by taxi. He enjoyed the dive and thought the reef was beautiful. He has a nice new underwater camera and took some pretty good photos with it.

Dinner was pleasant. One of the couples at our table was celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary. All of our dinner companions are very nice.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday - Antigua

This is the first visit to the island for us. It is different. The buildings aren't as tropical as in St. Thomas or St. Maarten with their pastel colors. But the island itself is lovely. The people are friendly. We had been scheduled to do an excursion to swim with the stingrays. I decided to forgo that one, and instead we signed up for a Catamarran swim and snorkel trip. That was quite enjoyable. The crew went out of their way to make it fun. They played Caribbean music, served fruit juice and soda, and sandwiches.

After the snorkeling stop, they brought out the rum punch. And let me tell you, the rum had a punch! We made another stop at a small beach where we swam for a while. As the boat approached, you could see locals making their way to the beach to meet us. With their wares. It was hard to resist buying anything, as I know that most of them depend upon tourists for their livelihood. I didn't have any more money to spend there, however. I had bought a necklace, bracelet and earring set from one of the crew on the catamarran.

When we returned, we took a short walk looking around at the shopping district. It wasn't much, really. At least not where we were. The few souvenir shops we were in were way overpriced. So we went back to the ship and got ready for dinner. It was Caribbean night and the waiters had a parade. They carried bowls, pots, pans, dishes, bottles, cakes, pies, and anything else they could think of on their heads as they danced about the dining room. Afterwards, it was a stop at the excursion desk to see if there were any more tours open for St. Lucia. I decided not to do the dolphin and whale watch tour, as I didn't want more sun than I already had. At least the catamarran was covered. I didn't know what to expect on the whale watch.

Monday - St. Maarten

This is the second time we've visited St. Maarten. We were somewhat familiar with the shopping at the port. We ventured off down some of the side streets which took us into a residential area. We passed a school building. As we passed, the front door opened and the most animated group of children spilled out of the building - recess time! They wore lovely blue school uniforms. What a charming scene!

We found a shop where I bought the swimsuit I've been needing, and also picked up a sewing kit. I was going to string some beads to crochet rosaries this week, but didn't have a needle threader. I'm all set now.

Wayne and I didn't do any specific tours in St. Maarten. The fishing trip we were booked for cancelled. Second cancellation this trip. But it was nice to have the ship so deserted. We sat by the pool and I soaked up some sun. A little too much, I think.

A nice calm day - the weather couldn't be nicer.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunday - St. Thomas

We arrived in St. Thomas - beautiful island. Wayne left for his scuba excursion and I returned to the cabin to find out my "Pirate Duck Tour" was cancelled for operational reasons. Not sure what that means. So I relaxed in the solarium until Wayne returned. So peaceful...

After lunch, Wayne and I shopped a little around the port. I was looking for a new swimsuit but we didn't find anything open. So we took the sky tram to Paradise Point.

It was a nice little excursion and we sat for a while at the cafe/bar at the top of the point and took some photos. The bar featured a special drink called Bailey's Bushwhacker. I considered ordering one, until I read a list of the ingredients. About 6 or 7 of them. I figured that I'd better not, as I didn't savor rolling down the hillside on the return to the ship. It definitely would have put me away for the night!

St. Thomas is one of the most beautiful islands I've seen.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Saturday - Old San Juan and Serenade of the Seas

Saturday morning we took a cab to Old San Juan. It was still early, so none of the shops were open. We stopped in a little deli sort of place for breakfast. It was good - I just wasn't very hungry. Old San Juan is very picturesque. Lots of hilly streets and cobblestones. There was an interesting church there. I went in to say a prayer or two for Dad. It was the Chapel of St. Francis.
Afterwards, we decided shopping wasn't for us, so we went to Castillo San Christobal. It's an old fort - I got lots of photos. By the time we finished touring the fort, it was time to return to the hotel to check out.

The short drive to the cruise pier was expensive - 4 suitcases, and there's no denying you're a tourist! But from the time we arrived at the pier until we boarded the ship was a little over 10 minutes. We wandered a bit, had lunch in the Windjammer and toured a bit more on the ship. Very pretty - our cabin has a nice little balcony. We were checking out the Celebrity Summit which was docked near our ship. They had huge balconies on the aft - must have been owners' suites or something. They had private hottubs, inside and outside. Gym equipment, lots of lounge chairs and a bar. Nice setup! Must cost a fortune to spend a week in digs like that.

Friday, January 25, 2008

We're in Puerto Rico

We are on the cruise that we planned so many months ago. I still feel odd being on this trip, but my brothers and sisters all said they wish they were going. If there was anything my dad wouldn't like, it would have been to waste the money spent for this trip.

We arrived in San Juan about 12:30 this afternoon (they are one hour ahead of us). It was a good flight - I think it's because we had a woman captain. Arriving at the airport, we both ended up getting the works at security. My knee set off the metal detector so it took a while to get through that area. Afterwards, we claimed the bags and went to the grouhd transportation area. They have people outside who will write you a cab voucher, telling you up front how much it will cost to get where you're going, and they hail the cab for you. It was a good system - we were on the way to the hotel in no time.

The hotel is okay - not top of the line. We have a nice ocean view though. Wayne and I sat by the pool for a long time and watched the waves rolling in. It is a strong surf here, so they don't let you swim in the ocean. Pretty area, though.

We did a little shopping - the airport fellows threw away Wayne's shaving cream and our toothpaste. Containers were too big. We bought what he needed. Crochet sighting - a little hat crocheted with raffia, I think. Cute pattern. We walked along the street, checking out the different restaurants and they have a casino here.

At dinner time, we went to the casino and lost a little money there. Then we went to dinner at Gusto di Italia. The service was sloooooooooooow. Our waiter, Mr. "Short Term Memory Loss", kept coming back to ask us what we ordered. First it was the drinks. He forgot what Wayne had ordered. Then he came back later (much later) and asked us if we ordered stuffed mushrooms. By the time the mushrooms arrived, we were losing our appetites because we were there so long. I said to Wayne that it was soon time for Mr. "STML" to come back to ask us what entrees we ordered. Swear to God, 5 minutes later, Mr. STML was standing behind us looking very confused! More than two hours for dinner, and we even told him to skip the salad course. We did strike up a conversation with the couple next to us. They say they come here for 3 months every year, instead of going to Florida.

All in all, it was a nice first day. I especially enjoyed watching the surf. It was quiet time, just time to sit and think and enjoy the sun.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dad's House

4 of us stopped by Dad's house today after breakfast together. We went through the sympathy cards from different people who attended the funeral. We looked at the guestbook and tried our best to decipher the names of the people who signed it. We brought back the photos we had taken to the funeral home for people to look at. My sister's children did a wonderful job putting together a photo board with lots of photos from weddings, parties, and Christmas and birthday celebrations. There were pictures of Dad with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

We took a look around - it really seemed strange without Dad. It's been about 30 years since he moved us there. My parents' 40th anniversary party was held there. My husband and I were married in the backyard over 27 years ago.

From left to right in the photo - my Dad, my Mom, me, Wayne, Wayne's Mom, and Wayne's Dad. I'm sorry to say that my parents and Wayne's parents are all gone now.

I'm glad that we had a nice visit with Dad there at the house this past Christmas. I don't think any of us imagined it would have been our last together.

I picked up my yarn this evening. I wanted to start to get back to a routine, but wasn't sure what to make. I just knew I wanted to find some comfort in hook and yarn, so I made a preemie hat.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Time with Family

My brothers and sisters and I have been able to spend some time together. Everyone is in town for my dad's funeral, which was held on Saturday. It was a very nice ceremony, with representatives from the Army in attendance to honor his military service. It was my dad's wish for a military funeral. There were nieces and nephews at the service from upstate and we had a nice time reminiscing at the luncheon afterwards. My dad was one of ten children (as was my mother) so our family is very large.

My siblings and I have been looking at old photos on our family website, and telling and retelling stories from when we were kids. We've laughed and cried together. It's been good to see them all, even though the circumstances that brought us all together have been so very sad.

Everyone has been so kind - my employer send a bread basket to our house for my son, and a sweets tray from a local bakery for us. The human resources managers also sent a very nice deli tray, with cold cuts, potato salad, cole slaw, condiments, bread and rolls - that was greatly appreciated. We'll be getting together at the house one more time as a group tomorrow.

I've been discussing a dilemma with my brothers and sisters. My husband and I scheduled a cruise for this year, and we were supposed to leave on vacation on Friday the 25th. I had considered investigating the possibility of postponing this trip - unfortunately, we had not purchased trip insurance. My husband feels that we should still go, and says the time away would do me good. I feel guilty even thinking about going, but my siblings all say that I should go and not worry about it. They said they would go, if they were in my place. I have been looking forward to this trip for a long time, but I don't know if I can enjoy it now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Goodbye, Daddy

Dad passed away this morning at 6:12 a.m. He entered the hospital with an irregular heartbeat on Tuesday 1/8 and his health deteriorated with each passing day. He just wasn't strong enough to survive all of these complications.

My sisters, brothers, children, nieces and nephews will miss him terribly.

We love you, Dad.

Friday, January 11, 2008


My dad is still in the hospital - they have cancelled his procedure twice, and want to try it again on Monday. He's been severely dehydrated and it means that he cannot tolerate the dye used in the cardiac catheterization until they can build up his fluid levels.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My Dad

Dad was admitted to the hospital yesterday. I don't think he's been feeling well for a while now, and on Monday, after he and his dog Brutus visited my mom's grave at the cemetery, Dad decided to drive straight to the doctor's office. The doctor examined him and said that he has an irregular heartbeat. He advised him to go to the hospital, but Dad wanted to think about it.

Several of us spoke to him during the course of the evening on Monday and on Tuesday morning, and he finally decided to let himself be driven to the emergency room. They admitted him and he is going to be there a few days, at least. He's scheduled for a cardiac catheterization tomorrow. We are concerned as he will be 85 years old in July. But they need to test to see what the heart problem is and get him on the proper medications. He is also being seen by a pulmonary specialist while in the hospital as well. He's a tough guy, does a lot of stuff for himself and the nurses are having a rough time making him ask for help!

When Wayne and I visited him this afternoon, he started talking about his time in the war. My Dad won a silver star in WWII - he was a bazooka gunner and displayed outstanding courage and initiative during an enemy attack by three tanks. One of the tanks advanced directly towards his position along a narrow road. He waited until the tank was in easy range of his bazooka before he opened fire. Though the first round was a dud, he remained in his position and fired another round disabling the tank which was later reported to have burned. Meanwhile, another tank had advanced to within thirty yards of his position on the flank and was spraying an emplacement on a small hill with machine gun and 37mm fire. He picked up the bazooka plus a few rounds of ammunition, ran up the hill, and opened fire on the second tank. The first two rounds were duds, but after firing a third round he succeeded in completely disabling the tank. The third tank withdrew.

I don't remember my dad talking much about the war when we were growing up. The information above came from a newspaper clipping of the official announcement. But this afternoon he talked about his very first day in combat. His platoon hunkered down in a gully with a stream running through it. The men decided to prepare a meal and were in the midst of heating their rations as best they could when they came under attack by the Japanese. The men, surrounded, scrambled for their lives into the jungle. As it grew darker, my dad said that he and the other men were scattered throughout the jungle. They were separated from the rest of the platoon, and gunfire from both sides echoed throughout the area. He clutched his gun closer and prayed that no one would step on him as he lay on the jungle floor, as he would have certainly shot to protect himself. He said that, unfortunately, too many soldiers lost their lives to friendly fire in such situations throughout the war. His prayers were answered. Dawn came and the men survived and were reunited with their platoon.

I've often thought about our young men being sent to Iraq, Afghanistan and other fields of battle throughout the world. God bless them all and keep them safe.

I'll be at the hospital tomorrow when my dad has his test done. God keep him safe as well.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Greeting the New Year! Happy 2008!

My last task in 2007 was to finish a round ripple afghan. It's done, and I love the colors. As you can see, there's a little min pin that loves it too.

Another year has begun. I made no specific resolutions, just to be careful diet-wise. It would be nice to be a little thinner when I leave for vacation. It's time to start rummaging through my pattern stash to look for this year's projects!

Happy New Year to all!