Monday, October 31, 2011


Sometimes when I visualize my life, I see it as a road. I see myself traveling up this long road, mostly straight and unhindered, with the occasional bend. This visual is probably influenced greatly by my singing of "The Long and Winding Road" in High School choir. It is kind of a nice picture, this pretty winding road we follow through life. A kind of a predestined route that we have only to keep following. Nice maybe, but totally unrealistic.

The real road we walk is very different. It has pot holes, u-turns, stops, flat tires, areas that are unpaved, and falling rocks. It is uncharted and we travel it shrouded in a fog that keeps us from seeing where it is going. Sometimes the road seems easy, but even then there are turns that have to be made that require a choice on our behalf.

Sometimes I think we want to believe our road is predetermined. After all, then our circumstances are out of our control. This is especially true if our life has not turned out the way we expected. After all, life is unfair, right? Well, Get ready to curl your toes under because there is a good chance I may be stepping on them.

We make choices every single day and sometimes the choices we make can have big consequences on our lives. We choose what is important to us. Smoking a pack of cigarettes every day, or paying the electric bill? Buying things we don't really need, or saving for a family vacation? Looking at College as too much work and effort, and then 30 years later wondering why we can't live like the Jones's live. Not having the time to spend with our kids, and instead buying them all the latest electronic gadgets, and then when we are older wondering why family time isn't important to them.

Are you bitter? Do you feel like some people get all the breaks? Have you had major tragedies or illness that others have not? You still have the choice. You choose how you handle and respond to events that are out of your control. The event alone does not determine your future...your response to it does. 

There is a popular saying, "There but for the grace of God go I." That is true only in circumstances out of one's control and then only in that moment. I want to introduce you to Joni Eareckson Tada. Many of you may have heard of her, if not, take a moment to listen to her story. It is profound. Then maybe the next time you want to blame your circumstances on others or feel sorry for yourself, you will instead decide to choose a more positive turn in the road.

Blessings ~Marla

Friday, October 28, 2011

Only 57 More Days!

Yeah, I said it! Only 57 more days until Christmas. OK, 57 days and 12 hours or so! I do love the holidays, but it is more the fact that I need to get organized that has me focusing on the holiday this far in advance. I have several gifts I am going to make, and budget dictates buying things in advance this year. 

My daughter and I were talking yesterday about organization and list making. My daughter-in-law is also a list maker, so I am interested in what they will think about this great site I found. It is specifically about being organized for the holidays. I fell in love with the site and spent a good 1/2 hour last night downloading forms. I was in heaven!

The site is called Organized Christmas, and it has everything imaginable to make your holidays well planned. They also throw in some info for other holidays as well, in fact I stumbled upon the site while looking for a Thanksgiving planner template. They had that as well.

At any rate, it is time to get busy with my projects for Christmas. Time to beat my normal procrastinating self into submission. Wish me luck!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday Travels: Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas

Our cruise on the Grandeur remains especially memorable for two reasons; It was the shortest cruise we have taken, and also the most enjoyable. This is particularly amazing considering the food and service were probably the worst we have ever experienced on a cruise. 

That said, it is my experience that the worst day while on vacation still rivals a great day at work! Therefore, I generally can overlook quite a bit when it comes to the food quality and service. The food was not terrible...simply not as good as on other cruises. The service in the dining room, however was amazingly poor for a cruise ship. We gave our server the benefit of the doubt, and assumed he was new to his role as a main waiter vs. assistant.

The cruise was only five nights, instead of seven, and was much too short! We were having such a great time that it was almost painful to disembark after such a short time! We only went to two ports, and we had an absolutely great time at both. This cruise also had the distinction of being the first for DD's boyfriend, now I will refer to him as DSIL. And of course our DDIL came with us, so we had two young couples with us, which makes it even more special!

We spent evenings playing Hand & Foot and Apple's to Apple's. We were so hooked on Hand & Foot that we even played it during our layover times at the airports. I have never enjoyed airports as much as this trip. The family time was priceless and really added to the vacation.

We also returned to winter cruising, which I much prefer. There is nothing better to beat the post Christmas blues and the bitter Kansas cold, than a Caribbean cruise. Not to mention you avoid hurricane season that way as well.

The down side? In order to score $160 round trip air fare to Tampa, Florida, we drove two vehicles to the Kansas City Airport. What should have been a three hour drive was stretched somewhat when we encountered a snow storm just outside Topeka. Despite watching other cars and trucks careening off the Kansas Turnpike, we made it safely to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

Our flight was inexpensive because it was convoluted. We flew from Kansas City to Detroit, changed planes, and on to Florida. Luckily the weather in Detroit was better than in Kansas City, and the flights were uneventful. Upon arrival in Florida it was in the upper 40's and we enjoyed hearing the locals complain about the bitter cold...this after we left single digit temps in Kansas! After a quick bite at IHOP, it was off to bed for a few hours at the hotel. 

The Royal Caribbean pier in Tampa was the nicest I have seen, and boarding was very painless after a short wait in the lounge area. The Grandeur is a sister ship to the Rhapsody, both are Vision class, thus the layout was the same, which made navigating the ship very easy. And so began our cruise traveling to the ports of Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico.

Next: Costa Maya, Mexico

Bon Voyage! ~Marla

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


After two weeks of exhaustion, depression, and loss of focus, I feel refreshed. Amazing what one little pill at night can do! As I have mentioned before, I am not a fan of too much medication. One of the things I tried to do without was the muscle relaxant that I take at night. After a few weeks of sleeping in two hour increments I threw in the towel and refilled my prescription. Last night I slept for nine hours straight! Wow! What a difference! I feel ready to face the day and get things done. Not to mention my pain tolerance is increased also. Refilled, recharged, renewed, rested, and refreshed! Vitamin R!

I once read something about Martha Stewart that said she only slept four hours a day. Her reason was that there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done otherwise. Kudos to her, but as I discovered, I get far less accomplished in the remaining hours if I don't get a good night's sleep. Hmm, do I see an analogy in this?

How many times have I put my daily devotion aside because I just didn't have enough hours in the day to dedicate one to God? After all, I have a lot of other things I need to accomplish. Oddly enough, when I take the time out of my busyness to focus on Him, I find myself feeling just like I do after a good night's sleep. Kind of like a big dose of Vitamin R. And guess what? Everything else still gets accomplished...and with a better attitude.

I once saw a great visual demonstration of this concept...maybe you have too. Using a large clear vase the person states that the room in the vase represents the space we have in our day. Large rocks represent the most important things, God and family, while smaller rocks the less important, work and hobbies. Sand represents the incidental, such as TV watching. 

If we start with the incidental and make it our priority, it fills the bottom of the vase. Then if we move to the less important, it fills the vase to the top, leaving no room at all for the important things, the things that really matter.

But, if we start with the important things, the big rocks, then fill in the pebbles and finally the all fits in the vase. The space taken up by the objects didn't change, only the priority in which we filled the vase.

So before you decide you don't have time for the important things...God, family, maybe even a good nights sleep...try putting those things first. You'll be amazed how the rest just falls into place.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
~Matthew 11:28

Blessings ~Marla

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Travels: Rhapsody of the Seas Wrap Up

The memories of our cruise on the Rhapsody are some of my fondest. The crew was wonderful, and though the ship was one of the smallest we have cruised on, it remains a favorite. I am excited about the prospect of sailing on her again in 2013 on our Alaskan cruise.

The Royal Caribbean line fits my cruising style perfectly and we really enjoyed the activities on board. DD & I attended a Cocktail Seminar that wasn't quite what we expected, but very entertaining! 

DS was accosted on his way through the karaoke area and forced on stage...upon realizing he was tone deaf they brought DDIL up on stage to help. While the rest of us were not there to see it...we did enjoy the CD they burned for them greatly! I will never hear the song "Summer Lovin'" again without thinking of DS hitting the high note at the end of the song!

DD and I enjoyed art auctions with complimentary champagne. DH and DS played ping pong daily. DS entered a rock climbing contest, and despite it being his first attempt at the activity, snagged 2nd place behind a young Air Force Lieutenant. 

I learned a great deal about my DDIL...who was only dating my DS at the time. She was a riot! When they asked for volunteers at one of the shows, she was on her feet, hands in the air, yelling "Pick me, pick me!" Too funny! She also got this great pic of the entertainment after they waited for her to run down from the balcony to take it. I knew then that this little lady was a force to be reckoned with!

The Rhapsody really taught me how to enjoy my days at sea to the fullest. I will tell you from personal experience that bigger is not always better when it comes to cruise ships. The Rhapsody packed a big punch in it's smaller size. For reference, below is the size in tonnage and passengers (not including crew) of the ships we have sailed or have plans to sail.

Celebrity Millennium ~ 2004             91K tons   1,950 passengers   999 crew
RC Rhapsody of the Seas ~ 2007     78K tons   1,998 passengers   765 crew
RC Grandeur of the Seas ~ 2010      74K tons   1,950 passengers   760 crew
RC Voyager of the Seas ~ 2011       137K tons  3,114 passengers   1,180 crew 
RC Adventure of the Seas (2012)     137K tons  3,114 passengers   1,180 crew
RC Jewel of the Seas (2013)            90K tons   2,112 passengers   842 crew   
RC Rhapsody of the Seas (2013)

Out of all the Royal Caribbean ships, Rhapsody probably had the best all around service. However, size is not necessarily what makes this you will see in my next Thursday Travels, as I introduce you to Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas.

Bon voyage! ~Marla

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Taking a Stand

Today I have watched from afar as my niece has had the pleasure of meeting the people from Westboro Baptist Church. That statement is dripping with sarcasm if you didn't catch that. I know my Kansas readers are well aware of who Fred and Shirley Phelps and their Westboro Church are...but for those who may not be aware...they are the group that travels the USA picketing fallen soldiers funerals and whatever other events they feel will get them significant media coverage. Their message is one of hate disguised as repentance.

As Christians we are called to share God's word and win souls to Christ. This is the "Great Commission" mentioned in Matthew 28:16-20.

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

I have to wonder, looking at the Westboro group, how many people their message of hate has brought to Christ? I wager very few. Instead they make a mockery of Christianity and turn people away. Unfortunately, due to the media coverage they crave, and are freely afforded, they may be the only view some people have of Christians. I find that terrifying. We ALL sin, every single one of us. God hates ALL sin. Everytime you lie, cheat, are prideful, treat another person poorly, or gossip, you are sinning. As a Christian these are ALL sins God hates. A lesson the members of Westboro seem to forget.

I actually visited the Westboro site online before writing this...I was appalled. Not one word of encouragement, grace or mercy. The entire site is steeped in hatefulness. I am not sharing the link for two reasons. One, the site name is repellent and I don't want it on my blog, and two, they don't need additional hits on their site, as this only feeds their pride. Suffice to say it twisted my stomach just seeing their site.

So today I find myself needing to stand up...just as our Kansas Patriot Guard does...standing between the Westboro group and the rest of the world...a world who may look at this group and think that this is what Christianity is all about.

1 Corinthians 16:14

Let all that you do be done with love.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: A Few of My Favorite Things

Finally the weather is turning cooler here in Kansas! After a very long and very hot summer it feels fantastic. I am finally starting to think it is time for cool weather food, comfort food. One nice thing about living in a four season part of the world is that the foods change along with the seasons. Here are a few of my favorite foods for this time of the year.

You can't go wrong with Chili, and I learned from the best! My mom's chili was always delicious. 

Bread Pudding is something I love to make in the fall...and so easy to make.

Chicken and Noodles...though I grew up with Rabbit and Noodles. Nice and yellow from mom's homemade egg noodles. Served with mashed potatoes and green beans.

Sauerkraut and Sausage...yeah we had a little German influence in our family.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie. I am a purist has to be the traditional recipe made with sweetened condensed milk!

Corn and Potato Chowder. Wonderful on those really cold nights.

Apple Crisp. I am not such a big Apple Pie fan...but crisps and cobblers I love!

So enjoy the change in weather, and don't forget the Apple Cider!

Bon appetit ~Marla

Monday, October 17, 2011

Choosing Pain

Most people dislike pain. It is nature's way of warning us of a problem, slowing us down, giving us a chance to heal. Pain used to be accepted as a part of life. People knew they would endure pain during their lives, it was expected, and most of the time there was little they could do to relieve it. Then came modern medicine. Have you looked at all the pain relievers out there? The over the counter pain relievers alone are enough to overwhelm a person. So many medicines to choose from, and so many that people need to be very careful with and rarely are. 

As a Registered Nurse I have been amazed at how many people misuse Tylenol and aspirin alone! People regularly taking 3 or 4 Extra Strength Tylenol tablets because 2 didn't ease the pain...can we say liver damage? Or parents who freely hand out aspirin to their kids because they took it as a child and they were fine...tell that to my brother who lost his eight year old son to Reye's Syndrome! 

And then there are the prescription medicines that can help with pain. Narcotics (opioids), barbiturates, long acting anti-inflammatory's, steroids and various muscle relaxants. Really, there is no reason for a person to experience pain, right? Well certainly we have come a long way in treating acute pain. Have a headache? Take some over the counter pain medicine. No relief? Head to the ER for a shot of Demerol and then home to sleep it off. But what about chronic pain?

Chronic Pain Fine Art Print - Marsha Heiken
Chronic pain is a different story. See, almost all these pain relievers have their own set of problems when used long term. Finding the right fit for long term use is a little more difficult. That is why I made the decision to live with a certain amount of chronic pain. I don't want to feel woozy or sleepy, but I also don't want to have so much pain that I am left immobile. Usually I manage to walk that fine line rather well. But occasionally I have a relapse that leaves me in bed with the pain or drugged up and sleeping it off. I hate those lost days when the pain moves from moderate to severe. 

That is why I choose pain over heavy medication most days. I have discovered that although I may be slow, I may limp, I may have to have someone else carry items, and I may have to sit more is what I accomplish that day that I later remember...not the pain. If I used medication to try to obliterate the pain totally, I would also likely obliterate my memory and enjoyment of the day's activities. For myself it is really not such a bad trade off to choose pain.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Take the Log Out

Two weeks ago I started a new Bible Study. A women's study on revival. This week in particular has given me a lot of food for thought. The subject of the week has been humility, or conversely, pride. As a Christian we must be very careful to not fall into the very common trap of holding ourselves up as better than others. We quickly find the sins, or perceived sins, in others and point them out, comparing ourselves and judging we ourselves practice a sin God detests. Pride.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 
~Matthew 7:1-3

I have been guilty of this in the past, and it is something I still have to work on. When you look at others and see their spiritual failings, but can't see your own...well watch out...God may have His own way of helping you out of this sin. He did this for me a couple of years ago in a way that was painful, but necessary. I hit rock bottom and the only way to go was up. Being diagnosed as Bipolar was painful, terrifying, and humiliating. But not surprising. See, as a nurse, I knew. I saw the signs in my early twenties, put a name to it when I studied phychiatric nursing at age 28, and kept my secret for almost 20 long years. Why? Pride. I didn't want others to see the real me, to know I had this problem. 

Humility has been brought home to me in a very real way the last couple of years. Mercy and grace have become the anchors I cling to. Pride, though not totally gone, has made room for forgiveness. My wish for others is that they learn these lessons in a less painful way. So, if you find yourself with the mindset that other's sins are much worse than your own, consider the following excerpts from the Nancy Leigh DeMoss study, SeekingHim: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival

Proud People    vs    Humble People

focus on the failures of others ~ are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need

have a critical, fault-finding spirit; look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope ~ are compassionate; can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven

are self-righteous; look down on others ~ esteem all others better than themselves 

are overly concerned with what others think; work to protect their own image and reputation ~ are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; are willing to risk their own reputation

compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor ~ compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel desperate need for His mercy

So stop worrying about that speck in the other person's eye, and take a chainsaw to that log in yours...who knows, once you can see again you may discover the other person didn't have a speck in his after all.

Blessings ~Marla

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday Travels: Rhapsody of the Seas, Cozumel, Mexico

My number one favorite port? Cozumel, Mexico...hands down the winner. We have been there three times and I still look forward to my next visit. I have a to-do list for Cozumel that just goes on and on. The plus is that practically every Western Caribbean cruise includes a port call on this wonderful little island, so if you cruise very often, you are likely to find yourself visiting this little slice of Mexico.

The trip on Rhapsody was our first Western Caribbean cruise and therefore our first visit to Cozumel. My DDIL (Dear Daughter-in-law) was especially excited as this was her first visit to Mexico as well, though she is 100% Mexican heritage. She said her dad always said she couldn't visit Mexico because they would try to keep her! So needless to say, this was the port she had been waiting for!

We had planned a relaxing beach day in Cozumel. After much internet research I chose a beach that had no entrance fee, and was somewhat popular with the locals. However, our first job at hand was actually getting to the taxi's! 

We anchored at the International Pier, there are two large piers in Cozumel, and it is large and busy. It took us quite awhile just to meander through the area. We discovered shopping in Mexico was quite enjoyable! While definitely eager, the vendors are not overly pushy, and they are willing to bargain, big time! Especially when it comes to jewelry! What starts at $350 will make it's way down to $80 if you are patient and have cash. 

Once we arrived on the street, taxi's were lined up waiting. All taxi's in Cozumel have set fares and they are quite reasonable. Most drivers have enough knowledge of the English language to get you where you are going, but I enjoyed learning enough Spanish to at least look like I was making an effort. My DDIL knew enough to have a small conversation with a vendor and it made her day.

Our destination was Mr. Sancho's Beach Club. Again, no fee to get in...but something to know about Cozumel...all beaches are public. You are paying for the access to the beach. So if you want, you can walk along the beach and try many different places without paying their entrance fees. 

Mr. Sancho's is wonderful, just enough tourism to make it fun, but not as well known as the more busy beach clubs. They have a variety of activities available, so everyone can usually find something that fits their style. There is small area of shops at the entrance, horseback riding, ATV rental, parasailing, banana boats, jet ski's, pools, massages, a restaurant and bar, and of course plenty of lounge chairs and palapa's. 

I spent the day in the water snorkeling, my favorite cruise pastime! DH spent his reading in the shade, with a beautiful view of the water. DD enjoyed a wonderful massage and shopping, while DS & DDIL went parasailing for the first time. The food was delicious and inexpensive and the water was fabulous! It was just a wonderful experience in every way! We fell in love with that little beach that day...and with Cozumel as well.

Dragging ourselves back to ship was difficult...but the prospect of visiting the pier again made it less painful. The kids hit Senor Frogs while DH and I shopped a little and made our way back onto the ship. Side note...if you are a fan of Kahlua, it is an incredible bargain in Mexico...stock up. 

Our kids made it back to the ship with about 15 minutes left to board, dragging DDIL along behind them as she wept over leaving her "homeland" and wearing her new pink sombrero, which became a fixture of sorts for the rest of the cruise! She was now officially in love with Mexico.

Next: More great Rhapsody memories!

Bon Voyage! ~Marla