My World and Welcome to It!

These are my thoughts and opinions about life in general. I also get daily prompts from DSP which inspire me to write. If I throw in some scrapbook pages I've done, photos I've taken, and stories about me, you will have an idea about my loony life!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Carnival Dream 12/11/10 (Week 2)

Here is another slight diversion from Education. This is about our past week on the Carnival Dream where we visited Cozumel (Mexico), Belize, Roatan (Honduras), and Costa Maya (Mexico).

For more pictures, click HERE.


We were back on the ship by 9:45. Jan and Mike from dinner were also staying on the ship so we visited with them until lunch time. Our cabin was ready about 10:30 so I ran down there and unpacked. Jan and Mike had seen a manatee the week before so we went to the back of the ship to look for manatees but we never found any. We rested in our cabin about an hour before the safety drill and it really felt nice not to be rushed or feel like we had to go and see everything. After the safety drill we went out to the deck to watch us pull out of the pier but it was so cold we finally went inside. By then it was time to get ready for dinner. We are sitting at the same table with the same dining room servers which are wonderful because we really like them. Mike and Jan are sitting with us again too. Our new dinner mates are Rocky and his wife Joyce and their sister in law, Wanda from Southwest Virginia. Then Bob and Dot and their son Mark are from central Florida.

Day 1 Sea Day

007My whole day revolved around eating! I was up early and had an omelet made for me on the Lido deck. When Don joined me around 9am, we went to the dining room where I had a poached egg, sausage, and hash browns. After breakfast we sat out on the deck and listened to the music. By then it was lunch so we tried the salads on the Lido deck before I tried the slot tournament. After the tournament we went to the dining room for lunch. After lunch, it was time for my second try in the slot tournament and each time I seemed to do worse. We walked around the ship before deciding to take an afternoon nap and ended up watching Oliver Twist on TV. Before long, we dressed to meet Captain Quierolo before dinner. We have sailed with him and Pierre the hotel director a couple of times before. After dinner we walked around and had an early night. The ship was rocking pretty good all day and night which is unusual because it is such a big ship.

039Day 2 Cozumel

We were supposed to go snorkeling today but it was cancelled because the water was too rough and the winds were too strong. I’m glad they watch out for safety that way. Plus it was kind of cool outside so I was glad we didn’t have to go snorkeling. Next time we are here though, we won’t book a shore excursion because when we walked the 3 miles into downtown, we saw the place we would have gone. It was only about a 10 minute walk from the ship so next time we will go there on our own. We had a really nice leisurely walk into town and stopped at their 2 department/grocery stores and looked for yarn but really didn’t see any. I guess in the tropics, they don’t knit very much. Then we visited our favorite bar which is called Ambar and saw the old man that remembered us too. His jewelry store moved down the street instead of across the street from the bar, but he came to see us and talk with us. After drinking a couple of beers (coronas were $1 each), and eating Mexican burritos (one plate for $6.50 was enough for 2 of us), we shopped some more. When I had to use the restroom, the only one we found was a pay toilet so we headed back to the bar and had 2 more beers. I figured if I had to pay, I might as well get a beer for it! By then we were tired of walking and headed back to the ship but we took a taxi ($7 total for both of us). We had time for about an hour rest until we had to get ready for dinner. When dinner started, we left Cozumel. After dinner we walked around the ship and watched a break dancing show before heading back to our cabin for the night.

Day 3 Belize

Belize is our least favorite port and if we can avoid this port we will. Of course it is the fifth time we have been here so we sometimes have to be here whether we like it or not. We had to tender into Belize and it takes about a 15 minute boat ride because the ship anchors about 6 miles out from Belize. The only reason we got off the ship was so I could take a picture of Kaeli’s picture in Belize. We walked around the port shops and some of the stuff was higher than the prices on the ship. I noticed that in Cozumel too. Once we tried to walk out of the port area but the people started harassing us as soon as we stepped out. When Don told this guy about 5 times, “no thank you” and the guy kept harassing him, we decided to turn around and go back in the port. Then I saw a wood carver and I wanted to take a picture of him but didn’t want to interrupt him while he was in the middle of carving. He looked up and then I asked if I could take a picture and he started accusing me of taking one before asking and then wanted to argue with me. I just thought he was plain rude! So, I never took a picture and by then, I didn’t even want one. We decided it was time to return to the ship and I never spent a penny in Belize! When we got back, it was time for lunch and then we walked 4 miles around the track before going to the coed sauna. By then it was just enough time to relax before getting ready for dinner. After dinner we watched the movie The Clash of the Titans.

Day 4 Roatan, Honduras

We had a wonderful day in Roatan! At first, it was really cold. After breakfast we walked outside to watch us pull in the port around 9:15am but it was so cold that we put on long pants and a jacket. It was disheartening because we had paid for shore excursion to the Tabyana Beach. When we got ready to get off the ship though, it had warmed up and the wind died down so we went back to our cabin and changed back into shorts. Our ship docked at Mahogany Bay which is different than the last time we came because last time we docked in the town. Mahogany Beach was right within walking distance of the ship so I was sorry I paid $37 per person for Tabyana Beach. When we got off the ship we boarded a bus that took us on a 45 minute drive to the beach and it was a very nice ride. We drove through town and around the island so it was like getting a tour in addition to the beach. The beach was nice and we got lounge chairs which was included in our tour. We sat and enjoyed the beach and then decided to walk down the beach. On our walk, I 043looked down and saw something that had just washed up in the wave and was wiggling. It was a tiny seahorse! Don picked it up and showed children around us and other adults before putting it back in the water and saving its life. After that we ended up getting a “bucket” of beer (which was really a bag of ice and 6 local beers in the ice) for $20. Later when I got hungry, I bought 2 hotdogs for us at $3 each. We also bought another “bucket” and since they ended up running out of bags, they brought the 6 beers to us in ice but it was in the vegetable drawer of a refrigerator! About 3pm, we headed back to the ship and had time to explore Mahogany Beach. It seemed really nice and would not have cost us anything except chair rentals so next time, we will head to this beach. Some people paid for the chair lift but it was an easy walking distance for us over the bridge. We got back in time to get ready for dinner and then after dinner, we went to the magic show with Mike and Jan. The magic show was terrific and we all enjoyed it. Mike and Jan went to it last week and we didn’t but since they said it was so good, we wanted to see it. It was truly a wonderful day!

Day 5 Costa Maya041

We arrived in Costa Maya at 7am but we didn’t get off the ship until 9:30. We decided to walk around the port shops before taking a cab to Mahahual. It was $3 per person on the way there but $2 per person for the ride back. The wind was really blowing hard enough that I put on a long shirt t-shirt. We walked up and down the small fishing village about twice before Don got up enough nerve to get a back massage. It was $20 for an hour and he said it was wonderful. I sat beside them and got a lot of knitting done. After the message we stopped at one place and had a couple of beers (Corona for $2 each) before returning to the ship. When we got back to the ship we had lunch and showered and by then we could watch the ship pull out of the port. We ended up on the Serenity deck (adults only and really nice cushioned lounge chairs) where Mike and Jan were. We spent the whole time visiting until it was time to get ready for the past guest party but we ended up skipping it because I went last week and it is the same thing every ship. Dinner was really nice but I’m kind of getting tired of all this rich food and I’m to the point that I’m not eating everything on my plate (which is actually a good thing since I gained so much weight). We skipped the show since we saw it last week and watched TV in our cabin. It was a better day than I expected because I’m not really fond of Costa Maya but I’m glad Don finally got the massage that he has talked about getting for years when we come here. The only bad thing that happened was that Don got hives on his back again and we think it may have come from the pressure of the massage. I hope they are gone in the morning.

Day 6 At Sea

Today we had a day at sea and didn’t do anything special. Don got up for breakfast and then went back to bed while I sat out on the deck and enjoyed the sunshine while I knit. Unfortunately the pressure of the massage caused his hives to appear on his back and shoulders so I think he was miserable. By the time he got up, he was better and it was time for lunch so we went to the dining room where I met curriculum specialist. I love meeting new people and finding those in education! After lunch we packed which really didn’t take long at all and then we both entered the slot tournament. But neither of us got into the finals. So, we went to the coed sauna again and just relaxed most of the day. Dinner was sad because it was the last night. We really enjoyed our dinner mates and servers. We gave our cabin steward (Bong) a box of SC tea as a thank you gift. After dinner we came back to the cabin and put our suitcases out in the hall and then watched the movie How to Train A Dragon.


First of all, we will never ever (I hope) book a cabin on the back of the ship on the 1st floor ever again! As they prepared for the arrival to the port, the noise was terrible and we were up most of the night. Throughout the trip, it was pretty noisy. It was so noisy that we had a hard time hearing the TV. Of course, when you book it last minute, you get what is left but next time, we will probably leave this alone. We will try to stay in the middle or the front. We went to breakfast by 6am and then went to the Crimson Lounge where we were told to meet. Since we were Platinum members, we were allowed to leave right after the self assist people so by 7am, we were off the ship. I like claiming my luggage because it is like the airport conveyer belts so we quickly got our luggage and was on our shuttle to the hotel by 7:30. Our car awaited us at the Hampton Inn safe and sound. We really had a great deal by staying there because our room was $119 and the ride to and from the ship was free plus it included free 2 weeks of parking. We saved a lot of money doing that!

This week was a lovely week and for I’m glad the weather was sunnier than the previous week. I think we will try smaller ships from now on though because the lines were too long on the Lido deck at lunches and sometimes it was hard to find a table. The smaller ships seem more personal too. We hope in the future to try some Celebrity and Princess ships. I think we would also like to sail on the Carnival Legend which is one we haven’t done yet.

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Pictures by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Gift

giftFrom the Fall Blog Challenge by Melanie Holtsman, this week’s topic is the gift.

Challenge: If you could give one gift, who would you give it to and what would you choose?

If I could give one gift, it would be a cure for lupus and I would give it to my sister. She has suffered from this for over thirty years. This disease ended up killing my oldest sister and my mother died with it also. I feel so bad when I hear of all the medical stuff my sister has to go through but I’m glad it has kept her alive all these years. She is involved in the Lupus Foundation and walks every year to raise money so a cure can be found. My blood was even given to a research group to find out why I did not get lupus and if it could help in finding a cure. If a cure could be found and it would help her, that would be the greatest gift for both of us!

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'ready for the holiday' by: Sarah Parrott

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Understanding The Military and Special Education

militaryRecently we held our Passport to Success 2010 which is an event filled day of activities enabling students to receive information which will assist them in transitioning from high school to post secondary training or post school employment. I think it is a wonderful event which brings agencies and businesses together for the students and parents in one venue. In fact, I was thrilled to see some parents attend and get involved.

It was my job to invite vendors to the event and was thrilled that in our economic situation, that about 25 vendors decided to attend. The US Army Recruiting Office was one of those that sent a confirmation that they would attend. I was so excited to have them present because so many of our students ask about going into the military.

Yet on that day, two nice recruiters arrived to talk to me and said that if any of these students had “special education” in their records anywhere, the military would not accept them. I tried to explain that not all of the students in special education are developmentally disabled or physically disabled and that some may have minor disabilities that still enable them to attend college. They said that they understand that but that the military doesn’t offer any accommodations like the education system offers and would not take any student who received special education services. Of course, they asked me not to “kill the messenger” because they were just relaying what they were told to do. Then they politely left.

I can understand not wanting to have someone developmentally disabled or unable to control their behavior having a gun in their hands. I understand not wanting to have someone who can’t read or write or understand basic instructions because it would be too dangerous. But that is not everyone who receives special education services! Is this not discrimination?

What I don’t understand is who is lying? I know some students who received special education services that are serving in the military right now. I know their permanent records showed special education services because I have seen those records. I also know that they are performing well and in fact, moving up in ranks. Many current students know these people also and are getting mixed messages here. They don’t understand when some people are saying they can’t join and then others show they can by their actions. I’m not sure even I understand the right story.

I have had former special education students who are able to hunt and even provide food for their families. They have worked construction jobs and some have even worked on their own houses to provide shelter for their families. Some of my students are even quite adept at using computers and repairing them. For most of their jobs, they are required to prove competence and no one cares if they received special education services when they were in school. If they are incompetent, they lose their jobs and that is fair.

How can we deny these students the right to serve our country? Many people complain about our young people not appreciating our own country and then we treat the ones that do in this manner. I also look at the statistics and see how many people in our country have some kind of disability or another. Where will the military draw the line? Yesterday they were accepted but today they are not and tomorrow they might be?

I also think this is setting a precedent for students and parents to refuse the help that a school can provide. I think that many can struggle and possibly survive the school system without help but is that the best we can do for our students? I know that I have taught my students to find out what they need and what works best for them so they can apply it to their lives after they leave my classroom. Could this not also work if they chose the military path? What is the military so afraid of? I know the military came to our school and gave the ASVAB test so wouldn’t that rule out many who couldn’t pass the test? I believe that some of my special education students would be able to surpass some of the general education students in a physical test. Everyone who enters the military goes to basic training which would be one more level for students to show competence.

Is this a way to discourage students and parents from seeking special education services? It is hard enough for the students to face the stigma of having a disability but to me, this is just another insult. I spend hours and days telling my students that they have nothing to be ashamed of because a disability is not their fault. Yet, I feel that it is my responsibility to share this information with parents and students when they are considering special education services. Parents and students need to be given the whole picture and not find out until it is too late.

What do you think? Should this information be shared with parents and students or not? How do we prepare students who want the military to be an option when they graduate? Please share your thoughts.

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'The Drill Instructor' by: Randy Robertson

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Carnival Dream 12/4/10

015Last week we cruised on the Carnival Dream. We went to Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. Here is my journal about our week on the ship. To see more pictures, click here.


We left on the Carnival Dream today. Embarkation went very smoothly. We arrived at the port by 10:30 on the shuttle and left our car behind at the Hampton Inn. I only hope that it is still there when we return. We were on the ship by 11am and eating lunch. While waiting for our cabin to open, we stopped for a bucket of bear (4 for $21.54). Our muster drill station was in the Encore Lounge and we didn’t need our life jackets but it was really hot in the lounge. After the drill we went up to the Lido Aft Bar but I didn’t see any of my cruise critic friends and we just watched our ship leave out of the Florida. It is always fascinating to watch us pull out of the port as the sun is setting.

Dinner was at 6 and we sat with 2 other very nice couples. Mike and Jan are from Minnesota and Don and Melissa are from the Villages in Florida (but originally from TN- Nashville area). After dinner we walked around the ship and enjoyed the music.

I am surprised how run down this fairly new ship looks already and the service has really gone downhill. We had always loved cruising on Carnival but now we are rethinking this. I think because the economy is down that they have had so many cutbacks that it is affecting the running of the ship. As a Platinum guest, I should be treated special when I am in line for things but basically I’m ignored and treated like any other guest. The stationery that they give Platinum guests used to be nice shiny paper and now it is cheap regular paper. Our cabin steward never did turn down our bed last night which is the first time that has ever happened. As we walked around the ship we saw lots of rust and disrepair. I’m wondering if we will see more ship breakdowns in the future. We are hoping we will not be sorry we booked this ship as a back to back because now we feel stuck on this ship where the service is not very good and it is looking in rough shape.

Day 1 Nassau009

It was a really nice day. I was on the Lido deck and played on my computer before going back to the cabin to get my knitting and book. About 8am, Don joined me but I had already had an everything omelet. At 9am, we decided to go eat in the dining room so I had a second breakfast of French Toast (thank goodness it was a very small portion). I am trying to use the stairs in order to burn these extra calories I’m consuming but I’m not sure it is helping. I do know my calves are really sore and they say no pain no gain, so it must be helping! After breakfast we walked around the track and then used the coed sauna before finally laying under an umbrella until lunch time. After lunch we sat around the pool under an umbrella again so I did get some knitting done. We also went to a trivia game and walked around the ship. The Captain’s celebration was at 5pm and we met the Captain. We have sailed with him and the hotel director Pierre before. At dinner another new couple, Bruce and Pat joined us. We really have a great mix at dinner. We went to the “Get Ready” show after dinner and I was pleasantly surprised because it was better than I expected. We have been to so many shows that were the same thing but this one was different. The sets were different than we had seen and the dancers and singers were really good in this show. We will probably go to more after seeing this. Then we walked around the deck after the show but it was pretty windy so we ended up back in our room for the night.

Day 2 Sea Day008

Another day in Paradise. Today we went to the Chef’s cooking demo which included big sample of the mushroom cappuccino, spinach salad with mushrooms, a chicken dish, and tiramisu. I also entered the slot tournament but didn’t even get a huge score. During the day the top of my right foot became so painful that I could hardly walk on it. At first I thought I might have a stress fracture but later when my left toes started cramping, I hoped it was just cramping. In the afternoon we went to the sauna and then I elevated my foot and took some aspirin so by dinner time, it was feeling much better. At dinner there were just four of us (Mike and Jan from Minnesota) and we had a nice evening. It ended with the juggling show in the encore theater which was very entertaining.

Day 3 St. Thomas001

It was a relaxing day. Since it was overcast and showery, we did not go to the beach or snorkel. Instead, we walked around the mall right near the ship and then came back to the ship for lunch. After lunch we walked around the shops some more and found a cute bar that had a bucket of beers for $10 so we had a couple of buckets before coming back to the ship for dinner. The show was called Dancing in the Street which involved break dancing and some acrobatics which I enjoyed.

Day 4 St. Maarten008

Since it was still overcast and showery, we didn’t go to the beach like we usually do. We decided to take a tour around the island. Near the ships were lots of taxis and the posted rates were $90 for 1-2 people so we asked a cab driver to take us. He tried to talk us into going with a bigger crowd for less money but we didn’t want other people with us so he tried to find someone else to do it. Don and I both got a bad feeling about this like we would be ripped off so we told him to forget about it. So, we took the water taxi into town ($6 all day long) and found a cab driver (Ramona) who took us on a private tour for $80. We had a wonderful time and she said she even preferred private tours because they were easier. After the tour we found our favorite bar on the beach called Caribbean Blend and had a bucket of coronas for $12. While we were there, Mike and Jan came by and joined us for a little while. Then we walked around town before coming back for a couple of beers. We ended up having the last 2 coronas they had. Then we took the water taxi back to the ship and met up with Don and Melissa. At 5pm, we got back on the ship and it was already dark. I think that is the latest we have ever returned to a ship because when we went out to look where we were after our showers, we were already moving away from the dock. We didn’t go to the show because I was exhausted so we had an early night.

Day 5 At Sea004

We had a relaxing day and really didn’t do much at all. I entered the slot tournament again but had another really low score. I did get to finish knitting my second sock and I was really happy about that. Dinner was really nice again and it was formal night. We also had our laundry done today.

Day 6 At Sea004

Today was the last full day on the ship. We went to the sauna again and that was nice. It was nice that it was coed and Don and I could go in together because I don’t like being alone in there by myself. The ship was really rocking today. In fact, for the first time, I saw barf bags available at each elevator. We packed our bags pretty early in the day and it was fast and easy because we know we will just be switching cabins. We didn’t even have to put our luggage outside of our cabin because our cabin steward would be coming in the morning to move them to our new cabin. After dinner, we stood around and had a nice visit with Bruce and Pat (from Maryland).

Day 7 Debarkation

We were up around 6am to gather our last stuff together and the cabin steward arrived at 6:30am to move our luggage. Then we spent most of the morning on the Lido deck waiting until 9:30 when we would meet the group of back to back cruisers and find out what we needed to do. At that time, Winston (a crew member) took us off the ship as a group and through customs. Then we went back up the escalator and back on the ship. This process took about 5 minutes.

All in all it was a nice cruise and turned out to be much better than it started which is a relief. It makes us not so anxious about the next week.

Monday, December 06, 2010

My DirecTV experience

(Warning: Rant in progress!)

frustrationEvery year I start my vacation on a bad note with DirecTV. I have been a loyal customer since 2006¸ paying almost $140 per month for this service. Keep in mind, I enjoy DirecTV and the programming we get with it but it is a luxury and not a necessity. When I called DirecTV to put a vacation suspension on my service, they say I need to have a zero balance to put this hold on my service. I just paid my bill in full on 11/19 and do not feel that I should have to pay the full amount in advance on 12/3 just to put a hold on my service. I feel this is a terrible way to treat loyal customers! It is not like I’m trying to get out of paying my bill because I pay my bill in full every month.

The first girl told me that it was impossible to do and got me her supervisor, Vanessa when I asked for her. She also told me it was impossible to do without paying the whole amount so I asked for my service to be cancelled. So, Vanessa passes me on to Solomon. We go through the same song and dance and I still feel that I am treated pretty shabbily when all I want to do is put a vacation hold on my service. I finally ask for the company president’s address and an email to file a complaint. Solomon gave me an address and told me to address to the attention of the “Office of the President” but would not give me a name (which I found out by looking at their website is Michael White, Chairman, President & CEO).

When I asked for an email address, he told me that he couldn’t give me a specific email address but told me to go through the following steps: Go to “”, click on “About Us,” Click on “Our Company,” click on “Executive Team,” click on Executive Customer Care Contact,” then click on “Ellen Filipiak, Sr. VP of Customer Care.” Why did he have to go spend all that time when he could have just given me that final person’s name and email? I believe they hoped that I would be fed up and give up without cancelling my service! You would think that a company that can turn my service on and off by the touch of a computer should be able to handle this quickly and efficiently.

After all that, when I asked Solomon if he cancelled my service, he acted surprised, like he didn’t know that I still wanted to cancel my service. Finally, twenty minutes after I began this ordeal, Solomon says that he will put a vacation hold on my service but this is a onetime deal only. Again, I feel this is a terrible way to treat a long term customer and should not be made to feel like I’m begging for something that isn’t due to me.

I have to go through this ordeal every year when I want to put a hold on my service. Why do I need to have this aggravation when I start a vacation? I should not have to threaten to cancel my service in order to get good service.

When we return home, we plan to look seriously at this situation to decide if we want to continue with DirecTV. If they don’t value long term, loyal customers, there may a company out there that does want our business. Please let me know if you have a company you have had a lot of trouble with so we don’t put it on our list to consider.

Now it’s time to put this horrible experience on the back burner and go enjoy my vacation!

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Day 15--Frustration' by: Brandy