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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

#IWSG: Retreat From Harsh Reality


It's the first Wednesday and time for the Insecure Writers Support Group, whose mission is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! IWSG is the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh Thanks, Alex, for starting this group and keeping it going. And thanks to this month's awesome hosts: Stephen Tremp, Fundy Blue, MJ Fifield, Loni Townsend, Bish Denham, Susan Gourley, and Stephanie Faris!




Every spring, the Mid-Michigan chapter of Romance Writers of America hosts an annual event—the Retreat From Harsh Reality. The retreat started as a weekend “pajama party” in a dorm at Western Michigan University back in 1985. Over the years it’s changed somewhat. For starters, a nicer venue—no bringing your own towels and bedding. This year was our second at Bay Pointe Inn, a lovely lakeside hotel with restaurant and conference room.

One thing hasn’t changed. The retreat is not a conference. No rushing from one workshop to another. We have one speaker, an author. No agents or editors. Not that we don’t appreciate the last two, but they would change the dynamics of the relaxed atmosphere. It’s a jeans and T-shirt kind of weekend. Someone’s husband suggested pajama pants to save time dressing. We could, since the only males were the wait staff.

Our schedule (yes, we do have one) allows for plenty of down time. Time to chat with chapter members we only see at retreat. Our members come from all over Michigan—Traverse City to Midland to St. Joseph to Detroit (even though the Detroit area has their own chapter). We have time to pick each other’s brains, as I did Betty Meyette about putting my books up in audio format. We have time to write and a quiet place to do so. Or we can take a nap, again as I did, and let all that we heard from our speaker percolate.

For all the wonderful getting reacquainted time as well as meeting new people, the best part is our speaker. This year, the hilarious, photojournalist and NYT best-selling author Christie Craig came from Texas to entertain, educate, and motivate (her words). And, wow, did she ever. She set the tone on Friday night and right away we knew she was going to be fun and why she calls herself a storyteller. With one story after another, Christie had us laughing until our sides ached. On Saturday morning, she told me exactly what was wrong with my WIP. How did she know??? I’ve been writing and going to retreats and conferences since 1993. Still, I always learn something new. I’ve never had such an “ah ha!” moment as I did last Saturday. My roommate, who has been writing longer than me, said she had several “ah ha” moments.

I always come home from retreat raring to get back to my WIP. Even better that now I know what’s wrong with it. If you ever want a relaxed weekend for writers, come to Mid-Michigan RWA’s Retreat From Harsh Reality next spring. You’ll have fun.


Click here to find others on the Insecure Writers Support Group Blog Hop. Or go to IWSG on Facebook to see who’s blogging today.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Disney Does Disability Right



Before embarking on our cruise, I worried about how I’d be able to get around on the ship. With a bad back, I’m not able to walk far without pain. I checked with our travel agent about bringing my rolling walker aboard. No problem. Without my asking, he registered us for a handicap stateroom. 

WOW.

The stateroom aboard our first cruise back in 2008 was tiny—barely room to get between the end of the bed and the cabinets. On this cruise, we had LOTS of room. An automatic door stayed open more than long enough to get inside with a walker, wheelchair, or scooter. Same with leaving. In fact, it was almost too long for me. Not complaining, mind you. I was concerned that our room was at the very back of the ship. Next stop the ocean. But with my walker, I was able to get from aft to forward with little problem. Maneuvering down narrow corridors was a challenge, but gracious guests made sure I had room—and didn’t run over their feet.

The bathroom was huge. No threshold shower with a bench and plenty of grab bars, a high toilet (again with grab bars), and plenty of room to maneuver a wheelchair or scooter.

Our luxurious room had a drop-down bunk and the sofa converted into a single bed (same as the other staterooms). One evening, we took the grandkiddies so daughter and SIL could have a “date” night. After grandson and Hubs finished a detective adventure (requiring walking from one end of the ship to the other on multiple decks) and granddaughter and I watched a musical performance, the kids slept in our room with plenty of room to spare. Note the towel monkey. Loved the different ones each night.
I was so fortunate that Disney Cruise Line made accommodations for the handicapped. Beyond that was the courtesy of the staff. I can’t tell you the number of times a staff member offered assistance, especially in the buffet line for breakfast and lunch. “May I help you?” or “May I carry your plate?” etc. I know, smiling service is a Disney trademark. The courtesy of the guests was a bigger surprise. Many times Hubs and I waited for an elevator, only to find it almost full. So we’d say we’ll wait for the next one. Gentlemen, true gentlemen would say “we can make room. C’mon, folks, move back.” Some even got off with their kids to make room. I saw this happen to others in wheelchairs or on scooters. Maybe the Disney staff kindness rubbed off or maybe there still are considerate people.

Too often, we see rude people—shopping, at tourist venues, on the street. The vast majority of passengers on our cruise not only had good manners but were truly kind.

As much as I wish I didn’t have a disability, I am truly grateful that it didn’t keep me from having a wonderful time on the cruise.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dining with Disney

More of our adventures on our recent cruise.



One of the best aspects of cruising with Disney Cruise Line (DCL) is the food. OMG, what a banquet! Breakfast and lunch were buffets. Miles of food lines. Maybe not quite “miles.” It just seemed that way. Anything you want and as much as you want. Cereal, waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, hash, fresh fruit, pancakes, oatmeal, and so much more. Did I mention pastries? Cinnamon rolls, donuts, danishes, croissants. The latter was one of the grandkids’ favorites.

Lunch wasn’t just sandwich makings, although you could get that, too. Stir-fry, wraps (grandson, who doesn’t like fish, loved the tuna wrap), salad bar, fresh fruit, peel-and-eat shrimp, pizza, hamburgers, a dessert bar that rivaled the salad bar in length.

Disney does rotational dining for dinner. You rotate through three restaurants, and your wait staff rotates with you. Each dining room has a different flair. International cuisine and plain fare. Lite and vegetarian meals. Daughter has a dairy allergy, and the staff made sure she had very tempting meals, even a dairy-less cake. I loved the night we had lobster. After indulging too much (maybe?) on the shrimp at lunch, Hubs stuck with steak, fearing that his gout would act up if he went for the lobster. Beverages were unlimited. On the second night, our server (with a great memory) immediately brought Hubs his iced tea and my ginger ale. Son-in-law had ordered a wine package, so a different wine was brought to the table each night. The servers interacted well with the kids, treating them as adults, really listening to them.

Daughter had a rule for the kiddies on the trip. Each day they had to try three new things, not necessarily food. Since accounting time occurred at dinner, they did try different foods. G’daughter liked the crab but not shrimp. G’son tried and didn’t like salmon. He liked one of the dessert options on the adult menu, though. The triple treat. Three different desserts—petit four size. A triangle of cheesecake, a square of something yummy, and a rectangle of chocolate. If he tried a bite of each one, he got his three new things. No dummy, that kid.

As much as I enjoyed the appetizers, salads, and main courses, the desserts were my favorite. I thought the lava chocolate cake was the best until we had a chocolate soufflé. I thought I died and went to heaven. For g’daughter, it was the Mickey ice cream bar. Mickey’s head on a stick, covered with hard chocolate and sprinkles (which one of our servers called sparkles). G’son loved the Han Solo in Carbonite bar. Hubs liked all the desserts.

DCL has two special adult-only dining rooms. According to Hubs, that was the best part. (All the noise in the regular dining rooms made him a bit of a cranky-pants.) Although I enjoyed the dining rooms. Disney means kids and kids make noise. But this restaurant was a real treat. That’s where we had the chocolate soufflé.

All day long, you could get food, munchies, and beverages. Hubs liked the self-serve soft ice cream. Since the Caribbean is hot, it’s important to drink plenty of liquids. By bringing my own cup, I had ice water all day. I could have had juice or soda, too. One of the cutest novelty items was a BB-8 cup. Cute but difficult to handle.

Only on the last day did we find out about the midnight snack bar. Not that we needed anything more to eat. For those who wanted beverages of the alcohol type, small kiosks were strategically positioned, especially near the pools.

If you didn’t want to hit any of the dining rooms, there was always room service. For our family, dinner was the only time we all got together.

When I first realized our stateroom was in the very back of the boat, I cringed. Turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Walking the length of the ship after each meal helped use up some of the calories from all that scrumptious food.

The finishing touch was the foil-wrapped chocolates on the bed at night.

Disney sure does food well.