Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Letter to my dad

Dear Dad,

            They asked me if I had anything to say, anything to recount about our time together. I had to think about that. I don’t remember too many specific times that we spent together, maybe that was because you were working long hours and double shifts to make sure I was safe and warm and had plenty to eat. At the time I didn’t really understand that, but I had just about everything I wanted, except maybe time with you.

Then there was Heather. That’s when I got to see the real you, Dad. Not the disciplinarian, the “rule maker”, the “wait until your father gets home..” but the man who would get up and get a fussy baby out of my arms and send me to bed while you cooed and cuddled her up and down the hallway all night, calling her your “Natasha”. Instead of the man I felt I was always at odds with, I saw the man who would play tea party or the man who would allow Heather to crawl all over him during one of her medical exams, only to announce that “you have bugs.” I got to see where my warped sense of humor came from and my creativity ( thank you for those, by the way) when I watched you put Heather in an old cardboard diaper box and drag her around the yard for rides, or send her squealing with delight in her cardboard sled up and down the hallway carpet. And when she was grown, I came to understand your generosity when she was in trouble.

Thanks for the memories, (shall I burst into song? Nah). Even though you weren’t the most openly demonstrative person, these are the kinds of memories that let me know how much you loved us, and helped me to understand just who you were and to love you, too. Fish.

Number 3

(Sharon)

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

An Ode to Travel Professionals

So far I’m not a big fan of Priceline.

And after being on my most recent travels, I’m not sure I like Viator either.

I’ve worked with many travel professionals over the years. And while convenient, Priceline and Viator are making life a little more difficult for travel professionals to earn a living while not always providing the same level of service.

Case in point, I just got back from a multi-city, multi -transportation, multi-excursion trip. I was in Venice Florence, Rome, Mykonos, Santorini, Kusadasi, Montecatini, Stresa and Crete. Within 2 weeks I traveled by plane, train, automobile, bus boat and ship. Everything worked perfectly. My connecting flight through international terminals was seamless, my excursions were perfectly timed, my bus rides and high speed train rides were all well coordinated and I owe that all to very dedicated travel professionals.

So when I come home and venturedl off to go see my granddaughter in Texas. I felt confident that the plans that I had made via Priceline, and followed up with the properties and the car rental after making the original reservations, would go equally as smoothly. Not so much.

I flew Southwest Airlines, which has been having some issues lately but had never let me down in the past. My plane was an hour and a half late getting into Baltimore, but the flight was fine and we got into Houston by 1:30 a.m. We headed to the baggage carousel, and watched and waited as most of the plane collected their baggage. We stood there. Waiting for another 10 minutes until finally our bags came out on a different carousel. Okay, we have our bags and we’re in Houston so time to find my son.

The pickup area at Hobby airport was very busy, so my son had parked his car and after finding one another we headed off towards my hotel. The hotel I’d booked through Priceline. The hotel I had called to let them know that my flight was coming in after midnight and that I would be arriving late. The hotel that told me that would be fine and that they’d make a note in my folio.

When I arrived, hubby and I got out our goods and went into the foyer where we made a huge mistake. We said bye to our son with the thought that of course our room would be waiting for us. When we walked in there was a young couple with two small children who were pacing the foyer peering behind the registration counter where everything was ominously dark. They told us that the registration desk was closed and the woman had just left telling them that all rooms were booked and that their reservations that they had made through Priceline as well, had been canceled. Now I don’t know if this young couple had called the Wyndham Gardens, Houston, to let them know they were going to be late, but I felt I was safe because I had done so.

We waited for 30 minutes and no employee showed up anywhere. Even if they didn’t have any rooms, how can a hotel leave its front doors open and the lobby accessible without a key card and just have their front desk personnel up and disappear? So I called the property and the phone rang and rang and rang and rang and no one ever answered. Next I called Wyndham itself, where I got the main registration personnel. I explained that I was sitting in the lobby and that I had called the hotel and that I was stranded. The reservation offices had seen my reservation and they told me that it had been canceled as a no-show. Considering I had taken steps specifically to avoid this situation, I was frustrated.

The Wyndham reservation desk looked around and found a property within walking distance. Called and made sure that there was a room available for us and set up a reservation. We gathered our belongings, walked across parking lots and fields and got to the super 8 motel. There the gentleman checked me in, charged the wrong person’s card and then charged mine and gave me my keys to my room at 4:30 a.m. I had to pay an entire night’s fee for what will end up being a seven hour rental.

Currently, my husband is waiting at the airport to pick up our rental car, whose reservation expires at 10:00 a.m., and he’s been there for over an hour. We had to pay for this rental car starting yesterday at 10:00 a.m., but the car agency is closed at night so we couldn’t get our car until this morning.

One thing I will say, I did call Priceline and explain about the hotel, and thankfully my non-refundable hotel was refunded to me. The car reservation was still valid so I’m confident we’ll get the car, and then spend our morning moving to another hotel facility where I made reservations for the remainder of my trip directly with the hotel.

This is not how I wanted to spend one of my few days with my brand new granddaughter that I haven’t met yet.

Oh and why am I not happy with Viator? Because at multiple turns while I was on my grand adventure last week, I heard tales from travelers about the tours and cars and transfers they had reserved through Viator which had either not shown up or were subpar. And just like Priceline, Viator is essentially a clearinghouse of providers. I’m not saying that Priceline and Viator are not providing a service of sorts, but they don’t really follow up or follow through with the people they partner with. So you never quite know whether you ‘ve gotten a provider that is a professional, or someone who doesn’t really care if they leave you stranded in the middle of the night. That’s my ultimate issue with these clearing house travel providers. A travel professional cares, and will go to great lengths, to make sure you, their customer, are well taken care of. Because that’s the industry they’re in; hospitality. Not a clearinghouse for booking.

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Venice

Definitely a place that makes you want to return.

Yesterday started off with a rainy gray bleak morning that was beautiful on the lake. My guide Carlotta and I were driven in our sleek Mercedes-Benz into Milan, where we took a high speed train to Venice. From there we were met by another swoopy Mercedes and our driver Fabian who was definitely a polite, helpful and kind Italian driver. I never felt unsafe, but I did raise an eyebrow here and there.

We drove out to see the shadow tour hotel which was lovely and had an exceptional staff, but was out in the countryside and didn’t quite fit what I felt the parents expectations would be. So we pushed on to Padua and looked at a hotel there along with a church for a possible performance, the name of which is currently escaping my memory.

From there we drove to Este to the duomo of Saint Tecla. Carlotta was talking to me about Italian painters and different styles and it made me realize that I would really like to take an art appreciation class as I know so very little about fine artwork.

The duomo is beautiful and I think would make a wonderful performance space. The town of Este is quintessentially, a walkable Italian town. I wish there was a way my families could stay there, but I think the budget allows for them to be in Padua and Padua is a walking city that will allow them to do some additional things if they choose to.

After leaving the town of Este, we drove back to Venice and caught our vaporetto over to the island. During my ride I got numerous beautiful photos because the sun was just setting and dusk lit the canals in a wonderful way. We checked into our hotel, Fenice de la Artistes, which is historically significant to the Fenise teatro and was the place that performers and audiences would gather for drinks as is just around the corner from the theater.

We had a lovely glass of wine and comfy chairs while we waited for our table to be ready and then had a leisurely dinner with wonderful conversations about growing up.

This morning we will meet for breakfast and head off to San Rocco to see the performance space there. I’ve been told that it is quite an honor to perform at San Rocco, so I’m excited to see it.

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Stresa, May 2-3

Yesterday was a very long day.

On Monday the 2nd I woke up, completed my packing , dressed and finally left for the airport at 12:45 p.m. for a 5:25 flight.

Because I don’t like large roads, my navigation system had me avoid all tolls, which meant our journey was probably a little longer than it needed to be, but we made it on time and everything was fine.

I boarded my plane, got my window seat (thank goodness I paid for that in advance) and settled in for a seven and a half hour flight with my noise-canceling headphones and music. Upon reflection, this doesn’t really present myself as a person who would be willing to chat on a flight, and I’m not sure if I’m always that person anyways. Be that as it may. I know I’m comfortable with my headphones, music and occasional dozing.

The first leg of my journey was to Frankfurt, Germany where I needed to change planes during my 2-hour layover. I disembarked the plane and looked for the pier that I would be transferring to. The gate I was in was z and I wanted to be at b. Through  a very long maze of hallways, elevators and steps I finally came to immigration which while it moved fairly well did take up a bit of time. Once cleared I again tracked through stairs, elevators and hallways to get to the b gate. I did make it with about 15 minutes to spare before boarding, but considering we’re leading a hundred students through that maze in a month, I have a small reason for concern. Anyway, this was one of the first tarmac boardings I’ve had in quite a few years. When we began the boarding process. We all went through the gate down more steps out to an articulated bus which drove around many curves and across a large distance of tarmac to get to our plane. Once the bus door  opened, we all spilled out onto the tarmac (because we were packed like sardines) and had the option of either boarding the plane on the front or the back by ascending the stairs. I couldn’t help thinking about famous political dignitaries on similar steps, either entering or exiting planes and had an urge to turn around and wave to the masses, but that just would have annoyed the guy behind me. I found my seat and immediately fell back to sleep for my second take off. About an hour later I landed in Milan. There I collected my luggage with no hassle and met my tour guide Carlotta.

We got into a swanky Mercedes and were off through the countryside to Lake Maggiore and the town of Stresa. On the way the region became a bit more mountainous and at one point the trees cleared so that I could get a glimpse of Lake Maggiore. The car began a series of switchback turns through an adorable and idyllic Italian town. With each turn, the quaint charm was more and more palpable and the view of the lake became more expansive, it was gorgeous.

We checked into my hotel, which is the Regina Palace hotel, and dropped my luggage off in my room. Then began the whirlwind tour. Carlotta and I rented a private transfer over to Isola Bella, where we discussed the plans for the chorus tour and the options for what we could do on the island. We wandered a bit and then returned to the shores so that we could do a tour of hotel Dino, hotel Bristol, hotel Solima, the church of St. Ambrosia and Theodore and then hotel Regina Palace. Afterwards we sat at a small cafe and had some water and a few snacks while adorable little birds hopped up onto our table, begging us for a small chip. Quite a few dogs and their owners were wandering around the lakeside Cafe and it was beautiful to hear the church bells. We finally decided it was time to walk around the town a bit and then find a restaurant where I had steak and vegetables. Who isn’t surprised?

Isola Bella

I really wanted to start exploring the town and shops but I was on my 25th hour since I had left and needed to go to sleep.

We returned to the hotel but The view was so lovely I immediately left to go walk along the lakeside and take a few photographs.

I woke up early and began packing my things but took some time to stand at my window and look out at the lake. It’s a little gray and misty here today, but I noticed a small boat on the lake with birds swarming around looking for some tidbit to nibble. I got out the big camera and took a couple shots with the fantastic zoom before sitting down to write this. I can’t share those with you because I don’t have the mechanism to download the photographs until I get home, so I’ll probably come back and insert some photos into this post.

Today, I’m to meet Carlotta at 8:30 in the lobby where we will get another wonderfully sleek Mercedes, or similar, and head off to Milan to catch a high speed train to the Venice region. From there we will catch a motorboat to Venice downtown, check into our hotel and begin investigating hotels and venues for the chorus. Ciao!

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Italy and Odyssey

So! I’m off on a grand adventure. Today I leave for Italy and a whirlwind itinerary to help confirm preparations for the Chorus tour that happens in July (which I’m going on as well). I’m headed off to Milan this evening where I’ll be picked up and taken to Stresa, which is a city on Lake Maggiore, to take a gander at possible hotels there. Then we travel to Venice and surrounding area to check out hotels and performance venues in that area and then off to Florence/Lucca for more of the same, and finally end up in Rome.

After I look at many beautiful spaces in Italy, I’m travelling to the port of Civitavecchia to board the Odyssey of the Seas. My itinerary for this cruise is Naples (I’m going to Pompeii and Herculaneum), Santorini, Turkey, Mykonos, Rhodes and Crete and then back to port in Civitavecchia and home from Rome.

Hoping to update my blog while I’m gone. Let’s see how that goal goes, shall we? In the meantime, arrivederci!

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Elton John on a plane

I dream a lot.

I tend to get to bed between 10 pm and 12am and often wake up at least once during the wee hours. Often the best sleep I get is just before I’m supposed to wake up. Supposed to? I don’t often have a set schedule these days, but my body responds to the light in the room, so I wake up at a reasonable hour.

Two nights ago, I dreamed I had gone to a playground looking for something. Someone I was with (I think a young boy with a striped shirt) said they “knew where they were” and went off. Later in my dream, I wasn’t in the same place. My dream changed and I was frantic about having left a young child (that boy) at the playground. It was dark and cold and of course everything I did to try and get back to the kid didn’t work. Car wouldn’t start, traffic, icy roads… you name it. I woke up anxious and worried.

Last night I dreamed I was on an airplane. I like to sit near the back of the plane. As I was sitting there (on the wrong side of the plane because I like the RIGHT side) Elton John showed up and made his way to a seat nearby. I’m not sure what we said, but I vaguely remember that we joked about something and laughed. I thought it was great that I’d just chatted casually with Elton John and resumed whatever I had been doing. My dream continues and I am again just getting settled in my plane seat. I guess I was coming home from somewhere? Anyway, in saunters Elton John again, and again he comes to the back of the plane and slouches in the seat just behind me. I turn to look at him and his face lights up as though he recognizes me.

I mentioned that we’d been on the flight together a few days ago and he says, “Yes, you made me laugh. I quite enjoyed talking to you.” He then got up and came to sit across from me which was odd, because my airline seat had become a seat with a table between he and I. We talked about what was going on in our lives and he let me take a photo. I remember hearing a snippet of music and thinking I should turn off the phone.

When I woke up, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t have a photo of Elton John on my camera since my dream was so real.

Between the two, I think I’d much rather visit with Elton John on a plane than to angst about leaving a child in a playground by accident on a dark and icy night. Maybe tonight I’ll have tea and crumpets with the Queen.

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

(RE)Construction Zone

In an effort to finally finish moving into our townhouse and figuring out what to keep and pitch, we decided to put up some custom-made shelving in a room. Long story short, after looking for a stud to drill into, we instead found one of the fire sprinkler pipes. Whoopsie!

Now, 3 months later, I’m still trying to get the damage repaired. I’ve almost grown used to seeing the joists of the floor above me, torn drywall, insulation and peeling paint. Not good, Sharon.

I’ve got a few people coming to give me estimates to repair the walls and ceilings, but since I need new pipes in the house and the best way to get to them in the main bath is to pull out the tub, we are now looking into all three jobs at one time…. because… you know.. that’s how I roll!?

Trying to find a contractor who will take on your job is harder than I thought it might be. It might actually be necessary to combine these jobs to make a project BIG enough to get someone to commit. Heck, even the company the insurance company sent us ended up ghosting on us because drywall repair and repainting didn’t really pay enough for them to be interested. It’s a weird world.

In other news, #3 will have some ‘reconstruction’ of his own going on. He’s going in for surgery to remove the cancerous lymph nodes in his groin area and the birthmark that turned into a melanoma. Because of his age and the area his cancer is in, he’s a candidate to try using a minimally invasive technique with robotic surgery which could lead to shorter recovery time. He’s opted to go this route as there will be a ‘regular’ surgeon there as well in case they aren’t getting the results they expected to.

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

4 Weekends, 4 Kids

We somehow were able to visit all four of our children in one month. The stars aligned and it was so.

We started our stretch by going to Virginia, where #3 lives. We enjoyed some relaxing pool time and a nice dinner out for my birthday, and just hanging with #3 and his partner. Very chill; very nice. We left his house on Sunday.

#4 lives in Pittsburgh. We were able to spend some time with the grandkids and enjoy a visit. With my fall schedule, it was going to be the last visit until Christmas. Total bummer though, because Halloween this year looked like it would have been a blast with them. This was the first year the kids were really into trick or treating, and how cute are these two?

On Monday, I flew down to Tybee Island, Georgia, where #1 was getting married. I had a few days alone at the beach before festivities, which was nice. By the weekend, Hubby had flown down for the ceremony. It was a nice wedding. I ended up leaving on the following Tuesday.

The next weekend we were back in the airport on our way to Houston to visit #2, his wife and the bun in her oven. Looking forward to going back to see them in January/February when the newest grandbaby is born.

Not sure this will ever schedule out like this again, but it was nice that it did this time.

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Learning to Read and Write

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

I have fallen out of the habit of reading books. It doesn’t matter if they are digital or paper based, I just couldn’t seem to stay focused enough to read. I have a lifelong friend who was saying much the same. We discussed how the easy reading and instant consumption of small amounts of data on smart phones, or computers had usurped our ability to sit down with a book or magazine and read. Ugh.

In September, I went to Georgia and spent some time reading a book that I still haven’t finished. It’s a good book, and I’m enjoying it. But I need to wean myself off the electronic smorgasbord that is my cellphone with it’s instant, colorful and auditory input. I happened across an interesting article you can read here. I have to admit, I’m completely in agreement that I feel paper is better than digital and I also do tend to print out text I want to really study and understand rather than read it on a screen.

Similarly, writing has taken a hit. You only have to see the long stretches of no content, and read the clunky style to know I haven’t been writing in my blog or my journal. For the past 6-12 years the majority of my writing was in the form of emails to parents, or letters with information for events. And more often than not, those were heavily edited before being released. Sometimes the edits would be great, and clarified the content. Sometimes the edits were not great and removed my intent, and many times, my voice.

Oddly enough I remember many years ago, when I first started working with my boss, she used to be distressed when someone in the office edited her emails, removing her intent and even more frustrating, her voice. I had become so disenfranchised that I wasn’t doing my best work. Why should I? I could work for hours on something and most of the time, it would be reformatted, edited and greatly changed. Eventually, it started to feel like nothing I did was ever “good enough” or “right”, which I know was never her intent, but I let it get to me.

In July I retired and have been busy since. One of the things I wanted to do was to go hide somewhere where there were no expectations of me. Just a quiet place to sit and read and write and do all that processing and decompressing. I had chosen a cruise, but that didn’t quite work out, so I’m going to an all inclusive resort instead. I’m hoping I’ll be inspired to get back into the swing of things. I guess time will tell.

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

On Finding a Roll of Old Film

We’ve had this old roll of film kicking around here for some time. More than once I was tempted to just pitch it out completely convinced that it was either a canister of film from Hubby’s grandparents, or just crap. I wasn’t even sure there were people around to develop it anymore. So, after quick web search I found https://thedarkroom.com/ . I sent them my roll of film and felt that the reasonable price was something I felt comfy with for a canister of film that may not have anything worthwhile on it.

Imagine my glee when I got the film back and saw this smiling face. This is #2 about 20 years ago when he volunteered to be the Easter Bunny for our community center. Ha!

I just had to share. :0)