Sunday, January 8, 2012

Our Ocean Voyage - Part 4

So after the lousy weather of yesterday, we were hoping for some better weather today. The schedule had us in port at Grand Cayman today. The evening before they had made an announcement that due to the weather, we weren't going to be docking in Georgetown, but at another site and they would have shuttles to take us to town. I shouldn't say docking, though, because at Grand Cayman there is no pier. You are brought ashore on tender boats.

Once again I woke up early and I got on my running shoes with the intention to go run. I went up on deck to grab a cup of coffee and saw that we were approaching Grand Cayman and the sun was starting to rise. I stood up near the front of the ship and watched our approach, watched the sunrise and generally felt the beauty of the day. Next thing I knew I'd been standing there for an hour. The scene was just gorgeous. There was even a huge rainbow in the sky, a full end to end rainbow.  Unfortunately, because my intention was to run and not take photos, I have none of this morning. By the time I went back to the cabin and got my camera, the rainbow was gone and the sun was high enough that the moment had left.

As we were approaching the harbor, I noticed the waves were really crashing against the island with tremendous force and all the little boats in the harbor were rolling around like crazy. It was shortly after that they announced that the port officials have closed the harbor and we would not be able to make the port that day. Instead we'd head off to Cozumel and have an extra sea day.

My wife was a bit disappointed because she'd heard great things about the shopping in Grand Cayman. We didn't have any excursions planned, but we were going to wander the town, find some lunch and enjoy the culture. I guess I dodged a bullet on that one, because shopping can be expensive. Instead we figured we'd have a nice easy day on the ship. The girls had been begging us to go swimming since we boarded, so we put on our suits and headed to breakfast.

We went to Parrot Cay for the buffet there rather than back up to Topsiders. It was at this breakfast that I discovered Muesli. Its probably not that good for you, but oh my how wonderful it tastes. Fruit, nuts, granola in milk (or maybe cream, it was thick) with honey. It was sweet and crunchy and delicious. My wife was a little disappointed because they didn't have the crunchy hashbrowns here that they had upstairs, but breakfast was good.

Mickey Pool
We headed to the pool and met up with our tablemates there. It was windy and chilly, but the girls had a good time. We started in the Mickey pool and they loved the slide there. They tried to go to the Goofy pool for a bit, but they didn't like it so we went back to the Mickey pool. We ate lunch out there, tacos for the girls and some fruit and wraps for the adults. I found that the food on the pool deck was pretty good, better than I'd expected. The only thing I didn't like was the hamburgers, as they were overcooked. But hot dogs, tacos, chicken fingers, and a variety of wraps were all very tasty. They had plenty of fresh fruit too.

Goofy Pool (in the morning when it was empty)
Pluto's Dog House

Our friends all rushed off to go to the Character Dance Party at noon, where they were going to have a New Year's Eve style countdown. We decided to skip that and instead went and showered the girls and changed them because there was a Mousekateers in Training class at the Kids Club at 1. I was hoping that they'd do a better job at Mouskateer training since Britney went through it, so I let the girls go. We sent them off to the club and we spent some nice relaxation time. I found a great spot on the deck by the adult pool and promptly fell asleep with my Kindle on my chest.

The show this evening was Villains Tonight, which featured all the Villains from the different movies. This show was really funny. There was a lot of topical humor for the adults, and silly humor for the kids. Once again we played "spot Kera" and once again she didn't disappoint. She played the one character who I had never seen before, the villain from Emperors New Groove which I'd never seen. But, she killed it and was really funny. The girls decided that she must be a really good actor because she's so sweet but she plays wicked people on stage.

Tonight we had reservations for dinner at Palo, the adults only extra fee restaurant, so after the show we took the girls to Topsiders for dinner and then dropped them off at the club. Palo is a Northern Italian inspired restaurant and I'd read nothing but rave reviews about it in all my preparation. Well, suffice it to say that it did not disappoint. Our service was top notch. Jelena from Croation took care of us and guides us through a delicious meal. She made some great suggestions for appetizers and dinner and we enjoyed them all. But, the coup de grace was dessert. They serve a chocolate souffle that is out of this world. I'm not much of a chocolate lover, but this was outstanding. After a good 2 hours we were stuffed to the gills and thanks to the bottle of wine we were rocking as much as the boat.  A fantastic experience.

After dinner we were walking the deck to get some air and we ran into our friend who we met the day before in line for Mickey Mouse. She was getting pizza for her family and we started talking. We remembered this time to get her room number so that we could get together later in the cruise and of all the crazy coincidences, they were in the room we were originally supposed to have. It was really funny when she realized we were the Baker's who's luggage she got on the first day of the cruise. We had a good laugh for sure.

We went to get the girls from the club but they were all playing a game of "where's tink?" so we stood by and watched. It was great to see them having a good time and really connecting with the other kids and counselors. I can't say enough about how great every one of the youth staff were, taking the time to get to know our kids and going out of their way to make the trip special for them. One in particular named Coco was their favorite and was bombarded by hugs each time we went to pick them up.

As with everything else so far in this trip, anything negative was immediately squashed by the weight of a hundred positive moments.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

More looking forward and back

Interrupting the trip reports for a status update, if you will, on me and my blog. Its been a year since I started this blog, though it took me a while to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with it. My post on doping in cycling is still my number one most read post, but my recent posts on our cruise have been pretty well read also, since I linked them on the Disboards. I started using the blog as an accountability tool in my quest to start running and getting fit. While I haven't been super regular, I am trying to keep this as up to date as possible. I plan to continue doing that over the next year and I'll probably expand my posting to additional areas of interest as they come up.

While I don't like to make it a habit of looking back, sometimes you have to see where you've come from to appreciate where you are. At the beginning of 2011 I weighed close to 320 lbs and was on the verge of being diagnosed with Diabetes. Of course, those who've read my other posts (and if you haven't, you should go back before you read this) know that I started to change my lifestyle after being diagnosed in March. I'm proud to say that on Saturday December 31st I weighed 263lbs. Even more exciting for me, on that morning I ran 5 miles. A year ago I was winded from walking up a flight of stairs and now I can run 5 miles. I've been reminded by many to make sure I take pride in those accomplishments and I do. More importantly, that pride is pushing me to achieve even more in the coming year.

I have a couple of goals that I will be working to achieve in 2012. First, I will work to lose 50 more pounds. These are not going to come off as easily as the first chunk, but I understand a lot more about my body now and about how I can lose that weight and keep my sanity. I have no doubt that I'll be able to continue my downward trajectory. I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. I started to workout and run because I wanted to help lose weight, but now I am going to focus on losing weight because its going to make my running that much better.

I never would have thought that I'd enjoy running the way that I do. Going back to Saturday's run, it was really a cathartic moment for me. I'd had a very stressful week and a very stressful night on Friday. Work had kept me up most of the night and I was frustrated. I got out on the greenway at around 10am and had already decided that my original plan of going for 3 miles wasn't going to be enough. The weather was perfect, the sun was shining and there were plenty of other people out there enjoying their runs. Somewhere around the 2 mile mark I started feeling happy. I mean really really happy. I certainly wasn't moving fast, but I felt like I was moving with ease. My legs felt strong, my heart felt strong, my lungs felt strong. I got to the 2 mile turnaround and decided I would go another half mile and then turn around. On the way back I suffered a bit, but still I kept going. As I got closer to the end I felt stronger and stronger. Not in my body, but in my mind. I wasn't thinking about work, or about the people at work that made me upset. I was just thinking about how glorious the day was and how I was doing something I'd never done before. My heart was filled with joy of being alive, of things bigger than work problems. I broke into a huge smile as I came up to the end of the trail. Fortunately nobody was watching or they would have thought I was nuts. I never would have imagined in August when I could barely run 200 yards that I'd be running 5 miles by the end of the year.

So from there I launch into 2012. I'm not foolish enough to believe that I can run 5 miles every time out, or even every week yet. But I plan to build my base mileage over the next 3 months to 15 a week and then build more. I want to run a 10K this spring and do the Peachtree in July. Ultimately, I'd like to run 700 miles this year which is about a 13.5 mpw average. After the spring, I'll assess how I feel and decide whether to go for a half marathon in the fall or wait until 2013. I'll have to see how fast I can get before I make that commitment.

All in all, I'm very excited for the coming year, and very happy about what I've been able to do in the past year. I want to thank all of those who have supported me, my family and friends near and far. I honestly never thought that anyone would read this stuff, maybe just my mother and my mother in law, but unless they are reading 30 times a week, someone else must be out there too. Most of all I want to thank my wife, who has supported me this year through all of the changes I've made and has inspired me to get healthy and be around a long long time.

Our Ocean Voyage - Part 3

Day 3 started with the threat of some bad weather. Again I woke up earlier than the family and got out on deck to some beautiful skies and flat seas. Unfortunately they weren't to last. Today was the first scheduled day at sea, and my wife and I had reservations for brunch at Palo at 10:30. When we checked the daily newsletter the night before we saw that the Princess Gathering was scheduled for 11:30 this morning and we knew that we didn't want to miss this. I called Guest Services to see if there would be another one on the later sea day, but while they could tell me that there would be a character meeting, they couldn't guarantee who those characters would be. So our decision was to keep our reservation and risk going to the meeting later in the week, or miss Palo brunch in lieu of the Princess Gathering. It really wasn't a decision, as meeting the Princesses was the number one reason for coming on this cruise for the girls.

The family was still sleeping and I was wandering around the ship. I stopped by Guest Services to find out about changing my reservation and they said that someone would be at Palo at 9. So I grabbed my Kindle and sat on our balcony for a while reading as I watched us sail into darker skies. I ran upstairs and grabbed a bite to eat and then went to cancel our reservation.  I explained to the manager my situation and he graciously moved our reservation to the same time on the next sea day. I was so relieved. I went back to get the family and they were just waking up. By this time the rain had started.

We went back upstairs to Topsiders for breakfast. After going through the line it was so crowded that we couldn't find a table. A cast member led us out onto the pool deck and found a table under an overhang. While we were getting rained on, it was terribly we out there and the family was not happy. On top of this, one of my daughters refused to eat, saying she didn't feel well.  This did not bode well for the rest of the day.

We went back to the room and the girls changed into their Princess dresses.  You can't go to a Princess gathering if you aren't dressed as a Princess!  We have one Cinderella and one Belle. The gathering started at 11:30 and when we got to the deck 3 area at 11:15 the line was already tremendous. And on top of it all, the ship was rocking like nobody's business. We tried to make the best of it, making friends with the families that were around us and generally trying to remain as pleasant as you we could. The were some cast members sent up and down to give information about the wait, which was looong. But they assured us that everyone would get to see the Princesses.

We kept sane with the thought that if we were in the parks, every day would be filled with ridiculous lines like this, so we could deal with it for one morning. With the weather the way it was, its not like we were missing pool time. The time in line gave my daughter time to recover from her poor stomach and about an hour later we neared the front.

There were 5 princesses there to meet and greet. They each signed autographs and took a few moments to chat with the girls. It sounds corny, but
it was completely amazing to watch my girls interact with the princesses. They were awestruck and couldn't wait to hug each one. There was Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, Tiana and Snow White. Each Princess posed for pictures from both the ship photographer and from my own camera. They were all gracious and wonderful.

Of course, if you remember from Saturday, my wife and I were on a mission to figure out if our wonderful assembly leader was a Princess. Well, when we got down to Snow White, the last in the line, we saw her ... not as a Princess, but as one of the helpers. She was so sweet, calling out the girls' names and giving them a big hug. My wife and I joked that we'd expected her to be a Princess. She laughed and said she's too tall to be one, but that we should look for her in tonight's show.  The girls were overjoyed at having met their favorite Princesses and the weather didn't seem to matter anymore. We slipped into Lumiere's and grabbed lunch.

After lunch the girls wanted to go to the kids club, and who was I to stop them! As for me, well I got to fulfill my greatest wish for the cruise. I grabbed my Kindle and found a deck chair near the adult pool. They had some wonderful loungers set up looking out at the sea. I read for a few minutes and fell into a wonderful nap.

We didn't have long to nap though, because we had tickets for Tea with Alice at 4 that afternoon. This was a cute little show where Alice talks about her trip down the rabbit hole and the girls get to drink tea (apple juice) and cookies. Earlier in line for the Princesses the girls made friends with a little girl named Sadie, and we saw her and her family there. The show was cute and we had a chance for pictures and more autographs after.

After Alice it was rest time for the girls and time to get ready for the show and dinner. Showers and changing in the evening always seemed to be a challenging time for us. This was the toughest time for the girls, because they were getting tired but didn't want to rest. We decided to divide and conquer. After I got ready I took one daughter downstairs and we wandered around while the other got ready with my wife. This was formal night, so everyone was all dressed up. While we were walking around, we ran smack dab into Minnie dressed for the evening. Minnie stopped for a photo and shortly after, we ran into Donald, who took the time for a picture and a quick dance. Of course, having only one girl there at the time was heartwrenching. Its hard to think of the other one missing out, but you have to feel joy for the one who's there.

We got to the theater early and were able to get seats in the third row. The show tonight was called "Twice Charmed" and was a re-working of the tale of Cinderella where the wicked step sisters are given a second chance at Prince Charming. Well, it didn't take long for us to find our magic friend ... she was one of the wicked step sisters. The show was wonderful and the girls got such a thrill out of seeing her up there on stage. She even gave them a little wink at the curtain call.

After the show Mickey was out taking pictures in his tuxedo, so we stood in line to get a family picture with him. While in line we met a family and started talking. Turns out that the woman and I went to the same high school. She and my wife hit it off and we'd run into them several times through the rest of the cruise. We got our picture with Mickey and then went off to Lumiere's again for dinner. Everyone at the table looked great in their dressy clothes and once again we had a wonderful meal. All the girls had taken to having a Mickey ice cream bar for dessert everynight and the parents enjoyed a couple glasses of wine and each other's company.

For a day that started out headed into clouds, we definitely found the silver lining. That has got to be the epitome of the Disney Magic.