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The Not So Splendid Voyage on Splendor

The Tales and Review from our Picture1.pngVacation
…A critique of the March 5, 2017 Sailing (not) to the Western Caribbean…

Pre-Embarkation

I’ll begin by saying this is one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever composed.  The time the review covers spans about 10 days with preluding injections outside of that window of service.

I started cruising about 17 years ago, and have cruised every few years since, generally on Carnival, but I’ve also enjoyed the services of Royal Caribbean. I’m familiar with the ins and outs, what to expect, what not to expect, and the general nature of unpredictability that cruising can bring; (unexpected weather, altered excursions, delays at port, etc. etc.). I cite this because these are all things I kept reminding myself of as what was our vacation evolved into a giant cluster of miss-handlings by Carnival Cruise.

Enter autumn 2016 – I’ve sold my partner on coming on a cruise for our first vacation together, my first vacation in 6 years and his in over a decade. The amazing food, changing ethnic tastes and flavors every day, fantastic drinks, comfortable cabins, spectacular shore excursions where you can taste the flavor of so many countries in the span of seven days – you name it. The stuff cruises are made of. I handed him the laptop and said pick the cruise of your dreams; and there we had it, one week at sea, off the grid, sailing the Western Caribbean on the Carnival Splendor visiting Cozumel, Belize, Honduras, and Grand Cayman.

Carnival’s idea of an inside sales rep is what they call a PVP or Personal Vacation Planer. Of course, I understand the concept of sales and commissions, but I also understand the concept of relationship building to bring the consumer back for future sales. After we booked our cruise we never again heard from our PVP, automated advertising ex-mails excluded. We even registered my partner for Carnival’s VIFP program and encountered an error associating his new number with our trip, and when asking for help, we never got a call or e-mail back from this individual. Frankly, the only thing I felt he was indeed good for was allowing for a reduced deposit. (We like to book early, then pay in full with holiday and year-end bonuses). Disappointment aside, I remembered how amazing the Carnival team was and just figured we’d get it done at check in or on-bard the ship.

Fast forward to 5 days before departure. I received an e-mail from Carnival stating that there has been a mechanical issue on the ship which affected the ships maximum cruise speed. They did not provide details, except that the current cruise was to be cut short so the vessel could return to Miami in time, and more details would be provided by ‘Friday at 6:00PM’.

Living in a cold and snow-prone region, I always leave and arrive in the port city early to ensure I’m ready on time. To add a fun twist to the vacation, we chose to take Amtrak into Miami. (We both love trains, and really wanted to avoid the stress and rushing of air travel; We had the vacation time to take, so it became a bit of a novelty for us to travel this way.

Approximately 7:30 Friday night the e-mail arrives and my heart sank. The mechanical issues were identified and our itinerary had been changed. We were now going to visit Nassau, Bahamas, and Freeport, Bahamas, sail around the Bahama Islands a few days and come home. Now me, a former airline employee, and my partner a live event manager, we certainly understand that ‘things’ happen. Carnival offered us a 50% refund on the cruise, and 50% off our next cruise (of equal or lesser value, of course) and each $100 on board credit.

Exit Mushroom Cloud of anger and disappointment; Enter Optimistic Outlook of 7 days in the Atlantic visiting places much warmer than home.

We arrive in Miami, overnight in an amazing Air B&B in Coconut Grove, enjoy a wonderful dinner and glass of wine for the evening and take Miami’s metro into the city and slowly make our way onto the ship the following morning.

Now remember back how we like to ‘book early’.  Since Carnival offered guests 100% refunds and offered to even refund their airfare, we (correctly) assumed that there would be a handful of cancellations, it couldn’t hurt to call and see if there was perhaps a slightly upgraded room available now. – Speaking to a wonderfully pleasant Donna Mae in guest services: “Unfortunately we won’t know this until the day of departure, check in at the terminal when you arrive’

Upon arrival, we remained positive and optimistic; as were most of the other guests. It’s not what we ‘wanted’ but hey; worse things could have happened and we were all there to have fun. As instructed, we approached a wonderful ‘Miss Marilyn’ at the terminal counter, who repeated what Donna Mae said “Unfortunately we won’t know until departure time. When you get on board, check with Guest Services”. Okay – we can do that. On board we go, disheartened but still excited and ready to have some fun.

Embarkation, Great People, Riddled with Continuous Disappointment

Without question, the only saving grace of this cruise vacation was indeed the people.  Even the staff, crew, performers and officers were genuinely nice and apologetic for the whole disaster that was (sadly) just starting to form. Nevertheless, we met, mingled, befriended, drank and were merry with our new, now Bahamian-bound friends.

Houston – we have our first problem!

As one might suspect, cruises book out in advance, often over a year in advance – for good reason!  There are a lot of moving components to put together – yet another component of gratefulness that we had a (broken) ship to get on, and not just be told the entire vacation was canceled. The problem is with less than a week to plan, the shore excursion team was tightly limited on what they could arrange for available excursions with their vendors at our first port of call.  So, imagine – Three Thousand some odd cruise passengers, and a very limited number of excursions.  This cruise was originally scheduled for four different ports of call with only 2 days at sea, so saying the on-board crew was ill-prepared for all these passengers with virtually nothing to do is an understatement.

Dangerous Excursion = #EpicFail

We are both very well-traveled both domestically and abroad, so we absolutely understand the uncontrollable inevitable.  Be it by flying, driving or cruise ship, all are affected by weather and in extreme conditions, there are times plans need to be adjusted because of that. While attempting to make the best our two days in Nassau, we managed to purchase a couple of excursions – the first went off without a hitch; spending the day at a private beach.  Now, being a global traveler, one reason I would never actually book a cruise The Bahamas in late Winter is because I know the water is less than appealing for those of us looking for the warm, turquoise waters offered in the Western Caribbean this time of year… Digressing… our first excursion was a relaxing day off the (broken) ship.

Our second excursion was a bit of a different story, however.  As a cold front came through, the winds and seas picked up, so much in fact the very same excursion before ours was cancelled due to sea conditions.  In a desperate attempt to not lose revenue, they chose to not cancel ours and we ventured out to sea.

  • What was scheduled to be a two-reef snorkel was reduced to one
  • While sitting on the second deck of the catamaran, we were getting splashed with the ocean spray due to the seas being so rough;
  • Perhaps most frightening, a small boy was trying to get back on the boat when it was over taken by waves and the boats ladder came crashing down on his head. As a personal testament, I attempted to snorkel in the cool waters, but became fatigued and unable to remain within a safe distance from the boat.
  • The boat’s first mate became violently sea-sick and was unable to perform his duties.
  • For the sake of safety, this excursion should have been canceled and refunded at the time when our experienced snorkelers (experienced defined by those with diving licenses and/or came equipped with their own professional equipment) came aboard as they were unable to safely participate.

Several of us took to guest services and the shore excursion desk to express our grievences, only to be told that we’d have to wait for a decision from the excursion provider as to whether to get our money back.

  • Fast forward 3 days, we received a 50% refund on the excursion. Although grateful for what the excursion staff could negotiate for us, we were left wondering why we paid $32.50 each for a 3-mile boat ride.

What’s that out my window?IMG_0001.jpg

Honesty, I’m not sure!  The deck and dining area windows were
so filthy with dirt and sea salt we couldn’t see through them.  Now, of course – We are at sea, and that is to be expcted after a day or two at sea.  The disheartening part of this was that while at port, there were three other ships docked, and we watched each of them get cleaned and power washed each day. As can be seen in the photo, our view was nothing more than smeared sea salt – Just disappointing!

Guest Service 

So here is where I applaud the guest service folks on the ship itself.  Look…. Things happen!  We get it… and there you were, faced with 3,000 pissed off, displaced, unhappy campers, who regardless of your companies offering of 50% off are still somewhere they didn’t want to be! From the representation at the guest services counter, to the (mostly) amazing bar staff, to the housekeeping team – BRAVO.  Never did I feel disrespected or unappreciated.  I commend and applaud each one of you… in fact a few very special ones I felt deserved extra special recognition:

  • Yada – Our morning bartender on Lido deck from Thailand. You were welcoming, happy, and pleasant every morning.  You put time and ‘love’ into our Bloody Mary’s hand-crafting them with extra horseradish and spice. On a personal note, you also provided wonderful travel advice for us to come visit Thailand!
  • Karen at the excursions desk. You saw and felt our fury and disappointment with the lack of excursions offered. We know how hard you worked while we were eńroute to our two stops to open new excursions and went to bat for us when we had safety concerns on the bad ones.  To top it all off… after we disembarked, you spotted us in downtown Miami, and even made it a point to say hello and chat with us.  For this we are grateful and thank you!
  • Our waiter Alex. Although we only used the dining room once, that’s all it took for you to see us and remember us by name for the rest of the cruise.  No matter where we were we’d hear a “Hello Chris and Adam” and you were there.  Bravo!

All this said, coming from guests who not only are experienced cruisers, but professionally we are service providers and involved in live entertainment coordination, there were many shortcomings on behalf of Carnival as a company. I can’t complete this review with at the very least citing these in hopes other guests won’t be subject to similar failures.

  • The guest services desk was dreadfully understaffed, often boasting a 60+ minute wait with only 1 or two positions staffed. Although that staffing may be ‘normal’ on a ‘normal’ sailing, this was not that at all.  We feel Carnival should have overstaffed their guest counter and even placed guest service reps in the Deck 3 Lobby area to help answer and expedite guest concerns. There were on board concerns we just opted not to discuss because the lines were so long.  We even caught a photo at times when the guest services desk was completely unstaffed!
  • Miss-information: We purchased the Carnival Cheers beverage pass which includes your first 15 drinks per day in the price. One the second night of the cruise, we learned that you will not be served at all above and beyond the 15 drinks. Now, I understand everyone is different, and perhaps for younger sping-breakers who get out of bed at 3 or 4 in the afternoon this may be a ‘safety’ policy; however, for grown, mature adults who wake up at 5am, enjoy their coffee and a morning 4-ounce mimosa or bloody Mary, it’s very easy to use the allotted 15 drinks by dinner time.  I took our concerns to Zulphia at Guest Services who advised it was the discretion of the bartender, then later to the bar director who stated it was ‘Captain’s Orders’ to enforce a 15 drink maximum for this particular sailing.
    • My humble feedback is – I would have spent and enjoyed more had I just paid for my watered down sugary drinks – Most states in the US provide laws for overserving – and it places onus on the BARTENDER to watch for queues of when a guest may have had too much; to my knowledge no locality has ever enacted a maximum rule that punishes the entire population. We were so taken back by this audacious miscommunicated guideline, I’ve already sought legal counsel regarding the rights we should dispute the cost of the pass with VISA due to the inconsistent, unjust and ill-communicated policy.

 

On Board Services

On day two, we came back to an amazing surprise in our door!  One of us has a birthday this month, and to our surprise our cabin team dropped us a $50 gift card for a Spa treatment to celebrate.

  • We Opted for a mani/pedi and barber services. The Mani/Pedi were great and well-done, exactly what we asked for.
    • Prior to our barber appointment, we specifically asked ‘Do you have a licensed barber on board” the Spa desk quickly assured us there was and we booked a IMG_0003.jpgmen’s shave (priced at $95); the service was to include a trim, face shaving and two hot-towel treatments. Living in the city, we visit the barber almost weekly for a face shave with hot towels, generally you can expect to pay $20-$30 plus a 50% tip for a one-hour service. (We live and use this service in Boston mostly, however after checking with friends in Miami they pay a similar amount).
    • The spa professional was NOT a licensed barber, the spa professional did NOT use a blade. In fact, the spa professional did nothing more than a hot towel, some department store shave cream and a mass-produced Gillette dual edge razor and was completely uneven on both sides of our face (Photos Attached).

Again, we understand the employees on board are highly limited as to what they can and can’t do but this is an audaciously overpriced, falsely promised, misrepresentation of professional services which absolutely cannot be overlooked and like many other failed services on board, should be refunded promptly.

What we all love about cruises – the Food! 

Well, love it or hate it, you can’t cruise without gaining a few pounds, right?  This was also true for this cruise; however, it comes with a bit of both good and bad critiquing!

  • The dining room – I always opt for ‘Your time” dining to not be stuck to a schedule – it’s vacation after all right? We only opted for the traditional dining option twice.
    • First night on board. We were split 50/50 on dinner itself.  The food… not horrible, clearly heat-lamp heated for far too long. My memory seems to recall food being much fresher on past cruises.
    • The second night we dined in, we were placed with mixed company at a general table due to lack of seating in the main dining room. Here we enjoyed an interesting dinner with folks from all around. One thing stuck out more than anything. This elder woman, a seasoned cruiser for sure (as noted by her diamond status on-board expense card) started gabbing with us. Remember how, during embarkation we were inquisitive as to available room upgrades? Well, as she so informed us, instead of offering concessions to the inconvenienced passengers, Carnival reached out to all their Florida-residing Diamond and Platinum guests and offered them the rooms that were cancelled due to the changed itinerary.  That was nothing shy of a dagger to the heart of our hopes of good guest service.
  • The Buffets – Oh, the buffets. Where you come, and watch the cattle herd in and IMG_0002.jpgforage until they just can’t hold anymore. There was a day in my younger years I would be one of those doing just that but not this time. Not because I was full, but because the food was ill-prepared and lacked any type of creativity.  Traditionally when I’ve cruised I’ve enjoyed bountiful buffets of food from all different cultures and countries around the world. This time, we were literally presented with LEFT OVER UNUSED HOT DOGS FROM THE PREVIOUS DAY, SEASONED THEN TOLD TO BELIEVE THEY WERE BREAKFAST SAUSAGE. (See photos) I can’t make this stuff up folks.  I stuck with the omelet my way, and the one consistent Tandoor Indian food bar to play it safe.
  • 24-hour dining on a ship, right? Nope!  Not the Splendor. There were several hours the buffets, burger bites and pizza stand were all closed, leaving us with soft-serve ice creams as the only option. This was truly the biggest disappointment of the on-board experience
  • Pinnacle Steak House – The Saving Grace
    • We just couldn’t handle the lack of good food one more day so we opted to treat ourselves to the premium steak house. While the service was a bit lack-luster
      and rushed, the food was indeed to die for and we enjoyed every morsel. My only minor critique to this is that we wanted to enjoy dinner with our friends but were told there was no room for them at the time of reservation.  To our surprise there were only a few couples dining and the room was relatively empty.  As I noted, we also were rushed at the onset of dinner. Within 2
      minutes of receiving a wine list, we were asked four times what we wanted to eat and drink.  Not what we had in mind for a relaxing meal, but as I mentioned the quality and taste overcame all! 

On Board Entertainment

Obviously, everyone ‘cruises’ for different reasons, some for the international flare of the excursions, some for the relaxing time in the sun, some for the on-board fun. Generally, ‘Days at sea’ are absolutely packed to the gills with events and functions to entertain.  On this sailing, however, it was more like they kept the original on-board itinerary and zero additional thought into the concept that we were visiting undesirable ports with excursions we didn’t really want to participate in and offered virtually no on-board entertainment options.  In my guest/customer service mind, I would have thought Carnival would have over-staffed this sailing with additional team members to offer constant on board entertainment – Not so much the case.

Finally: The Ship and It’s Maintenance

IMG_0007.jpgThe saving grace on this ship was the comradery of the guests commiserating about the comical barrage of problems we’d had.  There were great laughs to be had wit
h friends.  Some good games of cards, some amazing laughs with new friends and lots of new friendships! All this aside we can’t help expressing some co
ncern about the care and maintenance Carnival performs on its vessels.

Earlier we discussed how we were the only ship in port that wasn’t clean, or being cleaned. Although cosmetic, we were the only vessel in port missing decal letters identifyin
g it!  Of graver concern was the ‘maintenance’ issue the ship was undergoing that miss-routed us to begin with and landed us in their maintenance port in Freeport, Bahamas for two days.
Guests had good giggles, but valid concerns that the hot tubs that were working were more like ‘mild’ tubs and the jets were firing cold water.  We confirmed this claim in the aft-right tub. The aft-left tub was ice cold and unusable for the first couple nights of the cruise. Small things such as flickering light bulbs were noted and joked about by guests but these are the things that go a long way in showing pride in ownership and develops rapport and patronage from guests.

 

In Closing

As we disembark and begin traveling home, we must sit and think back about just how comical this ‘vacation’ was.  We are forever grateful for the Carnival staff on board who gave it everything they had to keep us happy. There were many mishaps that were just out of their control.  Overall, we were still away from work, away from the cold and drinking overly sweetened cocktails.

As we are grateful to have met so many new friends and have so many more vacations to spend with them! Hind side being 20/20, I’ve never been so happy to get off a ship, and I’ve never been so eager that I snuck into the premium line just to escape, but it is what it is.  If I had to grade the entire experience, based on what we wanted to do vs. what we did, the food, drinks, and friends, I’d have to give it a D+ or weak C- at very best thanks to the amazing people and Carnival team members.

We have already started planning our next vacation and we are anxious to receive the small refund Carnival did offer.

Happy travels, and may you always find some fun and relaxation in your vacation, no matter how comical it may be!

 

Fear vs Stress – You Have a Friend in _____________

In recent months, I’ve been struggling personally. Learning to balance new responsibilities in my professional life, while trying to keep my existing goals on track, being in a relatively new city with less than a handful of friends and a lacking support system, and of course trying to strengthen the relationship with the amazing person whom I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Adding insult to injury, still reeling the financial debris from a not-so-distant divorce, while trying to structure another long-distance move/relocation in the not-to-distant future. It’s fair to say while not catastrophic, there must be a better way of managing this mid-life chaos without putting yourself into an institution!

So in recent days, I’ve had to have some serious discussions with myself. Here’s what I came up with:

First, I have to separate the fear from the stress. Here’s how:  Structuring the long-distance move… – That’s fear! It isn’t currently happening, and the only things ‘stressing’ me over it are things like ‘what if I don’t like my job there, and what if I can’t afford the move.  These concerns are NOT grounds for stress until they present themselves in real time, so it’s fear.

So here we have this evil character we call fear.  It’s only like the grim reaper of happiness, isn’t it? “Yeah, I’d love to go skydiving, but I’m AFRAID of heights.” or “I really dislike my job, but I’m scared I’ll be less successful”  Who is this ‘fear’ character?

What if I told you fear was the friend you’ve given the upper hand to in your lifelong friendship. Fear is, in fact, your best friend! It will never leave you, and will always look out for your best interest. At some point in your life, you made the mistake of letting fear take the wheel. Fear’s job is that of a co-pilot or ‘shotgun’ on a long road trip. Fear can play some creepy music if you’re headed into unknown territory, fear can also suggest you take a path different than what you planned because it might be the path more traveled.

You are the one driving this ship called your life, though. Do you always take the advice of your best friend? Do you occasionally say ‘Thank you, but this is the path I’ve decided on, and we’re going to take this less traveled path together? I promise you, fear will still come with you!  It’ll be there to knock sense into you, and will keep you from taking a nap in a dark, unsafe rest area, but it doesn’t control you – Unless you allow it. Keep your fear on a short leash and NEVER let it walk in front of you.  Allow it to be your best friend, and walk in step at your side through life.

Back to my story; stress – now that’s the real grim reaper in our lives. Sure we all need some stress. Scientifically thinking, gravity causes stress to our bones but also keeps us literally grounded. It seems today, more than ever society not only thrives on this thing called stress, but it seems to create stress trying to fight it! Things like the heat of the moment contention or misalignments at work, imminent financial turmoil, terminal illness in the family are all grounds for seemingly bona fide and warranted stress. Let’s face it, stress in our 21st Century society is absolutely unavoidable.

Unlike fear, these stresses are NOT your friend and will never look out for your best interest.  Stress will only take years off your life and lead you down often dark roads of addiction, false relationships, and illness.

While fear needs to be trained, stress needs to be minimized. We all have different coping tools for stress and some of us cope far better than others. Ever wonder why a successful 40-something professional with a family, multiple homes, expenses, and other issues that we all share as humans can keep their head on straight and still look like they’re 35, meanwhile, someone who’s been less successful at dealing with personal stress could be 30 years old, has a minimalistic life and seemingly nothing to show for themselves looks sickly and in their mid-40’s?

More times than not, its mal-managed stress. If you haven’t found YOUR effective method of coping with stress, don’t stop looking. As an individual, we all have our own ways. For me, its exercise by bicycle, for others it may be running, or going to a local Zen center to learn to meditate.

In upcoming notes, we’ll discuss meditation and other stress relievers that may be helpful in your life!

Meanwhile, read this amazing ‘Letter to Fear’ from one of my favorite authors – Elizabeth Gilbert:

Avoiding Sure-Fail Obligatory Resolutions – A Prequal

It’s that time of year. The holidays upon us; We’ve all eaten and drank too much, we’re looking down at our guts, wishing we could see our feet, opening our wallets wishing the THOUGHT of money didn’t create a physical soreness where we keep our wallets stashed. Opening and reading social media, the morning and evening news and talk shows, it’s all about resolutions.  These magical, mystical things you want to make happen starting at the stroke of midnight tonight – Because the best, most productive things occur at midnight after a night of drinking on a long holiday weekend – RIGHT.

Let’s look more deeply into what it is we are trying to accomplish and how we are going to get there, shall we?

Step 1 – Ditch ‘Resolution’ and Start Using ‘Goals’

It sounds simple and silly, but it’s effective.  You wouldn’t build a house on a sandy beach without pouring a foundation, why are you going to set these spectacular expectations for yourself for 2017 without laying the foundation.  Say it out loud  to yourself “I failed to meet my resolution”, then say aloud “I failed to meet my goal”. Just saying the latter has a far more bitter bite to it, and you’re less likely to want to say these words in 364 days. Got it?  Good.  So from this point forward we have GOALS, not resolutions – feel free to resolve to achieve your goals if you’re hell-bent on keeping up with the Jones’ annual new year lingo.

Step 2 – Plan For and Document Your Goals

Newsflash – if you haven’t done this already its TOO LATE to get this done for January 1 – that’s okay!  My dear co-constituants of this Universe – we move through each day at lightning speed and can rarely remember the conversations of earlier this day, disregard a ‘Goal’ you verbalized – likely silently to yourself or in a social media post three, six, nine, or twelve months ago. So rule number one – It’s not a goal until it’s written down.  Exactly HOW you write it down is up to your and your learning/lifestyle:

  • For me, I’m a more technical, logical bulleted type personality so I keep my goals in my One Note Application which I can see easily from my home computer, my mobile devices, and my office computer.  I also keep a printed copy at my desk in my home office where I spend a great deal of time.
  • For the more creative type, consider buying a poster board and creating a vision board to tape/paste/pin your goals.  (Pinterest does NOT qualify)
  • For the more audible learner, consider sitting yourself down in a quiet room, and creating a YouTube Video or Voice Memo on your phone which you can replay EVERY DAY, on demand whenever needed .

There are plenty of ways to plan your goals and set them into motion.

Step 3 – Quantify: Make it COUNT

A goal is merely a wish unless you can quantify it, numerically.  Without this quality, you will have no way measuring your success in December, and you’ll have an unstable starting point when it comes time to renew/revisit these goals and add new ones.  Check out some of the common mistakes and thought processes of goal quantifying below:

  • Bad Goal (Good Wish): “I want to save more money this year”
    • Good Goal: “I want to DOUBLE what’s in my savings/retirement accounts by December 31
  • Bad Goal (Good Wish): “I want to go to gym more and lose weight”
    • Good Goal: “I will hit the gym AT LEAST 3 DAYS PER WEEK; and I will lose FIVE POUNDS PER MONTH and weight SIXTY POUNDS LESS by December 31

 

Got it?   – Good.  This is a necessary and critical step.  Without quantification of your goals, you have no way complete the next step.

Step 4 – Track it or lose it!

Getting back to my point about life being too busy;  It’s foolish for us to think we can ‘set it and forget about it’.  This is not a slow-cooker recipe or late-night infomercial about a rotisserie tool where you put a bunch of goodness in a pot, turn it on and at the end of the cycle, its magic.  THIS IS LIFE, and we only get one shot at this rung in your ladder.  How are you going to celebrate your achievement next year if you can’t remember how you got there? Or worse – how are you going to adjust your missed goals if you can’t see exactly where your stumbling block is? YOU CAN’T! This is why we track our progress.

How you track is up to you and your personal circumstances. For me, I generally work a Monday – Friday gig, so I try to dedicate the first weekend of each month t reflect back on the last month. (I use this time to analyze my budget for the previous month as well).  I give myself an hour of my time to sit and quantify each goal’s progress, and adjust the intensity I need to apply to that goal for the upcoming month.  It’s also important to share these goals and your progress with the people you’re closest to, and include them in the progress updates.  Friends and family who love you will appreciate you making them a special part of your achievements, and they will cheer you on to hit these goals. Trust me, that cheer squad comes in handy when you fall short… (And fall short you will from time to time – it’s that human factor!)

Step 5 – It Gets Easier!

Thing of your initial goals as a tiny ball of foil. You’ve just developed the inner core. As the year(s) go by, you’ll peel some of the accomplished goals off the ball because they were a time-limited goal such as buying a car, or getting a new job. You’ll also add to existing goals such as financial savings and personal wealth. And finally some goals will sprout new goals to grow off the core such as reducing debt can eventually sprout into increased savings, or achieving an educational goal can sprout a new professional goal such as a job or promotion.

At the end of the year, you should have very little work to do for your goals for the next year. If you did your job well, you’ll already have new and adjusted goals in front of you ready to go, which will give you even more reason to ring in 2018 with added celebration!

So as we look into the New Year this weekend. Ditch the resolutions. Go on, celebrate tonight and enjoy the pomp and circumstance. I charge you, however to take a  close look at the goals you’re setting for yourself and your family and make sure they’re set on a firm foundation that you can grow with. Stop re-building your wish list every December 31 and start realizing success in longevity through this crazy life we all lead!

To one and all a Happy New Year and an accomplished 2017!

 

Up Next:

  • Part 2 – Holiday re-birth: How family and friends are formed in the season
  • Social Media and the Fear of Missing out vs. Socializing and the Joy of Missing Out

Stay Tuned!

Sling Shot Reload

Fellow Constituents of our Universe,

I awoke this morning; I suspect feeling differently than many of my peers, friends, and colleagues. Of course, at the forefront most minds if not in America, around the world is the Presidential elections in tangry-birds-slingshot-clipart-1he United States. This too was a driving factor of how I felt, and the reality is I can’t describe to you how I felt, so perhaps this note will not only be an expression of thought, but a conduit of description.

I can say I certainly wasn’t joyful of our electoral results; I was not deeply saddened or disappointed either. Perhaps a messy mix of nervousness, apprehension, and a hint of relief and freedom – yes freedom.

I was (and am) reminded of the moment a dear loved one passed away several years ago. What I thought should be been an onslaught on tears and weeping (and yes , I wanted to weep), I was relieved. When my loved one passed, I was relieved that they were free of physical suffering; and this morning, I was free. Free from the current daily hate speech, free from the contentious news feeds, free from the nasty digital back and forth we as humans spit to each other on social media, and most of all free to step back for a proverbial moment, and do what’s most important – RELOAD!

Yes, I’m nervous. I’m scared that our new leader will revoke so much social progress we as a nation and a society have made. I’m concerned that members of communities that were just recently freed from discrimination and still suffer from political and social hatred and bullying will again lose the backing and support of our national leader to guide us as a nation away from discrimination.

As I walked down the street this morning, one could see the confusion on so many faces of not knowing what to expect. Confusion I have never observed before from my neighbors peers, and strangers alike. Then I smiled, as I thought of how progress happens…

Progress doesn’t travel in a straight line, progress becomes static when it’s energy is transferred from excitement to routine. I thought of an old story I learned in Sunday School as a child about how David took out Goliath with his little sling shot. Don’t ask me what made me think of this story, because I honestly can’t answer that. When you shoot a dart or stone from a sling shot, the projectile doesn’t just fly on its own; it must be pulled back tightly, aimed and then finally released. Sometimes the projectile flies and slowly falls to the ground, other times it may hit a target, like David’s Goliath.

Much like the projectile, progress periodically needs to take a breather, get pulled back, and re-aimed and fired again.

Friends, over the next seventy-one days, our projectile from the last eight years will come to what appears to be a graceful fall to the ground. Let us not weep, cry, complain, or exude the same hate the foregone enemy won his race with but rather quickly pick up that progress, transfer that negative energy into pulling back and aiming for our next set of goals before we have a chance to release it in two years.

While the majority may be saddened by these results, (at least at the current tally of the popular vote, it’s the majority); we must look out for each other. We must encourage our fellow gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans and queer friends, friends of differing faiths, and of all creeds; we are charged with looking after our disabled neighbors who are unable to stand up and defend themselves, we are mandated under the law of love to care for those are are ill and need healthcare and healing, and we are driven to heard as the mature, responsible, and outspoken constituents of society we’ve fought so hard to be. None of these directives are controlled by laws or officials, they are controlled and governed by love and compassion.

Today, I extend my hand for you to hold. I offer my shoulder to lean on and my heart to love with. We preach that we conquer with love; if this is our truth, hate cannot triumph.

Be blessed and love too much! – Until next time

Don’t Be the Straw! – Challenges of Animal Healthcare

It was a back and forth decision about opening with this story. I have hundreds of notes and ideas of things I want to talk about and share with you; and #splat I open with a rant/review/vent session about (the lack of) quality pet health care options in this city – correction – nationwide.

There’s a deeper part to this story that ultimately became the deciding factor in my choosing it to be the opening story to share with you, and it has nothing to do with pet health! – Go Figure!  All that said, let’s move beyond the wordy introduction and get right to it!

Keeping it all real, we love our fur babies.  Some jokingly love their four-legged children more than their human kids! (For the record, we chose to forego the latter and just enjoy the company of our fur baby, so we don’t have to choose between the two!

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Meet our fur babies!

Anyone who adores their pets knows the pressure (both emotional and financial) of finding quality and affordable healthcare for them. Now I’ve lived in 3 states, on two different coasts, and my experience has been similar across the board – pardon me for making a sweeping generalization based on the cities I’ve lived in.

The American veterinary system is a cock of money-hungry crooked thieves; so much so I’d almost rather vote for Donald Trump rather than deal with the political games pet clinics force us to contend with.

I learned while living in Las Vegas that 99% of all of the animal hospitals in the city there were owned by an umbrella organization. (This is an unverified fact). The science to it was that they all charged highly unreasonable fees which kept you from ‘shopping the market’.  Animal healthcare is much like human dentistry – very much ‘cash and carry’, high profit, minimal regulation – this allowed these so-called animal hospitals to operate a virtual monopoly. Long lost are the days of bringing your beloved fur baby in for a $35 rabies vaccination.

Fortunately in Las Vegas I found through a friend’s referral a small, truly ‘hole in the wall’ animal hospital on W. Sahara Ave that operated independently with just one doctor as a private practice. There, we enjoyed reasonably rates, honest opinions, and respectful responses to my wishes not to ‘over-vaccinate’ our babies. (More about vaccinations in a later post).

Now, being back in Boston, I’ve found a similar struggle under different circumstances. The first hospital I tried (let’s refer to this one as hospital #2), I liked, although a big over-priced (in my opinion), but quality. The only thing that kept me from returning was the commute to get there and it’s proximity to public transportation. (Fur babies are allowed on the public transit system here, so we take advantage of that)

Next we transferred services to another animal hospital (we will call this hospital #3) – that I found exceptional – albeit very ‘corporate’ and reminded me of the animal hospital ‘enterprise’ that I grew familiar with in Las Vegas. By the time we started patronizing this doctor, my fur baby has been on a ‘lifetime’ prescription for a skin condition. I understood this doctors need to re-check and even test my baby to confirm so I obliged their requirement and paid their fees. To my surprise, this animal hospital, after two months indicated we had to come back for another re-check and re-test – for a medication that again, is a lifetime prescription, taken daily, and has been taken daily for nearly a year. We bumped into a scheduling conflict and I quickly moved on a colleagues recommendation of a small ‘hole in the wall’ clinic nearby.

(Moving on to hospital #4) – Again, obliging to this clinic/doctor’s desire to test and monitor for his own validation, we agreed to subdue and pay for the onset of testing, as this doctor indicated we could extend re-checks out to every six months (better than two months).  During this time, a nationwide shortage on our medication by mail order had taken hold; not two days later this particular doctor raised their prices by over a $1 per pill and added a ‘dispensing fee’ to each Rx, citing (and this is a quote) “This is just how it is”.  When I picked up the what was the final refill patronizing this clinic, even the clerk noted the owner was a ‘bitch’. I concurred and thanked her for her honesty.

I contacted the staff at hospital #3 to get an appointment for yet another re-check and refill our prescription. AFTER  A MONTH of rescheduled appointments (
due to their office failing to correctly staff a doctor on the scheduled days), they refused to offer a refill of enough meds  to just get the puppy by until the next available appointment.

Finally after a lengthy conversation with an absolutely useless receptionist who began literally laughing at our situation, I closed the conversation by advising her I found zero humor in the scenario and didn’t appreciate the laughter during my valuable time on the phone.

Now desperate for a vet to keep my baby’s medication current,  I found myself reaching back out to hospital #2 again.  They were able to get me right in and remained helpful and sympathetic to our situation.  I’m excited to get back to where it all started and regret jumping to the not-so greener grass on the other side.

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Our fur baby playing dead

All that said – how does this relate to my journey worthy of your valuable time reading this?  I’m glad you asked! There was a day, not long ago that my conversations and e-mail communications with hospitals #3 and #4 would not only have been hurtful and energy draining; not only for me but for the poor receptionist I would have taken my fury out on.

To have reached a point in my own growth cycle where I’m able to keep my cool, not yell, scream, and make the person I’m taking my anger out on cry is a major milestone in my life.

I could give you the standard ‘its not the receptionists fault, and you
shouldn’t tell at him/her’, or ‘You (I) just need to learn to control your emotions and temper better’ – Well no shit, Sherlock!  Thanks for stating the obvious.

Here’s the take-away.  Instead of acknowledging the obvious which will generally get you no where the next time a challenging situation arises, ask yourself a few questions:

“How much of my hard-earned energy is this circumstance worth”

“Am I in a position this very moment to be guaranteed to get what I want no matter the expense of belittling or bullying of anyone in my way; and is that worth the result?”

Now think about how much energy you burn when y
ou’re mad at your close friend, partner or family member, and how much effort you put forth in STAYING angry.The human mind naturally ‘forgives and forgets’; it’s our pride that refuses. One true statement from the Christian Bible is ‘Pride goeth before the fall’ – LET IT GO!

Lastly, if you really think about it, the answer to the second question is unequivocally NO – It’s not worth it; for a very simple reason. You have no knowledge what that person (or people are dealing with on a personal level at the current time. Think back to your most vulnerable moment if your life; (perhaps the loss of a loved one, or a pet, a horrible fight with your partner – anything) – that one moment that being poked with a piece of straw would have pushed you over the edge.

I urge you – don’t be the piece of straw for that person!