I won’t throw up on you

“I won’t throw up on you.”
Yep. That’s what I told a woman a few weeks ago while on a cruise to Alaska.
We had 20 family members on the cruise. Well, not the entire time, as we lost two in Canada. I’ll explain that in a second.

My Dad suggested we take a family trip. We all survived the Stenberg Disney World Trip of January 2013! So the chant (and planning) became — Alaska 2014!

Then, we invited an aunt, uncle and cousins.

The cruise was pretty smooth sailing until it wasn’t. It was our second day on the ship and several of us became queasy. Enzo was fine. He enjoyed body surfing over his teen and twenty-something cousins, running without a care in the world, and eating a pile of french fries.

The thought of food made me almost lose my lunch. So, our waiter sent us packing with saltine crackers and green apples. A magic potion aided by my patch, band bracelets, and motion sickness medicine.

One of the ladies in the spa suggested, I was “trying too much” to keep the sea sickness at bay. My response: “I won’t throw up on you.”

Let me get to the evidence that we will leave family members behind. No joke. Just a warning, if you ever want to travel with us.

It sounds like an obvious thing NOT to do, but a not-so funny thing happened when the ship docked in Victoria, BC. My niece, who hadn’t felt well, visited the ship’s medical office. The office called for an ambulance. While most of the family was out exploring Victoria, my brother and his daughter quietly began their international adventure. We know it had a quiet beginning because my nephew and his fiancée  heard security call for an ambulance with no siren.

When hubby, Enzo and I returned with an hour or so before the ship was scheduled to leave, we saw family members waving at us from an upper deck.

I think “Oh, this never gets old with family members greeting you.” They were thinking … “we need you for information.”

I scrambled to find the travel insurance information, because, of course, we only thought about it in case we had to cancel the trip. Really, if you coordinate a trip with multiple families, you should make sure everyone prints out the insurance card. The ship’s dial up Internet is slow.

My sister-in-law scrambled to find information on her daughter’s condition. The rest of us sat around nervously not knowing what to do. We were just delusional that the medical issue would be dealt with and my brother and niece would travel via ferry and meet the family in Seattle in time for the plane on Saturday.

A lot can happen or NOT between a Thursday and a Saturday. There were calls to congressional member’s  staff and the state department. My niece was treated at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. Apparently, the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. set up for care left my brother a little more than antsy. They just wanted to get home.

Once my niece was stable to travel by the following Tuesday, my brother gathered her up in a wheelchair and began his journey back into the United States. The whole effort was absurd, crazy, and mind numbing as there were concerns, hesitations, and little assistance with their travel. During my niece’s hospitalization, there were a lot of crazy ideas being tossed around about how to get them back into the U.S. — did I mention they didn’t have passports? One minute we were told they could fly due to a medical emergency. The next we were told they couldn’t. No passport equaled no flying post-9/11. So my brother made a run (or took a taxi) from the hospital to the harbor for the Clipper, a ferry to Seattle.

Did I mention I feel it should be criminal for a cruise line to allow passengers on board without a passport? Did I mention I feel like cruise lines should do more for passengers it gets into a country without passports?

My brother and my niece made it to Seattle with birth certificates, lots of prayers, and pain meds for my niece. While technically, they still should have had passports to travel by the ferry, agents let them in. Thankfully, no one denied them entry, since they are U.S. citizens.

My aunt and uncle helped them in Seattle until arrangements could be made to return to Georgia. A midnight flight had them land in Georgia around 8 a.m. a full week after my niece left the ship in Victoria. She was quickly hospitalized in Georgia with more tests. She now has answers and a game plan for treatment. Oh, and she also has a wedding in mid-July! (Thank you all for taking time to pray for my niece and the family!)

I didn’t feel like the cruise ended until she left the hospital on Sunday. Then, it felt OK to begin sorting vacation photos and working on my to do list.
So, in my head I have the cruise mentally grouped as Alaska and after we left two family members behind. I’m not sure my sister-in-law can find any humor in it all yet, but I’m telling you humor is the best way I can deal with medical emergencies.

Seriously, my brother deserves a medal for everything he did — he dealt with a medical emergency, a completely different medical system, and efforts to coordinate contact with travel insurance representatives, cruise line folks, and family members crazy out of their heads for information.

While visiting Alaska was very cool, spending time with family was the focus of the trip. We enjoyed a variety of excursions together in Seattle, Juneau, and Skagway.

A few notes:

  • Running into relatives randomly on the boat never got old. Hubby had to remind me a few times that it was logical since we were all traveling together. Still, I was giddy.
  • Make a joke and well, it may never be forgotten. My dad reported: “I saw a bear in a canoe.” As a result, Dad had his picture taken with every bear in a canoe we could find. Plus, his Christmas tree will now be adorned with a bear in a canoe — several of them.
  • For those, who think, “No one knows me here. I’ll let it all hang out on vacation.” I saw people I know from a small town in north Georgia. They were on a different cruise ship. My sister’s former neighbors were on our ship.
  • To just be a kid, Enzo attended the adventure camp or as he called it “boat school.” He earned a medal for his participation in a talent show. He also earned a junior park ranger badge from one of the best programs I’ve seen in Skagway. (The ranger and I spoke for a minute about a story I wrote about a junior park ranger!)
  • Hubby lost two pounds. I gained two pounds.
  • You don’t realize how much you rely on texting and quick phone calls to communicate until you don’t have cell service for a week.
  • I wondered if the folks working on the ship feel a little like it’s Ground Hog Day. I heard people asking staffers the same questions over and over. I tried not to ask too many questions or just eavesdropped.
  • I found the questions at the Captain’s Talk to be a little crazy — “If the ship goes down, would you be the first off?” or “If my wife knocked me overboard, could I survive?”
  • My zero email inbox experiment helped. I had zero emails when I boarded the ship in Seattle. A week later, I had more than a thousand.

It’s been a struggle to return to regular stuff after all that excitement — Alaska, medical emergencies, international intrigue, a week of Vacation Bible School, and more medical stuff.

So, I’ll try here, today one of my Reader University post appears on Writing from the Peak.

Baby steps. And, on ship or on land, I will do my best not to throw up on you.

Reader University: Give

This is the twelfth post in a series of 12 ways to help authors (and your writing) by reading.

This can be another form of “buying,” but I see it as a little different.
Consider giving a book:

  • to all ages.
  • books for all occasions.
  • books as love notes.

As a parent to a toddler, I get invited to birthday parties. If I know about them in advance, I’ll buy books at writer’s conferences and get them signed by the author as a personal gift for the birthday boy or girl. I’ve noticed these gifts aren’t a favorite. They don’t make noise or have parts to be lost. One can hope they bring joy at a quieter time after the birthday cake and decorations are long gone.  My son isn’t old enough to mind at the moment. So, until he protests — books will be our gift of choice.
Books make a nice hostess gift too. They can drink up the words later while relaxing.
Books make nice  holiday gifts whether they have a religious theme or not. My son received a nice Easter Story book last year in a basket from his grandmother.
Books as love notes? You may have provided a book love note without realizing it. You give a book that touched you in some way. I enjoy sharing The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow. While sad, to me, it’s a book about living and worth giving to others.
Giving books obviously helps authors with sales, but the act also helps writers, who share a love for a book that touched her, moved her, or made her laugh out loud.
How do you give books?
Reading: I read the Queen of Reciprocity author and illustrator Katie Davis’ updated How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller. I bought the first edition back in 2012. A while back, she asked people to join her launch team … you know the drill read an advance copy and give an honest review. The book offers a ton of information for authors about to launch a book or for those of us not-yet-published. There are dozens of tips on how to get involved in the kid lit world, how to give back, and how to streamline some of your social media time. I say streamline social media time, because she shares information on how to use different sites like Twitter and Pinterest. This second edition is available March 25 on Amazon. There are tips on how to do things on your own and resources to find professionals to help you. There are a ton of links, so you may want to go easy with those. I’m a bit of a “squirrel” type personality, so I clicked through to a lot of them. One could easily take one or two chapters a day to study and complete the action items in preparation for a book release.
Thanks for following along with the Reader University 12-part series. This wasn’t intended as a reading challenge, but the series kept me focused on reading and helping authors. I’ve read more novels and nonfiction books over the last 12 weeks than I’ve read in the last two years. I participated in the adult reading program at my library by reading eight books. I have an official volunteer, “reading” project and a volunteer job at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April that will keep me busy. I anticipate reading will continue to be a focus of 2014!

If you missed any of the Reader University posts,

Reader University: Buy

This is the eleventh post in a series of 12 ways to help authors (and your writing) by reading.

And, here is where we spend money. 
Consider buying: 

  • a print book
  • a digital version
  • as many as you can

Buying books is essential to your writing career. If you don’t buy books (when you can), who will? If you don’t buy books, how can you expect others to buy your books?

I utilize many of the free ways to read books — the library, a loan, a review copy, and free promotions. But, I also strategically use my extra cash for the books I really enjoy and want to own. If I see an author at a conference, I will buy books and get them signed.

If you can’t get the physical book, consider digital versions of your favorite books. If I can’t find a picture book at the library, I will buy the discounted ebook. {I recommend you review picture books immediately after purchase, because the format quality is not always ideal. I’ve asked Amazon for a refund for some picture book ebooks due to the poor quality. So, always check your picture books. If you aren’t happy, return it.}

The digital market has reduced the cost of many books, especially series. You can often buy the first book at a reduced rate (or even free), because the publisher knows you’ll get hooked and buy the other books in the series. Divergent by Veronica Roth is less expensive than Insurgent or Allegiant.

The fact you can begin reading ebooks immediately is priceless.

If you don’t have money for books, don’t buy them! But, remember, if you don’t make buying books a priority, don’t be offended when a publisher says the market isn’t ready for your book, because {insert your type of book} doesn’t sell well.
For writers, buying books is important to keep the publishing industry open for business, to authors who want to make a living, and to bookstores and online retailers.

What’s your favorite method for buying books?

Reading: I’m still working my way through the  The Death Class: A True Story About Life by Erika Hayasaki.

If you missed any of the Reader University posts,

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
I don’t have anything green for you, but I did make this video for a contest our Pikes Peak Library District is holding. I’m taking the Video Idiot Boot Camp with Katie Davis. I’m not finished with the class, so I’m sure the remaining lessons will help me clear up a few problems I know I have. I shot this video with my iPhone and an 8mm app. I used graphics instead of audio, because I haven’t had that lesson yet.

Reader University: Travel

This is the tenth post in a series of 12 ways to help authors (and your writing) by reading.

When we travel, books are always on our packing list. 
Travel frees up reading time. My family travels:

  • with print books.
  • with an ereader — Kindle or iPad.
  • ready to chat about books.

We always find time in the car for an audio book or a paperback in the airport. I have the Kindle app on my phone and tablets. I have a collection of picture books and novels on the Kindle. Yes, kiddo uses tablets. Let’s ignore studies on the impact of my parenting decision for a moment, as I tell you that at 10,000 feet on a plane I’ve never received a complaint about my son’s behavior. I have heard comments like “I wish I had one of those when my kid was little.”

I love to talk to people at airports or on a plane about their reading choices. Word of mouth book recommendations equal priceless marketing for an author you enjoy. I love getting random parenting advice from fellow travelers too.

 Of course, we can travel and explore new worlds without an airplane ticket or filling up the gas tank just by picking up a book. I miss the pre-9/11 days of people watching at the airport, as you waited at the gate for family members to arrive.
What’s your book format of choice when you travel?

Reading: I’m back to non-fiction this week with  The Death Class: A True Story About Life by Erika Hayasaki. 

If you missed any of the Reader University posts,

Reader University: Connect

This is the ninth post in a series of 12 ways to help authors (and your writing) by reading.

Making connections can be an easy task in this digital landscape.
For starters, connect with authors:

  • online
  • at signings
  • on topic

I really enjoy connecting with authors via social media and blogs. If you love an author’s book, social media is a quick and easy way to share an “I love your book” comment with both the digital universe and the author.

Book signings are another way to connect. I read a post the other day where an author reported only a handful of attendees. While plane tickets aren’t always feasible to help an author out, I can keep an eye for local (or within an hour or two drive) events I can attend.

If an author has a book about a topic near and dear to your heart, let her know. Maybe your book club or your classroom has a question about a story, perhaps Tweet or email him your question. You may receive an answer.

I remember I tweeted about my son’s first birthday and tagged Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. We chose to name our son Enzo, after the main character and narrator — a dog. Garth Stein tweeted me back.

Authors use social media differently. Some will friend you on Facebook while others won’t respond to emails. Writing is a time consuming task, so I understand those who don’t use social media channels to interact with fans. If you write, you know how writing your stories and living outside of the voices inside of your head (i.e. family, the day job, hobbies, etc.) is often a balancing act. Of course, I really LOVE the ones, who embrace social media and add to my experience as a reader.
I’ve mentioned before that my reading list this year is so 2012, but John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, shows a character’s quest to learn more about a book and an author’s reluctance to communicate with fans. This added a lot of tension to the overall story.

How do you connect with authors (and other writers)?

Reading: I’m still reading A Season of Love by Amy Clipston, an Amish romance. I read an interesting essay How Much My Novel Cost Me by author Emily Gould, which was a little depressing and eye opening at the same time. If you like the link at The Passive Voice, you should click through and read the full essay.

If you missed any of the Reader University posts,

Reader University: Request

Reader University: Request

This is the eighth post in a series of 12 ways to help authors (and your writing) by reading.
Reader University Request
We make requests for all types of things — special food at the supermarket or a song on the radio (OK, maybe that’s showing my age a bit) — so why not do the same with books?
Where can you make a request for a book:

  • at the library
  • at bookstores
  • for classrooms

I have little contact with librarians, but I’m guessing when people ask for a title they take it seriously. You may even find out the book is on order.
In recent weeks, I’ve discovered a few books via NPR weekend radio programs. When I checked my library, I was pleased to see the books were on order. So, I put my name in the hopper to be one of the first readers.
In general, I am of the “what do you have to lose by asking” mindset. If you ask and they tell you no, then nothing’s really lost. If you ask and they tell you yes, well you can get your hands on the book.
I know you get can most titles via Amazon, but if you find a bookstore doesn’t carry your favorite author — ask the bookstore about stocking the book. If the seed is planted, perhaps the buyer will consider the author’s next book.

If you have a relationship with your child’s teacher, recommend books (especially, if your child doesn’t like the selections). I’m not at this stage yet and I’m sure there are processes to approve books — subject matter, reading levels, etc. If you know of an appropriate book by a local (lives in your state may be local) recommend it for classroom reading lists or speak with the school librarian about adding it to the school’s selection.
Have you requested a book recently? Was it an easy process? Were you successful?
Reading: Let’s call this random week. I saw a book on sale in my Facebook newsfeed and purchased it on my Kindle. After I read blushed my way through the novella, I realized it wasn’t a recommendation of a friend, but a sponsored add on Facebook. Anywhoo, I’ve had my vampire, erotica fix for the year. I ended the week on a little less blush-worthy note. I read two novella-sized instruction manuals for a software I want to learn and began A Season of Love by Amy Clipston, an Amish romance, so much different than my earlier choice.
Reader University
If you missed any of the Reader University posts,