Life Post-Show me your papers before you go potty

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I have worked hard to raise my daughter in the manner in which every single child on this planet should be accustomed. I raised her to know that she is loved, respected, revered and accepted for who she is as a person. I make sure she feels safe enough to feel comfortable in her own skin. I did my best to always keep my arms open to her while she grew from this tiny little baby into a toddler and then a 5 year old, and then a 10 year old and now an astute seventeen year old who makes no apologies of who she is. I worry about all the things mothers worry over. I have to keep her safe. I have to keep her educated and I have to keep her talking. The uncomfortable dialogue about all of the horrific possibilities where predators and hateful people are concerned have to be maintained.


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Christian school will expel students who have queer relatives

I didn’t hide who I was from her, and that included my bisexuality. In return it was easier for her to talk to me. It was easier for her to come out to me as gay when she was 14. It was easier for her to be the girl who is sometimes mistaken for a boy. She knows that her sexual orientation makes no difference to me. She knows that it doesn’t change anything about how I will always love her or how I will always support her. Most of all she knows she needn’t ever feel like she’s “less than” while she’s out there in the world. She’s been able to surround herself with core friends at school who love and respect her – who are likeminded. These are all accomplishments that could only have been attained through the strides we’ve made as a society in accepting our LGBTQ+ members. Up until a year or two ago, I was sure that I was raising her in a time that was so much better and so much more progressed than when I was her age. I thought society would finally begin to pass by the time when her rights as an LGBTQ+ member would no longer be such a controversial issue and that her right to make choices regarding her own body as a woman would no longer be challenged. Up until a year or two ago I thought she might even be mostly safe. I certainly never thought her use of public bathrooms would become a threat. Don’t get me wrong. The definition of safe here in our slightly more liberal little college town is vastly different from what safe may feel like in say rural-backwoods-Mississippi, or even fifty miles away from here in bumf*ck-Florida. Precautions will always have to be considered for her.


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Woman Harassed in Bathroom for Appearing Transgender – and She’s Not Alone. Aimee Toms posted a video rant after being told she was “disgusting” for being in a women’s public restroom.  Watcher her video response HERE.

I thought it was getting better. Now? Her right to make choices regarding her own body as a woman are not only being stripped away, but are being made criminal. Businesses are now allowed to discriminate against her by not serving or employing her. She isn’t transgendered, but she doesn’t look obviously feminine. Because of this, she could be accosted while using the bathroom that actually does match her biological gender. She’s not black (she’s hispanic), and she stands up for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, yet she’s experiencing a huge division between those in the #BlackLivesMatter movement who feel that one must somehow be in competition for support over the other.

This is NOT how we keep our children safe. This is NOT how we move forward. This backward motion and these grossly misguided attempts at policing things that are NONE of our business have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with segregation, bigotry hate and oppression. Division within those that are being discriminated against will only make matters worse.


At mark 11:37 of this video my daughter and I learned that our hometown of Gainesville did in fact try to pass a bathroom law. She says, “I had no clue Gainesville made a campaign ad that was pro bathroom bills. I’m ashamed to live here now”

I am confounded and bewildered. I am utterly infuriated. I am disgusted. I am indescribably afraid for my daughter in a way that I thought maybe…just maybe I wouldn’t have to be.

What does all of this mean? It means we have to rise up. We have to protect and look out for one another. We have to say NO. If it takes mass picket lines, signing petitions, making your stance known through action, speaking out when someone you know says something hateful or bigoted, attending meetings and forming more publicized support groups, then SO BE IT.

If you are on this earth, YOU are part of the trans story. You are part of the women’s rights story. You are part of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Don’t hate someone just because you might not understand them, and don’t tell them you support them to their face when your vote says you don’t. Most of all don’t insult them by marginalizing their experiences. Use your participation in this life wisely. Use it for the greater good.

This is a civil rights issue. Being silent never got anyone anywhere.

~JezzabellGem

Cover image courtesy of SkilledUp.

Cruising to Cococay and Nassau Plus 5 Tips About Cruising to the Bahamas with Royal Carribean

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We had never taken a trip alone together until we went on a 2 day/3 night cruise to the Bahamas aboard the Enchantment of the Sea cruise ship.

View our snazzy photos here. 🙂

Once we got into Miami and were shuttled to port, it took us about 45 minutes to check in and get our sea passes in order to board the ship (Royal Caribbean). As with most cruise ships, this was a BIG boat with 11 decks full of luxurious indulgence. The minute we boarded, my first thought was, I hope we don’t sink, which was followed by, Holy-shit-this-boat-is-packed-with-people. There were giant hats, sparkly sunglasses, sailor shirts, elaborate sarongs and billowing scarves for as far as the eye could see. We had a plan to put into action. We needed to find our stateroom, then find some frilly drinks post haste. Despite walking down the wrong hall (that smelled a bit foul) on the wrong side of the ship, we finally found our stateroom, which thankfully was located down the non-smelly hall on the other side. We dropped off our things and made our way to the very loud and very active pool deck for our first drink. We quickly learned the pool deck bar was to be avoided, unless loud and crowded is your thing. As luck would have it, we found the less popular Schooner Lounge, where we met the best bartender on the ship. His name was Sid. Sid was an incredibly talented, dedicated and creative drink master, who made me three original and delicious drinks all according to things he learned I liked. Needless to say, we looked for Sid often.

He’s my best friend. ❤

Soon after we left port it was time for dinner. We were seated at table #150; a large round table that we shared with three other relatively quiet couples. These more formal dinners in the main dining room were as proper as they come – always at the same table with the same guests. The food was opulently served and the wait staff had their jobs down to an art form. We got to know a little about the other couples who were seated with us over the two nights that we dined there, but after that second night we realized the less formal and equally glorious self serve buffet, where we could sit on our own looking out over the ocean, was more to our liking.

Oh, and since we haven’t really had a honeymoon, I may or may not have said we were on ours. We may or may not have received a complimentary bottle of champagne in our room. Classy.

Watch out CocoCay – this white girl is on your island. By that I mean layer on the sunscreen, otherwise I’ll catch fire. No joke.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from CocoCay. All I knew of this tiny island was that it was owned by the cruise line, and that it offered several expensive shore excursions like parasailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming with dolphins or stingrays and jet-skiing, among other things. The Stingray adventure interested us, and we gave it serious consideration. That is until we walked away from the crowded nucleus of tiny beach-ware shops and bar-fronts onto a more secluded part of the beach where there was a lone bar and rentable covered areas that looked out onto the water. For $70 (equal to or MUCH less than an excursion fee for just one of us) we had the luxury of a private covered half dome umbrella, plate of fresh fruit, a cooler full of cold water, two floating rafts, an attendant, a tram to take us where ever we wanted to go, that peaceful little bar and the quiet of the beach breeze. This is where we spent the rest of our day together, sipping drinks and swapping stories we’d never told each other. We only left to bring back lunch and to stroll the beach at low tide. We saw small barracuda lurking so eerily still – some with tiny babies. We came across a few live conch, some scallops, clams, a stingray and a sea cucumber. FYI, sea cucumbers don’t have eyes, and they’re larger than you’d think…and they’re WEIRD. This day was magically relaxing. My favorite part of the whole weekend.

Scenery at CocoCay, but this collage doesn’t do it justice. 


Time to catch a show

The two-story Orpheum Theater on board was damned impressive. That night, as it filled with people after dinner, we were looking forward to what we hoped would be a fun show. Now, don’t get me wrong – I have great respect for anyone who can do magic tricks or juggle. I have even more respect for good comedians, so I was prepared to love at least one thing about the man who claimed to be all three, and who we were about to spend two hours watching. Granted, I was a tired monkey, but this poor man fell flat with us. I imagine that a job providing cruise ship entertainment might not be that exciting for him. Entertained, we were not. Embarrassingly, I fell asleep on Cory’s shoulder. Talk about a show faux pas – way to go me.

Nassau – A mixed bag of tourism

We woke up early and had a buffet breakfast in preparation for exploring Nassau that day. We booked two excursions (even though I know they’re usually over-priced and under-rated). The first was the Seaworld Explorer. The boat tour portion of the excursion took us out past downtown Nassau and it’s port on one side, and Paradise Island on the other. The cruise director was incredibly witty as he pointed out all of the famous homes and landed us on the deck of a partially submerged boat called the Seaworld Explorer. This is the part we were super excited about. I know the ocean and it’s inhabitants are unpredictable, but we were supposed to see a huge variety of fish on a coral reef and a ship wreck, two things that don’t move. We saw the sand on the bottom 20 feet down, small tuna, tons of sergeant major fish, some old tires and someone saw a crab. That thing I said about excursions? I don’t suggest taking this one.

Junkanoo Beach, The Queen’s Staircase and Bay Street – Nassau

I’ve learned that an enthusiastic and knowledgable cab driver can enrich ANY travel experience.

We had 2 hours until our next excursion to a beer tasting and a tour of the pirate historical museum, so we hired a cabby who took us to The Queen’s Staircase and then gave us a 30 minute tour around that side of Nassau. He spoke of the absence of racism on the island, and he made it a point to talk about how everyone lived in peace. He talked about the history of the island and what the old houses looked like before the tourism built everything up. He told us that Sean Connery lived in Nassau and is a tall old man who is often seen walking around carrying a cat. Our ride with him gave us more of a feel for this place than anything else we could have done, and our ride was a short one. He took us by two public beaches that we hoped might be like the one we lounged on in CocoCay, but no such luck. I would thank him by name, but for what ever reason we never got his.

Mostly, Nassau reminded us of of how we felt in Malta, where there is rich history, but every bit of it has been taken over by the tourism industry, which makes everything you do expensive. That tourist feeling is even more compounded by shop owners and photographers who come at the island visitors pretty aggressively, and they don’t take no for an answer.

Relaxing in cruise ship luxury

After our cab ride and a short walk on Junkanoo Beach right next to where the ship was docked, we decided to forgo our beer tasting tour and head back to the ship to relax for the rest of our day, and relax we did. We laid on lounge chairs, we drank fancy drinks and we walked the ship. We finally found a way to get to the coveted deck at the back of the ship for the breezy view of Nassau as we pulled away to begin the journey home. We had dinner that night at the Wind Jammer and watched the sunset over the water as we dined. That night when we got back to the state room, we found our towels sculpted into the shape of a bunny, which made Cory very happy.



5 fun facts we learned about cruising to the Bahamas with Royal Caribbean

Research Your Destination: Rather than base your whole trip on expensive ship excursions, do some research and catch a cab. There’s a lot to be said for exploring on your own.

Walk the Ship – Get a Map: Cruise ships are HUGE, so before you give up on that quiet spot with the great view, take the time to walk the entire ship. I promise, you’ll find the spot you’re looking for as well as tons of other things you didn’t even know were there – like the rock climbing wall we found on the back of the ship.

Exchange Rate: The exchange rate from U.S. dollars to Bahamian dollars is NADA. They look different, but are worth the same thing.

Ship Photographers: Generally not worth the money, but you can buy pre-made photo books of the ship and the destinations.

Ultimate Drink Package: Soda is not included in your cruise package unless you buy a drink package of some kind (alcoholic or non), at least not with Royal Caribbean. Our ultimate drink package covered all non alcoholic drinks, but only covered single shot alcoholic drinks, one drink at a time. However, if you’re crafty, you can find bartenders who just want you to have a good time, and who will gladly give you that extra shot of rum in your piña colada.

Gratuities: An 18% gratuity is added as an extra charge on top of what you paid for your cruise package, and on top again for any spa treatments. Just like anywhere, tipping extra for good service when you sign for that drink usually gets you some loyal attention.


 

cheers-departing-nassau_26851625331_oWhen all is said and done, we did it! Our first weekend away, just the two of us! It didn’t matter that Nassau wasn’t what we expected. It didn’t matter that our coral reef was made of sand or that we thought the shop owners might show up in our room to try and sell us something. All that mattered was that we were together. Where ever we are – what ever we do – that’s all that will ever matter.

❤  JezzabellGem

 

 

 

Life Post-Food For the Soul

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Home is where the heart is, and it starts with a shared meal.

With the amount of turmoil and unexpected folly currently going on in our lives as a family, it’s no secret that I’m spending all of my time getting back to basics…for all of us. That phrase has meant so many different things to me over these last 6 weeks, the most important of which are health, stability, refocussing and being present in my home. One of the best ways for me to to give back to my family is through food. This means harvesting herbs and veggies from our previously neglected backyard garden and cooking for my favorite people. I grew up on a mini farm, and the universal language of food was spoken fluently in my childhood household. We sat at the table for dinner together on most, if not all, nights with food from the garden, meat that was raised by my grandfather on our plates, and all the stories from the day. With work and travel and pouring our adult selves into everything else we’ve been doing, my own small family had lost the connective ritual of sharing a meal together, and thereby sharing our lives in that intimate and necessary way.

My home made Strawberry Jam.

Strawberry fields forever.

Talk of fresh ingredients brings me to my week-long strawberry adventure, which began by picking them at Roger’s Farm located just on the edge of Alachua. That morning farm excursion led to spending quality time with one of my best friends and our kids. Not only that, but 8 pounds of hand-picked strawberries had me getting creative with the recipes for a whole week. I was determined not to waste even one tiny fruit. Not only did I make 7 successful jars of jam, I also made 2.5 jars of strawberry vinaigrette poppy seed dressing, a loaf of strawberry bread, a batch of strawberry popsicles, and some compote for french toast one morning – NONE of which I had ever made before. All of which put a smile on my family’s faces and left me with a sense of real pride. Strawberry jam is a staple in a household, and I made ours.

13152882_10207800378180561_21105347_nTalk fresh to me.

All of this concentration on our new zest for home life has led me to get back to meal planning, which has in turn led me back to paying more attention to what ingredients I’m putting into our meals and where those ingredients are coming from. This has always been a place I’ve gone back to in order to reset, and once again I’m making the concerted effort to stay here. My need to reconnect to home, and my childhood plate of food are both things that have inspired me.

Most of all, dinner with my favorite people is one of my favorite times of the day.

So, is it blueberry season yet?

~JezzabellGem