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June 11, 2013

The Little House in the Big Woods

The Little House in the Big Woods

One year ago today was June 11, 2013. Like most days, I woke early and I found my way to the kitchen. The sun was rising in the east. I started a small pot of oatmeal on the stove and began to unload the dishwasher, pausing to admire the golden beams of sunlight which streamed through the Ponderosa pine trees of Black Forest.
We had out of town guests visiting and there was laundry to do and a busy day full of activities to plan. As I started to head into chores, I felt a pause in my spirit. Somehow, it seemed as though God was speaking to me to stop a moment and enjoy THIS sunrise.
I’m not always obedient to what I tend to think are prompts of the Holy Spirit but pausing to enjoy a sunrise, moonbeams, or gentle breezes are easy for me. These are all the things I loved most about living in a forest. Soft breezes brought pine smells to envelop me, whispering mysterious secrets along the way. In the evening trees interrupted the moonbeams on their way to shine on me, creating intriguing moon shadows which always brought to mind an old folk song-which the only part I could ever remember was ‘moon shadows’. “Da, da, da, da, moon shadows” I would sing to myself.
But sunrises in the forest are a masterpiece of creation. Morning has broken, like the first morning… (OK-I was born in the 60s and grew up with all these catchy tunes!)
Anyway, this particular morning was brand new, glorious, and filled with promise and hope. We had recently returned from a fun-filled vacation to Disney World with some of our children and our 3 year old granddaughter. Happy memories still brought smiles and giggles, however, this day-as most-was beckoning with all that needed to be accomplished. But, in happy obedience to the stirring within me, I paused to enjoy THIS sunrise. It seemed that I was almost inhaling the warmth and glow of the far off star that our solar system revolves around. Easily coming to mind were the words of Keats’ famous line, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever”.
Standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window, I gazed at the emerging sunrise which opened THIS day. Golden beams with silvery highlights made their way through the pine needles in streams. Usually the sunbeams seem either gold or white, but this one was spectacular with the combination and then came the pinks! I had never noticed pink hues in morning sunbeams before and felt that I had truly witnessed something beautiful and unique. It reminded me of the beautiful rose alpine glow that we often see on the mountains but this was more of a rose hue permeating the air filtering everything with an invisible lens of peacefulness.
Turning the burner to the stove off, and leaving the oatmeal to sit in the pot, I enjoyed every moment of that beautiful sunrise. What a gift! It felt like an honor to be standing there at the window watching this majestic yet serene scene unfold around me. ‘How I love living in the forest!’, I thought to myself. ‘There is no place I’d rather live.’
As the dogs began to stir, I opened the door to let the miniature Australian Shepherd, Tia, outside to eat her breakfast, and walked contemplatively over to the old fashioned hand pump to fill the water bowls. As I walked the 25 feet or so to the spigot, I noticed that the grass was very dry. Not the gray-green color-dry of Colorado grasses when they need to be refreshed by rain or sprinklers, but a yellowed curled and crunchy dry that was so intense it seemed that the grass beneath my feet crunched and disintegrated into nothingness beneath my Mickey Mouse flip-flops.
It actually occurred to me on that short walk to get water for the dogs, that the only time I ever remembered it being this dry in the forest over the 27 years we had lived in the little log-sided cabin on Brentwood Drive, was the summer before-when the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire consumed 340 homes on the west-side of Colorado Springs.
We have friends who lost their home in that fire in 2012, so we were keenly aware of fire danger. After all, we did live in a forest, in a semi-arid climate. It was a very dry hot day. I wondered if my husband had packed his computer backups in the trunk of his car as he was in the habit of doing when the fire danger was particularly elevated.
After filling up the dogs water dishes, I headed back into the house to continue planning for the day. Laundry was at the top of the mental list-not because of any special need but just because it was one of those chores which never seemed to end. Folding the load in the dryer and starting the fresh load in the washer early would keep the house from getting too hot in the middle of the day. As I made my way through the rooms of our home accomplishing the little chores that caught my attention, I received a phone call from a dear friend. She had been admitted to the hospital and the doctors were running a lot of tests but they thought she may have had a stroke, could I please pray? Of course I could pray. We had prayed for each other many times over the past 30 years. Sometimes in person but many times over the phone, just like this day.
After hanging up the phone I began to think about visiting my friend in the hospital. She hadn’t sounded over worried, maybe a little out of it but she had been able to make the call. She might appreciate me visiting and I would certainly like to see her for myself, so I called my daughter who lives in town and asked if there was any way she could make it out to the forest to babysit while I made a quick run to the hospital. She said she could come as soon as she got off work and would be out at our place by 1pm. No problem she assured me, she was planning to come out to see the relatives anyway.

Last family gathering at Whispering Pines

Last family gathering at Whispering Pines

Arriving just before 1pm the first thing Diana asked me was, “Is there a fire somewhere? I didn’t see any smoke on the way out, but I can smell smoke.” Diana has keen senses so I told her that although I hadn’t heard of a fire, and couldn’t check on the computer since it was in process of receiving some updates. I assured her that I would look as soon as possible once I drove out of the trees and would let her know if I saw anything.
Gathering up keys, purse and phone, I headed out the door hoping that a quick trip to the hospital would reassure me of my friend’s condition. Heading south on Black Forest Road, just as I turned west on to Woodmen Road, I remembered to look north to the forest in search of evidence of any fire.
And there it was. It was just a thin stream of smoke which looked as though it might be a garbage burn, rising up from the west side of the forest. Not looking very menacing but knowing the conditions were ripe for a forest fire it was a bit unsettling.
Calling Diana on the cell phone, I told her that she was right. There did appear to be a small fire which looked to me to be near HWY 83 and Shoup-about 5 miles west of our home. I told her I would keep an eye on it and let her know if it looked like it was growing, but that she should keep a home phone hand set nearby in case there was a reverse 911 call to evacuate and reminded her of all that we had planned if we ever actually needed to evacuate. “Just like we rehearsed last summer,” I said to her.
In the 5 or so minutes it took me to arrive at the King Soopers grocery near Woodmen and Rangewood I couldn’t really see any discernible change in the size of the smoke pillar rising above the trees and dissipating into the sky, so I continued into the store and purchased flowers to take to my friend. Exiting the building in short order, not particularly anxious about the fire-but realizing that there was still plenty that needed to be accomplished that day-I climbed in the car. As I pulled out from around the building I looked toward the north again and was amazed to see that in the less than 10 minutes I had been in the store, the smoke from the fire had grown dramatically from the thin lazy look of an overgrown campfire to a real menacing inferno.
Calling Diana again, I informed her that the fire was growing fast and to have the children prepare to evacuate. I reminded her to collect the important papers folder from the filing cabinet in the basement with everyone’s passports, social security numbers, and birth certificates.
My in-laws lived next door and the out-of-town relatives were visiting between the two houses so I told her to let everyone know that I thought it was a good idea to prepare to evacuate.
Sitting at the intersection at Woodmen and Rangewood I wondered if I should head back to the forest myself. Torn between taking the flowers to my friend and heading back to the forest, when the light turned green I made the split second decision to head toward the hospital rather than home. Diana was 25 years old, I rationalized to myself. We’ve rehearsed this scenario and she knows what to do.

But in the 10 minutes it took to arrive at the hospital from the grocery store I had already begun receiving phone calls from frantic friends. “Did I know there was a fire in the forest?” they all asked. “Did we need a place to evacuate to?”
Rushing into the hospital I was a bit relieved to find my friend sleeping peacefully. I left her flowers on the bedside tray and returned to the car.

View from the corner of Burgess Road and Black Forest Road intersection on 6/11/13 at about 2:30pm

View from the corner of Burgess Road and Black Forest Road intersection on 6/11/13 at about 2:30pm

As I headed north on Black Forest Road, I was able to snap a photo (at the stop light where Black Forest Road intersects with Burgess Road) of the smoke from the fire as it headed east-toward Brentwood Drive.

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Photo by Yupin Lee

On Saturday, September 14th, CAbi (Carol Anderson by invitation), presented a FREE clothes event at Black Forest Baptist Church for the 488 families in Black Forest who lost their homes in the fire which started on June 11th this past summer.

From 10am-1pm women sizes 0-16 were invited to come and select 5 pieces of designer clothing absolutely free. Attendees were encouraged to return shortly before 1pm if they wanted more items as the initial number was set to ensure that everyone could get something as the event planners had no way of knowing ahead of time how many would show up to take advantage of the offer.

Independent CAbi Consultant, Ginger Angone, (who has been affiliated with CAbi for the past three years) was part of a similar event last year for the Waldo Canyon fire victims. “I knew after the Waldo Canyon giveaway that I wanted to do whatever I could to be part of The Heart of CAbi experience,” said Angone. “When we heard about the Black Forest fire, several CAbi consultants across the Front Range applied right away to the foundation and were thrilled to hear that CAbi wanted to assist this year’s fire victims, too.”

Over fifty women arrived at Black Forest Baptist Church and selected over 800 pieces of brand new designer clothing items including t-shirts, jeans, dress pants, skirts, blouses, blazers, jackets, and winter coats.

When asked to share a special memory from the day, Angone replied, “One lady came up to the table in tears saying, ‘You have no idea how difficult this is…’. I took her by the hand and selected several very flattering items for her and she left wearing one of her new outfits and a brand new smile on her face.”

Designs by Carol Anderson debuted in Nordstrom’s department stores before the home party sales concept evolved. Anderson appreciates the creative freedom the new sale model provides for her line. Although there is a CAbi brick and mortar store at the Castle Rock Outlet Shops, most CAbi clothes are sold via in-home personal shopping events presented by consultants. Hostesses invite their friends to an intimate trunk show where women can try on items, get their friends’ feedback, and have fun together. “Really our society today is missing the joy of shopping with our friends,” says Angone. “CAbi helps provide that experience.”

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Black Forest resident with CAbi Consultant, Yupin Lee

Jennifer Wyatt, 41, who lost her home on Trappers Pass Trail, had never heard of CAbi before. “I really liked the quality of the clothes,” she said. “The styles were very nice, very classic, but more than that, I really appreciated how kind and helpful all the women at CAbi were. I felt genuinely cared for and am very thankful for their generosity.”

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Lisa Forbus in new CAbi Clothes Photo by EmmaRose Forbus

 

“My mom was crying in the car on the way,” said 9 year old, Lillian Forbus, who attended the event with her mother. “We met a lady there and she told us she was crying on the way too. I thought it was great seeing everybody getting new clothes and helping each other.”

Her mother, Lisa Forbus, whose home on Holmes Road is considered a total loss said, “This event was a very special part of our healing. I was able to see people in various stages of their grieving receive from other caring women. Some of our friends are just now able to accept new things and are facing the fact that we really have lost everything. It is such a huge course of action to replace needed items, but this event was not just about replenishing practical needs, but also about allowing us and our neighbors to receive a beautiful wardrobe. I felt incredibly valued and loved! I saw friends from size two to fourteen trying on items and they all looked great.”

“CAbi volunteers exuded care and concern and even love for each one of us,” said Susan Carlton whose home of nineteen years perished in the fire. “I was so very blessed and humbled. Never will I forget the practical needs that were met that day. I believe everyone who came left feeling like a new woman!”

If you are interested in donating to The Heart of Cabi Foundation or hosting a CAbi Fun, Friends, Fashion Trunk Show in-home trunk show in the Front Range area, call any independent consultant or contact CAbi at: www.cabionline.com

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Photo by: Yupin Lee

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Photo by: Yupin Lee

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Photo by: Yupin Lee

Lorrig House adjusted 2011

Yes, it was a perfect place. Beautifully situated at the top of a hill that led down to a ravine which attracted all kinds of wildlife. The trees really did whisper constantly in the breezes and told endless stories of the things they had seen in days gone by. The smell of the pines refreshed the soul and brought peace to endless cycles of life.

But, that house did have issues. The first of which we discovered was grey-water areas. Being city folk, we had no idea what that was but when some friends came to visit and pointed out that little flaw we knew that home improvements were in our near future. For the uninitiated, a grey water area is where waste water (except sewage) drains right out of the house, down the yard and eventually into the little stream in the ravine. We knew we had a septic system but we just hadn’t realized that the only thing that went into it was the waste from the commode. So I quit washing diapers (one of our strategies for being able to afford the mortgage) and returned to diaper service.

While we were saving and planning for the new septic system we discovered another little flaw. The pipes froze in the winter. Of course that first winter we thought, ‘No problem! This little issue will be fixed when we enclose the plumbing with the new septic system.” Hahaha! In spite of every action we took over the next nearly three decades, (replacing pipes, opening cabinet doors, applying heat tape, new construction, etc…) those pipes froze at least once each winter we lived there. Actually, we had kind of resigned ourselves to this being just one of costs we had to pay-like a hidden fee at a resort-to live there. But it seemed to be a small charge in exchange for the joy of waking up to sunlight streaming through the trees and the peaceful nights where moon shadows cast their dreamy images across the earth.

Of course we thought our new septic system would take care of several issues with the little cabin but we were disappointed that our first upgrade had to be something so invisible. I’d been secretly hoping that we could replace the 1960’s era shag carpet that went throughout the house. My husband thought the carpet was cool (in a retro-kind of way) and I have to admit – it was no ordinary carpet.

Long-two and a half to three inch-strands of the most indestructible fiber on the planet in varying shades of green and blue. The aqua-marine kind of blue that a girl who grew up in the Caribbean recognizes right away as being a perfect color for the ocean but insane in a log cabin in the forest. Color wasn’t its only issue. The pile was so long that the vacuum cleaner needed to be tilted at a bit of an angle so that the strands didn’t wrap around the roller and bring the whole process to a whining stop that threatened to melt the rubber belts in the machine. That carpet was so deep that whole pockets full of change could literally disappear into its vast abyss. A metal detector might have useful in those days for retrieving lost valuables. It took us quite sometime to discover the treasure hidden under the carpet, but back to the septic system…

Wanting to be responsible members of society, and diligent homeowners, we decided to make that our first priority. Here is where we discovered that besides the house having issues the land had problems as well.

On the surface it looked to be what we always thought it was, a little more than one acre of the most perfect terrain in the country. Lovely sloping hill at the bottom of which sat an enticing little seat where someone in ages past had placed a board between two trees as a resting place and the trees had obligingly grew around it to securely welcome guests. Ponderosa pines grew up from the ravine to the top of the hill and broke into a lovely meadow that attracted deer in the early years and provided a perfect play area for children. At each entrance to the home from the road someone full of foresight had planted lilacs which had grown to nearly the size of small trees where they flourished and bloomed as fragrant guardians.

But at the El Paso County Regional Building office you would not believe what a troublesome lot we owned! Actually, it was there where we first learned that we didn’t own just one lot, but rather six smaller lots which joined together. And there were county roads at the west and east ends of our property which we never saw nor were maintained, but since they were on the paper at the planning department they caused us quite a bit of additional trouble and expense.

Now our new septic system required more than just installation. We also needed to transform those six lots into one, by vacating internal lot lines. It was totally outside of reason (and code) that a septic system be put on one lot while the house is located on another.

Although we pointed out that since properties in the Black Forest were no longer able to be subdivided into plots less than 5 acres there was never going to be a problem with someone selling the house and septic system separately, we encountered that type of silence and stare that only a seasoned bureaucrat can give. That one that lets you know they really aren’t interested in details or facts and seems to indicate that its really in your best interest sign on the line and hand over the check. So, fees and permits paid, internal lot lines vacated, we looked forward to the new septic system.

It was funny how knowing that the swing set was sitting in the (non-existent) road, didn’t really change the way everything looked from the outside but it kind of set the stage for things we never dreamed of in the future.

Lorrig house LR

Nearly three months ago on June 11, 2013, our home was consumed by a forest fire that ravaged our serene neighborhood of 27 years. This blog was named after that special place we called ‘Whispering Pines’. One and half acres of heaven on earth with a cozy little red log-sided home which had it’s origins as someone’s summer vacation cabin in the 1940’s. Here, in a tribute to the home we loved, I’ll take a few blog posts to say goodbye.

Everyone who lived there over the past seventy years built on their own addition (including us), and somewhere along the line a little summer getaway place became the year-round residence that eventually became our home.

Our realtor laughed at our loan closing saying, “I knew as soon as I saw your face as we drove up the driveway that you would buy this house!”

It seemed to me that it wasn’t actually until I walked into the kitchen and saw the fossils in the beautiful flagstone floors that I knew I wanted to live in that house-but who am I to second guess a professional’s opinion?

True, there were some major drawbacks. Like one bathroom. Of course our house in town had just one bathroom and we had gotten along just fine, but we’d grown from just the two of us in that house to four of us and a vision of an even larger family hovering in our minds. The baby was just six months old at the time so the need for the extra bathroom seemed a little remote. And there was the fact that it was listed as a two bedroom home. Our house in town had three and as our family was expanding it didn’t seem wise to backtrack…

But, I’m a creative thinker. Just because the Multiple Listing Service called that cabin a two bedroom, I thought it had potential…for four! The dressing room off the master bedroom seemed like a perfect nursery to me and the large upstairs room actually had a door between the chimney and the closets which handily converted it (in my mind anyway) to two separate rooms. The one bathroom was a little bit of a stretch to overlook but-if the pioneers had made it with outhouses and chamberpots-we could probably survive.

So we purchased the little cabin in the big woods and settled in to make it our home.

The pine paneling throughout the kitchen and dining areas proved to be the perfect wall treatment for growing numbers of children and we loved the peacefulness of forest living right from the start. My husband marveled at how the pressures of work seemed to lift the moment he turned onto the dirt road and the children and I spent countless hours on the long back porch, at the swing set and sandbox or just walking down the street. That first summer, our three year old son, brought me a little fistful of wildflowers he had plucked from the meadow and it seemed to me that we had discovered our very own Shangri-La.

One of the greatest attractions of living in Colorado, is the beautiful mountain environment. We had looked at more mountainous areas on the west side of town, up in Green Mountain Falls and Woodland Park. Since my husband had a tech job in the city (and the 1980’s were a little bit before telecommuting became popular) we felt that Black Forest provided all the best aspects of mountain living without the drive up ‘the pass’ and with bonus of the majestic view of the Front Range each time we ventured out of our little cocooned life in the trees.

Yes, it was the perfect place.

Coppelia 2013 posterCzardas Dancers

My daughter and her friends doing what they love!

It is a joy to observe young people dedicated to something that they love. Be it a cause, a sport, an art, a conviction… whatever. To see them reach out and invest their time, energy and resources to something larger than themselves gives one hope for future generations. So, as parents, we do what we can to support their dreams.

Currently, my 12 year old, loves to dance! She has been taking dance classes since she was 3 years old and my father-in-law has often joked that someone should really teach her how to walk. She turns, leaps, skips and simply dances wherever she goes. Why walk when you can have so much more fun along the way?

Anyway, her studio, Ballet Society of Colorado Springs, and the youth company that she is part of, Colorado Youth Ballet, are preparing to present the classic comic ballet, Coppelia in just a couple of weeks.

Like other performances from these groups, this will be a fantastically entertaining production. See article here. It is amazing to see how much dedicated time and effort the dancers are putting in to their art to make sure this will be a lovely performance.

And just as dedicated are the parents. Mothers and fathers have been creating costumes and sets, fine tuning props and planning for the move of it all from the studio to the theatre and back again. No small task, I assure you. But two weeks out from the performance at the first full run-through, you can see the joy on everyone’s faces as they begin to see how their performance is coming all together!

Hillary Clinton 1-23-2013 Benghazi hearing

“What difference, at this point, does it make?” asks Secretary of State Clinton when questioned as to why our administration lied about the terrorist attack at the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

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On January 23, 2013 Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, appeared before the Senate and House investigative committees to present her testimony on the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which claimed the lives of US Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, the ambassador’s assistant, Sean Smith, and two former US Navy Seals, Tyron Woods and Glen Doherty, who went in to defend the consulate while it was under attack.

In her first appearance before congress addressing the situation in Benghazi, Clinton displayed a wide variety of emotions but gave no new information as to why the administration of the United States of America chose not to send in available military aid in an attempt to rescue Americans under attack in Benghazi. Clinton further appeared to be confused as to why anyone should be concerned if the administration lied to the American people about the nature of the attack by insisting that it was a YouTube video censorship protest gone awry. Nearly two weeks after the attack the administration finally admitted that it was a pre-planned terrorist attack linked to Al Qaida affiliates and not a spontaneous protest as they had initially claimed.

Clinton’s testimony before congress was delayed for over four months while she recovered from health issues ranging from the flu, to a concussion, to concern over blood clots in her brain. She did exhibit a wide range of symptoms which could indicate brain injury, including volatile emotions and irrational thinking.

While reigning Democrats each used their five minutes of investigative question and answer time to give a public display of their adoration of Clinton (which she received with smiles and generous nods) and to express their hopes that she will run in the presidential election of 2016, Republicans seemed to understand the point of the hearings. They were eager to discover what happened in Benghazi, occasionally adding to Clinton’s headaches with serious questions pertaining to security issues there.

In response to a question begging to understand why the State Department didn’t use Marines at their disposal to protect the consulate, Clinton responded with, “The Marines….most of them are very young.” It appeared to be an insinuation that she didn’t think U.S. Marines were as capable of defending our consulate as the hired Libyan nationals. She also neglected to address the pertinent issue that most of the Libyan nationals contracted by the State Department for security purposes at the consulate appeared to have either been in league with the terrorists or too afraid to resist the attack as they opened the gates and fled.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R) of South Carolina admonished her for saying she was ‘clear eyed’ about the situation in Benghazi with the retort, “Madame Secretary, you let the consulate become a death trap.”

The most dramatic moments of the testimony came when Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R) questioned her concerning why it took so long for the administration to admit that it was a terrorist attack. Clinton raised her voice and gestured dramatically, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

In light of the fact that Clinton may indeed be suffering brain damage from which she may never recover, here are some points addressing why it does make a difference:

  • Four Americans were killed in a terrorist attack, which the Libyan President is on record as having said he forewarned the United States of America about days before 9/11.
  • Our administration is responsible for security lapses at the consulate.
  • Appropriate action was not taken to protect our Ambassador and citizens.
  • To have not taken heed of the warning about an impending attack, or sent available military aid to assist our citizens under attack, is a treasonous violation of this administration’s sworn oaths to protect Americans.
  • Lying about it after the fact for political gain is shameful and cowardly.

Clinton has repeatedly stated that she takes ‘full responsibility’ for what happened in Benghazi, but her testimony on Wednesday was more of a ‘the buck stops somewhere around here’ proclamation while she attempted to side step each serious inquiry into the topic at hand.

For information on 9/11/2012 terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya visit: http://www.facebook.com/DemandingAnswersForTheBenghaziEmbassyAttack

To God be the Glory 2012 23

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Disney Magic at Port

In September we embarked on a tremendously enjoyable 7-night RT vacation aboard the Disney Magic for a Western Caribbean cruise out of Galveston which included stops at ports in Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Cozumel. This was our first Disney cruise and hopefully not the last!
Since we have cruised before (can’t remember if this was our 6th or 7th cruise), we will compare the Disney cruise experience with those of Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines. We’ve never met a cruise we didn’t like, so there won’t be much in the way of complaints-just comparisons.
We are actually starting to think that cruising may be the best possible vacation option. It is so convenient to arrive at the port and let someone else take it from there! Here is how we rated the Disney Magic (on a 5 star scale):

Hospitality *****
Cabin *****
Dining ****
Entertainment *****
Ports and Excursions ****
On board amenities *****

Hospitality-Disney does indeed know how to make YOU feel welcome! Starting with the check-out counter as we handed the smiling lady our passports, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience,” she says. She steps away from the counter briefly and returns with someone presumably up the chain of command who with a few strokes to the keyboard smiles and reveals, “We are so sorry for your delay but your passport has been flagged to receive a free upgrade to an ocean view cabin adjoining your daughter and son-in-law.” PLEASE, inconvenience me all day! And later when somehow our $50 per cabin onboard credit had not been applied to our Key to the World card (which is your cabin key and also used for all on board purchases), “We apologize for this inconvenience! Please accept $75 per cabin as our gift to you.” Yes, yes, it is quite alright. No problem at all…

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But beyond the amazing Disney customer service is the genuine, “We are so happy you have joined us!” attitude which emanates from each crew member you encounter. Are they all putting on an act? Perhaps, (they are called Cast Members for a reason I’m sure) but they are very convincing. Towel animals and chocolates on the bed sent me to sleep each night with a smile on my face…
Although cruise lines all generally excel in the hospitality department Disney is a step above and knows how to bring the ‘happiest place on earth’ feeling with them even on the open sea.

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Cabin-We give the Magic another 5 stars for cabin design and efficiency. It is amazing how they take those tiny spaces and transform them into convenient and livable areas! There were 4 of us in the cabin and the children had the ‘living area’ with the couch and TV. The couch converted into a bed and a top bunk unfolded from the wall magically each night thanks to our cabin steward. A curtain was available to allow for some privacy. A great feature is the separate toilet and shower rooms! Really we were all so comfortable that we thought we could live that way forever. This was the best cabin layout we have experienced on all the cruise ships we have sailed on.

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Dining-although we are only bestowing 4 stars on the Magic for dining it should be known that I am allergic to wheat, rice, barley, rye and sesame seeds. AND I have an aversion to most fish and meats. So…do I really even know what I’m talking about here? First, here is what I really enjoyed about dining on the Magic. Fresh fruit and salad! Even outside the dining room I could get food that I could eat. It was also great to rotate between the 3 different dining rooms rather than being assigned to one dining room for the entire trip. But even the children agreed that while the fare was children friendly, there did not appear to be the same variety that we have enjoyed on other cruise lines. However, when our waiter discovered that I loved (and could eat!) the gluten free butternut squash soup, there was a bowl of it at my place for every dinner after that whether it was on the menu or not! We all agreed that Royal Caribbean has impressed us the most with their culinary prowess but certainly whichever line you cruise with, you are likely to leave feeling as though you could not have eaten that well anywhere else for the price you paid for the cruise.

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Entertainment-5 stars + is how we would rate the onboard entertainment! Mostly on cruise ships I avoid the Las Vegas style entertainment because 1) I like to go to bed early and 2) I’m a mother of 3 girls who like to dance and I’m always hoping that they will NOT end up as dancers on a cruise ship! OK, I know I’m an old fogey but I really don’t want to see anyone else’s daughter dressed up and dancing that way either. But on the Disney Magic the entertainment is family friendly and costumes are more modest and the choreography is more along the High School Musical standard and a lot less like Vegas Showgirls. Even so, seating for shows was filled and the audience ranged from 2 years old to who knows how old and standing ovations were regular. Besides the live entertainment, cinemas were filled with Disney favorites old and new and included 3D technology. There is no lack of quality entertainment on board the Disney Magic.

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Ports and Excursions-4 stars for the ports and excursions we stopped at, means that while we had a fun time we weren’t over-wowed with our experiences. We enjoyed our stops in Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Cozumel, but all three ports seemed to still be recovering from devastating hurricanes a few years back and were not totally up to snuff. Costa Maya has a Dolphin Discovery program right at the port were we docked and Cozumel has a fantastic Dolphin Discovery facility which we enjoyed several years back as well. In Grand Cayman we took a fun Island Tour which included at stop at the Turtle Farm and ended with an hour or so at the beach where we were reminded that even on the sandy beaches of the Caribbean nothing is free. Hammocks, beach chairs etc on the public beach… were all for rent. This is a good reason to pay to go to a private beach where you can enjoy all the amenities without reserve.

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Onboard Amenities-receive a full 5 stars on the Magic. The gym/spa was clean and busy but available. Exercise equipment was in good working order and plenty of help was on hand for support and many classes and personal trainers were available as well. I took advantage of our cabin credit and made an appointment for a massage in the spa. After my first hour of the treadmill I managed to get a blister on my foot on the first full day at sea. Luckily I discovered the walking/jogging track on deck 4 where I could walk each day in my sandals to avoid irritating it further. This track is open air (besides where it bends around the fore and aft of the ship) and gives a great view of the ocean but avoids much of the wind. I found it to be the perfect spot for watching sunrises and sunsets. Shopping was also pleasant onboard and items were what one would expect in Disney quality and price. Our 16 year old loved hanging out with the ‘Vibe’ group and our 11 year old preferred to just hang out with mom and dad.

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While we all agreed that the cruise on the Disney Magic was probably the best cruise ever, we did think that perhaps the reason for that was traveling with us (in our adjoining cabin)-our granddaughter who celebrated her second birthday on board. The joy on her face as she met and greeted her new friends on the ship was truly a priceless experience. Mickey and the Gang where all there and as far as she could tell they had all come to meet her. Special memories were had by all and we give all thumbs up for taking your family on a Disney cruise!

Tammy from Kingdom Konsultants was very helpful with making arrangements for this trip and we highly recommend her services.