A Riviera Maya Paradise

A funny thing happened on my shuttle ride from the Cancun Airport to my resort for the last two nights: Secrets Maroma on the Riviera Maya. I was bit by the Mexico Bug! I have been in the travel business for my entire career which spans about 24 years. In all that time, I have traveled to places that include China, Hong Kong (while it was still under British rule), Macau and throughout Europe & Scandinavia including British Isles (all of them – including most in the Caribbean), France, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Greenland & Iceland. I admit I have avoided Mexico. Well, I shouldn’t say I have never been to Mexico.. since I did walk over from San Diego to Tijuana when I was in college. But mostly I have picked other places over Mexico. Why, you ask? Just not my thing; not a big sun and beach fan. But maybe this tide of mine is turning.

The resorts I have seen these last two days during my Destination Wedding Training rival and beat the Jamaican ones- by a very long shot. The drive on my day of arrival in Cancun as we headed for Maroma was truly pleasant. On that ride two days ago, I didn’t pass multiple burnt out cars, homes that were a blight on the landscape, ematiated dogs scrounging for scraps, trash strewn winding roads. There was none of those remnants of memory from my trip to Jamaica this past September. Mind you there were some buildings along the way here that had evidence of disrepair, but they weren’t complete hovels. My heart of compassion went out to the Jamaican citizens, living in those conditions can’t be easy. But I think of relatives and even my mother at that, who although raised in poverty during the war, always had a sense of pride for her personal space. And, here in Mexico, at least so far, I see more evidence of that dignity than I did in Jamaica. But then, as they say, some love Jamaica and some hate Jamaica. There are generally very few people in between. For a vacation spot, defintely Mayan Riviera wins over Jamaica for me. And, as a selling agent, this will be my recommendation to clients seeking to escape the winter doldrums. A little piece of Mexico memory in the midst of the 30 to 40 below freezing temperatures which can be part of our season in Minnesota, will go far for many. Time to head out now- hitting five properties today. Wedding training and culinary samplings.. not a bad gig.

NaNoWriMo 2015 – Cross Over!

On this day, I write from my balcony at Secrets Maroma on the Riviera Maya of Mexico. It’s a work trip that includes visits to 16 resorts and destination training at three select resorts. In my down time, I catch golden moments when I can sit down with a coffee made in my room (nespresso, anyone?) and write!

 I finished NaNoWriMo 2015 with 51650 words. And in that run to the finish, the result is: I have finished a first draft, and it is truly a draft, of my first novel… my first official novel. Just writing that fills me with a wave of inspiration. Allowing my fingers to venture out into the world of my true calling means that what I just did is more than just write a first draft. I crossed the line from dreamer to doer. And this cross-over into novel writing brings me to a place of peace. A peace that I have been questing after for years, which in big part I find within my faith in God. But now, I find that has now moved me into my passion. And in many ways, I feel this is my calling. What God intended all along. He is bringing me into my passion. Others may balk at this expression and throw jabs in an effort to squelch any gratitude that I feel is owed to the Great Almighty. But I know better. Because it is peace I have prayed for and he has nudged me, ever so gently, into the path that otherwise would not be there- or better still, for which my eyes may have been blinded. He has offered some doors and windows for me to seriously consider. He has placed opportunities in my path and He has urged me to take hold of a future He has for me. And now, having barely pushed that window open, for the first time, I can actually see the view unobstructed. No more serious barriers, no more blockage. Thank you God… for never leaving me, nor forsaking me. And thank you for the caws and the whistles I am hearing above my head coming from the gracklings and the crows that have decided that this paradise place I occupy at this moment, is their paradise as well.
My novel started one way then it took an interesting turn. It started as romance and then ended up being more in line with historical fiction. The premise is a love story set in Norway during World War II… it starts with the lead up to the Nazi occupation and lasts through and beyond it. The time line spans 1938 to around 1948. The characters all come from my imagination, you know- any resemblance to real persons is merely a coincidence. The love story is dosed in reality rather than lathered in romance. Doubts, disappointment and events of real life alter my heroin’s trajectory from home and family life to an arena of murder, espionage, and involvement in efforts of a group focused primarily on sabotage of the Reich’s efforts. This leads to deception within families, and a journey for Nina from farm girl to an underground courier for a movement that would help thwart Quisling’s reach.
It’s amazing to me how developed the piece already is… even as I look at this early draft. There is so much to edit and rewrite but this NaNoWriMo 2015 contest helped me to get words on a page, to have a starting point. I have great source in the country of Norway who was old enough to witness it all first hand. Ration cards, having to wear mandatory dog tags for identity, curfews, air raids and receiving donation boxes from Sweden while Sweden was sourcing the Nazi’s iron ore from Kiruna. So many details that the average person is unaware of – there has been so little focus on the Scandinvian countries realities during the war, both the neutral countries like Sweden, and the occupied ones like Norway and Denmark. My mother’s best friend is married to a man in Norway whose mother hid people, and had the forbidden radio that now sits in a museum in Oslo.  He offers lectures and material for cultural museums in Norway who are seeking to fill out their exhibits in preparation for the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Norway as a result of the victory over the Third Reich. All of this provides fodder for a marvelous passion. Thank you God for helping me tell their stories and it is my hope that I honor the experiences of the many who lived through occupation. While Norway faired so much better than many countries which had harsh and barbaric circumstances; still, Norway suffered in their own way. So I now pray for God’s help in allowing me to write this different layer of the war experience.

And the writing clips along…

I’ve been so busy dedicating myself to the task of the NaNoWriMo November Challenge, that I have neglected writing here, on WordPress.   I am so caught up in the whirl of the contest that I can hardly stand it.  I am having a blast with this new adventure and while I recognize that this may not be a successful endeavor, somehow it just doesn’t matter.   This is a first attempt at an actual story, and that in and of itself is an amazing feat for me.

I have a couple of teaser paragraphs to share today.  This novel began as potentially a historical piece of fiction – creative non-fiction if you will.  Here is my synopsis:
Historical fiction with a backdrop in Norway during the years leading up to and through WWII; people’s lives are affected by forces outside the country and within their own families which pull and sway them in varying directions. Relationships are tested between parent and child, best friends and lovers. Consequences result and families are divided. The novel explores various facets of life in Norway during the war, the occupation, victims who fear the outcome, fighters who take up the cause, individuals who turn to religion to cope, instigators who float from simple politics to becoming traitors. Relationships and war. A messy business.

Then somehow- I found myself writing a little entry piece that looked like this:
The unforgiving wind whipped her cheeks and slashed her arms as she lay bare skinned under the chill of a February sky.  Her dark mocha curls had long lost their spring since soaked from the waves lapping up onto her on the shore.  It could still be quite a while until someone happened upon her in this isolated bay in the middle of winter.  Perhaps a hardcore fisherman who ignores the harshness of the season.  This abandonment had been well planned to give plenty of time for the elements to do their thing.  There would be little left of her by the time the authorities became involved.  

Ok that was sombre… and, then a description of an encounter with strong tinges of romance:

Vidar played in the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra that had been scheduled to accompany the school choir at the yearly spring concert.  Nina met him for the first time for her solo performance practice session the evening before the concert.   Nina had been practicing for months with her own choir but this was the first time she would actually experience accompaniment by a professional violinist.  Vidar was six years her senior, towered above her with his viking features of thick and wavy flaxen hair and green eyes.  She, with her azure blue eyes and ivory skin offset by her silky dark chocolate waves that cascaded down past her shoulders.  She was breathtaking to him.  He found himself completely and utterly in love with her at first sight and sound.  Her soft and pure soprano voice mesmerized anyone in ear shot, and when she sung the first stanza of “Solveig’s Song by Edvard Grieg” he was completely captured.  When her voice rose up into the higher octaves, the entire orchestra which was paused for the solo performance as well as anyone that might have been busy in the wings of the stage preparing for concert night, came to a complete stop.  Afterwards, he could think of nothing else but her until the next day when they met once again for the actual concert performance.  That night, when she performed, he was transfixed by her beauty.  He had never seen any woman as delicate and pure; she wore a simple white strapless gown and a fresh garland of white daisies mixed with baby’s breath which adorned her crown.  Soft tendrils of wavy brown hair caressed her tiny shoulders.  Her blue eyes sparkled as she seemed on top of the world.  You could sense that she truly in her element, where she was meant to be – on this stage, in front of this audience and with him by her side.  Her gentle demeanor was almost timid and she exuded humility in her talents.  She was not haughty but blessed with this voice that reached into the soul and brought peace and joy all at the same time. This physical and musical beauty created such a passion within him that he found himself playing the violin as if the violin itself was Nina cradled in his arms.   It was a challenge for him since she was under age.   She only had four months left until her eighteenth birthday.  They had only a few exchanges before and after the concert, but he sensed that the attraction was mutual.  As the concert had come to an end, he then committed to writing to her regularly in order to nurture this flame that he knew existed between them both and which he had never experienced before.  He felt this mutual attraction was still very immature and knew he would have his work cut out for him since she lived down south of Stavanger and she was busy with her school work as well as the farm chores.   Somehow, he would do everything in his power to make a lifetime commitment to this amazing young woman- a reality.
So what is this?   Where am I headed?   I have no idea – well, ok- I sort of have an idea, a general game plan but most of it is unfolding before my eyes and it is so much fun!!    Maybe one day, this deep urge to write and write and writes will produce something worthwhile.   For now, I am not worrying myself too much about form or style or content.  I am not concerned that I am doing this right or wrong.  Rather, I am just getting to know a few people on the page – and so far, these people are interesting to me and fun to be around.


On one of the last trips that Nina planned to Russia, she had wanted her husband Vidar to come along, but he didn’t want to. He claimed the trips were boring and a waste of time. And besides, someone needed to stay home and take care of Stian. So, she goes to Russia without him and returns having fallen utterly in love with Christian, a much younger man. She begins having an affair with him once she is home. She goes on regular Saturday Night dates with this new lover. Out in the open, in front of her husband, she gets ready for these outings.

She takes long and leisurely bubble baths in fragrant lavender salts that permeate the whole apartment. She puts on her finest lingerie and silk hose. She picks out flowing feminine dresses with plunging necklines. She adorns herself with her finest jewels, some that were presents from Vidar.

He hears her in the bedroom as she prepares for these weekly trysts.   From his perch on the vinyl kitchen chair, it sounds like she is dancing and flitting from one task to the other with delight, humming and excited, like a school girl getting ready for the spring dance. Was she like this when we were dating? Where did that fervor evaporate to? And all this time, he sits ramrod on the metal chair with the sticky red vinyl covers, in his short bathrobe that hides a tired and sweat stained undershirt and thread bear pajama bottoms. He sips his vodka at the kitchen table out of a juice glass, his cigarette dangles precariously at the edge of the amber colored crystal ash tray, and he stares out at the lane behind their house through water sprayed windows dripping from the latest afternoon shower; an almost daily occurrence in this Hanseatic City on the west coast of Norway. How did his torrid love affair with Nina evolve into this dreary solitude? When did the spark flicker and die out? They had been crazy for each other and tore through each other with great passion.
This new episode was not meant to be a chapter in his life. But he was just like Papa, leaving things unspoken. What seemed to her to be his indifference was just his inability to express his earnest love for her. He wanted her to love him without the required words. He wanted it to be unconditional, wasn’t it supposed to have been an unconditional love?
She jars him out of his reverie with a soft whisper over her shoulder “Don’t wait up”. She makes a final pass through the kitchen. She slips into the back room where Stian is sleeping, to give him a final goodnight kiss before heading out. She comes back out into the hallway and reaches behind her back into the room to switch off the light. She leans into the door frame for a moment, she hesitates as she gazes at the sweetest thing that life had brought to her on this planet.  A twinge of raw nerves shoot through her… a moments hesitation and a sharp pang of guilt as she considers her next move. She loves this little angel and she doesn’t want to ruin anything about him. And Vidar is such a big part of him. But she needs more than what Vidar can offer. Tonight, she is wearing that red silk number with black flowing brush strokes that look like hazy fields of orchids caressing her curves. This was her special occasion dress, the one Vidar always use to ask her to wear. And as she walks back towards the kitchen and looks down at her husband, their eyes meet and hold this moment, and she sees the glazed film across his vision and she knows what he is thinking. And again, she feels a twist in her bosom and her gut because she knows his thoughts, his torture at seeing her in this dress with those candy apple lips and her raven hair swept up in that chignon. All of this not for his benefit, and she knows that he knows the strategic two bobby pins are fastened where they always are at this point of the night, ready when pulled just right that it will release her flowing hair at the precise right moment when things begin to get steamy. He averts his eyes and they slowly move to the floor and his gaze lands at her feet, and then another pain flows through him when he sees that she is wearing those shoes. The ones he bought for her in Vienna with the delicate ankle cuff that wraps around twice. He had picked these black leather heels for her on his last orchestral trip with the Bergen Philharmonic, before he had lost his place as first chair. Before all meaning had seemed to drain from his life, his passion and his dreams had been flushed away with the latest cutbacks. His eyes gaze at those shoes, a memory of what was and could have been. These precious shoes had been his peace offering for having been gone so long without her this time. Little did he know then that this trip had been his last and would be the backdrop of his downfall in the music world. His stare lingers on those shoes then fades and the moment is gone.
She gathers her jacket and purse and walks to the back door, hesitates for a split second wondering why he can’t just say it, just say it. Open your mouth. Please just say something. Hold me back from where I am about to go, tell me it matters. But he doesn’t and the ticking cuckoo clock that they bought together in Switzerland on one of the earlier musical tours comes to life with a loud and brackish squawk, it erupts seven times marking the evening and then the little man and the little lady dressed in their matching Swiss Mountain costumes come out and do their dance as they slide around their track and the whole disruption of this awkward moment is all so jarring that she simply must flee from this insane surreal world of misshapen reality.   She must run somewhere, anywhere… just to get out of here.  So she quickly walks to the back door and slips out through the back alley without another word, leaving Vidar to his tortured thoughts.
Her feet and now watery limbs make the downhill and winding cobblestoned journey to the local pub a perilous affair as she fights to not lose her balance.  Her lower eye lids well up. She hates herself for this reaction because this was the very thing she had promised herself that she wouldn’t do this time.   This pattern had now become routine each Saturday night, like clockwork.  She had once loved Vidar so very much, and she had a feeling he still loved her… but these last four years had been a solitary life, the most isolated and sad and lonely life she had ever had and not lost on her that this loneliness came with being married. She thought of all the couples spread out throughout the city and indeed, the world. How many were living lives of love and passion and complete bliss? And how many were complete strangers merely sharing quarters baffled by what had happened after the “I dos”? She thought about Christian, the man she was running to now. Was this love or merely a distraction? Was this just a temporary fix to help nurse her wounded ego and bring her back to life? And what of her communist interests?  Were those real, or just excitement in an otherwise very dull existence? Something to make her feel alive again and have a purpose?  Truth be told, she wasn’t sure what she believed in anymore.  She slows her pace, wipes her cheeks with the back of her hand and tries to get a grip before arriving at Skipperstuen on Torget.
Christian will already have been there for at least an hour and he will have a fresh draft of Øl waiting for her. He was basically kind to her, this Christian. But he wasn’t patient when it came to her raw feelings about Vidar. He considered Vidar to be a washed up and worthless old man, even though he had not yet turned 40. As far as he was concerned, Vidar had no gumption, no vitality and he couldn’t understand why she just didn’t leave the fool. Chrisitan felt he was far better equipped in every way to meet her needs both intellectually and physically.  He didn’t have any self doubts where that was concerned and he felt that Nina’s hesitation to leave Vidar was a sort of weakness on her part. But Christian was willing to be patient with her.  He had wanted her since the first time he had laid eyes on her, and he was willing to forgive her short comings…at least for awhile. But he wouldn’t wait too long, he was in too high demand to wait too long. He knew what he could get and how the women longed for him, so if she didn’t snap out of this dreariness soon, he would be gone and on to fresh options. He looked up and saw her duck into the pub and shake her head from the rain drops she had collected on her way through the typically rainy streets of Bergen. She was breathtaking, so he knew that he would wait awhile and he hoped she would come to her senses soon. He would be willing to deal with her six year old, he wasn’t such a bad kid. At least he didn’t whine and moan like some of his nephews and nieces. Nina was an amazing mother, this he saw and he wished he had grown up with as much love as he witnessed her showering on little Stian. Her gentle and soft spoken reassurances and the absence of regular yelling and other agitations were certainly a factor in why Stian was so well behaved and gentle himself. And he also knew that Stian’s temperament came from Nina, he was indeed a blessed little boy. So yes, he could easily deal with Stian in his life… in fact, he might even like having the little guy around a bit more. Who knows what would develop. For now, he waved her over and tapped the bar stool seat fervently, beckoning her to hurry up and join him.
Tonight, he would be filled to the brim with all that he needed… that was all that mattered for now, so he put Vidar and Stian out of his mind and smiled to her widely, encouraging her to shake out of what he knew was the after affects of the emotional exit she had just made from her broken home. And it helped her, and she smiled back at him and she reached for him hungrily and buried herself into his strong shoulder. This was what she longed for, this was what Vidar could not offer and she knew that this is where she belonged now, with Christian. Her guilt dissolved and she embraced her lover and gave him the reassurance he needed that tonight would be for them and that there would not be any ghosts sharing the night with them. Tonight, it would be just them.

A Romantic Beach Escape- Anyone?


Perhaps the best place to start today is with the feeling I have as a single woman participating in a four day workshop in Jamaica at a couples only resort. As a travel consultant, my role is to be knowledgeable about every aspect of travel. I have specialized for quite awhile in travel arrangements to Scandinavia and Europe. Several years ago, I took a path away from mass market travel where I represented every corner of the globe and every possible travel product. During this hiatus, I enjoyed a time away from selling everything from Vegas to Timbuktu, and instead focused my energy primarily on soft adventure and cultural travel to places like the raw appeal of Iceland, the fjords and coast of Norway, the charm of countryside Sweden and Denmark and the cultural richness of Russia. While this still meant I was working in many cases with couples and families, the primary focus has not been on creating a romantic paradise for honeymooners, destination wedding couples and romance driven clients. This past year, I circled back and am once again digging into mainstream cruises, beach vacations to all corners of the earth and my boss has asked me to join the destination wedding team. I had specialized in weddings in the past and have a strong knowledge base and so I rekindle this area of my expertise. I am in Jamaica for a refresher course on a specific collection of properties that focus entirely on a couples vacation experience.

Becoming a specialist in the “Travel for Romance” niche means delving into every aspect of making a couples trip highly memorable and enjoyable. My goal as a dedicated travel specialist has always been to create a vacation that will have clients thinking back fondly to their time together, away from the stress and daily grind. I can’t help think of my own life experiences having lacked any luster in this department. And the truth is I am sure that many couples heading for a romantic get-away likely encounter a reality less glimmering than the glossy brochure pages of an adult-only all inclusive in the Caribbean, with its perfectly bodied models lounging on beaches and taking in that couples massage in little huts with the white flowing sheets wafting in the breeze. The reality is likely a bit less gilded.
My last travel memory with my ex-husband included shouts at me across a crowded gate area in our connecting airport city. His rage at me was embroidered with explitives because I had dialed my cell phone to check on the house and dog sitter since she had not appeared at the house before we headed to the airport. I was nervous that she might have forgotten her arrangement with us for some reason, and we had not been able to reach her by phone prior to our departure. I was merely calling to make absolutely sure that the dogs had not been abandoned by us and that someone was with them by now, and if not I would call my plan B option. The problem was that I had not asked his permission. This phone call was going to cost money and he was trying to figure out a way to avoid the phone call in order to save money. The fact was that we only had so much time before the next flight, and the dogs were our babies… and we had to get down to business and make sure all was ok. Mama was checking on her brood, after all. The good news is we did reach her and all was fine. This miserly behavior on his part followed us throughout the trip. Since I had coffee with my breakfast in the morning, later in the day when I wanted a coffee- he refused me. This sounds minor, but it was this tension over every decision that made the trip dreadful for me. A heaviness hung around my shoulders which made my chest feel heavy, as if I was pressing against a hurricane force wind gust most of the time.  I couldn’t seem to get my footing. Everything about that trip was an effort, there were not any moments of tenderness. Our time in London, the Lakes District and Cornwall were fairly rigid and mechanical, moving from one place to the next to take that next thing in and mark it off our list. During this final trip that led to our last months together before I would finally leave him, I recall having this urge to flee, all the time. I wanted to get away from him and find a quiet spot, somewhere to sit down with a coffee, pull out a journal and write, or read a good book. I wanted privacy.
This longing for my own space where I could breathe and live more fully has been with me ever since I left him more than eleven years ago. I have remained single by choice because the idea of getting entangled in another lie, another hidden monster behind the initial facade of love and tenderness, frightens me. And it is that feeling of being caged by an impossible and ornery person that keeps me single. One day, perhaps, those love songs I hear streaming through the public areas of this couples only paradise might once again apply to me. Maybe I will get caught by the bug again and feel the surge of joy and awe at being part of a world built for two. Still, my memories feel fresh and I lived through two cautionary tales. With my second husband, I left him because he was mean more than he was nice. We tried counseling, which did not work well because he felt that the counselor was stupid. The minute we would leave the office, he would launch into a diatribe on all the reasons this was a complete waste of time. In hindsight, I agree with him on that point because there was no way that counseling was going to work since he did not feel we had an issue- or rather, that he had an issue. The issue was all me. My “love” partner was the kind of person that put a wet blanket on any kind of notion of lavishing the spouse with messages of affection. Mind you I am not high maintenance. I don’t require much. But a little indicator of having any kind of fondness for me would have gone a long way. There were never any efforts made for birthdays, nor for Christmas – not because he would forget, but because no one was going to tell him when to offer up gifts to someone else. No Valentines’ Day special expressions- and back then, I worked in a major department store (still as a travel agent) that would deck itself out each season- to the gills. For Valentines Day one would encounter dangling hearts and bursts of flowers on every floor – weeks before the romantic date, to entice consumers to buy that special treasure for their lover or spouse. Every department had their announcements that this was the place you could find that personal gift which would convey the deepest love and appreciation you carried for your beloved. In the end, with my spouse, the final expression I received on the final Valentine’s Day of our marriage was “Don’t Expect Anything!!! Because, if you expect something from me on this Hallmark driven day- you can expect to be disappointed”. There- in case I was not clear on his intentions. For New Year’s Eve that year, I reached out to a friend of his- asked him to call my husband to go out on the town… a sort of boys night out. My husband was more than delighted at the prospect of having some bar hopping fun with the boys. It did not occur to him that he should want to spend New Year’s with me. So off he went, and I packed my bag to head up to my parents for the night with sumptuous Lobster, Filet Mignon with Bernaise sauce and sautéed mushroom caps and, of course, some bubbly. I took one of our dogs with me, my Skye Terrier whom I had in my life long before the marriage. I wasn’t planning to actually leave him that night permanently, that was not my intention. But after the New Year celebrations and no phone calls from him to wish me well or find out how my evening went (I could have called him of course, but something in me prevented me from calling), I felt an exhaustion overcome me that blanketed me like one of those old dental visit X-Ray blankets they would lay across your chest to protect you. I just couldn’t go back to him. So, I looked at my parents over breakfast, and said: “I can’t go back”- simple. Dad immediately had my back: “Ok sweetheart, you got it”. They were so supportive because they had witnessed so many moments of my spouse’s narcissism over the years, his rudeness to them, his lack of care for me. Dad was only too willing to help make an exit from him a reality. They had been sitting in the wings for a couple of years just waiting for an indicator that I was finally ready.
Ah, so romance and the supportive role I play in making it happen for others? Well, I take the plunge and detach myself from my own reality and offer bursts of joy and excitement for the couple, after all- they are blessed and the fact that they are now taking their own dive into a partnership gives one hope that love can and does exist. So how about that Beachfront Walk-Out with private plunge pool only steps away from Azure Blue Caribbean Waters with a romantic beach dinner by candlelight to get things going? Tomorrow, shall we schedule your private couples massage combined with a soak in the tranquility tub with champagne service and chocolate covered strawberries? In a couple of days, we set you up with a private catamaran dive excursion with your own captain. Sound enticing? Let’s help you celebrate this once in a lifetime opportunity to kick off your lives together as a married couple. Salut!