Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pumpkin Carving – Connecting with your Kids

We have a long standing tradition at Bella Promessa (the Inman house), which goes back to the days when our kids were very young. I was looking for a fun way to illustrate our faith to the kids in a way they could easily understand. When I stumbled across this idea, I latched on to it with great passion. What emerged was a tradition our young adult kids still enjoy to this day, and I suspect they will take this idea with them into their own families in the future.  And all you need is a carving pumpkin or two.

I always take the pumpkin and do the following presentation:
"Okay, kids? What does this pumpkin represent?"

"Our hearts!" they chime in unison.

"And what is in our hearts?"


We go through the process of opening the pumpkin and scraping out the pulp and seeds. "What does all of this yucky stuff represent?"


We then carve a cross into the pumpkin. "What does this represent?"
"Jesus coming into our hearts and cleaning out our sin."

 We now place a candle into the pumpkin and light it. The message is not missed by anyone. Jesus takes our yucky, sin filled hearts, cleans them out, and places His light in our hearts.

And that's it. Nothing more is required. Ceremony complete. Now comes one of my favorite parts: roasting the seeds and snaking on them over the next few days!

So, we also let the kids have one pumpkin each so they can carve whatever they want. Caitie usually does a fun face, while Seth does something scary. This year he creeped us out with a Minecraft carving.

This year we tried cutting the tops of our pumpkins a little differently. This method made cleaning the pumpkin much easier. 

And, the finished product!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Guest Blogger Rachel Muller, Author of Letters from Grace

Good News! I have it on good authority there will be more books coming from Rachel!
Once in a while I find an author who needs more attention. Earlier this week I posted a biography featuring Rachel Muller. Well, after meeting her, I was compelled to learn more about her book and asked her to give us a glimpse of her story. I hope you enjoy this guest blog as much as I did.

 Guest Blogger Rachel Muller, Author of Letters from Grace

Author Rachel Muller
Thirteen years ago, I was an eighteen-year-old girl who was trying to find her place in the world. Fresh out of high school and with no immediate plans to attend college, I landed a job at an established and very sophisticated inn. It was there that my adult life began.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, one co-worker’s request would become the premise to my first book.
Serving breakfast was just one of my many jobs at the inn. I worked closely with two other women who quickly became my friends. They were older than me, and the age gap allowed us to mesh well. It was on a summer morning when my co-worker asked me to write her son who was serving in the US Army. 9/11 was nearly one year old, the call to arms was still fresh, and the uncertainty of service members’ lives was at stake.

I agreed to write to my co-worker’s son on the condition that I was not searching for a relationship. Once she relayed that information to her son, addresses and emails were exchanged. That experience served as a lesson to me—that a simple hand-written note meant the world to someone I didn’t really know. That every day, I took for granted the life around me, with the uncertainty of another tomorrow. Life takes on a whole new meaning.

Eventually, my soldier pen pal and I did get to meet face-to-face. I remember feeling anxious before arrival time. When we met, he was just as his writing depicted. Although no romance came from this experience, I had gained a friend—a friend I truly respected.

Fast forward ten years…
Recalling some of my life’s events, I asked myself, “What if I wrote stories inspired by my life experiences?” “What if a girl became pen pals with an Army soldier, during WWII, and a romance blossomed—based on a series of letters?”

The end result?
I twisted the scenario around in my mind. Once I thought I had a good idea of where I wanted the story to start and end, I began writing. I didn’t own a computer at the time, so I started writing on line paper early in the morning before the sun rose. Within one month, I had penned (literally by hand) 60,000 words to my novel that is now entitled, Letters from Grace. The premise, based on the idea of my own pen pal letters, took shape. After its completion, Letters from Grace went on to claim a Top 28 spot in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write Contest in 2012 and became a semi-finalist in ACFW’s Genesis Contest, 2014. 
For those who are reading, or who will be reading this novel, it is my hope you will find not just a tender love story through love letters but the hope that follows tribulation. Romans 5:1-4 states: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:”
Thank you for joining me today, and I also want to extend my deepest gratitude to Travis Inman for graciously having me on his blog today.

To learn more about Rachel, visit, @Rachel_DMuller on Twitter, on Facebook, and Pinterest.
Or contact Rachel at:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

An Afternoon with Rachel Muller, Author of Letters from Grace

Rachel Muller, Author of Letters from Grace

On a rainy afternoon last week, I had the pleasure of chatting with Rachel Muller, who authored an exciting new book, Letters from Grace. Let me give you a brief introduction to the book itself, and then you and I can discover who Rachel is, and why we would want to read her story.

If you turn the book over, you will see the following description:
 Is loving a man in uniform worth the risk?
The start of World War II has torn Grace Campbell’s only love from her life. Scarred and bruised from the loss of her fiancĂ©, Grace must learn to love again…and trust the Father with her future. Lieutenant Luke Brady could make falling in love easy…except he’s about to embark on the largest mission of the war.

Luke is also healing from a wounded heart, but after a night of dancing with the flawless Grace Campbell, his feelings are held hostage by her charm, making the thought of traveling back to his army base in England almost unbearable. There is only one thing that can keep the thread tied between them…letters.

Their missives travel across the Atlantic, revealing their deepest feelings and unexpressed thoughts on paper. A spark is ignited, but the suave Dr. William Keller enchants Grace with his gentleman’s charm and proposes marriage. Now she must choose between them. Will she settle for comfort and safety or risk losing her true love on the Normandy beaches?

Don't you love the artwork on the cover? And how about that intro to the storyline? My wife read the back-matter and announced that she will be reading the book as soon as possible. If you love period novels, Letters from Grace will meet your needs.

Well, let's get back to Rachel, herself. A native of Maryland with Southern roots, she is proud to be a stay at home mother of four, and a beautiful housewife of eleven years. She grew up in the country, and though she can function with equal grace in the city, she prefers a quiet, grassy knoll to the hustle and bustle of busy streets. 

Rachel has always been a woman of faith, and her faith is evident in her writing, even though she never reaches a "preachyness" so common with Christian literature. Her own faith walk defined who she would be during her teen years. She suffered from an affliction that many of us identify with: REJECTION. "I grew up in the country and went to church in the city. I didn't really fit into their world very well." As a young teen, not fitting in is almost impossible to overcome, and Rachel suffered greatly as a result. She slipped into withdrawal and endured what she called, "silent suffering," which manifested as anorexia. While trying to maintain her "perfect weight" she used over the counter drugs, but her life was falling apart. The more she spiraled, the darker her fears and hopelessness grew. Finally, a pastor's wife understood what she was experiencing and walked with her out of the anorexia and back into a healthy lifestyle. But her faith wasn't fully cemented until she went to a rodeo on day and saw the testimony of a bull rider who pointed her to Christ. Finally, she understood who she was and why she was here.
Rachel developed a passion for the "Greatest Generation" on a practical level. She lived with her grandparents for 13 years, listening to their stories about life during the depression and the events surrounding the war. Her grandmother was handicapped and required constant care. Rachel was blessed to invest into her grandmother's life, and her own life would never be the same.

"My love for World War II history began in my senior year of high school when I chose the Pearl Harbor attack as my research paper topic. Subsequently, the movie Pearl Harbor hit the silver screen and I jumped at the chance to see it. I didn't realize it at the time but a seedling had been planted in my life, slowly growing inch by inch for nearly ten years. I researched the war, the people, the fashions, 40's slang, even the makes and models of vintage vehicles to create a nostalgic feel in my project. Then fictional lives began to evolve on the white of my paper." From that passion grew a love story set in the depths of World War Two.

I asked Rachel what roll she would have played if she could transport herself to the 40s. Without hesitation she announced that she would have volunteered at a Canteen. And in case you don't  know how that works, a women who volunteers for the Canteen must adhere to strict rules of conduct, the most important of which is that while their job is to provide friendly companionship to and be dance partners for the men who are soon to be sent into combat, no romantic fraternization is allowed.
Rachel also expressed interest in touring with the USO, and specifically mentioned working with Heady Lamar and Bing Crosby. She was quick to announce that Bing was her favorite singer from that era, but she also appreciated Glen Miller.

I then asked her what she would do if she couldn't entertain the troops, and she declared that she would build bombers. "I would be a Rosie Riveter," and I could hear the smile she wore with that declaration.
When I asked her what she wanted for her readers to get from her books, she didn't hesitate. "The message I'd like people to get is based on Romans 5:1-4. Our life's trials are temporary, and when we rely on God to pull us through, we find our hope."

Naturally, my next question was, what do you want people to know about you? Her answer,” As for myself, I would like people to know that I write stories of love, war, and faith as examples of the love of Christ and His undying faithfulness. It is my hope readers will find inspiration and encouragement through the fictional lives of WWII era characters."

What more do you need to know? Well, I think this interview gives us a unique glimpse at who Rachel Muller is, and I pray that it motivates you to pick up a copy of her book, Letters from Grace.

Do it. Dot it now.

If there is anything else you would like to know, shoot me an email or leave a comment. I know Rachel would love to hear from you. In the mean time you can connect with her via the following:

Twitter: @Rachel_DMuller

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Funny Motor Insurance Claims

As promised, I'm turning to something a little more light hearted. This list of funny claims is not new. I first saw them at least 10 years ago, but they are funny every time I read them; better yet, they are all true. The ones that use funny words that you've never seen before are from Australia. Enjoy!

Funny Motor Insurance Claims:
"Going to work at 7am this morning I drove out of my drive straight into a bus. The bus was 5 minutes early."

"The accident happened because I had one eye on the lorry in front, one eye on the pedestrian and the other on the car behind."

"I started to slow down but the traffic was more stationary than I thought."

"I pulled into a lay-by with smoke coming from under the hood. I realized the car was on fire so took my dog and smothered it with a blanket."

Q: Could either driver have done anything to avoid the accident?
A: Travelled by bus?

The claimant had collided with a cow. The questions and answers on the claim form were - Q: What warning was given by you? A: Horn. Q: What warning was given by the other party? A: Moo.

"I started to turn and it was at this point I noticed a camel and an elephant tethered at the verge. This distraction caused me to lose concentration and hit a bollard."

"On approach to the traffic lights the car in front suddenly broke."

"I didn't think the speed limit applied after midnight"

"I knew the dog was possessive about the car but I would not have asked her to drive it if I had thought there was any risk."

Q: Do you engage in motorcycling, hunting or any other pastimes of a hazardous nature? A: "I Watch the Lottery Show and listen to Terry Wogan."

"Windscreen broken. Cause unknown. Probably Voodoo."

"The car in front hit the pedestrian but he got up so I hit him again"

"I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment."

"The other car collided with mine without giving warning of its intention."

"I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way"

"A truck backed through my windshield into my wife's face"

"A pedestrian hit me and went under my car"

"In an attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole."

"I had been shopping for plants all day and was on my way home. As I reached an intersection a hedge sprang up obscuring my vision and I did not see the other car."

"I was on my way to the doctor with rear end trouble when my universal joint gave way causing me to have an accident."

"An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my car and vanished."

"I was thrown from the car as it left the road. I was later found in a ditch by some stray cows."

"Coming home I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don't have."

"I thought my window was down, but I found it was up when I put my head through it."

"The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him."

"I had been driving for forty years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident."

"As I approached an intersection a sign suddenly appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before."

"To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front I struck a pedestrian."

"My car was legally parked as it backed into another vehicle."

"I told the police that I was not injured, but on removing my hat found that I had a fractured skull."

"I was sure the old fellow would never make it to the other side of the road when I struck him."

"The pedestrian had no idea which way to run as I ran over him."

"I saw a slow moving, sad faced old gentleman as he bounced off the roof of my car."

"The indirect cause of the accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth."

"The telephone pole was approaching. I was attempting to swerve out of the way when I struck the front end."

"The gentleman behind me struck me on the backside. He then went to rest in a bush with just his rear end showing. "

"I had been learning to drive with power steering. I turned the wheel to what I thought was enough and found myself in a different direction going the opposite way."

"I was backing my car out of the driveway in the usual manner, when it was struck by the other car in the same place it had been struck several times before."

"When I saw I could not avoid a collision I stepped on the gas and crashed into the other car."

"The accident happened when the right front door of a car came round the corner without giving a signal."

"No one was to blame for the accident but it would never have happened if the other driver had been alert."

"I was unable to stop in time and my car crashed into the other vehicle. The driver and passengers then left immediately for a vacation with injuries."

"The pedestrian ran for the pavement, but I got him."

"I saw her look at me twice. She appeared to be making slow progress when we met on impact."

"The accident occurred when I was attempting to bring my car out of a skid by steering it into the other vehicle."

"My car got hit by a submarine." (The Navy informed the wife of a submariner that the craft was due in port. She drove to the base to meet her husband and parked at the end of the slip where the sub was to berth. An inexperienced ensign was conning the sub and it rammed the end of the slip, breaking a section away, causing her car to fall into the water. The Navy paid the compensation claim.)

"I bumped into a lamp-post which was obscured by human beings."

"The accident was caused by me waving to the man I hit last week."

"I knocked over a man; he admitted it was his fault for he had been knocked down before."

"A house hit my car." (A house was being moved by a large truck. My friend had his car parked on the side of the road correctly. The house began to tilt off the truck and eventually fell off the truck, landing on my friend's car. He eventually had the insurance paid, after lengthy explanation and the moving company confirming the story.)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ghost in the Grass

The other day, I went out for a walk, trying to find time for some peace and quiet. I was in a reflective mood, trying to make sense of life. When I emerged from a heavily wooded area, I waded through some grass that was knee deep and immersed in sunshine.

I couldn’t see all that well, and I tripped over what I thought to be a root. Turning to take a second look at my unseen spoiler, I stopped and stared at a sight too unbelievable to accept. I had tripped over a skeleton!

My years as a police officer kicked into gear and without thought, I reached for my phone to dial 911, so I could report the death to Sheriff Waller. I cordoned off the area immediately surrounding the body and began a cursory search to see if any other bones might be lying around, desperately hoping that there was only one death to report, and not several. Please don’t let this be a mass grave of some serial killer…

It’s a queer feeling when you happen upon death unexpectedly. At first, I thought of foul play, and assumed that the attacker might be surveilling the area for possible signs of detection. Then I rationalized that the body was decayed to the point of skeletal remains, therefore the odds of the killer hanging out where limited. The next thought I had was, “what if this person died of a heart attack?” The idea upset me because this individual died alone, and in some stage of peril. What if he’d been attacked by a bear? But, the skeleton was intact, so there were probably no wild animals attempting to devour the body.

While I waited on the police, and the longer I stared at the body, the more I began to wonder about this person’s identity. Who was this person? What was his or her name? What were their hopes and dreams? And then I wondered—why are there antlers growing out of his head?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Naming Ceremony -- Connecting With Your Kids

This weekend we wanted to spend some time with the kids. Sometimes it seems we are all in different places, and we felt as though we needed to make a deliberate connection. So, we arranged to have a hotdog roast, followed by s'mores.  We had their attention at that!

But I still felt we were missing something. And then I remembered a promise I'd made to myself when the kids were born. I had a baby name book with a special chapter devoted to Native American names and their meanings. I envisioned having the kids select their Indian name and make that part of their identity. Well, I decided that the kids were old enough to select their names and appreciate the significance therein. 

Family legend on both sides of our family holds that we descend from Indian lineage. We also learned phrases from the Choctaw tongue, which were passed down from our great-grandmother, who once lived in Oklahoma. One of those phrases is "Hopi chumbuli su bunda" which was always supposed to mean, "Pass the sugar". Well, I loo
ked it up and hopi chumbuli does mean sugar in Choctaw. I believe that we have a blood connection with Those Who Were Here Before.

So, I had the kids sit down with the book of names and they each selected the one that spoke to them. We had a blast trying to pronounce the names and imagining how someone came to be named something like, Puts Foot Down, or Buck Antlers from Yellow Bull. 

Seth selected Ahusaka (AH-HOO-SAH-KAH), which comes from the Winnebago Nation and means, Strikes His Wings. Seth liked both the sound of the name and the meaning. His full name is Seth Alexander, which means Appointed Defender of Mankind. A
dding Ahusaka to his name implies the ability to strike quickly and from above. Side note: he's also a floppy kid. He flops his arms around all the time as if he was a bird. Coincidence?

Caitlin selected Nonooktowa (NO-NOOK-TOW-WAH), which comes from the Modoc Nation and means, The Strange Child. Caitlin has always walked her own path. She doesn't feel the need to follow people or conform to their ways. She has always displayed a natural leadership presence. She is also quirky and funny—and sometimes—well…strange. But this is because she lives true to herself and doesn't fuss about what others think of her. She is her own person. She is the Strange Child, and I'm proud of her for that.

We manufactured a ceremony where I marked on their faces with charcoal and spoke words over them about their unique strengths. I waved smoke over them from my peace pipe, and I then presented them with a gift.

I gave Seth a very precious knife that was made for me by one of my best friends of all ti
mes, Deacon MaGill. He made the knife from white tail deer antlers and traced my initial into the handle. It is a unique gift, and there is no other like it in the world. I chose that for Seth because he loves innovation and is very progressive. Deacon took the old and new and made a wonderful knife. Seth has the same gifting.

I gave Caitlin a flint blade knife made with mule deer antlers and obsidian.  She loves history and the past, and that knife represented her appreciation of those days long gone.

The kids found great meaning in the ceremony, and I'll wager they will remember that day for the rest of their lives. I hope they do the same for their children. Perhaps we have established a new tradition, and hopefully a new legacy.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Oh Holy Nighty? --- SAY WHAT?

Church Projection Screen Gaffs...
This is gonna be fun!

The other day at church I saw the projector spilling words upon the screen so we, the parishioners, could "follow the bouncing ball", so to speak. The song they chose was a beloved hymn from centuries back, Amazing Grace.  But the screen said, "Amazing Grapes."

Perhaps it was a song about the men Joshua sent to spy out the land? No, it was a gaff. And a funny one at that. I stopped singing and then endured the frowns from those surrounding me as I attempted to hold in my laughter. I guess they were either more spiritual than me, or they failed to catch the typo. So, if this has happened in my church, where else has it happened? I did a quick google search and found some funny gaffs that I thought you'd enjoy as well...

1. “Lord, You are more precious than silver… Lord, You are more costly than golf.”

2. It was Easter. The line was supposed to read “We were naked and poor” but instead it read “We were naked and poop.” I could not stop laughing for the rest of the song.

3. When we lived in Latin America: the line in the song was supposed to be “levantando manos santas” (lifting holy hands) but they wrote “monos” (monkeys) instead of “manos” and put that on the screen. Lifting holy monkeys. Um hmm.

4. “Our God is greeter, our God is stronger.” I like that image. God greeting us as we walk into church. He’s like the little old lady who shakes our hands, only … He is God and God gives high fives!

5. Lion of God turned into “Loin of God.” My bad.

6. I create the lyric sheets for our small fellowship, and one Sunday the “strumpets” were calling during Days of Elijah. Oops.

7. The slide said “four our sins He died.” Someone behind me asked if we’re on our own for the fifth sin.

8. The best one I have seen was: “Amazon love, how can it be?”

9. I’m personally a fan of “Angles We Have Heard on High” at Christmastime. I always assume they are right angles.

10. I once attended a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” where the phrase “surely He has borne our griefs” was printed as “surely He has borne our briefs” in the programs given to the audience. I laughed for a while.

11. “I once was blond, but now I see” during “Amazing Grace.”

12. Once saw "O that with yonder sacred THONG." Worship leader never lived that one down.

13. “Silent Night,” forgot to change the slide, happened two years straight, lights down, holding candles: "Radiant beans from Thy holy face."

14. “How deep the Farters love for us” . . . nope, not making this up!

15. The one that comes to mind was the misspelling in "Joy to the World" a few years ago at one of our Christmas services. It was supposed to be "rocks, hills and plains" but ended up as "rocks, hells and plains."

16. I failed to run a check over the PowerPoint once. We were singing "Holy is the Lord" and during the pre-chorus the screen read "Together we sing, Everyone sin." That's a little different than "Everyone sing"…

17. “Savior, He can move the mountains, my God is mighty to shave, He is mighty to shave....”

18. In a final proof of a Christmastime bulletin before printing, I saw that I had inadvertently typed "O Holy Nighty."

19. At Christmas one year, our youth intern misspelled things, so we sang about, "Marty, the mother of Jesus." Good times.

20. I was producing video at a traditional hymn service and in a rush my operator typed the words "God gives us the gift of immoral gladness." He thought he got away with only the team knowing but overheard two dear old ladies say to each other "it shows the importance of just one letter 't'."

Originally shared on the website of author Jon Acuff.

Feel free to click the "share" buttons and spread the joy amongst your friends.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mediterranean Madness Part XV - The Journey Home

115We flew to Amsterdam, where we were going to connect with Delta. What a treat it is to fly into Amsterdam and see the flowers in the fields and the lattice work of canals that crisscross the planes. We landed, and then we were promptly ushered into a line, which led us to Customs. This was something of a surprise to us, as we had no intention of staying in Amsterdam, and I was worried that we were about to exit from the airport, but that is standard procedure for the Dutch. We passed through Customs and even got a stamp in our passports. We found ourselves in the main terminal, where we worked our way to the Delta gates. We stopped to buy some Cokes and a snack. Sarah got a Dr. Pepper, and the rest of us selected a local soda of some kind. The guy behind the counter told us we couldn't take the drinks or snacks with us to the gate, but we didn't know what he meant. We walked another 20 feet and discovered his meaning. In order to fly to the US, we had to pass through another security checkpoint, one in which no liquids are allowed to pass. So, we stood there and slammed our drinks and snacks so we could pass through this check point. And let me tell you, it was thorough. Thoroughly thorough, in fact. And then we were herded into a waiting room with a lot of people and very few chairs, where we waited until our plane was ready. By this time, it was early afternoon. We got on the plane and headed west, flying over Iceland and Greenland, and landed in Seattle. The sun was up the entire day. This may not seem extraordinary to you, but we left Barcelona at around 11:00 that morning and landed in Seattle sometime around 4:00 that evening. By the clock it was a short day, but we had traveled about 18 hours, give or take. It was a much shorter trip for us to fly home than it was to get to Barcelona at the beginning of the trip.

We were so tired when we arrived in Spokane that we checked into a hotel and crashed until the next morning. We were glad to be home, but we had such a wonderful trip that we immediately began to calculate ways we could return to Europe ASAP. We're thinking about a Scandinavian cruise. That will probably be our next big trip.

Thus ended our Mediterranean vacation. I'll wrap up this rather verbose review with the following comments:


A random thought about ordering pizza in Europe, especially in Italy.  If you want a regular ordinary cheese pizza with a tomato type sauce, then you want the Margherita pizza.  If you want an American style pepperoni pizza, then you will need to order the salami, and probably the spicy salami.  It's the closest you'll get to the one from back home.  Do not confuse my last sentence with the one that immediately follows.  If you order a pepperoni pizza in Italy, you will get a pizza with small peppers.  Don't make this mistake if you don't like peppers on your pizza.  The pepperoni in Florence had bell peppers; other places had a different variety.  If you order a pizza with ham, it will be ham, but it will be several sheets of thin, parma ham that are scattered across the pizza and it will resemble a Picasso.  The ham pizzas are very good.  One pizza will almost always feed two people.  We knew that, but we continually ordered a different pizza for each member of our party.  They were usually between 6 and 10 Euros per pie, and they were always thin crust.  They also had a tendency to be ever so slightly gooey (just a little) in the very center, as if it needed 2 more minutes in the oven.  Not one pizza that we ordered in Italy (or Barcelona) was sliced.  We had to slice it with a fork and knife, and that is hard to do with randomly placed deli slices.  If you asked they might slice it in the kitchen, but we continually forgot to ask.

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A thought on using the restroom in Europe.  Unless you're at a facility that offers those services, you are expected to pay for them.  Anywhere from .50 Euro to 1 Euro, but usually between .50 and .70 euro.  The bathrooms are clean.  Very clean.   Your change is actually funding the services of the person who stands off to the side in the restroom and then cleans it when you are finished.  After a while, you will get used to that person standing there.  They ain't watching, if that's what you're worrying about, and they won't be impressed, if that thought flashed through your mind.  The toilets with holes in the ground are just as useful.  None of the seats in Europe are built for comfort; you don't want to read the Wall Street Journal while you're in there.  They're built for function.  "Thank you for coming, thank you for leaving" seems to be their motto.  And unlike the riot I almost started at the Vatican, observe and respect the waiting line.

Another travel tip in general: Sarah picked up some battery packs that you can plug your phone or game into and it will charge your device, just like electricity in a bottle, which is what a battery is, I suppose. But it will work on a plane or while on a bus, where you might not have a plug available. We actually used these almost exclusively to charge our devices while in Barcelona.  Never had to use the power adapter/converter.
This is what cruising is all about!
I mentioned that we were going to give you a final thought about the global roaming issues with our phones. We made plans to use an international calling plan, and prepped one of our phones for that purpose. But, we discovered that we had easy access to Wi-Fi signals almost everywhere we went, and we were able to stay in contact back home via texts, face time, Facebook, and Whatz App. Next time, we won't bother with adding an expensive call package that we never used. If I need a phone that bad, I will probably pick up a burner phone, which can be found on almost any street corner in every place we went.

My final random thought: We had a horrible time with artwork we purchased on the ship. In fact, we never received our order, which we paid for with a credit card. We contacted Royal Caribbean, who told us that the art company was going bankrupt, and that they would do everything they could to refund the money we spent. Fortunately, the credit card payment could be reversed, so I was thankful we used that instead of a debit card, which makes it more difficult to refund money. Sarah looked online and found the exact same painting and paid 1/3 of what it cost on the ship, and we received that order in less than a week. Lesson learned!