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A couple is spending their retirement stress-free on cruise ships.

The cost of living in the United States has gone up so much in recent years that living on a cruise ship has become a reasonable idea for some retirees. When Nancy and Robert Houchens of Charlottesville, Virginia, retired, they decided to sell almost everything they had and live out their golden years hopping from cruise ship to cruise ship.

"We had a 3,000-square-foot home full of furniture...and everything we own now would fit in the back of a pickup truck," Robert told USA Today.

“We sold all of our estates except for a little condominium we have in Florida, so when we get too old to cruise, we have somewhere to live,” Nancy added. “And we did keep two vehicles, and what we kept is in half of (Robert's mother's storage unit), which is, I don't know, 10x10 or something. We just walked away from everything.”


Life on a cruise ship is stress-free for the couple because their needs are taken care of on the ship. "It's been great. I don't cook. I don't clean," Nancy told the Miami Herald.

The couple has found that living on a cruise ship isn’t as expensive as some may assume. Even though inflation has driven up the cost of travel in the U.S., it hasn’t significantly impacted the cruise industry.

“It's much cheaper than a nursing home or assisted living. It was just a good fit for us. It's a good fit for a lot of people,” Robert told the Miami Herald.

The couple plans their trips differently than someone who is going on vacation. “We look for the best deal, not the destination,” Nancy told Cruise Passenger.

The couple initially planned to spend $4,000 a month living on the ships. “Our original budget was $4,000 a month. This included gratuities. Of course, things are more expensive now, so that budget has had to increase a little. Depending on where we go, we may or may not need the internet,” she told Cruise Passenger.

“Our phone plan covers most everywhere for 25 cents a minute to call with free internet and texting,” Nancy continued. “We have an annual travel insurance plan, and one of our credit cards also has travel insurance.”

For the Houchens, living on board a cruise ship is definitely cheaper than assisted living. According to the 2020 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the average monthly cost per person to live in assisted living in Virginia is $5,250 a month, which would cost Houchens over $10,000 a month as a couple.

Further, the roughly $4,000 the couple spends a month includes food, and they don’t have to bother paying for a car. They also try to book their cruises consecutively so they don’t waste money paying for expensive hotels when transferring between cruise lines.

Last July, the Houchens celebrated their 1,000th day sailing with Carnival Cruise Line since the 1980s, and they look forward to countless more days at sea with each other and the new friends they’ve made on their never-ending cruise.

“We cruise Carnival because of the people,” Richard told Travel Pulse. “It isn’t the destinations for us anymore, it’s the journey—and the biggest part of the journey is the people.”


This article originally appeared on 7.19.23

Grace Linn, 100, speaks at a Martin County School Board meeting on March 21, 2023.

Four hundred years ago, copies of William Tyndale’s English translation of the Bible were publicly burned by the bishop of London, with church authorities insisting that the Bible should only be read in Latin (and only by the clergy). In the centuries since, many books we now consider classics such as Daniel Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe," Jack London's "Call of the Wild," Walt Whitman’s "Leaves of Grass," Victor Hugo’s "Les Misérables, Charles Darwin’s "Origin of Species"—even Beatrix Potter's "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" and "Benjamin Bunny"—have been banned or censored in one way or another in various countries.

Battles over books are nothing new, but once in a while, they become particularly ugly or absurd, prompting people to speak out against book bans.

People like 100-year-old Florida resident, Grace Linn, whose speech at a Martin County School Board meeting has gone viral.


Author Jody Picoult, whose books have been in the crosshairs of the school district's book policy that saw 92 titles pulled from shelves for removal or review, shared the video to her TikTok channel where it's gotten a wave of supportive responses.

"I am Grace Linn. I am 100 years young," the centenarian began. "I'm here to protest our schools' district book-banning policy."

Linn explained that her husband, Robert Nickel, was killed in action in World War II at age 26.


"One of the freedoms that the Nazis crushed was the freedom to read the books they'd banned," she said. "They stopped the free press, banned and burned books." She went on to say that the right to read is an essential right guaranteed by the First Amendment, yet it is continually under attack "by both public and private groups who think they hold the truth."

Linn shared that she made a quilt last year, at age 99, in response to the book bans taking place around the country and in Martin County. Each quilt square shows a stack of books with titles of books that have been banned and targeted, including "Harry Potter," "A Wrinkle in Time," "Of Mice and Men," "Beloved" and more. The quilt's purpose, she said, was "to remind all of us that these few of so many more books that are banned and targeted need to be proudly displayed and protected—and read, if you choose to."

Linn said that burning books and banning books is done for the same reason: fear of knowledge.

"Fear is not freedom. Fear is not liberty. Fear is control. My husband died as a father of freedom. I am a mother of liberty."

Watch:

@jodipicoultbooks

I am so inspired by everyone who spoke up against book bánning at the Martin County School Board meeting today, including Grace Linn. Grace is, in her words, “100 years young.” She spoke about witnessing the rise of fascism during WWII, about losing her husband to the war when he was 26, and about protecting our freedom to read. Thank you, Grace, for reminding us that this is a part of history we must not repeat.

People loved Linn's passionate defense of the freedom to read books, calling her an "inspiration," a "hero" and a "helluva woman" in the comments.

Naturally, different people have different opinions about what books are appropriate for different ages, what should be required vs. voluntary reading and what kids should be shielded from. That's the whole point. Librarians have long been trusted to curate generally age-appropriate material for children's libraries and parents have always had the final say in what they allow their children to read, but laws such as the one passed in Florida are attempting to exert more control over what books are available. Not helping matters is that the law is vague and there has been a great deal of confusion as to whether educators could face felony charges for having offending material in their classrooms. Especially when offending material includes anything considered "critical race theory," which could theoretically include any books that talk about racism in American history realistically.

Banning books requires setting subjective criteria for problematic material, and as we've seen with many of the book-banning policies, that criteria can easily stretch into ridiculousness. Who decides and by what measure are the questions that book bans leave on the table. Thank you, Grace Linn, for standing up for the freedom to decide for ourselves what we and our kids get to read.

Democracy

Florida city commissioner is being called a hero for confronting mayor who cut off power to residents

"You're calling me disrespectful because I've interrupted people, but this gentleman has turned off people's lights in the middle of a global health pandemic."

City commission meeting in Lake Worth Beach, Florida

This article originally appeared on 03.23.20


Palm Beach Post/YouTubeThey say a crisis brings out the best and the worst in people. It also reveals the best and the worst in our leaders.

A city commission meeting in Lake Worth Beach, Florida has gone viral after Commissioner Omari Hardy took his fellow city officials to task for their seeming indifference to their constituents during the coronavirus crisis.

Hardy confronted Mayor Pam Triolo and City Manager Michael Bornstein, who he said refused to call an emergency meeting last week, per Hardy's repeated requests, to discuss issues coming about from the coronavirus crisis. And he let his frustrations show.

"You're calling me disrespectful because I've interrupted people, but this gentleman has turned off people's lights in the middle of a global health pandemic," Hardy said, referring to Bornstein.


When Triolo tried to call a recess, Hardy wasn't having it. "A banana republic is what you're turning this place into with your so-called leadership," Hardy said.

"We cut people's utilities this week and made them pay—with what could have been their last check—to turn their lights off in a global health pandemic! But you don't care about that. You didn't want to meet."

Triolo walked out, saying "Out of order. You're done."

Hardy is being hailed a hero by people who have watched the video and see him as a staunch supporter of the citizenry he serves. He wrote a post on Facebook about how overwhelmed he was by people's responses to the video.

"It was not about me. It was about the people in our city who are struggling, whose futures are uncertain, whose finances are unstable, who may be wondering if they will be able to work and earn a paycheck during this pandemic, and who came home on Tuesday or Wednesday to find the lights off, or the water off, at a time when water and lights couldn't be more important. It was about them. It is still about them."

"I was heated, yes. I was loud, yes," he wrote. "But I was trying to get across an important point: that elected officials work for the PEOPLE. The PEOPLE put us on that dais. The PEOPLE put us in those chairs. The PEOPLE put those titles before our names. Everything we do is for the PEOPLE, and when the PEOPLE need us, it's our job to step up for them. I was frustrated with three of my colleagues because they had forgotten who we work for."

Thank you, Commissioner Hardy, for showing us what a true public servant looks like.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Bible.

There’s a strange bit of hypocrisy going down in the state of Florida. During the COVID pandemic, it was a place where some protested lockdowns and mask mandates under the umbrella of personal freedom. But now, some of the same lawmakers in the state are doing an about-face and pushing to ban certain books in its public schools.

Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that allows parents to recommend certain instructional materials be banned from the schools. More than 200 books (mostly those that deal with race, sexuality or LGBTQ+ issues) have been banned in school districts across the state since the law took effect.

Chaz Stevens, a resident of Deerfield Beach, Florida, believes that parents and districts are overlooking one book that contains genocide, slavery, talk of LGBTQ issues, bestiality, misogyny, rape and child sacrifice. You may have heard of it. It's commonly referred to as "the Bible."


Stevens sent petitions to public school superintendents across the state asking districts to "immediately remove the Bible from the classroom, library, and any instructional material," Stevens wrote. "Additionally, I also seek the banishment of any book that references the Bible."

"My goal is to use the law as our expert politicians in Tallahassee intended," Stevens said. "There were no carve-outs for religious texts, so I would assume they meant for them to be in play.”

Billy Epting, assistant superintendent of Leon County Schools, is taking the suggestion seriously and reviewing the complaint.

“If I don’t, that creates a situation where I’m showing favoritism or injecting personal opinion in the process," he said. "The last thing I want to do is pretend or take something as a joke or satirical and it comes back to bite us.”

In Stevens’ letter, he gives numerous reasons why the Bible is inappropriate to have in Florida schools. One reason he claims is that the bible teaches “wokeness” which is a clear jab at the state’s recent ban on teaching Critical Race Theory.

“With the constant babbling concerns about teaching Critical Race Theory, should we not take stock of the Bible’s position on slavery? I am concerned our young white students will read such passages and wake up to civilization’s sordid past,” Stevens writes before referencing Paul’s pro-slavery Epistle to the Ephesians where he notes that servants should be “obedient to them that are your masters.”

Stevens also warns that the talk of bestiality in the Bible violates Florida law. “Taking a cue from Florida Statute Ch. 847.001 6(a,b,c), one should consider such discussions to be harmful to minors and obscene,” he writes.

He also cautions that some of the positive, humane messages in the Bible may teach children “to show empathy for their classmates” and that could lead them one step closer to “getting their LGBTQ+ freak on.”

The self-proclaimed “stunt activist” successfully got several cities in the state to drop the religious invocations that open their city commission meetings seven years ago. Stevens demanded they either stop the invocations or allow him, a self-described “minion of Satan" to lead a prayer to the Prince of Darkness before meetings.

To avoid having to give equal time to a “Satanist,” the cities stopped doing religious invocations, with some switching over to a moment of silence.

"My activism in the past has been wildly successful," Stevens said. "And, I imagine, will continue on a similar trajectory."

DeSantis' craven use of political power to give anyone with an ax to grind the right to silence the voices of people of color and diminish LGBTQ+ visibility is as regressive as it is short-sighted. Stevens’ campaign has brilliantly exposed the unintended consequences of DeSantis’ law. Once like-minded people begin to follow his lead, lawmakers will have to learn a lesson humanity learned decades ago: banning books is no way to create social change.