Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Last Leg

We are sitting at Vancouver Airport. We are minutes away from boarding.

We have checked our last bag. Gone through security for the last time. Found our way to our last gate to board the last plane on our way home.

We have travelled by plane, ship, train, bus, catamaran, raft, automobile and shuttle. We have come a long way, saw a lot of sights, met a lot of people.

It has been a most incredible experience in every sense of the word.

I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

But I'm glad to be heading home ...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Timmy, I'm Home!

Well ... maybe I'm not quite home. But we are back in Canada. And guess where we went for supper??  Tim Hortons.

Be it ever so humble, there is no place like 'home'.

We are spending our last night in Vancouver - an overnight layover and we'll be back home early tomorrow afternoon.

It was my hope to wind up my holiday by meeting my 'first-forever-work-friend' tonight, in Vancouver. We met when she was 17 and I was 18. She started working at the bank and I trained her as a teller. We became best friends.

She moved to Mexico. I moved to Saskatchewan. She moved back to Alberta and eventually settled in B.C.

We have kept in touch throughout the years, the moves and life transitions. It was truly my hope that we would be able to meet up tonight to wind up of a most perfect holiday that has been all about forever-friends.

I called her cell phone number as soon as we checked into our room and was pleasantly surprised when she answered immediately. Unfortunately the reason that she answered so promptly is because she had just walked in her door after work. One wish was not fulfilled.

One unfulfilled wish does not undo the rest. This holiday has surpassed my expectations at every turn. Tonight is no different.

I may not be home. My friend may not have been able to make it. But we found a Tim Hortons just around the corner from our hotel. I feel like I'm home ...

View from our hotel window


Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Most Excellent Day!

Today was the day I've been waiting for. Today was the day that I had a chance to sit down and really talk with my-best-friend-in-the-world-when-I-was-12-years-old.

We met for breakfast at 8:30 and we visited for four solid hours. It is impossible to encapsulate the wonder of 'coming home' and picking up our friendship where we last left off

We met when we were about 10 years old and we were best friends for the entire two years that her family lived in Canada.

We looked at life and experienced it very much the same back in those days. We were young, naive girls waking up to the scary world around us. Growing up, being kids, facing the same fears (junior high school and all that entailed) ...

We look at our lives now and the shared compassion we have for our relationships with our family, sisters and our younger brothers. There are so many similarities in our ways of seeing the world despite the vastly different paths that our lives have led us.

Conversation was easy, though we talked about difficult topics. Compassion ran deep and words carried a lot of meaning.

Our friendship extends beyond ourselves. It includes our parents, our siblings and encompasses far beyond that. There is a quiet understanding, caring and sharing that will live on long beyond this visit.

It has been a gift that has far exceeded what I could have ever hoped for. I was given the opportunity of a lifetime. To meet up with my friend and know that we have a lifetime of friendship ahead of us.

Time and distance are irrelevent. Good friends are forever.

Too Much Static

We set the radio alarm in our room this morning. I couldn't help but laugh to myself when I heard the radio go off and how at least threee (if not more) radio station broadcasts faded in and out.

Each radio bite was clear and easy to understand when it had 'air time' ... but it quickly faded out and into another equally clear radio transmittal before a sentence or thought could be completed.

I laid in bed listening to this mish mash of words and thoughts ... and I thought to myself 'This is exactly what is going on within my own head right now'.

I have so many words wafting through this head. Each uncomplete and worthy of further thought.

This entire vacation experience. The friendship theme that runs so strong. The cruise. What we have seen/felt/experienced. Home ...

Yes. This holiday has been a most incredible experience  But it is in the knowing that I will soon be back home, nestled safely and comfortably within my family, my home, my responsibilities and life-as-I-know- it, that helps me appreciate the vast difference between this fantasy world and the world in which I know and love.

It is a fantastic holiday ... but my life at home is the life I long to live. I long to sit down and focus on one thought, one blessing at a time - and appreciate the wonders of my world without the fear of losing something because there is too much static in the air.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Lost a Day ... But I'm Making Up Time Now

I have learned a few vital lessons this holiday.

#1 - The anti nausea patch really, really works!
#2 - Acupuncture also works
#3 - Both of the above do work ... but when they wear off? Watch out!!

Our last night at sea was rough.

I went to the 7:00 Grand Finale performance that I had been anticipating, but the waters were getting just a little bit rough. The theatre was at the front of the ship (which takes the brunt of the waves) and I felt my stomach starting to turn. So ... by 7:15 I was back in the room (just in the nick of time).

I missed the show and I missed supper. But when My Friend told our waiter that I was feeling the effects of motion sickness, he sent a sliced up green apple back to our room for me. Let me tell you. If you are feeling nauseous, nothing tastes better than a green apple!

I gobbled up my green apple, but when I tried my legs they still didn't work. So I slept.

I got my sea legs steady enough to get me off the ship the next morning and onto our train for the next leg of our trip. But let me tell you ... a four and a half hour train ride through the mountains wasn't exactly the adventure my stomach was ready for.

I quite literally closed my eyes and endured the trip. I got through picking up luggage and getting to the hotel. But after that point? I couldn't even fake it. The moment we arrived at our hotel room, I knew I had to lay down.

That was around 1:30 in the afternoon. I can quite honestly never in my life remember feeling that ill. I was completely disheartened because I thought 'this can't just be motion sickness ... it feels too awful'. But when I woke up this morning, I felt 100% better (so it must have been).

The thing you don't hear about, after you've been on a ship for a week is the time it takes to regain your land legs. We have run into several of our ship-mates since we've been in Anchorage and we all seem to be suffering from this same epidemic. We all seem to have a little post cruise swagger, as the land does not feel solid underneath our feet.

But it all got better from there. I actually ate breakfast, a snack and supper today. I haven't 'held onto' a meal for quite some time. This was a very good day.

And what made it even better? Sitting down and visiting my long time friend. My "best-friend-in-the-world when I was 12 years old" and I have kept in touch over the course of the 38 years since we were neighbors. Her family moved back to the States and we have remained pen pals (and more recently, email buddies) ever since. Coming to visit her in Anchorage was the sole purpose behind this Alaskan Cruise. And today, I finally, finally got to sit down and visit with her.

First, there was that moment of quick recognition when she met us upon our arrival in Anchorage. Next, it was moments into our conversation when I was reminded of our similar ways of thinking that sparked the memories of our easy friendship as pre-teens. Then, it was the 'remember when ...' moments.

We have barely touched the surface of the friendship that we have shared for the better part of our lives. Yet I believe that we both know that this kinship we share, runs eternal.

If I was to redo this holiday, the only thing that I would change is that I would fly out to Anchorage first. And then take the Alaskan Cruise from North to South .... I lost an entire day that I can't get back due to motion sickness. We will do our best to make up for lost time. But if I had known this could happen, I would have worked hard at preventing it.

Tomorrow is just one day .... but we will make it a day to remember.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Grand Finales All Around

Last night was truly the wind up of a wonderful, wonderful cruise.

It started with the 'iBroadway' production put on in the theatre. Oh. My. Gosh. It was fantastic. I've never been to a Broadway production, but I think after this cruise, I am starting to get a taste for the Broadway sensation.

Then, we went to supper. More adventures on the evening's menu. I wanted to take out my note pad to write down all of the oddities on the menu. Foie Grois was one (this, I've seen before ... but chose not to opt for that). I thought a mixed greens salad would be nice ... but they had to go and add scallions. Try as I might, I could not find any entree that didn't include seafood or internal organs that I don't want to ingest.

But the highlight of the meal was when they closed all of the blinds, dimmed the lights and the music 'Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night' pulsed through the dining room. The cruise director took the floor and had the entire dining room staff come together and accept a standing ovation from all of us that were dining, for the entire dining room experience they have created for us throughout this cruise. The dining staff created a Conga line and paraded throughout the dining room as all of us gave them a standing 'napkin wave' ...

Then there was 'Dancing With the Stripes'. I was chosen to participate ... and I was even in the 'Final Four'. Not as grand as it sounds, but it was a lot of fun and it was the one and only chance that I got to dance the entire cruise. It was all in fun, and fun I had!

Yes, I am in this photo. We are 'Couple #1' (it's a little like a 'Where's Waldo' picture)

Today, we cruised by Hubbard Glacier. We were all astounded and amazed that the captain got us as close as he did to the glacier. We were still a long way away but it wasn't safe to go further. The lady standing beside me was hilarious. Every once in a while she'd say something like, "Hasn't he heard about the Titanic?'' ... then a while later, "Someone better go and wake up the Captain" ... then finally, "Well at least we are on the top deck, and we will go down last"...

There was never any reason for fear, for our captain had the situation well in hand. It was a beautiful, sunny day - a rarity in this neck of the woods. They say days like these are hard to come by. And we were lucky enough to enjoy this one.
Hubbard Glacier on the horizon

And I'm off and running again. I'll be back tomorrow .... from Anchorage.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Day The Patch Fell off in Skagway

My motion sickness patch fell off last night. I thought that my body would have gotten the hint that I was travelling on water by now. I was hoping the residual drugs from 'The Patch' would get me through the last two days. Life did not go according to plan.

It all started with our excursion. We met on the pier at 7:15 this morning, then went by Catamaran to meet up with our tour guides for the day.

Our guide gave us a humorous, informative and oh-so-interesting narrative along the long and winding road that would be the starting trip for our raft trip down the river, where we would have a picnic lunch. Then all we had to do, was take that long (oh-so-long) trip down that endless bus trip back to where our catamaran would take us back home.

Okay. All I really have to say is that the anti nausea patch really, really works.

Half way through our bus trip, I felt the car sickness sensation. After that point, I got to ride a raft down a river. All I could think was "keep your eyes on the road". I survived. It was the long ride home that really did me in. I kept my eyes closed and hoped for the best.

We finally arrived at our destination, when I barely made it to the rest room to purge my lunch and breakfast. Considering my lack of food content yesterday, losing the little bit of food that was in my stomach wasn't probably the best idea.

I could not wait to get to the ship and lay down. That part went perfectly. It was waking up that was the issue.

I lost my spare patch. The Gravol pills that I took didn't seem to have any affect. So .... I went to an Acupuncturist for the first time of my life.

I am sitting here right now thanks to whatever that Miracle Lady did. It was costly. Man!!! It was costly. But I would have (most likely) 'lost' the last two days of my vacation if I didn't do this.

I am happy to say that I am minutes away from getting ready for tonight's formal night. An 'iBroadway' production at 7:00; supper at 8:30; and 'Dancing With the Stripes' at 10:30.

It is time to make the most of the last hours I have on board.

The 'Day I Lost My Patch in Skagway' is going to have a happy ending. I'll write about it tomorrow.

No Scary Bugs Yet ...

... but today, I finally spotted some whales (and a seal too). I got what I saw on video, so if I can figure out how to get my video file condensed (they went & 'improved' the Windows Movie Maker that I can use with ease, when I'm on my home computer), I will add the video footage later.
video

I also have pictures to go with previous posts. But I will wait until we get to Anchorage to add those (free Internet service is available).

This holiday has been very similar to being at the dance competition in Montreal.Too much to do, so little time. You actually forget to eat!!

Food is available all day, every day ... but it doesn't matter. You still have to make the time to eat!

Time and Cruising

I feel like I’ve been in a time warp ever since we stepped foot on this cruise ship.

Right now, when I think back to this morning, it feels like at least 2 days ago. So much is packed into one day when you are cruising, that the day feels timeless (in a good way).

Yet, when I think of this past Friday – the day we checked in and boarded the ship … it feels like an eternity ago.

When I realize that we have only two full days left in our home on water, I just know how quickly they will fly by.

Yet, when I realize that we will not be home until one week from today, it feels like forever.

Meal times. All I can say is thank goodness we have a standing 8:30 supper date. It gives us time to remember to eat something in the afternoon. Usually that something has been something pretty light, because we just realized that we forgot to eat lunch (again) and we know that we won’t last until 8:30 without some kind of sustenance.

Today has been a rather meal-less kind of day. Apparently I set the alarm on my cell phone for 7:30 (it was supposed to go off at 6:00 a.m.). I awoke with a start when there was a message to all passengers, announced at 7:00. We didn’t have to be at our meeting spot for our excursion until 8:45, so we weren’t running for our tour bus. But we didn’t have a minute to spare either.

I searched the breakfast buffet for something other than omelette (and cold potatoes) today. I thought waffles would hit the spot, and I searched high and low (to no avail). I was probably on the wrong floor?? So I decided I’d have a toasted bagel instead. In fact, I was really looking forward to it until I looked at the ‘bagel’ that the server gave to me. It was an English muffin (this is the downfall of having 60 different countries representing the cruise staff – misunderstandings run rampant … the other day, My Friend asked for hash browns and got mushrooms instead … and tonight I ended up with a Tom Collins to drink because the waiter didn’t understand my original request). Oh well. I added a few chunks of pineapple and melon to my plate; added a strawberry yogurt (they didn’t have vanilla) and decided that was exactly what I wanted (but didn’t even know it). It was very tasty.

The only problem was … that was my last meal of the day. A snack was included on our whale watching tour. I had three donut holes and a Ritz cracker with approximately a quarter teaspoon of salmon on it. I guess that was lunch.

I was very much looking forward to supper …. but that didn’t happen either. One thing ran into the other all day long and the next thing I knew, My Friend and I were playing a Cat & Mouse game of trying to meet at the same place at the same time so we could go and see the comedian, which was tonight’s entertainment.

I’m quite sure that the room attendants must have thought that we had gone boat-crazy as they were witness to My Friend and I circling the ship, as we tried our best to me met up with each other (to no avail). We kept leaving messages for each other in the room. And we simply couldn’t co-ordinate our timing. We circled, circled and circled some more. And we continued to miss each other every step of the way.

~ Side note ~ Due to an outbreak (numbers unknown) of the Norovirus by several passengers aboard the ship, there have been many, many, many precautions made to ensure that there isn’t a pandemic aboard. One of these precautions is the mandatory hand sterilization as you enter and leave the dining areas ... in all elevator/corridor areas … or going off/coming onboard. You name it, they have the ship’s staff manning the decks with antibacterial gel.

When My Friend and I (finally) met up, I told her, “My hands have never been so sterile!!” I had been up, down, all around and back the ship (at least three times). At every turn, I had a crew member with antibacterial gel for me.

So …. short story long ….

Not only did I get a lot of exercise running up and down the stairs (I have been trying to use the stairs verses the elevator, to help with all of the weight I was told that I would gain), but the last real meal that I had today was breakfast.

Not to worry though. I had a quarter of a slice of orange and a cherry in my drink tonight. Plus, the nightly chocolate on my pillow was awaiting me at the end of our evening. I guess that was supper (I just remembered the yogurt in the fridge … I guess that was dessert!?)

We have only two short days left of our cruise. That doesn’t seem very long, when you think that I have 10 pounds yet to gain. But it could seem like an eternity if we don’t find a way to ensure we eat at least twice a day!

There is a time zone unto itself here on the ship. Speaking of that, I suppose I should try and get tired. Tomorrow’s alarm (I hope it goes off this time) is set for 5:30.

Good night!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Coming to You 'Live' ...

I have been writing blogs in the room whenever I can find the time and stay awake (rarely) and I have been copy and pasting whatever I wrote to add a blog post whenever I can find the time during the day. So if I repeat myself or don't make sense, it is because I'm in a hurry (Internet is $.42 per minute) and I'm not proof reading before I hit the 'post' button.

So I am adding onto my 'food' stories (not remembering what I've already written) ....

Did I tell you that the chef stuck frog's legs into the potato soup??? Would anyone ever order herring for breakfast?? What is that slimy pink raw stuff in the breakfast buffet?? I keep forgetting to remember what it is (it is salmon). I've read the sign and cringed. A food adventurer, I am not!

I have been scribbling down notes on scraps of paper so that when I have a chance, I will put them all together and create a post out of the mish mash of thoughts. And there are many. I need bigger paper in my pockets when I leave the room.

We went whale watching today. I have pictures and will add them to this post when we get to Anchorage and the Internet access is free. I will never look at a picture of the tail fin of a whale without remembering the exhileration which accompanies seeing it first hand. We have discovered one word which is universal when it comes to language. "WOW!!" You will hear that moment when I have a chance to download my whale videos ...

We had a full day in Juneau, so we were able to take in a tram car ride up Mount Roberts. This was a bonus activity and well worth it.

There is a busy night in store. My newest favorite hair dresser is on board the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship .... and she told me that she'd love to do something with my hair. It's going to be tough to 'keep' her. Her current contract runs out June 17th a and then she returns to Michigan. If you hear my next holiday destination has changed to Michigan, you'll know why!

Gotta run ... coffee has been delivered to me.

Cruise Cuisine

I can’t begin to tell you how many times people have told me that everyone gains 10 to 15 pounds on cruise holiday. I didn’t obsess about the idea, nor come up with alternatives that would make me one of those who did not gain extra weight.

As we explored the ship, we found that food was available pretty much any time. Plus 24 hour beverage carts (coffee, tea and juices). So I was starting to see where the rumor of gaining excessive weight was a definite possibility.

Then came reality.

A ‘welcome buffet’ was prepared for everyone. Most of us had been in line ups since noon, and the process to embark had taken 1 and a half hours. Supper time was not anywhere in the immediate future, so I would imagine that each and every one of the (over) 2,000 guests were eternally grateful.

It didn’t take us long to follow our noses (and the ship map) and discover our first set of buffet choices.

What surprised me, was that I was not overly hungry. And, it being a buffet style meal, I simply took what I knew I could eat.

If I had went to a restaurant, I would have been served excessive helpings and (because I was paying good money for the meal), I would have eaten much, much more than I needed to.

If I was at home, I would have most likely have had a few snacks long before this same time. Then when supper time rolled around, more likely than not, I would have eaten more than I wanted. Because either (A) I just wanted to get rid of it; or (B) I would not want to see my good money (food) thrown out.

But here? On holidays, when I have only my own stomach to worry about? It is a completely different matter.

Then there is the matter of our formal dining experience in the evenings. You must dress for supper. You are treated like royalty by the staff. The menu changes every evening, though they do have one menu that is always offered.

It is that changeable menu that throws me a curve ball. Seafood galore. Lamb (I can’t help but think of Mary’s Little Lamb when I read that lamb is an option). Words I’ve never read before in my life (why do they do that?!?). I am just as impressed to read ‘white sauce’, verses bousse blanc. They do that each and every meal.

Tonight was the scariest evening of all. Should I order grilled chicken breast for the third time in a row (I tried the steak one night and left half of it uneaten)? Or should I brave the changing menu and try something new?

I read, read and reread the soup and salad options. They also have appetizers but none of those were appealing to me (besides, I would need to be as hungry as possible if I was to try anything out of the norm).

It took some searching but eventually, I found potato soup and thought that maybe I’d give that a whirl (our table mates order appetizers and salad &/or soup, so I usually sit and watch them eat for the first half of our meal). Then I read the fine print. There were frog legs in the potato soup! Frog legs?!? See why I don’t order something I don’t understand?

In the end, I chose a vegetarian dish. They couldn’t sneak seafood, fish, lamb, beef or pork into the meal if it was advertised as vegetarian. So that is what I decided on.

The meal that I eventually chose, was deemed as a ‘heart smart’ selection. This is not the first time that I’ve found myself choosing what I want to eat, only to find out it is good for me!! I have tried the desserts the past three nights and (unintentionally) chose the ‘No Sugar Added’ dessert.

We keep missing meal times. I am instinctively making healthy food choices (for no other reason than, it is the best I can find on the menu). I’m eating smaller portions. There are no chips in our room, so if I’m feeling ‘snackish’ late at night, the absolutely only choice I have, is to dig into the outlandishly priced ‘liquor store’ in our room (otherwise known as a fridge).

I’m moving more and eating less. Without even trying!

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Survived Ketchikan

When My Friend mentioned a few Alaskan excursions that she wouldn’t mind going on (while we were ‘cruising’ our way up to Anchorage), I had no problem whatsoever in saying, “Go ahead! I’m sure whatever you would like to see, will be fine with me.”

She found the excursions that interested her and I was totally comfortable with her choices. We weren’t going zip lining, or white water rafting, or renting ATV’s or anything that put me out of my comfort zone.

That is ... until I heard that Alaskan bugs were quite the species. I did a Google image search to see what all the fuss was about. I don’t have Internet access at the moment, otherwise I would attach a picture to this post (I will try to add an image to this post at a later date). Yes, there are some insects that would indeed be bothersome (to me) if I ran into one (or if one started crawling up my leg or down my neck).

We chose a ‘Flora and Fauna package, so we would be rummaging through Alaskan nature and the chances of running into an unfamiliar bug would probably be higher than running into a bear. Plus, if a bear was in the vicinity, I think our presence (as a group) would scare off a bear. But an insect?? I do believe that I would be on my own.

Then there is the hair issue. I have had my hair cut three times since Easter. Each and every time, my request is: something quick and easy to take care of. Each and every time, I have run into a hair style that needs hair product, to be blown dry, a hair straightener, more hair product … and it still looks pretty bad.

My biggest fear was not running into bears. My biggest phobia was finding big, scary bugs. Quickly followed up by the reality that running into rain was great. My hair + rain = uncontrollable waves and frizz.

Today was the day. Our first excursion was – “Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary, Eagles & Totems”.

As we were driven up to the rain forest area, the driver of our bus commented on how lucky we were. In Ketchikan, it rains almost every day of the year. It is not the second largest rain forest in the world without good reason. I breathed a long sigh of relief. My hair should survive this adventure walk intact.

Our tour guide immediately insisted that anyone with any type of food product, must turn them over to her and she would return them after our walk in the forest. Food odors = Bear Bait.

It was at this point, that I remembered (hopefully???) an old wives tale about other scents that attract bears. How do I say this without saying it? Well … it is an odor that is only emitted by females … and only once a month. Need I say more?

Suddenly, I felt like Bear Bait. The only advantage to remembering that, is that it put the bug phobia into perspective. There was no turning back. I would face my fears and see what fate held in store.

All was going well – no bears and no rain. We were about half way through our tour when our guide told us how disappointed she was, that we didn’t run into a slug.

I wish I had a memory (or Google … but Internet access aboard a ship is expensive, so I can’t look up the information I don’t remember). Our guide proceeded to tell us about the slugs that frequent the area. She described colors and the size (why do I want to extend my arms as far back as they go, when I try to recall her answer?).

But that was not my fear. My real terror began when she talked about one of those slugs. Apparently, the venom from this slug is 10 times stronger than cyanide. My interpretation? Certain death!
~ Note: I researched this upon my return home and what I found, was information on a newt (Taricha granulosa). Click on here to read what I found).

The very thought of not only being Bear Bait … but also running into a poisonous slug the size of a snake, had me wishing that I was safe and sound, back ‘home’ in our cruise ship.

I am sitting here, writing this … so obviously I didn’t get mauled by a bear, nor poisoned by a slug. I am a survivor. Today, I leaped over another hurdle. Whew!

I have one day of ‘safety’ (no excursions are booked for tomorrow), before we head out on our “Whale Watching & Wildlife Quest” on Tuesday; followed the next day by “Eagle Preserve Rafting Wildlife Quest” on Wednesday.

I have only three wishes. Please! Please! Please!! Please protect me from big &/or slimy &/or poisonous insects. I guess that is only one wish when I word it that way. Also, I would be eternally grateful if I didn’t come face to face with a bear.

All of a sudden, the idea of running into rain doesn’t seem so bad. But if we must endure rain, Tuesday would be best for me. I have a haircut and style booked that evening.

I survived Ketchikan. Juneau and Skagway’s adventure trails are next. I can’t wait!

P.S. This revision is added after I personally visited and talked to My Alaskan Friend:

My fear about the insects that dwell in Alaska was unfounded. I was told that yes, their mosquitoes look as if they are on steroids ... (some say that it is Alaska's state bird) but as far as other bugs and slugs? They are really not much different from what I know and don't love about our insects at home.

Yes, they have slugs. So do we. I well remember the slugs that took up residence in my garden (and helped me decide not to plant another). So to find slugs within the second largest rain forest in the world (Ketchikan)? One would be more surprised if there weren't any slugs!

I took it upon myself to photograph the only Alaskan insect that I saw (other than a few very small flying bugs which may or may not have been mosquitos).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Elevator Dance

It has been brought to my attention that there is a name to the new dance since that I have learned since I boarded the ship. It is called the Elevator Dance.

It goes as follows:

• Step out of the elevator

• Look both ways

• Following your instincts, make a decision as to which way to go

• Walk to the end of the corridor and shake your head (what you see, is not what you expected)

• Confidently strut to the opposite corridor and peek around the corner

• That is definitely not what you expected either

• Turn around sheepishly and make your way down the corridor that your instincts told you was correct in the first place

• Proceed directly ahead

Now, the following steps, I have come up with on my own and I believe I should copyright:

• Turn around one more time and find your way back to the elevators

• Go the opposite direction that you just attempted (only to find out that you are still lost)

• Return to the elevator to study the ship map more closely

• Realize that you were on the wrong floor altogether

• Go to the correct floor and try this ‘dance choreography’ from the beginning

• Repeat as often as necessary (and hope that your friend who you were supposed to meet is (A) Still there and (B) retaining their sense of humor)

I have been told that one gains 10 pounds during a cruise. I will not be one of those statistics. I’m too busy doing the ‘Elevator Dance’.

Speaking of Elevators ...
Here's a visual picture to Go with the story

Tea Service ... on the elevator?!?

Glass Elevators ... Beautiful!

Mirrors mirrors everywhere ... even on the elevators!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A.MAZE.ING!!!

There hasn’t been a free moment to sit back and reflect today. It’s been marvellous!

First off (after breakfast), we ended up taking a ‘pink bus’ tour. A hop on, hop off ticket (good for one day). So we were able to see Stanley Park and a small piece of the Vancouver. We hopped on and stayed on for our hour long tour.

What impressed me the most?? I didn’t get motion sickness as I gawked all around and took in all of the sights. I usually have to keep my eyes facing forward and try not to let the passing scenery catch my eye. Today? I looked up, down and all around, Nothing. The motion sickness patch I was wearing worked like a charm.

Next on the agenda – check out of the hotel; take the elevator down to the ‘cruise ship’ floor and begin the checking in process for our cruise.

One long line for the baggage, followed by another line where we set up our ‘on-board account’ for any expenditures while we were on board the ship, then another line to go through security, another line as they took our picture before we boarded the ship, then one more line as we entered the ship (where they took another picture to go with our ‘cash card’ .

Finally, finally!!! We boarded our new ‘home’. And then the real fun began!!

Where do I begin? Our cabin is much larger than I thought it would be. Not one ounce of wasted space. It is perfect.

It was soon time to say good bye to Vancouver. And we were off!

A City Unto Itself

A brief description of the above mentioned city:

• Population – about 3000

• Passengers – over 2000

• Crew – almost 950

Demographics

• Crew – from 60 different countries

• Passengers – from all around the world

• Side note – Canadians are the minority (we have met two … and they were married to each other, so doesn’t that make them ‘one’?)

I believe that our city on the water could set an example. If every community was one such as this, world peace would be our reality.

The name of this Garden of Eden? Celebrity Millennium Cruiseship.

Having a Wonderful Time!!

It is as I feared. Lots to write, so little time. And the time I've found ... I've had no brain cells left to write about it.

Highlights thus far? The people. In Vancouver ... in the many, many, many lineups to get us onboard ... every single person we've talked to on the ship. Everyone is of the same mind. We are on the best holiday and we all know it!

My motion sickness patch is my friend. Not only did it save me from nauseousness as we took a quick bus) tour before we had to check out of our hotel yesterday morning) ... but the pitch of the ocean this morning would have played havoc with my ability to hold down my breakfast (which was very good, by the way).

Entertainment? There is too much to do ... choices have to be made. They are holding Cha Cha and Waltz dance lessons this morning; Zumba at 4:00; a Ballroom Dance Hour at 5:00 .... and tonight's entertaiment is "Simply Ballroom". They hold a 'Dancing with the Stripes' on Wednesday. I'm going to toss my name into the hat for that one. Oh .... and one more thing. Life is more of the same, here on the ship. Not enough men, too many women who would love to dance. I'm hoping my name gets picked for Wednesday night's contest. It may be the only chance I get to dance! Sigh.

Gotta run. Should have been at the Cosmos 5 minutes ago for a ship tour.

I have a feeling ... the best is yet to come!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Even the Pillows are Heavenly!

Yes, we are still in heaven. I think I slept on a cloud last night.

Cloud Nine perhaps? Cloud Nine .... with goose down pillows! One of their guest services is "Pillow Selection". I wonder if our ship has the same service??

Speaking of our ship ... we can see one corner of our ship from our Room With a View. We are four short hours away from boarding time!

One corner of our ship

The view from our room
 My Friend says it all when she (repeatedly) exclaims WOW!!!

Heavenly ... that is what this is! Heaven .... where even the pillows are worth writing about.

We are in Heaven

We are a few short hours into our holiday adventure and enjoying every moment!!

First of all, we found ourselves in heaven. Clouds are beautiful when you look at them from the top, down.

Then ... we flew over the Rocky and Cascade Mountain ranges ...


Beautiful!!

The day sped by and each moment was more exciting than the one that preceded it.

The next thing you know, we were well on our way to Vancouver and I suddenly remembered that I hadn't had anything solid to eat (other than my breakfast smoothie and that doesn't constitute real food to me, because I don't have to chew it).

So I was absolutely thrilled with the 'supper' that West Jet provided for me ... free of charge.

My stomach was rather angry at me for ignoring it all day and then feeding it a cookie and orange juice. But it has been much more forgiving since I fed it a chicken burger and fries at a restaurant that was suggested to us by our travel companion on our second leg of our journey.

But look what we found, right across the street from our hotel. McDonald's, Tim Horton's and Star Bucks ... all under one roof and a stone's throw away.

"We are here"
Yes !! I do feel like I've died and gone to heaven .... and we've only just begun ... 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Off ... To Alaska!!!

This day has come faster than I could have ever imagined.

Everything that could be done ... is done. If I've forgotten something, My Friend has remembered. And vice versa. We are finding that we compliment one another perfectly. My weak points are her strong ones. And vice versa.

The house is tidy. My children are prepared and (perhaps?) looking forward to their independence. Major details were tended long ago. Minor details are being wrapped up as I type (I have my netbook downloading Windows updates before we leave ... I don't want to spend precious Internet moments doing that while we are away!).

I weighed my baggage (and myself in the process). My Second Son glanced down at my weight and said "Oops ... maybe I shouldn't look" ... My reply? "It is what it is" ... His response? "That's a good attitude to have" Meanwhile, I'm thinking "But that is not how I feel about my hair!!@#$"

So I am spending my last moments running to my salon for one more emergency hair 'save'. I think I will plan to book hair appointments on the evenings we go for our excursions. Rain is in the forecast. My hair and rain? Not a winning combination. So I will plan for bad hair days and carry on.

My first indulgence aboard just may be a hat!

I can't believe this. I'm running out the door. To Alaska. And what is my biggest worry? My hair! My hair and Alaskan bugs ...

More on that later. I am off. Off to Alaska!!

I will be doing my ultimate best to keep this blog updated. It may be in bits and starts as I am unsure about Internet connections while aboard an Alaskan cruise ship. But I'm about to find out!!

Leave comments ... email ... whatever! I'd love to hear from who ever may be reading this while I am away.

And I'm off!!!!!

I Feel Like the Luckiest Mother in the World!

I recently wrote of my nieces and nephews ... and how each and every one of them have their own unique characteristics and way of expressing themselves. They are a special blend of genetics, their upbringing and their own view of the world. But today? I found myself telling My Youngest "I am the luckiest mother in the world!"

My Youngest is a good kid. He's independent, yet appreciates having the guiding hand of adults around him. He lives up to expectations, calls and asks permission to do things 'outside of the norm' and respects the answer "No" from time to time. I find it hard to say "no" when he is so upfront and honest with me. He is an easy guy to live with, watch over and invite along. He is an easy guy to like. And I like him!

My Second Son is such an amazing kaleidoscope of the best of the traits that he has been around the entirety of his life. He has an adventuresome spirit, is a risk taker, speaks his mind and has a genuine interest in making the most of his life. He has learned many lessons at a young age. He takes those lessons and moves forward just a little bit wiser than he was before.

My Oldest has saw much more and experienced an entirely different life than the sheltered life of his younger brothers. He has learned some tough lessons the hard way ... but the past two years have brought out a different set of characteristics. Qualities that he has had all along. He started talking and unleashing some of the hurt that he has felt, witnessed and endured. He defines success differently than his brothers. He has had a harder mountain to climb. But he is well on his way!

My children are spaced 20 years apart. It is hard to find that brotherly relationship when the age gaps differ so much. But it is beginning. A few Sundays ago, I saw and felt it. It is a beginning. And where there is a beginning, there is no end.

I was gushing on about some of this with My Sister when she called last night. I am in amazement at the set of circumstances that have brought me to a place where I can leave my children behind to watch out over each other. When Mom was sick a few months ago, it gave all of us a trial run. We all learned a little that has eased us into today. I told my sister, "They don't even need me anymore!" Her reply? "You are the glue that holds them together ... they still need you."

I need them too. I will be gone on my Alaskan Cruise Adventure for twelve days. But I will return, knowing that I am the luckiest Mom in the world!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Next Holiday Adventure

I haven't even left for my Great Alaskan Adventure ... and I've got my next holiday adventure formulating in my mind.

I am in no hurry for this next holiday. It will happen when it happens. I could go alone. I could go with a friend. I could go with a group.

My Bed & Breakfast dream has been rekindled. Now ... I just have to research my project. And what fun that will be!

The idea of turning one of my grandparent's homes into a B & B is something that I simply can't get out of my mind.

One of those homes is in a small village within my home province. The other is in Prince Edward Island. Both houses are still standing (though chances are, that the house in P.E.I. is a  little more structurally sound). I would like to investigate both options.

Bed & Breakfast hopping in Prince Edward Island sounds like a lot of fun. Experience the culture, talk to people, see the sights and go from place to place to collect bits and pieces of what I like and want to add to my B & B one day.

This holiday could be many things. It could be a flight out and a relatively quick holiday. It could be a drive across the country and a collection of B & B experiences Canada-wide. I could go alone ... or not.

As it was with my Alaskan cruise, I have set my sights on going ... and I will just let the cards fall as they may. The who, when, how and other details will unfold as they may, in their own time.

This time tomorrow night, My Friend and I will be in Vancouver!! We are staying in a most excellent location and we should be able to make the most of the 18 or so free hours we have at our disposal before we set sail.

I can almost taste the sea air!!! It's happening! This is really happening!!!!

If We Aren't Part of the Solution ...

"The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out"
 ~ James Baldwin ~

I attended a Holocaust Memorial Service this past Sunday. From the moment we walked through the door and my sons were handed their kippah (the skullcap that Jewish men wear, as a physical acknowledgment that HaShem is always above us), there was silence and reverence in the air.

We (along with hundreds of others) walked silently through the displays which depicted the lives of the Jewish community before the reign of terror that was yet to come. We saw pictures, read the history, observed the timeline ... already knowing what history has taught us.

Twelve million people were persecuted throughout the Holocaust. Jews, Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, homosexuals, gypsys, trade unionists, communists ... anyone who didn't conform to what was determined the 'superior race' were tortured, murdered and suffered atrocities that we cannot begin to imagine. Six million of these people were Jewish. One and a half million of those were children.

We were honored to listen to one of those survivors on Sunday - Robert Waisman. Robert was 14 when his concentration camp, Buchenwald, was liberated on April 11, 1945. He remembers going up and touching one of the soldiers, just to make sure the soldier was real. 19 year old Leon Bass was that soldier. He was the first black man that Robert had ever seen. Today, Robert Waisman and Leon Bass speak together as often as they can.

Dr. Leon Bass spoke about the racism he endured before, during and after the war. He opened our eyes to the evils of the world - not only the Holocaust, but of the injustices that still populate our world. The genocide that continues to this day, the racism and the mistreatment of human beings in every part of the population.

"None were good enough" ... "What have they done that people would treat them so badly?" Leon Bass witnessed racism taken to an unfathomable level when he walked through the Buchenwald concentration camp upon its liberation. "(This is) what can happen if we don't pay attention."

Dr. Bass quoted Martin Luther King's dream "... that people will be judged not by the color of their skin ... but by the content of their character ..."

Leon's plea to his audience was "Don't give tacit agreement by being silent." Leon said to ask ourselves - "What am I doing? What am I contributing? What am I failing to do? Is the price to high? Dare to go in and speak" "You have something to say" And finally "... what can happen if we don't pay attention"

I walked away from the service transformed. They spoke of the Holocaust and beyond that, into our present day. We can all make a difference by standing up against the injustices we see right before us.

What follows, is a video of the speech (almost word for word) that Dr. Leon Bass spoke this past Sunday. It is lengthy ... but it is worth it. Watch it. It will change the way you think.



"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me."
~ Martin Niemoller ~

Note: All italicized quotes that are not specifically attributed to James Baldwin, Martin Luther King or Martin Niemollor are quotes (in part) from Dr. Leon Bass

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Breathing Life Into a Dream

We stayed at the Red Pine Bed & Breakfast this past weekend. It renewed a dream.

South BalconyMy brother-in-law was just returning 'home' (to our Inn) from a walk when I happened to drive up to the Red Pine B & B.

He met me at the car and his first words to me were, "This has exceeded all expectations."

Then he proceeded to start to tell me about our amazing hostess ... until the moment that I was warmly greeted and welcomed into our temporary home and met 'Edwina' myself.

As we walked in the doors and he said, "You've just got to see this ..." and we wandered through this amazing home which has been turned into a Bed & Breakfast.

Our suite was amazing. It housed all four of us with ease. It was almost unfortunate that we had the entirety of the rest of the house at our disposal, because we had all the comforts of home, right within our very own suite:

  Suite - Liiving Room Suite - Bedroom One

What  you don't see, is that there is comfy, cozy, big chair (that goes with the ottoman shown) and another full-sized queen bed, off in one nook of the 'living area'. There is a new television set with a multitude of channels (satellite) and an incredible selection of DVD's available to watch. There has also been a small fridge (with an wide variety of beverages), a microwave and a tray set up for coffee/tea and snacks.

It is unfortunate that the photo gallery of this B & B does not showcase the main floor level. There are two large sitting areas (which could be separated by a sliding door, if there was a need) and a hugh dining area. Every nook and cranny of this three story home has been decorated by hand picked items that have been acquired through auctions and garage sales over the course of the (two) years in which the owners have had this home.

You walk up one half of the first flight of stairs and there is the door to the North Balcony (pictured above). You continue up that flight of stairs and you find this:
Canto - Bedroom 1
Canto - Bedroom 1

Canto - from a different angle
Canto - from a different angle
and this:   
Madeira - Bedroom 2
Madeira - Bedroom 2

Burgundy - Bedroom 3
Burgundy - Bedroom 3
and this:
Office
The Office (now converted to a  4th Bedroom)
North Balcony
North Balcony (private access off of the Office Bedroom)

That is just the house. Then there is Edwina ... our hostess.

Each and every one of us was welcomed with open arms. She offered us refreshments any time there may have been an inkling of someone wanting a coffee or something to nibble on. She gave us just the right amount of space and privacy to visit amongst ourselves, as well as a chance to visit with her in small bits and bites. I believe we were all anxious to hear a little of her story ... what it took to get their B & B from 'there' to 'here'.

Before we left, I took a few minutes to thank Edwina. Before I even arrived, my family told her about my goal of running a bed and breakfast one day. So she took full advantage of the time that I had separated myself from my family to talk with her. "Come ... let's sit down and talk!", she exclaimed as she escorted me to one of the sitting rooms.

She buoyed my enthusiasm, restored my faith and she started me off with words of advice. She sent me on my way, encouraging me to keep in touch and ask her anything, as I set off on the road to pursuing this dream.

I have never let the goal of owning/running a Bed & Breakfast die. But it has withered ... just a bit. When one allows reality to seep into your dreams, it does water them down a bit.

After this weekend and most especially after sitting down and talking with Edwina .... I feel that anything is possible!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Making the Most of What We Have

We met by chance ... are friends by choice.

Twenty years ago, there were a group of us thrown together at Our Place of Work to open up a new branch location. Twenty years later ... there are still a handful of us that get together and celebrate our friendship whenever we can make it work.

Originally, we made plans to get together before we went our separate ways after a visit. Once a month. We all marked it on our calendars and set a day, time and place to ensure we didn't let this friendship fall by the wayside.

Then life happened. There were job changes, family relationships that changed and evolved, retirement, health challenges and several even moved out of the province.

Our monthly ritual was no more. But we didn't let the connection break entirely. We were a group of friends united. And united we have stayed. Through good times and bad.

We made our plans around whatever worked. Our motto is "No pressure". We would gather for tea ... for potluck suppers ... picnics ... days to remember ... and as the years evolved, we even managed to take our friendship group on the road and set out on new adventures.

Whether it was 2 hours, 2 days, 2 minutes on the phone or an email 'conversation' ... we have learned to create the most out of whatever time we are given. We have made a lot of memories in little time.

This past weekend, we were given about 90 minutes.

It takes creativity, patience and a little bit of flexibility to make a 'Pedicure for Four' work. But we did it! As much as we tried to make this work in the times we chose ... in the end, it was the salon that made our decision. There was one day that would work, within the deadline that we had (flexibly) created in our minds. That would be this past Saturday.

Each of us found a way to make this work. And it was good.

We had the Pedicure Room to ourselves. We chatted together and apart. We drew our estheticians into 'our world' and enlarged our circle. We created new memories.

When we are together, we laugh, we share, we care ... we support, we encourage, we listen, we talk. This time? We got pretty feet!
Our Circle of Feet ...
within our most special
Circle of Friends

The Best of Both Worlds

It was just under two years ago that my Second Born Sister's children threw a surprise anniversary party for their parents. Each of their four children had an integral part in the program and their own personal version of the 'Story of Their Parents'. Each and every one of them shone in their own special way. They were a family united and they shone together and let us have a glimpse at their universe.

This past weekend, my Oldest Sister held a surprise birthday party for her husband. She invited friends and family. She organized the menu, the venue and the multitude of details it takes to make an occasion like this unfold seamlessly.

The program involved each one of my Sister's children speaking. Five children. One professional comedian among them. Yet each one of them captivated the audience with memories and thoughts of their dad. Each perspective was unique, yet was a thread of the same story. Each had their own way of stringing those thoughts together in a cohesive way which was a pleasure for all to hear. Once again. Not one of my Sister's children shone any brighter than the rest. Once again, the family came together and created one bright light.

When I had time to be quiet with my thoughts on my drive home yesterday, I marvelled at these nieces and nephews. All of them. I look at the children of my siblings and what I see, is a wonderfully meshed combination of the best of both of their parents.

I reflected on my own family and how my Oldest Sons helped me 'carry the ball' and entertain my Brother and Sister-in-Law while they were out for their brief overnight stay this weekend. I look at all three of my children and what I am beginning to appreciate is the fact that they have found a way to siphon through the kaleidoscope of family traits and come out with some of the best.

Children emulate what they see. When I look at my sibling's families and appreciate the fine young adults that they have become, I feel like I have a glimmer of understanding of the dynamics of their family. A little piece of many genetic puzzle pieces all put together into each one of these unique and special human beings.

It is such a gift to have the opportunity to sit back and marvel at the wonders of family. It is such a blessing when you see children grow into adults that carry a piece of the best of the two 'worlds' that created them.

Because My Hair Appointment Got Cancelled ...

"Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans"

Life happened Saturday morning. I had the minutes of my day carefully choreographed so that I could work in time to visit my brother and his wife during their brief stay here; get my hair cut/colored; go for a pedicure with three of my friends; run to Costco on the way out of the city; and head off to a surprise birthday party for my sister's husband.

Everything was going perfectly. I got up early and made my thermal food carriers (which worked perfectly, by the way ... the ice packs were still partially frozen 24 hours later). The 'gift of a memory' (the only gift requested for my brother-in-law) finally came to me while I was inventing my thermal food packs. I had time to blog a little. Time to shower and I was ready to entertain my company. All was well in my world.

Then the phone rang.

A mini-hair-crisis was about to unfold. My wild and woolly locks were untamed at the time of answering that call. I knew my hairdresser would rescue me. In one moment, it all changed.

My hair appointment was cancelled. Long story short, I begged and asked if they could squeeze me in for just a cut. I could return another day for the color. But please, please, please ... could they please just cut and style my hair to get me through the weekend?? And they did (and miracle workers that they are, they found a way to do the color as well).

Because my hair appointment was rescheduled ...
  • My two hour hair appointment turned into one hour and 15 minutes. A bonus 45 minutes in a day that had precious few moments to spare.
  • I was able to go to Costco bright and early and be guaranteed that all of the food trays that I promised my sister were still in stock..
  • While I was at Costco, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in (at least) 15 years. If I had gone to my original hair appointment, I would have never been at that exact place at that exact time.
  • I was able to go to My Oldest's home with my brother and my sister-in-law prior to my pedicure appointment. 'Plan A' was that my Second Son would show them the way. But this new and improved revision meant that I saved my Second Son an extra trip, I had bonus time to spend with my brother/sister-in-law and I got in an extra visit with My Oldest during a weekend that was all about family.
  • My brother was able to take the food items I was responsible for, to the surprise party we were both attending.
  • Thus, I did not have to return home after my pedicure appointment ... so I was able to give my friend a ride home on the way to my out-of-town destination (if I would have had to return home, this would not have worked out so perfectly).
A cancelled appointment. An inane thing-that-really-doesn't-matter. This one small glitch shuffled my day around in a way that I could have never planned.

It was a day that turned out perfectly. And it was all because my hair appointment got cancelled.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Time in a Bottle

This entire weekend was a little slice of awesome in each and every corner of my world.

As I was driving home today, blog topics and titles were swimming through my mind. Unfortunately I was driving so I couldn't write them down, but I raced to a pen and paper the minute I walked through the door and scrawled down Future Blog Titles (in the hopes of recapturing the feelings, emotions and essence of this weekend in the wake of a new day).

From ...

The hair crisis that led me down a path to a chance meeting with an old friend (and a promise to visit more, as soon as I come back down to earth from my Alaskan holiday) ...

To ...

A most special afternoon with friends in my most favorite salon in the world ...

To ...

A family gathering that made my heart sing, my spirit soar and blessed me with the opportunity of being a part of such an incredible celebration of a family ...

To ...

A stay at a Bed & Breakfast that reinforced a goal, a dream and made me feel that anything is possible when you put your heart and soul into it  ...

To ...

Reflecting on my Sister's (both of them) families and how (within the span of two years) I have seen how each one of their children have blossomed so uniquely, into the best of both of their parents (as each one of these nine amazing nieces and nephews have put together  program/speeches which honored their parents and family) ...

To ...

Being told by a virtual stranger of how enjoyable it was for her to hear Our Family's (Mom and each one of her four children) laughter, mutual enjoyment of each other and the way we all get along. After which I succinctly and honestly replied, "We are blessed" ...

To ..

Meeting the Hostess with the Mostest at our Bed and Breakfast (who sat down with me and encouraged me to tell her about my goals of owning my own B & B one day and immediately started sharing some of what she has learned) ...

To ...

A time of quiet reflection driving to and from my destinations yesterday and today. One and a half hours of silence (each way) to savor the memories of the many moments of joy that this weekend has bestowed upon me ...

To ...

The knowledge of where I know my next Vacation Passion will take me (Bed & Breakfast Hopping in Prince Edward Island, and seeing the home where my Grandmother was raised) ...

To ...

Coming home and finding a renewed sense of appreciation for all that we take for granted, after listening to these two inspirational speakers as they retold their story of survival and liberation of the Holocaust and the lessons we can all learn from and pay forward, to retain freedoms that every living being deserves ...

To ...

Time with my own little family at the beginning and at the end of the most memorable weekend.

"Time in  a Bottle" has always spoken to my heart and soul, and it resonated throughout my thoughts on my drive home this afternoon. The 'you' in these the lyrics means each and every one of you who touch my world ...

"There never seems to be enough time to do the things
you wanna do
Once you find them.
I've looked around enough to know
that you're the one(s) I wanna go through time with ..."
~ Jim Croce - Time in a Bottle ~

Saturday, May 14, 2011

If I Build it ... The Food Will Come

I innocently offered to pick up anything that My Sister may need from Costco, for a surprise party that she is hosting tonight.

At first glance, it appeared that my sister had it all under control.

Then she called me back and said that she would like to take me up on that offer after all. Could I bring a vegetable tray and a fruit tray? I asked "And how about a few Caesar salads too?"

She agreed that would be all she needed to round off the menu. And that was that.

Fast forward to this past week. Our outside temperatures have gradually been warming up. As the Party Day approached, I was thinking that cool weather would be more conducive to the one and a half hour trip to my sister's, with perishable food items in my trunk. Lucky us! It looks like it is going up to 19 today. What was I going to do about the food?

I had a few ideas, but acted on none of them. Last night, My Oldest took me to Costco and suggested we pick up this food and get that errand taken care of.

It was a great idea. But my bubble quickly burst when Costco had absolutely 'none of the above'. Nothing! And no guarantee it would arrive this morning either. I couldn't order this and place it on hold. It is first come, first served.

My worry meter started to rise. I tried telling myself there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it. This situation is entirely out of my control.


Then I woke up this morning and 'built' these thermal food containers out of items that I had on hand. As I was utilizing my inventive ways, I was buoyed by my 'Field of Dreams' analogy of life that started quietly speaking to me as I finally took some action.

"If I build it ... the food will come."

(Costco does not open until 9:30, so I don't know the outcome to my dilemma. Update to follow)

*** Updated May 15th *** The food did come!

Friday, May 13, 2011

So Much to Do … So Little Time

My head is swimming with lists, things to do/remember/and pack. Little things. Big things. All kinds of things.

I didn’t want this to happen. I thought that I carefully choreographed this last week so that I would have time to enjoy every step along the way to this final countdown to My Great Alaskan Adventure.

Then life happened.

Capri pants that just don’t fit, thereby creating a wardrobe emergency which must be attended in the spare minutes of today. Sunday Supper on Friday. An extra little errand to run (which involves another party). Overnight guests. A fun, light and purely indulgent appointment with friends. An out of town family gathering involving an overnight stay at a Bed and Breakfast. An interesting speaker that I’d like to see on Sunday.

That is this weekend in a nutshell.

The flip side of this, is that once I return home on Sunday … I should have four free evenings to putter with all of the inane things that I find to do before I take a trip such as this.

History has shown that I will fill each evening to capacity, one way or another. Whether it is packing and completing the things-to-do-list or stocking up my home and making arrangements for things to run smoothly in my absence (even though I know that I don’t have to worry about a thing at home). Phone calls, emails and letters. And (of course) watching all of my favorite TV shows so that I have that ‘job’ up to date before I leave.

Yes, I create work where there is no need to do so. The filing cabinet within my brain likes things neat, tidy, organized and prepared. Then, I will be able to leave it all behind, the moment I walk into that airport next Thursday afternoon.

I find fun within the confines of this list-building life that I have created. There is a sense of accomplishment and one less thing on the worry-list, as I cross of the eternal list of things-to-do-before-I-go.

I seem to have a way of creating a life where I try to squeeze in as much as I possibly can, when I know that I have a finite amount of time to work with.

I do best with deadlines. This is one of the most fun deadlines that I can imagine. I’ve succeeded in my goal in savoring the moments preceding this holiday.

I will have time with each and every one of my family members this weekend. From my mom … to my siblings … to my children. I will be exactly where I want to be, and doing exactly what I want to do.

I will have time to spend time indulging in some of my frivolous pleasures. Time with friends getting a group pedicure. I can picture us now. All four of us in a ‘pedicure room’ where we will each have a special massaging chair as we sit back, relax and enjoy the easy conversation we always share.

I will have time to spend with my own thoughts … as I drive to and from my destination tomorrow/Sunday. Time to reflect on the moments of the weekend to come, the weekend past and the week ahead.

I will have time to do everything I need to do. And most things I want to do (because the list simply never stops growing).

I’m grateful for such a fun filled list of things-to-do. The time is a non-issue. Life always has a way of working out just the way it is supposed to be. No matter what other plans you have made.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Not the Day I Had Hoped For …

I had great hopes for today. Even though it didn’t look like the day was going to go as I had hoped for, I still had this feeling it could change in an instant.

My mom arrived by bus last night. Yes … my mom. The ‘mom’ that I was so worried about only two short months ago. Coming out for a few family celebrations … just as she has done numerous times before.

Did I want to take the day off today and celebrate the fact that Mom was here? You bet! Did I ask? I sure did. Was my wish granted? No. But I thought maybe things could change if I worked real hard and put in an extra effort. It didn’t happen.

I thought that perhaps my Second Son would have the day off and have time to leisurely take Mom to her sisters. Nope. My Son had a full day ahead of him and wanted to get an early start. It wasn’t going to happen.

I called my boss at home, to ask if it was okay if I came in a little late so that I could drive Mom to her sisters. No answer and she didn’t return my message.

A half hour later, I called work to talk to her there. She wasn’t there either. I left a message. And I waited.

In the mean time, My Youngest came down with a stomach ailment this morning. One look at him and I knew that school was out of the question.

This meant that my option of leaving for work early to chauffeur Mom to the other side of the city and back to work would not work. I had to get my babysitting charge to school … so I had to wait until it was time for him to go to school before I could leave the house.

I was getting frustrated. I was still waiting for my boss to call me. For the past 13 years, I have been able to be home when my mom has come to visit. She didn’t much enjoy my house full of daycare children, so she didn’t stay any longer than necessary. But I could be here. Not today.

I wanted so badly to at least take the morning off of work so I could get Mom where she needed to be. I wanted to be home because My Youngest was sick. I wanted to have the ability to drive Mom out to my sister’s and not have to rely on my sister’s generosity and good nature to drive 1 ½ hours (again) to come and get Mom.

I wanted to be available to my family today. But I wasn’t.

My Second Son rose to the occasion and ended up driving Mom to her sister’s. I got to work on time. My Youngest slept all morning and was feeling better by supper.

I put in a full day’s work and I will be paid for my efforts. Had I been working from home, this day would have been a write off. I could have been where I wanted to be and doing what I wanted to do. But my work would have suffered. Payback would have occurred one way or the other – working through the night or simply not getting paid for work I didn’t do.

Everything turned out just fine in the end.

But it wasn’t the day I hoped for.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

They Fit! They Still Fit!!

I have been afraid to try on my formal wear in preparation for my upcoming cruise (which is now nine short days away). But part of me was still counting on the special magical spell that has been cast upon that particular part of my wardrobe.

The formal attire that I own seems to have a little bit of magic woven into the fabric. Any time I need to wear these items, they somehow magically transform themselves so that they still fit me.

I have a pretty impressive formal wardrobe for a girl who hangs around in a diesel shop all day. My previous work-from-home-careers would lead one to believe that I would have a closet full of jeans and T-shirts. I don't.

Thankfully, I dance! Dancing has created a need for 'smart casual' attire. Our annual showcase has helped outfit my closet with a small selection of formal wear (not to mention a small array of ballgowns and slinky rhythm apparel).

I opened up my closet doors last night and was prepared for anything. How could my clothing possibly still fit after all of my overeating and lack of activity? I've been here before. So I tried again.

I felt like a little girl playing dress up ... with the clothes in my very own closet. I quickly accumulated the formal garb that I would require. Then I started playing around with the rest of my regular weekly dancing wardrobe. A few outdated glittery tops could work well as camisoles. And voila! I had created a brand new look with very old clothes.

I easily amassed seven evenings worth of "Smart Casual and Above" and "Formal" attire that I will require for our cruise.

It is the rest of my wardrobe that is lacking. The hanging around the ship and going on excursions wear. The day-to-day clothing I will need while we spend the last three to four days hanging out in Anchorage and finding our way home.

The wardrobe that doesn't expand and shrink with me. Denim is such an unforgiving fabric. Denim keeps me grounded. It tells me when I overeat. It is screaming at me to get active again. No give, no take. It is what it is. And my new body doesn't fit so well in my old denim. Sure, I can put it on and zip it up. But it isn't comfortable.

Yes, my formal wear still fits. It fit me 10 pounds ago. It probably looked a little better back then too. The only magic about those clothes is the elasticity of the fabric.

To keep the denim or to let it go, is the question. Denim is my reality check. It is what it is. Body size changes are easily measured when you wear denim. But every girl needs a part of her wardrobe that stretches the truth (aka: fabric) just a little bit.

As we change, grow and evolve as a person ... isn't it also part of the process for our bodies to change, grow and evolve? Isn't it only fitting for our wardrobe to reflect those changes and give us a little leeway? A little room to grow?

I'm grateful for my formal wear that has that little bit of pixie dust sprinkled into the weave of the fabric. A small bit of magic that makes me feel as young, vibrant (and thin) as I was when I first wore them.

My formal attire not only gives me room to grow. It gives me a little bit of room to dream.