Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Time of Great Upheaval

It feels as though the planets must be shifting within the universe. It seems that so, so many people that touch my world are going through a time of transition.

Change comes in many forms.

We are constantly living in a time of flux. Small changes happen to each and every one of us every day, as we absorb, reflect and react to the myriad of life experiences. A smile, a phrase, a touch, watching a child, watching the world go by. It touches us.

There are other times when we create a state of change within our lives. A conscious chain of events that takes an extraordinary amount of energy within. There are times that we are fortunate and we are voluntarily looking to tweak our life a little bit here and there.

Other times, these changes are thrust upon us and we are simply reacting. Neither is easy. But if we are fortunate enough to feel like we are in the driver's seat to initiate a change, we should try and appreciate that we have the feeling of being in control of our destiny.

Sometimes the ultimate change is happening to a close friend or family member, which leaves their support system in a place where they must react to the ever changing situation at hand. To be on the outside, looking in and doing as much as one can do to assist another is one of the hardest places to be. As a parent, I don't know how many times that I would have taken on the pain or sickness of my child in order to alleviate their distress. It is harder to watch someone else endure hardships than it is to take it upon yourself.

Then there is loss. When the gift of life has been taken from someone we know and love, our world is altered forever. We have no choice in the matter. We have lost all control. We must cherish the memories, band together and rally on. There is no other way to go.

There are times when we must cocoon ourselves up to steel ourselves up for the changes ahead. We don't know what will emerge when we are released from that cocoon.

If we can find the best in a bad situation ... if we can look forward to the future and see light ... if we can harvest our memories and turn them into something tangible ... if we can cherish the here and now ...

... we have the hope of emerging from that cocoon in the form of a butterfly. With wings to fly, a freer spirit and a quiet beauty to behold.

May the metamorphosis turn you into something bigger, better and more than you were before.

I went to sleep last night with these thoughts in my mind. This is the forwarded email that I received from a friend this morning. Some words of wisdom from Maya Angelou:

'I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.'

'I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.'

'I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.'

'I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life.'

'I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.'

'I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back...'

'I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision..'

'I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.'

'I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug or just a friendly pat on the back...'

'I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.'

'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.'

~ Maya Angelou ~

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In the Light of Day

I had a moment of almost certain clarity yesterday. Then I came home.

I want a change so badly that I can taste it. I can see it, feel it and almost reach out and touch it. I need to take forward steps away from a negative situation. I need it so badly that I would be willing to do almost anything.

Anything ... except abandon my responsibilities of being a parent to My Youngest.

The red flags were waving all around me. I chose to override all of the warnings. I saw the end goal. I wanted out of my current situation so badly that I was willing to take a step on the wild side. Risk it all. Do something I've never done before.

I learned things I needed to know yesterday. When the answer that I had found was dangling before me, it left no option for me to keep a foot in one door while I tried out another. I must walk away. Cut the ties. End it. That solution felt like the answer for me.

I have lived the last 13 years of my life with one foot in the door that I was leaving as my other foot bravely walked where it had never walked before.

I have taken forward steps. Perhaps those steps were hindered because of my fear of falling. I had my safety nets firmly in place.

Until last year. This past year I have been working without a net. It has been frightening. I haven't fallen. But I am most definitely not working at the height that I was meant to work at. I may not have fallen off a ledge. But I've been working my way down. Slowly but surely.

If I continue to stay where I am at, it feels like certain death. It is a fight to maintain my status quo where I am at. I've been here before. This is the place where I must take a leap of faith to save myself.

I have a fear of falling ... a fear of failing.

I must find my own answers. It is time to start the search in earnest.

The unanswered questions that I have always rise to the top ... in the light of a new day.

Onward.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Hope the Coffee Works Today

I have been on a mission the past few days. I thought I may have only a few days to complete it. So I have allowed myself to become consumed. Now I am spent.

I have been cleaning out the used trailer that My Son & His Girlfriend bought. They have been kind enough to lend it out to us (me, My Youngest and my Mom) for the upcoming weekend/week. One kindness deserves another ... so I have been busy.

I wish that I had the ambition and enthusiasm to clean my own home. A short while ago, I was eager to help unpack and clean My Oldest's new home. New dirt is so much more fun than old dirt. That was my motto during that energetic phase.

I did utilize some of that residual energy to revamp our home a little bit. But that was short lived spree. I had to tend to a few other important matters (attending a family gathering and an Alaskan cruise for example). So ... the old dirt within our home got older.

Then came the mission of cleaning this trailer. Hmmm, let me think ... 150 sq ft of trailer verses 1,000 sq ft of home. Trailer wins!

It was almost fun to clean those 'cute little blinds'. Five small windows. Five small sets of blinds. I cleaned windows, light fixtures, bathroom, walls/ceilings/floors and all of the nooks and crannies.

The most satisfying part? Was finding that the previous owners also cleaned these spots. Sure ... there was a little bit of dust, a few fly corpses and evidence that a mouse spent a night (not much evidence ... I think the mouse went and found a home that came equipped with food).

Even more satisfying? Starting and completing my mission within an eight hour period. One work day. And the entirety of this house (not including the outside) is clean!

Then came the fun part. Moving in.

I thought the move would be simpler than it has become. What started out as a 'place to call home' for My Youngest (as I convinced him to come along with me this weekend, when I know that he would prefer to stay home) ... has become an oasis for My Mom to enjoy after we leave.

It isn't official, but I heard 'yes' in her voice yesterday morning when I told her that My Son invited her to stay on in their trailer for a few days after our Home Town Reunion this weekend. She would be camped out in my cousin's yard. Our home town is so small that everything is a 'stones throw' away. She would be surrounded by family and old friends. Her sister lives seven miles away ...

So my goals changed as I started packing. I want Mom to feel at home while she stays on. So I added a few small touches (the ability to make coffee and toast) to my original plan.

Then ... My Son & His Girlfriend will be picking up their trailer as they are en route to their own weekend destinations after that. So they will be able to utilize some of the conveniences that I may be able to provide for their trailer.

One small idea has morphed into larger proportions than I expected at the onset. My mind has been busy trying to account for all of the different variables. So this morning? I felt spent.

The caffeine (and a shower) have worked their magic. I feel transformed and energized. It is a very good thing because I have a meeting with Destiny this morning. I wasn't feeling too good about that in my washed out state of the early morning hours.

Amazing what a cup of java and a shower will do. Yesterday ... the trailer. Tomorrow ... the world!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Insecurities

They come up behind you and grab you when you aren't looking. You think you have thought things through and WHAM! There they are. Those pesky insecurities that you have been holding at bay.

I was keeping my thoughts in check. The reality is that everything in my life is well under control. Change is in the air ... but I am confident that no matter where things go from here, it will lead me to a better place. Even if the path is not straight and narrow.

Then I woke up this morning. Suddenly, my fears came right up behind me and grabbed me. They didn't let go.

My insecurities felt bigger than life. I was immobilized and didn't want to jump out of bed to greet the day.

I am taking steps towards redirecting my future. I have had time to weigh the pros and cons. I have had time to talk to people. I have had time to digest many of the possibilities. I have had time to allow the fear factor to seep into my thoughts.

Insecurities. Last night ... they found me. This morning ... they threatened to paralyze me. This afternoon, I reined in my fear, took forward steps and regained my confidence. And tonight? I feel as though I am back in the driver's seat of my life.

How does one know if a decision is a good one unless you allow yourself to feel the uncertainty? It is by weighing what could be gained against what you may lose, that the solution becomes clear.

To second guess oneself and come out feeling good about your choice ... is to look insecurity in the eye and say that there is no room for here for the 'two of us'. And I am staying.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Words Unleashed

Surprisingly enough, every now and again the flow of words gets stuck somewhere in between my brain and my fingertips.

Sometimes I can't put my finger on what is causing the clog. Other times it is obvious.

Too much talking severely hampers my ability to write. The words stop flowing after supper. Tedious thoughts. Negativity. Unfinished business ...

Two days ago, I had nothing to say. Absolutely nothing (thus the post 'Your Voice'). I really, really wanted to 'hear' someone else that day.

I had a few notes that I wanted to write and the words had been idling in my brain. I hadn't put pen to paper and unleashed what I did (or didn't) have to say. It is the times when words are not enough, that the words get lost.

Yesterday morning ... I sat down and wrote those notes. After that, the words started falling out of me uncontrollably.

I wrote yesterday's post quickly and easily. The day prior, it took forever ... to write nothing.

Then ... I went to work.

The words started pinging around in my brain like a little super ball in an enclosed room. Ping! Ping! Ping! I grabbed a scrap of paper and started writing down all of the thoughts that had been unleashed.

~ The Inane Things That I Have Done Lately ~

~ I have been (unknowingly) washing my hair with conditioner for the last long while. I can't see the fine print on things without my glasses and I had been wondering why my shampoo didn't feel very sudsy. Until a few days ago, when I grabbed (what I thought was) the conditioner ... and voila! Suds galore.

I cannot begin to guess how long I've been shampooing without shampoo.

~ I feel like I should place a 'New Driver' sign in the back of my car window to explain the lack of ability to make good, safe and courteous driving decisions.

Ever since I got my new car, I have felt like a fish out of water (or a 16 year old, behind the wheel of their very first car). Driving has become a challenge as I reorientate myself with the new dimensions of the car and all of its gadgets. Ohmigosh. And do I have gadgets! I'm still wading through the manual ...

~ I need a new toilet to go with the seat that I bought for it. Our toilet seat should have been replaced many, many years ago.

I finally found myself wandering down the bathroom aisle (while I was on an emergency run for a plunger) and I thought I'd pick one up. I brought it home, 'installed' it ... noticed that it looked wrong ... and walked away.

It wasn't until I went to use it, that I realized my error. It is the wrong shape. It will work. It's just that it goes with a different shape of toilet. Returning a toilet seat feels like returning lingerie items. It seems to me, that it shouldn't be allowed. So I'll just have to wait until the toilet breaks down, so I can buy a toilet that goes with the new seat.

~ I was clapping My Youngest's shoes together outside. They had been coated with mud. Then dried. Vigorous smashing of the soles together removed the majority of the dirt. I did this as we were departing for school/work one morning.

One of the 'dirt pebbles' landed smack dab inside my top and got caught up in my 'underthings'. I shook the little piece of dirt free of where it was lodged, figuring that it would work its way out (not really making note of the fact that I had a camisole tucked into my waistband).

Later that afternoon, I had this annoying sharp thing poking me in my thigh-to-knee area. There was no way in the world that I could work my way 'up' from the bottom of my capris, to find out what was jabbing me. So I worked my way down (I work all alone in my attic space in a diesel shop warehouse, so I can do this if necessary). Lo and behold ...what did I find? But that little pebble of dirt. I sat down and was still feeling something sharp around my knee. More dirt.

I chuckled to myself as I thought of the long and winding road these little pellets of dirt made since that morning. They just couldn't make their way past my thighs ... and what if someone had been watching me as I went on my fishing expedition??

~ I walked out the door yesterday morning with my lunch and paper recycling. I know this. I have a visual memory of placing it on the doorstep as I locked the door. I put the recycling in its spot in the garage. When I went to grab my lunch ... it was not in its spot on the passenger seat of the car. Where was it?

Either the dogs were lunching on it (if I left it on the door step) ... or the ants were feasting on it (if I left it in the garage). All that I knew, is that there was no lunch for me yesterday.

It wasn't until I was home for a while, that I remembered to go and look for my lost lunch. No evidence of it in the backyard. I went to the recycling spot. Nothing. Hmmm. I rummaged through the bags of papers just a little bit and eventually found my lunch. Hiding behind some other recycling. What was I thinking yesterday morning???

That is just a bit of the inane that has been bouncing around in my mind the past few days.

Then there are the many items that I must act on. It is time to (yet again) push myself out of the thinking mode and into the doing mode.

My little scrap of paper has a little bit of everything written on it. Thoughts and words from all over the map. Highlighted on the top of my scribbles are the words:

"One unsent card/email clogged up the flow of words"
...
(or was it that 3rd cup of coffee that I had, when My Second Son's Girlfriend oh-so-generously brought me home a Tim Hortons coffee before I went to work???)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Hugs"

I did not come from a hugging family. That does not mean that I was not loved. Because I was. There are many ways of knowing and showing that you are loved. Hugging was simply not the method of choice in our family ... nor my parent's families. That is just the way it was.

I never thought of it as a child, but it was when I was recently posing for pictures with my first-best-friends-in-my-life that I realized that my friends and I were both from the same detached I-can-be-your-best-friend-without-hugging-you school.

It seems that whenever I find myself posing for a photo with friends or family these days, there is a arm casually draped around a waist or a shoulder. When I stood with my best friends from my childhood, each one of us adopted the must-see-daylight-between-us rule. I would not have realized this, had we not been told to stand closer together ... and I draped my arm around my friend. I remembered in that instant that we had never been friends-that-touched-or-hugged.

Then came boys. Hugging was allowed. To hug and be hugged felt very, very good. To this day, one of my most favorite things to do is snuggle (I think ... it's been a very long, long time since my last contact with the male species). No words are necessary when you are hugging someone.

That was it. Family & friends = no touching. Boys = hugging.

Enter my first ever 'hugging friend'. She hugged everyone. She was a great lover of life. She quite literally reached out and embraced it. She told me of friends that she had that were really good huggers. I was not one of them. "You are like hugging a board". I was stiff, unyielding, unresponsive and ungiving. Yup. A board perfectly described my hugability factor (and yes, I am making up a new vocabulary as I go along here).

Then there were my in-laws. They were a family of huggers. They were very demonstrative and quite possibly it was that (literal) reaching out and touching someone, that was part of the attraction to my husband. Yet when it came to his family, I could hear my friend's words taunt me. I was like a board.

It took a decade or so, but eventually I moved out and away from that world. I moved onward and created a life in a brand new city.

It takes a while to formulate strong friendships. I now have a very strong and vital circle of friends in my life. Several of them are of the detached I-can-be-your-friend-without-hugging mentality. But I have another bunch of friends that hug.

I've adapted to the hugging thing. I don't cringe. I try to create a non-board-like demeanor. I do attempt to return the hug. But I still don't initiate hugs - it simply doesn't dawn on me.

My family is turning into a hugging family. It's a tiny bit weird because I'm still on the outside, looking in most of the time. Oh, I return hugs. But I never think to give them. I confessed this to my sister and she said that it is something that she has to do consciously. Oh ... that's the secret.

Yet I still continue to forget. I went through a phase where I realized (a day later) that I should have inserted a hug 'there'. Then forgot about that phase and continued to stand by and receive hugs as necessary.

It was when I was stringing together some tough words to a good friend this morning, that I realized the power of a hug. Sometimes ... there are no words. That is when a touch of a hand, a meaningful exchange of a glance or a hug communicates more than words could ever say.

I get it. When words don't cut it ... 'insert-hug-there'.

This explains why I write so much.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Your Voice

I am a numbers kind of gal. I collect various stats pertaining to my own personal life (most often, these are financially related) and watch for cycles, trends, ebbs and flows. It is simply something my mind enjoys digesting.

Quite some time ago, I discovered a new tab within the dashboard of items that I can edit on my blog. The stats tab collects the number of views on my blog and search words that people have used to 'find' me. It is a very general overview. I don't know any specific information.

As an example, over the past month, these are some of the countries that have visited my blog:

Canada; United States; United Kingdom; Germany; France; India; Malaysia; Philippines; Singapore; Australia; Chile; Russia; Netherlands; United Arab Emirates; Brazil.

I am pleased when I find that people have found me via their favorite search engine, using the words "life as I know it - Colleen". That means that they have returned on purpose.

I cringe when I find the words "bunion" and "bugs in Ketchikan" in the Search Keywords box. Someone has stumbled across my words looking for factual information ... and they find 'me'? Not that what I write is a lie. It is simply that I write about life as I know it, feel it, live it and reflect on it. Perhaps not what those people were searching for.

I started this blog one year after Christmas. I was pondering the ways I keep a little of the spirit of Christmas and reaching out and touching someone feeling alive all year long. I started this blog and the seed of an idea, took root.

For the most part, I write for myself. I live a quiet life and have a head full of words with no where to go. So I write.

I have a handful of family and friends that follow me on my journey through my days. It makes me smile to think that perhaps there is a small readership (beyond those that know me personally) developing here.

I would love to hear the 'voice' of those that may stumble across my words. Whether it is by design or the fact that a Google search has sent you off in a direction that you never intended to go ... please feel free to comment and say 'hello'.

Today is a day where I have very little to say. Let me hear your voice instead ...

P.S. I have added a few gadgets to the left of this page - a poll to make it easy to mark your presence here; and the past month's views (so you can see a little of what I'm writing about today).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It Was a Good Run

I sold my car yesterday.

I bought that car when My Youngest was eight days old - June 19, 1998. I sold it thirteen years later - June 20, 2011.

My car had just over 110 km on it when I bought it. It had just reached the 239 km mark when I sold it. We had some challenging times around the 175 km mark ... but other than that? That car was very, very good to me.

It got me everywhere I needed to go. When it felt the need to break down, it allowed me to hobble home ... or to the garage ... or to the destination city we were headed towards. The one and only time it let me down is when the battery gave out on me in a McDonald's parking lot. Anyone who knows me, would understand the significance of that. If I was to be stranded on a desert island ... I would be fine as long as those golden arches were within sight.

It is the only car that My Youngest has ever known. We had toyed with the idea of keeping it until he got his drivers license. But that is still three years away. Instead, our neighbor's son (who just got his license) bought our car. Our car now resides right across the street. My Youngest wondered if perhaps our neighbor would still have that car when he was ready to drive.

As I emptied out the car and readied it to put up for sale, I wondered why am I selling this?? It is in good shape, I trust it to get me where ever I need (or want) to go and I like it. I really like it.

But the mileage is creeping up there and one day I would have needed to let it go. I thought it was a better choice to start planning for the inevitable, rather than find myself stranded somewhere other than a McDonald's parking lot.

I wasn't even looking for a car. The series of events this past week has been nothing short of a miracle. My new car found me. My car found its way to a happy new owner.

I provided full disclosure of all of my car's idiosyncrasies, every single receipt of work completed since I bought it and a recently filled tank of gas. What goes around, comes around. I was given the same consideration (and then some) with my new car.

It doesn't hurt to buy a car from an uncle. This particular uncle was very close to my dad. I heard my dad's words in my uncle when he tried to talk me down in price (yes ... you read this right. I had to bend my uncle's arm to take a little more than he was asking). My uncle checked this car over with a fine tooth comb. He fixed what needed to be fixed and just kept on looking. As it would have been with my dad, my uncle was consumed with the concern of something going wrong with this car and wanted me to be absolutely certain of my choice.

There are no guarantees when it comes to a used car. You go into the deal knowing that. Full disclosure is a sales feature that is rather illusive these days. Buyer beware. Sold "as is". What you see is not always what you get.

That is not my motto. It is my goal to treat others the way I would like to be treated. That is exactly what happened with this business deal. No guarantees ... but we both walked into the deal with our eyes wide open. With the added bonus of a relatively full tank of gas (and at today's gas prices ... that is nothing to scoff at either!).

So begins another saga with another new-to-me-car. This car will take me down many new roads. I look forward to yet another good run.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Change is in the Air

It all started with a phone call about a car ...

That started a chain of events within my mind ... correlated the potential for other changes that are transpiring ... and has led me to today.

One person talked to another ... then another ... then another. What seemed to be the answer at the time, turned out to be the catalyst for a better solution.

One decision affected another ... then another ... then another. What originally seemed to be unnecessary and unrelated to anything else, suddenly feels like the solution to a problem that I didn't even know I had.

Opening one door suddenly opened many others.

I feel like I have walked out of one door and I standing in the hallway peeking into the other doors and checking out my options.

Change is frightening. Change is exciting. Change is inevitable.

Who knows where that next door may lead ...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dear Dad,

I often think of the lessons you taught ... the life you modelled ... the person you were ... and the impact you had (and still have) on my life.

I look at pictures and I'm taken back in time. I can see your smile, the unspoken words in your eyes and the quiet security that I felt in knowing that you were always on my side.

I love to hear people talk of you. People are so happy to tell me their memories. I believe that the biggest obstacle that I have in completing what I have started with your family's story is the loss I will feel when my research is done.

There are so many times that I stand back and look at our family at a distance. I wonder if there is any way that you could know how far we have all come since we last sat down and had a conversation with you.

I have gained so much from what you taught me. My heart aches for the lessons that I had yet to learn.

I thought of you yesterday as we were enveloped in family at a celebration in our home town. We spoke of you. We reminisced a little and honored your memory. Not because it was Father's Day. Just because it is something we can do, to keep you alive and well in our hearts and lives.

I love you, Dad. I hope you knew how much ...

Friday, June 17, 2011

413,631 Words

A blog that I follow was hacked this week ...

The site is still not up. Thankfully I have been able to follow her on Twitter and it looks like they are working on it. They may be able to save it.

What resonates in my mind after this random, thoughtless occurrence? Her words "Three years ... gone ... that's a lot of words ..."

I started blogging on December 29, 2007. I had printed and saved my blog posts up until September 14, 2009. After being reminded of just how vulnerable anyone or anything is on the Internet, I went back to my archives and started saving my posts to a Word file.

I am not officially up to date yet. I have saved up until March 21, 2111. I'm almost there.

Up to that point in time, I have archived 1291 pages. 413,631 words. And I'm not finished yet ...

It has been an interesting journey as I revisit my thoughts from almost two years ago. I have reread very few of these posts in their entirety, but the titles and a quick scan of the first or last sentences have brought back so many memories.

The thought of losing these words forever? It is next to impossible to comprehend. I write a lot of inane babble. But sometimes? Sometimes ... I stop and make myself think.

I am so grateful that I started journaling my journey through life. Documenting the thoughts and feelings as I stroll through my days. It isn't so much a record of what I've done with my days ... but these words can take me back to a moment in time. The feelings. The essence of living through life's highs and lows and everything in between.

I looked back through my archives and relived the moments before, during and after My Great Dance Adventure. Family ... friends ... learning ... earning ... parenting ... dancing ... It's all here.

My thoughts often drift to thinking of 'what I will leave behind' after I breathe my last breath. I look at my children and I know that they are my greatest legacy. I look at my family and know that I am a part of them as much as they are a part of me. I look at my friendships and I know that I carry within me, a piece of each of these friends ... and I believe it is a two way street. No one or nothing can 'hack' this. This is real. It is tangible. This is my life.

But my words? My words are something that I can leave to my children ... my grandchildren ... and anyone who may choose to read them. My words are a gift to myself. I heal, I grow, I learn. I soar with the eagles. I swim with the fishes. Sometimes I simply wander aimlessly through my days. This spot, these words ... they are life-as-I-know-it. They are life-as-I-live-it. They are me.

To my Internet Friend ... it is my fervent hope and desire that you can retrieve your blog from where ever it may be. You are so very, very right. Three years is a lot of words. Words worth reading. Thoughts worth remembering. Mountains you've climbed ... the hills and the valleys. Your words are a gift to the Internet community that reads them. Most of all? They are a gift to yourself. In the mean time, hold on tight to all that is tangible. The Internet community and family within it. Your children ... your life ... you. No one can hack that!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Think I May Have Found the Cure to Motion Sickness ...

"If you want to forget all your other troubles, wear too tight shoes."
~The Houghton Line, November 1965

(A repeat blog post from May 10, 2010)
 
I'll have to remember this if ever I go on another cruise ...

Do Not Pre-Judge

"It won't be a logical decision - just something you know in your gut immediately as you confront your various options"
~ My horoscope (in part) from a few Sundays ago ~

It isn't logical. It isn't something that I have ever considered. But I am trusting my 'gut' on this one.

I opened my mind and researched all options on Friday night. One immediately grabbed my attention, though I listed five others to consider. I let my mind relax with the idea as I lived my life all weekend.

When I woke up Monday morning, I knew without a doubt that I had to move forward. Life as I am living it is not ideal. Change is necessary.

My instincts kept drawing me back to the option titled "Do Not Pre-Judge". Words of wisdom. A phrase that I believe and live.

Tuesday evening ... I was wavering and feeling insecure.

Wednesday morning ... I was ready to act. I started taking steps in a forward direction.

Thursday morning (today) ... I completed and followed through on my mission.

I officially put the wheels in motion at approximately 8:50 this morning. Less than one half hour later, 'destiny' was calling.

Prosperity has not come knocking at my door. I have went out and knocked on a brand new door myself. 

I will not know the end result for two weeks. But I know in my heart of hearts ... that this is the right path for me. I can feel it in my bones. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Kitchen Table is Empty

I have a mish mash of thoughts wandering through my head this morning. I have no idea if there is one central theme running through them or not. So I will let my fingers do the talking and see what they come up with ...

~ My kitchen table is (was) empty! ~

So is the table beside it. And if that wasn't exciting enough ... the counter between the fridge and stove are also clutter free.

Why is this exciting? Because whatever is on the kitchen table is my working pile of things-to-do. I keep this pile in plain sight on the table so that I do not forget to keep plugging away. It is (was) empty!!

The table beside the kitchen table? It holds the long-term projects. My cruise pile has been sitting there since November. This table holds any number of things. If something is sitting on that table, chances are it will be there for a while. It is wiped clean (note to self: dust this table while you have the opportunity).

The counter top between the fridge and stove is the spot where I keep my lists. Things that should be taken care of immediately. In a perfect world, I would never have anything sitting in this space. These are the things that I write down so I don't forget to do them. This spot is vacant. It has been for several days.

The top of the microwave is my 'to go' spot. Whatever sits there is in its completed form. All that has to be done is deliver it to its rightful owner or location. At the moment, there is one envelope that has been sitting there for a week. It's a small envelope ...

Then there is the top of the dresser in my room. It can hold a wide variety of things. 'To go' items in their uncompleted stage. Things to be filed. Items which do not yet have a home. Things to remember to take with me when I go on a holiday, etc, etc, etc. All I know for sure is that it is a rare thing when the top of my dresser is clutter free. Today? It is.

I have an overflow spot. The table in the living room. If there are piles on this table, my life is spiralling out of control. This is a last ditch effort to maintain a semblance of order in a chaotic world. This table has had little more than the 'cards of the season' or memories of a special occasion on it for quite some time. At the moment, it is holding My Youngest's birthday cards. This is as it should be.

The computer desk. This is a work in progress. What sits before me on this desk is my own personal list of things-on-my-mind. Blog post ideas. Bits and pieces of trivia that I may want to add to something I'm writing. Reminders, notes and phone numbers for phone calls I must make or to remind me that I am waiting for a return call. Notes-to-self. Budgets ... goals ... things-on-my-mind.

What sits before me at this desk is what is currently on my mind. As I glance at these little piles and notations, I see the thought processes that are sifting around in my brain at the moment. What I see is inspiring me. Not overwhelming me (prior to last night, they were overwhelming me).

Last night, I dug out the manual from the Group Fitness Course that I completed in March. I have one final step to complete the process of becoming certified as a group fitness instructor. One step. The mere thought of this last hurdle has overwhelmed me for months. No more.

What is sitting on my kitchen table as I write? My Group Fitness course manual. One forward step at a time. I will move towards my goal and wipe the kitchen table clean.

Because once that is cleaned off ... I must tackle one more project that has been sitting in its uncompleted stage for far too long. My dad's family history.

These two uncompleted projects are draining my energy. What I have begun ... I must complete.

I must wipe the slate clean. So I can start all over again. Because boy!! I've got some new ideas that I'd like to pursue.

This entire blog post is brought to you by the words "My kitchen table is empty!" ~

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Little Moments ... That Take Me Back to The Cruise

It was a little thing. But for a moment, I was transported back in time.

I had the lucky opportunity to drive by a Tim Hortons while running an errand for my employer last Friday. I made a deal with myself. If there were no cars in the drive-thru, I would get a coffee. If there were cars .. oh well. Too bad, so sad.

There were no cars! It was a miracle.

I ordered my coffee and decided to treat myself with a chocolate dip donut. It was Friday and all (plus I was hungry).

I was anticipating my treat but savoring the idea of what that donut would taste like. So I waited. I waited until I got back to work. I waited until I'd done a little more work. Then I did it. I opened my little bag to find ... a chocolate glazed donut. Not what my taste buds were after. But I smiled when I remembered.

The person who took my order at the Tim Hortons drive-thru had a thick accent. I'm sure my Canadian accent also sounded rather thick. Chocolate dip verses chocolate glazed is a very understandable miscommunication even if English is your first language.

Suddenly, I was transported back in time. To the cruise ship. When another English-as-a-second-language person gave me an English muffin when I asked for a bagel. I remembered how much better the English muffin choice was for me that day and how much I enjoyed it.

I smiled and gobbled up my chocolate glazed donut. I was grateful for a little moment that took me back to my Great Alaskan Adventure.

I hope there are many, many more little moments to come ...

Where Am I?

Even in my dreams, I am waking up (within my dream) and asking myself "Where am I??" Am I at home? Or away? If I'm away ... where am I?"

Last night in my dream, I was home. But I had people sleeping everywhere.

I woke up (still dreaming), realizing that I had a flight to catch at 10:00 a.m. the next morning and that I had laundry to do. My mom was here, so if I wanted any kind of visit with her in the morning I had better get up and get the laundry started.

I went down stairs (the basement was unfinished in my dream) and My Youngest had friends (not) sleeping everywhere. I asked them if turning on the washing machine would keep them awake. They said it would ...

It was then, that I noticed My Youngest was doubled over in pain. He had a stomach ache. I went up to him and asked him questions about how he was feeling. I figured if he 'just' had a stomach problem like I did, he should be just fine ...

Then my alarm (in real life) went off.

"What day is it?" was the very first thought of my day. "Why am I so tired?" was my second thought.

I replayed my dream in my mind. Immediately I remembered the thoughts I was thinking just before I fell asleep last night.

I have too much unfinished business going on within my head. I have two projects which I have started and I have been procrastinating about getting back to them (oh, and I have been busy too). I am thinking about making more changes ... but I must finish what I have started first.

I feel like I am running around in circles.

"Where am I going?" is the unanswered question in my mind. It is time to devote some time to (first of all) finishing what I've started. Then ... I am certain that the direction I need to go will become clear.

Monday, June 13, 2011

One Happy Customer - My Experience with Staples

I walked into our local Staples store and I stopped in my tracks.

I had never purchased a fax cartridge before and had no idea which way to turn. Rather that wander aimlessly through the store, I perused the aisle markers from where I stood.

At first glance, I couldn't find what I was searching for. I had just started a second look when one of the store's employees happily approached me and asked if there was anything she could help me with.

I expressed my pure and utter relief with a resounding, "Yes!" and showed the clerk the make and model of the cartridge which I needed.

As we walked toward the aisle where these items were kept, I expressed my surprise and gratitude for her quick and efficient service. I told her that I couldn't remember the last time that had happened to me. She told me that this service is what they strive for.

Within minutes, I was approaching the cashier with my purchase.

There wasn't another soul in line. I paid for my item and was on my way. I was in and out of the store within five minutes.

Granted, I couldn't have walked into the store at a better time. It was a quiet time of day and the employees weren't all occupied with other customers.

The difference between what I encountered at Staples and what I have seen in some other retail outlets, is the fact that these employees were there to assist their customers as soon as they saw the need.

How many times have I waited for clerks to finish (what appears to be) a private conversation amongst themselves before they can answer a question?

How often are stores so understaffed that the ability to find a service representative is next to impossible?

Why is it that in business owners quest to increase the almighty bottom line, that service is the first thing to go?

Decrease prices to attract consumers. Staff the store with a skeleton crew so that the cost verses profit margins stay intact. Or is it that they can't find long term, reliable employees because the wages are at the bottom of the pay scale or employee benefits are lacking or any number of reasons why employees don't feel a loyalty to the company?

The big stores are bullying the little guys out of the market these days. They are attracting business with low, low prices. But they are not working to retain that same business with superior service.

Why are there so many disgruntled employees these days? What happened to the day when management realized that happy employees are good for business? Treat your staff well and it all goes downhill. They treat each other with respect and due to the trickle down effect, the customer is the ultimate winner.

I have had nothing but positive experiences with West Jet airlines. They advertise that their employees care, because their employees are owners in their own company. It is not blatant. But it is there. These employees appear to be happy and proud of their company. As a consumer, I feel that.

Small businesses are going by the wayside. The big guys are pushing them out.

There is a difference. Small business owners are looking out for every one's best interests. They seem to have it all right (in my eyes). They see that a happy customer is a repeat customer. They go above and beyond.

I have heard that a satisfied customer may tell a few people of their good experience. A dissatisfied customer will tell up to twenty.

I am one happy customer. It is my goal to first of all - immediately tell the employee how pleased I was with the way I was treated. Second of all - to tell as many people I know, about that same service. And last, but not least - to tell the company itself.

I may be but one person, but if I can touch the world with positive instead of negativity ... my work here is worthwhile.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Party

Yet another post coming to you 'live' from My Youngest's 13th Birthday Party hotel sleepover (man!!! I'm loving this Netbook computer and free Internet access).

Have you ever had those occasions where each and every thing flows easily from one thing to the next? That was yesterday.

I had the day mapped out in my mind. I knew what I needed to get done before The Party began. I knew what I hoped to get done. I was fortunate enough to wipe the entire list clean before the 3:30 Party Time.

The entire Party Experience has been easy.

My Youngest was able to invite each and every one of his closest friends. He chose a movie that everyone enjoyed. They swam all night. They ate, they drank, they played ...

Thirteen. It is the cusp of growing up. It was perfection (to me) to celebrate the occasion by simply allowing 'boys to be boys'.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Country Drive

I went along for the ride when my Second Son drove out to his farm last night.

His offer came with a cup of coffee ready and waiting for me in the truck. Conversation came easy and it was simply nice to get out of the city.

It was when we took the turn off the main highway onto the long, gravel road that (eventually) leads to his farm, that the gradual transformation started happening.

We drove slowly and a person simply had time to appreciate the wide open space, new growth all around us and the solitude.

It was as we neared the intersection where we had to turn, that the wild life started popping into my focus. I had been admiring the ducks swimming in the sloughs and had been looking for little ducklings ... but it was just before we turned, that the brilliant green head of a mallard duck grabbed my attention. I couldn't remember the last time that I had seen a mallard up close and personal.

We barely turned and there was a deer standing and looking rather fore lorn in a field. My Son told me 'where there is one deer, there are others' and we looked. We never did see that deer's friends but my son told me something I didn't know before. One stag deer has several 'concubines' ... and being ever weary of the hunter, the male hides in the bushes and sends out one of his does to see if the coast is clear, before he takes off into the clearing himself. Aha! This is the part of the story that Disney left out in Bambi. So that is what happened to Bambi's mother ...

After that, all I seemed to notice was the wonder of life all around us.

We wandered through my Son's farm and I finally got to see all that he has been working at over the course of the past fall, winter and spring. He has demolished the house but led me to stand where the floor of the foundation is still intact. He said, "Look at this (view) ..." It was simple, but it was breath taking. Wide open space, a freshly worked field, a slough and a smattering of bushes in and around the water. And it is his ...

We just stood there and stared.

I stood back and looked at My Son's farm and felt the attraction that he feels for that land. Space. Quiet. Nature. It is his future.

We drove home and it as as the wildlife knew we were watching. The country birds are so unlike that what I notice in the city. The mallards were everywhere. One was coming in for a landing just as we drove past. The Canada geese were not flying high up in the "V" formation that I notice from the city. They were cruising at much lower altitudes. They were home.

A pair of ducks were ambling across the gravel road as we slowly approached them. My Son maintained the speed he was going and the ducks had time to continue their stroll. We drove right past them and they stayed on their side of the road. It was as if they knew the rules of the land and that they were safely within their right to be on the opposite side of the road from us.

The drive was so peaceful. Nature was showing us its finer moments. All we had to do was show up.

We turned onto the busy, divided highway that took us home. The aura changed but it was still there. The wonder of the land around us was distant but you could still see and appreciate it.

I told My Son of the awe that I felt when I watched the ocean. You could stare at it forever then suddenly 'life' from the water would grab your attention and you felt at one with the world around you.

As we drove home and I stared at the wide open spaces around us, I said that a person doesn't have to go on a cruise to appreciate what is all around us. You simply have to stop and take notice.

Mother Nature is right in our own back yard. There is no need to fly off to grand places to appreciate what we already have right here at home.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How Did He Grow Up So Good?

I hit the snooze button on my alarm this morning. I dozed an extra 15 minutes ... then 20.

I wondered why My Youngest's alarm wasn't sounding. It never did go off, but within minutes I heard his drawers opening and closing. He was up and getting ready for the day. By the time I made it to the kitchen, he was making his lunch. When I went to toss his swim gear near his back pack to remind him to pack what he needed for his field trip today, his back pack was already packed up and ready to go.

It's a small thing ... but the big thing, is that 'this' is who My Youngest is! He is going to be 13 years old tomorrow and I really like the person he is growing up to be.

Yes, yes I know. I've done this twice before. I know that life (and kids) can change when you least expect it. I have no idea what is around the next corner (and please don't tell me ... I like to be surprised). But we have had 13 very good years. No matter where things go from here, I know that we have a solid foundation built. No 'big bad wolf' is going to blow this house down!

What is the difference?

Is it me? I have been a completely different mom to each and every one of my children. I look at my children and I see reflections of the person I was when I raised each of them. They are each special and unique in their own ways.

Was it because I was a stay-at-home-mom? We brought the world into our home as I ran a daycare for the first 11 years of My Youngest's life. We dealt with stealing, cheating, bullying, fighting, lying, fair play and many of the aspects of life before My Youngest walked out into the big, scary world of public education. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I believe this made a big difference.

Is it the gene pool? My Youngest is a mixture of a 'different set of genes' than his older brothers. His dad is a good guy. Solid, logical thinking and intelligent. We never argued. We may not have seen eye to eye on everything. But we never fought. I can quite honestly say that I feel that I have never argued with My Youngest. Amazing.

Is it because he has the good examples of his Adult Brothers that have set the bar? He looks to his brothers and see the men they have grown to be. His Brothers have set a very good example for him. They are good citizens, they are doing well and when life knocks them down ... they get up and keep on fighting. They treat me with respect. I believe My Youngest looks at his brothers and is simply following their good example.

Is it because our home is a home? It is (and has always been for him) a safe haven from the world. He heard me when I was extremely (over the top) upset ... once. It rocked his world. I've never done it again. But my older sons? I was an emotional basket case more times than I remember during their growing up years. Our home has evolved into the oasis it has become. My Youngest has lived in a close to idyllic world within our home. That can only be a good thing.

Is it because he has chosen good friends? Friends are so important. Feeling the need to bend and sway from what you have been taught ... just to fit in, is something that a person at any age encounters. Peer pressure. It's everywhere. As a child, it is tough because you haven't the life experience that has taught you to always remain true to yourself. I have listened to My Youngest when he talks with his friends. He treats them with respect, but he doesn't take any guff. I hear the 'daycare me' in My Youngest ...

There are many, many ingredients that are added to the mix when raising a child. As it is with baking a cake ... you can have all of the right ingredients, but if the measurements are out of whack or if the oven temperature is too high or too low or if you over or under cook it ... your cake doesn't turn out the way you intended.

I remember My Oldest being very young when I lamented to my mother-in-law "I wish he came with an instruction manual". I didn't have the recipe back then. I still don't.

There is a lot of trial and error when it comes to raising children. We do our best with what we've got and hope that simply loving them enough will help adjust the inaccuracies in that 'recipe' that is still a work in progress.

I love each and every one of my children for the individuals they are. I see who I was when I raised each and every one of them. I get them.

It's not a case of 'third time lucky' for me ... it is a matter of 'three times lucky'. Thirteen is considered an unlucky number. But with the luck I have on my side, I foresee only good things. I'll update you again in a year.

P.S. This is from last year's birthday post "A Most Wonderful Day"

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nine Days

I have been home nine days now. Each day a little bit of reality seeps back into my life. But even after those nine days, I'm still wafting on air. I am quite certain that I will carry a piece of this Alaskan Cruise Adventure with me forever.

What did I miss most about life-at-home?

McDonald's, Canadian coffee, sleep.

Oh ... and I missed my family too (being able to keep in touch with them via email definitely lessened the critical factor it could have hit had it been 12 days of radio silence).

How did I celebrate my homecoming?

Robin's coffee, McDonald's for supper (followed by: KFC, Burger King, Tim Hortons,  and McDonald's again (for breakfast) ...).

Oh ... and I spent time with my family too.

Who did I just have to talk to upon my return?

My children (first rating on this one). Quickly followed by my mom and each of my siblings. Tied in second place, was my eagerness to return to the dance studio while the post-holiday-sensations were running at an all time high (I hadn't even come home from my holiday when I was counting down the days until my next dance lesson).

What were my priorities upon coming home?

Boring ... unpacking and housework. Though I returned to a clean and tidy home, I had purposely left a lot of the nastier cleaning jobs to do when I came home ... no sense in doing them twice, when once would suffice. So I had a bit of a a backlog of housework (easier to do when working on a post-holiday-high).

My favorite chore since my return?

Spending the entirety of this past Saturday going through my photos and videos of my holiday. Putting them together in a cohesive manner (photo montage and video of my favorite moments) was almost as good as being there all over again.

Favorite family moments since I've been home?

All of them. Even the small and mundane have been memorable and a little bit bigger than life. I love being surrounded by my family.

The most mundane celebration of my home coming?

Falling asleep on the couch. After spending the past two evenings stretched out and napping on the couch after supper, My Youngest asked, "Why are you so tired all of a sudden?" My reply? "I think I've been tired for three weeks and this is the first time that I've had a chance to sit still."

Where has my weight been this past month?

I have an 'at home' weight and a 'cruising' weight. The cruising weight is three pounds lighter than my at-home weight. Needless to say, my at-home weight has returned (and my stomach is not happy about it ... I think I should banish chips and take-out food from my diet ... my digestive system is rebelling).

Then there's 'the hair' ... let me talk about my hair for a moment ...

I devote far too much air-time to my hair. Pre-holidays ... and for the year (or more) preceding it? Lots of bad-hair-stories. Too many. Boring. Tedious.

Since my on-cruise hair style by 'Dee' ... no bad hair stories. Bad hair day? Mess it up as much as possible with damp hands, finger fluff it into place and voila. Good enough to greet the day. It is plain. It is simple. It requires little to no fussing or mussing. The only downfall? It will grow ...

What is still on my to-do list now that I'm home?

Call my friends! I have put this on a back burner because underneath all the hype and glory, I have been exhausted.

My Youngest is celebrating his 13th birthday on the weekend and that requires yet another out-of-home-experience. There are a handful of family celebrations/gatherings within the next month. More gallivanting.

At the moment, I'm not only catching my breath. I'm 'logging' like the whales and consciously breathing (did you know that whales have to remind themselves to breathe? Half of their brain is utilized reminding themselves to take a breath). I'm going to have to go down for a few more 'deep dives' very soon and it may take a while before I resurface. So for the moment, I am utilizing half of my brain to remind myself to breathe.

Oh, and soon ... very, very soon ... I must buy groceries (the milk and bananas I bought upon my return are starting to run thin).

Where do I go from here?

I am investigating the possibilities. My Very Good Anchorage Friend has suggested that we set a goal of going on a cruise in a few years. At this point, I could sell an Alaskan Cruise to an Eskimo. I will encourage any and all even considering the idea ... to go for it!!!

And that is where I'm going from here. I'm going to 'go for it'. Whether it is work or play ... family or friends ... I am going to approach life with enthusiasm and anticipation.

Every day has the possibility of feeling just a little bit special. Just ask me how I loved napping on my couch the past two evenings. It was worth writing about. Need I say more??

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Is Prosperity Knocking ... and I'm Not Answering the Door?

~ My horoscope for this week ~ "Prosperity knocks on your door. And so will a lot of other visitors who have nothing to do with your future good fortune. Luckily, it's not too difficult to figure out which opportunities are the best. It won't be a logical decision - just something you know in your gut immediately as you confront your various options."

I've been savoring the gradual return to life-as-I-know-it since my return to reality (one week ago yesterday). As I've been sliding down this gentle slope, I can't stop thinking "... and where do I go from here?"

I read my horoscope and I thought "Yes! Prosperity is going to come a-knocking. I have options. I trust my instincts ..." I just have to answer the door.

Could it be that my future lies in something that I have already begun? All I have to do, is sit back and listen to my own voice and I know what fuels me. More importantly, I know what does not.

There is that which I hold onto, because it is safe. It is not entirely a comfortable fit. But it's easy ... because all I have to do is 'show up'. Is it holding me back? Is it a necessity? Do I have choices? Or am I locked in to this life-as-it-is?

Taking steps out of the safe zone and into the unknown is a frightening prospect. I keep postponing the inevitable because I have this, that or the other excuse. As it is with any daunting task where the end goal feels so illusive ... one must take one step in a forward direction. Followed by another.

I know where my passions lie. I have even opened the door to many of those opportunities. I have started the process of following these passions. I simply have to finish what I have already started.

It is not only a matter of answering the door. Not only do I have to walk through the door. I may have to close the door behind me and look towards the future.
My last photo of Anchorage, Alaska
"A New Horizon" awaits

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Our Alaskan Excursions

I have one more small pile of notes of things-I-want-to-write before I forget. And that is to devote some memory space to the naturalists, tour guides and to emphasize the appreciation that I have for those who simply love this planet and share their passion.

Milos Radakovich was the Celebrity Millennium's naturalist who led a series of three lectures. He had an astounding amount of knowledge to share with his audience and he did it in a manner that was captivating, humorous and made you want to know more. Milos was my introduction to the word 'naturalist' (one versed in natural history, especially in zoology or botany). His passion for our planet and his knowledge of the natural sciences kept me coming back to each and every one of his lectures aboard the ship.

Then there were our tour guides.

Our excursion through the rain forest in Ketchikan. I should have been taking notes, because I wish I could remember more of what our guide told us (i.e. those poisonous slugs). I remember the awe I felt as this young girl rattled off more knowledge in our two hour stroll through the forest, than I absorbed from all of my science classes over the course of my education.

Our whale watching excursion in Juneau was my favorite. I have already gone on and on (and on) about this, so I will bore you no more. But it is all summed up in our guide's words, when the engine was turned off and we drifted quietly, "This is one of my favorite things to do out here on the water ... just hang out watching whales and listening to them breathe as they come to the surface ...". Breath taking.

Then there was our Eagle Preserve Rafting and Wildlife Quest in Skagway. This is the excursion that I would most like to re-do. It was half way up the 40 mile narrated drive (from Haines, to the Eagle Preserve) that the motion got to me and I listened with only half of my senses.

None the less, the narrative of our Alaska loving, nature loving Haines resident and tour guide was wonderful. He was easy to listen to, his passion for the Alaskan forests, wilderness and nature in general was contagious. One would wonder how anyone could feel any different than him after listening to him go on and on about the wonders of Alaska (and wilderness in general).

We then wound our way through the river by raft. Each raft was guided by our own personal guide after we were outfitted in rain gear (ponchos and rubber boots) and advised what to do 'in the very unlikely event of ending up in the water'. I was back in the moment of being afraid of bears in Ketchikan. But as it was with the non-bear encounter ... we also didn't tip our raft. I was as dry at the end of our trip as I was at the beginning.

They provided a picnic lunch and all of the information we wanted after our raft trip and before the 40 mile trek back to Haines. The team work that it took to co-ordinate this adventure was something to behold. There was our bus driver, the 'narrator' on our trip (whose name is "C.P.") , a guide for each raft, another team to set up (and clean up) our picnic and then the bus driver and our own personal tour guide, C.P. who narrated the way back to Haines.

The easy, fun banter was enjoyable ... even though I had eyes closed throughout the trip.

Our world is a wonderful place. If everyone thought the way that these tour guides, teachers and naturalists did ... it could be like the Garden of Eden. The impact that these guides make on the many people who will go on these tours and listen to these lectures can and will make a difference.

One person at a time. We all make a difference.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Little of the Inane (more holiday memories)

Is it possible that I may never run out of holiday induced blog posts? Entirely.

My main goal is to write down all that moved me in some way so that I can look back on this years from now and remember. Everything. The highs, the lows, the deep and thoughtful to the inane.

Today ... is a little of the inane. I got a kick out of many of the signs that I saw on holidays. Some people snap pictures of the breath taking Alaskan scenery. Me? When I stop taking pictures of our oh-so-awesome Celebrity Millennium cruise ship ... what do I see? Signs that make me chuckle (or wonder).

First off, I must tell you about the toilets aboard the cruise ship. I had honestly not wasted one brain cell wondering about the plumbing aboard a ship. When my thoughts fleeted to wondering what the bathrooms may be like, I had visions of those tiny bathrooms in a small camper trailer. The ones where you barely have room to turn around. I was wrong.

The bathroom was twice as big as I expected. The shower? Once again, I had visions of tiny in my mind. It wasn't huge ... but (once again) my expectations were almost doubled.

Now the toilet (Mom, close your eyes. I know you do not enjoy toilet talk. But I must ...). The toilets aboard our ship had the most amazing 'vacuum' system that I have ever witnessed. It utilized a minimum of water and it was beyond efficient (if one ever risked placing your hand in the area while flushing, you would risk losing your rings ... or your finger nails). It was the sign above the toilet that got me to wondering:

Most of the pictures are very self explanatory. But cars? I wondered who just may have happened to sneak their car aboard the ship and wondered if they could simply flush it down the toilet to decrease the weight of their luggage on departure.

Yes ... I know it meant 'toys'. But the idea of someone needing a sign to tell them not to flush a car down the toilet did bring a smile to my face.

Now, the object that had me completely buffaloed throughout my trip was the long, oblong shaped 'thing' to the right of all of the unflushables. What was that?

Days and days went by and I continued to wonder about what this 'thing' was. Finally, finally ... I asked my Cruising Friend. Without the pictorial aid, she didn't know what I was talking about. But she required little more than to look at the sign to tell me "It is the lid of the toilet". Oh ... I never would have figured that one out on my own.

This one, I found on an outside garbage receptacle in Ketchikan.

No "Pebble Mine"? I'm still wondering about that one.

Upon writing that sentence, I googled 'Pebble Mine' and found this: http://www.themudflats.net/2010/04/08/eye-on-pebble-mine/

I'm still confused. I'm guessing it doesn't mean not to throw pebbles into the garbage.

This sign? I got. I'm just wondering if bears can read though....

This is why I wonder:

My friend brought this sign (on the wing of our plane) to my attention. We were flying at an altitude of 37,000 feet, at a speed of 506 mph when we read "Do not walk outside this area".

Hmmm .... I guess you are 'safe' as long as you walk on the wing within the safety zone?


How could I walk by this selection of chips aboard our catamaran without snapping a picture?

I have a chip addiction which I can barely (if I try) contain.

"Alaska Chips"; "Grizzly Chips"; "Volcano Chips" ... how in the world did I resist the temptation?









Then there is the auditory video that I put together (I am moving this video from its original location to this collection of the inane, because it truly belongs here and not worthy of its very own blog post).

It is not simply the visual memories that one takes home with them from a holiday excursion. It is the sounds, the aromas and the entire essence of the vacation.

As our days were winding to a close, I listened carefully to the sounds of our our new 'home'. I thought of how these little memories will dim as time goes on.

So I have preserved just a few of those sensory sensations:

The one sound that I long to hear again (and that I did not manage to get, to add to this collection), is the sound of the ship's horn. Ahhh ... my favorite sound of all. It was as if the ship was calling out to me.

And these ... are the memories that I just may forget as time goes by. It is easy to remember the awesome. It takes far more work to remember the inane.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Tulips

Very soon upon our arrival to visit with my Anchorage Friend in her home, she looked at dismay at the tulip on her kitchen table and mentioned that she had wanted to pick a fresh tulip from her flowerbed for us to enjoy. Bringing a tulip indoors was a special treat which she liked to savor. It felt special for her to think of our visit as being Tulip Worthy.

Fast forward an hour (or two ... I really have no idea, because time was irrelevant during our visit) and in came her husband. What did he have in his hand? But two tulips. Fresh out of her flower garden. She was pleased and dismayed all in the same moment. How perfect for him to read her mind ... but two? When the tulips were so numbered out in the garden? No more was said.

The tulips were in bud when they were brought into the house. They were ceremoniously placed in the vase's special spot on the kitchen table for all to appreciate during their brief 'hurrah' indoors.

Our afternoon visit turned into a supper invitation. As we were tidying up the kitchen and winding up the day my Cruising Friend said, "Look at the tulips! They are in full bloom".

We admired those tulips. We heard their history ... of how they were planted by the previous owners. How there were yellows and reds. And of the mixing of the colors which turned them into the most special and unique mix of both colors as their roots and heritage intertwined between the soil and nature did its magic.

The tulips were all but forgotten the next day, as our visit took us out for breakfast and then exploring some of Anchorage's heritage throughout the afternoon. Which led to a supper at a favorite Mexican restaurant and a promise of just 'one more breakfast' before our plane departed the next morning.

The last morning arrived. My Friend came up to me and told me of the tulips ...

She said she looked at those tulips that morning and saw that they had passed their 'expiry date'. She said she quietly sighed and thought (like our visit) "All good things must come to an end ..."

As quickly as that thought came to mind, she was already seeing beyond the obvious. Suddenly, the tulips were symbols for our friendship and the strength and endurance of those mighty tulip bulbs was being compared to the strength and endurance of our friendship that started when we were 10 years old.

Tulip bulbs are planted with hope and promise that they will eventually bloom. Two young girls are brought together by circumstance and there is hope that a friendship will blossom.

Tulip bulbs lie dormant throughout the long winter seasons, yet they are the first flowers to bloom in the spring. Sometimes tulips survive with little to no outside interference. But it never hurts to nurture them a little along the way.

Friendships may lie dormant as life takes us off in various directions. If one is very lucky, those friendships survive throughout years of dormancy (My Cruising Friend and I share that small miracle of a friendship that was quickly revived after a few decades without contact). Other times, a friendship may be nurtured by a sporadic inoculation (cards and letters) to keep us reminded of the friendship we have shared.

When tulip bulbs of different colors are left together over the course of time, there is a subtle mixing of colors. A special blend which is dependent on the conditions, mutations, genetic engineering (with some human intervention)  and bulbs which share that soil. It is only when the tulips bloom after years together, yet apart ... that one can see the special breed which has come together when no one was paying attention.

When friends go their separate ways, they bring new friends/people/spouses/children/pets into their lives. They start to mix with others and become unique and special.

My desire to go to Anchorage was fueled by the knowledge that I would like to reconnect with my American friend. The cruise and Canadian friend that I brought along with me, were just a creative way of getting from "A" to "B".

Our friendship had been dormant for 38 years ... nurtured by letters, Christmas cards and emails. When we came together, she brought her husband and special 'Ginger' (a Labrador/poodle mix ''pup''). I brought my Cruising Friend along with me.

We sat down as 'four' unique individuals - two of us with a history of friendship. Two others with their own connections to the 'original two'. The four of us mixed and blended throughout the course of the three days that we shared. By the end of our visit we felt the 'colors' of one friendship bleeding into the other.

My friend and I marvelled at the kinship our friendship shared with her tulips. Two small flowers brought into our visit at the onset. Two small flowers that lasted only as long as our trip to Anchorage allowed us to stay.

But underneath the soil, lie the bulbs which will endure the long, cold winter of Alaska. They will bloom once again in the spring. They have not died. They are alive and well deeply embedded in the roots where they began. Getting stronger by the year.

Our friendship has only been strengthened by this ever-so-brief visit. It feels as if we breathed life into a friendship that we both thought was pretty special before. Our friendship will endure the long, cold 'winter' between now and whenever life may give us an opportunity to meet again. The bonds of friendship which brought us together are alive and well and deeply embedded within our beings and our families where they began. It will get stronger by the year.

We mutually agreed. It was not a matter of ''all good things come to an end'' ...

What looks like an end is sometimes a beginning. We both believe something has been reborn within our bond of friendship. This visit was like a tulip that blooms brightly and brilliantly during its brief life span above the soil. But our friendship is the bulb that lies quietly beneath the soil. Growing, blending and evolving throughout its dormancy.

I will never look at a tulip without thinking of our eternal friendship.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Updates

I think I'd better take a step away from this blog before it explodes ... after all of my updates, edits and blog posts today!

I have gone back and added photo/video footage to several past blog posts. Here is a quick guide in case there is something you may want to go back and check:

A look at our stateroom; and parting photos as we sailed out of Vancouver - "A.MAZE.ING"
Elevator photos to go with "The Elevator Dance" (trust me, these are no ordinary elevators)
The scariest bug I saw in Alaska: "I Survived Ketchikan" (plus a link to the killer slugs ... newts, perhaps?)
Video of the first whale I spotted "No Scary Bugs Yet"
"Dancing With the Stripes" and Hubbard Glacier photos: "Grande Finales All Around"

That's not including the six (now seven, with this update) posts from today.

I think I'd better walk away from the computer. But hey ... I still have some photos/videos to organize ... hey wait ... I need to stay here ..... ... arghh....

Just a Little More on Whales

As I have attempted to recap my holiday in photos today, more words keep spilling to the surface. It is the whale videos that have got me writing once again.

Today, I went back and posted a video of my very first whale sighting in the "No Scary Bugs Yet" blog post. That was the morning we were sailing towards Icy Straight Point.

Prior to that morning, I had thought perhaps that some of the black spots that I had seen in the ocean were the fins of a whale (on learning more, I am now wondering if those may have been seals). But I wasn't certain. But that morning. The morning I shot that video, I was the one (at least within earshot) who spotted the whales off to the side of the ship first.

There is a quiet exhilaration as you find nature right in your own 'back yard'. To be staring off into the water and spot life is a wonderful thing. To see your first whale is pretty darn thrilling. It wasn't quite inventing the wheel ... or finding out that the earth is not flat. But it's the closest thing to a natural discovery that I have come across in a while.

I could stare out at the ocean and be content with the quiet waves. My eyes became keen when shades of darkness came to the surface. But it is that breath of a whale - the exhalation and the spray of water that captivates your soul.

It was a day later when we officially went whale watching in Juneau. They have a money back guarantee that you will see a whale. And they have never paid out a penny. We saw whales. Lots of whales. But you still don't get past the awe factor. I was listening to the video today as I edited my movies and what you hear from those on board, is a silent reverence. And the 'wow' factor when the whale flips its tail fin and goes for that final deep dive.

The whales that stand out the most for me though, are the whales that 'flipped us the tail' in Skagway.

Skagway was a 'day lost' for me, but as we headed back to our ship after our excursion there were two whales off in the far distance. They were practically vertically downstream of our catamaran. You could just hear the exhalation of their breath and see the spray of water before they took their shallow dives. They did just enough breaths to grab my attention. Then they came up for their final breath of air before they took their deep dive.

That final deep dive was as if it was done in slow motion. It must have been the angle that we were viewing them from, but all I remember was that prolonged view of that tail fin before they disappeared. It was a moment frozen in time. No picture. No video. Just a memory.

A memory of that glorious tail fin, in suspended animation. A clear vision at the end of a cloudy day of memories.

I just had to write about it so I will forever be reminded. Sometimes, it is the pictures of the heart that last the longest. And this ... was just one of those moments.

My Great Alaskan Cruise Adventure

It's been a perfect day.

I have been playing with my pictures and videos all day. I have been having an out of body experience as I have been reliving my holiday. All from the comfort of home.

What follows is a photo montage that takes you from Saskatoon to Vancouver to Anchorage and back. There are a few days that are missing from my archives. The day my patch fell off in Skagway ... our days in Anchorage (I was too busy visiting to be taking pictures of the scenery) ... and our last night in Vancouver is wrapped up in this short blog post (and the only photo that I took during that leg of our trip).

What one may notice about the photos that I took when we went on our excursions, is my fascination with our ship. Once we hit dry land and I could see the vastness of our little 'world' at sea, my camera started snapping pictures. The theme "Wow!! Look at our ship!" runs strong throughout my vacation photos. From the dock, from a distance (when it was tendered in Icy Straight Point and we had to take a boat to the shore) and from the top of Mount Roberts when we took the tramcar ride to the top.

My fascination for our ship was followed by the quiet wonder of whale (and wilderness) watching. It was like playing 'Where's Waldo' and the ocean was our canvas. You could stare out at the vastness and not know what you may see next.

Hubbard Glacier was the final hurrah of our vacation. I got a little snap happy there as we all appreciated the (rare) bright, blue sky that we were blessed with. It made for the most beautiful reflections in the water. I could stare at those pictures all day.

Once again, I have accompanied the photo montage with music from the "Alaska String Band". The songs are "Wheel Hoss" and "Ashokan Farewell" from their CD "Farther On". Please feel free to visit their website at: http://www.alaskastringband.net/

Enjoy ...

A Prelude to My Alaska Adventure Video Montages

As I was snapping pictures and recording video footage of my Great Alaskan Adventure, I knew that I would be compiling my collection of memories in a video format. All the while, I knew that I must keep my ears tuned for the perfect musical accompaniment. And I found what I was looking for ...

While we were in Juneau, we had the pleasure of seeing the "Alaska String Band" perform atop Mount Roberts.

Paul and Melissa Zahasky and their three children - Laura, Quinn and Abigail make musical magic together. They play guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass, duck as well as the vocals for the music you are about to hear on the videos that follow.

I was granted permission to use their music (I promised to properly acknowledge their band) and I would also like to pass along their website so that you can find out more information for yourself: www.alaskastringband.net

Watching and listening to the "Alaska String Band" was a delightful way to wind up our most perfect day in Juneau, Alaska.

Whale Watching in Juneau, Alaska

My favorite Alaskan excursion was in the city of Juneau, Alaska.

Whale watching (and waiting) was the highlight of our Alaskan Adventures. I put this video montage together today and I was transported back in time.

A time where the world stands still, as you watch the vastness of the ocean. The exhilaration when you spot life in the water.

The tell tale fin. The exhalation of air from a whale. A seal's head poking in and out of the water. The curve of a whale's back. And the grand finale of them all ... the final 'flip' of the whale's tail as it goes for a deep dive. And then you wait.

What follows is a video montage of my favorite excursion of all.

The music which is playing in the background is "Simple Prayer" by the Alaska String Band. I had the pleasure of not only seeing them in person, but getting their personal authorization to play their music along with the Alaskan photo/video montages which I am compiling.

At Home ... With No Where to Go

Ahhh ... to simply be home!

My cat went off simultaneously with my alarm this morning. At 5:45 a.m., the cat was meowing and the alarm was sounding. I immediately turned off the alarm and our cat disappeared.

I was alone. I awoke to the knowledge that it was Saturday and I have absolutely no where I have to go or no place I need to be today.

I can revel in the wonder I call home.

Today is the day that I will sit still with the pictures I collected while I was on holidays. I will go back and insert photos &/or videos into my 'travelling post card' blog posts where ever they fit.

I plan to create a slide show of the scenery pictures (I am not big fan of scenery pictures, yet I found myself joining the crowds of picture takers on the ship and I have a bit of a collection of those photos).

I must go through and decide which pictures I want to print. I will have a small collection of 'friend' pictures. The friendship theme of my holiday is truly what I remember most now that I am home.

My Anchorage Friend planted the idea for a blog post in my mind the morning that we parted ways. I haven't wanted to rush that post. The conversation we shared was so precious that I don't want to rush the words and lose the essence. That conversation often rewinds and replays my mind. I must write it down before I lose the small nuances that turned a sentence into a chapter as we summed up our visit, our friendship and the small wonders of the symbolism we found as we let one small thought carry us away.

Today is to be a quiet day of reflection. I can't wait to get started.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kudos to 'Celebrity Millennium'

I simply must write about our cruise ship and crew before day-to-day-life takes over. I do know that each and every time I think, talk or write of this adventure at sea ... I will be able to transport myself back into the 'world' that the Celebrity Millennium crew created for us.

Where do I begin? The entire Cruise Experience was incredible. From beginning to end.

It started the moment that we spotted our first 'Celebrity Cruise' employee before we boarded in the port in Vancouver, B.C. and ended when yet another person on the Celebrity team helped my friend find me in the long line of Celebrity Cruise guests disembarking in Anchorage, Alaska.

I am a novice traveller. Yet the Celebrity Cruise Line Team made each and every step along the way easy-to-follow. Signs when we needed to know where to go. A friendly face to answer the myriad of questions that we had along the way.

Line ups were inevitable, but what I marvelled at was the speed and efficiency as they guided thousands of people through the (many) required steps to get us aboard the Celebrity Millennium on Embarkation Day.

I was impressed before we left solid ground. But the moment I stepped aboard the cruise ship, I was in awe.

Once again, the Celebrity Crew was ready, willing and able to assist at every turn. As I stood in amazement and started to absorb the wonder of our world at sea, I will forever remember the crew that made this voyage a trip to remember. From beginning to end.

There are the behind the scenes people. Those that are almost invisible to the naked eye. Working quietly to keep the ship clean, providing an endless supply of food and beverages and navigating us down the Pacific Ocean coastline.

There are the people that you come to know on first name basis. We were forever running into our Room Steward and his assistant in the corridors. If it weren't for the crisply made beds and the chocolates on the pillows at night, one wouldn't realize that they efficiently tended to our unknown needs in our absence.

Then there were our waiters at supper. A ready smile, eager to know us on a first name basis and oh-so-happy to make the dining experience what it is intended to be on a cruise ship.

There were those that I sought out, found and had the pleasure of dealing with. 'Dee' - my new, favorite hair stylist. She not only tamed my wild locks, she styled my hair in a manner in which I can (finally!!) tend with ease. The acupuncturist who saved the day when an on shore bus trip triggered my motion sickness hours before one of the most anticipated evening's events.

Then there was 'Sandra'. I wandered up to her to ask a question one day and we ended up having a conversation. And she remembered me. Whenever we ran into each other from that point on, she greeted me with enthusiasm and went above and beyond the call of duty when I ran into a problem. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to talk with her one last time during our last day at sea.

I will be forever grateful to 'Marlon' - our assistant waiter who sent My Friend home with a perfectly sliced green apple when I couldn't make it to supper (the motion sickness returned with a vengeance) on our final evening. That green apple was Marlon's personal testament to the fact that he had 'been where I was at'.

'Ian', our cruise director was a delightful part of the entertainment experience. I talked with him very early on in our cruise experience ... and he remembered that conversation.

There were countless crew members that we didn't have the opportunity to talk with. But whenever we did stop and ask one of them about their job or what country they were from, the response was unanimous. They were proud of their home country and grateful for their job. A job that took them away from their country, their family and land for whatever length of time their contract dictated. A job, where time off is counted in hours. Not days. A job, which is vital to the efficient running of the ship ... yet where you see that they are sometimes treated with far less respect than they deserve.

I walked onto the cruise ship and thought to myself - what a wonderful way to earn a living! To work and live on this marvellous vessel at sea. From the outside, looking in ... it appeared to be the perfect job.

After only seven days, I appreciated a completely different side to this 'perfect' occupation. The people who commit themselves to this occupation are my heroes. They are 'on' and working all of the time. When they walk down the corridors, they are working. They smile, they serve, they accommodate, they do numerous thankless little jobs that are invisible to the naked eye. Yet they shine.

The 'Celebrity Millennium' cruise ship is (in my eyes) the 8th Wonder of the World. But it would be nothing but a floating showpiece, if it wasn't for the cast and crew.

Thank you, 'Celebrity'. You made this a vacation to remember ... because of your people (your ship and the incredible entertainment and on-board activities are not too shabby either!).