Saturday, November 18, 2017

Juneau & Mendenhall Glacier

Our first city of Port was Juneau- Alaska's state capital. Did you know that Juneau is the only capital in the USA that shares a border with a neighboring country? In this case the country is Canada's Provence of British Columbia.  Another interesting fact about Juneau is that although it's part of the main land- there are no roads that connect the city to the rest of Alaska or North America due to the rugged terrain that surrounds it; All goods arrive and depart by plane or boat. Cars arrive to Juneau via the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System — the floating roadway for Southeast Alaska. In fact, our first indication that we were approaching Juneau is the amount of float planes flying next to our ship. It was amazing watching them wobble back and forth as they made their approach to the harbor and hearing the splash as they skid across the water. It was an adventure in and of itself! 

Originally, Sitka was Alaska's capital but the decline of the whaling industry and fur trade caused the cities economic importance to diminish. In 1906 Juneau was made the capital of Alaska, the city was named after Joe Juneau who supposedly bought everyone who would vote in his name at the city council meeting a round of drinks!  (PS. I did not see Russia from anywhere in Alaska)

Our first view of Juneau from the ship was exactly what I expected. It was quaint yet stalwart. Colorfully inviting yet had an air of functionality. It was also the largest port we visited. We could not WAIT to walk down the gang-plank to this outpost capital of the North East.

I think the first thing that struck me about Juneau, that I wasn't expecting, was the beautiful plantings, flowers and landscaping. I was assuming that since its so far North and relatively cold that it would be rocks, trees and pinecones. I couldn't have been more wrong. Begonias were everywhere....even flowing off of rooftops! Whisky barrels lined the streets full of beautiful flowering bounty. Store fronts, curb fronts, small parks and window boxes were happy to boast of the climates ability to sustain annuals! I remember Juneau as being a beautiful enchanted city. Bustling business district surrounded by fog covered mountain peaks, circling bald eagles above, beautiful flowers, cobblestone sidewalks, the smell of firepit BBQ (coming from somewhere) and the desire to just SIT AND SOAK IT IN. We hardly had time to walk the town- we went to one store, bought a postcard and had to run to catch a bus. 

 I longed for more time to walk Juneau. It's a seaside city that invites you to sit, stare, soak-in the glorious EVERYTHING surrounding you.
We tried our hardest to soak it in....At one point on a bus, I told Kerri to look to the left, I'll look to the right and we'll be each other's eyes so we don't miss anything. This seems like a great plan- but on both sides, there's beauty....there's landscape that's impossible to explain, grandeur for which even naturalist John Muir couldn't express.
We boarded the bus, our chauffeur was named Robert. He pointed out Mitchell Mountain and the tram that goes to the top of the mountain. We were headed to Mendenhall Glacier. The place I'd read about, seen pictures of, watched videos....and here I was about to see it myself. Everything that day was surreal.
Our first view of Mendenhall Glacier was from Glacier Highway through the tree line and mountain peaks. I remember feeling a tingling of being overwhelmed. We were HERE. We were DOING it!

On the way to the glacier, Robert educated us on some historical factoids and pointed out areas of interest. Unfortunately, I was on sensory overload and don't remember a lot of them. One thing I do remember is him telling the story of a woman who brought rutabaga sprouts with her to Alaska. She planted the rutabaga's and the same plants are still producing over 100 years later! I bought some Rutabaga jam and have a taste of Juneau at home!

Our first sight at Mendenhall Glacier was of a porcupine that wound up on the trail to the glacier.


I lack the vocabulary to describe the beauty of Alaska- or the grandeur of Mendenhall Glacier.
It's hard to explain the connection you feel to the earth when you're surrounded by wilderness, beauty and raw, uncultured majesty of nature. It's phenomenal.








Juneau was B-U-S-Y, by far the most populated of all the ports (although Ketchikan gave it a fair run of its money). Juneau was spread across a few city blocks and packed with hawkers, vendors, jewelry stores, popcorn poppers and restaurants of every kind.

We didn't have a lot of time explore Juneau because our day was planned months earlier with an all day excursion to Mendenhall Glacier, Whale Watching and dinner at Orca Point Lodge (which will be the next blog).

Our bus driver's name was Robert. He drove us out of the city towards Mendenhall Glacier pointing out interesting local tidbits, points of interest and historical landmarks. I can't remember all of the information but I do remember this:
Wrapping through the town we passed a garden center. Robert told us the story of a woman who carried her mother or grandmother's rutabaga sprouts to Juneau during the goldrush in the early 1900's. The same rutabaga's are still being harvested today and made into jams, jellies and served in a local restaurant. Isn't that amazing? I purchased some of the rutabaga jam and have enjoyed a taste of Juneau at home in North Carolina. 





Juneau's narrow streets

Sunday, October 1, 2017

....God is the Ruler Yet...

This week has brought a lot of uncertainty.
I sat at my piano about an hour ago trying to hash out life and my inner prayers through the keyboard. For me, music can speak my deepest needs and feelings through the prayer of a song much better than my heart can express in words.  It works.

So, my mind went back and forth. Praying, begging, pleading for direction. a miracle. a healing.

And, in the midst of doing that, I happened to look at the open hymnal in front of me....and the lyrics were:

This is my Father's world, O let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.



I have no control of a situation going on. None. But, God reminded me, I have influence.....I happen to know the composer of this symphony. God is the ruler.

I still don't have answers, but I have peace.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Found My Calling

Me, Kerri & Lisa
Imagine perfect 72 degree weather, no humidity and the amazing views of the Vancouver shoreline and harbor surrounding you. Imagine 800 like-minded friends surrounding you, each equally excited about the adventurous week and what it holds....imagine being on board a ship with someone you've looked up to for your entire life (Since 2nd grade)!  Imagine being in a cabin with two of your closest friends- who have shared life with you for over 15 years.  Now, close your eyes and know all of this is going on around you and men are walking up offering you free food, drinks and your feet are in a pool.

"THIS IS REAL. THIS IS REAL. THIS IS REAL." This is what I had to say to myself a zillion times over. This is HAPPENING.

My heart was enlarged (in a good, non-life threatening way) and my mind was exploding with imagination, fascination and the thrill of EVERYTHING. I couldn't look any direction without seeing something I wanted to further investigate, soak in or hear. All of my senses were on high alert and overloaded!

Heading West from Vancouver

I'm not sure how long we stayed on deck, watching our ship turn around in the bay and head west...but it was beautiful. Watching the shoreline, listening to the motors, feeling the waves, smelling the salt air and pine trees that lined the shores...saying to myself over and over....
"THIS IS REAL. THIS IS REAL. THIS IS REAL. "


We quickly settled into our cabin, decorating our room with stickers, pictures and tassels. Lisa arranged for us to have hors d'oeuvres in our room. The room had fresh flowers, balloons (celebrating Lisa's birthday) and tasseled garland blowing in the sea wind....it was better than imagined. IT WAS REAL. 
Our cabin  had a beautiful veranda with glass railing so that we had a view at all times....even from bed. We slept with our room door open every night, hearing the ocean, the chugging of the motor the sound of the wind. I wish there was a way to bottle a feeling, an experience....to uncork the moment and breath it in...once again. 

If there were a way to that...I think that first day on the deck would have been the day I'd have bottled. The emotion of friends united, adventures on the horizon and beautiful weather. The excitement of what was and what was to be...it would have to be a pretty large bottle to capture all of that! I don't think there's a cork strong enough to contain all of that. 
  

At one point, during the first day, Kerri said, "I've found my calling. I was born for this." I couldn't agree more, who isn't born for a life of relaxation, adventure and having food brought to you?! This was highly addictive behavior!!  Something I've become addicted to and have no plans of quitting!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Alarmed Americans



I woke up Saturday morning with the sun spilling through gauzy curtains,  seagulls singing their seaside songs and the oddly pleasant baritone bellowing of a barge's horn. I don't know why the moment hit me so profoundly, but the serenity of the moment juxtaposed by the bustling in the harbor was something I don't want to forget. I took this picture from my bed. 

The day before, when we checked in, our room wasn't ready so the hotel gifted us free "appys" (that's what Canadians call Appetizers) and drinks in the lounge. They also upgraded the room to the 17th floor and gave us a room with an impressive view.



The view was worth the inconvenience of waiting for our room the day before. Kerri and I both stood at the window, facing the harbor with our binoculars in hand watching the activities in the water. There were barges, cargo ships, some sort of military boats and cruise ships. The sun glistened across the bay. The weather was phenomenal. We opened our windows and sat on the sofa enjoying the morning....and passing the time waiting for our friend Lisa to join us. Lisa lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. She was a hop and skip by float plane or a few hours by ferry.
She was coming in by plane and meeting us to get our main adventure started.

Kerri and I walked the city looking for coffee and breakfast. The homelessness in Vancouver was painfully evident; according to reports I've read, the main factors contributing to the rising number of homeless in the Glass City is the cost of housing and lack of job opportunities. The third contributing factor to homelessness and crime levels rising is the Opioid epidemic. We saw several people sleeping in doorways and on sidewalks. The homeless population has increased by 30% in two years in the downtown metro area of Vancouver. 

The realization that where we had stood laughing with our friends in front of the Top of Vancouver rotating restaurant (the night before) there was now a homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk. The contrast was hard to ignore. 

The weather was amazing. We couldn't go 10 feet without commenting on the glorious weather. In the south the humidity weigns on you like a suffocating blanket of misery; the air in Vancouver felt so light, crisp and perfect. I know I said something about it at least 25 times in the first few blocks we covered. We walked West towards Howe Street and found a little restaurant with a sidewalk cafe. 



We walked in and the owner introduced himself from behind the counter, his name was Michael, and he made his way over to Kerri and I to hug us and he kissed me. On the cheek. A stranger.

He left you no choice but to love him instantaneously and without reserve; And so we did.

He was seating us by the kitchen and then noticed the matching cruise shirts we both wearing, "Your peoples are here! Let me seat you with your peoples!"  The cruise shirts were an idea of  Derek, our cruise event planner. The red shirts were called "FIRST DAY SHIRTS".  The idea is to for all 800+ cruise participants to wear matching shirts so that we could spot each other in hotels, airport terminals, taxis and so forth on our trip to the cruise terminal. I met people on the plane in Phoenix, AZ from St. Louis, MO whom  I would have never met nor spoke to if it wasn't for the shirt. Kerri met people from Nashville on her flight and now, we were going to meet fellow Cruisers in this Greek restaurant during breakfast in Vancouver.



Micheal led us to our table and comfy seats. We introduced ourselves to the large table of Amy Grant fans, who were wearing their red FIRST DAY shirts. What a fun ice-breaker the shirts turned out to be! Another couple across from the aisle from us (not wearing t shirts and not part of our cruise) ended up being Amy Grant fans and asking us about our cruise, t shirts and how to sign up for the Facebook page. We were walking, enthusiastic billboards!

We received a text from Lisa, her float plane had landed and she was at our hotel. We each hugged Michael goodbye. He kissed us each goodbye. I reached for my hand sanitizer. I can't help it, I'm not rude; I'm conscientious.

We got to our hotel and couldn't find Lisa.

She texted us again. She was at our room.

We got to our room and still couldn't find Lisa. Kerri said, they're nice here, but surely they wouldn't just let someone into our room? We opened the door to find out. Lisa wasn't there.

We text her back. She was at the wrong hotel.

At the time, this was funny. Now it's HILARIOUS, because, you see, this perfectly introduces Lisa. Things just happen and you love her because of it.

Lisa came to our room and introduced us to her Canadian money and the dollar coins,  Loonies and Toonies, giving us each a coin. Kerri and I were packing up our stuff to go to the Ship Terminal, we were to board at noon. The reunion was fun! The excitement was tangible. And apparently combustible....because all of a sudden, our fire alarm went off.

Kerri looked right at me and narrowed her eyebrows, "WHAT did you DO?!"

Why am I always the guilty one?  I was just standing there. Innocently.

The sound was deafening. Being on the 17th floor all of a sudden wasn't as great of a treat as it was earlier that morning. We scrambled to the hallway, lugging our combined 5 suitcases and 3 backpacks, my pillow (I didn't have time to pack it before the "fire").  We debated in the hallway about taking the stairs or the elevator. We stood there for a moment waiting on the elevator (although I firmly voted NOT to take an elevator in a burning building) when I noticed no one else was running for their lives. There were no flashing exit signs or sprinklers. No fireman in masks or people escaping their rooms. No people jumping from windows. In fact, we were the only ones in a panic.

I started putting my ear on doors as I passed them....it was as I had suspected, our room was the only one with an alarm blaring. Of course it was, because that's how we roll, or how the dice rolled...all I know is I was ready, if necessary,  to Stop. Drop and Roll.

We took the elevator. We went into the lobby. No one was alarmed, in a panic or even noticing us. We told the concierge that our room's alarm was sounding. She looked at a panel of lights on a screen. She politely called someone on her walkie-talkie. She rang up the room, gave a receipt and dismissed us. Clearly, Canadians don't get excited about things like fire alarms sounding on the 17th floor.







Tuesday, August 8, 2017

V-Town, BC: The Day I Became an Alien

For over a year I dreamed of Alaska and all of its yet to be experienced (by me) adventures. My mind was full of ideas, my heart full of anticipation.
Alaska lived up to every daydream, travel pamphlet, adventure blog and documentary I poured over in the last 15 months of planning.
I was meeting one of my best friends, Kerri in Vancouver and our friend Lisa was meeting us on Saturday. For over a year we had dreamed of this moment...and here it was.



I landed in Vancouver, Canada on Friday, July 7th. I was not prepared to love Canada the way that I did. One of the first things that jumped out to me is the friendliness of the people and their eagerness to assist. The Canadians are quick to engage you and even alter their direction to assist you (a stranger) in getting to where you're going.  

 There was one other thing that really stood out to me immediately in Vancouver. I feel compelled to share it because it was a big part of our experience and cultural learning process. We were not aware of the Asian population in the city. I felt like I landed in Tokyo or Taiwan.  Turns out, that almost 40% (although I would have gambled it was higher!) of Vancouver's population is Southeast Asian.( I think 90% of them worked at the Vancouver International Airport.) I regret not taking pictures, or making a video inside the airport because it really did feel like I was in an Asian country. Even the announcements over the loud speakers were in Korean or some other Asian language.

I was quite bummed to not get a Passport stamp upon my grand entrance into Canada. The security officer wouldn't let me go back to the Customs Desk once I passed some invisible line he guarded near the baggage claim.

Our first adventure was the Skytrain ride to the waterfront. We had to go across the city and to set the tone and pace for our adventure, we got from Point A to Point B by going under the bay through a big, underground tunnel!

Vancouver is a city of steel, glass and light; in fact, fittingly, one of the cities nicknames is City of Glass.



Kerri and I explored the city. We caught up (we hadn't seen each other in over 3 years) and of course, as with any true friend, your friendship picks up where you left off....there is no warming up or getting to know each other again. You're just happy and content being in the same space again! Some of my best adventures and gut laughs have been with Kerri. My kids love her, my family loves her and she is truly family to me.

One of the things Kerri and I both had in common was that neither of us had ever been "Foreigners" or "Aliens" before. We thoroughly enjoyed our first day as Aliens exploring!

Our first jaunt out of the hotel was to Canada Place.  You have to imagine weather from heaven with views of paradise! I couldn't stop gushing with heartfelt "oooooohs" and "awwwwws".

From the waterfront at Canada Place (which is also the Cruise Terminal) you can look across the water through Burrard Inlet.

Kerri and I were so excited to meet up with other friends in Vancouver at Top of the World. We started off with reservations for two, then 5, and much to our delight by the time is was said and done we had 10 of us at the table! The conversations, laughter and stories from previous weekend trips together was so fun and satisfying I can barely remember the meal itself!



Our reservation was for 6:30...and we didn't leave the restaurant until midnight. MJ (second on the left) and I are from the East Coast and it was 3 AM by our bodies time table! The friendship, scenery, newness and anticipation to begin our adventure made up one of the most perfect nights for me. I can't help but smile when I look back at the above picture.

Kerri took the above picture of the ship terminal at Canada Place during dinner. The peninsula directly behind the building is called Stanley Park and connects to the famous Granville Island.

Going to sleep on the 23rd floor, in a foreign country after such an amazing day I remember thinking, "I'm going to forever remember this day....this is one of my favorite days of my entire life....." Little did I know, I would think that every single night for the next week.....

To be continued.






Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Looking For You

Im undercover
looking to find the sun
Following you;  shade to shadow
hoping you are the one
Maybe this time is different, maybe I'll finally learn
Every time I touch the light, it burns. 


I can't hide forever
I want your breathe on my skin
Touching you; its inevitable
the burning begins
Maybe this time is different, maybe I'll finally learn
Every time I touch the light, it burns 




Sunday, January 29, 2017

I'm not a Feminist

I've been paying more attention to political news than ever before- I'm sure the election has a lot to do with that. Recently, because of the Women's March in DC, every news cycle has a feminist being interviewed. I believe in wage equality, laws against sexual harassment, reinforced laws promoting  prosecution for domestic abuse...most of the feminist agenda I can either relate to or on some level agree with.   However, on the same token and more-so, I believe in woman being created the weaker vessel. Its not a shame. It's not a dismissive insult towards women either. There's beauty in fragility in both the masculine and feminine genders.

I could very well be the poster child for Feminism: here's why (in reverse order).

I'm a mother whose shouldered the responsibility of raising four kids mostly on my own. I was emotionally and spiritually abandoned by a husband who confused Biblical teachings of submission with entitled superiority and unquestioned power. I have a very commanding father.

After my divorce I was hellbent on proving that the kids and I would be fine. Better than fine- we'd be doggone, jolly-fantastic. I could do 'this' and everything that 'this' entailed.

I worked, raised my kids, cooked the meals, managed my finances, started a savings. I excelled in ways I didn't even thing were possible. I didn't have an education to fall back on. I didn't have family money to rely on. I didn't have a home through the divorce settlement- I left with nothing more than a bag of diapers, a broken heart and the selfish need to prove my worth to no one but myself.

I'm off the charts stubborn. I am so stubborn that if anyone would ever write about me- they would have to invent a new word that would properly embody the full brevity of my obstinate nature.

With that said- I thought I was proving my worth and substantiating the resilience of woman around the world. We do what it takes to not just survive but to thrive.  To kiss the heads of their sleeping children at night and know they are safe, warm and fed. And its because you didn't give in. You didn't believe the lies you were told. You overthrew the tyrant! I was proving daily to myself that I was so much stronger and more resourceful than he ever gave me credit for. I was marching for liberation- a parade of one.

Let me say here, for the sake of anyone who stumbles across this.....I believe in and fought for the sanctity of marriage. I believe its a God ordained constitution. I do not make hasty, lighthearted, spur of the moment decisions; I stayed way past the staying point. I endured a lot because I believe in the covenant between man, wife and God. There are three parties in marriage vows...and I took my vows to God seriously, even when I no longer felt anything but resentment and fear. These beliefs were not only taught to me as a child, they were demonstrated in action and deed by adults in my life. People are not disposable. Vows are not out of convenience. Love is not fleeting. But I'm not justifying my journey to anyone. That ship has sailed.

So, the divorce was final after three years of separation. The joys of independence had somewhat began to tarnish by then- the reality of survival was all too pressing. The economy tanked. My job was teetering in the balances of the recession. The scales tipped and the company folded.

All the responsibility of day to day living fell on me. I kept a log of child support money in 2011. At the end of the year the total received was $28. It was given to me on Easter weekend to buy 4 kids stuff for Easter baskets. I put the $28 in the church offering instead. God knows why.

After all that I've experienced- I still believe in submission, teamwork and most shocking even to myself I believe in a man being the head of the household. What I wouldn't give to have a man worthy to be trusted and followed? To have someone to bounce ideas off of? To be able to converse about the decision process of sending Sarah to a 2 year college and later transfer to university?? Have I made the right decision? The decisions are endless.And sometimes really petty.  What is the noise the car is making? Is it safe to drive? The pilot light is out on the fireplace and I'm too scared to light it myself. Jacob wants to go to teen camp instead of Junior Camp this summer, I think he should stay with the young kids- am I being over protective? What are your thoughts?  Do you think I should dye my hair? Did you hear the bass run on that new song? Do you think these lyrics are pithy? Can you help me get the Christmas stuff out of the attic?( last year the box nearly broke my neck because I wasn't strong enough to guide it down the attic ladder and balance it against my chest for leverage at the same time.)
 I don't mean to imply I'm only looking out for my own self-preservation. I am a giver, a sensitive listener whose perceptive. God, this is starting to sound like an infomercial....back to the point.....

I remember the night that I found out Gabe was in the hospital after being jumped and beaten in the Army. I didn't know what was going to transpire. I was so lost and felt entirely isolated. Being independent at the moment was the worst feeling I ever had in my entire life. I needed someone. I needed reassurance that the decisions being made were the very best we could do in light of the circumstances. Someone to stay awake with and discuss the options we had on the table regarding a criminal lawsuit. I still don't think the best decision was made, but it was overwhelming. I was 17 hours away from my son in the hospital with facial fractures, a missing tooth and a concussion. When I called his father he just said, "Oh yea? Huh." Like I had called to say, "can you believe their calling for snow in July?"
 I went straight to my church. It was a Thursday, I didn't know where else to go. I went in and much to my relief, Pastor was there. He prayed with me. He offered some answers and consolation. I felt at ease. I felt like the situation was manageable. He broke down the reality of what I could and couldn't control. And reiterated that my son is a grown adult in the care of the Army. Really, nothing was in my control. There was absolutely NOTHING that I cold do but pray. Being made to realize that was a huge gift.

What I wouldn't give to have someone to just listen to other than myself!  To hand over this burden I shoulder. I'm not seeking a mate, because I think that makes you too open to negative possibilities. I am very guarded. very protective of my home and heart. I have a very small, tight circle of trusted loved ones, and I prefer to keep it that way.

Back to the subject at hand; the oddest part of feminism to me is that in all honesty, the most discrimination I have ever experienced as a woman is not from men nor in a professional setting. The discrimination that was implied was when I had to act as the "Man" and be the provider for the family. The looks from some happily wedded, stay at home moms when you can't assist in a school play or class party because you have to work. You can't pick up the kids from the school because you have to be at an appointment. You have to use all your resources in friends and family to systematically coordinate everyone's schedules and lives. Its a real task! I won't go into further details, but there's more "discrimination" in Christian circles than professional settings.... The "oooooh, so that explains it" look. It is what it is I'm not defensive over it. Divorce is ugly, no matter how you slice it. I don't wear it like a scarlet letter and I won't. It just IS what it IS. Like a person with a scar on their face....its there and they learn to shave around it or tilt their head for the best angle in pictures. You just deal with it. And eventually it becomes a part of you and you accept it. Without that scar you would't be who you are today. I an only hope that the scars and fallout have made me a gentler, more understanding and giving person. A person that one day will have someone to help shoulder the weights of the world and who'll wink on my stubbornness as an endearing trait. :)