Thursday, August 17, 2017

Anger and Ego...

Sometimes you need a perspective shift. Sometimes you need a clarifying moment. Sometimes you need to see yourself through a different lens. Yesterday I had one of those moments.

I joke about the Good Denise and Bad Denise responses to things all of the time. Good Denise is the one who always keeps her calm and speaks rationally and Bad Denise is a little more, shall we say, free with her opinions and does not suffer fools gladly. And people love Bad Denise. Right up until the point that they are the ones in her sites...

Yesterday I had a very public argument on my Facebook wall with someone who did not heed the warning signs. And I take the blame for a lot of the argument. I'm not wrong in my beliefs or my positions, but the argument never should have happened. Because I should have unfriended them a long time ago.

And this is where the ego part of the title comes in.

I've had debates with that person on numerous occasions. About political differences, about personal differences. And they have almost always left me frustrated. Because I would feel as though I was talking in circles. Yet I still kept talking. Brent would ask me why I did it. It made me frustrated. I wasn't getting anything out of it. Why do it? And I would say (ego) I think she needs friends. And I think having a friend who has a different opinion can make a difference.

See? I thought that my talking to her would change her beliefs. Beliefs she holds just as tightly as I hold mine. Ego.

I've talked about it here and on my feed numerous times. I wish there was a combination of words I could use that would change people's hearts and minds. That would make them understand that hateful things aren't directed at groups of indiscriminate objects, but groups of people. Real people. With real feelings. And real lives. And real pain.

I've talked about that I keep writing because I think that I'm doing some good by doing so. And I really believe that I am. Sometimes it's just to let someone know that someone else out there in the world feels the same thing. Sometimes it really does make a difference in what someone thinks. I've had a few people tell me that my words helped them change their mind about things. Not just my words, mind you, I'm not that good, but my words added to the things that helped them shift an opinion.

So sometimes I think that I need to keep talking to someone who I shouldn't. But I should have stopped along time ago. And my ego kept me from doing it. But my anger yesterday stopped my ego in its tracks.

See anger sometimes brings a real clarity to a situation. Not always, sometimes it clouds your judgement too much, but sometimes it really clears things up. When you are incredibly angry, incredibly fast then you know that there is a  lot going on. And when you hear other conversations going on at the same time as the one you are having you know you need to pay attention. When you realize that you have clear lines of demarcation that you've stated and they've been crossed over and over again and you've made excuses for it? Well...then the anger flashes back at yourself and you realize you fucked up. I let my ego get in the way of what I believe is right.

I want to be clear here. I have friends who believe different things than I do. I have friends who politically do not line up with me. I have friends who I have disagreements with on some issues that are moral things to each of us, but I understand where they are coming from and they have made the decision to keep me around as well. But my lines about race, about sexuality and gender identity are strong. And I will drop you if you cross those lines. And I should do it right away. I just need to get out of my own way to do it.

I feel that I have a responsibility to the world I am a part of to not sit silently when I see things that I feel are wrong. I feel that I have a greater responsibility than some others because I could sit silently without losing any of my space in this world. But I also have a responsibility to myself and to those that I love to not give space to things I find hateful and abhorrent. No matter how sweetly they are packaged. No matter how often I try to convince myself I can "fix" them. Someone who doesn't view themselves as broken cannot be fixed.

And it's just my own ego that thinks they aren't feeling the exact same way about me. As someone broken who does not want to be fixed. I get that I am viewed as just as wrong as I view them. But it doesn't matter. This is a fundamental difference, not a superficial one.

Good Denise is all for understanding and listening and being calm.
Bad Denise needs to step in sometimes and say fuck that shit, we are cleaning house.


Anger can be a good thing. Fire can purify. Clarity comes with the burning away of other thoughts. And ego can be one of those things burned away. That's a good thing.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Amazed but not surprised...

When people tell you who they are pay attention. I've said it over and over and over again. It is one of those life advice pieces that when you hear it it's like a bell rings and clarity comes over you and there is no going back. (Thank you, Maya Angelou, for ringing the bell)

Our president told everyone who he was over and over again. And people declined to believe him. Even people on the left who couldn't stand him assumed he wasn't as awful as he was "pretending" to be. Yes, yes he is that awful. He told you who he was. He showed you who he was. And yet there are people who assumed he was a decent human being under there. Somewhere.

Does this past weekend and today cement it for everyone that he isn't? That he is horrific. That he is a nightmare. That he is a disgrace to the country.

I wish it would.

It won't.

Not for everyone.

There are already people defending him. People who want to both sides everything that they can. But when Nazis are involved there are no both sides. There just aren't.

A woman died. That wasn't both sides. That was one side ramming in to her with a car and killing her. And wounding like 19 other people so it could have been an even higher body count.

If you have 16 minutes click through to the video of the press conference from today and watch it.

Watch him repeatedly talk about "the night before" and how great it was. The night before, in case the death on Saturday wiped it from you mind, was when Richard Spencer led a group through the University of Virginia with their torches held high chanting, "Jews will not replace us!" and "Blood and Soil!" This is our president's idea of a fine peaceful rally. Nazis in khakis.

The whole idea of white supremacy and Nazi brandishing flags is violent. That's before the car. What they want to do, they want a white country. All white. And no Jews. And no gays. And no women who aren't having babies. (Yes, this is also a thing. It as their reasoning that it wasn't a big deal that Heather Heyer was killed because she was a drag on society, being unmarried with no kids) The people you saw in the news clips that looked like riot police? They weren't. They were there with the Nazis. Full battle gear and multiple guns. It is a violent ideology and they were looking for a fight.

I'm going to leave this link here, if you have 20 minutes watch the piece Vice did on the event. This is who Trump says are some really fine people that were there.

This wasn't a political differences rally. This was a white supremacist rally. Because of the freedoms we all enjoy they get to have their rallies. But because of the freedoms we all enjoy we need to remember who they are and what they want and stop them from making headway. Even if our president doesn't agree.

And for fuck's sake listen to him this time. He is telling you who he is. He is telling you who he sides with. He is telling you what he wants. Pay attention.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Lost Poem...






I wanted to write a poem.

I chased the rhyme

I looked for the rhythm


I fought with the flow

I wanted to write a poem

I looked at the roses


I watched the clouds


I sang all the songs in my head

I wanted to write a poem

I wanted to write a poem

I wanted to write a poem

I gave up and wrote this instead


Friday, August 4, 2017

Family Health History...

She didn't notice when the bleeding started.

Okay, that's not right. Of course she noticed. She just didn't worry.

One day she looked down at her pinky and saw blood. She figured she must have gotten a paper cut or a scratch or something and just not noticed. She washed her hands and waited for the sting that would let her know where the cut was. There was no sting. Odd. But not really, she had a really high pain threshold. The blood rinsed down the drain in a swirl of red to pink. She looked at her finger and couldn't see anything wrong so she went on with her day. And forgot about it. Mostly.

Until a few days later when it happened again. This time while she was washing the blood away she noticed the corner of her fingernail was loose. Well that explained the bleeding. She had damaged her nail bed somehow and must keep catching the fingernail on things reopening the wound. It still didn't didn't hurt, not one bit. Not when she lifted it, not when she pressed it back down, not when she trimmed off the loose edge to keep it from catching. No pain at all. And no more bleeding after she rinsed it off.

Until a few days later. Then there was a lot more blood. This time the whole nail came off while she washed her hands. Just peeled away and floated in the sink. She guessed it was time for the doctor.

Dr. Google told her it was nothing to worry about, she had just caused some trauma to the nail bed and the nail would grow back. Which was a huge relief. Until Dr. Google told her that it was obviously skin cancer. Wasn't that always the way with Dr. Google? It was either all okay, or it was cancer. So she called her real life doctor and made an appointment.

.......

"No pain at all?"

"Nope. I mean I can feel that you are pressing on it, and it feels a little weird since it's skin now instead of a fingernail, but there is no pain."

"And the bleeding..."

"Yeah, I would notice it was bleeding and as soon as I rinsed it away it would stop. Even when the nail came loose completely there was no extra blood."

"Hmm...I'm going to run some tests and look at your white cell count, and I'm going to take a skin sample and check for a fungal infection. I don't think that's it because you don't seem to have any of the traditional symptoms with that but basically I'm going to rule things out until we can find what this is."

"So you're stumped?"

"For now.  Let's go ahead and do a quick body scan while you are here and make sure you don't have any other areas with unidentified wounds." Her doctor open a drawer in the bottom of the examining table and pulled out a dressing gown. "I'll step out so you can slip this on."

She slipped out of her shoes and stared at her feet. The left sock was soaked in blood. Well that couldn't be good. She finished undressing and left the bloody sock on for her doctor to look at. Since there was no pain she could only imagine that when she took the sock off there would be a loose toenail as well.

Which is sort of what happened.

Her doctor came back in the room and stopped, "I take it that foot wasn't bleeding earlier?"

"Nope, I had no idea it was at all until I slipped off my shoe. I figured I would leave it alone until you came back in so you could see what I meant." She slipped her sock off and her foot was covered in blood. It had to have all come from the pinky toe. Or where her pinky toe had been this morning when she had put her socks on. She turned the sock inside out and PLOP out dropped the tiny little toe. Fresh nail polish from her last pedicure still perfectly in place.

Her doctor paled. "Well that's not good, is it?"

"I wouldn't think so but you're the doctor so you tell me." She tried to joke but this was surely something bad now, when your doctor loses her poker face it's never a good sign. The lack of feeling still made it seem unreal. But her toe was definitely not attached to her foot anymore.

She was admitted to the hospital that day.

There were a lot of test. Leprosy being the first concern even though she didn't have any of the lesions typically associated with the disease. Just when body parts start dropping off people leap to leprosy. Leaping Leprosy! She laughed out loud at her own joke. Which made everyone stare at her. A friendly nurse said something about the painkillers making her loopy before realizing she wasn't on any. There was no need. Even though the toe was gone, or technically, toes; she had lost another one at some point during the admissions procedures, she felt no pain.

The tested her blood sugar. Diabetic necrosis maybe? Nope. No trace at all of diabetes. Not that they really thought there would be. Losing a toe isn't the normal first sign, after all. Screens and more screens. Her white blood cell count was normal. No signs of infection. She was a little anemic, but with all the random bleeding that seemed logical.

Logical. Parts of her body were falling off and she was still looking for the logical things.

She called her father, he was a worrier so she debated making the call. Her mother had been out of their lives since she was a very small child so it was just the two of them. He had been a helicopter parent since before there was even a term for it. But she knew if she didn't call he would be furious. Especially since she had just lost the pointer finger of her right hand. "First off, I'm fine so don't worry, but I'm in the hospital."

.....

"I don't know what is wrong. They are running tests."

.....

"I had some unexplained bleeding."

.....

"What?"

.....

"Four so far...Wait...why would you even ask that?"

.....

"Wait, don't hang up! I want you to talk to the doc...."

Her father had shouted he was on his way and had hung up the phone. But not before asking her how many body parts she had lost. So apparently this wasn't a completely unique situation.

More doctors came in and examined her. An entire cadre of medical students was ushered in at one point. Her symptoms presented to them like a test. She shouted out, "It's lupus!" and got a round of laughter. Apparently House was a favorite among these kids too. But nobody really had any good ideas. So more blood was drawn, more poking, more questions. And she waited for her father.

He got there the next morning.

"How was your flight?"

"I drove. I thought it would be just as fast since I could leave right then. And this way I can stay. I should have never let you move out here in the first place. I should have kept you with me."

Every discussion with her father started the same way. No matter what else was going on it was always about her leaving first then whatever else was going on next. "First off, you didn't let me do anything. Growing up and moving out is what people do, Dad. But more importantly, why did you ask about losing body parts? That's not a normal thing to ask. Has it happened to you? Do you know what causes it?"

Her doctor came in to the room at that point. "Dr. Addison, this is my father, Dad, Dr. Addison. I think he has some information that could be helpful."

Her father reached out to shake Dr. Addison's hand. "Nice to meet you. I...well..."

"Nice to meet you as well, I wish it were under different circumstances. I must say your daughter is an amazing woman. I have never seen a patient hold themselves together so well under such trying circumstances."

At this her father burst out in to tears."I should be the one holding her together! She should be with me!"

Dr. Addison reach out and patted him on the shoulder. "I know, it's so difficult when our children..."

"NO!" Her father yelled and stepped about from the doctor, "Do not comfort me. This is my fault. When her mother fell apart I should have been firmer about her staying close to me. I knew it was a risk and yet I let her leave..."

"Dad...you are not responsible for Mom and you are not responsible for me either. I'm sorry, Dr. Addison, my mother had a break down when I was a small child and left us all alone. My father has always felt guilty that I didn't have a mother. I never blamed him, she is the one who left, but he has always carried that burden. I'm afraid my getting sick is bringing out a lot of old issues."

"NO! This is my fault. I should have cleared up the misunderstanding when you were younger but it was so much easier not to. So much better..."

"What misunderstanding?"

"When I told you that your mother fell apart I meant that she fell apart. She. Fell. Apart. It wasn't a breakdown, she didn't leave you voluntarily, she fell apart. I made a mistake and she fell apart."

Dr. Addison looked puzzled, "Are you saying that your wife had these same symptoms? Do you know what caused them?"

He shook his head.

"You don't know?"

Tears started streaming down his face and he shook his head again. "I did it. I made a mistake. I shouldn't have given in to her, but I loved her. What else could I do? She made me so happy. She only wanted one thing and how could I, of all people, deny her that one thing?"

"I'm sorry, sir, but I don't understand. What do you mean you did it? Was it a virus?"

He shook his head again. "No, it was a child. She wanted a child. I let her make a child. Let us make a child. I shouldn't have...I knew it wasn't right...but I had no idea...."

She watched her father crying and the doctor struggling to understand what he was saying. "Dad? What are you trying to say? Make a child? Do you mean me? Was Mom too sick to have children?"

He shook his head again and the tears came even harder. "No...she wasn't sick. She was whole. She was just the way I had dreamed her to be. But I let her have too much freedom. I shouldn't have. My mentor told me it was a mistake, he told me that a Golem is only as weak as their Master is strong, and I was too weak for her. She was too strong for me. But what we did, it wasn't...it wasn't...she didn't have enough to give to a child and keep for herself and so she fell apart. She couldn't hold herself together. She tried..."

Dr. Addison stepped out of the room at this point. No doubt going to call for a psych evaluation for her father. A month ago she would have thought the same thing. But now? Four, oh wait, is that another finger gone? Five, body parts later? She thought she finally understood. Things from her childhood finally made sense. The complete lack of baby pictures, it was as if she had come in to being at age 4. The way her brain worked differently than everyone else's. Just always a little detached. Examining a situation as much as experiencing it. And her father's insistence that she always stay with him? The constant hovering. The perpetual worry. "That's why I don't really feel things, isn't it? I mean when I fell and broke my arm in 6th grade everyone thought I was so brave, but I really couldn't feel the pain. The doctors were amazed but I really didn't hurt. And that's why I don't bleed much isn't it? You made me. I'm half Mom and half you, right? I'm not human. Not all of me."

He bowed his head and put his face in his hands.

"Dad? Look at me. Can you fix this?"

He kept his head down.

"Dad? Look at me. Dad. Seriously, look at me."

He finally raised his head to meet her gaze. "Dad? Can you fix this?"

"No....it's too late. Once the binding wears off it's just time. I was afraid after your mother fell apart that you would follow immediately, but you lasted...lived...so then I thought you would live as long as I did. But I should never have let you leave me. I should never have trusted that distance wouldn't matter. I should have..."

She smiled and reached for her father, "You weren't strong enough to control my mother, and I'm sorry but I am my mother's child so you didn't stand a chance."

He started to cry again.

"Dad, you need to leave. Dr. Addison heard you talking about golems and is going to try and get you committed. You know that right? You need to leave now."

He didn't. He stayed by her side. It was the least he could do. It was what he had done for her mother. It took a week. In the end she was in quarantine and there were no more tests. She just fell apart, piece by piece until there was no more of her left.

And when she was gone he fell apart as well.



Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August is for Deep Thoughts...And Cake.

It's August! Birthday month is here! Yay!

As you all know I tend to get really self reflective (even more than my normal) during August and September. Another year on the planet makes me think about the past and September always makes me think of new beginnings so it's my most questioning time of year. Or at least self questioning.

It's usually when I start working on new goals and wrap up old ones. Though I've gone traditional now with new year and new goals just to make it easier. But I still am prone to weeding out the things that aren't working and trying new things during the end of summer beginning of fall.

Right now I'm looking at time management.

I love being retired.

I love not having to answer to a clock.

I love being able to shift my schedule around what needs done, or what I feel like doing rather than having a HAVE to staring at me.

But...

It makes me a little crazy as well.

One of the truisms in my life is that I take vacations to have something to do. I plan out what we are doing, I schedule all sorts of events and activities, I am super busy. Because I can do the traditional lay around doing nothing "vacation" as my normal day. But as Brent has discovered, I don't really do that well either. When I am home, even if I am reading something I want to finish, like that GIANT book I finally finished yesterday, I tend to get up and wander every so often. Or I pick up my phone and check the news. Or I stop and watch a little something on TV. Or I get up and do dishes. Or laundry. Or...on and on...I fidget. I pace. I wander.

Basically I'm not fully focusing on anything. I'm acting like a neurotic dog without a job.

Which then makes me think I should probably get a job. I don't need to have a job. We can afford for me not to have a job. But if I got a job I could put all of the money away in savings and then when Brent retires as well we would have more of a cushion. Which makes sense.

Then I think about the actuality of getting a job and remember how much I love not having one. And I also have been out of the work force for long enough that the jobs available to me aren't really appealing.

And around we go again.

The other big piece is that I want time to write. And a 9-5 doesn't really do that. I went years and years not writing at all. Just telling stories for fun, but always orally, but no writing anything down. I am not one of those incredible people who can work all day, take care of the things that need done at home and then sit down and pour out a story before bed. It's not in my makeup. But when I don't write I feel less than. I want to write. I want to tell a story. I want to share a viewpoint. And not having a job frees me up to write.

When I do it.

Because sitting down to write is also one of those wandery things. I look at Facebook, I get up, I wander around, I stare out the window, I open and close two different writing platforms while I decided where I want to write that day...I waste a lot of time.

Now part of the solution search this year was exchanging work with Dana. It was a big fix because I was in a huge slump at the end of last year. I wasn't really writing much at all. I was dry of ideas. I was feeling a bit like it was time to pack up my bags and quit. Dana wasn't having it and rode in to rescue me, and to force herself to finish a long term project as well. But we've pretty much run the course of that. She is thisclose to finishing and I have discovered (lie, I already knew this, I just reinforced it) that if I am given a deadline for a project I will most likely just work on that project and do it the day before it's due. So I have been writing. But not consistently. Just enough to pass. But it did break me out of the dry spell. Having a due date, having someone expecting a piece from me, helped break the log jam and get the words flowing again. I just need to change up how I am managing them.

So now I will focus on pushing Dana across her finish line. Realizing that Muse will sit with Practical Magic on the "long stories aren't really my thing" shelf. And try to figure out how best to focus my writing. I am really leaning toward blocks of uninterrupted time. Say everyday for 3 hours I am unavailable for anything else and all I do is write. Deep work. No switching gears at all. No disrupting the flow. Then seeing where that leads. I will still have the freedom to decide what to write in that time frame. Is it a blog? Is it a short story? Is it a longer piece? Is it poetry? (Sorry, Skip) But daily, sitting down and just writing. Or if not daily then a certain number of days each week.

Or is it a numbers thing? Instead of a certain amount of time I sit down and write a certain number of words each day? Some days that would be super easy and some days it would be torture. I'm thinking time over number...

Yeah, probably that.

So August is for deep thoughts and new plans.

Three more #selfiesaturdays until the end of this year...what will I come up with for 49?


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tie it Together...

I realized that I forgot to tell you a "funny" story about the cruise in yesterday's blog. And then when I was thinking about it I realized it actually kind of ties Friday's blog and yesterday's blog together.

So in Skagway when we were headed for the sled dog tour we took a little tour bus to get to the camp. Brent and I were sitting waiting to go when this big guy got on the bus. He had a toddler and was trying to figure out where to put the stroller. There was a guy sitting behind us who had an empty seat next to him and the guy put the stroller there. The guy said, "Excuse me, that seat is taken. I'm waiting for someone."

Big guy says, "Yeah, it's taken by the stroller."

Guy behind us quietly says, "No, really, it's taken."

Big guy grabs the diaper bag from his wife and puts it with the stroller. "Yep, these are your best friends now."

Guy behind us, sounding really distraught, "It's taken..."

Big guy starts to walk back to his seat.

Mouthy woman sitting next to Brent, "No seriously, he says that seat is taken."

Guy behind us, "Oh no! Sorry! We're together, it's okay!"

Everyone laughs. Seems like Big Guy, Wife, Baby, Old Couple next to us and guy behind us are all one family. Oh whoops! We joked about it a bit and I told him he did a very convincing distraught. (I didn't mention Big Guy did a really convincing bully as well; my guess is that's the normal family dynamic, brother-in-law picks on wife's little brother).

Guy behind us, "Thank you though."

When we were done with the tour and headed back down to the ship he was sitting across the aisle from us and said, "Can you believe my friend never showed up?" Patting the stroller and bag next to him again.

"How rude." I replied.

Then he said, "But, really, thank you though. I think the world needs more defenders."

"You were very convincing and should pick up your Emmy when we get back to the ship. I thought you really were upset. I would be the beacon of hope person on the What Would You Do show with John Quinones. I'm not the sit quietly by type."

So now I will feature in that family's vacation story for ever. Remember the crazy lady on the bus who was going to take out Bubba? She was not having it at all. Crazy...

And this is where it ties to Friday's blog. As much as I would like to step back out quietly. To ignore the world as it goes on around me, I'm just not built that way. I am the one who's going to say, "Hey, wait, I don't think that's right." I am the one who ignores the size difference between me and the bully and only hears the sadness in the bullied's voice. If I can do something I will. Even if it's just to say, "No, that's not right."

So as much as I am tired of shouting in to the wind at times, it's not like I can help but do it. It is who I am.

I am the crazy lady on the bus.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Cruisin'....

Okay, so we've been home a week and I've had time to think about the whole experience and decide what I really thought about the cruise.

First off, for those of you that didn't know, I have wanted to take and Alaskan cruise for as long as I can remember. It's been one of the those big list items. I've been working on checking those off recently and this was a major one. But I was still worried about it. The newly gained seasick issue from the past couple years was the biggest worry. And the fact that it's still been random. Not on the sunset cruise, not on the Christmas ship cruise, not on one snorkeling trip but on another. And when it hits it's BAD. I wouldn't wish it on pretty much anyone.

So yeah, I was worried. And I was worried enough that I decided not to do any small boat site seeing while we were on the cruise just in case. I figured if the big ship didn't make me nauseated that was great, I shouldn't push it with a little boat then back on the big ship. So I made allowances. And I also got a lot of advice from my friends who cruise as to where my room should be and what to bring along just in case I got queasy.

It ended up just fine. Not even a hint of seasickness. We could feel the ship rocking at different points but it wasn't much. So that was great.


Now it could be that to get a ship this size rocking enough to make me sick it would have to be bad weather, like REALLY bad weather. But I'll take it. And there were a lot of people on board sporting the little dots behind their ears and one woman we saw in one of the shops on board who was already sick and we hadn't even left port in Seattle yet. Eek!

So anyway, the first hurdle was an easy one. No seasickness. Calm enough that if I had known ahead of time we would have done a small boat tour or two. Oh well! Lessons!

The next piece we were worried about was the actual time at sea. As many of you who have followed my vacations in the past know, I'm not really good about just sitting still. If I am visiting someplace I might not get back to I want to see as much as I can and do as much as I can so I schedule tours, hikes, dives, drives, restaurants...I fill our days. I've gotten a little better about scheduling open blocks of time to do whatever as well, but it's not my preference. If you are a lay by the pool kind of vacationer I would drive you nuts. So we were worried.

And we were a little right to worry. I did get a little bored on the first at sea day. I drug Brent to a few lectures and the glass show and we watched a live stream of the Gold Cup game but I was pretty antsy by the end of the day. It just wasn't very vacationy to me to sit still and do nothing. Even with a great view off of our balcony. I tried not to make Brent crazy. I really did.

And I figured it out a bit by our last day out to sea. I packed a bag, went to my favorite spot on the ship and spent the day looking for wildlife and reading and taking pictures and counting down the hours until we pulled in to Victoria.

The ports of call were interesting though I would choose different tours now. The snorkeling in Ketchikan I would not change. Even though it wasn't the best snorkeling ever as far as visibility goes, it was a great experience. And I love being able to say I went snorkeling in Alaska.
Like aliens underwater..

The wet suits really worked, but it was SO difficult to get on I almost gave up. There was a point in the dressing room where I was trying to get the suit over my hips and butt that I thought, I'm going to have to go out and tell Brent to go ahead without me because my 10 pounds of mud will not fit in this 5 pound sack...It was a little disheartening for sure. But then I got it to move an inch and had help with the zipper to get my boobs contained and I was ready! I walked like a Barbie with non-bending joints, but I was in! And like I said, it really did the trick. We've been colder snorkeling in Hawaii for sure. So if you like to snorkel I recommend this, just for the experience if nothing else.

Ketchikan was also the closest we got to bears on the trip. I had really been hoping to see bears in the wild. I had my binoculars trained on the waterfalls and coast line just waiting for a bear sighting the whole trip...and nothing. But we did see this:
These headless fish were bear snacks. We didn't know it when I was down there taking pictures. We were trying to figure out why in the world someone would take the fish heads and leave the rest. Our hiking guide in Juneau told us that the fish are so plentiful that the bears get a little wasteful. They like the brains and the eggs the best so they will eat those and leave the rest. These were really fresh so we missed seeing a bear by probably too close for what I really wanted my bear encounter to be. So maybe a good thing we didn't see any bears.

In Juneau the tour we took was a different one than what I thought I was getting. I thought we were actually hiking to Mendenhall Glacier and would be able to walk out on the glacier. Going back and re-reading the description of the hike I can see where it was wasn't, and also see that it was pretty closely phrased to sure seem like it was. Now, don't get me wrong, it was a gorgeous hike and it was a challenging hike, which was a nice counter to the 24 hour access to food, but it wasn't exactly what I thought I was in for. It's very hard to be upset with views like this, though:
Mendenhall Glacier 

The lady in the ice...

Mendenhall Lake

But I do know if I want to hike on the glacier or the ice fields I will need to take a helicopter tour next time. But then it's only about 15 minutes on the glacier itself. So there are trade offs for sure.

Now, I should back up. Before we pulled in to Juneau we went through the Endicott Arm and saw the Dawes Glacier. It was an early morning, we were up and in the Sky Lounge planted in front of my favorite window before 5 AM. And the whole morning was exactly what I had pictured in my head when I dreamed of taking an Alaskan cruise. It was awe inspiring. 

 Dawes Glacier

A hanging glacier. That means it's not attached directly to a body of water. Our naturalist also said this one didn't have a name so we were free to name it after ourselves. Mastenbrook Glacier sounds pretty impressive right?

I loved watching the ice in the water as well.

Harbour seals, humpback whales, ice flows, birds, glaciers, water falls, it was all just gorgeous. A wonderful morning. 

So on to Skagway...

Everyone says to ride the train in Skagway. But everyone didn't tell me that until after I had already booked our outing so we didn't. Next time. We went and saw the sled dogs. It was, again, not exactly what I had expected. Instead of a small sledge with some sort of wheels that would mimic a winter sledge we were in this giant holds six people and the musher contraption. I thought we would actually work with the sled dogs a little and learn a bit about how to be a musher. It was much more touristy than that. Though these were really sled dogs teams who do work during the winter. But it wasn't exactly what I had been thinking. I was a little disappointed but only a little. I mean I got to spend time with these guys and give them ear scratches:



And the tour ends with this:

So you know, how could you be disappointed really?

Victoria was our last stop and we originally weren't going to do any tours because we were going to have just been there. But when sabbatical got moved our trip to Victoria got pushed as well so we did a short two hour overview tour. Victoria is gorgeous and I'm looking forward to going back and actually exploring it a bit. The tour? Not so great. But again, it was a last minute add and we were probably just expecting too much. We've done tours of other cities before that were in smaller vehicles with more stops and more information about the town and I think that's what we were expecting. This was a giant bus and a driver who talked a lot and said very little. 


But it is gorgeous and we are looking forward to going back. We also checked housing prices while we were there...no reason...

Let's see, what else? We played a fun game called "who bought the drink package?" I swear there were people that were trying to make sure they got their money's worth on that before we ever left Seattle. Crazy. The food was okay. Not bad, not good, just okay. But it was plentiful. You could always find something to eat if you wanted to. And I think that a lot of cruise weight gain for people is that if you get bored you can go get something to eat. I know we did it a couple of times. "Let's grab a snack." The room was decent. Not terribly small and the bathroom was actually much bigger than I thought it would be. Now, that doesn't mean it was big, just bigger than I thought it would be. The bed was not very comfortable and the pillows missed being pillow like, so that was a bummer. The shows were not for us. We came up with a new comedy level. Cruise ship funny. Not a comedian we would pay to see off the ship but he was cruise ship funny... That was the second guy. The first guy we didn't go see his second show. He wasn't even cruise ship funny.

The smaller musical groups were better than the big productions. They had a string duet that was lovely. And an acoustical guitar duo that was really nice. The "house band" was a decent bar band. But the big productions were not great. We saw one that was supposed to be about Mozart called Amade and it was...well...the best I could figure was it was written by a guy who had heard of Hamilton and thought if he put someone in a powdered wig and had them sing Katy Perry it would TOTALLY be the same thing...It wasn't.  I think if we had bought the drink package we might have liked it better, so really that's on us.
I wasn't sure what I thought of the overall experience when I got home. We liked the things we thought we would like (great scenery, easy transportation), we didn't like the things we didn't think we would like (boredom and crowds), so at least we know ourselves very well. The thing that has made me laugh is every night since we've come home I've dreamed about being on a ship so obviously my brain was still processing the trip.

I think we will cruise again. We don't care for the actual cruising part as much, though ironically, two of my favorite days were sailing days (Endicott Arm and sailing in to Victoria looking at TONS of wildlife). But being out to sea if there was nothing to look at would be super boring after a short while. The part that will bring us back is we did really like how easy it was to get places. We saw four cities without having to pack and re-pack. We were able to relax during the transit instead of deal with TSA and small airplane seats and tiny bathrooms. So I think we will do it again. I think we will upgrade to the level where you have access to other restaurants and areas of the ship so we can avoid some of the crowds and maybe get a more comfortable bed. And we will be sticking to cruises with lots of ports of call. It gives an overview of an area and if you want to go back and spend a week someplace you could on your next vacation. I even think we will cruise to Alaska again someday. The next time we will go farther north and see more glaciers and bears dammit...we will see some bears!