31 July 2018

July 2018


Well, well.  I have now been retired for one year.  Ok, it was a year yesterday but today is still early.  How's it been going, you ask?  Let me tell you...

Home front: mostly good!  I made a giant list a year ago and I have diligently chipped away at it.  It is about 3/4 completed.  Of course, some of the list items can never be crossed off, like weeding the yard.  And, some have now come round again, like powerwashing the deck.  But, I knocked some big tasks off that I don't have to do again and that is satisfying.
  • The stairs - pulled up the ancient and disgusting carpet, sanded and painted, added a handrail
  • The plastic greenhouse - dismantled and recycled
  • The catio - dismantled and repurposed or recycled most of the materials
  • Painted the eaves of the sun porch
There are more projects.  Some are partially complete so they don't get to be crossed off yet.  But, I'm making progress on lots of things and that feels really good!

One of my projects that will be ongoing for quite some time is the basement clean up.  I have stuck to my plan of getting a minimum of one box dealt with every two weeks.  The two week time frame is the trash pick up schedule.  Every time the trash is collected there has been stuff from the basement in it.  Every time!  Progress is slow but steady and I can see the difference.  Sometimes there were multiple boxes or bags dealt with, one day I got rid of five boxes!  Still loads of crap to go through, but it's happening.

Friend front: mostly good!  I have remained friends with T, and I'm glad about that.  I got to meet two of my blog friends, super good!  I have seen my two besties a couple of times during this year and that has been great.  I'm going down to So Cal in a week to spend some quality time with one of them.  The rancher continues to be a concern.  Not as a friend, of course, but as an obligation.  Her situation isn't good and there's only so much I can do for her.  I can't fix her life, that's up to her.  I have to keep reminding myself of that.  

In case you were wondering, I found a new (better) housesitter.  She's a friend from my martial art training days.  She has stayed twice and not adopted a puppy either time!  Big points there!  Lol.  Pierre has been well cared for and the garden has been watered so... yes, Sara is the one.

Other, less tangible things from this year of retirement: my stress level is way down.  I didn't have a particularly stressful job, but just getting there, being there, doing the work, having deadlines, being away from home all day... these things take their toll.  Now, there are times when I check my phone to be certain which day of the week it is.  That's a huge improvement in quality of life!  

Another thing is the increased ability to say Yes or No.  To requests, to people, to situations, to suggestions.  Saying Yes because I have time, and saying No because I don’t want to.  I like it.

****
Well, that was written on July 1 and not posted.  Today is July 31 and by golly it will be posted!

Since then, I have been to Long Beach (CA) for a week and a half.  Did some projects with/for Lisa.  We had a good time, as we always do when we get together.  On the final couple of days of my trip, our other buddy, KA, joined us.  It was a somewhat impromptu get together.  She was in SoCal for a family birthday and came to Lisa’s afterward, and spent the night.  We had a lovely grilled salmon and sat up talking until late.  Very enjoyable.

Tomorrow I am giving a presentation in a self defense class.  I haven’t taught the class all summer as I have been out of town so much.  I’m trying to ease out of that work because it is so draining.  It’s important work.  I want the youngsters to step up and teach more of it though.  Of the frequent teachers over half of us are retirement age. 

Also tomorrow my best neighbors are going to NYC to visit their son.  That means that I get to have their dog for a few days.  Yay!  I love Angus, he’s a great little dog.  I also have chicken duty and garden watering to take care of.  Those fresh eggs are delicious. 

Speaking of delicious, a couple of days ago I put a pair of fried eggs on top of a pair of tamales.  Wow!  Why have I never done that before?!?  If you are a tamale fan, give it a try.  It was good! 

Ok, I’d better wind this up.  I have stuff to do and I don’t want to get distracted for another month. 

Thanks for reading, friends!


12 June 2018

June So Soon


12 June 2018


The arborists are here.  They are doing a fine pruning on the Japanese Maple, and a pruning and height/girth reduction on the Rhododendron.  They seem like careful, attentive tree huggers, so that’s all to the good.  I’m trusting them with my plant family!

I am sitting in the dining room which has a wall of windows looking right into the rhodie, and surveys all of the front yard.  They are in the tree!  They are in the giant, strong shrub!  Light weight young men, all three.  I do hope they are careful.

Well, since it’s been a while, how about if I catch you up on the doings over here?

Chicago trip: check.  I had a darned good time!  Awesomeness Factor of 15/10 for meeting friends.  Comfort Index of staying in a hostel next to the El 5/10 (and that’s generous!)  The trip did not turn out at all as was advertised.  We were going to be planting shore grasses along Lake Michigan and we ended up planting native trees and shrubs in a reclaimed woodland.  Close enough.  Because of the change of plans we had more time to see downtown Chicago.  It is a dynamic city! 

The real reason I went was to meet my friend 8.  And my other friend, MG.  They were so much more amazing in real life!  These are the people about whom you would say, I wish they were my neighbors!  I am happy that I was able to meet two awesome women and can call them friends.  People, if you know them online, I can attest that they are as they present themselves.  (But they are much more than that, too.)  This is when the internet is a positive thing.  Thank you, Internet Kismet, for finding me some kickass women friends!

I flew home from Chicago on a beautiful blue sky day.  We flew over the forests and mountains and rivers of my country.  The mighty Columbia, Mt Hood gleaming in the sun, the chain of snow-capped volcanoes marching north – St Helens, Adams, all the way to Mt Rainier outside Seattle.  I saw sad brown swaths of burned timberland lining the south side of the Gorge.  The Eagle Creek fire did so much damage, and so much of it is visible to a large population.  We had a much, much bigger and more devastating fire in southern Oregon last summer but it was in a more remote area, affecting far fewer people.   We of the short attention spans will forget the bigger one.

I had my daughter down for a weekend visit after I returned from Chicago.  She’s got a houseful right now and has enjoyed getting away.  Her two in-laws will be moving out this summer, maybe this month.  She’ll be ecstatic!

I played a 9-hole round of golf with T a couple weeks ago.  My second time golfing ever.  It was a pleasant morning walking around and swinging a stick at a ball.  Fortunately we don’t keep score or even care, often hitting 4 or 5 balls from the tee until we get one we like.  It’s supposed to be fun, right?

Most recently, I traveled down to California.  I flew to the Bay Area to meet up with my friend KA.  I was delivering a quilt to her second granddaughter.  We had a great time with the kids and the parents.  Played for a little bit, went out to dinner (very early!), and then left the little family and went to KA’s and drank some wine.  Lol.  We left the next morning for the ranch.

I had been talking to KA some weeks ago about getting back to the ranch and trying to get some projects back on track.  I asked her if she would consider coming with me and helping with the paperwork nightmare in the dining room.  KA is a paperwork professional, being a tax preparer.  She actually likes that kind of thing.  She readily agreed, I’m happy to say.  My friends are awesome people!

So, she and I drove out there Thursday.  Arrived in the late afternoon, just in time for chores.  Ha!  The rancher’s mom is in the throes of dementia, remember, but she fell in love with KA.  Not surprising, really.  KA is great with old people.  Well, with all people, really.  She took care of both of her parents through their long declines. 

KA stayed for 3 days and got a lot of sorting done.  She plans to return in another week to do more. 

I stayed for another week plus.  Lots of chores, but also some progress on some of the bigger projects.  We emptied out a rented storage locker and brought the junk back to the ranch.  The next time I’m there I will be sorting into donate, trash and keep.  And then going to the dump.  I hope to make several dump runs next time.  I think I have gotten the electrical repair at the barn project back in motion.  At least it is a couple steps forward. 

Went to a doctor’s appointment with my friend.  She’s now scheduled for an MRI this month, so that project is moving forward as well.

The rancher has also made some progress at reducing the size of the flock.  She sent a dozen of the oldest ewes and the oldest ram to market while I was there, and 20 lambs to market the day after I left.  There are still hundreds, don’t get me wrong, but it’s going in the right direction.  She also met a gal who might be interested in buying 20 or so of her Tunis sheep.  She is trying to diversify her flock.  Good!  Take these!  They’re good sheep!  (Actually, the Tunis are the best looking, imo, they have reddish brown heads and legs with white fleece.  The gingers, lol.)

Meanwhile, back at my house, everything is fine.  Pierre is alive, the house is undamaged; well done, Sara.  I need to get back to the yardwork, for sure.  I did a massive amount of weeding before I left but…  yeah, back at it.  I’m not sure if I’ll get anything vegetable-like in the garden or not this year.  I wouldn’t mind a sprawling butternut squash.  It’s late, but it should be ok.

I picked, washed, chopped and froze two large bags of rhubarb from the garden before I left.  Waiting for the blueberries to ripen and then bring on the Blubarb Jam!  I need to get back to the Farmer’s Markets to see where we are with the stone fruits.  Too early yet for apricots or peaches, berries are in season right now.

I think that’s the catch up.  I am so glad to be home.  I’m so appreciative of the quiet of my small household.  And the relative quiet of my urban neighborhood.  I need some time to decompress and reorient myself to my life.  I have been putting my own stuff on the backburner and I need to get my focus back.  There are still stories to be edited, stories to be finished, and many more stories to be written. 

Have a lovely day, friends, and thanks for reading along. 

02 May 2018

Spring all over

Hello Women!  And anyone else reading along...

Wow, I am so bad at blogging!  It's a wonder I continue at all.  But, here I am, throwing out another message in a bottle.  I've got to keep being me, I guess.

Here's a fun thing: I'm going to Chicago to meet some friends, other women that I have met through reading their blogs.  Fun!  I'm really excited about it and looking forward to some new experiences.  I haven't been to Chicago before, I've only changed planes at O'Hare and that doesn't count. 

I'll offer a quick summary of the goings on around here.


  • Rancher friend came for a visit.  We did a lot of shopping for ranch-related needs -- gear, mostly, and a lot of boots for various people.  I need to remind her to keep her receipts for taxes.
  • The former partner had a bit of an episode with me.  I felt uneasy enough to have the locks changed.  
  • T, the former partner, in an amazing turnaround, has subsequently gotten well over me.  She is on a couple of those singles web sites and actually enjoying herself.  She's not dating yet.  She is pretty firm on just finding a new group of friends.  It seems to be working!  
  • I've had my two best pals and my daughter here for a 'gals birthday'.  Three of us have birthdays within a week of each other so April is a frequent visiting month.  This time it was my turn to host.
  • I'm pretty certain that my friend, Sara, will be a good house/catsitter.  Fingers crossed.

So, that's the quick and dirty rundown.  One friend is still here.  We're getting ready to head over to Costco so I need to get my socks and shoes on.  

Cheers, friends!

31 December 2017

End of December

Well, well, well.

I finished NaNoWriMo with another win, but it was difficult.  Note to self: Do NOT take a week off in November!  Second note to self: If impaneled on a jury, get a lighter weight laptop!  I had a lot of catching up to do and it was very difficult, not counting schlepping the dinosaur age computer downtown every day.  I had a 6k word day followed by a 5k word day and those two back to back nearly fried my brain.  But, I made it to 50k within the time, so...  yes.  Scraped a win.

My duty to the criminal justice system in my county ended on 12/19.  It was a rough month!  The Grand Jury doesn't hear trials (as I'm sure you know) but hears testimony from police and witnesses and decides if the DA has enough evidence to indict.  It's only for felonies.  And, the way it is set up here is that there are three juries: #1 hears murder, rape and child abuse cases; #2 hears drug crimes; #3 hears property crimes.  I was on #3, but let me tell you, there was a LOT of crossover from jury #1 into our jury.  We heard a murder case (gruesome, with surveillance video and autopsy photos), rape cases, a pedophile case, domestic violence, and an officer involved shooting.  There was nothing 'property crime' about our duties.  Oh, sure, there were dozens and dozens of car thefts, embezzlement, identity thefts, burglary, etc, but our jury duty was often distressing, horrifying, overwhelming and triggering.  Thankfully, we had an excellent group.  Only one supporter of the current regime and he was not a raving lunatic but a retired businessman.  The other six were as liberal as could be, self included.  In fact, we got along so well that we are having a jury reunion in February.

Jury duty ended on 12/19 and the kid and her gang arrived on the 12/22.  Her gang includes herself, her husband, her big enthusiastic golden retriever, and, now, the husband's 17 year old nephew.  That's a houseful!  I had to do some furniture shifting and bed rearranging to get it all sorted out.  We had a lovely time together, though, despite the somewhat crowded conditions.  I got to spend some quality time with my darling daughter, and nothing beats that.

An aside: The teenager is a good kid, as far as teenagers go.  Lol.  Poor thing, his parents are both flakes (his dad is Rob's favorite brother).  He was living with his mom but she decided to move in with her boyfriend and didn't have the space or the interest in having her only child live with her.  I'm sure he's better off not being there, but what a crappy thing to do to your only child.  His dad lives in a travel trailer with his own mom, while they are remodeling her house.  No room for a third person there.  His other grandmother said he could come for a week or so but that she was about to leave for Arizona to her senior snowbird community and he wouldn't be able to come with her.  So, basically, every immediate adult in his life dropped the ball.  So, he moved from Florida to Washington to live with his aunt and uncle. 

Here's a funny thing: about a week after he moved in with them, I had an email from Zoe apologizing for her behavior as a teen.  That made me laugh.  The boy had an online girlfriend and ALL he would do was sit in his room on the computer.  It was driving Zoe mad!  I laughed and laughed...  In a turn of good luck, his virtual gf broke up with him and a couple of days later two girls at his real life high school asked him to sit with them at lunch.  One has since asked him to the winter formal, and now he has a real girlfriend.  All is well.

Saving the best for last:  My big news is that I finally did it.  I broke up with T.  It ended 'not with a bang but a whimper'.  We both acknowledged that this relationship had run its course and wasn't working for either of us.  Yes, I initiated the break up, and I owned that, but it hasn't been good for a long time, and T agreed with me.  We parted amicably and I hope we can remain friends.  We still have details to sort out - separating our phone accounts, closing our shared bank account, she needs to collect a bunch of furniture and stuff from my house... all of that and more.

It was such a tremendous relief! 

Here's the thing.  All of that furniture shifting was motivating.  Last month I had given my nice leather couch, chair and ottoman to my cousin.  The set was very nice but too big for me and too big for my house.  I asked T if she wanted it and was told no.  I tried to sell it to various people I know and no one wanted it.  I finally found someone who would really like to have it and that was my cousin who doesn't have any cash to spare.  So, I gave it to her.  It felt so good to get it out of the house!  It was like a plug being pulled.  The energy in the downstairs started to flow better.  So, when I had the kids coming for five days and had to do some rearranging in the bedrooms, well, I just kept on with the energy improvement efforts.  After they left, I took T's big dresser out of my bedroom and put it (temporarily) in the guest room (aka: Zoe's room).  I asked T if she wanted the bedroom set.  She had brought it from her old house to mine when we moved in together.  I had already switched out the enormous bed frame.  Now the giant dresser is out of my room and the nightstands are going today.  She said that she wants the furniture for her brother, but she can't pick it up for a while.  That's cool.  As long as it's out of my way, and out of my bedroom.  Again, the energy feels so much better!

So, I'm feeling pretty good!  Feeling like the new year has a lot of potential to be awesome.  I get to start out with the release from an untenable situation and that feels wonderful.  I have good stuff planned for the coming year.  My rancher friend has moved heaven and earth in order to take a vacation and is coming to visit for a week.  Another friend and I have a plan to travel to Chicago and do some crazy public service project...  ok, not crazy, it'll be fun!  I think we are going to be planting native grasses on the lake shore.  Whatever!  The point is to meet up and have fun in real life.  My friend KA and I are planning a long car trip.  And, I will be going to Long Beach to visit Lisa (just as soon as her sister leaves).  I will also be teaching more self defense, and who knows what else.  Staying busy! 

Happy New Year, friends!  I hope the coming year is good to us all. 
Blessings of the Goddess on you and your family from me and mine.
Love,
E

20 November 2017

It's November... you know what that means!

It's NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month is well underway. 

I've had a couple of complications with the novelling this month.  First, I took a week-long trip back to the ranch to help out the friend.  I only managed to write one day while I was there.  I am waaay behind on my word count.  I am trying like hell to catch up, but it's an uphill climb for sure.

The other complication is that I was called for jury duty, which is usually a one day commitment in my county.  But, this was for the Grand Jury, and I was selected, and it lasts for 30 days.  Thirty days!  I start on Wednesday, and it carries through until nearly the winter holiday.

I don't mind doing my civic duty and I'm retired, for crying out loud, so this should be a perfect arrangement.  BUT!!!  I am waaay behind on my word count and was planning on catching up during the last ten days of the month.  Now, I'll be dedicating time and brain power to deciding if the DA's office has enough evidence to indict and take to trial various members of our local community.

Not how I was planning to spend the tail end of November. 

I don't have time to grouse about my dad and brother and the big food holiday.  Maybe I'll give you an update after the fact.  I also don't have time to grouse about the partner and the unbecoming behavior.  I'll spare you that now and later.  All I have time for is to say:

Back to the Novel!  Tick Tock!  The clocks ticking and these words don't count towards my total!

Cheers, friends, until Decemeber.

16 October 2017

Home Alone, Part Three

Ok, where did I leave off on my travelogue?  We went to Ketchikan and Juneau, so Skagway is next.

The town of Skagway felt much more authentic to me.  A tourist town, to be sure, but I could picture it without the throngs, just the residents going about their business. A small town with a port, and a profitable season when everyone makes their yearly income.  We walked on some back streets and it had a familiarity to it, it felt like other small western towns that I have lived in.  Just a lot busier when a ship is in.  Or three of the behemoths.

So, let's do a head count.  Me, Carolyn and Donna (the Irish girls) are all still healthy and uninjured.  Lisa (dialysis pt) is ill and the fever of yesterday has turned into bad bowels today, plus she is just weak, so she's not going on the excursion.  KA wants to go but waffles about whether or not she can manage with the knee bandaged and using a cane.  There would be a walk to the train station. 

The excursion was a train ride up the mountains.  Wow.  If any of you are train enthusiasts, you should look it up.  The train itself was cool.  If you are a history buff, wow.  The White Pass has a vivid history from the Gold Rush, and Skagway was quite the place.  Before the railroad was put in, supplies were carried up a trail, literally a trail - a footpath, through the mountains on the way to the gold fields.  The international boundary is at the top of the pass and the Mounties wouldn't let anyone in unless they had a complete set of supplies, as listed by them.  It was a ton, in fact, of supplies.  And people carried this ton of supplies in backpacks and on horses up the path to the checkpoint and thence onward.  Well, it took many trips to get it all up, and thievery was the mode of the day so people had to work together to protect their stuff at both spots while ferrying it inland. 

Well, it's an amazing and bizarre and horrible history, if you like to read about that kind of thing.

The town is like any in southeast Alaska, perched on the edge of the water with mountains towering behind.  Even though it was August, it felt like autumn was just around the corner.  But, the weather was perfect - crisp clean air, bright sun with some warmth, passing clouds, temperature around 68 or 70f.  Somehow I managed to avoid taking any pictures of the town.  You'll have to Google that if you are interested.  :-)

But, I took quite a few along the train ride.  Here's a selection.




These are the mountains at the edge of the town.  It pretty much goes straight up in every direction.
There is a river, the Skagway River natch, that has a pretty good volume of water but is unnavigable by even kayak, canoe or raft.  It's simply too steep and rocky and bouldery and full of scary churning water pits.  It's straight down from the train here.

Sorry.  Extremely poor photo quality.

Here is the Trail of 98, where perished many humans and horses.  Look how small it is!  It's like a goat track!


The trail closed when the train went in.  There are a couple of groups interested in reopening the trail as a hiking trail.  I'm surprised it hasn't been reopened already.  Serious hiking, though, not a stroll.

Here is an older, abandoned train bridge.  The route was moved up this canyon and a new bridge built.  Presumably safer.  Lol.


And, here's the top!  The top of the White Pass!


From here, prospectors continued to the gold fields, crossing that little dogleg of British Columbia and into the Yukon Territory.  This is the Mounties' station at the border.  Four of them lived there!  In that wee cabin!  (I'm thinking Brokeback Mountain, you?) 

The flags here at the international boundary are the two national flags each on their side of the line, and the flags of Alaska, British Columbia and Yukon Territory in the middle.  Nice of them to include the Yukon, I think, even though the boundary is in BC.  But, that's Canada -- just being nice.

The train ride was spectacular, really beautiful, and a fun way to see a lot of the mountains.  Look across at this mountain.  That's another train ahead of us on the line. 


Amazing.

When we got back to the town, we bought some souvenirs and whatnot and got a coffee.  The Irish girls were going to walk up the river and see the salmon.  I was headed back to check on the sick bay.  The way back included crossing a creek that was absolutely teeming with salmon.  There was a little rocky section that they were jumping over and then up, up, up the stream.  There was no stretch of water without several fish in it.  Sorry, I couldn't get a picture... the dappled light, the reflection on the water, the silvery fish.  No.  No photo.

I got back to the room, and only Lisa was there.  KA had managed to get herself out, but had missed the train.  Turns out that she found a bus excursion that went up the 'new' highway and into Carcross, YT.  She was quite chuffed with herself! 

The next day was all at sea.  I'm pretty sure nothing dramatic happened.

Our last port of call was Victoria, BC.  We ALL made it off the ship!  We took a shuttle into downtown and had drinks at the Empress.  Not tea, mind you, but drinks in the bar.  It was absolutely lovely.  There was a young woman playing the guitar and singing - lovely voice and the perfect volume.  Not too loud.  The service was impeccable.  Here's KA's gin and tonic:



So pretty!  And, healthy with that wedge of grapefruit!  Lol.

We walked around, went in some shops, listened to some buskers, relaxed.  It was nice!  When evening began to fall, Lisa, KA and I headed back.  The Irish Girls wanted to check out some night life.  When we got back to the ship, we had to show our passport to get on the dock.  KA and I asked if we could get our passports stamped.  You have to insist these days!  The guy at the desk quizzed us.  He made KA list at least 3 provinces and I had to name a famous Canadian.  We insisted that the quiz wasn't hard enough!  (For the record, I started with kd lang, since she lives in Portland. Nice tie in, I thought.)

Our final dinner on the ship.


We docked the next morning in Seattle.  Spent one more night together before the Irish Girls were headed back to Canada and then home.

Here we are wearing our team shirts.  Just for fun!



This concludes the cruise ship portion of the travelogue.  There was a little more argy-bargy, in fact, but I'll save that for another time, shall I?

Cheers!


05 October 2017

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

Hey there!  Long time no read!  How is everyone?  I haven't had a chance yet to catch up on all of your blogs so...  yes, woefully out of date. 

I've spent the last three weeks at my friend's sheep ranch in central California.  It's in the Sierra foothills, which sounds picturesque and idyllic, doesn't it?  And, while the golden rolling hills and majestic oak groves are certainly beautiful, the place is like an oven.  Her ranch is not high enough into the foothills to have the cool mountain air moderate the valley temperatures.  Fortunately, I missed the triple digit temps, but when the mercury hits the high 90's, it's just plain hot.  I spent some time cowering in any shade I could find, even the slender shadow of a fence post if that was the only thing available.  I am such a wimp!  I just can't take the high temps.

Tam had some projects that she was hoping I could help with.  We only got started on one by the time I had to return home.  I felt like I failed her, but she is totally energized and says that my visit was the best thing to happen in a long while.  She is moving ahead strongly with all sorts of plans.  Good!  Maybe I was just the catalyst.  I know that what I really brought her was someone to talk with, a friendly sounding board, someone to do chores with and lighten the load a little... small, in my eyes, but apparently enough that she felt like she had a break.

Make no mistake, friends, there was no break!  Ranch life is unrelenting hard work.  No, we were not riding around on horses rounding up the herd (although I have lived that life as well.)  We were feeding hay (and grain and pellets), moving sheep from corral to pasture, weighing the ones that are going to market, trimming hooves, applying bug juice, deworming, all the thousands of things that go on daily.  Mostly feeding.  She feeds a little under a ton of hay per day.  Each and every bale moved by a middle-aged woman with back problems!  Plus, there are no days off.  The animals have to be fed twice a day regardless of the calendar.  I'm only telling you this because so many people have unrealistic ideas about ranch life.  The reality is hot, dusty, fly-ridden days that extended way past the time regular folks are at home having dinner and are going to bed. 

My main purpose in spending time down there was to be supportive of my friend.  This I did accomplish!  Another purpose was to see how she felt about a change in her life.  Her mom has dementia (and a hoarding problem) and can no longer run the ranch.  Truth be told, she never ran it well.  Tam has given up her career as a regulatory veterinarian to come home and take care of it all.  But, maybe she doesn't want to do that any more.  I wanted to give her the chance to think about doing something else.  She had been contemplating selling the place, and is giving more thought to that.  Not that I want to be responsible for encouraging someone to give up their way of life, but this life is killing my friend.  She can't do it alone and no one wants to work in agriculture.  It's very hard to find ranch help now.  Am I being political?  Only a little.  Mostly just reporting the reality.

So, now I'm home in the cool, damp PNW.  I was in that oven just long enough for my internal thermostat to start to reset, so when I got home I felt quite chilly!  Well, it's definitely Autumn here and Summer is still holding on to the south.  I've had to crank up the furnace, and I was wearing a hat and scarf in the house the other night!  Brr...  Come on, body, recalibrate to the Pacific Northwest! 

Did I tell you about my housesitter?  No?  I had asked a friend of T's if she would stay at my place while I was out of town.  She is currently between places and staying with her sister, so it sounded like a good fit.  She said she would, and I thought I was set.  Then, about 3 days before I was to leave, she posted on FB that she was moving to So Cal that weekend!  I was at T's house at the time and I said, wait a minute she was going to housesit for me!  T texted her and asked and the friend said that she had never committed to house/pet sitting for me.  Bullshit!  I would have been searching for someone if I thought that.  Crap!  So, I had to scramble.  I asked a friend of mine who I often dog sit for if she could step in.  It's a big ask - 3 weeks is a long stay.  But, this friend lives in a one bedroom apartment with her two adult sons so I thought it might be nice for her to bring her dog and stay here.  She said she could.  She came, she brought her dog, all was well.  And then, while I was in Cali, she texted me and said that she got a puppy.  A puppy.  At my house.  Ummm...  WHAT?!?  Who does that?  Who brings a puppy into someone else's house?  Apparently Patty does that.  Holy Hey Zeus!  The house was 'febreezed' but not clean when I got home.  Which, whatever.  I'd be cleaning it anyway, but just knowing that my entire house had been piddled on was irritating.  But, the house was still standing and the cat was alive, so what am I complaining about, right?  Still...

Anyway, I'm back.  I'll be making an effort to catch up on your blogs, but it might take a little time.  Oh, and I never finished my travelogue!  I'll put it on the list.

Cheers, women!

02 September 2017

Photo Catch Up

Because she insists, 8th day shall have pictures!

Warning: they aren't very good.  You could look online and get better images, but here's what I took with my device (aka: cellphone).

Ketchikan:

 Cruise ship dock.  Yes, we were on that monstrosity!




One of the many totems in the town.

Creek Street.  Those were once whorehouses.  The women sex workers (I think that's the term we use now) actually made all of these towns civilized.  They kept the populations from starving and they started schools for their inevitable children.  All hail the women!


I know it looks like a log, but that's the otter we saw chasing a school of salmon up the creek.  He (?) had rolled onto his back, his arms are sticking out sideways, his finny feet towards us.  Use your imagination, people!

Tracy Arm Fjord:



Ice chunks in the water as we sailed up the Tracy Arm.  That lower one is bigger than a car.  The small chunks were everywhere, with larger ones floating randomly.  The slurry of smaller chunks made me feel as if we were a garnish floating in a giant cocktail.



See that rectangular dot in the water, in front of the glacier? That's a small tour boat - small only compared to a cruise ship.  It holds over 100 people (maybe 40 or 50 feet long? Not small.) It's still a safe distance away from the glacier and it is but a speck in the sea.  The glacier is huge.  Shrinking at an alarming rate, but still such a mind boggling amount of ice.





I like this picture because it shows the ship's wake as we turned around in the cul de sac.  Lol.  

Juneau:  


View of the cruise ship dock from on high.  If it looks like we were straight up, we were.



Mendenhall Glacier, from the park viewpoint.  I wish I could have captured the colors in the ice.  The blues...  astounding, amazing colors.



Sockeye salmon.  This species is easier to photograph because of their color.  The silvery species... not with a cell phone.  Not for me, anyway!



Two of the same view, from the aerial tram above Juneau.  The changing light... I, wordy woman that I am, I am out of words to describe the beauty.

More later.  This is long enough!

31 August 2017

Home Alone, Part Two

Juneau, state capitol of Alaska.  It’s a very small ‘city’.  Really more of a town, to be honest.  There are a few larger buildings, multistory office buildings and governmental offices, but most of the town is quite small.  It’s perched on the edge of the water and the water is the main highway.  Like most of the Alaskan coast, the mountains tower over everything providing a lush, steep, dark green backdrop. 

On the evening before arriving at Juneau, we had been on our way to the ship theater when KA caught the toe of her shoe on a raised threshold.  She fell, hard, on her left knee.   Thankfully, nothing was broken (yes, they have x-ray on cruise ships!) but it was badly injured.  Her knee swelled up to the size of a cantaloupe.  The crew member at the theater called for a wheelchair and we got her up and into the chair and headed to the infirmary.  The nurses looked at me and said, ‘What are you doing back here?’  I was starting to feel like Jessica Fletcher – only not as deadly.

We had booked an excursion to the Mendenhall glacier for the Juneau port of call.  It was a bus tour of the town, a self guided walk around the state park, and then a salmon dinner.  Lisa had developed a fever and felt horrible so there was no way she was going.  And now, KA was flat on her back with her leg elevated, wrapped and iced.  No way she was going, either.

So, Carolyn and Donna, the ‘Irish girls’, and I went on the tour.  It was amazing!  The tour of the town takes very little time, lol.  We had a voluble Texan for a tour guide, and she gave us more information than we needed on the cost of food, clothing, and other necessities in Juneau, Alaska.  She went on and on about the lack of fast food, the absence of clothing stores, the fact that everything is shut by 9pm.  I might have preferred a guide with more information about the natural beauty of the area, or the cultural background of the peoples, but you get what you get.  The Irish girls were amused and Donna can do a pretty good Texas accent now.

I thought that the Mendenhall glacier tour was actually a tour of the glacier itself.  As in, walking on it.  Unfortunately, no.  We were dropped off at the Park and told where our bus would pick us up.  So, the three of us walked out to the view point and took some pictures and skedaddled.  The thing is, it was so very crowded.  It was teeming, swarming, packed with tourists.  It is my least favorite way of visiting a state park, I say that for sure.  I get that yes, I was one of those tourists.  And that these parks and these communities rely on tourism to exist.  And that, it being chilly Alaska, there’s a lot more tourists in the summer.  Yes, I understand and appreciate all of that.  But, I wasn’t able to enjoy that part.  The visitor center was like sardines, so we didn’t even go in.  The walk out to the view point was more crowded than a city sidewalk.  There was a hike to the waterfall, and it was a little less crowded but it didn’t get you to the glacier and we decided to skip it. 

We were moseying back to the bus area when we came across another section of the park.  Since we had plenty of time, we followed the path.  It led to a raised walkway over a creek and out to the wetland downstream from the glacier.  There were fir trees and willows and alders, a nice boreal mix.  The creek was full of salmon!  Red sockeye salmon swimming, thrashing, spawning and dying.  We got a little excited by that!  But, that was nothing, for around the next bend on the walkway we saw brown bear cubs in a tree!  Wow! 

There were probably only about 100 people all spread out along the walkway where you could see the bear cubs.  But, there were also 4 park rangers answering questions and shushing people.  Because at the foot of the tree was the cubs’ mother, taking a nap after eating her fill of salmon.  I am so grateful to have seen this!

I strolled further down the walkway and watched some field biologists recording data from some device or another and spent an idle few minutes speculating about going back to work in that field.  Also saw an egret make an ungainly leap into the sky, no doubt weighed down by a craw full of fish!

When we had marveled at the bears to our hearts content, we made our way back to the bus and headed back to town.

Our salmon dinner was at a restaurant at the top of a mountain.  It is so steep that you get there by riding an aerial tram.  It felt like it was going straight up!  The view was incredible, of course, with the islands and the meandering waterways, the mountains plunging into the sea, the dense forests a dark green backdrop to the shining silver water.  Words can’t do it justice.

We returned to the ship before dark.  I checked on my friends and they hadn’t killed each other so that was good.


Next up: Skagway

30 August 2017

Home Alone, Part One

Well, my dears, it didn't go as expected.

Expectations are tricky things.  There were five of us, each with a picture in her mind of how the trip would be.  I'm absolutely certain that no one's expectations were met.

The good things: I didn't get seasick for even a minute.  I would have had we been in a room lower down, where two of our friends' quarters were.  Their room was on the third level (deck, I guess), and the window looked right out on the swirling sea.  I could not look at it without feeling queasy.  So, I avoided the seasickness by being up above the sea.  Hooray for deck 8!

Also, the ship didn't sink, or lose power, or suffer any other mechanical problem.  And, happily, not a one of us came down with a norovirus.  So, I'm chalking all of those things up in the Win column.  We need that.

What really went down?  How much time do you have?

Lisa (she of the kidney disease) started out the trip sick.  She had been sick for a week or so before the trip started.  Sick enough that she wasn't sure she would be able to go.  She tends to anemia anyway, and her red cell count had been alarmingly low.  She was given iron and some other medical things that I don't remember the details of right now.  Her doctor decided that she was well enough to go and I'm not sure that was the right decision.  But, it takes a lot of time to plan a trip for someone who needs dialysis and she didn't want to cancel.  Plus, the rest of us had long since bought our tickets as well and we couldn't all cancel.  Especially the Irish girls, coming all that way.

We started the trip in Seattle, and Lisa had to get herself from the airport to the hotel.  Easy peasy for someone in normal health, but difficult for someone with health challenges.  Just rolling her bag (ie: enormous suitcase) from the baggage carousel to the ride-share curb was more than she could handle.  She made it to the hotel and then had to sit and wait for the rest of us.  Time to catch her breath.

KA had driven up from California and spent the night before at my house.  Part of coordinating our arrivals in Seattle was parking KA's car at my daughter's house.  We did that in the late afternoon and Zoe and Rob gave us a ride back into Seattle (thanks, kids!).  Met up with Lisa there.  In an hour or so the Irish girls were there too, and we all thought 'Let the Vacation Begin!'

Lisa, KA and I shared a room.  It was supposed to have two queen beds, but honestly, they were the size of doubles - is that a hotel thing, smaller beds than at home?  Are there different mattress sizes for hotel beds?  KA is a substantial woman and needs that much space to herself.  Lisa and I took one bed and KA the other.  Much tossing and turning ensued.  Because Lisa's arm often aches from the dialysis, she typically sleeps with her arms perpendicular to her torso.  That doesn't leave a lot of space in a bed.  At some point during the night I got up, gathered up the spare pillows, found a bathrobe and made my self a pillow bed in the corner on the floor.  I felt like a house elf, crouched under the fireplace.

We had a nice breakfast (oh, stayed at the Edgewater, which is famous for everyone in the world staying there, including the Beatles, and correspondingly priced) and then got a shuttle to the cruise ship pier.  

We arrived at the pier and the first order of business was to get Lisa a wheelchair.  She could only walk (slowly) about 25 to 30 feet without stopping to catch her breath.  There was a whole lot of, 'No, no, you go on, I'll catch up.'  Which is basically bullshit.  We had to stick together!

Now, here's a bonus: KA spent a whole lot of her youth, adolescence, young adulthood and middle age traveling with her wheelchair bound mother.  So, she is an expert at seeking out ADA accommodations.  So, we get Lisa into the 'assistance' line, which means that we all get in that line.

Finally got through that process and on board the enormous vessel.  A nice crew member wheeled Lisa to our stateroom, with KA and I trotting along behind.  

KA had upgraded our room to one with a balcony.  Thank the Merciful Heavens that she did so!  Three women, all used to living alone, crammed in one room... recipe for disaster.  Having a balcony gave us an entire extra room, spatially and visually, and we needed that.  That it was outside was a bonus.

As soon as we got aboard, Lisa asked me to take her to the infirmary.  We had kept the wheelchair that the crew member had used and I wheeled her down to deck 2.  She was short of breath and had chest pain, the classic combo, but it wasn't a cardiac issue.  The chest pain was muscular, from wrangling her giant bag, and the shortness of breath was because she was anemic and retaining fluid.  The nurses and doctor were great and we left reassured.  

Of course, Lisa and I had missed the pulling away, or whatever the term is, the setting sail, the leaving of land.  When we finished in the infirmary and made it to the open deck, the ship was among the San Juan Islands.  

The scenery was gorgeous, of course.  Sitting and watching the landscape unfold is possibly the best thing about being on a cruise.  

Lisa had dialysis the next day.  Boy, was it bare bones!  It was in the bowels of the ship (next to the infirmary, but considerably smaller) and had just enough room for two beds, two machines and literally nothing else.  The 'office' was a storage closet stacked to the ceiling with supplies.  For what they charge, there should have been a tiny bit more comfort.

We were doing pretty well at this point.  Our first stop was Ketchikan.  

The cruise line we were on had a amenity that I really appreciated.  A cultural historian gave a presentation on every port of call.  She covered the Native history as well as the White/Gold rush history.  It added a very nice texture to the shore trip.

We didn't have a tour scheduled for Ketchikan but got off to explore the town.  A very nice crew member pushed Lisa up the long gangplank to the pier.  We moseyed along, bumping over the sections of wooden sidewalks, looking in shops and admiring the scenery.  There were lots of totem poles.  Miss Amanda, the cultural historian, had given us the basics of totem interpretation and we enjoyed piecing together a story of each one.  

We bought some souvenirs and some snacks (regular size box of Cheez-Its = $6.99!) and returned to the ship.

The next day, we had an absolutely magical experience.  We sailed up the Tracy Arm to the face of a glacier.  It was an experience I will never forget.  We started spotting ice in the water in the morning.  Yes, that did make me a little nervous!  I mean, come on... Titanic, amiright?

As we neared the glacier, the chunks of ice got both bigger and smaller, but much more frequent.  There were big chunks with smaller chunks perched on top of them.  There was a slurry of broken ice all through the water.  When we got as far up the arm as we were going to, the ship did a complete turn.  The sound was amazing.  All the ice crickling and crackling against the hull of the ship made an eerie sound.  The colors were also amazing.  The ice was many shades of white, sometimes streaked with brown, but the blue!  The blue ice, seen in cracks and crevices of the floaters, that was astounding.  The deeper the crevice, the deeper the color blue.  We were standing on the balcony with our mouths hanging open.  


Next up: Day 3 and Juneau.