Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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Where Have I Been?

Where have I been for the last 12 or so days?

I have been to Alaska.

I took a cruise with a friend to the state of Alaska on the Celebrity Millennium. I’ve never been on a cruise before so it was all new to me.

I don’t need to tell you the saga of the passport, I have already done so in great detail. And really, everything else went just fine.

I got to Love Field in Dallas in plenty of time. I have the TSA known traveler number so I got through security in record time. I had a 737 from Dallas to Seattle, but the plane to Vancouver was another story! I had to walk out onto the tarmac to climb stairs into a turbo-prop that held maybe 100 people! She made so much noise you really couldn’t talk to the other people on board. I wasn’t sure she was gonna make it!

This is the airplane from Seattle to Vancouver. That’s the pilot in the orange vest.

Met my friend at Vancouver airport and took a shuttle to the Hilton. I paid for the room with points I had so it was essentially free.

Boarded the boat no problem. Stateroom was pretty small but big enough. We had 2 beds. My friend, K, took the window bed and I got the one close to the bathroom. I still had a view out the porthole.

Buffet 3 meals a day. I ate a LOT of sweets. I had desert with lunch and dinner, and often a waffle with breakfast. I miss sugar, lol. I did eat some interesting food though. We had tapas at Qsine which is apparently an international chain. The sushi lollipops were amazing. There was lobster and ceviche and steak. K got decorate-your-own mix and match cupcakes for desert. I had beignets. I also tried reindeer sausage and a yak burger. Reindeer must be a very lean meat because the sausage was on the dry side. Yak is sweeter than beef but I really enjoyed it.

The cities where we stopped were more like towns. Ketchikan. Icy Strait Point at Hoonah. Juneau. Skagway. Even Anchorage is not that big of a city, only around 300,000 people. Of course we mostly saw the tourist part of town. The buildings looked like Bearskin Neck in Rockport. There were jewelry stores all over. I tried on some amazing pieces that I would never be able to afford. I liked the colorful jewelry. I liked the Northern Lights topaz, and the ammolite which reminded me of opals. I like opals too but I wouldn’t buy them in Alaska because it’s not where they’re from. I found a gorgeous colored sapphire bracelet that I wish I could afford. I wonder, though, how do they know it’s a sapphire if it’s not blue? Isn’t a white sapphire essentially a diamond? Isn’t a red one a ruby? I guess I don’t know that much about gemstones.

What I would have liked to see, would be more First Nations art. I don’t have the budget for that either, to be honest. I would like to go back with $200 to $500 for a piece or 2 of art. I did buy some blank cards with art on them that I will be sending out to people.

We saw a Tlingit village and learned about totem poles. Apparently there are several reasons you might create a totem pole: place markers, commemorate an event, stuff you’d expect. But you might also make one to shame someone. So the Secretary of State who purchased Alaska was named Seward. The local people invited him to a potlach – a community meal – which he attended. Their rules of hospitality say that if you are invited to someone’s house, they are supposed to invite you to theirs. Seward never returned the invitation so a totem pole was made to shame him for not following the expected protocol.

I stood in the water of the Icy Strait. My feet were tired and the cold water felt good. But also, I have stood in the Atlantic and in the Pacific. Now I have stood in Alaska’s waters. Next is the Gulf of Mexico, probably at Galveston. Water is important to me. I don’t know why. I have lived landlocked for 25 years now but I am still more at home on the ocean.

My feet in Icy Strait. You can see the dirt on my legs between my ankles and my jeans.

We went on a nature hike that like to kill me. I don’t know why I didn’t think that Alaska would be mountainous! The other people who went were obvious hikers on a regular basis. I did however find out how to distinguish female bear scat from male. Females apparently squat in one place to do their business so it resembles a cow pie. Males walk while they poop so it is spread over a wider area. I think it’s a territory marking thing, but what do I know? Even with jeans and boots, I got yellow Alaska dirt on my legs.

We did see eagles, lots of them. And a really huge raven. He must have stood a solid 18″ tall and he was bold! He stole french fries from people’s plates at a local restaurant. I also saw a marmot sunning itself, salmon jumping from the ocean where sea lions were catching them, and a mama and baby whale named Flame and Bunsen. Very cool. I also found out there are 5 types of salmon, which you can remember using your fingers: thumb = chum, index = sockeye (this is the finger you would use to poke someone in the eye), middle = king (this is the longest finger and therefore the king of the hand), ring = silver aka coho (put a silver ring on it), and pinkie = pink.

We went to the Anchorage Museum which was interesting. There was an exhibit called Death in the Ice: The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition. It was an expedition looking for the Northwest Passage which went missing. Apparently cannibalism was involved. Really, the ships would get ice bound and simply be crushed. We also had a look at First Nations artifacts. There are something like 10 tribes with a common language root, though like in the lower 48, their cultures varied. Again, I would have liked a little more art, but natural science is important. I bought some notecards at the museum shop.

It was a very good trip and I hope to travel more.

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Passport Drama

You may know that I am going to Alaska on July 4th. It will be a cruise, and it leaves out of Vancouver. I will be flying from Dallas to Vancouver.

If you didn’t know, Vancouver is in Canada and Dallas in in the US, and therein lies the difficulty. Canada is another country.

In the 70’s when I lived in Canada, you could pretty much cross the border with a driver’s license as proof of residence. I had a passport, but that’s because I was technically an American living abroad. Also I was under driving age.

But 9-11 has happened and border security is tighter so I need an actual government document that proves my citizenship, so I need a passport. I do want to be clear: The problem is not leaving the country, the problem is coming back in. It cracks me up. They don’t care that much if I leave, but gosh darn it, we got to be careful who we let back in.

I contacted the passport office. I mean, I was about 6 weeks out, I needed to be sure of the process. They told me go to the post office. I made an appointment at the post office, got my paperwork together, and 5 weeks out I ordered the passport.

Now in the US, you have a choice: You can get the regular booklet passport or you can get a government ID passport that looks like a driver’s license. Well I”m not attached to getting the stamps, so I opted for the card. I opted wrong.

Today my passport card arrived. I opened the package and took the card off the paper and I happened to notice something in bold print across the bottom of the paper. I looked more closely. “Not valid for air travel“.

Well.

That couldn’t be right. I mean, I am only going to Canada, surely this is a mistake?

So I called in to the helpline. Yup, to fly into Canada, I need the booklet. I sure didn’t see anything about this on the website. And of all the questions I was asked, nobody asked where I was going or how I was getting there, so no person told me there were restrictions.

“What is the card good for, then?” I rather exasperatedly asked the customer service rep.

It’s good for cruises around the Bahamas and ground crossings into Canada and Mexico. That means I could drive to Vancouver, but I can’t fly in. And if you’re just going to the Caribbean on a cruise, you’re fine. But Dallas to Vancouver on a plane? I”m SOL.

The first option is to get off the plane when it stops in Seattle and spend $30 to take a bus. I could do that. I’d only be out a couple of bucks. But since the ticket is booked to Vancouver, there is the possibility they wouldn’t even let me on the plane without the correct documentation. So that’s probably not a good solution.

The other choice is to get the regular passport. In order to do that, I need to file a missing passport form and pay $110 for the booklet plus a $65 fee for expedited service. At least unemployment finally started paying me, I have the money, but it seems exorbitant. Still, I’m in a bind, I’ll just suck it up.

Now I’m less than 2 weeks from leaving, so I qualify to go to the passport office directly. I went to the website and put in Dallas. No appointments available in the next 2 weeks. Okay, let’s try Houston, that’s only a day of hard driving, and I could bring my daughter to see her half-brother. But no, no appointments in Houston either.

I called the help line again. They told me I could go to the passport office as a walk-in. Well cool, I can do that. Only I didn’t think they took walk-ins.

Turns out they do, but you must be within 3 business days of leaving. And I’m glad I said something because they are a little stingy with the information. She didn’t volunteer that there was a time restriction, I had to ask.

So on Monday, I will go down to the passport office. It will be July 1. I am leaving on July 4, which is a holiday, so I am within my 3 days. But man, this feels like cutting it real close.

And yet, this is all first world problems. A day ago I was counting pennies for gas money and couldn’t pay car insurance. This? This is cake. I am worried about a vacation when I have nothing to do between now and then except get ready. I am already on vacation, really, just not on the trip. And it will all work out, it always does.


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Telling the Truth and Dating

I have had the idea of truth come up in my feed several times in the last 3 days.

I like truth. It gives me a firm foundation for basing my life. Lies are slippery and you can’t depend on them. Truth may change with new revelation, but it is always reliable. You can work with it.

I’m thinking of, for example, dynamics in a relationship. The truth of love can keep a relationship together through some pretty rough stuff. And the truth of love dying makes for an even rougher time, pretty often. I don’t know where I”m going with this. But if you communicate along the way, it goes smoother. I’m thinking of Meg Ryan breaking up with Greg Kinnear in You’ve Got Mail, where they realize that even though they check each other’s boxes, they really don’t love each other. And they are relieved! They don’t have to pretend any more. Because they reached truth.

I have had to share some truth with someone today, and it makes me sad. Now I have a LOT of truth to share, I just keep it to myself a lot of the time to make life smoother!

A guy I know asked me out. The big truth, which I didn’t say to him, is that I’m not attracted to him. I don’t know why. He’s not bad looking, he has a job, I’ve known him for a couple years now so I know he’s a good person. He just doesn’t do it for me. But I didn’t tell him that. I felt like that would unnecessarily hurt his feelings.

I did tell him, I am not looking for a boyfriend at this time, which is true. And that I’d be happy to go out as friends, which is also true. I just don’t want to lead anyone on with expectations about kissing or sex when I’m not on the same page.

So I guess I didn’t tell the whole truth, but who knows how I”ll feel in a couple of months? I assume my lack of sex drive is a combination of meds and menopause. Anything could change. I might decide in a couple of months to ask my psychiatrist about the libido issue. Since, you know, I’m thinking I might like to try dating again at some point. Just not yet. Not quite ready yet.

I still feel bad for turning him down. He’s like, someone I *should* be interested in, but I’m just not. And I don’t think he needs to know that. I like him fine, I just don’t like him like that. And I’m not in a place where I feel the need to have a steady boyfriend, or even a friend with benefits. So I have told him this plainly, and if he still wants to be friends, he’ll let me know.


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Small Victories

It’s been a couple of rainy days and I’ve been in the house since I got home Friday. It’s now Sunday.

I don’t have any money so I can’t exactly go places. I did request my first unemployment payment today, but they have me down for receiving checks and that means it can take time for the money to arrive. Then I have to cash the check, and send some of it to the bank.

Yes, Citibank does not have any branch offices in Texas, so I have to mail them my opening deposit. Very frustrating as well as causing delays, but once I get that initial deposit in, I can use direct deposit. As long as I can get it resolved before the second payment. The second request is right before my trip and I’d like to get paid for vacation.

I have had another sale in my Etsy shop, so that’s cool.

I finally managed to take a shower this evening. I should have done it while my roommates were out of the house but I couldn’t pull myself together. This is a small victory, but the bipolar didn’t win today. My hair is washed, my jammies are clean, my legs have been shaved. Not well, but shaved none the less. I am all girly again and I don’t smell.

You know, personal hygiene is such a struggle for me. It’s like, it’s just a pain in the ass and it feels overwhelming. I don’t understand this because once I’m actually in the shower, I am happy to be there. It just seems like getting over the threshold into the tub is nearly impossible. I don’t know why that is.

I had a shower. I took my meds. I ate. I didn’t exercise though, I am bad at doing that. And I’ll go to bed soon, which is a reasonable time for me. I don’t have any obligations until tomorrow afternoon.

Life is full of small victories. I made my own breakfast. I journaled. I made some plans. I taught that vision board class last month, I just need to find something else to teach now. I might see if I can get certified to teach WRAP.

I am hoping to hear that I’ve been accepted for coach / evaluator at work. I know it’s only been a week since I applied for it so it may easily take some time to be approved. But I am an optimist about time.

Of course I am a pessimist about the background check. I’ve been doing the job for a year now, 2 years if you count my time as a local hire. I would hate to lose it at this point because of my credit report. And I’m afraid I will.

Still, I am clean and ready for bed, and that’s a good thing. Sometimes little things are all there is.


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Waiting or Enabling?

I am trying to tell how much of this is my own fault.

I was going to give my daughter a ride to sell plasma today, and she was going to slip me $5 gas money. I put my last $20 in the gas tank, anticipating having that $5.

I went to a meeting and got out around noon. I did not have a message from my daughter with an address, so I checked into a book store to kill some time.

It’s all good. I copied some hat patterns out of some knitting and crochet books that I can’t afford to buy. It will make some variety in my 100 Hats Project. And I wrote some “morning pages” in my journal. I put it in quotes because, to be honest, I almost never write them in the morning. I drank a whole large water with ice. And I realized I was hungry.

I had tried several times to reach my daughter, waiting about an hour between attempts. The hunger eventually won out, and I texted her that I was going home.

Two hours after I got home, she texted me. She appears contrite. She did not ask for a ride. Which is good because I don’t have the gas to drive her and it was too late to sell blood for her to get gas money to give me.

It’s not very respectful of my time. I mean, I didn’t waste time, but I might have done something else if I’d known I wasn’t going to see her. I’m a little disappointed.

But more than that, I wonder if I”m a little too available. I wonder if I am excited to see her and she isn’t that interested in seeing me. I wonder if I”m preventing her from growing up and taking responsibility for herself. And if I’m wondering about it, the answer is probably yes.


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Today Was a Good Day

It’s so easy to talk about the bad days, but today was actually a good day.

I woke up and managed to stay awake for the first time in, well, more than 2 weeks. I have been waking up about 9 am and doing a few things, then going out into the living room to plug in my phone. Now everyone sleeps late in this house, so even as late as noontime, the living room is dark and quiet. So it’s really easy to just stretch out on the sofa and nap for another hour or two.

But this morning I had calls to make, so I stayed up. And the calls were successful, woot woot!

First call was to Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). That’s the unemployment office to the rest of the world. Texas really has exactly one unemployment office which is in Austin (the capitol) so you really can’t go to unemployment. What they do have is the TWC, which is basically an employment office. Because they are not concerned about you getting money, they are concerned about you working. I am concerned about me getting money, job is a fine way to do that, but I have paid into the unemployment system and so has my most recent employer, so I don’t mind saying I feel rather entitled to the money. This is not charity; it is, in fact, insurance.

Anyway, in Texas you can only apply for unemployment once every 12 months. I had a deployment end last spring, and I applied for unemployment on June 3. I did work again in Sept – Dec, but when that deployment ended, I couldn’t apply for unemployment again. Now since it was within 12 months, I could continue collecting on the previous claim. But funding ran out and I was still within the 12 months, so I couldn’t apply again.

However, today is June 3, so guess what? Application time, baby. I tried to apply online but got a message that said “we can serve you better by phone”. My first call this morning was to TWC. They took my application by phone. They really couldn’t believe I earned as much as I did during that Sept – Dec run, but I was working 60 and 70 hour weeks, so with all that overtime, I was doing great. Hopefully that means I’ll get a decent check, but really anything is better than the nothing I’m getting now. So this is a good thing, it’s just a waiting game now.

The second call was to Citibank, my new bank. Now I do most of my banking online so I didn’t realize until later that they actually do not have a physical branch in Texas. I need to make an initial deposit to fully open the account, but what I have is a paper check. I had to be sure I could just deposit it into an ATM. They said to use any ATM that accepts deposits, so I’ll have to use one at an actual bank not at a corner store. So I’m trusting them for this. I also got the passcode for my new debit card today. That means I should get the card in the next day or two, which is also good. In the meantime, I need to change my banking information with unemployment, so the money goes to the new account. Also a good call, because it answered a question.

The third call was to my employer. Remember that I do seasonal work for the government. I get deployed, I get furloughed. I work when there’s work, but I don’t get paid when there’s no work. That’s why I get unemployment. I do look for other work in my down time because I need to do something, but this time no luck.

Anyway, I am required to keep up with trainings and other meetings while I’m not deployed. I got a notice that I had missed a training that was due for the end of May. I have a company phone, but I don’t have a company computer, so I didn’t know how to take the training. I spoke to a very helpful person who let me know that even though I got the notice, I was not in trouble. I wouldn’t be able to access the class without a company computer so I’m not expected to do it until I’m deployed again.

While I was talking to her, I asked about the coach / evaluator certification. What that is, is a person who signs off on certain requirements for being fully qualified for a position. I am a qualified ASPS, and I have opened a task book for the next higher position, which is housing lead. A task book is the list of necessary skills and requirements that someone needs to observe you doing. The observer is the coach / evaluator. Well, you can only evaluate a position for which you are qualified. So I would be able to sign off on people who are working on their ASPS qualification.

I asked about how to become a coach / evaluator and the helpful person sent me the link to the requirements. Pretty much, you need to be qualified for the role you want to evaluate, and you need to have the task book opened for the next level. Check and check. Now all I need is to let my cadre coordinator know I’m interested. I can do that tomorrow, after I verify who that is. Coordinators also get deployed and furloughed, which means the info can change while I’m out of the office with no notice.

That makes 3 calls, all productive, which is a good day in itself. I also went to group and hung out afterwards with some of the other clients. When I got home, my roommate had made roasted potatoes and barbecue ribs. Momo Kitty fell asleep on my feet, which is very affectionate for him. Charli is always on me for attention but Momo is pretty self contained. It’s now 11:00 and I’m thinking of bed.

Tomorrow is another busy day. I have group in the morning, then I’m going to visit a friend who is in the hospital. I hope to add in a visit to another friend who is in the area after that, just because it would be convenient. I mean, she’s my friend and I’d love to see her, but the timing would be convenient. I am short of gas money these days.

It looks like a good start to the week.


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Buying a New Towel

I may not be a froody dude, but I sure know where my towel is. Right now it’s in a pile of laundry. No wait, it’s here next to me. No, silly, I now own 2 towels!

I actually own many towels and they are in storage. But these are what the towel people call bath sheets, about 36″ x 64″. It’s almost as long as I am tall. But the older one was getting worn out and starting to fray so I had to acquire another one.

We went to this place called Ollie’s which was a fun trip. If I’d had some money to spare, I would easily have spent about $50. But instead I spent only $6.50 on a huge towel. It’s dusty purple. It’s 100% cotton. I’m very pleased with it. I’m a little too pleased with it.

In other news, my roommates are being pretty cool about the fact that I have no income at the moment. I am paying half my usual amount of rent which I will pay the difference once I’m working again. The only thing is, F keeps saying that now that I’m paying less rent, I need to do more chores, which really means vacuum. It’s like, even though I’m going to pay the difference, I’m his bitch. And we’re going to start with a task that possibly I like least. I think his dom self enjoys making me do things I don’t want to do. But I’ll get over it, it just bothers me at the moment.

And hopefully I won’t be broke much longer.

On the 3rd, which is Monday which is tomorrow, I can reapply for unemployment. Now it will take them some time to make a decision so I won’t have money right away, but I should have it soon. I assume they will pay me. I mean, I did work and I did earn enough to divide by 37. If I did the math correctly, I should get about $250 per week. Maybe a little more. I can only hope.

I just need money in time for my trip. I still need to get my passport so I need to find the money for it and my birth certificate. I thought I knew where it was but I was wrong. Now I have to tear my room apart and see where I put it. This isn’t a bad thing, since the room really needs to be put together more neatly, and I need to see if I have anything else to sell.

I also need to throw away the duffel bag that Charli the Kitty has been peeing on. Yep, she started that again. I’ve been home since December and no problem until about 10 days ago. I thought she was past the whole pee pee kitty thing but I guess not. The duffel bag will never be usable again, so I really need to be sure it’s empty and toss it. Hard to do, but necessary.

Time to find some water. I had a wonderful frozen cherry limeade while running errands today but it’s time to have water. Water is so good for me, even though it has no flavor. I would prefer a coke but carbonation is painful these days so water it is.

And I have my towel handy if I spill it.