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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Short Time

There is just a short time until I leave. I’m ready to get ready, but until the unemployment money hits, I’m at an impasse. I need the money for things like flip flops and deodorant. I just need a few things before the trip.

I spoke to my travelling buddy yesterday. She is also excited. She’s looking forward to the food, she says, because cruises always have great food. I’m just looking forward to real, fresh seafood. Which there should be plenty of on an Alaska cruise.

I also need to mail 3 purchases on my Etsy site, and pick up some postcard stamps. My friend wants to read, but I want to send postcards. I’ll do some reading too. I bought The Four Agreements to read during my down times. If I have a chance, I’ll get a couple magazines too.

I need a new backpack, my current one is coming apart at the seams. I really like it, but I’m afraid it won’t last. I don’t know what to bring out of it. My little Alaska notebook for sure, but what about my journal? It’s big and heavy, so maybe not, maybe just a little notebook, like a composition book. But what else? Do I bring a tape runner, a glue stick, watercolors, water color pencils? Probably none of those things, just keep my keepsakes and get to relive the trip putting it together afterwards.

I need to get my sweater out of the car to wash it. I need to think about what shoes to pack. I need a pair of dress shoes for dinners, but I don’t have any. Something else I suppose I could buy if I have time. Or I could buy a pair in Vancouver or Alaska. That would be an interesting souvenir.

I am hoping I can fit everything in my suitcase and still use it as a carry on. So much to bring. So much to do. And I sit here watching Lucifer since it’s only 1000 degrees today and I am overheated. Waiting for the sun to go down and the house to cool off a little.

Dinner in a minute. Then get the sweater then do another load of laundry.

Busy busy.


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Travel Excitement

It’s less than a week until I leave for Alaska, and I’m starting to get excited. I have so much to do before I leave.

Tomorrow, Sunday, I am having poke bowls with my daughter in honor of her birthday. It’s Hawaiian comfort food, sort of like deconstructed sushi. I know she’ll like it. I also have to request my next unemployment payment.

Monday is passport day. I need to go through my room and find the remaining passport photo, or I need to find an extra $20 and get them done again. In the afternoon is group if I can make it. I’ll already be in Dallas. I have to get up early early early Monday morning. So early I might not sleep Sunday night. I’m supposed to go as a walk-in so I want to be there when they open. Oh, and I need to print my airline schedule so I can prove I need the passport. Probably better print the cruise schedule too.

Tuesday needs to be laundry and shopping day. Shopping of course assumes I will be paid by then by unemployment. I want a book and I need some things like underwear and bug spray. And a new back pack.

Wednesday. Wednesday! I need to pack, I might need to go shopping if I didn’t do it Tuesday, and of all things, the unemployment office wants me to come in and do orientation! At 9:00 in the morning! So far that is 3 days in a row of getting up early, and I am not made for that.

But Thursday is the big day. Thursday I get on the plane and head to Vancouver to get on that cruise ship. I can’t wait. I mean, obviously I can wait because I have to, but boy is it hard! I’m so excited!

Better get started on the things I can do because there are a lot of things to do between then and now. Wish me luck!


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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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Worn Out Sneakers

I finally wore out my sneakers over the weekend. I went walking with a friend both days. We logged over 5 miles. But I have now worn out the insole of my sneakers and I can’t afford a new pair at the moment. So I will keep wearing them for walking but I am shifting to boots for daily wear.

I told my friend I couldn’t afford the Alaska trip, and she paid my airfare. Wow. Now I didn’t expect her to do that, and I will pay her back. But very interesting response. I have to find the money for a passport now. The trip includes a stop in Canada and you can no longer use a driver’s license as proof of residence.

I get food stamps now. I am trading them for rent at the moment. I know this isn’t quite legal but I have no cash for rent this month. Or for gas or for meds. I should have some cash next month.

Next month, I can apply for unemployment again. I applied last June and was awarded a settlement. I then went back to work so I stopped collecting. That’s the job that ended in December. I tried to file against the new job, and was told that I still had the previous settlement to use up before filing for the new one. I used up the old settlement and tried to file the next one, and I was told I can only file one time in a 12 month period. So I can’t file again until the beginning of June. Hopefully I’ll qualify. I mean, I did the work, the job ended, I haven’t been able to find anything new.

I signed up for Care.com but there is a small problem. I applied for some jobs, but I don’t have the $20 to pay for the subscription part so I can’t hear from people through the website. I guess I’m going to have to start including my phone number or my email address. I could be pet sitting by now.

Next weekend I am pet sitting for a friend. I’ll enjoy spending the weekend at her house. I like her cat. It should be good. And on Sunday I’ll see my daughter for Mothers Day. We don’t have any money, so we decided to hang out and make art. I told her to invite some of her friends to join us. I figure they’ll be ready for a break from their own families by the middle of the afternoon.

I need to pack up all my art supplies on Thursday for the weekend. I have a whole plastic grocery sack of mail to reply so I need to bring my letter writing accoutrements. I need to bring paints and such over to my daughter’s place on Sunday too. Plus I need to have my vision board supplies with me. I shall have a car full of art, which makes me happy.

Ah, life. Money stress is what it is, but it could be worse. The rest of the world is working out okay. I just need things to fall into place for me.


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Dead Phone

My daughter managed to kill another phone.

This is a problem because now there is no way to get in touch with her and she is going through a rough time. I worry. I worry a lot.

In the meantime, I had a bit weirdness. I was doing laundry and I opened the washer, and there was a white plastic rectangle on top of the wet clothes. It was a driver’s license. It belonged to my daughter’s ex. So I tried to reach my daughter, which like I said, is difficult right now. I ended up texting her ex. We met up at the 7-Eleven near Elm and Good-Latimer. She called me “mom”. I know she thinks I am a great mom because her own mom is, well, less than accepting. She told me she is going back to school to get her diploma. I’m proud of her for that, but she really hurt my daughter. My daughter could deal with the break up, but she hasn’t seen her in days. I think that’s so true for my daughter, that it’s not about the sex but the emotional connection. I feel that she is so alone right now. See? Mom brain. It keeps coming back to my daughter.

Finances are crap. I have to tell K that I can’t go to Alaska with her. I really wanted to go. I never take a vacation for myself and this would have been the thing. But I own less than $100 so I just have to suck it up. Plus K will basically remember this every time it comes up about taking a trip together. Assuming it comes up again. But I will babysit Archie the cat while she is gone, as good as a vacation for me. Well, almost.

I applied for food stamps today. I don’t know what kind of documentation they’ll want. I really have none. How do you prove a negative? I can’t prove I have no income, nobody documents that. In Texas, as a single adult, there is a lifetime limit on what you can get in food stamps as well. So I am out of unemployment money until June, and I don’t know how long it will be if I even qualify for food stamps.

On Saturday I really need to go down to the local food bank. I may not be able to bring money home but I can sure bring food. Us unemployed people can get food almost anywhere.

Someone, one of the animals, tried to tangle my yarn up. I left a half-crocheted hat and its ball of yarn on the back of the sofa. I got up in the morning and it was all over the floor. At least the hat was intact. The yarn had to be untangled and rewound. I assumed the culprit was Charli the kitty because she has a long history with yarn. But while I was working, Jack the dog kept grabbing mouthfuls of yarn and pulling it to the floor. I think Charli knocked it off the back of the sofa and Jack pulled it apart. Good teamwork. Sort of.

Well, back to the job hunt. Maybe I can find something I’m qualified to do.


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Planning Ahead

I went to ATTA this morning, and the writers’ group had “planning ahead” as the topic. I wrote my 3 pages. They must have been good because they made people laugh. But it did raise some questions for me.

I am not good at planning ahead. Part of it is because I don’t really believe life is going to work out according to my plans anyway. Why make plans you know are going to fail?

So I tried to be very zen about everything. You know, in the moment, mo expectations. It’s basic Buddhism, right? You suffer because you want things, so to end suffering, don’t want things. If I’m not attached to an outcome, I can’t be disappointed.

Only, here I am over 50 and nothing has been accomplished. Because I didn’t make any plans and just let life happen. I feel like, I should make a better plan, if it’s not too late. I could possibly be too old for making plans, I do’t know. Is there an age limit?

Obviously there’s an age limit for certain plans. I can’t join the military or become an air traffic controller. I can’t even have another baby, though one child seems to be enough for me. But in general, can I run out of time?

Why haven’t I planned better? Or at least more? What was I thinnking?

First of all, I didn’t expect to make it past 50. I really didn’t. I still think I’ll be dead by 56, though I don’t know exactly why I believe that. It’s from an old sleepless night back in Sept-Iles. I don’t think the world is going to last that much longer. But 56, yeah, something about that number.

And yet I could easily live into my 80’s like so may of my family have. Or at least my 70’s. Though I expect to work until I’m 70 or 75, unless I go senile, which I don’t expect.

So was I really being zen or was I just lazy or lacking in self discipline? I think now it’s the self discipline issue. Because I didn’t manage to save enough money to get to Alaska this summer. I have pieces of the trip bought but I never did find a job so I can’t afford the other pieces. I’m really disappointed. I’m also sorry that now my friend won’t believe me about making plans. I hate looking bad but sometimes shit happens. And sometimes I fail to plan appropriately.