Travels

Traveling is great, it’s fun, it’s hard, and it’s a pain in the ass. But mostly it’s awesome, it just depends on things you can or can’t control. I have traveled alone, with one or with many people. How it goes is all a part of the adventure. This post today is to sing the praises of an airline, and a person I will likely never see again, on the day my company took us to Sint Maarten!

Wednesday January 11th, a whole bunch of us from work got on some airplanes, to meet in Atlanta to get the rest of the way to an island together. Except we didn’t. I still don’t really know what happened, I just know the explanation of what went on. The majority of our large group flew out of Appleton’s airport, at 5:30 in the morning. We are flying along when all of a sudden the announcement comes on that we have to divert our flight, because the Atlanta airport doesn’t have a place for our plane. What? That is a pretty big airport, are you sure? So they diverted us to Louisville. We had to land, they told us. Without much explanation, we are on the ground, but in the plane, until we hear we can go again.

My cousin Lisa works at the Appleton airport, and she messages me to ask if we got out. I told her yes, but we got sent to Louisville. She said we were lucky to get out, as the other 2 flights that morning got delayed, by a ground stop ordered by the FAA. Now, that was the first kind of explanation I got, but we didn’t know why. In a post 9/11 world, you don’t take the “land the plane now” orders lightly. Thankfully, nothing bad had happened, just a computer glitch. We all said China had hacked our vacation. Never heard what really went down, but after about an hour in lovely Kentucky, we were off to Atlanta once again. The other 2 flights that had our group on board made it to Atlanta, and they were getting to the connecting flight, a smidge late but not a big deal.

We arrive in Atlanta late, and to the news that the flight to Sint Maarten had left. Without us. The majority of our group. NO!!!! Yep, it’s true. What now? We were flying Delta, and they have one flight headed there per day. We may be stuck in Atlanta until Thursday, or maybe even Friday. We have more than 50 people in our group, including Our Fearless Leader, the Boss, Shannon. He wasn’t super happy, but kept his cool, and the Delta folks said they will see what options there are. They called the supervisor person a Red Jacket, and she was an angel in the form of Carmen. I don’t know much in the world, but she was a star!

Carmen, the Delta Goddess, was not showing her hand too much. She wasn’t going to over-promise anything. She came and went several times, updating us with what she could, but never giving us any false hope, and each time she appeared, things seemed less dire, and maybe we would be on an island that day, or we may be in some hotels near the crappy Atlanta strip clubs near the airport. She wasn’t sure, but she was working for us! But the hope was, that she would find us a plane and a crew to get us out that day, late, but better late than Friday!

The last time I saw Carmen, the Shining Light of Delta Airlines, she was telling us to head to a gate in the international terminal, as we would be boarding a flight to our destination! They had got a plane, a crew, and FAA approval for a special flight to Sint Maarten! It would be a few hours, but we were going to be on our way! We cheered her, and begged her to come along with us! We wanted her in our group, on our plane and drinking fruity drinks on a beach!! She was our Hero!!!

I don’t know who or what was done to get us going, but let me tell you this: Delta came through for us. When we got to the gate, we had to wait a couple of hours. That’s no problem when you were looking at spending your tropical vacation in Atlanta for 2 days that was during a cold snap for the area. As a bonus, the Atlanta PD was doing training with their K9 officers, so we got to watch dogs for the couple hours of our wait.

Delta also got us a snack cart, with fruit snacks, chips, popcorns of different flavors, while we waited. They even got our logo printed off and on the cart. They treated us so very well, and that flight only had a couple of random people on it that were not a part of our group, so in essence, it was a private flight, sort of. We arrived about 6 hours after our original schedule, but when we got there it was a chorus of cheers and a lot of relief! Things could have not worked out, they may not have been able to get us there, but we aren’t thinking about that.

We got to our resort, checked in, and found the rest of our group and commenced having a great time for 4 days. It’s a lovely place, if you ever get the chance to go. But fly Delta there, if you do. They really went the extra mile to make sure our trip was not a bust.

I was always a person that didn’t think much about airlines, until a few years back. I know there are cheaper airlines that can get you from point A to B with no frills, and that price is big factor for many when they travel. The holidays taught us about the structure of certain airlines, and how quickly things can fall apart. The trip I was just on taught me that you may be just a passenger to a lot of companies, and maybe if I had been traveling alone, or just a couple of us in a missed flight situation, things might not have been so awesome. But somebody made a mistake by having that flight leave without more than 50 people, we only missed it by a half hour or so, and given the FAA had messed us so many flights, they could have held it. Delta did the best they could for us, and that was pretty great. They won me over for that, and in the future when I am flying somewhere, they will be top of my list to get a ticket.

If you ever find yourself in the Atlanta airport, and you see the Lovely Carmen in the Red Jacket, tell her the Roofers from Wisconsin say hi!! I know she didn’t single-handedly fix our situation, but she was the messenger, and she is an Angel of Vacation Hope, in my eyes and the minds of our traveling group of Security Luebke Roofing!!

Welcome, 2023!!

We just cranked up a new year, a few days back. Welcome and let’s get some stuff straight: We are looking for some good stuff this time around, 2023, so just play along and all will be well. I am not complaining too much about 2022, for myself at least, as I had a pretty good year. But a bunch of people I know did not, and I would like things to get better for them, if it’s not too much trouble. Thanks, I will check back frequently.

My year was more good than not. I got to travel to Mexico for the first time, I went on an Alaskan cruise, and my Mile of Music happened, the Brewers played all season, and even my Packers picked up a crummy season at the end of the year. I got to a few concerts and survived a major hail storm while working in the roofing industry. Things are A-OK for Coco at the moment.

As for the beginning of this year, things are starting well. In 4 days, not that I am counting, I am headed to St. Maarten with the Roofers, for our company trip. The pasty white Wisconsinites are on their way to another January adventure! This is one of those things that my company does that makes me so thankful to have found this place and these people. I am bringing my sister as my guest again this year. She works for the State of Wisconsin, and she has a good gig, she is an attorney and she has great benefits and stuff. But they don’t take her out of the country and give her champagne when she gets there. I am so happy we can do this together, we can be our silly sister selves, and my co-workers think we are a hoot! It’s only a few days, so we are out before they catch on to what nerds we are.

I am sure I have other good things on the horizon, but this trip early in the year blocks my ability to think too far ahead. I think we will try to hammer out a Spring Training trip to Arizona, but that is a discussion for the beaches of St. Maarten for me and the sister. See what we can come up with.

The other events of the year will come along. I won’t worry too much because fun stuff happens all year, I just have to find what appeals to me, and I will. I don’t worry too much about that, good things come to those who like good things. Or something like that.

With the new year, a new age came along for me late in December as well. I turned 53. I am noticing things changing, and some are good things, and some are definitely aging things. I still do my gym workouts, and still walk Zelda all over the ‘hood. But when something twinges, as they will, the recovery is not as quick. I need to make an eye appointment, things are fuzzy or the print is getting smaller, as people about my age will tell me. It’s funny, because my brain doesn’t acknowledge the aging too much, but the body is getting quick to remind me, just in case I wasn’t paying attention. I continue to welcome the years that pile up, it beats the alternative, as they say. I don’t want to turn into an old clunk, so I don’t entertain old people thoughts too much, but I am paying attention, I promise. I think my AARP card is still valid, after all.

To welcome the new year, I saw it arrive, and promptly crawled into bed. I sure don’t keep ‘er moving like I used to, and I don’t feel the need to anymore. That’s been an entertaining conversation at work this week. We have large age range there, and most of us in the middle of life admitted to pulling the plug early, while the younger bunch might just still be awake from New Year’s Eve. God bless them, they will get tired soon enough. I love hearing their stories though, it makes me wonder how I ever made it this far, and thankful I have! I thank those young adults for being in my world, they keep me laughing and that is the secret to aging. Laugh, and the world will keep giving you reasons to smile.

I hope for lots of wonderful things for this new year, for you and for me. We are still in a recovery from all the things we missed over the previous couple of years. It’s weird to think of all the things we could not do for a short stretch, and what I hope it that we all appreciate what we can do now as a result. I hate thinking about it in a negative way, so many people do, and I get it. But instead of focusing on what we didn’t get, or what was missed, look ahead of all that we are able to do now. We just found out we don’t need to Covid test for our trip- that’s a win. It’s a sign that we are coming out, even though we need to still be a little cautious, we can relax enough to enjoy our lives. I hope we do enjoy our lives, as they are short. It won’t be long before I have to write 2024 on stuff, so enjoy what you have today, and tomorrow, or in four days when I step off a plane. Life is for living, let’s go do it, 2023!!

53, So Far

I had a birthday earlier this month, the 53rd installment of My Life! I always tell people, I don’t mind getting older. It’s true. I think my dad dying at 57 gave me some perspective about life. It can be short, you don’t know what will happen in the number of years you get, or how many, so appreciate them. It also goes by quick. I can’t believe it is already my 53rd crack at this!! I keep it going, I have some fun. You all know that.

Things are going pretty well, so far. I have some fun stuff coming up to look forward to, like our company trip in January, and hopefully a triumphant return to Spring Training in Arizona. Life gives some opportunities, I hope to take them. Plus there are always things that just pop up and happen, and often those end up more fun than things you plan months and months for, and that is the charm of living life.

I won’t lie about this: getting older is hard! This is by far not high medical drama, and to be fair it started while I was still 52. I had a weird infection along my jaw. It started like a swollen gland type of thing, thanks to Google doctoring, I took it in stride, and didn’t worry too much. But about mid-November, it started getting red, angry and quite painful. I went to the doctor, like a responsible grown-up would do. Now, I wasn’t worried, but this thing took on a life of its own! I had some tests, a CT scan of it, and it wasn’t really anything we could put a finger on. It wasn’t dental, it wasn’t really glandular as far as we could tell. It was like the spirit of an angry old man had decided to possess my jaw. I named him Walter.

Ok, Walter, not that I don’t love an old man but I don’t want to host you the rest of my life. I would have gotten married if I wanted that! You gotta go, man. So we tried some antibiotics, and steroids to treat it. He pulled back a smidge, but wouldn’t quite give up the possession of my face. He got pretty pissed, for sure. He did not care at all for the eviction notice. He got more angry, really red, and looked like a giant zit waiting to be popped. After he really acted up, my regular doctor tapped out, and sent me to an ENT.

I have never had the easy things, medically speaking. Lost some toes, got bit by a brown recluse spider and had a nasty infection in my knee, had a random seizure, and kidney stones and an ovarian cyst that was angry like Walter. This whole adventure was just regular Coco, as far as things go. But Walter was one stubborn bastard! The nice ENT doctor was a little dry on my first visit. Not my best audience, and he was all business! Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate him taking Walter seriously, but dude was no fun. He took a good look at Walter, and opened him up, squeezed out what I assume was nasty goo- it smelled like nasty fart! I thankfully didn’t see it, although I did have a morbid curiosity, and he packed it with some drain tube gauze stuff. Gave me some more antibiotics, and sent me away, to return in about 5 days. I had to keep Walter covered, safe and dry for my birthday weekend. Antibiotics kept me from too many birthday beverages, but that was ok. I went back to see the Dull Doctor, and this time he was a little more relaxed, and borderline cordial. But Walter wasn’t ready to give up, and I had to keep the tube in. Come back in 5 more days.

Five days later, I am back! And now the Doc and I have a rapport, we are laughing and I tell him Walter’s name. But, he wouldn’t budge on Walter’s tube. 5 more days, by the way, let’s add another course of antibiotics. After a month, I am antibiotics. We are one. I did finally on the next visit get to have the drain out, thankfully! Walter doesn’t really live here anymore! I feel kind of normal, for me! I still have a few more days of the antibiotics to finish up, but I will have a Walter Free Christmas!

I am thankful that I have gotten this under control, finally. It didn’t feel like a month and a half adventure when it started, but it sure turned into that! I have had some conversations with people about all of this, and most will agree, it’s kind of an age thing. More junk will pop up as you get older, and very rarely are they normal things. Neat. I can’t wait for the next thing. But I do have a fantastic job that makes sure I have fantastic insurance, so I ain’t scared moving forward. But it just stinks that your body does this to you, betrays you in weird ways. We don’t know what exactly brought Walter into my life, and we may never know. But he got kicked to the curb, and I will always have the memories.

While Walter and his demise has been the main focus of my time lately, I did also get a pretty fantastic surprise early in the month too, and I would hate to not bring it up, again. I was awarded Employee of the Month at my job! Anyone who has ever worked with me knows how much I joke about being the Employee of the Month. Most jobs I worked had no such award, a shame really, since I was always asking to be it! Anyway, I am truly honored by this award. People ask me what I got for it, and I got a sweet travel mug thing, a shiny pin, and the Employee of the Month Parking Spot, which nobody ever uses because it isn’t a great spot, ironically. Now that my face is back to normal, I will also get my picture taken and put on the Wall of Fame, or whatever we call it. All previous E of the M are enshrined there. But the one thing you get, that nobody really celebrates, is no end of grief from my fellow co-workers! The comments are awesome, and constant, and I even have a few people who bow every time they see me! Of course I eat that shit right up! I love it!

All in all, being 53 has been pretty awesome. I am only a few weeks in, and medical crap aside, I enjoy the life. There is no reason not to, as long as I am able. Don’t focus on the bad things too much, they will always be around, but if you only see that stuff, you are likely to miss out on something great. I am looking forward to the adventures that are out there. Life is a gift, open it and use it! Bye Walter!!

What’s Up?

I haven’t been very active here for a while. Mostly because being a grown-up is too time consuming and my laptop acts up and won’t play along with my shenanigans. Makes for some big gaps, but it doesn’t mean my random thoughts haven’t been cranking. They are, and I may share a few here now.

It’s been a strange but good couple of months. I think. The time just flies by, and I am looking at another birthday in a week. I turn 53 next week, and I don’t even know how that has happened. It’s all good, I will always maintain that I would rather keep adding a few years than the alternative. It would seem that this year has started the process of reaching menopause, which may I say is about damn time. I am not looking for all the crap that goes with it, just the end of the monthly bill coming due. I have started having little hot flashes here and there. That’s fun, I get them at night more than any other time. If it gets interesting, I will write more about it, but I think that’s likely enough of that for the moment. We don’t need too many horror stories on a Saturday morning.

Birthdays tend to bring some nostalgia along with them. I get to thinking about people I have known over the years, and particularly the ones I miss the most. I have been incredibly blessed to meet many people over the years, and a large number of them are quite the characters. I did get to have dinner last night with one of my dearest and most favorite people in the world, my friend Lance, and his parents. He was my first love, my first boyfriend that was really a boyfriend, back in high school. We had a fabulous friendship, and we went out for a while in school, but it was better as a friendship for sure, but he will always be that nostalgic dreamboat for me. I love getting together with him, we laugh, we share our current lives, and after a few hours, return to our real lives. He is a touchstone person for me, and I like to think I am for him too, and even if we only see each other once or twice a year, it is like coming home each time we have that time. I know how lucky I am to have a person like that in my life, and as I am about to hit 53, I hope we carry on like this for many more years. We should all have someone that makes our soul smile.

It’s the get ready for holidays and winter time around here. I have the love/hate of this time of year. We have to cycle through it, but I don’t have to embrace it, you know? I like the holidays, but it goes quick and you can’t catch everything and everyone you want to, so a little feeling of disappointment comes along with it each year. I also hate the high expectations that people place on themselves this time of year, I just think it’s mentally unhealthy to try to make everything perfect. Don’t do that to yourself this year, if you tend to do it, because the people you love, love you regardless if everything is merry and bright or not. Remember to stop and enjoy the moments, they go quick and you can miss it if you are worried about the one ornament that slipped off the perfect spot on the tree.

It’s been quite a year, for me. I traveled this year, to Mexico and Alaska, and it seems I will be doing a little traveling this coming year as well. My fantastic employer is taking a bunch of us to Sint Maarten this coming January. Have I mentioned how lucky I am? Maybe blessed is a better word for it, but luck and blessings often travel together. I look back at the chain of events that got me to this place, and as awful as the pandemic was for people, it is only because of it that I stumbled upon this path. I see the connection between relationships and opportunities, but this is so much more than just that. I have really liked the word symmetry lately, because when you are watching and learning in life, you see many places where a symmetry must exist. It goes back to what I said before about luck and blessings hanging out together. Whatever it is, I am incredibly thankful for these chances I have been given. There are times I still feel like I am struggling, but I feel like there is a safety net at this point, which is an incredible feeling if you have never felt it before.

We are on the tail end of Thanksgiving weekend. I guess that is what I am doing today, being thankful for the life I have. There are many times I have not had a plan. Most of the time, really. I have always found a way through things, but I will be damned if I know how. I have had to have a lot of faith, in myself and God, to string it together. I try not to let worry cloud things too much, because as Tom Petty said once, most of the things I worry about never happen anyway. I see the glass half full more often than not, which is not a bad place to be, really. I spend too much time seeing people and their self-doubts on social media, and in life. I don’t want to be that way, and when I can count the blessings, that stack is much taller anyways. As we wind up the Thanksgiving part of our fall, look at the abundances you have in life, because they are many. I have more than I could have ever thought possible, and I did all of it. I have gotten here, and as I look to close my 52nd year here, I feel good, and I know there is much love, and so much more life ahead that will be great.

I will try to post again soon, laptop willing, and I hope all of the holidays and stuff coming along soon fill you with joy, not anxiety or stress. It is a time to reflect and build for the next year coming, not count regrets or have self-doubt. Build on the dreams, don’t worry about things you cannot control. You will do great, I just know it.

Triumphant Return

There are things we do, supposedly with some regularity, that are good for us. Doctor visits should be among them, but for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons, they are not. Fear is one thing, and a lack of insurance is another, and time moving by at warp speed is another. Sometimes you just don’t realize how long it has actually been since you had a check up. I am pretty good about getting to the doctor, annual physicals, mammograms, female things, stuff like that. Having good insurance helps that. I was on Obamacare for a number of years, but now I have a good plan through my employer, so going has been easy and a part of my routine for a long time now. The dentist? Eh… not so much.

We just changed insurance carriers at work. We are now self-insured as a company, and what we pay for rates is dictated a little by being pro-active about our health. Regular screenings for age related things, physicals, and now dental check-ups. So I am as cheap as the next person when it comes to insurance, so I went, for the first time in many, many years, to the dentist.

They asked me why it had been so long when I went in, not in a judging way, but for some knowledge and insight into what’s happening in my mouth. Truly, lack of insurance was the biggest factor. Money can be very motivating, and dental work is not cheap. I have always heard there are ways around the expense if you are willing to have students work on you, or free clinics. But if you end up with a problem, it can get expensive, fast. So that was the main factor.

Less than awesome experiences as a kid also kept me away for a long time too. I won’t say fear, but hesitance. They were always yelling at us for not brushing, flossing, etc. Our dentist was a golf buddy of our dad, and he just did not give me a good vibe at all. Conversations as we got older confirmed that he was also a bit of a groper. I didn’t really recognize it as such at the time, but he was. He is long gone, he passed away a long time ago. But it just added to the overall dislike of the dentist chair.

Time. It flies, as every cliche tells you. I turned around one day, and all of a sudden it was decades since I had been to the dentist. I have had minimal issues, according to my own diagnosis, and so I put it off, and off, and off a little longer. I finally bit the bullet, as it were, and made that appointment, to be in compliance with our insurance recommendations at work.

I went 2 weeks ago for the first appointment, x-rays and an exam. The dentist and his assistant were very nice, non-judging, and not horrified by what was going on in my cake-hole. He even said “you’re not a cavity kid” which absolutely contradicted my childhood dentist visits. I have a small one that I am going in for tomorrow. Huh, who knew? I did have a big build up of tarter, which I had an appointment for last week. So as of tomorrow, I will have been to the dentist 3 times in a month, after years of driving by not making eye contact with a dental office.

They were great, really. Kept any anxiety I may have felt at bay, and just treated me like a person who had skipped a couple of cleanings, not a lifetime avoider. I thanked them for making it easy for me. I have some things ahead, my mouth is far from perfect, but they seem optimistic about getting me back on track. So I am optimistic too. The lady that helped me schedule appointments was a hoot. She had an opening at 2:30 in the afternoon for my visit tomorrow. I said, well, I have to take that spot, it’s the perfect time for a dental visit. She was like, it is? I said yeah, Tooth Hurty, and we laughed and laughed. It was truly a sign. I found the right place.

Have you been putting off any health related visit? So many people do, and it often is the “I just don’t want to know” type of thing. Doctors and dentists are not as scary as they once were. They don’t really outright yell at you anymore. At least that has been my experience as of late, and believe me, I give them a few reasons to holler. But being pro-active about your health can have lots of benefits, and living a life of not knowing what you might need some help with can be scarier than making a plan to treat things.

Call the office, and make the appointment. Get a baseline for your health. It may not be so bad, and if you do have some things to work on, you can get a plan going. If you need a little help, encouragement or anything, reach out to me, and I can help you. If I can adult my way through this, pretty much anyone can. I just want you all to live as healthy a life as possible. You don’t have to give up everything to have a little more health and well-being on your side. Good health, and good wishes on a Sunday morning!!

Check In

How are we doing? Are things ok? After Pandemic induced life changes, I wonder how all of my people are doing. It all seems surreal now, you know. More than two years since all of it started, and so much has changed. Trying to continue towards normal, whatever that may be these days. I don’t walk around worrying about catching whatever variant is rolling around now, but since I know a few people still getting sick, it’s on my mind a little.

The time is what is messing with me the most. In general, we all lost two years of our lives. Yes and no. Like for me, I never was truly locked in or shut down. I continued to work, the short gig at Costco and now more than two years at roofing company. But all the things that weren’t going on are what I missed, the screwed up sports seasons, lack of concerts and summer festivals. Just like that, 2 years passed by and here we are. Still having different strains or variants lurking around, but getting on with things. A lot of things changed for a lot of people. I just hope you have all adapted and are doing well.

How is your “back to normal” going? Mine is ok. I miss a lot of people, seriously. I go through the Facebook, and see what a lot of my past co-workers and guests I became friend with are up to. It makes me happy to see everyone doing their things, but I miss them. My situation changed a lot, and my hours are not super conducive to the party life I once lived. I drink a lot less than I did, I go out a lot less, and I am comfortable with it. I have become one of those people that stays home, but will go out, but wants to be back home when I am out. Conversations with some people have shown me that has been the case for a lot of people I know. As much as we hated being forced to stay at home, we sure do like being there more than we thought we would. Don’t get me wrong, Mile of Music is coming, and I will be out. That is an exception to the rule.

All the things going on this particular weekend, events and festivals and stuff, gives me some hope that we are indeed getting our lives back. The EAA starts up, that is a big international deal here, and we have Packers training camp, the Mile of Music, and State Fair, all the things that make summer so much fun around here so great. The tourism money is a welcome thing, for sure. The summers we love, are thankfully back.

I still hope everyone is being safer and cautious when it comes to their health. When I went on vacation in June, it struck me how many people still wore masks in the airports and public places. I have not been wearing them, unless a place requires them. I had a sinus infection a couple of weeks ago, and had to wear one at the clinic I went to, and it struck me as how normal it seems in some places. I know the different views of people, and those that think it is a joke. I always believed that even if it only helps a little, it is worth it for me if it means someone going home to a loved one with a weak or compromised immune system feels a little better. My short term discomfort is no big deal if someone else feels better as a result. I can’t worry about other people, only my own actions. But I can adapt my actions in situations where it is needed.

In general, life is good. I am still not a millionaire, I have not found or invented anything life changing. It’s just me and Zelda, living our days with smiles on our faces and hoping more snacks find us. So that means I am good. I have come through the pandemic, mostly, healthy and a little more compassionate than I started it. We all have our things, and I hope we are all doing our best to look out for each other after the ordeal. Be well, do well and love your life, no matter how exciting or dull it seems to those around you.

Alaska

It occurs to me, that with all of the stuff happening lately that I have neglected to share anything about my Alaskan Cruise I went on last month. Shame on me! My fantastic voyage, as it were.

About last October or so, my bestie Amy asked me if I would be interested in going with her and her sister on a cruise to Alaska. Would I? Heck yeah! Seems like a no brainer, get offered a vacation, take it! So I said yes, paid a deposit somewhere along the line and a little planning, and I am going cruising! I had previously been on one cruise, to Bermuda and Grand Turk. I like the cruising, it’s fun. But to me, planning a vacation as far ahead as we did is weird. That was October, and our cruise was in June. It seems like forever to wait. It makes it seem like it isn’t real, until all of a sudden it is.

June finally came along and away we went! Amy and I flew out of Green Bay to Seattle, and Ellen, Amy’s sister, met us out there, as she lives in South Dakota. Traveling during this pandemic time adds a few extra challenges, which I appreciate, but it’s dumb too. Hoops to jump through present themselves, and I just am not a fan of jumping. And there was this whole app that we needed to go into Canada, which presented some challenges as well. For a 4-5 hour stop in Canada, it wasn’t worth it. But we got through it and got on our ship, the Norwegian Bliss. Set sail, and off on our adventure we went!

Ellen and I had both cruised before, but this was Amy’s first time. I think she had a really good time. You never know, cruises are fun but they aren’t for everyone. When you are new to it, it can be a little overwhelming too, those ships are huge and there is a lot of food, drink and things going on pretty much all the time. It is hard to know where to start sometimes. We started with mojitos. Good call. The staff on these ships are primarily from other countries, and a lot of our bartenders and service people were from the Philippines and Indonesia. They were so fantastic, and funny and alcohol-wise a little mean. (wink) We spent a lot of time in the brew house bar, and those guys really had our number down there. We had a great time with them, and my Miller Lite drinking friend Amy even expanded her horizons and drank many different weird beers. I was so proud of her! That is a huge deal for her, and she even got her name on a display board for a drinking challenge to try as many different beers as possible during the 7 day cruise.

Alright, back to the destination. I think that a lot people think about trying to visit all 50 of the United States, if they can. The two tough ones are Hawaii and Alaska. They just aren’t easy to get to, especially if you aren’t a good flight person. I can say Alaska was a hoped for destination, but I am not overly outdoorsy and it is a big destination for hikers, campers, fisherman and the like. That’s not me. And on a cruise, you aren’t going up to the big main area of Alaska, you are going on the inside passage. Still, it’s Alaska and it still counts. Our ports of call were Sitka, Juneau, Icy Straight Point, Ketchikan and then Victoria, British Columbia. You spend a few hours in each place, and back on the boat to the next place.

I would say my favorite ports were Juneau and Ketchican. I had king crab legs in Juneau that nearly brought a tear to my eye, they were soooo good. I like Ketchican because it seemed like it would be a good spot to visit again. We weren’t in port there long enough to see the things I wanted to, and a few more hours there would have been awesome. But that is the way it goes on a cruise, and if I get a chance to go again to Alaska, that is a spot I would like to visit.

We went on a whale and marine life excursion in Icy Strait Point, and that was cool. We did see quite a few whales, but just their tails, none really breached. Still, they were amazing to see! We saw some otters, sea lions and so very many eagles everywhere we went. Sitka had a lot of eagles, they were amazing. It’s a big deal to see one around here, up there they are in big groups, hanging out in trees, circling above in big groups, and just hanging out by the docks, looking for some big old salmon or something to catch and chomp on. We met a group of 3 people who has gone on an excursion in Ketchikan, and they had some amazing photos of some killer whales breaching. It was fantastic!

We also went through a glacier area, where there were icebergs fields. We couldn’t go all the way in, as ships vs icebergs don’t always end well for the ship. But it was cool, we got to go out on the front deck of the ship, which was actually just below our stateroom, and see the icebergs up close and personal. They were not huge like you think of on Titanic or something, but they were beautiful, they have this kind of bluish-turquoise color to them, and we were moving through slowly, so it was very peaceful and just a very moving experience. I won’t soon forget it.

We ate too much, drank too much, walked around a lot and had a fantastic voyage, truly. Canada was a bit underwhelming as a result of all of the beauty we had seen in Alaska. It was Friday evening when we came into port, and it was disappointing how many places were closed. There were 3 ships in at the same time, and not a lot going on, which was really weird. We walked around, but didn’t really do anything while we were there. Nobody even looked at our passports, so it didn’t get stamped so it is like we weren’t even there! For all the nonsense with downloading the Canada app and stuff, it really was the biggest waste of time on our trip. We did see a big rainbow and a lovely sunset, but as far as it goes, I could have stayed onboard and caught those on the ship.

Overall, it was a great trip. We had so much fun and saw some pretty fantastic sights. If you have a chance to travel to Alaska, take the opportunity, and a cruise is a nice way to go if that is your thing. There aren’t many states left on my list now that I have been there. Just a few. The big one I really want to go to is of course Hawaii. I think I will have to make that one more of a priority now. I feel very fortunate to have been able to go on the trips I have been on this year, Mexico and Alaska within 6 months of each other. There are many places to see in this world, and many places I would love to see. Take the time to see the places you long to go to, if you are healthy enough to travel, take the time to go. There is a lot to see, and we don’t always have a ton of time to see all of it. And if you get to Alaska, try the crab legs!

Elvis

I like Elvis Presley. I remember when he died. I remember hearing about it on the car radio when we were driving in Neenah, taking Mom to a Sweet Adelines practice. I was seven years old, but by Mom’s reaction, and Dad’s too for that matter, I knew it was a big deal. It was a sad end to an incredible story, one I wouldn’t know much about until I came to his story again later in my life. I was young enough to only know him as Vegas Elvis, jumpsuits and capes. Fat Elvis. A seven year old wouldn’t know there was so much more.

I went to the new Elvis movie on Friday night. Driving over there, I quietly wished it would be a full theater with guys dressed as Elvis. Well, I got a pretty empty theater, probably 2 dozen people, but indeed, one of them was dressed as Elvis, and he sat right in front of me. The bummer of that was he was kind of annoying. He kept turning around to talk to me. I was like, hey, Chatty Elvis, I am trying to watch this movie here. It wasn’t that bad, I just don’t care for chit chat during a movie, even if it is Elvis.

The movie was pretty good, and that Austin Butler really became Elvis. Like his voice, his movements, all of it. He just was so good as Elvis. The story is really sad when you get to the heart of it. That man had so much talent, so much of the thing that makes a man a star. But the wrong people and so many drugs just crippled him. He was 42 when he died. That is so very young. There are lots of famous people who fall into the drugs and chaos of stardom and die young. Flames that burn so bright often flicker out fast. What a waste, you know?

I had a conversation recently about Elvis Presley and his relevance today. He’s been dead for 45 years. Longer than he lived. People still idolize him. His original fanbase is elderly if they are still around at all. But his influence is still very palpable. His music still gets played, and people will debate if young Elvis or older Elvis music is better. The answer is all of it is better. Just like any artist, he evolved, and had his life not ended as tragically and sad as it did, it would have been interesting to see how he would have navigated Disco, 80s pop, and beyond. We will never know, but he is still there, people still cover his music, and fans still flock to Memphis to see Graceland.

I have a few people in my life who shrug him off. I think they only think of the man that died of an overdose, alone and his career washed up. But I tell them all the time, look at his catalog of music. Start at the early stuff. Compare it to other music that was out at the time. He was a trailblazer, and his influence was huge. The Beatles loved him. His influence on artists that followed was huge. He also had a big love of Gospel music, which is a huge surprise to a lot of people, well, because of the whole raw sexuality thing he had going on early in his career. Another thing he did was cover other’s music. If he heard a song he liked by another artist, he would ask to sing it, and most artists loved it.

The new movie really showcases what a giant d-bag Colonel Tom Parker was. What a self-centered prick he was. He never had Elvis’ better interests at heart, only what Elvis could do for him. I was so angry, really, because although I knew a lot it, to have it put right out there like that just made me hurt for Elvis. People rode him, used him, and he lost his wife, child and life because of all of it. The Colonel was at the heart of it. He was dream crusher, a soul sucking scumbag. Tom Hanks played him in the movie, and I hated Tom Hanks for nearly 3 hours because of it. I got a little wrapped up in it, even with Chatty Elvis bugging me throughout the movie.

But at the end of it all, I got in my car, turned on the Elvis channel on my satellite radio, and sang along the whole way home. The movie was good. I hope it brings some new people to Elvis. His legacy should be one of a man with tremendous talent. He was more than jumpsuits and rhinestones, more than Las Vegas and the Jungle Room. His addictions killed him, but his music is forever. The idea that you can still find so many Elvis impersonators should show what a big deal he was and still is, because Chatty Elvis in front of me was about 30 years old. Elvis had been dead 15 years by the time this kid was born. The story is sad, but the music is glorious. If you like Elvis, go see that movie. Be amazed by the young man playing him, and be prepared to break up with Tom Hanks for a couple of hours.

Female.

I am not here to convince anyone of anything. The issue runs so deep, people have their minds made one way or another, nothing I say will change their path, make them see it through my eyes anyway. But maybe they can see how I got to where I am on it. If nothing else, this will serve as a little therapy for me. At the end of the day I only answer to myself.

I was never going to get an abortion. As it turns out, for me, most likely it wouldn’t have ever have to come up as an option. I found out a few years ago that my fallopian tubes are relatively jacked up, so getting pregnant likely wouldn’t have been possible. I never wanted to have children, I haven’t ever felt that maternal urge, or need. Growing up with mental illness in the family, and some other genetic pitfall possibilities, I was good with letting it end with me. I likely was never going to have to make the inquiry about how to go about the process of ending a pregnancy. But, like I said, I only found this out a few years ago, when I had some ovarian cyst issues. I was in my 40s, so considering I had hit puberty and got my first period just before I turned 12, that’s 40 years of possible situations. That’s a long time to think about stuff.

Kids get sexually active younger and younger it seems these days. Girls get their periods at pretty young ages, and I thought 11 was young for me. So they can get pregnant that early, should a male ejaculate in or near their genital area. She wouldn’t even be done growing that young, still a few growth spurts to come, hips and such are still coming in and maturing. So a young girl gets pregnant and is at risk. It is just the way things are. Emotionally, 11 year old girls are a mess. Hormones start to kick in, and they rage. From one moment of mirth to unexplainable tears the next, you couldn’t pay me to go back to that age when everything is an ordeal, because your hormones have taken over. I hate that young girls that age sometimes end up pregnant for so many reasons, but the thing is, they are not equipped to be a parent at that age. Our nation just guaranteed that they have no choice in it. They will carry that baby to term. Or will they? Desperate people do desperate things. Will she tell her parents, or hide it? What if she tries to do something on her own, or have one of her friends help her out? What if she kills herself? Because these things still did happen with legal, safe abortions, now we will see more of it.

I was sexually assaulted, back in the 90s. I think if you ask a lot of women, you will find an awful lot of them who have been. I wasn’t raped, but it was close to that, really. I was at a party at a friend’s apartment. I was drunk and tired, so I went in a bedroom to sleep for a bit. Those were my party days, for sure. We would work until midnight, go to the bars, then to after bar parties all the time. Some creeper friend of a friend found me in there passed out, and saw an opportunity. He climbed on top of me, held me down when I started to wake up and was making his move when one of the other guys at the party came by, the door was open enough to catch what was happening. He yanked the guy off me and called a couple more people in to kick the crap out of him. I was fine, he hadn’t made it too far into his assault. I am forever thankful to the guys who stepped in, and beat his ass. But, what if dumbass had actually shut the door all the way, and he had raped me? What if I had ended up pregnant from that assault? Today, I would have had to live with it, for at least 9 months of my life. No options. Maybe he would lie and say I wanted it, he didn’t rape me. See, with this new possibility that abortion in the event of a rape not being an option, women aren’t going to be believed anymore when they report a rape. So many women already don’t report rape, because they fear no one will believe them. This is going to make it so much worse.

I don’t doubt for a minute that there have been women that have used abortion as a birth control. But making it illegal doesn’t make it stop. It just increases the risk involved for the woman. Not the man. It is never a risk for a man. Women hold the bag when it comes to pregnancy. Not every guy is a bad guy, they aren’t all rapists or sexual predators. We all know that. The majority are good guys, and most pregnancies are wanted, or at least become wanted if it is a surprise. I said above, I likely would never have had an abortion anyway. It just isn’t me, really. But I don’t know, especially when I look at a rape scenario, or an incest possibility. Until you have walked a mile in those shoes, you don’t know what you would do.

What worries me to my core, is now that this is gone, what do they come after next? There was a time not long ago when women couldn’t vote. What if they come for that? They can take everything from us, if we aren’t paying attention and careful. I am a woman in my 50s, so illegal abortion does not overly affect me. But it affects my nieces, and their friends. If affects my friend’s daughters, and all of the girls and young women who are walking behind me. There are states where access to birth control will become illegal or incredibly limited. I do not understand how we could get to this point, in a country that promotes freedom and equality, we pick at the loose strings of those freedoms until it unravels.

I have always considered myself to be Pro-Choice. I came to that at an early age, in my late teens, after I read stories about what happened to desperate women before Roe v Wade. Back alley butchers, women ending up mutilated or dead because they bled out. Stories of women who looked for help in a sad situation and ended up maimed or dead. I thought to myself, who am I to judge a woman for making that decision? The stories of the wealthy men who knocked up their mistresses, took them for abortions they may not have wanted to have, but forcing it on them, and they ended up never able to have a child because their forced abortion went so badly. There are tons of these stories when you look for them, and now there will be tons more. Safety and medical knowledge will be withheld. Abortions will still happen, they always have and always will. We have taken the option of safety and thrown it away. Control, it is and has always been about control. I am not a judge, whatever reason a woman sought an abortion is not my business. That woman will have to reconcile what she decided with herself, not me. I don’t wish anything for peace for women that make that choice, because I never had to live one minute of her life, only my own.

I am not here to convince you of anything but this: This is not over. There are many voices that will be heard, and while there is going to be some very difficult times in the near future, this does not end here. We still have voices, and women still have a vote. Listen, and then be heard.

Push Hard, It’ll Go Easy

Words of advice, from my Pops. He was full of useful little nuggets like that, and as you go through life, you find that lots of dads have their go to phrases. They are cheesy in nature, but wholesome in functionality. He was right, push hard, things will be easier. Not everything has been easy, but having you as my dad helped, Ed. Thanks for that.

It’s Father’s Day. The Day of the Daddio. Lots of grills will be fired up, lots of fun little gifts handed out, and lots of gratitude for the guy that made it happen. I know lots of dads in my life. I would say the majority of men I know who are fathers just love the job. The Facebook feed has been full of best wishes for the dads who are here, some who have left the earth, and it just makes my heart warm. My dad was the most special man I ever knew, I miss him every single day. He wasn’t perfect, but he was my dad, and that made him a legend in my mind and my heart.

Father’s Day is a little different than Mother’s Day. It should be, but I have always been interested in how they are different. On mom’s day, the restaurants are packed, nobody would dare to make mom cook on her special day. But dads everywhere will be firing up a grill today to cook their family some hot dogs and kabobs. Flower sales soar for Mother’s Day, I think it’s still golf balls and neck ties for dad. Either way, it’s all celebrating those adults who gave you life, and should the celebration get you fed and give you some memories, all the better!

My own dad has been gone for 32 years, it’s been many years since I celebrated a Father’s Day in the traditional way. He usually would go golfing, and we would cook out or something later on. He didn’t make a big deal out of the day, but you could always tell he loved being a dad. He had all of his corny dad sayings and jokes, he loved giving us the business, and we loved giving it all right back to him. I think of him every single day, in one way or another. Always my hero, that guy.

If you are a dad, enjoy your day. Take it easy and enjoy the celebration. Those of you lucky enough to still have your dad with you, get a picture of you together if you are able, it will mean the world to you someday. I know a few people who lost their dad this year. I am aware of how much this type of day can stink, but make the best of it by celebrating your dad, he was a big presence in your life, enjoy his legacy in some way.

Whether you are a dad, step dad, or a male role model for a kid who doesn’t have a dad around, it is your special day. You don’t have to be a biological father to have a great role in a young person’s life. Continue to be a bright light, so many kids need someone to look up to, and if you are filling that spot in life, you are big hero too. Thanks.

Happy Father’s Day to my brothers, Mark, Pat and Paul, and my stepbrother Mark Arthur. You guys are great dads, your hearts are huge, and you are doing a great job. Truly.