July 2012


ALASKA:  MUCH TOO PERSONAL

Our cruise ship, the Celebrity Millenium, was wonderful, with large and clean rooms, great food, excellent service, and lots of things to do.

 

But because I am a read-it-ahead-of-time person, one event I intended to avoid was The Newlywed Game.  Especially since my husband and I were celebrating our 30th anniversary and had a large cheering section who knew us, I did not want to be one of the couples who got picked to go onto the stage and answer personal questions. 

So we didn’t go.

But my cousins Randy & Adele got picked.  AND THEY WON THE CONTEST!

It’s one of those “games” where the wives are taken to the back room to answer questions and the husbands must guess their answers (and then vice-versa).  One of the questions was “If you were stuck on a desert island, which one of your wife’s relatives would you NOT want to be stuck with?”

Randy got that one right:  his wife’s sister.

Then of course the most interesting question was “Where is the most unusual place you ever had sex?”

They got that one right also.  And they will hear about it for the rest of their lives, THAT’S for sure!

My husband and I got to see the show after all, because it was played over and over and over again on the ship television, just in case there was one last person who had missed their answer!

 

Advertisements

ALASKA:  THERE ARE ALWAYS PEOPLE

I’m sure you-all have been on vacation and seen people you know, or people that are from your own town, own county, own state….

While in Alaska, I met a man who was delighted that we live close together–he’s from Virginia (I’m from western PA).  shocked

But we also were walking the streets of Ketchican, Alaska, and met someone who is not only from our own town–but also from my husband’s place of work!

 

 

I met homeschooling folks who live not too far from here.  We met a man whose son is coming to GCC in the fall.  And of course, someone we know saw us at the airport as we were leaving.  No secrets around here!

 

ALASKA:  A STORY OF A WHALE

I have always wanted to see a whale, but I figured…yeah, right.  Even if I DID get somewhere in the correct vicinity, AND could afford to go a on “whale watch”, what are the real chances of seeing a whale?  Probably not very high.  So I had mixed feelings about going to Icy Strait Point, Alaska, and signing up for a whale watch tour where we were GUARANTEED to see whales.

Icy Strait Point is a geographical area that is one of the premier places in the world for whales.  Celebrity Cruises built a dock nearby, with a few shops and touristy things, so that cruising folk can take tours out to the Point.

This was the day I cried.

Our ship docked and my alarm clock told me it was time to wake from sleep.  I walked to our room’s verandah, opened the curtains, and SAW A WHALE!  Just like that, just a glimpse, the beginning of another amazing day.

Before our excursion, my husband and I decided to walk to the island’s Tlingit village of Hoonah, a beach stroll that promised bald eagle sightings. 

Walking along, we suddenly heard a very loud noise behind us.  We turned and saw the most unexpected thing I ever thought to see:  right along the shore, not too far from us, a humpback whale roared up with his mouth wide open to the sky.  I almost fell to the ground.  I think I exclaimed, “Jeez Louise!” or “Holy Moley, Batman!”.  I was a little scared, it was that close.   A memory-maker for sure.

Here is a harbor view of the same whale coming up with his mouth open, when we were in the boat for the official excursion.

 

We learned that he was fishing for herring, using a technique called “bubble-net feeding.”  When he finds herring, he will circle around them and blow bubbles.  The bubbles confuse the fish and they tightly bunch up together.  Then with a roar, the whale will come right up from underneath them with his mouth wide open to get a nice big mouthful.

At times, we were able to actually see the bubbles.  “Get ready, get ready….” we would say as the circle formed right before our eyes.  And then up he would come.  The thrill of it was stupendous.

If you look closely, you can see the circle of bubbles here:

 

Because I’m a planner and a reader-of-things-ahead-of-time, I was able to book a whale tour excursion with a retired man who has a small boat and lots of experience.  His name is Floyd.  He took 5 of us out for a trip.

 

My cousins signed up with the cruise ship and went in a big boat.

 

 

My brother said our boat reminded him of Gilligan’s Island, but actually ours was smaller than that.

 

 

We tooled around watching the humpback in the harbor, went along the shores and saw a brown bear, a sea otter, and sea lions, who looked so silly popping up in a row like comedians, trying to see what we were.

 

We also had rare and close sightings of 2 male orca (killer) whales.  They are actually of the dolphin family and have large fins.

 

 

When we arrived at the Point where whales are “guaranteed”, there were so many humpbacks we couldn’t possibly count them.  The horizon was filled with whale plumes as they came up for air.

This one isn’t my photo, but you can get the idea.

 

 

I think this was the point at which I began to cry.  Each day of the trip was better than the one before, and I was so grateful to be there.

 

ALASKA:  TTOAL (THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME)

We just got home from an Alaskan cruise and landtour, which was my cousin Tom’s idea.  Our group included 4 cousins and their spouses, an aunt, someone’s sister, and 2 other couples who were Tom’s friends.  It was an incredible experience.

As John Muir said on his visit there, “Never before this had I been embosomed in scenery so hopelessly beyond description.”

The first week was a “cruisetour” that took us up to Denali and back.  Here’s one of our memorable stories:

At Talkeetna, we stayed in a luxurious hotel on top of a hill.  It had a spacious viewing area behind it, so we could look at the mountains and perhaps even see Mount McKinley (in Alaska it is called Denali, the Great One).  Being the highest mountain peak in North America, it makes its own weather, so people rarely get to see it because of the fog and clouds.

The hotel will give you a wake-up call in the middle of the night if it becomes visible.

The first thing we all did was to go to the viewing area with our binoculars to see.  There was the mountain range all spread out before us, and we spent some time looking and looking, trying to figure out which one it might be–until someone told us that no, Denali wasn’t visible right now.  Oh well.

Eventually my husband and I ended up in our room, which also had a view.  And my husband told me he thought he was seeing the mountain.  But it wasn’t where we had been looking, in the mountain range; it was ABOVE THE CLOUDS, sticking up in the sky like some fantastical island!  All covered in snow, you could hardly tell, but the binoculars made it quite clear that it was a mountain.  Amazing.

I quickly called Tom to tell him.  

“I can’t see the mountains right now; we’re hiking the trail down below the lodge and the trees are in the way.”

“No, no!”  I said.  “Look UP–up in the sky!!”

He appeared later at the viewing area with some other cousins and we were all looking and exclaiming.  Eventually I suspected that Tom didn’t get it.  “Don’t look at the mountains; look up in the sky!” I told him again.

And when he realized what I meant, and he really saw it for himself….he was stricken with awe.  It was like a religious conversion, seeing that mountain was such an amazing thing.  He couldn’t believe it!

Along would come another cousin.  Tom would explain it to them and it would start all over again.  Religious conversion, falling right down on the sidewalk with amazement.  It was so fun.

Meanwhile, cousin Adele had been taking a lot of photos.  We all sat on benches for a long while, watching the mountain come out more and more, enjoying the evening.  I told her I didn’t think I could get so excited over a mountain, but with the top part of it just sticking out of the clouds like that, well….

She pretty much agreed.

Eventually I got tired and decided to see what the hotel had in the gift shop.  I wasn’t gone long, but when I returned:  oh, everyone was in an uproar!  

“Gaye, you missed it, you missed it!”

“What did I miss??”

“Adele DIDN’T KNOW!!!”

All this time, she hadn’t been looking at the right place.  And when she finally figured it out, her reaction was really something to see.  Thunderstruck, I imagine.  It was very very funny.

She had to take photos all over again.

Can you find it here?  Don’t scroll down till you’re ready to see the answer.

 

 Here it is.  See the mountain range below it?

 

And we saw it even better the next day, with Mt Foraker on the left (mother) and Mt Hunter in the center (child). Denali is on the right.

 

 

UPDATE ON MY CANCER

I am doing well and thank y’all for your constant encouragement—tons and tons of it, it’s fantastic! 

I am entering the 3rd chemo time now, so I pretty much know what to expect.  I was bee-bouncing around the house the morning before I left for the chemo, with quite a bit of energy, and returned home sleepy and slow.  Now the 2 weeks of what the nurse called “feeling punk” will begin—and then I can’t wait for that 3rd week when energy starts to pick up!

This go-round, the promise of energy means a lot, as my husband & I are going on a vacation we’ve been planning for year.  I’d appreciate your prayers for me, that I can still enjoy it even if I’m slow in getting around.

Another prayer request would have to do with all the needles.  If anything can go wrong with needles and me, it will.  They have surgically implanted a “port” under the skin in my chest “to make everything easier”, but there were snags getting it in, and unpleasantness on Friday, trying to use it for the first time. 

Yuk! 

I was angry, citing Murphy’s law to myself, my mind stomping around saying, “Oh yes, of course it has to go wrong with ME!” Later I felt contrite, because I had so quickly forgotten my mantra from the book Jesus Calling:

You are on the path of my choosing; there is no randomness in your life.

I think this will be the main thing for me to learn and grow with during this process. I’m the kind of person who gets mad when I carefully hang up the dish towel and it promptly falls to the floor—GRRR!

But wait:  even then, it’s

There is no randomness in your life.

It’s something I need to practice with every day in order to be prepared for the big stuff. 

Recently I was stricken when someone told me she wouldn’t be a good example if she were diagnosed with cancer.  She would be really angry with God.  She was worried about it, this fear that she would misbehave and be ungrateful.

I do not think so, so very much.  I know that so many of you, my friends, DO have a strong understanding of God’s providence, surety, and care for us, deep down as a good solid base right under your feet.  Take comfort in that, and continue to practice the daily humble submitting to the non-randomness in your life right now.

1 Peter 5:6-7:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.