Friday, August 24, 2018

PETA Set Them Free

Hub and I spent the past week grandsitting our 2½-year-old granddaughter. And our work is not yet over, not until late Tuesday night (almost Wednesday morn), assuming the tot’s parents and sister arrive home on time. We will be packed and ready to drive home. Should parents not show up, the kid may have to drive herself to the library for Storytime and clean her own butt (only after pooping. She has mastered the pee wipe).

But I wander from what I wanted to comment on.

I barely kept up this week with the news while engaged in kid stuff. Nothing changes…but one item did get my attention. And, as the title of this post indicates, it is all because of PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

I bet most of us recognize – and perhaps still indulge in – the varied-shaped animal crackers packed in a small, colorful rectangular box. The package featured animals – jungle animals – behind bars, caged. Not an issue over a century ago (116 years to be exact – 1902) when the Nabisco product premiered, but a problem in the 21st  century. Nabisco merged with Standard Brands years ago, that company merged with R.J. Reynolds, that company merged… etc. etc…and today Nabisco’s iconic brands are owned by Mondelez International. Want more information about the history of animal crackers, including the infamous Barnum’s? Click here

PETA wrote a protest letter to Mondelez in 2016, a rallying cry against caging animals. The campaign fighting cruelty to animals (including artistic images of real ones) resulted in a new box design – wild animals uncaged, roaming free. PETA set them free! 

I am too tired to consider the moral of this tale, but I think it has something to do with concerned folk making an impact. Or maybe the message is that the trials and triumphs of everyday life, small as they might be, endure while much of the media today is consumed by politics and political intrigue. 

I am nostalgic for the days when a tweet was nothing more than the sound of a bird. 

Remember this song?

Saturday, August 18, 2018


I purchased a T-shirt when visiting a winery a few weeks ago. Not an auspicious event, one that would be relegated to the back of my mind and eventually forgotten if it were not for the shirt. The shirt spoke to me and so it settled in my closet. 

My T-shirt wardrobe is one to be envied. I would not be amazed to discover that more than one pre-dates the 21stcentury. I toss out old ones occasionally, when stained or ripped or no longer fit (must have shrunk in the wash). Most, however, settle comfortably into a slowly increasing stack. I threw out a lot when I moved, but that was eight years ago and favorites relocated with me. And sometimes I buy a new one.

Organized folks would throw out an old shirt and replace with the new one, but that is not in my genes. My family members are collectors and keepers.

One day last week as I sifted through the pile trying to decide what to wear, the shirt fell into my lap. It spoke to me again and so I decided to wear it.

What happened next surprised and perplexed me.

Before continuing let me emphasize the shirt is not too tight-fitting or flimsy or transparent. It covers what should be covered.

Throughout the day random folks talked to me, or maybe at me, about the shirt.

Was it the words? The picture? A combination? 

“What does that say?”…”Like the picture.”…”Everything happens for a what?”…”Couldn’t agree more.”

In all my years of wearing clothes (and that is lots of years reaching far back into the last century), I cannot recall any article of clothing with words, a slogan or picture that created so much interest. Or curiosity. Or whatever…

I have no idea what this episode means. 

Should I wear more clothing with messages? Maybe it is the wine – perhaps I should begin a shirt collection with quirky sayings and images about wine and other alcoholic beverages. I bet if I do research I will find several…

On the other hand, I am not sure I want to wear that shirt – or any shirt attracting that kind of attention - in public again. Around the house, among friends, but doubtful I want to subject myself my body my torso to scrutiny again. Maybe if I was years younger…

Thursday, August 16, 2018

My Inevitable Incredible Maturing Body

In my pre-senior days I was not one to complain (much) about my body. Colds, flu, minor aches and pains, bad hair days (the norm for me), extra weight – another long-term issue, I occasionally ruminated about these things but went about my life. They did not consume my time, energy, money, mind. I rarely went to the doctor for more than regularly scheduled appointments, and besides my doctor, OB/GYN and dentist, no specialists probed my body.

How life changes.

Now that I am a card-carrying member of the Medicare crowd, not too many weeks pass before I visit some kind of medical professional. Sometimes I cross their threshold one time only; usually more frequently. My calendar is replete with appointments for my doctor, gynecologist, dentist, dermatologist, dermatology specialist, gastroenterologist, podiatrist, neurologist, optometrist, endodontist, chiropractor. Then there are trips to the lab for blood work, the medical imaging center for a test, the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions, and the urgent care center when my doctor can’t see me and my body screams, “MEDICAL ATTENTION! NOW!”

I am exhausted reviewing my new medical reality.

Yet according to my doctor I am fine.

Healthy, relatively speaking. For my age.

My cholesterol is on a slow, steady uphill climb and it is a challenge maintaining my blood pressure within recommended limits. I am ¾ of an inch shorter than I used to be. 

I have officially become the incredible shrinking woman. I am compacting - less height, no less weight.

I could (should) lose a few pounds, exercise more, eat less cholesterol-clogging foods. But most Americans over the age of 50 should heed this advice. We can blame our parents or greedy corporations that produce unhealthy foods or restaurants that serve huge portions or all these plus other culprits, but can only blame ourselves for indulging in the great American lifestyle. 

And now we are paying the price. Of course simply accumulating years takes its toll, too.

Now whenever an ache or pain occurs in a body part long ignored, I start imagining what the problem might be. Major, minor, temporarily disabling, perhaps costly…the scenarios get worse as the condition intensifies. I can’t sleep, my body aches, my mind makes me crazy and I turn into an emotional and physical wreck.

I remember vaguely as a little girl listening to the old folks – my grandparents and other relatives of that generation - complaining discussing their aches and pains. I rolled my eyes and occupied myself with more important matters, such as what’s for dessert, what’s on TV, homework…

Now I fear I am too much like them. I try not to chatter on about physical ailments, but too often am drawn in by my peers. 

Is it inevitable? Another benchmark of aging we cannot defy?

Do we have too much free time now to dwell on our troubles? 

Or are we becoming – I hate to say it – BORING (I fear my grandkids might use this term to describe me, in addition to words like: old lady, old-fashioned, slow (physically? mentally? afraid to ask).

Meanwhile right now I have to shuffle off to go take my pills. And record my blood pressure. As I stand on my toes to brush my less-than-pristine-white teeth and lean forward over the bathroom counter to examine my gray hair and squint at the mirror with my less-than-20/20 vision I ask myself – who the hell is that old lady staring at me?

Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Picture Perfect Trip

Booking a trip online with a company not previously experienced is a scary enterprise. We embarked on our Alaska and Canada adventure hoping for the best but with the realization the possibilities for far less than perfect were high.

We were wondrously surprised. The things we could control went well, if not better than expected - reservations, excursions, food quality, accommodations. And things we could not control also turned out superb - the weather could not have been better. Not one day of rain. Or cold. No flight delays and seamless passage through airport security and customs.

Wifi service along the way proved precarious, none existent to minimal to troublesome. As a result I could not post pictures. Here is the journey in brief through my sub-par photographic skills via my iPhone lens.

What would a trip to the Last Frontier be without observing animals?
We saw moose - the proof above - and bears, wolves, eagles and hawks,
dogs (huskies trained for the Iditarod and similar races), caribou.
Alaska and the Yukon were surprisingly green and alive with flowers and flourishing vegetable gardens.
These are poppies.
We saw a play  - a seriocomedy best describes it - on the history of Dawson City, Yukon.
Travel offers opportunities to experience a variety of rest room facilities,
some rather rustic.  
The comforts of modern civilization can be found in the most remote parts of the world,
or at least in the Yukon territory of Canada, today.
We can't go long without our ice cream or gelato or frozen yogurt fix!
And while on the subject of food, I was impressed with the fare on our Holland America cruise ship.
And in-room dining service was available AT NO EXTRA CHARGE!
We enjoyed breakfast on our deck - that's salmon benedict, with sides of potatoes and fruit.
We ate a lot of salmon as well as other fish. 
Glaciers melt during the summer. In this picture chunks of ice recently
broken from a glacier float down the fjord.
 Most glaciers appear far away on the mountains.
This glacier is literally in the water in Glacier Bay, Alaska.
We spent a couple of days in Vancouver at the end of our trip
and took a bike tour around the city. Here we are almost at the end of the tour
in gardens in Vancouver's Chinatown.
Do we look tired!?

The expansive Alaskan landscape seems to go on forever.
Deep blue lakes and rivers, forests of spruce trees, high jagged mountains,
and not a lot of people - except in a few tourist towns.
Whatever changes occur in the future - and changes are happening everyday,
some by nature and much man-driven,
I want to remember the land as it is today and as most of it was for thousands of years before
we - humans - decided to exploit its resources.
My grandson witnessed the land as it is today.
I hope it is not drastically changed when decades in the future his grandson visits the Last Frontier.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Notes from the Last Frontier

Travel usually comes with an occasional headache or two or three, glitches large and small. Have you ever travelled for any length of time without issues?

Me neither.

Until our Alaska trip.

A few highlights of our almost-glitchless trip…

One of the stops on our trek through the Yukon.

An envelope with room keys and the next day’s agenda appeared magically. No phone calls to make, planning to do, luggage to lug. 

We are being spoiled.

Our 28-member tour group enjoyed a one-hour chartered plane ride from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Dawson City, located in the middle of nowhere. Also known as Canada’s Yukon Territory. Check-in was seamless and quick, the plane departed on time and had comfortable seats, plenty of leg room, and cordial hostesses serving non-alcoholic beverages (no charge!). 

The Dawson City airport comprises one landing strip. We walked off the plane and down a stairway onto the tarmac, then strode a few additional paces to stairs leading to a door which, upon opening, brought us face to face with Canadian customs agents. Passports drawn, the agent carefully perused Hayden’s.

“Do you have letters from his mother and father permitting him to travel with you?” The agent directed the inquiry to hub and me.

Well, no.

“We are not supposed to let minors into the country without proper authorization,” she paused and we held our breath, “next time bring letters with you,” and she handed me Hayden’s passport.

Potential problem averted.

Dawson City - population 800 year-round swelling to 2,000 during the summer tourist season - looks like it’s right out of a B-rated American Western, the town’s sidewalks raised boardwalks, businesses and homes replicas of Bonanza’s Virginia City, wide streets unpaved. 

There is a good reason for the hard-packed but un-asphalted road surface. Under a thin layer of soil lies permafrost. The asphalt would absorb summer’s heat and eventually melt the permafrost, unsettle the ground and the foundations of buildings. Not a desirable scenario.

The weather throughout the trip was picture perfect - cloudless deep blue skies with temperatures hovering in the 70s, creeping into the 80s by late afternoon. Hours of daylight. We did not see a dark evening until the ship cruised south towards Vancouver.

We visited the site of the gold discovery that launched the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. We panned for gold (twice). We visited the Moosehide gathering, a biennial event of First Nations featuring (free) food, arts and crafts (not free) and music (listening is free). The only way to access the place was via motorboat on the Yukon River. 

What we did during long travel times...
How we passed the time on long bus and train trips.

The other thing we did during long travel days - stop at scenic spots for picture taking
And country stores for a snack - like this giant-sized cinnamon bun.

We travelled via train, comfortable coach bus, plane, more comfy buses, the land portion of our trip ending with a spectacular narrow-gauge single track train ride from Fraser, Canada over and through mountains to Skagway, Alaska, where we boarded our ship, the MS Volendam.

The cruise is the relaxing part of the trip.

I don’t know how budget-minded, budget-oriented travelers that we are managed it, but we were upgraded to a suite, a word and type of room and travel alien up to this point in our Iives. 

Opening the door to our stateroom…

The space was huge, especially compared to standard cruise ship cubicles. King-size bed and a couch that opened into a bed. A bathroom with jacuzzi tub. Dressing room with three closets (small but usable), sink, long counter, a wall of mirrors. Dressers with plenty of storage space. An espresso machine (fully loaded), fresh fruit bowl, plate of chocolates, a balcony (wrong word) - verandah - equipped with table, four chairs, two lounge chairs and an end table. And plenty of walking around space.

In-room dining service. No extra charge.

Hayden and I decided to play bingo one afternoon. Fill an entire card (called blackout) and the prize - a free 7-day cruise to the Caribbean or Mexico.

Hayden won. I signed the papers for my minor family member.

We look forward to our next (free!) cruise…