Five Things Friday- July 2018

One- What I’m Writing

I’ve just started editing an old YA horror novel, Acheron Crossing, with my YA writer’s group, and I’m going to start a few short stories to work on with my other group.

Two- Random Fact About Me

I adore squirrels, probably because we had a pet one when I was a kid. We have feeders outside and consider them our “outdoor pets.”

Three- What I’m Grateful For This Month

I’m grateful for my recent vacation and my wonderful pet sitter. I really needed some time off, but I can’t relax unless I know my cats and dogs are safe and well cared-for.

Four- When I Wasn’t Reading

I was vacationing in Alaska. We saw bears, eagles, humpback whales, orcas, moose, otters, seals, and deer. It was a great and relaxing trip.

Five- Favorite Picture This Month

I really love this picture I got of an otter enjoying his dinner.

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The Power of Travel

Tracy Arm Glacier

Tracy Arm Glacier

Not too long ago, I read an article about how a woman took a trip that changed her life.  I wish I had bookmarked the article, but I didn’t, so I unfortunately can’t share it with you.  However, it got me to thinking… I’ve never taken a life changing trip, but I have taken one life-affirming trip, and I hope to take more.

As a teen, I had an opportunity to travel a little.  I went to Germany because of my awesome uncle, and I went to Mexico on a school trip.  But I didn’t really appreciate either trip back then, and I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because I wasn’t much of an adventurer growing up, and I didn’t explore as much as I would have if I had gone now.Maybe because I’ve grown up around antiques, and it was never really about the story for me as a kid.  I respected them and liked them, but I never really appreciated them and wasn’t as interested in the stories as I would be now.

I have had that feeling in my gut, that awed, hushed, and creative feeling, a few times.  Not life changing, but definitely inspiring.  We went to an old cemetery in Pennsylvania one day.  I wanted to go to a graveyard, so my husband took me.  I also felt that way in Arlington National Cemetery.

The most life-affirming trip I’ve ever taken was when we went to Alaska last year.  Seeing the glacier, that intense, unreal blue, was the most incredible thing I’ve ever done.  Seeing the glacier calve was both a little sad, and also thrilling.  Life goes on and renews.  Glaciers fall into the ocean, and more snow falls forming more glaciers.  What I saw fall could have been millions of years old, and it will still be there long after I’m gone.

There are a lot of places I want to go, but I’m not sure if any of them would be life changing.  Part of me envies people who take off in their 20s and go backpacking in Europe.  Part of me knows that’s just not me.  Maybe I don’t have enough adventure in me for “life changing” travel.  I guess I don’t really feel like I need something life changing.  I like my life the way it is.

Have you ever taken a life changing or life affirming trip?

Leaving A Mark

Before I left for my vacation, a friend and I were discussing picture taking.  He commented, “Oh, don’t worry about it.  I’m sure there are a million photos out there of whatever you want a picture of.”  Maybe that’s true.  But they wouldn’t be my photos.  One of the things I like about pictures, much like writing, is that they allow a glimpse inside another person’s perception.  Maybe there are a million glacier photos, but in that moment, I saw it differently than other people did.  No one can see it exactly the way I do.  Maybe others have better pictures, but it’s a view through someone else’s eyes, which is exactly what I don’t want for my vacation photos.

Humans always have the urge to mark things that they’ve touched.  Bathroom graffiti, hieroglyphics, art, tattoos, architecture.  These are all ways of saying, “hey, I was here!” Even Mother Nature leaves a mark.  Water wears away at rock until the marks can’t be erased.

Cruising to Tracy Arm Glacier.

Cruising to Tracy Arm Glacier.


Although perhaps my photos aren’t important to others, being able to snap that picture in that moment is important to me.  No one wants to look at all 3000 pictures I took on my vacation, but there will be times I’ll enjoy looking back at them as a way of remembering.

I’m awful about picture taking.  I see something interesting and snap.  Then snap again.  And snap some more.  The great thing about digital photos is that I don’t have to take just one or two pictures and hope they turned out okay.  I can see immediately if they did or didn’t, but I can also just keep snapping.

The fact that I just owned up to taking 3000 pictures on vacation may lead you to believe that I was glued to my camera, but I swear, I wasn’t.  I like to hold my camera up to snap, but look at what I’m looking at through my own eyes.  That’s why many of my pictures might not be centered correctly or might be crooked.  I don’t always look at what I’m snapping.   Yes, I want it “on film,” but I also want to see it firsthand.  After all, I want to live it.


My Alaska Trip

I recently got back from 10 days in Alaska and Vancouver.  My husband and I have always wanted to go to Alaska, and I finally decided to book it, tired of continually saying “maybe next year.”

It was so worth every minute and every penny!  We stopped in Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan.  My favorite port was probably Skagway, and the husband liked Ketchikan the best.  Juneau was both of our least favorite port, though still great.  I learned a lot of interesting things, did some great relaxing, saw new things, met new people, and came home rested and recharged.

I took notes on my vacation, mostly so I could remember the cool stuff I learned and what I did each day. I could give you a blow by blow account of that, but I’m sure no one actually wants to read that. Do you remember when, in school, you had to write an essay about “My Summer Vacation”? This won’t be that.  I’ll just hit the highlights.  🙂

Our cruise was 7 days to Alaska by way of Vancouver. Although Canada is very nice, going in and out of customs 4 times was a bit of a hassle. Both US and Canadian customs were efficient and pleasant, but I prefer to avoid lines when I can. Bottom line, if you’re traveling from the US, just leave from Seattle. It would be so much easier.

Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan were all fishing towns at one time, though Juneau gets most of its revenue from being the political center these days. We saw whales, bears, bald eagles, huge mutant mosquitoes, and glaciers. I went specifically to see the wildlife and glaciers, and I left satisfied.

In Juneau, we went whale watching, and got to see humpback whales and sea lions while we boated around a bay surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

Whale tail

Whale tail

I also hiked to the Mendenhall Glacier.  There’s nothing else quite like standing close to a glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

In Skagway, we took the train down and around the mountain.  It was exhilarating, as in some of the places, it was barely big enough for the tracks.  On one side, I could have reached out and touched rock, but on the other side, it was almost straight down.  That was a pretty packed day, as it’s also the day we went to Liarsville, saw Okie Bob’s show, and had the best salmon of our entire trip.

Abord the White Pass Railway

Abord the White Pass Railway

In between Skagway and Ketchikan, we cruised up to Tracy Arm.  We had fortuitous weather, as we were able to get right up to the glacier.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  We were lucky enough to see the glacier calve, and I’ve never heard anything like the sound the ice makes as it’s breaking up.  It’s like a thousand thunderstorms.

Tracy Arm Glacier... yes, it really is that blue

Tracy Arm Glacier… yes, it really is that blue

In Ketchikan, we went bear watching and had a great hike through the temperate rainforest.  Bears are pretty great!  I didn’t know that Alaska has a lot of rainforest, a lot of volcanoes, and a number of earthquakes.  Now that I’m a bit older, I enjoy learning things on vacation.

Hello, bears!

Hello, bears!

A cruise is a great mix of relaxing and activity (if you book excursions). The first time I took a cruise, I thought it was a bit too slow for my vacationing preference, but this time around, I really paid more attention to it, and I just loved it. I think that’s going to be my ideal way of vacationing now.

See how the water is splashing up in the pool?  Seas were a bit rough that day!

See how the water is splashing up in the pool? Seas were a bit rough that day!

I’ll be uploading a video of a glacier calving to my Facebook page, if you’re interested.

Breaking out of the Rut

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Last month, I wrote a post about being stuck and struggling with writing.  I forced myself to do blogs through it, but it got me to thinking about writing in general.  I started blogging in part as a way to make sure I write every day, but also to gain some exposure for my writing, as eventually, I’d like to have one of my novels published.

We recently got back from 10 days on vacation, 7 of which were on the Holland Amsterdam cruising to Alaska, then sightseeing in Vancouver.  I found a secret, which I’m going to share with you.

Going on vacation is great for breaking out of a writing rut.

I know.  Shocking, right?

I had so many ideas while I was on vacation, and was glad for the notes app on my iPhone and also the notebook I carried.  The day we cruised along Tracy Arm Glacier, I had so many ideas at one point that I could barely keep up with my own brain, and I kept switching between my camera and my notebook.  I also took lots of great pictures, which I find great for inspiration and for helping me describe stuff, as I’m not the most visual thinker.

Breaking out of routine really is great for breaking out of a rut.  Later this week, I’ll post all about my vacation and I’ll add pictures.  Probably more than you care to read/ see.

Maybe Next Year

DSCN3647I was supposed to go to Las Vegas to visit with friends in a few weeks.  I was really excited about it as I only get to see this particular friend once or twice a year, as she lives in Pennsylvania, and I’m now in Arizona.  But then… one of our cats got sick, and after a really expensive trip to the emergency vet’s office, I realized I had to make some hard choices.

I also had planned to go to Alaska this year.  My husband and I have been talking about that trip for a few years, and we never seem to get around to planning it.  “Maybe next year” is the refrain.

For some reason, last weekend, I had a bit of a breakdown, and I realized that I couldn’t tolerate the thought of going someplace urban.  I work in Phoenix, and I’m tired of buildings and blacktop.  I want to see open stretches of natural stuff, be it trees or icebergs.

That’s when I realized that I couldn’t give up going to Alaska this year.  I couldn’t spend one more year putting this off.  I live in a suburban, quasi-rural area, and I have a backyard that’s an oasis.  But I need to get away and go somewhere with fewer people.  I need to recharge, and I just can’t do that at home.

The last time we’d been on a vacation was… November 2005.  We went to the Bahamas, and I lost my voice the day I got there, had to cancel snorkeling and swimming with the dolphins because I had such bad bronchitis (and no medication) that I couldn’t breathe.  We’ve been away on mini-trips for a few days, but this will be the first week that we’ve gone away together in a long time.  I couldn’t cancel it.

So in two weeks, when we were supposed to be in Vegas, we’ll be home, doing projects here, going to see the B-52s in concert, and probably ordering in.

And in a few months, we’ll be going to Alaska.

I’m tired of “maybe next year.”

Friday Writing Prompt- Travel

I love to go new places and see new things.  I’m more of an adventure type vacationer than a relaxing type vacationer.  That’s not surprising, considering that I don’t relax well.  Trying to relax can actually be stressful for me.

I have so many places I want to see.  So, for today’s writing prompt… imagine you had an all expenses paid vacation for one week, and could go anywhere in the world.  Where would you (or your character) go?  What would you (or your character) do?

If I had to pick one thing, I think the first place I’d want to go is Hawaii.  I’d love to hike the forests and see the waterfalls.  I’d love to sit on the beaches and snorkel off the coast.  Of course, maybe I should pick Alaska.  Or Ireland…  I could go on and on.

If you’re interested in hearing more about places I’ve been and things I’ve seen, just click here!