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2018 – Another year of “Life Lessons”

Hello (almost) 2019!  I must admit that 2018 was a roller-coaster year.  I can only sum it up with these handful of “life lessons”… 

Kindness Matters.  These aren’t just words. This is a call to action to demonstrate without fanfare how kindness matters every single day and to pass on this quest to the younger generation. Thanks to the Born this Way Foundation, I was able to hear many accounts about random (and not so random) acts of kindness that made monumental changes in the lives of others.

Have fun. Have lots of fun.  Travel and then re-pack the suitcase and travel again as the world of travel gives you the best education ever!  See new surroundings through the lens of the local folks instead of the tour guide book.  Take lots of photos and print them.  Chronicle your adventures with these photos and your recollections in print. Hubby and I went on several trips this year and each one taught me something different.

 

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Dogs are the best.  After children, a dog in the house is the best.  Our Bayla brings light and humor to us daily.  She reminds us to live in the moment.  She also reminds me that resiliency is a great trait to possess.  Bayla was also the subject of one of my more controversial blogs where I spoke my mind and heard about it from others.  You can find it here.

Now this was a hard one.  There are no do-overs in serious relationships.  You can never set back the clock and pretend “that your actions that spoke louder than words” could ever be erased.  I have seen lives torn apart this year over unkind acts and tweets.  Just reading the online news alone is proof that relationships shift due to shifty behavior.  Now more than ever, I am reminded of these lessons:  You are accountable for your actions, posts and behavior.  And …”You are the company that you keep.”  

My opinion is simply mine. Not yours.  Don’t twist my words or deeds.  When I write, speak or teach, I am sharing my opinion. I own it.  I do not expect others to agree or even to adopt my opinions.  Don’t like what you are reading – click the arrow to change the page or keep scrolling!  Enough said.

Silence can be the golden path to peace.   I have learned to say nothing when at times I really wanted to scream. I learned this year, more than ever, that silence may be needed  when the world seems clearly out of control.  I remain silent because I want to not be misunderstood about my intent or actions. I remain silent perhaps because  I am trying to listen and learn.  I made 2018 the year of striving for quiet, peace and calm.  Because I KNEW if I started to speak my mind  (beyond a short venting session via a  blog or two),  then I could be at risk for rambling hours or days.  Note: Ranting aloud for days can result in  a bad case of laryngitis.  I have to have faith that eventually, the world will be right again – like in two years.

 Big opportunities and new friendships are found when you look ahead vs. in the “rear view mirror”.  I have had doors open this year that I just didn’t expect and made new friendships that are refreshing and chocked full of ways to expand my learning!  One HUGE lesson I embraced –  I needed to stop what wasn’t working and begin to follow my passion. That is why I have learned to go back to what really mattered to me – investing in the education of  kids by working in schools.  Opportunity knocked and I opened the door.  The kids were smiling. I am happy.

Seek calm and status quo as they can be far better than their counterparts – chaos and drama. I have learned to turn off the noise from those who are negative or have created their own myopic world.  I respect their right to conduct their lives as they wish. But for me… well….  sorry I need to mute these folks, walk away, and remain off their radar.

 You Matter. We All Matter.   On February 14th, hubby and I were in Japan.  I woke up to the news about the Parkland HS shootings. Not from Facebook headline, but from a dear friend’s text telling me that she was beyond upset. The unthinkable was happening  before her eyes as  her daughter’s school was the scene of an active mass shooting.  This young teen witnessed the most horrific scenes that anyone could imagine and lost some of her closest friends and classmates. She went from an innocent young lady to one that now marks time before and after February 14th.   I learned that day,  that sadly, no one is safe from random violence. But, everyone can demonstrate compassion and come together to help the grieving and create change.

I was honored and in awe of those who donated money and services to help people most in need.  Including my women’s networking group, BCBC, who donated monies to help bring a bit of joy to the Parkland students.

Yes … People cared. And …People showed that we ALL matter in this world.

Social media should not be used as your diary or date book.  Of course, I am a big fan of social media but I don’t share my day to day schedule nor do I find it necessary to write my most personal thoughts or a rash of scathing comments. I want to use social media for social good because kindness really does matter.  And when I see a timeline that is more self-serving than serving others, I simply mute it or unfollow.

See a movie. This last one may seem really trivial…but (please) treat yourself to seeing  new release movies in the theater. And, splurge! Get both the popcorn and the candy!

In closing, feel free to share your life lessons in the comment section.  Be good to yourselves.  Be good to others.  Be well.  Happy Holidays! ❤️

xo,

Louise

Traveling the Pacific Northwest: Alaska!

This is part two of a series on traveling the Pacific Northwest.  Part one may be found here.

 

“Wherever there were glaciers, the world was in a constant state of                        creation.”
John Muir, Wilderness Essays

 

First Stop: Icy Strait Point/ Hoonah

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Hoonah is located on Chichagof Island, less than 40 miles from Juneau. While once known for the canning of salmon,  only since 2004 has the town of Hoonah been known as a cruise destination.  The construction of an elaborate and “official” pier and tourist center known as Icy Strait Point has turned this fishing / canning port in to a great location for travelers to explore.

We were welcomed at the entry to “Icy Strait” by a group of teens singing and playing their ancestral instruments. (Little did I know that these teens comprised the majority of the high school students who remained in Hoonah for their education.)

HICCUP #1: WE NEEDED A PLAN B

One thing a person learns when visiting remote areas, even in the United States, is to be flexible with your plans.  Case in point – the  tour jeep company oversold their excursions so instead of a guided tour throughout the Hoonah area, we took our backpacks and hiked sans tour guide.   Getting to the town “center” was easy as the hike was only 1.5 miles over flat paved terrain. (Note: Bikes, strollers and wheelchairs could make this trek without problems as there are sidewalks and paths.)

Our initial stop on this impromptu hike resulted in us stumbling upon a small restaurant/ bar. The  Office Bar   is a lot like the infamous (albeit fictitious) pub, CHEERS – as you enter a stranger and leave with everyone “knowing your name”.    Jess, one of the bartenders,  was a fountain of information and on the “ready” to pour your beer and tell stories about the history and people of Hoonah.  Ask about snow accumulation and she will show you the “family album” of local residents helping each other during snowstorms and more. When you have had your fill of beer and peanuts, head on down a few more blocks to try local fare. Fish is the menu favorite and the Fisherman’s Daughter  is a fun little place with outside seating that attracts both local families and tourists.  When you leave this restaurant turn left and walk about two more blocks. There you will find the bald eagle’s nest across from the school.  There also is a totem pole demonstration.

Best of all…  whales grace the Icy Strait region in late May and June.  While we were at Hoonah we watched more than eight whales swim and feed right in front of us.  There is no mistaking that whales are a force to ‘reckon with.”  I held my breath, as a whale watching boat seemed drifted within a 50 meters of a pod of whales. But, all were safe! Below is a video of the whales eating from the strait gobs of fish! Apparently, one “lead” whale will catch in his/her mouth enough food to supply to the others in the pod.  The tell tale sign that they are involved in this activity is the “bubbling” that happens on the surface.   When you watch the video below look carefully for the bubbling formation in the water followed by four whales coming to the surface in almost perfect unison.

 

More about Hoonah and culture… 

The culture of Hoonah fascinated me.  The town is around 700 people and the depths of their pride is immeasurable.   Children are educated about their heritage by locals and their formal education occurs in the local public school until the 9th grade. Then they can opt to remain in Hoonah or go to high school school in Juneau. (Interesting fact: The graduating class of 2018 from Hoonah was nine students.)

Hoonah is a remote area and to access it means you either arrive by plane, helicopter or boat.  There are no roads that connect this village to another town across Alaska, including Juneau.  To view a map of the area click here. 

Hoonah residents are proud of their heritage and what the legacy they have built.  I thoroughly enjoyed our time and the gracious hospitality of all we met.  If you have an opportunity to visit – do it!

Related information: Princess Cruises

Juneau – The Land of Glaciers

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TAKU GLACIER

Do you remember the show “Northern Exposure”?  I swear it is about Juneau, Alaska.   Juneau is a small town with lots to offer and if you are like me, you will fall in love with it!  Cut off from other parts of Alaska, you can only access Alaska’s capitol by sea or air but there are a lot more amenities in Juneau than “nearby” Hoonah.

Juneau, perhaps, could best be described as quaint and mighty at the same time.  There are quaint small shops and restaurants, but then you have the mighty glaciers nearby.  Mendenhall Glacier is the closest and most famous of those available for viewing by tourists.  Our family ventured on a helicopter and went to Taku, a glacier that took about a  15 minute helicopter ride from downtown Juneau.  Kudos to Coastal Helicopters  for this educational experience, but first and foremost keeping us safe!    Our helicopter tour found us soaring high above the glacier field and parkland.  Nothing can quite describe what it feels like to view glaciers from above and then walk on one. We drank clear and clean “glacier water” and took a ton of photos. Our helicopter operator was knowledgeable, humorous and most of all – experienced!

 

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Want to really experience a glacier? Visit by helicopter!

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The thickness of the trees makes for a striking view from the air. 

 

Special Note:  I wish I had studied more about glaciers and icebergs before I traveled to one. I think it would have made the experience much more enriching.   Also, for those less adventurous, consider the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

 

Stepping back in time with a trip to Skagway!

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Skagway reminds me of a movie set.  Nothing seems real because it all looks so perfect and as if time stopped 60 years ago.  I kept thinking that I was in the backlot of a movie studio – that is how clean and perfect it is! Our intent was to walk the town and then hop on the Skagway White Pass and Yukon Railroad.  Mother Nature had a different idea as a rockslide prevented us from being able to make that excursion, so our family resorted to “Plan B”.    The guys went on tour of the area via bus, while the “gals” hiked the village by foot.

A few notable highlights… 1) Go to the SKAGUAY NEWS DEPOT! It is charming and IMG_1495also reminds me how much I miss establishments that sell printed material! I had a lovely conversation with one of the salesclerks and she told me that Skagway has over two-thousand residents during the Summer.  However, when the snow flies, so do the cruise ships, and the town shrinks to a mere 900 or so.  When the winter becomes a deluge of snowstorms all comes to a halt. Like Juneau, Skagway is dependent on ships to bring goods or planes.  Newspapers are flown in daily except during the winter months.

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2) Sweet Treats  is one of those stores that you walk in because it just smells so yummy!  But, once you clear the doorway you realize that you are on sensory overload!  Decorations from Mexico cascade down from the ceiling alongside Japanese lanterns and other “party decorations”.  I was curious if there was a “theme” to this place and was told, “It is meant to be colorful.”  My friends at Sweat Treats – you succeeded!

3) Be sure to visit the White Pass train depot.  Even though we couldn’t travel by train to visit the Yukon due to the rock slide, the depot itself was worth a visit! (Note: Railroad crews were working very hard to remove the rock and check the train track for any issues. They were hoping to open the White Pass railroad for business very soon.  Get updates here via their email.

 

GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK

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There are not enough words in the universe to describe the majestic beauty of the Glacier Bay National Park.  I awoke early to grab a “front row” seat on the cruise ship and photograph every glacier, iceberg, mountain goat, etc. that I could see!  What I learned from the park ranger who gave the passengers a very nice description and running commentary about Glacier Bay, was that we need to do MUCH BETTER in taking care of our environment.  The glaciers are receding at alarming rates and perhaps global warming is to blame.  If you do only ONE THING on a trip to Alaska – please see up close glaciers and icebergs.  And, if you are on a cruise, please don’t make references to the Titanic or sing the theme song from the movie.

Related; Here is a link to help learn more about the wonders of Glacier Bay.

And, this link will bring you to some terrific footage taken by photographers and videographers.

Below find my video of the ice pulling away from the glacier. There is a sound, similar to the rumble of thunder, right before the tumbling of ice and rock occurs.  I am certain that I didn’t try

 

BLUE ICE?

There is a phenomenon with glaciers that is called “caving”. That is when the ice starts to separate and fall in to the water below.  It is fascinating to watch.  The glaciers, by the way, often have a blue hue. Read here for an explanation about why this happens.

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FINAL CRUISE DESTINATION- WHITTIER

Our last stop was the small coastal village of Whittier, Alaska.  We arrive at midnight and there was still enough light to see across the region.  I was amazed that this part of Alaska truly gets nearly 20 hours (or more) of light during late Spring/ Summer.

Here is a photo I snapped about 12:15 a.m. from our cruise ship of the small village of Whittier. This photo is unfiltered / unretouched. Shot with an iPhone 8 Plus.

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LAST THOUGHTS and SOME RECOMMENDATIONS….

On a scale of 1-10, I would rate seeing Alaska by cruise a solid 8.  There were a few hiccups that impacted our cruise, but, overall the experience was very, very good!

Here are a few quick recommendations:

  1. Do read up about glaciers, fjords and the history of the region you are visiting in Alaska.  I wish I had and I couldn’t really “google” from the ship as we didn’t have an internet package.
  2. Prepare for rain and mud.  We were REALLY LUCKY to have had great weather for the majority of the cruise, but it could easily have been foul weather.  BOOTS are a necessity 12 months a year!
  3. Bring sunblock, bug spray/ ointment and moisturizer as you can get a lot of sun, bugs or dry air in this regions.
  4. Have a very reliable camera/ cell-phone and protect it from wet weather and breakage with sturdy cases.
  5. Be sure to take photos of important documents and your cruiseline card, in case of theft or loss.
  6. Consider tacking on a land adventure – such as visiting Denali National Park, Seward or Anchorage.
  7. Don’t sit in your cabin or stay on the ship. Go and explore, take excursions and make memories!
  8. I used a travel agent and highly recommend doing so.  Linda Kahn – Ferrell of the Travel Store in Malaga Cove was excellent! 

 

Coming soon from this blog:

  • We found the last of the Blockbuster Stores – In Anchorage, Alaska!
  • It Takes a Village to Make a Cruise Successful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Outside of the Classroom Education

Airports. Supermarkets. Hospitals and Animal Shelters.  What do all of these places have in common? They all offer an opportunity for “out of classroom” educational experiences. As an educator and one who works in social media, I believe that education is not restricted to the classroom.  Here are some places that you may not realize can be chocked full of learning moments.

airport-1895173_1280Imagine how much one learns about culture, patience and adventure by walking through an airport as people are rushing about to get to a plane? I remember the days, before TSA, when you could meet your loved ones’ at the gate. The joy of reuniting with relatives and friends filled airport gates around the world with happiness! These days you have to patiently await your family somewhere near baggage claim.  Yet, you are exposed to the various people from far away lands or those who simply flew across the state. If you are lucky you will hear languages, other than your own. (Or see them in the case of sign language.) Regardless, if you love watching human behavior, nothing beats an airport!

And, for the record some of the best teachable moments also
happen when you travel.  Family travel enriches a child’s mind beyond measure.  Learning about the Declaration of Independence? Go see it! Experience it as forefather’s had done over two centuries ago. What are the natural wonders of the world – Go visit!

Related: Learn about Global Entry for air travel

Related: Family Travel Info via Colleen Kelly

Supermarkets can teach a child about math and health.  Have a child who thinks that money grows on trees? Try giving them a list of food and “just the right ” amount of money and see if they can get to the register “on budget”.   This is an especially valuable lesson for tweens who are going through the “I gotta have it” stage of life.  Simply give them a reality check by  having them try to buy all the ingredients to make a cake “from scratch”. Then watch their eyes pop at the register when they realize (more than likely) that they fall short of cash.  While flour and sugar may be the cheapest ingredients on the list, chocolate and real vanilla flavoring are not! Oh and if they are adding sprinkles or fruit – well, that could break the proverbial bank!

kitchen-scale-532651_1280.jpgThen flip the situation around and have them gather all the ingredients to make a healthy salad.  Let them compare which is cheaper – cake vs. salad.  I bet a really interesting discussion about shopping the outside aisles of a grocery store vs. the inside aisles will ensue.

Related: Budding chefs and “foodies” will love Kitchen Chat

Hospitals teach a multitude of lessons.  Of course there is the abundant medical terminology. Yet, one can go even deeper and learn about patience (again), family dynamics and sadly – grief. Plus there is the discussion about the value of having health insurance.

What makes hospitals and interesting place for education is that it is rarely a happy place.  We sometimes have to accept and teach that we have to be open to life’s toughest lessons as well as the best it has to offer.

Related: How to make someone’s hospital stay easier 

 

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Lastly, animal shelters teach people about caring and advocacy. It is no secret that some of the most impactful lessons are when we advocate for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Case in point… long ago I recall having my Sunday school class vote as to which charity they wanted to donate monies they had collected.  Almost unanimously the sixth graders voted for the local animal shelter vs. any healthcare organization (such as The American Cancer Society).  Some adults were appalled feeling that my students were displaying a lack of compassion for humans by wanting to support animals, instead. However,  it seemed clear to me why the children made this choice. Almost everyone of the students had a cat or dog in their home and they related to them and their needs much more than someone who had cancer or another disease.  They were advocating for something familiar – a pet.

And…While a trip to the shelter can be very intense, it also can help a child feel that they are making a difference by doing acts of kindness.  While it may not be feasible to adopt all the animals, a family can help by supplying the shelter with old towels, blankets or pet food. When our children were school aged we fostered 17 dogs. Two were “foster fails” – we adopted them.  Years later my children, now adults, are doing the same, including twice having “foster fails”.

Last thoughts… I am a firm believer in formal education. Yet, we can’t overlook that there are limited hours in the day and teacher’s cannot and should not be expected to teach our kids the majority of lessons about LIFE.  That is the job of loving parent’s , family members, mentors, neighbors, and caregivers. We are ALL teachers.  The world is a giant classroom.

Thanks for reading!

Related blogs:

Thank you, Miss Huntley

Could you be your child’s teacher

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