Why I Don’t Like Flying Anymore


I don’t think I’m the only one who finds air travel to be more stressful than it used to be. Although some things are much simpler now if you are technology savvy, like purchasing your ticket online, checking in using an App and having your Boarding Pass sent to your smart phone or tablet, the rules as to what you can and can’t take in your carry-on bag seem to differ at each airport, and with different passengers. I find myself holding my breath as I go through inspection, wondering if there will be something I’ve missed that could raise an alarm.

I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence, but Kelowna International Airport, the one I fly into and sometimes out of when I go to visit Kaslo, has been the only one where I feel like I’m being targeted. In the past ten or twelve years that I’ve been making that trip I’ve been chosen for a pat-down twice. That didn’t bother me much. But this last trip really raised my heart rate.

For all these years I’ve been aware of the size limit on any types of liquids that we can transport in our carry-on bags, and I’ve complied. I remember seeing staff offering us plastic bags for such liquids, but I didn’t know that they were mandatory. I understood that the liquids had to be seen through the scanner, but I had mine all carefully labelled and placed in the plastic enclosures of the travel/cosmetic bag and I was never questioned. Usually I’ve had the bag rolled up, inside my carry-on, and no one ever asked to see it; but this time, because my carry-on was a little too deep on my last trip and was difficult to fit into the plane’s overhead bins, I laid the bag out flat across everything else inside. I also had another small bag with clear plastic inside pouches, into which I placed all the little items that I usually put into the bigger pocket of that bag.Was that the difference?

Cosmetic Bag

Cosmetic Bag

 

When I went through Security in Toronto, the scanner found something they weren’t sure about it and my case was opened. The inspector looked through my travel/cosmetic bag and found, in the larger, non-plastic pocket, my tube of Facial Cleanser. This was the one item that I’d forgotten to check for the size. It was an ounce too large. The Inspector was nice about it. She determined that it wasn’t quite full and allowed me to take it this time, but warned me that I wouldn’t be allowed to take it in my carry-on again. “You can take it in your checked baggage though.” I thanked her and said “I don’t have any checked baggage.” No mention was made of any of the other little bottles and tubes that were in the bag.

So when I was getting ready for my return trip, out of Kelowna, I went to a dollar store and bought a few little plastic jars. I squeezed all of my Facial Cleanser into two of them, and labelled them. Then I notice that a tube of hand cream (which I think I’d had in my “personal” bag before) was also a little too large, so I squeezed what remained of it into the third jar.

I checked the website and surmised that the reason for the plastic bags (which they don’t offer unsolicited anymore) was so that any bottles and tubes could be seen with the scanner. OK.  I spread my travel/cosmetic bag out in the top of my carry-on again, this time with the inside showing and I thought I’d be good.

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At security my carry-on was immediately pulled aside as soon as it went through the scanner. I thought that maybe it couldn’t recognize the pottery tumbler that my daughter had given me, wrapped up in a pair of shorts.

Pottery Tumbler

Pottery Tumbler

“No,” the Inspector said. “There’s something liquid.”

She pulled out my travel kit and, interestingly, opened the pocket where the too-large tube had been when I left Toronto. It wasn’t there of course, but she told me that all my “liquids” had to be put into the little plastic bag that she provided.

“Obviously they aren’t all going to fit, so you have two options. You can go back out and check this bag (for $25) or pick out what you want to keep and I’ll pack what I can into the bag.”

I’m a senior, living on a basic Government Pension that wouldn’t pay my basic living expenses if I had to do it alone, but I do try to pay for my personal expenses, including an annual trip to see my family. My budget is limited. I shop around and plan my trip upon seat-sales. Since extra charges have been added for baggage, early seat selection and anything to eat other than crackers, chips or cookies, I avoid those to save money. I’d already forgotten to bring the packed lunch my friend had prepared for me,  so I knew it was going to cost me $10.00 to buy a sandwich on the plane. I wasn’t about to dish out another $25 to check my bag.

I picked out the items that were of the most value and she put them into the bag. Then she filled it up with all of the little sample tubes of things that I really didn’t care about, including a nearly empty tube of toothpaste. I had to give up a bottle of body lotion, the hand lotion that I’d carefully squeezed into the small jar, and nothing else of any significance. I realized later that one bottle left behind was already empty and I could have kept it for another time!

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It was a good thing that I gotten to the airport very early. I wasn’t happy.

I was even more annoyed when my seat companions on the plane arrived. As soon as she sat down, the woman pulled a little cosmetic bag from her over-sized purse and took out a tube of sanitizer to wipe down their trays. The bag was crammed with all sorts of makeup items. Why was SHE allowed to carry them on without being in a plastic bag?

I wonder, do I have a record now? Can I expect this every time I fly from now on? Does it have anything to do with my last name – Lawless? Ha, ha.

When they came by to ask if we wanted anything to eat, I had to ask what the options were and the plane was so noisy, I couldn’t hear the response. She seemed annoyed.

“It’s listed in the menu.”

“I don’t have a menu.” The woman next to me looked and she didn’t have one either. She told the hostess that I couldn’t hear her.

“Fiesta chicken wrap..”

“I’ll take that.”

By that time I was so flustered that I handed her a debit card instead of a credit card. She handed it back. Once everyone was served she came back and handed me a menu. “I know you don’t need it now for a meal, but maybe you might want a snack or something later.” Thanks.

 

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Setting Goals


Today I’m beginning a blogging course through WordPress Blogging University with the purpose of increasing my audience and posting more regularly. My first assignment is to Set Three Goals. Here they are:

  1. Establish a new weekly theme and publish on the given day until the end of 2018, minimum. Memoir Mondays
  2. Publish at least one more post a week for the next six months.
  3. Spend one hour each week visiting my follower’s blogs, reading, and commenting from today until the end of June.

Let’s Start a Productive Conversation


Before we can have a productive conversation, we have to acknowledge that both talking and listening to understand are necessary.

Today I’m doing some mind traveling.  I have a need to write about something that causes pain to my heart, and my body.

Each day, I log onto Facebook knowing that my feed is going to be loaded down with the troubling stories of things going on in the world. Someone told me that they just have happy postings on their feed, things that lift them up. It’s true. I could change my settings, block posts from news outlets and people who repost such things. I could at the very least stop reading the comments. Would that make my heart lighter and my body less tense? For me, the answer is no.

So today I’m speaking out from my heart. I’m not going to tell people they are wrong, or make accusations, or call anyone names, or call for rioting. I’m just going to explain my sadness, frustration and incredulity, and maybe offer a step toward solving at least one problem.

There are many, many things happening around the world that cause these feelings – floods, hurricanes, fires, threats of war. But the most incredible thing in the news this past week is not about these disasters or what can be done to prevent more and what can be done to help all those suffering. No. What is making the biggest headlines, and causing the biggest division among people is an event that took place a year ago. This is the one that I’m going to address now.

A black football player chose to protest the most recent (at the time)unwarranted treatment/death of some other black men, with no consequences to the perpetrators, by quietly kneeling during the opening ceremonies of the football game. Did he choose that moment because he wanted to be noticed? Yes! Did he do it to show disrespect toward the soldiers that fought for his right to free speech; to show that he hated his country? No! My understanding is that he did it in the hope of starting a conversation about the racial discrimination that was putting constant fear into the lives of his fellow man, conversation that could bring people together with a better understanding of each other. His choice of time and venue was to get the attention of many. It did. But instead of the conversation he’d hoped for, it became a conversation about patriotism, the national flag and anthem, ego and hate. This week it was brought into the foreground again in a political speech.

What I find sad, frustrating and completely incredible is the number of people who choose to believe the politician’s reasoning rather than that of the football player. There are some who think that because a black man or woman has the “privilege” of earning a good salary, they forfeit their right to freedom. Some say they are  alright with the protest, but not the time or place. There are even those who declare that “there is no racism in the United States.”

To them I ask, “How many black people have you sat down with and asked to hear their stories? How many have you really listened to, with the objective to understand? How many times have you imagined yourself in their shoes?

I’m a privileged white person, living in a community where there is little cultural diversity, but I’ve listened to some of the history of a black man who was brought to Canada from Africa and adopted by my uncle, who recognized his potential and wanted to give him a chance at a better life. He was a teenager when he arrived. He’d had a good education while in Africa, with the help of my uncle, and despite the prejudice and poor treatment by some, he managed to get a University degree and become successful in his life. His younger adopted brother, who was only five years old, had a much harder time of it.

Quite recently, I’ve heard enough of the story of the only black family who lived in our community when my children were in school, to learn that despite them being an educated, well liked, upstanding family of the community, they too often experienced the discrimination of being suspect because of the colour of their skin. I was surprised.

These stories got me paying attention! Now when I read about the fears of black people, I understand, and my heart aches.

Sure there are many black people who have fought their way through life with violence and crime; who have joined gangs just to belong. But there are just as many, or more, white people in the same situation. They should be afraid of the law.

Then there are the black families who mind their own business, have jobs, take care of their families and friends, and yet live in fear for their lives every day. They know that at any time, for any reason, they could be stopped by the police because they look like someone (black/brown skin, dread locks) who just robbed a bank in the neighbourhood they are driving through, or because they supposedly have a light out on their car, or they are driving an expensive looking car, or a neighbour told the police that a crime suspect had gone into their house. And they know that no matter how they respond, they could end up dead.

How many law-abiding white people, living in the US or Canada, live with these same fears?

Let’s start the conversation right here, right now! Tell your story; explain your fears; ask questions; listen to understand; practice respect; share this post. This is the conversation that needs to go viral!

 

 

Retirement and Getting Lost in History


We’ve been home for a few weeks now, and, after getting caught up on household chores and reconnecting with friends and family, it was my intention to write one or two more blog posts to complete our latest journey.

But last week I’d decided to spend a day sorting through the huge box of photos and memorabilia to see if I could downsize a little more. In so doing, I came across a very old photo of some people that I’m sure could be the grandparents that I never knew. I scanned it, along with many others so that I could look at it more closely later.

Johnstons

Then, after I got into bed, I got thinking about it, and wondering who these people could be. I had some ideas, but needed to check out some dates on the Family Tree.  So, instead of getting to travel writing in the morning, I logged into Ancestry.ca and looked for clues to solve the mystery.  Most of my ideas were eliminated by date discrepancies, but while searching some people, I discovered other hints for other family members, and then I was gone.  To me, researching family history is like a big jigsaw puzzle. Once I find one piece, I can’t stop. I’m drawn to find more. Before I knew it, three hours had passed and I hadn’t even started to write! But I have no regrets. Genealogy is just another one of my passions. I actually created another blog about it a few years ago, but then posted only twice, and never made it known.

I took a break to make some lunch, and as I worked, I thought of the long To-do list that I always have running through my mind:

Write travel blog posts

Update/improve my website, monetize it perhaps

Write memoirs

Research family

Edit photos

Make photo books

Develop new blog: Unfolding Our Past

Then I asked myself, “Why do I put these burdens upon myself?” What difference will it make if I do none of them? I don’t expect to earn a living from any of them, because technically I’m retired. So why can’t I just relax and enjoyment retirement? But then, what does retirement mean? It should mean having the freedom to do whatever you want, right? For some, that might mean reading a book, watching TV, playing games or doing nothing at all, but for others, like me, it means having the time to pursue passions that keep the mind and body active, that give pleasure. That’s why I want to do these things, and more.

What does retirement mean to you? Do artists ever retire?

Announcing a Book Launch


Today my post is  about another side of my writing. If you check out the other tabs on this site, you’ll see that I’ve done more than just travel blogging, but not so much lately. Now I’m excited to share this news with you.

This past summer I won a competition, at WomensMemoirs.com.

My story is one of the 81 winning stories that have been published in a two-volume anthology series entitled TALES OF OUR LIVES (Fork in the Road and Reflection Pond.) Mine, Seeking a Diagnosis,  is in TALES OF OUR LIVES: REFLECTION POND*.  Each volume is available on Amazon in Kindle e-book format, but you don’t need to have an e-reader or tablet to get them.  When you click on the link to purchase the books, you will find an option to download the free Kindle App for either your PC or MAC.

Book cover2

Beginning today, January 8 at 8 am (PST), and over the next few days, there will be special discount pricing for some countries, including the US, so if you  are interested in grabbing a copy, today and tomorrow might  get you a deal! Unfortunately Amazon doesn’t  allow these discounts in Canada, but even if you can’t get the special pricing, the full list price is quite reasonable–$5.22 in CA.)

Below are links to the books for Canada and the US. If  you would like the links for other countries, let me know and I’ll get them for you.

Seasons of Our Lives: Fork in the Road (Canada) amzn.to/1SyPM5q

*Seasons of Our Lives: Reflection Pond (Canada) amzn.to/1mEVE0s

Seasons of Our Lives: Fork in the Road (US) amzn.to/20VYNJq

*Seasons of Our Lives: Reflection Pond (US)amzn.to/1MQGKdk

For the writer within you, the editor has included the introduction to her new writing methodology (Writing Alchemy). If you’re thinking of writing about your life or the lives of others in your family, then you’ll want to read that chapter. She also begins each section with a series of prompts that will help you to think about your own life stories — stories you may want to share with your family.  These two writing tools help make these volumes even more than a good read. You get 81 powerful stories and 98 prompts.

And after you’ve read the stories (all 81 intriguing ones if you can), I hope you’ll feel inspired to post a comment, and write a review on Amazon.  I, and my co-authors would all appreciate it.

I just got word that Tales of Our Lives is already an award winning anthology, New England Book Festival, Honourable Mention!

Click on the tab Writing/Books to see other books, and Awards and Reviews.

Tonto National Monument Cliff Dwellings


It’s snowing here today, in Ontario, Canada – not the usual weather for this time of year. It’s a perfect day for doing some mind travel, back to the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.

Jim, Karen and I set off in the morning for our final adventure of the season. Our primary destination was to climb to the cliff dwellings in Tonto National Forest, in the Superstition Mountains. It was already noon when we reached the entrance to Monument Park where the caves were located. Unfortunately we hadn’t packed a lunch. We had expected to find a restaurant or at least a snack bar somewhere close by, but there was nothing. The small visitors centre offered only a few types of energy bars at $4.00 a piece and a water fountain. Outside there was a vending machine that provided only pop.

There are two areas of cliff dwellings – the Lower is a half mile hike away, the Upper a mile and a half hike up the mountain. It was the Upper Cliff Dwelling that we wanted to see. Knowing that we would find it difficult to make the climb without some food in our stomachs, we purchased some bars, Jim and Karen got pop and I refilled my water bottle at the fountain before heading to the trail. There is usually a $3.00 fee (good for seven days) requested for the tours and reservations are needed. But, since this day was National Heritage Day, there was a free open house, and self-guided tours were permitted to both the Upper and Lower Dwellings.

At the base of the trail a few native American artisans displayed their craft and demonstrated dance and costumes; some birds and other wildlife were on display.

Native Dance

Native Dance

Young Grey Horned Owl

Elf Owl

Red tailed Hawk

Red tailed Hawk

The day was comfortably warm and breezy. The terrain was rugged. We took our time, stopping often to photograph or just catch our breath. The dwelling looked a very long ways up; however, switchbacks made the climb relatively easy even for those of us who aren’t accustomed to frequent climbing.

Hikers at Tonto Monument

Other hikers up above us

Part way up we were warned by the Park Ranger that it would get very windy the higher we climbed. We made use of the ties on our Tilley hats, and sometimes thought that if the wind had been blowing in the opposite direction, it might have swept us over the edge of the cliff.

enduring the wind

Karen and Jim enduring the wind

It was all worth the effort though.

The views became more and more awesome as we climbed.

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View of the Valley

Views of the Valley from part way up

The soft melody of a flute could be heard in the distance.

In just over an hour we reached the remains of the 40-room Upper Cliff Dwelling. Situated in the northeastern part of the Sonoran Desert, these well-preserved cliff dwellings were occupied during the 13th, 14th, and early 15th centuries. There are many theories as to why the Salado people began building here. Protection from the elements is one possibility as the cave is dry even during the worst weather, and receives the full benefit of the morning sun in winter and cooling shade in summer.

We spent a half hour wandering through the eight accessible rooms. Some reinforcement restorations have taken place to allow public visits to continue, but a Park Ranger was there to insure that no one sat or walked on the ancient and now delicate walls. The source of the flute music turned out to be a young native playing softly in the highest of rooms. A feeling of amazement and peace encompassed us as we stood there on the side of the cliff.

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Looking out through a "window"

Looking out through a “window”

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Cliff Dwellings

Upper Level Cliff Dwellings

The hike down was a little quicker than going up. Upon our descent we got back into the car and continued on around the mountains. We stopped to look at Roosevelt Dam.

 

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Roosevelt Dam

Roosevelt Dam

About Roosevelt DamOnce past the dam, the road narrowed, twisted and the pavement disappeared.We held our breath as we hung on the side of cliffs on the now very rough road, and we sighed with relief when we reached pavement once more.

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Rough and Windy Road

We enjoyed dinner at Tortilla Flat, and indulged in one last Prickly Pear ice cream cone before winding our way back down to Mesa and home.

Tortilla Flat

Karen in front of the wall of money

 

A View of Superstition Mountains from the Back of the Boulevard


After ukulele lessons, lunch at the Cactus Grill, and a visit to Verizon to purchase some more internet data, we decided it was time for a ride on the motorcycle. We did part of the trip up the Apache Trail, in the Superstition Mountains, that we’d done in December on the Jeep Tour. It was a different perspective from the back of the Boulevard and before long I was busily snapping pictures. Sometimes they turn out; sometimes they don’t. But that’s the beauty of the digital age.

The road is a popular one for motorcyclists, with all of its twists and turns.

Bikers' Twists and Turns

Bikers’ Twists and Turns

One lane bridge around the bend

One lane bridge around the bend

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Being late in the afternoon, it was a perfect time for capturing the scenic mountains and lakes.

Apache Trail

Apache Trail Vistas

IMG_3345 IMG_3368 IMG_3395 IMG_3402 IMG_3403We made a stop in Tortilla Flat for another taste of Prickly Pear Ice Cream.

Tortilla Flat

Tortilla Flat in the Valley. Great Prickly Pear Ice Cream found there.

IMG_3424 IMG_3428By the time we were heading back down, the sun was setting, dusting the rocks with gold, before becoming a blazing red aura around the peaks.

Sunset on the Apache Trail

Sunset on the Apache Trail

IMG_3441 IMG_3460 IMG_3471Another glorious day in Paradise.