Friday, July 30, 2010

Tackling International Travel

Early on this week, I tackled a project that I've been procrastinating on: international travel to a family wedding in Brazil. I'm so excited about the wedding, as it is for my favorite family member, whom I'll call Darren. LoveHubbie and I are just crazy about Darren and his fiance, but making the arrangements is something that I've had enormous resistance to, so much so that I wondered how in the world I would ever make this happen. I've been procrastinating about it for months, and so finally decided to make it a "Be Brave" project this past Monday and Tuesday.

It may seem silly to have something so routine for many people be a Be Brave project. But that's how Be Brave things are--specific to each individual. There is so much about this trip that evokes enormous fear in me, and if it were anything or anyone else I just wouldn't do it.

To start with, there is the crime and danger in the areas of Brazil we are traveling to. Our close friends traveled to Brazil a few years ago and although they are seasoned travelers and very, very tough and savvy, they were robbed on the street. Add to this complete unfamiliarity with Brazil as a country--everything from the language to the culture and more (although this could be rectified, of course, with some study). Add in a very long plane trip of multiple legs with LoveHubbie's plethora of health issues that must be worked around. Staying in touch with LoveHubbie's business while traveling.  Taking just carry-on luggage instead of my usual multiple extra-large suitcases whenever I go anywhere. No computer. No phone. No jewelry. No wedding ring. Severe mosquito allergy. Migraines without a pristine diet. And getting there and back in a week.

So, I got some support (my assistant Sylvia) and we dug in on Monday. I estimated 10 man hours to do the whole thing. First we made up a calendar and selected days to travel and planned LoveHubbie's business on either side of the trip. Then we broke up the trip into two sections, one from Seattle to Miami (which takes a full day), and the second from Miami to the town of Salvador in Brazil (another day). We wanted to spend a night in Miami going there and returning to break up the trip and making it easier and less stressful.

Then we needed to make the flight arrangements. We need airline tickets and hotel reservations before we can get an agent to apply for an appointment to get our visas. Yes, really. It is a many step process.

We first priced plane tickets online to get an idea of how much things cost. Then we called the travel agent in Florida who had helped other family members easily make airline reservations. Unfortunately the agent was unable to help us, as there were some flights still available, but none with seats available on the dates we wanted to fly. Alternatively, we could fly when her computer suggested, which would take us on a 30 hour trip without any breaks. She said we should call the airlines directly to see if they had additional seats available. We were in the process of doing that--calling around looking for seats----when I remembered that LoveHubbie had wanted me to use frequent flier miles. So we called our credit card company's reward department, hoping they'd have seats.

We went through the whole itinerary with the credit card customer service person, who approved it. He then transfered us to their travel awards section. We went through the whole itinerary again, and the travel agent attempted to book the flights. His computer came up with a suggested booking, and he said we'd have to use that (another 30 hour tour). Alternatively, we could get a special waiver from the credit card company, and we could stay overnight in Miami; it would cost more miles, but we had them to spare.We agreed. The travel agent tried to transfer us back, and the call was dropped.

So we started all over again, going through the layers of computerized voice mail. We eventually reached a different credit card customer service person. This person had some notes about our case, fortunately. However, it ended up that the travel agent had taken our frequent flier miles and booked a ticket with his suggested but inappropriate junket. So we explained everything for a third time, and got awarded the special waiver. Next we were transferred to a travel awards agent again to cancel the erroneous ticket and get a corrected ticket. We went over everything a fourth time. This lovely woman, named Kadeesha, worked with us for almost an hour. At one point we needed to tell her our exact names as on our passports. The problem was whether or not the middle names were each written out or abbreviated, which I had no idea about. So I had to go on a passport hunt, but miraculously found both in several minutes.

We had finished everything we'd thought, and then Kadessha's computer froze up and crashed. So we started all over again. Fortunately she hadn't lost the seats or the pricing (we'd had to pay above the amount of the frequent flier awards). She had lost the rest, but we were getting really good at going over our itinerary by now.

Sylvia worked on the computer while I was on the phone and together we spent 6 hours on the flight arrangements. But we did it!

On Tuesday we thought we'd have no problems getting the hotel reservations. How hard could this be? Sylvia easily found a hotel with a shuttle in Miami, but we needed a late checkout because of the odd times we'd be arriving and leaving. She kept getting different stories on the cost and could not get any of the reservation people to agree to guarantee the late checkout for us. Finally we got a manager and made the arrangements.

Next were the hotel reservations at the wedding site. This turned out to be harder. First we had to find out what type of international calling I had on my phone. We couldn't find any bills with account numbers or contact numbers--the bills had vanished, as they are wont to do when you need them. When you don't they seem to be all over the place! Thus, we had to contact the phone company. The company said we didn't have service with them. Finally Sylvia found a special number for the phone company where our service was acknowledged and they confirmed that I already had calling capabilities to Brazil. It was included in the package I'd bought at one time for calling to Canada.

So we called Brazil. We had to look up how to do so on Google--what the country code was and how to do it via a wikihow.

When we reached the hotel for the wedding venue in Brazil, no one there spoke any English or Spanish (Sylvia speaks Spanish). We could not get beyond our hellos. We had a feeling that the people at the Brazilian inn were trying to give us another number (it sounded like a number, at least, based on their pacing) but we couldn't tell. So we had to give up. The reason this is so important is because we have to have a confirmed hotel reservation to submit the visa paperwork. Fortunately, our Brazilian relatives will help us with this. I emailed them and they will make the arrangements with a U.S. account and we will deposit the money here.

Next we attempted to fill out the visa paperwork. This is all done online but with no explanation of the online entries. For example, I have to fill in all of the names I have ever been known by, all five of them.  The stories behind each of these names are many. But then I had to choose the reason for the name changes, and I had only two choices. Neither one fit for most names. Most of the other entries were like that, and no one to ask about what they really wanted. We left the form partially filled out and much of it with guesses. When we then tried to print it out, it suddenly turned into a single page format with OCR bars instead of readable text. We printed out the single page, even though it was just a page of bar codes. Perhaps it is meant to be like this! Then I went back and using the back button, accessed the previous pages of the visa application. I refilled in all of the data (which of course had vanished) and printed it out. Backed up, refilled info, printed out. I finally had copies of all of the pages.

Time spent on Tuesday = 10 man hours altogether. Total time so far = 16 man hours for Sylvia an myself.

Now, on to visa photos, bank deposit for hotel reservations, confirmation of hotel reservation for visa, yellow fever vaccine, and more visa application paperwork. We'll pick this up on Monday, when perhaps we'll be ready to get an agent in San Francisco. This agent will hopefully be able to get us an appointment at the Brazilian consulate in San Francisco. If they can do this, the next step would be to have our visa application looked at.

Believe it or not, my anxiety about this is greatly diminished because we are moving forward very slowly, but in the right direction. And I at least can see what needs to be done here. My fear of being overwhelmed has abated. This could actually happen.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

One of the Most Beautiful Things I've Ever Read

This amazing poem was written by Kate Swoboda of the blog Your Courageous Life. I loved it; it touched me in a million ways, and wanted to share it here with you. I know you will love it as much as I did. Here it is with her introductory comments, reproduced with permission:

"The trickiest places, I think, are in those tangled and triggered human relationships. In every moment, we have this opportunity when we interact with other people sharing this world with us to act with integrity, to face our choices about the experience we will have with someone else.

Whatever we see in the world, that is us, too. Cultivate a willingness to compassionately drop down into the zero center of someone else’s imperfection, and you’ll see their pain, and piece of your own. We are not so very different. We are far more alike than we often believe. With courageous hearts, we can change the world. So here goes:

In the face of complaints, look that person in the eye and imagine what it might have been like to be raised to see only what is wrong.

In the face of selfishness, wonder what it might be like to walk the world with a feeling of lack, of depletion.

In the face of insults, consider where this person first learned that it’s okay to abuse others.

In the face of disconnection, think about what causes it, and ask if your response will widen the river between the two of you.

In the face of laziness, recognize the fear of living big dreams.

In the face of extremism or fundamentalism, see the clinging, as well as the terror-filled silence that would arise for that person if they risked letting go.

In the face of controlling behavior, understand the chaos that must have bred it.

In the face of “always needing to be right,” see how often this person was once made wrong.

In the face of arrogance or bravado, hold gently that still, small piece that says “I’m not enough.”

In the face of drama or attention-seeking, see the person who wishes so much to be seen.

In the face of accusation, imagine what it might be like to live life with suspicion.

In the face of judgement or comparisons, step into the opportunity the world has just provided you for practicing love and acceptance.

In the face of passive-aggressiveness, recognize the child that wasn’t taught a safe way to express their truth.

In the face of anger, see the pain of isolation from others.

Most importantly: In the face of ferocious hatred, believe in the possibility that there exists the potential for equally as big, intense, lovely and fiery ferocious love.

Okay. That is my love letter to the world, for today.

~ Kate"

Thank you so very, very much, Kate!

~Photo by LoveHubbie Mark

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Life's Challenges

"Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are."---Bernice Johnson Reagon, Musician via The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin

Monday, July 26, 2010

Receiving What Is Good

This post and picture are over a year old and were languishing off to the side, waiting to be posted and then forgotten. I recently found it and decided to post it after all.

It's never too late to be willing to receive what is good.

Actually, as I'm writing this, I realize it's never too late to be willing to receive, period. Whatever we are handed. If we believe that God (or the Universe, as I used to write) loves us, is in control, and wants the best for us--as I do--then we will receive everything that comes to our life.

All is ultimately God's good. All ultimately is part of God's plan to manifest goodness in our lives. Even when it's a struggle to see it.

"If we learn to think of receiving God's good as being an act of worship--cooperating with God's plan to manifest goodness in our lives--we can begin to let go of having to sabotage ourselves."---Julia Cameron

~Photo by LoveHubbie Mark

Friday, July 23, 2010

Some Deep Reading

This week I have been reading intensively, something I really enjoy. One project is two books for my counseling session, assigned by my counselor:

(1) Fear of Intimacy by Robert W. Firestone:

This is a challenging, confronting, and very technical book on psychodynamic psychotherapy. I have been journaling along with reading. It has been a lot of work, but it's helped me to see how very much I truly do fear intimacy. I think that on some level we all do. Identifying how I do and perhaps why has been very enlightening.

and (2) Love's Executioner: And Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom:

I haven't read this one yet (it is my weekend reading), but am looking forward to it, as it will most certainly be an easier read than the previous one. My counselor sure knows how to challenge me, and I like that.

In addition I am reading for fun: Jennifer Weiner's Fly Away Home: This is a light but relaxing and enjoyable read. It's the story--in different voices--of a senator's wife and her adult children after her husband has an affair that becomes public. It is not a romance, which I do not enjoy, but a tale about life and relationships that are real. I can really appreciate a heroine who is middle-aged as well.

Plus Creative Wildfire: An Introduction to Art Journaling: Basics and Beyond by L.K. Ludwig:

I am hoping that this will propel me back to creative work in the upcoming week. I know that many of you have already read this.

I have eight Amazon Vine books to catch up on too--all of them are good and of course--FREE! (I just have to write reviews of them.) After reading the heavy psychotherapy texts my reading speed will be up and I'm hoping these will go rather quickly. They are all my choice--books I've chosen and am looking forward to reading.

I am thrilled to be getting back to reading again, with gusto. I am pleased that I was able to make it happen this week, as I've missed reading so much. Household management isn't really my cup of tea, and although I have some tasks to do next week, most are minor. Instead I'm going to do a project I've been procrastinating about for months. I'll tell you about it soon...

What are you reading?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Kelly!

Today I want to wish my friend Kikipotamus the Hobo a very happy birthday. Not just today, but all year long!

I love you, Kelly

Friday, July 16, 2010

Large Scale Household Management

I have been occupied with household management tasks lately and have not made time for creative pursuits. As in any creative pursuits. I hope to change this soon. This has included:

  • Entertaining LoveHubbie's colleagues.
  • Annual party at much-loved neighbor's house.
  • Hiring out removal of insidious PNW weed (Scotch broom) from our fields (multi-day project involving brush hog and back hoe). 
  • Hiring out dryer repair.
  • Hiring out extensive handyman work including painting worn-off areas outside and fixing leaking windows.
  • Hiring out electric work including but not limited to fixing clogged fans, fixing broken light switches and dimmers, new circuit for wall to accommodate increased amps, replacing broken lights on walkway.
  • Hiring out refrigerator repair to save old refrig that is on last legs. 
  • Hiring out twice-a-year window cleaning.
And last but not least, dealing with our gardener, we'll call her Sandy, who has been letting our garden go. Sandy's job has been to maintain the Brown Botanical Gardens since March. Which she has not done. I have spoken to her innumerable times, and she always agrees and then does whatever she wants. For Sandy, it seemed that tending the garden was just a job--she didn't really care about the living things--whether they lived or died. 

Finally in desperation I hired a "mow and blow" company to come into the botanical gardens and make the paths passable and cut away all of the dead debris--sort of a "spring cleanup" in the summer. This took three men three days! The dead stuff is now gone and there are big empty spaces everywhere but it looks sooo much better. And we can walk through and enjoy what is there and what is still living! 

Both LoveHubbie and my trusty assistant (who I will call Sylvia) have been wanting to let Sandy go for some time, but I had been dragging my feet. It's hard for me to let someone go who seems to want to work unless they do something(s) really bad. Sylvia wanted to help by doing the firing and winding up all the final details. Sylvia  knows a great deal about gardening and knew that this would be a positive move; in addition she wanted to help to remove the stress from both myself and LoveHubbie. Too, Sylvia has great intuition. 

I decided to let Sylvia do the firing start to finish. It was kind of hard for me to delegate something that felt very critical, but Sylvia handled it with aplomb; it gave me a chance to receive and not be constantly in control of everything. This ended up being a beautiful gift. The energy here is now very good.  I think the plants and trees and birds and flowers are all happy. 

So, now my challenge is to figure out a way to carve out space for the creative pursuits that are so important to me. I'm starting by updating here again :) Oh, and I found a blog I really like called The Tiny House Blog. Especially see this post--it just makes me h-a-p-p-y!

~Photos by LoveHubbie Mark all taken in the Olivia Brown Botanical Gardens 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Suzie Told Me I Was A Winner!

I really love being told I'm a winner.

Yes, it's true. I was the winner in the amazing Suzie the Foodie's $100 Shopping Spree Giveaway at I am grateful and happy. What was great synchronicity was that Suzie was on vacation at the beach and couldn't sleep, so she announced it at an odd time at night, and I was up as well. I saw her tweet and rushed to her site to be the first person congratulate the winner and then found out it was me! I have no idea what I will buy but I'll let you know. 

Suzie's blog has been so enjoyable for me to read for years, and I have watched her grow and bloom as a food writer despite many obstacles. My favorite thing about her blog is the stories she tells of how she makes each dish. I love how she tells exactly how she does each recipe, her beautiful photographs, and best of all how she recovers from so-called failures and what she learns. She has a special perspective on food and writing--a unique voice--that makes her blog one I never miss even though I currently don't cook with recipes (nor do I cook too much without recipes either). It's just plain fun to read! And Suzie is what makes it most special. 

So, visit, browse her site and you'll see what I mean!

~Photo from Suzie the Foodie's Blog

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Introverted Travel

As an introvert I love to travel and enjoy the culture I am visiting. This may involve seeing some sites, but it is always paced so that I can absorb the culture, relax, and have a certain feeling rather than see certain things. This can be pretty hard to explain to people.

I lived in South Dakota for three years and never saw Mount Rushmore. I lived in Arizona for ten years and did not visit the Grand Canyon. I am fine with both and saw many other wonderful things in both states. I tend to stay away from crowds and group tours. I like to interact with local people and tourists when I'm stoked up on alone time, and tend to be very relaxed while doing so, mainly because I plan it that way and venture out only when I'm ready to interact with others.

One time my aunt and uncle visited me in Phoenix, Arizona. The three of us set out for the Grand Canyon and hit terrible traffic. We are all introverts. After a couple of hours in Flagstaff with traffic barely moving, we turned right around and went instead to the small ghost town of Jerome on the way back to Phoenix. We had a fantastic time. It was a precious experience for me to have an all-introvert travel experience! We all "got" each other.

Here are two articles I just found about introvert travel. If you're interested, they're both worth a read. Here is one and here is another.

I also like to visit places vicariously via pictures interpreted by friends' experiences, like Lori-Lyn's. More picture, Lori-Lyn! I'm missing my daily fix 

The picture you see above is the first of many from LoveHubbie of some lovely tulips that bloomed in our yard this past spring!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Alegria Shoes Nurture My Feet

Alegria Shoes have recently come into my life and changed it greatly. As many of you know, I have significant foot pain all the time. I bought my first pair of Alegria's a few weeks ago, and you wouldn't believe how comfortable they are. They have minimized my foot pain so that I can walk much farther. Plus, having to wear mostly orthopedic shoes, it's so nice to have shoes that are so pretty for a change--they call it "color therapy". For many years I've not been able to wear regular shoes and have settled for nice Dansko's that are too narrow and too tight (because my orthotics took up so much room). My Alegria's go with a lot and are practical, yet they are not plain and boring. Now that I know how great they are, I plan to venture out with future pairs into some of the more fun patterns.

I know that both Lori-Lyn (who likes Dansko's and is right now walking all over England) and Kelly Kikipotamus (who I likes Naots and others and is good to her feet) both like to wear sort of funky shoes like me, so I know you two will appreciate these especially. But everyone else too--consider them--this is a different kind of shoe company!

Alegria Shoes is a fairly new company that has had great success especially in the medical market (with doctors and nurses who are on their feet a lot) and--can you believe this--their average customer owns 8 to 11 pairs! I have 3 4 5 pairs so far. I had to force myself to be honest. Thank goodness LoveHubbie never reads my blog :) But what kind of shoe company has average customers owning so many shoes?

Alegria Shoes are mostly nicer shoes that you can comfortably walk in plus wear to almost anything nice. I wouldn't recommend them for hiking or activities like tennis or anything you'd do that was extremely aerobic or on uneven ground. They are great for office work, long walks in the city, long walks in the country that isn't hiking, formal occasions (at least I would wear them with a gown), and just around the house.

Alegrias accommodate a wide foot and are sized a bit large. They are roomy so that you can wiggle your toes in them. They are pretty expensive ($59.99 on sale to $100+ retail---but who pays that?), but a screaming deal for what you're getting. Good shoes aren't cheap. Their footbed molds to your foot, but can be removed and then does accommodate orthotics. They are quality through and through, every little detail.

You can get them from many places online, including Alegria Shoe Shop--they are currently having a sale on many closeouts for $59. There is a list of several online retailers here at their main web site under "Preferred Partners".  I always shop around. Order two pairs first if you're not sure what size you are, and return the one that doesn't fit (this is what I did as most online retailers offer free shipping and free returns). I am a 9.5W and fit a European 40 perfectly. I tried both a 39 and a 40 to be sure to get the correct size. Alegria's are also on ebay, but I have found the best deals at other places. You have to buy them new, because the footbed molds to your foot.

Here are some Alegria pictures (these are the shoes I have):

I adore my Alegria's!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Maui Giveaway Winner

Well, here at last I have a winner in the Maui Giveaway--Patti Bourne of bliss fruit in Australia! Congratulations on your win! Please send me your address, Patti. I am so happy to be able to give these lovely earrings to you. Thank you to everyone who participated.

Thank everyone for your support and loyalty as I continue to work towards being a regular blogger again. You all are what makes blogging worthwhile for me.

I love all of you!