Saturday, December 29, 2007

Going to Kansas City ... Kansas?

Western Kansas City, Kan., has received a face lift. The past few years more and more shops have gone up. Now the area is quite the booming little shopping area - The Legends - surrounded by the Kansas Speedway and the T-Bones baseball stadium.

Last night Kayla won tickets to The Legends Stanford & Sons Comedy Club to see Mike Mack, which was fun. Before the late show we went to Jimmy Buffet's Cheeseburger in Paradise. It's a little "cheesy," but good.

If you're ever going to Kansas City, head on over to the other side of the state line and visit KCK.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Christmas has come and gone, but it wasn't had without good food, friends and family.

Kayla and I sampled sugar cookies.

The nephews took a swing at Grandma's pinata Christmas Eve at our family gathering.

Santa brought Chase all kinds of goodies Christmas morning and his mom made us breakfast.

I hope everyone survives the sugar high before your New Year's Eve celebrations!

Cheers ~

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Party Animals

No matter whose birthday it is, my nephews are all about the candles. I think they're more excited than we ever are about the occasion. Sunday was Jimmy's 34th birthday, and here's Wyatt, Chase, Angie, Jimmy and Levi getting ready to blow out the candles.

I thought my tree looked pretty in the dark, so I turned off the flash to get a good picture of it, but I don't think I have a steady hand. Here's the photo anyway. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Cheer

This week I had a conversation with my oldest nephew, Levi. He was very concerned that I didn't have any sort of Christmas decorations up in my house. He doesn't know how anyone can survive past Thanksgiving day - or even a few days before - without putting up their tree. Levi decided that he should come and help. I told him to talk to his mom.

Lo and behold, I get a call at 7 a.m. this morning from Jimmy asking if Levi can come up to help me put up a tree. I said that would be fine.

Problem: I don't have a tree. Donna took her fake tree when she moved and last year I got a real tree.

Solution: At 7:30 this morning I was in my car traveling to Wal-Mart to buy a tree. Wal-Mart isn't so bad so early in the morning.

Anyway, Angie, Levi and Wyatt came up. Levi stayed at my house while the other two shopped. Fun was had by all and Christmas is here in my house.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Update: Foot Fiasco

The doctor called this morning, and "the results are inconclusive." He said the scan shows about as much as the x-ray. That being said, if my foot doesn't seem to be getting better in the next week or two, I need to go back. My thoughts are that it will be fine.

The funny thing is that the bone scan did light up my left shin like a neon light. The doctor was worried about that, and I told him that was from whacking it good about three years ago. He said that would do it. Just call me Pinata Elaine.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

December Showers

December showers bring ice. Here are a few pictures taken this morning from the comfort of my front door.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Foot Fiasco

I went to the doctor today, and the x-ray showed that something happened, but because of so many bones, the doctor couldn't tell exactly if there was a fracture. He sent me to get a bone scan. The radiologist said there's something going on there. Now I have to wait for my doctor to call me back to receive my "next steps."

The ice storm that blasted Oklahoma City is on its way to KC. The freezing rain isn't expected to stop until Wednesday evening. Did I mention I just love winter ... BLUCK!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Oh, to be me ...

If you know me at all, you know that I'm not the most graceful person in the world. I have my moments, but in all, I'm a klutz. I would like to present Evidence A.

Now that you've had time to wipe the tears of laughter from your eyes, let me explain. Yesterday I was sitting on the couch. Normal enough, right? I got up from the couch. I took a step with my left foot, but I couldn't feel my left foot. It fell into a deep coma-like sleep. In the midst of me trying to fall I heard a pop in my foot.

At first I thought I sprang it, but after propping up my foot for a couple hours with ice attached, it still hurt. Later that evening, I couldn't walk and I'm hopping around my house. This is the first time I've truly cursed my house for all the stinking steps it has. Needless to say, my bum is a bit dusty from the stairs.

That evening, I call my physical therapist friend, and she suggests I wrap it in an Ace bandage. I told her I didn't have one, so this is what I came up with - duct tape. I know it's glamorous, and you'll see it will soon be all the rage.

To top it off, we've received an ice storm over night, so when I do try to get into the doctor tomorrow, I'll have to skate. My thoughts are this; If I can't walk on a normal floor, I may break something else on my way there and I could get a two for one deal ...

Here's a photo of my house once I got home from Boston. Shortly after, it began icing.

My time spent in Boston was great. I'm even more excited about the Smithsonian Student Travel position than before. In two days I went through very intense, thorough training. They are very supportive of their tour directors and are willing to do most anything to keep the tour running as smoothly as possible. I should have a tentative schedule of tours by the first of January. First year tour directors may receive two to four tours for the season, so it's not a lot. We'll see what kind of work I can drum up in San Diego when I go to the ITMI Symposium.

I didn't get to see much of Boston. We were in training all day both days. I did, however, get to spend time with a fellow tour director from Alaska and a gal that was in my same ITMI class. As for my presentation, I did a good job. We didn't have to present until Friday morning, so I had Thursday evening to polish.

This is a piece of the Berlin Wall that stands outside the EF Smithsonian building. It's very fitting since the motto of the program is to break down cultural barriers.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Boston Bound

Leave it to me to procrastinate ... Tomorrow morning I'm leaving for Boston to go through the EF Smithsonian Student Travel orientation. I received my packet of information on Saturday. The idea was for them to send it to me in order to prep for the couple days.

Have I done so? No.

Tonight I'm to do laundry, pack, pick up my house, read the orientation manual and prepare a little speech to give as if I were on tour. I'm assigned the transfer between New Jersey and Philadelphia. So, tonight I need to figure out what's in Philly.

Oh, and I need to figure out the Boston public transportation in order to get from the airport to the hotel. Just writing this is beginning to stress me out. But what am I doing instead of getting on the ball? Writing a blog!

I keep telling myself that I perform better under pressure.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

This is for my screaming fans ...

Maybe there's no screaming, but I have had a few friends and family members say more than once that they wanted to see a new post.

My response:There hasn't been any totally life-changing events go on.

Their response: So. Most anything is blog worthy.

My response: Fine; I must give my fans what they want. (Do you think I have an ego problem?)

Life has been busy since my last blog. Teaching has been a lot of fun. I've taught every grade level and found that Kindergarten does not suit me, especially Kindergarten with a note that's left about a student saying, "Keep an eye on Josh. He may hurt himself or others." That was it! Here I am with a B.S. in PR and that's the kind of note I receive. Josh did fine; no one was injured.

I've figured out that I enjoy middle school the most. The kids get to switch classes, which means that I get to start fresh and new every hour. Also, the 6th through 8th grade kids still think I'm pretty cool. I'm tall, not a total dork and I scare them a bit. From this age group I've received my share of fist pounds.

The one constant of teaching is the smell. I always thought school had a distinctive smell. And since the schools have gone to white and smart boards, I thought that smell would change. I've figured out that school smells like sweaty children and the glue in the binding of textbooks. The only way the smell of school will change is if we don't have text books. Unfortunately, the smell will be only of sweaty children.

In addition to teaching, I've been able to freelance with an old employer. There have been some changes going on there, and more to come. One of the employees found a phenomenal opportunity that she couldn't pass up. What that means for me is more hours in the good ole marketing arena. I think it's prudent to keep my skills up to date. (Please overlook all the mistakes in this blog! The quirkiness of blogging is its imperfections!)

Thanksgiving ...

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful. I know mine was. It was crazy cold the day before Thanksgiving and snowed at Mom's house.

Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday. There isn't the hype or the commercialism involved as with every other holiday - no trees, no bunnies, no special candy. It's completely wholesome. This year we went to my oldest brother's home where our family and my sister-in-law's family had dinner. I ate way too much, but I got to visit with the family I only get to see a couple times a year.

On Friday was Chase's second birthday party. He is becoming such a littel cutie pie, and I don't have a picture to post! But believe me ... he's cute. It's absolutely amazing how my brothers who constantly picked on me as a child have such sweet kids.

Finally, the last part of the Thanksgiving holiday I went to visit a friend out in Grand Junction, CO. This was my first time there, so we went to the Colorado National Monument. I didn't realize how dry and dessert-like it is there, but it was beautiful. The following pictures are from the Monument drive.

Monday, October 22, 2007

New Job!

You may wonder what a jobless person does to keep busy. A jobless person says, "Plenty." If I didn't have a job, I could still keep going on all the odd jobs around the house or social outings with friends. Maybe that's what I should be when I grow up, a socialite.

Anyway, I have been keeping busy with substitute teaching and doing some PR projects for an old employer.

The big news is that I just got word that I'll be working with EF Smithsonian student tours this spring. This is a student travel company that does a lot of its tours in the D.C. and NYC area. I'll be heading to Boston Dec. 6 and 7 for an orientation and then I'll be scheduled for a shadow tour. This is not a full-time position like the Holland America/Alaska gig, but just a few tours through the spring. Once I go to the symposium in January I hope to be hired by a few more student tour companies to help fill up my calendar.

I'm still playing it by ear and hoping it all falls into place. I've never felt stressed by my situation, which I believe is a God thing. I hope this means many more tour jobs to come ...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Home on the Range

Not being gainfully employed keeps me busy! I've had a great time since I've been home. I was able to go home to visit my nephews and spend good quality time with them. I helped my friend, Donna, with her garage sale and my mom spent last Monday through Thursday morning with me. During that time we tiled my front entrance and helped an aunt get settled into a nursing home.

Today was my first day of part-time employment. I worked a half day at a local Christian school subbing junior high science today, and I'll do the same tomorrow. Monday I have an interview with the North Kansas City School District for a sub position, so wish me luck. And, yes, I do want to do it!

Tonight I'm working with a destination management company on an event in the jazz district, and I'm already scheduled to work with them again later this month. It looks like things will be rolling in shortly, which is fine by me!

I'll continue to look for tour jobs, and if I get anything this fall, it's more likely to fill in for someone. I'll be able to solidify more jobs in January when I travel to San Diego for the ITMI symposium. There I'll be able to interview with a number of tour operators and hopefully get myself scheduled for the year.

Me and Chase

Working on the floor. It seemed to take forever since the original subfloor had a million staple nails in it spaced about an inch apart. It was not meant to come up! Now the next person that tries get this tile up will think the same thing ...

Using the wet saw in the dark!

Donna and I working hard at the garage sale.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

There's no place like home

I'm back in Missouri, and I'm glad to be back. After a long, and out-of-the-way trip from Anchorage to Kansas City, I was greeted at the airport by Mom, Levi and Wyatt. It was so great to see them all! When I got home, much to my surprise, I had a house full of family and friends waiting. It was wonderful to see everyone! No matter if Missouri is hotter now than I've experienced all summer, family and friends make it worth it.

The following day I got quite a surprise as well. I had an interview for a substitute teaching position. When I pulled out of my driveway, I heard a loud pop. I ran over a bolt in my drive, so I called AAA and the tow man followed me to the filling station to have my tire plugged. I ended up having my interview on Wednesday, and I'm now on the sub list.

When I left Alaska, the termination dust or first snow had fallen on the mountain tops and fall had nearly ended.

Here's the front of the wonderful Cordova Square Apartments where I spent my time while in Anchorage in a cozy one bedroom/two bath with 14 of my other dear tour directors! I'm loving having my house to myself!

Pretty rainbows

After having my camera for a couple years, I've figured out that the little movie camera icon on it means it has a video function. Here's a brief video of rainbows as we were making our last ride into Anchorage on Sept. 16.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Sherry, Eric, me, Janis, Jamie and Diane at the Princess Lodge
Fall colors are amazing in Denali!
Sockeye salmon swimming upstream near Portage Lake
Massive kite flying at Delaney Park in Anchorage
Statendam ship's Lido Deck. The roof opens up to reveal the mountains and have the open air around the pool.

The days are numbered! I head home Sept. 17, and I'm very excited. I just ended a tour and have one more remaining. My next tour picks up on the ship Sunday, ends Thursday, I do an exit interview Friday, deadhead home on Saturday from Fairbanks and fly home at 2 a.m. on the 17th.

My last tour was interesting. I had nice enough people, but they ere all pooped out from the ship. I had a guy helicoptered to Anchorage because of cardiac issues, and then I had a few others get sick through out the stay ...

I can't wait to see you all!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Scared spitless ... but alive!

Everyone knows how amazingly graceful I am ... Also, my family knows what happened when I learned to ride a bike ... (I couldn't steer the stupd thing) Well, two other tour directors, Scott and Diane, decided they were going to rent scooters from the Harley store in Denali. How hard could it be, right?

We went to the bike store, got a brief lesson, and were told that anyone could ride these things. We began on the George Parks Highway toward the park. It was incredibly scary since there were very fast cars, and we were only going 30-40 miles per hour. I was last in line and when I began to turn into the park, I was trying to slow down and turn. My feet touched the ground and my legs flew about, but I kept control of the scooter. It seemed that my scooter had stiff steering and veered to the left.

We went 13 miles into the park, stopping at Savage River, just before public vehicles can't go any further. Mt. McKinley was out and very beautiful during the ride. After we got out of the park, we went toward Cantwell, but didn't find much. We turned around after the McKinely Villages. We then drove back toward the Chalets, drove up the switchbacks toward the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain to the Grand Denali Lodge. Again with the massive curves/turns, braking and accelerating ... not my forte.

It was about 9 p.m. at this point - we started at 5:30 - and we decided to drive up the steep hill to the Crow's Nest restaurant for a wonderful bleu cheese burger. This hill has major speed bumps and ditches that nearly made me bottom out.

We got back on the road around a quarter till 10 p.m. and decided to drive out to a bridge where the train crosses. We went there and drove back. On the way back my scooters balance got worse, and it's actually getting dark here. We had to where our sunglasses for protection, so it was getting hard to see.

After gripping the handles of my scooter for dear life for five hours, I was done. I gladly turned in my key, felt good about overcoming a fear and not becooming a grease spot on the pavement. Celebrate the small victories!

P.S. I have no clue why this is underlining everything!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

People are Leaving!

A lot of the tour directors are beginning to go home so they can start school. This makes it hard because it gets me thinking about home. I miss you all very much and I can't wait to see you.

Levi, Wyatt and Chase - I'm sending big hugs and kisses your way! Mwaaa!

My 28th birthday was spent in Denali on the Tundra Wilderness Tour. It was great! I lost count on how many bears I saw. I know it was over a dozen. One of the bears was in a river bed feeding on a caribou carcass. I don't have pictures of it because I could only see it through binoculars.

Don't I look older here? I'm 28 ... closer and closer to the dreaded 30 ...

This caribou got close to the bus. The antlers on this thing were massive and it still had its velvet on.

This is the Sourdough Cabins the tour directors stay at while working in Denali. They have two double beds, a shower that spits water and gets more on the floor of the bathroom that the person in the shower. And the water smells like sulfur. Other than that, they're great. The water is my only complaint there. It's almost like I'm at summer camp when I stay there.

I took a motor coach up to Denali while deadheading to Fairbanks, and on the way we stopped in Talkeetna for a potty break. This is the town the television program Northern Exposure was based off of. The show began taping here, but the actors complained that it was too cold so they moved production down to Roslyn, Wash. It is a tiny, quirky town! They have all kinds of odd festivals that go on including the Moose Dropping, Mountain Momma and Wilderness Woman festivals to name a few. (I tried uploading the pic, but the connection is too slow ...)

Update ... I wrote this a couple days ago in Fairbanks. I arrived in Denali around noon, and my day is now complete. My tour - a tour 16 - is going well. It goes to prove my theory that land first people are happier!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Turn and Burn

Today I'm "turn and burning." I dropped off my latest tour at the ship at noon and immediately boarded the ship to pick up the next group. The tour I just finished was another Alyeska tour. I didn't do as well in tips as I should have, but I had a family of 11 from England. The English are great people, but they are not accustomed to tipping.

I had a great group of people. At Hotel Alyeska is the 7 Glaciers restaurant, which is on the top of Mt. Alyeska, and is rated four diamonds by AAA. You have to take a Gondala-style tram to get to the top, which is fun. A group of my guests had asked if I had ever eaten there, and I told them I hadn't since it was a bit out of my price range, but many of my guests come back with rave reviews. These fine folks invited me to go with them since I had helped them out with a number of items. It was a lot of fun, and the food was great. I would've taken pictures of all the food, not just the dessert, but I think that would have been a bit odd for the hosts. The dessert is a devil's food cake with chocolate mousse and ice cream on top. There was a thin chocolate crisp layer around the edge with gold stenciling, along with the chocolate spoon with stenciling. Divine is the one word to describe it. My meal was a great goat cheese/arugala salad with pecan crusted halibut with curry sauce. Yummy!
This is another great view on the pathway from the Hotel Alyeska into Girdwood. There were also a number of paragliders, and I failed to take a picture of them. I was too much in awe of what they were doing. I even had the chance to see how they took off on the top of Mt. Alyeska. It's safe to say that I'm too much of a chicken. Cockle doodle doo!
This is a huge mushroom that I found along the path in Girdwood. And a beautiful flower.
Poor, poor Roslyn at Alyeska. The poor girl had four sick people on her tour, and she didn't get a break!
This is the front of the train when it was coming in last week in Denali. The front of the train is the Alaska Railroad, and the McKinley Explorer cars are owned by Holland America. The top is glass domed and holds 88 guests. The ground level is the dining compartment and serves 44.