Our transit through the Panama Canal…Watch us live!

Here’s the link of our passage through the Panama Canal

If you’ll go to this site right now, we are currently approaching the Gatun Locks.  By clicking on the webcam view for the High-Resolution Gatun Locks, you may be able to see our ship, the navy blue and white Celebrity Century, approaching the entrance to the Gatun Locks, currently in line behind several humungous ships.  Based on the poor Internet connection aboard ship, I am unable to load our photos now as I post this. However, this webcam view will show you what we’re able to see.

At 5:15 this morning we quickly managed our way to the 12th floor of the Celebrity Century to the Hemisphere Bar, the highest point on the ship except for the navigation bridge.  We wanted to ensure we grabbed two comfy padded front row chairs facing the full glass wall at the bow of the ship, a firsthand view of the upcoming Panama Canal.
In a mere two and a half hours, we’d begin the eight to ten-hour journey through the canal commencing at the Miraflores Locks.
After a fitful night’s sleep of only three hours, we both bolted out of bed at exactly the same moment when the sounds of the ship changed from a familiar purr to a rumbling series of roars indicating we were slowing down. It was 4:00 am.
Over the past two days, we discussed various strategies as to how and where we’d secure an advantageous spot for viewing the transit through the canal, hopefully in air-conditioned comfort at the bow of the ship. 

The air, thick and murky with dense humidity left us glistening and sweaty as the hot wind licked at our faces on the long outdoor walk past the pool to the 12th floor. 

Our trusty coffee mugs, loaded with a mixture of lukewarm regular and decaf would have to last us the few hours until we were willing to leave our seats for fear of losing a moment of the exhilarating view.
Comfortably ensconced in those perfectly positioned chairs provided us with a bird’s eye view of the “road ahead” or shall I say, the “canal ahead.” We were content.
A lively conversation ensued as others, as anxious as us, found their way to nearby seats, they too with fantastic views.  With nary a thought of our exhaustion until hours later, our heightened senses were tuned in for this adventure, the Panama Canal from the best seat in the house, an experience of a lifetime, one of many yet to come. 

Oh my, we’re so grateful. How did this happen to us? How did we manage to unload everything we owned, leaving our family and friends behind, to follow this newly discovered dream of spreading our wings in a much wider expanse than we’d ever imagined, to travel the world, to be free of hearth and home, while carrying “heart and home” with us?

As we entered the first of five locks on our way from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans, Tom with his extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the canal, narrated the process for me, while in the background the voice of Panama’s “Ambassador” and our onboard educator, Uncle Marty blared over the loudspeaker.

With literally no audible sound or sensation, our huge 830-foot long, ship, gently maneuvered through the first three locks, utilizing the power of aquatic gravity along with the use of six low gear locomotives drawing us forward through the Miraflores Locks to 54 feet above sea level. 

Eventually, we made our way through the third and final “raising” lock to a high of 85 feet above sea level and into Gatun Lake, a man-made reservoir that supplies Panama

Amazing!  Purely amazing!  Simple gravity coupled with a small amount of motorized assistance is still working almost 100 years later. That feat, in itself, is mind-boggling.

Soon, we were traveling through Gaylord Cut, the nine-mile winding section of the canal at a snail’s pace, passing tankers, cargo ships, and container ships, one after another during the nine-mile crossing through the lake.

We passed by Gold Hill, the continental divide on our long journey to the remaining three lowering locks to eventually take us out to the sea, the Atlantic/Caribbean Sea. It’s all so hard to believe. 

This morning the sun came up over the Pacific but due to our location, we had a sense that the sun was rising in the west.  This evening, the sun will set in the Atlantic, again perceived as setting in the east as opposed to the west.  An odd phenomenon, for sure.

Soon, we’ll enter the locks and finally be back out to sea.  We’d love to post photos, but our Internet connection is barely able to post the text.

Exhausted? Yes!  Exhilarated? Yes!

Ah, our amazing world yet to be discovered by us as we continue on

A vacuum travels the world!

Mini vacuum weighing 1.7 pounds, perfect for use to suck the air out of with the Space Bags

Yesterday was a productive day.

Tom decided to tackle his mountain of papers; in his closet, in the magazine rack next to his comfy chair in the kitchen and atop the bistro table in the family room.  

He began stockpiling papers many months ago while sifting through the hundreds of photos he eventually scanned from a box he borrowed from his older sister Patty, in order to upload them to his ever growing file in Ancestry.com.   

The box now back in Patty’s possession, but the piles of not-so-neatly stacked papers remained, creating havoc in our otherwise (formerly) tidy household. I have to get over being “tidy” in the next 59 days.  It’ll only get worse.

Yesterday, after some gentle prodding (I’m not a nag. He’s not lazy.), Tom decided to begin the process of clearing out the chaos.  Often working 12 hour days with two hours of driving time, five days a week, the weekends have always been a vital time for him to relax and recover while dutifully fixing things around the house and helping me with the heavy lifting.  No more relaxing, my darling.  Time is marching on.  

As he busily and cheerfully worked on his papers in the magazine rack, a big glass of iced tea at his side, the TV on to political rantings in the background, I decided to investigate the storage space under the cushions of the small banquet in the corner of the kitchen.  Digging through the vast array of items stuffed into the small space, I discovered a most useful item, a tiny handheld vacuum. Hum. Interesting.

Small banquet area in our kitchen 

My mind was taking off on its usual whirl of wild thoughts, I excitedly showed Tom the forgotten little Shark vacuum.  Grabbing his hand, I dragged him and the little vacuum to the pile of suitcases sitting on the daybed in the living room, where we had the six large Antler suitcases and the six boxes of Space Bags (each containing three large sized storage bags).  

My rational when buying the bags from Amazon.com, was to fill each suitcase with three of the bags and thus condense the packing. Knowing full well that I’d never be able to vacuum seal the bags since we’d hardly be able to bring a vacuum cleaner around the world, I figured we’d be able to “press” the air out of the bags as recommended in the instructions.

Recently, as mentioned in this blog, I packed one suitcase, for the heck of it, to see how it would work squeezing out the air of three Space Bags. Slightly disappointed with my air pressing skills, I discovered it was a two person job, resigning to repack the bags with Tom’s help in the near future.  Alone, I was only able to reduce the size of the filled bags by about 20%.

Little vacuum in hand, Tom hauled the suitcase onto the bed and together we proceeded to use the vacuum to “suck” out the air via the special hole in the bag. Alas! Success! The size of the clothing filled bags was reduced by no less than 60%, leaving room in the suitcase for 12 pairs of shoes, underwear and 15 bottles of vitamins!  Wow!  

With three large Space Bags for each of six large suitcases, we will be able  to fit all of our belongings.  When we get to Scottsdale, two months before leaving the US and departing on our 15 day cruise to the Panama Canal, we decided we will have time to repack, designating two bags each as “cruise wear,” thus leaving the others unopened and hopefully tucked away.  

The suitcases stack quite well, taking up only 28″ X 19″ of floor space.  In booking the seven cruises so far, we’ve selected no less than balcony cabins and in some cases, suites, both of which provide additional floor space.  

Yes, we will be a little cramped, but with a balcony on which to lounge while overlooking the sea, we’ll be content.  With many activities on the cruises, I doubt we’ll spend much time in our cabin.

By the end of the day yesterday, all three of my large suitcases were packed using nine of the vacuum sealed Space Bags, Tom’s piles of papers were considerably smaller and dinner was on the table.  In the evening, after a lovely gluten free, low carb, grain free dinner, we relaxed in our usual comfy chairs in the family room for a delightful evening of idle chatter and vigorous channel surfing.  

The three bags on the right with wheels forward are my packed bags. Lots of stuff.

For the first time in months, I slept through the night, awakening at 5:30 am ready to tackle another day. Next weekend, we’ll pack Tom’s belongings in the same manner, he’ll finish up the papers and we’ll be one step closer to our worldwide adventure.

Hey, if I ever get bored, I can always vacuum!

Bite sized pieces….

My feet hitting the floor at 5:40 am, a surge of energy running through me, I rushed around the house performing the morning’s usual tasks.  

The bath water ran while I turned on the teapot, emptied the dishwasher, threw the sheets in the wash, folded a load of laundry, checked my email and looked in refrigerator contemplating tonight’s dinner.  

The tub was full. Time to get ready for the day. Having worked for 45 years, I can put myself together in 20 minutes, providing I don’t get distracted stopping to watch the news story of the day on the TV in our room.
By the time I got the sheets into the dryer for the 70 minute cycle, I found myself walking in circles around the house, my eyes scanning the cupboards, the drawers, the closets, filled with the “things” of our lives, yet to be tackled.  I felt my heart race; a little bit of fear, a little bit of angst, a tinge of sorrow. 

Letting go? Letting go. Day by day. “Bite sized pieces” keeps running through my mind, the words I used daily to remind my precious sister Julie to hang on as she went through lengthy and agonizing breast cancer treatment about 4 years ago. She survived, thank God, with  a level of grace that I so admired and with a hope for the future, that has proven to serve her well.
Of course, there is no comparison with these life events, but the simplicity of thinking in terms of “bite sized pieces” has a magical way of putting our apprehension and fear in perspective, allowing us each day to bite off a little piece of the challenge while continuing to deal with it, day after day. 

I keep reminding myself of the upcoming sense of freedom and adventure facing us.  But now, with 3 months and 23 days to go, the reality of the looming tasks, many of which are too soon to complete now, I could easily  throw myself into a tailspin.  
Taking a deep breath, I don’t choose the tailspin, thinking, “What can I bite off today to lighten the load?”

We have found as we age, our ability to handle challenges changes. Somewhere along the way, both Tom and I have accepted that emotional upheaval is pointless, “drama” is used to elicit a response from others, stress is damaging to one’s health, and loud vocalization (yelling) to those you love (or not) doesn’t solve problems but creates them. Again, simple, again magical with the ultimate goal of contentment, entirely attainable, not at all elusive.

At 8:30 am, I packed up our six year old grandson Vincent, driving him to Gale Woods Farm for his second of five days in “farm camp” a short jaunt from our home. Three hours later, having completed multiple errands, I returned home, feeling a sense of accomplishment for having taken several “bite sized pieces” out of the daunting tasks that are looming. Walking into the familiar smells in our home; remnants of last night’s dinner along with the orange organic cleaner I used this morning to clean the kitchen, a wave of accomplishment washed over me.In only a few short months this life as we’ve known it, will be over with a new life to begin its place. We’ll continue to take “bite sized pieces” with contentment, joy and wonder as our ultimate goal.

Looking around the house at the cupboards, the drawers, the closets and the “things” I knew it will all get done and, it will all be OK.

He liked his shoes!…He liked my shoes!…

Buying gifts for Tom has always been a dilemma.  His hobby is ancestry.  What does one buy for a person obsessed with their ancestry?  He recently purchased another year of his annual dues for Ancestry.com.  Only a week ago, he purchased his DNA test from Ancestry.com to discover yet more about his roots. 

I could have presented him with a trip to Ireland to look for his ancestors, but duh, our travel plans are set for the next three years or more and, he’s already traveled to Ireland twice, BJ (before Jess).  

In the past, I have presented him with books, tools, electronic gadgets and household “fix-it” paraphernalia and, every other year, swim shorts with matching, colorful tee-shirts. This year I was at a loss. I couldn’t buy him anything other than that which he could put into his suitcases.

In an effort to ensure he had a nicely wrapped gift to open for Father’s Day, I reviewed the remaining items he needed for our adventure, deciding on the double duty aspect of giving him gifts while fine tuning his packing. Ah!

Yesterday morning after a breakfast of low carb, gluten free coconut flour pancakes, eggs and meaty bacon, I presented him with his gift, neatly wrapped in one big box with Happy Birthday paper (have to use that up) adorned with a matching black “guy” bow.  We were celebrating the last Father’s Day we’ll spend in our Minnesota home.

For Father’s Day I purchased three swim short sets for our travels.

When Tom left for a few hours yesterday morning for a traditional Father’s Day activity with some of our kids and grandchildren, I decided to do the unthinkable;  go to a mall!! His enthusiasm over his water shoes piqued my interest while I had visions of fancy high heels floating around my head for the many formal nights on the seven (so far) cruises we have booked.  

Tom has always loved seeing me wear high heels, mainly pumps, no toes showing. Over the years, I have worn them less and less, fearful of falling and injuring myself.  As the fashion trend to wear high heels (over 3″) has escalated (no pun intended) these past several years, I kept convincing myself that wearing high heeled shoes is bad. 

One pair “water” shoes on left, dress sandals on the right and “insect guard” long sleeve shirt and, what Tom refers to as the “French Foreign Legion” type hat with a neck protector that also has been treated with insect guard” 

Generally speaking, high heels aren’t comfortable. They pinch. They cause blisters. They cause corns and bunions neither of which I surprisingly don’t have, after years of wearing heels in the 70’s and 80’s. 

Adventuresome spirit possessing me lately (zip line still a maybe), I decided to do whatever I could to find a few comfortable pairs of three or four inch heels to wear with my dressy dresses on the formal nights aboard ship.  Comfortable heels? Oxymoron?

I decided to put my shoe size vanity aside (81/2) and buy a wider width of my otherwise normal width feet to see if this would reduce the discomfort.  Don’t get me wrong, I can easily walk in high heels after much experience, but comfort seems to be more of a need than a want once a person hits their 60’s.

While at the shoe store, I only grabbed the 81/2 W.  Amazing!  I found these two pairs of perfect styled shoes, albeit not the pumps Tom prefers, that will be divine matches for two of my three fancy dresses, but I had to order the third pair when they didn’t have them in stock.  Not only were they comfortable, I could almost jog in these heels.

Rather pleased with myself after the successful trip to the mall, I reveled in spending a grand total of only $73 for the four comfortable pairs of shoes.

Note that my new “water” shoes on the right are almost identical to Tom’s (although mine were less than 1/2 the price of his)!  Imagine, we’ll match!

Returning home in the early afternoon, I began preparing his choice of dinner, a repeat from only two weeks ago: low carb, gluten free, sugar free, wheat free, grain free homemade pizza. 

When Tom arrived home, I rushed him off to the bedroom to see the shoes.  He giggled that the water shoes matched his and he liked the bargain price of $73. But his eyes narrowed as he contemplated the strappy high heels sitting on the bed, as opposed to a closed, no-toes-showing, pump.  

One solution to those narrowed eyes; I put on the most strappy of the two pairs and began prancing around the room awaiting a reaction. He waited for me to wobble.  I didn’t.  He breathed a little sigh of relief.

And then, that appealing toothy smile came across his face along with the crinkling of the little lines around his blue eyes.  He liked the shoes.