Sea World

1 08 2018

Since the offices at the apartment buildings wouldn’t be open on a Sunday we decided to spend the day at Sea World.  With the humidity and the heat it was a bit warm at Sea World but nothing like the temperatures back home.  I think we topped out at about 85 at Sea World.  Back home it was closer to 110 or 113.  Given that 85 with humidity isn’t all that bad.

We saw many of the shows starting with the dolphins.  We only did one ride, the Sky Tower.  I saw the roller coaster while waiting for the dolphin show to start.  I can handle steep drops and upside down but the one thing I really don’t like is going backwards.  The roller coaster I saw went backwards so I wasn’t about to ride that thing.  I blame it all on a roller coaster called the Tidal Wave at Marriot’s “Great America” in Santa Clara California.  At least that is what is was called back when I lived there and was going to amusement parks.

We saw two different versions of the Seymore and Clyde show as well as the pets show.  We also did the shark experience and watched the penguins.  We also saw the Orca show which has definitely changed emphasis to conservation and protection of wildlife since the “Blackfish” documentary.

After watching the Orca show, we had dinner, did a little shopping and then decided to head back to the hotel in El Cajon.

Until next time…

Paul





The Loss of my Mom

30 07 2018

November 4, 1995 was a day that changed the trajectory of my life in ways that I wasn’t prepared to deal with.  Three days before, the Lord blessed us with a blessing that we didn’t plan for but are very grateful to have received.  November 1st was the day our fourth child was born.  On November 2nd, we were allowed to take our beautiful new daughter home.  Before we went home, we took her to see her grandmother.  My mom held her newest grand-daughter for a few moments and then gave her back to us.  Two days later my mother passed away.

Her passing was not unexpected.  Several years earlier she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She had a mastectomy along with chemotherapy and radiation.  After all of that she was cancer free for almost 5 years.  This time when it came back it came back with a vengeance.  It got into her lymphatic system and then metastasized below the knee and into her brain.  At the time those were very rare places for breast cancer to attack.

Prior to her cancer returning, I was the designated executor of her estate and each of my kids, along with my sisters kids were to get $10,000 from her estate.  When the cancer returned, she decided to get married.  As I remember, and I may not be remembering correctly, a major reason for getting married was the medical benefits that he had.  This would mean that all of her money would not be spent on her cancer treatment.  After she got married, she changed the trust and put everything in her husband’s name. She did not have a will and based on what my sister once told me, I think she was coerced into making the changes.

While her cancer was in remission, she worked for a very famous financial advisor who also had an attorney working for her.  I went and talked with them as this whole thing about my mother making this radical change from providing for her grandchildren and children to leaving it all to her husband was not like her.  Unfortunately, I got nowhere with this meeting.  What really upset me is that they knew my mother and this was a radical change in behavior that I would thought they might have reached out to my sister or I and at least asked if everything was ok.

Two days after my mother held my youngest child, I got a call from my sister saying that our mom had passed away and that they were waiting for hospice to come get her body. I decided to drive up and wait. Not sure why I did that, it just seemed the right thing to do.

Before my mother passed away, she felt her current husband would not give my sister or I any of my mother’s money. She and my sister had cashed in a couple of her CD’s and given the cash to my sister. She had pulled a couple for me but didn’t/couldn’t cash them as she couldn’t remember my social security number. Within 2 days of my mother passing her husband called asking if I knew where two of the CDs were. I didn’t have them yet so I honestly answered no and to check with my sister.  Shortly after this my sister gave them to me and I tried to cash them.  However, it turns out I needed his signature to cash them and he wasn’t going to let me have both of them.  My mother’s fears were confirmed.

I wanted to have a memorial service for my mother and tried to set something up for a few weeks after she passed away.  I got lots of pushback from my sister and my mother’s husband.  With counsel from my church family, I went ahead and while my sister attended, it was very obvious that she was not at all happy that I had the memorial service.

I didn’t, or maybe haven’t grieved in ways that would seem normal.  Yes her passing made me sad and I miss her greatly.  However, I never really cried for her.   It just seemed a natural part of life and while I had a great loss in my life, life just seemed to go on.  Many years later, I sensed God prompting me to attend Grief Share.  This is a ministry for those that have suffered a loss as they try to adjust to the new season of their lives.  I learned a few things but I didn’t get the healing or closure I was hoping for.  I don’t know that there was anything wrong with the program or even wrong with me.  I just don’t know how that was supposed to impact my life.  About that time, we were preparing to adopt our foster daughters.  I thought that maybe God wanted me to go through this to better understand the grief my soon to be daughters would be going through.  However they were reunited with their mother.

Not too long after the memorial service, my sister moved to Idaho with no warning.  She left pots and pans she had borrowed from our mother on the doorstep and left with no other discussion.  It took me awhile longer but with no family ties to the San Francisco Bay Area and with the cost of housing being unreasonable, I found a job in Chandler Arizona and we moved to Gilbert, Arizona in August of 1997.

Living in the desert has definitely been different from living in the Bay Area.  However in the desert I have formed a much deeper relationship with God that I don’t know would have happened if I had continued with my life in the Bay Area.  Obviously I don’t know what would have happened had my family and I stayed in the Bay Area.  I do know that I would not have met the friends I now have.

Until next time…

Paul





Weight Loss Journey

9 07 2018

I have been on a journey for over a year now.  Actually I have been on this journey for many years but was finally in a place where I was finally ready to admit I needed God’s help about a year ago. 

I have been “chubby”, “heavy”, “large”, “a big kid”, which are all polite ways of saying “FAT”, almost all of my life.  I remember when I was 8 or 9 I would stand with my arms folded at the top of my stomach.  I remember my mother telling me not to cross my arms above my stomach because it pushed my stomach out.  I was teased in school and was always part of the “last kids picked” when it came to choosing teams. 

I married the woman of my dreams in 1986 and if my memory serves correctly, I was about 180 pounds.  I remember that I was working out at the gym prior to the wedding to look my best.  After I was married, I think I lost interest in maintaining my weight.  When I got married I was working a retail job where I was on my feet for a major part of the day walking around.  A few years later, I was hired for a job that would use my computer science degree.  With the hour or so commute and a fairly sedentary job, my weight started to increase. 

So I was fat, and I knew I was fat.  Years of the doctor telling me I needed to lose weight and my wife telling me that she was afraid I was going to die early and my dad telling me I needed to lose weight didn’t cause me to get help.  I tried a trainer at the gym and spent thousands of dollars without a lasting effect.  If memory serves correctly, I managed to go from about 300 pounds to 270 pounds.  My wife and I tried a “well known” weight loss program in 2005 and that worked while I was paying to go to meetings and paying for their snacks.  However when money got tight and I could no longer pay for the trainer and when my wife reached her goal weight and we stopped going to those meetings, I gained all the weight back.  With the weight loss program I actually  managed to get down just under 246 pounds.  245.8 to be exact.

In 2010 I had three business trips traveling to Eastern Europe for work.  We always had a lay over day each way in Vienna, Austria for two trips and Amsterdam, Netherlands for the last trip.  Putting my 290+ pound body into a coach seat for a transatlantic flight, and not being able to walk around Vienna and Amsterdam got me to the point that I was finally ready to give Celebrate Recovery a try.

For those that don’t know, Celebrate Recovery is a Christ based 12-step program similar to the better known Alcoholics Anonymous.  One of the major differences is while Alcohol Anonymous refers to a “higher power” as a source of help, Celebrate Recovery specifically names the higher power as Jesus/God.  Anyway, a pastor at the church my family was attending was “heavy” and lost quite a bit of weight.  He told the congregation that the 12 steps of Celebrate Recovery is what helped him to lose the weight.  His testimony and my business trips to Eastern Europe were enough pain to overcome the fear of walking in to Celebrate Recovery.

Given my past failures with the gym and the nationally known weight lost program I knew that my weight issues were more than simple behavior modification would fix.  There were deeper issues that needed to be addressed.  I went though the doors of Celebrate Recovery and started to work the program.  I started watching what I was eating and trying to drink more water, in place of snacking.  I actually lost 30 pounds in the beginning.  However this was my doing and not what God was most interested in helping me overcome….at least not yet.

I found this walking app for my iPhone and started tracking my sporadic walks back in December of 2014.  My walks got more regular in 2016 but still not consistent. 

Back in February of 2017, I got an Apple Watch and started tracking my exercise.  As of April 1, 2017 I weighed 300 pounds.  I have been as high as 321.  This is not something that I am in any way proud of but it is worthy to note how far I have come. 

With the purchase of my Apple Watch, I decided to start walking regularly and tracking my walking progress.  I figured out the workout app on my watch and in March of 2017 had 1 workout.  In April there were 15, May was 24, June and July there were 20 each and then I started to get serous in August of 2017.

I consider my official start date of this journey August 1, 2017.  We had recently booked a family cruise to the Western Caribbean and I was looking at some of the excursions.  What took me somewhat by surprise was the fact that some of them had weight limits.  Now this wasn’t the zip line or scuba diving where I know there are weight limits.  This was playing and swimming with the dolphins.  This sounded interesting but there was a weight limit.  Those above 240 pounds could not participate.  Since I was currently close to 300 pounds, it meant that my weight was going to be what limited me on this excursion.

I didn’t want my weight to be the reason I didn’t do the excursion.  As I mentioned above, I had tried the gym, I had tried a nationally known weight loss program.  Both worked, sort of, until I couldn’t afford to pay for them.  I had gotten just under 270 pounds while working with a trainer.  I had gotten down to 245 with the weight loss program.  Neither of those were below the 240 that I needed to be under to do the excursion. 

I knew that there were deeper issues behind my weight that simple behavior modification would solve.  I decided to pray about this and ask God if this was the time for us to work on my weight.  I started walking and trying to watch what I ate.  The weight was starting to come off.  In November my prescription for blood pressure medication ran out.  I called the pharmacy to refill it and it was denied.  It turns out that my medical insurance was now insisting that I see the doctor every 6 months while on long term medication.  There was no way I was going to get in to see the doctor before Thanksgiving so I decided to start recording my blood pressure daily and see the doctor after Thanksgiving.  I took my record of blood pressure measurements to the doctor and he was concerned.  Not because my blood pressure was too high but there were several readings that were too low!  With that my doctor decided that I could be off the blood pressure medications and we would check it again in April when I had my annual exam.

In January I was going to the gym because walking when the outside temperature was below 50 was causing my hands and feet to be cold to the point of pain.  I also got an app to start tracking what I was eating.  The combination helped me break through the plateau!

I had my annual physical in April part of which was the usual blood tests.  The doctor was thrilled with the amount of weight I had lost.  When he got the results of the blood tests, all my results were excellent.  Where I had been on both blood pressure and cholesterol medications in the past, and had even had a liver biopsy in the past to determine I had a fatty liver, I am now off all prescription medications.

As I write this I am 56 pounds lighter than I was in August!  As I shared in my travel post, I was finally below 240 and my weight would no longer be the reason for not playing with the dolphins!  I am also down two pants sizes since I started in August and actually 4 pants sizes down from where I was at my heaviest.  At my heaviest, XXL shirts were tight, actually very tight.  Now large shirt are tight but with God’s help, they won’t be for much longer.

I continue to work at losing weight.  My next goal is to break through the 225 pound barrier with my ultimate goal to see if I can get back to about 180 pounds which is where I think I was when I got married. 

Until next time…

Paul





Last Day In Florida

3 07 2018

This is our last day in Florida and the last day of our vacation.  It has been a great vacation but I am also anxious to get back home.

After breakfast we finished packing, left our bags at the Disney Springs Resort and went back to Epcot.

EpcotTinkerbell

There, four of us designed cars and tested the design in a head to head competition.  The car my youngest daughter and I designed, actually she did most of the work, won.

After that we road the Finding Nemo ride.  I had a beautiful companion for the ride.

FindingNemoSelfie

After you get off the ride you can walk around the various tanks in the aquarium.  I could spend hours watching fish swim around.

Afer we left Epcot for the last time this trip, we went and had lunch at the Whispering Canyon Cafe.  This is definitely NOT the place to go if you want a quite lunch.  It is quite noisy.  If you drink your soda or water too quickly out of the mason jar, they bring you an EXTRA LARGE mason jar of your beverage.

DaughtersLargeDrink

If you order something and you need ketchup, your entire table yells “WE NEED KETCHUP”  The folks at the previous table that yelled that then bring over all the bottles of ketchup from their table.

KetchupTower

Of course my daughter had to build a tower out of the ketchup bottles.

 

 

 

 

 

During our lunch they held a pony parade.  Yes two of my “adult” daughters rode stick ponies around the restaurant with other “kids”.

RidingStickHorses

After lunch we went back to Disney Springs to do some shopping and to stock up on snacks for the plane ride back home.  Two of my amazing daughters tried on dresses and my oldest bought the Minnie Mouse dress she tried on.

 

This is the last blog entry for our 2018 Cruise and Disney World vacation.  This is the first time I have done travel blog.  I kind of enjoyed the experience.  I learned a few things along the way and have made some new online friends.

During this vacation I ended up going through many different metal detectors.  Getting back on the ship and entered Disney World are the main times.  I learned awhile back that if I didn’t want a personal pat down from a TSA agent, I wanted to use the x-ray machine rather than the metal detector.  Having two metal knees, a metal hip and pins in my foot mean that more often than not I will set off a metal detector.  A couple of times getting back aboard ship as well as a majority of the time entering Disney World, I did NOT set off the metal detectors.  I didn’t mind NOT have to undergo the special “wand treatment.”  But I have to wonder who calibrates those things?  If I had carried my swiss army knife, or even my larger knife would they have gone off?  Maybe for me with the other metal in my body but what if my wife had carried one of those in?  I don’t want to try that as an experiment as I don’t want to lose the knife but it makes you wonder what folks are actually getting through the detectors with.

Until next time…

Paul





Puerto Costa Maya

26 06 2018

08 Jun 2018

Today we are in Puerto Costa Maya on the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico.  There was quite a bit of wind at the coast and the waves were really pounding the coast line.  The ruins were quite a distance from the port.  In fact it was a 2 hour and 15 minute bus ride to the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins.    

kohunlich

I don’t know that I realized how far away the ruins were from the port.  This is definitely one of those times I am glad this was a ship coordinated excursion.  Had there been any issue getting back in time we wouldn’t of had to be concerned about getting back aboard ship.

The ruins were amazing.  It was interesting to see how another culture lived and the way the “city” was laid out. 

We climbed to the top of the stairs on the tomb which you can see in the first picture as well as the Acropolis which is the second picture.

StairsUpTomb

Staring up the stairs of the tomb

StairsToAcropolisSome of those steps were really large.  I discovered just how weak my right knee is as I couldn’t use it to go up many of the steps.  I think I got a few steps in using my right knee but then gave up and strictly used my left knee to climb the steps.  I am going to have to find some exercises to strengthen that right knee.

Not sure why my right knee is an issue.  In October of 2010, I had both knees replaced.  In 2013, I had a second surgery on my left knee to release the tendons and resurface the patella.  If anything I would expect my left knee to be the weaker of the two.  Maybe because it had more rehab time it is stronger.  If you have any exercises to strengthen knees, please let me know.  I notice the weakness both in going up the stairs and down the stairs. 

During the 2 hour and 15 minute ride back to the port, some of the smarter members of our group took a nap.  There may be retribution for this image:

napping

When we got back to the port we did some shopping.  Then we went back to the ship. 

One of my awesome daughters found her “window seat”.

WindowSeat

In what would have been a colossal oops, I almost forgot to turn off the alarms at the house.  My sister-in-law and brother-in-law were arriving at about 9pm MST and when we started to pull away from the pier at 1:30pm MST I remembered that I had to disarm the alarm system.  Fortunately, I had cell service long enough to actually get the two alarms disarmed so that when they show up at 9ish tonight, they won’t have alarm sounds going off.  I also had cell service long enough to let mysister-in-law know the alarms were off.

It was formal night on the ship and we dressed up and when to the Samba Grill. 

FormalCruise

If you have ever been to a Brazilian grill, you know what this was.  They keep bringing by meats for you to have some of until you say NO. 

I have to admit I am somewhat disappointed in regards to the desserts.  I was fully expecting that there would be Key Lime Pie at least occasionally on the cruise given that it left out of Fort Lauderdale.  The dessert at the Samba Grill was a Key Lime Mousse but that is not the same.  There was one other night where there was Key Lime pie but it wasn’t all that good.  Maybe I just haven’t had real Key Lime Pie but the stuff at Village Inn was better than what they served on the ship, in my opinion.  They have one more night to redeem themselves in regards to the Key Lime Pie. 

I picked up my new watch tonight.  Last night at the “up to 75% off” Invicta watch sale, I got a new watch.  The price tag said $1095 and I got it for $239.  They had to remove three links from the band.  It is a very nice looking divers watch.  Not sure I will wear it diving, not that I am planning to do any diving in the near future.  Though after yesterday’s quasi-snorkel adventure with the camera, I am definitely hooked and will be signing up for any snorkeling excursions in the future.

Tomorrow is our second “sea day” meaning we will be at sea all day heading back to Fort Lauderdale with no other port stops.   There was talk again this evening about a future “around the Pacific Rim” cruise.  The “plan” is to do this after we save some money after the house is paid off.  I mentioned that it wouldn’t likely be a June-July cruise as it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere during that time so this may get pushed off until after my wife retires.  It may be after I retire too as the one we are looking at is something like a 57 night cruise.  Not sure how well work would take it if I said I wanted to be off for 2 months!

Until next time…





Roatan, Honduras

23 06 2018

07 June 2018

Today we are in Roatan, Honduras.  The excursion today is a beach day on a private island.  The island is called Maya Key.   We had some strong winds and somewhat rough seas getting to Roatan and in fact we docked an hour later than planned because of the weather. 

Speaking of weather for a moment, we have actually had very good weather this entire trip so far.  It has been way more humid than I am used to in the Phoenix Arizona area.  The temperature has been in the 80’s.  There has been a threat of rain several times but so far it has not materialized while on shore or even while on deck. 

It was a short boat ride from where we docked at Maya Key.  BoatSelfieBoatRideThe island had some animals that had been rescued or confiscated, snorkeling and plenty of beach.  After getting settled on the beach, I wandered off and took pictures of the animals.

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After I returned from my mini-safari, we had some lunch and then returned to the beach.  I had purchased a snorkel water proof case for my iPhone.  The case I purchased was a LASO Technologies ProShot Waterproof Case for iPhone 8 Plus.  It is rated to be water proof down to 50 feet.  Since I wasn’t planning to scuba dive, this seemed like an excellent purchase to allow me to take pictures underwater. 

I donned my goggles, put my iPhone in the waterproof case and went in to the water.  The water, as I expected it to be, was nice and  warm.  I started trying out the app that was created for using with the case.  Basically the volume up button takes a picture or is the start/stop for the video and the volume down button changes modes.  One of the first non-test pictures was of a small barracuda that was hanging out under the floating raft my wife was sitting on.

SmallBaracuda

Unfortunately, given that I no longer have perfect or even good unaided vision and given that I do not have prescription goggles, my underwater pictures were all “point and pray”.  There was no way that I could see what was being displayed on my iPhone.  I could see the “subject” fairly well but when I looked at my iPhone to see the framing of the subject, or even if the subject was in the frame, it was purely pray mode.  When I go see the eye doctor later this year, I am going to be sure to ask about recommendations for “prescription” goggles or what my options are for restoring my vision.  If you have any experience or suggestions on either option, please share.  I would love to learn what worked for you.

Along those lines, I think I am really hooked on snorkeling and taking underwater pictures.  If there are any clubs or groups or other organizations I can hook up with to learn about gear or locations to snorkel, please share.  Being in a land-locked state, any such trips are going to obviously involve a drive.  One day I would like to try fresh water snorkeling too.

As I looked around and took pictures under water, I saw some Cassiopea also known as upside down jellyfish on the bottom. 

At this point I decided I should put on my swim shoes just in case I put my foot down on a jellyfish.  That could be a bad day.  I ended up swimming around the pier and across the entire area taking pictures underwater.  Unfortunately, I had to come up to breathe periodically.   

FishSchoolfish_pierfriendly_fishBaracude_2In the above picture I saw the school of fish and was trying to photograph them.  I didn’t notice the much larger baracuda just under the surface of the water.

After getting changed back into dry clothes, we had to wait for a boat to take us back to the ship.  

ShipView

On the boat ride back to our cruise ship, I took this image of the coast of Roatan.

Roatan

After getting back to our ship, I decided to go work out for awhile before dinner.  Here is the view I had while on the treadmill.

Exercise

The actual view was much better than what is seen in the picture.  

Up to this point we had been having our on-board meals at the buffet call the Wind Jammer.  Tonight we decided to actually go to our assigned table in the dining room.  The staff and head waiter were excellent and asked about why we had not eaten in the dining room.  The truth is we just didn’t think about it.  It was a very good dinner.  Afterwards, we visited a few of the bars and lounges on-board and then went and looked at the watch sale.  I ended up getting a new gold Invicta watch.   

Until next time…





Cozumel

22 06 2018

06 June 2018

When we woke up this morning at 6am, we were already docked in Cozumel.  CozumelWe weren’t supposed to arrive until 8am or so.  We had breakfast in the WindJammer cafe shortly after they opened at 7.  After breakfast we disembarked from the ship and started shopping at the shops near the pier where our ship was docked.  We had a 9:45 excursion so we didn’t have time to go in to town before the excursion.

We actually had two excursions planned for today.  The first was a panoramic tour of the island.  The bus was very cramped and it was hard to see out the windows from where we were seated so the tour part left a lot to be desired.  The next part of the tour was a tour of a tequila producer.  They talked about how they grow the agave and harvest it and then process it to create tequila.  Then we got to taste a couple of different tequila’s that they make as well as some of the mixes they make including a piña colada made with tequila.   My youngest purchased the piña colada mix and I purchased some tequila aged for 17 years.  I gotta admire the guy on the tour who drank tequila with us.  He probably does several of those tours a day and drinks 4 small samples of tequila during each tour. I don’t think I would be able to function very well after that much tequila.

I was so busy listening to the presentation and tasting tequila I don’t have any pictures.

The next tour was a dolphin encounter at Dolphinaris.  This excursion included play time and riding on a dolphin, lunch and drinks including adult beverages. 

The only downside to the whole excursion was the fact that you have to wash off all the sunscreen prior to getting in the water with the dolphins.  This left me with sunburns where the vest didn’t cover which was pretty much my shoulders, face and neck area.  I got to ride on a dolphin so I think that makes up for the sunburn.  Being the last time for the excursion meant we didn’t get to do the snorkeling, kayaking or paddle boarding that was also available.  Given that the excursion was limited in time regardless of when it started, I don’t know that we would have gotten to do that regardless of when the excursion started.

We got back in to the port area in Cozumel and I had to pick up some Mayan Fiesta rum cakes.    At some point I will be trying out the following flavors: Strawberry Daiquiri, Mexican Vanilla, Golden Original, Banana Daiquiri, Lime Margarita, and Piña Colada.  I also got a Cozumel t-shirt as I have to replenish my supply of t-shirts now that I am two sizes smaller than I was a year ago!

We got back on the ship and had some dinner.  Then I had an appointment with the on-board trainer to go over the detox program.  I have some additional information on foods to eat that will help raise my body’s pH level and a three month supply of Elemis supplements to begin the detox.  If you have advise or suggestions on doing what they called a cellular level detox and foods to raise my pH level, I would love to hear from you.  I plan to write here about my progress and the changes that I  notice as this process begins.  However I am NOT starting this until I am back home from vacation.  Starting something like this while on vacation just seems to be a really bad idea.

Tomorrow is Roatan, Honduras.  We are going to a private island to sit on the beach and do some snorkeling and just relax.

Until next time…








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