Saturday, December 17, 2022

I think I've booked the last important stop on my Hawaii trip

The other day, I realized that I needed to get off my ass and find a place to kill time on my cruise's debarkation day before heading to the airport for an evening flight.  I looked at dayuse.com and could only find expensive options.  It'd cost me $200 for the best option available there.  So, I found another site, resortpass.com, and found a day room for half the price.  There is only one problem that I think I can manage - I'd have to check out of the room by 5 pm, and my flight wouldn't leave for another 5 hours.  Most hotels don't mind holding baggage for a few hours after one has checked out of a room, and I don't think I'll have trouble stashing my baggage for 2 hours while I go out for dinner.

To answer the unasked question: Why didn't I schedule an earlier flight home?  Well, most eastbound trips from Hawaii to the mainland which have Eastbound connections are scheduled late in the evening, so that those mainland connections can be made early in the morning.  This allows for people flying from Hawaii to the East coast to make it home by mid-afternoon instead of the middle of the night. But this causes a problem for most of us.  How do we kill time before our flights?  Thus, the need for day use rooms in Honolulu.

Given that I will be traveling in Marian Mode for this trip, I expect to deal with a few headaches on this trip.  For example, I may need to ask TSA for special screening, as my presentation will not match that on my legal id.  But, more importantly, I will need to deal with a 5 o'clock shadow before going to the airport for my return flight.  Thus, I will need the day use room for both a few extra hours of sleep and for a need to freshen up my face and makeup before my flights.

Luckily, I will be carrying some spare face masks I bought in the middle of the pandemic, and this will provide some cover towards the end of my long trip home.  Even then, I will be dead tired when I get home and will be glad to finally sleep in my own bed.


 

Friday, December 16, 2022

This will be my last weekend with RQS before my cruise.

 

 
Both RQS and I have been packing for trips.  As reported here, I have two bags going with me to Hawaii. RQS has two small bags going with her as she travels South to see her cousin.  I'm not going to say much about her trip here, save that her preparation is getting in the way of our time together.  😞

- - - - - -

It is normal for two people to spend time apart from each other.  After this weekend, we will be apart for the better part of 3 weeks - and I will miss her.  But there will likely be another period coming up where the 2 of us will be apart for just as long - assuming that I take a Panama Canal cruise as an excuse to see my 90 y/o uncle in California.

My uncle and I are not close.  Yet, he is my uncle, and he once gave me a gift more valuable than money - security in a stressful time.   Almost 27 years ago now, my wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  I was busy with several projects at work, and one of them was visible to the CEO of the bank I then worked for.  Bush #41 had just signed a bill that protected people who needed family leave to take care of sick relatives, but didn't provide financial help for those people doing so.  Without knowing that my uncle's checkbook was open to my needs, I might not have been able to play political hardball and threaten to leave in the middle of a politically sensitive project.  As a result of my uncle's actions, I was able to force my management to give me the resources I needed to get the project done and be able to take care of my wife's needs as well.

In a way, I want my uncle to know that I'll be there for him if needed.  He is going through a stressful time, and he has no family nearby to count on.  (Yes, he has friends that are as close as family, but that's another story.)  So I want to check in on him in 2023, as my brother did in 2022.  Hopefully, he will appreciate the visit....

Thursday, December 15, 2022

It felt good getting back in a dress again

 

Normally, I will try to blend in and wear what cisgender women would wear in a similar situation.  Tonight, I decided to go to game night in one of my new dresses.  It's something I feel comfortable wearing in casual situations, as well as going out for a Thanksgiving dinner - Something I did with the Navy version of this dress.  

There is something about a dress that shouts femininity.  And I like that.  However, our society is becoming much less formal, and women's wear is gradually evolving to become more like men's wear, with minor differences to accentuate the female form.  As much as I am glad that women now have the choice whether to wear a dress or not, I am saddened by the subtle loss of femininity in what the average women wears now days.

I'm still not sure of what I'll be wearing when I go to Hawaii.  I need to be comfortable at all points along the way from Newark, NJ to Honolulu, HI, traveling from winter to summer in less than 24 hours.  Right now, I figure that I'll wear a dress with both a camisole and leggings underneath on the way to Hawaii, and strip off the extra clothing as soon as I land in Hawaii.  On the return trip, I may simply reverse the process, save that I might not bother with the camisole. Layers, Layers, and more Layers....

One thing I know about Hawaii - I expect to be in a dress all the time I'm there, save for the time I'm in a swimsuit....

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

I "won" the bid for an upgrade - just another expense among many.


When I booked my cruise/tour with  NCL, I wanted to spend as little money as I needed to spend for a "bucket list" trip.  In this case, I paid for a city view room to stay in when in town, and an inside cabin to stay in when on the ship.  Since there was an almost $2400 difference between the price of a balcony cabin and an inside cabin, I figured that the money I saved would more than pay for the shore excursions I planned to take.  So, when I received an offer to bid on a cabin upgrade, I figured that I'd bid as low as possible and hope that NCL would accept the bid.

Normally, getting an upgrade to a balcony cabin would be a bargain for $220 (total).  In my case, I knew enough to bid low, as the ship is sailing well below 100% capacity due to staffing issues.  Given the ship's layout, I figured that I would get a room near the pool or buffet - and I was right.  Since my upcoming Hawaii cruise is not one known for late night partying, I figured that having a "winning" bid and being assigned a cabin upgrade in a non-optimal area of the ship would be an acceptable trade off.  Only time will tell whether I was right or wrong on bidding for the upgrade. 

Right now, I am packing and unpacking things to find an optimal grouping of items in my carry-on and my larger suitcase.  So far, so good.  The one main compromise I've had to make is that I've put my swimsuit and swim forms in my large suitcase (which will be checked at the airport).  This means that if the bag gets lost in transit, I will not be able to go swimming until it is found.

The big issue I have is finding a day use hotel to rest at when the cruise ends, as I have a 12 hour wait from the time we leave the cruise ship to the time I need to be at the airport.  (Who wants to spend 12 hours at an airport doing nothing?)  So far, I've found several expensive options, and I figure that I'll call a few places directly to make sure I'm connecting to a real brick and mortar place.

Not to blame anyone, but it feels that every way I turn, I find that the logistics of this cruise keeps needing new cash infusions.  For the 3 days I am touring Honolulu, I will have to take care of my own meals.  And then, there will be the tips I pay on land and on the cruise.  Although I paid for a transfer from cruise ship to the airport, I will skip it to catch a cab to a day use hotel to sleep for a while.  Around 7 pm, I plan to leave the hotel, take a shuttle to the airport, and catch the "red eye" back home.  This hotel will likely cost me $200, plus the money for a cab from the pier to the hotel, and a cab to the airport.  

As I keep reminding myself, this is a bucket list trip - a very big item on that list.

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Colonoscopy

 

Recently, I had to take a friend in for a colonoscopy.  It's not the most pleasant experience to have, but it is usually not the worst.  When I had mine, they found a couple of non-cancerous polyps which were removed by the surgeon.  My friend had a similar result.

- - - - - -

Normally, I don't get up until 9:00 am (or later).  Today, I had set my alarms to wake me up a little before 6:00 am, but I was still very tired from the lack of sleep the night before.  This was a major factor in me deciding to see my friend presenting as Mario.  I was out the door at 6:30, and arrived at her house 10 minutes early.  Although construction blocked the road I'd normally use to get from her house to the hospital, I was still able to get her to the hospital on time for her procedure.  And then, it was off to the local diner for breakfast and a mega dose of caffeine. 

Two and a half hours later, I received a call saying that my friend could be picked up at the main entrance.  I drove to the hospital, waited for 10 minutes, and my friend was free to have breakfast.  So, it was off to the diner, and I had decaf while my friend had breakfast.  Once I dropped her off at home, it was time for a nap - and I was out for the rest of the afternoon.

When I was last scheduled for a colonoscopy, the pandemic hit and I didn't have anyone to drive me to and from the hospital.  So, the appointment ended up not being scheduled.  Two and a half years later, I still haven't had the procedure done.  Sooner or later, I will need to have this procedure done.  But until then, I have other things to take care of first.

 

Monday, December 12, 2022

I had to buy some makeup today.

It's amazing how quickly I use up my containers of makeup.  I figure that I will buy two or three containers of Dermablend every year, while I buy three or four smaller containers of beard cover and of contouring makeup.  I don't bother to count how much setting powder and concealer sticks that I buy, as I easily make do with what I find in the stores.

Dermablend is not that popular a brand.  Yet, it is popular enough to have its own area in Ulta Beauty stores.  However, when I went to the new store in Hartsdale, no one knew where this makeup could be found.  Instead, I was directed to a different brand with a similar sounding name.  So I left the store, and had some falafel for dinner.

Once finished with dinner, I took a leisurely drive to Ulta's store in Dobbs Ferry, where I hoped that I'd have more success with their sales help.  When I found the makeup, I had to make a decision: Do I take a slightly different shade of makeup, or do I mail order the shade I really want.  Since the shade in stock works for me, I figured that a bird in the hand is better than one in the bush.  (Too bad that I didn't know that Dermablend's website was holding a 25% off sale.  But I digress.)  So, I bought the makeup, and took the roundabout way home.  (There was an accident blocking all Northbound lanes of the Saw Mill River Parkway, preventing me from using that route home.)  

I decided to make a quick stop at Trader Joe's to pick up some food.  As usual, I bought more than planned.  While checking out, the male cashier made some polite talk and said "Hope to see you tomorrow." Normally, I wouldn't think twice about this, save that he used the word "Tomorrow".  Could he be trying to send a subtle signal?  If so, he will be disappointed - both as Mario and as Marian, I prefer the company of women. And yet, I can take this as meaning that my feminine presentation is getting better than I might have thought.  What do you think?
 


 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Stone walls don't a prison make, nor iron bars a cage


As we age, we begin to see many of our friends enter assistive care facilities.  Sometimes, as in the case of XGFJ's mother, little assistance is needed to live a rewarding life.  In the case of my father, much more assistance was needed because my dad was no longer self ambulatory.  Like my father, some people prosper when in the right assistive care facility, as they can resume the socialization denied them by their former isolation.  But in the wrong facility, a social person can feel imprisoned.

When I visited Pat, I noticed how sterile and empty her new place seemed.  Save for the receptionist at the front desk, the place was devoid of people.  There was a small area to the right of the reception desk where kids could play, but I wondered - how many people are bringing very young kids to see their elders in nursing homes these days?  I rarely saw them when I visited my dad, and thought that this room was there more for show than anything else.

RQS and I walked to the elevator and got off on the 3rd floor. I was surprised at how quiet this place was.  Looking to my left, I saw another reception desk in front of us, this one being empty.  In another nursing home, or a hospital, it would be staffed by nurses in charge of patient care.  In this place, it looked like it was set up for a different kind of care facility, but left unused as it wasn't apparently needed to service the patients currently housed in this building. So, we walked down the aisle to Pat's room, knocked on the door, and were greeted warmly.

Pat and her daughter visited several care facilities before choosing this one.  It must have been heart wrenching for her to dispose of many of the things she accumulated over the years.  There was almost nothing from her old life present in the room.  The room was almost as sterile as the hall outside. And this said that this room was not "Home" for Pat.  It was simply a place to stay.

Unlike my dad's nursing home, Pat's place didn't seem to have the on-site services that my dad's place had.  For a place doing some of its business as a memory care center, I found it amazing how few safeguards were there to keep memory care patients from wandering off site.  People like Pat were tasked to find their own transportation to off-site doctors - and possibly get dropped off at the wrong sites with no one to help them get where they need to go.  Yet, they are prohibited from leaving the facility's grounds - even for a healthy walk.  Go figure.

The economics of nursing homes in the United States appalls me.  Like our prisons, many are places which have evolved to warehouse people who have no economic value to the larger society.  (I will not go into prison economics here, save that the "for profit" sector has very little incentive to treat inmates with the full respect that most humans deserve - something it has in common with nursing homes.)  As America ages, "for profit" nursing homes have sprung up, many with the goal of raking in as many Medicare dollars as is possible.  Service quality is not a major factor.  If it was, I'd see more evidence of "enrichment activities" than I did in Pat's facility.

Pat noted several things I won't mention here.  Let's say that one has to take what she said with a grain of salt - even if what she said rang true in my ears.  Without people to socialize with, Pat is now a lonely person with few ways of dealing with her feelings. In short, this place is a prison for her, a cage without bars.


 

Was she dead or alive? Inquiring minds wanted to know.

  I hadn't seen Pat in months, and I haven't been able to reach her by voice or text.  Given that she's 84 years old, I figured ...