Saturday, July 30, 2011

From Wyoming to Alaska by boat

Now that they are back home safely with no fear of retribution or further mayhem, it's safe to tell the tale of the send off for Angela and Jamie's honeymoon.  The take away lesson: get a passport.

Angela and Jamie scheduled an Alaskan cruise which disembarked out of Seattle one week after the wedding.  Most (if not all) Alaskan cruises make one stop in a Canadian port so folks can buy cheap duty-free booze, perfume and cigs.  Because of this and 9/11, they are ever so much more strict about your ID.  No longer does a US driver's license suffice.  You have to have a birth certificate or a passport to board the big boat.  It does stipulate a "certified" birth certificate which means different things to different people evidently.

Being that they could bring birth certificates, Angela and Jamie opted not to get passports because they aren't cheap or quick to get (~$200 and 6 weeks).  Besides our lovely couple was kinda busy planning a wedding, interviewing and getting new jobs.  But Jamie called Norwegian Cruise Lines weeks before they left to double check and described the birth certificate that he had--to which they said "absolutely would work and no problem."  (I am paraphrasing.)

So we celebrated the wedding and 5 days later on a Friday, they drove up in Seattle and stayed at our house with the next day as their departure.  On a whim, Jamie and Angela whipped out their documents.  Angela, the over-achiever, had two certified State of Oregon birth certificates.  But I took one look at Jamie's birth certificate and I said, "That's not a certified birth certificate.  That's from the hospital.  It's not a legal document."  I grabbed the laptop and began to see if we can get a certified birth certificate from Wyoming (where he was born) at 4pm PT on a Friday.  (The answer, by the way, is no.)

Jamie instantly got stressed and called the cruise line AGAIN.  I heard him describe the birth certificate and called it was a "hospital" one and they again said, "no problem."  We poured him a stiff drink and he took a little time by himself to regroup.  I felt bad making him needlessly worry like that but our evening went on as planned.

What's the difference between a certified birth certificate and a hospital birth certificate?  A certified one is issued by the state in which you are born and usually looks very boring with mostly words and a raised embossed seal that may or may not be visible.  A hospital birth certificate usually has a picture of the hospital or the baby's footprints stamped on them.  Basically it's a souvenir and is not legal.  The one thing that can confuse people is that many times the hospital has a "seal" that can look official so you think it's certified.  But to get a certified birth certificate you contact the vital statistics office from the state where you were born and pay $10-20.

Saturday morning, Angela, Jamie and I left to go down to the terminal which is right across the street from where I used to work.  It was a nice day and we were one of the first cars to drop off passengers.  There was plenty of time for them to get on-board, get settled and have a celebratory drink/food before they even left the pier.  I told them I would stay at the curb until I got a call from them that they are on the boat just to be sure.

But in the back of my mind there was still a grain of unease which blossomed into dread when I received a call from Angela five minutes after they disappeared into the terminal.  "They won't let him on the boat," she said flatly.  She then asked me what they should do.
Have you escalated to a supervisor.  Yes.
Have you told them that you called twice and asked about it being okay?  Yes but they say the certified birth certificate is required and it says so on the website even though Jamie didn't see that when he was organizing the cruise.
Have you told them this is your honeymoon????  I don't think they care. They are turning away other people with this same issue.  But the supervisor said we have 4 hours to find a certified birth certificate and fax it to them.  

They grab their bags and return to the car which is in the #1 position in the taxi stand.  Other people and taxis started to arrive around us and the pressure turns up.  As an aside: If people get confused about which birth certificate to bring more than once per cruise (which clearly was happening) and the phone reps contradict the website, well it's time to just change the policy to "passports only."  Make it elegant and simple.  You want to pass through Canadian waters and stop in a Canadian town, you need a passport.

But at this point both my two cousins are trying to keep it together and we were all thinking of ways we could get a certified birth certificate for Jamie.  But he was not even confident that one existed in physical form.  I felt really terrible for these guys because your honeymoon is supposed to be the reward after all the stress, organization and nerves of the wedding.  It's supposed to be when you get to relax.  And they two are all about details and being buttoned up so I know it was killing them that this one slipped through the cracks.

The next two hours were filled with trying every idea we could think of.  I consulted one of my former Canadian national co-workers to see if he had any ideas.  We tried to contact the Oregon DOL in hopes that an Oregon driver's license would have required a certified birth certificate.  Jamie called his attorney mother who thought she may have had an "in" someone in the Wyoming state offices.  Jamie called his dad to see if a certified birth certificate might be at his house in Idaho.

And then Jamie remembered the folder that his dad had given him.  It was where the hospital birth certificate had come from.  In the rush of the wedding prep, he had not looked through it but after all avenues were exhausted, it was the last and only hope of for them to get on the boat Saturday.  Only problem was, this folder was inside their locked home in Oregon to which only they had keys.  Luckily their neighbor was home and he called a locksmith.  We all waited for this locksmith to get over to their house and open the door.  With time ticking, every minute was excruciating.

For worst case scenario, I was also trying to rally a Plan B.  There was going to be another boat leaving on Thursday or maybe Angela could go ahead and Jamie would meet up in another port.  But none of this was a sure thing whether Norwegian Cruise Lines would honor that, would have the space and credit them for another cruise.

Once the neighbor got in, he ran up to the den and began to look for the folder.  He didn't know exactly what a Wyoming birth certificate looked like and seemed a little doubtful when he found the folder.  He took what might be it and faxed it from his house to the cruise line and emailed it to my phone so that we could see if it was what we were looking for.  As soon as he said he was faxing it, Jamie went inside the terminal to talk to the supervisor.  We all held our collective breaths.  The notification came in on my phone and I opened the attachment while Angela was anxiously looking over my shoulder.  The moment I saw the heading State of Wyoming Certificate of Live Birth I said, "This is it.  We got it."  Angela and I squealed and hugged on the curb and just at that moment, Jamie came out of the building looking like he might laugh or cry with relief.  They had 1 hour to spare before the boat disembarked and they grabbed their bags with renewed enthusiasm.  By this time, the majority of the other passengers had showed up and were in a long line to check bags and IDs.  Jamie and Angela were escorted to the front of the line and just got right on the boat.  VIP treatment at last!

Once they got on the boat, I think they had 2 very stiff drinks each.

This is now all but a colorful memory and exciting beginning to a lovely week-long honeymoon cruise but I still think Norwegian Cruise Line has some culpability to creating such a stressful 3 hours for all of us.  I have tweeted to them about the phone rep conflicting information issue with no response.

So next time someone talks about taking an Alaskan cruise, tell them passports all around.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do-good wannabe, part deux

I wish my do-good instincts coupled with raper wit would have begot this genius of a website:

Instead, I give mad props to Robert W, whoever he is, for saying what needs to be said.  I'll be following this blog going forward.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wedding Bellz

Last weekend my much beloved cousin, Angela, married her long-time love, Jamie, in a weekend getaway extravaganza.  The main event took place last Sunday at the base of Mt. Hood in Welches, Oregon at The Resort

The Thursday night before, several of us in the wedding party took Angela out for dinner and a movie.  We of course saw "Bridesmaids."  I was secretly hoping we'd get a picture like this:

 But we ended up more like this...

Photo by Cindy Hovind
But I get ahead of myself.

Friday, the ladies of the bridal party partook in some pedicures/manicures and spray tans.  I was the only hold-out originally.  Not being wild about putting chemicals on my skin which is sensitive anyway, I thought my heritage would give me a little color.  Unfortunately the minute I saw the other girls, I realized I was the "tragically pale" bridesmaid.  So as my cousin cleverly predicted, I relented and bronzed up.

Afterwards, we had a celebratory lunch in honor of Angela's nuptials and we all tried to not to smudge our new skin color on anything.

Saturday before the rehearsal dinner, Jamie and his guys golfed while Angela took the bridesmaids and some others (including Mr. Ken) up to Mirror Lake on a short, picturesque hike.  I'm not so much about the hiking and the outdoors but this was very nice.

This is my favorite picture of the hike.  

Ken took this picture of all the ladies.

Mirror Lake with Mt. Hood peeking through

The bride to be takes a minute to reflect on a log in the lake.

Sunday we gathered early for make up and hair prep plus getting our beautiful bride ready.  A hair and makeup team assembled to get us all ready.


It also took a team of folks to wrangle, entertain, supervise and keep Sidney from getting dirty since I was singularly focused on being available to Angela.  Big thanks to Mom, Dad, Ann, Austin, Cindy and team captain Ken.  

Photo by Cindy Hovind

(As seen on Sidney's Page...)
On Sidney's part: the wedding was an amazing event filled with love, laughter, food (& drink) and the triumph of apple juice.  Miss Sidney was the flower girl and the plan was to have her hold hands with the ring bearer and walk down the aisle.  In rehearsal and before the real thing, Sidney wasn't having it.  So we found a compromise where she held my & the best man's hands, walked between us up the aisle and then went to sit with her Daddy in the front row.
Also on the actual day right before the ceremony, her energy began to wane and a meltdown was on the horizon but we gave her some straight apple juice (which she never gets to drink undiluted).  It worked like a charm.

Photo by Cindy Hovind

I had managed to keep it together all morning and through the beginning of the ceremony.  When you are so focused on hitting the schedule correctly, being where you need to be, keeping yourself upright on heels and hoping everything falls into place, it is easy to forget that there might come a huge emotional swell when you have a moment of calm.  After Sidney and I got down the aisle and I turned to see Angela coming, this picture was taken then a minute later, I couldn't stop crying.  Waterproof mascara?  I was hoping that's what the makeup lady put on... Such a triumph of spirit and love on such a gorgeous day.  A monarch butterfly flitted over the crowd a few times and that being one of Angela's favorite symbols, those of us who noticed were even more reminded how special this all was.

Photo by Cindy Hovind

Picture perfect and such a great match!  

Photo by Cindy Hovind
The ceremony was followed by a delicious brunch reception in the Ballroom.  I didn't eat much of it because I was so nervous about my speech.  Thankfully former-Toastmaster Mr. Ken worked with me on it for the week preceding so I felt some level of confidence.  The Best Man's toast was rumored to be a roast (paybacks are a bitch) but ended up being rewritten at the last minute into one of the most heart-felt, tear-inducing speeches I've ever heard at a wedding.  Since I was following him, I had to really compose myself before I walked up to give mine but it went well and, what's most important, Angela & Jamie liked it.  

Team Sidney took turns watching over her in the room since the reception fell right in the middle of her nap.  Later, we got Sidney to dance a little and I brought my "B moves" (couldn't conjure the A moves that day) to the dance floor, cutting it up to Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas.  The DJ looked like a cousin on my dad's side so he and dad kept calling each other "couz."  By 4pm, it was over and everyone involved was happy and exhausted (and in need of showers).   Mother and Cindy did us a solid and took Miss Sidney back to Portland for the night so we could have a nice evening up at the Resort with the folks staying behind including the bride and groom.  It was a marvelous event and weekend.  It's hard to believe it was only a week ago.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Do-gooder Wannabe

In my profile description, I say that I am a "do-gooder wannabe."  A few years ago, before Sidney was born, I took a hard look at my life & career and considered what many people do who are educated, well-paid and sympathetic to the disparity in the world: wanting to cross over to a non-profit job.  

I was ignorant though, let's establish that right off the bat.  The non-profit world is not waiting with baited breath for me, a former hi-tech program manager who is good with logistics but has no established background with issues nor has an advanced degree in anything.  Some of the folks I spoke to at these organizations are some of the most "degreed up" people I have ever met doing the same job I did at a hi-tech company for half my salary.  But it's not about the money when you go to work for a non-profit, it's about helping others.   

Non-profits in Seattle can be very picky because it seems like so many bright, driven and appropriately experienced people who want the jobs too.  It showed me how ideal yet unfocused I was about this pursuit which really took me aback.  I had never been so unprepared as I was in trying to find work for a cause.  Maybe because I never crusaded for a cause or issue before.  So I began to consider what causes or issues was I really concerned about.  I knew answering "all of them" was incorrect.  Ghandi said something like "be the change you want to see" but I just felt overwhelmed by the choices and unwelcome professionally.  I'm not proud of it, but at that point, I just gave up and tried to rediscover some joy in the job I had at the time.  Then I got pregnant with Sidney.  And then I left that job to be a stay-at-home-mom, work that pays nothing but is infinitely more rewarding.  (Maybe that's a little like working for a cause.)

But I still have a desire to effect change and improve the world.   But to be said in the manner of Derek Zoolander, lips pursed, "I'm frustrated because I can't figure out how to help people less fortunate than me. " I know, it's such a ridiculous, first world problem--I just need to stop whining and get doing.

Three recent events have especially rekindled the do-gooder fire:

1. A blog post about a recent trip to Bangladesh by Heather Armstrong, the blogger behind  She went there earlier this month to raise awareness about maternal health and generally the conditions of one of the poorest nations on the planet.  Her visit was not without controversy but ultimately any attention and mobilization of assistance is key.

2. Attending a showcase last week presented by reporter Jenny Asarnow and photographer Jake Warga with stories and images from a recent trip to Haiti which is still in chaos and highlighting the conditions of birth and labor for Haitian women.  They followed an American midwife who trains others in Haiti to improve the chances of maternal survival and reduce complications.

3. The departure last Tuesday of our friend Bev for a month to Bangladesh to help the Distressed Children and Infants International Organization by teaching English to orphans so that they might have another skill to pull them out of a cycle of indentured servitude and prostitution.

With all of that in my consciousness as of late, I can't help but want to re-engage.  Even though the most paralyzing aspects for me are "where is the most need" & "what can I do for them."  I realize every cause is important and deserving in their own way so I guess it's just like dating: do your research, make a commitment and do as much as you can before you move on.  Because you don't have to marry the cause (or make a living doing it either) to make a difference.  With that I think I'm going to look a local food bank and see about sorting things, putting stuff in bags or organizing food stuffs.  Put that OCD to work!