Saturday, December 27, 2003

"Everything is going to be alright, when we go Shopping" - BNL, Everything, 2003

What will I do if they ever stop recording?

I never thought I would say this about a band but the Barenaked Ladies have done it again with their latest album - Everything.

Driving today in the Red Subaru on the way to exchange some gifts and pick up some for my family Christmas (we've spent Christmas with D's family and are heading to see my on Monday for new years! woo hoo), I decided I would enjoy a little 'me' time and listen to what I now know believe to be my favourite present.

I just fell in love with every song. Every single one. Everything, you might say.

Each one was unique but catchy. I found myself singing along instantly. The words are always so true. So poetic but not pretentious. And every time I hear a new album by them, I feel like they've been living part of my life while writing the new songs because I find I relate to so many of them, in so many ways.

I recommend this band for anyone who has a sense of humour but can appreciate the importance of a correctly place phrase.

They're no “Jennie from the Block” - they actually continue to live in the same city they grew up in, write about places in Canada and still live fairly down to earth lives - I suppose as much as can be expected.

They've only been a hit the U.S. since their Stunt album but I remember the first concert I went to. In was at the London Western Fairgrounds in 1991 and some how, me and two of my friends had managed to get in the front row.

I had gone that day with my parents to the fair but, being a cool teenager, I must have gone off with my friends at night to see they play.

We were so squished. People were jovial, though, swaying back and for the to classics such as ‘Be My Yoko Ono’ and ‘Brian Wilson’. We kept smiling at each other. We had been sneaking and squeezed our way to the front.

I could smell smoke all around me. Those were the days when I swatted it out of my face. In later years, I would scowl at people like that as I was hacking away on a butt.

It must have been about halfway through when things got more exciting.

Ed Robertson had a mohawk the size of DJ Jazzy Jeff back then. He was strumming away on the right side of the stage. As he turned with a goofy look, I pointed my fingers up at him. He pointed out to me and gave me a nod. I started screaming with excitement. Could it be? This band I had listened to on the radio and bought their newest album were actually in front of my eyes and one of the members just gave me a wave?

It was a pretty real moment for my hormones and me.

I got this idea. Perhaps, now that I’m at the front, I could somehow get pushed over to the other side of this barrier and be closer to them. Perhaps it could all be happening.

Perhaps someone who was being body surfed over the people thought he was being helpful when he fell on my head and pushed it towards the metal bar.

I screamed. I was now dying. I must have had a concussion or at least have broken the skin. I was definitely going to pass out.

I have always been quite melodramatic.

The security guards pulled me from behind the barriers – and there they were. For a brief second, all that stood between the band and I was the wooden stage and about 4 feet of height.

And then it was over. Whisked away by security guards I didn’t even get to hear them sing one note or see them look at me one time before being sent off the side and into the fairgrounds.

I will always remember that as my Beatles moment – although, I am in now way comparing the genius – however, it’s all relative sometimes when it comes to emotions.

It inspired me so much today just listening to their new stuff, knowing that no matter what they sing, I will always seem to enjoy it.

I’m not sure if it’s them or me or a combination of both but I’m glad I’ve stuck with a band with staying power. I’m not sure what I’ll do if they stop recording.

Monday, December 22, 2003

I'd Like to Thank the Academy

So, just realized that there are actually awards for doing this kind of thing:

The best of British blogging

Who knew?

Well, obviously a bunch more people than myself.

It strikes me as funny. Blogging - to me - is essentially a form of diary writing. Having it recognized in such an official way makes it a bit more important.

I'm still quite a virgin to the whole underground world of the blog so perhaps others have a different take on what a blog actually is and how you define it.

Some blogs I go to tend to have so much information that I am immediately overwhelmed and click the 'back' button faster than you can say "blog".

I like when blogs have links within their posts. But a link every other word makes my head spin. Did somebody really love so many things within a span of writing for 20 minutes that they had to send me off into the neverland of the Internet 15 different times?

It's hard enough to follow the websites that I like at the moment...I don't need someone throwing in a bunch more into the mix.

If I could add any criteria to the awards it would be this:

I'm interested in what YOU have to say. Not what else you think I should read. Keep me on YOUR pages because that's where I really want to be. I can use Google for everything else.

I don't mean to sound harsh, whiney or complaining. It's simply an observation.

I will say the award winners got my attention. And gave me some inspiration.

A Bit of Closure

Just a note on the funeral I went to today for my friend Thea. It was quite perfect. So many nice things were said about her. I had a good cry, saw some old friends and said one last goodbye to the lady who loved purple.

I will miss her very much but as the funeral director said (and I'm paraphrasing)

"She will always be alive in the love and memories you have for her"

They played a great blue grass song at the end with the chorus - "She Just Wants to Dance". I have a nice image burned into my brain of Thea dancing her heart out. That would be her little piece of heaven I'm sure.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Some Additions

I've just made additions to my the side bar. It was fun to get into geeky code and just fiddle around.

Now, if I could only figure out how to make it look a bit prettier...

The Wake

We have Thea's wake today. I'm not sure where the origin of wake comes from but on first thought, it doesn't seem to make any sense.

No one is a-wake. Everyone is sad and solemn. Perhaps I'll do some investigation and find out what the purpose of the word is.

A Good Memory

It's funny that I would choose today to suddenly alter my site. Thea loved to get 'into the zone' and go all 'web geeky' into her sites. When we were working on the launch, we would sit in our cubicles, side by side, just tap-tap-taping away on our keyboards. In silence but comfortable in each other's presence.

"Thea?"

tap tap tap

"Hey Thea, I was thinking..."

tap tap-ity-tap tap tap

"We should maybe figure out how we're going to.."

tap tap tap dit-ili-at-tap-tap

I would stand up and peer over at her. Since silence was consent, I assumed she was agreeing with everything I had to say.

"Thea, what do you think?"

She would turn her head - shocked that I was even in the same room.

"Oh sorry, what? I was in the zone"

I think it's nice that I just got into the zone. I will remember that when I am very sad today.
Happy Holidays!

Happy Hanukkah!

Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2003

All of your comments warmed my heart and brought a tear to my eye. It is something Thea would have loved so much - women interacting. People, interacting. She loved it when technology brought people together.

Thanks for remembering and honouring her without even knowing who she was.

******

I didn't want to leave this with such sorrow so I am only posting a short one tonight as I'm a bit tired from my new 'day job'. (temp work ended up working out until the end of this week!)


A Friendly Voice

I'm going to hang out with a friend on Friday I haven't seen since June - and a short lunch at that.

I'm so excited.

I just talked to her on the phone.

She sounds amazing. A new place, a new job - her life is just is such a good place right now. And I can hear it in her voice. She is a changed woman.

Guess a lot has changed for both of us over the past year.

I'm enjoying this catching up with people from home.

I hope it doesn't keep me here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

An Incredible Loss

The world has said goodbye to an amazing spirit.

My friend, mentor and pal, Thea Partridge, died suddenly on Monday evening from a brain aneurysm.

She was an amazingly enthusiastic, supportive, innovative, intelligent and fun lady to be around.

I just can't believe it.

She was 54.

So many times, over the past year, she has sent me wonderfully encouraging emails about how I made the right decision, that I would look at the world in a completely different way.

I am so sad.

I am still in shock. We had exchanged emails on Monday morning - both apologizing for being so busy and not yet being able to meet and up and that we would definitely get together after New Years.

And that afternoon, she died.

I sent her a birthday e-card on Monday. Her birthday is on the 18th. I get reminded by BirthdayAlarm.com to send cards to those on my list. I got a second one for Thea - I was going to 'do it later' but decided I might as well set it up to arrive on Thursday as a surprise for her.

Then I got an email from her right away:

> Ab - kind to remember birthday!
> Yup have a 4 day winter wonderland treat
> (Bracebridge/Haliburton) planned for this weekend.
>
> Have a great Christmas & see you whenever you surface
> from family chaos.
>
> When are you heading back to England/Europe?
> Thea


It had arrived Monday morning by accident. I even wrote her an email, apologizing for it not arriving EXACTLY on her birthday. That she could consider it 'an early one'.

I find solace in a post on her website:

http://www.neotale.com/MyStory/end.html

She also kept a blog - in case any of you are interested in what a spectacular soul she was:

http://www.skycave.com/meander/

She inspired me to do so many things. To be something. She was the one who taught me everything I know about web design and content.

Without her, I would not have found the love of blogging.

I will miss you, dear friend, and drink a toast to you this holiday season.

My heart goes out to her husband Dennis. May her smile always shine in your heart.

*******

If, by any chance, you know this woman - her is the obit that ran on canada.com

http://www.canada.com/search/story.aspx?id=fbcaac69-14a9-4c82-86b2-102e96608b95

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

How exciting are comments?

Thanks to the ladies who said hello. I will not write about it any more because I can see myself getting obsessed at what people are saying:)

*****

Taking care of my 15 month old nephew today. He has changed so much since we got home. It's hard to even remember what he was like two weeks ago, let alone a year ago.

D and him are real buddies - which is kinda cute in a way. It's like a trial run for dad-hood...oh goodness...what am I saying? Must be that time of year... or month.

*****

Skating on the weekend was the most amazing experience. Just going around and around the rink, looking up at all the lights, seeing all kids, hearing people speak without accents, seeing the CN Tower.

It just made me realize I'm home. There's snow. There's ice. It's crisp - but not wet cold like England.

And I'm around so many people again.

When we were travelling, I did like the aspect of anonymity. It was really just D and I. I look back and realize it was an amazing experience to have together.

But now, I can also appreciate all those things I took for granted.

This will be a very happy Christmas.

(off to see the little one...they don't give you much time do they?:))

Monday, December 15, 2003

Yippee!

Thanks to my feisty friend, (www.feistyscribe.com) I have now added comments to this site:)

I wonder if this will be counter productive, considering my last post.

Oh well - let's see who's out there, I guess.
My inspiration seems to have failed me in the mornings lately. I find I'm a much better writer at night.

I used to be able to open up my blog, and come out with something half decent.

Now, I seem to struggle first thing in the morning to come up with something interesting to say.

Maybe it's because I know I have now given this web address out. I like that people enjoy what I'm writing. I'm worried, though, that I am thinking too much about what to write instead of just writing it.

I have to try and pretend that I don't know that anyone is reading this. Then, maybe I'll be able to write again.

Isn't that the strangest thing? You want to write to change people's lives, to make a difference, to have your voice heard.

Then, when you know people might be reading, you lose your ability to write.

Bear with me, readers. Perhaps I'm just having a case of the Mondays.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

An Early Christmas Gift

I lost a good friend to an argument a year ago.

I don't think either of us realized how much we were friends until the disagreement.

It took me a whole year to stop being angry. I'm not a petty person. I don't hold grudges. I just felt I had been tricked into counting on someone. And I did.

And I don't count on people. I help others. I support them. But I rarely ask people to help me. Must be the perfectionist part of me.

I don't like to admit that I'm wrong. I'm even worse at apologizing.

And, I don't like to be let down. Usually I keep my expectations low of other people because of this. Sometimes, I get burned.

I got my friend back last night. I said everything I wanted to say. And he listened.

I thought I would never stop being angry. Or hurt or sad. But I have. I realized sometimes you do need to let a fight last so long that you can get over being so upset and forget why you were even mad in the first place. It makes it easier to just say 'I'm sorry' and then continue on being friends.

This year has also taught me a lot about figuring out what is really important and what isn't. I knew my feelings about our disagreement - in which, by the way, he does admit he was completely and utterly at fault - meant it was really important to me to make sure he realized how difficult he made things for me.

At the same time, I also realized that keeping him out of my life was more painful than the hurt I felt about his actions.

It didn't take long for things to feel like they used to. I suppose alcohol does help sometimes for you to say what you really think.

And he will go back on my email distribution list.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

My Old Life?

It's weird to have a social life again - since when did I know so many people?

It's weird to no longer have the time to lounge around - too many people to see and stories to tell

It's bizarre to have multiple outfits to choose from - there was only so much we could fit in our backpacks

It's fun to actually get dressed up to go out - usually it was me and D and some bottles of wine

*****

Tonight, we're going ice skating. Then out with friends in Toronto. I am so excited. It is really a winter in Canada. I can't believe how much I really did miss snow and winter events.

I wrote earlier about fond memories of tobboganning. I have probably only skated about 5 times in the last 6 years so I don't know why I associate that with something that I have been dying to do.

Perhaps it was just knowing that I COULDN'T skate in Leeds - that is what is making me so exstatic.

My Canadian friends must think I'm crazy to m iss the cold. They keep telling me 'give it a while' and then I'll remember what it's really like to live through a Canadian winter. I'm not convinced.

Hopefully, we'll get to have some hot chocolate after skating. That's the best part.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Be Prepared

Energy levels are not high but had a little thought, un-writing, un-travel related to share.

Ladies, put your girls in Girl Guides.

When I lived in Canada, I volunteered as a Girl Guide leader. I did it initially to bring back fond memories as a Brownie, Girl Guide, Pathfinder and yes..a Junior Leader.

I chose Guides because I wanted to lead 9 to 11 year olds. This was definitely the best age to hang out with girls.

Old enough that they're becoming young ladies but young enough that they don't say 'I Hate You" every other sentence.

Tonight, I went back for the annual Christmas party to chat with my leader friends and see how much the girls have grown since I've left. It was so nice to be back with them. Watching them interact with each other. Making them figure out how to do crafts on their own instead of becoming frustrated and doing the craft for them.

And just watching them "be", without feeling the type of pressures they might feel at home or at school.

I'm definitely not one for segregation of the sexes. But, there is something about girls being together that makes them into stronger women.

It gives them time to figure out who they are, without having to worry about whether or not they're impressing the boy they have a crush on. Or stressing over the latest math/english assignment they've been handed.

I remember a potential employer asked me once where I got my confidence from. I told him my parents - because I have amazing ones. I also have a wonderful family unit - both D's and mine - and spectacular friends, especially the ones I've had forever.

I think if I was asked that question again, though, I would say Girl Guides. It was where I learned I could start a fire by myself. It was where I learned I didn't need my dad to put up my tent. It was where I learned the I should listen when other girls are talking and that I can speak my mind and I will be heard.

Support your local Girl Guides. It's an important organization - and more than just good cookies.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Well, temp agencies are what they are cracked up to be.

I'll be offline during the day until the weekend. YAY some extra cash before Christmas:)

Will try and post at night...if my energy levels are up:)

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

A Cinderella Story?

Sometimes, it just doesn’t seem real.

I’m moving forward with my writing and my life in a way that I never thought would actually happen. Being the queen of procrastination, I’m quite good at coming up with excuses as to why something hasn’t been done.

But it seems to be happening. And now what? What happens when I really start to get doing exactly what I want to be doing? It’s a bit scary.

It doesn’t involve money. For me, it really has never been about that. I just wanted enough to be able to eventually get a facial and manicure every month – although I’ve never had either so who knows if I even want those on a regular basis. Maybe just frequent shopping sprees. People who don’t have any money do that so I can’t possibly need a fortune to hit the mall every once in awhile.

They always say, do what you love and you will succeed. For a while, I was sure that I could just blame my failures on the fact that I wasn’t doing what I loved.

And when did I stop being worried about failing? It was like this dirty little secret I had with myself. ‘

“Don’t tell anyone you are afraid to fail. They’ll never know. Just don’t do anything worthwhile. And keep making up reasons why you’re not doing exactly what you want to do. Be really good at something you hate. Take all the praise and tell everyone ‘it was nothing’.”

That’s not far from the truth because it actually is just that – nothing.

I have a renewed faith in myself. I won’t kick a gift horse in the mouth and try and figure out where it came from. I thank my lucky stars and my fairy godmother for being the little voice inside my head.

And hope that my chariot doesn't turn back into a pumpkin.

Monday, December 08, 2003

I knew there were things about my personality that would change this year. I wasn't expecting, however, to come home, afraid of barking dogs. I didn't actually realize that I might be afraid of a barking dog until last week, my friend's cute and cuddly golden retriever was trying to protect me from a black garbage bag flying around in the backyard - obviously resembling something like Darth Vader.

When we lived in Leeds, we had a cute little flat on a cute little street. They were row houses - all stuck together - and there were only eight of them. We lived right at the end.

I loved that I felt like I was living in Coronation Street. It was so quaint - so England.

And then I met the dogs.

Mutt #1 - a yippie brown and white small terrier dog with an obvious Napoleon complex and an obsession with protecting its territory.

Mutt #2 - a small black old dog with more of a bark than a howl

Mutt #3 - German Shepherd puppy which grew quite quickly in the time we were there and learned all its life lessons from Mutt #1

My first encounter was leaving for work one morning. It was still dark - as it always is in the winter in England - and it was raining (surprised anyone?).

I walked from my flat door down the street when suddenly, out of the dark and into the rain came these two dogs. Mutt #1 and Mutt #2. I screamed. They barked. Mutt #1 jumped up and took a chunk out of my leg. Not literally, but it was a bite none the less.

That night, after work, I went by the house to tell them about the experience. The woman apologized profusely and told me that if it happened again, they would get rid of the dog. I let her know I was sorry that it may come to that and perhaps it was my fault because I scared them but if they kept them on a leash, or at least got to know me better, it might work out next time.

And so began what would be the most infuriating experience I have ever had with a dog owner.

I love dogs. At the time, I had two dogs of my own, living with my parents. So, this is not about some bitter person who doesn't like them around. I just happen to also respect those people who take responsibility for their animals.

Richard was his name. And being an ignoramus was his game.

He would let his dogs out without a leash every day. He would leave them outside. He would let them jump up on people.

“Aw, love, just give ‘em a kick”

He would have street parties – celebrating a variety of things but it was usually just an excuse to get hammered – and let his dogs run up and down the little lane so that anyone who lived past his house could not get into their own.

He would accuse other people of being afraid of dogs and that it was their problem that the dogs were jumping up.

“Aw, love, they won’t bite”

But Mutt #1 did bite me again. And this time, I got a sob story.

“I’ve had a good cry,” said Richard. “And now I know I have to do the right thing. We’ve got a baby on the way. I’ve got to get rid of the dog.”

It was sad. It really was.

But it was a crock after we heard him confess this four times. Every time the dogs would jump, he would give us this story. He would repeat himself. And he would always be drunk.

I had been as polite as I could be. Until one day, my head exploded.

We had been on a train from Edinburgh all day. I was hungry. All they had on the train were sandwiches (see earlier post) and I was not happy.

We arrived in our cab. The dogs began jumping on the cab – barking at the door as I was trying to get out.

As I eventually emerged, I snapped. (I’m a redhead you see. It takes a while for me to get angry, but when I do, I blow)

I started yelling all those things I ever wanted to say to him when I was polite.

Dogs need good owners – you are not one of them.

Stop letting your dogs jump.

Stop letting your dogs bark.

I am not afraid of dogs

You are an f**king idiot.

It felt great. It felt really great. Dave and Richard’s buddy eventually got us to stop yelling at each other.

And I felt great.

But now, I seem to be a bit afraid of barking dogs.

Thanks Richard – you twit.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

I've missed a couple of days.

I had a couple of interesting experiences since I last wrote and I'm eager to share them.

Sadly, I have been enjoying myself too much the past couple of days to even be in front of a computer.:)

One more day in my good old small town.

My stories will have to wait until tomorrow...

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Food for Thought

I was never a picky eater. Or so my mother tells me.

As a child, I would eat just about anything.

I admit, I will ‘lose my lunch’ if I smell or taste coconut. I usually just say I’m allergic to it because it just makes it easier than going into details. I think it has something to do with my recollection of the smell and the consistency of flaked coconut.

For a while, I went off marshmallows after I ate too many roasted ones camping and made myself sick. I’m sure I stopped eating spaghetti – because of the flu – and oranges – from when my sister had the flu.

But generally speaking, I didn’t have a problem finding something to eat.

When I went away to university, it seemed that my favourite foods just happened to be good for you. Could not get enough of vegetables. Fresh. Canned. Frozen. Bring it on. Ate rice every day. And stopped liking sweet things – chocolate, gummies, ice cream. My only weakness was potato chips. Somehow, my taste buds were helping me out.

Travelling opened up a new world to my mouth. My taste buds, it seemed, would to go on strike, I think, whenever I was starving. And I learned something new about myself.

I don’t like sandwiches. I would go as far to say that I even hate sandwiches – although it is quite a strong word.

All across Europe, do you know what the cheapest, most accessible, easiest-to-eat snack/meal is? It’s a sandwich. Salami cheese on a baguette. Ham and egg on ciabatta bread. Mushy tomato, wilted lettuce and gummy mozzarella cheese in a bun. Chicken salad with three gallons of mayonnaise on bread. Tuna made the same way.

All I ever seemed to want was a salad. With green, red, yellow and orange peppers, juicy tomatoes, thick slices of cucumber, crisp broccoli and cauliflower, spinach and to top it off, a little grated cheese.

The salads were iceberg lettuce, a tomato slice, carrot shreds and – if you’re lucky – some canned corn. Plus, they always seemed to cost twice as much.

I can honestly say, I will be happy if I never see or smell one of those baguette/soggy roll/stale bread things again.

Another reason, it’s great to be home.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Escape Artist

I had a weird feeling this afternoon. I was tying up my shoes to take my friend’s dog for a walk when an eerie question popped into my head.

Am I escaping?

Just like that. It was a question as clear as day. And I had no idea where it came from.

What if, the voice continued, I was even a full time, professional escapist?

I stopped and thought about my actions. I came to some conclusions:

I have moved every year since second year university. I have not had a home longer than 12 months since 1997. I used to think I didn’t like that. But maybe, subconsciously, I did.

I have procrastinated every since grade 7. Procrastination is a form of trying to get away with something - or away from something.

Every day, I come up with a new idea of what I want to be when I grow up. It's like I find ways to start from scratch all over again just so I don't have to justify why I haven't finished what I started.

I have come back to my small hometown to stay for a week. I would stay for two or three if I didn't need money. And yet I know, there's not really anyway I can do the job I want to do from here.

They always say admitting you have a problem is the first step. Except, I don't know that it's a problem. It's just one more characteristic I've realized about myself. Once you realize things about yourself, you either deal with them or you try to change them.

I'm not really afraid to be escaping anymore only because now that I have said it out loud, it's almost like I can move on and stop "running".

I have an exciting project on the go that I’m not quite ready to talk about just yet. It really is exactly what I was looking for all this time. A chance. Just to get my mind back into the game I think I want to be playing.

Maybe that’s why the voice decided it could question me about my escaping habits. Because it knew I now have something that I don’t really want to escape from.

I do hope it’s right. I can feel this is going to take me exactly where I want to go. And it’s like leaving my life last year is becoming worthwhile.

You can travel the world and at the end of the day, get what you want. Of course for me, this is only the beginning. I will have to remember to refer back to this day, this feeling when I’m ready to run again.

Monday, December 01, 2003

There is snow outside and I couldn't be happier.

I never thought I would be happy to see the white stuff again. I didn't even really realize that I missed it. Until I saw it.

When I was little, I remember getting all bundled up with my snow pants and winter jacket - non-matching of course - and going outside to play in the snow. Sometimes is would be snow men. Maybe even as elaborate as a snow family. My sisters and I could never really seem to find a good carrot to stick for their noses. It always seemed we had the dried up shriveled ones that wouldn't actually stick in the packed snow. So the snow people eventually ended up without noses.

If it was the weekend, my dad would pack us up into the large GMC grey van (in later years known as 'The Beast') and drive us over to the hospital grounds where they had THE BEST hill for sledding. My mom would actually be in charge of making sure that we were bundled up. 2 or 3 layers of pants. Undershirts, turtleneck and sweaters. Heavy, rubbery winter boots. Snow pants - which were basically ski pants but since my family didn't ski, no one really ever called them that. Winter jacket - which, as I've said, never ever matched the pants. Our gloves tended to be different colours as well. And they definitely didn't go with our hats or headbands that we would be wearing. Fashion, however, was not something we were really concerned with. It was more keeping warm in the snow.

And so, we'd head out. The drive was only about 5 minutes. But we had tons of sleds and wanted to save our energy to go down the hills.

It would be a race to see who would get to use the best sleds. We had one big one that was wooden. Then, a couple of Magic Carpets, that in reality were really nothing more than sheets of plastic - some marketing genius made a bundle. Sometimes, if my cousins were visiting, they would bring their GT Racers. Those were the real treat. Like driving on snow.

One year, I'm sure we went down on circular plastic sleds although I have no idea what they were called or if they were even that fun.

It was the racing, really, that was the most fun. My sisters could never really understand that now matter which snow riding vehicle they had, they could never beat me. Learn a little bit about physics and the largest always tends to have the fastest ride. I think that will probably be the only time I was ever happy to be larger than my sisters.

The cold would eventually set in after HOURS of fun...Time is so different as a kid. I'm sure we were only there for about 45 minutes each time. But we would start to get wet and damp. The excitement of going down the hill eventually did not outweigh the exhaustion from walking back up.

Someone would start crying. Probably my brother as he was the youngest. It was either because he was cold, tired or one of us stole his sled.

So, my dad will pile us all back into the van and drive up the road and around the corner to the warmth of our house.

And then, my favourite part. My mom would have hot chocolate. Warm and creamy. I don't remember what snack it was - cookies, cake - I just remember the hot chocolate. And the cozy fire. Crackling and sizzling. The best part about being in the snow was getting back inside.

D and I were recently in Prague - a beautiful city with loads of character. At the end of each day, we would head over to our favourite tea house for some apple strudel and hot tea.

Some things never change I guess because that was my favourite part of the day.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

What's in a Beverage?

There's nothing like a good cup of tea. That was one of the best parts of coming back to our little flat in Leeds. I hate to say it, but I think England turned me into a tea snob.

In France, they use steamed milk. If you've never had a cup of tea in France, it tastes like used bathwater with bubble bath that has gone stale.

In Spain they do the same thing. And they also look at you like you're from outerspace. I mean, who doesn't want coffee/expresso?

By the time we got to Portugal, I stopped trying. Also because I was not about to pay more for tea that tasted like warm vomit than a nice 'vino blancho'.

And so, it was always with great anticipation and excitement, we would arrive back to England and the first thing I would do was get myself a 'proper' cup of tea. I'd make a whole pot. Then, I'd relish in the taste for days on end - going on and on as D can attest to - about the glorious taste of a warm Earl Grey.

Always so smooth and intense. The flavour was never dull, like the token 'Yellow Label' brand they seem to have in every other country in Europe. And always plentiful. A variety of different flavours.

As usual, when we ventured out on our last trip, I was saying goodbye to English tea, this time for a longer period. I knew when I returned to Canada I would be staying with British people so access to good tea would not be an issue then. But perhaps it was also more the culture of tea in England.

It's not considered a 'girly' drink, as I seem to get the impression everywhere else - even on the North American side of the pond. It's the drink of choice. It's a hefty beverage. It's a cup-o-brew.

You can have it anytime. When you wake up. Before you go to bed. Wandering in a park. Driving in you car. When you get terrible news. When you get amazing news. No one will look at you funny if you even ask for it in a pub. Everyone understands the 'anytime' attitude about tea.

Who knew tea could pull a country together? I suppose us Canadians have our beer.

Friday, November 28, 2003

My horoscope told me there was something new on the horizon. I never really go for that kind of stuff but today, I feel the winds of change.

I like it.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Becoming Parisian

It's hard to believe that four days ago I was in Paris.

Our final day was meant to be quite a hectic one. Since our journey began last year, there were many places D and I had decided were 'must sees'. The DDay Beaches in Normandy was one of them.

Somehow, I always pictured the beaches to be 'just outside of Paris'. I suppose everyone can be ignorant about everything in France being 'just outside of Paris' - same as everything in England is 'just outside of London'--but I digress.

So, the distance ended up being two and a half hours by train, just to get to the city to start the bus tour. We were committed.

We got up at around 7 am, breakfast in the hotel and then onto the Metro to catch a 9:08 train. We were feeling a bit haggard - the night before was filled with magnificent French wine - but we really wanted to get there.

It took us a bit longer than expected on the sub par underground transportation system in Paris. There are no signs. There are no maps. Who says London's Tube is confusing and scary? They haven't been to Paris.

With 9 minutes to spare, we headed to the ticket machine to purchase return fares.

The cost blew us away. 50 Euros each return - yikes! That exceeds our daily budget - and we hadn't even reached the beaches.

And so, we made a split second decision. We would just have to come back to Normandy.

Disappointing as it was, how could it ruin our last day in Paris?

Well, we were sure nothing good would come of it. We had squeezed in all the sites over three days so we really didn't have anything else to see. The train station we were at had nothing around it. It was raining. We were tired. We were hungry. We were so close to being back home that we couldn't help but think about our Transantlantic flight that was two days away.

Leaving the train station, we got lost. We were cranky. We were not happy campers.

But you're in Paris, you say, the most amazing romantic city in the world!?

Yes, we were saying that in our heads too. Trust me, some things just don't help when you've reached the point of no return.

We sat for a quick bite to eat. It was expensive, a touristy place and really, not all that appetizing.

It was only 11 am.

We wandered around, heading in the direction of the Effiel Tower because really, can you ever spend too much time there?

Begrudgingly we walked on. How could this happen on our last day in Paris?

And then, it all changed. From rainy dark to sunny blue. It was like a little miracle.

A bench by the Tower, people watching and taking in the scene. The security guards with their 'whistles of power', blowing loudly if anyone ventured onto the grass. Children running up and down the gravel walkways, falling of bikes, picking up leaves as parents just narrowly stop them from eating the foliage.

After an hour, it was time to move on.

Jardins du Luxembourg - find a seat - make that two, one for your bum, one for your feet - and just bask in the day. The sun was shining and glimmering off the water of the maginficent fountain, which kids were playing with sticks and boats. Conversations, simply background noise when you can't understand them, but a gentle reminder that as comfortable as you are, you're not in Kansas anymore.

What a perfect Sunday. This was Paris.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Back in the saddle again. Wow, I have really missed this.

Being away from a computer with full time internet access has its benefits. For me, I feel most creative in front of a computer screen. My fingers tapping away. Writing in my journal, for some odd reason, doesn't seem to have the punch that brings out words in me.

I've spent so much time today catching up on email that I can't write much now but just wanted to get that first post up there to feel like I'm 'in it' again.

Being home is the best feeling.

Friday, October 24, 2003

I wanted today's post to be really poetic - but I think when you want something too much, sometimes it doesn't work.

It's my last day of having regular access to this blog. I will not be able to write every day now because obviously, backpacking around Europe is not ideal with a laptop - and I'd want to experience it anyway.

As the day goes on, I'm getting upset. The first person at work has just left and it was the first real goodbye. This is just going to get worse.

I think instead of trying to write something, I will post what I wrote my work colleagues:

"Thank you all for:

Making me feel so welcome
Putting up with my foreign words such as 'pants' and 'vest' and many many more
Being patient with my bossiness - but feeling content to boss me right back - I need it you know!
Making me happy that I chose Yorkshire and not London - Leeds rules!
Letting me sound really smart when I talked about Canada - when I get home, I won't have that!!
Teaching me what's so great about England
Just generally, being a caring group of people to work with and for

I'm not one for much tears, but please don't see that as a sign that I'm not truly touched by the experience I have made here. Leaving Canada was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. Leaving here is turning out be just as difficult.

Please keep in touch - and open invitations to stay with me in Canada!"

At the risk of sounding cliché...

People float in and out of our lives. We really don't appreciate their influence until they are gone. Anyone who knows me knows that emotional things don't hit me until the very last moment.

I remember in highschool, not crying a single time in my last year through all the of 'lasts' - the last assembly, the last Christmas dance, the last Valentine's Day, the last Athletic Banquet, the last Prom. Even the last class. It wasn't until I was walking down the hall at 3:41 to go an party after graduating.

I heard someone shout out:

"We're going to C's (my younger sister) place to swim." And then it hit me. I was gone. It was no long A's place but C's place.

And the tears that started would not stop.

I have a picture of my best friend and I after she comforted me and took me into the cafeteria to calm down. I look back at that picture now to remind me never to take for granted those fleeting moments of emotion.

They don't come often, but when they do, they mean so much.

I can feel that today - more than I expected. And it will definitely be worse when I have to give those keys to my landlord and walk away from my little British life.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

A Good Sendoff

The partying has begun. I feel completely unispired to write today simply because my head is pounding. 5 large glasses of white wine was perhaps not the greatest idea on a Wednesday night. Leads to dancing in routines, as though I'm Brittany Spears as well.

But nevermind - I'm leaving in 6 days. It somehow doesn't seem possible.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

A Full Year and an Inspirational Moment

A year ago today, I woke up at my parents' place in Chicago, finished packing (eternal procrastinator) and set off to O'Hare Airport fly over the ocean to a new beginning.

I was to arrive in Amsterdam on October 23rd, 2002 to meet D - who I hadn't seen for 20 days - not that I was counting. Leaving was meant to bring many things for me/us - one of them being a renewed enthusiasm for writing and being a writer.

It seems quite fitting, when I think back over this last year, that Amsterdam was the first place I hit. It was Anne Frank who got me started on this whole writing thing in the first place.

I remember reading her in elementary school for our English class. I was so touched by her story. I starting writing religiously in my diary every day, in the hopes that I could someday make a difference like she did, that in someway, people would read my diary and feel the way I felt when I read hers.

I started trying to write more profound things in my diary, just so it could sound as important as what Anne was writing about. It was only years later as adulthood creeped up on me that I realized I would never really be able to have the effect that Anne did simply because I would never really experience the horror she faced.

And so my fondest memory of Amsterdam was not when I arrived a year ago but when I spent an evening there by myself in June, waiting to fly back to Chicago. Both D and I had return flights in June from the cities we arrived at in October - D flew in and out of Manchester, I, Amsterdam. We both flew out on the same day, which left me by myself in the 'wild city' for one night.

I decided to take my travel diary - a hardcover leather book, a gift from a dear friend when he was travelling in Italy years before - and find a cafe on Prinsengracht near the Anne Frank Museum.

I had left D at the train station - he was gearing up for planes, trains and automobiles to get himself back to Canada - feeling a bit lonely as it was the first time we had been apart in about 4 months time.

I began to wander the streets of Amsterdam - the sun was beaming down on all the canals, making the water glimmer and sparkle. People were out and about as it was a national holiday, walking the streets or passing by in boats with music blaring and drinks in hand.

I slowly approached the Huis, which had a long queue due to the fact it was 4 in the afternoon. I stopped at a tree and just looked up. All those months. All that time. All her words. Written, from that little space.

I was quite enjoying just being part of the moment when a rude awakening occurred - a man came up to me and said something in Dutch. When I looked confused, he sheepishly said 'sorry' and slithered away. Leaning against trees in a city where prostitution is legal is not a good idea - even if you're in jeans, no makeup and hair in a ponytail.

I looked across the canal and saw a myriad of patio tables outside what looked quite like an English pub. That was it.

I wandered down the cobblestone road, across the bridge and found myself a seat by the water.

I could see the Huis perfectly, past the canal, past therevelingg boaters, past the trees. With my glad of white wine, I just began to write. I wrote and wrote for a good hour or so - a couple of wine glasses later - until I decided that I could write no more. It was almost as if I could feel her youthful spirit right there with me.

Occasionally, I would look back at the Huis and around at the life existing - people just being. The human spirit has incredible healing power. To think of all the horror that happened not so long ago in the same place I was sitting. And yet, we continue on.

I remember it felt so good to be there. I was so excited to go home and just so happy that my last day in Europe had turned out to be so meaningful.

One of the best parts of travelling in stumbling across an unplanned inspirational moment.

I think that's why I leaving the travel planning and co-ordinating to D - I'm better when life sneaks up on me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

My Little Green Book
The strangest things excite me these days. I felt quite 'chuffed' and satisfied when I found a little green book, perfect size, with a hard cover, for my lists and my travels.

I have this tendency to imagine items that I want to buy without even knowing whether or not they exist. I get an idea in my head about what I want and I have trouble buying anything that is not the exact replica of the imagine item. Creativity gone awry.

But the other day, I went looking for a small sized note book that I could take with me on our travels. When we were out the first time, I had this great travel journal that a friend bought me. It asked various questions about specific days and one of them included meals. I would have never thought to include that detail in a travel log but it turned out to be quite useful. Many a time, D and I would be on trains and he would say, 'Well what did we eat that day?' - to be honest, I never really thought that question would come up but was quite please when I could turn to page 'Day 15' and find out that it was bread and cheese and not what we he had the previous day - rye bread and cheese.

But I digress (as usual). What I missed when we went out travelling the second time was having this little journal that made me write down the 'excrutiating minutia' (a shout out to Seinfeld's Elaine) such as breakfast, lunch and dinner.

And so, for our third trip, I wanted a little book that I could make notes in about these types of details. Also, I figured it would be great for writing down details frantically as I stumbled through various languages on the phone to hotel owners. I know how to ask if people speak English in many languages. If they say no, well, it becomes a bit more difficult.

This time, the little green book will help me. It's a good size so it will fit in my hip sack (my sis C will never forgive me for travelling AND getting my pictures taken all over Europe with something so unhip as a hipsack). It has a hard cover, so I don't need to find a hard surface to write on (this was key). Finally, it has lined paper so I don't write all willy nilly and fill the pages up to quickly (looking back at my reporter notebooks, I think I must have killed at least 50 trees with my large letters).

Today, I made my first notes in this little book.

'Things to Do'

Hopefully I don't use it all up with one list.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Keeping in touch

I realize now more than ever the importance of really planning to keep in touch. It's easy enough to say 'we'll be friends forever' but it's a bit more difficult than that.

I used to think that if you had to work too hard at a friendship or family relationship, it wasn't worth it. Being friends or family means you will just be there..when you're needed. You don't need to constantly be keeping up to date on each others lives.

Sadly, I used to see keeping in touch on a regular basis was 'working too hard'.

It's so easy to get caught up in day to day life. Everyone's busy and they have their own things going on - I was one of them. When I was working in Toronto, I felt like my life was consumed with work or money - or more correctly, the lack of money that I seemed to have. I seemed to be making enough but I was always getting stressed about getting in touch with friends for fear of having no money to actually enjoy myself in their company.

Now, I am on a very tight budget. And now, I make the effort to email, write, update this blog and even call people.

I've even made a Sunday date with my mom. This week was my turn to call. It felt so good to just be talking about every day stuff - my work, her work, crazy Cubs fans, my Dad's band - even if it was only for 30 minutes. When I lived hours away, we would spend over a hour on the phone and make fun of ourselves as we would prepare to say goodbye and then 'Oh just one more thing...' about 50 times before we actually hung up the phone.

What I hear a lot is that "nothing is going on in my life that is as exciting as yours." I remember emailing this to friends abroad when I was stuck in the T.O. rat race. But now, being on the other side, you really just want to feel like you're still part of their lives - who cares if you update me on your dog or your garden or even work. At least it's a little piece of you sent specially to me.

I don't mean this as a whining or complaining email - I remember feeling very frustrated with friends who would *demand* I kept in touch so I wouldn't want anyone I know to think that's why I'm writing this. I have a lot of great friends and aquaintances from home who have been so supportive and who, on a regular basis, stop their busy days to drop me a line.

I think I'm just angry at myself. Why is it I needed to come all the way across the ocean to figure out how to be a good friend/sister/daughter? (*she says, trying not to sound melodramatic*)

Or maybe I'm just surprised. I never really understood the other side. And really, I don't think you really can unless you experience some form of isolation from everything you hold dear.

It felt good to talk to my mom on the phone - it felt like a normal mother daughter chat. She made me laugh right near the end when I mentioned our Sunday *date* for next weekend.

"Okay I'll try to remember but I'm not very good at those things.(ie with four kids, my dad, a job and the bulldog, she's got a lot of things to remember in one week)"
(laughter from me and my mom)
"Well, put it on the calendar"
"I don't look at the calendar on Sundays! R, (as she spoke to my dad) we have to remember to call A next weekend"
(muffled noise of my dad's voice)
(laughter of my mom)
"Do you know what he said? Put it on the calendar"
(laughter from me and my mom)

Glad to know I have a *little bit of mom* and a *little bit of dad*

Friday, October 17, 2003

Would you like fries with that?
Using my creative juices to come up with inventive ways to make money over Christmas:

1 - Waltz into a travel agent and tell them I've been living abroad for a year - do they need any help filing?

2 - Head to Molly Maid - I've cleaned my house enough times - plus, all those rich people who will be having parties at Christmas won't have time in between shopping to Hoover the floor

3 - Giftwrapping at the mall - someone has to do it

4 - (similar to 1) Waltz into an English/Irish pub and tell them I've been living in England for a year - can I show them how they really do it?

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Size is Relative
Just booked our room in Prague - it's really happening isn't it?

Getting the details of the room made me realize how little we need to actually feel comfortable. It was described by the owner as 'not luxurious' but the location is amazing.

D and I are not used to staying in any kind of luxury while we backpack. We prefer a room to ourselves as opposed to a dorm style. We like to take an 'afternoon siesta' and it's always a bit awkward with multiple people in the room.

Plus, I have a habit of spreading all my stuff out - in dorms you have to lock everything up - I'm a girl! I need to make things feel homey!

We're arriving into Prague around 8:00 at night which is why we even looked at getting a room ahead of time. We don' t even really ever book ahead.

Since the owner sent us the size, we attempted to figure out just how much room we would have.

A mate at work looked concerned,

"Well, that won't be very big but you want to get out and see the city anyway."

So, I walked it out. 15 square metres is 5 metres by 3 metres.

The room is going to be huge! We just need it for sleeping...and siesta...and spreading out.

And so, my list of the smallest rooms in Europe:

3 - Peidmont, Nice France - friendly staff with tiny beds and unfortunately, a room neighbor who passed out on his bed with the television on full blast - I thought I was going to go crazy trying to fall asleep with French TV blaring words at me - nothing worse than trying to sleep when someone's talking...Especially in another language.

2 - Hotel in Dijon - sweet French lady who tolerated my attempts at speaking French - room had slanted ceiling as we must have been in the attic - and perhaps the fact they were tearing down the staircase next to our room didn't make it all that pleasant to wake up to - falling wood and concrete outside our door at 8 am.

(But the one that definitely takes the cake...)

1 - Hotel Brian in Amsterdam - cozy, friendly staff and close to the train station, this room had to be about 10 square metres - basically a bed. There was a common room but it was usually filled with smoke - and wasn't really up for getting high at 7am, even if I was in Amsterdam

There must be others. I will reminisce later

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Final Countdown
The countdown is on. Only 12 days until we fly away.

Kick it into 'Travel Girl' mode.

And I love that packing will be much easier then it was last time.

I don't even think we can fill more than one box. Makes you realize how little materialistic things you really need in life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I got this forward the other day - I realize it is might be copyrighted so I'll make this plug - checkout www.quarterlifecrisis.com as I think that's where this came from.

It really put things into perspective. Not all of it makes sense to me or is absolutely true, but it's rare these days that I get an email forward that makes me really think.

"BEING TWENTY - SOMETHING
They call it the "Quarter-life Crisis."

It is when you stop going along with the crowd and start realizing that there are many things about yourself that you
didn't know and may not like.

You start feeling insecure and wonder where you will be in a year or two, but then get scared because you barely know where you are now.

You start realizing that people are selfish and that, maybe, those friends that you thought you were so close to aren't
exactly the greatest people you have ever met, and the people you have lost touch with are some of the most important ones.

What you don't recognize is that they are realizing that too, and they aren't really cold, catty, mean or insincere, but that
they are as confused as you.

You look at your job... and it is not even close to what you thought you would be doing, or maybe you are looking for a job
and realizing that you are going to have to start at the bottom and that scares you.

Your opinions have gotten stronger.

You see what others are doing and find yourself judging more than usual because suddenly you realize that you have certain boundaries in your life and are constantly adding things to your list of what is acceptable and what isn't.

One minute, you are insecure and then the next, secure.

You laugh and cry with the greatest force of your life.

You feel alone and scared and confused. Suddenly, change is the enemy and you try and cling on to the past with dear life,
but soon realize that the past is drifting further and further away, and there is nothing to do but stay where you are or move forward.

You get your heart broken and wonder how someone you loved could do such damage to you.

Or you lie in bed and wonder why you can't meet anyone decent enough that you want to get to know better.

Or maybe you love someone but love someone else too and cannot figure out why you are doing this because you know that you aren't a bad person.

One night stands and random hook ups start to look cheap.

Getting wasted and acting like an idiot starts to look pathetic.

You go through the same emotions and questions over and over, and talk with your friends about the same topics because you cannot seem to make a decision.

You worry about loans, money, the future and making a life for yourself...

and while winning the race would be great, right now you'd just like to
be a contender!

What you may not realize is that everyone reading this relates to it.

We are in our best of times and our worst of times, trying as hard as we can to figure this whole thing out. "

Hoping this speaks to you - it spoke to me...
It hit me this morning that there are quite a few aspects of life in Leeds to which I have gotten quite accustomed. I'm sure in many ways I have forgotten what it's actually like to live back in Canada. Over the past couple weeks, I have been so excited about so many things about home. But coming into work, it suddenly hit me - what about all the ways of life here in Leeds?

And so, a new list in my head is begun....

Things about Leeds I will miss:

The way I feel as I walk down the streets of cobblestones and old buildings - square, concrete buildings will just not be the same

The double-decker bus - although it's probably the only thing about the bus I will miss

The adoration of tea - I've never met so many people who knew how to make a smashing cuppa

The social life - it's a place where going out on a Friday and Saturday night at ANY AGE is not only considered normal, it's encouraged. Plus, you don't need to have a reason to go for a pint.

Jacket potatoes with Tuna and Cheese - a brilliant combination and quite a healthy treat

"Cheers Mate" - I would just sound annoying if I said that at home and the phrase - I must admit - has grown on me

"Ta Love" - Where's the love? It's here, the North of England, where everybody calls everybody 'love'. I like that.

(more to come...but there's work filing to do be done!)

Monday, October 13, 2003

My mom said something funny yesterday about the English and their tea.

I'll have to paraphrase because I can't remember her words exactly but she said the English always seem to get through anything if they could have a cup of tea.

"Oh, the bombs are coming again Nigel - let's have a cup a tea."
"Well, doesn't look like mommy or daddy will make it back from the black plague - let's have a cup of tea"

"They've been through hell over history but seem to conquer all with a cup of tea."

I had to laugh - I happened to be quite hungover and before she rang, I had just made myself a cup of tea.

Sounds so Monty Python in an "Every Sperm is Sacred" kind of way.


Only two more weeks left in Leeds. Hard to believe that all the friends I have made here - I may quite never see them again.

I am looking forward to our last journey this year - Prague, Austria, Germany, Belgium and Paris - perhaps three times a charm.

Sometimes I have to stop and realize what has happened over this last year. We will have achieved our goal of seeing every country in Europe by the time we go home...almost..

Ireland will simply have to get a full two weeks sometime in the future.:)
I seem to have all this creative energy going on in my head but no where to channel it. I find that when I try to sit down and write a spectacular experience, it never quite sounds the way I'd like it to. It's almost as if I'm losing all capability to describe events.

My journalistic instincts tells me to cut out the words - and in doing that, I end up writing some sort of simplified version of events. It's as if all my stories now are glorified versions of "What I did on my summer holiday".

( Just looked up and realized that I used the words 'events' twice in a matter of four sentences. I must be losing it.)

(I also just noticed that this entire blog entry is a bit whiney. Perhaps I should retire and return tomorrow...)

Friday, October 10, 2003

It's my buddies' birthdays today - J&J - bizarre that I would have two good friends whose birthday was on the same day.

Make me miss home a bit - the boys who I was going to tour Europe with after university. Some things don't always turn out as you planned.

Then again, sometimes that's not a bad thing :)

Happy B-Day boys - have some Timmy's and a butt for me....
This as a daily ritual is a bit difficult - seeing as I wanted to focus simply on travel stories. When you're not travelling, I guess you turn to remembering fondly things that you did when you were travelling.

I have now spoken French, Spanish, Porteguese, Greek, Italian and German. I feel confident that I could get by in a country with only a phrase book and lots of smiles.

I've learned that I love to communicate with people. And I will go to great lengths to make sure I'm clearly understood. While D is content with pointing and nodding, I feel I must master the "May I have.." and "Thank you very much" in every language.

It's my little way of connecting with the places in the world I visit - to feel like I know the country or city just that little bit more because of its people.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

The thing about trying to write all these adventures down is that it always sounds better in my head. The adventure is much more of an adventure when I think about it.

Ah, the trials of a writer...

I do feel like I am but when I read it or even start to write, it's as if I don't know any words.

And so, I turn to crosswords to inspire me...

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Just changed the template..hmmm..don't think I adore this one either but I'm all for change...I'll revisit in a couple of days. Realized I have to finish my Day Cruise story! Whoops!
My Meander friend gave me the inspriration to write today. She really is more of a travel mentor than anything. I guess it suits it well since she taught me so much when we launched the Travel Channel - one of them being - GET OUT THERE AND TRAVEL!

And so, I continue to go on jaunts - our latest was Oktoberfest in Munich. I love Germany. I have been so excited to get there since we started our adventure and three days with beers and sausage, I've been bitten by the bug. I can't really explain it.

I adored the streets - even though they didn't really look that different to other European cities

The people were so friendly - although as long as you try and speak the language, so it everyone else

I felt very comfortable - must be a 'past life' thing.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

September 11th is creeping up again.

The second anniversary and I still feel like I'm being punched in the stomach when I think of the horror.

I know every media outlet and their dogs will be writing special features, talking to family members to see 'where they are now' and coming up with every written angle about the day. Feels kind of funny for me to even be expressing anything about it - like it's going to be overdone anyway.

They were right when they said the world will never be the same. Being Canadian, I feel just as close to the whole thing as the Americans. But perhaps the rest of the world thinks so too.

So what does it have to do with this blog, you ask? The only good to come out of such a horrible day was the wake up call it gave me about my life. You never know how long you've got - even if you lead a normal North American life, get up, go to work, turn your computer on, check your email, eat right, exercise, watch Seinfeld and Friends on the televison at night.

And so it gave me the courage to do this. Pick up a 'normal' life and see the world.

I do it in memory of those that lost their lives that day. And every once in awhile I look up to the skies to sliently thank them.

And once a year, on the anniversary, I still can't help but grieve like it's happening all over again.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Edinburgh this weekend - I can't wait to go on a short holiday again!

I swear - I have the travel bug and it's not going away.

This whole packing-it-in-leaving-the-country-thing has just got me wondering if I'll ever settle down.

I think I understand nomads.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Death and being far away. I have found it doesn't actually matter who the person is, if you know them only slightly, you will be more affected than you would be normally.

I come from a small town anyway and I'm used to knowing everyone's name at least - especially because I worked for the town paper for awhile - and so when the small town loses someone, I feel I can get more emotional than I should.

But this morning, I found out about a guy killed in a car crash that was the younger brother of a girl who was in my grade. I swear I can remember being friends with hin too - either through drama or our monthly school television show - but I just can't place him.

I want to be at home so I can look in my yearbook and refresh my memory. Just for him. I know he's gone so maybe it's just for his family. I'm not really sure why I want to remember so badly but I just do.

Just another form of emotion to add to the long list I have been feeling over the past year.

My thoughts are with Cheryl and her family today.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

I miss my friends and family for different reasons - at different times.

It's at that moment when you want them there. It could be for a flashing second - that you see someone wearing a shirt they would wear or you see someone in a really bad outfit and you want to gossip about it.

It's weird how homesickness sneaks up on you. It would be better if it was all at once and then you could get it over with. But perhaps that's the beauty of it. That's why it's painful. And that why you realize you need your friends and family so much.

How do you miss people if you see them every day? The sad thing is that we need to be away from the people we love to appreciate how important they are to us.

It's difficult but without distance, they are just there.

They are nothing more than the toast you make in the morning or the dinner tea you make at night. Reducing your loved ones to a daily routine.

That's why we need distance.

Monday, August 11, 2003

A boat trip up the Italian coast sounded like the adventure that we needed. We had met up with an American couple, Brett and Becky, who had suggested the idea. Although a little outside the budget, we decided that we would never be able to do it if we were on our own so might as well take the plunge.

We had landed ourselves in Cinque Terre, a touristy spot along the eastern coast of Italy. Five little towns - in no particular order - Monterossa, Vernaza, Manarola, Riomaggiore and Corniglia.

Brett was our captain to start with. he had been given a short lesson by our 'friendly' boat renter. He had kindly asked us to come back in 20 minutes when we first approached him. We thought it was because he was waiting for a boat to get back. As it turned out, he was simply not quite ready to get up from under his umbrella to move our boat out.

As we headed out, I could feel myself relaxing even more than I already was. It had been a great relief to get to this place after a busy 4 days in Rome. Now, here we were on the sea.

We came upon a little cave along the cliff rock and decided to dock. Brett pulled out our tiny anchor and threw it in to the bottom of the sea. I had a brief contemplation about how we might get it back out again if it got stuck but realized that that was it's purpose. To stick to the ground so that the boat didn't move.

Becky and I watched the boys like kids jump into the cool water and begin to swim towards the dark cave. We had decided that murky darkness was overshadowed by the urge to sit in the beaming sun. We could hear them chatting in the distance - we simply rolled our eyes and laughed at their childish excitement.

It wasn't long before they were back - 'It was like Goonies, really creepy' bellowed D., as he and Brett began swimming back to the boat. They told of the freaky crevace in the rock that made it appear there could be something like a snake or eel hiding behind. I realized my choice of the boat was a good one.

There was so much happiness in that 15 minutes. We felt on top of the world, like jet setters with our own little boat - stopping and starting whenever we wanted. This was going to be a great day. Well, sort of.

With the boys back on the boat, it was time to go. We hadn't gone to far from Monterossa and wanted to see all the cities before the end of the day. We were ready to pull our anchor in and head off.

Pull in the anchor. Not when it's stuck between two rocks. We all took turns trying to yank at the anchor. We drove the boat in circles, thinking the pull would dislodge it from the two rocks. We dove underneath the water and pickled our eyes by opening them under the sea to find it.

The day of adventure was turning out to be a little more than we expected.

(to be continued..)

Friday, August 01, 2003

Halloween in France is really not all that different than the ones I've experienced in North America. Just that no one says trick or treat - they must say something in French be we never found out. And perhaps the scenery - sitting outside in a large square in Lyon, watching the dressed up people go by - makes it a bit different than what we were used to.

We were in Lyon for 3 days and luckily, one of them happened to be Halloween. We didn't really know what to expect and had no idea if there would be anything going on. We had friends that told us places to spend it - Go to Prague, Go to Paris - but those places just didn't seem to fit in with our timeline.

In the end, we learned that it didn't really matter because there were kids everywhere, dressed up and adults came out later in the evening, themselves ready to party. How was this any different to what we were used to?

Expectations can be a funny thing. Something you're so excited for, can let you down in the end. It's almost better to simply expect nothing and then everything will be amazing.

That's not to say we did have a fab evening people watching in the square. It's just the only out of the ordinary Halloween night thing we saw was a big fight outside of a club. And that really could have happened anywhere, it's just more that when we were at 'home', we would have never been around clubs at 1 a.m.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

It's a funny thing ferry sleeping. Our first ferry from Piraeus to Mykonnos was on the Greek Orthodox easter long weekend. People just threw their stuff on the decks inside and sat down. Who knows why they wouldn't try and get in a chair but heck, when in Rome. Plus, the shock factor of not speaking the same language left me in the inclined position to just do as they did.

There was the overnight ferry from Crete to Piraeus when we thought it would be a good idea to just sleep on the deck - cheapest option for the budget traveller.

After scoping out many a place, we found these wonderful long benches - we really couldn't believe our luck!

All was going well as we spread out our goods for sleeping - me with my little bilum bag stuffed with clothes for a pillow and my jackets as my blankets - until a friendly steward came by to tell us if we wanted to sleep there, we would have to wait until 11:30 p.m.

It seems we had landed ourselves in the first class section of the deck. All those people who have their own cabins and were probably sitting in the bar on board because they were travelling first class, should not have to be subject to us peasants sleeping on their precious lounge couches.

Perhaps worse was that at 5:20 a.m., we were awoken for the same reason. The ferry was not arriving for another 2 hours but the first class people might want to mingle and sit in the dingy lounge instead of their comfy cabins.

Lesson Learned: It was then I realized that not all rules make sense and I was ready to throw caution to the wind and start breaking the ridiculous ones. I had followed too many rules all my life. It was time to re-evaluate which ones were just and which ones were just stupid.

Monday, July 28, 2003

It's been over a year since we decided to take this adventure.

Sadly, I have not written all that I wanted to on this 'vitural diary'. I suppose it's difficult when travelling on a bus across Crete or staying in hostels in Rome to actually whip out the laptop and start typing.

And with the cost of internet cafes - whoa! - not so much a good thing for the budget traveller.

As I sit now, however, at my temp job in Leeds UK, I am finding some time to write on my lunch break.

Each day now I will be able to pop in and write a little story from our adventures - whichever one comes to mind. Today, it's the overview of the last 12 months.

July 2002 - D. and I decide to give it all up - the condo, the car, the cushy jobs - and move to England to travel Europe!

August 2002 - The condo sells in 10 days! A record, I would think...and so now that we're homeless, there's no turning back

September 2002 - finishing off jobs and preparing to leave. D. takes a couple of weeks before the trip and will arrive two weeks early to find us a place and check out the job scene

October 2002 - possibly the longest month ever!!! I am alone to defend to everyone why we're taking off to a place where "it's so cold and it rains a lot and it's so expensive". Plus I miss him desperately, especially knowing he is all alone. But he finds an apartment in a weekend and ventures down to his grandma's for a week or two to kill time before we meet up.

October 21st 2002 - The adventure begins. We meet in Amsterdam and start our adventure.

November 2002 - touring through Luxemborg, France, Spain and Portugal. We missed some cities but plan to see them again later on in the year.

December 2002 - arrive in Leeds. Both of us start looking for jobs over the holiday season and find them in a week. D's a cook and I'm a glass collector. Can't get any more the other end of the career spectrum than that.

January 2003 - Work is looking up as we sign up with temp agencies and are back to cushy office jobs, without all the political bulls*** as we have no responsibilities

February 2003 - Still working. Make some friends and go for pints. Mostly, we are saving money for the next stint of travel.

March 2003 - Still working. And the plan is coming together. We'll spend Easter with D's grandma and then spend the rest of April and May travelling.

April 2003 - Two weeks of work. And two weeks of heavan in the Greek Islands. We know that we'll be leaving Greece the middle of May but this relaxed atmosphere is making us reconsider.

May 2003 - Days on the beaches, driving scooter and drinks and great food in the evenings. Seeing some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and of course, the sunsets on Santorini. But after only a week there, we are off to the country of culture - Italy. We see more cities than expected and have a fabulous time. Who knew the Last Supper and the Sistine Chapel were going to be THAT amazing?

June 2003 - Ah, Switzerland. A week in this clean, expensive country and we're trying to figure out ways to live here. Plus, two weeks at home!!! D's sister's wedding and seeing tons of friends and family. An amazing roller coaster of emotions but a good fix of familiar faces.

July 2003 - Ah, good old Leeds. Back to business as usual and our little flat. Very comfy with evenings of Earl Grey Tea and Graham Norton.

Amazing what can happen in 365 days.