Born this Way…Again*

You’re right. I’ve been gone for quite some time. And if you were me, which you’re not, or if you think like me, which I am pretty sure most of you don’t, you would by this time have come to the one and only conclusion I would have come to. You would have concluded that the only possible reason I could have been gone this long is that I am, in fact, dead. And rightly so. I mean what other plausible explanation could be made for a more than two month absence from my blog? It would just be silly to think that I have been travelling. At least not at this time of year. Or that in my retirement I found myself consumed by some otherwise undiscovered talent/interest that subsumed all of my time leaving me little room for previously embraced activities. Not very likely. Or that somehow at this advanced age of mine I had determined that living the life of a shallow person was no longer a viable option and I had abandoned this entire operation. Not even remotely possible. So while none of these scenarios are the case, as you can plainly see, I am not dead. Unfortunately, there are a couple of other people who are (well not all are exactly “people”) which is why I have taken a self-imposed hiatus over the past few months. 

Many of you who know me also know that in August my Mother passed away and while she lived a very good and long life, we all miss her very, very much. What many of you don’t know is that exactly one month after her death our dear little Bandit, who also lived a very good and long life, at least for her feline species, crossed the rainbow bridge and needless to say, we miss her very, very much as well. So as you can well imagine, it has been a little difficult for me to get back at it, as they say. But at it I am. And what I now know for sure is there’s a lot to learn from the sadness that death brings. Not only about other people but about oneself. And let me tell you I have spent more than an hour or two over the past months thinking about just that. 

First let me say that my Mother was a wonderful human being. She was a loving Mother to all of us kids and a very smart business woman who truly cared about each and every one of her clients. She was a voracious reader and could talk intelligently about almost everything. She wasn’t much of a drinker (I could tell the story about the night she had a few too many and ended up face down in a plate of spaghetti, but I won’t) which isn’t really a bad thing if you ask me. She was beautiful and funny and, as my Auntie Fanny so eloquently described her, “a real lady”. And how lucky would any of us be to have inherited even one of these traits that my Mother possessed? Oh yeah. There is one other thing that I might have forgotten to mention. Just ask Rich. He’ll tell you in the most wonderful way that my Mother, along with all of these marvelous qualities, was a Worrier. That’s with a capital “w” because there was nothing and no one that my Mother didn’t worry about. All of the time. 

Which is interesting because, while I would never presume to have inherited any of my Mom’s other wonderful characteristics, I can say without any hesitation that this apple didn’t fall far from that tree. Let me explain how this revelation came about. At the shiva for my Mother it was brought to my attention more than a few times that there was some similarity between her and I. Not everyone, but at least some people, most of whom I hadn’t seen since the first year of my life which is, at this point, a very long time ago, commented on how they knew exactly who I was because I looked so much like my Mother. It surprised me a little, primarily since my Mother never mentioned that complete strangers stopped her in the street to tell her she looked liked Babs and I’m quite sure she would have had they done so, but I appreciated the compliment nonetheless. However it occurred to me that if I look like my Mom it isn’t much of a stretch to think that I might think like my Mom as well. And if I think like my Mom I shouldn’t be terribly surprised that I too worry about everybody pretty much all of the time.  The fact is, if nothing else, I inherited her worry gene. And let me tell you, coming to this realization took quite a load off my shoulders. 

You see, I now have a perfectly good excuse for all the times I drove myself and my family a little crazy with my worrying. I now know there’s a really good reason that I used to text the kid at 3:00 am (no, that’s not a typo) just to see where he was and when he might decide to come home. I can now justify the multiple follow-up phone calls that are a result of a text not being answered within 60 seconds of being sent. And I know why when someone isn’t where they said they would be at exactly the moment they said they would be there my first inclination is to concoct 20 of the most dastardly, although admittedly unlikely, scenarios to explain their absence. After all, no one is just late. Something terrible must have happened. Well the truth is it’s just part of my DNA. I was, quite simply, born this way. And there’s no reason to apologize for that. Quite frankly, if it was good enough for my Mom, it’s good enough for me. 

Well that’s about it for today. Now I understand that some of you are going to be moved to send me your condolences (and many of you already have) for the loss of my Mother and for the cat too. You can if you like and your warm thoughts are very much appreciated but please don’t feel that you have to. No pressure at all. Of course if I don’t hear from you in the relatively near future, I’ll be pretty darn sure you’re dead.
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*To clarify. Early in the life of this blog I penned another post titled “Born this Way” hence the need for the descriptor. It is not my intent to suggest that I have in any way been born again.

 

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Planning…It’s a Trip.

Who would have thought that this shallow gal would spend not hours, not days, not even weeks, but months planning for a trip that won’t take place for quite some time.  Better yet, who would have thought she would revert to her ‘60s vernacular, using “trip” as in “Hey Man. That far out tie dye caftan you’re wearing is a real trip! I’d pick up some threads like that if only I had the bread.” Well you wouldn’t think so but here I am doing both. Mostly planning though since honestly, I don’t really talk like that. Anymore. The thing is, of late, most of the trips we take require a rather minimal amount of planning and organization primarily because we have returned to the same place for the past 8, 9, or could it be 10 years. And when you do that, once the first year is under your belt, the rest is gravy really. Pretty much a slam dunk. You book, you pay, you pack, you fly (or foolishly decide to take a road trip) and in the twinkle of an eye you’re making your way along the beach to your favourite Starbucks where you sit, sip, sun and watch a very familiar world go by. Simple. So you would think there’s no real reason to mess with a good thing. And there isn’t. Until there is.

So here’s what happened. A very old friend (he’s actually not any older than I am but I have known him for a very long time) and I got talking about where we go and what we do when we get there. Seems he and his wife have a grand ol’ time in the south of France where the croissants are buttery and the coffee rich and dark. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I somehow started thinking about doing what we usually do somewhere else. I mean, why not? And that’s how we got to where we are now. Planning a trip that’s entirely different from the trip we usually take. Now you would think that would be a “good thing” which of course it is, but it’s also just so freakin’ hard. (Oops, those ‘60s are rearing their ugly head again.)  Which is why I have been spending oodles of time planning. I know. You’re wondering what could possibly take so long and be so complicated? Well thanks for asking ‘cause I was just about to tell you. 

First things first. That big, old, red workhorse of a suitcase of mine has seen better days so I’m thinking if I’m going to venture into the fashion capital of the entire world I better get myself something a little more stylish. And practical of course. Who knew that shopping for a suitcase these days means more than deciding on black or red? Drop down to your local luggage provider and you will be shocked, like I was, when you see how much there is to figure out. Hard or soft. Big or small. Two wheels or four. Lightweight, extra lightweight or “won’t be able to lift it off the carousel” weight. To make matters even worse, there is definitely potential for me to pick up a little number that could pretty much double the budget for the entire trip. Back home to do some research only to find out that no matter what, there’s a pretty good chance at some point on this journey of mine I’m going to end up dragging my case “sans une roue” along those ancient cobblestone streets. Gotta tell you. The jury’s still out on this one. 

Should I ever find just the right suitcase I’m pretty sure I’m going to need a place to park it. The thing is, there are just so many of them out there. The last time I embarked on an adventure like this, finding a place to stay was easy peasy. (Not sure where that came from. Trust me. I have never said “easy peasy“. Never in the 60s; never now). But it was. Since there was no real way of knowing what was out there, the best one could do was find some hotel chain with a 1-800 number and give them a dingle. Room booked. Maybe there was something better. Maybe not. How would you ever know? But now. Now the world is your oyster and all it takes is a keystroke or two to have access to thousands of possible places to rest your head, what with everyone and their brother renting out spaces. Not only that, “the google” lets you walk around all of the surrounding blocks which truly is the next best thing to being there. Possibly better. And just in case you’re still not sure, there are several hundred people who will let you know exactly what they think about your potential home away from home. The problem is, with all this choice it’s hard to make a choice. Which is why it seems to be taking so long to do so.

Ok. We might also be a “little” picky.  But who would argue that location is really, really important? No one. It goes without saying that if you are going to be somewhere for an extended period of time you need a full kitchen, preferably with four burners. Give us a break. We cook!. Which is why we also need a dining room table with reasonably comfy chairs. Washer and dryer. How else will we stay neat and tidy?  You’ve got to agree there’s nothing like enjoying your morning coffee on a sun filled terrace. Bedside tables and lamps. Where else will you put your glasses at night? A walk-in shower is simply accident prevention at its finest.  And is it asking too much to have a cushy couch for relaxing after a full day of sightseeing? I don’t think so. Clearly you now understand why this endeavour is taking up so much of my time. Of course you do. 

Well I better split. But before I go there’s one more thing. If I have to say so myself, this is gonna be one outta sight trip.

 

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Oh Deer!

Sorry to be so late but I have been busy. You see I’ve been planning a trip we may or may not take in the rather distant future. But since we are thinking about it, I thought it would be a good idea to sort out where we would go, where we would stay (I’m kinda partial to 5 stars), what we would do, and how we would get there if we actually do get there. The thing is, thanks to the “Google” and all of its terrific tools, by the time you figure all of these things out you’ve pretty much made your way through each and every town you plan on visiting. I mean I’ve seen nooks and crannies that I probably won’t be able to find once I arrive, if in fact, we do arrive. And in case you are thinking that all of this could be for naught, well it’s not. Because even if we don’t go on this trip that I have literally spent hours and hours researching, my time has not been entirely wasted since it has given me a rather legitimate excuse for not doing what I really should be doing at this time of the year. Gardening.

I’m quite sure I may have mentioned this once or twice in my past writings, and if so, I am mentioning it again which I don’t think is unreasonable given the longevity of this blog. Heck, if you were talking to me face to face it’s entirely possible that I would tell you the same story twice in one hour. I’m afraid I’m way past the age where I can track what’s been said to whom or how many time I’ve said it. So bear with me one more time when I tell you that, and I say this with reverence to those who do, I don’t really like gardening. And now that I’ve said it, if you don’t mind, please keep it to yourself as it has occured to me that in my new (relatively) neck of the woods it’s a sentiment akin to blasphemy. This, of course, is based only on my observations and the fact that almost everyone I meet seems to be able to identify each plant we come upon by both its common and scientific nomenclature. I, on the other hand, simply use colour as my primary identifier as in “it was the pretty purple one with the green leaves”.

To be fair, I was quite optimistic about having a change of heart when moving from the tundra to what comes as close as anywhere in Canada to a mediterranean climate. Let’s face it. Conditions here are different. First of all you actually get to plant your flowers in the “real” Spring, not the redefined one that starts after the snow melts sometime in early June. You can do so with the confidence that there will be no early summer killing frosts that cause you to transform the sheets on your bed into a virtual tent city on your front lawn. Not only that, there are few worries about midsummer hail that instantly transforms those gloriously beautiful roses you’ve coddled for the last month into tumbleweed. And there are actually a few more than 73 days of warmth and sun to allow those tomatoes of yours to ripen on the vine rather than on your kitchen counter. So you would think, wouldn’t you, now that I am here and no longer there, that I would be happy to get a little dirt under these nails of mine. But it’s just not so.

The thing is, and it should have twigged the first time I ventured out to get my tulip bulbs but it didn’t, there’s a different culprit here that, as they say, takes the bloom off the rose. Or perhaps more accurately, the tulip. I admit I could have paid more attention to the fact that, in my search for the perfect bulbs there were many marked “deer resistant”. But come on. I live in the middle of the city. A hop, skip and jump from downtown. Surely to goodness there are no forest creatures ambling down my street. At least that’s what I thought until one morning when I looked out my window. There he/she was, staring right back at me with what I can only imagine was a very satisfied grin. And as a shallow gal I believe I said the only thing that I could say. “Oh dear, there’s a deer”. Yep. Right in the middle of my garden was a little deer munching happily away on my tulips. The ones I had so carefully planted all those months ago. The ones that had just emerged from their winter slumber and were ready to bask in all of their colourful glory. And so it was that before my very eyes my garden had turned into a 5 star Michelin restaurant for critters. The only thing missing was the bone china. Now I know what you’re thinking. I used to think that deer were cute too. That is until they landed in my front yard and ate all of my flowers. Now I only wish they would come back to pick up the check.

So there you have it. The reason that despite my move to the gardening capital of Canada I am spending my real time planning a theoretical trip.  Maybe I should add a stop in Amsterdam. I hear they have some lovely tulips there.

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Road Trip!

For those of you who have been with me for the long run, or who may know me face-to-face as we like to call it these days, you are most probably aware that I don’t really like to fly. And that’s putting it mildly. It’s not that I don’t fly. For awhile there I was flying about once or twice a month, most often with the aid of my “mother’s little helper” (for those who don’t know) which, coincidentally, I typically got from my Mother. When I decided I could take on the task “cold turkey” I spent a lot of hours telling the person who was unfortunate enough to have randomly selected a seat beside me, that I used to take drugs to fly but now I get through the ordeal by talking incessantly to whoever it is that was unfortunate enough to have randomly selected the seat beside me. Realizing that wasn’t my best moment, of late I have resorted to minding my own business and plugging into a RomCom that I have hopefully seen less than four times in the recent past. It helps, but I readily admit that I still have a rather fragile relationship with the concept of flight. So it might not surprise you that the recent air tragedies have made me more than a little jittery about getting back on that horse even though I suspect the WestJet flight attendants have dropped the “let’s get this Boeing going” quip from their “welcome aboard”. The problem is I still, at times, have to travel, which means I have been giving some very considered thought to what could be reasonable alternatives to get me to where I need to be. Which, might I add, can be just a little challenging and involve one or more modes of transportation given that I now live on an Island.

My first thought, as I suspect would be the case for any true blue Canadian, was to get on a train. To be honest, if I had a bucket list (which I don’t) this might be one of the things on it. Crossing Canada on a train. Of course I first have to get on a boat, and then a bus followed by a subway to the station but, while perhaps a little cumbersome, still seems quite doable. Provided I can pare down my wardrobe to fit into one carry-on as the prospect of schlepping a full size suitcase up, down and over whatever obstacles I might encounter is not, at my age, exactly enticing. But I’ve heard the scenery is spectacular, at least until you hit the prairies. Then it’s not. Never mind. The food’s good, I can watch Schitts Creek and if I play my cards right I can snag a cabin for one. All this for just north of 3500 dollars. Yeah it’s a tad pricey but it only takes four days to get from here to where I need to be. Wait. Let me say that one more time. Four days.  Four very, very long days. Watching Schitt’s Creek. Ok, I’m not going to do that and I’m certainly not going to take a bus (I didn’t even have to research that one) so where does that leave me? You guessed it. Road trip! Although I have to be honest that I’m a little hesitant from the get go about this one too.

For some people a road trip is everything they have always dreamed about. You know how it goes ‘cause you’ve seen it on the TV. The happy couple loads up the bright, shiny, new SUV, buckles the kids into the backseat, loaded iPads in hand, and sets off on the adventure of a lifetime, with smiles the likes of which rival those in the whitest of white toothpaste commercials. They travel along the ocean byways, sun shining brightly in the deep blue sky with nary another car to be seen for miles. Along the way they stop at all of the interesting and fun “off the beaten track” places, become immersed in the local customs and cultures, meet the most engaging people, and always manage to find a quaint B&B that serves mouthwatering meals in a dining room with unobstructed views of the sun setting over the ocean. You can almost hear the waves and feel the breezes as you watch this spectacle from the comfort of your Lazy Boy. Makes you want to run upstairs, pack a bag, grab the family and get your own show on the road. Except we all know that’s not how it really goes. Especially for a shallow gal like me.

You see, for a shallow person a road trip, as are most things in life, is not about the journey. It’s about the destination. When I get into a car I want to get where I’m going and I want to get there fast. Mostly because a “real” road trip almost always includes wicked weather, long waits in world class traffic jams (have you ever driven through LA or TO ?), enough fast food to have a significant impact on your cholesterol count, and a series of hotels that remind me to heed my Dad’s bedtime advice to “sleep tight and not let the bedbugs bite”. Sure there are viewpoints and little out of the way artisans to visit but that would mean stopping and the last thing I want to do when I get in a car is stop. I won’t even talk about the restrooms one encounters along the way even though at this stage of the game those are the stops there’s no getting around. And now with all the texting and talking and general inattention paid by your fellow commuters there’s no guarantees. Not that there ever were. It’s just these days I don’t really like the odds. Road trip? Not if this kid can help it. 

Oh well. Looks like I’ll be back in those friendly skies sooner than later. Better give my Mother a quick call. I’m thinking she might have a little something to help me out.

 

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The Art (maybe science?) of Grocery Shopping

I learn a lot from TV. Which is a good thing since it seems to take up a significant part of my  evenings. And it’s not just the news shows I learn from. Although I do. I mean who doesn’t turn to Mr. Anderson Cooper to catch up on the ongoing shenanigans (is that too forgiving?) in those United States of America? Or Ms. Lisa Laflamme for the ones in our own country for that matter. And while I find the comings and goings of the world at large compelling, I also like to spend a little time each day with Ms. Stacy Ross and Mr. Ben O’Hara learning more about what’s going on right here in this little hometown of mine. Because it’s pretty important to know exactly which neighborhoods that recently, and frequently I might add, sighted cougar might be prowling around. The thing is, anyone who knows cougars knows that they really don’t want to find themselves face-to-face, looking into those big, green eyes, no matter how beautiful they might be. So it’s important to know. But as any shallow person can tell you, there’s more to TV than just the news and thankfully, so much more to learn.  

Take Madame Secretary for example. I know. It’s not really the White House but it could be. After all, this is a show that helps us understand how things work in the upper echelons of  government. So what if everything always seems to turn out hunky dory? That’s probably what would actually happen if politicians were better actors and could pretend they actually cared about someone other than themselves. Or how about that Amazing Race? What a way to see the world without having to spend hours waiting in lines, getting on and off planes and struggling to decipher a menu in an unfamiliar language which could result in finding oneself hungry while sadly staring at a plate of veal kidney stew. Who needs it when in the span of one hour you can travel through two, maybe three countries, visit all of the tourist highlights and more, while never having to leave the comforts of your own home. And let’s not forget that all you have to do is watch a few episodes of Survivor to learn that you never want to be stranded on a desert island with a bunch of strangers. But even though, as you can plainly see, there is much to learn from the news and the shows, there is even more to be gained from watching the commercials.

So let me tell you what I have recently learned from commercials. It seems there are now a number of services that provide people with all of the ingredients needed for an evening meal, measured out and delivered to the door, along with an easy to follow recipe. All that’s left to do is put the stuff together and presto, in just 30 minutes there’s a gourmet meal on the table. Never mind that you don’t know what an “Open-faced Halloumi sandwich” is or whether “Tofu Larb Lettuce Cups with Sticky Rice” will tickle your fancy. One way or the other you’re going to come out of this looking like a gourmet chef. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it. Unless, of course, you are me. Because, and you may know this or you may not, not only do I not cook most nights which makes this service a little redundant but, and this is the honest to god truth, I love to shop for groceries.

That’s right. Give me a fistful of flyers and a stack of reusable grocery bags and I am one happy camper. And because I know not everyone shares my enthusiasm for gathering food I thought I would take this opportunity to share some tips that just might improve the experience for you. I like to think of it as the art (maybe science) of grocery shopping. 

Tip 1: There’s some homework to do. Start with the flyers. Some online, some paper. The good news is these all come out on the same day. There’s no bad news.

Tip 2: Make some lists. As many as you need because you’ll be compiling the best deals in each of the stores. Don’t worry. No one’s going to hold your hand to the fire. You’ll find stuff in your cart that’s not on your list but nonetheless, it’s a good place to start.

Tip 3: Make a plan. You have to visit each of the stores on your lists but there’s no point going hither and yon. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover so be systematic and do your best to limit your mileage. Just remember to visit the store with the best deal on ice cream last.

Tip 4: Shop. It’s not that hard. Get yourself a cart, make your way up and down the aisles and don’t get too distracted or overwhelmed by the plethora of choices. There might be 43 flavours of Cheerios but you only need one. Make like a shallow person. Don’t dwell.

Tip 5: Check-out and pay. Remember when your Mom and/or Dad bought you that toy cash register and a bunch of fake food to go with it? You had hours of fun pretending your were a cashier and all your stuffies were your customers. Well now most stores will let you check out and bag all of your own stuff. It’s still as much fun as it was when you were a kid. Except now it’s for real.

Tip 6: Check out your savings. If you have paid attention they should be pretty substantial. Of course in some cases you might need a store savings card to get the best deals. If you don’t have one, just ask. They’ll be happy to oblige. Yes, I know they use it to track what you buy. So what! If you use the internet (and you do because you are here) privacy is pretty much a moot point for you anyway.

Tip 7: Get home, put everything away and know you’ll be able to feed yourself and whoever else you might feed for at least a little longer. And really, what could be more rewarding than that?

I know. Now you’re thinking this shallow gal has way too much time on her hands. Well that could be true. But if you ask me, it’s a whole lot better than finding an Halloumi Sandwich on my plate for dinner.

 

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