Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: Bellevue Square

Oh, what a story. I couldn't put it down (yes, I still use that expression for an audiobook!). Lots of twists and turns. What happened next was always a surprise that I couldn't have anticipated.

The premise, that you have a doppelgänger out there, is clever.

The setting, in Toronto, in the present (legalization of pot coming soon), draws you in.

No wonder it won the Giller Prize!

I look forward to reading more by Michael Redhill.

I liked Sarah Mennell's narration.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Review: Chernobyl 01:23:40

Inside Chernobyl: what happened, and as it stands today.

I found this to be an interesting book, as I really hadn't learned the full story. I do remember when it happened, so that drew me to the story.

This book will be of interest to urban explorers, as it is written by one.

Author: Andrew Leatherbarrow
Narrated by: Michael Page

Monday, November 20, 2017

Review: Into Thin Air

I am grateful that Jon Krakauer took the time to write this account of the 1996 tragedy on Everest. With his own recollections, and those of others, he has pieced together what happened.

Oxygen deprived and fogged by the confusion that killed others, he made mistakes that he hasn't forgiven himself for. Yet he takes responsibility. I hope he can make peace with it someday.

As a result, the book has a rather gloomy conclusion... but, then again, how could it be otherwise?

He tells the story as Jon experienced it, only revealing what transpired afterwards, as he put the pieces together. It made it compelling.

I might want to read it again, with a list of climbers and teams, and a map of the mountain.

The Audible version I listened to was narrated by Philip Franklin. Afterwards, I learned that there is a version narrated by Jon himself. I think I would have preferred that.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Review: How to Get Run Over by a Truck

Inspiring, frank, a good listen

Katie's story is both breathtakingly frightening and inspiring. I have often wondered how I would go on living if I suffered a tragic accident, and my life as I knew it ended. Now I don't wonder so much. By sharing her journey ~ made better by hearing her speak it, in her own voice ~ I can see the ups and downs, the emotional rollercoaster, the path towards acceptance, and seizing life all over again. I also appreciated Katie's sense of humour as she shared her experience. Thanks for sharing Katie.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The chalkboard

“I draw a line down the middle of a chalkboard, sketching a male symbol on one side and a female symbol on the other. Then I ask just the men: What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted?

At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they've been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, 'I stay out of prison.' This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, 'Nothing. I don't think about it.'

Then I ask women the same question. What steps do you take on a daily basis to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? Women throughout the audience immediately start raising their hands.

As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine.

Here are some of their answers: Hold my keys as a potential weapon. Look in the back seat of the car before getting in. Carry a cell phone. Don't go jogging at night. Lock all the windows when I sleep, even on hot summer nights. Be careful not to drink too much. Don't put my drink down and come back to it; make sure I see it being poured. Own a big dog. Carry Mace or pepper spray. Have an unlisted phone number. Have a man's voice on my answering machine. Park in well-lit areas. Don't use parking garages. Don't get on elevators with only one man, or with a group of men. Vary my route home from work. Watch what I wear. Don't use highway rest areas. Use a home alarm system. Don't wear headphones when jogging. Avoid forests or wooded areas, even in the daytime. Don't take a first-floor apartment. Go out in groups. Own a firearm. Meet men on first dates in public places. Make sure to have a car or cab fare. Don't make eye contact with men on the street. Make assertive eye contact with men on the street.

 ― Jackson Katz, The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help”

Monday, October 16, 2017


#MeToo, let me count the ways, or a few of them.

1 and 2. I had a job that required me to visit a territory of retail stores every 6-8 weeks. In 2 different locations, creepy owners would grope me in their stockrooms. I dreaded returning to these stores, but didn't really have a choice, and spent my time dodging these men.

 3. Was staying at a hotel for a business function. Had to visit the room of the suppliers who I thought I knew well and trusted, and he forced himself on me.

4. Invited to an office open house / celebration party with a company I was doing consulting work for. The owner of this 30 person company chose this moment, with his staff standing around, to reach out and place a sticker on one of my breasts. Didn't say anything at the time, but I did call him on it later and withdrew my services.

5. A former employer asked me, as a favour, to come back and deliver a particular training session for an important audience, including the company's new President. Just before the session, when I was introduced to the President, he shook my hand and drew me towards him, and French kissed me. Then I had to deliver the training session.

I'll stop there, though there have been more. I am speaking up for all those who can't, and to add my voice to those making it clear that sexual assault happens all the time.

These days I am far more likely to speak up and tell someone to take their hands off me... but one really doesn't know how one will respond until you are in the situation, and you are caught off guard, and there is usually some kind of power dynamic going on.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review: Brain on Fire - My Month of Madness

Fascinating real-life story... it could happen to anyone

An amazing glimpse into a frightening experience by a woman who "lost it" and could very well have spent the rest of her life on a psych ward, if it wasn't for the brilliant doctor who figured it out. Could you imagine having no memory of a month? This journalist pieced together what happened to her, and takes you along for the ride. Compelling story, well written, and so adeptly narrated that I forgot that the author and narrator weren't the same person.

Thursday, October 12, 2017



I feel doubted by someone. It's the oddest feeling (well, maybe not oddest, but unfamiliar and uncomfortable).

I am one of those people who is so honest I squeak. Like the time a vending machine was giving me change for a $20 every time I put $5 in (it was at a former workplace, I told them so they could fix the machine, and I gave the money back). Like a million times I've made a mistake, and fessed up or fixed it or apologized even though no one would have ever known. 

So it's a bit of a shock to realize that someone is doubting me. This feels like someone questioning my integrity, or thinking that I can't be trusted.

I actually think in this circumstances that this person hasn't really thought it through, or hasn't paid attention to the details of a situation, or hasn't grasped the full picture, so I don't take it too seriously, but I am interested in my initial reaction. 

What I felt first was hurt. Then shock. Then confusion. 

Why would anyone think I would intentionally deceive them? Do they think so little of me? Why? 

Even though I haven't done or said anything untoward, it still gives me a sinking feeling. And I feel shadows of shame flash through me. Old childhood stuff, vestiges of learning the consequences of my actions? Past recollections of times I was doubted in the past? 

I remember being a teenager, and being called into the Principal's office and questioned about the fire alarm that someone had pulled the prior evening. I was accused even though I had nothing to do with it. Of all the kids that were in the school that night, somehow I was the only person who they could fathom would do such a thing. A few days later, it was revealed that one of the 'good' kids had done it, by accident, when she fell against the alarm. 

That's not in the arena of this current situation, but it was a time when I was judged. Even when one is innocent, to be accused, or doubted, there are moments of shame. Perhaps only natural, but odd nonetheless. More than once I've had to go within, really think about a situation, before I could let myself off the hook, and relax, knowing I hadn't done anything wrong. Though, of course, there have been times when I have found an action or omission that I hadn't thought about, that needed correction, or an apology, or whatever. I am grateful that I learned to speak up when I screw up, to take personal responsibility when I have messed up.

I digress...

In this situation, I am surprised that I m doubted in this situation. I know there is no reason to, but, of course, perception is reality, in the eyes of the judger. What have I said or done to cause this person to doubt me? 

Of course, it may not have anything to do with me. 

Perhaps this person believes the worst in people, until proven wrong. I'm the opposite, but I understand some people have been conditioned this way. 

Perhaps this person has been lied to, or deceived, so many times, that they "can't" trust anyone. 

It's hard to say, but it's disappointing to realize that one has been painted with a broad brush of something that is far from the truth. 

But it's not worth worrying about, per se. There's nothing I can do about it. And I realize there are probably a whole lot of other things going on for this person and, when under stress, we respond differently than at other times. 

I'm going to give it a pass, and not let it get to me.

I know the truth.

But I'm glad I paused to take a look at this. It takes some of the sting of hurt away, and lets me sleep at night.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Review: A Gentleman in Moscow

What a lovely book, charming, entertaining, full of surprises

I enjoyed this book even more than I thought it would. Well written, and extremely well narrated. The Metropole Hotel came to life for me, especially through a child's eyes, exploring the nooks and crannies, taken up by its illustrative resident. There was more depth and history here than one expects, and plenty of life lessons. I shall recall the Count's philosophy. A light and entertaining read.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

No no kuru

So I had this situation yesterday where I was dizzy, but it wasn't solved by eating or sitting down. It could still very well have been caused by lack of food or sleep, but I came to realize it wasn't dizziness, per se, but a lack of balance. My head felt weird, kind of heavy, and I found myself weaving when I tried to walk. Vertigo? I've been known to faint, due to low blood pressure, but this felt different. I felt more like I might fall, than pass out. My equilibrium was off.

Yes, I left work, left my car there, asked for a ride home, and a walk to my door. And lay down, for hours. Food, water, sleep and not moving largely dissipated the feeling, but it would come back when I tried to walk (I had joked with my ride that maybe I had an early earthquake warning system, because the ground was definitely moving). So lay I did. And still am.

I've been reading about vertigo, which describes what I've been feeling more than anything else. I found this article, Sleep Tips for Vertigo, to be informative. It actually makes me worry less, and provides obvious and practical healthy things I can do. I've been careless about sleep all my life.

After awhile, I became curious about other recent symptoms I've had that might indicate something... and remembered I had that thing of where you can hear the blood coursing in one ear. If you've ever felt this, you know what I mean. If not, it's fairly subtle, as if you're finally quiet enough to hear what your body is doing every day. Read a bit about how this can relate to an inner ear infection, etc.

Along the way, I got a good laugh about causes of lack of balance:

Kuru (not!)

Kuru is a neurological disease contracted through cannibalism of the dead during funeral rites. While probably true, #17 of 18 possible causes of poor balance would send some people around the bend. I "love" the internet. This gem was found here.

Good grief.

Incidentally, I found a balanced perspective and useful insights on "pulsatile tinnitus" from Harvard in Ask the doctor: Is it worrisome to hear a pulse in my ear?

Tonight I'm feeling ok. My sister is here, so not worried about anything serious. Hopefully more rest and just taking it easy will have the feeling pass. I'll see a doctor if the symptoms persist or come back. Otherwise, I am grateful for signs from the universe that I need to be taking better care of myself.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Review: The Goldfinch

Oh, what a book!

I enjoyed this book from the beginning, but it didn't take me long to realize that this was one of the best books I had ever read. Half way through, it had moved up to best, and after that I wondered how I could bear it to end... then in the home stretch the story took a turn that took me totally off guard. It made it hard for me to relate to the main character, Theo, to even like him... stunned, I hung in there, and for the most part, I was able to reconcile the strange twist. I am glad I discovered Donna Tartt's writing, and I will be seeking out more. David Pittu's narration was superb. I loved how each character had his or her own voice (Boris' clever Russian accent!), truly bringing their personalities to life, allowing me to get lost in the story. Enjoyed the New York setting, glimpses into the worlds of art and antiques, realities of depression, drugs, and the inner struggles as one finds one's own way in this world. I couldn't put this one down, definitely lots of long stretches of listening. Very satisfying.

Thursday, August 03, 2017


Thank goodness for Audible and headphones. I could easily say thank goodness for podcasts and headphones. Really, it's about the headphones. Glad I remembered them.
I am sitting in the reception area of Hyundai, waiting for routine service. Headphones in, listening to an audiobook (this time: "Five Days at Memorial" by Sheri Fink), and getting a fair amount of work done on my iPad.

All fine... then a (rather cute) family of 3 has also arrived to wait for their car. Mom is a good sport, playing hopscotch, to entertain her girls (aged 2-4?)... but of course it's chaos, with them running different directions, screaming, climbing on the furniture and so on. 
Distracting enough to make me stop working, but happy to be in my own little bubble here.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Pretty blue laptop blues

I bought this pretty blue laptop from HP because it was pretty. I didn't worry about quality, because it was an HP. I've had a few other laptops I've liked, but HPs are my favourite. But, really, it's a piece of crap.

I was very disappointed when I got it - almost a year ago now? - and remain so. I use it the least. My quibbles about the pretty blue HP Stream laptop are with:

- the battery - it dies fast and does not hold its charge. I am constantly having to plug it in. If I fully charge it, then put it aside for a few days, it always needs a fresh charge.

- the plastic keys make it feel like a child's toy. There is something funky about it that I can't quite put my fingers on (pun possibly intended) that make it clunky, not smooth.

- the sensor pad is soooooo sensitive, I am constantly inadvertently enlarging to decreasing the view from 100%m (it seems I am not alone)

The latter was such a problem that when I first got the it, I actually had to go to HP Support how to figure out how to undo this behaviour (CNTRL+ AND CNTRL-). I even resort to a mouse at times (had to dust one of those off and get a new battery, it's been years.

Today, it's less crappy than usual, which is good news, as I am using it on my couch. I must have the right magic touch in this position I have it propped up in.

All of this is still a huge disappointment. I expected better out of HP. Their name brand stands for quality, so why would they even consider marketing this model??

As best I recall, there wasn't a significant price difference to get this model, over one of the more traditional laptops, so I really did buy it for the colour - black does get boring! - but had I known, I would have purchased another model.

Don't have the cash now to buy yet another one. But I am reminded of how disappointed I am every single time I use it.


Found a few reviews that speak to my experience:

The Tech Hacker - HP Stream 14 Review: "With striking looks, cheapness, and just average performance, it can be your idea of a good bargain, or an unrelenting nightmare depending on your expectations...."

Exactly. HP hasn't produced crap before (or at least not to my knowledge), so I wasn't expecting crap!

Monday, July 03, 2017

Behind the DT - a fork in the road of my life

I am parked behind the David Thompson Hotel, in Kamloops, where I escaped abduction.

This was a fork in the road of my life. 

I don't remember telling anyone about it at the time, though I am fairly sure I would have told my friends. This would have been grade 8, 9 or 10. 

I knew I couldn't tell my parents, or I wouldn't have been able to hitchhike anymore. 

I am thinking younger, because I did drive my mom's car once I was able, mostly for work, but other times as well. 

It was my quick thinking and wit that had me play along, when the guys who picked me up put me between two of them in the backseat. And took a detour. At first I thought it was a wrong turn, but then asked where we were going. I can't remember the answer, but we were headed to, or were on, the Yellowhead Highway. I think they joked. A roadtrip? A party? Or ? But I guess I understood what was really happening quickly, because I played along. Said that was cool, but did they have any beer. No they didn't. Well, let's get some, I say. I'll buy. They must have believed me, because they turned around and we ended up behind the David Thompson to get offsales from the bar. In digging out my cash from my jeans, I pretended they were too tight and I couldn't get it out. They probably were tight, but it didn't matter. It was a ploy to get out of the car. And it worked. As soon as I was out of the car, I reached into my jeans.... and ran like hell.

I don't remember where I ran to, whether they chased me (I think not?), where I hid, or how I got home that day.

Did I walk to the library to get a ride home with mom!

Did I head for the very infrequent rickety old Valleyview bus?

Did I call for a ride?

Did I hitchhike back?

Or did I just carry on to wherever I was going?

I have reflected on this experience before, but haven't really thought about the context around it, and what happened next. 

The incident came sharply into focus when I once went to a John Bradshaw (?) workshop 20-odd years ago at the Vancouver Convention Centre. I met and bonded with a woman who shared the same birthday as me (only one I've ever met). And she told me about when she and her friend were abducted hitchhiking and were held for days, before they escaped or were found. The things that happened to them. It's why she was in therapy. Holy shit. I realized how lucky I had been to escape.

Unfortunately, she didn't come back to the 2nd day of the workshop, too many ghosts perhaps. We never got each other's numbers, because we would see each other the next day. Or so we thought.

I really hadn't analyzed it before then. Didn't label it as an abduction, a kidnapping, but it happened. It was also over in an hour or two, maybe less.

How often did this happen?

Who did those guys pick up next?

Bothered that I never reported it, but that was then, this is now.

Though I noticed I locked my doors when I parked here.

PS. Only today when I went to post this, did I realize that Northern BC's so-called Highway of Tears is actually the Yellowhead Highway. 

PPS. I remember telling a friend the other day about my interest (fascination?) with missing person cases, and all the podcasts I follow on this subject. Coincidence?

Saturday, July 01, 2017

A place to hang my hat?

Vancouver Airport

On my layover between Victoria and Kamloops.

Nice little section of the terminal they have here, low down for all the little walk on planes, so you aren't wasting time going in and up and down and out. About a dozen gates here, no through traffic, so pretty quiet, except when there is a rush of arrivals. One Tim Horton's with very cheery peeps. If its busy, wait 5 minutes and the line evaporates. Or so it seems to me.

My carry-on bag, bought off  a
 kid in Berlin,, it always makes
me smile
I am travelling with just a carry on, but I seem to have lost my touch: my bag is stuffed. Like it better with less stuff and some spare room. Maybe if I didn't wait til the morning of my flight, I could be more decisive. But a nice chill place nonetheless.

As the plane takes off from Victoria, I feel this desire to fly, fly, fly.

Landing in Vancouver, seeing the skyline, I am hit again with a pang of missing this city. Not likely that I will live here again ($$$), but it still feels like home. Its good to process this feeling when I feel it, to understand it, to move on, to really get it that I have moved on. I have, but have I? Really?

I am "here" ~ in Sidney ~ not by design, but I am getting used to it. 7 years now. How strange. I realize I could hang my hat here. Maybe.

Or maybe it's destined to hang somewhere else.

 I am in the void of not knowing. But it's not a dark void. And it's not really limbo. It's more of accepting where I am, and being open to what's next.

Kamloops will be interesting. Old friends. Canada Day in Riverside Park? Looking forward to the reunion dinner. Staying downtown.

I kind of never looked back when I left, except for Karen's wedding... pseudo tolerated business trips, and was ok with 2 prior reunion trips. But this trip feels different. Hmmm.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Active Pass

How strange it is to coming home on the ferry and to be going the other way. Still. 

Coming home on the ferry, and the feeling and images it evokes, always spoke to the large expanse of water after emerging from Active Pass. Coming home was like this for thirty years. 

I've been on the other side of the drink for a long time now (7 years!), but I am still surprised when I realize how topsy turvy my life is now. It's not necessarily bad, but just different. And still disorienting sometimes. How did this happen? 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Travel while you can

I was moved to tears today when I received an email from a client, giving up their bucketlist travel dreams. They'd booked and cancelled, then almost rebooked twice, each time stymied by health issues. Only a week ago, my heart soared upon learning they were well enough to travel, and we put the wheels in motion. At 79, they could finally make their dreams come true. Then today the email saying they realized it was too much, apologizing for wasting my time on their impossible dream. How does one respond to that? With heart, of course, acknowleding what a disappoinment this realization must be. Sadder still was reading the words of the husband, as it's his health that is the issue, inpacting them both.

THE LESSON: Travel when you can. Have your health, then go. Retired and now able to travel? Book a bunch of trips and go. Beware the temptation to spread out those important trips, one at a time, over many years ~ treat yourself to going now, not later, because you never know. This is hard for people who have worked hard, saved money, and aren't used to spending on themselves. But this is what you saved for.

Today you can go, so go. Chase your dreams. Do the big trips now, the important ones to you when you can. My clients will get over not taking a particular cruise, but this very kind man is living with regrets that he never got to explore his homeland, to visit the villages where his grandparents were born. These are the dreams that matter. You know what dreams are in your heart, what you've always wanted to do.

PLAN IT, DO IT, CREATE MEMORIES. Don't put it off.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sales girl

I am still a little surprised to discover how much I am enjoying working in sales. I wasn't really expecting that. I was pretty sure I'd do fine, but actually really enjoy it? That's a nice surprise!
Of course, the product (travel) is so interesting. I get to meet all sots of people, from first time cruisers to intrepid world travellers. And I have the privilege of helping them plan their explorations and vacations, pursuing their dreams.
I have great fun watching my sales, as I work to achieve my sales targets, weathering both the ups and downs. Ups = bookings. Downs = cancellations. I can also see my overall ranking in the company, so it's a little like leap frog along the way.
One of the things I was able to do early on, for the most part, is to separate the 'sale' from the person I am helping. Sure, they're connected, but I consciously don't allow myself to think about, or look at, the commission I will receive from each booking. Sure, there will be a commission, that's how I am paid... but my entire focus is on the client, and their trip, and helping them navigate which cruise / tour / flights / hotel / etc is best for them.
And I have learned not to take non-bookings and cancellations personally. It's gotta be water off a duck's back, or you're hooped.
I also figure out if I do the opposite of these things, it brings an sense of desperation into the equation. And who wants a salesperson who is desperate for the sale?!? I sure don't. I have worked with a couple of people who get caught up in this, and I find I have to separate myself from their negativity.
It's all about service to me.... which makes looking at my sales later, or using a different part of my brain, so much fun.
That's all just a preamble to where I am at today, just 1 or 2 bookings short of hitting my stretch sales target goal for 2016.
It will be a fun couple days, wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sugar cookies

Today it caught me off guard.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been enjoying many-a-treat from colleagues and clients. No problem. And I've weathered the Christmas season without grief. Maybe a bit of sadness, missing mom, but mostly relaxing with fond memories. Even that was a huge shift for me.

So I wasn't expecting anything.

Then, today, with a bite of a snowflake cookie (very tasty) from a colleague, I had this sudden flash of mom's sugar cookie and shortbread. It took my breath away. And brought tears to my eyes.

Had to go in the back for a little cry.

Mom had all these little metal (aluminum?) cookie cutters, rolling around in a drawer, and this time of year, the same shapes would appear in cookie form, dotted with little red and green sprinkles: the star, the gingerbread man, the snowman, the Santa... Most of my mom memories are recent ones, but this is one from long ago, the taste of a cookie evoking childhood slivers of memory.

The struggle is still there. The pull between missing mom, and moving n. The dance between terrible grief and an accepting sadness shored up by love. The hole in my heart versus my heart bursting with love and appreciation for mom. How can I be all these things at once? How can I be of two hearts?

Overall, I'm good. My energy is on the side of acceptance and joy at how lucky I have been, and how grateful I am for mom, especially those last few years together.

But still, grief lingers. Or wafts. In and out. Strong and at bay. Never really gone, but no longer dominating.

It is less than a week until the anniversary of mom's passing (New Year's Eve), so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

But I'd fooled myself by doing ok. I forgot about how grief pounces. How it just erupts, when are least expecting it.

Except I supposed I should have expected it. Because I do still miss her so...

Ah, life is a journey.

Back to my day as a travel agent. I have quotes to do! Mom would love that. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas surprise

Me in Aix-en-Provence
(but not at Christmas)
Surprised to find myself listening to Christmas music, all day. Enjoying it. I don't even want to watch a movie, because I don't want to break the zone that I am in. This would not be odd for other people, but it is indeed unusual for me.

More than that, I've been actually enjoying Christmas music for weeks, even having it turned on in the office when I am the only one there (!). But the music today on CBC is so lovely, what a lovely mix.

My relationship with Christmas has been through such ups and downs, such highs, and such miserable downs, to barely tolerating, to doing ok with it. But comfortable and relaxed, and listening to seasonal music is a new one.

It occurs to me that I am not grieving, as much, this year, as I was last year. What a difficult time the last couple years were, and having mom's passing coincide with the holidays made my grief just so pronounced.

In fact, I don't feel like I am grieving this year. Sure, when I think of mom, I tear up and I miss her terribly, but I mostly just feel the blessings of her love, and the gifts we both experienced spending the last stage of her life together. It was a good full circle. I miss her, but I don't mourn. Love you mom!

As a kid, family Christmases were good, and I have many fond memories. Lately, I've even let myself think about them.

In my 20's I was over-the-top into Christmas, I would make myself sick if I was like that today! People who knew me then would never believe that I stopped celebrating Christmas. Oh, and my poor family... I was a royal pain-in-the-ass, "making" everyone send me their Christmas lists weeks in advance, which I would reproduce and mail out (bleh), sorry about that.

Anyways, Christmas was something I loved, and was pretty central to my life, so when I started to deal with difficult family issues, causing me to step away from the family for a period, the "loss" of Christmas was like an open wound. I was a tortured soul, lost without an anchor, no idea of how to be in the world through the season. I bounced from trying to get in the spirit, to deep days of despair, totally lost. I just wanted to get to January. I've never been one to feel lonely, but I felt so alone, and lonely, that first year.

I remember walking the Stanley Park seawall on Christmas Day, forlorn and confused. Earlier that day, as my therapist was on vacation, I'd gone to see a new therapist, just the one time, for support, to help me get through the day. That turned out to be a be a bad decision. This new therapist knew nothing about me, and in the process of bringing her up to speed, she latched onto something and took me down a rabbit hole. I was already dealing with a lot, but that day she layered on a worry that I was an alcoholic (I wasn't). So, I walked that seawall with a great big cloud over me. Instead of helping me with a difficult day, I'd gotten myself more confused. It took a call to my regular therapist a few days later to get back on track.

From there, it didn't get better, but at least it couldn't get worse. Well, maybe it did. When I eventually dealt with my family issues head on, bringing skeletons out of the closet, speaking out about all that happened to me (for another day, or just ask me), the world shifted for me, and for my whole family. I don't regret how I had to deal with it - I wouldn't be myself today if I hadn't - I had to do what I had to do - I still regret the pain it caused others. So Christmases were hell for a few years, and not just for me. The act of saving myself left waves of sadness and loss all around me.

So, yeah, Christmas was pretty miserable for me. It became a season to just get through. I'd waffle between finding new ways to celebrate, to avoiding it all together.

Giving up gifting and giving to charities instead wasn't too hard. Figuring out what to do with myself was a different story. I often thought I would volunteer, but always checked into it too late, so I just had to get through it.

The pain was so much that from about October until January1st, I was miserable. And I got more and more miserable the closer it got.

So, yeah, no Christmas music, no gifts, no tree, no nothing... until I figured out a new way to be.

Eventually, I made peace with it, I guess, and I created my own private rituals: walks, reading, movies, treats, a day just for me. It was never really pleasurable, but I tolerated it.

Me serving Christmas dinner in Athens
The first time I sort-of celebrated Christmas again was when I was in Greece with my sister. We didn't make a big deal of it, but I got into the spirit, really for her sake, but was blessed to find myself warming, and enjoying the seasonal interlude.

Bringing Christmas cheer to mom in Glengarry
Fast forward to the very next year, and I was living with mom. She wasn't big on Christmas any more, but enjoyed having family around, fun treats, I made her a stocking, watched Christmas specials, and enjoyed turkey dinner from Chef on the Run. It was ok. I essentially put my Grinch in the closet, to make things special for her. A few family would come, which was interesting, being around Christmas and gifts again, but I seemed to get through it ok. Shed my demons and got into it with mom, and started to have fun. I remembering telling my sister that I enjoyed the Christmas lights that year, and she was pretty shocked. This leopard changed her spots.

Mom and I had a nice little rhythm with Christmas, both those years I lived with her, then later when she was living in residential care, where I'd bring things in, and join her for Christmas dinner. I never minded, because it gave her joy, and I was relieved to find I still had a heart in there. Ha. That's an  understatement. The last 7 years have made me into a softie (in a good way) ~ singing with mom, and playing with a cat who adopted me ~ I opened my heart. It was time.

So, last year, was ok, sad because it was coming up to the anniversary of mom's passing (she had died the previous New Year's Eve), but relaxing with my sister. Only a bit of a Grinch. Nothing outward to celebrate, but was ok with the goings on with my sister and niece, presents and pajamas, and all that. I got through it ok, but can't say it was a good year. Such a difficult time, did ok, but that's all I can say.

Now, this year, low and behold, I am enjoying Christmas music. Who knew?

My sister is in Vancouver, cat sitting for her daughter, so we both have apartments to ourselves for the season (bliss). Its been months since I had any time alone, so that's helping me get grounded again. And, surprise, here I find myself with my first Christmas alone in 8 years.

Didn't think about enjoying it or not, it just "was". Made sure I had lots of food, and a few treats, but that's about it.

Imagine my surprise to be actually enjoying my day. It's been decades, really, since I didn't have a cloud of darkness around me.

So, I like Christmas music.

I like Christmas lights.

I have been saying Merry Christmas.

I am not waiting for it to be over.

I am enjoying the interlude.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Quiet day

It's a quiet day here, but a good one. I decided to work at the office, as you never know when a world cruise will walk through the door. Ha! This is traditionally a very quiet day, but you really do never know when someone wants to buy the gift of travel. More likely, someone needs travel insurance (one today), phone calls for other agents (several messages passed on), or someone dropping by (one of my clients, how delightful, with a card and little thank you gift!). In between, I am getting a lot of work done. Half of that is cruise work, the other half is my more creative endeavors and social media. And between the work, I confess to a nice long read of the newspaper, and sneaking left over treats from around the office. I am about to turn the neon shingle off, but reflecting that it was a good day, and it was nice to be out on such a nice day. Next, home to a quiet evening of doodling, or reading, or Christmas movies, accompanied by vodka and Fresca (maybe without the Fresca). But not too much, as I am keeping my virtual shingle on!
Cheers to all.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016

I rest my case against "clickbait"

Inspired by a Lonely Planet article today, Stinge Henge: eight alternative ancient stone monuments, I  have been learning about the Ring of Brodgar.

I admit that it was my dislike of the article's "Stinge Henge" title that made me click the link. I suppose I was ready to wag my virtual finger at LP, mocking their use of the title.

The truth is I actually got lost, after I went to Wikipedia to find a Creative Commons image I could find to accompany my tweet. I found myself deep into learning about this particular henge.

Proving, of course, that clickbait works. Would I have even read the article if it didn't have the annoying title? Very possibly not.

I rest my own case against clickbait. I guess I've crossed over to the other side now.

PS. I am now writing a blog post about the Ring of Brodgar for my cruisetravelbug blog... I'll return here to post a link when its published.

Related resources
Stinge Henge: eight alternative ancient stone monuments - LonelyPlanet
WTF is Clickbait - TechCrunch
You’ll Be Outraged at How Easy It Was to Get You to Click on This Headline - Wired

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Something I am passionate about...

... is kindness.

It seems, perhaps, an unusual passion, considering the vitriol of the recent American election. Or perhaps it makes perfect sense. But for me, kindness is at the heart of living peacefully in this world.

A little bit of kindness goes a long way. A very looong way.

I haven't always understood this. It was a lesson learned the hard way.

I've made my share of mistakes, I've had moments of acting out in a way that could not seem to be anything but unkind, even if that wasn't the intent. Until I took a close look at myself, and did some personal work, I often wasn't even aware of the impact of myself on others.

I am grateful that I learned those lessons.

But I slowly came to see that kindness is something I value, perhaps more than anything else.

You can't be respectful, if you aren't kind.

If you are kind, it's not hard to be respectful.

You can't be generous, if you aren't kind. Generosity without kindness is not sincere.

You can't be sincere, if you aren't kind. If you are kind, sincerity flows naturally.

Today I realize that kindness is something I value, perhaps more than anything else.

If you're kind,

And it's kindness of thought that matters, just not actions.

If you aren't compassionate, there isn't a l

Long ago, before I got to the root of it, I had streaks where I my impatience, frustration or anger would overwhelm me, and my interactions with the world were not always kind.

In retrospect, it makes complete sense that once I took care of some personal issues (therapy is a good thing!), I didn't have unresolved issues overflowing into the world around me.

I have learned from the kindness of others, those who have extended kindness to me, even when I didn't seem to be responding in kind.

Lessons also came to me in just observing others.

those who accept an apology gracefully

We are all on different paths in this world, and you never know what the person you are interacting with is going through. You have no idea what a difference a kind word can make. You may never know. But it is an easier world to get through, if you just give a little kindness.

I have come to understand the value of kindness

I live by this rule on a daily basis, and it's not often anymore that I give it much thought. It seems to come naturally to me.

Not that long ago though, when overwhelmed with the task of closing down my late mother's home, and moving, I lost my patience in a McDonald's drive through. The lack of the ability of the person to understand my simple request, brought out the worst of me. I not only felt bad, but I felt compelled to make it right. Lucky for me, I was able to return to the drive through the next morning, and was able to get the same employee, so I had an opportunity to apologize. This person, who'd I'd never seen smile much in the past, broke into the biggest grin, was so grateful, and showered me with kindness.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

"GO" and the social media lexicon

I just witnessed a couple of people jump all over someone for using "GO" as a discussion starter in a Facebook community. I saw the question, and was curious about what responses it solicited, but was surprised to see the thread highjacked over the way the question was asked. The judgers blasted her for adding the word "GO" after her question, calling it rude and unprofessional. Their very reaction made it obvious that they had little or no social media exposure beyond The Facebook Bubble, as this is a relatively common way to kick off brainstorming. The woman who innocently asked the question is probably quite taken aback by the reaction, and may never ask a question again! I see that the moderator has tried to reign things in, but the damage has been done.

If you only live in the bubble, that's ok (though I'm glad it's not me), but be gentle on others, and don't be so quick to judge. If you see a term or approach like this used multiple times (I gather this isn't the first time they've got their knickers in a knot about this), p-a-u-s-e, and get curious.

Get curious. Ask yourself what is going on that you aren't aware of? If people are starting to use jargon, or communicate in a certain way, it's a CLUE. Notice the pattern. Get curious.

Instead of getting your back up and hijacking the discussion, why not reflect on what you observe, as in, "Interesting, another person has asked a question, then typed GO, what's up with that? I thought at first it was rude, or even unprofessional, but now that I've heard it again, I wonder if I am missing something.... Is that how people are initiating discussions these days? It must be coming from somewhere, but it's new to me. I don't really like it, but I can't control it, so I may as well ignore it, and focus instead on what the person asked..." Or something like that.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What do you think?

By the way, it's not lost on me that I am judging the judgers here. I love irony.

I've started hunting down something written on the use of "GO" in this context... In the meantime, I'm finding some other resources on social media terms, which I've posted below,

Social Media Glossary - Agility PR
The Definitive List of Social Media Acronyms and Abbreviations, Defined - Buffer Social
The Social Media Glossary: 226 Essential Definitions - Hootsuite
Social Media Glossary: Top 100 Words and Phrases - Socialbrite

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Where I grew up

I was applying for a writing gig recently, and was asked to write a couple of paragraphs about where I grew up. I had to do it off the top of my head, with no time to think about it, just using a few prompts, so I thought I would save it.

I grew up in Valleyview, a subdivision of Kamloops, in the interior of British Columbia. As kids, we were free to amuse ourselves outdoors, and there was a great gang of kids. Our house was situated at the foot of steep clay "cliffs" (they were hills really), covered with sagebrush. We spent countless hours had climbing the hills behind the houses across the street, hiding behind the sagebrush and spying down at the people below.

One of my favourite things to do was ride my bike to the drive-in theatre and to meet my friends and hang out. At night, we would try to watch the movies through the fence, always hopeful that we'd hear the soundtrack from a car with the speakers turned up loud, but mostly just heard random bits of conversation or music when someone opened a car door. During the day we could go right in, where we'd look for coins in the grass and play with the speakers, though we heard only static.

We practically lived outside, right down to the picnic table in the backyard where we ate most of our meals. We'd often have sweet, juicy watermelon for dessert and, being outdoors, it was the perfect place to spit watermelon seeds at each other. Sadly, my big brother had a much better aim. But still, I tried. No wonder our mom wanted us to eat outdoors!

Monday, November 21, 2016


-ology, a suffix derived from the Greek logos,
meaning the 'study of', 'specialty in' or 'art of' a given scientific or medical field.

Found a great list of "onologies" this morning. These caught my eye:

Aphnology = Wealth
Apiology = Bees
Argyrothecology = Moneyboxes
Batology = Brambles (not bees?!)
Cereology = Crop circles
Deltiology = Postcards
Dendrochronolgy = Tree growth rings
Enterology = The intestines
Eremology = Deserts
Escapology = Escape from confinement
Gizmology = Technological gadgetry
Hippology = Horses (not hippos?)
Ichnology = Fossil footprints
Latrinology = Writings on toilet walls
Lipsology = Lip prints
Mellittology = Bees
Nidology = Bird's nests
Numismatology = Coins & medals
Odology = The mystical force of od
Odonatology = Dragonflies
Omnibology = Motorbuses (always wondered about the roots of "omnibus")
Pachydermatology = Elephant skin
Palaeometeorology = Past patterns of global atmospheric transport
Palaeotempestology = Ancient storms
Pelology = Mud as a therapy
Pharology = Lighthouses
Phrenology = Skull form as indication of character
Plangonology = Dolls
Plutology = Wealth (if you can't be a planet...)
Pogonology = Beards
Psephology = Elections & voting (timely)
Pterylology = The arrangement of bird's feathers
Ptochology = Pauperism & unemployment
Punnology = Puns
Rabdology = Arithmetic using Napier's Bones
Rumpology = Fortune telling by reading the rump
Tartarology = Hell
Teleseismology = Tremors due to distant earthquakes
Timbrology = Postage stamps
Tsiganology = Gypsies
Typtology = Spirit rappings
Vexillology = Flags

List of onologies

Friday, November 18, 2016

Still the thrill of being a travel agent

It's been almost 4 years, and still I sometimes get such a thrill out of the realization that I am a travel agent.

Today it hit me when I started work on a request for one of my favourite clients, a business student, who needs flights for a job she starts in January. She's in Tokyo right now, returns for Christmas, and needs to be in Heidenheim de Brenz, Germany, in early January. There is a bit of flexibility on dates, but not much.

So, where is Heidenheim de Brenz, you say? Me too.

Once I found out where the town was, I had to figure out what airport is closest, with good transportation to the smaller town. That would be Stuttgart Airport (STR), but roundtrip flights from Victoria are a little pricey, so I am sitting down now to explore more options.

Next stop: Rome to Rio (great tool!)

I absolutely LOVE this stuff.

Sure, it's not the stuff I make the most on, but that doesn't matter.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

RIP Leonard Cohen

Click to enlarge if you want to see any of the lyrics, photos of Leonard or my doodle
Like many, I am saddened by the news of Leonard Cohen's passing. Not unexpected, really, but stunning that he was still producing new music right up to the end. If you haven't heard it, listen to the interview from a few weeks back on Q (CBC) with his son Adam, on how they completed his last album together. 

I haven't purchased the new album, yet, but I have the prior album and have been listening to it almost non-stop for the past couple of months. I'm not sure why, but I have found it compelling, matched to my mood, and just "right".

Only now do I realize how timely it has been.

Long live his music and artistic works.

And I look forward to how we shall all be awash in documentaries, interviews and music for some time to come, as his life is celebrated.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

This is democracy

It's not my country, but... This is democracy. And sometimes democracy produces a result you don't like.

Still so shocked. Even I cried last night.