My Very Own Carrie Fisher Flight From Hell

As has become our tradition, after the holiday crush and once we shipped the kids back to their prospective universities, my husband and I slipped down to Mexico for a week of sun and sand. And guacamole and margaritas.

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courtesy iclipart.com

And it was needed. My husband, after a series of work setbacks and health issues, had morphed into Captain Miserable, Captain Doom and Gloom. Yes, he was certain the world was coming to an end and he was dying.

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courtesy iclipart.com

No matter that I’m the one who just lost my dad a couple months prior,  and I’m the one who practically totaled my SUV while driving to a conference across town (the brakes failed and the SUV sustained over $16,000 worth of damage, but that’s another story)

Print

courtesy iclipart.com

Nope, the Original Obnoxious One was experiencing the worst period of his life, so just before taking off, his family doctor prescribed some new medication to help improve his well-being. Initial indications were promising.

We arrived at our adults-only, all-inclusive paradise on its own private beach, just past the party scene that is Cabo San Lucas.  And the sun did shine and the water was blue and the food was delectable, especially the ceviche. And yeah, the margaritas didn’t suck.

Beach with Palm Clouds Sun Beach Umbrella and Beach Chair. Summe

courtesy iclipart.com

Until the third day.

By the third day, the meds kicked into overdrive and my dear darling husband could barely get out of bed. Captain Miserable blew back into town and he stuck around for a couple days until we figured out the culprit. Once he stopped taking the meds he began to improve, just in time to go home.

By then I had transformed into a stress cookie. I wondered if Captain Miserable was going to live? Would he be depressed and downhearted forever? Would he ever sort out his career woes or was I doomed to have him by my side, day after day, hour after hour, retired at only 55?! I considered every possibility in turn and agonized and worried and stewed over each. Because after all, that’s one of the things I do best…worry and stew and agonize. Just call me Chief Worrier and Caregiver of the World.

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courtesy iclipart.com

We stepped on that plane after our week in the sun, tanned and newly svelte from not eating or sleeping. I had suffered from persistent acid reflux so hadn’t been able to choke down much food and Captain Miserable’s moans and groans and snoring kept me awake into the wee hours most nights. But I looked forward to returning home to our cold wet coast, and Franklinstein.

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I wasn’t hungry so I skipped the “meal” and went straight to the recent movie releases on the entertainment system while my husband snored not so gently beside me. Two hours into the flight I didn’t feel well. I felt like something was wrong, very very wrong. So I started googling my symptoms.

  • severe heartburn – check
  • chest pain like an elephant sitting on chest – check
  • pain running down arm – check
  • tingling fingers – check
  • dizzy & lightheaded – check
  • lower back pain – check

OMG I was having a heart attack on the plane just like Carrie Fisher?!

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courtesy media.photobucket.com

Sure why not – what a way to start 2017!

I figured at this stage we were over California. Yep, let’s have a heart attack onboard a plane, land in Trump’s America (assuming they would even let us in) and kiss away our life savings to the American Healthcare System.

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courtesy iclipart.com

Oh and by the way, my father and his father both died of a ruptured aorta aneurysm,  a rather rare heart condition which tends to be hereditary. I hadn’t been tested yet, so didn’t know if I was susceptible, but since I do have a blood disorder similar to hemophilia,  I didn’t want to take any aspirin. Ruptured aorta vs heart attack – what a choice!

My husband woke up and spoke with the incredible WestJet folks. Luckily for me, there was a doctor on board – poor guy! I managed to keep it together and not freak out or die before we made it to Vancouver. I did, however, cry and pray and promise to be a better person;  you will understand that this was not one of my better flights. To my supreme mortification and relief,  8 paramedics rushed me off the plane and drove us to the nearest hospital.

Several hours later they discharged me, after numerous pokes and prods and vials of blood and X-rays and ultrasounds…you name it, they did it.

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courtesy iclipart.com

So what happened?

The blood enzymes indicated there had been no heart attack. The chest x-ray and ultrasound showed no signs of bleeding or tear in the aorta. So…

  • acid reflux?
  • angina?
  • exhaustion and stress?
  •  pinched nerve &/or damaged muscles?

Despite more tests and examinations the past few weeks by my family doctors and local specialists, we still don’t really know what happened. I had a very scary plane ride and a very stressful experience, but hey, I’m still here.

I’ve realized that sometimes I need to let go of my Chief Worrier and Caregiver of the World hat and relax – at least sometimes. So I’m back to exercising

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and meditating

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and hanging out with my dog.

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And Captain Doom and Gloom? He has a great new job and is happier and more relaxed than he’s been in years. Thank goodness! Now if I could only convince him to meditate, I know he’d feel so much better.

.

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courtesy iclipart.com

I’ll have to get one of his clients to work on him – they usually have more luck than I do.

But you know, after everything that’s happened, it’s still a wonderful world just as Louis said.

Really!

When I’m Sixty-Four

I’ve been obsessing over numbers lately. Yes, it’s a C.P.A. thing (my other profession), it’s tax time, and it’s also spring.  You see during the past month or so:

  • my dad celebrated his 82nd birthday

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  • my son turned 23 far away in London-town during exams

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  • my daughter, the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild,  much to our horror became legal everywhere when she turned 21
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courtesy iclipart.com

  • my husband, The Original Obnoxious One, reached the grand old age of 55IMG_0415
  • and my hubby and I celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary
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courtesy iclipart.com

So I am feeling rather tired from all that celebrating and a little…ancient.

 

Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

Also The Original Obnoxious One and I saw Sir Paul McCartney in concert when he passed through Vancouver in late April. There was a lot of press and social media about the fact that Sir Paul is 73 – for good reason.

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courtesy thebeatles.com

He was incredibly energetic and funny and warm and of course, a Musical Super-Power. I’ve never seen him in concert before so this was quite the thrilling experience for me. A great big tick off the old bucket list.

But back to the ageing thing.

When I get older, losing my hair
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine,
birthday greetings, bottle of wine?

About 18 years ago I had laser eye surgery; I was extremely near-sighted so afterwards this meant I could see clocks and computer screens and drive without peering through 3 inch thick lenses . It totally changed my life for quite awhile.

But then I turned 50 – ouch.  I actually needed reading glasses – purchased from the local drug store – to read the newspaper at night. And then during the day. And then to read anything at all. But I’m not the only one.

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The Original Obnoxious One and Franklinstein

And I even have bifocal sunglasses for reading outside!

Sigh.

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Shhh! Don’t tell anyone those are reading sunglasses.

Recently while walking Franklinstein in the woods not far from where we live, I ran into an old colleague, a girl from back in my C.P.A. articling days. We walked and hiked together, chatted up a storm.When I whined about turning older and becoming near-sighted, her response was:

Look Rita. Yes, I need reading glasses too but here’s the thing. In the morning when I get up and look in the mirror (sans glasses) I think I look amazing – no wrinkles, no grey hair on my head and no hair on my legs.All is good!

Of course the reality is just a wee bit different.

My friend does have a few wrinkles – after-all she has 2 boys roughly the same age as my kids and has been married for almost 30 years. She does have quite a number of grey hairs on her head as her hair is naturally quite dark and she doesn’t dye it. And she does use reading glasses for absolutely everything.

So then I felt a bit better – someone else was suffering just like me!

You’ll be older too.
Ah, and if you say the word,
I could stay with you.

Except I don’t have the issue of grey hair, because I have very expensive blonde highlights in my mousey brown baby-fine hair. Hairy legs – shockingly yes whenever I put on my glasses and look at them. Otherwise who knows?!

And the drug store near me carries all kinds of cool and colourful reading glasses for folks like me – I should know because at any given time I have at least 4 at the house. One pair for upstairs, one pair for downstairs, one sturdy  pair for reading in bed and one floater pair.

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courtesy peepers.com

And by the way,  The Original Obnoxious One also has several pairs of readers lying around the house, and at the office and in his gym bag, and in his briefcase.

Most of the time I don’t really think about the whole aging thing. I’m active –  I walk Franklinstein whatever the weather and we dance together regularly,IMG_1431 (Edited)

I do Pilates, I  eat healthy for the most part and I smile. A Lot. Except when I don’t. Like when I’m reading or concentrating or writing. That’s when The  Original Obnoxious One lets loose with his own unique brand of obnoxiousness.

Each and every evening.

Rita, what’s wrong? Smile! You look sad..or miserable..or angry. Be happy!

Here’s the thing. Nine times out of ten I am happy. I’m not miserable or sad or even angry – unless someone in my family did something incredibly stupid.

Again. You know who you are!

But l do have wrinkles (a couple)  and gravity does weird things to my face.

Okay, I confess, I have RBF – Resting Bitch Face.

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RBF

Get over it!

Really!

 

Lyrics of When I’m Sixty Four courtesy thebeatles.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh the Places You’ve Been

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courtesy Oh, The Places YOu’ll Go by Dr Suess

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing

When my dear darling husband, The Original Obnoxious One, suggested we travel to Japan, I agreed  with one caveat – we had to spend several days afterwards at a totally chill beach resort. And since we were already halfway around the world in Asia, the place I chose was this:

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We had stayed at a Six Senses Resort a couple years before in Vietnam and it was magical. What’s not to love – architecture in harmony with natural surroundings, private villas complete with private plunge pools and butlers, incredible fresh local food, sustainable water and waste practices, and prices not as steep as you’d think, especially in the off-season.  The Six Senses Samui in Thailand did not dosappoint not one little bit, not when the main pool looked like this:

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And the view from our bed looked like thisDSCN0860

Even though the weather was hot and it was humid, which we usually find unbearable, somehow, we managed to survive. We had lattes in the morning  – not Green Eggs and Ham – and Sex on the Beach – the drink – in the afternoon.We dined on the hill, DSCN0925

we dined on the rocks,DSCN0872

we dined wherever and whenever we could.

And it was heavenly.

We wandered along the resort’s private beach,
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we swam and we kayaked in the clear turquoise waters,DSCN0863

and we talked to the wonderful locals who worked there – our butler, our servers, our housekeepers. Those hardworking folk were always smiling and happy and laughed at my hubby’s silly jokes and catered to our every whim as we started the long and challenging process of unwinding. My iPhone even died so our daughter couldn’t reach us to complain and shriek about the cold weather or her lack of friends at school or her courses or any other earth-shattering issues.

It’s opener there
in the wide open air. 

But it wasn’t all fun and games you know.

Nope, not for us.

I put The Original Obnoxious One to work and enrolled him in a Thai cooking class at the resort. All that chopping, all that tasting, all that sauteing – quite a demanding proposition, especially combined with the gorgeous outdoor setting.DSCN0885

Surprisingly enough he got more right than wrong, so the slave-driving chef gave her love, thumbs-up, grudging acknowledgement.DSCN0883

In the end The Original Obnoxious One somehow created such amazing culinary delights and was so proud of himself  that he became almost insufferable, and rather…obnoxious! DSCN0887

To this day I have not heard the end of what a great “cooker” he is.

Next I decided The Original Obnoxious One required a serious tune-up, an arduous physical transformation, so I forced my reluctant hubby to undergo the dreaded Thai Signature Treatment, which just happened to be for two people. At the place of our doom

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courtesy Six Senses Samui

we were presented with white cotton pajama-like tops and bottoms for our own protection. No oils. No aromatherapy. Just damn hard work.  For an entire hour each of us submitted to the battle-hardened warriors who thrashed and pummeled us. Those tough veterans poked our muscles, stretched our limbs and contorted our bodies into poses never seen or even imagined before . And yes, it was extremely scary – at least for The Original Obnoxious One who moaned and whimpered and screamed yelled screeched over the course of the daunting procedure. When the horror ended my hubby thanked the sweet little Thai ladies professional masseuses and proclaimed the treatment the best massage of his life.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Now it was time for him to torture me – a happy marriage is all about equal pain and suffering compromise after all. So he dragged me on several treks around the island, along unfortunate garbage-strewn beaches (yes, really)DSCN0895

roads choked with mopeds and trucks and fascinating colourful temples.

And after those terrifying forced marches we enjoyed our home away from home that much more – well at least my dear darling husband certainly did.10580943_10152713416644400_2647866384709508617_o

And sure enough,  The Original Obnoxious One finally found his long-lost mojo .DSCN0890

Until the next time we return. We met some Brits who spend a couple months suffering at this same spot year after year. Ahh…to be so lucky! In the meantime we’re planning a trip to Portugal in the fall, and I’ve found the perfect Six Senses there. Really!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.

 

 

 

 

Green Eggs and Ham

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courtesy Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss

After several days of massive Tokyo crowds, illegible city signage, non-stop neon lights and those high-tech multi-functional washlets with heated seats, we escaped to the countryside. As mentioned in my last post, Oh the places you’ll go my husband, The Original Obnoxious One, made all the travel and accommodations arrangements for this trip to Japan – or rather his people did. After speaking with friends and colleagues he decided we should stay at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. Ryokans are generally located in scenic areas, near mountains or water, and feature tatami-floored rooms with foldaway futons, communal and private baths, elaborate multi-course meals and multiple rules and regulations.

ryokan

Our first stop was the Aura-Tachibana in Hanoke, an easy two hour train ride from Tokyo. And the Japanese train system is amazing – clean, efficient and relatively affordable. But once we arrived in that tiny town and started to look for our ryokan, we couldn’t tell left from right or up from down. Yes, we had detailed instructions multi-coloured maps but…

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courtesy iclipart.com

After bumbling around for an hour or more we dragged our bags and carry-on items up the steep hill, around a couple hair-pin twists to the Aura-Tachibana. By the way, our Japanese is almost non-existent despite what The Original Obnoxious One likes to believe, and the receptionist’s English was very, very rudimentary. After 30 minutes of trying to communicate, the most we could understand was that we could leave our bags at the front desk but couldn’t check in to our room for several hours. We even phoned our super-duper problem-solving incredible travel agent back in Vancouver. She yelled at the local ryokan rep in English with a heavy Mandarin accent  (we could hear her across the lobby) but was ultimately unable to convince them to let us stay.Why? We never did figure that part out.

What to do and where to go?!

We meandered back down the hill, through the town, to the river where we had a lovely view of a couple of homeless guys washing and urinating. 018b36c0ceaa3289a8d94304340fc9a61f4615205c

Of course it was Sunday so very few stores or restaurants were open. Apparently Hanoke’s claim to fame is its hot springs, natural beauty and view of Mount Fuji. We couldn’t find any vistas in or around town of Mount Fuji and the homeless folk  were not exactly naturally beautiful. Maybe our hotel accessed the hot springs for its communal baths?! But Hanoke is close to Tokyo so it provides a quick and easy get away for families and couples. Especially couples. 😉

Basic RGB

courtesy clipart.com

After walking around in circles for a few hours we climbed back up that mountain and were shown to our room. We were one of the lucky ones there, with our very own private hot tub and view of that same river we had now come to love.015389d32a64abb9823faea18f36cc8d0f4e615f8f

My husband was a little more adventurous and actually ventured out of our room in order to soak in the communal hot springs and baths.

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The Original Obnoxious One heading to the baths – doesn’t he look cute?!

Somehow the thought of parading around naked, with my (mostly) blond hair and mottled menopausal body towering over of a bunch of cute little Japanese ladies did not fill me with joy and pleasure. So I stayed in our room and studied the official instructions of how to behave and what to do and not do.

But the fun was just beginning. As the only non-Japanese folk at dinner and breakfast the following morning in the large dining room, we weren’t the least bit nervous or uncomfortable until we were presented with this and this.ryokan breakfast

Okay let me confess something right here, right now. I will generally try most any food most any time most any where except at breakfast. Yes, it’s true – I am a wimpy cowardly breakfast-eater! Give me cereal and milk or yogurt and fruit or eggs  but that’s it. Plus of course a latte. I will travel miles and miles for a latte in the morning – just ask my most patient parents.  A regular boring cup of coffee just doesn’t cut it. I know, I’m spoiled but I blame it on the never ending rains here on the wet coast, November through March.  The Original Obnoxious One is much more accommodating – if its edible he’ll eat it, regardless of colour, texture, etc. Imagine my unmitigated pleasure upon gazing at this adorable delicacy at 8am :

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Dried Horse Mackerel – even the name is “interesting”

Those eyes hypnotized me and not in a good way. But  I did take my chopsticks and attack  this fishy fish and made it look like I sampled the delights when in reality I tried to remain calm – I only screamed and gagged in my imagination! In fact, at that moment I sympathized greatly with this character:

i do not like

courtesy Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss

Just exchange green eggs and ham for fishy fish and jam .

I survived only to relive much of the experience again in our ryokan in Kyoto, the Hiiragiya, minus the delayed check-in and homeless absolutions. At least in Kyoto breakfast and dinner were served in our room by our very own geisha-girl/butler,

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Ahhh…where to begin.

so no one else had to observe my attempts at poking, prodding and fumbling with chopsticks. There were a few more choices so I could avoid the fishy fish for breakfast. And I could find a latte close to our hotel without too much trouble. Plus our dinners were absolutely exquisite in appearance.

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and tasted pretty good.

i will try

courtesy Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss

The Original Obnoxious One was in heaven – he loves this kind of stuff. But he was most proud because the staff congratulated us several times on having the best room in the ryokan –  the best because it had the largest private bath.

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There was also another large room with a long counter and double sink.

Of course the beautiful views of the private courtyard  and gardens didn’t hurt. In fact the Hiiragiy Ryokan was quite a special place – small and intimate, run by the same family for six generations, beautifully maintained and centrally located.  And it has even been updated with modern amenities like wifi. Once I got past the morning menu terrors, I really enjoyed wandering the street and lanes of Kyoto – lots to see, especially in the old part and even the most touristy sections were gorgeous and fascinating.

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But I will say that I was rather relieved to leave Japan for Hong Kong and then Thailand, where I could anything under the sun for breakfast, including eggs!

i like green eggs

courtesy Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss

Really! 

 

 

 

 

Oh the places you’ll go

dr-seuss oh the places you'll go

courtesy Dr. Seuss

You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way

In the fall of 2014 we did travel to a great place – Japan. Usually I’m the Grand Master of Trip Planning, the Decider, the Doer, but because of our impending move in October 2014, my husband, the Original Obnoxious One took over my duties. So I could pack boxes. And more boxes. And so many boxes from the house we lived in for 12 years.

As a result he picked the flights and the actual destination. Why Japan you might ask? Darned if I know. It was his choice though, so I agreed as long as he agreed to several days at the Six Senses Resort on the island of Samui in Thailand afterwards.Which he did.

But I get ahead of myself.

And then things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

And yeah, things did start to happen just as soon as we landed at the Tokyo airport. My dear darling husband was feeling tired and out-of-sorts, so he wandered off as he frequently does and disappeared. For over an hour. Just vanished in a place where no one spoke English and all the signs were written in Japanese characters.

But that’s a story for another time.

Suffice it to say we got back on track within 24 hours – thanks in large part to the wonderful Mandarin Oriental Tokyo (he actually picked this amazing hotel all by himself!?) and started doing what we like best.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go

Wandering the streets of Tokyo with eyes wide open, we were mesmerized by the unique and fascinating  Japanese culture so very different from ours in North America.

For example …

around every corner, busy street markets sell everything from shoes to clothes to food

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and vending machines offer all kinds of weird and wonderful items.

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Sumo wrestlers really are something special and they walk around town just like everybody else.

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You can find really good Ramen at tiny little hole-in-the-wall underground spots where no one speaks English but there are photos of the food available.01b6953ffab3dd681eaea0b97b6f9f0018366ed236

The Japanese love their themed cafes – cat cafes and my little pony cafes and especially maid cafes. This is as close as we got to a maid cafe.

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Since fish is served morning, noon and night, the Tsukiji Market is a super big deal and the Original Obnoxious One sure loved it.

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And when you’re alone there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

 

But the greatest and scariest sights that we saw?

Can you guess, can you say, do you know?

Was courtesy Toto, the toilet folks pros!

So I’m no Dr. Seuss,  but I’ll tell you that I’ve never seen anything like the Japanese high-tech, music playing, multi-function, super-specialty toilet/bidets with heated seats anywhere before. These were way more complicated than any similar ones I’ve seen in Las Vegas – trust me!

toto toilet

And when faced with a budget choice of a dishwasher or a Toto luxury toilet, most Japanese families  choose the toilet. Our guide told us her mother now refuses to leave Japan, despite having lived in places like New York city for several years. Why?  Because no other country enjoys a similar level of toilet sophistication! In fact, the Japanese are determined to bring their enlightened toilet culture to the rest of the world as the video below illustrates.

And for the ignorant uneducated travelers like the Original Obnoxious One and me, Toto also produced videos which provide more detailed and focused information on exactly how to use the washout – too bad I didn’t come across this video until after our trip!

 

So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
And remember that Life’s
A Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

When we returned to Vancouver I spent several weeks researching these marvelous contraptions – yes, by the end of our time in Japan I was totally smitten with the Toto Washlets, especially their heated seats! Unfortunately I couldn’t find any beauties here for less than $5,000 and the Original Obnoxious One was enamoured with them quite that much.

So, I’ll have to wait until our next visit to Japan or Vegas. 😉
Really!

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! quotes courtesy book by Dr. Seuss

 

 

 

 

 

London Calling

Last summer when our kids came home from university to work and study, Vancouver had one of the driest, warmest summers in recent memory or at least in my recent memory. And my son, the Obnoxious One, took full advantage, burning the candle at both ends all summer long.

Perhaps it was the serious health scare with his grandmother and then father. Perhaps it was because he and his long term girlfriend broke up, or the fact that he graduated with a BA in History after 4 years of partying university.  The day after he arrived home he started the prep course for the Law School entrance exam and attended  5-6 days a week, 7 hours a day, and completed all the homework assignments and test, which was pretty amazing!

Regardless, he still plunged himself into every activity known to man, work-wise, sports-wise and fun-wise.

He started with the same boutique law firm he had worked at the previous two summers.557682_334349746677236_966526195_n-001

He and his dad took a number of Scuba Diving lessons with the hope of becoming certified,

 

Snorkle

courtesy iclipart.com

which unfortunately didn’t quite work out, but that’s another story.

 

He attempted Kiteboarding at Squamish with a couple buddies and lived to tell about it, more or less.boys kite sailing

He bought and enjoyed a couple paddle boards for he and his friends and paddled all over Howe Sound. Apparently one of the paddle boards was for me, (the great big wide beginner one) but I have yet to check out its charms.

paddleboard

courtesy  seatoskyadventurecompany.com

He went kayaking down a steep concrete chute at Lions Bay with a couple super-crazy friends

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courtesy iclipart.com

and yes they ripped a hole in one of our plastic Costco kayaks although the Obnoxious One denies it to this day.

He attended the Pemberton Music Festival and…let’s just say he had a very good time.music festival

He climbed numerous mountains and fiorded numerous lakes and streams, kind of…hiking

But then the dog almost died and his best friend from high school did die.

It’s a hard thing for a mother, even this Terrible Awful Mother to watch her darling experience such pain at the tender age of 22. You may think that’s life, so suck it up. You may be right, but somewhere along the line that precious obnoxiousness that defines my son vanished and was replaced by a sea of tears, frustration, desperation and lots and lots of soul-searching. I encouraged him to seek a therapist and luckily he found one with whom he developed a great rapport – an expensive one but a wonderful one.

And gradually he put himself back together.

But he decided it was time for a change. For a number of reasons he decided Law School in Canada was not an option, so he did the unexpected – to me anyways! He applied to law school in London, England late in the summer and was accepted; he left in mid-September. Darn those  family trips when we drove all over Europe, exploring the sights and sounds and smells – he developed a far too-keen appreciation  for big cities and travel!Big-Ben-and-London-Bus

He found a place to live with a few friends who were just starting banking careers in London, and now he’s having a blast. And working very hard at school of course. A couple months after moving halfway around the world he sent me the following message:

“Mom, I’m so happy I moved to London – it’s been the best decision of my life !”

“So what is it that makes you so happy, darling? The energy? The architecture? The museums? ”

british museum.org

courtesy britishmuseum.org

“The football (soccer for North Americans) and rugby games Mom – they’re brilliant! I even saw Jeremy Clarkson (his Obnoxious hero who was fired from Top Gear a year ago) sitting just across from me.chelsea football

And the pubs are pretty amazing too!”

Oh right. Of course. There’s a reason we call him the Obnoxious One.

alec

Really! But at least I’ll have a place to stay whenever I can afford to visit London, that is if he doesn’t spend too much in the meantime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who ya gonna ask…?

Who are you going to ask for directions, for recommendations, for tips when you’re travelling far far from home and you don’t speak the language?

Back in the day when my children actually kind of liked each other and kind of got along, we took them on a number of summer vacations overseas to Europe. In the months leading up to such trips I would overdose on travel books – Fodor’s, Frommer’s and especially DK Eyewitness Travel were my kind of porn, not to mention Conde Nast Traveler magazines and the TV show Rick Steeves’ Europe.

We generally rented apartments in the big cities for a few days, then drove our rental car (minus the dog) to the

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

agritourismo in Tuscany,Top-3 cottage near the sea in Dorset,103_0315_resizedgite in Provence,IMG_0210_resized
barge in Burgundy,
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gulet off the Turkish coastIMG_1537
where we lived just like the locals for a week or so.

Due to my incredibly thorough and never-ending research, we  I knew the recommended sites (the castles, cathedrals, museums)  to see and the top restaurants to savour meals (the local pubs, the tucked away bistros, the hidden tavernas.)

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

Of course, this was before there was an app for all that.

However I have found out the hard way that the views expressed on Trip Advisor don’t always match my own, like the place in Miami Beach that came highly rated. Yes the location was amazing, but the service was virtually non-existent and majorly disappointing given our midnight arrival after 12 hours of travel time. Also the carpet sagged in many spots over strange protrusions, the bed was hard and lumpy and the pool staff &/or drink staff never materialized.

Now my daughter, the Weird One is absolutely, positively, totally the opposite of me – yes,  she does take after my husband, the Original Obnoxious One, although she’s more a seat-of-the-pants kind of gal, a go-with-the-flow bohemian babe with chutzpah.

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

No planning or preparation ahead of time, no way!

For example when visiting Paris with classmates, in order to fully experience the city in all its glory, she went to confession at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Yeah, that one – the religious centre of France constructed 850 years ago. The thing is, we’re not Catholic – my kids were baptized in the Presbyterian Church but it’s been many years since we graced its doors.

But she didn’t go to Notre Dame to confess her sins…oh no, that would be too pedestrian, too…normal. No, the Weird One went to confession at one of the largest and most historically significant cathedrals in all of Europe, heck in all the world, so she could have a life chat with the priest.

And ask him exactly where to go and what to see in Paris.

Really! 

Can’t say I’d recommend this as a shining example of how to how to procure travel advice in a foreign country, but when you’re the Weird One, anything goes!

 

It happened

It happened and it’s kept me really busy.

  • my son, the Obnoxious One, survived third year university more or less in one piece, turned 21 and arrived home two weeks ago; one internship fell through but another better opportunity may just work out this summer…we hope397566_10201028718439486_4699414364402152008_n
  • my daughter, the Weird One, returned home in early April from her first year of university abroad, with a nose ring, numerous other new piercings ( 7 in one ear and 5 in the other), ombre hair, and a dread lock; amazingly enough she landed a job at a local coffee shop with a little help and turned 19 a few days ago1622392_10153969194690204_2067224220_o
  • My husband, the Original Obnoxious One, and I flitted down to Laguna Beach for several days, made a quick trip to New York and then visited Vegas for the first time  – this little tree-loving hermit is still reeling from the overwhelming sights and sounds of Vegas, and yes, the Original Obnoxious One is an amazing photographerIMG_0352
  • our cabin is for sale again
  • we took our house off the market for a month, then re-listed it last week with a different agent
  • we’ve had 6 showings plus an open house and unfortunately the 3 houses we really liked are all sold, but we’re still hopeful there’s something out there for us1
  • my parents turned 80 and I planned a cruise to Alaska next month for them, myself, and my sister – I can hardly wait!

    courtesy celebritycruises.com

    courtesy celebritycruises.com

  • I took on the role of Treasurer for a very interesting and creative charity and for the first time in decades found myself mired in journal entries, adjusting journal entries, year end procedures and an Annual General Meeting

    courtesy iclipart.com

    courtesy iclipart.com

  • I polished off the second season of House of Cards in short order – gotta love Kevin Spacey!10306475_708054889217280_2568578375498721271_n
  • I finally joined the ranks of thousands and became enthralled with Downton Abbey, I consumed all 4 seasons in short order,and yes, I do have a love/hate relationship with Netflxacfc64e0226d90026cc0d53d5067d11b

Of course life goes on whether I blog about it or not. And one day, one day soon, an agent or publisher will call me and  The Trouble With Queenie will be published. It will happen.

But in the meantime my dear darling children are behaving more like they’re 4 and 6,Top-15rather than 19 and 21, with lots of screaming, slamming doors and unflushed toilets.

Never mind. Spring has arrived in the Pacific Northwest and the mountains and Franklinstein are calling my name. With any luck, the Obnoxious One and the Weird One will either kill each other or learn to get along. Frankly right now I don’t care which option they pick, as long as there’s progress.

Really!

You did what??

Usually this is something I say to my kids and occasionally my husband, but not this time.

It was the third day of the cruise my husband, the Original Obnoxious One, and I took after New Years to recuperate from our traumatic holiday experience with our kids.  (see Happy Belated New Year.) The trip began in South Beach in the pouring rain – warm rain, but nevertheless, rain. The sky cleared somewhat for the first evening of the cruise, but then clouded over and the deluge commenced in earnest.  This time the rain was not warm, but frigid and the wind was blowing furiously. We had purposely chosen a minuscule smaller, less expensive room as we assumed the weather would be wonderfully sunny and warm, no hot, the entire ten days.

Bad call.

Our first port of call was La Romana, Dominican Republic and my husband and I were desperate to get some real exercise – not in the gym, but out walking in the real world, like we do at home in West Vancouver. So we stepped off the ship, into the 85 degree heat and humidity. By the way, anything above 75 degrees is considered a heatwave in Vancouver, and humidity in the summer is non-existent.

We walked  through the town

courtesy Latin America News dispatch

courtesy Latin America News dispatch

to the colourful market.IMG_2630Next we marched single file along the highway and railway tracks to the high-end, ultra-exclusive sporting resort of Casa de Campo.IMG_2623 I’d read about this place in several magazines and was rather intrigued – I knew there were a couple of golf courses, some very high-end villas, and that Oscar de la Renta had done the interior design.

We very politely yet confidently made our way to the Owner’s Entrance to enquire about a resort day pass, since we wanted our presence to be totally official and legitimate.

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Inside the very tastefully done, air-conditioned Owners Office we approached the extremely attractive, perfectly coiffed and beautifully made-up local receptionist. She glanced  up from her computer and saw a rather dusty, dirty, sweaty couple – water was actually flowing in rivers off the Original Obnoxious One’s big bald head, and I was way, way beyond the glowing stage. When we asked how much a day pass was, she glared at us and said $30 US each. We requested a map of the resort and asked her to recommend a route we could walk.

“Walk? Walk? You can’t walk here – Casa de Campo is 7,000 acres and contains over 1,700 private villas. Where’s your car?”

“We didn’t bring one.”

“Well, where’s your taxi?”

“We don’t have one.”

“How on earth did you get here?”

“We walked from the cruise ship, after going downtown.”

You did what??? But that just isn’t done?! You must drive around the resort as security will not allow you to walk. No one walks!”

So we hired a taxi for $35 to drive us around Casa de Campo and its three golf courses, 3 practice golf ranges, 3 polo fields, various horse trails and jumping rings, 13 tennis courts all with a spectacular view of the sea, shooting center on 245 acres with over 200 stations for trap, skeet and sporting clays, not to mention 3 beaches lw1930_46741576_790x490and water sports such as kayaking, fishing, sailing and snorkeling. Let’s also not forget the Marina which is modelled after Portofino and accommodates boats up to 250 feet,IMG_2634Altos de Chavon  the fake 16th century Meditteranean village, as well as more than a dozen bars & restaurants, and the 5 star hotel and spa.

After more than an hour driving through some of those 7,000 acres, we decided we’d had enough. Was Casa de Campo the preferred Caribbean jet set getaway as promised on the Leading Hotels of the World website? Maybe, even probably. Will we be staying there anytime soon? Never say never, but…we really like to walk, hike or run when on vacation. Just call us those crazy Canuks.

Really!

I’m a survivor but… I’ve had a couple close calls lately

You may have noticed that I’ve been absent the past few weeks, but I really am still in one piece. Yes, I did take my daughter, the Weird One/Demon Child to the UK for some last minute mother/daughter bonding before delivering her to this university.IMG_2196In a timezone eight hours ahead of my own. And yes, it actually was rather traumatic for me.

Beforehand we did have a few grand adventures – walking and hiking and 1272404_10153182640500290_1963781292_oshopping and hanging out.1268644_10153182634665290_1346345177_oAnd glaring and fighting and huffing and puffing.IMG_2148

Yep, we had them all. After a wonderfully busy, entirely rewarding and absolutely infuriating week with her, I headed home to do laundry, clean the house, put it back up forsale once again and then…pack up. Again. For another trip to Europe.

Okay, confession time – this is where I almost, well kind of, feel like one of those decadent and spoiled housewives of Vancouver.  But here’s the thing – 10 months ago my husband, the adorable Captain Dumb Dumb, and I decided that after all the excitement and drama of the past year, we needed a real vacation together, desperately. And I didn’t want to be home alone with Franklinstein,crying my eyes out 1186787_10151796775032492_987179013_nafter turning into an empty nester overnight.

So five days after seeing my daughter off to university, my husband and I headed to Italy for almost three weeks. There, I’ve said it. So that’s why I’ve been rather remiss of late.

But I will tell you this. I did find myself in dire straits several times with the Demon Child and I did fear for my life. And for hers. The worst episode occurred on our very first morning together. After travelling for roughly twenty-four hours, through more time zones than either one of us could count, we finally dragged ourselves into a lovely hotel in Cornwall overlooking the ocean. IMG-20130830-00155Although we were both exhausted, sleep took awhile to claim me, whereas the Demon Child started snoring the moment her head hit the pillow (just like her dad – I really HATE people like that!). So the next morning, when I could have and should have slept until noon, or later, there was one minor glitch: the Demon Child woke me up at 6 am, after a measly 5 hour snooze,  screaming in my ear:

“MOM, you drank my contact lenses! How could you? You PROMISED me last night that you wouldn’t! I HATE you!!!”

courtesy iclipart.com

courtesy iclipart.com

Somewhere in the dim dark recesses of my foggy brain I recalled the fact that the Demon Child had forgotten to pack her contact lens case. She packed everything else – including the kitchen sink – but no contact lense case. SO she carefully placed each of her contacts in a glass of water, in the bathroom, on the sink. I must have gotten up at some point to use the toilet and drink some water.

Should I be blamed for her stupidity? 

But it was the very first morning of our trip together, and she was ultra-nervous about the whole univerity thing – the people, the profs, the school, her classes. So after some swearing and screeching, we made up; I apologized and she accepted  And our trip resumed. Oh,we had quite a few more tense moments – like when she accused me of expecting too much of hotels or of complaining too much or of snoring too much or of being too conservative or too lazy – but at the end of the day we had a great time together.

Sometimes keeping the peace is more important than being right – at least that’s what I tell myself! Really?! What do you think?