Somewhere Over the Rainbow

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Four months ago my father died.

Quickly and unexpectedly.

Dad was 82 and yes, he’d had a good life, but we all wanted more; after all, he was the healthy one, the caregiver for my mom. She’s the one with breast cancer and brain tumours and mobility issues. Dad was the blue-eyed jokester, the daily walker, the outdoors man, the artisan woodworker, and the artist.

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self-portrait Sad Clown

He taught me how to paddle a canoe silently and slowly, quickly and powerfully, forward, backward and side to side. He patiently, over a long period of time, taught me how to ride a bike. He attempted to teach me how to drive a car, but finally sent me to a professional for both our sakes. After many hours of instruction and practice I eventually passed the driver test, although to this day my husband and children don’t quite understand how that ever happened.

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He tried to teach me to fish but had much better luck teaching my son as I wasn’t fond of worms, his preferred form of bait. dad&alec.jpg

He taught me how to make the World’s Best Fudge from his super-secret recipe, much to my daughter’s everlasting delight – of course now she makes it better than I do.

Dad was the curious one, the one who read the newspaper all the way through, the one who watched the nightly news and discussed world events.

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He was master of the game – solitaire, bridge, cribbage, rummikub and more. grandpa-kids_0005-2

He was also the organized one who assembled  all of the pertinent legal and financial information, listed and annotated it and placed it in a small wooden box for safe keeping.

Dad was the magical dog-whisperer long before Cesar Millan claimed that title. When I was growing up in small town Ontario, Dad trained Sam and Piper, our two black Labrador Retrievers, to heel off-leash on either side of him and walk that way for miles. And when they came to a park or a field, he’d let them run but they always came charging back when he called. No treats were required – they simply wanted to please him. And there was no barking unless there was a darn good reason, like a stranger entering the house unannounced. Sam and Piper were followed by many other wonderful dogs over the years.

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Photo by Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock.com

Dad was the careful one who lived within his means and saved money for retirement and beyond. Way beyond. Yet he and my mom thoroughly enjoyed their lives together,
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and their many lunches and dinners out (neither one liked to cook).Tim Hortons was their favourite spot for coffee. And of course doughnuts. While money was never plentiful, they never ever complained about not having enough.

He was the one with the musical ear, who could tell whether the piano was in or out of tune when Mom’s piano students plunked and struggled their way through scales and exercises and sonatas.

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But now when I just won’t can’t do something – like clean up after my dog or move a heavy box  – who will call me Helpless Hannah?

And when my temper gets the better of me and I become cranky and angry – usually with one of my children for a very good reason – who will quote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

There was a little girl,
            Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
            When she was good,
            She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

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Or when I’m out walking dodging dogs and kids, who will say to me for no reason whatsoever,

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Fuzzy Wuzzy drawing by GH-MoNGo

I suppose this rhyme long held a special place in my dad’s heart as he himself didn’t have much hair after the age of 30 or so. Same with my husband…who knows what will happen with my son?!

Perhaps my husband and kids will  read this and perhaps they’ll take up Dad’s mantle. After all, somebody needs to keep me on the straight and narrow. Somebody needs to remind me to have a little fun every now and then.Somebody to tell me that this too shall pass.

In the meantime, I know that Dad is Somewhere Over the Rainbow, throwing sticks and balls for Sam and Piper and the other dogs, who are all ecstatic to be reunited with their friend and master.

Really!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanna start a fight!

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I got a brand new attitude
And I’m gonna wear it tonight
I wanna get in trouble
I wanna start a fight

Ever have one of those days where you wake up feeling tired and grumpy and each and every little insignificant thing  morphs into a massive soul-destroying catastrophe.

And you wanna start a fight?

Things like…

listening to your husband’s snoring all night, every night

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having to stay inside and work on a long-awaited gorgeous summer day

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going into your bathroom and finding no toilet paper, the toilet seat up, your husband’s nail clippings on each and every surface of your bathroom, except in the toilet or garbage and wet stinky towels on the floor

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the way the dog moans and whines and looks at you even after you’ve fed him and he’s done his business outside

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discovering you have no coffee beans or milk in the morning and your usual routine includes 2 triple shot lattes

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learning that your daughter has been so busy working her four puny 6-hour shifts a week that she hasn’t had time to sort out a couple minor administrative matters that will allow her to graduate from university with good marks

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So you send the 5 second email on her behalf and are then livid with yourself for cleaning up her mess. Again!

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that critically acclaimed, multiple award-winning book you’re reading sucks swampgas – a technical term my kids use

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And you have a unwanted, unwelcome birthday coming up just around the corner, which everyone in your family will probably forget anyways

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Okay, so I had one of those days yesterday and rather than yell or kick the dog or hit my husband over the head, I decided to do something positive –  I decided to meditate. Yep, that’s right. I have officially gone over to that weird side – the one where the hippies (like my daughter) and the lazy dropouts (her friends) hang out

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as well as movie stars like Hugh Jackman and Clint Eastwood, celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Seinfeld and CEO’s like Arianna Huffington and Larry Ellison.

So this Terrible Awful Mother decided to do it – I mean there must be something to it if it`s good enough for all those folks. I should mention I have been attempting to meditate on a somewhat regular basis. But some days I don’t can’t find the time and some days I try but I can’t keep physically still, let alone focus my mind. Recently I’ve been working through Oprah & Deepak’s 21 day meditation experience called  Getting Unstuck: Creating a Limitless Life! Sounds good right? – I figure I could use getting unstuck and a limitless life sounds pretty darn amazing.

So yesterday I was determined to do it. I went into my office, closed the door and clicked on the guided meditation.

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I sat comfortably in my chair, listened intently to the discussion, got into the zone and repeated the mantra when…

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my husband, the Original Obnoxious One, kicked in the door, yelled howdy and shocked me right out of hard-fought focus

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And started to laugh uncontrollably and loudly. For a very long time.

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My response ?

Na na na na na na na, I wanna start a fight
Na na na na na na na, I wanna start a fight

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I hadn’t told the Original Obnoxious One about my meditation attempts because I knew this would be his reaction. And that he’d intentionally bother me during crucial zen moments. He just wouldn’t be able to help himself.

And he couldn’t. But as for me?

So what?
I’m still a rock star
I got my rock moves
And I don’t need you

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Yep, meditation works wonders for me! How ’bout you?

Really!

Song lyrics courtesy So What by Pink

Anything you can do I can do better

Irving Berlin wrote the song for the musical “Annie Get your Gun”, but I find  this video featuring the Chipmunks (courtesy ktCATSbone ) encapsulates the sentiments in a more meaningful, more relevant manner for today’s audiences.

Yes, Anything you can do I can do better has been a way of life for my family as long as  I can remember. Originally my daughter, the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild was the one trying to keep up with her older brother, The Obnoxious One.

Anything you can do I can do better
I can do anything better than you

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No you can’t

She tried to outdo him on everything, like Halloween costumes

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except I clearly won as the Wicked Witch 😉

and then declared she loved Killer, the dog, way more than he did.

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poor Killer doesn’t look too thrilled with either

My kids tried to outdo each other while on a beach vacation for the prize of silliest-looking and the best skin (after the mask).

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As they grew older their antics didn’t stop – just morphed into bigger and more ridiculous sibling rivalry.

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They competed to see:

who was the loudest and most obnoxious? – usually my son, The Obnoxious One but sometimes my dear darling hubby, The Original Obnoxious One won the hotly contested battle

who was the weirdest? – definitely my daughter, The HIppie-Dippie Wildchild

who had the better worst tattoo? –  my son’s was totally overshadowed

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The Obnoxious One’s Tattoo

by my daughter’s, much to my dismay as I am SO not a fan of tattoos.  Sorry folks.

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this tattoo was originally just the phrase from “Dear Prudence”, until she added the tiny sun. Sigh.

And food? When The Obnoxious One came home for the summer after his second year of university with severe sensitivities to gluten and dairy, the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild just had to become vegetarian and ultimately vegan to differentiate herself and outdo her brother. Preparing a healthy meal for the four of us became such a Herculean feat that I soon gave up – and cooked only for my hubby and I. After all, we’ll eat just about anything as long as it’s spicy and fresh and flavourful and homemade and …

By the way, after feeling sluggish and generally lousy for many, many months, the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild finally succumbed to eating seafood a couple weeks ago, and even some meat. Hallelujah!! ‘Cause it’s kinda tough being a healthy, energetic vegetarian, let alone vegan, if one doesn’t eat beans or nuts.

At all.

The latest? Years of competition, heated debates and massive arguments have been replaced with a bare-bones tolerance, a delicate truce between The Obnoxious One and the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild.  Almost. Although I never know when it will blow up completely

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and utterly.

But for now they seem to have found a new source of “fun”, a new opportunity to show off.  Now they compete to see who can buy the most ridiculous, most useless present for their dad,  a conservative business lawyer and senior partner with one of the largest law firms in CanadaAs mentioned in Our Very Own Goddess of Green, for Christmas the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild made a generous donation on his behalf to the British Hen Welfare Trust .  The Original Obnoxious One is now the very proud sponsor of Sky and Sparkle, two thankful British hens who are enjoying the great outdoors for the first time ever .british hen stuff

This lovely donation is the gift that won’t stop giving, because every couple of months he receives something quite lovely, such as this beautiful notebook and two charming greeting cards

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and this fascinating update on Sky and Sparkle’s return to health and happiness

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aren’t they handsome hens!

as well as this informative magazine.

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I do have to wonder though if the postage to send these fine items from the UK all the way to Vancouver BC costs more than the original donation amount?!

For Father’s Day not only did my son The Obnoxious One come home for a great 10 day visit from London, England (first time we saw him since Christmas), but he managed to snag a delightful Father’s Day gift for The Original Obnoxious One. This gift was so thoughtful and so relevant that the Hippie-Dippie Wildchild just couldn’t resist checking it out herself.

 

At the end of the day I just can’t imagine why my children are so competitive and try so hard to outdo each other. Perhaps it’s in their genes. Way, way back in the Dark Ages their father and I met at university in a second year Philosophy class in Logic. Every week the prof gave us quizzes and of course we always checked to see who received the better mark.

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I did of course!

Really!

 

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,

 

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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.

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courtesy  seatoskyadventurecompany.com

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

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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? ”

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“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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our very own Goddess of Green

Before it was mandated by our local government and before it was trendy, our daughter, the Wild Child, was totally obsessed with Saving the Environment.

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Maybe it had to do with living in a temperate rain forest and the hiking we do here, rain or sun. 1048195_10152958698655290_974192805_o

Perhaps it’s because of the summers we’ve spent on Indian Arm  swimming and tubing and boating.

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Whatever the case, the Wild Child has always loved lecturing us about the dos and don’ts of looking after the planet and all of its amazing natural inhabitants, including mice and bats and snakes. Oh Joy.

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In fact, for her father’s Christmas present this past year, she made a generous donation on his behalf to the British Hen Welfare Trust. The Original Obnoxious One is now the very proud sponsor of Sky and Sparkle, two thankful British hens who are enjoying the great outdoors for the first time ever .

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See, I’m not making this stuff up!

She was the one who insisted we collect and recycle as many water bottles and tin cans as humanly possible, even if it meant trolling the neighbourhood and the beaches and the parks. She was the one who took part in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup over and over and over again. Funny that she was rarely the one to clean up after the dog – asking, commanding, coercing never worked with her but sometimes bribery did. Especially when she was broke and wanted a couple dollars for candy.

She was the one who decried smokers – she loudly and frequently insisted smoking was Evil and she would never ever be friends with anyone who smoked.

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Fast forward several years and our Hippie-Dippie Wild Child’s boyfriend smokes cigarettes constantly,  but well, let’s not go there today.

She’s been the only member of our family who has embraced vegetarianism because it’s good for the environment – all that flatulence from all those cows and all that waste material in the watershed from all those pigs . And don’t get her started on the wonders and glories of PETA.

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Tragically the rest of us are hard-core carnivores; we adore meat and poultry and fish. But I do buy organic meat and poultry and the seafood I purchase is Ocean Wise. The Hippie-Dippie Wild Child desperately aspires to be vegan, but is not a huge fan of beans or nuts; she loves her cheese and omelettes and Nutella way too much.IMG_1464.JPG

And she hates to actually prepare food.

Of course she also talks a lot about water conservation, but heck, we live in a rain-forest in one of the rainiest cities in Canada! We frequently experience road and bridge washouts because it rains on the North Shore an average of 180 days per year.

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And the water in our taps comes from the creek raging river beside us – our small community accesses, purifies and tests the water on a regular basis, and it tastes amazing.

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So there’s not a lot of incentive on our part to cut back on heavenly long hot showers or totally thorough toothbrush sessions. She also advises us not to flush the toilet after every use, but now that we’ve moved to the outskirts of the city, we actually have our own septic system, and it which benefits from regular flushes, believe me!

But this past summer she came home with her latest and greatest idea to Save the Environment. And she just had to share this exciting news with my son, The Obnoxious One, right when he was diving into an amazing brunch he’d just concocted of eggs  and fresh guacamole and artisan toast and…kinda like this.

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“Hey guess what? I’m so proud of myself, you have no idea!”

“Oh, yeah…?” Chomp, chomp. “So what is it?”

“Well I’m really helping out the environment big time. I’ve started using reusable pads.”

“Whatever, that’s nice.” Chomp, chomp

“Yeah it’s so must better for the environment – none of that waste in the landfills or in the sewage system. And it’s no big deal, really. I just have to do a little bit of extra laundry once a month.”

“Wait, what the heck are you talking about?!”

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“Reusable pads, I told you.”

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! EEEWWW!! GO AWAY! GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!!”

“Mom?!”

“Darling, not the best time (when someone is eating) or place (the kitchen table)  or even audience (The Obnoxious One) to have this discussion.”

Really!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Annus Horribilis

The Queen had hers way back in 1992 when Charles and Diana separated, a fire burned Windsor Castle castle almost  down to the ground, and the tabloids enjoyed themselves far too much reporting on royal antics.

I had just had my own annus horribilis this past year and a bit  – a truly terrible, really bad, horrible year. Yes, menopause was and is still a monstrous thing, and yes I broke a couple of fingernails, I earned several of large black and blue bruises and I even found a few grey hairs.

But you have to understand – I went from this:

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to this practically overnight:

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  • My mother who lives half-way across the country was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer  – tumors in her breast, lymph nodes and cancer in her hip and leg bones. A few months later she was also diagnosed with a brain tumor.
  • After suffering through multiple open houses and far too many  showings, we finally sold our beloved house of 12 years. Moving day proved to be a nightmare featuring stoned and scary-looking movers who damaged furniture, broke treasured mementos and left the old house with lights on, doors wide open, fridge full of food and valuables on the kitchen table. (And we even used one of the so-called top local moving companies – really! ) Because we were gluttons for punishment we lined up painters and carpenters and electricians and tile layers immediately and kept them busy for almost a year.
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  • And while a fire didn’t almost destroy our place, we did experience more than our fair share of leaks and floods from the three toilets, the refrigerator, several windows, the roof, my son’s bedroom wall and of course the pool.
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  • We sold and vacated our water-access-only cabin  which we had owned for almost 20 years and was a source of many wonderful family memories. It truly was a bittersweet moment.

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  • Due to my incredible lack of coordination I fell and cracked my ribs on the rocks by the ocean while shoveling dog dung into the ocean the day after Christmas; the ER was not the optimum spot to spend on Boxing Day.
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  • My husband of 30 years, a corporate lawyer who generally works 60-80 hour weeks, became extremely ill and inexplicably weaker and weaker, spending at least 20 hours a day in bed.  He was no longer the Original Obnoxious One. After seeing 14 doctors and making 5 ER visits to 2 different hospitals he was finally diagnosed with heart disease and placed on 2 kinds of medication; then he suffered a mini-stroke and stayed in hospital for almost a week.
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  • My son’s best friend from high school died very suddenly and unexpectedly this summer – my son, the Obnoxious One and he had been estranged the past couple years which somehow made the whole situation worse. The boy was a lovely sensitive and creative soul who lost his way.
  • In addition to dying her beautiful hair black with blue ends, and adding a couple more tattoos and piercings, my daughter developed several medical issues which  culminated in three lengthy hospital stays.
  • My 4 year old yellow lab nearly died as a result of ingesting a large amount of rat poison.
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And when my husband and I took a much needed vacation for some rest and relaxation this past fall guess where we went – Jordan and Israel right when the 2015 stabbings and Wave of Terror began. Of course! Keep in mind that we live in boring little Canada where no one carries guns and people are way too polite most of the time. In fact, the most exciting thing that has happened to us in decades is the fact that the New York Times called us “hip” in  January 2016.

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But…deep deep breath… I’m back. And I’ve cried enough tears and hosted enough personal pity-parties to last me for a very long time. So no more, besides, I’ve got stories to share.

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Stay tuned.

Really!

 

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

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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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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.)

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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.

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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!