Next time…

 

Today as I sit looking out my dinning room window, sipping my coffee that is brewed to perfection, I look out in my back yard to discover the birds have found the feeder placed for them for winter. They come in flocks having told their little friends of the abundance of food for them in my yard. Their excitement is obvious as they flutter in place to find a spot to perch and feast. Now with the snow having arrived earlier this week, finding food becomes a harder job for these littles creatures, so the banquet of seed that my feeder provides is welcome.

The irony of this is not lost on me. I sit with my coffee in the silence of my dinning room, gazing out into my back yard watching them jockey for position. I have a tremendous fear of those little feathered creatures. Their little beady eyes and tiny beaks frighten me. The fear of them coming to close or actually touching me is more than I can bear.

When I was 10, my parents took me to London. We walked forever but when we came to the steps of St. Paul’s we paused. Just like the song from Mary Poppins, there was a Bird Woman feeding the birds. The difference was, she was not selling bags of food for tuppence. My dad became excited for me as he pointed out the Bird Woman. Proof that magic happens. I stood and watched the woman with her arms out stretched. She held food in her hands and the birds would land on her and feed. She was covered in birds. My brother was amazed at her gift to talk to the birds, he also had a gift with animals. One day at the beach he walked up to a Gull and picked it up. The Gull trusted him and never tried to fly away. Eventually the bird tired of his attention and nipped him gently as if to say “I need to go now”. I remember thinking my brother was the bravest person alive. Now as I stood before this Bird woman, I knew it wasn’t bravery, it was magic. She had a soft gentle manner that could reach the minds of the birds and they trusted her. Just like the Gull trusted my little brother.

My grandfather had a love for birds. He would build birdhouses and feeders. Placed them in his yard and tried to attract special rare birds, not just the sparrow which is so abundant around here. I saw him once hold out his hand and a bird came to eat from it. He tried to get me to do the same but fear held me back.

These moments came flooding back to me this week. I met a woman who took a “Staycation”, a vacation at home. She made a point of going to the bird sanctuary so her staycation would feel like a vacation. She brought her penny whistle. She would listen to the cadence of the bird calls and answer back in the same fashion. She stayed in the same spot in the trees and just kept communicating back and forth with the chickadees. Soon the little birds started coming to her. She had no food for them, just her whistle. Birds started landing on her bag and she would answer their calls. Soon they were hopping on her. She talked about the fear she felt inside but managed to remain calm on the surface. She felt their sharp little claws clinging to her hands. Then one little bird flew up and hovered in front of her face. She was so frightened she closed her eyes and stayed perfectly still untill she could no longer feel the air moving in front of her face. Once she closed her eyes, the birds left. She felt tremendous disappointment and then immediately wished she looked that bird in the eye.

Fear does that to a person. It can fill you with the regret of doing something different. Fear also can give you the confidence to do it differently the next time.

Now that I look out over my yard I see the little birds have left for now. They will be back with friends now that they know where the seeds are kept. There will be a next time for them. My next time is coming up soon. I know how I will do things differently. Introspective does that for me.

Next time won’t escape me.

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I Should Have Joined Scouts

I love to read! I always thought receiving a book was the best gift other than a Tiffany’s Blue Box filled with jewelry. I bought my Honey a book for Valentines Day. Not super romantic, but right up his alley! The book is called Scouts in Bondage by Michael Bell.

It is a collection of old book titles that have many double entendres. Some are so hilarious I wanted to share them with you.

  • Invisible Dick by Frank Topham. My favorite Chapter is 2 – The Vanishing Helmet
  • How Nell Scored by Bessie Marchant. The Cover photo cracks me up, Nell is lurking in the trees spying on two guys in a donkey cart.
  • The Day Amanda Came by C.T. Reeves.

Followed by the sequel…

  • The Corpse Came Too by Desmond Reid.
  • Memorable Balls by James Laver
  • Fairies I have Met by Mrs. Rodolph Stawell.

And the ever popular…

  • The Farmer and the Fairy by Elizabeth Clark
  • The World’s Famous Queens by Lydia Hoyt Farmer

Finally my most favorite book of all…

  • Simple Hints for Mothers on the Home Sex-Training of Boys by Clare Goslett.

Happy Friday!

 

Lets Go Visit Huncha My Back!

My Chatterbox and I traveled downtown on the weekend and decided to take the LRT (Light Rail Transit) or Subway for the rest of the world. Edmonton has to have the smallest subway line of any major city ( a million people or more). When I say “subway line” I mean LINE, as in singular not plural. We have ONE LINE starting in South Edmonton, traveling to North Edmonton for a total of 15 stops. Simple to use. All you need to know is the direction you are going, North or South.

As you likely know by now, I am a traveler. When I visit new destinations, I like to use public transit. I first rode the London Underground at age 10, and have used many other systems, including the London Underground, since. For me, the London Underground is the benchmark of efficient well planned out public transportation. It is easy to use, the stations are laided out in a logical manner. I love the London Underground! The Paris Metro was more intimidating for me.

The Muppets stayed quite a ways from central Paris, but incredibly close to Paris Disneyland. This, for various reasons that I will explain in the coming weeks, was a good thing. The Staff at the hotel desk were English speakers, THANK GOODNESS! (I am eternally grateful to every single English speaker in Europe! ) I can speak excellent cereal box and hockey french, but am far from fluent. The kind people at the desk drew a map and explained how to find the Metro station. Excellent! Honey and I took a little visit to see the lay of the land. We looked around, asked a few questions and felt fairly confident we could find our destination in the morning. Besides, my mom was a seasoned pro when it came to the Metro. Just a month earlier, Mom and my sister adventured on it without a hitch.

The next morning we rise with the sun, eat a continental breakfast downstairs, and walk 4 blocks to the Metro station. It was rush hour. At home that means 5 or 6 people must stand on the LRT. In Paris it means THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF PARIS stands right beside you. You get to know what kind of shampoo they use, or don’t and what brand of deodorant they use, or don’t. I have NEVER seen more people smashed into a such a tiny place before and only one teeny tiny window that opens. We thought Mrs. Stadler was going to hurl her breakfast on the lovely fragrant riders of Paris. Luckily, she survived. This was quite the culture shock for the younger Muppet Clan.

We arrived at the station where my mom determined we must vacate. Riding the Red Line, meant we were in the bowels of the Metro. Lower than rats, half way to Canada via a short cut through the center of the Earth. 172 flights of stairs later and we emerged into downtown Paris! I could barely contain my excitement! I was finally old enough to understand what I was seeing. As I grew older and reflected back on what I saw as a child, I always appreciated what I saw. Now, however, I could see it AND appreciate it at the same time! We searched frantically for a sign post to let us know where we were and off we marched towards the Seine. We rounded the corner and this is what I saw:

My first view of the Eiffel Tower since I was 10. I took about 30 pictures from this spot. Not sure why, I was just so incredibly excited! Seeing this amazing structure would have to wait until after lunch. We were too close to Notre Dame to pass it up! For the Muppets it is home to Quasi Motto aka “Hunch’a my back” as they fondly refer to him. We walked along the Seine and found a market where my mom and Mrs. Stadler left the rest of us to fend for ourselves. We weren’t worried, 3 of us had excellent navigational qualities. We  turned one more corner, and learned where everyone on the Metro went. They were all in line for Notre Dame. Only about a gazillion people were sitting out front. The rest were in line to go inside, with about 2 million waiting to go UP the bell tower. I live in a city with approximately one million people. 7 million people were here at Notre Dame. Overwhelming much? WOW!

Again, I was so excited I took about 30 pictures of the church itself. Then I got a grip. As I walked closer I noticed the ornate detail, the individual faces of each saint carved into the stone. Each gargoyle was vastly different from the next. Even the plants carved into the stone was exquisite! If you only got to see one church in all of Europe, this would be the one I would choose. The Vatican doesn’t count, it’s a city. As I walked around and through the building I was in awe of the art. It was a truly amazing experience.

As we left and hooked up with mom again, she asked how we got in and out so fast. I must agree, for the amount of people in attendance, we did get in very quickly! I replied we just stood in line and walked in! She figures we hooked up with a tour group and followed them in. So that is my tourist tip for you, walk like you belong and no one will question why you are there.

Melty Chocolaty Goodness

A chocolate bar and melted chocolate. Chocolat...
Image via Wikipedia

I have been engaged in a love affair for years. My Honey knows about it and sometimes the 3 of us share some quality time. My Honey is very understanding. I bet you know what I am talking about! You love him too. Dark, rich and smooth. The perfect type.

Chocolate.

In 1978 my family embarked on a 6 week adventure across Europe. I was about to be 11. Little did I know that the moment I set foot on European soil, my life would be forever changed.

For an entire decade I experienced the delights of Canadian Chocolate. Aero Bar was my favorite. Smooth milk chocolate, wrapped in foil, filled with tiny bubbles. Melt in your mouth chocolaty goodness. Every time I was allowed a treat, it was Aero or Smarties. I had a deep affection for Milk Chocolate.

Europe taught me that I was only practicing for the real thing. Belgium, Swiss, British Cadbury all teased me with the promise of more. I experienced Toblerone for the first time and loved the odd shape of the bar. Ferrero chocolate from Italy was delectable. I remember sitting on a patio somewhere along the Mediterranean, not really sure which country as we visited all of them that summer. We were enjoying a continental breakfast. Croissants, fruit, jam and pot of chocolate. That was the first time I had melted chocolate as a beverage. Locally, it is Hot Chocolate, it comes from a can and is powdered. There is was chocolate melted with hot milk added. Undeniably the best hot sweet beverage I have ever had to date. It came in a tiny individual silver tea pots. I remember thinking how grown up it felt to be served your own potted chocolate and the taste was heavenly. Easter Bunnies were forever melted and turned into my most favorite beverage. It never quite tasted the same because the quality was just not there.  In England I learned the delights of a 99 Flake. It is a soft serve vanilla cone with a Flake bar stuck out the side. I remember that snack better than I remember the Tower of London. The Ice Cream Van was located beside the Tower Bridge and as people left the Tower of London, they purchased a 99. Scrumptious!

As an attempt to eat less and move more, I have taken on the challenge of “better choices”. It works like this: My Starbucks Order is now skinny, I choose a dipped cone at DQ instead of a Blizzard. See what I mean? Better choices. Not Diet. Eat Less Move More. But when it comes to Chocolate I am defenseless.

I wish I had the same food sense as my sister. As a kid, she would bite into a chocolate bar, eating one or two bites then be done. Never in  my whole life have I ever been able to do that. One or two bites gave her the taste she was craving then she would put down the bar and walk away. SHE WALKED AWAY! Wow, I wanted to eat my bar, finish hers and go see if there was more. If you know us, then you can see that she walks away from food WAY MORE then I do. I don’t seem to have the switch that says, you are full, or finished or not hungry. I just have to make myself stop. I am getting better but I still need a long way to go.

Soon I will be back in the land of chocolate. I plan to share the best with my children and honey. I will bring back a sampling of the “good stuff” to show my boss that Guatemalan chocolate that she brought back was the worst food I had ever tasted in my life. I will teach her that chocolate is supposed to taste divine.

I will only be gone a week, ten days, less than a fortnight. I am giving myself permission to eat more than I move for that time, as long as it is a worthy chocolate befitting of my undoing. After all I was only 10 once. I want to experience the same pleasure of Chocolate without the guilt.

Isn’t that a novel concept. A Guilt Free Vacation. I am going to live, love, laugh, play and eat like I did when I was 10. I am sure I will need to remind myself that it is okay. Risks are like that. I am taking one. So now I get to be a Real Tourist being a Tourist.

This should be an amazing adventure!

Hola! And other words I don’t really know

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in  another city or country? I do, all the time. Of course none of my fantasies include practical things, like work, or finances or cultural difference. No, why worry about that stuff in a fantasy? No, I dream about the fabulous home, overlooking Central Park, or the country side estate in Kent, or the glass fronted home in Malibu or the south of France. In every fantasy I am thin, have gorgeous hair and a fantastic wardrobe. I pop out and meet friends for lunch and have my nails done. Take long walks and visit local site-seeing spots and speak several languages. It sounds so fantastic! Meet new people who would embrace me and find me interesting and of course we would become life long friends. Sounds just like a Maeve Binchy novel.

My parents always wanted to do an exchange with another family in some other country. I remember them talking about it when I was younger. All I could think was HOW COULD THEY DO THAT TO ME?! Of course it was always about ME and how it would affect ME! Looking back now, it is a shame we never got a chance to do that. Yet, it is within my power to do it now. But could I? Even if it was for a year, could I let someone else live in my home? Could I live in theirs? I don’t even like to stay with relatives on vacation. I like my own space. I suppose I wouldn’t be living with them, but still, their bed, their taste in wall colour, and me powerless to change it.The flip side would be immigration.I live in Canada where people immigrate to everyday. That I understand. That makes sense! Of course people want to live here. It is an amazing country with breathtaking beauty and very polite inhabitants. But why would I move to another country ?

I met a lady the other day, she immigrated from Eritrea, Africa to London, England. She was visiting her brother and his family here in Canada. Understanding the political and religious oppressions that occur in Africa, it is easy to understand why they wish to leave. Their dream is to have a better life for their children. To give them the freedoms that one could only dream about in Africa. So to me, that makes perfect sense.

I love listening to people’s stories about why they chose Canada over another Western Country. Or what made them leave their family and communities to start over. I even understand the need to live in communities where people from the “home country” are currently residing. There is something so comforting in SAME. At the same time, I love that my city is so diverse! I know an Italian bus driver who has lived in Edmonton for 30 years. He has a thick Italian accent and speaks with his hands they way you see in movies. When I talk to him, I get the whole Italian infatuation thing. He is colourful and interesting, speaking to him makes me feel like I am sitting in a piazza in Florence. Or listening to a co-worker from Argentina. She has stories that would curl your hair! Between her and my Cuban friend, I am slowly some Spanish words. I understand way more than I thought I could and that surprises me. My best friends are from Scotland. We share the same dark and twisted humor. When speaking to them, lots of people haven’t a clue what they are saying because even though they speak English, their slang and vocabulary is quite different from the local vernacular. I find myself “translating” every now and then. Although I am not multilingual, I guess in a sense I am.

The thought of having to leave Edmonton to live a new life is daunting. I couldn’t leave my mom & dad or sister or even my brother. I would miss my aunt and my gran too much. We share a closeness that I would miss like I would miss my left leg if it was taken from me. I watched Up in the Air last night and was fascinated by George Clooney’s character ( I know! I was watching the movie and not just him!) He had no ties, claimed he didn’t want them – yet he really did. I know people like that. I have family like that. They have their own life separate from their family. I some ways I am envious, maybe jealous even. But when it comes down to it, family is just to important to me. They would have to come with me. If I moved to a new country or even just a new city, I would have to fulfill my grandpa’s dream to have a home with several wings to house the different families so we could all live together. Just like on Dynasty or Dallas! Complete with the wardrobe and lifestyle! HA! Now that is starting to sound creepy even to me.

Maybe I need to pursue the learning of language. Visiting other countries would be easier. Touring other countries is something that I am not going to give up. So maybe that can be my own way of experiencing new cultures. Living in a country for a month or so and submerging myself into the culture. Italian appeals to me because of my Italian friend and because of Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, come on, after reading the food part how could you NOT want to speak Italian and live there for a while? Spanish makes more sense to me as a language to learn. I have several Spanish-speaking friends, and lots of different countries speak the language.

So maybe that is my next challenge on the Edmonton Tourist Express. I’ll take one order of Spanish with a side of Spain for a month thanks. Now… the question is when?

All I need is a Beverage with an Umbrella Perched on the Side

Shades of blue
Image via Wikipedia

This afternoon I laid out on my lounger in my backyard. I think it was the last really nice day before my vacation is over for another summer. I leaned back with my hands crossed behind my head, ankles crossed and just relaxed looking at the light blue sky above me. That is when I saw it. An airplane flew across the perfect blue sky leaving a contrail, marking up the perfect view. When I see an airplane I often think about who is in them and where are they going or where did they come from. My husband knows by the direction where the flight is likely headed – Fort McMurray would be his answer. Fort McMurray? Land of the Oil Sands? How unimaginative, boring, disappointing, and disenchanting. All that answer does is thwart my imagination and bring a frown upon my face. But, he wasn’t there to give me the smarty pants answer. So I speculated the aircraft came from London, England. Filled with travelers who had a marvelous time punting on the Thames, having tea parties on the ceiling, dancing on the roof tops of London, or even visiting Admiral Boom’s home for 3:00pm. I want to do that. Yes I want to hang out with Mary Poppins, but I also want to back to London.

I’ve said before that I love to travel. The only thing almost a great as visiting a place is reading about it. So looking at that blue sky, it made me want to make a list of place I want to go with and without the children.

1) Europe – on the continent. I was there when I was 10, turning 11. At the time it was a great vacation with family. Looking back, I cannot believe what I saw! I want to share that with my children. I will, it is happening this year.

2)Mediterranean Cruise – No Children. I have never been on vacation without them. mostly because I believe in the family first/always prescription. Vacations are the best time to hangout with your kids and laugh, have fun in a different setting. Sharing unusual things is a treat and an honor. But The time has come, I need a vacation FROM my kids. I don’t think that is selfish, I think it is long over due. I need a re-charge. I want to visit Greece and Italy from the shores. I want this BAD.

3)Alaska – I went on a solo trip before my family came along as a find myself/escape from reality type of trip. I saw amazing things. A Kodiak Bear fishing on the shore, humpback whales swimming along side the ship, dolphins playing in the wake of the boat, Bald Eagles flying over head, and puffins sitting in the sun. I want to share this with my children. The Disney Wonder Sails out of Vancouver next year. Vancouver is driving distance from my house….Honey…you reading this today?

4)The Grand Canyon. Ever since the Brady’s went on the Brady Bunch, I wanted to go. Maybe I will run into Peter Brady and…. wait…. I will save that private moment for later.

5)The Redwood Forest – I remember driving through it as a kid. I was 6 and we were on the way to Disneyland. The sights and sounds of the Redwoods are still a very strong memory. Including the time my dad and uncle nearly burned DOWN the forest at a KOA campground – but that is a story for a different blog.We stopped at the Paul Bunyan, Babe the Blue Ox and the Trees of Mystery – California. It was a roadside attraction and is still there according to waymarking.com

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM3GBB

6)How fun would it be to have just a road trip of sideshows? Largest ball of yarn, The Last Supper Sand Sculptures, or just drive and see giant fruit. What a fun picture collection that would be!

http://www.roadsideamerica.com/

7 ) Laying on a Tropical Beach. I don’t care which one, I just need a drink with an umbrella in it, white sand and blue/green ocean. I would prefer it without kids, but with the right beverage in hand, I likely would no longer care if they came. They are old enough to entertain themselves!Or better yet, bring the grandparents! They hate laying on the beach and would plan a ton of sight-seeing stuff and would bring the kids.. .one better, My Honey hates sitting still!  He would go too!!!  Oh I am liking this trip better by the second. Me+beverage+umbrella+sun+sand+quite=heaven

8 ) The Canadian Maritimes – in the fall. I want to see were my Great Gram came from, Souris PEI. I want to see the red sand of PEI. I want to see an Iceberg floating past the shores of Newfoundland. I want to visit Lunenburg for the Tall Ship Festival. I want to stand on the rocks of Peggy’s Cove. I want to see Halifax harbor. I want to share this with my family.

9)New York – ideally I would go with a fabulous gay male friend. That way we could have breakfast at Tiffany’s. Visit Riverside park where Joe Fox told Kathleen Kelly it was him, go to the top of the Empire State building and pretend it was Valentines day. Go to Serendipity and wait for  Jonathan Trager to bring the matching glove. Get our picture taken outside Bergdorf Goodman and pretend to be Carrie. More likely it would be with my husband which would be great too, because he would make me go to Yankee Stadium, and I would drag him to Madison Square Gardens.He would want to go to Museum of Natural History and I would drag him to the MoMA. We BOTH would want to go to F.A.O. Schwartz.

10)The 10th place on my must see travel spots is a 5 stop adventure. But I would make it 6. AND it must be done with my family. Start at Disneyland California, fly to Walt Disney World Florida, fly to Disneyland Paris, Fly to Hong Kong Disneyland,  to Tokyo Disney Resort and end back where it all began in California.

Yes, I know what you are thinking, the amount of money you need is crazy! You need to win a lottery! True, winning the lotto WOULD be the perfect solution. But, the world is supposed to end in 2011. If I get a really big line of credit, start traveling soon, I could conceivably finish my top 10 travel destinations BEFORE the world is obliterated. Then, the world is destroyed and I no longer care about paying back the line.

To be a tourist in my own life, I recognize that I still need to be a tourist in the truest sense because that is what feeds my soul.