Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore

Thursday, August 04, 2016
As some of you know, over a year or so ago, I finally paid off my dreaded student loans *thunderous applause*. It represented the last of my debts and I finally felt as though I’d thrown off the yoke of repayment which had hung around my neck since I graduated back in 1999. At times it had felt as though I would never shake that monthly payment. However, I stuck with it, began making extra payments when I could, sometimes of only a dollar or two, and watched gleefully as my balance gradually diminished. Freedom! Ok, so I still have my credit card but I don’t put that into the same category as loans and other large financial obligations.

My whole life I have longed to travel. I attribute part of this to growing up in military family. When you move across the country every 4-5 years, you get used to seeing new things and visiting new places. While we didn’t travel far and wide for vacations during my childhood, I was always curious about distant lands and different cultures. Unlike a couple of my high school friends, I didn’t do the classic Senior Trip to Europe. I didn’t take my first “real” vacation until after I’d graduated when my best buddy and I flew to California to see Disneyland. After that, it was onto university where spare money was almost nonexistent and the most exotic locale I visited was a friend’s couch to watch a foreign film. A few years after getting my degree, I put myself deeper into debt by financing my next vacation (18 years after my first) and took a solo trip to the UK.

I was always jealous of friends and coworkers who traveled every year – a week during the winter in Mexico or the Caribbean, two weeks in the summer for a cruise or off to Europe. It’s not their fault I haven’t had the opportunities to travel but I was still a bit bitter hearing about their fancy fruit drinks, exotic excursions, and seeing their sun-drenched snapshots.  If I continued to only take a break every 18 years, I’d be lucky if I managed two more trips before I kick the proverbial bucket. Inspired by my well-travelled friends, and my mother who seems to be able to manage at least one short trip every year, I’m changing my outlook on vacations. No longer will it be me sitting on my couch in my sloppy jam-jams watching day time television (although, yes occasionally I will still do that). I am actively looking at filling up my passport!

It’s now no secret that I’m heading off to Hawaii with Mommikins in the New Year. However, I’m already looking ahead to my next two vacations! Yeah, I’m going a little hog-wild crazy here. My thoughts are that I “might” be able to afford a short (week) vacation in January with Mom, and then take a week vacation by myself (or with a friend) in the fall. I’m not one of those people who want to vacation in summer. Its tooooo hot for me to want to vacation here in Canada and many of the places I want to go have similar or hotter climates. No thank you. Plus, everyone else takes their vacations in July and August so I’m looking at September. Heck, depending on the location, I’d even look at October (plus it could be slightly cheaper!).

It would be nice to be one of those people who have a passport filled with stamps from around the world. To have had unique adventures, learning about history where it happened, and experiencing the way the rest of the world lives their lives. I don’t need to live for a month with the Bushmen of the Kalahari or something equally exotic. What I do want is memories, images and stories of my own from the places I’ve always wanted to visit – and the ones I didn’t realize I wanted to visit until I ended up there.
I’m already thinking of where I’d like to go come next fall – and yes, I’m aware it’s a year away. This gal’s an advance planner, remember? Nothing decided yet; I don’t even know what continent I might end up on. I do know that it will be for about a week (give or take a day or two). Possibly with a friend who’s fairly well-travelled or maybe on my own, everything is kind of up in the air. I’m taking suggestions if you would like to offer one. Nowhere hot, please. I’m not looking for a “resort” type vacation this time around. Lots of history, interesting things to see, fun things to do, etc. And I’m not averse to doing a tour package depending on the location.

As I leave you, I’d like to leave you with a question – tell me about your favourite vacation spot, your first “big” vacation, or somewhere you’ve always wanted to go.

The Bucket List

Monday, July 25, 2016

My good friend Allyson recently had a birthday and it got her thinking about what she wanted to accomplish with the second half of her life (yes we're both of that age now...).  One of the items she mentioned was travelling the Silk Road. I think this is an amazing goal. After much excitement over the possibility of one day taking part in the Mongol Rally, I started thinking of my own list of things I'd like to do.

The Bucket List - everyone has one, whether they’ve written it down or not. Some call it by different names but it boils down to the same thing:  all those things you want to do or accomplish by the time you die (aka kick the “Bucket”). These lists often include things we say we would do if we had the (a) time, (b) money, or (c) balls.  As with most wishes, desires, dreams, etc., they change over time as we develop new relationships, gain new experiences, or become exposed to new ideas and possibilities. A few years back, on a different version of my blog, I had created my own bucket list. That old blog has since been deleted and I have no idea what used to be on that list. Even if I had access to the list I had created, I’m at a different place in my life so many of those former items likely would no longer be something I want to accomplish. 

I’m starting a new list of “before I die” items so I can track some of them and share my experiences with those of you who care to read about them.  People might find them bland and boring, others might think I copied off many of these off of someone else’s list, and still others won’t care two licks about what silly things I feel like crossing off as I get older. Bollocks to the lot of you. It’s my list and these things are important to me for one reason or another and that’s all I care about.  My list will be constantly changing as I think of new things I’d like to try, new adventures to conquer, new lessons to be learned. I hope you enjoy it, even if it just makes you giggle at some of the absurd or seemingly normal things (to some) I want to take on.

Check out my list here.

Race #1 of 2016 - First Responders Half Marathon (5K)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Despite not training at all (come on...its April. In Edmonton!), Mom and I finished our first race of the season on Sunday - the First Responders Half Marathon. 5K for me, 10K for Mommikins. After having a month of warm sunny weather, the clouds rolled in, the temperature dropped and the rains began to fall just in time for the race. Argh. However, we were undaunted. After all, we're Canadian women and we're Leydens/Londons. Weather Smeather.
Look how giddy we are....fools.
Mom's 10K group headed off five minutes before those of us doing the five but I figured given how fast she walks compared to me, she'll probably catch up to me shortly before the finish line. I started off fairly strong, although as usual at the back of the pack (I'm slow and happy with that). The cold and lack of regular walking threatened to hobble me as my toes began to stiffen and ache but they soon realized this was not some sick form of torture and loosened up.

I had heard the announcer say something about a hill right before we took off but didn't pay him much attention - he's probably talking about the half marathoners. No way they're going to make us short distance folks do a hill. Pfffft. Silly. I apparently should get a hearing aid. At about the 5K halfway point, the course vears up Groat Road hill (or whatever its official name is .... Satan's Sidewalk?). For everyone. Why would you do this? WTF?! But yes, there it was. The hill. I gave it hell as I powered my way up to the top and beyond to the turnaround point. People running back down the hill paid little heed to anyone still trying to climb up and I was almost involved in a number of near collisions as they figured I should move off the sidewalk despite also wearing a race bib. Courtesy people. There's more than just you Speedy Gonzales' flying downhill. As I started back down towards the eventual finish line (I know it was down there somewhere!), I highfived a lady on her way up. She was surprised but happy; I then went to high five her companion who I thought had seen me. I ended up causing her to almost fall over as I surprised her. Note to self - make sure to make eye contact first before attempting any future high fives. Inspired by the gaggles of 10K runners now flying past me on the downslope, I said Fuck It and went for it myself. Careful not to throw myself face first into the pavement, I kept to my penguin running pace and eneded up running most of the way downhill. 

Remember the first five words of this blog post: "Despite not training at all"?  Yeah, deciding to run down the hill was not my smartest move. Not training included not doing my stretches for my runners knee so by the time I got back to the relatively flat surface of Hawrelak Park, my right knee began to seize. No more running for me until I could see the finish line and the announcer began butchering calling out everyone's name. Sadly, I came in with a group of fast runners and he didn't get to my name. Sad face. However, I hobbled across the finish line, and picked up my nifty medal.
Yes, its shaped like a running shoe! Where's the date though????
When I picked up our race packages a few days prior, I was surprised to see a ticket for a free post race meal for all athletes. Winner! We were given a choice between Lemongrass Grill and Fat Franks. While Lemon Grass Grill sounded healthier and probably tastier, I took one look at the lineups for both, saw how slowly Lemon Grass was moving and hopped into line for Franks and picked up my victory meal. 
Most delicious hot dog of my life.
Official time: 54:49. Not great but average for me. I'm not a fast runner and to be honest, the time doesn't bother me ... much. That'll change as the year goes on and we get a few more under our belts. And now the waiting began. After my delicious mustard hot dog in a bun, I waited another 45 minutes for mom to come in. I have to say, I am so proud of her. She came running towards the finish line all smiles. It turns out, she got this weird urge (runners, you know what I mean) to start running shortly after her race began. She ended up running (like me, a penguin) about a third of her race! Woot! Her official time was 1:48:16. Very respectable - sixth in her age bracket! 
Kicken' Ass
Race #1 is in the books. After a post-race massage for Mom and her own victory meal, we headed home. We spent a total of almost four hours out there in the cold and wet but it was worth it. The running bug has definitely returned and I'm looking forward to next month's race (#2) - the Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women in support of women's mental health programs in the community. Another 5K for me and a 10K for Mom.

One thing I'm not happy about is the official race photos that were posted online. Its not the photographer's fault nor the race organizers, its my own. I knew I had gained some weight since we moved last year. The number itself isn't a lot but it definitely shows and I can't believe how I look in the photos.
Sure, I can use the excuses that the camera adds 10lbs, my sports bra lifts and REALLY seperates, or that my pants had fallen down a bit (all of which are true) but the reality is that I've let my eating habits get out of control (damn you Papa Johns and your delicious pizza bread) and I rarely get out and move around much anymore. That's definitely changing. I can't blame it on no longer being close to the river valley and the ease of using its trail system for walking, nor that I sold my treadmill. I've just become lazy. So, thanks for the wakeup call sports photographer guy.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

Thursday, April 21, 2016
I don't hold much stock in the "fortunes" included in fortune cookies. Sure they're fun but they're purposefully generic, a lot like psychics, so that people can apply whatever fortune they get to their own lives. So, when I stopped to pick up dinner for Mom and I at Wok Box last night, I almost didn't grab a couple of them to go with our teriyaki shrimp (Mom) and teriyaki chicken (me).   Almost.  As I waited for our food to be ready, I reached into the bowl and grabbed a cookie. When I went to pick up a second one, I realized it was attached to another one. Chuckling slightly to myself, I figured it was a "sign" and I had better take the two who were attached, just like it seems Mommikins and I are sometimes attached at the hip. I tossed them into my bag, grabbed our take out boxes and headed to the train in order to torture my fellow commuters with the smell of stir fry.

Mom never eats her fortune cookies. Usually, hers ends up sitting on the counter, in a drawer or in the cupboard for a couple of weeks before I decide to toss it in the garbage. So, it was a bit of a surprise when I heard her rip open the wrapper and start crunching her cookie after finishing off her noodles. As she read her fortune, she started laughing. "You soon will be crossing warm waters for a fun vacation." While the Pacific Ocean isn't that warm, it seemed to hit close to home - we're heading to Hawaii in the New Year. Hearing her fortune, I couldn't wait to open mine to see if it held as much promise.

"Your talents will bring you the highest status and prestige."

As my Facebook friends will know by now, my current job (a secondment) is ending six months early and I am being returned to my previous position. Not because of anything I've done; my old branch has not been able to keep anyone in that role for longer than 4 months since I left a year and a half ago so they told my current office they either need to make my role there permanent or they're going to take me back (they have the right to do so; it is written into my agreement). My current bosses did everything they could to keep me but after two months, they've exhausted all options and ... back I go. Its okay...sort of. I understand the reasons for pulling me back and I appreciate everything my bosses did to try and sort things out. It still doesn't mean I'm happy. Therefore, beginning last week, I started applying for new jobs. One position in particular has me very excited - I won't get into the details but its with a different Ministry (I work for the Government) and it would definitely be a promotion ("higher status"). It is also with a higher office ("prestige"). 

Needless to say, I started laughing as I read my fortune out loud and it continued as I read it to Mommikins. I'm holding onto this particular fortune and hoping that it comes true.

I miss running. A lot.

Friday, April 15, 2016
That about sums up my mood right now. Sigh...

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