Edmonton Tourist: Ten Years of Travel

As we move into a brand new decade, I am reflecting on this decade. The last ten years of blogging have pushed me into unexpected places. I love my city but I knew there were places I hadn’t really been to. The more I visited the nooks and crannies of Edmonton, the more I knew I wanted to explore other places the same way. Becoming the Edmonton Tourist had me looking for those hidden gems that are free to explore and left me with delight at new knowledge of other places. My parents gave me the gift of travel and I have been all over the world. After being the Edmonton Tourist, I think I would explore those places differently if I had the chance to go back. As we move into 2020, I reflected on some of the best things I have seen in ten years. I eagerly look forward to exploring more because, to me, there is no better thing to be than a tourist.

2010: Vimy Ridge. I went to Europe with my famjam. We landed in Paris and explored France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany during a nine-day period – it may have been ten days, IDK, it was A LOT. We had a plan but the best part of the trip was the unexpected happenstance of stumbling upon Vimy Ridge. It was a complete accident that changed my life. The art, the unexploded shells, the trenches and the grave markers of boys who were not much older than my own shook me to my core. Thanks Vimy.

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2011: Banff National Park. My son and I went on a camping trip to Banff. Just the two of us. We created memories that we still laugh about. I learned he is more like me than I realized and we both love Johnsons Canyon. It was a pivotal moment for us. It is one of the greatest vacations of all time.  Thanks Banff.Johnston's Canyon - all paths deserve to be walked on

2012: Regina. I learned from my trip with my son that one on one time with your child is important. The next year my daughter and I went to visit my godmother in Regina. This was an epic trip filled with big things like the world’s largest coffee pot and Al Capone’s secret caves of Moose Jaw. But we also went to Dog River. A fictional town on the prairie where they filmed Corner Gas. It was such fun I cannot begin to describe it. Small town Saskatchewan was an unexpected great trip. Thanks Regina.IMG_1648

2013: Calgary. If you know anything about Alberta, you understand the love/hate relationship between Calgary and Edmonton. A bucket list item was to run a race with my dad. The fat girl whose grade seven gym teacher called her lard ass. Whose ex-boyfriend said fat made him lose his chubby. Proving to myself that I could run and run with my dad was a big deal to me. It was his birthday and we took my son to Calgary for the Calgary Marathon weekend. We ran the 10km. The Hubs and my daughter surprised me at the finish line. It was an epic day. I learned that Calgary puts on one of the best races I had ever attended….better than a Disney Race… The crowds were amazing and the sites were beautiful. Exploring a different city on foot was such a gift. Thanks, Calgary.

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Me and Dadeo at the finish

2014: Hawaii. For my son’s graduation, he got to pick a trip. He chose Hawaii. We went to Aulani, Disney’s resort on the west side of Oahu. We had been before when my son was 7 months old. He learned to crawl in Hawaii. I didn’t want to leave the resort. I am not such a big hot beach fan, I love the cold beaches of Tofino, but this place was magical. I loved it. I learned that I am impervious to sunscreen and can listen to the ocean for the rest of my life. The four of us explored every inch of the resort and spent time on top of volcanoes, looking at war memorials, learning about seafood and pineapple allergies but most of all just loved exploring with each other. Thanks Hawaii.

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2015: Big Sur. I was crew for my friend who ran from San Fransico to Anaheim (500 miles) to raise money and awareness for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It was the loneliest trip of my life, but as with all times of loneliness, the greatest learnings come from that. It was my own pilgrimage of sorts. It was the greatest growth for me. It was the beginning of the end. I shed 500lbs of dead weight and began the long road to creating boundaries. I sat on a rock at Devil’s Slide and watched a pod of humpback whales swim by. It was a spiritual experience and the greatest learning of my life. This was the place where regrets were born, accepted and learned from. I returned to this spot on the way back home with my hubs. I cried for days. I cried all the way home to Canada. The great purge of emotion happened on this trip and I learned who I could trust, and who was loyal. I am grateful to my Hubs for taking such good care of me when I couldn’t care for myself. This place feels sacred. I long to go back. Thanks Big Sur.11921645_1125074180854471_1929081778109239340_n

2016: Vancouver. The year my daughter graduated, her chosen trip was to Vancouver. It is no secret that Vancouver is my favourite city on the planet. She was toying with the idea of going to school here. We did a different kind of trip than we normally do. We visited film sets. Heck, we even crashed a set at the Delta dog park during the filming of the Flash. We drove right on set with the confidence of the film crew. It was only later they asked us who were. We were lost and how the heck do we get out of here? Good times. I learned things about Vancouver I never knew before. What a great place to explore. Thanks Vancouver.

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2017: Tofino. The Hubs and I came here on our honeymoon way back in the early 90’s. In 2017 the Hubs just retired and I was about to start my new career. It had been a tough summer and I was ready for change. He surprised me with a trip to the Wickaninnish Inn on Chesterman Beach in Tofino. I walked straight into the ocean and stood there for an hour or two and just let the waves wash over me and heal me. I cried and let out all kinds of pain, trauma and RELIEF. I was reborn on that beach. It’s corny but true. A baptism of sorts. This remains the greatest vacation of all time. ALL-TIME! It only would have been better by having my kids there. I want them both to get married there and I want to move there. I never want to leave Tofino or Ucluelet again. When I win the lottery Friday night, Saturday morning I am packing and moving there. At least I will have a seasonal home there and a place here in Edmonton because I love Edmonton too. The ocean, the rainforest, the raven and the wolves are something special to me. I love this place. Thanks Tofino.

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2018: Vancouver Island. I loved 2017 so much, I needed to go back. This time I was healthier and could do more. 2017 was what my daughter refers to as the time I died. I didn’t but I was close to it. My kidneys stopped working and let me just say, I don’t recommend organ failure. It was a long road back, by the time I made it back to the west coast, I was ready to explore every nook and cranny. We hiked rainforest trails, explored the lighthouse, ate amazing things, went to a carving shed to meet an artist, met a gal who moved from Edmonton in the ’70s and never went back. This time we went in a boat to explore the ocean as well. We saw eagles, sea lions, harbour seals and orcas. ORCAS! Damn, I love you Tofino.

2019: Jasper. Secret Season is the best. My daughter’s 21 birthday was spent at Disneyland. It took up most of my money. The hubs and I wanted a vacation so we booked off-season at the Jasper Park Lodge and saw things I hadn’t seen before. Winter in Jasper before ski season is THE BEST EVER! We saw wildlife and zero people, except for that couple from New York City who was shocked I was wearing a sweater and no parka. Winter in Alberta is different than in New York. What I think is warm is apparently FREEZING in NYC. Big babies… Seriously though, make the trip for the wildlife and the scenery and the quiet because it is worth every second. Thanks Jasper.

img_4557 2020: The Unknown. I think I will go to Kamloops for a spiritual conference at the Akashic Ranch in June. But I might go to Sedona and explore vortexes or Santa Fe for the Balloon Festival. I might wander down to Waterton National Park or take my kids back to Aulani, maybe we will go to Disneyland and visit Galaxy’s Edge or just stay at home. I don’t know. But I do know I will be exploring more provincial parks, hanging out in my river valley and poking around new restaurants and maybe take in a festival or two. 2010-2019 showed me a lot of amazing things. I am positive the next 10 years will show me more.

Get out and explore, you won’t regret it.

Edmonton Tourist: Jasper Park Lodge

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Last week I told you about my little getaway during secret season at Jasper National Park. We decided to make it a resort getaway, so we booked two nights at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. This is the place where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stayed for their honeymoon. The Jasper Park Lodge opened as a tent city in 1915 then eventually was taken over by Canadian Pacific Railway and became one of the great railway hotels of Canada. If you have stayed at any of the other Fairmonts in Canada, you know what I mean. It is high end and exquisite. I had been here before for a quilt workshop and my hubs and I came for a weekend getaway 25 years ago, but I had not been here since.

I booked through the AMA website and found a deal, and I mean DEAL for $200 a night. Worth noting – this is not a sponsored post. That is a typical night stay in town in a regular hotel. Offseason midweek makes a big difference plus being an AMA member sure helps. It’s worth it to keep your eye on deals.

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We checked in late on a Wednesday afternoon. Earlier that morning the hotel texted to welcome me and asked why I was coming. I let them know it was a nice getaway for us since we hadn’t been in 25 years. They asked if there was anything they could do for me, and I said no. I did consider bringing Cap, with a pet fee of $50 per night, I thought against it. If my kids were with us then I would have brought my pal. When we checked in we were immediately upgraded to a cottage on the lake. Here was the view from the living room – that’s right I said living room.

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Lac Beauvert was frozen without snow so in a few weeks there will be some good skating going on! The room was large with a king bed and the sofa was a pull-out. Down the hall were a coffee bar and fridge. There was a large double-wide closet with robes, slippers, and an umbrella.

The first thing we did was take a walk along the lake. To go around the lake takes about 45 minutes, we made it about halfway before it became too dark to walk in the woods in wolf country. The smell of pine in the air is an instant stress reliever for me. Honestly, I don’t know what I prefer more, the mountains or the ocean. The high-end cottages, where Royalty stays, were all decked out with Christmas lights. They were so pretty through the trees.

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The big cottage sleeps ten (I think) and has a full kitchen, fireplace, study, dining room and three bathrooms. Everyone gets a bedroom. I want to book this one year for my family at Christmas. The hotel will put up a tree and we can either have Christmas dinner catered in the cottage or we can cook it. One day… its a bucket list item for sure. This is the Royal one. Very secluded and quiet on the point.

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You walk down from the cottage and can sit on the cute bench, I guessed the royals sat here at least once.

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We walked back to our cottage and I thought about how lovely this was. Very few people were around.

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We made a cup of tea and I pulled out my knitting. It was quiet and peaceful, a perfect ending to the day. Eventually, we made our way to the main lodge for a bite to eat. Since we ate a big lunch at Jasper Brewing Company, it was late before we decided on cocktails and nibblies. We walked the 5 minutes to the lodge and went up to the Emerald Lounge. I looked at the menu and thought hard about creating my own Old Fashion. Look at the choices!

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In the end, after all the big talk of wanting a cocktail, I had a glass of shiraz and the hubs had a Jasper Ale. We ordered the charcuterie board, it had interesting things on there like elk sausage and other game meats, cheeses fruit and nuts. We decided to share dessert and landed on the rhubarb sorbet and lemon mascarpone mousse. It was so good, we ordered another the next night.

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We poked around the lodge before heading back to our room. Christmas in November happened the week before so the decorations were up. After hearing all about it, I put that on my bucket list for another year. Perhaps I can convince my mom to postpone her trip to Europe next year and I will take her for a treat.

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The gingerbread house filled the lobby with the aroma of cinnamon and ginger. I am considering making one for my office and keeping it up all year round.

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I only need 440 lbs of flour. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem, I can make it in batches.

Stanley the house labrador dog was off duty when we stopped by. I didn’t get to see him at all over the stay, he was either walking or resting.

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The walk back to the cottage was surprisingly bright. The full moon lit up the mountain range.

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This was the same shot the next morning.

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We woke up early, and by early I mean we stumbled in for breakfast about 9:00 am. and ate at Orso Trattoria. The only problem with the secret season is the limited availability for dining options. However, the breakfast was good with a view that was only rivalled by my breakfast view at Wickaninnish in Tofino.

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You are looking at Edith Cavell. That tiny dot on top of the mountain is the Jasper Sky Tram. You can go up there and see for days (but only in the summer season).

After our day of site seeing, we came back to this:

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I guess they thought 25 years meant anniversary? It was so thoughtful and delightful! The raspberry macaron was the best one. They were super fresh. The champagne went in my bag for New Years!

We headed back to the Emerald lounge for snackies, we didn’t have the strength to drive into Jasper  – buy that I mean, I didn’t feel like calling for the car because there wasn’t anywhere to self-park, they do it for you. I loved the ritual of walking to the lodge for meals. Especially in the full moonlight.

The next morning we repeated the same breakfast plan. Each meal we took the time to get to know the servers. Most of the staff come from Austalia or Ontario. The Alberta kids think the Rockies are old hat, so they travel farther west to surf and work at the Wick. The staff live on the property and are amazed at their view every morning. I regret not coming to Jasper after college. I thought about it but never did. In my next life, I am totally doing that!

We took a walk around the property before we headed back to pack.

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The pool is open all year round. It’s heated obviously and you swim through a tunnel from the indoor pool. It was 32F that morning with one brave dude swimming and taking in the view.  Its fine until your hair gets wet. We continued walking towards the boathouse.img_4513

If you are looking for peace, I recommend a few days here. Jasper National Park is a world-class destination, rich in history and wildlife. If you have been before, you know what I mean. If you have never been, come. If you see me poking around, come say hi.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Zeidler Dome

The Telus World of Science had closed the star theatre for a long time while it was in refurbishment. It was always a place I preferred to the Imax or the other galleries. When it closed I admit to being sad but excited for the technology! I haven’t had a chance to go see a regular show, I did head over Friday night to experience Dome A 360* Meditation in a full dome. To read about my meditation experience, visit here.

We arrived early so we would have a chance to explore the Star Gallery. I hadn’t been there for a long time and was eager to explore it. I had a chance to drive the Lunar Rover, watched a show about Saturn V and admired some of the photos from the various space missions.

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We kept an eye on the clock so we could arrive at the dome when the doors open. They held us in the waiting room. I thought it would be a nice space for a party. The ceiling was stary and trippy.

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The usher stopped to chat with us and recommended we sit along the back of the wall so we could get the full experience. When we walked in, most people vied for seats in the centre of the theatre. We headed to the back. Did you know there is an area with floor beds so you could lay down and explore the dome? I thought this was cool and may explore a star show that way. The new refurbed dome looks exactly like the dome on Big Bang Theory where Raj works. We weren’t allowed to take photos during the show, but I took a few while everyone was settling in.

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When the experience started, we were asked to close our eyes. I peeked. The dome was lit up with the night sky. It made me eager to come back. As I sank into my chair, I notice they fully recline. This is new. I was completely horizontal, I only wished my legs were supported. The experience was an hour then they gently brought us back. It was a great experience and I think I will participate in something similar again. I will for sure head back to enjoy the other dome shows.

 

Winter Break

Health is a fickle thing. One minute you are great, the next…not so much.

My Christmas break was filled with sleeping, lab appointments, more sleeping mixed in with visits to my Doc. While I am steadily improving – not 100% – I am back at work and felt good enough to get outside. Sunshine and fresh air are magical elixirs that boost me up. The best part about getting outside is the sun is on its way back to me! Darkness isn’t always present and sometimes I can see the sun when I leave work. This is the best feeling – sure its dark when I get home, but sunshine in my mirror is lovely.

There is a National Park not that far away from me. Elk Island National Park is home to Bison, wolves, deer, moose…and a myriad of other creatures. I always ask the universe to show me some creature while I am there. I am never disappointed.

The Captain and I headed out mid-afternoon because I wanted to capture some twilight over Astotin Lake. We drove directly to the Bison loop in hopes to spot the heard. No such luck. I just caught the moonrise over the prairie.  The Red Chairs are a lovely spot to sit and contemplate.

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We left the loop to make our way to Astotin Lake but found a ‘bear jam’ on the way. It wasn’t really bears – but that is a common term for wild animal sighting. There was two bison across the beaver pond. They looked like rocks or boulders – but I knew they were the bison I was looking. ei7.jpg

After seeing those two fellas, I was hopeful I would spot a heard at the lake, or at least one more fellow. No such luck. everyone and their dog was at the beach today. I know it seems like an oddity to head to the beach in January. But Albertans don’t let the weather stop us from living our best life. We pack a lunch and make a day of it. Who doesn’t love the beach? Families were snowshoeing, tobogganing, skiing, sitting around a fire – there was a lot of fires. The smell was heavenly. It reminded me of winter cookout’s past. Pack snow around the fire as wind protection, roast hot dogs and apples and you are having a great time! The snow doubles as a cooler for beverages! Win/Win!

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We popped out of the car and started walking towards the lake, but the snow was deep and Cap didn’t enjoy it touching his belly. He is a big boy too so the snow must have been nearly a foot. He led me to a cleared path and we went exploring in the woods instead.

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There is a denseness I can’t explain unless you have experienced it. The snow absorbs sound so everything seems silent but yet you can hear voices carried across the lake. The crunch of the snow sounds different in January than it does in March. This is the height of winter and its perfect.

Further down the road, we discovered ungulate tracks – it looked like bison to me! Yet there were no large animals to be found. Cap loved the smell and followed the tracks for a while.

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Soon we found ourselves back a the beginning of our adventure. We did the full loop and that tired us both out. Cap slept all the way home and continued napping for the rest of the evening. He is a healthy guy but as he ages, he sleeps more. Kind of like me. Obviously, we are kindred spirits.

Elk Island National Park is located about 50km east of Edmonton on Hwy 16. You do need a discovery pass to enter. A single day is available at the gate. I have a yearly pass and try to make the most of it. Since I purchased the pass we have visited Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, Pacific Rim National Reserve and Elk Island National Park. I hope to get to Yoho and Waterton this year before it expires. Get out there and take in that blue sky!

 

 

Peasant life

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I read a column in the New York Times by Ann Patchett. If you have never read any of her, treat yourself and put one of her books on your reading list this year. When I read her columns, it’s like chatting with one of my pals. I thoroughly enjoy her style.

She wrote My Year of No Shopping in 2017. I read it then and revisited it over Christmas week 2018. She discusses how she outlined her year of no spending. No clothes, which seemed hard for her, she stopped various other spending but allowed books (although you can visit your local library) and discussed gift giving. She decided to only give books except for her editor who married and thought that a book wasn’t right for that situation. But if someone gave me a book for my wedding, they would be at the top of my list of favourite people. Can you imagine a collection of lovely books to start a library of your own as a newlywed? It sounds divine but that might just be me.

I gave no spending some serious thought in 2017. Then I met my friend. She sets aside several weeks throughout the year to live frugally. She calls it Peasant Week. The biggest change she makes is to not buy groceries for an extended period and uses up all the food in her freezer and pantry. I am guilty of having a well-stocked cupboard and replenish it often. She has a monthly allowance and does not spend over that limit – ever. She has a budget. $xxx for gifts comes off her paycheque monthly along with other items that come up unexpectedly throughout the year. All of this is because she has a goal of retiring at 55. Her house will be paid off and she has some tidy investments so she can live the life she desires. That isn’t saying she doesn’t love every moment of her life now. She is humble and grateful and refuses to do chores on the weekend because those are her play days. That is what she calls them, play days. She will only do what feels fun on those two days and does all her chores after work throughout the week. Her life is lovely.

I did that to some extent only with a different goal in mind. It wasn’t about saving money for me, only at first but that changed over time. I went through a financial crisis and curbed travel spending for three years. (But Tourist, you travelled a lot in the last three years! I did, but I will get to that.) My goal was to live a simple life not complicate it by financial obligations. I have to admit it was hard watching friends travel to Disney when I could not. I unfollowed most acquaintances on facebook because I needed to change my thought patterns of jealousy and envy to appreciation and gratitude. Hard to be grateful for what I have when I am longing for what I don’t have.

Simplify is what I call it. I simplified everything from facebook followers to items in my home.

The first thing I did was join a facebook group that gave things away, didn’t sell them. That was important to me. It wasn’t about the money. It was giving things to people who needed them far more than I did. It was about helping people who are starting out in life. I gave away a dumpster full of things. A side benefit, I don’t miss a thing. I have more to give this year. I want to come home to a minimalist house. I live with three other adults. two of them have a hard time parting with things because they don’t know what to do with it. We are also working on that, so this is a process. I have all the time in the world to remove things, there is no rush. I check the site daily to see if anyone is looking for something when I have it, I give it. Simple. Occasionally I see something I need. Like a crockpot. I never had one before and am grateful for one!

Before the tree comes down this year I am getting out four small boxes to sort. One for my son, he has a collection of Santas for his grown-up tree starter kit. One for my daughter, she has an angel grown-up tree starter kit. Decorations I want to keep for a small adult tree of my own and then a give-a-way pile. I do not need an entire storage room of Christmas decorations. clutter around the house stresses me now. Those will go to a new home or Good-will.

Last summer my daughter went to Disneyland. Her first adult trip without her mom. She had travelled with her school and for work, but this felt different. She stayed on Disney property and understood how much I wanted to do that. She knew how much I love the soaps and creams so she saved them daily and brought home a giant bag full of sample sizes. I have travelled a lot for work and was gifted trips when the hubs retired. I collected some of those fantastic smelling items and brought them home. I enjoy ‘free’ souvenirs. When she returned, I went through my cupboard and discovered several bags of these things. I consolidated all of them and decided I needed to use them up instead of buying any new product. Five months later I am one-third of the way through the bag of beauty products. I haven’t bought anything including toothpaste since August. Toothpaste will run out next month but the soap and shampoo will last me until summer.

I brought this lifestyle into my work-life. We had a Secret Santa exchange. There were three rules, one for each week:

  1. The first gift must be from the dollar store and cannot cost more than $3.
  2. The second gift must be something from your home that you no longer use and can be re-gifted.
  3. The third must be home-made.

Surprisingly, everyone participated. People received amazing things. Re-gifting was magical. It felt like we did more with less. This was a huge validation for me. I did the same thing with items in our warehouse. I used up what we had before we bought new. That is important to the bottom line, but more importantly to the environment.

As I think about 2019, I know I don’t need any new clothes. I would like new boots, but mine are fine and not worn out yet. I had a hole in my puffer jacket but taped it with black electrical tape and now its fine for at least another winter so it will take me through until 2020 and I will reassess then.

I have more sheets and towels than I know what to do with, so I will sort through those and put them in the give-away pile. I went through appliances and utensils and gave them to my nephew, but I think I can do better. My pantry is the real challenge for me. I will work my way through the freezer and see what I can do with those items. I want to start a standing garden so I can easily harvest my own food. I think that will be my project for this year. I will focus on food.

Back to the “but you travelled extensively Tourist, what gives? I thought you didn’t want to spend money on travel?” Truth and I didn’t spend money on travel – sort-of.

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My hubs was given a lovely retirement gift of travel. Boom, that was how I travelled. I have a new job that lets me travel across Alberta. Boom, I saw parts of the province I had never been to before. On my down time while away for work, I would explore the towns and areas. Alberta’s Coulees are gorgeous. Prairies are beautiful. I learned that appreciating your own backyard has significant benefits and is just as beautiful and wonderful as exploring towns and villages in Europe, Australia or the US. People travel far and wide to come here. I live three hours from a world-class destination. I am lucky. I get to see Northern Lights regularly – as in ALL THE DAMN TIME. Very few people will ever see those in their lifetime. Grandpa was right, Canada is awesome.

2018 taught me about appreciation. The more I appreciated what I had, the more I received. It was crazy but true. People gave me stuff for being kind. I won things like small lottery wins, books, dinner out and movie tickets.  I learned joy doesn’t come from things, it comes from experience. Help those who need it. Don’t put a price tag on things, just give it away because you can. You will receive more in ways you never thought possible.

Abundance is a gift.

Happy New Year, may 2019 be abundant for you.

Gratitude

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

I have been here typing away since 2010. At the start of every new year, I usually make a list of the things I learned and the things I want to achieve for the new year. I decided a while ago that I want to just see how the year will unfold without any predetermined goals or items I need to cross off my list. I have one goal for 2019, and that is to make more memories with family.

I have no idea what that is going to look like, but I have a feeling moments and opportunities with show themselves without me manipulating situations to fit my list. I have general thoughts about things to do, but we will see what happens. 2019 is shaping up to be an expectation-free year for me.

Self-awareness and reflection are key components of my growth. It’s important to look at my actions and learn from them. Everything is a learning opportunity, and I like to think about how I could have done something better, behaved nicer or examine a missed opportunity. Many changes happened over the last twelve months. Some things were horrifyingly terrible and hurtful, and some things were so completely wonderful I don’t want to forget. I think I have learned from the lines I drew in the sand, behaviour modifications and decisions. I will still reflect and continue to learn, but thinking about what I am grateful for is more important.

  1. New Friendship. In January I prayed for a friend who I could have deep and meaningful conversations with. I thought it might be someone I was already friends with and we could take it to the next level. That didn’t happen. What did happen is something so unexpected I am overwhelmed with gratitude. A new person entered my life, and we have deep and meaningful conversations about books, circumstances, spiritual connections and guidance. We help each other navigate complicated situations. This person is a gift.
  2. Synergy. Way back in the days of University in the ’80s (not to be confused with University of my 40’s) I was working on a project where we needed to achieve synergy with the team. It didn’t happen, and I said so. We were docked marks which annoyed me because I was honest. They were actually marking us on how we gelled as a team, not on the work we did. I was so angry. I didn’t believe synergy was something contrived. I still don’t. You have it or you don’t. My first teaching experience I worked with two other women and we just connected. Our planning was legendary. I naively thought my professor was correct. That this level of connection was always possible. The 1990 planning team was euphoric. It was an excitement about the work. I felt like it was my calling. It was magic for one year. Fast forward to 2010, the last time I taught in a classroom. I never found that same connection ever again. I was able to work well with others but I didn’t achieve that same feeling. I began to hate the people and the work. I left. I went back to school and changed careers. I never expected to have that same connection with staff. I just did the best I could and kept moving forward. I had a taste of something close in the job I have post graduation. The guy I worked with was a genius and I loved working with him. Our planning was creative and fun but our hands were always tied. It was close. Then I moved on again. Seven months into my new position I figured I wouldn’t stay long. I was alone. I didn’t have anyone to throw ideas around with. Then a shuffle happened and I found myself sitting next to someone who was also alone and wanting more. We began talking and sharing ideas. Suddenly I was back in 1990 and found that synergy again. I not so naive this time that I will have this forever. People move on. But I will be grateful for it as long as it lasts.
  3. Doctor Nurse Surgeon Angels. My son was injured and bed-ridden for two years. He suffered and thought his life was over. He was misdiagnosed and was told he would have to suck it up. My husband was training for a marathon with a friend and was talking about our frustrations with our son’s situation. She said she had been to a conference where the surgeon talked about this type of injury. She gave us his name in October. By April my son had a diagnosis and a surgery date. In post-op, he said he was pain-free aside from the surgical pain. He could tell it worked and walked. He climbed stairs 4 hours after surgery and never looked back. He has his life back and has made a complete recovery. His future is bright.
  4. Angels. A few times I had experiences where I couldn’t explain what had happened. Yet it did, and it was miraculous. Angels.
  5. Health. 2017 was bad. BAD BAD BAD. My daughter calls it the time I died. I didn’t die, but I was damn close. My doctor figured it out. We have a plan and its working beautifully. I have had a temporary slip back into that dark sickness again. Only this time I recognized it earlier, I sought treatment immediately and am recovering quicker. I am so grateful I understand it better. I have a lot of life to still live plus I want to meet grandkids. I will be an amazing gran or nan or oma or lola. Whatever, I will be great at it when it happens way down the road. I have lots to be healthy for.
  6. Bake-off. I had stopped doing things that brought me joy. Why did I do that? That was the stupidest thing I ever could do. I love to bake, and I love to eat baking. There is a lot of pressure to look a certain way.  I am telling you this, fuck that. My Great Grandma lived to be 99. She ate whatever the hell she wanted from cookies to jellies. Eat the damn cookie. Lick your fingers. Enjoy that glass of wine. Moderation is key. Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith got me baking again. I loved every second of it, and I ate the cookies. I am thinking about all the voices who told me I should be… I needed to be… Here is what I learned: I need to do right by me. This is my life, not yours. I don’t care what you think. I am over you. The line is drawn. My life is peaceful and happy, and I have cookies.  You can continue to be angry just stay out of my yard.
  7. Siblings. I am the eldest. I don’t have a memory of being an only child. I usually spend my birthdays alone doing fun things. This year I invited my brother and sister over. It got me thinking about the shenanigans we got into as children. We talked about it and laughed. I need to do that more. I went to visit both of them over Christmas. Big hugs from both of them. More hugging is important. I am going to have them over, and we will do stupid stuff like operation or monopoly or beer pong.
  8. Captain. Me and my pal the dog went on epic adventures this year. He barked at bison, saved me from a raging river, pulled me up an icy hill and ate snacks while I ate dinner. He looks after me and is always gentle with me. He nips at my hubs playfully but never with me. I get loving kisses. He is the best thing to happen to our family.
  9. Ocean. I stood in the ocean and let the stresses wash away. It made me cry.
  10. Skype. My parents live in Europe for part of the year. I chat with them more when they are overseas than when they are home. I like feeling connected with them and am excited to see them when they come home. But I never feel like I can see them when they are home. There are lots of demands on their time from others, so I stand back. I am not going to do that this year. They are my parents. This is my line.
  11. Wildlife. I have travelled to Whistler, Vancouver Island, Jasper, Banff, Southern Alberta and Vancouver. I asked the universe to show me an abundance of wildlife. I saw two orcas swimming across the Georgia Straight. I watched a mama, and her three cubs eat tender grass in the spring up at Whistler. There was an abundance of whales, bears, elk, bighorn sheep, coyotes, eagles, hawks, sea lions, harbour seals, deer, mountain goats, moose and wolves everywhere we went this year. Those creatures are always the highlight of any year.

 

Make the most of what you have. Gratitude brings more great things into your life. Let the anger go and be grateful for what you have before its gone.

Happy New Year friends!

Disneyland

I am dreaming of a vacation.

My mom and I have been tossing around the idea of a vacation with her, dad and me. No one else. I want a memory of just the three of us. No stopping the car to let my brother out for a run. No having to share a seat with a sister who hogs all the cuddle time with mom and dad. No grandmas tell us where they want to eat. Just me, mom, and dad on the kind of vacation we have never had before. But I also want a vacation together that we have had before…like Disneyland. 

I began going to Disneyland at the age of six. I have been upwards of 30 times to the various parks in the United States and France. This may seem surprising to many who know me but it has been years since I have darkened the doorstep of any Disney Park, years. My last few memories were tainted by situations and relationships that needed to be purged by me. Moving forward I will spend future Disney Park time with family. I want to recreate my first memory and make new ones. I want to have a great memory of the parks with my children and my parents. So I think this year will be that opportunity. 

My best memory of Disneyland when I was six was sitting on the corner of Main Street with my dad. We were holding spots for my mom and brother. They were shopping at the Emporium for warm sweaters for us. It was August and the evenings become cooler. We were waiting for the Main Street Electrical Parade. It was that parade’s debut that summer. A fun fact that I only know now because I am a fan. I was oblivious of that fact as a kid. 

Mom came out of the shop with grey sweatshirts with Mickey Mouse on the front. The park still sells that style only its called vintage now. We snuggled into the sweatshirts and munched on popcorn. We shared a box between all of us. I remember my dad being amazed by the lights and music. I was mesmerized. 

Fast forward to the year I brought my kids for the first time and we sat on Main Street wearing newly purchased sweatshirts watching the Electrical Parade. We didn’t munch on popcorn we had dole whips and Mickey bars instead but we were enchanted with the parade. It was as magical as I remembered. The next day we met Pooh and Pigglet and my son was transfixed. He whispered secrets into Pooh’s ear and was happy beyond words.

My children are now adults and my parents are seniors. I am not that little six year old who had crushes on Robin Hood and Thomas O’Malley, now I crush on Spanish Mode Buzz, Bert and Ramone who likes it low and slow as he cruises through Carsland. We have all decided we want to have a family vacation together in our old haunt. We want to explore Galaxy’s edge, ride the Matterhorn on the Tomorrowland’s side at night, ride Pirate’s and Splash and maybe even sit on a bench on Mainstreet and watch a parade or two. I want to pop into the Emporium with my mom and buy sweatshirts for everyone because the evening is cool. I want to share with my parents the secrets I have learned and make my dad take a photo with his doppelganger Han Solo. 

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I want to be amazed by magic. It’s been a long time since I felt happy there. I am ready to get that back. It will be 47 years since my very first visit. There is a theme park where the parking lot used to be. Rides have changed and evolved but there is still a lamp above the firehouse on Mainstreet that I am looking forward to seeing again.  I can’t wait for 2019 and all the vacation magic it will bring. 

Lights

What are your best holiday memories as a child? Mine always included some yuletide light display around the city. Edmonton has an abundance of festive events available for a nominal fee, some are quite expensive for a small family and the best kind in my book, FREE.

As a kid, my best memory was Fort Edmonton Park. It included a hayride through the dark village and heading over to Egge’s barn for hot chocolate and cookies to wrap up the evening. I am attending Fort Edmonton’s panto Red Riding Hood on Thursday so that fun place is checked off my list for 2018! I, of course, will report back. I also really enjoyed the teddy exhibit at RAM but they haven’t collected bears in years. But mostly I loved driving through the different neighbourhoods to see how people decorated their homes. Late at night with car blankets on our laps, Christmas sing-a-long music playing on the radio and late night hot chocolate before bed. 

I did a variation of those activities with my kids when they were little. We would load them up in the toboggan and pull them along Candy Cane Lane (several blocks in Edmonton that decorate for the season with magnificent displays). We would visit the  donkey where my daughter yells “HI DONKEY!” The donkey and sheep were part of the living nativity scene at City Hall. We would do the drive-by light display at the park and go look at the tree at the Ledge. All the things that my kids reminisce about even today.  

Last night we all piled into the car and drove to a dark empty parking lot in the city’s east side industrial area and wait for the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. It travels across the country and sets up a party in different cities to raise money and awareness for local food banks. I produced a series of events for Alberta Food Banks this fall so I felt I was covered. Sitting in the dark and seeing the glow of the train was magical. It made me wish this was a thing when my son was little. Never have you met a bigger train enthusiast than my boy. Even today he still says ” oooooooooo a train!” and then spouts off knowledge you didn’t think you needed to know. 

We stood on the side of the tracks (a safe distance away) a watched the lights. The passenger car that held the entertainment was playing Elvis’ Blue Christmas so festive music added to the charm in the dark.  This is a thing I plan on going to as long as CP Rail participates. It was magical. I recommend checking out when it will visit your neighbourhood or a the very least do a rail-by. Go to Instagram and follow #CPHolidaytrain for more beautiful photos.  

Even you can’t see the CP’s display, then for sure visit your local neighbourhood. Lights just bring me into the spirit of the season, I hope they do for you as well.

100 years

It was a sunny fall morning in October 2010 when I arrived at the Charles DeGaulle airport. I had slept intermittently on my flight from Edmonton. We had a single stop in Toronto so I figured I could snuggle in an sleep the rest of the way to Paris. Seven hours seemed like a proper night sleep then I would be refreshed when my parents arrived to meet my family. Canada covers a very large land mass. I woke up 5 hours later only to be disappointed that we were only in Newfoundland. Still in Canada.

The sun was still in morning reverie while I waited with my family for my dad to zoom by in the caravan. My parents and my grandmother had been travelling in Europe to celebrate my dad’s retirement. We decided to join them for a week. This was my second trip to the continent but my children’s first trip.

We boarded the caravan and I snuggled into my seat around the table in the back. Mom caught us up on all the things they had seen and now they were trying to navigate out of Paris and head north to Belgium where we would spend our first night and get reacquainted with the culture. The vibration of the vehicle quickly hypnotized me and lulled me into a hard sleep for about an hour. I tried to stay away because jet lag is easier to overcome by going to bed when the rest of the time zone does.

I woke up and watched the French countryside zip past me. I heard the hubs say, “Oh hey, Vimy Ridge is over there.” My mom and I looked at each other when we realized dad wasn’t stopping. Mom and I spoke at the same time, “We need to go.” She called my dad to stop and he had to navigate a U-turn on a tiny French road.

We pulled into the parking lot and all funnelled out. I took in my surroundings. To my left was the Candian cemetery. Over 10,000 people were injured or killed in the battle of Vimy Ridge. 3598 soldiers died at Vimy but only 828 Canadians were buried there. To my right was hilly ground fenced off and a flock of sheep were grazing on it. Moving closer we saw a sign on the fence, ‘Danger! Unexploded shells are still in this area.’

Canadian Cemetary #2

You could see how the shells and explosions had ripped apart the earth, leaving everything hilly and uneven. I felt for the sheep being used in this manner. We kept walking along the path.

Vimy Battle field

In a break in the trees, we could see the monument in the distance standing on the ridge. A Canadian flag waving in honour of the country that came to France to fight against the Kaiser, protect the French and fight for King and Country. Vimy Ridge

The path was red, it immediately reminded me of Prince Edward Island, and was lined with maple trees. It felt respectful of boys buried beneath the surface.

Maple

We walked along the beautiful path. The quiet countryside was noticeable. There weren’t sounds of traffic or people, I didn’t hear planes overhead, I only could pick out the sounds of birds in the trees. I tied to envision the sounds of gunfire and artillery rounds, men screaming and people calling to each other, but all I could hear was the sound of birds.

As we approached the monument, I expected to see the 11,000 names engraved on the walls but I did not expect to be so moved by the sculptures that lined the stairs. These felt like angles weeping at what man had done.

Vimy

I stood at the top of the stairs and took in the monoliths.

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I didn’t know the artist until I came home to research, Walter Allward (1875-1955). I was afraid I would forget the feeling I had standing there. I did not. I can conger it up and immediately I am transported to that cool morning in the French countryside. I stood at the top of the steps and looked out over the ridge and the morning mist covered the valley. I turned to look the other direction and caught glimpses of trenches that snaked their way across the hill.

As I walked back to the caravan, I thought about the men in my family who fought in Europe, trained in Canada and guarded prisoners in Alberta. My family was touched by both wars. I thought about how the trauma of those times had a trickle-down effect on their families after the wars had long since ended.

Vimy remains the single most significant place I have witnessed. I hope all Canadians get a chance to discover it now that 100 years have passed. For more information please visit and support the Vimy Ridge Foundation.