Archive for the ‘The Non-Writing Life’ Category

Happy Friday the 13th!

Friday, April 13th, 2018
A friend from high school turned 58 today on Friday the 13th! She was born on a Friday the 13th, and, guess what? 5 + 8 = 13. That’s pretty lucky. For years, until I was 13 and met this friend and another born on April 13th, who both set me straight and showed me calendars from the year of our birthday to prove how wrong I was, I thought I was born on a Friday the 13th in January.
 
Turns out I was born on a Wednesday. My mom had 3 kids close together and couldn’t remember the day of the week I was born. My dad only knew he was working out of town and came home on Wednesdays and Fridays. So I was therefore born on one of those days. Thirteen years of thinking I’d been born on Friday the 13th flew out the window! I had to console myself with being born on the 13th day of the 13th month.
 
Happy birthday to everyone born on the 13th of a month, but especially to the Friday the 13th babies! It’s not unlucky. We’re a bit weird, but, hey, weird is wonderful. Embrace it!

Quick Palm Springs Break

Friday, March 16th, 2018

I recently returned from a week’s visit to Palm Springs with my husband. This gave me a great chance to see where my parents spend their winters. My first time in Palm Springs, and I loved it. Palm Springs has a great, laid-back vibe, and, well, it kinda reminded me of Fred Flintstone’s Bedrock City. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Bedrock City is based on Palm Springs (I shall have to google that and see if I’m right).

We had some “bad weather” (aka clouds) while there, but still plenty of pool time. Had a chance to visit the zoo and also ride the Aerial Tram. Here’s a shot of me with my Dad at the top of the tram.

Here’s another of my husband playing with the big rocks:

And me, afraid of slipping down the slope, so this is as far as I got:

I usually post photos on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. I’m trying to get better at doing it here.

Did you have a chance to take a break somewhere warm this winter? I’m now back to snow, which thankfully is finally melting (slowly…so slow…ly…).

A Slushy Walk

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Between bouts of clouds and slushy snow, it’s a beautiful day. Ghost of Allie pulled me away from my laptop and took me for a walk. She’s much faster now that she’s not in earthly form. We happened to pass the house of one of my “old man friends” from the dog park. There were two special old guys with dogs with the same name (different breeds). Both called Shadow, humans named Bob and Jim. I remembered their names by thinking of Jim-Bob Walton. Bob passed away from an aggressive cancer maybe over a year ago. Maybe longer. His Shadow died a week later. Jim continued to walk to the park even after his own Shadow died. But then Allie and I changed our patterns, and I stopped seeing Jim.

What a delight to find Jim out shoveling snow today (he’s in his late 80s last I knew). I didn’t know if he was still around or not. I don’t know if he recognized me, but we chatted, and I was so pleased Ghost of Allie decided to drag me on this walk. It just lifted my spirits to see Jim still in his huge house and still obviously managing. Way to go, Jim. Thinking of Bob. Jim-Bob Dog Park Old Man Friends…I’ll remember you both fondly.

A New Year – A New Word(s) of Intention

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

I’m not much for New Year’s Resolutions. The surest way for me not to attain a resolution is to set it in stone. I don’t know, the rebel in me just balks. So for the past couple of years, I have chosen a Word of Intention for the year. 2016 was Gratitude. Each day, I strove (strived? stroved? egad) to feel grateful for some aspect of my life, no matter how small. My mood is affected by not only the ups and downs of daily life, the losses that naturally increase as we and our loved ones age, but also by the weather. And in my part of the world, in the winters we get our fair share of white-shrouded skies, in the spring comes the gray clouds and sometimes torrential rains (our region suffered severe flooding in 2017), and the summers, while usually nice, lately we are experiencing drought and forest fires up the whazoo, which makes for more clouds–with smoke–obscuring the skies. Something about a blue sky just lifts my spirits. The weight of clouds weighs me down. So my annual Word of Intention helps me get through those rainy or fire-smoky days,

For 2017, I chose Positivity as my Word of Intention. In retrospect, this was a fantastic choice. My dear doggie left this world in November, and I spent most of last year as her caregiver. Reminding myself to find the positive in a day–no matter how small–helped me focus on the positivity animals, and especially dogs, radiate. Once Allie died, I got very ill with a host of viruses that seemed to swoop in and take advantage of my total lack of defenses. Only wrapping myself in the feeling of positivity Allie gave me helped me through some of those days.

So along came the time to choose my word for 2018. I chose Joy, as an extension of Gratitude and Positivity. Here we are less than 10 days into the new year, though, and Joy alone isn’t quite working. As I gazed at the white sky while on a solo walk without my beloved pooch, I wondered why. And I decided Joy wasn’t…verby enough. It’s a fine plan to try and embrace a spark of joy in daily life as we proceed through the year, but I needed something more active to spur me along. Joy is my goal, but being Proactive every day, in my writing and in my life, I believe will help set me on the path to Joy.

And you know what? It’s working. The days I can’t find joy, I remind myself to just be proactive, to take a step toward a writing or personal goal. And once I’m in the midst of doing that, well, there comes my joy.

Some days, joy is elusive. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s hard to find joy when someone passes away or another sort of tragedy befalls a loved one. But by being proactive, I am confident that step by step, I will find my way back to joy every time.

What about you? Do you set Resolutions? Or do you have a Word of Intention for the year? The season? This month? That’s sort of the approach I’m taking with 2018. If February requires a word other than Proactive to pave the path to Joy, so be it. Don’t fence me in! My year is wide open.

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Buenos Aires and Home!

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Dates Explored/Endured (this last regarding Air Canada F-Ups): February 18 – 21st

My last blog post about our four-week trip to Chile, Patagonia, and Argentina!

It was a wonderful trip, but Air Canada made sure we were extremely glad to be home. Talk about a cluster-frick.

But first, Buenos Aires!

We decided to fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires and stay a couple of nights before beginning the long journey back to British Columbia, because otherwise it would have been too exhausting. It was exhausting, anyway. That’s about the only downside to traveling to South America–it takes so long to get home. Otherwise, I love South America.

The flight to Buenos Aires is about 3.5 hours. We were already settled at the Ushuaia airport when I realized I had left my headphones at the Mysten Kempen B&B. This caused me much anxiety, because I was pretty sure I had left behind the headphones but I wouldn’t know for certain, having already checked my bags, until we arrived at Casa Calma in Buenos Aires. You can read my last post about how the Mysten Kempen and Casa Calma staff worked together to get my headphones back in my possession before Steve and I needed to fly back to Canada. Our travel-mates stayed two nights in Buenos Aires with us. The day we left for Canada, they continued on to Iguazu Falls. I would have loved to see the Falls, but four weeks was the longest my husband could take off work without them thinking he might have suddenly booked early retirement. So SILly and BILly continued on without us.

First, it’s a superb idea to stay in Buenos Aires before returning home. The Casa Calma is a wonderful little boutique hotel within walking distance to shopping, people-watching at outdoor cafes, steak houses, and about two kilometers away from the presidential palace known as Casa Rosada, or The Pink House. The folks at the Casa Calma can hook you up with whatever you want to do while you’re in town, whether it’s a half- or full-day city tour, restaurant recommendations, Tango shows, etc. They provide you with a list when you arrive, so you don’t have to book in advance.

We decided to book the half-day city tour for the morning after we arrived. It was raining, but the tour took us through the various neighborhoods, of which there are a ton. Steve and I returned to some of the areas the following day, once the sun was out. The half-day tour ends at the above-ground cemetery where Evita was buried (although I think her body was later stolen…). From there, we walked back to the hotel.

The San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Steve bought a soccer shirt in this neighborhood featuring a local junior team. He made the locals happy. :)

The San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Steve bought a soccer shirt in this neighborhood, featuring a local junior team. He made the locals happy. 🙂

San Telmo is very colorful, a really fun neighborhood to explore. I love this next photo. It’s a window in a bathroom:

Juxtaposition of "old" and "new."

Juxtaposition of “old” and “new.”

"The Pink House," the Argentinian version of The White House, the presidential palace. BILly and SILly had left for the Falls, so we just strolled around for the day.

“The Pink House,” the Argentinian version of The White House, the presidential palace. BILly and SILly had left for the Falls, so we just strolled around for the day.

One of the things you can easily do from the Casa Calma is walk Florida Street, which is supposed to be very elegant, but it was more like running the gauntlet when we did it. Constant hawking of wares. It’s an experience, but not one I necessarily feels needs to be experienced. You’ll be offered so many opportunities to exchange money, it’s not funny. And I have a hankering there’s a good chance you’ll be ripped off. But there’s an exchange kiosk in the Galerias Pacifico shopping mall, on Florida. We primarily used Santander Bank ABMs, both in Chile and Buenos Aires. Yeah, it’s a PITA because the banks only allow you to take out a wee portion of money and then slap a tourist tax on top, but at least you have funds. It’s Argentina! Take the hits and soak up the atmosphere!

It’s also a good idea to take along U.S. dollars. We didn’t use them a lot in  Chile, but in Argentina they were very handy.

The food in Buenos Aires was excellent. We only had one crappy meal, and it was during our only day on our own! We had lunch on the sidewalk near this beautiful park where we spent most of the day (our flight left at 10 p.m.), and it was the worst meal I had in South America. That's what I get for making fun of BILly. He cursed my meals after we parted ways.

The food in Buenos Aires was excellent. We only had one crappy meal, and it was during our only day on our own! We had lunch on the sidewalk near this beautiful park where we spent most of the day (our flight left at 10 p.m.), and it was the worst meal I had in South America. That’s what I get for making fun of BILly. He cursed my meals after we parted ways.

We returned to our room to find this nice note reminding me not to forget anything like I had in Ushuaia.... Ahem.

We returned to our room to find this nice note reminding me not to forget anything like I had in Ushuaia…. Ahem.

As for the trip home, don’t get me started. I’ll try to make this short.

We booked our flights on Air Canada through Expedia, and even though we booked them like eight months in advance, for some reason we weren’t assigned seats for one of the legs, between Houston and Calgary. We didn’t think much of this until we couldn’t print out boarding passes, because 24 hours before our flight, we still weren’t assigned seats.

So we decided to go to the B.A. airport early. It was very confusing, as most airports are when there’s a language barrier and your first flight leaves at 10 p.m. We did have assigned seats for the B.A. to Houston leg, thank God, because it was 10 hours long. The lovely Air Canada clerk in B.A. assured us in her broken English that we would be assigned seats for Houston to Calgary once in Houston. We settled in to be called for our flight when, in typical Cindy fashion, I stood up and turned and walked into a short table, and near about split my shin bone (I have a mark to this day).

We boarded our first plane–and noticed a woman was trying to sneak our entire row, LOL. We had made sure to leave an empty middle seat between us, crossing our fingers it would not be sold, and it wasn’t. But it’s not so unusual in South America for travelers to sit in the wrong seat on purpose. I’m not sure what they mean to accomplish, but we experienced the same behavior on our flight to Easter Island weeks earlier.

At first we thought we had suddenly gained a row companion, but she fled as soon as she realized the row wasn’t empty.

Ten hours is a long flight, but we’ve done this several times now, and if you can fly 14 hours from Melbourne, you can fly 10 hours from Buenos Aires. No problemo! Until we arrived in Houston.

There, we raced to get to the Air Canada counter (where we had been told we would be assigned seats), but the clerk said we were “too late,” even though we were well outside the 90-minute window. We headed to the gate regardless. At the gate, the Air Canada staff informed us, with no apologies or even a smile, that the flight was overbooked. We came to learn that the flight from Houston to Calgary is routinely overbooked, but this flight was overbooked by a dozen people! We were numbers 7 and 8. A single female traveler was #6, and she told us this had happened to her more than once in a two-month period.

The three of were sent to the United Airlines counter, a partner to Air Canada, and the single female arrived before us so managed to snag a seat on a United Airlines flight leaving a couple of hours later. The United Airlines folks were very nice and tried to help us, which is more than I can say for Air Canada (for shame). They placed our luggage on the next flight to Calgary and said to pray for a cancellation. We made it to the gate, but only one seat was available. Would I leave my husband behind in Houston to catch up with me later? Uh, no. We were either going together or not at all.

Lo and behold, at the very last minute, a passenger didn’t make his connection, so both Steve and myself got on the flight, just several rows apart.

The very first thing one of my row-mates asked was if I would take the middle seat instead of the window, to accommodate the fellow in the middle, who she didn’t know at all. Note, she wasn’t giving up her aisle seat for him but thought I might give up my window seat at her behest.

Uh, no.

LOL!

We wound up in Calgary to discover our luggage hadn’t made it onto the plane. Don’t ask me how, in this day and age, we managed to travel internationally without our luggage, but we did. It arrived home a day or so after we did, much bedraggled but with a wealth of memories I wouldn’t trade for anything despite the Air Canada travel woes.

But will I travel Air Canada again unless forced to because of scheduling restrictions? Uh, no. Now I understand why A.C. is my dh’s last choice in travel. Sorry, Air Canada, overbook your seats if you must but let the travelers know that’s what’s happening. I guess I should have clued in. A less expensive seat bought through Expedia meant…not much of anything at all. Too bad it wasn’t another country’s airline that treated us so shoddily, and at least we got home. But, man, that customer service sucked, Air Canada.

Adios!!

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Australis Cruise, Day 2

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Date Explored: February 14th

Our Australis Cruise, “Fjords of Tierra del Fuego” on the Stella Autralis, departed Punta Arenas on February 13th, “Day 1,” but we didn’t have any excursions on that day. You’re led to your cabins, settle in, then assemble for an intro talk, drinks, and decide which expedition excursions to sign up for the next day, Valentine’s Day for us! The morning excursion featured two levels of difficulty for hiking/walking. We signed up for “Difficult,” but they also offered a Moderate or Easy route (I can’t remember which). Let me say, if you can’t hike up a slippery path, even with a rope to guide you, you have no business signing up for Difficult just so you can get a “better view.” I guess you don’t know until you try, but if you don’t hike in your regular life, opt for the Easy or Moderate outings. Opting for Difficult when you can’t handle it just takes the guides’ attention away from other guests. And I say this fully knowing there are times I shouldn’t elect the Difficult hike myself.

Saturday morning, when we departed on the zodiacs for Ainsworth Bay, was chilly but sunny. The afternoon was overcast. I want to show a photo of the Stella Australis. It’s from the afternoon excursion, thus the clouds:

AinsworthBay_Ship

Can you see that little craft to the very left of the shot? Those are the zodiacs, on which you travel for your excursions.

Here is a shot of our zodiac traveling to Ainsworth Bay, off the cruise ship:

AinsworthBay_Zodiacs

Isn’t that beautiful? You can see two more zodiacs in front of us. Luckily, even though I get seasick, going on a two-week Galapagos expedition-style cruise in 2012 taught me how to handle myself on a zodiac, and it all came back to me, like riding a bike. 🙂 So this time I could be brave and sit on the edge without death-gripping ropes, and take whatever pictures I wanted.

Note: If any rapids were around, I would have been hanging onto the ropes with the aforementioned death grip.

Travel Tip! If there are rapids, you are likely on a river.

Cruise Ship Tip! We selected deck 3 of the Stella Australis, and it was perfect. I don’t like to be too far up, because it’s better for motion sickness to be a bit further down, and mid-ship is also advised. We were in room 327, beside the stairs, and we had no issues whatsoever.

The view from our hike at Ainsworth Bay, along the glacial moraine (returning from the hike):

AinsworthBay_AMHike2

So beautiful and peaceful! That’s the Darwin mountain range in the distance. Remember, we went during their summer.

The weather can change quickly in Patagonia. We had a wonderful lunch back on board the Stella Australis, sailing west along the sound before traveling via zodiac again in the afternoon to the Tucker Islets, where we saw lots of sea birds and cormorants nesting, but, really, everyone’s there to see the penguins!

TuckerIsletsZodiac

En route to visiting the penguins. You can see there are four zodiacs ahead of us.

After traveling to Galapagos, where we saw cormorants drying their wings in the sun, seabirds weren’t really on our agenda. We did see a couple of penguins in the Galapagos, and unfortunately we didn’t book ahead enough in advance to see the Magdalena penguins on a day trip from Punta Arenas, but none of that mattered now, because we saw penguins galore at Tucker Islets.

Penguins for your perusal (this one guy wanted to pose for us very badly!):

TuckerPenguins1

The giant penguins are at Antarctica. I don’t know if we’ll ever go there. I love expedition-style cruises, where you launch daily on zodiacs to view wildlife, but there are a lot of other places in the world to visit, and I’m happy we chose the Patagonian fjords. Leaving you with my favorite penguin until next time, day 3 of the cruise….

TuckerPenguins4

TuckerPenguins3

TuckerPenguins2

Penguinnnnnnnn….out!