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Archive for the ‘At home’ Category

Half Way There

In At home on September 20, 2015 at 6:54 pm

It’s been quite some time since I last updated my blog but that doesn’t mean things haven’t been going on.  While there haven’t been any milestone birthdays or standard significant life events, a few other things took place.  First, I celebrated the “Half Way There” point in my life.  Yes, I do know my life’s mid-point mark, the one that officially separates the first half from the second half.  Don’t ask how I’m going to move on from this world when the end date arrives, just play along with having a half way there celebration.

As I considered the first half of my life I had to ask myself if I thought it was successful or if I would have done anything differently.  To the second question, yes absolutely, there are things I should have done, things I shouldn’t have said, things I wish I could undo, and some moments I would have held onto longer.  But to the first question, yes, 100% it was successful.  I accomplished all my big ticket wishes before I was 35, I took lots of chances, some of which failed but no matter because at least I took them, and if I read a book about my life from a third-person perspective, I’d say to myself, “I wish I was that girl”.  The best part of that last statement is I AM that girl so I can take a certain amount of pleasure that I did the things I thought were important and had some value.  While others called me crazy, wild, unfocussed, and even ‘unmarriageable’, whatever that means, I stayed true to myself and did the things that brought me satisfaction.  The only downside of that is now I need to make sure the second half of my life is just as good.

So what does that entail then?  Well, for a start I decided to finally get my motorcycle license and see the world from two motorized wheels.  The end of my learn-to-ride course coincided with the actual half-way there date so it seemed fitting to start the next phase that way.  And it’s been awesome.  I started on Beastie, a little Ninja 250, which rattled and screamed and shook on occasion, but provided me with power that kept me within my limited skill range.


Baby’s first bike

By the end of the first year though it was time to move onto something newer and more powerful, so I sold my first child to get the second, and no regrets.  The Bat, a Ninja 650, entered my world in late February and we have been going strong ever since.  A bunch of great road trips with some other biker friends, and challenges to myself to keep increasing the speed and tightening the curves.

There are lots of great things about riding – the speed, the scenery, the adventure, and meeting new people wherever you go.  Motorcyclists are a chatty and, for the most part, friendly bunch so wherever you go, other riders circle each other and then engage in talk, mostly about bikes, but other things too.  So it doesn’t matter where you go, you’re bound to meet someone new which may actually be my favourite part of my new hobby.  Well, after the speed.

The other big event in my life was ‘adopting’ a family of my own.  I was connected with a woman and her daughter through the organization I volunteer with, Journey Home Community.  JHC exists to help refugees integrate into Canada once they arrive and I had been looking to spend time with another family after being off the grid for a few years.  JHC matched the three of us up, and what started as the intention to help someone adapt to life here, ended up being one of the best new friendships I have had in years.  Life does not always end up the way you envisioned and a lot of the time it bears no resemblance to the plans you made, but sometimes it’s even better.  I do not have the traditional family that society seems to value but I’ve got a friend who’s as close as a sister and a little girl who actually calls me mama, more brothers, sisters, and cousins, and believe it or not, my own cow.

Little Cow Block aka Selena Moo

Little Cow Block aka Selena Moo

So there you go, the next half is starting quite nicely, lots more to come although I don’t know what it is.  All I can hope is that I continue taking those chances and doing the things important to me.  I want to continue being That Girl until the second half is over.

A View of 2012 From Syria

In At home, Middle East, Syria on January 2, 2013 at 9:42 pm

I was thinking about 2012 in retrospect as that’s what you do in the last days of the year.  I have so many things I’m grateful for:  family, friends, an awesome apartment, my first car!!, a good job, enough food that I need to keep my fat jeans in the closet, great travels, and a re-found appreciation for my every day surroundings.  Then I received an email from a friend of mine who lives in Damascus; it outlined 2012 from her perspective, living in constant fear and strife, how she and her family cope day to day.  After reading her take on the year in review, I asked her permission to publish it here for the benefit of any who choose to read it, because one more thing I’m grateful for is the wisdom and insight of people who are brave enough to put their views, hopes, dreams, struggles, and thankfulness to paper and share it with the rest of us.  She knows it’s being posted and for obvious reasons I’m not printing her name.  But if you do read it and are affected by it, please leave a comment and a word of encouragement so she knows that she, her family, and her country are not alone going into 2013.  Prayers for Peace on Earth and a Happy New Year to all!

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Oh, the People You’ll Meet

In At home, Canada, U.S. on August 25, 2012 at 9:51 am

Earth, Wind & Fire on stage. They may be old but they still know how to put on a show.

This past July my brother and I headed to Chateau Ste Michelle in Woodinville, Washington to catch the Earth, Wind & Fire concert.  They’ve been around for more than 40 years and still rock it out.  Overall it was an older crowd but our age demographic was nicely represented.  Good friends, good food, great music.  At the end of it all, Andrew and I decided to hang out in the parking lot and wait til everyone else had left.  It was still a nice evening in spite of the earlier rain and there’s no point in idling in a car for 45 minutes going nowhere.

As we sat talking and watching the cars, another couple came round to talk.  The funniest people I’ve met in ages.  BC is from Colorado but is a raging Tragically Hip fan and couldn’t get over that we were Canadian.  His wife, Tricia, was a little more subdued but still hilarious.  We probably talked for about half an hour before security came to tell us to leave as we were the last cars there.  Only problem was Tricia’s car keys were in her jacket which was still inside on the field somewhere.  The jacket couldn’t be found so they jumped in our car and we drove them home, 45 minutes south of the venue and very much south of Canada.  Still, it was the most entertainment of the evening and by the end of it I wanted to be BFFs (consider this a formal request…)

Cover art for Kai and the Magic Jacket

Fast forward to now when the children’s book Tricia wrote is about to hit the stands.  It’s called Kai and the Magic Jacket and has already been receiving great reviews.  It’d have been nice if the magic jacket had some car keys in it, but if it had we would never have met them.  You can buy the book here.  Congrats Tricia!

Our new BFFs, BC and Tricia, hanging in the parking lot.

Welcome to the New Home!

In At home on August 22, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Welcome readers!  It’s been a long and slooooow process to get my blog here but finally it’s all moved in and almost completely unpacked.  If you followed my stories before you had to rely strictly on words to understand what I was seeing but now there are pictures, some videos and even audio links.  There are short updates but in some cases you’ll be able to click through to a longer version of the story that gives more detail and maybe even more pictures!

It’s an open door policy and the welcome mat is always out so come in for a short visit or stay for awhile.  Either way I’m glad you got here!

Why the Chicken Crossed the Road

In At home on August 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm

It’s the August long weekend and time to get out of the city.  My brother and road our bikes down to Granville Island to catch the water taxi across to Bowen Island for the day.  Now I’ve cycled there before, a long time ago, when I was in much better shape.  I know it’s an island of hills that rocket off and plunge down rather than roll.  The first hill is in the town, almost as soon as you disembark in Snug Cove.  It’s probably a 7% grade by the top and it hurts.  We decided to ride out to Tunstall Bay, the guy at the info centre said it was a relatively flat ride.  “Relative” means relative to a vertical incline.  Every time we got to the top of one hill I rejoiced on the descent only to remember that meant it would be uphill on the way back.  Finally we got close to Tunstall Bay and the last descent of the morning.

I popped into my highest gear and tucked in for the fastest potential speed down.  Just as I passed the old man biking up the hill who yelled, “It’s not fun coming back,” I had to slam on my brakes because a chicken was crossing the road.  At first it was meandering slowly along but as it noticed me trying to brake to avoid turning it into my evening dinner it sped up in that weird chicken-flapping-can’t-fly thing and barely made it out of the way of my front wheel.  Lucky thing.  We sat on the beach yapping and watching the paddle boarders until there was no denying we’d have to go back.  Slow and steady makes the climb, I guess those old people really are onto something.  We cycled back to Killarney Lake and sat in the shade for a bit before finally returning to town and a burger and the most excellent tasting beer of the summer.  And that completes my one and only summer day out in nature thus far.

A Foreigner at Home

In At home on July 19, 2012 at 9:31 pm

I hang out in Burnaby at one of the parks on pleasant summer evenings when I’m visiting friends.  This park is more United Nations than any other place I’ve been on the planet:  Iraqis, Syrians, Afghanis, Kurds, Chinese, Serbs, Filipino/Hungarian, Czech, and pretty much everybody else.  I’m the foreigner in the bunch.  Sometimes our different life views show up in awkward, uncomfortable moments, like the time I showed up in a skirt (at the knee) and tank top with spaghetti straps.  One of the conservative Muslim women who wears the headscarf and full coverup, top to bottom, even on hot days, told me she had been sewing “appropriate” clothing all day.  She gave me a deliberate up and down as she said this and then cocked her eyebrows at me in that disapproving manner.  Sleazy girl in sleazy clothes.  I told her as long as my bum was covered I was pretty sure I was “appropriate” in Canada.  The other women laughed, discussion over, and the two of us still get along.  I like her, she’s a force and something tells me if it came down to it she’d have your back, your family’s back, and everyone in between.  And this even after my scandalous attire and the fact that I’m a foreigner in her neighbourhood.  The other night I found out by accident the women at the table call me “The Canadian”.  Really?  I guess I could be called worse things and if that’s how they know me, as the only Canadian in their bunch, I think I’m ok with that.

Accordion Noir

In At home on September 24, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Geoff Berner and Diona Davies killing it on stage.

Last night was the fourth annual Accordion Noir festival at the Waldorf.  This was not an evening I was originally interested in attending but my adventurous friend, Sara, convinced me to go.  So glad I did although I have to say, I don’t do drugs.  Maybe if I did I would understand a bit better what I was seeing.

It started with a long line up outside, a sold out crowd waiting to get inside to see the performers.  We got in around 8pm and they said the show wouldn’t start for awhile so we should go watch the film about gypsies and their love of accordions.  That was not the movie at all.  It ended up being a screening of Black Cat, White Cat and for the first 30 minutes we sat there absolutely confused as the actors babbled in Romani, Bulgarian, and Serbian.  No accordions anywhere.  But then when we finally understood we wouldn’t watch what we thought we would, we settled into 2 hours of one of the best foreign films ever.  And eventually an accordion appeared for about 1 minute.

After the movie ended we sauntered over to the main stage to catch the tail end of Fang’s punk accordion performance and a rousing version of Michael Jackson’s Beat It.  She left and a burlesque dancer came on for about 10 minutes, quickly followed by Dr. T., a dapper fellow in black skinny jeans and tuxedo jacket.  His routine consisted of juggling plastic bags (try that one at home to see how slow it actually moves) interspersed with Irish dancing, balancing the mic stand on his chin, and stripping down to his underwear before he balanced a chair on his chin, bowed, and then asked if anyone had any questions.  Was anyone surprised he brought the house down?

What is this? What is going on???

Not sure, but that guy’s underwear is not clean!

Geoff Berner was the headline act and came out with his fab fiddler, Diona Davies.  About an hour of punk and klezmer, wild dancing, and highly odd entertainment.  That left us tuckered out and hungry so we headed to Denny’s for late night cheesy fries, the best way to end any evening.

If you’re ever around for this annual event, check it out, it’s well worth being utterly confused.  Accordion Noir

Party goers bikes locked up outside the Waldorf. Van East Side photo: Sara McIntyre

Canada Day at the Bandshell

In At home, Concerts on July 8, 2011 at 11:45 pm

I know I said I was moving addresses but just haven’t gotten around to it.  And since I had something to write about I decided to stick it here instead of waiting for a new address to happen.  This past Canada Day my friend Sara and I got tickets to see the Soulstice concert which headlined SWV, Ginuwine, and Tony! Toni! Toné! I was psyched, I certainly love TTT and also enjoy a song or two by SWV.  Ginuwine I always found highly offensive and disgusting but was hoping he might have grown up a bit in the past 15 years.  The concert was held at the Orpheum, a rather classy joint with rotten acoustics for an R&B spectacular.  I saw K’naan there last year and it was a good thing I knew the lyrics to his songs because from where we were sitting it was pretty muffled.  We sat in about the same area this time, note to self.

The evening started off when a couple sat beside us, totally excited to see the show.  They had bets on who would open and close and which songs would start the sets.  Shortly before the show started there was a minor commotion behind us when someone in the drunk group puked on their seat and the floor.  The ushers came after the row had left and put up stylish canvas ropes to prevent others from walking in the vomit.  Then SWV came out.  I keep forgetting as the years move on quickly that time has passed so it was kind of a shock to see three middle-aged ladies rocking it out in 90’s attire.  The first one wore shiny spandex tights, the second wore black sequined tights, the third wore black sequined culottes, 3 inch heels and a Michael Jackson military jacket.  Halfway through the second song she kicked off her shoes and told us all she felt at home which is why she would perform the rest of the show barefoot.  Mmmm hmmm.  By this point the concert was reminding me of Canada Day celebrations at the bandshell in Fort George Park back home in P.G. You know those small town fetes where every cultural group has a cute group of kids dancing and there’s a lot of heart and soul driving it?  The people who run sound and stage manage usually have big hearts too, just not a lot of organizational skill or ability to get rid of feedback fast.  The roadies were running around the stage trying to replace mics while the ladies sang, pull cords, and do other visible things.  I guess it was good the music was canned (sorry to the dj who I think might have been trying just a little) because if a band was up there it would have added a whole other mess to the mix.  More on that later.  Couldn’t understand much of what they were singing but the middle one sure had pipes.  They were done in about 30 minutes.

They left, there was a 20 minute break, and then another dj hopped up on the stage followed by two guys wearing white cotton golf pant things, t-shirts and lovely navy blue pullover vests.  Ginuwine strutted out.  Wearing all white. Mother of mercy.  He started singing and even though I couldn’t understand a word he sounded pretty good.  You need to know that in the 90’s Ginuwine loved loved loved his penis and his abs.  Fifteen years later his abs might not be the same since we didn’t catch even the tiniest glimpse of them, however, whatever love he used to have for them was transferred to his penis so we got a whole lotta crotch grabbing, him holding the mic in front of his manhood, and the lovely ladies in the front row make golden effort grabs for his pony.  Meanwhile, the roadies were still running around the stage trying to get mics to work and hide cables and do other visible things.  Music was canned again (sorry to the dj who I think might have been trying just a little, but really, can we stop with the “Let me hear you make some mutha f@#$ing noise” already?)  Mercifully that set ended about 30 minutes in as well and now we just had to wait for TTT.

I was getting a little excited again, there were actual instruments on stage with monitors indicating the sound might possibly get better.  A dj who had been hovering in the back like a lost roadie hopped up to the turntables and actually did some good stuff.  T1 marched onto stage with his guitar, wearing a jungle print jacket over hot green pants and military boots.  Then T2 came on wearing a sharp grey suit with orange shirt and smart white shoes.  T3, otherwise known as Raphael Saadiq, was absent, probably because he has a highly successful career writing new songs and doesn’t need a comeback tour to cover last month’s expenses.  Sound wasn’t better, roadies were even more visible, one had to run over to the bassist to turn his monitor around so it was facing him and not the drummer.  T1 one had to squat down to fix his foot pedal with his hand, mics canned out.  Again.  T1’s 15 year old son had the most beautiful fro and rocked it out on the keyboards, but I had to wonder if his father wasn’t a little concerned that the lovely ladies up front were making a grab for the onstage jailbait.  Fortunately the music for Feels Good was awesome even if we couldn’t understand the words and then terribly for us, seven ladies were pulled on stage to dance.  Maybe two of them could groove, but the rest rocked back and forth while holding onto their purses and continually running their hands through their hair all sexy like, cuz that’s like, hot, right?  The nice couple beside us left at this point after saying “This got weird.”  Let’s Get Down ended the show with Ginuwine reappearing in track sweats and more crotch grabbing.  I’ll bet what you got down there is super nice, eh Ginuwine?  Thankfully it all ended finally.  But is it normal for a group to announce the after party to the whole audience?  Because they did.  Twice.  I hope someone showed up since it sounded like TTT was nervous nobody would.

This was probably the worst concert I’ve ever been to, including Billy Idol when he was so drunk we thought he’d wander off the stage and never come back.  But just like Billy Idol, it was a fun time.  And in case you don’t know who any of the bands were and are wondering what you missed, here’s a classic line from TTT’s Let’s Get Down:

Who is your friend?
She don’t look nice.
But I bet she will,
Later on tonight…

Moving & New Beginnings

In At home on January 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm

I’m not moving homes or towns.  Yet.  But I will be moving my blog to a different location in the days ahead.  Blogspot is nice but it’s time to grow up and do my own thing which means moving out of the domain to something a little more me.

Plus, as much as I’ve loved writing here, sporadically when at home and more often when away, it’s time for a new beginning.  I write more when I’m out of the country simply because I find my travels infinitely more exciting than living day to day in my life here.  I know life is what you make it and if I suffer from boredom it’s partly my fault.  I’m not seeing the excitement in my surroundings because I’m not looking for it.  I know days don’t need to be filled with new languages, guns, pollution and whatever else for things to be exciting, but that stuff is easier to peg as interesting because it is different.

My plan when I move blog homes is to change my perception of what’s interesting and worthy of being written down in the public sphere.  It’s not just about traveling to places overseas that most people don’t go to, although those stories will always be great fun to write about.  It’s also about the cool things going on in my own backyard, and when you live across from a public park in a big city, you’ve got a natural starting point.

For whatever this blog was worth, I hope the 6 of you who read it liked it and will follow me to my new home when I find out where that is.  Housewarming party to follow.

Bloody Finger 2010

In At home, Cooking on December 5, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I’ve started to teach myself how to make interesting and tasty food.  This afternoon’s experiment was sweet potato biscuits.  I only have hand mixer and immersion blender for which the instructions specifically say to use only with liquids.  Whatever, I’m smarter than the instructions, I know better.  So I started putting the ingredients together:  flour, baking powder, salt, sweet potatoes, no liquid.  I stick the immersion blender in, it jams so I decide to use my finger to get the dough out.  I know I should unplug it first.  But I don’t.  And while my finger’s in there I turn it on.  I started yelling and laughing, there was so much blood I could tell if my finger was attached or part of the dough.  I ran to the kitchen sink to put it under water and fortunately discovered the finger was still in one piece.  After I washed it off and grabbed a paper towel to stop the bleeding, I turned around to find my kitchen newly decorated.  It was exactly like all the Quentin Tarantino movies and I’m excited to say blood really does splatter like that.  Fortunately I managed to grab my camerae and snap a few shots before Haben finished wiping everything down.  I think he was slightly grossed out by the whole thing.  In the end the blood missed the mixing bowl and the biscuits were mmm, mmm, goooood!

Bloody fridge

Bloody cupboards

Blood, blood everywhere