The Upside of Technology

technology

Technology is an amazing thing.  It’s a bit ridiculous really, when you think about how far we have come in the past ten to twenty years.  We’ve gone from huge main frames to pcs to laptops to smart phones to iPads to Google Glasses in what feels like the blink of an eye.  Technology has truly changed the way we live our lives.

It does, however, sometimes get a bad rap.

For example, many feel that the increase in screen time has numbed the minds of our young.  I read an article recently comparing screen time to heroin for young children.  I personally believe that if a balance can be found with physical activity and a creative outlet, that it can’t hurt.  Don’t get me wrong, it can suck our little ones in and hold on tight if not managed properly, pulling them into a massive black hole.

Then there is the issue of distracted driving.  Not an problem until a few years ago, but now a growing concern.  The number of fatalities from distracted driving has now surpassed that of impaired driving in Canada.  Yet people still do it. I see it every single day.  Young, old, male and female.  And I know they now better because when they see me glaring at them in their cars at the stop light, they quickly put their phones away.  Ya, I do that.

But today I saw the undeniable upside of technology.  I arranged for my 83 year old mother to Skype with her twin brother who lives in England.  Neither my mom or my uncle have been able to fly for a number of years and as such have not seen each other in a long time.  Being twins they have always had a close relationship and despite regular phone calls my mom felt a bit disconnected from him.

So a Skype call was arranged.  In my mom’s eyes I performed a miracle, but in all honesty all it took was a few emails and the installation of a new app on my iPad.

The looks on their faces as they realized that they could see each another and talk to each other while sitting in their kitchens was beyond priceless.

“Your face looks fatter.”  My mom said not so tactfully.

“You’ve lost weight.  You look more like our mother now.”  He replied.

They talked about my uncles new great grandson and how his wife was doing in the facility she now lived in.  Nothing earth shattering, but you could see, and hear, that they were beyond thrilled to be on the call.  I think my mom wanted to reach out and touch the screen a few times just to make sure that it was real.  That it really was her brother on the screen and not just a mirage.

She kept saying.  “I can’t believe I can see you so clearly.”

Roughly five thousand miles away and eight hours time difference, but to them, they might as well have been in the same room. Today I saw how technology could simply make my mom’s day.  That is The Best Thing in Life and we should never take it for granted.

 

My Addiction

the best things in life

chocolate

My addiction began very early in life.  My fiends and family may have known something was up……but I don’t think they would have ever guessed how bad things got.

I have a picture of me as a very young girl in the kitchen of my parents home.  I’m standing on a stool, a big wooden spoon in my hand, chocolate pudding (or chocolate cake batter) all over my face.  I was sooooo happy.  The sweetness racing though my body and triggering the dopamine that creates the ultimate chocolate high.  It could have stopped there.  But we all know that it didn’t.  I was hooked.

choc bars

I remember being in elementary school and getting my allowance on Saturday mornings.  I would take that money and walk about a mile to the closest corner store to buy……you guessed it, chocolate.  But I felt guilty buying too much at one store so I would…

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Why I Do it

headerimage-superwalk2

Last Sunday I ran my third Parkinson’s SuperWalk 10km.  My running buddy did it with me and my husband, bless his heart, did the 5km walk with our nine year old daughters.  Guess who had more fun?

My day started at 6:00 am when I dragged myself out of bed, pulled on my running clothes and crept out of the house.  I had volunteer to help with set up for the event and I needed to be at 2nd Beach in Stanley Park by 7:00.  Having never really been a morning person I was astounded at how many other people were on the roads at that God forsaken hour.  Had they volunteered too?  It was the only reason I could think of that anybody would be awake and out of bed at that time.

When I arrived a small crowd was huddled around a coffee urn at the event site waiting for instructions from the event coordinator.  Once she showed up things stared happening quickly.  If you have ever volunteered or worked on an event you will know that the start is typically organized chaos.  Instruction is given quickly and if you don’t get it the first time around you need to find somebody else who looks confused and ask them.  I’m not saying they will know what to do, but at least you will have company in your confusion.

One of the first announcement was that we were waiting on the park ranger.  The night before a beaver had chewed through a tree and it had fallen over the walk route.  There were some rumblings about finding said beaver and making a nice hat but it was quickly shut down and everybody went back to work.  Only in Canada.

parkinsons siwash rock

At 10:00 the walk/run began.  My shift of volunteering was over and we headed out into the route.  About 2km in we fell into pace with a nice man named Jim.  Jim’s wife Peggy has Parkinson’s and they both do what they can to volunteer and get involved.  The three of us spent the next hour running and chatting about running.  Good runs to try, how to train properly, what to eat.  You know, boring stuff that runners think is cool and the rest of the world could care less about. Oh, did I mention that at 18 degrees and sunny it was the penultimate running weather.

As we closed in on the finish line I thought, once again, about my mom.  How she struggles with daily activities because of Parkinson’s Disease.  Her life irreversibly changed.  She would have loved to be out on the seawall on a day like today.

liv-and-granny

That’s why I participate in this event every year.  To remember that I am fit and able and to bring awareness to the disease that cripples so many.  The Best Thing in Life is that participation and donations were both up this year.

The Missing Piece

the missing piece

Have you read Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece?  No?  Why not?  Go read it right now.  It’s okay……I’ll wait.

If you’re too busy I can read it for you.  No really, I don’t mind.  You see, it’s all I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks.  A book that I read when I was young.  A book that I have read to my son and my daughter.  A classic.

It’s the story of a little ball who is missing a piece.

“It was missing a piece.

And it was not happy.”

It rolls along through life looking for it a missing piece.  Sometimes it sings a little song.

“Oh I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece

Over land and over seas

So grease my knees and fleece my bees

I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece”

It endures the elements.

“Sometimes it baked in the sun

but then the cool rain would come down.”

And other times it just observed the things it passed.

“and sometime it would pass a beetle

and sometimes the beetle would pass it”

That’s just like life isn’t it?  Sometimes you are in the fast lane driving a Maserati and sometimes you’re on the bus and it’s taking the milk run.  But always you are moving forward.  Even when you don’t think you are.

Once the ball thought it had found its piece.  But alas, the piece it found didn’t want to be taken.

“I am not your missing piece.

I am nobody’s piece.

I am my own piece.”

You can’t force things.  You can work hard and try.  But if it isn’t meant to be it won’t be.  All you die hard control freaks, take note.  Me included.

It found some other pieces but none of them were quite right.  One was too small.  One too big.  One too sharp.  One too square.

Is anything in life a perfect fit?  Rarely.  You adapt.  You make do.  You make the best of what you are dealt.

One time the ball seemed to have found the perfect piece…but it didn’t hold it tightly enough…and it lost it.  And then it found another piece and it held on too tight…..and it broke it.

If you find “it” what do you do with it?  Hold on……but leave some wiggle room.

And so it rolled along having adventures, falling into holes and running into brick walls.  Sound familiar?

Until one day it found its missing piece.  It fit perfectly.  And it was so happy.

Except now it couldn’t sing.  And it rolled so quickly that it couldn’t stop to smell the flowers or talk to the bugs.  And adventures passed it by.

“too fast for a butterfly to land”

“Aha, it thought, So that’s how it is!”

So it gave up it’s piece….and slowly rolled away.  And as it rolled it sang.

“Oh I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece

Over land and over seas

So grease my knees and fleece my bees

I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece”

The Best Thing in Life is the quest.  That is what brings fulfillment and not the attainment of the object itself.

 

A Musical Journey

On this particular Sunday it’s James Taylor that I’m listening to. All the rest is the same.

the best things in life

musical notes

Its Sunday afternoon and I’m standing in my kitchen planning what I need to do next week and listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Brilliant Disguise. It’s taking me back to a crazy weekend in Kelowna in the early ’90s. Music, like smell, can take you to a place or time you may have long forgotten even existed. It can wrap you in a warm blanket or make you want to sing into your hairbrush. Indulge me while I take a walk down memory lane.

As I’ve mentioned before, my parents are British. Very British. Growing up, the musical selections where typically classical. The exception was Caribbean steel band music. My dad had spent some time working in Dominica and had grown to love their music. In particular the band The Merrimen and their classic tune Big Bamboo. The only time things got crazy at our house was when Katie and Walter…

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Home Alone

cat sleeping

It was two minutes before eleven when she finally finished the novel she had been trying to read for the last couple of days.  The cat was leaning heavily against her leg.  He twitched in his sleep then snuggled in a little closer to her in the big soft chair.

As she stood up and stretched she caught sight of the dirty breakfast dishes still in the sink.  She chose to ignore them and put the kettle on instead.  A cup of tea and a snack maybe?

The pounding rain had eased off to a drizzle and she wondered how her daughter was doing at sailing camp in the cove close to their house.  She had dropped her and a friend off this morning in the early morning greyness.  The had happily grabbed their life jackets and headed down to the dock.  The rain didn’t seem to bother them but she was more than glad to head home to a quiet, dry house for a few hours.

There was something cathartic about being at home alone for the first time in weeks.  The laundry was done, the “to do” list was all but complete, the bathrooms were clean (pretty much) and emails had been answered.  Okay, so the breakfast dishes were a bit of an issue but, really, they could wait.  At least for a bit.  Nobody else would be home until after 4:00 so she had….five hours.  Five hours.  Alone.  Excluding the cat.

June had been a full on month of work, year end wrap ups, ear infections and many, many challenging parenting moments.  Then a week full of Disney and dancing in California.  Late nights, early mornings and crowds.  So many crowds.  The input overload had resulted in a few headaches and numerous medicinal glasses of wine.  And the occasional margarita.

As she poured the freshly boiled water over the tea bag and spooned in a generous portion of honey she thought.

“What should I do now?”

It was genetically imprinted in her that after a few hours of idleness she must now accomplish something.  Her dad was the culprit.  Even at 87 he still wasn’t capable of sitting still for long.  It often resulted in exhaustion for him but damn it if he was going to change now.  So way back in her mind the tiny “stay busy” gremlin was getting restless.  What to do?  What to do?

She could put away the dishes?  There was that stack of filing that needed to be put away.  When was the last time she vacuumed?  Should she talk something out of the freezer for dinner?  Has she call her mom in the last few days?

The cat stood up and yawned.  Circled the cushion and curled up.  Asleep again in seconds.

She thought about it for a moment.  The dishes could wait.  She picked up the remote, turned on the TV and pushed the cat over to the side of the chair.

The Best Thing in Life is changing the way you spend your days once in a while.

 

 

 

A Magic Kingdom?

I’m not a huge Disney fan and I’ve just spent a week in Disneyland.  I’ve got some thoughts.  I know, shocking isn’t it?

I don’t dislike all things Disney, but I’m not squealing with joy every time I see Mickey, if you know what I mean.

My daughter was involved in a dance program that included a couple of days of dance camps and then the opportunity to dance in two parades.  One in Disneyland and the other in California Adventure.  It was something that she will probably never forget and my husband and I will never forget the smile on her face as she danced her way down Main Street with her friends.

parade

(On a side note I now know that I can do a high curly ponytail and full stage makeup at 6:30 am and then sprint for the monorail all without breaking a sweat.)

elevator

Putting that aside…..there were a few things to dislike about our time in the magic kingdom.

We’ll start with the whopper of a visa bill we will get in a few weeks.  The US dollar is not our friend right now.  And Disney is not a cheap day out.  Tickets, food and “stuff” can add up very quickly.  And if you think you can do it without the “stuff” by all means message me with your ideas.

Then there are the people.  Thousands of people.  No, hundreds of thousand of people.  Lineups everywhere you look.  For security, for food, for rides.  Seriously people,  have you not heard of the fast pass?

crowds

Add in sore feet and a mild sunburn and a “staycation” in Vancouver is looking very appealing.

But there were also some positive moments that I will never forget and hopefully my daughter will remember too.

Just as we arrived at Big Thunder Mountain with our fast passes the ride closed due to mechanical problems.  It’s sucks, but it does happen and really, when you are hurtling along at lightning speed in a tiny open cart you are grateful for checks and measures in the safety department.  But it did leave us with three very hot, very disappointed kids and a limited amount of time.  We headed to the Matterhorn with fingers crossed.  Forty minute wait.  Crap.  Disney, however, showed its true colors and the line attendant honored our Big Thunder Mountain fast passes.  I almost kissed him.  But that wouldn’t have been appropriate.  Right?

On my list of things to get down during the week was to get my daughters silhouette done.  I had mine done when I was a bit older than her.  There’s a tiny store on Main Street where a man named Stephen cuts them.  With a pair of razor sharp surgical scissors he cut a perfect silhouette of my daughter in less than two minutes.  Not only that, he gave us a history lesson.  The term silhouette originated in France from Etienne de Silhouette.  Look it up.  We were the only ones in the store and it just felt like a few moments of time away from the crowds to reconnect and create a unique momento.

silhouette

And lastly, the poolside margaritas at the Grand Californian Resort.  Best enjoyed with friends on a hot afternoon while the kids play in the pool.  I would highly recommend this for anybody planning an evening visit to the parks.  It seems to make everything just a bit more magical.

pool

I would have to say that Best Thing in Life at Disneyland is taking the good with the bad and making your own magic.

Being Canadian

flag

What does it mean to be Canadian?  It means a lot of different things.

It does NOT mean that…..

  • You live in an igloo or teepee
  • You have maple syrup with ever meal
  • You take a dog sled to school
  • You like poutine
  • You say “eh” at the end of every sentence
  • You call your neighbor a hoser if he pisses you off
  • You are a push over
  • You are boring
  • You know how to call a moose to dinner
  • You know Bob in Toronto
  • You speak French

It DOES mean that….

  • You are polite.  Always. And if you aren’t you say you are sorry
  • You love your country fiercely but not fanatically
  • You feel safe
  • You always have a red shirt in your closet
  • You love hockey….even if you don’t like hockey
  • You know what “hurry hard” means
  • You can travel proudly anywhere in the world with a red maple leaf in your backpack
  • You don’t always order a double double but you could if you wanted to
  • You know a little French
  • You have a Hudson Bay blanket somewhere in your house
  • You hang out on your chesterfield drinking a Kokanee
  • You are understanding and appreciative of where you live

The Best Thing in Life is July 1st – Canada Day

What’s In A Name?

my name is

When we are born we are given a name.  Our parents select it and we live with it for the rest of our lives.  So what’s in a name?

It’s the first thing we tell people when we meet them.  It’s printed on our business cards.  It’s on our drivers licence.  It’s how we find people on Facebook.  For our entire lives it is our identifier.

My given names are Susan Mary.  My parents are British and, as such, chose traditional names for all of their children.  My brother’s names are Andrew Paul and my sister’s names are Cynthia Helen.  Not sure how she got the exotic name.  You know your from a boring name family when “Cynthia” is considered exotic.

My mom’s name is Jane.  Just Jane.

Last week at work I had to contact some clients to follow up on their accounts.  A couple of the names I came across were Francois Chevallier and Fantasha Kassam.  I imagined Fantasha answering the phone in flowing robes surrounded by candles and exotic looking furniture.  Casbah music playing in the background and perhaps a strange animal or bird following her around.  Francois probably has his assistant answer the phone for him while he adjusts his ascot in the mirror and pours himself a goblet of red wine.  The names, for me, emote images of glamour, mystery and excitement.  I lead a fairly sheltered life.

names

Of course there are also those endowed with what can only be called “unfortunate” names.  When my husband lived in Memphis years ago there was a player on the local baseball team named Stubby Clap.  I would consider that unfortunate.  When I googled unfortunate names their was no shortage.  Just to name a few.  Dick Assman, Uranius Johnson, Phat Ho and Yolanda Squatpump.  I did, for a moment, wonder if some of these were fabricated.  But if they weren’t…..whoa.  The ability to legally change your name was created specifically for these people.

But maybe….they don’t mind their names.  What’s to say that they don’t look at my boring name and think. “How does she live with that name?”

Plenty of famous people who have changed their names for the sake of their careers.  Elton John was once Reginald Dwight.  Marilyn Monroe was Norma Jean Mortenson.  Faith Hill was Audrey Perry.  What do you think their parents thought about these changes.  Did they wonder why the names that they had pick for their kids weren’t good enough?  Faith Hill is a lovely name.  But so is Audrey Perry.

If you had an opportunity to change your name, would you?  To what?  Why?  I remember a friend in high school who wanted to change her name to Angie.  Who wouldn’t want Mick Jagger signing about you?

It would seem that what’s in a name is different for everybody.  The Best Thing in Life is my name.  Because it’s my name.

 

 

Two Crazy Ladies on a Mountain

rainy trail

What makes people run in the woods?  In the rain and wind.  Up and down the side of two mountains?  A screw loose perhaps.  Maybe.  But for my running partner and I it was what we chose to do last Saturday.  I documented the first half of the run in A Rainy Day Run on Monday.  I’ve also looked at what makes ultra trail runners tick in Run Lisa Run.

I guess the other question is, why am I writing about it?  Partly because it was fun and partly because I wanted to remember the experience.  Because I won’t be doing it again.  Ever.

When I signed off on Monday we had reached the ski lodge at Cypress Bowl after climbing to the top of Eagle Bluffs.  We stopped just long enough under the ski lift base to scarf down a Lara bar and chug some water.  We assumed we would need to find a port-a-potty or just pop a squat in the forest but as we started out again we realized that the lodge was just around the corner and open.  Hallelujah!  I have to admit the warm fire, grilled burgers and cold beer sign were tempting but it was time to use the facilities then get back on the trail.

The course description I had printed out said that from here on it was pretty much 7.5 miles of downhill.  Ya.  Not so much.  We got back into the forest and spent the next hour dodging mud holes and slippery roots all while going uphill.  Okay, so it was a gradual incline, but at this point up was still up.

At one point we heard the thumping of a wild grouse.  It’s an eerie sound that, if you didn’t know what it was, would be kind of scary.  Wildlife is everywhere.  We would find out later in the day that a cougar had been sighted on the same trail a few hours before we passed by.

Just when we thought we may have taken a wrong turn, we heard what we thought was singing.  Or maybe somebody camping?  We came to a trail junction and came upon a group of about twenty Asian hikers.  Covered head to toe in gortex rain gear, carrying hiking poles and at least half of them had……umbrellas?  Keep in mind that we were half way up Hollyburn Mountain by this point.  As we said excuse me, on your right, on your left and thank you over and over while passing them, we giggled a bit to ourselves.  We then realized that they were probably giggling at us too.  Two crazy women in runners, tight and t-shirts running in the rain and wind on the side of a mountain.

The trail opened up now and the rain and wind was relentless and cold.  We stopped briefly to pull on toques.  If my hands hadn’t been so cold I would have taken my camera out and taken a picture of us but that was not going to happen.

From that point it really was all down hill.  For the next hour we headed down.  And down.  And down.  While it was a nice change from the uphill it didn’t come without its torture.  After a while my quad muscles starts to cramp up pretty good.  Even though it was easier and faster to run this section we had to be careful.  We had been warned about “the chute”.  A steep rough section with intermittent drop offs.  Turned out to be a bit anti-climactic.  We kept waiting for it only to realize we had already done it.

trail in the trees

Back into the woods briefly and we ran into a guy coming up the trail.  We had a quick conversation with him about his Hoka runners and asked if we were on track to come out on Craigmohr Road.  He had no idea what we were talking about.  I’m sure he would eventually run into the Asian hiking group and would have a good laugh about the crazy ladies running on the mountain.

We eventually reached out destination.  A bit off course but close enough.

The Best Thing in Life is that as we stood there in the rain we both said “that was so fun”. Yup.  Two crazy ladies on the Mountain.