A Sporting Chance

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True, I once abandoned my home country for France and Switzerland, but that doesn’t mean I can’t muster up a bit of national pride as the Olympics get under way. I like to back a winner and Canada “owned the podium” at the Vancouver Games, so I expect good things again. This year, there’s a lot of “we are winter” chatter. I’m more than happy for the Russians to take on that mess.

Even I, apathetic about athletics at the best of times, have a strong desire to see our young Canuck snow boarders and skiers and skaters swoosh and swish their way to the top. I can’t explain it, it just is. In general, I like for all to be included in the glory. But given that the games are being held in a place where persecution persists for loving a person with the same parts as your own, inclusion doesn’t seem to be high on the priority list this time.

At least some strides have been made in terms of equality. This year women will be graciously granted a ski jumping competition for the first time, a battle hard won after the International Olympics Committee shut them out last go around. Sounds like a strategic ski pole thrust would’ve been helpful as that debate raged. If a bunch of women are foolish enough to hurl themselves toward a mountain of ice at breakneck speed, praying to land upright on two skinny strips of fiberglass, and do it in a spandex jumpsuit, I say throw a bunch of medals at them and call it a day.

Of course, I won’t grow roots to a couch and watch every event until my eyeballs are seared from the glare of HDTV snow and ice. No, that task will fall to my husband. I can’t fully embrace the Games, probably because I can’t fully relate to all the events. Like the ski jumpers so sensibly excluded (everyone knows that ovaries render one useless for speed and strength), I too feel left out in the cold. Again, perhaps ovaries are to blame, in this case glands that have long been useless for sport of any kind.

My rambling point is this: The theme at Sochi is “Hot. Cool. Yours.” Well, fine then, where are my events? How can I possibly support a celebration of humanity that doesn’t include the feats I’ve spent a lifetime mastering? When the Olympics FINALLY recognize the oft pooh-poohed events like Reading While Reclined on a Luge, the Alpine Chair Lift Ride, Ski Lodge Brandy Sipping, maybe then I could really get into it.

I think what’s needed here is a Middle-Aged Lazy Arse Games. I just know if only I was given the opportunity to compete, I could be a contender for gold. As long as I don’t have to travel too far or get up too early; as long as I get to wear a cellulite minimizing suit and have thick, expensive moisturizer for my face that looks like lizard skin from October to April; as long as the medals are dark chocolate discs wrapped in shiny gold foil, then I’m ready to lead Team Canada to greatness. First up, the Pie-athlon.

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Enter the Dragon Lady

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According to Chinese astrology, I was born in the year of the monkey. Makes sense, as those of us classified so are said to be fun loving, cheerful, energetic, charming, humorous, clever folks. In fact, one zodiac source I read said give a monkey a boring book to read and she’ll turn it into a musical. I’ll be auditioning gangly chorus girls and red-headed chefs for the Finding Me in France Broadway show next weekend if you’re interested.

Apparently, I’m also a terrific problem solver with impressive listening skills. Maybe I should start a Dial-a-Monkey hotline to work out whatever issue is at hand for the masses. I’m likely to become famous, have a food fetish, and be a passionate and devoted lover. Sounds like yet another interesting career option in that triad. I skipped past the part that warns about monkeys being flighty, self-centred, and opportunistic because everyone knows astrology is only right half of the time.

Anyway, this silverback gorilla and her sheep husband went downtown to Victoria’s Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Horse…

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Crap Shoot

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Uprooting your life can be a daunting endeavour, especially if you do it repeatedly as I have. Kids, don’t try this at home, remember I am a professional idiot. But in the grand scheme of gambles I’ve made, I’d say the payoffs have outweighed the perils. Sure, I’ve seen many wonderful people come and go as regular fixtures in my life. That doesn’t mean they are far from my heart. I’ve lost many material things over the last few years yet gained experiences and memories to which I couldn’t even attempt to assign a price. It’s all more precious than gold (Dear Universe: do not interpret this to mean I am above a lottery jackpot. I remain open to the challenge of becoming a charitable squillionaire à la Oprah).

This past weekend I continued racking up new life experiences—home dinners on Friday and Saturday night with Victoria folks, cooks so good Neil spent all day Sunday baking/roasting/stewing to maintain his status as Top Chef in my life. If this gets any worse (better?), I’m going to need a forklift to drag my doughy self around the apartment.

I also reached back into the past, catching up with people I met in Switzerland. It was a most illuminating Skype session. See, back in my days of gazing upon majestic Alps and Lake Geneva…

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a friend who works in leadership training and executive coaching put me together with a successful man who was looking to turn his life upside down to see if the joy he was missing was really out there. He hired me to coach him through the scary process of mid-life change. Together we carved out a path that would suit him, and by our last session he had resigned from his solid job, ready to walk away into the Great Unknown. Our chat on Sunday was the update on what happened next. Continue reading “Crap Shoot” »

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Precious Cargo

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One of the best things about living on the West Coast of Canada, well, apart from the balmy winter weather (I’ve been keeping mum on that out of respect for my Newfie peeps battling an apocalyptic winter) is the mix of many fascinating cultures, what with Canada being so wonderfully diverse and all.

Last week my work took me to Vancouver again and this time I was lucky enough to travel with my lovely colleague who grew up in the city and knows it well. If you don’t know a lot about Vancouver, it boasts a very large Asian population. After years in rural France desperate for decent dim sum I felt it was a golden opportunity. So before we left, I asked my traveling companion (who also happens to be Chinese) to help source out a spot for delicious Chinese fare. And she did not disappoint.

With only a short time to spare before our flight, we hit the Shaolin Noodle House on Broadway, an understated place where the chefs still believe that handmade is best made. They make all their own noodles and the kitchen is in plain view through a giant window.

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This chef is holding a giant roll of freshly pressed dough and with a machete like blade he is slicing long ribbons at a frenzied pace into the vat of boiling water. The result is a bowl of irregularly shaped and sized noodles so fine they are almost translucent. Then they get passed to the next station…

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Get With the Program

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Well, I don’t know about you, but I had me some swingin’ holidays. I took a little leave from work and so began my first holiday as a working person that didn’t involve being on call. At one point a fit of nostalgia took hold and I thought about heading to the nearest Emergency Room to relive the medical chaos called Christmas. Instead I stuck to intellectual endeavours like sleeping until ten everyday, watching classics like The Apartment, reading thick, wordy novels, and, of course, eating. How much Yuletide crap can one woman eat? Turns out quite a bit. Case in point…

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I take full responsibility for store-bought nonsense, but that husband of mine must bear the rest—cakes smothered in dark chocolate ganache, a ham bigger than a car, a roast beef bigger than a truck, and now my arse is bigger than I ever dreamed possible. This is what happens when there’s no racing around a hospital during the holidays. Continue reading “Get With the Program” »

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In Praise of Canadian Men

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I’ve featured some of my favourite men here before, Rusty taking centre stage of course. He’s easy fodder for humour, plus he’s the only man I have. To be sure he’s European at heart despite his love of fleece and hatred of skinny pants and scraggy facial hair. Just in case you forgot this gem of a photo, here’s the one where Neil is trying desperately to fit in the south of France in 1986, long before I met him. Obviously, is this a man who dressed with a woman anywhere near him? I think not. Continue reading “In Praise of Canadian Men” »

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History Repeats Itself

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Every now and then I get to missing Europe—history everywhere you look and the museums of Paris a mere train ride away. I’ll give the French this: they know how to show off a bit of art. Canada is relatively new by any cultural standard, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t riches to be found practically on my doorstep. Saturday past was a grey and damp day, so I hauled on my rubber boots and made the short trek to the Royal BC Museum for the first time. And again, by any cultural standard, it’s a humdinger.

There was a riveting National Geographic wildlife photography exhibit, lots of sea turtles and crocodiles and all that. There was a section where the streets of Ye Olde Victoria were recreated down to the the last meticulous detail. Then there was the third floor where one is greeted by a giant welcoming figure that graces the entrance to the First Peoples Gallery.

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My new home is in the heart of the Songhees and Esquimalt territories, just two of the many indigenous peoples who were at home on the BC coast long before I or any of my kind set foot on the shore. The political complexities and tragedies (highlighted in the collection of heartbreaking details of the almost decimation of the Nations by smallpox and other blights from white ‘settlers’) are far beyond the scope of a goofy blog. All I want to say here is the museum is a sobering, fascinating, stunningly beautiful display of these great cultures. Continue reading “History Repeats Itself” »

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Here We Come A-Waffle-ing

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There may not be a single sign of Christmas in my house, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the season. Au contraire mes amis, I love a town done up in lights and all that crap. While Canada does Christmas well enough every year, I have to say this is one area in which Europe has the upper hand. And why not, they’ve been doing yuletide mayhem long before Canada was even born. I remember the streets of Strasbourg two years ago …

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Magical and sweet, sure, but what I miss most about the holidays in Europe are the markets that go for miles. Here in North America, the focus is always on gadgets and clothing or whatever else is being shoved at you for 40% off. European Christmas markets shove food at you, as much as food as you could ever imagine. I remember this guy very well making a ‘little’ pot of Rösti in Montreux last year … Continue reading “Here We Come A-Waffle-ing” »

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Homeless for the Holidays

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Even though I don’t officially celebrate Christmas, I can’t escape it. The lobby of my building looks like a garland factory explosion and the stores are packed to the rafters with harried shoppers marching like zombies to the beat of the The Little Drummer Boy. That’s how I know it’s time to do my annual schtick about those in need.

There’s a man who lives in my neighbourhood, I guess him to be in his early thirties. For the sake of privacy let’s call him Leo. He sits under a large beautiful tree in the now cold and unrelenting rain watching people come in and out of the shops and cafés; watching people sipping their mochalattewhatsits on the Starbucks patio; watching people wander about with their bags of organic produce and fresh cut flowers. People who have soft, cozy beds and many coats; people who have stainless steel refrigerators bursting with food—people like me. Continue reading “Homeless for the Holidays” »

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The Coast is Clear

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Breaking news: I survived a two day trip to the Arctic (aka Calgary). Oh of course I survived because the majority of my time was spent indoors discovering some top notch mental health services for children in Alberta. Plus, tagging along after amiable work colleagues and a superb working dinner at The River Café, how bad could it have been? Although it must be said—I didn’t see one single cowboy there, very disappointing indeed.

Still, there’s something off about voluntarily flying to winter …

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While gazing upon snow-covered pines and enduring frozen nose hair is joyful enough, I was more than pleased to return to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. I landed in an unusually chilly Victoria, -1 Celsius. Sure, nippy, but 26 degrees warmer than where I had just been.

This trip turned out to be a pivotal moment for me. Coming back to this town felt some good (as we Newfoundlanders tend to say). Six months in and this new place is starting to take on a home-like quality. And let me tell you why. Saturday was November 24th and what was my husband doing? Playing golf. GOLF! Not shovelling or scraping ice from a windshield, no, whacking a little ball over emerald green grass. Granted, he should’ve been baking or roasting or doing whatever else goes on in that kitchen, but that’s beside the point. Continue reading “The Coast is Clear” »

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The Cold War

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When I decided to leave Europe and return to Canada, my decision was based on specific criteria. Glorious Victoria, British Columbia, home of sea and mountain vistas; a charming town of enough people to make it interesting yet few enough to avoid big city fatigue. More importantly, a town that very rarely sees a Big Canadian Winter. In fact, my wish to avoid such a calamity factored prominently in the final choice.

Of course, landing a cool job only sweetened the Victorian deal. My job, much like my adopted home, is tailor made for me—crusading for children in the name of social justice at a life preserving pace; wonderful boss and colleagues; an office situated near bakeries, Shopper’s Drug Mart and Munro’s Books. I even get to travel around this great land from time to time. My last jaunt took me to the mean streets of Vancouver via a tiny commuter seaplane. Tomorrow should be equally exciting. Once again, an exotic destination awaits me: Calgary, Alberta. Continue reading “The Cold War” »

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Through Thick and Thin

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Not long ago, my husband made an offhand, jokey statement so startling that I can no longer recall the context. All I remember is the phrase “because we’re fat.” It was the pronoun we that struck me. My first thought was speak for yourself doughboy, followed swiftly by you better sleep with one eye open for a while monsieur. When I mentioned this to a thrice married man (who now knows very well what and what not to say to women), he hit the nail right on the head with, “You’re Neil’s first wife aren’t you?” I nodded and he said, “It shows.”

While the chances of Rusty ever being right are slim indeed, this time he may be on to something. Not since my first winter spent in France has my midsection received any kind of spousal scrutiny (see chapter in Finding Me in France called Middle Age Spread for the gory details). I haven’t stepped on a scale in years, but there’s no denying a certain sausage like quality found in my physique these days. Of course it’s entirely possible that all my pants have shrunk solely at the waist. A curse upon that new gigantic Canadian washer/dryer set of mine. Continue reading “Through Thick and Thin” »

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Please Place Your Seat, Tray and Fist in the Upright Position

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Of course I’m well used to travel by now. What I am not used to is travel in the absence of someone to manage me. This is because Big Red a) loves all things to do with traveling and b) thinks I’m…what’s the word?…a doofus when it comes to this stuff. So over the last few years, I’ve gotten used to packing a bag and showing up, meandering my way around the world simply by keeping my eyes locked on the back of his head while he does all the hard work (easy to tell who’s the real doofus in this scenario).

Last week I completed an epic journey to a distant wedding sans my trusty road manager. Rusty got off easy I’d say. All he had to do was book all my flights, print out my itineraries, complete all my online check-ins—the basics of diva travel management. It started with being hustled on to an earlier flight in an attempt to outrun the thick fog bank that gripped Vancouver Island as if it were Newfoundland. Then there were my fascinating flight mates: A furniture designer from New York on his way to his factories in China; a ritzy but pained woman who, after four hours of impromptu psychotherapy, disembarked considerably less pained. Continue reading “Please Place Your Seat, Tray and Fist in the Upright Position” »

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The Prince and the Showgirl

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Sometimes I forget about that French adventure I had. It seems so long ago and so far away and then Bam! it comes rocketing back to me, sometimes in very fine form. If you’ve been hanging out here for a while or if you’ve read the goofy book, you’ll know about my fabulous neighbour who made living in rural France quite special, the fantastique Jean-Claude. JC divides his time between being the prince of panache in a small French town and the master of mayhem in Morocco. And, god love him, he carts my doodle collection wherever he goes.

Not long ago, while sipping cocktails in a Moroccan nightclub, he ran into a famous French musician and producer by the name of Patrick Derue. I imagine they chatted about the spectacles Patrick has put on in Vegas and France, everything from a Chinese version of Cirque du Soleil to gospel concerts, and then somehow, this unfolded…

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Continue reading “The Prince and the Showgirl” »

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