FREAKING OUT

24 03 2017

Well, that has to be said in all caps. no?

I am scurrying about mentally. What the Buddhists say about “monkey mind” – well, I’m waaaaay past that. I am German Tanzmaus scurrying…

We saw these guys in a pet store in Germany and they actually never stop. I figure I have about three of these in my mind at the moment.

  1. Iceland!!! I haven’t been overseas since my firstborn was 18 months old. 28 years ago! (Well, except Havana, but that’s on this side of the ocean, seems familiar somehow, and besides I had my kids with me). I’m travelling alone. I am so sick of travelling alone. I’ve gone to Newfoundland and across Canada alone and I know I can do it, but I find my anxiety grows as the spaces between travel widen. Plus I’ll be meeting 175 new people; I will be meeting wowza authors; I will be fighting my MS every step of the way. I have to say that in general I like travelling alone cos it forces me to talk to people, but I am becoming severely in need of a bosom buddy. Project one for when I come back. Seek bosom buddy.
  2. Writing: got a few books out for editing, got one back and have to work on that but my tanzmaus mind isn’t ready to focus yet. The one I’m working on I would like to get published by a real publisher ® as I think it’s important blah blah blah, so that means it has to be good and preferably I’ll have another book in the wings so a publisher will take a chance with me. My MS book is evolving into a website, so I can keep info updated, but for that I need a Pseudonym (the things I do for my one son! I don’t imagine the other two would be embarrassed about me writing about sex). Trying a few on. Got to get on that – I already have lots of material and such but again, the Tanzmice dance.
  3. My health – it’s always an interesting thing, inhabiting my second-rate body. I’ve never asked it to do anything for me that it hasn’t let me down on, except recovery from my bilateral knee replacement. Had to have C-sections, got MS, been chubby forever despite trying to change. After my surgery I exercised mightily. Then my body got better. It felt good, strong. Same when I was swimming three times a week. But then the MS came back, and I tore my rotator cuff, I started with the hip spasms, blah blah blah. I’m beginning to think that I might need to get into a gym routine, but the one close to me is closing. So now I am off sugar officially (lest I lose my sight) – (eventually being idle and overweight does things to your pancreas) which means no more of my beloved chocolate. Tanzmaus mind. What does this mean for my single malt? And will I be able to manage five hectic days and two transatlantic flights in this untrustworthy body?

So the three dance about mixed with little aggravations like losing my keys and bits of important papers and forgetting things. In behind there is the thought of craft fairs coming up and the need to make more of my felties to partially pay for my excessive overspending going to Iceland. Or eat. Hahahaha. But then, YOLO, right? And with my crapped out system, I gotta grab it now. Although, as my son has told me, I’ve used this as an excuse for overspending on trips for the last few years.

(PS: dear son – if you had a vision of being trapped in your body unable to move in your admittedly distant future as I do, you’d be out of the door like a shot and devvil take the expense)(Lord save me)

I’ve been knitting socks like a maniac  – if I’m knitting a lot you know I am anxious. If I can relax I will be felting. Or reading. Or enjoying something. (Where IS that bosom buddy when I need him?)

Must go dance and try to find those damn keys. And/or race to the library where Neil Gaiman’s Norse Gods awaits me.

PS: Dancing Mice are fascinating – I felt sorry for them when I saw them – turns out they are bred to run endlessly. Apparently they are deaf, too, some mess up in their vestibulary system.

Happier rodents here:

 

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The country in six days, ending with an exclamation point…

24 10 2014

trajets_Canada_enOf course everyone is focused on the madman attack on Parliament Hill, that total abnormality here in Canada, where representatives of the people feel free to walk and work without fear of assault. (well, at least until now). I’m not going to write about that, sad though it is. Suffice to say the assault brought my trip to a sudden, jerking end, reality intruding on my mind much like my post-travel cold throws me flat onto the bed.

I’ve just travelled across the country, stem to stern, on #VIArail, taking the Ocean from Halifax to Montreal, commuter train from Montreal to Toronto, and the Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver. It is a fabulous trip, one everyone should do at least once in their lives. I sat up in Economy from Halifax to Montreal, cheap-seated it to Toronto, got a room (and an upgrade, thanks VIA!) to Vancouver. All have their pleasures.

The Ocean is fitted with handicapped accessibility (limited though it is). There I met a former biker gal who cheerily named me “D” and took me under her arm (literally) while she pestered the bartender. She told me of her many lives, from legal to slightly not so, then offered to put out a contract on one of my relatives. You see, the thing about the train is that you know you are not likely to see folks again, so stories get told, intimacies shared, secrets revealed. It’s a bit like those five minute dating things – meet, smile, reveal, reveal, leave. One woman told me the horror she felt that her cousin accused her of jumping off the bedroom dressers when she was a kid. The woman was in her 70’s, and she’d never told anyone before. Some hurts lie deep.

I met a gorgeous but naive young gal who was going to Montreal to maybe be a model. Biker gal and I both sat her down for a talk, I gave her my contact info, called on my niece for info about places to stay in Montreal. The young gal listened, but I haven’t heard from her. I hope she’s okay.

But then, that is the other real charm about train travel and, in fact, about Canada. Almost always, you meet people who are going to treat you right, who are polite and friendly and safe and sweet, who offer help or support or friendship, short or long. The trip affirmed that. No matter what train I took, what class I was in, every person I contacted was this way. Even on the flight back, when I shared the plane with a crew of drunken roustabouts heading home from the oil patch, 99% of the people were sweet beyond belief.

It’s a grand trip for the people, but the landscape is breathtaking. I started with the rocky Atlantic shores, rumbled through the Acadian dykelands, on to the rolling Appalachian hills of New Brunswick, the fields and townships of Quebec, through my old town of Kingston and on to the big city of Toronto. Then on to the Canadian Shield, so large it takes a while to understand it. I watched the endless endless trees and rocks and trees and rocks and water of Northern Ontario, gasped with relief when we got to the prairies and Winnipeg and I could see the sky again. Saw the tiny old slumping homes being consumed by prairie, spotted a football-field-sized car dump in Saskatchewan, adored the Qu’Appelle valley. A few oil rigs dipped their heads as we went by.

Then the first mumblings of hills, a blue-grey lump ahead, that grew, slowly slowly, then faster than imaginable into the completely over-the-top (pun intended) Canadian Rockies – they are sharp enough you could cut yourself on them, showing off the rocky tumblings laid down millennia ago, tilted up long long ago, still patterned like a group of seven painting.

By this point we all were in the sky view car, glass overhead and around. We didn’t get the bubble car – we were the last long train of the season and so missed that – but it was chilly in the regular glass one so everyone brought up blankets and curled up for the show.

We stopped in Jasper, rolled down to Vancouver. Beautiful, beautiful. Sea to sea in six days. Unspeakable grandeur, sweet places and huge cities, seemingly more trees than stars in the sky…and not a SINGLE MOOSE.

Our train trip ended in delays from conflicting track use – CN owns the rails so there are battles at most crossings over priority. So we passenger trains wait, then race along like a roller coaster. The engineers were great, slowing down so we could see waterfalls and bears and goats. The staff on the train were fantastic, the chefs unbelievably good, the activity staff endlessly cheerful and helpful. I loved every minute, though I admit to impatience in Northern Ontario. I do love the sky.

I flew back through that sky. It was a shorter ride, but much less pleasant, despite the charms of Westjet. The train rules.

Now, how can I get to N’Awlins by train???





Enroute to Newfoundland

18 08 2013

I’m off to our oldest/newest province today, a place I’ve never seen before except in a series of award-winning television ads that make it look like paradise.

I’m sure the reality will be slightly different, but I am already charmed about the experience because every single expat Newfoundlander I’ve met has been so fun, funny, and sweet. Surely a province full of such people and the natural glory of the landscape will be astonishing.
Toss in a few whales (figuratively speaking, one hopes), some puffins, Gros Morne, St. John’s, Trinity and Twillingate (they alliteratively remind me of Tweedledee and Tweedledum) and I am prepared for another wonderland.

I’ve been saving for this trip for a while, financially and physically. I’m travelling alone, joining a tour. I’ve never done a tour before. It’s been awhile since I travelled alone, except on the way to meet up with people. In fact, I think the last time was a trip to the Bloody Words conference and even then I knew people there. This will all be fresh, new, different.

I’m going to grow myself into the experience and deny myself technology, spend the time instead BEING THERE, instead of leaving one foot at home. That will be hard, too. As a person with MS who spends a great deal of time at home, technology has been my connection. But I need a break.

So off I go, radio silence soon, and just me and some newbies and a fair number of folks from all over to meet. Puffins ho!





Style disconnection

7 07 2013

I’m packing for my trip today, and it is immediately apparent I need a wardrobe consultant, pronto.
Nothing I have goes with anything else I have. My shirts are a mixup of Value Village finds and the rare new purchase, all cobbled together for comfort, rather than style.
And my shorts and pants don’t match them.
Don’t ask about dresses. It just isn’t worth bringing them up.
I feel the need for one of those insulting people from the fashion shows to come in to my closet and pull out all the horrible things I hang onto “just in case” and start me fresh with an assembled, appropriate look.
But then, what is the appropriate look for a round, short, writer type? A creative soul, who is a bit scattered?
I’m thinking muu muus but I fear I would look entirely too much like a potato.
So I struggle on…assembling myself somehow, gradually giving up on grace for comfort.
Thank heavens I am off to the cottage, where dress standards are relaxed.

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Volcanos, James Bond, Mountain Chickens, and Montserrat

10 01 2013

I now feel totally ignorant. Hands up those of you who thought Montserrat was somewhere in the Mediterranean? Or near Spain?
I was one of those. You smarter people can all stop sniggering now.

300px-Topographic-map-of-Montserrat-en.svgTurns out that what is left of Montserrat is in the Caribbean!!! West Indies. I feel perfectly ridiculous. I say “what is left” because there’s a huge honkin’ volcano on Montserrat that covered half of the island with ash and lava. It’s still simmering now, and the population has wisely moved to the other side of the island. The economy has been decimated, and much of the island lies in waste. Note the size of the “Exclusion zone”. Note the location of the previous capital city.

It has a mixed history. Discovered on the second of Chris Columbus’ jaunts, it became a slave state for a while, producing sugar and yes, rum…captured by the French briefly, returned to the British, eventually turned into a small holders’ lime production place. Limes go well with rum,

Caipirinha - yum!

Caipirinha – yum!

but I digress.

Then the island was decimated by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and covered with ash in 1995. Life’s been a bit grim ever since.

Emontserratense_flower_crop (Main)

orchid shivering in Kew

I am concerned about the Leptodactylus fallax. Otherwise known as the Giant Ditch Frog, it’s apparently critically endangered and the Brits are trying to keep it alive, along with the orchid native to the island (Who is no doubt suffering some transition shock hanging out in Kew).

The frog used to be eaten, probably because it would make a hearty meal. Apparently it grows to 21 centimeters long. (Over 8 inches, says my trusty ruler). That is one big frog. It lives for up to twelve years, and has big and apparently delicious hind legs. According to the “Save the mountain chicken” website, it’s the largest native predator on the island.

How can all these bad things happen to a place where a frog is the biggest predator? It seems wrong, and sad. Like paradise destroyed.

250px-Leptodactylus_fallax

Mountain Chicken (tastes like frog)

Eating it isn’t the only reason for its endangered status. A fungus is helping. The volcano killed off a lot of insects that the frog usually eats. And rats have been introduced to the island and they eat everything. Or just bite it and leave the fungus to take over.

Much like the rest of the world, where rats and their human metaphors destroy whatever paradise that may remain.

Sigh.

montserrat-monastery-wc-cc-gyrofrogOh, and I feel better now. There’s ANOTHER Montserrat, a mountain in Catalonia, Spain, home of the monastery where lives the famous Black Madonna. That must be the one I know from the movies.

 

There’s even one near Bolton, UK (shudder), which I am CERTAIN James Bond never frequented.





The perils of traveling for a hypochondriac

4 01 2013
3-7-08-toilet-paper

Thanking my stars we have TP here in Canada, unlike in Cuba

My kids think I’m a total hypochondriac. They could be right, but hey, I AM a nurse, so unfortunately, I know just enough to be able to detect statistically improbable diseases in me (or them) given three symptoms.

I’m not always delusional. I told one son he had H1N1 last year or so after hearing his symptoms over the phone and yes, he did have it (blood work said so, so there!) I diagnosed scarlet fever in my son, Shigella in my ex, and MS in me, so I should have some street cred.

Alas. No.

So perhaps traveling to Cuba wasn’t the BEST idea, but you’ve got to give me credit for not going to, say, Borneo or Mali.

I knew the likelihood of a tenderfoot like myself getting ill was pretty high. But I pretended it wasn’t. I was with my well-travelled kids, after all, and didn’t want to seem like any more of a wuss than my MS body would do already. I wanted to be cool, groovy. And I only brought one tiny bottle of hand sanitizer, which we all shared. Truth be told, I assumed my immunizations and copious amounts of rum would kill pretty well anything that approached me. I think they did, until I got home and stopped drinking.

So I got sick.. Yep. The “Grippers” as Regis Philbin used to call them. Fevers. Exhaustion. Headache. Been flat on my back for the last week – am typing now only because I am SO BORED I can barely breathe.  But I’ll have to lie down again soon, despite the gasoline-strength coffee I’m inhaling in a desperate attempt to stay vertical (and yes, I know it doesn’t help but I’ve been without coffee for a whole four days now and I am barely sentient).

Can’t let it lie, though. As a certified hypochondriac, I had to look up alternative diseases I COULD have from my time spent in the country. Turns out there’s a fairly high probability I have Dengue fever. Doesn’t that sound deliciously awful? And the first bout of Dengue seems to be fairly benign – later ones are bad and I know Dengue is a scourge of many countries and they have my sympathies –  and there’s always the risk of spraying blood suddenly from my gums, but so far I merely have the toasty feeling and a really good disease name.

300px-Dengue_fever_symptoms.svg

When I looked up the disease, the public health page warned me strongly to keep the screens closed. Obviously they weren’t staying where I was – not a screen (or glass) to be seen – just funky wooden slats. Not many bugs showed up, strangely – only one hapless beetle on our last day (who I helped on to his next reincarnation), but I did wake up the last day with a ring of bites around my neck and on my elbow.

So I’ve diagnosed myself. I merely need to develop the rash.

Of course, it can’t be the flu, or the fact that everyone was sick on the airplane with some viral thing.

Not for a pro hypochondriac like me!

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Ola! from Cuba

1 01 2013

IMG_0098Ah, Cuba.

I’ve been consumed with curiosity about this island ever since I had to sit under my desk in school to protect myself from nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I grew up around Boston. If I’d known how many missiles were housed immediately around my school I would have spent the time colouring instead.  We’d have been blasted in the first sortie.

As I grew older, and learned about the Cuban health care system, their healthy literacy rate and their amazingly stable economy given the embargo by the US (and the way the US told everyone that if they were nice to Cuba they couldn’t play with them). I was curious to see how the Communist nation so close to us had fared, was slightly romantic about the revolution, with its dashing figures of Che and Fidel and whoever that other guy is whose name I can never remember. It was and is the stuff of legend.

For a place slightly smaller than Pennsylvania (sneers the CIA fact book), it’s chock a bloc with history, romance, music, art, people, and, apparently, cigars.

We spent a five-day visit in Havana – old Havana – a thoroughly interesting borough that alternates in appearance with a bombed-out war zone and a decaying but still elegant deep south Spanish plantation. Totally fascinating, noisy and silent by turns, filled with people of such diverse colours and shapes you can trace the native, black and Spanish lineages through the shape of their noses.

Everyone, even the smallest child, automatically responds to the sight of we tourists with a murmuring of “cigars? you want cigars?”.

The men – handsome without exception. The women – gorgeous until about age 35, when the gruelling day-to-day life catches up with them. They must wash laundry every day – everyone is so clean and clothes hang everywhere to dry.

The streets – spotlessly clean in some places, despite feral dogs and cats everywhere. Covered with garbage where the feral people are. No windows in most buildings, but Dolce and Gabana and expensive spas have them. Banks with nothing inside, only an ATM on the outside. Shiny old 54 Fords, polished to the max, run as taxis, followed by husks of the same car with no muffler, run by locals. Shiny new Kias here and there, tripping over bicycle taxis pulling painfully through the cobblestone streets.IMG_0520

The hustlers say, as they smile broadly and try to get us to buy contraband cigars, “Cuba is very safe. 11 million people and half of them are police”. They lead us on, through darker and meaner streets, until common sense prevails and we say “No, Gracias”. Their faces crumble with such acute disappointment you almost want to take it back, say, of course you believe him that today is the only day that Fidel allows the people who make cigars to sell them privately at half price, only today…

I still feel the air, warm and almost like a human breath, the grit and diesel from the out of control refinery and the many many cars. I can shut my eyes and hear the noises, the endless honking of horns to say hello or get out-of-the-way or whatever, interspersed with sharp whistles and shouts and the roar of unmuffled diesel engines. In between you can hear bands playing salsa music.

The tourist industry in Cuba seems designed to make you pass your time there in a pleasant heat and rum fuelled haze, happily buying versions of art that are nowhere near as wonderful as the real artists produce in their tiny studios off of darkened streets. They sell rum and mohitos and Hemingway, send tourists around well-trodden paths, call to you with such desperation you feel positively terrible for saying no. Elderly women come up and circle you slowly, putting their hands to their mouths, begging for money. But when you tell them no, as with all of those trying to extract money from you (and why not? We have so much, they have so little), they look at you once, with eyes that show their heart is breaking, and shuffle off to the next person.

It is intoxicating, rude, charming, warm, friendly, hostile, old, ancient, proud, humble, utterly unexplainable. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling.

I’ll never go back, for so many reasons. But everyone should go, at least once. Immerse yourself in Cuba. Don’t just go to a resort – see the place itself, meet the real people.

Vive la Cuba Libre!








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