Thursday, November 25, 2010

My mother

Nov 18th is my Mom's Birthday. My mother is a source of strength for me and I often call her to chat. She has become a close friend in the past few years and when something wonderful or bad happens, Mom is often one of the first people I call. I couldn't be the person I am today without her. SO... In light of her 39th birthday (wink, wink) I want to wish her a very Happy Birthday by sharing something that I have been working on...

- Written on June 19, 2010 -

The impact a mother has on her daughter never fully occurred to me until I started thinking about our family reunion this year - it was our Centennial celebration of the Family Farm and was a big deal! I was creating a cook book of family recipes I had collected from various members of my family, and I began thinking about my Baba (Grandma in Ukrainian).
I recall all the days of my girlish youth spent in Baba's kitchen listening to her speak Ukrainian with my mother as we stuffed perogies or cabbage rolls or made pies. Baba would speak in Ukrainian and Mom would respond in English. I think it was partly because Mom's Ukrainian was rusty and she couldn't always find the words. I like to think that it was because she wanted me to feel included in the conversation, even if children at that time were meant to be seen and not heard. It was during those visits where I learned how to be a daughter or "doina". The main rule is, make sure you are helpful. Always try and do what you can so your mom doesn't have to. Let mom be the boss and do what she asks, if it's peeling potatoes, do it! If its getting dill from the garden or doing the dishes, do it. The job of a Ukrainian daughter is equal to a slave. BUT, we do it willingly, steadily, and always without complaint... well almost! It is our job, we are the "doina".
It was here that I also learned what it took to be a mother. It is a job so diverse and vast, but also rewarding. Mother's don't just boss around their daughters, they listen to them, give them advice, share wisdom and they tell stories of their experiences. Mothers also praise and encourage their children, sometimes not verbally, and often you have to look hard to find it. But, mothers share part of who they are with their daughters. Its like they hand over a piece of their soul at the birth of this baby girl. They are happy to watch their daughters grow and nourish that small piece they've planted until one day, the daughter sounds JUST LIKE their mother! Then, moms smile, a silent secret smile, and know that their legacy has officially been passed on."

Smile Mom, and know that your legacy has been passed on to me and I am so very thankful for the lessons and teachings your wisdom has given me. I am a better person because you are my Mother. I love you very much, and Happy Birthday!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When winter finally came

Today is the day that Calgarians will note that winter finally came in 2010. Yesterday was a nice sunny day, with a gentle breeze with a fall-esque nip in the air. Today, it is snowy and cold and windy and, well, winter. I have settled in, after braving the cold, to my couch and a cup of tea to watch my favorite shows on the computer. We have errands that should be done tonight, movies to return to the movie store, or people to go and see... but tonight - on the day that winter finally arrived, we choose to stay inside and keep warm.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Voting day

Albertans of all shapes and sizes lined up at their local school, rec centre or church to cast their ballot for who they think should be representing them for the next 4 years. It is always an exciting time for me... taking part in the democratic process, and I found myself skipping gleefully to the poles with the herds yesterday.

It so happens that yesterday was an historic election for Calgary with a virtually unknown climbing to the top of the polls to steal the coveted Mayor position from an experienced front runner. This election was a different one from the get go, with over 14 people vying for the spot of Mayor, it was a race from the beginning. Then, a news anchor quits her job to join the race for Mayor... suddenly there is more press on this race and the front runner, the experienced Alderman, has some serious competition. Not only is this news anchor very popular, they also happen to be a "she" and that seems to make the run for Mayor more about "is Calgary ready for a lady Mayor". In the end, a business professor came from behind to nab the job with a whopping 39% of the vote! The theory behind why this virtual nobody has become "his worship elect" overnight? He appealed to the masses... he reached out to the use by means of social media... he tweeted and had a facebook page, he went technical and in the end that resulted in him becoming viral. This seems to be the trend, just look at what Obama did.

The youth of today want politicians to sell themselves, to promise that they will be heard and that their opinion does matter. This isn't really new though, I mean remember when J.F.K was elected? (well, I don't I was too young, but I've read about it). He got the youth vote because he was young and inspiring and charismatic. That is what the youth want in any generation really... to feel that they matter. Our new Mayor elect has done this, he has inspired the youth to step to the polls and make a change. Now, all we have to do is wait for the change to happen. The misconception of most voters is about to occur... when our Mayor elect becomes His Worship, they will want to see ACTION... what they will end up seeing is the waiting game. Making change happen as a politician isn't as easy as they say it is when at the forums before the election, making change happen is about learning to play the game, learning how to deal with the bureaucracy and learning to make the right choices at the right time. Instead of action for the first little while, we will see our new Mayor learning... and that's ok... we will be patient, we will watch on baited breath, we will see change... eventually.

Congrats go out to all the elected members of the AUMA - go out and make the difference that you promised the people who elected you. Do your best, be honest and don't back down from a challenge - if you follow that advice, you should be fine! :o)

Monday, October 04, 2010

Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye is never easy, whether it is when you are leaving home for the first time, leaving new found friends in a foreign land, or leaving for a new adventure not knowing when you will see the other party again. Nothing, no amount of goodbyes that I have endured in my life could prepare me for the goodbye I have to say and witness tomorrow. Saying goodbye to a friend is hard, but saying goodbye forever is so difficult and witnessing that from a son to a father is impossible.

Robinson James "Jimmy" Orr was Derek's dad for 37.5 years. He passed away on the 28th of September after a month long struggle with pneumonia. We were lucky enough to be able to visit him for 10 days just before he passed away, and those memories will be treasured forever.

Jimmy was a kind, strong, witty, very intelligent, passionate man who raised my husband into who he now is. My husband is a strong, witty, very intelligent, passionate and kind man as well, and I was able to witness where he got these attributes from. I was able to see where Derek got some of his quirks and sayings, facial expressions and passion for learning, history and travel. He learnt a lot from his father, not only in what was passed down from him but also in what he observed.

We posted a notice on a website of pensioners where Jimmy used to work and we were flooded with kind words, warm thoughts and memories that brought smiles to our faces. He was known as a professional, kind man who went out of his way to help those in need. He was also known for his whit and his way with the ladies - he was very suave and gallant; a true gentleman. Throughout the people that knew him once he retired, they knew him as the gentleman and kind hearted man but they also knew him as a poet. He wrote some lovely poetry, some he gave to me, and I will treasure it and it will always bring a smile on my face.

Some people grace your lives for such a small amount of time but leave a giant impact. I did not know Jimmy for long, but will forever be grateful for his contribution to my life... his son, my husband. Without him, Derek would not be who his is and my life would not be nearly as wonderful.

So, tomorrow, with a saddened heart and I am sure tear filled eyes, we will say goodbye forever to Jimmy. I will thank him with my whole heart tomorrow for what he has given me, and I will feel happy that I have gotten to know him even just a little bit - enough to see the kindness and humour that was within him.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Iceland - Day 10 and 11

Day 10

We wake up and grab a delicious breakfast from the bakery just down the street… I'm sure going to miss having the delicious breads and pastries just down the street at all times! We then check out and get the owner of the hostel to give us a ride to the Christmas house… yes, you read that right… the CHRISTMAS HOUSE! This is a house just minutes out of Akureyri that specializes in all things Christmas. The man who owns the house had this idea about 12 years ago and started with just the upstairs of this small house. He painted the house like a Gingerbread house (but red) and then put Icicles on the edges of the house and on the roof there were big giant candies... it was AWESOME! Inside it was like Christmas - it even SMELT like Christmas. Decorations and music and the crackling of a wood burning fire... it was complete. They had some Icelandic traditional Christmas things too like the 13 brothers at Christmas and their grumpy and mean mother Gryilla as well as the roasted, dried lamb leg (that I smacked my head on as it was hanging from the ceiling). It was simply Christmas heaven!

After returning to Akureyri, we had some lunch and sat and watched people, explored the down town, checked out the big church and then boarded our bus back to Reykjavik.

The 6 hour journey on the bus was not very eventful, there isn't really that much to see between the 2 major cities - a lot of farm land and lava fields... glad we left this leg of the journey until the last part and in the evening so we didn't feel like we wasted a day. We got into Reykjavik around 11 and walked to the hostel that was in the middle of the city... about a 15 min walk, so not bad at all! We settled in and went straight to sleep!

Day 11

I woke up early and went out to find breakfast and an idea of what we should do this morning - we only had until about 1:30 to spend in the city before we had to head to the airport. I booked our airport shuttle and then returned with delicious baked goods to the room. We headed out to our first stop the 814 (plus or minus) 2 museum. It is an archaeological excavation of the most complete long house found in Iceland - long houses are what the Vikings lived in. It was very interesting.

After the museum, we journeyed to the harbour to rent scooters... we had wanted to see the Pearl Building (which is their water tanks for the city that has been made into a beautiful building with a revolving restaurant on the top of it) and the building was a ways from the city centre, scooters would be the perfect way to get there. After some minor problems with my scooter and an upgrade (to a Vespa instead of a yellow scooter of no name) we headed out. 35 minutes later we were at the Pearl Building (after many detours and Heather getting lost a bunch of times... I sucked at navigating in Iceland but only because I couldn't understand the street names!). We parked, roamed around the pearl building for a couple minutes and headed back to the harbour (which only took 10 minutes... sigh). It was fun scooting around the city like we owned it though, and I would recommend this to anyone!

After the scooters were back at their home, we grabbed some food and some last minute souvenirs and got onto our shuttle for the trip back home. The airport and flight held no big event until we got to Toronto - the connection we had was only 1 hour 30 mins and we had to get our bags, go through customs and get new boarding passes, check our bags again, go through security and then find our gate... needless to say our bags took 30 mins to get to us and we were hooped... missed the connection. So, we spent 3 extra hours in the Toronto airport. We finally boarded the plane at around 3am Iceland time (11 pm Toronto time) and got into Calgary about 8am Iceland time and 1am Calgary time... it was one heck of a long day.

Now that we are comfy and settled back into our house, laundry done, tacks placed in the cities we were on our world map, we are anticipating our next journey... Ireland in 2011... the travelling continues!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Iceland - Day 9

We stumble out of bed, pack our bags, check out of the hostel and head to the nearest cafe... in Myvatn there is only one, so it was easy! We try and figure out a way of getting to Akureyri without having to wait until 3:30 when the bus leaves. We also are trying to figure out how to book a hostel as no one has a phone we can use or internet we can poach... oh well!

We end up waiting around for most of the day, taking little walks and having snacks here and there to pass the time. Derek manages to find a phone and books us our hostel and then we wait... and wait, and wait. FINALLY, our bus comes and we eagerly get aboard. The landscape passes by us in a whirl of greens, browns and blacks... not moon like landscape that we have seen over the past couple days, but prairie landscape, it reminds me of home. An hour and a bit go by and we land in Akureyri, the 2nd most populated area in Iceland. We wind our way through the streets up and down hills to the hostel (which is really quite nice). We grab some food and settle into our room, making plans for the next day. We then head out to scope out the city... it is a nice small European style city, nothing too fancy or too bold about it. It is shy and quaint and lovely. We grab a beverage, a snack and then walk back to our hostel... everything is pretty well closed anyway! I can't help but feel that a day was wasted waiting for the bus in Myvatn... it is a shame when you only have a couple days to waste one waiting on a stupid bus to take you 100 km's but there was no other option other than hitchiking - and I am sure we would have done that if my foot wasn't being such a pain and Derek's back wasn't bothering him so... oh well, perhaps we will just have to come back!

We catch up on our internet addiction seeing as we have been without for the past couple days and then we settle in to watch "Conan the Barbarian" - you know the one with Arnold when he couldn't really speak english? It was awesome! Tomorrow we have a busy day of exploring and finding our way to Christmas town (who hooo!) and then we are off to Reykjavik for one last day and then home... as I said before... holidays go much too quickly!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Iceland - Day 8

We woke up early again today but with anticipation for the adventure before us! We have scheduled for today the tour to Askja (pronounced Ask-ya) which is a caldera formed by a volcanic eruption and once the magma shot out of the top of the volcano the top of the volcano fell into the empty magma chamber. This happened again on the same caldera on a much smaller scale in 1875 and formed a smaller caldera that houses a small pool of geothermally heated water. There is a lot of history stemming from the 1875 eruption, part of it being a mass emigration of the farmers in the area. The ash and volcanic matter spewed all over the landscape making it hard for the farmers to maintain their farms and there for their livelihoods. The ash and matter were emitted from the volcano at such an astounding force that some particles were found on continental Europe and even JAPAN! A lot of the farmers emigrated from Iceland to Canada and have created a community that holds their Icelandic traditions strong and close. We think that this community is close to Winnipeg, as there is a direct flight from Winnipeg to Reykjavik!

So… we get up, get ready, pack our lunch and our warm gear (toques and mittens, sweaters and long johns) and head out to the tour pick up site. It was cold and rainy but we are getting used to the Icelandic weather. We hop on the big 4x4 bus (which is interesting in itself) and head out, first stop Modrudalur – a small working farm that still has traditional Icelandic houses, the ones with the sod roofs. We stop and have a quick coffee and snap some photos before being herded back onto the bus to continue the tour. The landscape is uninspired with its lava fields and pumice scattered a top it, but the cool part about that is the NASA astronauts actually did some training near where we were before they travelled to the moon. Neil Armstrong was recorded saying once back on Earth that Iceland was a lot like the moon. There you have it folks… we have been to the moon! We stopped in the middle of nowhere to take some pictures of the moon like landscape.
After 2 hours of bumping along in the bus over giant lava rocks and through rivers (seriously, we drove through some rivers) we get to Drekagil – a small park warden’s station before Askja. Here there were places you could rent if you felt like staying on the moon. There was also a very bitchy park warden there. Perhaps that is why they call it Drekagil, which means Dragon canyon. How we found this park warden was we were instructed to go to one of the houses to have our lunch and once there, we were told that we didn’t belong there. So, we went to the next house and there was no place to sit to eat, so we followed our bus driver into the next house and as we got inside this little firecracker of a lady shooed us our saying it was her home and to get out. We said we understood that it was her home, but we were unsure as to where to go to eat. She said that we needed to get out. FINE – we got it! We got out and then she followed us to the first house, spoke to the guy that kicked us out in the first place and said that we needed to eat here. We thanked her in our polite Canadian way, but really I wanted to tell her to “Eff off”. We settled into our lunch and started talking with a lovely German couple that we met on the bus. The 30 mins for lunch flew by with all the drama and then eating… before we knew it, we were back on the bus, bumping along towards the end goal, Askja. At this point, I am totally festering about the debacle with the eating arrangements and tell myself that this crater thingy better be good! The bus parks, we get out and start the 35 minute hike. We happily walk along, Derek snapping pictures at every step and me chatting with our Icelandic tour guide Solva. She is very interesting and doing the tour guide thing to pay for university. We have a good talk comparing the two countries and cultures and before we know it, we are standing on this cliff with a breath taking view before us. To the farthest point, there is a lake that formed in the big (and original) Caldera, this is the deepest lake in Iceland and is beautiful. Straight before us was, the Viti crater which was formed in the last eruption just over 100 years ago. According to Lonely Planet, this is the 2nd best spot in the world to bathe naked… AND, they say the best way to enjoy this hot pool is to jump in the Icelandic way… so when in Iceland, do as they do right? We navigate our way down the slippery wall of the caldera and find ourselves on the edge of the intense sulfur smelling pool. I strip down and plunge into the water anticipating the relief of the hot water, only the water isn’t hot… its actually COLD! The liars!!! I sit in the water only to take a couple pictures to prove that I was there and jet out just as fast as I got in. Lonely planet can kiss my cold naked ass, one of the best places to bathe naked…. Pshaw! I will say that there were many of the people on the tour with us that went into the water and none of them were as big a baby as I was about the water… some even thought it was nice! Crazy Europeans! :o)

We finished our walk around the Viti crater, soaking in the beautiful views and then headed back to the bus – two hours is a short amount of time when you have a 35 min walk there and back and you skinny dip in a crater! Well worth it though, and a highlight of this trip so far! The geological variation of this volcanic island is astounding and breath-taking! So… we head back to Drekagil to have a final pit stop before we endure the 2. 5 hour bumpy ride back. Only about 20 mins into the trip back and most people are sleeping, could be something to do with the fresh mountain air! We finally get back to the Modrudalur farm (which, by the way sounds a lot like Mordor from the Lord of the Rings – so we called the place Mordor!) and hop into the café to have a coffee and a “love ball” which is the translation for one of the pastries specific to Iceland. Basically it was a deep fried ball of sweet batter with raisins in it… mmmmmm! :o) Back onto the bus we go and for the last hour we are entertained by stories of Elves and Trolls (which they believe exist in vast amounts in the mountains here in Iceland) as well as their Christmas traditions. We get back to the same place we started from and stop in at the Supermarket for some beverages before heading back to the hostel. Today was a great day, a beautiful day with surprises and great stories! Well worth it, even with the bitchy park warden!

We hung out at the hostel writing, reading and downloading pictures for the remainder of the afternoon. There isn’t internet here so when I get to a place with internet access I will have to transfer these posts. Tomorrow we are heading to Akureyri or A-town to hopefully get in some museums and some more sightseeing before we head back to Reykjavik… the holiday is slowly coming to a close and I am just getting into the travelling groove! Holidays always go so quickly.

Iceland - Day 7

This morning we got up early (not by choice but because the entire hostel was awake slamming doors and yelling). We packed up our stuff and finished our pizza then headed to the Skaftfell Café where we had a coffee and coke and started to plan our day. It was still raining so the kayaking was out and my foot was making it hard for me to walk so a hike was out. We were playing with a number of ideas when I asked the lady serving us what her favorite thing to do in Iceland was. She said it was taking this tour to the middle part of the island and in a crater that is in another crater she sat in a hot spring. VERY cool we thought, so we googled it and sure enough we could arrange the same tour. We booked it for Wednesday and then set to work figuring out how to get back to E-town in time to catch the bus to Myvatn – a lakeside town about 2 hour drive from E-town and located in the Northern part of Iceland. The server lady, when asked if she knew anyone going to E-town, said that she in fact was going there in about 30 mins and wouldn’t mind giving us a ride… such luck! We hopped in her car and as she navigated the winding roads her friend and her told us stuff about Iceland. Apparently on the fjord it only gets to 15 degrees below zero in the winter. With the wind and the dampness however, I am certain that this would feel more like minus 20. It was sad leaving S-town as it was such a beautiful place and we could have done so much hiking and kayaking had the weather and my foot cooperated… sigh.

Back in E-town we had about 15 mins to organize ourselves in time to catch the bus to Myvatn (pronounced Mee-va). The bus ride was basically like riding on the moon – we drove right through a lava field and more hot springs. We arrived in Myvatn… there is seriously nothing here to do. We went and got settled into the hostel and then headed to the supermarket to get some food for the night and next day (there is no place to stop for food on the tour we booked so we have to bring our own snacks and lunch). After that, we went back to the nice quiet hostel and had a shower and nap… glorious!

While we are waiting for tomorrow to come, and our very cool adventure to the moon to begin… we came up with a list of things we thought were interesting about Iceland… ok, Derek only came up with one!

10 Interesting things about Iceland
1. Their water is hot… you never run out of hot water in the shower, they have an endless supply. In fact, they like their water so hot there is a temperature dial in the shower so you can pick how steaming hot the shower gets! They also use hot water to heat their houses, and for electricity. The city of Reykjavik also has water pipes under their parking lots and some roads so that they can turn them on when it snows and it melts it… they use it for snow removal!!
2. The women for the most part are beautiful. A lot of them are blonde, tall, blue eyed and gorgeous… the men – well………
3. The cab drivers all appear to be called Jon – perhaps it is a name they just take on when they get the job… you know, like how priests become “father”.
4. It only gets to be about -15 Celsius in most parts of Iceland in winter. This is however over shadowed by the dampness in the air and the wind… with those two factors in mind, it may get very cold here! Even in the summer, when the sun is hiding behind clouds and the wind starts blowing it gets in your bones and is COLD… good thing they have so much hot water!
5. The people here are stylish! They don’t walk around in hikers and wind coats all the time. All the ladies seem to wear tights under their skirts, dresses or shorts, cute shoes and scarves. The men all wear nice shoes and great jeans. They also all seem to sport the traditional “Icelandic Sweater”
6. The Icelandic language seems to have sounds that come out of nowhere… Take the place Myvatn – it is pronounced Mee-va… where did the “t” and “n” go?
7. Everyone seems to speak English! I have yet to run into someone where I have to use pathetic hand gestures and pictures to get my question or point across (unless it was referring to one of the names of the towns and then I just point to it in my book). They all seem to have a very good command of the English language… that is until I order my hamburger plain – that just seems to boggle them!
8. Icelanders love their candy - you can get hard, soft and chocolate candies from almost everywhere in bulk - and they also love their hotdogs and ice cream… you can get these almost anywhere also!
9. The people of Iceland have to get permission from the Naming Commission – a government organization – to name their new born. All children of Icelandic descent have to follow their traditional naming convention. The first name must be of Icelandic descent and the last name has to be the father’s first name plus either “son” for a boy or “dottir” for a girl at the end. An example would be Thor Sigurdurson for a boy or Esud Sigurdurdottir for a girl. The father of either of those kids would have the first name of Sigurdur. All this in a democratic country!
10. There are Rav 4’s and Ford Escapes everywhere. Perhaps this is because they are smaller SUV’s and are 4x4’s… to get to a lot of places here you have to have a 4x4. We have seen a lot of our Timmy in the past couple days!

Iceland - Day 6

We got up bright and early in time to pack up our stuff, have breakfast and head to the Hotel Centrum to chat with some other Team D members who were taking off on their own adventures. We thought it would be a good idea to share notes with them about the things that they are going to see as that might help us decide where to go next! On the way there we stopped at the tour agency that left us at the blue lagoon the day before to see if we could get a refund for even ½ the ticket… unfortunately we got the same attitude as we had on the phone, you snooze you lose even if we didn’t really snooze!
Our chat went great and we got some great ideas on where there are interesting things to see… there is SO much to do here, I’m not sure how we will get it all in! After the chat, we check out and hop into a cab for the domestic airport in the middle of Reykjavik. Thirty minutes later we are up in the air flying over some amazing sights… then the clouds rolled in and covered our view. The flight to E-town lasted all of 1 hour – flying from the south western tip to the north eastern. Once in E-town we hired a taxi – interesting fact about Egilsstadir, there are 2 taxis that run here, both drivers are named Jon and both have grey cars… not lying! We got to the information centre and got our tickets to Stadgifijordur (or S-Town) which is said to boast some of the most beautiful fjord views around. We then stashed our back packs (or obese children as we have officially named them – short story as to why… we read an article in the Reykjavik Grapevine (a local paper published in English) and the article stated that you could tell a tourist a mile away from their hiking boots, North Face winter coat and the back packs the size of obese children on their backs… Derek and I looked at each other and laughed as we were totally busted looking like this) and ventured out to see what E-Town had for us before we boarded our bus.
This town is more of a transition town or a service town for the surrounding areas – not a lot to see here. We did manage to go to the East Iceland Museum which held some interesting displays of what life may have been like in Iceland in the 18th and 19th centuries. They also had remains from an excavation that was completed at the sight of a monetary. They had bones from graves and parts of the traditional coffins. There were some interesting observations about the bones, a lot of the people were malnourished in some way and there were a number that were thought to have down syndrome. Also, the number of girls outnumbered the boys 2 to 1 – and this was specifically with respect to the infants buried. One might venture a guess that girls were euthanized due to them not being as “useful” or they may be considered more of a burden. I know that this was the case with the Inuit culture many years ago. The girl babies were placed outside the tent or igloo when they were born if the parents didn’t want her. She would then die due to the cold and harsh climate. After the museum we ventured off to the Culture house to see some art exhibit. The art was less than inspiring and not very interesting. It reminded me of art I did in grade 3 with liquid paint of varying colours and a straw. You put the paint on the paper and then blow it around the paper with the straw. VERY fun when you’re 9 but for some reason I don’t think that the artist was 9.
Once we were on the bus it was smooth sailing – 29KM of winding roads leading us up and down until we came over a hill and our jaws dropped. The fjord was stunning. Water falls were falling from every corner, the hills were green and then dropped quickly into cliffs. This was a place that inspires people to move to different countries. Our heads were swiveling so much they ought to have popped right off our heads and no matter how many pictures we took of this waterfall paradise, they would never do it justice! Despite the rain, we trekked to the tourist place and trekked to our hostel… it was honestly here where a pain in my foot became unbearable. We got to the hostel and were able to score the last 2 bunks… whew… everything else was booked up apparently! After dropping the backpacks and putting in a load of laundry we hit the town for some grub! We ended up at Elsa café which was the proprietor’s home that he had converted the bottom portion into a sports pub. We had a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and a beer – yum! S-Town is actually the port where the boats come in from Europe so on Thursdays this town is bustling and this pub is probably full of Scottish folks looking for a pint and to watch the soccer match (ok, total stereotype but am I wrong here?). After the walk we thought we would head to the super market for some snacks and breakfast materials for tomorrow but it was closed… off to the second best thing here in Iceland – the gas station. We grabbed some grub there (honestly, it was a pizza) and headed to the hostel to take in the amazing view and to plan our day tomorrow.
The hostel we stayed in was 2 houses brought in from Norway that were meshed together. This made for some of the walls being VERY thin. The bunks were 2x4’s and plywood with thin mattresses on them which made them very hard and very noisy every time you moved. We shared a room with another man named Zac who interestingly enough is travelling around the world – he is from Wyoming. He is taking the ferry out to Europe because he doesn’t like flying and the flight from New York to Iceland was just barely 5 hours. Needless to say, he was interesting. Not only did the beds squeak but the doors slammed, now I am not sure that this was because of the people who were yelling throughout the night (or so it seemed) or if it was legitimately the doors, but it felt like the doors were going to slam right through the wall! Needless to say, Derek and I didn’t get the best sleep. The common area and the view, I might add, were really great though and deserve to be mentioned… if only we could have slept out there!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Iceland - Day 5

Today was the day of the blue lagoon! Since we stayed out late the night before, we thought we’d rest and sleep in a bit. By the time lunch rolled around, we had food in our stomaches and tickets in our hands for the blue lagoon. A 45 minute bus ride from Reykjavik, the blue lagoon is in the middle of nowhere. You can see it from a couple km’s away as the steam from the hot water gives it away. The landscape is almost moon like in that the lagoon is in the middle of a former lava field from a long ago erupted volcano. Going into the blue lagoon itself is a bit of a process, you have to check in, get a bracelet that is your key to your locker and also your key into the lagoon area – all automated and very cool. Then you go into the huge changing rooms, try and find a locker (good luck on a busy day) and change. Then you have to have a shower without your suit on – why I don’t know – then put your suit back on over a wet body and then you get to the lobby of the actual lagoon itself.

Once the lobby doors open though, you can see the beautiful lagoon and its milky blue water… then the FREEZING COLD wind hits you (and remember that you are wet) and you almost sprint to the water. After a marathon, I am certain I looked more like an abused penguin, but I made it, flopped semi-gracefully into the water and there we remained for the next 2.5 hours! The water wasn’t what I thought it would be. I was imagining this refreshingly hot spring water all over… but this is not the case. Throughout the vast pools, the temerpature varies. Some places (like the middle) are freezing and some places (near where they put in fresh spring water) are very hot… you’re mission (should you choose to accept it) is to find a place that Goldilocks would approve of… juuuust right! Once you’ve found that place, then it is time to go and get a silica mud facial mask on and bask in the beauty that surrounds you. The silica mask is basically as it sounds, a mud mask made of silica mud that you lather on to your face to make your skin glow. After about 15 mins of it making my face itchy I would wash it off… BUT, my skin does feel smoother!

After our relaxing time spent in the water we got out to catch our bus back to Reyjavik. We had enough time to grab a snack, look at the gift shop and take a couple pictures… or so we thought! We get to the bus pick up location and lo and behold, our bus is not there… granted we were there at 5:15 and the bus departure time was 5:15 but seriously… leaving us stranded when we had a celebratory (and free) supper to go to… UGH! I then did something very uncharacteristic of me… I didn’t freak out and panic… I sat down, sighed and waited for a solution to present itself… sure enough 2 mins later there was another couple looking as paniced and lost as I felt. They too were left behind by the early to leave bus. We managed to call the bus company to confirm the bus had left and sure enough it had and basically, you snooze you loose was their philosophy when it came to us being stranded. Our options… wait for the 6:15 bus (Supper started at 6:30) or hire a taxi to take us back… we ended up splitting a taxi with the couple (we found out they were from Sweden). Fourty five minutes and $45 later, we were at our hotel, rushing to get ready for the celebratory dinner for Team D… our last official event of the Team D experience.

Dinner began with a lovely glass of wine and some mingling… it was honestly amazing to see how many people we still did not know! The meal was good, even if they selected the food for us… we totally lucked out with chicken as the main course. We spent some time reflecting as a group on the great things that Team D has done over the past 10 years and some numbers like 26.6 million dollars have been raised for the Canadian Diabetes Association, 80 destinations have been visited, 3 million diabetics and 6 million pre-diabetics helped with our fundraising, and it went on… I lasted through the whole weekend, the whole run, and crossing the finish line, achieving a goal I set so many years ago - all without crying – quite the feat for me – but I was crying when Fred (the director of Team D) told us these stats… that’s what made this all worth it. Knowing that the money that I raised could help with important research to find a cure, or it could help a family adjust to one of their members being diagnosed with this disease… it made all the pain, the stress of fundraising, the hassle of the early morning Sunday runs, the lack of beer and wine – it made it all worth it. So, the tears were tears of joy that the small and meager sacrifices that I made in my life may impact the life of someone else, and perhaps (fingers crossed) the life of someone that I love.

So, after the inspiring supper, we said good bye to our new friends and headed to our hotel to warm up from the wind and cold, and plan our pending adventure into the wilderness of Iceland. We literally stayed up until 12:30 discussing all our options and not being able to settle on just one… so we just booked a domestic flight to the opposite end of the country and decided that this would be the place that our adventure alone begins. Tomorrow at noon we will be in Egilsstadir (or “E-Town” as we call it because you try and pronounce that name!)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Iceland - Day 4 - MARATHON DAY!

I woke up early this morning, looking forward to getting the show on the road. I had a wonderful breakfast with some of the Team D members and then got ready for the run. We met as a team at the Hotel Centrum for a team picture and then off to the start line. I must admit, I was a lot calmer than I thought I would be... I thought I would be a basket case, but in reality I was as cool as a cucumber (I think I was freaking Derek out!). Suddenly, the starting gun went off - perhaps there was a count down but it would have been in Icelandic! Off we went! I managed to get on a steady pace and become buddies with another lady who was doing the 1/2 marathon. We ended up running almost the whole 1/2 marathon and to be honest, it was nice to have company for the first part to keep my mind off the daunting task before me. Derek was cheering me on just past the 10 K mark and just before the 18K mark - we have the pictures to prove it.

Cathi and I parted as she went on to finish her race and I turned on the ipod and started my solo journey. Things were going great until the 26th ish Km and then the pain started in - this is when I remembered how much my brother has to struggle daily to maintain his diabetes and that kept me motivated to keep going, working through the pain - like he does every day. At about the 30th Km I was so glad to see Derek. Not only did he have food and water, but he also managed to run with me a couple Km's and was challenging me to a race! This pissed me off (as you could imagine) and after about 2 km's I passed him and never looked back! These were the hardest km's for me because I can show weakness to Derek and he will still love me so I kind of fell apart a little. He would have none of it though and pushed me to keep on running. (Thanks babe for being you and keeping me going!)

The next hard part was at about 37km, I knew that I was almost done but the wind was blowing me literally sideways and it was getting frustrating and unbearable. I then looked up over the grassy hill to see a lighthouse and that reminded me of my Grandma - who happens to have gotten diabetes - so that made me tear up, bear down and keep on trucking.

The last 5 km's or so I just enjoyed (as sad as that sounds) and ran at my own pace. It was so awesome to come around that corner and see the finish line. There was a lady in front of me, and to be honest I gave it my all to catch her in the last 5K... I ALMOST made it, but my tired little legs just couldn't give me that little bit extra that I needed. I finished in 5:25:38 which was 25 mins past the time I was hoping, but I am not disappointed by any stretch - I finished and that was the main goal!

It is nice to know that you can do something when you put your mind to it, and I do know that I won't WIN a marathon any time soon, I can proudly say that I have done one and for a great cause!

The rest of the day included eating chips, drinking a couple beer, having a waffle with chocolate and whipping cream... all the good stuff. It also consisted of a really cold shower and a 3.5 hour nap.

After the nap, Derek and I hit the town for the Cultural night of Iceland. It is when the whole of Iceland practically comes to Reykjavik to party and indulge in the finer things. They have concerts around town, excellent food venues and fireworks. We went and cruised around until my poor feet couldn't take any more. We also went to a couple night clubs that are oh so popular with the locals. It was a great night that was topped off with good music, yummy food and the best fireworks I have ever seen - the Icelanders LOVE fireworks! Off to bed now as it is past 2am here. I wanted to make sure that this was up to date for all those who are reading!

Off to the Blue Lagoon tomorrow to soak my sore body in the healing hot springs!

Iceland - Day 3

Today was another early day, we woke up and caught our bus for the Golden Circle tour today.

First stop was a geo-thermal plant. This plant uses the hot thermal water from the ground of Iceland to provide all water to Reykjavik and surrounding area. It was fascinating that they have been providing this for most of their country (94%) for the past 20 years. They also provide electricity, so basically, they are using a very environmentally friendly way (and sustainable way) to heat and water their country... we should take note!

After that was Dingvillier which is the place of the first 'Parliment' in the world. It is all outside and a wide open space but is on a fissure that is on the American and European tectonic plates that are slowly pulling their country apart. Very interesting.

We were then off to Gullfloss which is a waterfall that was stunning and we also had lunch. The waterfall rivaled my home town's victoria fall and Louise falls!

After the falls we went to Geysir which is a Geyser. This is actually where the name of the geological phenomenon came from. The hot water that shot from the earth was originally named Geysir, and later the geologists named all phenomenon like this geyser. All of the geysers here have different names. It was awesome to see a giant spout of hot water shoot from the earth.

The final stop was a church where Catholicism was eradicated from Iceland by the Lutherans. The bishop of this church was actually beheaded at this site. The church was very simple but beautiful and had gifts of thanks to the Lutherans from all the Nordic countries.

Our tour bus dropped us off at the Pasta dinner at a beautiful place for our pre-race dinner. It was a great dinner and was once again nice to meet some of the people I would be running with.

A great day of adventure and learning the history of this country.

Iceland - Day 2

We got up early in the morning - day 2- and headed to the harbours. I was so very excited for today because we booked a PUFFIN TOUR! Puffins are the bird of Iceland and are quite frankly, adorable! We found our boat and headed out to the island Lundey just east of the Reykjavik harbour. Thirty minutes later, we were laughing at the funny puffins! The flap their wings something like 300 times a minute and look very funny as they remind me of giant butterflies. They don't have great landing skills, and we saw a bunch of them crash land into the water or land as they were bringing their young their food! It was great - and so scenic!

After we returned from the Puffin tour, we went to our Team D welcome party... it was great meeting some of the people that I would be running with. We also found out that there are 60 runners and we have all raised over $445,000 for the Canadian Diabetes. Great job Team!

Once we were filled with the free brunch, we went back to our hostel and checked out and found our new hotel. After settling in, we scooted around town checking out the sights. We went to the top of the church and got a panoramic view of the city, saw a square that the young people have picnics in the evenings, and just took in the great sights of the city.

We are having a great time!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Land of fire and Ice - Day 1

First impression of Iceland... Who knew there would be so many trees? It is green and lush and for a country that is above the 60th parallel, it sure has a lot of trees. It is also a LOT warmer during the day than we thought... it cools off at night but it was close to +20 this afternoon and just beautiful!

It is wonderful thus far. We found a lovely hostel with a huge room for tonight, and its just off the major shopping streets. We had breakfast with a bunch of fellow Team D folks and managed to get in some great sight seeing as well. Not that we can pronounce anything that we saw!! The language is hard to pronounce for our North American tongues, but is a lot less phlegm-ie than I thought it would be. The people seem really nice and willing to help you out with questions and silly tourist worries. I must look Icelandic however, as I was asked by 2 separate families for directions!

Tomorrow, the remainder of the team comes in and we have a meet and greet. There will be almost 100 Team D members (60 of those runners) in attendance! I am looking forward to the breakfast! :o) Before this breakfast however, we are going on a puffin tour - out to see these crazy birds in the early hours of the morning! Apparently, they are known for their poor flying abilities and their crash landings... I just think they are WAY too cute!

That's all for now, I will keep you all posted as the time goes on. The jet lag is starting to really get to Derek and I as he is sleeping right now and I am hardly staying awake. I guess not sleeping for over 24 hours and then having a 3 hour nap doesn't cut it. It is just past 9:30 pm here so perhaps we can get some sleep and wake up early for the puffins and be acclimatized already! :o)

Sending you warm wishes from the land of fire and ice... and a huge thank you for all of you who helped this dream come to fruition. T minus 3 days!

Heather and Derek

Friday, August 06, 2010

14 days until I'm running

It seems that I have been Forrest Gump for the past year... where ever I was going, I was running! Well, as my friend Nancy says, soon "this is where the training pays off"... in 14 days from today, I will be running a Marathon (a full 42.2km) in Reykjavik Iceland. I am nervous, excited, anxious and curious as to what it will feel like. Not just at the beginning or the end but the middle, and past the 32km mark when it all becomes new, and also when it gets so hard that I will feel like giving in... THAT is when the training comes in... the mental game of the marathon begins.

Fundraising has truly taken up so much more time that I have ever anticipated. HOWEVER, the end is near... after a calculation tonight, I have a little over $1700 to raise. With cookbooks scattered across the province, I should be able to make up most of that... but there is still a couple dollars that are not fully accounted for. (this is where helpful people who love me come in handy!) Donations to would be awesome... ok, fundraising plug done.

I have already started, in my OCD little way, to pack for this epic journey. We will be arriving in Iceland in the wee hours of the morn on August 18th and return late at night on the 28th. It will honestly be 10 full days on the island, one of them being occupied of course by the run and the next day being a trip to the healing waters of the blue lagoon to soak my sore muscles in the fantastic hot pools. (I think I am REALLY looking forward to that day!) The rest of the days we are going to "wing" in that we are going to buy a bus passport for the 'ring road' that goes all around Iceland and just fly by the seat of our pants. It worked so well in Bali, why not here!

Other items of note since I last wrote... we had our Verbisky family reunion - 100 years on the family farm and almost 100 family members to celebrate! (There are officially 83 of us soon to be 84 in 6 months - congrats Amiee!). We had great weather, TOO MUCH food, good music and a great visit. It was nice to see everyone, but because I am in the middle of training, I couldn't partake in too many desserts and bevies. Derek and I also took a wee bit of a road trip to St. Paul to see where I came from and then drove down to Drumheller to see where Derek spent some of his skydiving youth. We spent about 2 + hours in the Royal Tyrell Museum which was so incredible to see after so many years... makes you feel really small and powerless to see some of those dinosaurs!

Mom and Dad are currently in the middle of a holiday to France (hi Guys!!!) and will be in Toronto the day we leave for Iceland... One part of the family returning to the country and another part leaving. It sounds like they are having a great time and that makes me even more excited for our pending adventure... if that's possible! Even Derek's starting to get into the "excited I'm going on an amazing holiday adventure" spirit... starting I said, not packing already like me! :o) Our world could only handle one OCD partner and I have that one in the bag! hahaha! As always, I will be updating this blog as the adventure unfolds... most specifically focusing on the run and letting everyone know how it went!

Until the first post from Iceland comes... here is a song that has been a great motivator and spoke to me when I first heard it. I think it resonates with a lot of people and although it is sung by Miley Cyrus, It is an amazing song... it's called "The Climb". This really is the 'theme song' if you will of this whole journey... not just for the past 1.5 years where I have been committed to this run, but the 14 years before that when I first made the goal to run a marathon... I have had this as a goal since I was 16 and it's about to come to fruition... one heck of a climb!

The Climb ~ Miley Cyrus

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"

Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody's gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

Keep the faith, baby
It's all about, it's all about the climb
Keep the faith, keep your faith, whoa

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Time is whizzing...

I must admit that I have been SO preoccupied with this whole "running a marathon" thing and fundraising, planning and training for that, that I seemed to have shirked some of my duties. Namely vacuuming and blogging. :o)

Not much has been happening with us this summer... an endless supply of selling cookbooks, fundraising, running and working - that is my life right now! Derek has been teaching courses or working every weekend... making money for the big trip! :o) But, having said that all, and seeing that we are noticeably busy... we are happy. Time is ticking away and we are still living in marital bliss - How could we not be with the pending holiday we have before us!?

I have been running a lot... ok, maybe not as much as I SHOULD,  but enough to be able to make it through my first 32K run last weekend. WOW, was that a LONG way... BUT, I did it in under 4 hours which made me deliriously happy (not sure the delirium was from happiness or the run... but I was delirious non the less.) Perhaps my goal of running this marathon between 4 hours 30 mins to 4 hours 55 mins is achievable. I think it is if I stick to the training the next 34 days and eat good. (perhaps the apple danish I had for breakfast wasn't a good start...). This whole journey has been full of happiness and disappointment, pain and pleasure... I guess that is the life of a marathoner - you live for those moments where delirium takes over and it brings you through the hard and painful times. What a symbol of how life is... take the moments that make you happy and those will pull you through the sad.

I am so very much looking forward to the trip to Iceland. The more I read about this crazy, uncharted country/island, the more I look forward to our rustic, backpacking adventure. I only wish we had more time and more money... we could spend MONTHS there taking all the hikes and trails. It is a hikers paradise I have read! Hopefully we will get a hike or two in... time is of the essence and despite the rumours, Iceland isn't totally as cheap as initially thought. It will be a trip of a lifetime, however, and I really look forward to the rest... it has been a long year and a long time anticipating this. Can't believe it will be here in only 34 days!!! I run a freaking marathon in 34 days!!! Yikes... will I ever feel ready for it?

I am glad that I got time today to catch everyone up - fundraising isn't as easy as I thought and $12,000 is WAY more than I anticipated it being... but dollar by dollar, penny by penny, we are making it. Only $2908 to go and we have reached our goal! Thanks to all those who have helped along the way... a BIG THANK YOU go out to the parental units for the contributions a plenty... Thank you for helping me make a difference! Thank you for helping me achieve one of my life goals! Thank you for having me!! :o)

Until next time - here's a quote or two for you all to ponder!

"Even if I come in last, I'll always be ahead of the person that didn't get off the couch" ~ unknown 

- and - 

"The long run is what puts the tiger in the cat." ~ Bill Squires

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Uncle Ed

On May 25th, 2010 the world lost a wonderful and kind human being. Ed Wolanski, my uncle, died of a heart attack while in the hospital undergoing treatment for brain cancer. He was a gentle man, known for his listening and asking those important questions. He was a gentle soul who was so brilliant, creative and loving.

Derek put together a video hommage to my Uncle Ed... take a look and enjoy his easy smile.

I remember when I was a little girl we visited Ed and Ollie in Ontario. His welcoming smile made me smile and always made me feel at home. We would spend lazy days at the cottage and Ed's quiet reflection would evoke converstation and he always tried to engage us as kids... even when we were 10 or so. He loved to make you think.

What I will miss about my Uncle is his easy smile and welcoming hug, but also his inquisitiveness and curiosity about who YOU are. He was never one to shy away from the hard questions but he always asked in a way that made you want to answer them. He was a kind, gentle man full of spirituality and goodness. I will miss him very much - most specifically at the 100 year reunion, where 52 years ago Ollie and him shared their wedding. It would have been wonderful for him to be there to celebrate with us, but in truth, I am glad that he was taken without the great suffering and pain that is associated with brain cancer. He will share in our celebrations in spirit, and we will remember him.

Uncle Ed, thank you for sharing your wisdom, kindness and love with the world. We are better and kinder people for having known you - you will be greatly missed by so many people. I love you and miss you.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

People are mean

I have lost faith in the goodness of people. I always believed that people were inherently good... that just isn't true.

Throughout this past month I have experienced people slamming the door in my face, yelling at me because the colours changed one software application at work and was told that its policy to charge for adding my HUSBAND to the car registration. People SUCK... the long and short of it.

One of these days, I am going to be in a terrible mood and someone is going to be a jerk (as they normally would be) and I'm going to loose it... like the Champ... Head fake them with my purse, an upper cut to the chin and a right jab to the solar-plexes! Look out, the wrath of Heather just might come one day!

Is it me? Have people grown grumpier and more unhappy throughout the years? I try and keep optimistic, try to be happy with what I have and where I am at the present moment... it really isn't that hard, just think of all the people in the world that have less than you and be thankful you are where you are. Some people can't be happy with ANYTHING... they are soul suckers. Be wary of soul suckers because if you get too close you will fall under their spell and become a soul sucker too!

Enough ranting for one day... enjoy the sunshine that is in your life, regardless if it is raining because someone, somewhere has it worse than you. Be thankful and joyful for what you have... this will radiate to others! And above all... DON'T be a soul sucker!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

15 years have passed!

On April 30th, 1995, a young girl of 13 was killed tragically in a car accident in my home town. Deanna Starcevic, a grade 7 student, was out with her boyfriend at the falls enjoying a spring day. Her boyfriend had been drinking, and before he knew it, on the twisty turny road that is between Enterprise and Hay River, the car was out of control and had rolled numerous times. Deanna was dead and the boy, just 18, was found later on to be a murder and sent to jail.

15 years later, I pause to reflect on that day, the feeling of knowing someone I had seen in school had died. It was my first real experience with death and I had no idea how to feel. I didn't know Deanna at all, she was younger than I, but I knew of her and her presence in the school. I remember the solemn feeling that the school had at that time and it was a while until joy was felt again. I recall going to the funeral and seeing, for the first time, a man crying - that image will be in my head forever. Her father, standing by his car, wailing in grief saying "My Baby is gone, my baby is gone". I hadn't cried at the funeral at all (which for me is abnormal) and I guess I didn't know how to act. I remembered crying after seeing her father cry - I remember thinking that my father would be doing that same thing had it been me that was just put into the ground. It was a lot of firsts for me, and it impacted me more than I think I knew at the time. I still have the leaflet from the funeral - the things that we keep. I have had the leaflet in my book of handwritten poetry since, and there it will stay forever.

"... We fancied that we hard them say, "Dear Lord, thy will be done, For all the joy Thy child will bring, the risk of grief we run. We will shelter her with tenderness, we will love her while we may, And for happiness we have now, forever grateful stay. But shall the angels call for her, much sooner than we planned, We shall brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand."

I guess that I have remembered Deanna 15 years later says something about the impact that her life had on mine. Not that I knew her, but the loss of her life taught me about grief and mourning, but also taught me early on that life does go on. Every time that I am on that windy road between Enterprise and Hay River, I always try and remember what corner it was that the accident occured and I remember the impact that event had on my life and so I guess, in my small way, I will forever remember her - Rest in Peace Deanna.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The cake geek?

Not sure how it happened... but I have become the resident Cake decorator! Honestly, though, I do enjoy it so it isn't hard to deal with... it is just weird because I am not all that artsy!

See exhibit 1 - the Princess cake I made for Lily's third birthday... It turned out pretty good... even if it DID fall apart when we tried to move it!

Then there was Rowan's cupcake which turned out AWESOME! It was delicious and didn't fall apart! See exhibit 2:
Then, lately, there was Derek's Cake for his Surprise birthday this past weekend. The original didn't work out at all... the icing just wouldn't stick to the sides of the cake... have you EVER heard of that? It was so odd. BUT, after a trip to the store late at night and some creativity (not really mine but our friend Kimberley who has a masters in Art) we ended up with a fantastic parachute cake for him! See exhibit 3:

So... Lily is turning 4 and I have a fantastic cake planned for her... lets hope it works out and doesn't fall apart like last years!

Until next time... Cake Geek signing off!

Exhibit 4: Lily's 4th Birthday cake - a Safari Train!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The article that never was...

This past month I attended a meeting for the provincial skydiving association. I was shocked at some of the comments of the President that were demeaning towards women. It seems that despite the technological advancements of the sport of skydiving, the social aspect is stuck in the 1960's when it comes to women's roles. This upset me. This, along with the significant amount of funding the government has issued for women in sports prompted me to write an article for the Canadian skydiving Magazine. Unfortunatly, it will never be printed because it speaks negativly about government funding and I guess is a bit 'strong' worded. I was told by the editor that if I toned it down and didn't speak against funding then it could be printed... but that would take the soul out of the piece. SO... seeing as it will never see print, I figured to put it here. At least SOMEONE other than Derek and the editor will have read it! Enjoy - and let me know what you think!

Promoting women in Skydiving, a different perspective:

By Heather Hamilton – Sociologist and Tunnel Flyer

One of the things I love most about skydiving is that when a team is in the sky, it doesn’t matter if they are male or female, it matters what slot they are, what maneouver they are completing, what role they are fulfilling. Their gender doesn’t seem to be an issue in the sky, so why, when on solid ground, does it pose such an issue.

The Government is currently trying to assist sports that have distinct minorities to up their numbers of that particular minority. Women in skydiving are a very real minority as only 22% of Canadian skydivers are women according to CSPA’s records for 2009. Go to any drop zone on any given day and you will see this very prevalently. New Government programs are being created and funding given out for promotion of the sport to women. I think promotion of the sport is great, I am all for it, but why do we have to promote the sport to only women. There are many sports out there that are drastically skewed the opposite way and have way more women in the sport than men, such as Figure Skating, and I don’t see funding being created for the promotion of men in that sport. It is because our society views women as less prone to engage in sporting activities, and in an era where women want full equality, it is suggested that this may be the way to increase equality in some sports. Retention of women in extreme sports will always be low, this is because of the makeup of what society expects from men and women as well as what the sport entails. Some would even argue it is in our genetics, in our fight or flight response or our hormones. Whatever the reason, we know that in the coming future it is doubtful to have a 50/50 split of women and men involved in skydiving.

What could be a different solution to the retention of women in skydiving is the manner in which women are viewed within the sport. Women have been known to be powerhouses, and if you look at some of the top teams in the world, they have women in them. Four way FS teams Peris Fury and Arizona Airspeed both have women jumpers (Christy Frikken & Eliana Rodriguez respectively), our very own Tropical Fish (who received silver at nationals in 2009) have a female member Monique Andrie (who is also CSPA’s newest Course Facilitator) and, Amy Chmelecki has revolutionized VRW as a discipline along with her team Arizona Arsenal. Former Canadian National 4 way teams Stratosphere had Tana Nash and Basic Instinct had Nesta Chapman (also a Course Facilitator), and let’s not forget the all female 4 way team Cat Women, as well as many other Canadian women skydivers such as Jean Aitken, Tina Buckthorp & Nathalie Gaudreault who have been involved in big way formation records. There are even more examples of the leading roles women have played in this sport when you look at the competition records (found on the CSPA website at Just look at the amazing role models women have in the sport.

Whether a recreational or boogie jumper, a junior or competitive jumper, take some time to stop and observe the drop zone around you. Listen to the remarks about gaining more altitude for a “flash” or see the all female teams use names like “Pussy Galore” (which is mild compared to some I’ve heard) and then start to realize why women may not be sticking around and why women’s participation could be so low. While having the ability to be powerhouses, on an average day at a typical drop zone, women are not being treated as such. Where else in our daily lives do we allow such stereotypes and comments? Why would we allow it to be accepted at the place we go for recreation? Time and again I have heard remarks about women’s “role” or some comment that is of a sexist nature. While all remarks are intended in fun, they have a more profound meaning for the women in our sport. It gives the impression that women are less valuable and weaker than the men in the sport, and this is simply untrue. Sociologist and skydiver, Jason Laurendeau, studied this point in his paper “Just one of the Boys” and found that while women felt like they were equal in their ability, they were not being treated or represented as such.

If we look up to the women that are the leaders in our sport, we would know that they wouldn’t tolerate or subscribe to the antics described above. They are serious and passionate about this sport and it reflects in how they treat themselves and others, and in what they tolerate. If we follow the example they have set for us and have more respect for our fellow skydiver whether they are woman or man, then perhaps women might feel more welcome and less threatened or exploited. I am all for extra funding for increasing awareness of the fantastic sport we all love, but let’s be our own advocates for women in the sport. Let’s support each other in a positive way and not in a derogatory or sexist way. This will show the public that we all are proud of our sport and that our sport is proud to have women (and men) as members of it. We are a community of diverse but passionate people, and when we are in sky it doesn’t matter what our gender is so why is it such a big deal when we’re on the ground?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feb's ramblings...

Well, here I am on nights again and alone as Derek has abandoned me for Arizona. :) He left on the 16th of Feb and hasn't looked back since. He is in 'Skydiving Mode' which means he is not really all that concerned about the snow that we get or the mail that comes... all that takes a back burner when it is Arizona time! Truth be told, he isn't having much luck down there this year as the wind tunnel is out of commission until mid March and the weather has been cold and rainy! I feel bad for the guy, sad perhaps because he is in AZ - land of sunshine and happiness - but I do... he looks forward to this ALL year - it is his time to be in his element, with like minded people who love to do what he loves. It is his "Derek time" and I really don't like when that is messed with. I wish him blue skies and fair winds for the remainder of his trip... and I hope that he gets to jump out of something cool like a DC3 to make up for the tunnel being out of commission.

As for me... I am running again, reading and working on my website. Check it out when you have a second... it is a work in progress... but I just wanted to see if I could do it! Let me know what you think. It all seems to always return back to this blog, however, and whether or not the website stays, this blog will live forever. It has become my online journal of my evolution of being human. How could I get rid of that?

It always amazes me how many people actually read this... I heard twice in the past 2 weeks about how people like to read my "blog thingy" so they know what is going on with me... it is encouraging and flattering that people take the time to read my ramblings. It gives me hope that my thoughts and writing are actually entertaining enough to return to time and again... hope for the potential book that I keep dreaming about. The dream however, is being a recluse in France and drinking espressos until my book is done. Not sure if it will happen that way or not, only time will tell!

Some of you may laugh, but lately, I have been feeling a little old. Not ANCIENT as in 95 years old kind of old, but old as in I have lived long enough to know someone for 20+ years. It is WILD when you can say - "Oh yeah, I lived in Iqaluit about 20 years ago" and be RIGHT! Then I look at where we were and who I was (a mere 9 years old) and I think how much time has passed, of all the people who have come and gone from my life, of all the people who left footprints on my heart. I feel warm and bubbly inside when I think of that. Then, I think of how un-cool I could now appear to my young cousins who are just graduating high school... I am their OLDER cousin... as in, could have bootlegged for them for the past 10 years old, as in have lower insurance because I am 'responsible' old. Perhaps this comes in the wake of my youngest cousin turning 18. That's it... there are no more underage cousins... we are ALL legal on both sides... what a revelation... that means that time is passing and life is moving on. The problem with this... I still FEEL 12! I still feel like catching snowflakes on my tongue and running around in the rain splashing in puddles. I don't think I am old, but looking around and seeing the world outside of my 'bubble' things are moving along, time is passing by, and people are getting older. I knew that time was passing and that life was being lived, but I didn't think that I would be feeling any different when I observed than I normally do. Who knew... and why didn't I get the memo!

Speaking of time gone by... I want to brag a little about our home town hero. Brendan Green is in the Olympics and races this Friday (in 2 days). I don't know Brendan on a personal level, but we could pick each other out in a crowd and know who the other person was. I watched as this gangly quiet boy grow up in the shadow of his brothers and sisters. His is the youngest of the Green clan (and I often referred to him as "little Green") and although he was an amazing athelete, all the Green's seemed to have that gift. Now, I see his pictures and video of him racing in Biathlon, and he astounds me. He is a strong, energetic, focused man who is following the dream he has had since he was "little Green". So, on Feb. 26th, I (along with my entire hometown) will be wearing Green and will be glued to the computer watching him race and fulfill his dream of being an Olympian. He is only 23, so this may not be his only Olympics - but you only have one first so this one is special! GO BRENDAN GO! To see more on Brendan, go to his blog and check it out... our hometown Olympian! We are already SO proud!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January Blues

It seems that everyone I know is off on some great adventure to some warm location and Derek and I are stuck here, in snowing and icy Calgary. It was just a year ago when we graced the beaches of beautiful Bali, and then not long after being home we hit the road for Southern California, Reno, Vegas and Arizona. We were quite the globetrotters last year and I guess I am jonesing for a fix of jet fuel and passports! Derek will be off and away to Arizona in three weeks for his annual trip to Eloy. I will be staying home. I couldn't get the time off work and it didn't make sense for me to go this year. We are going to Toronto in March to visit family and see the sites however, and so maybe that will tide me over for awhile.

Iceland seems so far away but in reality... it is only 207 sleeps away or 7 long months! It seems like such a mountain that I need to climb because of the fact that I still have so much money to raise. I am only at about $3000 and my goal is $12200. I just sent out my cookbook to be printed so I hope that brings in close to $3000. I also have Yuk Yuk tickets left so that should bring in about $1000 and I still have yet to solicit straight donations so I am hoping that by June I have it all in order and the only thing I have to worry about is training! Speaking of training, I have the green light to run again from the Dr. and Physio guy... so I am taking it slow and steady and focusing on re-building the base that I lost in the 2 months of dormancy.

I just wanted to vent about not having enough traveling time set aside for us this year... next year things will be better and I hope that we can travel much more than we have this year... I guess it all depends on us winning the lotto! Perhaps I should finally buy that ticket! :o)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My thing

I just finished watching this episode of a show I like. It is about this girl who is in High School and she is asked to do special tasks for God. The moral of most of the tasks is to see how one action can and does affect others. This episode was different... it was about her finding her "thing"- you know, the thing she's good at.

I remember being in High School, surrounded by so many people who were talented in so many ways. James Oslund was an amazing artist, Jennifer Lee was so honest and faithful and gentle, Jennifer Rosendahl was a wonderful figure skater, Tiffany Frose was so delicate, petite and graceful, Sarah Makepeace has such beautiful writing, Nancy Grimm was so smart and stood up for what she believed in... the list goes on. It seemed like I didn't have a thing... I wasn't the best skater, or the best in school; I wasn't the best basket ball player or writer or baker in home ec. I was just me, a normal person who wished that she was extrodinary. This was the story line in the show today. Joan, the main character, wanted to find her thing... and by the end of the show, she had realized that her thing was that she explored, she tried different things. Even if she failed at one thing, she picked up what she had and moved on to the next thing. She dug deep for the jewels in life, the things that make it worthwile.

I realized that I am a lot like this. I have tried a lot of different things in my life... some I have done well at and others I have failed miserably at, but through it all, I haven't stopped trying to find the next adventure life has. I guess that is a lot like what this blog has been to me... a record of the things that I have tried and explored. From pottery to skating, from the LSAT to reading Dr. Boxalls 1001 books, I have tried a lot of things. I know that I won't be the next Michaelangelo or Literary giant, but I know that my family will proudly show the pieces I have made for them, or read my blog and writings and that is good enough for me. I am happy to be me, the person who loves to try everything at least once, and who doesn't have to have only ONE thing... I choose to have many... I choose to continue to explore. Like Joan, I choose to dig for the jewels of life...

4 years ago today, I was on a date that changed my life forever. It was on this day that I had the first date with the man I call my husband. It is amazing, when you look back on the days you have lived and see moments that changed your life, and if you have any luck, they make you smile. Today always makes me smile... today, 4 years ago, the journey of Heather and Derek began, and it makes me so very happy... I suppose this could count as one of my things... finding the man who utterly loves and understands me... Life is good ... the exploration and journey blissfully continue.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The swing of things

It is the middle of January and we haven't skipped a beat when it comes to getting back to the swing of things after the Christmas/New Years hoopla. Derek has been working hard this January, which to be honest is weird as January is one of their quiet months. He just got back from Ft. Mac only in time to go back on Saturday... oh life on the road... don't miss it much!

I have been tackling my 'resolutions' like a crazy lady on fire! I have 2 (almost 3) books read off "the list", I have been continuing to "train" for Iceland by going to the pool and swimming my little heart out, I am blogging more (want proof, see my other blog) and I am eating WAY more salad this month and I am feeling better. It is funny how when you change something that seems relatively small, it makes a big difference.

I am training in the pool for two reasons, one (being the major reason) is that my foot is still "broken". I got the results back just the other day and the Dr. said that my foot does NOT have a stress fracture. SO... back to physio guy to figure out what to do with this foot! I hope that it isn't TOTALLY buggered and that it isn't too bad where it would take MONTHS to get it back in running shape. I miss running... it was a way for me to escape the gloom of my job and the yuckiness of the weather and just get inside my head and imagine what life would be like if I liked my job and lived on a tropical island. ALSO, I want to test out the shiny new PINK ipod I got from my husby for Christmas :o). I will keep you posted on how this all works out! Until then, I have hit the pool and found that, like running, it has a methodical pace that you can just get into and think about other things. It is alone time with me. I can't think too much, however, as I am not yet as confident with my swimming as I am with running... I drank 1/2 the pool last time as it takes time for me to find my rythym... much like running was at first! I had gotten to the point when I ran that I could just run out the door and keep that pace, wonder what it will be like when I get back to it! eeek...

Rowan, my brother's oldest Child, turned 5 yesterday... it is hard to believe that this little girl had overcome so much and has graced our lives with such love and enjoyment for 5 whole years! She is our miracle child, and such a wonderful and enjoyable human! Her giggle lights up the room and her successes swell my heart... I just adore her and now she is getting to be a big girl... she is out of the toddler years! We are having a big birthday bash for her on Saturday and I (as Auntie Extraordinaire) have a delicious cake planned... a GIANT CUPCAKE! The theme of her party... all things pink and sparkly! (so needless to say, the cupcake (inside) is pink, the icing will be white with sparkly pink sprinkles and tonight I am making the "cupcake liner" out of pink candy! it is going to be SO COOL!). I have a Michael's trip planned for tonight! :o)

So, alas, we are very much into the swing of January... and before we know it, it will be February and Derek will be taking off for his annual trip to Arizona (without me *sob*). Time sure does fly the older you get...

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Welcome the New Decade!

In comes the new decade and it makes me laugh to think of where I was on New Year's day when the New Millennium struck. I was in Hay River, boozing it up with my family and Aunty Jessie watching Peter Mansbridge ring in the New Year around the globe. We wore ridiculous 2000 glasses and drank from champagne flutes that said 1999/2000 on them. It was a happy New Year indeed!

It is also a time to take a look at what I have done and where I have been the past decade. I was in College when the year 2000 came, I was in year 2 in Grande Prairie and loving independence and learning. I was 19, it seems SO long ago! I have since been to University and received my degree and in the process met so many people that changed my life forever. I have been in some bad relationships but persevered and have found the love of my life. I have struggled to blend in and be who everyone else wanted me to be and realized that who I am is just wonderful and when I am myself people love me whether I succumb to everyone else's expectations or not. I have learned so much and discovered who I am in the past decade. I am exactly where I should be... on the brink of finding a career I love, sharing my life with someone who values me and loves me just as I am, and creating goals for myself that challenge me, help me to be a better person, and make me stronger. It was a busy decade!

What do I want for the next decade? I want life to keep on keeping on... I want those unexpected corners in the road of life to come up, so we can move with it and venture through this adventure called life. I don't want to set goals for the next decade, I know that I want to keep on checking things off my bucket list, and keep on traveling as much as we can. I want to keep my options open and take opportunities as they come.

I do have a couple resolutions, however for this coming year. They are as follows:

1. Train for and run the Marathon in Iceland   DONE
2. Live a healthier life - eat better and work out more DONE
3. Read at least 20 books off "The List"
4. Be nicer to my family and friends - they are the people I rely on most
5. Volunteer more
6. Try to get more items off my bucket list DONE
7. Be true to myself - don't go with the crowd all the time
8. Blog more
9. Get my website up and running DONE!
10. Finish 2 more courses for my Communications degree

I figured since it was 2010, I should have 10 resolutions. All of these basically are resolutions that make me better, healthier and happier. I hope to blog more to keep you in the loop with how they are going!

Until then, Happy New Year Blogging world and welcome to 2010!!!