THE OVERRATED VIRTUE of BEING BUSY

2013-05-17 16.16.44This is post 10 of my 22- day challenge! So far so good; I am quite impressed with my determination to not falter under pressure. It is a real task to put something more or less intelligent into cyber space on a daily basis. Here we go, number 10:
If you fall into the Parent / Working category, life will offer you two guarantees: Our children will grow uo and the next tax bill is in the post! If you live in Vancouver, you can add a third certainty; sooner or later it will rain again. Like today!

Dr. Seuss said it best when he wrote:

“The sun did not shine
It was too wet to play
So we (I) sat in the house
All that cold, cold wet day.

I sat there with Sally (alone)
We sat there we two,
And I said, “How I wish I had something to do!” The Cat in the Hat

Right here I need to BLEEP: There is always something to do, to research, to focus on, to change, to clean, to bake, to shop for, to fix, to improve, to organize, to find, to connect to, to write about, to help with, to educate on, to volunteer with, to offer, to dream about, to worry / to laugh about, to waste time with, to argue about, to wash, to iron or simply put, to change the world to make it this tiny bit better.
And sometimes, on a rainy day like today, it’s fabulous to let somebody else do the above.
All I need to decide on is how to break the news to my husband when he comes home:

“Then my husband came in
And he said to us two
“Did you have fun? Tell me, what did you do?”
And I did not know what to say
Should I tell him
The things that went on here that day?
Should I tell him about it?
Now, would should I do? Well…
What would you do if your husband asked you?
(Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat)

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A NIGHT with CANADIAN ICON MARTIN SHORT

Fun Alert! Who can say no to humour?

Dominic invited me to the Opening Gala of the 2913 Comedy & Arts Fest at The Centre in Vancouver. The host of the night was no one else than Mr. Martin Short!

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Did I know he is a comedian in his own right? No. Worse to come, did I know he is Canadian, one of their National Treasures? No. But I knew he is the funny guy from Three Amigos and Father of the Bride.

Here we go, all dolled up and ready to go:

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First of all, we had to figure out what The Centre is. The centre of what? The centre for whom? The name givers for The Centre for Performing Arts decided this is a mouthful and shortened it to The Centre. Creativity reigns when it comes to naming landmark buildings in Vancouver (Do you remember PH1 & PH4 from Dress to Impress, Dec. 2012?)!

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Mr. Short came on, 20 minutes later than scheduled – don’t try to fool a German. The first thing that came to mind was, yes, he is short! The second thing was, he is a human bouncy ball. He was so excited to see us all that the second rule of joke telling went out the window: Pause for dramatic effect! He was on fire, rather, his stories were delivered in rapid fire fashion. Were their funny (the stories that is)? I am sure their were. He went from one good thing to the next!

One of Canada’s finest is so energetic, he made me nervous! Instead of fully concentrating on his jokes I concentrated fully on his gestures. His hand couldn’t decide which way to wear his suit jacket: Buttoned or unbuttoned?  Mr. Short faced his personal dilema with smooth, quick hand movements to change the state of his jacket in ongoing fashion. Let me tell you, I was so transfixed by this spectacle that I found myself watching his fingers pull off this ubiquitous stunt than fully appreciating his humour!

Mr. High Energy introduced three different acts during the first half; all good enough for their eight minutes in the spottlight. They were so funny that I can’t recall any of their jokes anymore. Unfortunately, this is the curse of the acts in the middle, they are easy to forget! It is always the first and the last one we remember!

The second half was funnier than the first one. According to ‘keep the best for last’, Mr. Short got into costume as Jiminy Glick and interviewed real Canadian Morning TV hostess Sophie Lui. He enlightened us that ‘Viagra on a lipstick makes for a stiff upper lip!”. What can I say, Mr. Short in costume is funnier than Mr. Short in a suit – no fiddly fingers during this act.

The remaining three acts were hilarious. I remember their jokes, but it would take too long to describe them in proper fashion. You just need to take my word on this one!

The last one was by far the best: A good looking Ozzie guy- with a twitch and a wonderful, sparkly personality (Wil Anderson). I loved his accent, it brought back many happy memories. His stupid story about the newest trend in L.A. stuck with me: Some folks are bleaching their hair in and around their anus… He never said if this story was based on real life experience or if this is second hand knowledge only. That idea really kept us busy, thinking and imagining. Even on our way home Dominic couldn’t help but asking:”Do you think people are actually doing that?”

I told ‘ya, this is the power of the last act: We remember it!

After we spoilt Mr. Short with laughter and a big round of applause he retaliated:”You guys are fantastic, you make me so happy, just like a dose of morphine- only, morphine doesn’t judge me!”

Humour IS a funny thing!

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CAN YOU AFFORD TO LIVE HERE?

In my previous posts I mentioned the facts that Vancouver is the most beautiful and the least fashionable city in the whole world!    Now, a recent newspaper article has confirmed what we have long suspected: Vancouver is also the second most expensive city to live in – second only to Hong Kong (source:” Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey”).

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Was our judgement impaired when we decided to move here? For the fourth time in our life together we moved to an expensive place. First it was Sydney, then London, Bussum (a village in one of the most affluent areas in The Netherlands) and now Vancouver! We, the most price conscious of all couples, are attracted to expensive metropoles!

Let me clarify one thing, we don’t live in the city per se. We live in the lower mainland area. Here, houses are affordable, nature is found in abundance and the Municipality is still debating if it is wise to put up street lights or proper road striping ( or side walks or cycle paths for this matter).

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Over the years we have learned one thing: It is not the outside ( i.e. reputation), it is the inside ( i.e. quality of life) that counts and we are attracted to.

Where else can we ski, play golf and go swimming on the same day? Personally, I haven’t lived through this particular scenario yet- the simple reason is, I don’t play golf!.

After one joyful afternoon of reckless swinging, lost balls, many loose gras patches and a phenomenal high score I was rendered the ‘loser’. That was it for me – I like to score high in order to win – the concept of low scores is nothing for me.

Can we afford to live here? Yes we can! Let me show you why: This is our ‘backyard’, sort of:

2013-01-18 11.14.25 A 45 minute car ride away you will find this:

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Living in and around Vancouver: As expensive or affordable as you wish – and always extra-ordinary!

 

ROLLER DERBY ANYBODY?

The message on my phone read:

“Hey crazy ladies, who wants to roller derby? Just saw an mssg. that they are looking for newbies and having an open house tonight. Just think about the outfits.”

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The last sentence was all I needed to know to sell this outing to me.

As far as I remember, Teutons don’t do roller derby- we watch that spectacle on TV, if at all. Mind you, the last time I checked was 25 year ago, a thing or two might have changed since then.

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Our Ridge crew left with high expectations for the introduction night ahead. Our husbands had even higher ones. They already pictured themselves, beer can in hand, cheering on sweaty, gorgeous, fighting women (their wives)! Nothing better than a good derby fight on rollerblades to put the man in a good mood!

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We wanted to see busty Amazon women in fancy, shiny, flimsy outfit! We wanted a fantasy come true, – the one where normal women escape motherhood and turn into sexy, rolling vixen! We expected ‘butch’, we experienced a heartfelt welcome.

Round and round we went on our borrowed equipment- the last time I stood on these babies was 37 years ago- nowadays I skate on inliners. Yes, I go with the times.

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At the end of the evening we chickened out- and not because we got dizzy going around or got bored rolling around in circles. We watched the scrimmage and knew straight away, this is not for us. The team was pushing, falling, overtaking each other, taking the corners on squeaky wheels. They sure looked competent, forceful and seemed to have fun. The girls knew what they were doing, they already put in long hours of practice!

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All of us decided we don’t want to get hurt, therefore we are out of the picture! We are wimps, with a capital W. We see ourselves as head of our family- any broken bones on our body and this whole, fine oiled institution called family will stop functioning- or so we think.

In our own world we are tough, macho mothers, protecting castle, kids and dogs. If you make us roll around on these devices our facade will crumble. We are vulnerable, no thank you. We prefer to keep the illusion alive. And yes, call us sissies!

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We decided to find a good old-fashioned roller disco somewhere around here, with disco ball and funky tunes. Here we will go around in circles again, but without the fear of getting slammed against the wall!

 

 

HAPPY FIRST ANNIVERSARY

Today, exactly one year ago, we arrived in Canada: Two adventurous parents and their three apprehensive children!

We had no job waiting for us, no network of friends to guide us, no family to support us, to colleagues to teach us. All we had was each other, five suitcases filled with clothes, five backpacks full of memories and the burning desire to make it ‘happen ‘in an English speaking country!
It was a year long effort to create our new life, to make new friends, to build a support network and to create our own job opportunity! Twelve months down the road I can raise my glass and say: “We made the transition, the first part of our mission is accomplished! All five of us are happy and settled. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!”

What are the extra-ordinary ingredients for a smooth transition from old to new?

For us it was / is a healthy dose of common sense, an open ear, being friendly, being open minded and most of all, the willingness to reach out and let everybody know we have arrived! Nobody will knock on your door! YOU have to go out there and knock on many different doors, to let everybody know the new girl / boy in town is here!
It is up to you to MAKE IT HAPPEN!
To stick to the Christmas theme, I let these two photos speak for themselves to demonstrate our transition from
“Just ARRIVED”:

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to “HAPPILY SETTLED:”

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P.S. Vegetarians, please forgive me!

GIMME GIMME GIMME

6,30 am: I just dropped off our teenage son for a(nother) fun day out snowboarding in Whistler – as part of the BC school curriculum.

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7.10 am: Our youngest son got up crumpy because we didn’t wake him up earlier, i.e. deprived him of some serious pre-school gaming activity on the x-box (yes, we let him, it’s the last week of school before the holiday). Furthermore, he is pissy because we told him our Secret Santa is only allowed to spend $ 10.00 on a present. His comment: “You can’t buy anything good for $ 10.00!”

7.30 am: Our middle son shuffled in from up his man-den. After a thorough inspection of our cabinet (filled with pop tarts, bread, peanut butter, syrup. oats and honey), our breakfast shelf in the pantry (cereal boxes of all shapes, sizes and colours, nuts, granola), the fruit bowl and the freezer (waffles, ice-cream, fries, garlic shrimps) he shrugged and complained: “We never have anything good to eat.”

8.20 am: I time our school run so I can listen to the ‘sleeze “on Virgin Radio – my daily dose of gossip,Today, the breakfast team skipped my beloved feature. Instead, I listened to a heartfelt story of goodwill here in the Vancouver area. The radio team was on location to bring Christmas Cheers to a family in need. In their case it was a single father with four children. According to the report this family didn’t have enough food items in the house to feed a mouse, they don’t have proper beds or bedding, no propper winter jackets or extravagent toys – i.e. electronic devices for entertainment. With the help of money and food donations of a major super market, a furniture institution and volunteers Virgin Radio was ready to offer this family a Christmas to remember.

At this point it hit me: We live in British Columbia, named after the Goddess of Wealth. BC, the Canadian province of wealth (timber, water and minerals)! This province offers one of the most varied landscapes in the world, consequently, the outdoor opportunities for sport, fun and recreation are as varied and fantastic as nowhere else in the world. (Pleasde correct me if I am wrong)!

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It is the province of plenty – plenty for some, but not all. To live in this extra-ordinary part of the world doesn’t mean its residents live the wealthy lifestyle.

Awareness for the less fortunate is all around us. Newspapers and schools are bringing us up-to-date on how to bring relief for somebody in need. I am baffled by the extra-ordinary efforts institutions, stores, sport clubs and individuals are taking to collect toys or food. We are talking strip-athons, bra auctions, free train rides, tossing teddy bears on the ice after the first goal is scored at a major hockey game, fundraisers or good old money donations.

Yes, love and awareness is all around us and we are doing our best to let it show. Mysteriously, our emergency dinner supply – canned soups and pasta- disappears on a regular basis only to be found back as a donation for the Foodbank!

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Our children may not be aware-ye t- of their fortunate situation in life, but it starts with awareness and hopefully will end with appreciation!

12.45 pm: Back at school to help selling raffle tickets before our Christmas concert. We were selling tickets to help our school to purchase playground equipment; we were selling cookies to help ‘Bring Water to Kenya’.

We were ready to sell, our parents were ready to buy. We sold the lot! It was fantastic!

This is the real wealth of British Columbia: The willingness of many to create a difference in the lives of others either here or around the world.

 

 

 

Dress to Impress & to Party Crash

We left our home turf, Suburbia, for a house warming party in Yaletown. This was our first outing to celebrate with the childless, 30-something crowd since our move to Vancouver. Needless to say, we were excited and we promised ourselves to have a fantastic time!

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We followed the instructions on the invitation and dressed to impress, brought our BYOB and an appie. For a joyful occasion like Christmas or a house-warming I refuse to wear black. I prefer to sparkle and shine in other colours. Like in this one:

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Dominic recommended to wear this piece as a dress, complete with pantyhose and  heels. As he put it:”Remember, you will compete with the young ones!” Common custom here in BC is to take your shoes off before you enter someones house. Therefore, wearing high heels defeats the purpose, especially if you wear reindeer socks. I chose comfort over fashion, squeezed into my skinny jeans and pulled on flat boots.

Dominic didn’t have a problem putting on his decade old Tuxedo – the pants come with an elasticised waistband!

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We found the allocated street and house number easy enough. The trouble started when we had to decipher the second part of the address: PH4. This was another Canadian slang (like ‘PoP”) we haven’t heard of. We somehow knew it couldn’t stand for PHfun on level 4.  The best I came up with was Party Here on level 4!

I was wrong! PH stands for Penthouse! Ohlala, little did we know about our young friends; they are living the high life in one of the trendiest areas of the city, in close proximity to BC Place and Rogers Arena.

By the time we arrived the party was in full swing! A crowded room full of young, well groomed and exceptionally well dressed young adults greeted and welcomed us! As I mentioned earlier, I programmed myself to have fun and I did. It was a fantastic evening! The only slight annoyance was the music: Way too loud and too monotunous.

During my younger years I preferred to stay till the end at any party out of fear to miss anything. Not anymore! Now I have a very simple party credo: Leave at the height of your enjoyment!

To preserve our fun memories we bid our hosts farewell and were ready to hit back home. On our way to the lift we got slightly side tracked by the loud music at PH1. Dominic and myself looked at each other, we both had the same thought:’Should we or shouldn’t we?” We were definately dressed the part – so we did it: We knocked on the door with the intent to crash their party! Guess what:

They let us in! That was truly an unexpected surprise to both of us – or, is a sophisticated, good looking (?) , freshly shaven (Dominic that is) couple hard to resist?

Our new hosts Mark and April welcomed us with open arms, a hug and glasses of wine – told ya, Canadians are friendly! Their get-together was less crowded and less noisy. It was an unexpected, very enjoyable twist to our already super evening! We talked German Gluewein, April offered us a deliscious dinner and we retaliated by introducing them to their neighbours in PH4. The result: Their two parties turned into one!

Dear PH1 and PH4, you gave us a glimpse of our past. You made us relive moments of our life! Thank you!                                                                                                          We drove back to our children with the warm, fuzzy feeling that “the oldies” brought some neighbourly X-Mas spirit to a penthouse community somewhere in Yaletown.

And the extra-ordinary moral of this story? a) Sometimes just do what your gut feeling is telling you and b) dress to impress if you want to part crash!

If you wondered what BYOB stands for: Bring your own beer.                                           Appie= Appetizer                                                                                                       POP= soda/ soft drink