Waking Up In Canada

Time Out Just To See

My life, today February 11, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 11:49 am
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I started this blog in a small room I rented as part of my work package, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, in the town of Banff, Alberta. I was alone, but with a team in Ireland keeping track of me and an international squad of salespeople, ski instructors, rock specialists, musical stars, party animals, yogis and snowboarders and lawyers-in-waiting, even an ultra-marathoner to get to know, I was kept from falling.

In having little I recognised it is in simplicity, we have abundance. In being  alone, I opened up to having company; that solitude can be too much. I would eventually realise, no woman is an island either.

It was an amazing experience.

I am now building a home with a beautiful man in the Alberta Prairies. Instead of a ring of mountains I have fields as fas as the eye can see. My horizon has never been so far away. Back then, in my small room and small world, I was finding out what I loved and who I was. I stopped looking at the future and lived in the here and now. Now, I am with he whom I will spend the rest of my life with. I becomes we.  This is my home now, my future, my world.

I wash the dishes, knowing how much I love having a clean kitchen to wake up to, but then spend an age inside my head, working out if it was my turn, if it has become my chore, if I am compromising my feminist values or satisfying my inner need for order. If he washes the dishes because I have asked him, does that count? Nobody wants to do dishes, but should he not want to do them so as to please me. Then I wonder why it is about me, when he benefits just as much from washed dishes and clean laundry and a full fridge. When he does wash the dishes, I cringe at the running water, the deep attention to detail and a 5 minute task taking 15. I often leave the kitchen and distract myself. 30 minutes of chores sometimes become a full weekend of a life dilemma, but in the morning the kitchen is clean and that is good.

His laid back attitude gets on my last nerve when we are grocery shopping or late to a party but it is heaven to go camping with or walk by a river or hike a mountain with. His attention to detail kills me as he rinses a knife after washing, but I am delighted that he keeps my car in great working order.

He brings out the best and worst in me, and he loves me, for them or in spite of them I am not sure.

It took me 30 years to work me out and find my voice. Now, one year in, I am coming to terms that I am someone’s other half. I am in a real and proper relationship which involves finances and dishes and underwear on the bathroom floor. I am working out who I am as someone’s “other half”.

I often wonder, how does he put up with me? God love him.



The firmness of friendship March 29, 2012

Filed under: Friendship — wakingupincanada @ 6:00 pm
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When I was 16, our English teacher, a cheery, wise and happy man with a smock of white hair and thick black eyebrows commented that for our final exams, our poems would largely be based on transience, a mis-balance he believed, as in life, poems were mostly about love. I have become to wonder if he was wrong.

Banff is a transient town, and the lives of people like me are built upon hellos and goodbyes. Much revolves around the workplace here. In Banff, living space is everything, and many employers provide subsidised accommodation to their staff. The people I work with, I live with, ski with, eat with and socialise with.

Every week, people walk into our store, resumes in hand, and we don’t know if this is our new best friend standing in front of us. In our team, we have a plethora of characters  – the high energy people, the super-organised individuals, the laid-back crew, the super sellers and the super helpers. This mesh of personalities is like a microscopic view on the world and all that it takes to make it go around every day.

And just when you fall in love with it all, it is time for another goodbye. This week, we have a double dose of departure, with 2 beautiful people heading home. Unlike before in my life, when treasured companions move on to a better job or better home but stay in the area or at least the friendship circle, the international melting pot that is Banff sees possible Best Friends Forever fly off to the far reaches of the world, to a different career, a different lifestyle.

Somehow here, you connect with the transience that is life, the constant ebb and flow that is people. With every changing staff member or housemate, there is a change in the balance, the routine, the atmosphere. Sometimes it is a little shift barely noticeable, other times, for better or worse, a sudden movement occurs forcing ripples out in all directions. Sometimes the only thing is to stand firm in yourself and allow others the same courtesy. Other times, it seems to me, it is about learning from them, trusting them and enjoying them for as long as you have them.

It has been 7 months and many friends now. As 2 of my BFFs move on, I see all that they have given me: 6 mile runs through the mountains and gym workouts; pyramid hill sprints and scrabble in Tim Hortons, indulgent breakfasts and cheap cinema nights, wine and crackers and double dates. Only a true friend allows you to swear at them at the beginning of a 3 minute hill sprint or shares the joy in playing scrabble over good coffee at Tim Hortons, and offers to share the car she will win in Roll Up the Rim. A BFF gets lost with you and enjoys the views regardless.

It strikes me at these times, not how tough it is to say goodbye, but just how brilliant a good friend is. As we move through life and all its phases, a good friend grounds you, wherever your roots may be.




Patience and Peace January 19, 2012

Filed under: life — wakingupincanada @ 4:13 pm
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I am doing a challenge with Rocky Mountain Yoga here in Banff; for the next month, I will attend yoga 6 times a week. Today was Day 5, and I went twice. The Thursday morning instructor always asks us to have an intention for the session, a reason to be on our mats. Mine came to me today effortlessly: “Peace in the midst of chaos”.

There are many things going on now, mostly really fabulous things. It highlighted to me that my life is moving from my Zen-like holiday into normal life again: girly shopping trips,  a visit from family, a girls’ night out, a meal this weekend and Facetime dates. My housemates are now my friends and my co-workers are my gym buddies and with all this comes the usual pull and push of friendships, relationships, life.

On the mat, I felt the need to sync the first and second phase of my travels,  to keep me in that fresh, wondering, light space while fully engaged in life, work, family and friends. In focusing on my breath and my body through my positions, it brought me to realise that the world does not revolve around me, and that to fully engage with people, I need to look at things more from their perspective. I got a new lesson in kindness.

When I came back to my mat a few hours later, (Thursday is the only day I am on it twice, don’t worry), the word “patience” ran through my mind continually. As I struggled through some plank exercises, there it was, whispering in my ear. I looked out to the snow covered mountain and felt it’s presence, standing strong through the tests of time.

I’m not sure if it was telling me to be patient with others, with my yoga practice or with my own personal goals. Perhaps it was all 3. Some things take time, time to grow, time to heal, time to change.

I cannot rush headfirst and expect others to be my side, agreeing with me and my ways. Patience will teach me the kindness to accept things as they are, the strength to know that we all need to time to heal and grow and the love to smile through it.



And peace to all people, all people on earth December 25, 2011

Filed under: Christmas — wakingupincanada @ 1:53 pm
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The child is born and hope wins over darkness, joy triumphs over despair and across the world for even just one day, we believe in something better, for ourselves, for our world.

I have spoken to my family to the point they have nothing left to say to me. I sit with my housemates and our adopted brother and parents, my Christmas pyjamas on at 2 in the afternoon. I will dress for dinner.

There is no denying the hard moments haunting many hearts in the past 24 hours in Banff. Perhaps those most homesick were those who didn’t expect it and there it was, as Christmas Eve turned to Christmas Day, that sinking feeling that they were far from where their soul felt they should be.

What is heart-warming as well as a little heart-breaking is the strong realisation  that it is not about place, but people. When people tell about their Christmas customs, there is no mention of the size of the fire place or the view of the beach. Nobody has discussed the quality or quantity of gifts. They talk about who makes breakfast and who they spend lunch with. They talk sadly about estranged family and excitedly about the kids. They recall their parents, their grandparents, their cousins, second cousins, cousins who are not actually related. They talk about the food they eat and how their mother cooks it best.

This is what Christmas boils down to, whether or not you go to church or not. The decoration is just like that on the Christmas Cake, it looks good but lies at the side of the plate as we savour the rich fruit cake. We stop. We enjoy. Together.

Happy Christmas folks.



My day December 21, 2011

Filed under: Abundance,Doing what you love,ski — wakingupincanada @ 5:11 pm
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So I awoke and drank Camomile Tea and ate my porridge. I met my friends on the bus and headed for the hill. I decided to invest in a helmet, everyone else was doing it so I followed along. We started on our usual hill and then, with a little help from a Golden Couple, we skied, well, nearly everywhere. We aimed for beginners’ hills, blue hills, and it was fantastic being on different surfaces, a new challenge, a new view, and, oh boy what a view. There are no words for the hills at Sunshine Village, the white valleys, the trees wading in snow.

We were back at the chair lift before lunch when I realised, this is a green run. We did a green run?? We did a green run!  Sometimes ignorance is bliss. There were times I looked down the stretch of snow below me and wondered what the hell I was doing here. I parked the fear in the deep pockets of my superb ski jacket and went for it. I fell a few times, once I went over my head, to land on my head: It was a good day to start wearing one. The pain was bad enough with the insulation around it. I watched my friend do a flip too, she shredded so much snow with her that I have no idea how she fell, I only saw a cloud of white and then her lying, still. There was a moment of panic as I rushed towards her, which for me on skis, is quite slow. Eventually the white helmeted head lifted of the snow. From now on she knows, after a tumble, do not take a moment to lie still in the snow. By all means, stay down and enjoy the view but please, shout or swear or lift something, even if its one finger.

When I came home, I was connected to the internet again. It has been 2 days but it was a tough 2 days with Christmas away from my family looming at the weekend. I’ve showered, snacked on coffee, peanut butter and crackers, and now I head to yoga and then some Christmas shopping.

I look at my day, a normal day and think, I love my life.


Karaoke Night December 19, 2011

Somehow it has become a tradition, a ritual; Sunday Night Karaoke in the Paddock Pub. I can’t remember how it started, or when, but it was sometime around the time Wendy arrived in town. Last night, I actually worried that nobody was going, and I had even managed a shower on my evening break, but, locking up the store at the end of the night, the true Karaoke Queens stood on the opposite side of the road, shouting Red Rover, Run Over, and another Sunday night began.

I’m not sure if it’s Banff or the Karaoke Queens’ influence, but Karaoke is different here. They don’t need to be drunk, or have everyone else drunk first. From the moment we arrive, we are there. A note to the wise, I don’t sing, I cannot sing and have known that since my teacher stopped me singing Away In The Manger when I was around 11 years old. I dance, even when nobody else dances, I dance by the stage. I’m not good at that either, but at least people can look away. But they sing, a wide array of songs, last night including the most wonderful renditions of Santa Baby and Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. They sing smiling, laughing, and we dance along. Sometimes our group is bigger, sometimes smaller, but we are always hardy and always singing. The secret to good karaoke is play to your strength. If you cannot sing brilliantly, don’t belt out a ballad, make it upbeat and dance along. Some of the best crowd movers are people who can’t sing but can entertain. The secret is knowing you can’t sing. There is one baby-faced soul who pumps out a wicked Eminem: I’ve no idea if he can sing, but that white boy raps good.

Alcohol is optional; there are nights one of us will stick to soda, and that is always ok here. There are nights we drink bottle tops, a Canadian delicacy I ask you over 18 to try. There are nights we get pizza on the way home, perhaps via a club. It doesn’t matter if we’ve had breakfast together, at Karaoke the truth will out. We’ll know everything by Hey Jude right down to whether you are wearing (new) underwear.

You never know when you walk into Karaoke what kind of night it will be, but you do know that you will be dancing, you will be laughing you will be grabbing life by the balls.




The lesson outside the church December 18, 2011

Filed under: faith — wakingupincanada @ 11:45 am
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Today, a week before Christmas, we were getting into the good stuff: the Angel has visited Mary and so it begins. Again, we were reminded, this is Christmas not just a Happy Holiday and it is our role to bring what we hear within the walls outside, all through the week.

As I met my friends for breakfast, I reflected on this. Or rather, was challenged by it.  As I sat and discussed an awkward situation with someone, I was reminded of talking behind someone’s back. This was not the angel in my head but rather my friend, who does not go to Mass on Sundays. Her voice pulled me back. To talk in spite is wrong. I know it is, despite how good it feels to vent my anger and have others validate my negativity. I do not trust those who talk behind people’s backs, a lesson my mother long ago instilled in me. Why is it easier to complain to those who can do nothing to improve the situation that to talk it through with those who can? The friend keeps pulling me back. Just being in her presence reminds me about loose tongues and helps me to be a better person, a person I want to be.

I go to Mass every Sunday and yet, the lessons I learn often come from those who spend their time elsewhere. I think it’s God’s way of teaching me humility. Just like He preached against those who parade their generosity or their fasting, He is showing me that going to Mass doesn’t make me special. I just go because I know He is special.

There are many people I know this year that I didn’t this time last year. Some have come and gone, people I have shared hostel dorms or train journeys with, some who have moved on on their own journey. Some surround me now. Each has been a gift. They may believe in different things, different ways, but they are helping me through my flaws, to stand on my own feet, to live my own faith.