Waking Up In Canada

Time Out Just To See

Sentimental dedication November 9, 2012

Filed under: family — wakingupincanada @ 7:23 am
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I have this little sister; well actually I have 3 younger and one older, all fabulous; but this one in particular, who is the heart of the family. Somehow she keeps us all together. Quietly, she acts like the centre of the web, with all the threads cast out from her, holding onto us, keeping us attached. We all have threads weaving between us, in all directions and at odd angles, but it is her’s you can always count on to reach us all and to hold tight in the wind.

Before our other sister went to Thailand, she posted her some “Bats”, Thai money. Including postage it cost less that £20, but the thought and the time were priceless. She forced me to book hostels in advance of travelling around Canada, and to write these all down for her so she could keep track in case I went missing. It was her map that guided my boyfriend and I this summer on a 7,000 km road trip from Southern Alberta to Mount Rushmore to Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan and home. The waste company send her the text to remind my parents to put out the recycling, even though she lives in a different country. She Skypes, Facetimes, phones, texts, e-mails; she remembers little things like a long run, or her nephew’s first day at playschool, or what her niece dressed up as 2 Halloweens ago.

For some reason, she inherited more of our mother’s features than any of us and I always believed that is why my father loves her more. She has a kindness I have neither the ability, energy nor fullness of heart to imitate. She is working on her Masters while helping out at Brownies, training for a half marathon, and wonders if she is giving enough. When we say, “we should do that sometime”, she comes back with a time, date and place.

She also manages to eat small portions of food and to thoroughly enjoy every (little) bite. This, for me, is like a superpower, and I often just watch her and wonder how. I also take the opportunity to grab a fork and eat her food.

I’m sure growing up we fought though the only memory I have of her ever upsetting me is biting my bum when she was 1. She was just old enough to stand, and somehow walked up behind me, aged 6, and bit. The shock still gets me, 24 years later. For her first week of primary school, aged just 4, she cried her heart out, and I was allowed to have her sit beside me in my classroom. Then one morning, Miss. Ferry lifted her from me. I cried until I could check on her during our 11 o’ clock break. She had survived, and from then on she went to her own class.

On her first day of secondary school, my friend advised me that my worrying was pointless; the fears I had for her may come true, but I was unable to protect her, and she would deal with them as the rite of passage we all must endure.

So, instead I watched as she grew up confident and capable, kind and caring. She has kept the goodness and grew it to wisdom. She ran a 10km with me and then a half marathon. I say with, but she was out in front, leading me on. She introduced me to the wonderful world of Harry Potter and it was apt that our goodbye before my travels was a midnight viewing of his final movie. I sometimes make a stand based on principle; she rolls her eyes and advises with sense.

I told her I was struggling with writing and she challenged me to give her a story reminiscing. So here I am Lou, reminiscing about you.

See you at Christmas, we’ll read Harry Potter again.


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.


Happy to be me December 7, 2011

Filed under: ski,Travel — wakingupincanada @ 10:22 pm
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The morning on the slopes was fun, it was ok; I learned more about skiing and balance and speed and turns. Then, after lunch, at the top of the chair lift, we took the plunge and went left instead of right. By the base, we were in love. We had found the bug, the thing that brings people back day after day, sees them move to these hills for winter. There it was, on those wide open white runs, in amongst the half-pipes and trees and drops and inclines.  Letting go and soaring along, working my legs to speed up and slow down and turn and laugh and fall over and stand back up, I found what the others had told me about. This week it wasn’t about doing it; it was about loving it.

I arrived at my mat after a short nap, happy, tired, at peace. The bamboo is not jealous of the oak’s strength, the oak not jealous of the bamboo’s beauty, and I breathed through yoga, happy to just be me, right now, right here. The wise words of my teacher move through me hours later as I think back and say thank you. Whoever or whatever guided me here, wow, this is the life.



Hellos and goodbyes November 29, 2011

Filed under: Friendship — wakingupincanada @ 6:54 pm
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A text arrived on my phone today; a beautiful little girl has been born to one of bestest ever friends. My heart soared and I imagine my darling lady will be as calm and relaxed as she always is, even now that there are 2 big brothers running around the house while she sits still with her beautiful little bundle of pink. This friend walked into my life uninvited but dearly needed, with advice, laughter and a kitchen table that offered refuge. From the beginning, she was a force to be reckoned with and a fantastic friend, the type that doesn’t wait for you to call her because she called you last time, the kind that knows when just to listen, the one where you could go to hide for as long as you need.

A few hours later, I said goodbye to another Best Friend, as she heads on a long adventure home. I have known her for 3 months minus 2 days and I want to be her friend forever. This is the person who can teach you to be a better person simply be helping you believe that you already are. She is the one us newbies turned to for advice and help and reassurance and how we all go on without her smile, grace and support is beyond me.

As adults, we find it hard to make new friends. It is the kind of thing that cannot be forced and unless you are in new situations where you meet new people and gradually build up a friendship, can be almost impossible. When I arrived in Banff, a friend from home texted me “To make friends”. I told him how scary that was, and promised I would never say that to my child. It put the fear of God into me. To be fair to this friend, they texted day and night when I arrived, making sure I was ok, keeping me company, keeping me going. An episode of the Big Bang Theory is based entirely on how to make friends. Yet, I am lucky to have people who seem to arrive just when I need them. When I look at all those beautiful friends I have, here or at home, I wonder what I ever did to deserve their friendship. I have the ones who sum up the “If you ever land up in jail, don’t ring me. I’ll be sitting there right next to you”, as well as the ones I would be ringing to get us out, the ones who’d provide the alibi and the ones who would bury the body.

Some friends are here for a good time, others for a long time, and others who marry both. In 50 years time, my friend is going to come visit me in Ireland, and we will go for high tea and then later to a pub and club, because we realised neither of us dance really well, and that we could still pull off our moves when we are 80. I hope so. I’d like to have a friend at 80 who knew me when I was “young” and still wants to go clubbing.

I’d like it that they still wanted to hang out with me.



3 months November 12, 2011

Filed under: Travel — wakingupincanada @ 9:36 pm
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3 months ago tonight I arrived in Toronto alone. It was a beautiful, hot, summer evening. Looking back now, that night seems somewhat surreal. I see the Toronto streets I walked to find a supermarket, my white hotel room, the music outside on Dundas Square awaking me at 9pm. Tonight, it was dark and cold as I left work at 5pm, with a light smattering of snowflakes and I sat at my kitchen table, chatted to my housemate, drank wine and laughed.

3 months is a short time. It is summer holidays in Ireland for most secondary students. It is a probationary period in a new job. It is a season. I’ve seen a lot and done a lot in 3 months. From Casa Loma to the Niagara Whirlpool, the Museum of Civilisation to Banff’s National Museum, hot chocolate on Rue St. Denis to vegan dark chocolate tart in Wild Flour, it has been a journey I didn’t know I had in me. I have loved more and hugged less.

And the people, the wonderful and strange people I have met; the kind lady on the train bound for Ottawa, the customer who lived through communism in what is now the Czech Republic, the older couple who bought gifts for their grandkids gushing a love usually reserved for teenagers, the anthropologist-becoming-a-nurse I shared a dorm with, the Australians of Banff, the 8-year-old girl who told her aunt I was nice, my Runclub, my yoga instructors, the 2 boys who sat beside me on a seven hour flight while I went from smiling excitedly to crying recklessly.

I’ve been down to the banks of Niagara and to the top of Sulphur and am looking towards skiing the Rockies. I’ve run my fastest ever. I’ve missed 2 weddings, a graduation and a first day at school but I got letters, photographs and a Skype account. I dressed up for Halloween for the first time as an adult. I made new friends and, fingers crossed have held tightly to the ones across the Atlantic. I have written. A lot. I have met my second cousin and my best friend’s brother-in-law. I’ve smiled and laughed and cried. Once, I got bored.

Looking forward, there are a few new friends moving on that I will have to say goodbye to. I will learn to ski. I have to finish the novel-writing challenge in 18 days and I am 4000 words behind. I need to learn how to do returns and shipping at work. I also really want to do a handstand. I get to ice skate outside. I have only ever skated with the young people I worked with before, and now I have to learn to do it without them. I will celebrate Christmas in Canada with my heart in Corcreggan. There’s a lot to do.

3 months was what I promised I would give Canada. If I didn’t like it, I could go home, after 3 months. I guess I don’t hate it. Canada is no longer on probation. Let’s raise a glass for the next 3 and wish for love, laughs and learning!



The Silence of the Morning October 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 6:22 am
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For as long as I remember, I have been a morning person.

I love early mornings. I love the quiet. I love that there is little to be doing, so I get on with what I want to do. It could be reading, writing, running, or having a slow breakfast with the Sunday papers. I remember
as a child going to 7.30 am mass with my parents. As we drove along the golf course, out past the Pier and down through the forest, only the sun met us. The course waited for the throngs to arrive for the usual Sunday, the water was still without a boat on the horizon and the sleeping houses still had not put up their first smoke. A bird flew overhead and, mixed with the just awake feeling, I felt as if I were in another world, another time, of silence, peace and beauty.

My teacher taught us the saying “A good start is half the work” and that is how I feel about mornings. A morning asleep is a wasted day. There seems to be more time in the morning, as if with fewer people using this early hour, it slows down for those of us who show up to it.  Going for a run outside in the early morning, there is a magical feeling. The day is just beginning, with the potential to be anything at all. Who knows what is in store. It feels sometimes like it is just me and the sun, and that is a good feeling to start the day with.

When I was busy at work, it was the mornings I used, more than late evenings. I’d arrive at work a few hours early, put on the coffee and begin without the interruption of the phone ringing or e-mails arriving. It felt like 2 hours extra in the morning gave me a half day head-start. When I stay at my parents, I slip out while they are asleep for a run along the beach or in the forest and aim to be back before my mum awakes. My Dad is like me, a lark. It is one of the few times it would
just be he and I, passing in the kitchen, him to his cows, me to my run. On family occasions, I would sit and wait, enjoying the silence and the view, and know that before long, the throng would be awake and the day would be off again, racing along.

Since arriving in Canada, my time clock has adjusted accordingly, and I often see 6am. I was probably the earliest hosteller ever to go to bed, but I refuse to let go off my mornings. Waking Up Early In Canada gives me a head-start to my day, and allows me to see the morning beauty of
this vast country. There is something very special about running into the sun as it climbs over the Rocky Mountains. You have to wait a little longer to see it here, and survive the extra morning cold, even in days that turn out to be scorchers. But it rises and shines down, and once again I am ready to take on the day ahead.

Good morning.


Libraries: the quiet refuge October 15, 2011

Filed under: Abundance,Books — wakingupincanada @ 9:18 am
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I walked out of there into the cold, dark night, excited and elated.

Earlier that day, I saw a poster in the library about an upcoming workshop, “Canadian Writers You May Not Have Heard Of“. Given my lack of knowledge on any Canadian writers, I thought this would be perfect. I popped along at five to seven, and the room was filling fast.

Over the next 90 minutes, a crowded but comfortable room reviewed books by Canadian authors, some set here, some set elsewhere. They looked at the celebrated, the not so celebrated and the celebrated-who-did-not-deserve-it. The group comprised mostly women, a few men, from a mixture of ages and accents, sometimes agreeing with each other, sometimes disagreeing. The facilitator guided us through the workshop with passion, inclusiveness and humour. I wondered how I could learn to do that job.

I love books. I love being taken to another time or place, another person’s world. I love absorbing myself in a land built with words. I love recommending a book that is then loved. I encourage children to read at any chance I get. Whether in book form or e-reader form, and most recently, audio, I love them.

Being part of a group that oozes love for the written word took my passion and multiplied it by 100. I fed off their enthusiasm, their energy, and took notes on recommendations. There were a few books handed around, and from flicking through to a random page and sampling the prose, I could make my mind up what was for me or not. I also took note of those not my usual style but worth a try. That’s the great thing about such meetings: you push yourself out of your usual shelf.

How do books get known if they don’t have a big marketing ploy behind them? The facilitator pointed to the library as key in this area, ensuring little known writers also get to the readers.

The statement reminded me of my favourite book, Shadow Of The Wind, and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books which ensures that any book written is kept safe. To me, this is the essence of the Library, keeping books circulating. Regardless of your income, status, interests, you have access to books, at no cost. What wealth!

I joined the library not long after arriving here. It opened up to me a vast array of books , not to mention the newspapers, magazines and the DVD collection. I felt intimidated when informed that if I do not return my books, and fail to respond to the multitude of warnings, the library will hand my debt over to a Debt Collection Agency. However, on behalf of the books, I applauded the approach.

Before leaving Ireland, I dropped hundreds of my books at the second-hand store. Only my absolute favourites could be stored at my parents’ house. It was better than recycling, or, worse, landfill, but the amount of waste struck me. The library helps me be a little more ethical in my shopping, pioneering “Re-use, Re-use, Re-use”.

I had gone to the library that day to return books. 2 were late, and I asked about the fine. “We don’t charge you”, she explained, “we have a guilt jar”, pointing to the jam jar on the counter with $2 and other coins. Guilt prompted me to add another tooney (A Canadian dollor has a picture of a loon bird on it thus known as a loony; a $2 then becomes a tooney). An excessive fine, I thought, but I gave graciously because I didn’t have to. Sitting reading at a window table, the quiet calm relaxed me. People came and used the computer suite, sat and read the magazines and wandered around the shelves.

The library is the refuge for books that could slip from memory or fail to make it big in publishing. It is a refuge for second-hand books, saving them from landfill. It is the refuge for the reader, offering a quiet oasis of calm, whether your stay in town is short or long.