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Monday, December 31, 2012

A Night to Remember

Every year we start our new years evening with a horse drawn sleigh ride into the backwoods. We sip mulled wine while slowly freezing.  Halfway into the ride all feeling to limbs cease.  The woods are pitch black and as we venture deeper and deeper you cannot help but think of all the cougar sightings in the area. (And we are talking about the 100+ lbs cat here.) It is freaky.  But the sky is clear and the stars always majestic.  We stop at a remote log cabin for reasons that remain unclear - perhaps only because we can.  It is so remote, and so deep within the woods that one can't help but ponder if an axe murderer is lurking quietly behind the door. 

When we return to the village we are barely able to walk, our faces frozen into a perma grin.  Then we head to our next stop.  Elated to be within a heated building and regain feeling to our arms and legs - we slowly start to strip off the various fleece and thermal layers until we get on down to the more appropriate festive evening attire.

I am not sure whether we are all ecstatic that we once again survived the sub zero climate while also avoiding all the evil that lurks in the deep woodland - but it sort of sets the tone for the evening. It is always an evening to remember.  It starts with freezing in the Canadian mountains and ends on the dance floor.

No matter how you decide to ring in the new year, and to those who already have - I wish you and yours all the best for 2013.  May this be the year all your hopes and dreams come true..

And...although not a Canadian tune - I cannot think of a more appropriate tune for tonight.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Epic Bail

I don’t know about you, but I had a perfect Christmas.  And that includes losing my Canadian phone during a spontaneous late-night run up a ski hill and one trip to the emergency room following a spectacular bail with my now dead-to-me-skis. 

This year Christmas brought me an abundance of gifts.  I was able to spend it with those that matter the most to me.  My friends made me feel loved with texts daily from various corners of the world.  I even found new skis under the tree to replace the pair that have attempted to kill me on two separate occasions.  (After the last bail I relegated my equipment to a snow bank and there it shall remain until it finds some other unsuspecting victim.)  But beyond all of the rather traditional Christmas fare was another unanticipated gift.  I have been running on full power for over a year.  I love being busy.  But sometimes one can be too busy and fail to give people and situations the proper time, consideration and reflection that they and it deserve.

The benefit of being around those that love and know you best is that they provide a ‘grounding factor’.  Well, at least for me anyway.  It is kind of akin to hitting reset.

So this year, Christmas gave me much more than the traditional Christmas fare. My epic bail reminded me of the importance of being strong and resilient.  My family and friends showed me that no matter where I happen to be that I am loved and appreciated.  And the pleasure I derive from being able to work in something that challenges and rewards me on so many levels.  Regardless of the physical and emotional bumps and bruises this life throws my way - it’s a pretty awesome life. 

I took my new skis for a run.  It was a bit scary I admit.  The bruises and stitches I still sport are the not so gentle reminders of the vulnerability I have both in life and on the hill.  I am not a terrible skier, but there is certainly room for improvement.  Just like in my life.  For the most part I pretty much have it all.  But as terrifying as it was to face my vulnerability after my bail – it was also pretty exhilarating.  I have been a bit reluctant to pursue some things that I know in my heart I want.  But this Christmas I realized that I have nothing to lose by going after it.  Whether I get it or not is irrelevant.  Just like if I have another monster bail on skis again - you don't know what is possible if you don't get out there and go after it.

(And oh yeah, in case your are wondering someone found my phone :) )

And here we Canadian Avril with Hot.

PS.  Moral of this blog, do a spell check before you post if you happen to sipping your second glass of Shiraz.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What is Canadian?

“What are Canadians like typically,” asked my friend on the eve of my departure home.  “You are the only one I have ever met.”

Other than the fact that I am not the ideal person from whom to adopt a general view of ‘what is Canadian’, I found myself pondering what in fact is truly Canadian?  For instance, right or wrong we throw around stereo types such as the French are romantic, Russian women are beautiful, Swiss are organized, Germans are aggressive – but what the heck could be a generalization of Canadian?

I was stumped.  Until yesterday that is, when I found myself out running errands with thousands of other last minute shoppers.  Make that Canadian shoppers. 

Anyway, I did what I always do.  Strike up conversations and make jokes with complete strangers because the timing seemed right to do so.  But there was one moment yesterday that was particularly cool.  As I left the grocery store laden with bags of groceries I watched the man in front of me stop in front of an old woman who looked both exhausted and overwhelmed with the throngs of people milling about.  The man stopped and asked the woman how she was, and the woman replied so quietly I could not hear.  “Are you alone for Christmas?” he asked.  The old woman nodded and then the man left his buggy full of food and embraced the old woman in a big, long hug.  I saw her face light up and I couldn’t help but smile as I walked on by. 

As I drove home I thought of my day.  The sarcastic banter I had with the clerk at the drug store, the slow cooker tip exchange with woman at grocery till, or the career plans of the waiter I had at lunch.  Then I thought back to Europe and the comments people say to me.  I have heard my boss tell colleagues not to worry about me because I talk to everyone.  Or the fact that I have gotten myself into trouble talking to people and making my non-Canadian date jealous and uncomfortable. It was then that I decided on what is truly Canadian.  We are a sarcastic and talkative bunch.  We will talk to anyone, anywhere.  We like to make jokes with complete strangers and anyone alone is fair game for attention.  We simply like people.

Perhaps it is because we come from a country that is so vast and spread out that in the early days we were just so excited to stumble across another human being that we talked to them regardless of any commonality.   Or maybe it because the long cold winters kept us secluded for months and starved for stimulating conversation.  Who knows?  But what I do know is that the whole sarcasm and chatty thing is not unique to me.  It is in my roots and a fundamental part of who I am.  

But, even though the ease of conversation is natural to a Canadian, so is walking away.  Just because we talk to you – it doesn’t mean anything.  We won't ask your name, or where you are from, we do not really want to know.  The whole thing is about sharing a moment, or a smile or two and getting on with our day. 

Yesterday I watched a man say to a woman that she looked great, “not many women can wear red,” he said.  The man walked away and the woman carried on with a smile.  That’s kind of a normal Canadian thing - we talk, we laugh, and then walk away…

Our Canadian chart topper Carly is featured in this current hit - and the video to me captures a bit of what I am trying to say :)

And - here is a commercial that kind of captures some Canadian winter/police humour.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cross My Name Off

Okay, It is time to set the record straight on the whole cougar thang. 

First off, I am not a cougar.  If my blog gave the impression of that – wowee ‘my bad.  Yes I am single, but as much as I loathe having to state it – this is a choice.  Not because it is a state that I necessarily prefer, but instead a fact of preferring to be single than settle for something that is only part of what I want.  Experience has taught me that being in the wrong relationship is infinitely more unpleasant than any time spent being single.

Maybe I will one day be proven wrong, but I believe in the whole love thing.  I believe in soul mates. And happily ever after.  I also believe that we cannot define in advance what our partner should be.  That does not go to say that we should not know what we like.  For instance, I find confidence and intelligence sexy.  I do not care about a man’s age, the size of his bank account, his ethnicity, or what he does for a living.  The primary thing I care about is if he can make my life any better than what I have right now by being in it.  And until I cross paths with the man who can do this – I shall remain single.

(I think Steve Jobs summed it up perfectly in his Harvard address - skip the video ahead until you are at the 4:03 mark.)

So you youngun’s out there – if you are looking for a cougar, this is one name you can cross off your list :)   

Now I leave you with Canadian band Hedley and "One Life."    Cuz, at the end of the day, that is all that we have...

Foot note:  It is interesting that of all the blogs I have written, the cougar one provoked the most emails to me.  However the top viewed blog remains the "Naked Sauna" followed by "The First Ten Minutes".  Whatever the case, thanks to all who take the time to read my ramblings...

Jet Lagged Induced Reflections

Normally when I head home I keep a low profile, preferring to take the time to get grounded and deal with stressful issues in my life whilst away from it all.

Not any more. I have learned recently that life moves at a certain speed whether you are ready for it or not.  People come and go.  Opportunities are fleeting. Things left unsaid can often end up remaining so.

It was just hours after arriving in Kelowna last night I heard the door fly open.  I was lucky enough to have already had a visit with my son and parents – but it had been over a year since I had seen my other son.  Now first off, let me explain, he isn’t mine.  But he is.  The two boys have been referring to each other as brothers since they were three years old.  I took them everywhere with me. Holidays, skiing, camping, - everything.  And because I was a single mom I also did what they were doing.  I loved every moment.  So now I have two boys that call me mom.  The three of us have some plans to hang out together while we are all on holidays which I think makes me one heck of a lucky mom. 

My friends still call.  After years of being away and being neglected, they still seek me out for lunches, dinners and parties.  How cool is that? 

And then there are my little nephews.  I have to make sure that their auntie Dawn’s cool factor remains high…

So yeah…about all those issues I have to deal with?  Not this year. I am done with the whole reclusive scene. Nothing in the world is big enough to distract me making the most of every moment this holiday sends my way…

Now most Canadians do not even know that this tune is from a BC girl.  Warning though, it will play over and over in your mind for hours!

And now I shall take my fragmented and disjointed thoughts and try and sleep!  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thank You

I have a friend here in Zurich that I do not spend so much time with simply because communication is a problem.  His English is good, but he usually misses the meaning of what I am saying.  My German is rocky as heck so I avoid speaking it out of embarrassment.  And to make matter worse for me, he insists that I speak German only to him - therefore I have an abundance of excuses whenever he suggests we catch up.

Until today. And his text.  It read "it is time to speak German Dawn."  

It is relatively easy to live without German here in Zurich. However, I didn't really notice how limiting it was until last night.  I was at an expat sort of Christmas party, and there were many people that I knew which was very cool.  Being surrounded by familiar language and people is comforting.  But I am in Switzerland. 

As I left the party last night, I couldn't help but feel it was just a repeat of another day a week or two before.  My friends also seemed a bit bored with the whole scene.  Even though the expat community here is huge and dynamic, it is also only a small part of what is here.  I don't plan to turn my back on what I have here, but it is time to make my world a bit bigger. 

Sometimes it takes one thing to shake things up enough and make you realize that perhaps you are heading in the wrong direction. And that happened for me.  I had to say bye to my best friend here.  I knew it was coming, but I guess I sort of hoped that fate would intervene and I could keep them close.    I threw myself into anything that would keep me busy - hoping to find something or someone else to fill the void. I know it sounds silly, but you can't imagine how incredibly important friends are when everything and everyone familiar is afar.  

Tonight I cancelled my regular plans.  My friend is right - it is time.  Not just to learn German, but for a bit of a change.

So, to the familiar faces and places, thank you for making it so easy for me here - but it is time for me to disappear for a while.  

Another Canadian tune...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Countdown to Home

In recent years Christmas took on a new meaning for me.  At one time I used to think I needed to see snow, have the house decorated perfectly, Christmas cookies baking – and then and only then would I feel the spirit of Christmas.

Living abroad has changed all that for me.  Christmas means I get to see my son.  My parents.  My adorable little nephews.  My brother.  Family is flying in from the opposite end of the world.  We all retreat to the ski hill.  Days spent skiing, evenings doing some sort of family thing.  I can’t wait.  I get to reconnect with friends long neglected and laugh with those that know me best.

Here we have Michael Bublé  with his rendition of "All I want for Christmas is you" - and yes, he is a Canuck ;)