These boots are made for balking



“Can I buy a story, a joke, just some words? why are you not writing?”

I laughed, and avoided the question. My friend was watching me intently. Silence fell between us. I stalled.  I have a lot of stories to tell, but I spent a whole year wondering when I should tell them….now, later or never?

Should I save the stories like gold coins in my pocket, in hopes that when I finally pull them out, they have gained value? or whoever will play the main characters in my stories will simply not care anymore? I can freely tell my stories without risking anything.

“Write about anything! shoes! just write!” my friend is not known for giving up easily. She is the one who originally pushed me to start this blog. I tend to listen to her.

Shoes….does anyone really want to hear about my experience on Boxing day at a relatively exclusive shoe shop downtown?

It started innocently enough, like most battles do. I found the absolute perfect pair of black low boots on sale, but in the wrong size. The Aggressive Sales Lady tried to convince me to still buy them.

I remembered being a child and going to the shoe store with my mother. How I used to agonize whether the shoes fit right or not. “Can you feel your toes?” my mother used to ask me. “Are you sure it is the right size? I don’t want to buy shoes for you that don’t fit when we come home.”

I remember walking around the shoe store, glancing at the shoes with heels that I really wanted, but I did not bother asking. We both still remembered the unfortunate incident when I managed to fall out of a new pair of shoes, just as we got home and twisted my ankle. The shoes were returned to the store and I was going to get flat shoes until I was old enough to buy my own shoes.

“You buy this size, it is good!” I was back in the Vancouver shoe shop with the very insistent and Aggressive Sales Lady who only cared about her commission. “Try insoles!” she said. She had no idea who she was dealing with. I can look innocent enough for a while.

067I wanted the boots, but I wanted them in the right size. They were sold out. I gave up on them. I walked around the store and found another pair of winter boots that I could see myself wearing as I was walking up a snowy hill somewhere on a romantic winter date…and then I noticed a weird circle on the front of the boot. I pointed out the circle and asked for a fresh pair.

“No, this is the last pair. They are on sale.” The Aggressive One glared at me. She said she could easily get the circle out with some shoe polish. But after her less than enthusiastic efforts the circle was still there, like somebody had stamped the front of the boot. Another Sales Lady came up to us. She looked angry. The two Sales Ladies started muttering in a foreign language and rolling their eyes at me. I headed towards the door.

“You don’t want the boots?” they hissed.

“No” I said, and opened the door.

“Wait, we will give you something!”

I stopped. Give me what? this started to look like a story to me. I turned around slowly and the Angry One came running up to me holding something. “You want chocolates?” she asked.

Chocolates? in a shoe store?

“No, I don’t want chocolates! I want boots in my size and boots without weird circles on them.”

“No one can see the circle, just you, look!”  the Angry One held the boot up under a light.

“I am leaving” I said.

“Wait, we will give you something else!”

What would they offer me now…shoe laces? all I wanted to hear was that they would give me an extra discount.

I started my haggling ways back in the old country. It was not uncommon to do some haggling in certain stores. I learned this fine craft from my mother on our frequent shopping excursions. I perfected my haggling during my trips around Greece when I was a bit older. I love haggling. It is a sport, and I need to win.

“No one haggles here” said a sales woman at Lonsdale Quay to me as I was trying to get a good price for a silver ring there a few years ago. “But I like it, it is very common in Turkey. I will give you a great deal!” she said and shook my hand. “You are good at haggling, this was fun!” she added and smiled.

I have managed to get some excellent discounts on a lot of items over the years. My Ex used to be terribly embarrassed by my shameless haggling ways, and yet, he thorough enjoyed all the deals I got. Of course.

Back to the shoe store in downtown Vancouver on Boxing day.

“I will give you shoe polish and a few dollars off the final sales price” said the Aggressive One. That was the best offer yet, although I would have preferred free insoles and a better discount.

“I never polish my shoes” I replied.

“Why not?!” said the Aggressive One and glanced at my shoes.

“We are NOT giving her shoe polish AND a discount, it is either or!” said the Angry One. And then they started arguing with each other, and I started heading for the door again.

“WAIT! you don’t want the boots?! ” they yelled after me.

Well, yes, I wanted those furry  snow boots. I could still see myself on that romantic date, wearing the snow boots and climbing up a hill somewhere. But I wanted a deal. I am not a hopeless romantic, and you can look long and hard before you see any stars in my eyes.

“This is the worst customer service I have ever seen anywhere! can I just pay for these and get out of here?” I said, my patience officially lost, and I was running late for a social engagement at a nearby hotel lounge.

“I cannot give you a discount, look at how I have to ring things in, the computer won’t let me” said the Angry One with the long bangs and the furrowed brow.

“I don’t care how you ring things in, can I pay now? and by the way, what is your name?” I replied.

“Why? I am not going to tell you my name! you don’t like my service, you don’t get my name!”

I wondered briefly if I was in a Punk’d episode and Ashton Kutcher would jump out from behind the counter all of a sudden. Luckily there were no other customers in the store. It was just the three of us embroiled in this ridiculous battle of the snow boots.

I finally got my boots. I also got my discount and my shoe polish. I rushed to the hotel lounge where I was meeting a new friend and an old friend. My hair had frizzed, I was sweating like I had just been in the ring with Tyson and I was a bit frazzled.

I managed to say hello before I fell down in the chair and asked for a stiff drink. And then I told my shoe story.

My old friend rolled his eyes at me and fished up the boots out of the bag, to make sure I had gotten the same size boots.

My new friend burst out laughing, called me a Store Gladiator and said she would love to be able to kick up a fuss for a good deal. I would not necessarily recommend anyone to try my haggling ways. It is not a good way to make friends. I will have to avoid going to that particular shoe store for a while. Until the summer sale is on perhaps…

One day I will be wearing these furry boots on a romantic winter date, climbing up a hill to a cozy Ski Lodge after a long day of cross-country skiing.  And thanks to the boots, I wrote this story. My insistent friend who offered to buy a story the other day will be pleased. This one is for you, and it is free!





Rose_Champagne_BubblesAs we all know…life is full of surprises. Or let’s just call them curveballs. If we are lucky, we can duck, deal and move on. But sometimes, it takes a bit more than that.

My personal, first instinct is always to run away. I look for the first exit and I wonder how long it will take for me to get there, and when I should make a run for it.

I have wrestled with a bit of a curveball for the last couple of months. If you know me and see me on a regular basis you might have noticed that I have not been exactly my usual jovial self. My eyes always look tired and I had to resign to the fact that I need to use reading glasses sometimes. I am not sleeping well. I have been somewhat haunted. I still am, but I am learning to deal and duck a bit better as this year progresses.

As per usual, I did ponder a quick and dramatic exit from my reality. Dubai came to mind. I have been playing with the thought of moving to Dubai for years. I know quite a few people who have moved there, and they have all enjoyed amazing financial success. I am lured by the promise of economic freedom. And just by the mere distance. Could I move any further away than Dubai? well, Australia, but the time is not right for Australia yet. It will come, I am sure of it. Some day.

So I did a lot of research on Dubai. I talked to a lot of people. I pondered. I wondered. I weighed the negatives and the positives. I asked my relatives, family and friends for their opinions. As it turns out, I know a lot of passionate people. I could probably write a book about all the heated discussions, but there were also some amazing, colorful stories.

Some of my friends are completely against even the thought of Zabeel_Parkvisiting Dubai. But some friends, and relatives, are completely for it. Some of them have been there and would not mind moving there themselves. Dubai is still an option, and it always will be. Will it ever become a reality? it remains to be seen.

So what is this Curveball I am wrestling with? you might think I am speaking in riddles. I do not like opening myself too much, generally. I try to keep some cards close to my vest. I strive to keep up a good front. But sometimes that stoic front just crumbles into pieces and I have to admit to everyone, and myself, that I am only human.

My blood pressure shot up this past month. I used to have very high blood pressure, back when my life was extremely stressful. I remember one check up in particular when my Doctor looked at me and asked me how on earth I was still alive? my blood pressure was 190 / 100. “What are you doing?” she said and shook her head. “I am stressed, all the time” I said. “I can see that. Get rid off some of that stress, would you?”, she said and put me on blood pressure medication.

So I did. I got rid off pretty much everything that stressed me out. I changed everything about my life. I decided I wanted to still be in the game and I had to find myself. And I think I did, as the years went by. I got off the blood pressure medication. I moved. I quit my job. I studied. I concentrated on me.

But wouldn’t you know it…just as life was sailing along nicely some of that old stress landed on my doorstep to deal with. Once and for all.

Will I tell you what this curveball is? I think I will just let you guess, but let’s just say that life will go on, my blood pressure is back to normal and I am looking at this challenge as yet another learning experience.

I am trying to stay on that high road somehow and I have discovered that I am surrounded by some amazing, true friends. I believe in good Karma. And when all is said and done….I will have learned how to throw some beautiful curveballs.

A quirky perspective


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My quirky friend Lindbergh visited Sweden this past summer for the first time. He was quite excited over the prospect of walking the grounds of his great grandfather’s, and he tried to learn some useful phrases before leaving; “Jag har gått vilse” (I am lost), “Jag vet inte vad du säjer” (I don’t know what you are saying), “Var ligger den närmsta japanska restaurangen?” (Where is the nearest japanese restaurant?). He was not successful in learning any of those phrases, and he was a bit disillusioned when he returned to Vancouver.

I am always interested in hearing friends’ impressions of the old country, and of course, even keener to receive that customary bag of Swedish licorice that I shamelessly ask anyone and everyone I know to buy for me. Licorice is a big deal for me, and it is one of the things I really miss from the old country.

Of course, there are many things I miss from both Sweden and Finland. But no one can bring me back those things; my family, friends, memories, certain customs, the overall ways of the crusty and straight forward Scandinavians. And the sarcastic sense of humour.

People in Scandinavia say what they mean without dancing around the subject like we do in North America. This frank Scandinavian style of communicating might be interpreted as rude, but it is just so much easier than playing the “political correctness games” that we do over here. The fake politeness and the unnecessary mind games. It such an enormous waste of time.

Just say what you think! You don’t like me? fine! I’ll find another friend. You do like me? great, let’s go out for a drink! as much as I complain, I do find myself falling into that “fake trap” at times. You simply have to when you live here, or you will have no friends. I try to not trample on anyone’s feelings, but sometimes I do. I just get tired of being polite.

Anyway, back to Quirky Lindbergh and his impressions of all things Swedish. He felt quite at home with the blunt and sometimes crusty Swedes, but he did struggle a bit with the lack of customer service and the surprising answers you can get at times.

Lindbergh and his travel companion asked the Concierge at his hotel in downtown Stockholm how to get to Bromma airport (a smaller airport, not the main one which is called Arlanda). The Concierge shrugged his shoulders and said “How should I know?”

I grew up with the bad customer service all around in Scandinavia so that type of answer would not surprise me in the least, but for a typical polite Canadian traveller it must seem outrageous.

The problem seems to be that no one really wants to work in customer service in Sweden and they have not figured out that one should perhaps not show that. But who really enjoys dealing with annoying customers of any kind?

I worked in the travel industry for a few years in my younger years and I used to frequently feel like the exasperated Basil, owner of Fawlty Towers Hotel. Remember this wonderful British TV show from the 70’s? John Cleese played Basil.

It was a massive challenge to keep a smile on my face while dealing with the utterly mindless questions and silly tourist demands.

I managed to not lose it as much as Basil, but I came close. Many times.

If you have not seen the TV show I am referring to you have missed out on a life altering experience, and some good belly laughs. But back to the main character of this story. Quirky Lindbergh.

When I first got to know Lindbergh he used to repeatedly tell me that he is strange. I wondered what that meant? we met in a writing class and as most writers are a bit odd in one way or another I did not take the “I am strange” comment too seriously, but I did google him a few times and could not find him on any Wanted lists.

I decided Lindbergh is simply a bit quirky, in a typical Scandinavian way. I like socializing with people who are comfortable speaking their mind. One never has to wonder where one stands with Lindbergh. And you will always receive an uncalled for analysis of some sort, accompanied with a great dose of wit.

While in Sweden, Lindbergh discovered that there is no word for Please in Swedish. We just say what we want; “Give me the map”, “Give me the sugar”, “Get out of my way”. I found it very annoying, and hard to remember, to add an extra word to almost every sentence when I first moved to Canada. My then “roommate” kept reminding me for years to say please. Please this and please that. Can I please just stop saying please?

No one says please in Sweden, or excuse me for that matter. No one holds up the door for you and you are pretty lucky if you hear a thank you, or get a smile.

“No one talks to you on transit! no one smiles at you! no one notices you!” said Lindbergh, who travelled on subways, trains and buses around Stockholm and was a bit disappointed that he did not meet the love of his life during his Swedish travels.

“My host told me to just mind my own business because if you start talking to a stranger in Stockholm they will think that you are a lunatic, or you are trying to mug them.”

That is very good advice indeed. I lived in a suburb to Stockholm for a few years, and I used to take transit all over town. I never chatted up strangers during my daily travels. Well, I did make a few exceptions but all attempts went sideways and I have tried to erase them from my memory banks.

Swedes are a bit suspicious, or perhaps I should say Stockholmians. I have heard that folks from smaller Swedish cities are a bit friendlier.

I still remember a very attractive man who was watching me out of the corner of his eye on the train into Stockholm one morning. He really made an impression because it is about 20 years ago. Or perhaps I have not been able to forget how I behaved myself. It was very unfortunate indeed.

I was reading a magazine and wondered why this man was watching me so intently. Did I know him? what did he want? was he crazy? out on a day pass? was he lost? I wondered if I should call for security or try to handle this situation myself.

So eventually I confronted him. Sadly. I cannot remember the exact extent of our conversation, but I had decided he was crazy and I asked him what he was up to, only to realize that he was just working up a nerve to chat me up and ask me out. Needless to say, he never sat close to me on the train again and there was no hot date.

Quirky Lindbergh is a wise man and he did not even attempt to chat anyone up in Stockholm. He hung around with his travel companions and his host. He saw all the important sights and he decided he liked Stockholm, overall, but he was not fond of the food. “I could not find a Japanese restaurant anywhere!”

And why would he? you eat meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberries in Sweden. And pizza. Swedes love pizza and you can find pizzerias in every street corner. Swedes are not that fond of sushi even though we enjoy herring and all types of other fish dishes.

Lindbergh was surprised to find out that creamy sauces are popular with just about everything. He did not think Swedish food was as healthy as he had heard. We argued a bit about that.

What about the North American diet? cheese with everything? I still remember seeing cheese melted over vegetables for the first time over here. Why would one eat melted cheese over veggies? in Sweden you have a slice of cheese with hard bread.

Lindbergh noticed that plaid is popular and brought back a cheery Swedish colored shirt that he proudly wore when we met up for Swedish stories. “But $90 for a shirt at Åhlens! outrageous!”. Clothes are expensive in Sweden, but it depends where you shop. I find it just as expensive over here these days, and I usually find some excellent bargains when I go back to Sweden.

The comments continued; “There is graffiti everywhere! why is that?” asked Lindbergh and showed me some photos he had taken with some very explicit wordings in happy colours. Well, as introverted as Swedes can be, they do like to express themselves at times. Graffiti is a big problem in Sweden.

To summarize, Lindbergh sort of liked the architecture, and the overall beauty of Stockholm. The customer service really has to improve. He is thinking of writing to someone about that. He might go back one day for further Swedish explorations, and to continue his search for that Right Person who just might be waiting for him in a friendly small Swedish town, far away from Stockholm.

On a closing note, Lindbergh had one last comment about Stockholm:”What’s with the strange sculpture at Sergels Torg (Sergel’s Square)?”

I think that 37-metre tall glass obelisk which is called Kristall (Crystal) and has been a landmark at Sergel’s Square since the 70’s, makes quite the statement. The Crystal is sometimes lit up in different colors, and it is the first thing you see when you drive into Stockholm.

As I will be heading back home for Christmas this year, I cannot wait to stroll the streets of Stockholm. I will start off at Sergel’s Square and continue on down the cobbled streets of the Old Town. The snow will lightly fall, the Christmas lights will be twinkling and all the windows will be lit up by beautiful Swedish candle holders.

However wordlessly my fellow wanderers might pass by, I will still feel almost welcome. The Vikings may not flash me any smiles, but I know there is a special warmth of spirit hidden deep in the Nordic stoic souls. I will be very pleased that I do not have to be polite, or say please and thank you to anyone for a while. And you can bet I will be revelling in my Swedish licorice, and downing those creamy sauces with everything.

Lindbergh took all the fabulous photos in this blog post, and a few hundred more, while in Stockholm. If you would like to purchase one of his fabulous pics, or perhaps launch his career as a great photographer by hosting a show, I will gladly connect you. Lindbergh would be pleased to give you a free quirky personality analysis while showing you his photos.

Leaving on a jet plane



“You need to stop talking about leaving”, said a Friend of mine and gave me a stern look the other day.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because you are not going anywhere…or are you?” said my Friend.

“Well, I am going home for Christmas, to start” I said and looked out the window. The rain was pouring down as always.  How many months will it rain now? how much more can I handle before I start to rust over here?

“But you are coming back in the New year!” sighed my Friend. “Right?”

Well, I guess so. Unless I stop over in London and refuse to get back on the plane. I love London. But it rains there too, doesn’t it?

A very good friend of mine moved to London years ago. I remember how I upset I was to see her go, but I was also happy for her. She is still living in London and has created a great life for herself over there.

I visited her in London once, and I was so impressed with her. She has a great career, she speaks perfect British, she eventually ended up with that charming French man she met at work and they have two kids.

They spend the summers in France and almost moved there a few years ago, but she has a hard time learning French. They almost moved to Sweden, but her Frenchman is struggling with learning Swedish. So they have decided to stay in London for now.

As luck would have it, they are going to Sweden the same day I am touching down in London in December. Unfortunately, we will not meet at the airport but we will meet up in Stockholm.

I cannot wait to see her, my other friends and my family. All the people I left behind so many years ago. Was it worth it?

“But you would not want to live there again, would you?” asked my Friend.

To start all over again…could I do it? would I want to do it? every time I go back I wonder that. And every time I return to Vancouver I am happy to be back. Will I be happy this time too? I don’t know. It remains to be seen.

“I will try to keep my thoughts to myself” I smiled and looked at my Friend as we walked outside and strolled down the street with our umbrellas. “But if you know me at all, you know that leaving is always on my mind, and this endless rain is really starting to get to me.” And the rain kept pouring down.

A walk in the neighbourhood

It has been an incredible summer in Vancouver. It started late, but it is lasting a long time. Vancouver is a beautiful town, and especially in the summer.

I have enjoyed many walks along English Bay, and I always see something noteworthy. Like the other night…

Sailboats setting out for an evening sail. How I would love to be onboard one of them, just for one night, or more…

A young man on his knee, proposing to his girlfriend in front of the gigantic 30-feet tall engagement ring statue by Dennis Oppenheim.

What a perfect place for a proposal! the couple giggled and kissed as he put the ring on her finger and she admired it, and him. It is nice to see that love still exists out there, somewhere…

A seal popping its head up and down in the water, watching people go by but making sure that no one had a chance to take a photo of him.

A parrot sitting on top of a statue, enjoying the attention and posing patiently for photos while the owner sat proudly on a nearby bench. The parrot finally got tired of all the commotion and starting shrieking “Thank you…now bye, bye!” over and over again. A very effective way to get rid of people.

It would be fun to have a parrot. A bi-lingual one, of course. I could teach it civilized words in English, and all the bad words in Swedish.

A man playing bongo drums and a woman dancing around on the sand while lifting her hands to the sun. Another man playing the harps a bit further down the path.

The ever-laughing bronze statues glistening in the evening sun, and making tourists smile. I love those statues and I never get tired of seeing them.

A family of six raccoons scurrying by on a mission to find treasures in the bushes behind a building.

An adorable black pug puppy placing himself on my sandal-clad foot as I was waiting to cross the street. His owner did not seem too amused, but I thought it was sweet how the pug just sat there on my foot and kept looking up at me. It seemed like a sign to me and I promised myself that one day I will get a black pug.

One day when I can manage to wrap my head around making such a huge commitment.

Yes Ma’am

Remember how you used to feel when you were a child and school was out for the summer? how you used to rush to the beach as soon as you got a chance? how you ran barefoot through the grass, there was not a cloud in the sky and the summer months seemed like an endless adventure?

Would it not be great to be a kid again every summer? how much fun is it being a grown up anyway? all the responsibilities and worries. I would happily exchange all of it if I could be a kid again, at least for the summers!

As I do not have kids, I let myself feel like a kid at times. I am an only child and my parents will always treat me like I am 12. They usually visit me in the summers and we always have a good time. I treasure the time we spend together.

My parents are full of energy and mischief. We laugh a lot together, and reminisce about old times like families do. I try to come up with some type of entertainment other than just hanging around me.

This year I took them to see the Buddy Holly show at the Stanley Theatre one evening. I knew they would love the music and we lucked out and got front row tickets.

My mum was boogieing to the music in her seat, especially when her favourite song “La Bamba” was sang by Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. It warmed my heart to see my mum so excited. She used to be quite the dancer when she was younger. My dad, however, has two left feet.

Towards the end of the show the wild showman known as the Big Bopper, clad in a leopard suit jacket and shiny striped pants, zoomed in on me. The spotlights were turned towards me. I was also wearing a fancy shiny jacket, albeit not leopard patterned!

The Big Bopper jumped off the stage and danced over to me while singing “Chantilly Lace”. He asked me to dance. What is a girl to do? accept the invitation of course and get up and dance! The Big Bopper swirled me around and we danced together like it had all been rehearsed and  choreographed. I might have stepped on his toes here and there, but he was too excited to notice. Had anyone ever been so enthusiastic to be pulled out of the audience? probably not. I even did a bit of a sole number and the audience cheered. Why not? I am all for ceasing the moment.

“Oh, I like this one!” yelled the Big Bopper.

“Give me a kiss on the cheek, would you?” he said and leaned in towards me. So I planted a red lipstick kiss on his cheek. The crowd cheered and the Big Bopper jumped up and down like an excited schoolboy.

The Big Bopper escorted me back to my seat before he jumped back on stage. There is always a danger you might be part of the show if you sit close to the stage, and that is exactly why I always try to get front row tickets!

My parents laughed and rolled their eyes at me. My dad mumbled his usual mantra; “Nothing surprises me anymore!”, and my mum wished that she had gotten the invitation to dance. “I am proud of you!” she said and patted my arm. Parents. You have to love them and all that unwavering support!

As we waited for our ride outside the Stanley Theatre, a girl from the audience came up to me. “Oh, you were one of the dancers! I loved your enthusiasm!” she said and shook my hand.

“Well, thank you” I smiled. Why admit that it was all impromptu? a kid at heart. That is me.

A week later I felt like an excited kid at a crystal infused fantasy world in Okanagan. Louise, my Travel Coordinator Extraordinaire Friend, had managed to arrange for a few nights at the Swarovski resort called Sparkling Hill outside Vernon for us.

The atmosphere was subdued, sophisticated and very posh. Soft chanting could be heard in the spa where you were served cucumber or orange infused water and a variety of teas.

There were numerous spacious rooms with floor to ceiling windows facing the magnificent views where the guests could to sit back and contemplate life in comfortable leather lounge chairs.

You could choose between eight different type of saunas, and my absolute favourite was the Igloo one which had a wall made of ice. Genius! it felt wonderful to walk outside to the 35 C degree heat afterwards!

The staff treated the guests like royalty. Everything was impeccable at Sparkling Hill, and my whole body relaxed as soon as I walked in and was met by crystals and smiles. It was a different world. One that I could happily stay in forever.

I was drinking it all in, and not complaining in the least, as I sat by the infinity pool and dipped my toes in the water. One of the fellow guests called for me and asked me to jump in. He gave me a beaming smile and splashed some water on me. And before you think I had a really good time at Sparkling Hill…let me explain.

I seem to attract the attention of “the distinguished crowd”  more often than not. It does not matter that I usually mind my own business. There is always some aging Silver Fox who picks me out in the crowd. I have resigned to this fact and I take it in stride. I converse, I smile and I do not encourage. After all, I am not looking for a Grandfather, but I am polite.

One day, I just might be an old Silver Foxess myself with blue hair, and a mind that refuses to age. I will probably try my best to chat up the pool boy. Perhaps Karma will pay me back that day?

Mr. Debonair zoomed in on me the very first day in the whirlpool.  As most elderly gentlemen on a mission, he was utterly polite and engaging. He had enjoyed a privileged life, and entertained me with stories from his various adventures around the globe.

Mr. Debonair reached into his dusty memory banks and vividly described a cross-country trip in his Oldsmobile convertible to “visit a lady friend on the East Coast” after graduating University in the early 60’s. He could not think of the exact year, but it was the only time he went to New York. He had not been back since, but he claimed to had been everywhere else. Or maybe this 70 something gentleman was serving me a plate full of Debonair nonsense?

I did not waste too much time analyzing the details or developing the conversation, and luckily Mr. Debonair’s current lady friend with orange hair always rescued me. She was busily chatting up the pool boys, but kept an eye on Mr. Debonair at the same time.

But in contrast to Mr. Debonair, who did make me feel young with his attention and compliments, the perfectly trained customer service friendly lads driving me between the spa and the Predator Ridge Golf Resort made me feel old. The lads were all in their early 20’s and kept saying “Yes Ma’am, No Ma’am, That is correct Ma’am, Thank you Ma’am”.

I kept wondering when I became a Ma’am? should you not be married and have kids to be a Ma’am at least? I know it is a sign of respect to call someone Ma’am, the short version of Madame, but it makes me feel absolutely ancient. I do not have blue or orange hair yet, and I have my own teeth!

And as polite as the lads were while answering my questions and pointing out the sights, I knew they were only humouring me the same way I was humouring Mr. Debonair. Is Karma paying me back already? how civilized indeed, but it is too early! I still have a few good years in me!

After the Sparkling Hills extravaganza, which I very reluctantly left, I visited friends in Okanagan. I was suffering Spa blues as we drove away, and I saw the last glimpse of the crystal infused hotel perched upon the hills. Would I ever be back? and what color would my hair be then?

A few hours later I had a stark reality check when I met my friend Sandra’s kids. I barely recognized them. They were all grown up! I must admit I behaved like the typical old lady as I kept  “oohing and aahing”  over how much they had grown. I simply could not stop myself. I was in shock.

The kids were kids when I saw them last. Now, eight years later, they are beautiful, smart, impressive teenagers. They entertained me with clever stories and quick-witted conversation.

If they are not kids anymore, that means I cannot possibly be a kid other than at heart. At least they did not call me ma’am. But this crusty old lady’s heart melted into a puddle, and I even had to blink away some surprising eye moisture, when they put their arms around me, hugged me and told me to come back soon to visit them.

Kids can so easily do that…pull on your heart-strings with all that innocence and beauty. Bright eyes filled with wonder and enthusiasm for the future.

Oh, to be a kid again, and to not have to hear “Yes Ma’am” for a very long time. Or be chased around the place by Silver Foxes.

Summer in the city

Half way through another year, and Summer has finally arrived in Vancouver. The older you get, the faster the time runs through your fingers. It is always Summer or Christmas it seems. And a lot of rain in between of course.

As much as Vancouverites complain about the weather, we still stay here. We pay sky-high rents and mortgages, we put up with incredibly high prices for everything, we get used to carrying sunglasses and an umbrella at all times.

There are two types of people in Vancouver, those who can afford to live here and shop at Whole Foods. Those of us who barely can, and shop at No Frills. I have to admit I stole that observation from a local comedian. I thought it pretty much summed it up. Vancouver is a luxury item in itself. And surely the weather used to be so much better in the old days?

You know you are getting older when you refer to the good old days, but the weather has changed over the years. Just ask anyone who has lived here for a long time. Spring used to start in February, the Summers were long and hot, and Fall used to stretch into November. When did Fall, Winter and Spring become a 9-month long rain period?

Magically, Vancouverites forget all about the endless rainy months as soon as the sun shines. The beaches and restaurant patios are packed, and everyone seems deliriously happy. Summer in Vancouver is a beautiful time. Short but sweet.

I have lived in various suburbs over the years, and finally moved to Vancouver just as my life went through a major change. It seemed like the right thing to do. Why change just a few things when you can change a lot at the same time?

I remember the day I walked into my new place, stood by the window, and looked outside at the highrises. The sun was shining, people were rushing by and a sailing boat in the distance made its way under the bridge. I sat down on one of the moving boxes, and the door closed behind Someone who had just said “Well, take care, this is where you live now.”  Simple words of farewell. Everything had already been said. Something had come to an end, and something else was starting. What would I make of it?

I unpacked those moving boxes one by one. I put up pictures, bought new plants and created a whole new reality. I found my way around the neighbourhood, and I got used to my new surroundings.

I like living downtown. It is noisy at times, but it does not bother me. I never feel lonely. Life is bustling all around me. But do I love Vancouver, and British Columbia overall, so much that I could never leave?

The thought of leaving seems to be lingering in my mind lately. It worries me a bit. I thought I was so deeply rooted here that I could never imagine leaving. And where would I go? to what and why? but why would I stay here forever? is this it? what happens now? I have always loved leaving. When do I get to leave again?

When you hit your 40s you start contemplating. A lot. You twist and turn on the decisions you have made in life so far. You ponder and wonder. You analyze, and discuss the current state of affairs with friends.

I love a lively discussion about everything and anything. My old friends, and new friends, have become my family here and they all mean so much to me. The friendships, and the memories we share keep me here. This is where I have spent years striving, working, wanting, loving, hoping, creating, simply living…could I leave it?  just to start the process of living all over again somewhere else?

As alluring as the simple thought of leaving is, I know that it takes a lot of planning and courage. But shouldn’t we always be planning for new adventures and discovering new passions? when and how do you know for sure that you are where you are supposed to be? is anywhere really home? home is where the heart is, but is my heart here?

A good friend of mine lives the perfect life. He lives here part of the year, the other part in Europe and in between he travels all over the world with his business. He is always going somewhere, and when he is not, he is on the golf course. He is one of the happiest people I know, and he does not seem to age. He is just getting wiser. Life is treating him very well, but he has created his own perfect reality out of nothing. Impressive.

Maybe he has inspired me, and the words he said last time I saw him; “No one will create your perfect life for you Carina, you have to do it”.

Or maybe it is something else entirely that is keeping me up throughout these hot city summer nights? maybe I just really need a holiday? at least I get to leave for a little while, and when I return to Vancouver, maybe, just maybe, I will realize that this is indeed where my heart is. And this is home. For now.

Oh Canada

“Do you want to move to Canada?” I will always remember my dad asking me that question, over a crackling phone line, years ago. I was studying in Southern Finland, and living in a dorm.

This was before cellphones and internet. I was using the phone booth downstairs, and I was running out of change.

Cool dad Eric posing with me at Lonsdale Quay

“Where?” I asked. “British Columbia, Canada.” my dad replied.”But I thought you were moving to Sweden?” I said and sat down slowly. I was stunned.

“Plans have changed. You can come with us, or you can stay here. We will leave you the house and the car. It is up to you.”

The line went dead. I hung up the phone. I looked out the window, but I barely noticed the beautiful birch trees that surrounded the dorm. There was not a cloud in the sky. A dog was barking in the distance. Time stood still.

I had a good life in Finland. Up until this surprising conversation with my dad, I thought I knew exactly what my future would look like. Everything had been falling into place so easily.

I was studying journalism, and working for a newspaper. I had a nice boyfriend who was a competitive skier and a yacht builder. I had great friends and a wonderful family.

How could I leave everyone and everything behind? would we find happiness and a place to belong somewhere on the other side of the world? how could I say goodbye to my beloved grandmother Agnes? it would break her heart. I was her only grandchild.

The thoughts swirled in my mind and my heart raced. I had not expected to receive these type of unsettling news during my weekly call to my parents.

I did not know anything about Canada. I always thought I would eventually travel to the US, but Canada had never crossed my mind. The winters in Finland were long and cold, but were they not even worse in Canada? and why was the province called British Columbia? what would I do in Canada? could I actually speak English well enough to get by and find a job?

I had a few months to think it over. I finished my studies. I wrote my last article for the newspaper. I told my boyfriend I would be leaving. But I waited to tell my grandmother for as long as I could.

I read up on Canada. I travelled back home, and found my parents busily selling everything they owned, except the house. They had decided to rent it out for a couple of years, just in case they would not like Canada. But before they signed the papers, they asked me one more time if I was sure I did not want to stay and take over the house? my life could continue on that course I had set out for myself. If I chose to. I was at a crossroads.

My childhood home was a large two-storey house built in the 40’s and set in the country side surrounded by endless acres. The house was completely renovated, and a beautiful place to call home. My dad had grown up there, and so had I. Never in my wildest imaginations could I have foreseen that my parents would leave this house, and everything safe and familiar for an unknown future in Canada.

Everyone kept asking us the same questions; “why are you leaving?”, “where are you going?”, “when are you coming back?”.

My dad had all the answers ready; “it is time to see something else”, “we are going to Canada”, “we are not planning to return to Finland”. He had made up his mind and nothing, or no one, could stand in his way. He was breaking free.

We arrived in Edmonton on a summer evening. I thought it was a beautiful town. I was fascinated by the highrises, and the vastness of the city. I knew I would not be returning to Finland, ever. As I closed my eyes, that very first night in Canada, I felt I had come home.

Over the years, I have lived in Northern BC, but mainly in various places in Lower Mainland. I have never looked back, or regretted my decision to move here. Life certainly turned out differently than I had expected, but so far it has been a life full of surprises and no dull moments. I am still finding my way.

My parents ended up settling in Sweden, but I hope they will move back here one day. They visit me every year, and we spend a lot of time on Skype.

Canada is turning 145 years old on July 1. It is such a young, vibrant country. The possibilities are endless here. Canada is vast, beautiful, powerful and completely unique.

I love Canada, and I love being a Canadian. Will I always live here? that remains to be seen. This year, I will celebrate Canada Day with an eclectic group of friends who all originate from somewhere else, but have chosen to make Canada their home. We will cheer for Spain, or Italy, in the Euro Soccer Cup Final, and we will also cheer for Canada.

This Inukshuk statue can be found on the water’s edge in English Bay, Vancouver. The traditional meaning of the Inukshuk is “Someone was here”, or “You are on the right path”.


“I hope you will never change” said a friend of mine the other day. Really? I hope a lot of things will change over the next few years, including myself. I am not sure to what extent, but some significant changes need to take place. Eventually.

“You live in a bubble” said another friend of mine later that week. I listened to his analysis, and I had to agree. It is true. I have managed to create just enough distance between reality and fantasy. I sit back and watch life go by, like there is an endless supply of time. I enjoy my bubble.

“You should take acting lessons”

“You should finish that screenplay”

“You should come to Italy with me”

“You should take up golf again”

“You should finish your Public relations studies, and the Sommelier studies!”

“And what about a relationship?”

What about it? relationships are complicated, time-consuming, and overall exhausting. I have never been in a non-complicated relationship. Do I really want to deal with all that drama again? could I possibly get interested in someone “normal” for once? I doubt it. I am always drawn to eccentrics. Complicated minds are fascinating. But am I really ready for a new obsession?

I receive a lot of unsolicited advice, constantly, from well-meaning friends. Do I ever ask for, or listen to, any advice? hardly ever. I prefer to dance to the beat of my own drum at all times.

Nevertheless, I find it interesting to hear what people think, and feel they have to tell me. The consensus among my friends seems to be that I am in need of a safe haven. A purpose. A brand new obsession. But do I want that? I had all of that, but it suffocated me. I constantly looked for ways to escape the constraints. Why would I want to try to live like that again, and would it really be different this time around?

I do develop the occasional obsession. I am only human after all. My June obsession has been the Euro Soccer Cup. What is there not to love about watching young, good-looking European men run around in shorts and tight shirts chasing a ball? Brilliant, easy entertainment. And no commitments needed, other than turning on the TV when the game is on. Or timing my lunch break around the games.

I am an obsessed soccer fan during the Euro and the World Cups. The next World Cup takes place in Brazil 2014. I should go there. I can see myself wandering around on the beaches of Rio.

My cousin Danny took this photo in Larsmo, Finland

But will I ever make it to Rio? what will my life look like in 2014? will I eventually listen to advice, and do at least something that my friends think I should do? do I want to? or should I just board a ship and leave it all behind? sell everything I own. Just go. Start over. See something new. Be someone else. And never look back.

This is my 50th blog post. Thank you for reading my stories, and for all the feedback I receive constantly. It means a lot to me. Just keep scrolling down to read older stories, or if you remember the title (or part of it) type it in the search box in the upper right hand corner.

If you want to sign up for this blog, click on “Follow” in the bottom right corner of the screen and enter your email address. The next blog post, if there is one, will arrive automatically in your inbox. Unless I am sailing the seas without an internet connection. One can always dream. Or obsess.


“You have to see the bull riding cowboys at the Buffalo Chip Saloon” said Mary, the proud Phoenix condo owner where we would be staying over Easter. “It is a great bar and  just down the street from the condo. You must go there on a Friday night, that is when all the action happens.”

Bull riding cowboys on a Good Friday? back in the old days I had to sit in the corner, be quiet and dwell on all worldly miseries on Good Friday. You certainly would not even dare to play with the thought of going out carousing on Good Friday. However, I play by different rules these days.

I travelled to Arizona with my good friend Louise, and she was all excited of the prospect of possibly roping in some cowboys for Easter. She will not be pleased that I say this, but that is exactly what I was hearing for weeks before our trip. Louise is a quiet rebel with an innocent face.

Looking back, it is a mystery to me that she never googled the bar and found out all the details. She is usually so organized with all the travel arrangements, and seems to take great pleasure in making extensive plans of where we have to go, and what we have to see. She is known to be the official social coordinator at her office, and it is not even part of her title. It really should be. I used to work in the travel industry in my younger years, and I am sick of dealing with travel arrangements of any kind, even my own. I am thrilled if someone else offers to do it.

Anyway, back to Arizona. It was hotter than you-know-what when we landed in Phoenix. The heat surrounded us like a hot blanket as soon as we got off the plane. We went straight to the car rental counter to arrange for our transportation and I was pleased to see that our car was a sporty, metallic grey, brand new Jetta.  A cool ride is always nice, and being driven around is even better!

I have not driven a car in a couple of years, and I had no intentions of throwing myself out on the American freeways and risking everyone’s lives and limbs. I let Louise do that. She is fearless, most of the time. Or at least she pretends she is while hanging onto the steering wheel for dear life, with a wild look in her eyes and her hair standing up straight. I saw this view frequently from the passenger side and it was wildly amusing.

I was in charge of reading maps. I hate reading maps. But if I had to choose between driving and reading maps, I would have to choose the latter, for everyone’s safety. Louise takes great pleasure in studying the maps early in the mornings, and then telling me where we are going when I finally roll out of bed and have digested my first cup of coffee. It usually works out okay. Except that she sometimes decides to make unexpected maneuvers, and veer off into no man’s land just because the road we were travelling on “didn’t feel right”. That feeling is never right. But I take it in stride. I am quite the patient traveller, believe it or not.

At one point, we did end up in a sketchy area called Guadeloupe, due to one of those unexpected Louise maneuvers, but we managed to find our way back eventually. But that is a different story altogether. The point that I am trying to make right now, in a very round about way, is that I will never travel in the US again without a GPS. Another life lesson learned.

We spent Good Friday in Scottsdale. We browsed the shops, sat in a park and watched other lazy tourists, and enjoyed a Sangria induced lunch on the patio of the Olive and Ivy restaurant,  which had a nice view over the canal. I would have been perfectly happy to head back to the gated condo complex, and lay down by the pool and watch the rest of the day go by, but Louise had her heart set on those cowboys.

The distances in the US are different from what we are used to in Vancouver. “Just down the street”  was actually 20 minutes away from where we were staying. I figured “down the street” meant maybe 5 minutes, and suggested we could perhaps walk there? You cannot walk anywhere in the US. You drive everywhere. This fact always surprises me.

It was dark when we rolled into the old cowboy town where Buffalo Chip Saloon was located. There were no street lights, plenty of rickety shops lined the main street, and there was s a quiet, eerie feeling all around. A busy Harley Davidson bar was right next door to the Buffalo Chip Saloon.

Parking cost $10 on the gravel field by the Saloon. I wondered if the guy standing there waving his flashlight was just doing that for fun to scare some dollars out of the gullible tourists? We asked him if there was anywhere else to park in town?

“Well, you can try to find somewhere else to park, but I am telling you…you won’t be able to!  this is really the only safe place to leave your car” he said, and grinned at us almost triumphantly. “You idiot tourists”, he did not say it, but it was written all over his face. I could not blame him. I felt like the typical idiot tourist.

As we hesitated for a few moments, some trucks drove up behind us and started honking and hollering “Hey ladies, park or get out of the way would you?!” so we parked. I was muttering. Louise pretended she could not hear what I was saying.

We managed to find our way to the front door in the dark without falling over in the massive potholes. We got our hands stamped.

“Oh, the cowboys will be looking for ladies like you…watch out!” grinned the toothless guy with the big cowboy hat. The snug Wrangler jeans and the big shiny belt buckle completed his look. Charming.

“They are going to have to work hard for our attention!” said Louise, cheery as always, and with a hopeful glint in her eyes.

You know when you start getting the distinct feeling that you should just turn around and leave? I had felt like that since driving into this rickety western town. I had no high hopes for the cowboy scenario.

And as we walked in the door, all my visions came to fruition. Let’s just say that in my view,  Buffalo Chip Saloon is a complete dive and a tourist trap. Instead of cowboys, it was filled with senior citizens, families and aging desperate looking women wearing thick layers of makeup, traipsing around in tight too short skirts and cheap heels. It was just a sad scene.

I climbed up on a bar stool and surveyed the place with a sneer and a sigh. I have been in places like this before. My first experience of Canada was a memorable summer in Northern British Columbia. There were plenty of cowboy bars there,  and all sorts of craziness. I loved it when I was 18 but now…this place made my skin crawl.

We ordered prickly pear margaritas, an Arizonian speciality.

“I can try to make one” said the grumpy bartender, “but I’ve never had one so I don’t know what they’re supposed to taste like.” Well, we were not offering to buy him a drink! just make us one, that is what a bartender does! I felt like pointing that out to him, but managed to stop myself just in time. Grumpy would not hesitate for a second to throw another annoying tourist head first out of the bar, and I am sure he had done that many times before.

I bit my tongue and tried to find some patience. I sat quiet on my bar stool and wished I was back at the pool at the condo. There was a nice barbecue going there, and we could have met some nice civilized people.

We did not get Prickly pear margaritas. Instead, Grumpy served us each a gigantic American sized beer glass filled with vodka and pink lemonade. I took a sip and knew that if I finished that drink I would fall off the bar stool in a hurry. Buffalo Chip’s is not a place where you want to be falling down anywhere. You want to keep your wits about you until you have managed to find your way back to your car in the pothole filled gravel parking lot, and safely made your escape out of town.

Louise wanted to eat something and started studying the menu, careless as always. She did not seem to be aware of the overall low brow surroundings. Louise does not sweat the small stuff, ever. She took a photo of the big sign sitting on the bar counter announcing the 7 am Church service that would take place in the bar on Easter Sunday. Buffalo Chip’s is a church for hangover souls on Sundays? How unusual. But then, you can expect anything in America. Anything.

America is truly a country full of possibilities, in all sorts of ways. Fascinating, but also somewhat intimidating. I always feel like a kid in a gigantic candy store when I visit the US. Everything is so much bigger, but is it better? that remains to be determined. I need to further investigate all things American until I am ready to make up my mind if I love this country, or not. It certainly fascinates me, and I keep going back for more discoveries on a regular basis.

While growing up in Finland and struggling to learn Finnish (I grew up in the Swedish part of Finland), one of my teachers told me that “you simply have to learn Finnish if you are going to live in this country!”. My reply was “Well, I will not live in Finland for the rest of my life. I will move to America!”. Strangely enough, as fate would have it, six years later I moved to Canada with my parents. Life is sometimes stranger than fiction.

But back to Buffalo Chip’s and our Good Friday evening entertainment. I managed to convince Louise that chips and salsa might be the safest thing to consume at this fine establishment. I had seen how they cleaned the glasses behind the bar, and I did not even want to know how the food was prepared. Yes, I know, I sound like a terrible snob but I have my standards. I have frequented my fair share of dives in my lifetime, and there are certain rules that I live by now. “Avoid dives at all costs” is one of them.

So there we were, balancing on our bar stools, nibbling on chips and salsa, and wondering where all those cowboys were and for some reason it never occurred to us to ask where the bull riding show was supposed to  take place? We saw no signs. We heard no one talk about it. We thought we saw Harry Connick Jr. stride by in a red cowboy shirt, until he sat down close by and started talking in a high-pitched voice. He was the most handsome man in the bar. Slim pickings.

We heard the repeated announcements of the cowboy band that would start any minute now, if they could get the wires connected on stage.  And then we were joined by two beefy 300 pound (each!) American boys by the bar. That is when I turned to Louise and said in my most authoritative voice “We’re leaving…NOW!”.

Louise is a good friend and she knows me very well. I had stretched my patience for an hour at Buffalo Chip’s, but I was not going to be chatted up by these sumo wrestler type guys. I have my limits. “Okay Thelma, I give up, we are out of here!” she said and climbed off her stool with a sigh. I was relieved.

We never saw a glimpse of those bull riding cowboys. We found out later, when we came back to Vancouver and returned the keys to Mary, that the bull riding show takes place outside, behind the bar. Apparently, the show is spectacular and cowboys come from all over the state to ride their bulls there.

“I cannot believe you missed it! you were right there! what is wrong with you?!” Mary rolled her eyes at us. Lack of patience perhaps? maybe we could not think straight because of the heat? we were too hungry? the stars were simply not aligned that night. We were not meant to see the cowboys, for an unknown reason. It is a bit disappointing indeed.

So Louise is going back to Phoenix, with a different travel companion this time, and she is not leaving the state of Arizona before she has seen those famous and strapping bull riding cowboys. I have asked her to take some good photos. Giddy up, is all I have to say.

For the brave souls out there, here’s the link to Buffalo Chip’s, which has been voted the best western bar in Arizona: