Sunday, May 21, 2017

Northern date night and more


Snow geese
So as I enjoy a sedate Sunday (on call but that is not a dangerous descriptor in this community during the spring goose hunt as the hamlet has emptied out of people this long weekend) with the shore captain having gone to play with his friends....I mean hunting with one of the RCMP members here, all is well. The geese are beginning to return on their annual migration and there are snow, Canadian, white fronted, ross and brant arriving daily. The local hunters are saying that this week will be the main overfly but, the hunter I brought with me has already seen and downed more geese than he would in a lifetime in the maritimes.
brown hills

Yesterday was my 'day off' from call so while the shore captain was hunting earlier I walked up to the airport to survey the snow melt and signs of spring. A few years ago when I asked a local hunter when the geese were expected to return, he answered "when the hills turn brown" which roughly translates to the end of May. Bingo!

COOP gas
With the receding of snow cover there is the eruption of various pieces of derelict machinery and the inevitable muck such as seen here on the left in front of
the 'gas station' with the office on the left and the pump station in the middle ..... Soon we will be dealing with the dry northern summer with clouds of dust when vehicles go by and clouds of insects as well, but I will have migrated myself when that occurs. Fortunate that we got out last week on the skidoo run to Cape Kellet as there wouldn't be enough now to make it a comfortable ride.

We had a date night, northern style, described as taking a run on the ATV with the shotgun (to scare away a polar bear should we encounter one) as far as the dump, which turned into goose hunting. Now although I've been with this guy for over 40 years, I haven't been goose hunting with him. Have been to camp while he's tended rabbit snares or was deer hunting hunting, but that involved occasional walks in the woods, keeping the wood fire going and having supper ready when he came back.We stopped the 4wheeler on the edge of the road and walked down through the cleft in the hills which runs to the shore known as Allen's Creek, an area geese are known to fly up through. With frantic gesturing and terse instructions to "get down, don't put your hands up, here they come" we watched various configurations of birds fly over and two came home with us. The rules for outsiders (non land claim beneficiaries) hunting on this island include only harvesting snow or ross geese within a 9 km area around the hamlet (no hunting in sanctuaries) and no egg collecting. With the large numbers (estimated between one and two million) of geese who are in the main flyover it is not the capturing but the plucking / preparing of geese which are the issue.

This week also saw the (delayed due to fog)  return of my job share partner - spring is an iffy time of year for northern air travel - and we have settled into our 'family' trio (not as polygamous as it sounds) with the life partner making sure that even if he is busy capturing the food that 'the ladies' are fed supper after work. Work is a relative term this time of year with the population having migrated 'out on the land' to the lakes for ice fishing, goose hunting and egg collecting. With the snow having left the roads it was necessary for the old guy to free the health centre ATV from the C can (shipping container) and get it started (getting to be quite a small engine mechanic) so now he has a country and an urban mode of travel.

It has been nice to catch up both professionally and personally with the job share partner as it's been about a year and a half since we did that. Long discussion with her about a more flexible working arrangement as in....casual, not locked into the job share schedule and I have promised to think about it. Not that she's trying to get rid of me, just stating that work gets in the way of vacations (so very true) and this would deal with the solution to not being ready to completely walk away yet. I'm chewing on that. So, time to make some chocolate chip cookies for my roomies. Later ....

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Two for the money....

Safely settled in the high arctic and a bit of a challenge to figure out how to update the blog but.... no worries as you know that nurses are problem solvers....the dilemma is that in my over a year absence some (quite a few actually) things have changed (as they are wont to do) and one of those situations is accessing the internet. I have brought my MacBook Air and previously used a modem but, my partner has moved on to something on her phone called a mifi (no idea, don't ask) and so just using data on my phone is the plan for the month. This is fine for accessing email, short chats, posting photos and catching up on the news, however not practical for a long document. So....I have logged on to the network in the office, emailed myself / saved photos and signed in to blogspot so here we go.

I am being accompanied on this initial four week return to work rotation by the life partner. This is a perk offered by my employer to indeterminant (either full or permanent part time) employees as a family member is sponsored to accompany us to work, it's usually popular over the Christmas holidays and school breaks - my job share partner brought her daughter last summer - but the call of ice fishing / goose hunting was too much for the recently retired shore captain to pass up this year. Previously the lobster season at home has made for a busy time in May when the weather, 24 hours of daylight and game made it the best time of year to be north. Only minimal complications of traveling with a gun/ammo and hunting gear so it has been good to travel with a Sherpa for the stacks of luggage...just pile that on top and bring it to oversized baggage will ya?

We had minor travel complications with the Edmonton hotel clerk putting my vegetables in the freezer (this is NOT the first time it's happened so I confirmed three times to put them in the cooler NOT freezer...sigh) and the potatoes, celery and tomatoes especially were very unhappy and needed to be cooked up early. We were delayed by a blizzard here and unable to make it over from Inuvik on Monday so took a cab in from the airport, called the travel clerk who booked us a room at the Nova Inn and explored the most northerly town in Canada. Introduced myself (and hubby) to our Nurse Manager (who had changed in my absence) shopped for some souvenirs and stopped for supper/drinks at Shivers. Felt a bit guilty when I discovered the next day there had been medevacs that evening after the weather lifted. Check in with Aklak Air and prioritize the luggage - gun and perishable food first - manage to get all but two bags on the flight with us. It's a smooth trip up above the clouds and over to Banks Island, but unable to see the landscape. It's so good to be welcomed at the airport by my job share partner who has always believed in me and that this would be happening again. A quick hand off and she exits for the plane, we take the vehicle to the health centre.

I unpack the groceries, grab some lunch, send the man to COOP for milk and eggs, change into my scrubs and head downstairs doing my best to settle into the routine and get up to speed as the Dr is arriving to begin clinic tomorrow. I'm working with a CHN who is the age of my daughters so feel right at home. We decide that we're a good fit of young and old and I take call the first night, cautioning my colleague I may need her for backup as my brain is still rusty. One fairly routine call in the evening which gives me the chance to get back into the swing of things and a full nights sleep. It feels wonderful to be back!!

The next day is steady as we work our way through the Dr clinic and I receive lots of welcome back hugs. The physicians are using an electronic medical records system called WOLF (not sure what it stands for but a great northern name) with one of the main bonuses being the notes and prescriptions are printed out legibly, supposedly the consults make their way through the system as well but....being nurses who have seen lots of new technology fails, we opt to fax them in addition....just in case. The inhouse hunter spends part of the day getting the health centre snowmobile working. This requires a trip to COOP for sparkplugs, a (new) rectal tube to siphon gas to pour on the carburetor, my hairdryer and an extension cord to unthaw the lines and finally the custodian reported that "there's a strange man driving the health centre skidoo around the front" I assured her that he was pretty strange but we knew about him. He reported that $53 of gas filled the tank so "pretty expensive." He chauffeurs me over to the ENR office to pick up my fishing license and the machine is purring. We entertain the Dr and my coworker that evening for supper, enjoying gifted muskox which was marinated/braised by my colleague and must-be-cooked veggies, wine (always requested of the Dr when traveling here) and fruit (again from Inuvik) with gelato which the clerk made us before exiting to the lake to go ice fishing for a few days. Roughing it? Not a chance!

As the week moves along I manage to get myself together enough to draw bloodwork, process and package lab specimens to send off to Inuvik / Edmonton without too many questions, handle some paperwork, play with the new x-ray system (PACS) and get up to speed on peoples histories. The larger challenges are systemic (of course) with reactivating my email account then throwing out 462 messages from over a year with only two being needed, entering my time on PeopleSoft to get paid, ordering supplies and enjoying the pill dispenser of candies our manager sent for nurses week. She also generously gifted us a $75 purchase order for the COOP which we splurged on supper/breakfast to entertain the (fog delayed) physician. Have sure been less recognized on my 'special week'.

Had time to fit in a Friday evening run on the skidoo to the Mary Sachs / Cape Kellett area which is
Cape Kellet
Cranes
about an hours run west of the community. The Mary Sachs was a ship from the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913 - 1916 which the hamlet is named for. It was a beautiful sunny excursion where we saw two geese, one ptarmigan (partridge) and two cranes, oh and some muskox turds, no polar bears. I had some refresher skidoo driving lessons on the return trip and feel comfortable now handling the snow machine myself. Took a hike up to the airport
and checked out the amazing white views from the hills of the community, Amundsen Gulf and lakes, this spot is breathtakingly beautiful! Ice fishing was successful for the shore captain and he
4.5 lb lake trout
Sachs Harbour
had a small arctic char the first time, a good sized lake trout the second trip in the evening where he arrived back at 1 am (those who know him realize this was well past his bedtime) but he is earning his keep - fish for supper this evening. The lake ice is well over five feet thick so will be with us for a while. The geese are beginning to arrive and by next week should be here in large flocks, with snow geese becoming a nuisance and ruining the roots of tundra grasses there will be no problem with permission from the HTC (Hunters & Trappers Committee) for hunting - that will keep him entertained. My job share partner returns on Tuesday evening and we have discussed sending the old guy over to the spare apartment if he acts up, so he will need to be on his best behaviour.

I have found myself startled a few times when mister enters a room because I'm not used to being north with him and it seems as if he is in the wrong place, but he doesn't require much minding as we've lived north before. He is starting to take my suggestions seriously as in.....it's Friday so you had better check on gas as I don't think it's open Saturday or Sunday....he couldn't believe there wouldn't be fuel available on the weekend....can you guess who was right that time? Be careful with the sewing machine if you're making that canvas shotgun cover....now attempting to find a Singer sewing machine needle. The reports of blackflies and ticks in Nova Scotia sure make the wind chill and snow more welcome as we're a ways away from that summer plague. The time moves so quickly here and with a week in, we are already 1/4 of the way through this trip.

Monday, May 1, 2017

We're 3 for 3 with yernos

My goal for this weekend was to post to the blog and….it's late Monday evening… but I've had a number of goals for the weekend which have not been met so….here we go:

Since Saturday there's been catching up with the mail and news, paying some bills, unpacking, laundry, walks, community breakfast, passport renewal, errands, appointments, planning for a post wedding shower for the bride and….packing for work. So excited to be able to do that after a year off and at times wondering if I'd ever make it back. Can't wait to return to the land of white, guess we will get our 2017 winter after all…if only for the month of May in 24 hours of daylight, albeit at -34c this week. Bit different to be shopping / packing food for two, inquiring about non resident small game licenses and ice fishing gear, but the shore captain has to be entertained while I work, no one wants a bored house boy underfoot for four weeks. 

But in keeping with the plan of….avoid winter by travel to warmer climes, this update will focus on the past month spent in Cuba - the land of sun, fun, rum and….our newest son-in-law. It was a fun but fully packed four weeks and as I said to the travel partner on the way to the airport "it'll be difficult to come here for less than a month after this". Photo gallery at the bottom of this post. 

We were so pleased to meet our third son-in-law (yerno in Spanish) after two years of messages, phone and video chats and find that he's a great guy and one we would've chosen ourselves if it was our decision. His English was stronger than anticipated, he's not just handsome but funny, engaging and has clearly fallen head over heels for our daughter. His family are warm and welcoming and we were spoiled with their hospitality. The vacation sped by quickly with wedding preparations, lots of visiting with the arrivals and departures of Canadian guests and generally enjoying hot, hot, hot Cuban weather (temperatures in the mid 30c range). There was a lot of rain / flooding the week after the guests headed home but the weather was beautiful for the festivities with sunshine and a breeze. The bride and her sisters looked beautiful thanks to a makeup artist friend and the bride's hair was done by her brother's hairdresser partner (nice to travel with professionals). The father of the bride was stylin in his black guayabera (Cuban dress shirt) which was lightweight and tieless while my coral coloured dress was cool and packs like a t-shirt so both will become travel wardrobe staples. It was wonderful to have all the kids and grandkids together for a weekend for a positive family event like 'la boda' (that's wedding in Spanish) which doesn't happen often enough. Our granddaughter is seven months old now and as a chubby, smiling, blonde was a huge star, our grandson was fun to do activities with and both were entertained extensively by Cubans who missed them after departure. Needless to say the week after the wedding when the couple left to honeymoon in Camaguey, Ciego de Avila and Holguin….we kept a very low profile on the island of resting, reading, and being served great meals. Since I gained five pounds in my travels there is some realignment of the eating habits after returning. 

One interesting transcultural story I can share involves our grandson and a cute little Cuban girl who was visiting Cayo Damas as her parents were helping with wedding preparations. In my fractured Spanish I managed to ascertain that her name was Lirena and she was seven years old. She and our grandson played together, each speaking their own language while enjoying each others company. I was struggling with our grandson to write a story in his notebook for school (he's good with math but sees no relevance to writing) and having flashes of deja vu from spelling lists with his father at the same age. Lirena observed his messy scrawling with capitals in the centre of words, no spaces, reversed letters etc.  Our daughter gave her a journal (quite a prize as paper is not easily sourced in Cuba) and offered Lirena a pen from the bag - she was rewarded with a bright smile and a polite 'gracias'. Lirena opened the journal cover and choosing a red pen wrote her four names neatly with a flourish in flawless cursive writing. We were speechless….she is our grandsons age, likely thought he was 'special' when she saw his handiwork. That my friends, is what focusing on the essentials (such as education and healthcare) results in. Cursive writing isn't even required in our provincial curriculum! As we made our way to the airport, we passed rural schools with uniformed students sitting quietly in rows practicing their penmanship. It can be done. 

Friday's final travel day was looonnnnngggger than it needed to be, first with late departures, delays at layover and the final indignity of circling Halifax Stanfield Airport at midnight, unable to land (lightning strikes shut down the terminal which was blanketed in fog) then diverting to Moncton where after various options such as trying to head back to Halifax (airport still not open and not sure when it would) return to Toronto and try it again the next day (flight crew had flown from Miami and thus were timed out) or being bussed down (the final decision) although a fair number of folks who elected not to wait for the buses, rented all the available cars and exited. As we groggily waited, then tiredly boarded the bus I noticed a familiar face - a slight mother carrying a sleeping toddler in a front pack while dealing with a screaming preschooler - it was the urologist who has been following me since my post op complications of last June, she, her husband and children were returning from Bahamas. Always seems you meet someone you know when travelling…. Managed to catch a few ZZZZs on the bus and awoke at 4 am to find ourselves arriving at the airport and facing another three hours on the road. Felt as if I'd worked a night shift when we finally arrived home and crawled into bed for a few hours. 

So a few days of tying up the loose ends and we're off. Hoping that the duty travel of this weekend goes smoothly and that the life partner and myself haven't booked ourselves too much togetherness….Next posting from the great white north!

Restuffing a mattress
Sunset on Cayo Damas

Burro in front of the Cayo

Guavas…yum
Breakfast

1954 Willy Jeep
Cutting the cake




Crib by horse cart and boat
Flooding 



Falcon at Sierra Mar
Market cart in the city




Santiago de Cuba at night

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Have backpack will travel

Into the final countdown for vacation and my backpack and daypack are all ready to go. I'm using this knapsack - pictured here on the right, it's kid size but holds 40 litres - which I picked up as a reward for my excellent oncology appointment last week. I'm into the every
My life in a bag
three months specialist physical checkups (tests only if something is found) and was pronounced "hale and healthy, return in June". The pack is for a six week Greek islands hopping venture this fall. The intent is to check out a few of the Cyclades in September / October travelling in a minimalist style. So, what better way to understudy that role than a month hanging out in Cuba? Mind you, a few extras this time around what with dressier clothes, shoes etc. but have reduced my wardrobe to travel pieces and invested in a portable camping washing thingie….the Scrubba:


Well, actually invested again because the first one was 'tested' by two of the daughters in sequence while travelling and the second time around the scrubba didn't make it back. So, two thumbs up.

Heard again from the travel clerk for work with travel dates but no ticket received so will have to accept whatever flights they come up with. The travel partner / great white hunter had written (well I wrote and he signed the letter) to the Hunters & Trappers Committee (HTC) in Sachs Harbour, requesting permission to hunt snow geese this spring when he accompanies me to work. He received a cryptic email from the HTC clerk stating…..please fax letter, no internet. He complied. No point in questioning how the email was sent without internet…such situations are not unusual in the north. Research on travelling with shotgun/ammunition on various airlines is ongoing. 

Made the rounds of final appointments this week with haircuts, spa, physio. My transitional hair is still curly but…appears to be growing in straighter, although thick and not as grey. The hair stylist tells me that a year after chemo, finds you with the hair which you'll be left with. In the meantime, every haircut is a new challenge. Trying not to invest too heavily in curly styling products due to the temporary nature of the situation. I explained I'd gifted the wig to a former coworkers mother who is in need of it, should she contact the stylist regarding it and we decided that these type of things should be used not stored. My physio appointment included prolotherapy injection for my back and while the rhuematologist was examining my shoulder she commented on a 'mole with a halo' and mentioned having it checked. I thanked her for her concern but explained that spot was a ways down on my list of concerns after the past year. I shared my medical history and she said "oh my" a few times and I assured her that my plan was to be in the surviving group. She asked what drugs I'd received for chemo and….after living that experience for five months, being able to spout drugs, dosages, side effects etc. I found myself drawing a blank. I looked at her blinking, frantically searching my brain and finally said "I could look them up" to her incredulous gaze (she knows I'm a nurse) before somehow retrieving first one, then the other from my memory bank. As I said to the physio "it's amazing how I forgot so quickly something which completely took over my life" and then we both agreed that this is a good thing I've moved on. Today I was pampered at the spa with manicure, pedicure, facial etc. as I readied myself for instant summer. Ahhh

Just finished off a photo book from the Flo-ridication, using a voucher which will expire so it will be awaiting us when we return. Downloaded some e-books and that was the final task on my list before departure. So, off to bed as tomorrow morning is the community breakfast at the Fire Hall. My plan is to walk there and back, somewhat negating all those calories. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Oh….you're NOT Dutch?

Well, the last post began with an update on the Florida trip and this one will be a travelogue of…Curacao. The short version is that we (as expected) loved it and had a wonderful couple of weeks on one of the Netherland Antilles. The weather was fantastic, the food was great, people (representing 55 nations of origin) were friendly and helpful as we explored the island from one end to the other, frequently being mistaken for Dutch tourists as Canadians were a distinct minority, and acquiring a fondness for cheese balls as a snack. 

This is not to say that the travel plans went entirely smoothly, but lets just affirm that I'm never using that travel agent (shore captain) again! In December when we began planning this trip, I suggested having the travel agent look for airfare for us but… the problem was that mister (having reduced his working hours) had more time on his hands - not to be confused with having technological skills or being detail orientated. When the travel agent didn't immediately (as in at 9 pm at night) begin searching for airfare, my life partner went online and found 'only two seats left' on CheapO Air and panicked big time. He immediately attempted to book airfare online. This resulted in several days of phone calls back and forth with an East Indian call centre who refused to issue the tickets because "there are less than two hours between flights in Aruba". I wouldn't trust two hours in Pearson International (more on that later) for transit but Aruba is a small facility. I of course had to do the chatting with those with accents as the shore captain (after much insistence from me) is booked for a long overdue hearing test this month. After much to and fro, the ticket was finally cancelled and reissued (at a higher cost of course) and as it turned out, leaving a day earlier (requiring mister to add the arrival night at the hotel) and an overnight in Toronto on the return (which I found the week before we left). The greatest problem was discovered by our daughter though the day before we were to travel as there was a typo with my name on the ticket. This resulted in hours of phone calls with the aforementioned call centre who stated they were unable to change the mistake, pinned it on the shore captain who had originally entered the incorrect info online, asked for a copy of my passport to be faxed, threatened change costs and told me to call the two airlines directly (both WestJet and Insel Air stated that CheapO Air had to make the changes) and in the end did nothing to help. My only option was to head to the city early and throw myself upon the mercy of WestJet where a lovely agent took over an hour and changed my ticket. Again in Aruba at the Insel Air counter there was a repeat performance and a $25 fee that time. The last detail was on the final Friday when (thinking we we had two more days at the West Point hotel we were staying in) mister received an email stating we were to check in to the next accommodation he'd booked in Willemstad. Not sure how he managed the overlap but clearly can't be in two places at the same time so he made the call to ask that our room be held until Sunday. 

Ain't that the truth?
peacock flounder
view from our balcony
His choices with lodging were good - all three were different but great. We stayed the first few days at Coral Estates in Rif Ste Marie which looked over the beach, great snorkelling, lovely pool, bar, restaurant and grounds. We picked up some supplies for breakfasts and made a couple of suppers in our newly completed housekeeping studio to supplement the restaurant. We snorkelled at the resort and visited Dai Boo Beach nearby. This was a local rustic beach spot where folks come to BBQ and hang out as families. When we attempted to start the rental car after our stay, there was no way it was moving, not even a click! The very accommodating host at the bar even helped push the car up and down the parking lot with the shore captain as I attempted to 'clutch it' to start. No go. So a call to the rental company, then roadside assistance and a wait of almost two hours for the  mechanic to arrive and….immediately start the car. Thankfully our bar manager defended us stating that the car did not start for any of us. In the end, we decided it had something to do with taking the lock out sensor off the key ring so it wouldn't get wet while swimming and it not connecting immediately. Never happened again but sure made us nervous every time we shut the engine off. 
sunset from the rooftop terrace

Shete Boka National Park

school of sardines

Mt. Christoffel

sea turtles everywhere

The second stay was in a large suite at West Punt B&B which is a small hillside hotel in the northwest part of the island. Jose, the Venezuelan cook who had worked on oil rigs was a real find - we had lovely meals and I got to practice my Spanish. I managed to drop my phone poolside on the concrete and kill it instantly with ten days remaining - not even able to swipe the screen and access it. This resulted in using my Kindle in desperation to check email, only the truly stubborn would resort to that! We snorkelled almost daily at various beaches and saw many fish which were new to us, schools of sardines and lots of sea turtles. We also visited both Shete Boka and Christoffel National Park, hiking Mt Christoffel which is 1220 feet of rock climbing and was actually just as tough on the descent. Took in the Savonet museum which was a landhuis (plantation great house) with lots of history explained. 
fish on snorkel tour
shipwrecks on Klein Curacao
lighthouse Klein Curacao
 The final few days were spent in Willemstad which is a UNESCO world heritage site of Dutch colonial architecture. We explored the floating market (housed on boats over from Venezuela) then shopped the cobblestone narrow streets and visited the Maritime museum. There were cruise ships in daily which reminded us of our former visit and we were amazed to find a large yacht named the Freewind at the dock which was the Church of Scientology flagship. Who would think? We stocked up on breakfasts (again from the Asian supermarket which seemed to be the only nationality of shopkeepers) for our executive suite and enjoyed wonderful suppers at various restaurants. We took a catamaran tour to Klein Curacao for the day - a wild ride on the way over but nice sail on the return - lots of fishes and turtles, some shipwrecks on the backside and a derelict lighthouse, beautiful white coral sand beaches and a great BBQ for lunch on the boat. Tourists from across the globe to enjoy the day and rum punches with. 

We flew Insel AIr from Curacao to Sint Maarten and it was more of a scare than any of the rides at Busch Gardens. I was glad to see the pilot with a touch of grey in the cockpit as we boarded the Fokker 50 which was completely sold out. I'm sure the plane was one of the original built 30 years ago as some of the wall pieces were held today with duct tape, there was paper towel stuffed in a crack leaking water and the fuselage squeaked and rattled. The young male flight attendant seemed uninterested / frightened and spent most of the two hour flight buckled in the jump seat behind us. We were in the final row (unable to recline) and the two passengers in front of us pushed their seats back into our laps and were not corrected on take off or landings. In fact, the guy in front of me looked out of MY window while leaving the shade down on his. The middle 45 minutes of the flight we experienced severe turbulence (neither of us are nervous flyers and have flown lots of small northern planes) with the aircraft bucking, plunging, stuttering and violently shaking. A large lady wearing a wide brimmed straw hat, purple tights to match her puce leather bag, eye crossing bold printed dress and generous amounts of gold jewelry prayed loudly for deliverance. Whether she was a faithful follower or had only sought religion within the past hour was not clear. There were lots of frightened gasps and muttering with the occasional squeal. A female passenger a few rows in front of us was violently airsick and when the seatbelt sign went out as the turbulence eased, a German passenger goaded the flight attendant to "go and check on the lady, she's ill" so he made a cursory inspection of passengers, assisted the woman and promptly resettled himself. As we made our approach into Princess Juliana International Airport across tourists on Maho Beach we encountered crosswinds which caused teeth jarring shaking, spinning, loud rattles in the tail section beside me, wings flailing wildly as we descended across the water, but the pilot finally wrestled the plane into submission touching down, wings waving, fuselage twisting side to side and landing gear bouncing a couple of times off the runway with an immediate reversal of engines and coming to a screeching halt. Silence, sighs, then loud prayers of thanksgiving from the 'purple lady', nervous laughter from some, and finally applause for the pilot as we all counted our blessings. All of this was underlined by an email from the travel agent asking how we'd made out as Insel Air had been in the trade news as being recently grounded for bankruptcy and he'd wondered if we'd made it home as well as mentioning there is a direct WestJet flight from Toronto to Curacao. Sigh. The flight to Toronto was uneventful by comparison, the snarl at Pearson Airport was as per usual, taking two hours from landing to airport hotel. Ridiculous! A short night as we returned for an early morning flight east. My seat mate employed by the diamond mine in NWT I fly over regularly was good company. 

As we were retrieving the bag and met by our daughter I noticed a middle aged, well dressed man quietly leaning back against the wall, holding a bouquet of red roses as passengers streamed by and he waited for his special someone. I gave him the thumbs up and told the life partner that this dude was making the rest of the unromantics look bad, he shrugged, after 40 years he doesn't feel that requires a comment. 

The clunker car which the youngest daughter had been driving died while we were on vacation and her father suggested she pick up his new truck (which was at her sister's) for her to use while we were away. As she was explaining that she'd backed into a pilon in the parking garage at work, I at first thought she was pulling his leg but…the look on her face was similar to the one of 11 years previously when we returned from another vacation and there was $8900 in damages to an earlier truck. Oh dear, but it is only vehicle and can be fixed. 

We arrived home to much cooler temperatures than the past few weeks and full out wedding planning by the oldest daughter. The details are coming together and the excitement is building as it's less than a month away and only 17 days until we fly to Cuba. Will be nice to see our Cuban friends again, spend a month in the sun, meet the son-in-law and be together as a family for a positive event. 

Next week will be busy starting with a physio appointment, then on to run errands. In between there is a major storm predicted - thought this was March? Had hoped to visit friends in NB but weather forecast and hostess illness have rescheduled. Friday is my three month oncology appointment in the city. The weekend will be a family getaway with the grandkids at The Quarterdeck to enjoy the pool, games room and hanging out. The final home week will be last minute travel prep and then we'll return the end of April. 

I received a message from the travel clerk at work who is making arrangements for my four week rotation in May/June and am getting excited about heading back, just smoothing out the details and good to have it settled before I'm out of country. It'll be over a year and a lot of lived experience by the time I make it back. A coworker sent a pic of my photo ID hanging on the hook in the health centre office and I assured her that I'm with her in spirit. 

The microwave died just before we left for vacation and a replacement was ordered, arriving in our absence. Installed by the in-house handy man with much muttering and colourful metaphors, disruption of kitchen and mess everywhere and although it does function there is some final finish work to be completed. This morning's task was to clean up and polish the brass range hood cover before replacement - a  nasty job but it looks nice now….for a few days. Off to crack some lobsters for supper while pretending that white stuff outside the window is fine coral sand….ahhh. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Subtropical Stay

Home again to the cold and snow, unpacked and ticking off the 'to-do' list created by two weeks absence. As the shore captain stated though…it's sure a lot less hassle to come home but not have to deal with going back to work. Making a few calls, keeping some appointments, a couple of documents and updating the blog can't be considered too strenuous. Walking to the mailbox with snowflakes and windchill is another matter though. 

We enjoyed a wonderful family getaway to Tampa for two weeks even though the weather was less than stellar. There were a couple of days at the beginning and end which could be considered 'beach days' but for the most part breezy and cool (only 13c on the middle weekend). Three of us (shore captain, myself and the nurse daughter) had a belly bug which having had once I am sure was norovirus the first weekend - and trust me….the two nurses managed MUCH better than himself with the bug. Then the final week mister managed to catch a cold and share it with ALL of us, yes even the poor baby so we could fly home with crackly ears. I'm certain it was a man cold because the whining was MUCH worse from the two affected males. However, even with coolish temps a and illness the trip was a subtropical success. Subtropical being the way our friends 'bug man' reminded her of the climate. 
Indian Rocks Beach
Renting a house for a crowd was a good choice for relaxing, great meals and visiting. Indian Rocks Beach is a bit quieter than Clearwater or St. Petersburg so the rental van (with our son-in-law as chauffeur) was well used. We were only a block from the beach (lovely beach walks) and the hot tub 
Glass blowing 
was well enjoyed. We took a day trip to Tarpon Springs which is a Greek community famous for its sponge fishery - touristy but a nice spot. There was discussion of deep sea fishing but…the season and weather decided against it. We invested in Tampa city passes and took in five attractions for the price of simply visiting Busch Gardens. Tampa Aquarium didn't disappoint and although I'd visited it previously was well worth another trip, Clearwater Marine Aquarium was interesting (Dolphin Tales was filmed here) as it's a marine rescue centre, the Chihuly collection reminded us of Murano in Venice and St. Pete's is a lovely artsy spot: 

moreanartscenter.org/chihuly

The ladies enjoyed the Dali museum (over 2100 of his works) with the Frida Kahlo exhibit as a bonus. Cute to see the baby as an art critic. We were amazed at both sets of work and the gallery itself is a structural marvel:

thedali.org

The lads amused themselves with a visit to a microbrewery for a craft beer tasting and snacks - pulled pork nachos and ribs apparently were a good choice followed by watching the planes at St Pete - Clearwater airport and checking out the marina with the spiffy yachts. 

A very cool, breezy day spent at Busch Garden was still fun as the grandparents got to hang out with the granddaughter while the adult kids rode the rides complete with smiles and
Busch Gardens - Cumber
screams. Since we had always been dissed for not taking them as children to Disney (or any other theme park for that matter) we were absolved after the full day. It was a hoot to watch the baby observing the revolutions of the rides with great intent. We stopped on the way home for supper at a place called Suishi Burrito (which is in fact a Vietnamese restaurant - who knew?) and I have to say the lemongrass pork was one of the more delicious meals I've had. One evening we made our way across country to visit friends of ours (who we were posted with years ago in the RCMP) who now winter near Zephyrhills in a 'manufactured home' park - not our plan of choice as there were 1200 units there but a nice spot. It was different landscape with cattle farms, pine trees and lots of fields. There were two hockey games taken in where Tampa Bay Lightning played first Boston, then Ottawa and I was lucky enough to keep the baby both evenings. We walked the nearby nature preserve and beach, she told me stories, took a bottle of pumped milk and went to bed without protest. Perfection. It was good to discover that the little one is such a great traveller as she'll be heading to Cuba in April for her 'tia's' wedding. 


Since returning home, the bride to be has suggested we need to focus on lifestyle improvements such as healthy eating and increased activity so….we have made a meal plan for the week, purchased only healthy foods and increased our water consumption. She attended exercise class last evening and is participating in something entitled a '30 day challenge' which frightens me to even read the calendar she was provided. We shall see how the resolve holds out. 

Met a buddy last evening and we took in the movie Hidden Figures - it was being shown at a traditional theatre in a community about an hour away to honour black history month. We were not disappointed! It's a great tale based on a true story about the first female engineers at NASA and would represent either civil or women's rights. Having visited Cape Canaveral this summer made it even more enjoyable. My (much younger) friend was surprised to find that mechanical pencils were available in 1961 and I assured her that I had one at that time so could personally vouch for the story line. 

The weather is predicted as snow, freezing rain and slush so not much of a forecast but… we only have next week remaining and will be off to warmer climes again so I shall not whine.    

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Packed and waiting

Since my knapsack which holds all the essentials and more for a two week jaunt in Tampa is packed and sitting in the closet, and although our departure is a few days away, the remaining items on my 'to-do list' (along with the final domestic chores) only list check in online 24 hrs pre-flight and add the phone and charger so….as you can see, I'm enjoying some warm sun in the shelter of the veranda - yeah for the lexan panels on the screens. The breeze today was cool when I walked to the mailbox but the view is beautiful with all the waterfowl celebrating the end of duck hunting season. So lucky to live in such a beautiful location. The kitties have joined me for a fly hunting safari so all is good. 

The usual flurry of pre-vacation activity has included appointments for spa and (for the first time in six months) a haircut! Well, it was actually just a trim to even out the length and a consultation on 'products' due to the fact that my new 'chemo hair' has come in salt & pepper, fairly soft and…wait for it….curly! Always wanted curls and my mother used to assure me that I was born into the wrong family for those. Kind of a tough way to get curls and they are likely only transient as within six months to a year the hair will change again, but in the meantime I am 'enjoying' them. Everyone (myself included) has been amazed at how quickly my hair regrew. Lest I bore you with the details I'll summarize by saying that chemo dries out your scalp and hair so coconut oil before shampooing with replenishing stampoo/conditioner followed by moroccan oil is the new routine and the gel/spray for curls makes me look less like Don King (you remember the wrestling promoter with the wild hair) and more like I've got a new hairstyle which I'm learning to manage. The wig wasn't a big deal, but it's nice to be able to leave it on the shelf. 

The new year brought a couple of follow up appointments with an ultrasound and urologist consultation. All is well with the ureter stricture and she will continue to follow me with another ultrasound in May and appointment in June. We had one of those 'small world' chats when I mentioned heading back to work in the Beaufort Delta in the spring where she mentioned a summer spent in Yellowknife as a medical student and a trip to Inuvik with an internist who I have dealt with working north. When I disclosed I wasn't 'ready to give up on work yet although not sure if I'll just try it once' she offered encouragement and stated "just make the decision one rotation at a time" which is of course excellent advice. Tough to do when the rest of the world, especially employers, require advance planning but it does remove the pressure. 

There has been a bit of future planning in this household lately with the sale of the business and resultant investment planning. The financial planner salesman who is our age and a nice young lad advising on estate planning met with the life partner and I. Of course the adage that 'cancer changes you' is true and as I watched the three men discussing longevity, planning to age 80 and long term investments, I thought….how very smug of you three to assume that 20 years from now is an expected gift. As a nurse there has always been an understanding of the fragility of life and even quality of life and of course 2016 has reinforced that for me. The most pertinent question for me related to health insurance as in…could I continue the group coverage after leaving work? The answer being….group coverage is possible only if drawing a pension (which I don't qualify for) and of course private health coverage requires health history disclosure, meaning with my recent shenanigans that I would be either denied, or have pre-existing clauses for exclusion of treatment related to my various issues, and likely exorbitant rates. Another reason to remain employed until sorted out a bit. 

We had a nice visit with the daughter and granddaughter who came to stay from one city trip to the next (one of the perks of maternity leave) as is NOT being involved with a nasty labour dispute her fellow teachers are this year. The baby is growing fast, very smiley, sleeps through the night, learning to roll over and babbling great stories. Looking forward to spending time with her on vacation. 

Enjoyed an evening out with a group of ladies for 'paint night'. If you're not familiar with the activity it's where art supplies and instruction are provided along with adult beverages. The 
results are often mixed because of the combo. The evening was a birthday celebration for the oldest daughter's friend and lots of snacks and drinks were enjoyed. The young fellow tasked with instruction really didn't stand a chance and was lost to the crowd after the initial introductions. When my daughter asked if I'd learned anything from the evening, I replied "I didn't realize so many people were unable to make decisions or do crafts" as there was a great deal of angst from many participants about process, materials, and outcome. Although the model was of a winter scene, in keeping with our upcoming warmer climes travel a few modifications were made at our table. 

We had the grandson overnight on the weekend and he is great fun. We read books, played games, watched a movie and generally enjoyed ourselves. Since his Grawmp has bought a new toy - a Can Am Defender aka side by side - they went for a test drive in the driveway. He clamped on to the hand bar in front of him as he buckled up, which speaks to how he's used to being transported on off road vehicles, but as a grandmother this is not something you
dwell on. I took him for a spin up and down the driveway to try the new machine out and he called out my speed  as he is fond of doing "11 km, 12 km" as we went. We were discussing what we could use the machine for and I mentioned travelling to our camp on crown land which he quickly warmed up to. As we exited the cab he said "Nanak, next fall when Grawmp is old enough, you can drive us to camp and we'll go deer hunting, he'll be able to pull the archery bow back by then". Ah, the minds of six year olds. 

The youngest daughter and son-in-law are travelling in South America and after hiking Machu Picchu are presently in Bolivia encountering adventures of the non-Spanish speaking tourist variety as they go. They have been backpacking and staying in hostels so splurged for a $40 hotel room with balcony and were thrilled with the hot water and toilet paper that accompanied it. Their journey has provided a life lesson in how privileged we are. They will fly to Miami and drive across the everglades to Tampa arriving on the same day as we do for our family get together. 

The wedding planning for April is getting serious and the guest list is being organized. Lots of parcels arriving from Amazon - think solar lights to decorate with etc. The plan is to roast two pigs because "Cubans and Cape Islanders will talk about it if there isn't enough food" and hiring the $30 photographer "who's clearly taking advantage of a foreigner being married" and $1 bouquets of flowers which the groom is researching. Fun will be had. 

Have been crocheting a bit - making more caps for the homeless shelter, some dishcloths and a few ponytail hats on request. Couldn't convince myself to drive into town for the knitting group (am sure they don't discriminate) holding their session at the local library - one of these Tuesdays I'll make it. Plans tomorrow for a visit to a not too distant yarn shop, a walk and perhaps even some lunch. We shall see, gotta pace myself before the funcation.