#ALCAN

I have been on many adventures thus far, but none as near and dear to me as the survivor trip I went on with my Husband Al.

In December of 2016, while in Jamaica, it was apparent there was something off with Al.  Unlike the rest of us, his summer clothes didn’t shrink after being stowed away a whole 6 weeks. In this beautiful setting that we started to consider that maybe the weight loss was something more than good genes.

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In January of 2017 Al had a scope to see what was happening.  A week after that procedure we sat in the doctor office as he said the words you have cancer.

I’m not going to lie, those words cut like a knife.  If I thought hearing those words was hard, saying them out loud was worse.  His Mum, our kids, our family our friends, each time as I tried to spit the words out it was like admitting defeat.

But within 24 hours after saying the word cancer more and more, defeat started to shift to hope.  From hope we went to its all going to be OK.  While looking at ALCAN packaging stuck on our garage fridge (my husband is obsessed with finding his name in other places and context) it dawned on us, having a diagnosis, no matter how scary, allows for a strategy to be planned.  And no matter what we are about to face #ALCAN

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Life continued pretty much as scheduled and the month of February was eventful.  The only thing the diagnoses let us drop our guard on?  Agreeing to chaperon our sons 17th Birthday at our place.  Cancer or no cancer,  first and last time that will ever happen! Though I will admit noting Al had just been diagnosed with cancer came in handy when the cops arrived at our door.  February is also Al’s Birthday month and we spent a couple of weekends in Toronto celebrating. And of course there was a plethora of tests at hospitals in Kitchener, Cambridge and Hamilton.

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Cancer aside, life was good, but the waiting was killer.  Rather than sit around waiting for the details of his illness (stage, type, plan) we decided to pack our stuff an go on an adventure.  With that off we went to Ocean Riveira Paradise in the Riveira Maya with our some of the people we love the most for some sun, sand and great company.

In March we learned the full picture of Al’s cancer, early stage 3 esophageal cancer. This particular cancer carries a 30% survival rate. And though Al may have lost his breath when he heard that, it was only a moment later when that fear shifted to #ALCAN.

 

Next came weekly chemo and daily radiation.  Monday’s I would take him for blood work then he had to wait 1.5 hours until chemo.  During that time we would go out for a proper Scottish breakfast at the Rising Dough Bakery in Preston, walk along the Grand River in downtown Cambridge (or Galt as it known to the locals) or to his favorite place for a stroll, Canadian Tire!   Every afternoon we would head to Kitchener for his radiation treatments.  Though it may sound ridiculous we both looked forward to these moments together.  As the parents of teenagers, its hard to get peace and we were happy to take it any way we could get it!

It was also during this time I hooked him into Young and the Restless.  He would be tired following treatment and I took full advantage of his half awareness in front of the TV.  Before he knew what happened the conversation shifted from me asking if he minded if I watched Y&R to him asking when we are going to watch!  Still to this day 🙂

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Following his successful completion of the medical treatments, the next stage was surgery.  It is a very serious surgery called Minimally Invasive Ivor Lewis Esophagectomy.  Despite the severity I don’t think I have ever met someone so eager to have body parts removed before.  On August 1st he went into and came out of surgery in the same manner, with a smile waving his lucky finger!  In fact after 4 days in the hospital he was discharged, making him the shortest hospital stay for his procedure on record.  When we arrived home, it seems a few of our friends wanted to share that they received the memo that #ALCAN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Home from Surgery

In September we received the best news possible.  The results of the surgery… Al was cancer free!!!!  So naturally we did what we did best and ended this journey how we started, on a beach in the Caribbean.  Surrounded by some of our favorite people it was a time to reflect over the last year and how fortunate we are. It was also during this trip that it dawned on us that Al was never going to stop his name association obsession.

 

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Al low… get it?

Everyday is an adventure no matter what hand you have been dealt.  If you every find yourself needing a little inspiration think of #ALCAN because if he can, you can too!

 

Chevy Made Him Do It

You know that feeling when you see a movie and you get inspired to go on an adventure?  My Dad does sure did and thanks to that our family lived our own version of National Lampoon’s Vacation.

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Back in 1985 my Dad put a vote to our family asking how we felt about moving back to Ontario from beautiful British Columbia?  The people spoke and the next thing you know the wheels where in motion to migrate East.

The part we didn’t learn about until after the vote?  #roadtrip ! I never really thought about how we were going to get there until that moment.   Then it hit me; My mom and dad, us 3 kids, a cat, a dog and all the stuff we can carry in a station wagon towing a hand crafted trailer 4300km across the country, what could go wrong?

Turns out, pretty much everything.

We made it from Langford to Duncan, or a gruelling 48 km and took our first u turn so to speak. Turns out we would be staying the night while a little problem with a tire was tended to.  No worries, one day longer to get to our destination, we’re flexible.  Once on the road again we made it nearly the full 89km to my uncles, when we encountered another minor set back.  This time due to a little bend in the frame of our trailer. A quick sale at rock bottom prices of our appliances and problem solved.   Alas we made it to our last stop, said good bye to our family and left my favorite island on the planet, Vancouver Island.

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The rest of our journey east was pretty uneventful until we started to climb the Rocky Mountain Foothills.  It was about this time we realised the car preformed better driving at night when it’s cool vs. during the day when it was hot.  Unless of course you like radiator steam baths.  No problemo.  Children of the ages 3, 11 and 13 are so cooperative when it comes to managing major time table changes.

We carried on our journey and the further east we travelled the more we settled into our daily routine;

  • find away to rest and keep everyone amused during the day so the car could “rest”
  • get gas, which trust me was a real struggle at times, remember we’re night driving
  • argue why us children must eat and drink at every gas station
  • debate about how water does have a taste and it is not the same out of every tap
  • start the “when is the next bathroom break or are we there yet?” convo
  • a few rounds of who’s most bored
  • carpool karaoke – who can sign the loudest addition

Once we made it to Kenora Ontario it was time to shake things up a bit.  Literally!  That is exactly what happened when a tire blew off our trailer.  Bless my mom, she handled that full stop like a stunt driver.  Between the exploding rubber and the subsequent skid to a halt, the trailer doors blew off and our belongings spilled all over the Trans-Canada Highway.  After a brief game of dodge the transport trucks we had our belongs retrieved and the trailer detached.  The plan?  My dad waits on the side of the highway while us four girls drive to the closest town to get a tire.  Sounds reasonable, my dad on the road guarding the trailer, while my mom, who has no sense of direction and us three girls look for a town.  Luckily no horror story here, after three hours we were reunited and on the road again.  Kenora

6 days and 5 nights later we arrived safe and sound at Grandma’s in Etobicoke.  Starving we were grateful for the home cook meal she had planned for our arrival. Sadly we didn’t have cell phones back then and couldn’t tell her we would be five hours late.  Those burgers would have been perfect if slider buns were a thing back then.   Can anyone say “Where’s the beef” ?

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Strapped in the car with my sisters and parents for all those kilometers,  bouncing across the country under the cover of darkness, I realised some things.

  1. My home and native land is spectacular, day and night.
  2. The Northern lights coupled with an electric storm is not the time to misplace the camera.
  3. A Ford Torino towing a hand crafted trailer through the middle of Winnipeg bounces better than any blow up castle.
  4. Engines that overheat also double as heat warmers without a max temp setting.
  5. Keep the windows rolled up when travelling with a cat.
  6. Small dogs that pick fights with enormous dogs teach you to run fast and start the car even faster.

But more than anything I realized being locked in the car with the the people you love for days on end is the stuff that the classics are made of.  And if your dad plans an adventure after being inspired by a Chevy Chase movie, you strap in and hit the road!

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To Holiday or Vacation? That is the question.

Do you prefer to go on Vacation or Holiday?  How you answer that question could determine how you spend send that coveted time off.

Vacation as defined is a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel.  While Holiday,  a day on which one is exempt from work, takes a slightly different tone.

To determine if I am taking a Holiday or a Vacation when travelling, I ask myself, do I want to work during my time away or not?  (By work, I really mean flexing my brain power.)

If I answer yes, than more than likely I am going to book, flight, car, hotel, excursions etc all separately and individually of each other (or with the assistance of a travel agent).  The thought power comes into the decision made when selecting the stay aspects along with the daily considerations of where to eat, what to do next and how should we get there.

What I love about planning my own trip is it really makes it about me.  From the location and amenities of the hotel to the places to eat and see.  Putting your own plan together allows you to plan around what is most important to you, like a fishing trip in Ucuelet B.C. or visiting the location of the soup Nazi in NYC.

Planning my own trip is also the way to go if renting a cottage.  Using a site such as VBRO, can help connect you to your desired property.  Though some work, such as cooking and cleaning, may be necessary for this style of vacation it is one of the greatest ways to explore beautiful cottage destinations.

If I answer no to the work question, than more than likely I am going all inclusive.  Air, accommodations, F&B and some activities are packaged together and included for one price.  Many companies such as Air Transat offer these types of holidays in several different destinations.

What I love about all inclusive is it really does mean no work!  Not one finger shall be lifted.  The greatest amount of work exerted comes when determining what destination and offerings are the best fit for your needs.  Once there from morning to night the amenities offered can keep the hours as busy or relaxed as you would like. This is also a great way to travel with a group, whether celebrating a special occasion such as a wedding or a family gathering.  Getting everyone together without one person having to cook, clean and make decisions really lends to spending quality time together.   The closest thing to work may be securing the beach chairs needed for the day!

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Everyone needs a break from their day jobs, everyone!  So no matter if you plan to take a a vacation or a holiday, enjoy every minute of it.  You deserve it!

 

Looking For a Place to Happen?

Once in a while we need to look in a new direction to find inspiration.  When it comes to life’s everyday adventures, one of my old stand by’s to try something new, is to follow the music.

There are a few ways to do this.  The first one is to look for a band you like that is playing near you.  Then go to the town, city or venue they are playing at and explore. Taking this path has ed me to some interesting sites that you would not expect for a concert such as  Fort York in Toronto  and Fort George in Niagara on the Lake.   How about summer nights at The Kee to Bala in beautiful Muskoka?  One of my faves was hitting downtown Montreal for the Jazz Festival.

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Some concert series include a full weekend of talent.  Many years ago my Husband and I were camping at Mosport In Bowmanville for a weekend seeing over 50 performers on 2 stages over 3 days on a race track, such a good time!

Another way to seek a destination with a musical inspiration is to take the direction from the band.  The Clash tells us London’s Calling, Alicia Keys may put you in an Empire State of Mind and who didn’t want to go to Kokomo thanks to the Beach Boys.

My personal favorite inspiration is the Tragically Hip!  They have touched Canadians on so many levels, and I include them as an influencer on my everyday adventures. From a sundown in the Paris of the Prairies to the Constellations in Bobcaygen their song titles and lyrics paint a beautiful picture of places that we must see, explore and enjoy in our great Country.

The last way I recommend music to inspire your adventure is through nostalgia.  Music has this wonderful way of bringing us back to moments in time.  One note can take me on a stroll through my own memories.  For the days when exploring much beyond your front door is just not in the cards, take a break and throw on some of your favorite jams and let yourself be taken back to wherever it leads you.

So the next time you find yourself looking for a place to happen, follow your ears and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mind Your P’s and Q’s

Whether travelling close to home, or travelling abroad, one of the most important thing to pack is your manners.

In this digital world I feel like some of us have lost touch with  the basics when it comes to simple human interactions.  I was raised in an environment in which we mind the 10 and 5 rule (at 10 feet you make eye contact, at 5 feet you offer a greeting), respect your elders and mind your manners.  I may sound old fashion but I am a firm believer in these basic human exchanges.  And more importantly I believe while travelling we represent not only ourselves but our Nation.

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Will I am recommending you  be friendly while travelling I am not advocating that you take this approach when in a foreign land that may have different customs, or if  looking someone in the eye and saying “Hello” is outside of your comfort zone.  What I am saying, is that a little good old fashion please and thank’s can go a long way.

When travelling to a destination that speaks a different language, I encourage you to learn the basics, please, thank you, hello, goodbye etc.  There are several ways you can teach yourself, here are my suggestions;

  1. Ask someone that you know that speaks the language.
  2. Watch TV or moves in the language you are looking to learn.  If they have English subtitles this can be extra helpful
  3. Visit your local library, they have several free resources to help learn languages.
  4. Take a class.  Many colleges, universities and private schools offer language classes.
  5. Download one of the many apps available for language translations.

Further I  recommend that you do a basic search on your destination to get a sense of their culture to avoid any faux pas.  A simple google search of the word etiquette + the destination name will bring you the results you need.

Canadians are known for being polite and friendly.  That is because we are are! So the next time you plan to venture into a foreign land, represent yourself and Canada well and pack your P’s and Q’s!

 

 

Girls Weekend Essentials

One of my absolute favorite weekend get away’s ever is with my girlfriends.   We don’t have to go far, we just have to go where we are free from the responsibilities of our lives at home.

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We have been taking these reality breaks at least once a year for the past 21 years, and  have been to many destinations across Ontario and the US.  No matter where you go there are some essential best practices to ensure a weekend full of good times.

  • Pick the right squad!  It is very tempting to want to invite everyone you ever met along on your adventure.  However,  to ensure a successful weekend make sure that everyone will get along.  The last thing you ever want is drama.
  • Have a game plan for what you will do while you are there.  You don’t want to get there an then everyone is sitting around wondering whats next.  You also want to avoid putting one of your friends in a situation they are not comfortable with, ensure everyone is on the same page before they commit to the weekend.
  • Don’t have your agenda clocked to the second.  Allow for some flexibility in timing.
  • Pack more than you need.  Since it is only a weekend, over packing in this instance is acceptable, in fact, it’s encouraged.  Unless you are flying, then pack for what is needed.
  • Splurge on yourself.   Go to the spa, the fancy dinner, order the expensive champagne, buy the designer purse.  Pick the one thing that you want the most then go for it!
  • Bring a camera.  Don’t just rely on your phones, make sure there is one camera there for the better quality photo.
  • Get dressed up, do your nails, do you hair and plan for at least one evening out that is not casual.
  • Leave your worries at home. Better yet leave them with your significant other.

 

When planning a weekend away with your girls, it truly doesn’t matter where you go.  All the really matters is that you go!

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How to win the favorite daughter award

Dads, they really are special people!  In a family of three daughters, showing your Dad how special he is, could get a bit competitive.   Unless you are the oldest, then you have a bit of a naturel edge.  As someone who loves to travel, planning a trip for your Pops with tickets to a Nascar race, wins you the best daughter award, hands down!

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As the first born, I was attached to my dad at the hip. As such you could call me the son he never had.  He taught me about cars, power tools and sports.  And like my Dad sports became a life long passion.   Attending sporting events has been the focus of many vacation planning ideas.  Though non have been as special or memorable as my trip to the Pocono Raceway in 2006 with my Papa Bear.

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I had travelled across much of Canada with my Dad by plane, train and automobile.  However he had never left Canada.  I really felt honored to give him the gift of seeing his favorite sport in person coupled with a new experience in another Country.

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As virgins to the scene we stayed in a hotel in Mount Olive NJ   a scenic township nestled in the mountains, about an hour from the raceway in Pennsylvania.  When we arrived at the track I was taken aback by how many people camped for the weekend, which is my one regret.  To get the full Nascar experience I would recommend skipping the hotel and staying at the track.

If you have ever seen a race on TV, it does not do justice to the atmosphere, sights and sounds.   The crowds, the strong sense of US Patriotism, the smell of the rubber on the track, the look in the eyes of the concession stand worker when you ask for gravy with your fries.  It was all just so surreal and the experience truly is beyond words having been there with my Dad.

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This Fathers Day as I reflect on the impact my father has had on my life, I want to thank him for giving me the gift of life, the appreciation of the power of sport and a sense of adventure.  Thank you Dad, I love you!