Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Don't you love it when you stumble upon an idea or new way of doing something that not only is loads better but can save you money at the same time?

D cans dill pickles, jalapeno peppers and raspberry jam and we are enjoying the homemade products immensely. 

It's been 2 or 3 seasons for the pickles and he has experimented with other peoples' homemade recipes as well as online ones.  I think this year's hybrid recipe batch is the best out of the bunch.  When it is that time of year to buy cukes, I'm always amused to find farmers thinking it's me (I'm the official family produce picker) canning and then see their faces when a guy steps up.  

And you should have seen D's face when we got him his very own canning kit...Can you imagine Daniel Craig canning or getting excited about a canning kit?  That's about how surprised I was. 

The jalapeno peppers started as a lucky find -- A giant buckets' worth at a greatly reduced price caught our attention.  D had been buying jarred ones for years and just paid the money for what really isn't an expensive product at all.  And like with a lot of things, a bit of education destroys the perception that something is really really hard and beyond an average person's grasp.  So off we went to buy more jars.  And the results have been pretty awesome.

The raspberry jam was new this year partly due to our over abundant soft fruit season as well as the shear price of homemade jam and the volume that gets consumed.  D loves jam and again we are used to buying it from farmers' markets and specialty stores vs the commercial brands which are too sweet for us.

He found a recipe that didn't need pectin as apparently raspberries have enough of their own, the jam will just set.  We were a bit apprehensive but figured it was worth a couple pints to try it out and it was a winner.  More fruity tasting than anything we've ever bought with half the sugar.  So now we have a whole set of smaller jam jars.

The process of learning the above didn't come without challenges.  The first year of pickles shorted out our gas stove or so we thought.  I wasn't totally on board with all the moving parts of canning and didn't really like having all that humidity in the house etc.  So when the stove stopped working, I had a little freak out as it is an expensive gas range...

Turned out it was a safety mechanism when temperatures got too high.  D had all the burners on full blast in an effort to sterilise all of his jars and the stove shut him down in self preservation.  We didn't even know there was a built in range fan on top of an oven fan until that happened.  Once the temperature dropped enough, everything came back online.  I remember being so mad looking for warranty information and D being so scared he killed the stove for $20 worth of pickles...

Next season, the jalapeno peppers went off without a hitch.  (Thank goodness!)

The jamming created a lot of tension in the house because the raspberries brought home families and families worth of fruit flies and I had to buy an extra fly swatter to manage them all.  Seriously, I couldn't even eat lunch in peace or get into my car without swatting as they were in our garage recycling area too.  And it is irritating and dangerous trying to kill bugs while driving.

Oh what did we do before Google?  Within a few hours of setting up a couple of fruit fly traps made of apple cider vinegar and a bit of detergent, it caught the rest of them.  Just wished we had found it a week earlier.  I have a pretty extreme aversion to bugs so they were driving me crazy and causing anxiety as I swear they were biting me. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Educational Trends Pt 3 -- Arts

We don't know any friends' kids who are learning music or art.  It appears not to be in favour.  Personally I find that shocking and disappointing. 

So what is in?  Group dance classes to the tune of about a thousand a month.  Plus all the makeup,  costumes, competition fees, travel and overnight stays.  Some would call it more "show" than "true" dance but nonetheless, it is a huge industry.  The group mentality and the pressures that come with it are alive and well. 

We know of 2 families who spent between 26K - 30K each to travel to the London Olympics (2 families of 4, for a week) to dance with the group.  When we were told, I just thought WOW!  To be 14 years old and be able to dance at the Summer Olympics!  How do you even go about getting an opportunity like that?

As one mom put it, "We got there, had a day to settle in and S spent 45 min dancing at an out of the way industrial parking lot where no one was watching.  No sign, no stage, no organization...We quickly realized it was a ploy for the school to be able to write off a trip to the Olympics."  They did get tickets to see one round of fencing.  Afterwards the family just did our own thing and enjoyed London.

On the other end of the spectrum we know of parents who are waiting for a "sign" from their child of their "leanings" before signing them up for anything.   And they are honestly hoping it won't be the piano as they don't want to make room for one in their house.  The TV takes priority.  You should have seen my face when I heard that. 

As well as parents who have openly declared they are not going to provide any opportunities outside of what's available at school or summer school because they are just too busy and tired to bother.  Money is not the issue.  I feel bad for the kids and hope they will keep their interests alive inside and pursue it when they are able to fund it themselves.

Monday, October 29, 2012


It appears my timing for having to miss a trip was a good one.  I was supposed to be heading down to NYC for a couple of nights after spending 3 days in Maine before catching my flight home.  All flights home have been cancelled for the next 2 days.  My thoughts to all the people caught in the storm.

Being mostly at home for vacation is still kinda new for me.  The longest I've ever hung out here was about a week.  And D reminded me that I told him to never let me do it again as I did too much work and not enough vacationing.  My attempt at a staycation last time wasn't very successful.  Whereas this time I am quite enjoying it.

I'm more than half way through my time off and have almost worked through the stuff that necessitated my stay in the first place.   One project I did do on the house didn't turn out so great.  It is too late in the year to wood fill and paint windows and it just isn't wanting to dry properly.  So 3+ hours down the drain as I will have to redo it next summer.

Had a couple instances where I felt a bit bored.  Didn't feel like practicing violin or piano anymore.  Art class stuff completed.  Had dinner already cooking and cleaning was under control.  Caught up on emails.  Even raked leaves a couple times.  So went back to the office to do paperwork for a few hours.  Shocking the heck out of D.

Funny thing was early on, I started feeling "guilty" for just sitting around.  During a regular work week (12 - 15 hr), I would never feel guilty on a day off even on days where I didn't feel like cleaning or making dinner.  But at zero paid work hours, I felt like I had to justify my time at home. 

That lasted for a couple of moments and has subsequently cleared.  I can get used to vacationing at home more. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Educational Trends Pt 2 -- Sports

We are seeing around us a whole world of recreation that never existed in our time.  Kids currently have to start training at a young age in order to be able to compete for a varsity spot one day. 

D, being pretty sports aware is shocked at how intense the rec system has become.  We have been told that in order to play grade 9 volleyball, training has to start in grade 5 with the right coach and camps?!

In our time, anyone who showed up pretty much had a decent chance of getting on the team.  Kids are now training 3 -5 times a week and playing throughout the year.  And their goal isn't to make it to the Olympics or win a scholarship or to become a professional athlete or just to stay fit.

They are attending special camps all over the States and on multiple leagues in order to build up a strong enough resume to make varsity.  I'm sure you can imagine the costs associated as well as the little down time for both kids and family.  Plus it makes it impossible for youth summer jobs. 

This training intensity has led to multiple injuries at a young age like compression and stress fractures, small bone breaks and chronic muscle strain.  Believe me, that kind of stuff comes back to haunt you.  Maybe I'm not seeing it but where is the fun?

Because of the huge time commitment just one sport demands, I'm noticing the development of these kids/teenagers/young adults seem skewed.  Whether parents are a huge proponent of a liberal arts education or not, the reality is, once in, kids basically have no time to do anything else.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How Far Would You Go?

My friends don't all know I'm a luddite.  So when I received a gift from a buddy yesterday in the form of an Interac e-Transfer (that was not the issue) of some money to buy a BB app, I cringed at what it will likely take to make this wonderful gesture into reality.

I just spent almost 2 hours downloading, upgrading software, syncing my phone with my laptop, getting IDs set up and rejected, and finally buying this app that is supposed to remind me of our youth.  I'm still not sure just how I'm going to get billed for this as I chose paypal and never did log in with any info but was told I've bought it and am listening to it right now.  I'm assuming it will show up on my monthly bill. 

The app I bought was for a German techno radio station.  And the buddy who was trying to cheer me up was my perennial clubbing partner back when we were in school.  He lives at the other end of Canada with his family and we've been reminiscing about the simplicity of our student days and catching up on our respective life challenges and struggles. 

D is going to send him an email saying "Thanks...MW is wanting to dye her hair burgundy now after listening to that station..."  To which I replied that R has seen my hair many different colours so it wouldn't surprise him.  To which he said "But I've never seen that...".  True.  That feels like many lifetimes ago. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Back So Soon?

No, the trip wasn't shortened, it didn't end up happening.  Some stuff came up last minute that required both our attentions and such as life...It resulted in some loss of money and gained some travel credits as the cancellation was not something that qualified for a travel insurance claim.  You win some, you lose some.  Am pleased at least the timing is such I was going to be off anyways. 

So obviously no thoughts about potentially living out east to share other than I am quite content where I am right now.  My life feels full and challenging (in a good way) which helps to balance the times when it is not.  I'm also not itching to get away or antsy because I couldn't go which for me is rare.  Things are evolving inside. 

Instead relief was what I felt when the news came as I was scrambling to pack.  I didn't want to be dealing with stuff via Blackberry and computer while away.  The last time I did that was when I was in Iceland.  Despite it turning out to be a phenomenal trip, I felt torn and didn't wish to experience it again.

I will have an opportunity to finish up some small projects at home which have been pushed aside way too frequently especially this year with the amount of great travelling (super grateful!) that did happen.  Plus get a sense for what it feels like to actually stay at home while D works.  See if I like the novelty of being a pretend 'kept woman' for a couple weeks...

Friday, October 19, 2012

On The Lighter Side

A couple of funny things came across D's radar recently:

An email gathering info for D's annual review was cc'ed to him incorrectly resulting in a joke review:

"Re:  Areas Requiring Improvement -- Needs to buy a car that is better than his wife's...something that isn't conducive to Tilley hats and Birkenstock wearing..." (remember D drives a Subaru Outback aka "old man wagon")

Last weekend, D wondered why the subtle background music choice was so poor while watching a foreign film, set in India, with his noise cancelling headphones.  At first it seemed appropriate but when it continued on, he took his headphones off and realized it was me trying to get acquainted with my violin...

Speaking of violins...Holy smokes are the tips of my fingers sore and arm achy!  There is a lot of awkward coordination and arm twisting involved with learning to play the violin, not to mention the mental exhaustion.  It looks natural when watching someone else (that's because they are good) but it really isn't.  There is a serious spatial requirement for this instrument.

Trying to keep the bow "straight" (perpendicular to strings and centered) with your head tilted while looking at it at an angle is challenging.  Plus you have music to contend with in front of you.  The violin is held by your chin and jaw, not your hand. 

And the bow hand?  Who knew you didn't just hold it but have to almost clamp on it with sides of bent fingers?  Nothing about it is natural.  And your hand either cramps up or just exhausts and bunches together limiting the amount of playing time until it wakes up again.   

I'm sure it will become second nature in no time?  I almost forgot to bring my violin the first lesson.  Not used to having to provide my own instrument, tune it, wipe it and rosin it.  Despite all my fumbles, my brain and I are really enjoying the challenge. 

Having a music background (good ear and ability to read music) helps tremendously.  I'm so glad I scrambled to get my piano tuned.  I don't know how you could just pick up this instrument without being able to confirm pitch (I'm sitting at my piano to make sure I am reproducing the right notes) or having to learn to read music at the same time as I am staring down my violin and arms constantly right now.  I need another set of eyes!

My teacher thinks I'll progress fairly quickly so that was nice to hear but I'll believe it when I hear it.  D may end up putting his foot down and relegating me to the garage.  I already have a lot of homework.  More than I would have given a beginner.   My next lesson won't be for 3 weeks and he expects I'll have time to practice and work ahead...

On that note, the east coast beckons and I won't be bringing my violin.  Crossing fingers for reasonable weather.  Hurricanes would not be considered reasonable...  Back in 2 weeks.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Art Class Characters

It is an eclectic mix of people in our art class.  Six of us who have various jobs/careers.  One retired lady and the remainder, all full time art students.  With any new group, we are likely scouting each other out wondering what the respective stories are and who is capable of what.  At least I am. 

I thought we'd be asked to introduce ourselves on the first night but it never happened.  Been out of school too long to know what is done nowadays.  So I am still not sure what everyone's names are (names are not my forte to being with).  People are friendly enough so lots of "hellos", which is fine.  The class is pretty much silently sketching for most of the 3 hours so not conducive to conversation anyways.

Depending upon the subject matter, we are either in a room with the oldest drafting tables I've ever seen or in a room with large desks covered with drawing mats.  It's great to see all the art work featured on the walls.  Very inspiring.  Some people have real talent.

One fellow in the class caught my attention early, not because he was consistently late but because he is an architect and I wanted to find out more about what he is working on.  I've seen him work on floor plan renderings in class time which were obviously his work. 

After a couple classes, he stopped keeping to himself and started wandering around, looking at everybody's work.  It didn't seem to bother him that he was the only one doing so.  So we finally made contact but not long enough for me to find out what type of architecture he did for a living. 

As art is quite personal to me, I've never been a fan of someone standing beside me staring so whenever he came into my work area I'd ask him if he was looking for something or if I was in his way etc.  I'm happy to discuss my drawing but he just smiles and says no.  (I'm starting to get over it a bit as the instructor has asked all of us to start going around to see how differently everyone approached drawing.)

And of course there is always one person who monopolizes the instructor's time.  And one who broods and dresses like an "artist".  And ones who "know it all" and openly flaunts their sketch pads and art materials and speaks in a way that makes me think it would be difficult for them to get a date. 

And when it came right down to it, the "braggy" ones aren't as "great" as their body language puts out and have since mellowed.  I know what you're thinking -- Look who's talking, the trouble maker from first class...   :  )

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New Educational Trends?

D's friends' kids are pretty much all about to go to or already are at University.  Whereas my friends' kids are much younger reflecting the difference in career options of the parents as well as our age differences (D is 45, I am 40).  Ongoing conversations about parenthood has garnered some trends in education "norms" that have surprised us.

It seems like all of D's friends have accepted that one degree is no longer adequate in today's work world, regardless of program of choice.  They have already geared up for the extra educational costs.  None of their kids will have to pay a dime towards their education nor are they required to get a part time job throughout the school year.  Most of them have chosen out of province or country schools. 

In Canada, where public education is subsidized by the government, parents are currently paying in the vicinity of 22K a year (includes residence but no spending money etc).  We know a family of twins who started this year and despite their good dual incomes, have had to dip into their lines of credits to pay their Sept bill as fees are required to be paid in full.

On my side, parents with younger kids have them in a myriad of activities and they tell me it is costing 1K per kid per month to keep them in golf, hockey, dance and various camps.  Not to mention the amount of driving and divided family time during the week and weekends on top of hotel and gasoline costs. 

We often get tired just listening to all the tournament and competition locations our friends get to go to each week.  They thought once full time daycare was a thing of the past they'd have some financial breathing room, but nope. 

Let me be clear and say none of the kids mentioned above are performing or competing at a high level.  We are talking recreation here.  Other than one parent whose son won a sports scholarship to an Ivy League school where the financial output to get there was many many times beyond the above, all the families we know are doing what is considered "normal" in our neck of the woods. 

To be cont'd...

Saturday, October 13, 2012


I am concerned my overall productive capacity has shrunk.  Now that I seem to have some more time on my hands, it has become grossly apparent I am accomplishing just a shadow of what I remember being capable of and it disturbs me. 

You know the old adage of "use it or lose it" as applied to fitness, mental endeavors etc.   It really does hold true in many instances.  I can only sit around being zen for so long.  (Not criticizing meditation, just recognizing my own needs and limits)

Our art classes have reminded me of just how much I can accomplish and gain without being tired.  And just how tired I can get when only using (exhausting) one small portion of my brain over and over again, thinking that's the most important and forgetting there is more available. 

When I first started my career I was working 36 hr a week, teaching piano for 16 hr between Fri - Sun (1 1/2 hr drive away) and doing a Masters degree full time.  Believe it or not, that was an easier schedule than when I was in school full time.

One can argue the above was just nuts but I was thriving.  Tired but happy.  Alive.  Though it may look like it from the description, I'm not a workaholic.  I wasn't that busy at work yet and had a responsibility to stay with my students until their final exams.  The extra schooling allowed me to pay off my students loan interest free.

Nowadays, getting a consistent work out in is an achievement.  I have gotten "soft" but I refuse to believe it is permanent.  It's just that I've just gotten way out of balance with work over the last decade, making it more of my life than I ideally want.  The restlessness also explains why an income alone has never been enough despite work being fulfilling on a number of levels. 

I need to push the boundaries of my brain again as it has developed some not so lovely handles.

As my ballet lessons did not pan out this term, here's what I've decided to take on next (sadly, not helicopter -- but a bigger commitment in a lot of ways)...Hint (1995 -- So young then!).   She's all grown up now.  And no worries, I will not subject you to any examples of my efforts.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lessons From Art Class

Last minute, I talked D into taking the studio class as it was suitable for beginners.  He was terrified to put it mildly.  I told him he was scared of things that made no sense to me!  You cannot get hurt in an art class, unlike skiing where I'm the one terrified as trees could be hit!  He pointed out one could get jabbed by pencils...

I was ready to quit after the first class because drawing boxes was just not my thing.  D, on the other hand, loved it!  The step by step perspective lesson was right up his alley.  Whereas I was used to learning as I went along vs via lecture.  Starting with the end in mind.  Kinda how I approach life really.

Feeling rebellious, I drew a perfectly fine box...just not the box in front of me.  I even did 2 other renditions of "the better box in my head" from different angles just for fun as I was so bored.

By the time the instructor got to my desk, I was just sitting there.  He asked how things were going and I answered with "I'm all boxed out" (wasn't trying to be funny, just stating fact) .  He laughed and proceeded to tear my work apart.  I deserved it. 

He did tell me I drew nice boxes but the point was to draw the perspective in front of me.  I could just hear him think in his head "trouble maker".  I really am not.  Just had a rough day and was hoping for a class that was more inspiring.

Having had a number of classes since, I now look forward to them.  I've redeemed myself and am following the rules.  The instructor and I are getting along quite well.  He says I have a bold drawing style and I'm working on developing a gentler approach.

D is freaking out with higher intensity as the box, cylinder, triangle subjects are over and we have moved onto actual things to draw which makes me finally feel "at home". 

I forgot how much I love the quietness of being in a room for 3 hr with a dozen others with just the soft sound of graphite on paper.  Oh so peaceful.  I look over and see D's gradually reddened face.  We are onto figure drawing and were supposed to sketch from as many different angles as time would allow.  He leaned over and told me he'll wait for me in the car...

It is the after class talk on the drive home that has been really enlightening.  I have been used to doing stuff outside of my comfort zone (sports) since being married.  Now that D has ventured into another one of my confident areas (second time, first was latin ballroom dancing...not so great for D), we have gotten to see each other in a different light. 

I leave the class totally relaxed mentally and physically.  And D comes out complaining of a sore arm, neck and hand.  Now he understands how I could come back from a ski lesson tense when he who doesn't need lessons can come back grinning.  We have developed a new found empathy for each other.

You see, we are quite different and would have never dated each other had we met in University.  He wouldn't have been serious or intense enough for me.  I would have labelled him a "slacker" back in the day.  And he would have labelled me as "way too much".  The chances of us ever running into each other would have been slim as our areas of study were totally different.  (commerce vs science)

As he has never seen me in anything close to an academic setting he wasn't sure if I was for real when I said with total seriousness during our first walk to the classroom, "Alright, we are going to achieve the 2 highest marks in the class...".

More to Come...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cottage Life Update

We had said a number of years ago that we would no longer go to the cottage on Thanksgiving weekend.  Oh how soon we forget just why...

Our drive there and back was horrific!!!  This is the first long weekend home for all the university students.  And it showed in the quality and quantity of not great driving.  High numbers of young people piled into cars stuffed full of stuff.  Lots of them were texting or talking on their phone while driving (subject to $155 fine out our way) with frequent slamming of brakes.  Perfect recipe for road rage, if you ask me. 

The weather up north was cool.  We both felt more normal after four nights of 8 hours of sleep.  We got over an inch of snow Sunday night to our surprise.  It didn't last long but still!  D packed up all liquids to bring home as we may not be up again before the plumbers come to close it up.

I noticed we had a wet mark underneath the elbow joint of the gas fireplace.  Upon closer inspection, there is a rust stain right at a seam.  D went up on the roof to inspect the chimney and couldn't see any obvious signs.  He concluded it could have been a weird angled rain that just happened to hit at the right place.  We are going to keep an eye on it before calling a professional. 

One of our neighbours has been contending with some major cottage issues over the last year and we think he may have finally turned the corner with them.  He is a contractor by trade and being "old school" by nature, feels he ought to be able to figure everything out himself instead of hiring an outside "expert". 

Being a contractor in a major city center doesn't always translate to being able to fix well and septic issues.  That's my thought.  Over the last year we've seen multiple areas get dug up, multiple contractor friends up to help out, them never staying overnight, a sump pump get installed and finally a month ago, the first "real" water contractor was seen. 

D has a marginally better relationship with him than I do (ever since he took down a couple of trees of ours without permission...) so he has been the one getting updates on what's going on.  His well went dry and his septic is getting filled too quickly so there must be a leak.  Our water table is high being within a stone's throw to a major body of water as well as multiple streams.

It will cost many thousands to replace both.  My estimate is at least 12K as he will have to comply with current environmental standards.  All cottages septic systems are currently subject to testing every 3 years with repairs or replacement within a mandatory time frame.

And his water pump also needs replacing.  I know that will cost around $800 alone assuming his holding tank is still good.  We got ours done a couple years ago.  (Knock on wood our system has tested excellent all three times)

Because he has access to a stream, water for toilets is possible.  He buys his drinking water anyways so
nothing new there, just more for cooking etc.  Until he gets running water again, he has a camp site.  The issue we foresee is difficulty with finding a location for a new well. 

His property is quite developed with multiple outbuildings and water may not be found in what he considers a "convenient" place.  Without water, his property value will plummet.  I'm sure he knows that.  The wait and see approach hasn't garnered a solution.  Digging deeper in the same spot isn't always fruitful as another neighbour has found out.  It's Man vs Nature over there.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rentals 103

Some final misc points worth noting:
  • Double glazed windows are a must for us when fronting a busy street.  Street noise can be significant and not being able to open doors to balcony or windows can take away from the holiday experience.
  • Might seem great to be near the local square with Cathedral or Ancient Church.  But the bells may be strong enough to shake your pen off your night table.  We previously stayed in a great apartment in the wrong area.  Hourly bells that shook your mind from 7 am to 9 pm...
  • Being near a bus or train station may seem convenient but those places (depending on the wealth of the city) are typical hang outs for the unemployed, homeless, pickpockets and drug dealers.  We tend to transit out of those areas quickly.
  • Laundry facilities in Europe are typically found in kitchens.  Ease of plumbing perhaps?  Sometimes in the bathroom.  The machines can be combo ie. washer and dryer in one.  As a warning, it will take about 4 hr to wash a load???!!!  We still haven't figured it out despite reading many manuals.
  • WiFi is something we are finding more and more.  It's nice to be able to check flight status and check in.  Saves time at the airport.
  • As you will not be given unlimited paper products in your rental apartment, be prepared to buy and transport toilet paper that may be pink and packaged in the largest possible footprint!  Kleenex isn't commonly found by default in a lot of places either. 
  • Check reviews of the apartment to glean valuable info re:  nearby supermarkets, quality of walking streets, safety etc.
  • Some European city rentals will insist on charging for utilities, taken out of the security deposit at the end of your stay.  We tend to avoid such rentals.  I like one price.
  • Black out blinds in the bedroom can make a huge difference in your quality of sleep.  Same with having a bedroom that faces an inner courtyard.
  • We prefer apartment locations to be in areas where we can walk to almost everything.  It's usually cheaper to stay 30 min by bus or train ride away but after a long fun day, do you want to commute or stroll home?

    The infamous Church and its deafening Bells. Nice, France.

    I wasn't lying about my old hotel pen habits.  Not any more!

    Well I'm off to start my long weekend.
    Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian Readers!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mini Rant

This last month has been filled with more than the usual number of days where I am "earning" my money instead of  'making" it.  My work load has been tough and my mind is finding it difficult to unwind the knots that have been twisted into it. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, I happen to do work that is useful and helpful.  Lives have been changed from what I can do.  It makes it hard to walk away completely from this job.  Plus my income is high enough to allow me minimal work hours.

On a good day, I enjoy the problem solving aspect.  On a difficult day, I dread going to the office as I know what it will require of me and what it will take from me and how I will be by the end of the day.  It's a good thing I don't drown my emotions with alcohol, drugs or food (anymore!).

Some days I wish I didn't work directly with people.  To do something with less responsibility and accountability.  No answers today.  Just letting off some word steam.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Great People 3

The third person I met on my last trip lives in the Czech Republic and was my seat mate on the flight home.  Our conversation started with me guessing the language of her magazines.  She was on her way to stay with her son and family for 6 months. 

As I'm terrible with determining someone's age, I will take a stab that she is at least in her 80's.  Walking was an issue as was getting acquainted with the myriad of control buttons on our seats.  She needed help with fastening seat belts as well as getting up and down. 

She didn't realize I couldn't hear regular speaking volume when I had my noise cancelling headset on.  Normally I am able to watch almost 4 movies on the flight home and since I was fortunate enough to be upgraded to business class, I was quite reclined and couldn't see her much.  I think she must have thought I had trouble hearing.

So every 20 - 30 min or so I would see a hand come across my field of view.  I didn't mind helping her up or hanging on to her coffee while she got her cane etc etc.  It wasn't until 5 hr into the flight when she asked if I was listening to classical music, that she found out I was trying to watch movies and felt horrible for having interrupted me. 

I gave up on the movies, sat up a bit and began to chat.  She lives near the Slovakian border and had just been to Prague a few days prior.  I told her Prague is on my list of places to see one day and that got her so animated.  "You must go there!" she exclaimed!

She studied literature in university and her command of the English language is impressive.  She recalls losing near 20 lbs in the first year of school due to her "dorm mother" not feeding what was supposed to be the proper allotment of food to the girls in her charge.  The country was poor and those were really difficult times.  She remembered being always cold. 

Her husband passed away 20 yr ago and was a medical doctor.  When she found out I work in health care, she couldn't understand why the heck I was working part time and how come I could take so much time off.  Her husband was still working full time right to the end.  After all I was still so young...

I never did explain things to her satisfaction I think.  She probably thought I won a lottery or inherited a large sum of money because the concept of part time work or early retirement did not register as something desirable.  If she only knew about all the blogs out there dedicated to such a cause...

She thanked me for helping her and we wished each other well.  I cleared out quickly so the cabin crew would be able to help her with deplaning.  My rushing was the reason I missed taking my pair of beloved ski socks home.