Friday, November 30, 2007

The Play is the Thing

My mom and I are pretty smart cookies. But I must say, one of the better schemes we've come up with recently was our plan to acquire season tickets to MTC this year - which pretty much guarantees a monthly mother/daughter night.

We've had such a great time so far. In October, just before I left on our trip, we saw 'Our Town' and went for dinner at Santa Lucia (yummy Greek food). And last night, we stuffed ourselves with tacos at Carlos & Murphy's before heading over to see 'The Importance of Being Earnest' - my favourite play of all time (and one that we saw at PTE years ago on another mother/daughter excursion when I was in university).

It was so much fun. And it was even more special because my charming husband offered to play chauffeur for us. He joined us for dinner, then dropped us off at MTC and came back to pick us up at 10.30. I cannot even express how fantastic it was for my mom and I to not have to walk those few blocks to and from our parking spot, and then sit in a freezing cold car (it went down to -36 last night with the windchill).

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Please Don't Kill the Messenger

Okay, where is my zen?! I have built my career on maintaining some semblance of professional zen, no matter what. And now I've spent the better part of my morning concentrating very hard so that I don't (a) kick someone for being mean to me, or (b) cry because people are being mean to me. Just one of those days. I'm simmering beneath the surface - secretly, of course.

Motherhood will NOT be a problem for me (that was NOT a coy hint). I'm absolutely used to getting nothing of my own stuff done while I'm at work - and spending infinite hours soothing other people's owies and holding their hands and making them happy. And all without an ounce of gratitude or encouragement (or even politeness, some days).

I'm considering a new side business where I chew other people's food for them. I think it would be very popular.

Counting down til the end of the day. Especially because I know that this story has a happy ending: yummy Mexican food for dinner, then MTC tickets with my mom to go see 'The Importance of Being Earnest' - without question, my all-time favourite play.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Amazing Grace

Here's another 'R' word for this week: reconciliation. It seems to be a theme in my life this year, actually. In the past months, I've seen four friendships restored through communication, forgiveness - and someone taking the very brave first step to break down the wall and make it happen.

The first couple of reconciliations were initiated by others. I don't think it's a secret anymore that my old friend Erin contacted me earlier this year and kick-started our journey to a restored, grown-up version of a very special friendship. In the years (decades?) we've been friends, I've learned so much from this very special woman - about trusting God when it's hard, about going after the things you want and making them happen, about letting go and embracing life joyfully. But I think I learned the most from her this year. This year, she taught me about grace and humility. Very grown-up words from a woman who only pretends to be a grown-up because she has to :)

A few months ago, two other friends found me on Facebook and sent messages to say hi, after years of cold silence. No real, offline relationships happening there today - and honestly, probably not ever - but it feels *so* good to know that we're coexisting peacefully in the universe.

And this past week, I decided that the last relationship I needed to heal would be my responsibility. And so I sent a simple email to this former friend, no strings attached. Quite honestly, I pretty much forgot about it once it was sent. Their response wasn't the point - I had healed on my own and let go of the conflict, regardless of what happened. I felt my journey was complete.

But then a funny thing happened. I had an email in my inbox this morning. In it was an apology, a request for forgiveness, an answer to what happened between us - and an olive branch. I honestly didn't think it would matter, but my heart feels so light. It's been released from a burden that I didn't know it was carrying.

Christmas is in full swing now. And with this holiday season comes the promise of a new beginning - and of GRACE, in glorious abundance. My prayer is that God will continue to teach me about grace. Grace without pride or judgment. Amazing grace.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Just for fun, and as per my brother Aaron's request, here's a list of post-secondary courses I've taken. Makes me giggle, actually. Partly because I seriously can't remember all the courses I've taken, and I know there are more. And partly because I went off on some rather amusing educational tangents. And partly because I know that at least a tiny little piece of something I learned in every single one of these classes is something I carry with me today (in a good, makes-me-who-I-am kind of way).

Communication Planning
Contexts in Canadian Literature
Drama in the Classroom
Educational Psychology
Effective Communication Tools
English Narrative Structure
Fairy Tales and Culture
Fiction for Young Adults
Intro to Computer Programming
Intro to Criminal Justice
Intro to Theatre & Film
Intro Psych
Lighting Design
Make-Up for Stage & Screen
Managing the Public Relations Function
Media Coaching
Media Planning
Media Relations
Philosophy of Educational Thought
Professional Style & Editing
Public Relations Theory and Practice
Teaching & Learning Principles
Working Effectively with At-Risk Students
Writing for Public Relations

Okay, well, maybe I don't use the Astronomy :)

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Learning Resilience

I received an inspiring article from in my inbox today, and I had to share it with all of you. Jenni (who runs the site) is one of the most inspiring people I've ever come in contact with, and totally personifies what it means to live well despite an illness - and even to embrace it and let it become something that makes you a more compassionate, positive, and resilient person.

This article is on the topic of - you guessed it - resilience. What really struck me about it was the APA quote where they state that resilience is not something you ARE - it's something you DO.

Life comes down the choices, with few exceptions. Even the things that happen to us leave us with choices and how we will deal with the changes in our lives. As my mom told me a thousand times when I was growing up, every tough thing that life throws at you can either make you bitter or it can make you better - and it's your choice.

Today, I woke up feeling pretty crappy. Everything hurts, and I've been sleeping poorly all week so far. I don't think it helps that it's suddenly dropped to -31 with the windchill. In any case, it's not fair that I feel this way at 26. So what. My life overall is pretty sweet, and no one promised that life was fair (in fact, I'm pretty sure the Bible just about guarantees the opposite).

As I was doing my make-up this morning, I looked in the mirror and said to Reflection Lindsay, 'Today, I choose better.' Sounds lame, I'm sure, but it made a huge difference in how I'm tackling my day. (Hey, I bet my mom doesn't know that I do that... Funny.)

And then I got to work and found this article in my inbox. The universe is so funny sometimes.

I hope that you choose 'better' today too.


Excerpts from:
I am one resilient Babe! And I bet you are, too
by Jenni Prokopy offers this definition of resiliency: "The ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune; buoyancy."

Wikipedia describes resiliency this way: "Resilience in psychology is the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and catastrophe."

Here's my definition: "Resiliency is the ability to get your act together after bad stuff happens, no matter how long it takes or how much you need to ask for help."

Some people seem to be born resilient—they simply embody a natural ability to get through the tough stuff, learning from it, moving forward, not allowing their negative experiences to slow them down. Other people learn resilience—they receive counseling, they dig into resources on coping, they ask friends and family to guide them.

The American Psychological Association (APA) says resilience "is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone." So you, too, can learn resilience.

Maybe you're a newly diagnosed ChronicBabe and you're not sure you're strong enough to live well with illness. Or maybe you've been a sick chick for a long time, but still struggle to make it through rough patches. Either way, there are tools you can learn to boost your resilience.

The APA has a list of 10 things you can do to build resilience, and I've added my own commentary so you can see how one ChronicBabe is applying their advice. (You can try a few or all of these, or just start with one for now...they're all helpful.)

1. Make connections. When I started to notice I was hermitting more than usual, I knew it was a bad sign—and immediately made plans with a few friends. Getting out for a networking event, Project Runway night at my pal Linda's, or a movie with my best friend Natalie have all helped me stay connected and meet new folks.

2. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. About five weeks after the storm, I was really freaking out about the mounting questions and concerns we had. It seemed impossible to handle it all! So I made a huge list of everything I was worried about, and started tackling items one by one. Soon I had crossed off half the list and I felt like I could accomplish my goals, one small item at a time.

3. Accept that change is a part of living. This idea I've lived with for over a decade, going from a lean and mean competitive swimmer to an "I can swim for 10 minutes before I get winded" kind of gal. So I can't swim so much...big deal. I can still swim some, and I have the cutest bathing suits for my 10-minute workouts.

4. Move toward your goals. See number two. And the photo of me, exhausted, setting up my new office in spite of it. Maybe you can't accomplish things as quickly as you once imagined, but that's no reason to give up. Get creative! Get proactive! Get a day planner and book time every day to reach for your goals and dreams.

5. Take decisive actions. There were times I wanted to deny what was going on. (Remember what I said about turning off the phone and curling up on the couch?) But it actually felt better to tackle tough issues instead. Now that I'm off the couch and getting things done, I feel SO much more in control (a feeling we ChronicBabes sometimes miss more than anything!)

6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. You probably don't want to hear it. But it's true: hard situations often change us for the better. Since the storm, my tolerance for B.S. is nil, and I'm way more protective of my time and energy—qualities I strived for for a long time that now feel natural. What took me so long? At least I'm here now.

7. Nurture a positive view of yourself. For me, this has meant getting back into my self-care routine, doing my make-up each day and getting pedicures, and trying to recognize all the things I have done well since the storm, like eating better, getting back into a regular sleep pattern, and going back to work. I feel really proud of myself for doing all that, when at first all I wanted to do was cry and sleep.

8. Keep things in perspective. All I have to do is think of how my sister Meredith and her husband Mike handled life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Or of the many women who write to me who live with far worse ailments than my own. It's not that I pity them, or that I'm discounting what I'm going through...but it keeps me looking at the big picture.

9. Maintain a hopeful outlook. At first I thought, ugh, so much work has to happen on our home. Now, I'm getting excited about having new appliances and painting and woodwork and floors and ceilings and light's exciting! By staying focused on the good that is to come, I keep from getting too bummed out.

10. Take care of yourself. See number seven. The downside of our temporary apartment: it's not our condo. The upside: it has a pool, so I can swim every day. Fantastic! I'm trying hard to get back into my routines and nurture myself when I need it. I take breaks when I feel low or tired, I call friends when I need a boost, I eat healthy meals (mostly), I write about my feelings, I meditate...rinse and repeat.

There are even more resources on this topic at the APA web site.

Resilience is achievable. Perfection is not, so don't think you can follow these steps by the book and everything will be perfectly rosy, because that's just not how it works. But you can become more resilient, and consequently, enjoy your life so much more even if you're experiencing something horrible. You just need to give it a try, a little bit every day.

I've worked at it for a long time (why do you think ChronicBabe came into existence?) and you can see how it has paid off: I'm facing the biggest hurdle of my life and I'm doing okay. Heck, better than okay! I'm still having fun and laughing and looking forward to good things to come. So I know you can do it too. I believe in you, the same way my friends and support team believe in me.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday Secret

Not sure why this one is my favourite this week, it just is. It made me smile that someone could be this brave, and hopeful that maybe she'll find out :)


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Weekend Update: Turkey, the Sequel

Sunday night at 11 pm, and here's how I'm feeling in point form:
- Sad for the Bombers.
- Proud of the Bombers, who played pretty well and managed a close game despite some less-than-stellar odds.
- Happy for the Bisons.
- Confused why a university team would choose an incorrect plural as their team name.
- Still a little tired from my week.
- SO excited to be counting down ONE MONTH til Christmas!
- Incredibly full.
- Incredibly content.
- Incredibly blessed.

Today was a super-fun day. I had a house full of friends here to celebrate a belated American Thanksgiving (an longstanding tradition I've held with Emily), and to enjoy the Grey Cup together. We cooked, we feasted, we laughed, and we trash-talked with Ally, our friend from Saskatchewan. It was such a great night. More than once, I found myself looking around our dining and living rooms, full of friends - Emily, Rocky, Ally, Kathy, Greg, Kris, Char (and Geoff, when he got home from work) - looking outside at the absolutely gorgeous wintery snow on our street, and feeling absolutely overwhelmed at how lucky we are. It was a warm, happy feeling. The outcome of the game *hardly* mattered.

Well, it mattered to Ally (who gloated just a tiny little bit) and Rocky (who had previously promised to run down our block in the snow barefoot if the Bombers won).

The rest of my weekend was a nice mix of quiet and busy. I spent Friday night at home with Geoff. On Saturday, I slept in, ran some errands in preparation for the party, and then met up with Char at Mark's Work Wearhouse (another stupid spelling...) to help Kris with his fundraiser for Guatemala. We wrapped Christmas present for any interested shopper, and even though the store was PACKED full of Winnipeggers out for a deal - it still made me feel a little Christmasy. I *love* wrapping presents, and it was such a great selfish good deed to get to help Kris while doing something that I found totally fun.

Back to work tomorrow, post-Grey Cup, which will be a little bit quieter for a change. Last week was all-consuming, putting together the lovely ad you see here in time for posting in Manitoba branches this week and submitting to the Free Press for this weekend. We're so pleased with the result (and it was crazy-fun helping to create this Bomber-related enthusiasm in the Scotiabank office at the photo shoot), but it cost several of us more sleep than I'd care to count up - and I think I'm still recovering a little.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

My Personal DNA

Not sure how much I agree with *all* of this, but it was an interesting exercise nonetheless...

You are an architect.

Your preference for concrete, visually pleasing things, combined with your confidence and your respect for order make you an ARCHITECT.

You are logical and detail-oriented, which allows you to get things done efficiently.

You are quite sure of yourself, so that you tend to know the best ways of doing things.

Your eye for aesthetic beauty and style indicates that you know a lot about design.

Having a routine and sticking to it is important to you; you find comfort in tradition and familiarity.

Self-reliance is something in which you take great pride—you are confident and down to earth.

You have a basic faith in yourself in many areas of your life, allowing you to be self-assured when facing challenges.

You prefer to have time to plan for things, feeling better with a schedule than with keeping plans up in the air until the last minute.

You are a fashion maven, up on trends, but distinct in your own style. You don't follow trends, you set them.

Generally, you believe that you control your life, and that external forces only play a limited role in determining what happens to you.

You are animated.

You are outgoing, comfortable with others, and up for anything, which makes you ANIMATED.

Some people find crowds and parties exhausting, but not you! You are able to be yourself in many situations.

Sometimes it is hard for you to understand why others feel the way they do, but that doesn't stop you from trusting them or having faith that they are good people.

You know the world is complicated and that there is often more than one side to a story, so you are careful not to make judgments about others too hastily.

You would rather experience the world than sit back and observe it—you are not one to sit on the sidelines.

You are an independent thinker and don't get too worried about how others might perceive you—you are not self-conscious about being the active, engaged person that you are.

Although you have a keen understanding of different people's life circumstances, you occasionally have trouble seeing why people get so upset and emotional about things—they should just lighten up and have fun!

In addition to having faith in the world, you have faith in the people around you—you trust others to do the right thing and to be honest.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

8 Things

Gloria tagged me on this one, so here goes nothing!

8 things I’m passionate about:
1 My family
2 My friends
3 My husband
4 My faith
5 My work
6 Coffee (mmm Starbucks)
7 Proper spelling and punctuation
8 Keeping things in perspective

8 things I want to do before I die:
1 Pay off my student loans :P
2 Start a family
3 Celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary
4 Write a book
5 Explore more of this big, crazy world
6 Find a balance where I feel healthy
7 Finish another degree in... something :)
8 RUN a Joints in Motion event

8 things I say often:
1 "Think happy thoughts!" (to Christine)
2 "No man is an island..." (to Dolly)
3 "What? What is that smirk?!" (to Geoff)
4 "I love you." (to Geoff, and anyone else who makes me happy)
5 "Cheer up, Sunshine!" (to Chuck)
6 "You are my favourite person today." (various)
7 "That is NOT FUNNY. I'm not laughing." (to my Dad)
8 "It's still not funny." (to my Dad, while laughing, about 4 seconds after #9)

8 books I’ve read recently:
1 The Shock Doctrine (Naomi Klein)
2 Four Blondes (Candace Bushnell)
3 I Am America, and so can you! (Stephen Colbert)
4 Giving (Bill Clinton)
5 Ecoholic: When You're Addicted to the Planet (Adria Vasil)
6 Web Project Management textbook (what a geek!)
7 A bunch of travel books about Greece
8 Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures (Vincent Lam) - In Progress

8 songs that I could listen to over and over:
1 Again (Lenny Kravitz)
2 Songbird (Eva Cassidy)
3 Thank You (Dido)
4 Dreams (The Cranberries)
5 Alone (Heart)
6 Fear (Sarah McLachlan)
7 Inside and Out (Feist)
8 Fading Like a Flower (Roxette)

8 things that attract me to my best friend:
1 Patience
2 Generosity
3 Sense of Humour
4 Smirk
5 Dependability
6 Honesty
7 Thoughtfulness
8 Values

8 things I’ve learned this past year:
1 Being married is awesome
2 You don't have to be a hero to inspire people
3 I have the greatest friends and family
4 Donkeys smell weird
5 As much as I enjoy it, my job does not define me
6 Weddings cost a lot of money
7 Television SUCKS without writers
8 Geoff makes a fantastic travel partner

And last but certainly not least - I'm not tagging anyone... But I'd love to read yours if you feel inspired to write one yourself!


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pictures - Lots of 'Em!

When it rains, it pours. For those of you wanting to catch up on the last six weeks of my life in pictorial form, you are in for a treat tonight! Make yourself a cup of tea first, though. And pace yourself. I've picked through the hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of pictures I had to choose from, and there are still LOTS for you to wade through if you so choose.

Click here for pictures from Joints in Motion in Athens.

Click here for pictures from our Athens vacation time.

Click here for pictures from Part One of our cruise:
Mykonos, Greece and Kusadasi & Ephesus, Turkey.

Click here for pictures from Part Two of our cruise:
Patmos, Rhodes, Lindos, Crete & Santorini, Greece.

Click here for pictures from our time in London.

And last but certainly not least... Wedding pictures! Here's Part One and Part Two, because I had a really hard time narrowing them down. (Thanks, Kristen, for doing such amazing work! We love them.)

So there you go! Enjoy. I've certainly enjoyed experiencing every moment that is captured here, and I'm so excited to share them with you :)

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Belated Monday Secret

I had to share this secret, because it's totally mine too. Sorry :)


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Day Fourteen

Okay, I'm creating this post, but seriously - nothing happened today. We woke up, packed, and went to the airport. We checked in and had lunch, and then got on the plane.

In between, we did have a minor adventure. I left my passport and boarding card at the restaurant in the airport, which I realized about 30 seconds later. We went back to get it, and they had already found it and taken it to security. It ended up being a huge runaround, because they didn't take it to security (like they said) - they had taken it to the Air Canada counter. Which was in a totally different part of the terminal. And our plane was boarding in 10 minutes. Argh. In any case, it all got sorted out - easily, and with time to spare. But not really something I'd consider to be fun.

The flight from London to Montreal was good. Very empty, so we got great service. Watched Evan Almighty, which is probably the worst movie ever made. Then we arrived in Montreal, where we hurried up and waited. And waited. And waited. Our first flight was early, which gave us almost four hours in Montreal - which sucks when customs was quick and painless, dinner was speedy, and Geoff and Lindsay were simply tired and wanting to get home. It probably didn't help that our internal clocks were so screwed up, or that we were (are) both sick.

It *pained* me to be in Montreal (one of my favourite cities in the world so far), and unable to leave the stupid airport. The upside is that I got to finish the book I started on our first flight two weeks ago (The Shock Doctrine), and it was SO good.

The Montreal to Winnipeg flight was tiny - one of those stupid planes that you have to walk outside to board. Icky. I get really claustrophobic on those planes, and it didn't help that we ended up right near the back, so I was constantly closed in on the aisle side with people waiting to use the washroom and bumping into my shoulder when two people needed to pass.

And then we were home. Aaron graciously offered to pick us up (actually, I think he was volunteered, but whatever), and my grandparents actually showed up to welcome us home. We got our bags in the door and CRASHED. I'm semi-awake now, but I can hear Geoff coughing and blowing his nose upstairs - so I guess neither of us made a miraculous overnight recovery.

Which is too bad, because it's his 33rd birthday today. Oh well. I think we're both beyond the delusion that birthdays are magical :)

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Day Thirteen

We had kind of an emotional goodbye with Ron and Lal last night. They were hugging us goodbye, and then kind of out of the blue said that this would probably be the last time they'd ever see us, so they were so glad they'd had a chance to get to know us. Right away, I started thinking they were wrong, that we'd see them again soon. But they're not coming to Canada, and who knows when we'll be back. They might be right. But this idea of having family so far away - who you only see once or twice in your lifetime, if you're lucky - is very strange for me.

When we got back to the city, we went to go see the Cenetaph where the queen had hosted a Remembrance Day ceremony earlier that day. We also walked down to Westminster Abbey to see the Field of Remembrance. That was intense. There were still so many people in both places, paying their respects. The lawn of Westminster Abbey was literally covered in tiny wooden crosses and poppies, and reading some of the inscriptions from the families made me cry. I'm really glad we went.

Which brings us to our last 'real' day of vacation. We got up to get ready, and when I got out of the shower, I noticed that Geoff was gone - but he'd left a note. A few minutes later, we appeared with breakfast and Starbucks from down the street. So sweet. We took the coffee and hit the town...

One of the amazing things about London this time is that was fall there. Autumn is my absolute favourite season, and I feel like I got to experience it twice this year - once here and once there. We went for a walk through Hyde Park so I could enjoy all the leaves changing colour. It was so beautiful. We walked past the Diana memorial fountain, which was interesting. I avoided millions of pigeons and other birds (shudder).

From there, a scheduled stop to buy tea at Harrods - plus, I wanted to walk through their Christmas department (which was practically a whole floor of the store). Amazing. Now THAT's how you do Christmas. And while I was in the store, I swear I heard a choir of angels singing... Not at this epic shrine of consumerism. But at their LUXURY TOILETS. The cleanest, most pleasant washroom experience I had on this entire trip, I kid you not. We used some NASTY facilities in Greece... And this was like having God apologize for all the icky washrooms we'd been forced to use over the past two weeks.

Which brings me to another side-note: What's up with Europeans and their lack of standardization? I had a heck of a time having to re-figure out every single washroom stall doorknob / lock and flushing mechanism. Because they were ALL DIFFERENT. Anyway. I'm sure it made me a better person, or somthing. But gosh, I felt dumb!

In the afternoon, we split up for a while. Geoff had an out-of-the-way store and a (shudder again) Star Wars exhibition that he wanted to check out. Lindsay wanted to have tea outside near the Tower of London and visit Shark Week at the aquarium. We both had a great time :)

And then in the evening, another London date night. We went for an amazing dinner in the theatre district, then went to go see the stage production of Mary Poppins. I was like a six year old at Christmas. It was awesome. They even incorporated all these special effects to make her able to 'magically' clean up a room or empty out her carpet bag - and fly, of course.

It was a perfect ending to our incredible, perfect trip.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Day Twelve

Remembrance Day in London has turned out to be a huge, spectacular event. And with good reason. It’s nice to be in a country that supports and celebrates its veterans in this way. I’m finding that this year has had special significance for me, in light of the wars we’re currently fighting (and in light of the new Naomi Klein book that I’m halfway through). It’s so tragic. But no matter why we’re involved in these wars or how strongly we might disagree, I think it’s so important to separate our support for the war from our support for our troops. Geoff and I missed the big ceremony with the Queen at the Cenetaph this morning, but we’re hoping to stop by there and the Field of Remembrance outside Westminster Abbey before we leave town.

We bought poppies yesterday, and they are so strange – different than at home. They’re made out of paper! Seems a little bit ridiculous in rainy London, but whatever.

This morning, we boarded a train to Marden, in the county of Kent, to visit Geoff’s family. We were picked up at the station by his uncle Ron and aunt Lal, then went to meet his cousin Chris, his wife Rosemary, and their boys Daniel (17) and Tom (15). We had tea with everyone at Chris and Rosemary’s house – a 300 year old cottage – then went for lunch with Ron and Lal in this great little restaurant overlooking the countryside with all the leaves changing colours. Beautiful. Right now, we’re in the town of Tenterden, at Ron and Lal’s house – in an hour or two, they’ll be returning us to the train station.

It’s been so very cool to connect with Geoff’s family like this. He hasn’t seen any of them since he was in junior high, so it’s been kind of like meeting strangers for him too. But they’ve made us feel right at home and we were instantly comfortable with all of them. His aunt can't get over how much Geoff resembles his dad :)

We visited a little shop with Ron and Lal this afternoon and we bought a beautiful Christmas ornament to mark this occasion, so we’ll have a little piece of his family at home with us every Christmas.

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Day Eleven

We woke up in London today, which automatically made it a good day. After a seriously lame breakfast at the hotel, we set out on Shopping Day. As did every other person in London, as it turned out.

I have long maintained that shopping – true, serious shopping – is a sport. Well, if shopping’s a sport, then shopping in London on Oxford and Bond on a Saturday within eight weeks before Christmas is definitely the Olympics. Poor Geoff handled it well. And Lindsay… Well, Lindsay was in her glory. (It should be noted that Geoff cheered up very quickly when he was let loose in a few notable toy stores.) We stopped at H&M and Starbucks for Lindsay, at the Forbidden Planet megastore and Muji for Geoff, and at Uniqlo for both of us. Uniqlo’s new London flagship store just opened this week, and it was a ZOO – but well worth it, as I picked up a Pantone cashmere sweater that redefines the word perfect. By late afternoon, we’d done another 10K, I’m sure (in distance, not in dollars).

After dinner (and a stop back at the hotel to drop off our bags), we had our London date night – an evening visit to the Tate Modern. Happy sigh. The Tate Modern was easily my favourite art gallery ever, anywhere. It’s HUGE and it’s all amazing, including the new main hall exhibit that features a giant crack through the floor of the entire exhibition space. Hard to describe, but it was incredibly cool. I was so happy to be standing in rooms full of original pieces by Monet, Warhol, Picasso, Pollack, and other pieces that took my breath away a little bit.

It was a lovely date night. A little hard to top in Winnipeg, probably :)

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Day Ten

Can that be true? Ten days?! Time is flying, let me tell you... I can't believe we're in London, and that in a couple of days we'll be back in Winnipeg. I don't feel ready yet, but I do realize that a return to reality is inevitable. I'm just not really thinking about it yet :)

Today was largely uneventful. Geoff and I were up early for breakfast and disembarkment, then we said a quick goodbye to the people we'd met - including the JIMers who'd come on the cruise (a quick congrats to Brad and Laura, who got engaged in Rhodes this week!) - and headed for the airport via taxi and the underground train.

We got to the airport with lots and lots of time to spare, which was nice. We browsed through some of the stores and took advantage of the free internet, grabbed some lunch, and then boarded our flight to London. It was a HUGE plane, and the flight attendants working our section of the plane were both middle-aged men, which struck me as a little odd. And one of them was quite seriously the strangest man I've ever met. I kept on having these awkward little encounters with him, and it seriously made me uncomfortable when he poured my tea. I couldn't stop laughing (though I might just be tired).

Probably important to mention at this point that I woke up sick today. My sinuses are totally plugged up, my throat is hurting, and I'm coughing and sneezing. The flight today was excruciating. I'm hoping that the drugs I picked up as soon as we arrived in London will work their magic before the long flights home on Tuesday. I didn't want to buy anything in Athens, because I couldn't read the packaging, but I'm almost wishing I'd taken the risk. Blech.

Landed in London a little late because of a backlog in flights (due to the wind), jumped on the Tube (fortunately, easy because Erin and I figured it all out last time), and easily located our hotel (easily for me because Geoff was the poor bastard who had to lug around both his bag and my big one.. hey, he volunteered!). The hotel is good. The location is AMAZING - about 50 restaurants within 3 blocks of here, and less than a 60 second walk to a major underground station - and the rooms are a reasonable size for London. It's nothing fancy at all, but clean and totally cool for a four-night stay. We're kind of in between Earl's Court, Chelsea, and Kensington, which is a pretty prime location for seeing what we want to see.

We checked in, then set out on foot to find (a) drugs for Lindsay, (b) the correct currency for the country we just arrived in, and (c) food for Geoff, preferably of the British variety. All three were accomplished within ten minutes and less than half a block. Awesome.

So that's the update! Safe and sound in London, with just a little bit of frigid English drizzle and too much fog and smog to see any stars at all. Geoff's been grinning since we landed :)

No really set plan for the next couple of days, just a general idea of a few stores we'd like the visit, and few touristy things we'd like to check out (or see again, because it's a revisit for both of us), and an appointment to head out to Marden-Kent and Tenterden to visit Geoff's aunt, uncle, and cousin on Sunday.

Oh, and I plan to get healthy again quickly.

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Day Nine

Our last day at sea, and I'm actually okay with that. I wouldn't have wanted it to be any shorter, and we both finally have our sea legs, but it's getting tiring to power-explore all these amazing places with so much gusto, and starting so early in the morning. We just don't want to miss time to see these places - making every moment count.

This morning, we woke up to RAIN - and lots of it - on the island of Crete. We hooked up with Tara from Winnipeg and Diane from Kelowna and hunted down a local cabbie who took us up to the Palace of Knossos, a driving tour of the old city in Heraklion, and 'the two most beautiful Greek Orthodox churches anywhere.' I'm not really any kind of expert on Greek Orthodox churches, but I'd imagine you'd be hard-pressed to find any more spectacular. I'll wait for pictures, because words won't cut it.

I think that what stuck out for me was just people-watching in Heraklion, around the square and in the churches. Few people could pass - on foot, on a bus, driving a car - without making the sign of the cross, and the two churches were full of locals putting their coins in a slot and lighting a candle, or methodically kissing every single image of the saints. It made me think about what my faith means: a personal relationship with my God, a relationship full of freedom and grace. It made me feel so fortunate.

Back on board for lunch. Around 3 pm, we began our approach toward the island of Santorini. I'm not really sure what to say. I've heard from so many people that approaching Santorini by boat is one of those essential life experiences, and now I know why. I was awestruck.

Santorini *was* a circular island until around 1600 BC, when the volcano in the centre of the island erupted violently - causing the centre of the island to literally drop into the sea. What's left is a crescent moon shaped island with deep cliffs where you can see all of the ancient layers of lava and sediment that created this island before the eruption. The villages of Thira and Oia are on the tops of these cliffs and mountains. From a distance, these clusters of whitewashed homes and shops look exactly like snow. In the centre of this moon shape is the volcano, still active - this black island that looks like the moon itself.

The ship docked in this water near the volcano, where we were transferred to the shore by tender boats. As I mentioned earlier, Thira is at the top of the cliffs - nearly 600 very steep steps up on the old cobblestone walking trail. Or a short, picturesque gondola ride. Or an adventurous (slightly smelly) 20-minute donkey ride.

Friends, Lindsay rode a donkey. Up an incredibly steep cliff, at sunset, overlooking the caldera in Santorini. Pictures to follow.

Santorini, for me, was one of those life experiences that scared me. I'm not sure if other people can relate but sometimes in those absolutely perfect moments, I find it a little bit hard to breathe.

Once you identify that moment as one of Those Moments, you are left with a critical choice. You can try to dissect it and find some fault, so that the moments that follow (the rest of your life) won't run the risk of disappointing you. Or you can choose to let go, embrace it fully, and LIVE. I've had a few of these moments over my 26 years, and I'm ashamed to admit that I've chosen the former more often than the latter. I'm getting better. And last night in Santorini, I definitely chose the latter. We walked along the cliffs and stopped at an outdoor cafe with a view of the caldera. It was kind of perfect.

Then, after dark, it was back to the boat for the last time. We met up with the two younger couples we'd been having dinner with, and enjoyed dinner together. Then we packed and got ready to go to London in the morning.

This concludes Phase Two. Four days left in London, then we're home on Tuesday night. I'm so content. What a fantastic adventure :)

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Day Eight

Today, we took a half-day tour of Rhodes and Lindos, on the island of Rhodes. It was incredibly interesting. The island has a long history of war and occupation by different countries, and it's only been an official, independent part of Greece since after WW2. During different periods in history, when different people groups lived here, they built their own communities in their own architectural styles - making it the strangest island we've visited so far.

For starters, the city of Rhodes is completely surrounded by an old medieval wall built by The Knights of St. John. The first part of our tour took us to the 'old city' in Rhodes, around the central fortress. Any tour that includes a moat is fine by me. Plus, we got to see catapult balls, which made me happy (not really sure why, it was just cool). The streets were made entirely of black and white pebbles, hand-laid in intricate patterns. It was gorgeous.

From there, we took a bus to the town of Lindos. Along the way, we got a tour of a local family-owned pottery shop where they showed us how they make their famous pottery with local designs. In Lindos, we toured an ancient acropolis...

Crap. Internet time is over. To be continued from London tomorrow night :)


Or from the Athens airport on Friday morning.

So we toured the acropolis in Lindos, which was a freaking long way up, but the view of the beaches and the village below made the journey well worth it. The entire village is a designated historic/archealogical site. Which also meant that our tour bus could not drive us to - or pick us up from - the main village. Our options were as follows: catch a town shuttle bus OR walk 12 minutes pretty much straight uphill. We picked option A, but fate intervened in the form of lots and lots of elderly American tourists who swarmed the bus stop just as the shuttle bus was pulling up. They cut in front of us, bony old elbows out, and Geoff even took a cane to his foot. It was all over so quickly, and before we even knew what had hit us, the bus was full. And so we walked. Sigh.

From there, another 45 bus trip got us back to the town of Rhodes. We found an out-of-the-way family restaurant with an outdoor seating area where we had an amazing lunch - the best gyro I've even consumed, no question. We spent the afternoon just checking out the town, then headed back to the boat (no adventures this time!).

We had dinner with our assigned tablemates again: a couple from Atlanta celebrating their 1st wedding anniversary, a couple from South Dakota celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary, and a couple of Calgary nearing the end of a month-long backpacking adventure. We had such a great time with all of them - incredibly friendly and funny. Every meal we shared with them, we were the last table sitting and chatting while the staff cleaned up around us.

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Day Seven (continued)

So the last time I left you, Geoff and I were happily sipping hot chocolate and warming up in an internet cafe in Patmos. There was really not much happening, most of the shops were closing up early (tourist season is pretty much over here), and it was COLD in the wind outside - so we headed back to the boat early.

About an hour and fifteen minutes before 'all aboard' time, we decided to head back out to use an ATM we'd seen about three blocks from the ship. We strolled around the neighbouring streets a little, looking for some cheap bottled water, when we heard the sound of a ship's horn blowing. Strange. We checked our watches, and we still had nearly an hour until we needed to be back on board. Again, the ship's horn blew, and we could hear garbled announcements being made. We weren't really comfortable with any of this (and we'd successfully procured some cash and some water at this point), so we decided to head back. At this point, it's still a full 50 minutes before 'all aboard' time. When we reached the block where our boat was docked, we were able to understand the announcement: it was a 'last call' paging Geoffrey and Lindsay Wright, because the ship was just about to leave port. Um, NOT GOOD. We began scurrying/slash/running toward the boat, and the crew was outside, yelling at us to hurry and run faster. We made it on, and they closed the doors right behind us. Within minutes, we were at sea - a full 45 minutes ahead of schedule.

No one ever really figured out what happened, other than fully panicking the people we knew on the boat! Apparently, Patmos just wasn't that interesting - or else people were cold and hungry - and everyone was back early except for us, and they decided they'd like to leave WAY ahead of schedule. Not cool. But a pretty funny story, now that we're a day or two removed from it :)

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Day Seven

Okay, any day that starts with a 5.30 am wakeup call is either incredibly good or incredibly bad. I'm counting this one as good, even though I was muttering some pretty unpleasant words under my breath as I was making myself presentable and dragging myself into the breakfast area. Ugh.

We needed an early start because it's been an incredibly full day... By 7 am, we were off the boat and loaded into buses in Kusadasi, a port city in Turkey. From there, a 15 minute drive took us to the ruins of ancient Ephesus, and I'm still trying to find words to explain what I experienced this morning.

Ephesus was pretty cool. It was a city of 250,000 in its prime, but a disappearing harbour and disease eventually caused it to die out and become covered in eroded dirt and sediment. It was re-discovered almost 140 years ago, and teams of archeologists and historians have been working since then to unearth and reconstruct what they can of the city's remains.

First, it was HUGE. It's a pretty significant city, and I was not expecting it to be that big. We walked for a long time, just exploring all the different sites and buildings - the parliament buildings, the baths, the shops, the library, the brothel, the theatre, the town market square. It was incredible. Their technology and infrastructure (like running water and a sewer system) is almost unbelievable. And all the roads were still largely intact, which made it a really moving experience - just knowing that you were walking the same steps as John and Paul and so many famous people from history. They are working on uncovering the area where they believe Paul used to do most of his preaching, outside the synagoge at the end of the market square we saw. It just kind of blew my mind a little bit. I know my faith is real, but this experience made it real in a different way. And learning from seeing how the Ephesians lived and how their culture worked and what it valued makes Paul's letter to the church of Ephesians so significant to me. I'm still processing.

The bus returned us to Kusadasi, where we were given a tour of a store that sells authentic handmade Turkish rugs, and they showed us how they are made. Sounds a little bit lame, but it was actually really interesting. From there, we had free time to wander through the bazaar area. The bazaar was one of those life experiences that we just exactly like I'd imagined it would be like - big, crazy, pushy, total sensory overload. Does that make sense? It was the same thing when Erin and I spent time in the UK and travelled outside of London to see stone fences surrounding cottages with thatched roofs, and sheep wandering around the countryside - exactly how you imagined rural England would be like. It gives you this funny feeling that, no matter how foreign the experience might be, it's somehow familiar to you.

Then it was back on the boat for lunch with some more Americans, this time an older couple travelling as part of a biblical tour from the southern US, very vocally religious - and kind of amusingly racist. During lunch, we sailed through the Strait of Stamos, a point where you literally see Greece on one side of you and Turkey on the other side, a couple of hundred metres away.

And by 3 pm, we were docked on the island of Patmos. Here, we broke off from the organized groups and figured out for ourselves how to reach the top of the hill, where we toured two monasteries dedicated to the apostle John, who was exiled on Patmos. We also got to step inside the cave where he received the Revelation, which was pretty incredible.

These experiences are definitely making me think, and adding some context that I know few Christians are lucky enough to see and touch and experience first-hand. Today was a very big day.

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Day Six

Day Six began with some good old-fashioned Manitoba teamwork. There were about 12 JIMers out of the 130 who registered for the same cruise that we did - so a few conversations with the front desk, and we'd arranged a 15-passenger bus to take us all from the hotel to Piraeus, a port city about 45 minutes outside of downtown Athens. From there, the morning was a whirlwind of check-ins, line-ups, safety drills - and then we were off...

The afternoon was not particularly noteworthy, other than the fact that it was nice to finally have an excuse to slow down and relax for a while. We had lunch on our own (a beautiful table for two overlooking the sea) and explored the ship for a while. Geoff was feeling a little seasick when we hit a rough patch midafternoon, and I tried very hard to be supportive - but he looked so funny! He was totally fine after he lay down for a while. Which is good because we pulled into the island of Mykonos just before dusk and it was time to go explore.

Mykonos is beautiful. It's an entire island where every single building is whitewashed twice a year - making it overwhelmingly pristine-looking, and incredibly distinctive. We found some of the famous coastal churches and windmills, and spent the rest of our time wandering around the harbour area, through all the little shops set up on a literal maze of cobblestone streets (pretty much the definition of a tourist trap).

When we got back to the ship, it was time for dinner, which was another adventure. We were seated with two American girls who immediately apologized for being American - they assured us quickly that they had not voted for Bush in either election. Kind of funny.

We didn't take in any of the late-night stuff - still recovering from the 10K, and (as you'll see in our next post) we had another early morning coming up...

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Day Five

Today began with a 7 am wake-up call, a quick breakfast, and then a lot of waiting around. We geared up for the marathon, and then met all the other Team Canada 10k-ers in the hotel lobby - a literal sea of bright (s)lime green. Trust me, NO ONE looks good in this colour. But it's so awesome to be able to spot your teammates from a mile away. The full marathon folks left even earlier than us - some as early as 5.15 am - to get to their event. So I really have nothing to complain about!

We left the hotel at 8, then walked 10 blocks to the Olympic Stadium, which was the start and finish to our race. And then we waited... In the rain. The official race start was at 9.30, and by then I was SO ready to go. Something about being in the middle of that huge group of people, all hyped up and ready to go - it makes waiting almost unbearable.

Geoff and I started strong and - I'm VERY pleased to say - passed a whole slew of green pinnies. And it must have been a good pace, because we kept it steadily right to the end. The first 5k was uphill, sometimes a gradual incline and sometimes not very gradual at all. That's the bad news. The good news is that what we learned in science class was indeed true: what goes up must come down. And we enjoyed turning around and returning the final 5k downhill. Around the halfway point, Geoff and I were joined by a lady from BC named Theresa. Theresa and I had actually connected by email over the last couple of months, talking about training and walking tips. It was so awesome to actually get to walk the race with her.

The weather was absolutely perfect: cloudy, 17 degrees, a slight breeze, and on-and-off drizzle. Unfortunately, this also happened to make sections of the road slippery, and I spent about 2k close to the end trying very hard not to slip. I'm feeling some of those muscles tonight (skating muscles, it feels like), from tensing up and over-compensating.

When we were around the 9k mark, we started to hear all kinds of commotion behind us. Sure enough, it was the first-place full marathon runner, being escorted by police, news crews, and even a helicopter. It was very, very cool to be so close and cheer him on as he ran right past us toward his record-setting finish. We were psyched. Right up until we neared the gates to the Olympic Stadium, the grand finish line in sight. When we got there, the marathon officials informed us that we were finished, because they'd needed to clear the finish line for the full marathoners and we'd missed our 90-minute cutoff point to finish. It was momentarily very disappointing, but I sucked it up and realized pretty quickly that we'd accomplished what we came to do - we just missed the cool fancy stuff at the end. We still received our completion medals. And although we were not eligible to receive an *official* race time, Theresa had attached a pedometer / timer to her water bottle holder, and so we have our unofficial official time. A kind of heartbreaking 1 hour, 30 minutes, and 46 seconds. Heartbreaking, that is, until I realized that that's a pretty killer 10k time for a walker! A million thanks to Geoff and Theresa for keeping me moving, especially when I hit my wall of absolute exhaustion around 7k. I didn't need to stop once, and they kept me talking and laughing through the whole thing.

After the finish - following all kinds of typical JIM hoopla - we stayed for a bit, then headed back to the hotel to shower and change and find some lunch. Later, we returned to the stadium, where I got to accomplish one of my major goals for this trip: cheering in my Team Canada teammates, including Jen who was the very last person to complete the full marathon at just over 7 hours. For once, it wasn't the other way around. And it felt so good.

Believe it or not, I still had some energy left (I said SOME...), so Geoff and I headed from the stadium to the ruins of the Temple of Zeus, then set out on a mission to find Lindsay some Starbucks. This has been a goal of mine since we arrived here (this girl NEEDS her coffee and I was rapidly entering a state of withdrawal), and today we finally managed to hunt one down. I have never enjoyed a caramel macchiato more in my life.

At 7 pm, we met the whole team for our Victory Celebration Dinner, which was lots of fun. We all received grecian olive wreaths to wear during dinner, which made us all look RIDICULOUS (but it was a little bit fun). Every single JIM participant crossed their finish line today, so we had a lot to celebrate.

And now, finally, I can SLEEP. And Lindsay needs her sleep. It's been a long, emotional day - but such a good one. My body is tired and my legs feel about 79 years old (a vast improvement over my past two JIM adventures, but STILL). But my heart is so happy.

I wish I could explain what JIM means, but unless you've been here, I don't think you can know. Today was incredible, and I had been expecting nothing less. The people who take on the challenge of successfully completing a JIM project are very special, and when you get them all in the same place with a common goal - it's a kind of magic, I think. It really makes you realize that there's a lot of good left in the world, and that if you are truly determined, anything is possible. So many of them were not runners until they signed up to do this earlier this year, and the smiles on their faces when they hobbled into our celebration dinner this evening pretty much say it all.

Geoff's already asking where we're going next. And who are we kidding... I may take a break, but I'm not finished yet. There's still no cure, and I still haven't RUN one of these things :)

We're meeting up with about 15 other JIMers to leave on our cruise tomorrow morning at 8. On to Phase Two of this amazing, fabulous adventure...

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Day Four

Today started with another amazing breakfast. It's such a good thing that we ended up in a good breakfast hotel... Geoff and I are both pretty serious breakfast people, and it's a nice start to our days here. Today, we ended up at a table with Brad - the Global photographer on this trip - and his wife, and a girl named Christine from Ontario who is running tomorrow and has arthritis herself.

From there, we set out on a capital-A adventure to go find the Marathon Registration building on the outskirts of Athens (I was registered with the JIM group, but Geoff registered himself - so we needed to go pick up his race kit on our own). All we knew was that it was called the Olympic Complex sometimes, and sometimes the Hellinikon Centre, that it was close to a blue bridge, and that the Olympic fencing event had been held there in 2004. And that it *might* be blue. Awesome. We tried out the tram for the first time and actually found it with no problems at all. It helped that - once we got close - we just followed the giant mob of skinny people in white running shoes. It was about a 45 minute ride each way, and almost half of that was along the Aegean Sea shoreline, past beaches and palm trees and waterfront cafes - and all kinds of wonderful things that we totally don't have at home.

From there, we came back to Athens and hopped on the metro to go to the National Archaeological Museum. It was a very big building full of lots and lots of really old stuff, excavated from all over Greece and dating back to around 7,000 BC. Geoff was totally enthralled by this bronze gear mechanism thing - technology that looked as intricate as a wrist-watch, and it predated Jesus by about 80 years. I think what impacted me the most was how NORMAL all their stuff was. These people thousands of years ago went about their everyday lives using tools that we still use today, and jewellery that seriously did not look that old or strange. And the dedication they showed to their art - the intricate details coaxed out of clumsy materials that would have taken years to complete.

By midafternoon, yesterday's busyness - and this week's jetlag - totally caught up with me and I was DONE. We headed back to the hotel so I could get a quick nap in. Totally didn't happen because SOMEONE who shall remain nameless fell asleep before I did and snored so loudly that sleep was not an option for me. Argh. It gave me time to go over my speech and make sure my hair was cute. But SERIOUSLY.


At 4.30, more than 100 of us met for the official Team Canada picture, and from there we headed into the Hero Celebration Dinner (pasta party). As always, it was so good to meet more of the team, and it really focused the whole group on why we're here and why it's so important. All the people who have raised more than $10,000 for JIM so far were honoured, and I was a little surprised by my total - $22,500. Amazing. We've come so far since these projects started in 2001, and it made me so grateful for all my family and friends who've been such an incredible support. Our team in Athens raised $671,000, and JIM has raised more than $23 million since it started in Canada in 1999. It's amazing what all our small accomplishments add up to. I know that $23 million has made a HUGE impact on arthritis research in this country. I wish that all of you could come along on a JIM trip to see all of this happening first-hand, because it's incredibly difficult to explain what it means.

At the dinner, I got to share my story, and - ARGH - I cried way too much again. I blame the jet lag.

And then came the evening's special surprise - a pep talk from Jeff Galloway (very, very cool if you're a running geek). He had lots of insight on the course itself, and on the historical significance of this race. I still think it's creepy that the messenger guy DIED at the end, but whatever. I'm sure tomorrow will be fine :)

So after a Team Manitoba meeting, we're winding down for the day (it's around 9 pm here). Feeling not-so-great about tomorrow - I'm in lots and lots of pain today and pretty tired - but I know it's about getting up, putting on my shoes, and doing my best. My worst fear (finishing dead last) happened in Lausanne, so I feel like there's nothing to lose tomorrow. Plus, Yvonne's here from BC (Mom knows what I mean), and I'm pretty sure I can kick her ass :)

The 10K starts at 9.30 tomorrow. I know it's the middle of the night there, but I'm sure if you say a little prayer for us today, the message will get here.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Day Three

This morning was ROUGH. Especially because Lindsay had a little time change mix-up and was halfway ready before Geoff kindly pointed out that it was still the middle of the night. Ugh. In my defense, we have a room with no windows at all, and it's black as midnight in there in the middle of the day. Which kind of brings us back to the sleep/time sensory deprivation torture we were discussing earlier...

We got up for real around 7.30, in time for our Team Canada meeting downstairs at the hotel. It was loooong, but we got some good info out of it from our tour organizer and national coordinator. I think it just felt long because we were just about literally dying for breakfast. But the wait was worth it - the hotel put out an unbelievable breakfast buffet, and Geoff was smiling again.

Once we were full, we set out for the Acropolis. It was very hot, very crowded, and very lots of stairs and hills. Makes me respect all the people I know who've visited during warmer months, and busier tourist seasons (though I know there are lots of people in town for the marathon this weekend). It was only supposed to be 24 degrees today, but under the sun up there, it felt insane. Add in the glare off the white marble that's everywhere up there... Kind of overwhelming. I was glad for the over-priced (warm) water I'd purchased before our ascent. I'm not really sure how to describe what we saw up there. The history is kind of overwhelming. The renovations they made to *update* and *modernize* the place were completed 400 years before Jesus was born. That's kind of crazy to a Canadian girl, whose country has only existing for a tiny fraction of that time. One of my books said that Greece recently celebrated its 2,500-year anniversary of democracy. That history, and the realization that this society has been here for such a long time, made it such a beautiful place to me. And the views of the city were spectacular. Until I realized that I'd earned that view by climbing stairs and steep hills - and I'd need to go back down again.

Before our descent, we took in the Parthenon, the Theatre of Herodes Atticus, the Temple of Athena Nike - and all kinds of other really old stuff. The theatre were especially interesting to me, having studied theatre history in university.

From there, we explored the Ancient Agora - essentially, Athens' main mall and 'downtown' from around 600 BC. Lots of cool stuff here, all old and crumbly. The most interesting thing to Geoff and I was the wall the Romans built out of pieces of all the Greeks' important monuments. Kind of incredibly mean. I'm sure the Americans would call it 'repurposing' or something equally PC.

It took a little bit of effort to locate the Herakleidon visual arts museum, the next place to cross off our list. Again, our hunt was well worth it. The neighbourhood was super-cool, and the museum's exhibits were excellent. Their claims to fame are their permanent Escher and Vasarely exhibits, and they had a special showing of Frank Scavullo celebrity photographs. I absolutely loved it. Definitely my style - and speed - of art.

From there, we saw a whole bunch of things in kind of quick succession:
- The Monastiraki flea market area
- Hadrian's Library
- The Roman Agora
- The Tower of the Winds
- More of the Plaka
- The National Garden

In lots of these sites, museum employees spent most of their time yelling at tourists for stepping or sitting on old rocks in the ground. Funny, until you look around and see how stairs and columns made of marble and solid rock are smooth and totally worn away by millions of hands and feet over thousands of years. Kind of put things in perspective for me - my brain is still trying to process all of what I'm looking at. OLD to me just doesn't mean THIS old. I knew in my head that things THIS old existed, but it's something else entirely to see it and touch it (or not touch it, when the museum employees are watching).

Geoff took pictures all day. It's kind of hurting me to have to wait to post some of them. Though we'll need to edit them, because he's been taking pictures of stray dogs and cats - and one turtle - ALL DAY. And mocking my fear of birds. It's been rough. I had one bird in particular who was after me at lunch, without a doubt. I kept on kicking at it to keep it away, and Geoff kept on telling me not to kick it. It was obviously pure self-defence.

Everything here seems to shut down by the early evening (and 'evening' can mean 2 pm here). Around 6, we went to the main city square - admittedly, in seach of Starbucks. We did not find Starbucks, but we did find The Shopping Street - literally block after block after block of stores, from quirky little one-offs to major label stores that Lindsay cannot afford, even when the honeymoon excuse is factored into my shopping math. Lots of fun to window-shop, though, and I did get my coffee after all.

And that's pretty much our crazy-full day! It's 9 pm now, and I'm pretty much ready to crash again. Just needed to get this all out of my head before it disappears.

Tomorrow, the real JIM stuff starts - including race registration and the Team Canada pasta party that I'll be speaking at.

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Day Two

Our Toronto - Zurich flight was so full of kids, I'm not really sure how to describe it. No question, the loudest flight I've ever been on. But there was this funny little girl who kept on turning herself upside down instead of walking through the line in the terminal, and frustrating her parents - much to our amusement. Come to think of it, it probably wasn't that funny. We were just extremely sleep-deprived at this point.

On the flight, they were showing a European version of America's Funniest Home Videos, which was probably not funny - but seemed like the funniest thing in the world while we were watching it. Again, sleep deprived. Which also happens to be one of the torture methods I've been reading about...

The dry stupid airplane environments also caught up to me on this flight - and I got a nosebleed about half an hour into the flight. EW. It turned into all kinds of drama because we were close to the front of the plane, and the drink cart had *just* passed us. Meaning that the path to the 'regular' class washroom was totally blocked. I got up and asked a flight attendant if I could please use the first class washroom, explaining the situation despite his crappy English. Apparently, this was a HUGE deal. He finally let me, but made it VERY clear that this was an exception. Excuuuuse me. Anyway. The situation ended sans drama, but it was kind of a weird, un-Lindsay-like little mini-adventure.

By 3 pm, we were checked into our hotel, and allowed ourselves 20 minutes for a catnap. Totally against the rules of international travel, but we were SO tired.

After that, we were ready to explore our new neighbourhood. Well, really we were just ready to sleep. But a little walking tour distracted us from that for a little while. We checked out the nearby Plaka neighbourhood - full of tiny cobblestone streets packed tightly with shops and restaurants, mostly really touristy. The area is kind of tucked between the Temple of Zeus (which is across the street from our hotel) and the base of the Acropolis. Very cool, because it makes it extremely difficult to get lost - these sites are so incredibly high up, you can see them from almost anywhere.

We also found the Aeropagus, which was basically just a big rock with stairs up almost to the top. We climbed it (me with a little bit of coaxing), and the view made the effort worth it. This rock is where the first homicide court was held, and it's also where Paul used to preach and convert people to Christianity.

From there we walked for a while and, despite all the tall monuments, we found ourselves a tiny little bit lost - and it was started to rain. On top of that, some of Athens' wild dogs decided they'd like to join us on our walk (Lindsay was largely unimpressed). We turned down a narrow side street, and found ourselves outside a restaurant boasting a full Greek menu and an umbrella-covered rooftop patio with an incredible view of the Acropolis. Sold. And totally worth the FOUR FLIGHTS OF STAIRS to the top. Ugh. Geoff bravely sampled the stuffed lamb, and I stuck with moussaka and calamari. All amazing. We were so full, but decided that we still needed to try the baklava for dessert - and it was so incredible. Geoff suggested adding an exclamation point to that last sentence. The baklava was that good.


We walked back to the hotel in the rain - the LONG way, kind of unintentionally - and 'crashed' would be an understatement...

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Day One

(Bear with me... I have a little bit of a pet peeve against people who go on and on about their vacations, all self-obsessive and annoying. Unfortunately for you, this site is primarily my personal journal - and so it's up to you whether you want to read or not :)

Geoff's friend Alan drove us to the airport on Wednesday morning. No big adventures, which is always a good thing when you're at an airport. It was Halloween, so I wore my cat ears (purchased especially for this occasion). I pretty much got winked and meowed through security. A little creepy, but I had amazing service all day. I'm pretty sure I could have smuggled ANYTHING with those ears on.

At the airport, we met up with Chris (the JIM coordinator and trainer for our team) and four other women who were travelling to Athens with us for the race. We were only with them until Toronto, though - for some reason, Geoff and I were the only people on the Manitoba team who flew through Zurich. Everyone else flew through Frankfurt - and we beat them to the hotel in Athens by a good 5 or 6 hours.

The only *real* adventure we had in the air was a medical quasi-emergency in the middle of the night, somewhere between Toronto and Zurich. An older (okay, forget politically correct - OLD) woman on the plane started feeling sick and was disoriented and clammy and shaky. Her husband and the flight attendants reacted quickly - and kind of over-reacted - and it turned out she'd just been late taking some meds. But it all resulted in lights on and loud talking, interrupting our only chance for sleep. Awesome. I'm glad she's okay, but SERIOUSLY. It made for a long day on Thursday.

I hate long flights. I always forget how much I hate them, but I really do. I'm cool for about four or five hours, and then the full-on claustrophobia sets in and I have to concentrate on breathing properly and think about as many other things as I can. On this flight, I had lots of TV episodes to distract me: The Office, Arrested Development, Entourage. And a great book that I started reading just before our trip: The Shock Doctrine (Naomi Klein). Reading about torture and unethical psychological experiments really kind of put my flight panic into perspective. Until I got to the chapter that talked about how depriving people of a sense of time makes them go crazy, and I realized that - with the time changes - we'd totally missed an entire night. And that made me a little crazy again :)

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Safe and Sound

4.54 pm in Athens.

We're here, safe and sound - and exhausted. But in Athens, and with Geoff, so I'm good :)

We just found out that the hotel we're staying at until Monday has laptops available to borrow - free of charge - with wireless internet. So I should be able to do a passable job of updating my blog from here, which makes me happy.

And the wireless is awesome, because I can blog from wherever we decide to hang out for a bit. Today, we chose the library - an amazing room full of fresh flowers and books about Greece, with a view of the Temple of Zeus. Happy sigh.

Anyway. Off to explore. And find some FOOD.

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