Monday, June 23, 2014

There IS something you can do.

Outraged by the sentencing of 3 Al Jezeera journalists? There IS something you can do.
Act now. Do your part to protest the sentencing of 3 Al Jezeera journalists in Egypt today. Takes just a few seconds to send this message:  
Free Al Jezeera staff detained in Egypt.

Roberta to Earth: checking in

Nasa earth

Hi. yes, I am still here.
No, I have not disappeared off the face of the planet.
Yes, I am fine.

Why did I stop blogging? I don't know... but I've been here before, it's somewhat cyclical for me. But also, I think I was a little lost when I got back from Europe. I had so much to say and share. Then, I was just 'me' again. And, whoa, did my life get busy and go topsy turvy in so many ways.... more about all that another time.... In the meantime:

I'm continuing to live here in Sidney. My mom is in care in Victoria, so I am often in that way. Also, my cruise gig involves being in the office several days a week in Victoria. So, it's back and forth a bit.

These are all the other me's online....

@citytravelbug
@crazy4picasso
@citytravelbooks
@cruisetravelbug
@kidsonacruise
@ihatetaxis
@layoverideas

In a nutshell, here are my gigs:
Expedia CruiseShipCenters - I'm a self-employed cruise and vacation consultant
IHateTaxis.com
LayoverIdeas.com

I'm going all out working on the cruise thing - and doing fab - but I'm looking to supplement my income with some contracts. The ramp up to income that I can actually live on is a long one, as cruising is something people book far in advance for, and I get paid when they sail. And that's when the magic happens: repeat bookings, referrals and so on. So I'm hanging in there, and paddling as fast as I can. I'm also just starting see a particular bit of magic: people in my network who are booking their vacations with me. It takes awhile for people to learn what I am doing, realize I can help them remotely, and to think of me for non-cruise travel.

I'm generally pretty subtle on marketing to friends - I don't want anyone to be put off, or feel obligated, or feel bad if they don't book with me - so I'm letting the universe make the connections most of the time for people I know. However.... I'll ask this favour of anyone who has read this far: if you want to help me be a success, in a win-win situation, here are a few things you can do that would make a difference:
  • Call me if you are thinking of booking any type of travel.
  • If you have a travel agent you love, be happy for what I am doing, and enjoy your travels.
  • If you have a travel agent that you're not so keen on, give me a chance to blow you away with my service.
  • If you're thinking of a cruise, even if it is a long way in the future, let me know, and I can watch for the best offers.
  • Confused by all the cruise pricing you see out there? Let me explain how it works. No obligation, ever.
  • If you don't know what type of cabin to book on a ship, perhaps you are worried about motion, or noise, ask me. This what I do!
  • If you've never cruised, and think it's not for you, but wonder about it - talk to me. There are many different types of cruises and cruise experiences. Most people who 'hate' cruising weren't matched with the right cruise for them (if you stay in the Hyatt, are you going to be happy in a Motel 6 with a party crowd?)
  • If you have quote for travel, ask me if I can match it.
  • If you're planning to get away to an all-inclusive vacation to a spot in the sun, let me know - this is part of what I do!
  • If you are considering taking a land tour - if you already know what you want to book, or if you don't have a clue - let me know, I can help.
  • If you are planning to travel, no matter who you book with, please travel insured!!!
  • Consider buying your travel insurance through me. You can contact me directly for a quote, or you can book directly on my website.
  • If you normally book everything yourself, ask me about the ways that booking through me benefit you.
  • If you book everything yourself, and you really don't see yourself changing, consider using my links (I'll add them below). If you use my Expedia.ca link, for example, you get the same awesome Expedia selection and pricing, and I benefit. Sometimes it's small, but every bit helps.
  • Join my 7SEAS club, and sign up for my newsletters.
  • If you are a solo traveller, especially a solo cruiser, please let me know, and I can sign you up for my little solo e-travel club - I have separate news I send out to people every couple of weeks.
  • Refer your friends to me, if you feel comfortable.
  • Buy me a lottery ticket.
  • Drop a line to say hi.
  • Tell me I'll be awesome.
  • Tell me I won't always be broke.
  • Call to chat about travel.
  • Buy me a coffee - or let me buy you one, if you are ever in Victoria or Sidney.
  • Buy 2 lottery tickets - one for me, and one for you.
A career change is so fascinating - especially after 5 years of no income (!!!). It was 5 years ago next week that I took off to Europe for the better part of the year. I had no idea what I would be doing when I got back, and boy was that the truth. It's all good though, and I'm not sure I would have found my way here without all the steps along the way.

Thanks for all the good vibes you send my way.

To research a cruise, I invite you to do our research on my Expedia CruiseShipCenters site.

To book travel on my Expedia.ca site, use this page to navigate to my Expedia widget (scroll down). Once you are "in", you can navigate to anything you'd normally access on Expedia.ca.

To book travel insurance online on my website, or to request a quote, visit my Travel Insurance page.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Year's Post 2014

The fine team at Expedia CruiseShipCenters Victoria...
check me out in the back row:)
It occurs to me that I had a fair amount going on in 2013. Let's see...
  • Became a travel agent
  • Got my BC Travel Insurance license
  • Had cataract surgery
  • Had dental surgery
  • Got my first Lazy-Boy chair (aka Lazy-Girl)
  • ok, that's it.
Ha ha, there's more, I'm sure, but those are the biggies that jump to mind (I'm still doing my IHateTaxis gig too).


Hanging out with the sweetest kittie cat of all, the handsome Maui (aka Meowy). And learned what it means to fall in love with a cat. Really. Little guy got me through some really hard stuff the last couple of years... And he does seem to have taken to me as his Mama. Ah, the irony.


With that, I reposition myself in my Lazy-Girl to give him my lap, while still balancing my laptop... it must be love.

Long time readers of my blog will be wondering how my mom is. My sweet mom is doing just fine. We are so fortunate that to have her in a wonderful care facility. They have a very good music program... and music just brings her to life (all the musicians love her). Her mobility had declined to the point where she is in wheelchair all the time (though they do walk with her a couple of times a week, a 2 person job). The great thing is that, like all residents, she can reach the floor with her feet and can move around at will, propelling her wheelchair by foot.
Summertime on the deck... mom loves the sun!
It's like she has a new independence to move about as she wishes -- and in summer that included the deck, a lot. Mom's dementia has worsened, but she is in a happy place. She knows who we are, mostly, and is happy.
G'ma with her granddaughter Branwen last week
Ok, what else shall I include in my snapshot of my life this past year, for myself...
  • I dog sat sweet Lucy the dog again, just for a week or two. This time it was an "emergency": her human had to fire the existing dog-sitter from Hawaii, and I swooped in to save the day. Ha. But it was almost that dramatic. But I was happy to help... oh, how I love that dog... she is so sweet, and so soft... and so high maintenance :)
  • Saw Joe Walsh!!! Oh, yes, and Bob Seger too.
  • Spent 6 of the past 9 months taking the bus into Victoria several times a week (I wimped out, and am driving now)
  • Saw the ancient map exhibit at the Royal BC Museum - it was fab
  • Also joined the museum, but haven't been back (boo)
  • Saw an exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery... the Grand Hotel?
  • Also resurrected my VAG membership, but haven't been back (yet.)
  • I discovered that there is an alcoholic version of Sugar-Free Rockstar, quite by accident (then I drove, unknowingly - see story)
  • Finally weaned myself off energy drinks
  • Had loads of dental work to repair the results of those *#)&% energy drinks
  • Learned again how much it sucks to not have a dental plan
  • Attended a super cool block party on our little street here in Sidney
  • Bought an elliptical trainer from a neighbor who was moving... and have made many interesting sculptures throwing clothes on it
  • Had the excitement of the racoons that live in our tree relocate their 3 wee kits to live under our house for a few months (lots of kittie indoors!)
  • Discovered that otters really do make their way up under houses here... oh, what a racket when they were trying to eat their way through the floor! Lots of stomping and keeping CBC radio on all night at full blast (they apparently don't like people). They are protected, so they are safe, but not so fond of these particular antics.

Enough babbles for now. I am sure a philosophical blog post will be coming, at some point... but, for now, must put the bubbly on ice and celebrate here with my sissy.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Found on Flickr: Rogue Chairs

DSC_0223_edit

I made the most interesting discovery tonight on Flickr... it's a group called "League of the Empty Chair (interestingly Out Of Place)", and it's just that, odd, random rogue chairs found here and there. Here are a few of my favourites found so far (click any image to go to its source):

spooky 2AM find

Out to pasture..

Chair in the Wall

Front Row Seat

the benefit stream

wayward throne

IGP8228-stavrosstam

Seat of Reconstruction

Made in the Organic Shade

The ones I like best are those that are unstaged, and somehow surprising. But I did enjoy this:

Enjoying the afternoon sun
... and last, but certainly not least....

Salton Sea (CA)

Monday, October 07, 2013

Found on Flickr: shadows, skateboards and sheer guts

A few compelling photos I've stumbled across in Flickr recently.

These are all from Miles Gehm on Flickr.

20090905 07 LCRSP Skull Bowl

20090905 17 LCRSP Skull Bowl

back to the bank

20100814 01 Skate The Lake 3

20120226 LCRSP  03

20130824 TBMC Women at LCRSP  008.jpg

20130824 TBMC Women at LCRSP  006.jpg

20130824 TBMC Women at LCRSP  020.jpg

20120811 LCRSP Full Pipe contest 12.jpg

20100530 LCRSP steep bank bert 03

Source: click on each photo for the source

For more on how I find and share photos on my blog, click here.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

I'm dropping the puck

I'm over being a hockey fan.

Gatsby Puck

Still like the game, and it has been an interesting process to pick up on, but it's just not calling to me anymore. This started with my trip to Europe, when I was out of the loop. Got into it, by a degree, when I got back, but in the years since, my interest has ebbed and flowed.

Realized I had crossed a line when I decided to cancel my cable. Just not watching TV, and I can't see why I am paying for it. It was only after making that decision that I remembered hockey. A real hockey fan wouldn't do that.

Perhaps what's most had me lose interest is the fighting. Thought they were working to eliminate it. Apparently not. I was tuning in to watch the skill, strategy, sheer athletic ability and fun of cheering one's game. I didn't tune in to watch grown men pummel each other.

A few other things contributed to my declining interest, though that's the big one. I still like the Canucks, and I will remain a fan - I'll watch a game if I'm somewhere one is on - but don't like how they fired the coach, who I respected. I'd once gone to an open practice, and liked what I saw in Alain Vigneault And I have no respect for the belligerent, gloomy coach they hired instead, always felt grateful John Tortorella wasn't our coach when I would see him in tv interviews.

So, I'll save my money, and mainly my time, for other things.

PS. It seems a lot of people name their pets "Puck"... in searching for an image for this blog post, I stumbled across plenty of cute furry friends...

Puck
A dog named Puck

Puck 03
A cat named Puck

Sue & Puck
Another cat named Puck
If you click the image for the source info, you'll see the story of how
the subject of the picture is supposed to the flowers, not the cat :)

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Random Reflections during light therapy

Stained Glass Skylight Above the DeSoto Fountain, Fordyce Bathhouse, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
Fordyce bathhouse in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
(found on Flickr, by kenlund, click image for more)
Just a few reflections as I start my winter ritual of light therapy....
  • Picked that picture above before I realized it was in an American national park, all of which are shut down, due to the budget craziness south of the border (no, I haven't seen the bathhouse, didn't even know it existed, interesting)
  • I find myself looking forward to light therapy this year... that's not always been the case, as it has meant the coming of winter (not my favourite season), but this year, I am looking forward to a return of reading. The craziness that was caregiving for a few years left me disconnected from reading, and being totally plugged in online now has made it hard to dig in deeply. I have always been an avid reader, so this has been a disorienting experience. This year, almost a year after my mom has gone into residential care, has me in a place where I can enjoy an old ritual in my life, reading in bed as I wake early for light therapy, to read, read, read...
  • 'Our Man in Tehran' offers Canadian response to Argo - I enjoyed this interview on Q yesterday. I read the original account of the work of Ken Taylor and the Canadian government to hide and rescue the 6 American diplomats in Iran in 1979 (entitled, Our Man in Tehran), so it was good to hear more of the 'real' story getting media attention - and good news, there is a documentary coming
  • B.C. athlete's Olympic dream hinges on fundraising campaign - was surprised, disappointed and inspired this morning to hear the story of Victoria-born athlete, Matt Margetts, having to turn to the public to get his basic costs covered to get to the Sochi Olympics. What happened to all that great Canadian funding for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the dreams it inspired? Sigh. Hope he finds a corporate sponsor. In the meantime, you can donate by following the link in the article (I did).
  • I am thoroughly enjoying having split my content off to several other blogs - and appreciative of just having this space for moi :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Found on Flickr: cats, mannequins and odd signs

Windmill Cat

When I am researching travel topics for the blogs I write, use the Creative Commons image search tool. Through both Wikimedia Commons and Flickr, there is an easy way to share images with all the source and licensing info intact (it's there if you click on any photo in this post). So thought I might just start sharing some of the photos I come across today...

These are not from my travels, just stuff that either made me laugh or smile today... These are all from Dennis from Atlanta, on Flickr.

Genuine Fake Sign

Scary Athens Mannequins

No restroom duty?

Mannequins

Lots of fun... but I must finish with one more cat...

Grand  Bazaar Cat

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fooled by branding: alcoholic energy drinks

I had an interesting experience the other day. I drove to work on Saturday (I usually take the bus), so on my way back to my car after work, I stopped at an independent beer/wine/liquor store to pick up some provisions for the weekend. When I approached the cashier, and put down my purchase, I was feeling hungry and tired, so I grabbed some potato chips from the snack rack and an energy drink from a little fridge on the counter.

As I got into the car, I had a big drink (it was a hot day), then drank a bit more than half on my way home. When I got home, I put the rest in the fridge for the following day (I often start my day with an energy drink).

When I woke up on Sunday, I grabbed the left over can from the fridge and took a big gulp. For the first time, I noticed that it tasted a bit different, so I looked at the can. You can imagine my surprise to find I was drinking vodka at 10 am!

Then I burst out laughing, realizing that this was the very can I was drinking from as I drove home from work the day before...

Then I got mad.

I had absolutely no idea I had purchased a mixed vodka drink - heck, I didn't even know they made them - and I certainly didn't know I was drinking it while driving. I was aghast.

First of all, I feel duped by the store, who had these drinks at the till, where most such stores have pop, water and energy drinks - along with the chips and chocolate bars. Why they would have a fridge of single-serving iced drinks at the counter is beyond me.

All I knew, was that I could see my (former) favourite brand of energy drinks, RockStar, in my favourite flavour, the white sugar-free can. I didn't examine whether they had changed the styling of the can. And had I looked even a bit closer, that's all I would have thought it was, new styling - I would have no reason to even suspect it was a vodka drink, even though I was in a liquor store.

As an aside, I still feel fully responsible for drinking it and driving. I can't pass that responsibility off on anyone else - the store, the manufacturer or the laws that misguidedly permit this.

I am not commenting on whether there should or should not be alcoholic energy drinks on the market - that's a completely separate issue.

What I do feel is duped.

I feel it is irresponsible for the manufacturers of these products to label them so they look practically identical to their non-alcoholic counterparts. This isn't brilliant marketing, it's stupid marketing. It feels like a bit of a trick, so people won't notice youth walking down the street or otherwise drinking booze in public places. If I was a parent, my kid could have been drinking one of these under my nose, and I'd never know it. It must make the job of the police harder.

I'm sounding old here (dammit!), but I don't like slights of hand to get around the law. Yes, youth are more than likely going to drink, but this is like facilitating it.

I also think of how dangerous this is. If I made this mistake - and I consider myself reasonably intelligent - anyone could. What if I'd drank the whole can? What danger would I have been? Maybe I already was, at half a can. What if other drivers drink one of these by mistake? What if someone who has had just one drink and is under the legal limit, grabs one by mistake.

What if someone who is an alcoholic drank one by mistake? Yes, I know they won't be in the liquor store, but if they are visiting a friend and grab one from their fridge, never suspecting the alcohol content? How far could that set them back, and change their life (not for the better)?

I think the whole thing stinks.

I think there's a very good chance that I'll be checking out the boozed up energy drink cans, and if they are made to look like the alcohol-free versions, I'll probably by neither. I have no interest in supporting a brand that takes such an irresponsible approach to marketing. Aka, bye bye Rockstar...

~ end of rant ~

Update: I was forwarded 2 very interesting links about the legality of alcoholic energy drinks, and Health Canada's position on the "loophole" that allows these products to be on our shelves (thanks to @BevWire):
Oh, I also visited the store to give them feedback. They didn't seem to care. Why am I not surprised?

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

My new cruisetravelbug blog!

Well, after earning my sea legs as a new cruise consultant, and my certification behind me, I figured it was time to turn the identity I had created on Twitter for cruises - @cruisetravelbug - into it's own blog. And today I made it live! So please come cruise with me on the cruisetravelbug blog!

Enter to Win 1 of 25 Cruises - enter by October 31, 2013!

Come cruise with me on the cruisetravelbug blog!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

My new look

I love my new blog design!! I don't think I could not smile when I see it.

Seems it was time to dump the all black look.

Perhaps this will make me more likely to get blogging again. Heck, if it works, I'll take it....

Actually, it has more to do with separating out the other aspects of my life and interests to separate spaces. I am liking it very much.

Today: I think I got a decaf energy drink.

Blog moves

I've been fiddling with my blog... I realized I was trying to do too many things with it, and I had lost the space to just "be me" in the blogosphere...

So far, I have moved all of my citytravelbug book shops over into a brand new blog, which I hope you will visit:


citytravelbug books (http://citytravelbooks.blogspot.ca)
I also plan to spin off a couple of other blogs, so each can have it's own focus (kind of like what I have done with my multiple Twitter handles. Expect to see those changes sometime soon - and find a bit more of the real me just posting whatever here....

Hope you are having a happy Labour Day, wherever you are. Hard to believe it's September!

Roberta

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My blog, my blog...

... where art thou?

Just out of the habit again. But things are shifting, so it makes sense to see if I can get myself back in the groove.

I have always preferred to use my own pictures for my blog posts, when I can... but as I don't even have a camera anymore, and have lost that habit too, I turn to a very small collection of pictures of the cat on my crackberry. This is sweet Maui, enjoying spring, in the front yard.

I do, of course, have a gazillion photos from my big trip 4 years ago (??? how did it get to be 4 years ago?!?!). Can't wait to do more sorting.

I mention things are shifting, and they are. First up, for those who are interested (I am), my mom is doing great in residential care. It was a bumpy road for awhile, but she has settled down, is very happy, and is receiving great care.

Right now I am enjoying living alone for a few months. After more than 30 years living alone, there is nothing like it. I am who I am when I am living alone. It's how I know me, can find me, because it's what I most know. I can listen to myself, know what I need, and be authentic, when I am in this blessed 'space' of being alone. My sister is here half time, which is also awesome (love my sissy!), but as she is back in Vancouver for a stretch, I am revelling in my solo-ness.

My BIG news is that I am in the middle of a major career change: I am a Cruise & Vacation Consultant, with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, in Victoria. Exciting! I'll say more about that in a future post, but you can follow me on Twitter at @cruisetravelbug, and here's my website:
http://www.cruiseshipcenters.com/en-CA/RobertaWestwood/home

Right now I am in the process of recovering from cataract surgery, just had my second eye done. I can see better than I have in my life, since maybe when I was about 12.

I am legal to drive, even though I don't have my new glasses yet (they make you wait, while your brain adjusts to your new eyes!), but have decided that it's an opportunity to get used to riding the bus again. So, until I get my new glasses, I am taking the bus into Victoria, to work, and to visit mom. It was an easier adjustment than I expected, though I should not be surprised. In Vancouver, pre-Europe, I had given up my car about 5 years previously, and transit was just a way of life. Will probably do a mix once I have glasses again, though I am loving the savings and relaxation. For example, today I had a snooze on my way home... can't do that when you're driving!

If you haven't noticed, look at the top of the right hand column of my blog for my new citytravelbug book shops, aka city booklists. This is a germ of an idea I have been working on for awhile. I've got about a dozen cities done already, and many others half-built, putting them alive as I finish each one. Feel free to explore! There is no obligation to buy from me (feel free to shop local or visit your library), but if you care to shop online, please do consider following my links, as I will earn a small commission from each sale. You can also follow my book tweets at @citytravelbooks.

I am sure I have more to say, but that's all that's jumping to mind right now.

Monday, March 18, 2013

citytravelbug book shops

citytravelbug book shops
I have long wanted to gather information on good books on interesting cities to share with others (guides, art, museums, architecture, history, culture, locals, fiction, food and so on). Afterall, I am the citytravelbug!

So have have started building book collections for cities, big and small, some I have visited, some that I haven't, and pulling those together on Amazon (it really is the best place to do it).

Here's the official blurb:
citytravelbug books have been carefully curated to satisfy your curiosity about some of the world's greatest cities. 

Whether you're planning a trip, learning more before returning, preparing to move, reliving memories, doing a little virtual travel, adding to a collection, or just having fun letting your curious mind travel, this collection is for you. 

Yes, if you buy a book online here, citytravelbug earns a little commission, but that's not really the point (though that would be lovely:). It's more important to citytravelbug that you add gems to your booklist - to pick up at your local bookstore, borrow from the library, hunt down in 2nd hand bookstores (we love that too!) or buy online - and enjoy reading them. 
For fun, I have also put some crazy expensive and obscure items in each city's "For the Collector" section. Not really expecting serious collectors (!)... just offering some artsy-travel-virtual-window-shopping!

So far, online citytravelbug book shops have been launched for Amsterdam, Athens, Budapest, Istanbul, Tel Aviv and Zurich.

Have a look, and let me know what you think. And feel free to put in a good word for whatever city you want me to build next.

UPDATE: I have decided to move all of my book related content - blog posts and book shops - into a new separate blog, dedicated to citytravelbug books! Please visit: http://citytravelbooks.blogspot.ca. I have also created a separate twitter handle - @citytravelbooks - just for my book tweets. (September 2, 2013)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Living Small

When I next hang my hat, it will be somewhere simple. Small, lightly furnished, with minimal possessions, mostly memories. Light as a bird. This is what I've dreamed for some time now.

That's why I was so inspired to read "Living With Less, A Lot Less" by Graham Hill, in the New York Times, earlier this week. It's about someone who struggled with a lot more stuff than I ever did, but is now living small. It's an interesting journey he has been on, and he has some interesting perspectives. It's really worth reading if you have a love/hate relationship with your stuff, are concerned about our consumerism, or just want to simplify life.

Right now I am living in my mom's house, keeping it going, now that she is in long-term care. I'll be here for the foreseeable future, so where I next hang my hat isn't top of mind, but it's something I have thought about, in terms of how I want to live.

When I gave up my apartment and gave away almost everything I owned before going to Europe in 2009, I felt so free. And I've had no regrets. I left about 6 purple Rubbermaid totes with everything important to me, and as many more boxes of paperwork and tax records. And that's about it. Since I've been back, some of those totes are still packed, nothing I've really needed. And I picked up a few little gems from my travels that will fill things out, as far as what's meaningful. The rest will come, and will go as easily when I once again travel some day, or move to another city. As I say, that's all pretty far off, but as someone who was burdened by stuff, it feels comfortable.

OK, this was a quick post, I have more to reflect on, on this subject (and I did buy some stuff when I got home that I, of course, wish I didn't really have (though my desk is awesome), so it's all a process... But wanted to share the article while it's fresh in my mind.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Reconnecting

I have spent much of the past few days reconnecting with my network. I chose this image for this post because it spoke to me of plugging in, the power of connecting, and all the obvious metaphors. But it also spoke to me a bit of my time abroad, of being away physically, but also of how I have felt dis-connected from my "before" world. I feel a little like have been in a foreign land. I am here, things may seem the same, but I have been down a whole different path in my life that I never expected, and that was just so different, that bringing my focus back to work and business just seems a little off kilter. I have been thinking of different things....

Yet, as I start to connect, things do begin to fall into place rather quickly.

It has been fascinating and inspiring to be learning what various people are now doing with their lives. That's largely due to Linked In... wow, what an amazing tool it has grown into. So much elegant that when I might have been called an early adopter (before hitting pause), and all they said about what it would do to connect people really is coming true. I'm impressed. BTW, this is me on Linked In: ca.linkedin.com/in/robertawestwood/

I have also had people reaching out to me, in my quest for new opportunities. That's rather cool. And the universe is making all sorts of other connections happen. There's a certain energy I feel when things start to align like this. It's a spark. One I like. One I remember. And one that energizes me....

image source: stock.xchange

Monday, March 04, 2013

Shifting Gears

Once again, I am shifting gears, with my life, and with my blog.

I have been blogging for almost 10 years (I checked, my first post was September 19, 2003), so it has been rather disconcerting to find myself out of the habit of blogging. But here's what I figured happened.

My blog was first a business blog, then a personal/business blog, then a personal/travel blog, then a mostly travel blog, then a personal blog, then a personal/caregiving blog, the latter when I moved to Sidney almost 3 years ago to live with my sweet mom, and ultimately become her caregiver. Largely comfortable with sharing openly in my blog, not really worrying about what what others thought, I found myself on somewhat sensitive ground when blogging out my caregiving experiences because, naturally, they involved sharing stuff about my mom. While I tried to always be respectful, and I do think the caregiving lessons learned were worth sharing with others, it wasn't so comfortable for other members of my family. I didn't even know some of them read it, so that was a nice learning, but I came to look at what I was sharing through their eyes, and could see how they might be sensitive about it. So I eased off, and fell out of the habit. Largely, I think, because I don't segment myself into these different lives.... if I am not blogging about what I am doing in one part of my life, an increasingly larger part of my life, caregiving mom, then there's little context for the rest. Or something like that....

So... an update on a few things, then back to blogging, as I shift gears here. And I am shifting gears.

Mom is doing well, all things considered. She moved into residential care in October, 5 months ago today, actually. There were certainly ups and downs in adjusting, but she seems to be settling in well now, and is happy. The spot where she is has a great music program, with live music several times a week, which really brings out her spark and personality. She also celebrated her 91st birthday last month, and we had a grand little party. Her dementia has worsened quite a bit in the last year, but she knows who I am and is very much on the ball in many ways. She can still walk, but largely gets around in a wheelchair - amazing how she has learned to propel herself around. She lights up when she sees me, or any of her kids or grandchildren, loves the staff (and they love her), and there is always a party around the corner where she is living. She's healthy otherwise, so I anticipate many visits for quite some time to come.

I can say, without a doubt, that putting my mom in residential care was the hardest thing I have ever done. All the while knowing it was the right thing, still it was emotional beyond belief. It's so sudden when the call comes. I have never cried so hard in my life, huge heaving sobs, rocking my soul. It broke my heart. Oh, how I cried. All while being strong for mom, and being there for her, helping her adjust. It was all for the good, and it was time, but how it broke me. I was running on empty and then I was sucked dry. I cried myself dry. Yet there were always more tears...

Caregiving takes a lot out of you, but there is joy in moments together, and satisfaction in helping someone stay in their home as long as possible. Between my sister and I there have been many years devoted to this mission (she did it before I did, then still played a major role), so when either of us is torn about wishing we could have kept mom at home longer, we remind ourselves about how much extra time mom was able to be in her home, and know that we did the best we could, and it made a difference.

I have no regrets about caregiving, but it drained me more than I could have believed. Towards the end (meaning the months while we were on a waiting list for mom to get into residential care), I was simply overwhelmed much of the time. I still managed to work half-time, but fortunately it's a gig that I do remotely, any time of the day or night, so I found enough time for that, and it was important mental stimulation for me. I had fun with mom, of course, and there were caregivers here most of the day (some truly amazing people), and yet it was still exhausting. The hardest thing was sleep, or lack thereof. It left me little energy to face the day, and manage things, without going a little nuts.

I found some journal entries I did on my Blackberry when I made my one only weekend away in a year, with live-in caregivers for mom. It took much arranging, but I made it to an exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and stayed 2 nights in Vancouver. It was one of those things where it would have taken a week of rest to feel refreshed enough to enjoy the break. But I am still glad I did it. The notes I found were interesting. It seems I fell asleep a couple of times during a film in the art gallery, on buses...

In those entries, I also found a stretch of about a week where I noted every time I was woken up in the night (caregiving mom), how long it took me to get back to sleep, only to be awoken again, and again. Reading those now, it's no wonder I was in a fog, it was rare to ever get a decent stretch of sleep, and REM sleep would have been rare.

I share that because it's context for my own adjustment when mom went into residential care. I'm not sure I would have admitted it at the time, but I think I spent two months in bed. Yes, I was going in to visit mom often, but when I got home, I'd lie down to rest, and would sleep so deeply, that I wouldn't want to get up. It was easier to lie on my back in bed and work on my iPad than to be up and around the house, and the world. It's hard to describe, but it was a combination of deep fatigue, sleep deprivation, depression and just a tired soul, that needed rest, rest, rest. I'm still tired from the whole thing, and living a lot more normally (I get up now, lol).

It's looking back that I see changes in myself, many of them temporary, I'm sure.... but I stopped doodling somewhere along the way, stopped trying to sell my art, stopped reading, stopped writing, stopping taking pictures, stopped walking, stopped blogging, stopped reaching out to friends, stopped even dreaming (my passport ran out!), I just existed.

That sounds a little, 'woe is me', but I don't mean it to be. I chose to be here, and I have no regrets, but it was tough. There are many things I am sure I could have done that would have brought me better health, and helped me better, but anyone who has experienced depression will understand when I say it's not that easy.

I am willing to share the worst of how I was, how I felt, and how I coped (or didn't), because it might help someone. I'm not proud to say I spent 2 months in bed recovering, yet I also don't judge it. One thing I do have going for me is pretty good intuition, so I was able to trust that it wouldn't go on forever, and just let go. Let go and let the magic of healing begin.

These days I am doing waaaaay better. Still not doodling or reading (much), but I am creating space for them.

Work is good. I love my part-time gig with IHateTaxis, and am learning alot. I adore having work that takes me (virtually) around the world, love doing research, am enjoying learning about SEO, enjoy the social media, lots of diversity. I wish it were more, but it's a small operation, and that's the extent of the hours at the moment.

So I am looking for another gig. Maybe a part-time job, or maybe contract work. Lots of feelers out there, but still seeking that next opportunity or two. And, yes, I need the dough, so I'm being flexible. I have a fair hit from no to low-income the past few years to make up for.

I am also working on getting an online presence going again. Some some websites and such. Self-generated ventures of the type I used to dream up and make happen. It's neat to be doing that at a different point in my life, and with new technologies. Lot's a ideas in the hopper.

And getting back to aspects of my life that feed my soul, and new as well.

All 4 now, more soon.....
Image source: stock.xchange

Friday, June 08, 2012

Caregiving, Listening to Rain and Emily Carr

Wow, how strange it is to see my blog sitting idle so long, so few posts....

As much as I think I want to write about my current journey, that of caregiving my sweet mom, I find that when I write, its just so personal, and it doesn't feel really fair to her, or my siblings, or extended family. I am writing, sometimes, but when I reflect on what I have written, it seems to be when I am overwhelmed or oozing depression - or a combination - and the only real insight is for me. So, have posted less than I'd thought about what I'd intended to post....

Well, I managed to fall asleep writing that... and woke to the sound of rain ... and it is night, best take the chance to sleep while I can...

Pics in this post in tribute to the exciting news about Emily Carr this week....