Pondering life: Or What to do when Grounded

I seem to be racking up blog drafts that drift off for lack of my interest. If that is how I feel about them I am not about to burden the few readers I do have with my drivel. During my morning constitutional my mind tends to rattle off ideas, plans, silent conversations, (with others and myself), edit papers, (not mine) along with random darker thoughts. Lately being grounded from travel has turned to an attempt to ground my psyche before I blow up or delve too deeply into self pity.

If I cannot travel perhaps I can write about how that affects me and learn from others how they handle lack of actively seeking new cultures, history, food, new friends, adventures without going completely mad. Of course, the question is why am I not travelling if that is what I really want to do? Health and finances of course.

When I injured my knee on my last trip I did not expect to still be suffering the consequences. Reiterating a major note to fellow travellers: if you have travel insurance USE IT! I did not. I also had not intended to use up the money I still had to cover everyday expenses at home. However, not working, and nearing 61, created two problems for me. No income and ageism.

Much to the horror of my family I do not want to just grab anything. Unless a job can be done at my pace, will benefit others, our planet, and give me some pleasure, I am not interested. I would love to write and travel, sadly I do not think my musings and travels are what people are looking for. Then there is the fact I would still need money to go anywhere. Meanwhile, I try to fit in mini-adventures. A day trip to a new place close to where I live so as to pace myself. Sadly, many of these still mean I need to be with someone. I read. A lot. I write. I rail against the injustice of it all until I realize that is more self pity.

So how do I manage without money? Or so little? It is not easy and I do not know if I will ever be able to travel beyond the borders of my own country again. Such a sad prospect. However, I am not yet living on the streets, (I expect that has been blogged to death) I do have the Canadian medical system, and one of my daughters is on the cusp of working two jobs to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies until she moves to Toronto in about six months. I am fortunate. Although many would consider it selfish.

After all, some would say, why should our children care for us as we age? The same question is not even considered in many cultures. Rather, supporting an extended family is expected. Even if the parents cannot provide much towards their own care. Yet, in our western culture anyone without a good pension plan, savings, or a long term plan, is considered a second citizen – unworthy. It seems to not matter what brought someone to a position of living on the edge. If we, counting myself as on that edge, have not fallen or jumped we are invisible because we do not appear to be failing. We simply withdraw.

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Wedding Wednesday: 66 Days

Earlier this week my daughter and her Matron of Honour (MOH) – such archaic terminology – drove to Ottawa for a one hour appointment at David’s Bridal. Seemed simple enough, would most likely take less time than expected giving a chance to visit family who had recently moved there – including the young niece my daughter was thinking of inviting to be in the bridal party. I have no idea if that happened, they were at the one store for about five hours! I cannot imagine how long it takes when in search of a wedding dress!

Why they were there for so long made me laugh. Despite having made the solid decision to be happy with the dresses the other women in the party would wear they ended up checking out option. It was made easier when the MOH had taken her current dress with her to determine if another choice would complement the original in the event of two styles walking down the aisle. The consultant had the bride also try the favoured, now in the running, dress on as she is about 2″ than her 4’11″sister. The last I heard another Ottawa trip is planned – except it must be a quick turnaround to fit in the bachelorette that was finally carved out to fit everyone’s extremely busy schedules. Big sigh, despite checking for fares on various sites I simply cannot afford to go. Even if I were to stay for a week or so to tie up some of the various planning for the BIG DAY.

We are still doing distance planning. Sometimes I hear a bit of a sigh behind my daughter’s voice when we do discuss the various items that still need crossing off lists. I am never sure it is because it would be easier if I could be there or if I am too detailed oriented. Perhaps a bit of both. I need a cash windfall. I would love to just show up.

Speaking of money, the budget was also recently discussed. With the possibility of a change in dress my daughter feels obligated to pay for them, or partially. As with most events costs fluctuate. Money is moved about on paper to cover all expenses. The bride made a strong suggestion that transportation may have to be reconsidered.

The plan was for the Kingston Trolley to pick guests up at their various hotels, and Queen’s University where many of us will be staying, as well as taking the bride and her party to the boat. My financial brain is still attempting to figure out how she can still keep that. It is so much a part of Kingston, and most likely less expensive than a carriage. Also a nice touch for out of town visitors who might not know where to park. On a long weekend. Where everyone congregates.

On a brighter note, chair sashes and table runners were ordered, paid outright, rather than trying to match the fabric and colour choices provided by the venue. Yes, more money but less than renting and they can most likely be sold after the wedding. Perhaps after the BBQ planned for the following day – not that chair sashes will be necessary. Cupcakes were taste tested at a local bakery I discovered during one of my visits – then promptly forgot about. Flowers have been chosen and ordered. I even managed to provide a mock up of the table settings using what I have on hand. If I forget to pack the orchids I will be in trouble!

Finally, not directly connected to the wedding, I was very happy to discover that Via Rail renewed my Preference Privilege status for another year despite my not having used their services much since last summer. I realize this is a sales push but it fits my needs.

I have one coupon for a 50% discount off a sleeper berth – the train home being what is planned. As mentioned, I need a cash infusion so this will help a lot! I might even have enough e-coupons to cut 1/3 for another sleeper for one of my daughters returning with me.

Vietnam Motorbike Tour: Day One

I was pretty well packed and ready to go, all I had to do was put on my runners, drink my tea and finish chatting to my daughter who had decided she will meet me in Hoi An as there was not enough time for her to fly to Saigon and catch up with me. I received a message saying my ride had arrived – 45 minutes early. I decided right then we would get along. I hate being late for anything. 

I need to stop here to say most of the day remains a bit hazy. I must have been more overwhelmed by the experience than I realized as I simply cannot recall one clear memory. It was more of a sensory overload. I needed to become acquainted with the bike and driver, and he with me. Trust is a major factor when sitting astride a motorbike. First I had to hop aboard – easier than it sounds. Then getting out of Saigon seemed to take forever and the traffic remained crazy although not quite as insane as in the centre.Fortunately it was a nice day – heck, it was HOT! I applied sunscreen 3-4 times and still had a sunburn on my back where it is never easy to reach.The weaving in and out of traffic, light touch of the horn as we passed by others; the city giving way to lush green, with too much garbage on the roads to mar picture perfect moments. The smell of oil, fish, garbage all mingling into a barely bearable bouquet that we finally left behind before our first stop for coffee.

Cute little drip cups makes a small, bold coffee to give the day a kickstart. Add condensed milk and go, go, go! Most people drink their coffee with ice. Also a cup of green tea. I am hooked except for the Conde seed milk – only because I want my blood sugar to stay down.

It took quite some to get out of the city, Saigon and the surrounding countryside is huge! I thought we would never leave the traffic behind. Finally crossed what I thought was a toll booth but was the entry to catch a small ferry boat across to an island -.this seems to cut down on time and is far more pleasant to sit for about ten minutes without all the exhaust. To help with the fumes, dirt and wind Toan bought a cowl like cover up for my face. We drove off the ferry towards a monastery of sorts. I would find myself getting rather confused as to just what I was visiting at times. The way I understood it this was a retreat of sorts for monks but with a distinct Chinese influence. 
In Vietnam always assume shoes have to come off if entering a temple of any kind!

Of course I do not read Vietnamese so the first notices telling visitors to remove their shoes went unheeded – oops. Thank goodness there was not anyone around. I remembered before entering the largest hall, it helped that I saw shoes but no people right away. I put away my worries about the, being stolen. I was quite sure nobody would want my runners – not a common type of footwear.
Pho for lunch and of course more coffee.

We did a lot of driving and had to stop in one place when the motorbike started to make strange noises. Eventually it was suggested I be dropped off at a cafe while my driver went in search of a mechanic after the one he wanted was closed – it was Sunday. I suggested Highland – I had seen it a couple of blocks back – because I was quite sure they would have AC and a western toilet. Ah, the conveniences we prefer. I was also able to charge my phone and iPad. As I said, trust was important. After all, I had paid him and he had all my stuff except my purse and daypack. About 40 minutes he came back, had to jury rig what he needed because the piece could not be found anywhere.
Our trusty steed.
Seems a black plastic ring was not put back on when the bike was serviced before I was picked up.

Of course we wasted a lot of time so made it to our hotel just before dark. I was exhausted, and Toan was most likely worried I would be unhappy with the turn of events. However, we had stopped for coffee a couple of times and lunch as well as short stops for him to point out places and explain them to me. Money has yet to be discussed other than the cost of the tour it self which includes my guide, the bike, fuel etc., accommodation and entry fees to sites. For the day we took turns until dinner. When we discussed thwt took up his offer to being me chicken and rice to the room which he insisted on paying for. I was ready to fall asleep.

Pins and Needles

Did I really say I would blog twice a week? While still at home, revving up my engine to leave, I have time. Once in China I might have the time – just not easily accessible sites. I do have a VPN, it worked last year. I do hope I will post about the trip at least once a week plus the mother of the bride insights on Wedding Wednesday. Not that any of this has to do with puns, nor needles.

Pins, I had a notice from Stillpoint Community Acupuncture offering a free session the week of my birthday that I thought would be foolish to pass up! Considering one session is $40.00 – although the sliding scale starts at $25.00 – it was a great way to prepare my poor aching knees for lots of walking and climbing. I will still wear the interchangeable stabilizing brace, just not right now as it seems to have scratched and rubbed my leg below the knee (unless it was Mozzy my cat, although possible it is a strange mark for it to be a cat scratch).

Needles, I know it is a good idea to take along a small sewing kit, I just cannot seem to find mine! If I do not I will most likely just throw a standard needle (with a wide enough eye I will not need a magnifying glass) and spool of thread into my tiny first aid kit. Perhaps a bobbin will fit better. The whole plan being prepared without overdoing it. 

Pins and needles. Perhaps needless to say but I am now approaching that waiting on pins and needles stage. All the last minute changes, items to still pack, currencies to buy, and visas are pretty well dealt with. I have my visa for China and ordered the Vietnam visa letter that is supposed to fast track things once I arrive. Unfortunately, although most likely easily fixed, I ended up ordering three visas! All because my debit visa would not work. A call to the bank showed no problems. Thank goodness http://www.cheapvietnamvisa.net has several ways for payment to be made. I chose this company solely because my daughter used them last year – time will determine if I am satisfied. I am also pleased it was only 7.55CAD (6.00USD). The actual stamp will be paid upon arrival – 25.00USD.  

We were using his chair for guests so he found a bag to curl up on after.

No more needles? I hope to cut the Cartrophen for Mozzy, it is not making his leg better and he hates going for the 30 minute drive – one way – then being poked and prodded. We have a weigh-in appointment, discussion with the vet to decide if Mozzy might survive the next two months, then some serious decision making. I may need a needle, or a shot of something.

Eternal posy for my 60th birthday the other day – my daughters said this way I will always have flowers from them.

Wedding Wednesdays 

The Secret Is Out

As though I do not already have enough to think about with my upcoming 60 day trip I am now helping, from the other side of the country, to plan my eldest daughter’s wedding! Writing a blog from the mother of the bride’s point of view has most likely been done ad infinitum; which means I must attempt to write with a fresh view. Perhaps the fact the engaged couple has been together for 25 years and have a nearly 15 y/o child will provide a part of the twist to interest. 

On Canada Day, after watching a very country parade, from the comfort of the porch, some of us headed to town for the vast array of 150th birthday activities. As we wended our way to the annual Arts Festival the discussion turned to the upcoming move of another of my daughters for her graduate studies. ((Bravo!) Without thinking, the matron of honour (except I did not know this) said, “Now you will have two places to go dress shopping!” I asked why she, the one moving, would have to go shopping four years before finishing her thesis. The looks on all three faces – bride, sister of the bride, and matron, was priceless, as was the expressed realization of a faux pas. As her foot was already in her mouth the matron mumbled something along the lines of your mother doesn’t know? To which my daughter said, “She does now!”It seems the three of them had been keeping the secret, other than from my grandson, and the groom of course, for at least two months!

My daughter had planned a special way to tell me. Instead we set about discussing logistics, telling her friend no more secrets for her, and eventually went on the cruise where the wedding will take place. So, after lunch and wandering around, although I now knew, my daughter asked, what did I think of the Island Queen as a wedding venue? My westcoast island girl is marrying an east coast boy aboard a paddle wheeler on Lake Ontario. No longer a boy and a girl, two mature people who will be celebrating 25 years as a couple with a big party that includes a wedding. 

I like planning big events, I am good at it despite not having many opportunities these days. Details my daughter and I have already taken care of, invitations chosen and sent out. Hotels contacted for block rooms information and codes. Deposit for venue. Some top secret plans not being told to anyone!

The wedding will be on my father’s birthday, and his parents wedding anniversary – such a nice way to include him. My eldest was very special to him. My sister reminded me we still have the dove our grandparents, parents, she, and my already married daughter, had on their wedding cake. I guess I should ask if it can be included for this wedding!

No photo of the wedding cake from 1925 to my knowledge. My parents cake photo is packed away. This is from their 50th anniversary nearly 11 years ago.

Money saving tips: A magnetic save-the-date with an RSVP/info on the back is a great invitation. Include your email, phone number, and use a free wedding planners site. My daughter chose http://www.theknot.com