Sunday, May 31, 2009

Starting over, again

"I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again."
- Benjamin Button, in a letter to his daughter

Like it or not, I'm no stranger to starting over.

From leaving my friends behind and attending a different high school transferring programs while in university then (repeatedly) switching professions here in the real world.... I've realized that life is too short to continue on a path that makes you unhappy.

So earlier this year when I finally got off my butt and joined the Running Room in my quest for a healthier, happier me, life was good. 

And then I injured myself and was set back in my running regime by about four months. Not cool.

Now here I am -- starting over yet again -- with the next Running Room session set to begin next week. It's odd that I'm doing this, given that a year ago today I ran a 10km race, but that's what it means to start over with a clean slate, right?

And because I feel the overwhelming need to share my misery passion for life with others, I've blackmailed threatened coerced encouraged  (AKA Divulge with Dani) to join in the fun. 

Because sharing is caring, right??

Here's hoping we all make it through this session injury-free!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Never wanted nothing more... than Kenny Chesney tickets

Ugghh... I caved. I finally bought tickets to Kenny Chesney's July concert.

And I have mixed emotions about it.

When I was in my teens, this was the sort of thing I lived for. I wanted to be in the presense of stardom and therefore tried to attend as many concerts as my wallet allowed. I wanted to be among all the spoiled popular kids and go to school the next day wearing my over-priced, concert-bought t-shirt and raving about how cool it was at the show.

But things have changed since then. All of a sudden, I got old. Fast.

Last summer, Sugarland played the Calgary Stampede, and I missed out even though they're among my top-5 favourite musicians. But I had to work that weekend... and it was too costly to go and stay the night in Calgary... etc, etc. So I just couldn't justify it.

And that's exactly how I felt when it was announced that Kenny Chesney would be playing a local show here this summer. As a member of CFCW's Country Club -- further proof that I got really old really fast -- I was in the position to purchase tickets before they went on sale earlier this year..... but I stopped the transaction because of his outrageous ticket prices.

Keep in mind that I'm older than my age suggests -- and I'm cheap pleasantly thrifty -- so outrageous to me might be reasonable to others.

But to put things in perspective....... I still wear clothing I purchased while in high school. I re-use Ziploc baggies. I try not to pay full price for anything I buy. And I think that if you paid more than $50 for a concert ticket, then you got ripped off.

Ahem. Yeah, Kenny's tickets were only slightly more than $50. (Oh well, we don't really need groceries this month, do we?)

But because I waited this long and still really wanted to go see him, I just stopped fighting it. This is a one-time thing, and I know I'll enjoy myself.

Plus, if you don't count the USO performers he saw while stationed overseas, this will be the first real concert my husband will have attended. EVAH!

(Too bad he doesn't overly care for Kenny Chesney, but I digress. I just know that his opinion will change once he hears him live....)

It's just too bad that I waited so long before caving in, though, because now our seats aren't  as great as they could have been. But then again, my opinion of great seats is a little skewed, since I've been previously spoiled by the front row.......


That's right, peeps. Me ' n ' George Strait.... just chillin'.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lotto fever -- What would you do?

"The big secret in life is there is no secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you're willing to work.
- Oprah Winfrey

Sure, I agree with this statement wholeheartedly.

But still... wouldn't it be sweet to just win the lottery?!?

I admit I'm not a gambler. I've been to Vegas a couple of times, and the extent of my gambling involved dropping a dollar bill into a machine as I walked by. And when I didn't win, I was left with that why-on-earth-did-I-just-waste-a-dollar-on-that feeling. Ugh.

It's for this very reason that I never play the lotto, either... unless my husband calls to tell me that the jackpot is up to $49 million and then, by God, we will do whatever it takes to invest our $10 into the winning ticket.

Rewind to last Thursday morning, when my husband and I were laying in bed ignoring the clock-radio and it's signal that we should have gotten up 15 minutes earlier. We were still very sleepy, but there was one thing that made us wake right up: the CFCW radio announcer divulged that the last night's winning ticket was purchased in Edmonton.

That's right. One ticket. Forty-nine millions dollars. To someone here in Edmonton.

For half a minute we allowed ourselves to wonder... what if...?  

I envisioned  the home we've been holding out for...

The Toyota 4Runner that I now covet...

The bi-annual vacation to the tropics...


The personal trainer...

The myriad of pugs my husband wants to adopt...

The children we'll only have once we can afford them...


The house at the lake...


And enough free time so that we can do whatever the hell we want...

Meanwhile, back in the real world, it turns out the winning ticket was purchased by 13 women who work in a downtown Edmonton payroll office. Each woman contributed $2.00 to the draw.... and each woman walked away with just over $3.8 million. 

It's not $49 million, but still.

So now that I'm all bitter and disillusioned again, I keep telling myself that things will still turn out okay for us as long as we work hard. Oprah says so!

Ah, hell. We're totally buying another ticket tonight on the way home from work. You can't win if you don't play.... and someone has to eventually win, so it might as well be us.

But I swear I'm not a gambler.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Alberta – Ontario – New York – Michigan – Kentucky – Florida – Cayman Islands – Belize - Minnesota..

"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring close-knit family in another city." - George Burns

From our family version of Jeopardy:

: 2 provinces, 5 states, 4 countries, and 7 flights in 2 weeks.
Question: What is a typical McGowan family vacation?

When you don't have a lot of vacation time, and when the window of opportunity for said vacation time is rapidly declining, you try to make the most out of whatever time you do have off. And that's precisely why we insist on torturing ourselves scheduling these mini adventures to spend time with family every year.

Here are some random observations from our last two weeks on the road:

* Temperature in Edmonton when we left: 0 C. Temperature where we landed in Ottawa later that same day: 17 C. (I blame the stupid prairie wind.)

* Even though I know I shouldn't take it personally, it still hurts to have my luggage labelled as "Heavy". ("Does this bag make me look fat...?")

* The only airline worth flying with is West Jet, hands down. They have the friendliest attendants, and there's almost always an individual television behind every seat. If ony they would fly to more locations -- and more frequently -- then I would never fly with anyone else again. Ever.

* I love Potsdam, New York, which is my husband's hometown. It is the quintessential embodiment of small-town America. (Think of Stuckeyville, the fictional town featured on the TV show Ed.)
 Every other home has a front porch adorned with their flag, and many houses are now decorated with large rustic-looking Americana stars. I love it.


* To all who are in the know: notice the ticket on the Lambert's garbage below. Hilarious.


* To all who are NOT in the know: no, I did not in fact purchase every decorative piece of Americana that came between me and my wallet. Having already purchased two windchimes, I decided to only photograph this third one featuring US soldiers. PS - I'm pretty sure my mother-in-law thinks there's something wrong with me.

* Am I the only one out there who had never before heard of Bronners CHRISTmas Wonderland? Just when you thought Frankenmuth, Michigan, couldn't get any sweeter.... then you discover Bronners. This is also where we had to stop shopping so we could mail home our third package of souvenirs. That's right, the budget was blown long before we reached any outlet malls.

* Some names that you would never see on fridge magnets in Canada (there was even one that read "Allejandro"):

* If you live in or around (or are even just passing through) Saginaw, Michigan, go and sign up for a Direct Buy membership. I promise you won't regret it.

* Song that was heard not once but twice in separate stores in Saginaw: Kid Rock's All Summer Long. ("... it was summer time in Northern Michigan...")

* A new first for us: missing our flight out of Michigan by just a few minutes. Not a new first for us: my husband trying to console me in an airport, and me just asking him to leave me alone. Yes, people, he just loooooves travelling with me. Ahem.

* For all those who ever doubted it, the rolling hills of Kentucky's blue grass really do look, well, blue.

* Maybe it's that I have a not-so-secret desire to rub shoulders with Kenny Chesney and Jimmy Buffett, but we again are among the 4 million strong.

* Note to Carnival Cruise Lines (and any other cruise line who finds themselves in the same predicament): If this depressed economy has left you struggling to fill up with passengers, then -- at the very least -- you shouldn't be doing things that will threaten the happiness of the passengers you do still have.

* Note to all Carnival Cruise Line passengers: If you paid thousands of dollars to go on a cruise but then had half your ports of call cancelled due to the swine flu in Mexico and political unrest / rioting in Honduras, make yourself heard! Although it was just bad luck and in no way the fault of the cruise line, the $20 credit they offered us is a joke. C'mon, Carnival... that won't even pay for an 8x10 photo in your photo gallery! (Yes, you will be hearing from me. Ad nauseum.)

* So what do you do when you're stuck at sea with a bad cold and with no where to go? You get dressed up and force yourself to smile. Even if all you want to do is sleep. Some more.

* And when you do finally reach a port where the local government hasn't yet forbidden you to come ashore, you take full advantage of it: Hellllooooo, Cayman Islands! Kissing a stingray will bring you seven years of good luck. Or so we're told.

* I'm not just your average run-of-the-mill photographer, yo. I specialize in flat tops and starfish.

* Did I mention that my husband looooves travelling with me? We went kayaking in Belize (even though he wanted to go horseback riding through Bacab Eco Park), and I insisted on photographing everything in sight instead of just enjoying life and living in the moment. Here he is feeling disgruntled because I wouldn't stop taking pictures.

* Still disgruntled.

* One thing my husband does live for is karaoke. Seriously, the man loves an audience. So much so that he auditioned for the role of Elvis in the Carnival Legends show on the ship. I was sick and went to bed early, so I missed his audition... but I heard all about it later:

"I did it! I got the part of Elvis!"
"That's terrific."
"Yeah, I received the loudest audience applause and beat out 10 others who tried out for the part."
"Wow, I'm so proud of you."
"AND... one of the requirements to play Elvis involved having some sex appeal, so apparently I am a sexy man!"

Overheard later the next day:

"By the way, I was just messing with you. No one else auditioned for the part of Elvis, so they just gave it to me. But I'm still a sexy man."

* Visiting the Florida Aquarium in Tampa was the perfect way to spend Mother's Day yesterday.... partly because I was able to put my Wildlife Biology degree to use and squeal like a school girl while photographing Ruddy ducks and Mergansers (ducks that are also very common here in Alberta), but also because I found the coolest toy ever in the gift shop. Haha, yes, I really am that geeky.

*sigh* I miss the water.