Saturday, October 27, 2012

Life Gets In The Way

Sometimes, it's just impossible to write. A hectic schedule, fatigue, travel, company, celebrations, and writer's block, can all cause a lack of production. Don't get me wrong, it's not a complaint. We make choices. I could have written, but I chose to go to the gym, decorate for the season, enjoy visitors, and veg out in front of the world series games on t.v.

On one particular "I could have written" occasion, I opted to go for lunch with my children. So here's the result of a recent lunch. Writer's block disappeared and inspiration returned. After my daughter posted her tripadvisor review, I followed suit. We both like to share our thoughts on places we've been, attractions, hotels and restaurants. I believe that I was slightly kinder than she, since she even posted her food photo.

So now, I wrote.

“Three Strikes You're Out !”
2 of 5 starsReviewed October 26, 2012NEW
I've been to this Kelsey's a few times because it's in a convenient location. Each time I go, I swear I will not return. This time, I'm sticking to my decision. On this last occasion, I had lunch with several family members. The restaurant was not busy with only two or three tables occupied.

I ordered the Asian Sesame chicken salad for $12.99...not inexpensive but not unreasonable. The menu claimed that the serving had only 490 calories.The chicken strips were ok but the lettuce tasted as if it was one of those bagged grocery store offerings which had been left on the shelf too long...musty. The menu also listed the salad contents as cranberries, crispy noodles, almond slivers and sesame seeds. Even though I have reading glasses which magnify most things, I was unable to locate several of the ingredients. On the bright side, I did not eat much of the platter contents, so I'm certain that I consumed even fewer than the promised calories.

Our table received no visits from wait staff to see if we needed anything, wanted refills, or to ask if the food was acceptable. It was necessary to play charades with, then finally call out to one server who was on walkabout as we tried to make a request. A caesar salad was foisted into the centre of our table by the disappearing, oft invisible waitstaff...kerplunk ! We stared at each other in disbelief wondering who should consume this offering since two were ordered and a third was to arrive as part of a meal. Our food came in shifts. Two meals were inaccurate. The server removed a salad from one plate and deposited it in front of another person...disturbing.

When we were done and ready to leave, I requested the cheque. The server wandered off and began washing tabletops at the far end of the room. I finally gave up and went to the cash register to pay. This is the third time I've been dissatisfied with this restaurant...two chances too many.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pelee Island

During a t.v. auction last autumn, I bid on and won a wine basket, a winery tour, barbecue lunch and overnight guest house stay on Pelee Island. I already knew that Pelee Island was the southernmost inhabited area in Canada, although its exact location was a bit of a mystery to me. I was also aware that there were many natural habitats and endangered species on the island. After researching, I discovered that Pelee Island was quite far south in Lake Erie. In fact, it's so far south that twenty-seven U.S. states lie all or in part to the north of it. Imagine that. Over half the U.S. states are north of this part of Canada.

I looked forward to the excursion.  We opted to go during a less busy time of year, the beginning of October. This proved to be an excellent decision. We drove and spent the night in a lovely bed and breakfast in Kingsville, about a block from the ferry docks. Our ferry reservation was at 10 a.m. and it was suggested that we get there an hour ahead. This facilitated lining up cars, saved on boarding time and ensured our space.

 The trip to the island took one and a half hours on board the M.V. Jiimaan. The weather was fantastic, the air and the view, fabulous. There is a short video about Pelee Island which is available for viewing on the ferry. I recommend it.
Our first stop after disembarking the ferry was the Pelee Island Winery. We took the noon tour. After tasting some delicious grapes off the vine, we walked around the grounds and learned about the island and the winery's history. Then received a lesson on corks, viewed a video and sampled five wines. Our tour guide was terrific and explained about wine barrels and the massive antique European grape press found in the pavillion.
The time just flew by. After our tour, we received a barbeque lunch and glass of wine each on our specially reserved table. We even had a tablecloth!
We toured the island, discovered gorgeous beaches, wild turkeys, sculptures, nature reserves, birds and a lighthouse. Afterwards, we found the winery guest house. We were the only guests. In fact, we were the only people around. How peaceful and quiet it was.
In the evening, we watched the sun set.
The next day, as we waited on the ferry to return to mainland, we saw the grapes arriving. They would be making the trip with us.

Even though I don't necessarily want my blogs to turn into travelogues, I wanted to share some details of this wonderful, worthwhile trip to the southernmost inhabited point in Canada.
***Important note - The winery closes for the season. This year, it shut down on October 7th. The number of ferry trips are reduced after the summer. You must have a reservation on the ferry if taking a vehicle. The ferry also goes to Sandusky, Ohio. Check the schedule for dates and times.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What Do You Do?

"What do you do?"  Strangely, those words changed the direction of my life. Let me explain.

In my late twenties, my late twenties, not "the" late twenties, I happened to meet an acquaintance in a grocery store. I hadn't seen this person for awhile. We exchanged the usual pleasantries and made small talk.
Then she asked me, "What do you do?" I was puzzled because I was fairly certain that she already knew the answer.

I automatically responded with, "I'm a teacher," as if this would justify my entire existence.

"No, I mean what do you do?" (emphasis on the word "do") She elaborated, "as in things that are personally fulfilling....hobbies, physical activities, volunteer work."

 I was taken aback and was briefly stumped. Didn't she realize that the statement "I'm a teacher" explained all that?  On the other hand, I felt compelled to come up with an alternate response.

I didn't want to confess to this person that, "I work late hours. I sleep until noon and hang around in pj's on weekends. I didn't think she'd be impressed with, "I go to the odd movie, eat out, and drink with friends." So, I blurted out my first thought. "I ski."

"Oh", she said and nodded. "Downhill, cross country or water?"

"Yes, I've done them all, but mostly downhill." I said. We chatted a bit more and she left. I was relieved. She didn't pursue the issue nor did she ask me to elaborate.

"Why had I said those things?" I wondered. I had never cross country skiied and had in fact water skiied only once. My downhill skiing career was far from illustrious and had been over for a number of years. There was the time on a hill at Chicopee when I was rescued after a painful fall only to be escorted down the hill, red faced and shivering. I was laced papoose-like onto a toboggan and escorted by half a dozen ski patrollers in flourescent vests. People stared and pointed at the unfortunate disaster victim. Then there was the occasion in Quebec when I decided to trudge down Mt. Ste Anne, carrying my skis and poles. In fairness, conditions were, in my opinion, very icy and hazardous. On another trip, I fell from quite a height off a chair lift directly onto my posterior. That experience had a colourful "end"ing. Then there were the times I held up troupes of skiers by skidding off the tracks off poma lifts and t-bars. I suppose I finally gave up skiing after my embarassing ride up a mountain in a gondola...and back down.

The question, "What do you do?" remained with me all day. It sat, Jiminy Cricket-like on my shoulder. It moved into my head for weeks. It wound itself through my thoughts for months. Then it took up residence.

I knew that I used to do a lot more in my teen work, walking, skating, stitching, drama, music. I did plenty during my university career...choirs, clubs and aforementioned skiing.

But now? I was in my late 20's. Now what? Did my job really consume so much of my life that it became my only identity? I realized that in fact, I no longer did much of anything but work, sleep, socialize.

I wasted a lot of valuable time and I did not plan to do that for another minute. I wasn't going to be caught off guard if I was ever asked again, "What do you do?" I had to fit more into my daily schedule. I had to do more for myself and my community.

If I didn't sleep as late on weekends, if I worked a little less and loafed around a lot less, if I made time to "do" things, would I suffer? Would anyone be worse off? Absolutely not.

So, first, I became an auxiliary police service.

I walked to and from work with a friend. Sometimes, we played squash...exercise.

I painted and did a some crafts...hobbies. All the bases were covered. It's strange, but somehow, I even found time to take some upgrading university courses. The more I did, the more time I seemed to have and the more envigorated and successful I felt.

I have lived with the question, "What do you do?" ever since. It has helped guide me for the last thirty years. I have done more, learned more, and participated in more than I could have ever dreamed. I have taken risks...some successful and some not.

I suppose it concerns me when I see members of the younger generation doing nothing that in my opinion seems of great value. They party all night, they spend beautiful daylight hours sleeping, they sit around using computers, cell phones and other technology. Has nobody ever asked them, "How are you contributing to your well being and that of others? What do you do?"

I will always be grateful to a person who said those words to me. That little phrase caused me to re-evaluate my circumstance and change my course. It taught me to live differently. It helped me be an active participant in my life. It kept me from having regrets. It gave me adventure, sponteneity and satisfaction. It helped give my life meaning.

So now I'll ask you, "What do you do?"