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Posts Tagged ‘Vancouver’

Like Riding a Bike

May 4, 2011 2 comments

Similar enough, but one is twenty years younger

Life is like riding a bicycle – in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.  ~Albert Einstein

Nothing says midlife crisis louder than a shiny new set of wheels. But in my case, it was a two-wheeled vehicle for which I pined upon hitting forty.

For the record I don’t think it was a midlife crisis. I just really wanted a new bike. It was time.

I watched with envy as cyclists breezed past me, shiny and sleek in their brightly coloured jerseys. I wanted a piece of that action, but my current mode of bike transport was twenty years old.

Looking at its mangled frame floods me with memories of Melrose Place, Desert Storm, cheap beer, and drama.

It had carried me around my university campus and around the streets of Vancouver before I owned a car. It had been run over by my roommate when I had dropped it on our driveway (sorry roomie; I know I was hard on you for that), was rebuilt and continued to roll.

More recently, the stuffing began falling out of the seat, so every year I added a piece of duck tape. Finally, when it was all duck tape and no seat, my husband said, “Really?” as I dusted it off for our family bike ride. I gave in and bought a new seat, but the bike continued to shine in my eyes, all fifty pounds of it. Rusty, but otherwise bright as the day I bought it. A perfect indigo blue with neon pink accents. A mountain bike built before shocks were invented, it was perfect for commuting, not so much for trails or triathlons. It had its limitations.

I loved my old bike, but even I, faithful as I was, recognized its shortcomings.

As my fortieth birthday loomed, there was one thing and one thing only on my list: a new road bike.

To secure my future purchase, I registered for the Granfondo, a bicycle race that starts in Vancouver and ends in Whistler, a 130 km journey with substantial elevation gain. My bright blue Trek was not going to cut the mustard, new seat notwithstanding.

On one of those spanking new road bikes, how hard can it be? They are so light that the mere thought of pedaling propels its slight form a kilometer or so. It’s not like I’m running 130 kilometers. Surely there will be coasting involved.

And so, for the sake of the race and to celebrate my midlife, I bought a carbon road bike. It is featherlight and built up in all the right places – a high performance model. In the small print I spied the words guaranteed to finish the Granfondo in four hours and it was a done deal.

It should be noted, I’m not the first to trade an old model in for a new one at this point in life.

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The Mother of all Deals: Danielle Connelly

April 25, 2011 7 comments

Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.
Jawaharal Nehru

It’s Motivational Monday, and today I’m profiling Danielle Connelly, a wonderful person I have recently met who tries to help other moms find the best deals in town. She has turned this idea into a successful, growing business. I was inspired by her great story, and hope you will be, too.

When her boys were little, Danielle Connelly started a blog designed to do what is chief on many young mothers minds: save money. What began as a small hobby has turned into a fast growing business four years later. Her website, www.motherofadeal.com, is a virtual treasure trove of deals that appeal to parents.

Here is her recipe for success: take a great idea (saving money), add some knowledge and hard work, and be at the right place at the right time.

Shortly after starting her blog, she had gone to a momcafe event – another growing enterprise where mothers spend a morning networking and listening to inspiring speakers. On this morning, a woman spoke about a self employment program at Douglas College. If you had been on maternity leave within the last five years and fit the eligibility requirements, you could actually get paid to attend this program through Service Canada.

The program is offered through many post-secondary institutions across the country, and is a perfect way of launching your own business, while getting support from like-minded and entrepreneurial instructors.

Inspired by the idea of working for herself, Danielle promptly enrolled in this program. It set the wheels in motion, turning her blog into a growing business.

She is undeniably a busy woman, her boys now four and six years old, but they are some of her biggest supporters. They occasionally help out at family trade shows, and her youngest will blurt out to strangers that his mother does Mother of a Deal.

It’s an ongoing exercise trying to be both a great mother and run a successful business from her house, she says. Setting boundaries has been a key element to keeping the occasional resentment her children show at bay. “Are you doing work stuff, mom?” they will ask. But she tries to make Mother of a Deal a shared experience for her family, and one they will hopefully benefit from as they grow.

Like any small business owner, Danielle has faced adversity along the way, but her online community has been overwhelmingly supportive. In 2009, her father passed away, and she decided to give up on her site to focus on her family. When she shared what she was going through with her subscribers, she experienced a huge outpouring of love from mothers, most of whom she had never met. Somehow, her site stayed strong through this tough time and continued to grow. She believes her father had a hand in this – he was so proud of her drive and determination to succeed. He continues to inspire her everyday, she says.

She has big goals for next year, when her boys are both in school full-time. She plans on making some changes to her site to make it a more interactive experience, and is hoping to attract more subscribers.

With the end goal of helping people help themselves, and the phenomenal success of other money saving websites like Groupon, Mother of a Deal seems like a mother of an invention.

Danielle Connelly: Mother/Entrepreneur

Canucks Vote Early and Vote Often

April 6, 2011 3 comments

An election is coming.  Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.  ~George Eliot, Felix Holt

My cup is overflowing. It is the time of year when I normally jump on our Vancouver Canuck bandwagon, as they head into the playoffs with flying colours; I paint my face blue and acquaint myself with the names of the players on their first line. But this year there is something else to brush up on: our federal election.

How I will slot in time to part my hair I’m not sure.

I normally avoid politics like the plague. It is as interesting to me as Jerry Springer, which is to say, it’s not at all interesting. I just can’t get excited about grown ups arguing over policy. It’s not like they are speaking openly and honestly about anything, they are speaking in order to win supporters. They are saying whatever will get them in power.

The last time I heard a politician compliment an opponent, or say something along the lines of “that is a great idea, I think Canadians will really benefit from your suggestion,” was, let me see, never.

They argue for the sake of arguing. It all seems futile. Like a game I used to play with my friend when we would each scream, and then vote about who screamed the loudest. Everytime, we voted for ourselves, no matter how lung curdling and impressive the result.

On our trip home last week from California, I spied a red election sign, soon accompanied by blue and orange ones. An election had been called in our absence, which not surprisingly the USA Today – delivered each morning – had not picked up, choosing instead to report about how beautiful people were happier than those less beautiful, and how a movement was afoot to ban children to their own separate section on airplanes, among other gems. It was like reading People magazine everyday, fine for a vacation, but far from reality.

I sat up straighter in my seat. The vacation was over, it was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

Growing up, my father was a big proponent of exercising your democratic right to vote. It went something like, if you live in this house, you had better vote in every election you are privileged to live through. He was outspoken on this topic. Although his roots are Irish, his vehemency makes me wonder if also had some ties to Socrates.

And so as I spied those red, blue, and orange signs, I realized it was time to force myself to pay attention to what differentiated the parties at war. Sift through the rhetoric to determine what would match my best Canada. I know it won’t be pretty or fun and will certainly be frustrating, but it’s my small contribution to society.

And so, as I actually read instead of skip over the growing political section of the newspaper, I ask you this:  How about those Canucks?

SnowShoe Running: Try, Try Again

March 11, 2011 2 comments

There’s a new trend in town, and it involves running and mountains, a Vancouverite’s dream. As it happens, I love running and mountains. How could this go wrong?

Well, it sort of did. But if at first you don’t succeed, they say to try, try again. So I will try again, but first, a little tale of woe.

Grouse Mountain hosts Snowshoe drop ins every Monday and Wednesday night, so after hearing several people tell me how amazing it is, you will absolutely love it I believe were the exact words, I took the tram up the mountain to check it out. They had just received a dump of great snow, so despite poor visibility and low temperatures it held the promise of a snowy adventure.

I wedged into the dark tram alongside snowboarders and skiers, amazed at people’s stamina after 6 pm, when I’m usually thinking about going to bed. Stifling my yawns at the thought of curling up with a good book, I tried to draw from their energy and enthusiasm as we ascended to the base of my favorite local mountain.

After signing in with about seventy other night owls, they split up into groups of varying abilities. Because of high avalanche risk, the back country was closed, which meant the runners would be sticking to Paper Trail. I heard some groans, but it sounded innocent enough.

From the word go, the runners were off at a break neck speed down a steep pitch, powder flying up the back of my jacket as I frantically tried to keep pace with fading voices and fainter headlamps. The last time I sprinted downhill was never, so I tried to go as fast as I could without breaking my ankle, or worse, neck, as I navigated between dark forms that I hoped were trees.

I managed to barely keep them in sight, when suddenly, several beams of light were coming towards me. The sound of labored breathing – other than my own – was approaching me.  Having come to the bottom of the steep pitch, they had abruptly turned and were now trudging back up. Obediently I turned and brought up the tail end of the group as they made their way back up.

Someone has to be last, I told myself, as I again tried to keep pace with these jackrabbits. After fifteen minutes of a heart pounding, calf searing climb, I was relieved to see they were taking a breather. I joined their circle as someone yelled “Let’s go!”. I bent over to take a full breath into my lungs, but they were off, screaming down the hill that I had just labored up.

Surely, this is a joke.

Wondering what was going on, I trailed these inhumane people. Once again, I just caught up to them at the bottom of the hill when they turned and headed up. “How many times do you do this?” I managed to ask between breaths, meaning it took a long time to get out that sentence. “Four or five,” a snowshoer called over his shoulder.

I never did see any of their faces, just clouds of snow as they ran downhill.

Driving Etiquette

January 26, 2011 4 comments
A sign warning to yield to the crosswalk.

Image via Wikipedia

I’m sitting patiently with my signal light on, waiting for the long stream of cars in my rear view mirror to drift by before I inch out into the road. Although these cars are only going about 20 km/hour due to the stop light a half a block away, not one stops to let me in. After fifteen years in British Columbia, I’m used to this. Drivers in this part of the world generally don’t pause to let you in; being a couple car lengths ahead of the game is more important.

Unless, of course, they want your parking spot.

Pedestrian’s face a similar fate crossing our roads; on busier thoroughfares they age gracefully while waiting for motorists to acknowledge them. We live a short walk from my children’s school, but lying in between our house and the school is a crosswalk on a fairly busy road. I have no faith that Vancouver drivers will stop for my half-pints, despite the fact it is a school zone. I prefer to accompany them across the road myself.

It is not like this in all parts of the world. I know this because growing up in the Maritimes, if a pedestrian so much as pauses to consider crossing the street, traffic halts in both directions. It’s true, this happens regularly back east: drivers actually stop for pedestrians. I have been forced to cross many a-road simply out of guilt, perhaps having paused at an intersection dreamily assembling a torrid plot for my next novel. I return from my trance and cars are waiting expectantly, smiling, bidding me to change direction. So I cross, wanting to appease them for accommodating me. I have always aimed to please.

I’d like to compare driver’s handbooks from my former province and my current one, because drivers have drastically different driving manners. Letting people into traffic streams isn’t in either handbook, but it’s just a polite thing to do. When I learned to drive, stopping at crosswalks was certainly in the book, and you would have lost marks on your driver’s test had you breezed by a pedestrian at one of these clearly delineated places. In Vancouver crosswalk lines might as well be targets, they scream “speed up so that the pedestrian can’t cross the road!” If I have risked my limbs to cross in front of an approaching car, I am barely a step past the car in the crosswalk before they blast by me.

As much as I love Vancouver I miss those Maritime drivers, who give you a smile and a wave when they stop to let you in. Like any good suburban North American, I spend a fair amount of time in my car, and think the western world could be a kinder and gentler one if people would act that way when they’re driving. Never even mind road rage.

For the Love of Skiing

January 25, 2011 6 comments

It's a ski day at Whistler

As I don five layers of clothing (moisture wicking base first, merino wool layer second, various thermal things that will fit thereafter), carefully stick my toe warmers on top of my wooly socks, and wedge my foot into my cumbersome ski boot, forcing the buckles closed an aerobic exercise in itself, it strikes me that skiing is an absurd sport.  I stuff my pockets with money, tissues, hand warmers, lip balm and granola bars, and head out into the dark morning looking like the Michelin Man as I juggle my helmet, skis, pole and gloves, with no free hands to do things like open doors.

Despite dressing at a speed that could rival the Six Million Dollar Man, I’m overheating before I get outside, the frigid outdoor temperatures turning my sweat into an ice cube that inconveniently coats my body, transforming me from a barbecue to a freezer before I can yodel yard sale.

But then I’m at the lift and anticipation washes over me: some days you ski, and some days you don’t. This one I’m skiing.

Symphony Bowl - can you hear the music?

I can never decide what I like best about skiing: The vistas, when you have them? The act of hurling yourself down a mountain at break-neck speed? Floating almost effortlessly through champagne powder? Laughing, (hopefully, once you make sure all of your digits are moving) with friends over good wipeouts? Enjoying a cold beer apres-ski? The thigh burning workout, always negated by a big bowl of chili and white bread at lunch?

Even the days they are handing out garbage bags at the lifts to shield you from the rain, spending a day skiing always seems better than the alternative.

Unlike the real world of line-ups, in front of a ski lift everyone is happy. A sea of smiling faces. After you! No, after you!  How do you like those skis? Have you been to Symphony Bowl today? Typical chatter amongst skiers, comfortable in the skiing fraternity. There is hope for humanity after all. This is one of the things I love about skiing.

A bluebird day, clear skies making the white snow glow neon.  Peaks and snow and sky as far as the eye can see, skiers darting like ants back and forth down the slope. I breathe mountain air and it goes straight to my soul. Surely this must be the best thing. This is why I love skiing.

Gliding over a piste you spy some untouched powder and want to be the first to trace an s-like trail through it; never mind it comes out looking more like a mathematical equation – you floated! This, surely, is what I love the most.

In the gondola, you strike up a conversation with the woman next to you, who has traveled from Hong Kong or Austria or New Zealand and is in love with your country, telling you how lucky you are to live here. Reminding me. This, too, I love.

Sitting afterwards in a crowded bar as a local musician covers Free Falling drinking cold Kokanee Gold, in the company of friends who also have aching legs and some war stories from the day. The apres-ski tradition is surely the best part of skiing. Or is it?

Black Tusk sitting above the cloud cover, up where we belong

As each part of the ski day unfolds my loyalties shift, my favorite aspect changes like the snow conditions at Whistler; swiftly and without warning.

A New Memorial for Our Hero, Terry Fox

January 20, 2011 8 comments

Terry Fox running his Marathon of Hope

My three children have each studied heroes in their kindergarten curriculum.  I usually get about one sentence into the the characteristics of a hero before we talk about Terry Fox.  He is the definition and embodiment of hero to Canadians, and it’s hard not to get emotional when we remember him.  I am crying by the end of our hero discussion.

Anyone dying before their time is sad. But picture a young man running across our large desolate country with one leg, long before a prosthesis actually geared for running was made, to raise money for the disease that made him an amputee. It wasn’t only courageous, it was super-human.

Terry’s lasting legacy continues to raise money for cancer research.  Although he wasn’t able to finish his Marathon of Hope when cancer spread to his lungs, he succeeded in so many ways.  He brought Canada to its knees when he died nine months after halting his run across the country. The funds generated in his memory have been rolling in ever since, the current tally raised for cancer research under his name exceeds $500 million dollars.

Terry Fox, up close and personal, and the reason we will one day find a cure for cancer.

Since Terry grew up in Port Coquitlam, it’s right and proper that British Columbia should have an impressive memorial to this most famous of citizens. Yesterday they unveiled the plans for a new memorial in front of BC Place Stadium. Like I’d hoped, it is a stunning piece of art. It shows not one, but four bronze statues of Terry, each getting successively bigger, in various stages of his labored gait. Running is hard, running the distance Terry did seems almost impossible, running the way that Terry needed to run each step is, again, super-human.  This rendering helps all of us to see the massive amount of effort that went into each step of his Marathon of Hope.

A rendering of the proposed Terry Fox Memorial

This sculpture of our Canadian hero will be created by Douglas Coupland – very fittingly, since Coupland is also a shining star from British Columbia. The artist that brought us the iconic book “Generation X” has also created the uber-cool statue Digital Orca at the new Vancouver Convention Center, proving he is a creative mind of many genres.

Coupland's Digital Orca at Vancouver Convention Center

Most interestingly, Coupland also wrote a biography of Fox, “Terry”, so has spent lots of time with the Fox family, a perfect choice to memorialize our Canadian icon. He reportedly worked with animators to recreate Fox’s running stride. When the original is unveiled this coming September with the opening of the refurbished stadium, it will inevitably bring tears to the eyes of anyone lucky enough to gaze upon it.

As I write this, my brother is undergoing a surgery that will remove a cancerous growth on his knee; on Christmas Eve my sixteen year-old nephew finally left the hospital after two and a half months of intensive chemotherapy for lymphoma; my father died of cancer eighteen years ago.  Heroes come in many forms, hopefully there will come a day when they don’t need to conquer cancer for that worthy status.

Thanks to Terry Fox, that day will come sooner than later.