Summer Vacation 2020- The Relationship Reset

We’ve hit the one year mark of enduring life in a pandemic I’m sure many of you have had to take a step back a few times and asked yourself how have I not pushed my significant other off a cliff yet. Many of us in the field of health care and social services braced ourselves for the increase in domestic violence, overdoses, and mental health related cases. However, due to the isolation the issues have noticeably been pushed further into the darkness. I’ve often joked with colleagues that the eerie silence seems to be foreshadowing a scene from Game of Thrones. Anticipation continues to tease the anxious audience with the looming threat of the white walkers who inch closer, while lives hang in limbo.

A large part of being in the health care and human services sector is a responsibility to manage your own mental health and wellness. And as seasoned as some of us may seem at doing this, there was nothing in our bag of tricks that could have prepared us for this blow.

I think it was the end of June where my partner and I hit a wall of intolerance for each other. A wrong look, a snappy tone, or small misunderstanding was enough to ignite world war 3. Our lack of social buffers and distractions was like having a field of dry grass in a drought awaiting a match to be lit. Time together was no longer cute or meaningful opportunity to strengthen us, in fact it was going to break us.

We needed a relationship intervention. We needed a dose of what life was like before the complex web of Fuckery impacting our ability to be civil human beings. I recognize that we have remained in a better situation than most folks who have faced unemployment, illness, and loss of family members as a result of Covid-19. I think recognizing this was a motivating factor to get well in my personal life. The white walkers are coming and in this case as services and schools begin to reopen the demand for healthy front line workers will too. I can’t be of assistance to anyone if I’m in jail for accidentally poisoning the smoothie I so kindly threw in his face.

I can appreciate that there is a spectrum of opinions and levels of comfort with regard to the Covid-19 topic. My own has wavered consistently from the beginning of it. I remember being in Mexico in March just as the pandemic was escalating. By the end of my stay as the resort became a ghost town and the stream of concerned texts and emails came through for me to come home, the severity of it began to sink in. We are all aware of the panic and fear that ensued after that.

I’m sure this is actually how Covid was introduced to the world…Foam Party.

It was in July that both my partner and I tested positive for Covid. Living under the same roof as my 78 year old mother with significant health issues complicated our recovery even more. Covid left us fatigued, foggy, and unable to support one another at a time no one else could. And while I recognize there is still so much we don’t know about Covid-19 and reinfection, we decided to take what we think we knew and take advantage of our fresh antibodies and go on a trip. We had been advised after being quarantined and cleared by health professionals that we have up to potentially 3 months of antibodies until the harshness of winter ascends on us. So with our empty and weathered buckets in tow we took the summer vacay we needed to fill them accordingly.

We took a quick flight from Calgary to Vancouver, one we’ve taken many times before. This departure felt similar to the excitement attached to some of our previous tropical destination trips, equipped with the obligatory gate drinks. In fact, they were literally Gate Drinks whereby we were allowed two at a time to be drank at our gate while we waited for our flight. It made me wonder how this wasn’t even a thing before because I was loving it. We boarded our half empty flight where I could stretch myself across the seat and take an hour long disco nap prior to the anticipated fun that lay ahead of us.

Over the next few days we took in the beautiful sites of Vancouver. I was excited to show my partner a piece of my past where I had so many great memories. Having lived there before, I knew all the best places to go and reacquaint myself with the ever changing cityscape. My favorite part of Vancouver is the transit system, as it’s an extremely large and densely populated city whereby a short distance can turn into a 2 hour commute by vehicle.

Stanley Park is hands down a must when visiting Vancouver. You can rent all different types of bikes from cruisers to electric and ride along the seawall. There is the aquarium you can currently book ticket times for along with the many paths, beaches, and indigenous art spread about waiting to be discovered. From there you can tackle the city by foot, Skytrain, bus or scooter. Stanley Park is really close to Denman Street and English Bay where you can find the colorful and LGBTQ2S safe community that has been well established for a long time. Typically around the time we were there it would have been boasting one of the largest Gay Pride Celebrations and parade.

We strolled through Gas-Town & Yaletown in the search for the little hole in the wall sushi spots where you can get fresh sushi on the low-low. It was crazy to walk by the old closed clubs I use to frequent in my early 20’s, like Sonar and the Purple Onion now looking unidentifiable. These were the years of the late 90’s, early 2000’s, when Hip Hop and Rap artists were killing it, and my gold hoops were as big as the vibes. It was the time to be alive and in your twenties, try to tell me otherwise. Craft beer gardens and Bottle Service were nonexistent, and the only thing that separated you from the next person was what color your Fubu Jersey was.

The next few days we encountered some of the most gut aching laughter ever. I’m blessed to be surrounded by some of the quirkiest characters that are always sure to deliver. Our beloved friend we call “Uncool Jake” who is often the Butt of many jokes was in true form

By the end of the night after some monetary encouragement to the donor he was putting back shots of breast milk quite willingly. How our circle has changed since the far racier Las Vegas trip days. The content may change but the bad behavior never dies. With laugh lines reinforced, we moved on to a slower pace and headed to Vancouver Island.

We took the ferry to Victoria which is where I went to the University of Victoria. Victoria boasts the most beautiful inner harbor, where you could typically come across buskers, vendors and musicians. However…COVID World strikes again and it looked like it would traffic wise in the winter. Victoria usually is a big cruise ship destination, and the lack of tourism was evident with many of the storefronts closed and out of business.  After I identified the big tree I peed in one time on Canada Day I felt like we were ready to move on to the next stop on memory lane.

I decided to surprise my honey and took a night on Salt Spring Island staying at the Salty Pear Farm, which has a number of different Air BnB options.  They suggested that we go to Salt Spring Wild Cider Brewery and take in their tasting flights. They had us at the word “tastings” and primed our palettes and bellies by getting a solid buzz on. The view was vibrant as it overlooked hues of rolling wooded hills with the orchards below. The casual atmosphere along with the fervent staff made the experience idyllic. I left feeling like this would be a place that if I was a local would stay until closing time, and likely be found in a nearby field under the stars.

Salt Spring Wild Cider Brewing Company
Hamock Lounging at the Salty Pear Farm, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

We surprised ourselves and showed enough restraint at Wild Cider in order to take in a waterfront dinner where we listened to the band Grapes of Wrath perform as the sun set. If you grew up in the 80’s & 90’s you will know that these guys were the SHIT! So I may have fan girled a little bit while my significantly younger partner took zero interest in this epic moment. Watching the boats come and go, as well as eaves dropping on the horny middle aged women’s conversation next to us was a highlight. It made me actually miss the girls night dinners I used to have pre-Covid days where the night would be littered with the dirty details of our one night stands of Stampede Past.

I had initially researched Sunset Kayak trips, but the trip was beginning to take a toll on our energy and were looking forward to just relaxing by the camp fire at the Salty Pear Farm. We were leaving for Shawinigan Lake and Tofino the next day so lacked the time needed to cover the Provincial Park, Lakes and artisan studios that Salt Spring is known for. It will be a destination I can see returning with a group of girlfriends after the pandemic has subsided.

Shawnigan Lake School Main Building

I had been anticipating the drive to Shawnigan as it was the boarding school I attended for 5 years. It is a prestigious school located on its namesake lake where I spent my years rowing and skinny dipping at night with my dorm mates. The grounds mimic something out of a movie, with its main gardens and mix of new state of the art learning commons among the old refurbished heritage buildings. My high school years here were hands down the best years of my life. Ironically it was also the setting for my last wedding that ended in divorce, yet the nostalgia of the place remains unsmeared. I pointed out the Chapel where I had lost my virginity in, which also was the same chapel I got married in.

Inside the Chapel of Sin

Indeed I am going to hell in a hand basket.

 I pointed out the train tracks that we would walk down and go smoke weed. I shared the story of when 15 of us got busted and all got put on “Wilbur Force” together, which was a punishment based more on public embarrassment along with loss of privileges. Joke was on them because all 15 of us were friends, and it allowed us the time to smoke more weed while not having to do sports or other enriching extra-curricular activities. It took us 6 weeks to pull a tiny area of Broom, which is that thick yellow brush that grows in BC, in what should have taken a week. I feel like it may have been easier to have just let us get away with our insolence, because it left many of the other students wishing they were on our side of trouble.  I love visiting this place, and cannot wait for my 25th reunion next year where the tradition of poor behavior will be continued.

We pushed on to Tofino and I was adamant about stopping in Coombs where they have the Market with the goats on a roof. My partner was a bit confused as to why this was a thing, let alone a reason to veer off our direct route to Tofino. Unfortunately the line was so long to get into the actual Market where I was just wanting to take in the familiar smells of the wood and hand made goods. We did take in lunch at the Italian restaurant Cuckoo Trattoria, dining on hand tossed flatbread, pasta, and sinful desserts. It made the blow of not getting into the market digestible. The patio sits in a wooded grove overlooking a ravine where you can hear the stream below, and offers soothing shade on a hot day. There were moments where I felt I was at an old Tuscan Villa enjoying a glass of vino with Il Mio Amore!

Coombs Market

On route to Tofino we passed through Cathedral Grove, which the Arboreal groves resemble Gothic cathedrals of Europe boasting the worlds largest and oldest trees. Due to the pandemic the trails and park was closed, however remained impressive with the lush green cavernous coastal forest lining the highway. I was thankful to be driving as this road is not for those who encounter car sickness.

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Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island

You literally weave and wind along roads hugged up against the coastal mountain range where waterfalls cascade off the cliffs and onto the side of the road. Each bend reveals a torrent river of rapids that have cut through the landscape unearthing interesting geographical land formations. All of a sudden my inner twelfth grade self made an appearance and I’m identifying fluvial formation terms such as “look at that Alluvial fan!” I officially outted myself at that moment as a total geography nerd and I think he dug it

Tough City Sushi, Tofino British Columbia

Despite the  distractions and near misses we made it to Tofino, whereby on our arrival Mio Amore quickly got up to speed on the vibe of the little coastal town. Earthly looking characters strolled the main drag in bare feet and dreaded heads. There was a mix of surfers, kayakers, and outdoorsy fleece clad groups meandering with a sense of ease and harmonious interaction. We scuttled quickly to find a restaurant that was not closing before 8pm and came upon another sushi spot called Tough City Sushi. We sat on the covered deck as the west coast rain fell fervently. The smell of the wet salty earth, and purr of the rain complimented the fresh raw fish and intimate moment we so desperately needed to renew.

The next day feeling rested and rejuvenated after our previous day’s drive we decided to take on Boogie Boarding on the world famous Long Beach. We rented wet suits and boards from Long Beach Surf Shop and it was super reasonable. The weather was in fine west coast form, blustery and wet.  This did not dampen our childlike excitement as we fought the fury of the ocean’s waves and rode them in one after another. On the beach we had found the perfect little driftwood shelter, shielding us from the elements and making for a romantic little sand oasis where we sipped craft beer and cognac to warm us up. 

We cycled back and forth between the ocean and our shelter that day, feeling the heaviness and weight of the previous month’s tension and sadness get washed away into the Pacific Ocean. I could have sat there in that feeling for countless hours. In fact I had not felt that weightless and in the moment in years where found myself so in tune with all of my senses. In fact with no doubt in my mind I knew that there was no other place I wanted to be than with him on this beach in the pouring rain. We had found our way back to one another even though we had not left each other’s side for months. There was a sense of renewed hope that when we returned home things would look brighter and perhaps easier even in a pandemic.

Our Little Love Shelter on Long Beach

The remainder of our trip as it began to draw to its conclusion was further filled with family moments whereby I appreciatively looked around me and acknowledged the wealth of love around me. I have often ended vacations feeling exhausted or less than enthusiastic to return to work. As I boarded the plane, I was anxious to get back to my own bed and return to the reality that faced me back in Calgary where I could flex my replenished perspective.  I even looked forward to seeing my mother who had also admittedly enjoyed our absence, but grateful to be back in our own brand of dysfunction.

It turns out it was a much needed reset in varying aspects of our lives, and not just between the love of two people. Who knew it was only an hour plane ride away and with people we’ve had all along. Who knew the city streets, highways, little towns, and islands of my childhood could ground the person in my future the same way they grounded me in my past and share that together. It left me Feeling not only grateful but fueled for the next few months at least to absorb the impending damage that this pandemic has had on families, relationships and individuals. And while there may be gloves, Lysol, masks and potential vaccines to protect us from catching Covid, no one is immune to the suspected long lasting emotional trauma that is un-ravelling as the months begin to inch closer to a year.

 Stay strong Friends. Stay Woke. Stay Close to those who love you and RESET.

Friday Dates YYC: Looking Back on A Summertime Memory- Picnic at Prince’s Island Park

The Best Picnic Baskets on the Market in 2020 | A Foodal Buying Guide

A proper late afternoon it was as I recall in late June. You see we were already in what felt like month 8 of wintertime, so when the warm weather hit, we took advantage of the good weather vibes. Nevertheless, these months can often feel like years. Weathering Calgary winters is a matter of psychological survival of the fittest. You can either fall into the winter doldrums and await the snow melt, or just carry on with life. Our ability to endure is massively under-estimated as many would assume we must be miserable during these months, but we make it work. Others tend to rub salt into our frigid wounds despite our resilience, but should be assured we make the most out of any outdoor time we can get. Located next to us is the Province of British Columbia, who’s residents continuously boast about their balmy year round weather, and it leaves us no choice but to talk about ours occasionally. Our conversations often worth mentioning which I learned is not a well known term among outsiders- The Chinook. They can be lovely and painful.

You see, just as my skull felt like it was going to rupture from the pressure, I realized it wasn’t from a Chinook but from a wicked mid week pandemic drinking hangover. Who knew there would something worse than the Chinook Migraines to consider… Alas there was the Covid-19 headaches lurking around each corner or on the surface of your delivered groceries. It seems that being an Albertan comes often with a lot of headaches no matter which way you go about life. We desperately needed a break from it all. And an early summer was delivered!

While Good ol’ 2020 is the year we all hope to forget, it was forgiving enough to give us a bit of early nice weather for a change, no headaches attached. In fact, as we were all hunkered down at our homes, I worked on my patio most days soaking up the cool spring sunshine. By June the weather remained beautiful and the Province began to lift the pressure of isolation and extreme social distancing measures. After months of binge watching Game of Thrones & Vikings, a date with the outside world would be added to my empty agenda. Kudos to all those who got super creative and cute with their social bubbles…we aren’t that type at all. We were just focusing on finding Lysol wipes, toilet paper, and not murdering each other.

So to my surprise, my adorable boyfriend made a plan to take me on a picnic at Prince’s Island park.

The sun was out and I was dressed for the occasion, wearing an adorable little romper with white polka dots. In fact it was one of 20 I would buy throughout the months of online shopping that kept me busy during a pandemic lockdown. As the Pandemic marched on foiling my runway Covid release party, I’d send them all back in defeat. I kept 2 rompers in total to symbolize the 1 time I picnicked in the park, and then one in case we’d do it again. On this day I felt sort of normal. Our picnic basket that had been given as a gift years ago was filled with some champagne and pre-ordered Lebanese food from a store that was doing “pick-up only.” We were into supporting the small businesses in which many as a result of our Stage 1 shut down were on the brink of closing their doors for good. I assure you we single handedly did our best to keep them afloat with our hearty appetites and my lack of desire to cook.

As we strolled making our way through the park on the hunt for the perfect picnic spot we ensured the two meters apart protocol. I should mention when you are in a park, its really hard to avoid the floods of roller-bladers, skateboarders, cyclists, and people who just didn’t give a shit. This was probably the most stressful part of the date as we worked really hard to do our share of distancing, dodging, ducking, and all around avoiding passer-byers. This may seem ridiculous but remember this was in the early months when no one knew whether to wear a mask, or thought Covid was a 5G network conspiracy.

This anxiety inducing element made finding the “perfect picnic spot” got old real quick and we lowered our standards somewhat settling on a plot of grass that had the least amount of Canadian Goose Shit in or around it. We settled for a beautiful spot under a tree where my honey could sit in the shade and I could soak up the long awaited warm summer rays. Blankets were laid, food spread out, champagne poured and a good vibes playlist begun.

I vividly remember how amazing it felt to be out in the world again, watching new faces stroll by, all equally desiring the same need to reconnect with the world again. Colors seemed amplified, the flowers and grass more fragrant. The sounds of the birds and the fountain heightened against the rousing melodic music in the background. Even the face of my boyfriend looked fresh and new despite having stared at it non-stop for the previous couple months while in the pandemic lockdown. Perhaps I was going to recant my initial thoughts of smothering him in his sleep? The edges of his lips would begin to curl up and a smile peaking through…indeed I would not be smothering him.

I had only wished we had brought a frisbee, mitts and a ball. Maybe badminton rackets even, not that I can actually do any of these activities well. There is something about being in a park however that suggests that when in Rome, these activities could be enjoyable even for a gigantic accident prone clutz like myself. I imagine that during better times in the world you could probably catch a scene from Top Gun where all the boys are playing volleyball shirtless, dogtags stuck against their glistening sweaty skin. Silver framed Aviators perched perfectly on the bridge of their Adonis nose, complimenting a strongly chiseled jawline. If luck would have it, maybe a rogue volleyball would make it my way, rolling into my peripheral view. I’d glare at the broad shadowy figure above me, looking sheepishly irritated with the interruption as I adjust my bathing suit flush against my oiled and cellulite free bottom. I did say it was “better times” y’all, 20 years ago give or take.

Let me get back to reality here.

Our food was so delicious, and so was the company. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect late afternoon; dining Al Fresco on our little patch of heaven in the park. We found new things to talk about that left us freshly engaged as our conversation danced with ideas, ready to execute for when things returned back to normal. Careful to not get too hopeful, but enough as to not let the cynicism seep in and ruin the day. We’d talk about places we wanted to travel too in the next coming years, and what kind of adventure we were seeking from these travels. We would go through the list of what we had learned about ourselves during the isolation from friends and family and what good things came from these lessons. We’d acknowledge the fact that the pandemic was not going to be forever but here for now. Just like how the time we had together was going to model a similar outcome. We’d have each other now, and in this moment hoped it would last forever, but impossible.

We would not get the opportunity to picnic like this again during the summer, but would spend some time on the Bow river floating, snacking and sipping in the sunshine. It would be the simplicity of these afternoons that I hope we can repeat next summer as soon as the warmth returns to us. I suspect the world may still be in a similar state in 7 months whereby our gatherings stay small, our travel plans stay local, and expectations stay realistic. Picnic’s in the park for a Pandemic Date Win!

Cece D does Shambhala-When it Comes to Tackling Your Bucket List, Make Sure You Include A Music Festival!

Me in My Furries, My Cousin channeling his inner Gangsta

It’s been a long time since I shared another Tale from my past, so I think my readers are due for yet another moment to over-share.

If you have been reading Talez From a Broad for some time you would be familiar with how I experienced a bit of a delay with regards to “Living My Best Life”, as I spent the entirety of my 20’s parenting. Those who are parents themselves can attest to the amount of energy, time and sacrifice that goes into that role. It is one of the most thankless jobs in the world, but one of the most essential roles. This can be a heavy weight to bare, especially for those who are doing it alone, or facing the varying complexities that come along with rearing a child. Mine had her own set of challenges, so if anyone can relate, This Broad Can.

I have no regrets in how I carried out my responsibilities and in fact, I never felt like I was ever missing out on anything during that time. In reality, completing University, and building my career, along with having a husband at that time with Multiple Sclerosis left me little desire to take on much more. Read More Here.

Things began to grow around me; my child was now a teen and began wanting her independence from me. My career flourished and my salary began to give me some freedoms to travel more and experience many firsts, including my first “Girls Trip” at the age of 30. There were other things in my life at that time which were not so great either, such as the breakdown of my marriage and mental health as I struggled with my partners moods and cognitive and physical decline related to his MS. I admittedly used travel  and crazy impulsive Vegas Trips to cope with the loneliness and sadness I felt during this period. It was a way to escape and decompress, and I would do it at any cost.

So it would come as no surprise that I’d be game for anything someone presented to me that allowed me escape from the doom and gloom of my home life. Sure enough, my cousin had presented me with yet another opportunity- SHAMBHALA.

Now to those who do not know what Shambhala is let me educate you. Shambhala is an annual Music Festival held during the last week in July at the Salmo River Ranch, a 500-acre farm, in the West Kootenay mountains near Nelson, British Columbia, Canada.  Shambhala Music Festival was born from a vision as grassroots as it gets. On a sunny Labour Day weekend back in 1998, some 500 people gathered at the Salmo River Ranch for a party that showcased local art and music. From those early, heady days, Shambhala grew with enthusiasm by word of mouth, quickly becoming a staple event for the West Coast underground electronic music scene. Today it attracts world renowned DJs and artists and some of the most eclectic, energetic fans in the universe. The festival is fueled by Shambhalove which shines bright to this day. Shambhala Music Festival is cutting edge in its production and does not accept any corporate sponsorship. This allows the festival to retain a true reflection of the people on the dance floor and their vision of what their community looks like. This mission is important to hold down as electronic dance music culture has moved into the mainstream where opportunistic corporations have threatened to water it down. In this respect, this festival’s community is like no other. You will not see one advertisement or corporate logo on the farm.

By 2010, 15,000 guests, artists and crew were coming to dance and be free in the wilds of interior British Columbia. Today, people come to enjoy the festival’s focus of providing amazing art, music and life changing experiences.

Shambhala Music Festival is an annual event not to be missed, boasting six uniquely themed stages, each managed by their own Stage Director. All Stage Directors will book their talent, dream up the stage’s vibe and deliver unforgettable experiences year after year. The festival features the best in electronic and live music from around the globe and our very talented backyard. Ultimately, Shambhala Music Festival is a celebration of music, art and life, steeped in one of the most beautiful festival venues in the world.

“Shambhalove” is a unique community that has grown and strengthened over the years. Through its evolution, one clear value has remained constant – to continue to be the backdrop for an unparalleled, life-changing experience. Shambhala Music Festival is committed to retaining a true reflection of the people on the dancefloor by not accepting corporate sponsorship on a Farmily-run paradise. There is a dedication to foster a caring and inclusive community-based atmosphere, Shambhala Music Festival strives to provide a safe environment to celebrate amazing music, art, culture, creativity, and self-expression. Believing in the power of nature, synchronicity, and the moments in between, Shambhala continues to be a magical place everyone can call HOME year after year – it’s all about the people on the dancefloor!

Now you may be wondering why a 32 year old woman would be enticed by such a festival, especially if she had not necessarily identified as having a “Shamba-love” kind of attitude. In fact, affection and unbridled love from strangers makes me extremely uncomfortable and taps into an awkwardness that is cringeworthy. However, it was the music I was after as I’m a huge Electronic music fan, and in general a lover of all forms of art, music and live shows. I was also comforted by the idea that there was a large group of friends, family and acquaintances that were going. Surely they would protect me from any unsolicited hugs or hand holding.

Check Out the Shambhala Gallery

Now given that I had already been exposed through friends to a lot of the Calgary “Burners”- A “burner” to me is someone who has been to burningman & somehow feels a sense of kinship with the other people that go there. Someone who in addition to dreaming of being back in Black Rock City, internalizes any combination of the following traits: – free-range creativity. – having fun with your life.

While we did not always share the same passions and priorities, I envied their lifestyle. They carried what it was that I perceived as what it may feel like to be free. Free to make choices that felt good for them, free from financial constraints that dictated their lives, free from a lot of the responsibilities I carried in general. And while there are some festival go-ers that are just like me- these guys are the real deal. As in they live to make money to go to the next festival to be with their community and nurture their paths to feeling whole and fulfilled.

So as the weeks lead up to the festival, I would be schooled on everything Shambhala. The one thing I did not have was a tickle trunk of Shambhala costumes. And while this is a hub for acceptance- you would stand out if you were not naked or dressed like a flower girl cross bred with a cyber punk that was experiencing an identity crisis as a Furry. And as person who takes wardrobe selection very seriously I had some shopping to do. This task would prove harder than initially anticipated- its hard to find attire like that whereby it doesn’t look contrived or that I raided the Urban Planet clearance section looking for everything neon. I was starting to consider Nudity as an option- at least I knew where to find pasties. I was successful in deriving my own twist on wardrobe and made it my own. I may have overindulged and bought the Spirit Hood, which I would later love myself for. Firstly, With every purchase of a Spirit Hood, they donate a portion of profits to the conservation of endangered animals and their habitat. Secondly, it just so happens that this place mid summer not only gets insanely hot, but it also gets bone chillingly cold at night- and when your naked, you need to keep your extremities warm.

Ida and My Cousin

The next bit of planning that was required was the accomodations. At the farm, there are a few options that you can stay. You can stay off the Farm and enter the festival daily while enjoying a hot shower and all the other amenities of the 1st world. If you are staying on the grounds, you can either tent it or trailer it. Seeing as I didn’t have a trailer, nor would anyone trust a group of festival goer’s with theirs, a tent was our only option. I was lucky to have recruited my good friend Ida as a tent mate. Ida not only was a Shambhala veteran, but also could appreciate my vision to create a little Oasis where we could actually sleep feeling good and not hate our life choices in the morning. We had brought full fledged blow up twin beds, plenty of cozy down comforters and down pillows, both scoffing at the idea of crambing into a sleeping bag. We packed Tylenol, wet wipes, band-aids,cleaning products, nutritional snacks and electrolyte drinks that would foster regularity as to not experience any kind of bloat…seeeing as nakedness may occur. Level Expert.

Our tent was lit up by carefully placed colorful lanterns that created an inviting ambience when seeking refuge from the masses. The only downfall was the placement of our tent, where it sat along one of the main routes in the camping area. I had not anticipated the number of people that would topple into our tent as I’d hear nitrous cartridges get sucked into their lungs, and consequently would find their way onto my tent and inadvertently in bed with me. I’ve never encountered so many strangers in bed until this weekend.

And for those who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, these uninvited guests were doing Whippets- also known as whippits or whip-its, a term used to describe the nitrous oxide charger that is used in whipped cream dispensers. These whipped cream canisters help push out the whipped cream, but they are not always just used for dessert. Because the nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” in whippets can have euphoric effects, some people will inhale the gas to get high. Although breathing in gas from a whipped cream dispenser may seem harmless, whippet abuse is a type of inhalant abuse. It can be incredibly dangerous and even fatal. This would be my first time seeing this in my life. It would go on all night. Not my Jam, but someone else’s peanut butter.

I don’t think “roughing it” was ever in my nature- and while our tent set up was clearly superior than others less fixated on their comforts, it was hot AF during the day in there and still so cold at night. Oddly, one night my cousin and I wound up in someone else’s camp who had hammocks that we wound up in. I woke up with a layer of frost on my body while he woke up with two girls in his, keeping him warm. Until this day we still do not recall how we got there, or who those girls were that obligingly saved him from frost bite. Additionally, my cousin may argue this, but I am the better looking of us, so you’d think I would have been blessed with some human blankets as well?

But please for not one minute, allow my 42 year old self try to convince you that I did not have the time of life. My tone may come cross that way only because as I reflect upon this experience, exhaustion floods my body at the thought of enduring this Party Marathon. It was in fact nothing short of a marathon fueled by the exhilarating light shows which is the most important aspect as every stage curates their own lineup with their own budget. It was sometimes difficult to choose between the stacked line-up of artists but for the most part where you go is dictated by the vibe you are after.

My favorite somewhat underrated thing about the permanent infrastructure is that there is seating everywhere. On the outskirts of the stage areas, there’s benches on almost every tree. You can be fully immersed in the stage and the sound, but be taking a break. I would always have someone with me to roam the winding paths between stages, sometimes getting lost within the flow, as if I was floating on the Milky Way. Every now and again I’d come across a Super Nova that would explode with Bass Drops that would vibrate through your body, heightening whatever high you were on, even if it was just life.

The mornings I would take advantage of the quiet calm, in adddition, Ida and I would use this time to bathe ourselves in the river using all the banned soaps and shampoos our bodies needed. With the backdrop of the Kootnay Mountains and our earthy bare asses, it could have been the perfect Irish Spring Commercial. Food trucks and Coffee vendors were empty and I’d fuel my body with most delicious coffee and nourishment required to take on the next 22 hours of play that lay ahead.

During the day we’d lay out and sunbathe topless while a random penis would hit my peripheral vision. By the end of the weekend, genitals would not even stir a second look. By this point, I think the Shambha-Love was soaking into my being, and admittedly I may have even broke through my awkwardness- bursting my personal bubble space entirely. I now shared a bubble with 15,000 people- and I tried to hug them all.

And while the use of substances at this festival is something that is common practice, it should not overshadow that this festival is a haven of soul-filling activities. Jarett Lopez from The Daily Hive captured quite a few of those things in 17 things you can only find at BC’s Shambhala Music Festival.

We did not last the entire weekend, but in all fairness we went hard in the paint and took full advantage of everything Shambhala had to offer. We all agreed that we had gotten what we wanted from the experience and were now wanting to return to our responsibilities with pleasure. The concept of using a flushable toilet, showering with hot water, and sleeping in our own beds carried a renewed sense of appreciation. The troubles in our lives, especially mine felt a lot less heavier than the looming idea of festival activities for another 22 hours straight.

Every now and again I get a whimsical thought that maybe I would do it again with some significant adjustments in order to accomodate the decade that has lapsed since I attended last. An airconditioned trailer would be first on the list, fully equipped with all the ammenities. I see no other way. As we enter another year of a pandemic, the liklihood of this year being the year affords me more time to consider thankfully.

GirlsTrip: Why Canadian Girls Just Do it Better

I have been going to Banff for little Weekend Trips for years since I moved to Alberta. For many who are not sure where Banff is, it’s approximately an hour and smidge if you take Highway 1 West from Calgary. The town itself is an Aspen like oasis that sits smack in the middle of Banff National Park and has numerous mountains within close driving range.

 In summer Banff and its surrounding area is fit for hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, you get the picture. It’s a non stop adventure park for the weekend warriors we all aspire to be. Winter time boasts some amazing Ski/Snowboarding, snow shoeing, sleigh rides, dog sledding and snow mobiling (which us locals also call Sledding but can be confusing if you think of it in the traditional sense).

Many of my trips to Banff  were weekend girl’s trips. Just like “Saturdays are for the boys,” well weekends are for the girls! Banff can get pricey but if you can get a gang together its best to stay somewhere you can fit 4-6 comfortably. I’ve stayed at Hidden Ridge Resort on almost a dozen occasion. It’s not swanky, but you get the real “lodgey” kind of feel, and their lofts have a variety of room/bed options.  They have fire places and old DVD players where you can go borrow movies as well as games from the front desk. All have a well equipped kitchen where you have everything you need. The best part of this place is their hot pools and sauna, and has a beautiful fire Hearth at the center of the pool deck. In addition to the hearth, you have a spectacular view of the valley and surrounding mountains which in all seasons is breath-taking.  The average amount to stay at Hidden Ridge can go from anywhere between $175.00 to $300.00 CAD which is a steal for Banff pricing.

Now let me say this now, a romantic Banff experience is a completely different set of instructions boys and girls. Boys, please do not bring your girlfriend with 6 of your Bros… Go for the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel minus the Bro-skies.

Because it has a kitchen, we typically bring a big Lasagna, Charcuterie, snacks and booze up there. I suggest shopping in Calgary first as their grocery stores are pretty overpriced and close early. While there is plenty of restaurants to eat at, there are no late night spots open, so drunk you will love you at 3am when you mow down on that left over lasagna.

If you want to opt out of being a thrifty Sisty…I encourage you to check out The Grizzly House. Its super Kitschy and straight out of the 70’s. Each table has a phone as well if you are interested in calling another table and saying hello, as this used to be a swingers restaurant. Nothing says lets get naked with some total strangers than the meat sweats after dining on Meat and Cheese Fondue. I feel like the 70’s was definitely a different time entirely as now I’d have to diet, shave, powder my crotch, and roofie my own drink before I’d consider lifting a ringing phone. And what would one say….”Hey baby, if you like meat I got a whole Bison sausage waiting for you?”

The Grizzly House Banff Alberta

I give an honorable mention as well to The Balkan, where they have some very tasty Greek cuisine and its just above the Dancing Sasquatch, The waiters will bring you to the front of the line as well and hook it up for you nicely; if you don ‘t like waiting in a line full of Seasonal Aussie workers. But if you like them young, cute and poor then waiting in line may be right up your alley.

Banff Ave

If you want to just sip and enjoy delicious Craft Cocktails with the gals, Park Distillery is where you want to go. They are right on Banff Ave and within walking distance to everything. There you can sip on 100% hand made, in house cocktails, such as my favorite the “OBSERVATION PEAK”-Park Glacier Rye, Appleton Rum, Amaro Montenegro, cherry liqueur, Park orange bitters, smoked cedar square. They also offer a wide variety of food which they call their campfire favorites. And if I didn’t know any better, I’d assume that was hot dogs and marshmallows. Clearly I’ve been doing this campfire thing all wrong, Which could be also why I hate camping.

The nightlife in Banff is super refreshing for us Calgarians who get a bit tired of the local clubs and hipster watering holes. Let’s face it, I’ll drink and go out anywhere as long as I have a solid crew with me. I love hitting up the Dancing Sasquatch when I’m in Banff for a night. The music and vibe is always cool there and you’ll be sure to dance all night long. The Sasquatch look is also inevitable if you are as big of a hot mess as I am by the end of good night.

There are lots of cab and shuttle options so there is no need to drink and drive there…not like that should ever be an option? I typically like to pre-book for the way home so that if its winter you are not freezing your Kahuna’s off. The locals can pick out the Calgary girls simply by the clothes they go out in there, and that’s just fine with me. However be smart ladies, opened toed heels with frost bite are never cute. I can’t even lie I have definitely checked my coat and winter boots, swapping into my stylish dancing shoes.

If your not too hung the next day, heading to the hot springs or Kananskis Nordic Lodge for the day to enjoy the hot pools is always and epic way to end your weekend and detox the liver.

Correspondence From the Past- Remembering my Father, and the Beauty Behind Letters.

As a mother of a 20- something year old I have to say that I was never the type to hang to too many memento’s of hers. I would keep the random cute drawing, a report card or too, and few baby items that I felt one day she may appreciate. As it stands right now, she has no interest in any of it- so therefore I am obliged to hang on to it until perhaps 10 years from now she still will have no interest in it.

I have moved so many times over the last 15 years that the opportunity to unload and let go of stuff has become customary. I often tell myself as I’m offloading this stuff that if I did not remember I even had it, I probably do not need to hang on to it. So basically I Marie Kondo the F*** out of my house on a monthly basis.

That was until I had my elderly mother move in with us.

When we moved into a much larger home you would think that after having moved her from British Columbia only a year before that she would have very limited belongings.

Wrong.

This woman has kept everything…as in she still has my reward for “Participation” ribbons. Mementos of my mediocre attempts at anything academic or athletics. My mother also loves to hang onto cards from anniversaries, birthdays, thank you’s…she has boxes of these cards. In addition, the family heirlooms and antique furniture that do hold value, however in the context of my own love for more contemporary décor, stick out like a sore thumb. But at the end of the day I tolerate it obligingly- my mom deserves to be surrounded by the familiar things she has grown to love and cherish.

More recently my mom decided to introduce a new desk into her room so that she could house more of her stuff and perhaps alphabetize her cards and categorize the bill statements she has hung onto since 1995. As she was going through her things she had come across some letters from my father when he had taken a job overseas in Tanzania. Read Here about those adventures! Part 1 and Part 2

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Mom and Dad- August 2011

Now if there was anything to ever hang on to this would be it. My father passed away in August of 2016 after a long battle with organ failure complicated by dementia. For about 10 years prior to his death, my father had deteriorated and what was left the man I had remembered had been long gone. So when my mom came across these letters to her, I was able to revisit a time when he was vibrant, humorous and the father that I had grew up with. I had long forgotten this side of him, as the decade prior to his passing was overshadowed by so much stress and worry while we advocated for placement and my mom was left as a caregiver.

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Dad on the Sailboat he built–1990
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University Graduation 2007

Before his health declined my father was a hard worker- in fact a workaholic. He was determined to provide for his family-despite some underlying mental health and addiction issues that I’ll save for another time. My father had served in the Canadian air force, taught college Electronics engineering, was a boat builder, woodworker, and avid fisherman. He worked all over the world, and one of his last jobs brought him to Tanzania as mentioned.

Here are some of the excerpts from his letters that I will hang onto without a doubt. Hope you enjoy!

Mgololo, Tanzania 1991
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Love You Dad- Miss You.