Tree is Up!

Not without some cursing and swearing and a trip out to get more lights. It’s pre-lit (by me!!) but inevitably, no matter how much care I take putting it away, at least one set of lights doesn’t work. Could be a missing bulb, but that would be like looking for a needle in a haystack……there are over a 1000 lights on it!

It’s up now and looks lovely. We had a good time decorating it…a few tears over some of the ornaments…..but we also laughed over a lot of them too. Next weekend we’ll go and do Linds’ tree.

I still have the mantle to do….I love that mantle so much. It just adds that extra bit of Christmas to the room. And of course I cherish it even more now……

Not too much shopping to do this year…..the big kids have some “big ticket” items on their lists so I think that is what I’ll be buying for them. I also think I’ll buy myself a present….not sure what yet.

The last few years, quite a few years….we did buy each other gifts but generally we’d get ourselves something for the house like a new TV. The last thing we talked about getting was a new buffet for the dining room. I found one that I really liked last year. Ken thought I should have just gotten when I seen it, but I thought that would make a good Christmas present….it didn’t happen last year. It was in a local shop and is one of their “standard” products, so the same style is still available…..maybe I’ll get it this year.

While decorating the tree last night, Linds asked why Christmas was so different now….”when did it stop being fun”. I don’t think it stopped being fun because we do still have fun, it’s just that we’ve all grown up…..those Christmas nights playing games, eating “turkey buns”, having a few drinks with the whole family doesn’t happen anymore…..the family it just too big now and everyone is busy with kids and the “other” families too. We still sort of do the Christmas night thing, but with less chaos, which is maybe what we’re missing.

There would be some people at the dining room table playing cards, a few others playing Pictionary and if someone got a new game for Christmas, some playing that somewhere. One year my son got one of those hockey games with the players that you flip around trying to score a goal…..we ended up having a “tournament” with everyone picking a team and having a game…..

Christmas Eve will be different this year too. It all really started with Bev running out of tape one Christmas Eve. Our other friends that we’ve spent it with for almost 30 years have moved….not too far, but far enough that going to their house or them coming to ours, is just not going to happen. It was easy when they lived close by. When the kids were little and we just wanted a quiet night close to home…..each year we’d alternate houses. We’d make fun dinners that had nothing to do with Christmas…..mac n’ cheese, lasagne or chili and hotdogs….one year Rae and I spent all evening steaming pot stickers and other dim sum type things….the kids thought that was great! Dinner would be early in the evening. The kids would go off and play and the adults would have a quiet drink or two. As the kids got older their friends would start coming over too….then it was girlfriends/boyfriends, then spouses and kids….

Over the years other friends, some family and neighbours have joined in too. It was always a fun night. This year will be different in more ways than one…..but different isn’t a bad thing…..it’s just part of the “new normal”. My goal will be to make it fun…..whatever we do.

L.

Advertisements

The Tree Goes Up Today!

I’m sick …..I think it’s just a crappy cold but feel crummy. I really don’t like being sick ….but I guess, who does!

I did get a good nights sleep last night….almost 10 hours….I was cold and had to get up at one point and throw an extra blanket on the bed AND put socks on. So other than some aches and pains I do feel a bit better this morning.

We had the promised snow last night and the sun is shining this morning so it looks beautiful with the trees covered….and it’s still cold enough that none of it is melting.

Just enough to make everything look pretty...

Just enough to make everything look pretty…

Today is the day we put the Christmas tree up. It’s in 3 parts…..the middle piece is really heavy so that’s been my challenge the last couple years…..getting it upstairs and then on to the bottom. L is coming over this afternoon to help decorate so I want to have it all up and the lights checked before we start doing that or it becomes a two day job.

I love putting the tree up, althought I do grumble a lot. All my ornaments now are from places we’ve been on vacation and ones that a couple of girlfriends and I bring back for each other. Each ornament brings back a memory of a great time. I usually have a couple of new ones each year….this year one from Scotland (girlfriends vacation), one from my trip to Butchart Gardens in the summer and a couple from this trip. The new ones go on first.

I also have a few ornaments that I’ve brought back for the kids…..they put those on when they come over.

Christmas is such a strange time of year…..everyone loves it, including me, and has a great time BUT it’s also a time filled with sadness to me, or maybe nostalgia or melancholy. For the last 3 or 4 years, I always wondered if it would be Ken’s last. Somehow once you’ve gotten through the first couple you convince yourself that there will always be another one…..never a last one.

I also missed all the big family dinners we used to have when the kids were little. Now that our kids and the nieces and nephews are older, most married with their own kids, our family is just too big. I miss my parents….always a fun time at their house….Christmas night friends (theirs and ours) would drop by….their door was always open. Those were the days!

This year I am going to do dinner. I really enjoy cooking the Christmas turkey….it smells like Christmas and of course the turkey dinner leftovers are the best. We’ll just be small group, Linds and my brother and his wife. The other kids are at the in-laws this year….they alternate years which works good otherwise it would be impossible to manage both parents houses with the little ones. We’ll see them Christmas Eve.

I’ll get my mantle decorated today too. That was a present back in 2010, the year he was diagnosed, from Ken. Our fireplace was just all brick and I really envied everyone with mantles that they could put garland on. He was already off work then but feeling pretty good so somehow he managed to hide it all from me and one day when I came home from work it was up, painted and all decorated! I love my mantle….it’s a legacy to him..…one of the many things he liked to do…..a surprise was always fun for him.

L and I will have fun tonight….maybe order in some lasagne and if we finish decorating early enough, watch a movie or catch up on some of the PVR’d shows.

Trip pics…..Haifa was a beautiful city. Very clean, lots of great restaurants and a lively nightlife in the German Colony. We had dinner at a restaurant in the heart of it called Fattoush….which is a salad that has crispy fried pita bread in it….delicious.

Spectacular view from my room....

Spectacular view from my room….could see Lebanon off in the distance

Beautiful sunrise over Haifa...

Beautiful sunrise over Haifa…

L.

Loooong Week

Thanks goodness it’s over!

Just a bit of stress and going back to work still dealing with jetlag has all been more than enough. Now I think I’m finally getting the cold that a few others had on the trip.

Had great dinner last night for L’s birthday. A bit chaotic as usual with everyone there but that’s what makes these fun! We all missed Dad. Her and I had a little cry about that after……I wish I knew how to help her more. I’m going to go with her to the grief counselling…..we are a lot a like but still different in many ways. I think she is a “softer” person than me…..not soft in a bad way but a kinder, more of a soft hearted person than me…..less of a realist, not so black and white…..not sure which is the better way to be!

Hard to believe now that just over a week ago I was hot…..I do have the tan to prove it, but it’s certainly not going to last long now. I can’t complain too much about the weather, other than all the rain of course, at least it hadn’t been too cold. Now though, they are calling for a chance of snow tonight and tomorrow with high temps over the weekend around freezing. Ah sigh…..better than rain, I guess!

More pics to remind myself of the beautiful weather (I really did try not to complain about it being too hot just because I knew what I’d be coming back too……)

Caesarea, just one of the many great ancient sites we visited. http://www.govisitisrael.com/caesarea/143/

2000+ yr old aquaduct

2000+ yr old aquaduct

hippodrome for chariot and horse races with the Med as a backdrop...

hippodrome for chariot and horse races with the Med as a backdrop…

L.

Throwback Thursday

Daddy's girl :)

Daddy’s girl 🙂

Happy Birthday to our dear daughter……

Thirty-five years ago this morning you made your Dad and I the happiest people on earth.

Today will be another “first” to get through….and we will. We’ve made it this far and we’ll carry on.

I know Dad is thinking about you today……

L.

Not Quite Back to Normal…

Jaffa....just a 10 minute walk down the beach from Tel Aviv

Jaffa….just a 10 minute walk down the beach from Tel Aviv

Ah sigh….work, laundry, cleaning house….it seems like I was never away! I’m hoping to post a pic or two a day of some of the great places I visited….it was such an amazing trip.

one of the streets in Jaffa

one of the streets in Jaffa

Just before I got home I found out that my daughter was in hospital. They tried to not tell me but I knew from emails and messages that something was up!

She started having severe anxiety attacks….to a point where she wasn’t able to sleep and then subsequently not function properly through the day. She knew she needed to get this dealt with and because of her history of depression, she got her aunt to take her to emergency.

They were excellent and got her admitted and assessed very quickly. Some medication dosage changes and a good dose of sleeping meds have helped a lot along with daily therapy groups. They told her she could go home and come back daily or she could stay until this was sorted out. She chose to stay for at least a few days…..which I think was a good thing.

One of things they have set up for her is grief counselling. She thinks this could be contributing to her anxiety, especially with Christmas coming. I am definitely a bit anxious over that too….but her and I tend to be different in that I try not to cross bridges before I get to them and she does. Who is dealing with this the right way? There really is no “right way” to grieve, right?

It’s one of those things……you think you’ve dealt with it, or are dealing with it. All seems to be good, but have we just covered up everything or continually push it to the back of our mind only for it to get so overloaded that it just blows up one day? Is this going to happen to me?

I have my moments, many of them, at any time, anywhere…..I like to think that letting go, having a good cry or getting melancholy whenever, is the right thing to be happening. I don’t think I’m covering my emotions but I also know, at least for me, that I have to push those thoughts back….I have to carry on…….I can’t change anything….it is what it is, like it or not. Some days or nights on my trip, it would have been so easy to just lock myself away in my room….I did do that one afternoon. But I didn’t like how I felt…..and I didn’t feel any better doing it! I had a little nap, woke up feeling better and got going again.

I hit the pavement running when I got home….this is a good thing for dealing with jetlag!

Great restaurant in a great location in Tel Aviv

Great restaurant in a great location in Tel Aviv

If you are ever in Tel Aviv….I would highly recommend this restaurant. It’s in a great area with lots of beautiful, small craft shops selling everything from clothes to wonderful antiques. Website here http://www.suzana.rest-e.co.il/ also highly rated on Trip Advisor.

L.

The “Strange”

Not really strange I guess, but certainly new experiences for me!

First was the “Singles Get Together”. Of course I had never participated in something like this…ever! On cruises, when they know you are by yourself in a cabin, the invitations get put under your door or left on your bed. There are many “singles” things….cocktail parties, dinners, trivia, bridge, tours etc. I added it/them to the pile of stuff that had been accumulating on the table and never thought anymore about it….because it didn’t apply to me.

At lunch the next day the girls asked what time we wanted to meet up before the “get together”. I said I wasn’t going…..they had this astonished look on their faces…”why on earth not” they said. It had not even occurred to me to go…. “oh come on, you get free champagne or drinks, it’s fun”. I couldn’t imagine…..but the free champagne convinced me to give it a try.

It was not really fun! First off, most of the men were old (I’m no spring chicken but….) and it appeared that a lot of these “singles” already knew each other (lots of repeat passengers on this cruise). Conversations seemed a little contrived to me….not just that casual “hello, how are you” thing. We ended up meeting two more ladies that were just as lost as we were. There was a whole section of the dining room blocked off for us “singles” so we and our two new found friends sat together and actually had a great time chatting and laughing all evening. Maybe this didn’t work because I don’t think of myself as a single person! I have always worn my wedding rings and still do so…..I still think of myself as married….I definitely don’t fit into the “singles” bunch, at least not now.

Filling out some of the forms for the various visas we needed. They ask if you are “single or married”…….which box are you supposed to tick?? I would imagine I should fall into the single group, but I’m still married…..aren’t I?

I met a lot of people on the ship….mostly couples…who were just fun to chat with. After a few days it was obvious that I was “alone”….I knew the “question” of where was my husband would be coming at some point. When it did and I told them that he’d passed away…..I got a lot of pitiful looks and sorry to hear….then they wanted details! When and how….I thought that very strange. I would have appreciated just an “oh, I’m sorry to hear that” and the conversation carry on. Is this normal? I don’t think I’d ever ask someone that, especially if I didn’t really know them. All that said, these were very nice and very interesting people, most very well traveled, so I continue to enjoy chatting with them.

Grandkids names in hieroglyphics....

Grandkids names in hieroglyphics….

Finding myself looking at t-shirts or golf shirts that Ken would like AND actually at one point picking one out and taking it off the rack……I just wasn’t thinking! I got nice little t-shirts made for the grandbabies with their names written in hieroglyphics….again, I thought Ken would have liked a golf shirt with his name too….. I got him a really nice Ferrari one a couple of years ago when I went away….it was like I needed to do that this time too…..I couldn’t shake it and continued to think this wherever I went, at least for a minute or two, until reality set in.

Last but not least…..having someone “hit” on you. I am so out of touch with all this that I didn’t get it…..he was a nice guy, just like everyone else in our group. I chatted with him no differently that anyone else, including his wife….who I really like. He was older and I thought he was just being kind because I was a new widow. I won’t go into any details, but it was a week or so later when he asked if he could “ask a personal question” to which I answered it would depend on what that question was! Over the next couple of days there were a few more “questions”, at which point I started to clue in. I told Connie later and she thought he had been watching me and hovering a lot….sitting beside me at dinner or walking along beside or behind me. I hadn’t noticed! I’m glad I didn’t because it would have been awkward a lot sooner than it was. He must not have liked my answers….

Very strange experience and not one that I hope is ever repeated!

Ah sigh……I think I am very naïve! I now know I have a lot to learn living my “new normal”!

L.

The “Not Good” and “Emotional”

These kind of go hand in hand……

Not good was when I couldn’t find things, things didn’t work or when I’d get overly excited, negatively……Ken was the calming factor in my life. He’d very rarely get frazzled about anything and would just have to do that calm down girl hand thing …..he didn’t have to say a thing…I would just take a deep breath and start all over or better still, he’d just take over!

I had a few of those moments….camera not working, not being able to unlock a hotel room door, not finding my glasses (on my head!!), the air conditioning not working properly….just those little things that are really frustrating especially when you’re tired. I had to take control of myself…..so I guess in a way this wasn’t necessarily a “not good” thing…..I learned to take that step back, calm down and try again…..I had too!

There were many emotional things….seeing Petra and Dubai without him. What would he have said when we first got a glimpse of the Treasury through the siq? I’m glad Connie was there for me…she understood and getting a hug when I needed it was a good thing. And Dubai…..it was like Disneyland for adults…the buildings, the cars….everything bigger than life! He would have loved it. I went up the Burj Kahlifa….124 floors!! But I wouldn’t go up the Space Needle in Seattle with him….a bit of guilt perhaps…..but I did go up the Eiffel Tower, once….he did it twice!

It's tall but when the other buildings are almost 100 stories you really can't appreciate just how high up you are....

It’s tall but when the other buildings are almost 100 stories you really can’t appreciate just how high up you are….

Seeing other couples doing couple things….sitting together, holding hands, getting each other coffee, having pictures taken together, bickering!! The hardest was the night there was a deck party on the ship….it was a “golden oldies” night…lots of ABBA songs, one of his fav bands. Just the music in general brought back a lot of memories and with them, not just a few tears.

Formal night on the ship……I did dress up but struggled with the stupid buttons on my dress….he would have done those up for me! He always looked sooooo good in his tux…..I missed that so much, especially seeing all the other men in theirs. The formal night picture with the captain…..it was just me!! It should have been us! Those romantic moments…on cruises we always took a walk or two on the promenade deck looking at the wake of the ship or the moon…I did the walk, but by myself….which was really a silly thing to do!! I knew I’d cry! Our tour group had dinner together that night, which was a lot of fun, but it just didn’t seem right to be all dressed up BY MYSELF! Doing something like this again will be a lot of work mentally……

all dolled up....by myself!  Forgot my little black bag...argh.

all dolled up….by myself! Forgot my little black bag…argh.

The WORST not good thing, was that I think I was getting “hit on” by one of the men (married!!) in our tour group. I’m a bit slow in this department as I have no experience whatsoever, so when I realized what was going on I became very uncomfortable but tried to “not notice”. Very, very awkward. This should probably go into the “strange” category!

I did get over the “not good and emotional” stuff as quickly as I could…..I had to or it could easily have consumed me…..I must get used to all this …..this is how things are going to be now!

L.

The “OK”

It was OK to be on my own but would have been much better of course to share my excitement at being some places and seeing some things with Ken. He’d laugh, and sometimes just roll his eyes, when I’d get excited about everything….he said I was like a kid in a candy store.

Before going on vacations I’d get all the books and whatever I’d printed off the computer together and go through it all over and over again….reading bits out to him about what I wanted to see, where I wanted to go and giving him parts to read so he could decide on what his “must sees” were, then get it all organized so that we’d have a “plan”.

Our “plan” didn’t always work out quite the way it was supposed to, but it was exciting when we’d get to the places in our plan…..”oh, look at that”, “wow, that’s way bigger than I thought”, “ the pictures just didn’t do it justice”…..on and on we’d go! On this trip, eventhough we’d go over everything we did that day at dinner, this just wasn’t the same with friends.

Ken was very good at noticing things that I didn’t….he was a detail guy, whereas I would just look at the big picture. He’d notice the cat sleeping in the flowerbox or the bird tucked in the corner of a doorway, the hinges on a door, some detail in a painting or some obscure thing in a museum. God only knows what I missed on this trip! I did make the extra effort to look more closely at everything around me….

Cat sleeping on a ledge.

Cat sleeping on a ledge.

Sharing a room with 2 girlfriends the first two days was OK…at least there was someone there……and I think jetlag helped me get through that. But it’s just not the same as sharing a room with your husband!!

Going to breakfast by myself was OK….I was usually the first one of our group to surface each day. I had my book and any other bits of reading material about the upcoming day to go through. The only thing that bugged me was having to take my purse with me through the buffet line! Normally, Ken and I would have taken turns going up, leaving purse, camera etc. at the table with the one waiting.

All this was OK….and it was more experience under my belt for next time.

L.

The “Good”

This was my first official trip on my own…….as a single person. I wasn’t traveling all by myself of course, but I was “alone”.

So what’s good about doing this? There are definitely some positives, the first being that you are responsible for only yourself!

– I only had to pack for me.
– I only had to pay for me (single supplement though….).
– I did what I wanted, when I wanted when we had free time.
– I ate what I wanted, where and when I wanted (sort of….group meals were organized on the land portion of the trip)
– I had only myself to look after (making sure I was where I should be, I had my passport and docs, I had my hat, my scarf, my bottle of water etc.).
– I met lots of people…I like to talk so this was easy to do…especially on the cruise part.

I had traveled for work so being alone in a hotel room was not a first for me. On vacations though I have always felt that it was my job to keep everyone happy…..this usually meant compromising something for me. I’ve never minded that and everyone being happy made me happy too!

This trip I didn’t have to worry about anyone being happy except me. If I didn’t want to do something, I didn’t…..there was no one to compromise with. The one thing that I really enjoy doing is spending hours in markets, just looking. Ken was good with an hour or so but then he was done. More often than not he’d find a place to park with a coffee or a beer while I carried on but I never spent a lot more time because I knew he’d had enough and really and truly I was seeing the same stuff over and over again anyway. He’d never get impatient but I also knew he’d rather be moving on and doing something else.

Markets galore....food, clothing, purses and a lot of junk!

Markets galore….food, clothing, purses and a lot of junk!

Where to eat…when not with the tour group…was good. Ken could be a little picky sometimes….he’d always find something wherever we went but we tended to stick to places that weren’t too specialized. He was a meat and potatoes kind of guy. This trip I ate falafel and more pita bread and yogurt and humus than I ever have. This was the food specialty of the region and stopping at the first place I came to that had goodies that appealed to me was a good thing. And I found that sitting on my own, eating meals, with a book, isn’t bad at all.

No steak on the menu here!

No steak on the menu here!

I’m an early bird. Ken was not. I would always get up, have my coffee and read my book for an hour or two, then go and get him up when it was time for breakfast…..I was his alarm clock. This wasn’t a bad thing…..it’s what we’d always done and it worked good for us. I liked the quiet time and he liked the extra hour or two of sleep. This time though, I’d get up, get my coffee, find a place to read and then go and have breakfast whenever…..

On the cruise part of the trip, when you are sitting by yourself and there is limited table space in some areas, people tend to ask if they can join you. This was great and I met a lot of people that were fun to chat with. Not that we didn’t meet people before when traveling, but when you are with someone, people don’t tend to approach you as easily. This also had its disadvantages too……will go into that later!

I could totally mess up my hotel room and not worry about it….I tended to keep things a little tidier when there were two of us….I also often had another bed to put stuff on (this could go into the bad category too…..especially when I had to repack it all!!)

Nice hotel rooms.....BEFORE the mess!

Nice hotel rooms…..BEFORE the mess!

The good was also finding out that I felt quite comfortable being on my own. I was a little worried about this and kind of felt self-conscious the first day but became much more confident and comfortable with the whole thing as the trip went on….you don’t really have a choice if you want to enjoy yourself.

I’m not sure that I would ever venture on a vacation ALL BY MYSELF, but in a tour group situation like this or with a friend or two, I would be just fine now. This is a good thing, because this is part of my “new normal” now.

L.

Home!

What an amazing trip! I don’t even know where to begin.

I’m so glad I did this trip…….it’s another first to have gotten through. I was a little worried that a month might be just a bit too long but it wasn’t and it gave me the opportunity to experience a number of different situations….sort of all at once as opposed to them happening one at a time.

I saw so much and learned so much…..not just about the Middle East and all the wonderful people, but about me….being on my own and just how different things are…..some good, some OK, some very emotional, some just not good, some very strange.

Traveling with a great group of people certainly helped. The biggest hurdle the first day or two was all of us slowly getting to know each other and me telling people that I’d lost my husband back in April. I really only had to tell a couple of people and the word got around. There was a couple who’d also lost their first spouses a number of years ago…..it was good to see that life does go on. We chatted a few times and it was reassuring to know that you never forget. Losing a spouse does change your life….but continuing to live YOUR life to the fullest is important too.

We did so much…..thank goodness for my journal so I could keep the days and places straight.

I did manage to get a good nights sleep in my own bed last night, but jet lag is kicking in big time right now. It’s really hard to just not crawl back into bed but I have to avoid doing that if I’m ever going to get my internal clock back on schedule. A 12 hour time difference is tough.

Over the next couple of days I’m hoping to sort through the zillion pictures I took and post about some of my experiences. For now though, I have to get myself up and moving…..reality has set back in and things like grocery shopping, feeding the cats and doing laundry are at the top of my to do list.

My treat after visiting the tower!

My treat after visiting the tower!

Who knew that there would be a Tim Hortons at the Dubai Mall!! I didn’t have any dirhams, only Omani rials, which they do take but the cashier got a little confused. The manager came over and said the exchange rate would be way too much…..he handed me my iced cap and told me to go and enjoy it!! Just one example of kindness that I experienced everywhere I went. So thank you Tim Hortons!

L.