Sunday, September 29, 2013

Packers Still Rule, 25 Years Later

Twenty-five years ago, I graduated high school. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed--it feels like a lifetime ago. I had the opportunity to help organize our event last night, to put all these amazing people in the same space together after a quarter of a century. And you know what I discovered? We are a damn good looking group of 43 year olds! Seriously--maybe the BC Packers plant down the road was emitting something else other than the overwhelming stench of rotting fish, but whatever it was, we turned out to be an awesome bunch, us Steveston Packers.

*Just a small disclaimer: I am going to write this in a way that “protects the innocent” if you other words, I am not going to put names to any of my stories. That way, even though I have nothing but positive things to say, I can speak freely about the night without making people feel awkward or embarrassed. For those who were there, it might turn into a fun game to see how many people’s names you can guess based on the stories and descriptions. All I ask is that if you comment, please be respectful and follow my lead sans names. If it’s you, and you feel comfortable, feel free to LOL.*

High school is always the Breakfast Club--when you are in school that is. Everyone is trying to figure out who they are and how they fit in. What an awkward and weird period in one’s life. When you get out of school and head into the real world, those roles dissipate over time and you become your own person, hopefully building and evolving on your passions and discovering what makes you happy. In anticipation of this reunion, it gave way to some thought about who I was then and who I have become.

I was VERY different in high school--quiet, somewhat shy, not terribly outspoken at all, and a little naive too. I did a lot of activities outside of school, so I almost dis-engaged myself to some degree. I’m ok with that. To the untrained eye, I’ve changed quite dramatically, but in actual fact, my vivacious and gregarious personality has always been present, it’s just become more visible, evolving as I get older. Evolution of persona is going to be different for everyone, and it isn’t always displayed in an outward way like mine. I noticed some people last night who more the observers to all the goings on--and that’s awesome--we need more people in this world who can sit back and not feel they need to be the centre of attention. I’ve somehow slighted myself in that comment, so I’ll simply say that I truly enjoy talking to people and have a genuine interest in them, I just happen to do it in a very extroverted way.

I had a roomie for the weekend that came in for the reunion (and our little elementary school one beforehand). She is someone who has gone to school with me right from Grade 1 to Grade 12, and while I don’t happen to see her for years at a time (she lives in Vernon), we are able to pick up right where we left off, and it’s wonderful. After lounging in front of the fire at my place, we finally got our asses off the sofa, put our party clothes on (incase some of you were wondering, my circa 1970’s look last night was a Betsey Johnson runway piece, which has probably burned a hole into your retinas by now given it was quite colourful to say the least) and headed to the Buck and Ear in Steveston. Here’s some event planning for you: no planning needed, except setting it up on Facebook (thanks Jen!), a venue and labels. Let’s face it, everyone is just so busy these days, that planning a formal event is extremely time consuming (memories from the 20th are coming back), so we went with a local spot and voila.

For someone with a photographic memory, I am terrible at remembering names--faces yes, names no, so labels came in handy (except mine, which just pulled my hair out). And after talking to quite a few people last night, it’s not just our memories that seem to be failing at this age--apparently my waning eyesight and my new habit of having to hold out tiny printing away from my face seems to be common place these days. It’s hard for me to live in denial now thanks to the obvious answer from last night: get some glasses.

One of my classmates was just like me back in school when it came to being a bit quieter. I haven’t seen him since school and holy moly, he was now very boisterous--we talked about that and it was really interesting. It was almost as if he was a different person so it gave me a chance to understand why people say that about me. He did insist however, that I was someone else, saying he remembers me at his birthday party, etc. So please, let me clarify...

For the record, I am not the sister of the fellow who shares my last name (which is actually my ex-husband’s last name, who incidentally also when to Steveston two years ahead of our class). My pseudo-brother is really a neat guy--didn’t chat with him much last night, but has a ridiculous amount of style, is extremely witty from the looks of his Facebook comments, and owns and manages a successful business. I would like him to bring his actual sister to one of these things just so we can get a photo showing that we are NOT the same person.

A highlight of the night was connecting with a girlfriend I hadn’t seen since we graduated. She looks fantastic and married to THE nicest guy who graciously came with her. We had a good laugh remembering skipping out of Algebra class, hopping in her car and going for lunch at Chi Chi’s and then doing a little shopping at the Mall. Interestingly enough, we both passed Algebra though! She and her husband tried to sell me on their single guy friend who has moderate to severe anger issues...yes folks, this is the pot of available men that we single women have to choose from now.

Through school, I had many crushes. There was a core group of fellows that hung around together that at one time or another, I had a thing for. One of these guys was always in my art classes--he usually astounded his fellow classmates and teachers alike with his stunning artwork. The cool thing about him now, is that he actually followed his talent, whereby his artwork has been on coin sets and stamps. Another one of the fellows in this group used to play the guitar (and I think still does)--every time I see him at one of these reunions, I think of the Rolling Stones immediately. He posted a picture of his daughter in a music store on Facebook recently, holding a neat is that to see his talent passed on to his child (I can only hope that she has an aptitude for music other than the Stones). And the musical talent continues with another fellow who followed in his father’s footsteps and is a famous percussionist in a band that plays all over the world, and, to prove how small this world is, happens to be dating my good friend’s friend. To round out the 4 man crush thing, I remember in one of my drama classes doing a lip-sync to Def Leppard (don’t ask), and I borrowed this guy’s cardboard guitar at the last minute. He had put a lot of effort into making it very realistic looking, and in one fatal swoop during my drama act, I completely destroyed it...we laughed about it last night, but I remember seeing the look of horror on his face when I lopped off the buttons by mistake on stage. He lives in Seattle now--a city that I absolutely love, and looks exactly as he did in school.

Then there was my BIG crush....from Grade 8 all the way through high school to Grade 12. I was just too shy to ever say more than just a few nervous words to him in school, and although I don’t live with regrets in my life typically, I do wish I had been a little more forward. I’ll never forget in Grade 8 when I was being bullied by one of the “tough” girls, he came over and used the water fountain that was next to me to check in to see if I was ok, or at least that was my perception anyway. He is still the gorgeous man I always thought he was, just way taller now, and married with kids of course. I was wearing flats last night (I NEVER wear flats usually) although I feel I would have been better off in my ballet toe shoes just to get a little height when talking to him. It was nice to have an actual conversation where that shyness and anxiety was minimized...but interestingly enough, still slightly present. Do I feel badly that I hugged him repeatedly at the end of night to the point where I feel that I was borderline molesting him--absolutely not <enter wicked grin>.

And to prove that finding love exists over forty, one of my close guy friends brought his new love...and she turned out to be just as wonderful as he said. She named me the closet hippie...I’m slowly coming out of that closet though, with all my herbs and essential oils in tow. He is so in love, and it’s so cool to see. It gives me hope that I will find my true love some day, just like the story on the tapestry I brought back from Dover Castle, with a knight, et al. Another one of my classmates just fell in love as well...they looked amazing together and so happy. He told me the old adage that everyone is telling me: it will happen when you least expect it. I would like that please.

It was so much fun getting to know everyone on a more personal level last night and moreover, hearing how diverse our careers and lives are. One of the girls could have been a model--just gorgeous, and she follows her passion of training horses. Another classmate does some very unique cooking along with a plethora of other interests to keep himself busy. I could simply immerse myself in this one person’s hair (it’s gorgeous), and usually do at these reunions--she also shares my birthday of October 1st (crazy Libra). Any absence of male affection is quickly forgotten next to one of my female friends who I just adore. I got to chat with another friend I went to school with from Grade 2 onward who also brought her younger sister that I hadn’t seen since she was a kid, who is now married with her own baby. Another friend and I talked about how nice it would be to see one of our classmates who now lives in Japan, and who posts THE weirdest and most bizarre pictures of insects AND their descript stories that you could ever imagine.

Eventually the night came to a close, and even though I woke up this morning tired, with a storm going on outside, and hardly any voice, I was truly happy to have experienced what I did last night. Time is out to charm you (thanks Axel Rose), if you let it, that is. And that’s exactly what I saw last night...we’re no longer just the athlete, the brain, the criminal, the princess or the basket case, rather, we are simply amazing (and don’t forget good-looking) individuals now. Oh, there’s just one last thing: Packers rule baby.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Levine Times Two = Fun Times Forty

Some people get really weirded-out when they hear that I am good friends with my ex-husband’s wife--in fact, not just some people, most people. Life doesn’t come with a set of rules--it’s society and ourselves that create conditioning around how things are supposed to look or supposed to be. I can safely say that there are not too many women who enjoy hanging out with their ex’s spouse, but then, I’m not most women. 

I kept my married name and so I have the same last name as Cheryl. She is awesome. By becoming an amazing step-mother to my autistic daughter, she instantaneously earned a thumbs up in my book. We always have fun when we’re together--we have the same boisterous, exuberant personality so out in public we can be quite the spectacle. Coupled with the fact that we really don’t care what people think, it makes for great fun together and we have a lot in common given we are both in our 40's. We can also be polar opposites in a lot of areas too though. For example, Cheryl loves to shop--she could shop all day, every day. I hate shopping. I go in, get what I want, and get out. I’d rather spend my time seeing things, taking photos, etc. and not trapped indoors and in line-ups with a bunch of people.

She came over for a visit at the end of the summer and we thought it would be fun to go to Seattle. The rationale was to do a combination of shopping AND seeing the sights in order to appease each other. When making a trip across the border these days, if you want to bring anything back from the US without paying duty, you have to spend more than a day there--even then, there’s a cap on what dollar amount you can bring back based on the length of your stay. So naturally, if you’re going to go, why not stay for an overnight? It’s doesn’t guarantee you a hassle-free experience at the border on the way back, but it’s worth a try.

We hopped in my Rav4 and away we went. Sure enough, even early on a Sunday morning there was a gigantic line up (neither of us have Nexus yet), so it was time for a small purchase at the Duty Free. The $5 spent on jelly beans and shortbread were worth their weight in gold to move us ahead by about 30 cars in the line up.

After we crossed the border, we thought it would be wise to have breakfast before we go crazy in the shops, you know, store up some energy, so we decided on Applebee’s. If you really enjoy a large portion of nutritionally devoid food with the onset of a slight sick feeling afterward, then I would highly recommend going there.

Once the poor dining experience was over and the nausea passed, we bee-lined it to Nordstrom Rack in Lynnwood. Ladies, if you want ridiculous deals on high-end name brand shoes that may be a season or two behind, this is the place for you. $15 Michael Kors shoes? Hello! All of a sudden, shopping wasn’t so bad. We went with the concept of divide and conquer. There were enablers everywhere in there--the staff, the women--even the husbands (I really don’t understand men who shop with their women FOR their women--yikes). When we re-united after 20 minutes, my cart was full of shoes, socks for Antonia, a couple of skirts, and whack of Betsey Johnson jewelry that was about 70% off. Cheryl had picked out two pairs of shoes, and even that was iffy--she was a shopaholic tease! We got up to the cash till, and being the great financial planner that I am, I didn’t realize that the total would be that out of line--being around all those shoes tends to skew my sense of reality. So after the cashier had bagged everything, reluctantly, I asked her to take a few things out, including a pair of Betsey boots that I didn’t really need (yeah right). The cashier was clearly overwhelmed, so after I paid, Cheryl picked up all my bags and as we start walking, whispers “Hurry up, I think the boots are in here.” I’m thinking “What??”, but we high-tailed it to the car, and peeled out of the parking lot like criminals and I was freaking out. We got to the gas station across the bridge--and keep in mind, I have not stolen a thing in my life--and all I can think of is OMG the cashier accidentally gave me the boots...AWESOME! You can imagine my disappointment when we actually looked in the bags and the boots weren’t there--Cheryl just thought the bags were too heavy so the boots must have been in the pile of bags...nope. So we weren’t thieves after much for living on the edge. 

Next stop--the hotel. When it came to where to stay, that was easy--The Fairmont Olympic. Great location, amazing building, and a plethora of wonderful childhood memories for me. It used to be the Four Seasons up until the mid-2000’s. My favourite Uncle who passed away a few years back worked at the Four Seasons in Vancouver for 35 years so we would go down to Seattle regularly and stay there when I was a kid. 

Seattle is a city that I could see myself living in. It’s very similar to Vancouver, just a bit more historic and with way more one-way streets. We opted NOT to go to the Space Needle only because last time I tried that with my Mom, we took a wrong turn and I ended up driving to Aurora on a freeway without exits for 25 minutes. Instead we decided to drive around the downtown core and go for a walk on the waterfront. Funny, Seattle is just like Vancouver in that as a tourist, you’ll be walking through the touristy area (Pioneer Square for Seattle and Gastown for Vancouver) and then take one step too many and land right in the scary part of town. The Hemp Fest was on, so the waterfront as a little crowded. I was in utter disbelief that there is free parking on Sundays at the water--we must have read the sign about 50 times to be certain that this foreign concept was correct.

For dinner, we settled on Purple, right at University and 5th. One word: DELISH. The ambiance was fabulous too...they have a giant wine cellar that spirals right up to the top of the 3 story-open concept restaurant. The night ended with a jump into the hotel’s hot tub and pool, and for me after Cheryl had gone to sleep, a stroll around the hotel when no one was around (it was about 1am). That’s my favourite time to take pictures and also to breathe in all the history this hotel exudes. I took some amazing shots that brought back a plethora of childhood memories of running around the ballrooms and hiding in the giant curtains.

When we left the next day, it seemed as though we just got there. We did one last shop at Nordstrom Rack downtown, and headed towards the Outlet Mall. Once there, I did not enjoy the experience, possibly because I wasn’t interested in shopping anymore and neither was my visa, but mainly because people were so pushy and rude. I was quite shocked--especially in the Coach store. Hey, I love handbags, but how much Coach sh*t does one person need--according to what I saw, apparently a lot. We got the hell out of there as soon as possible (with no deals to be found), and headed for something to quench our thirst. And I certainly found it when we went through the McDonald’s drive thru to end up with THE largest unsweetened iced tea (it must have been at least 2 liters) I have ever seen. Cheryl ordered the 2 liter diet Pepsi, and between the two of us, we were wired on major caffeine with several bathroom stops as we made our way to Bellingham.

We saw lots of interesting things while driving. There was one part of the highway where they had one of those signs up that show what the speed limit should be and then your speed--everyone else got a number flashed at them--I just got an unhappy face. Naturally we burst out laughing at that--only I would get the unhappy face. At one point, we passed an inordinate amount of hay trucks all in a row driving next to us, and it soon became like a video game called avoid-the-random-tufts-of-hay-from-hitting-your-car-and-windshield. On the way back while heading to the border, we noticed that every single exit had about 5 fast food choices available on the sign. Mexican food was always one of the choices--even to the point where one of the signs indicated there was a Taco Bell, a Taco Time AND a Taco Del Mar--that’s just craziness...oh the choice!

Once in Bellingham, we stopped in at Marshall’s and noticed that the closer you get to the Canadian border, the lesser of a deal you get at the shops (although I did find a cute little pair of cowboy boots there). Trader Joe’s was the final place we needed to go and after we loaded up on low priced, GMO-free, organic groceries, I knew I was exhausted when Cheryl had asked if she could just use the washroom at Starbucks before we head back, and I said “Sure, we’ll just go through the drive-thru.”

We swapped spots in the car so she could handle the border situation--I really suck at it thanks to what my parents did to me as a child when we crossed the border (see my blog post “The Great Bargain Caper” for details). I just kept my mouth shut (Cheryl suggested I chew gum) while she engaged in a wonderful conversation with the female border guard that was just casually chit-chatting at 11pm on a Monday night with a one hour wait behind us.

When we got home, we still had enough energy to look at all the fab things we bought (I far outweighed Cheryl in the purchase department). We also talked about what an amazing time we had together. I really cherish my relationship with Cheryl--she and Geoff are like family to me and I feel very lucky to have them in my life.  Do we still weird people out with us hanging out together? Yes. Will that ever change? Not as long as there are places in this world where you can shop AND supposedly see the sights.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mars and Venus Venture Off Course

A friend’s recent situation inspired me to write this blog post. I’ve always thought that the older we get, the more respectful we become as a person, with friends and family, and also with matters of the heart. What I’m discovering is that it appears to be quite the opposite at times. My friend’s relationship issue just showed me a glimpse of how much we protect ourselves at the risk of hurting others, and it made me stop and think.

I suppose it’s actually society that sits at the top of the food chain when it comes to interpersonal communication, but it’s always the relationship between men and women that is highlighted. Assumptions are abundant, and everything has to mean something these days. Why? A simple gesture of being polite or neighbourly is greeted with a frown or massive look of confusion. Oh my god! I smiled at you--I clearly want to marry you and have your children. Yeah right.

My belief system is based on the concept “Do what you want, as long as you don’t harm anyone or anything”. I consider myself to be quite selfish at times, but not to the point where I hurt anyone. What I have seen as of late, specifically through my friend’s situation, is that some men AND women don’t seem to care if they hurt someone through their actions. Or, if they do care, they don’t show it, which, to the other person, is the same as not caring at all (mind-reading is not a typical human trait).

It makes no matter whether you’re in the dating world or not, women are always saying men are jerks. Men are always saying women are crazy. The reality is that some people are not only jerks but are also crazy, and more importantly, it transcends gender. There are some people out there that are just plain frightening regardless of whether they live on Mars or Venus, so to speak. Examples I’ve seen lately tell me that this whole Mars and Venus thing can really be just an excuse for men and women to act certain ways. I had one of my guy friends tell me years ago that it’s normal for guys to cheat because they have been hardwired since the beginning of time to plant their seed. If we were still in the Paleolithic Era I would say yes, I see your point. But last time I checked, it’s 2013...give me a f’ing break.

If we agree that we’re all human (although there are some people that believe aliens have invaded the planet), then unless you are mentally incapacitated, is it fair to say that most people, whether you are a guy or a girl, know the carnal difference between right and wrong? You can assume the answer is yes, but what I am discovering, which should be no surprise, is that everyone acts, thinks, talks, reacts, etc. based on what they have been exposed to and what they have experienced in their life. So the answer is really a big, fat, subjective “no”, and moreover, trying to logicalize someone’s behaviour can drain your brain. I’ve learned to realize that unless you have lived in that person’s exact shoes, you’ll never really know how they see things. One reality; two different experiences and viewpoints <enter relationship issues>.

Bizarre and illogical behaviour comes in all shapes and sizes. I’ve seen people get dumped through a text. Or how many times have I heard, “He just never called me again”. Been there myself. What I find interesting is the lack of respect that seems to be extremely abundant and come to the forefront amongst the population in recent years, and is now (or I’m just noticing it) popping up my generation (I’m in my early 40’s). With the age of social media growing exponentially, I am hopeful that my generation for the most part is still at the stage of open and honest communication that doesn’t involve hiding behind our opposable thumbs. My hopefulness has now turned to more of a cautiously optimistic stance, but it’s positive nonetheless.

Time and energy are two things that should be carefully spent. You only have so much of each. I choose to live my life where I will continue to put myself out there to be kind, courteous, and communicative to my fellow humans, man or woman, whether I know them or not, and whether they like it or not. My intentions are always good. I will always have a smile on my face. The filter is shrinking with age, and I’m finding it easier to ditch the political correctness (how can you tell).

I wish for all of us that we can just say what we want to say, always with respect, but just get it out. And most importantly, whether you’re a Martian or a Venusian, garner the respect you deserve, give others the respect they deserve, and always be true to yourself. Life is just so much happier that way...that, and karma can be a bit of a bitch.