Fear in a box? I don’t think so.

I almost didn’t write this today – I was actually going to write about the paleo diet breakfast quiche I made (good, and good for you). Then I went onto WordPress and saw the stats for my blog. Someone searched Google yesterday for “fear in a box” and got pointed  to my blog. Yikes.

That got me to thinking about fear, and the boxes we put ourselves into.

A few days ago  my svelte yet wiry husband wrote a blog that made me laugh out loud. He titled it “End of an Era”  and in it, he recounts his brief flirtation with Crossfit training. He was not enamored with it, and is considering something a bit more… well, his speed. His crossfit hijinks and fish-out-0f-water pain is pretty damn funny, but what interested me more about the blog was his willingness to admit to his lack of fitness; his ability to just say “gee, I’m not as slim any more and I’m not fit. I should do something about this.”

Just like that. No ego.

For me, it has taken me a few years to even admit that I may have, you know,  gained a bit of weight.  For the past few years I’ve somehow managed to be in my body but not really

even look at it. I clothe it, feed it (yup, I sure do) and deal with my increasingly ahem weighty presence by sort of, you know, ignoring it.

I have, as they say, let myself go. I’d even go so far as to say that I’m fat. As I wrote that line, it ended with “all of a sudden” in my mind, but really it isn’t all of a sudden. It’s the result of a multitude of things – stress was a biggie, and I quit smoking (two years next month woot!), and I got older and my hormones are all out of whack…

Oh yeah, and I ate a lot and didn’t exercise. That’s what happens, people.

Weren't the 70's grand?

Like my husband, I was for most of my life able to eat anything I wanted and not see the deleterious effects of it on my body. I am now fairly sure that while genetics played some part in that, I can also say that smoking (sometimes two packs a day) and excessive coffee intake was the “magic” behind my skinny frame. I also had a healthy childhood.  Sure, we ate our fair share of Devil Dogs and candy bars, but I was always running around, riding my bike, and not eating half as much crap as I do now. I don’t think there was as much of the processing in food back then, either. Less high-fructose corn syrup, less sugar.

I was active. Occasionally, I was even in really good shape. I would go through phases of  enthusiastic gym membership, and even with the hampering effect of smoking, I was fit and my body would do what I told it to do. I was able to coast along for years, doing nothing, because I’d started with a healthy and fit body.

Now? Not so much.

I love and admire that my husband is so willing to be open about it, and it made me think about the shame that I have been carrying around about my own body. I’ve managed to engage in all sorts of magical thinking, but I’m fairly sure that the only solution is to just stop eating as much, stop eating bad stuff, and start moving more.

Sigh.

For me, being fat has generated a kind of apathy. It has coincided with aging – there’s a big difference between, say, 36 and 46 – the last decade has not been easy, nor has it been kind… I’ve aged, right? Between 26 and 36 you can sort of pretend that you haven’t changed, but that next decade is a doozy. I’m invisible in a way that I never used to be – in a way that my husband probably can’t even identify with, because it’s bound up in ego.

I’m not invisible to him, of course, but to the world at large I’m – all of a sudden – an invisible silver-haired fat lady. WEIRD.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about my weight here. It’s a process, though – this getting to know my new self and accepting that something needs to be done. Hell, it took me more than one try to quit smoking…. the tools I used to effect that change will come in handy as I struggle with my sugar cravings. I’m becoming more and more convinced that processed sugar and carbs are akin to nicotine, and that I should treat it as such – something I need to avoid.

I’ve tried a bunch of things and the only thing that seems to work is to eat properly and to exercise more. It’s not a quick fix (drag!) but I think it will work. Every time I eat natural whole food that’s good for me and take a walk or move my body, I am rewarded by having more energy, and clearer thinking. That positive reinforcement isn’t always enough to stop myself from having french fries (last night) but it does have a cumulative effect. Eventually, I’ll get it.

I’m tired of being tired. Tired of not having a waist.

Tired of being an invisible fat lady. And hell, if my husband can admit it and work on it, I can. I mentioned earlier that I’d let myself go…. I am letting myself go, but not in the way we normally conceive of that.

I’ve been working so very hard to get my brain/emotions straight that I forgot that my body is me. Ego has been holding me back. I’ve worried about being fat, of being unattractive, of admitting to myself that I’m aging (duh). It’s hard to admit your ass is no longer cute, and harder to admit that it was important to you that it was…. Ego is a bitch. Ego is a child, and it’s not always good to just let that little dictator tell you what to do.

So I’m letting that go… it’s a good lesson to learn; surrendering the ego is the only way, really. What I’m looking for can only happen with the humility that this sort of surrender generates: Harmony. Lightness. Room to breathe.

***************************************

And, oh hell. Here’s the quiche recipe.

easy peasy

Preheat oven to 350 F

for each quiche, use one egg. Whisk eggs together with a splash of water. Divide the eggs evenly into the muffin cups.

Chop a selection of veg and meat. I used fennel sausage, red pepper, baby spinach, cilantro and delicious cherry tomatoes from Den Haan’s.

Plop it all into the egg mixture and push in a bit. Crack some black pepper over it all.

Pop in oven for 15-20 minutes.

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Every blade in the field, every leaf in the forest, lays down its life in its season…

On 04 February 2012 I wrote as my status line on FacebookImage

“RIP Lionel Gerard Langevin 1932-2012
Beloved father, husband, uncle. Irascible old coot, poet, charmer.

We love you, Dad.”

It’s a sign of the times that I wrote that while still sitting in the room where he died. I wrote it using my phone, guiltily, but feeling like I needed to get the news out.

Don’t judge – my world had just tilted, altered forevermore, and I felt like sharing. It was, somehow, immediately important that I announce it, to mark it, do it in real time.

Thing is, I fell back on that urge for immediacy because I wasn’t sure what else to do. Dad’s death was a while coming, and near the end of it he was in ICU and we had all agreed there wouldn’t be any more life-saving measures. They shut off the machines, and we sat with him for a peaceful, quiet, half hour until he left us.

While we all had the time to said goodbye to him, it felt insufficient; how do you do that? It’s just so utterly and completely not enough but too much at the same time.

So, I’ve been saying goodbye in  different ways, every day since, too. Maybe it will never be enough. I know that I feel the world is colored for me a bit differently now – things are often filtered through our loss of him. My siblings – alone with me now, orphans in the world – are impossibly more precious to me. My (step)mother, as dear to me as always but all of a sudden I worry more about losing her.I worry about her health, her stress.

I worry.  It’s all about negotiating loss, right?

Oh so many gone from us. Grandpa, Auntie Madeline, Uncle Red, Grandma, and now the "baby"... Lee. Rest in Peace, all.

There was nothing we could do – and oh how we tried – nothing that could protect him from this happening. It was fast and it  felt like it came out of nowhere, but at the same time I’d been dreading it, expecting it, for years.

I think I said my goodbyes to him many years ago when he first got sick – maybe we all did, in a way. Even though he was cancer free, it changed him. His death, then, took about 8 years. Eight long dry complicated and stupid years.

It upsets me a bit to think on that, but in the end, who the hell am I to judge? He lived his life – it was his. And if there’s one thing his funeral, and the days leading up to it showed me, it was that I had maybe forgotten how dense and varied was the substance of his life. The last few years, especially, were subdued and quiet and a little old-hennish in some ways, but even that isn’t an entirely clear picture. He had a long life (79 years) that was full of travel and hard work and success. He had people who loved him, who were charmed by him, and who he loved back, in his way.

He had a terrific funeral, surrounded by so very many friends and  family. The roly poly irish priest made jokes, and we cried and laughed and were very proud of him. It was a privilege to see his fellow Knights of Columbus standing up for him, obviously moved and feeling the loss of him in their ranks.

My brave, composed,  and wonderful sister read from Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (to every thing there is a season… in my head those words are always in the voice of the Byrds and who knew, sitting and listening to that record in my sister’s room in 1977 that someday she would read it at his funeral?) The more I look at the words, the more I realize just how perfectly chosen were those readings – go back and look at them, as literature, you don’t have to be religious. They’re smart, and help those left behind.

As with my mother’s funeral, we sang Amazing Grace (which I always hear in Al Green’s voice). I can’t hear that song without tearing up, ever.

Dad’s indomitable wife, family on both sides, and his gracious and loving friends buoyed us with their boundless generosity and regard for him, and fed us such good food. My facebook status that day was

Thank you, everyone, for all of the sympathy and support. My dad was an amazing guy and had a full, rewarding life. His death continues the trend – his many wonderful friends and loving family are making this an oddly pleasant experience.

And it was – oddly pleasant, I mean. And that’s the way it should be.

Death is pretty final, and I know that when I’m crying it’s for me, for us – the people who are left behind. I hate that he died; I hate how he died. I hate how he lived his last years – lacking his natural charm, tired, without enough joy. He had lost his brother, then his sister just a few months ago… so much loss, again, to negotiate.

But that oddly pleasant funeral was useful – it made me remember the whole man. The man who married my mother when she was 16 (!),  who worked as a tool and die man, who went to night school and worked hard, and saved his money. The man who rose high in the company his illiterate father had cleaned the floors of, who worked all over the world and grabbed it all with both hands. It made me think of the happy laughing man who went on bike rides with me,  who held my hand, who was the one I called for when I fell. He was the guy who never let us win at monopoly, who took us to the races, who drove us up and down the Alps’ twisty mountain roads, with us screaming the whole way.

He was not a good driver.

He is the man who taught me that if you’re going to do it, do it right.

I thought of my divorced Catholic dad marrying his Quaker wife in a North Carolina synagogue, and saving everything from that day – including the speeding ticket he got on the way down to his Florida honeymoon.

He taught me about the beauty of compound interest, and of a good filing system. He taught me the power of reading, didn’t laugh when I told him every number has its own personality (called synesthesia btw), and never said a bad word about any of those awful boyfriends of mine that he met. All he ever asked was “is he catholic?” but he didn’t care about my answer, not really.

He showed me how big the world is, and how easily I could claim it, with some effort. He showed me that we were citizens of it, and that we had to be involved and responsible.

He especially taught me how important it is to be present in the lives of those who love you.  It doesn’t matter how he taught me those lessons, only that I learned them.

My brother and sister and I talked about how we knew Dad was always there for us. That no matter what we did or said or how we tested it, he would always be there to help us out. It’s true, and I hope that my kids know that I am the same – no matter what, I am here to love them and help them and teach them.

No. Matter. What.

Loss is funny. One day I feel it like a cavity in my tooth – something to worry and poke at  to feel the edges of the hurt. Other days it’s pretty gentle, and it feels natural and grief-less. It feels somehow normal. It took me years, literally years, to work through the crap I’d been carrying around about my mother after her death. Having always been a bit of a daddy’s girl I figured I was in for it now – but the opposite is true. Somehow in our fumbling, pretend-it’s-not-happening way, we must have made our peace. When he died it was so very sad, but it didn’t feel like unfinished business. It felt like my very-much-loved Pop died. What we’re left with is loss, not grief. It’s sad, but not sorrowful.

how I will always remember him

I dearly wish he were still alive and I’d like to have called him more this past year. I wish you all had known him – he was clever and charming and yes, an irascible old coot.  I wish that I’d spent more time with him, I wish I’d been more generous of spirit with him – that I hadn’t been so hard on him in my heart of hearts. These disappointments of mine though are just ordinary regret, nothing that will scar.

His poetry he passed to my sister and his charm most definitely went to my brother. I hope that leaves me more than his “irascible coot-ishness”, but I must humbly admit to some of that in my makeup. I know there are more things in me that speak of him than I will ever know. I cherish them,  will learn from them, and thank him.

This has been a year of loss. Mine, though bittersweet, is already a little more sweet than bitter.  You were much loved, Pop. Rest in peace.

My previous post about G’pa Lee here.

naked cranberry neighbour oatcakes

Okay. What is it with nekkid neighbours? On any given day, without fail, somebody out there searches for “naked neighbour” and comes to my site.

The only thing on my site that’s searched for more often is “cranberry oatcakes”.

The reason that “naked neighbours” brings searchers to my blog is that I have neighbours who, when the weather is warm, live largely outside in direct eye view of my desk. They’re loud, and apparently unaware of the fact that other people can see and hear them. I even designed a header just for them! I kinda stopped writing about them though, it felt kinda icky.

Recently, my exceedingly handsome and handy husband put a new outlet into the south wall of my office, which allowed me to move my desk. I don’t have to look at the Next-to-Naked-Neighbours now. I try not to, I really do. They still don’t seem to grasp  the idea of window treatments, and I can tell you with a fairly high degree of accuracy what kind of orange juice he takes out of the fridge at night… when he opens it and the room is bathed in fridge-light, I can’t help but be able to see, if chance puts me in view of it. I love my sun room/office, but I avoid it at night so I don’t have to see them, and I avoid it on warm days because  I may hear their overly-loud cell phone conversations, smell their cigarette smoke, or (no, pleeeeease no!) hear those immortal words screeched from husband to wife in the driveway: “HEY?!  YOU ON THE TOY-LET?”

Actually, I kind of ignore that side of the house, now, to be honest. They recently cut down a lot of the foliage and trees in-between our houses, so in order to feel private, I have to look the other way. They built a giant addition that lacks symmetry; it’s not my business.

I understand them, sort of. They’re really involved in improving their property, and their house. They’re building, and really industrious. They probably don’t really think about my house, and the fact that they’ve made it almost impossible for me to not see into theirs. Maybe they’re bitching about me too, who knows? I want them to have some privacy, so I can have some. That requires that I not look over there, and that maybe I’ll have to just not look in that direction. It’s what we do, when we live in close proximity, right?

My blind eye is turned.

But really, I digress.

As interesting as they are, they aren’t the point. What I want to know is this:

Why, in the name of all that’s in a birthday suit, do so many people Google “naked neighbours” so often? Even more to the point: why, when there are about 2,270,000 results in 0.27 seconds (I checked) for that phrase, do they click-through to little ‘ole Box 761? I’m not even on the first page of searches!!

It’s very strange, and I spend just a little time each day musing about it. The only thing that really gives me hope is that Google has 271,000 hits for cranberry oatcakes.  It’s not 2

maybe I should be aiming for that intersection between the two?

million, but it’s a respectable number. I’m not sure what the demographic is of my readership, such as it is, but I’m pretty sure it’s more the oatcake crowd than the naked neighbour group.

Just FYI, here’s the post about oatcakes. They’re good. Really good. And FYI, I’m not at all anti-naked. I like naked. Just not in the adjoining yard, whilst smoking and arguing on the phone with power tools in hand. Or, like, without window treatments and getting an early evening OJ from the fridge.

It’s all about choices, really.

Cooking up a winter storm

I don’t know what it is, but I’m cooking a lot lately. Nesting, maybe?

It may not be helping me to keep my girlish figure, but oh, I’m enjoying it. The photo stream on my phone looks like a foodie’s Tour of Carbs…. probably the result of my going low-carb for several months in late 2011.

WordPress very helpfully noted in its year-end summary of my blog that “cranberry oatcakes” was the search term that most often brought readers to my site. I’ve decided not to fight it, and you’ll probably get a look at some of my creations here more often (they normally live on Facebook; I guess this will be their new, occasional, pied a terre.

In no particular order, my most recent food explorations. No recipes included, but if you want one, just request it in comments….

Oh, and the second most requested search term?

naked neighbours

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garlic/thyme bread, and sesame seed bread. It is delicious, and yeasty warm butter-drippingly fabulous.

For dinner, we had Italian Wedding Soup. It was spicy and warm and comforting, but also seemed fresh and bright – really clean fresh and green. That’s the spinach and spicy sausage meat, marrying together. I hope they have a long happy life together.

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A few days ago, I took it upon myself to explore the homely popover. They are a remarkable concoction – fluffy and high, crisp and warm outside, but soft and almost like custard inside. I made a savory one for dinner, with peppered bacon, spinach, tomato, onion and parmesan. Then the next day I had no choice but to try my hand at individual apple popovers.

no choice, I tell ya.

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And then there is the best of all. The creme brulee. Oh my. Lime infused, heavy on the vanilla. Creamy, crunchy. Hot, cold, smooth and sharp. Is there anything nicer?

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Nothing much else to say, except that I feel like I’m learning things, and it’s nice. It’s one of my happy places; that space I inhabit when I am puttering in my kitchen, puzzling through recipes, and figuring out the spot where science and art meet on my plate.

(note on the photos: all of them (c) 2012, taken by me in my kitchen on my iPhone)

Embracing the mess

We all start a new year with good intentions. I’m not silly enough to make resolutions as such, but if I’m being honest I was kind of keeping a quiet internal list; as if silent wishes would make me less cranky, slimmer, more focused….

I’ve kept it all on the down low, as if speaking them out loud would jinx it.

Shoot. Now I’ve gone and let it out, and ruined it.

Actually, I haven’t. Because that’s silly.

In moments of sloppy thinking, I do tend to think that wishes will indeed make it so, and I forget that change is hard. That it takes work.  It’s not as simple as wishing, is it? I was taking stock of my past year the other day and realized that my first order of  business is to

Am I empty or full? Depends on the day.

move away from stock-taking and move toward, um, stock-making.

All this past year I’ve been trying to hold myself so still; to hold my life… still, just long enough for me to catch a breath and see what I’ve got. It was a veiled attempt at control, I think.

Total control would mean no anxiety, right? Control would mean that everything is where and how I need it to be, right?

But control isn’t the point. Control isn’t good, not the way I seem to be leaning, anyway. That way lies more  anxiety, more  useless joylessness. I forgot that stock-taking wasn’t actually ever the point, right? The point is to create more stock – to have something to see when I look.

So, it’s not a resolution, but I do have a plan: I want to stop trying to keep everything still. What’s the point in that? I want to learn to move with the flow of it all, to just get on with it instead of treating my self and my life as if they are anything other than mutable, shifting and gorgeously complex.

Here, then, is to messiness and a tiny bit of drama. To not taking it all so seriously, and to having some big laughs, some tears, and to falling down and getting back up. Here’s to love and shiny things and yes, to deep quiet moments when I can look at it and think:  I made that.

Happy New Year, all.

(credit where it’s due: the fabulous after-party image courtesy of one of my new fave new blogs: http://www.peiphoneography.wordpress.com)

I killed my cat, and other stories: Box 761 Death Edition.

Okay. I’m using that title to shock you.

Doesn’t mean I didn’t do it, but the preferred term is “euthanize“. Sounds much nicer, right?

Bo 1996-2011

Bo was my cat, but before he was mine he was my mother’s. He was a 24-toed (normal cats have 18), black-and-white puppy-like cat who was the charismatic and goofy reminder to me, daily, of my sweet, complicated, and sometimes troubled mother.

Shortly after Mom was diagnosed with the lung cancer that would eventually kill her  she and I had a chat about chats… they were great company, and therapeutic. I lived a 4 hour drive away and worried about her through the week – lonely, ill, alone. I told her they could help lower one’s blood pressure, etc. It was a short conversation, nothing really meaningful.

The next weekend  when I arrived at her house, there they were: two kitties. Oh I wish I could find their kitty pictures; they were so very cute. Bo was awkward – how many awkward kittens do you know? From the start he was  such a character.

She was delighted with her tiny charges (too young to be away from their mother, I always thought). She bought them in Perth, maybe Smith’s Falls (?) – towns I for some reason always get confused.  Whatever. She got them from a pet store (kitten farm, I always figured) in one of those places, anyway. I guess it doesn’t matter much, though not having that small detail bothers me, a bit.

Mr. Bojangles (because he’s polydactyl and tap danced when he walked) and his sister Shirley Temple brought a lot of delight to my mother. Shirley was the brains of the operation, you could see her try to herd Bo towards the food when it was time to eat (otherwise, we weren’t sure he’d find it, to be honest). They were delightful and sweet and really a completely ill-conceived purchase, but who cares, right?

my beautiful mother, 1935 - 1996

Three  too-short/too-long months later my mother was dead, and we were exhausted.  It was a hard death, and a painful three months leading up to it.

I was so out of it that the day we were supposed to finalize things with the funeral home I parked my car downtown and locked the keys in it – still running – and I didn’t notice. It ran out of gas in downtown Brockville while we tried to kill time before my long-suffering big sister had to go take care of business. That’s one of those stories that you never actually look back on and laugh at (I’m sorry again, Nancy, I really am).

It’s just kind of sad.

I can barely remember anything because of the weird white-noise in my head at that time, the hyper-surreality of it all. To this day, there are things I am not sure I’m remembering correctly; I just can’t get a grasp on them entirely.

It wasn’t easy, and it never is, losing someone.

What it is though, is weird. It’s weird getting used to someone taking medicine, or being in hospital not to get better but to fight death, to prolong the time before the inevitable. It’s weird feeling some relief when your loved one dies, but it’s better than watching them suffer.

That was an awful time. A time of confusing emotions and fear and pre-emptive loss. We had a complicated relationship, my mother and I, so it follows that her death was not simple for me. I loved her fiercely, but was often just confused by her otherness to me. I think she felt the same way. She once told me that I was too much like my father, perhaps that’s it.

She was in a lot of pain, and drugged, and often loopy; she was angry and vindictive and scared and sweet and confused and funny. She got paranoid, and plain nasty sometimes – I remember after a particularly obnoxious statement to me I hissed to her that I hoped it wasn’t the last thing she ever said to me, because she’d regret it. For both of us, I am thankful that it wasn’t.

Oh, the pain we cause those we love, right?

Don’t worry, there was sweetness too – many goodbyes and late night talks beside her bed – not about anything important, just talking and trying to be normal in a decidedly abnormal twilit hospital room. We talked a lot about her lost babies – too many, miscarried and lost, so many babies and so many lost dreams. We talked about whether she would see her babies in heaven, whether they would be grown or not. We decided that heaven is whatever you want it to be. I hope she met them there, and is having coffee and figuring crossword puzzles with them all right now.

But by then end of it, I was wrung out, and had stepped back from it a bit. You can’t sustain the emotional rollercoaster that someone’s  death creates without stepping back, sometimes. I couldn’t anyway.

So, she died. It wasn’t like on tv, people – it’s hard work to die, to take that last breath, to allow yourself to give up your ghost.  She laboured at it, and it was awful, even with the help of (a lot of) morphine to ease her way.

And yesterday, a coddled and comfortable fifteen years and 5 months later, Mr. Bojangles was stroked and whispered-to while our lovely vet Bruce reverently and gently sent him to sleep in my arms.

huh.

I’m not going to belabour the point here – you know what I’m getting at, right? I will be able to remember Bo’s death in a way that I cannot do my mother’s, and it’s not only because well, he’s just a cat. Those last too-short months of my mother’s life were so crazy, so full of fear and anger and love and loss and confusion over her care, her pain, her struggle. We did what we could, but it’s hard to have meaningful, pure memories of a time so full of conflicting emotions. With Bo, I had time to prepare, to love him extra-hard, to let him go before it all got too hard and it was muddied with pain and fear.

The choice to euthanize Bo was not one I took lightly, and it caused me pain. I cried about it – I’m not ashamed to say. He was senile, and still didn’t always know where his food was; he meowed and mewled and howled and caterwauled through the night; he was becoming incontinent. He’d lost weight, and his heart murmur was getting worse…. He still had some quality of life:  quiet moments, sleeping on the guest bed, cuddling on my lap at night, playing sometimes with the other cat.

The arithmetic of it was that Bo’s quality of life was declining and there were more bad times than good. He was not going to get better.

So I did what I needed to do, for him and for me. We will all miss him very much; he was one of our family. I am easeful, though, in my mind that he had a good life, and a good death.

Rest in Peace, my Boo Boo Kitty, and say hi to Mom for me, okay?

If this were the 70’s, I would SO be showing you slides of my trip….

…in the rec. room, while sipping cocktails or something. And, sitting on a shag rug, smoking while wearing Sara Coventry jewelry and blotting our coral lipsticks so they don’t leave marks on the highball glasses.

Or, you know. I’d show you my slides.

I have a million images from our trip, and will sort through in a day or so. Right now I’m recuperating: caught a cold a few days ago, and the 26 hour transport/airport extravaganza did not help. My ears are still blocked! (is it just me, or do other people get a bit sick at the end of a trip?)

My dogs are happy though, and piled on me in bed last night, along with the cats. Lovely to come home to that sort of unconditional affection.

Am taking it easy today, it being Sunday and all…. Mr. 761 is back in KAF, alas, but I hope he’s as happy as I am; that was a great holiday.

More to come. A small taste: this, taken from the skeezy bus window while going from Podgorica to Sarajevo. Just sitting there, like it’s normal to be this beautiful….

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Dubrovnik, Budva

I’m having too much fun to write much, but will say that I’m completely charmed by Dubrovnik and the old city. Budva? Not so much. So far it feels like a soviet Coney Island.

That’s kind of interesting in itself, though, so we’re going with it.

Today we begin our travel (via rental car… the first time not on foot or in a bus!) through Montenegro. We don’t know much except that we need to be back in Sarajevo by the 30th.

Last night we went to a Budva grocery store and bought all manner of good things, and a few not so good. We had two bags bursting with booze and snacks, for 15€. it was fun, and we needed a break from the beauty.

My favorite item:

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Now, off to Sveti Stephan:

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More photos on FB.

Rainy Day Sarajevo

I love this city. We wandered all over the Old Town, and figured out how to ride the trams (hint – don’t bother buying a ticket, just get on; that’s what everyone else does here). We drank strong lovely foamy coffee in tiny cups, and ate gelato and meat pies and today had the best pizza ever… we are just across the Adriatic from Italy, after all….

I bought a book called Goodbye Sarajevo – written by two sisters who were 12 and 18 when the war started. After walking the city for a few days, it was a perfect read, because all of a sudden the streetscapes she described to me were familiar, and the true horror and surreality of a war here a mere 15 years ago hit me in full.

Today we went to the History Museum which had an excellent permanent exhibition about the Sarajevo Seige. I’m finding all of this fascinating and chilling and just somehow incomprehensible. The people we see on the street – teenagers – were alive during that war! I can barely understand, but we are surrounded by the reminders of it: bullet holes in buildings, facades chipped and weary, and more disabled people than I’ve seen in a while – wheelchairs are fairly common to see (note to self – if I want to take daughter on a trip, a recovering war zone is a good bet for access ramps).

outside of the History Museum of BiH. Left, I think, intentionally bullet-ridden.

When we were coming in on the plane a few days ago, our seatmate was a young German woman working on the readying of Bosnia-Herzogovina to enter the EU. She flies in once a month, so had lots of little tips (don’t pay more than 15 KM (Konvertible Marks) for a ride from the airport…. one thing that she told us was that we’d see a lot of houses with beautiful landscaping but horrible facades – all still wrecked and pock-marked. This is because if your house is still in need of cosmetic fix, you don’t have to pay taxes. If you fix the outside, then you have to pay…

It has rained all day. We are cheery about it, but wandering the streets in the rain eventually loses its appeal. We came “home” for a siesta and are getting ready to go to a swanky restaurant that Bono goes to every time he’s in town, apparently…. Too bad, Brad and Angelina were here last month. We’ve been eating Bosnian fast food, so this is out fancy pants outing.

I think it's the milk run... hopefully the scenery and people are fun!

Tomorrow, we’re off to Dubrovnik. We could have paid a taxi to take us, probably, but we chose to instead take a bus. It’s not that far, but will apparently take 7 hours. We leave early in the morning and get there at around 2 pm, so we’ll still have lots of time to get into out apartment that we’ve rented for a couple of days, and then do some exploring. Odds are we’ll want to stretch our legs after 7 hours on a bus!

We are weirdly anticipatory about this. Considering it takes almost as long to take the bus from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik as it did to fly from Toronto to Sarajevo, it had better be amusing…..

We’re having a terrific time. It’s only Tuesday and I feel at least a week-rested. We’re working at not having set schedules, and learning to just wander, and to sit and sip coffee/beer/wine when the mood strikes us. More photos on Facebook, here.