Author Archives: Tonia

Surf Competition

This morning were up at 5:45am, got in the car, and a few minutes later we were at the top of a hill overlooking the coastline where a surf competition was being held._DSC3011 _DSC3004 _DSC3009we watched some of the top surfers in Costa Rica compete. The waves were big and rocks were abound leaving little room for mistakes…It was interesting to be surrounded by so many surfers and their supporters, clearly bonded like a family by the sport of surfing…

Definitely won’t be our last competition!

We’ve also decided to stay another night in Jaco – to join the party that is happening here tonight.  It’s been a great trip and we will share our pictures when we arrive back “home” in Tamarindo.

A Rainy Day …Yahoooo!

Today was a great day….Tonia and I were up at 6:30 am…yes I was even up : ), the boys got up around 7:30 and by 8:50 we were out of the door and heading to Budget car rental to pick up our car for the week.

Of course the car was not ready at the time we booked it since they had to bring it in from the airport town of Liberia, so we decided to go to the bank to cash some money which was an interesting process…when you first walk in to the bank you are greeted by an armed guard who asks you what you need then gives you a number and directs you to a seat so you can wait for the tellers to call you.  It is very quiet and formal, only one person is allowed at the teller at a time, and you must have your passport at all times…no one seems to be in a rush though and the teller actually smiles.

After the bank we decided to go for a coffee at a small cafe

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(Costa Rican coffee tastes great by the way). and while there we met a couple who happened to be involved with the art community in town and asked me to submit my work for a show…so I am excited about the opportunity. After our coffee we headed back to Budget and picked up our car, the rep was great and very professional although not in a rush…it is so hot here so everyone moves a little slower. 

Did I mention that it is really hot here.  It seems that there is always a layer of sweat on your skin.

We headed to Santa Cruse (a small town about a half hour drive from Tamarindo). For lunch we enjoyed a Fish Casado which is a typical local dish

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..it was fresh and tasty and with service to match…and only cost about $10. 

While we waited for our meal though we were excited when we heard some thunder….and then the rain came down!…the rain seemed to cool everything down and no one seemed to be concerned about getting wet.  The rain was welcomed with celebration, coming in the midst of a season with not nearly enough rain, and an overwhelmingly relentless heat that need to break.  Yahoo!

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The low clouds created a mist rising over the forest on the surrounding hills so I had to stop for a quick picture.

When we got back into Tamarindo the rain started again and the streets were muddy.

Navigating the rain filled potholes with the little Toyota was a challenge, but we made it home and prepared a healthy dinner.

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By the way we still have running water. Another Yahoo!

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve Arrived!

After nearly a year since we thought about this big move…we are finally in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, and it is hot…I mean really hot!

The final days leading up to this point were a blur, we had to to clean and deliver our boat to its new skippers. 
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Tonia and I then had to pack our home and prepare it for the new family who
would be moving in next month, meet with the bank to take care of our accounts,_DSC2673 meet with the lawyer to sign all the forms for the house sale, and then sort and pack our things for storage. And finally we had to tackle the “packing room”, a room full of the essentials which we would take with us into ten suitcases and four carry-ons. _DSC2759 This was a big challenge as there were so many things we really wanted to have here but had to instead pack away for another time.

To add to the craziness Tonia’s and I had to pick up our passports in MississaugaIMG_1138 (an hour plus drive away from home) the day before we were leaving.  Needless to say we were stressed, but we did manage to do it all in the neck of time…..We arrived within 40 minutes of closing – and were happy to have them in our hands.

An hour later, on August 18, we reached our hotel by the airport and had about a half hour to rest before some friends and family members came to say _DSC2779goodbye to us…we had a great time with everyone, and of course some hard and emotional goodbyes. 

After that we hit the sack and even managed to get a few hours of sleep. _DSC2799

Before we knew it though it was time to get up (3am) and head to the airport. _DSC2803the boys were great and did not complain about having to get up so early. They were so excited. Even after we stood in line for over two hours they were well behaved and able to hold it together.  Thanks to US customs we almost missed our flight…yes we arrived at the gate just over seven minutes before the plane was scheduled to take off…that was crazy.

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IMG_1143Our flight was uneventful and after a brief stop in Atlanta we finally landed in Liberia, Costa Rica…We even managed to have almost all our suitcases arrive with us! All except for one which stayed in Atlanta for another day…Costa Rican customs was great, they never blinked an eye, and off we went with four carts of luggage onto Costa Rican soil.  As we walked out of the airport we were greeted by a familiar face holding a sign with Tonia’s name on it….it was our shuttle driver who had brought IMG_1154us to the airport the last time we were in Costa Rica…we loaded our bags and an hour later we were in Tamarindo in front of our new home. We were greeted by a smiling condo manager (Liane) and two other gentlemen who helped us to bring our bags up to the third floor…We were welcomed by a plate of cookies, and a bottle of wine being chilled in the fridge.  Thanks so much Liane!  You are the best!

Did I tell you how hot it was?….well lets just say it was really really hot…we were tired, excited, and looking forward to a nice cold shower…….That was not to be though as we found out that our condo did not have running water and there were workers who were installing a reserve water tank in the condo….of course we were told that this would be done in a an hour or so.  Turns out we learned right away what is meant by the term Tico Time….

Now we are in our third day and finally today we resolved the water issue.  Lucky for us we have a pool and the ocean is only six minute walk from here so we are just rolling with it and hopefully we will continue to have water tomorrow.

For now we’ll just say “Pura Vida”…or in another words, take it as it comes, be in the moment, live the good life….

 

Letting Go: Nine Days and Counting

So today we said our goodbyes to Mom and Dad and Auntie Laura. It was an emotional day for Tonia which is to be expected…For me it was a little easier as I was busy at Camp Cuisine where I get to spend the next four days teaching 27 kids how to prepare and appreciate good food. Rewarding.

We also spent some time with our boys sorting through their room…it was a little hard for them at times as they had to make some hard decisions between things they wanted to bring and the things they could not due to the limited space in our suitcases.  We had to explain a few times about the limited space we had, they did great and we are proud of their resiliency.

It is amazing how much stuff we managed to accumulate in the 8 years we’ve been in Barrie.  It is quite liberating to let go of so much of it…although hard at times as we tend to get attached to so much of the things around us.  Today we let go of our books, the big 55″ television by our cozy fireplace and the dining room table where we came together every night telling our stories of the day.  It was the gathering spot for games we played and often had great meals with family and friends. We will miss this space and these things, but all in all it is nice to let go of these objects.

A couple of days ago we accepted a deposit on our sailboat.  A bitter sweet day.  We made a lot of memories on the boat.  It is sad to see it go.  “Mast Confusion” will always be a fond memory and will continue to give us many hours of telling stories of adventures on Lake Simcoe. We are happy to know that it will give much joy and weather many storms with its new skippers!

Tomorrow will be more online work for Tonia, camp for me and the boys and of course more sorting and packing.

Then off to Teta’s to see my sister and my niece who are leaving Canada to go to their homes in other corners of the world, Dallas, Texas and Haifa, Israel.  It was a treat to  get to connect with them and spend a few days with them before we all part ways on our separate planes…..

It is very surreal that in nine days we will be in a new country and starting a new life….OMG!

 

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The Last Supper: Ten More Days and Counting!

After months of contemplation, an exploratory trip to Tamarindo, Costa Rica, many months, and what seemed to be endless hours of work to prepare for our new adventure, (including selling our house, boat, and most of our possessions) we are finally in the packing stage with only ten days left before we board a plane from Toronto to Costa Rica.

Of course we have had many gatherings with family and friends to say our farewells, sometimes there were tears….there has also been much encouragement and support.

We are very excited, sometimes nervous, and often full of anticipation.

We will share our journey with all of you.  We have been consumed with the preparations but we are back online and will share all the details about our decision and our plan, and the adventure of our transition to life in Central America!!

Tonight we enjoyed a quiet one in our home – an unusual occurrence among all of the farewells.  Today we had our “Last Supper” with Mom and Dad and Auntie Laura. Thanks Mom!  Your world famous homemade lasagna rocks!!!  Thanks so much for your hard work!

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Heading in 2015 – Happy New Year from Our Cosmic Core

This time of the year always brings with it newfound optimism and much personal reflection.  After a tough fall of instability in our lives, feeling overwhelmed at times with it all, and falling into exhaustion – Bassam and I committed to being well rested for the holidays so that we could enjoy being in the moment and making memories with our boys.

We find ourselves at the end of the holiday season, exhausted again – but in a good way.  The kind of exhausted you feel after a full day of skiing down mountains or after an all day hike through a forest trail.  The good kind of exhausted.  Blissful. Satisfied. And sleepy.

The boys, on the other hand, continue to be full of energy and creativity – finding endless ways to play new games with their Christmas toys.

This year we decided that we would start the year off spending time doing those things we love most.  So we planned a couple of jam-packed days that turned our overnight into a trip that felt like were away for a much longer than we were.

Last year at this time we stayed a few nights at the beloved Fern Resort, where we met Kathy and Kya in the first moments we arrived.  Our families connected instantly, and the boys loved that Kya was “adopted just like us!”, and they have asked about her often in the last year.  So on new year’s eve we finally saw Kya and Kathy again, a year since our trip to Fern, and our first stop was at the Skyzone Tampoling Centre in Mississauga.  After the kids successfully jumped themselves into a sweaty, flushed, and hungry state, we headed over to a Korean restaurant, where we sat on the floor to eat and watched our food being cooked in the middle of our table.

_DSC1036 _DSC1038 _DSC1027After a quick swim and some down time at the hotel we got dressed in costume and went to an awesome new year’s party!  All of us were wide awake for the countdown, left with very full bellies, and having had immensely enjoyed spending time with cousins. The Disney theme meant chilli dogs, popcorn, a candy station, and every kind of Disney snack you can think of!  Thank you Aunt Terry, Joe, Sue and family.  It was a fabulous event as usual!
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The four of us woke up tired but happy.  After another swim and check out, we headed to a cafe, where the four of us could spend some quiet family time together sipping warm drinks and being silly.  We grabbed a newspaper, some herbal teas, a couple of pens, and then we read horoscopes, scratched bingo tickets, solved Sudoko, and completed word searches.

Our last stop was at the Kuni’s – more cousins!  After a deliciously hearty meal – that good kind of tired set in.

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This marks the end of the season, but the start of new one…..and us four will be spending some time in the next couple of days deciding on our goals for the year, those things we hope will come true for us, and together, which of those dreams are going to be in the making for 2015!!

We will be sure to share with all of you….stay tuned….we have some plans brewing!

Happy New Year to all! Love us four. xxxx

Talking about THAT child….

I just read an article called “Dear Parent: About THAT kid…”

Being the mom of two boys who often makes mistakes but who always want (and need) to be loved despite them….this article a friend posted on Facebook really resonated with me.

It is hard some days to watch my boys being judged for a seemingly bizarre reaction to a situation, when I know their secrets and so it all makes perfect sense to me….on other days it’s difficult to bite my tongue after receiving a judgmental glare from a parent who feels I just must not be doing my job properly…

_DSC7357Some days I wish I could announce to everyone how absolutely incredible my boys are and that they just have so much hurt and loss to deal with, and want to shout out that they have no idea just how far my boys have come….

Today I want to scream out that the same little boy who swore at a teacher, cried about his mistake when he was safely at home, that when she grabbed him to keep him safe he thought she might be trying to hurt him….Today I want to scream out that the same boy who annoyed everyone with his attention seeking antics has an insatiable need for approval and that he just has no idea how amazing he is because he still blames his own flaws for the mistakes others have made in his life.

Maybe you will read this article and see a bit of your child in THAT too…or maybe get a better understanding of mine.

Click here to view the article “Dear Parent: About THAT kid…

 

 

 

 

 

The HPV Vaccine and Cervical Cancer: Which is the Bigger Risk?

hpv vaccine, cervical cancer, risksDo you have a daughter? A niece? A sister? Well then I think you should be concerned about the HPV vaccine and I urge you to become informed. Even if you support other routine vaccinations, this is one that you should consider carefully.

 

The HPV (Human Papillomavirus) virus is sexually transmitted and can cause cervical cancer. In response to this medical issue, the HPV vaccine was created and is typically administered in schools to young girls in grade seven or eight, and can be given to girls as young as nine years old. It is encouraged by the government through its very approval. In fact, in the United States, the vaccine was deemed mandatory by the government, until massive concerns about the vaccination successfully overruled that legislation in some states.

The idea of the HPV vaccine (Gardasil and Cerevix) is to target young girls before they become sexually active, to safeguard them from developing cervical cancer. And if you read the the pamphlets given out for parents, this seems to make perfect sense. Especially when the pamphlets don’t start by outlining the risks or other factors involved in the decision to vaccinate your daughter, but instead outline the vaccination schedule on the assumption that you will support the vaccine through their clever school-based program. To really ensure your support they let you know that you “have the power now to protect your daughter from this harmful disease”.

 

Well I agree with one thing, and that is that you have the power to protect your daughter: by rejecting this harmful vaccine and then educating yourself and your daughter about far better methods of protection.

 

The HPV Vaccine and Cervical Cancer: The Power to Protect Your Daughter

 

Here is what those pamphlets should also be telling you:

 

1.  The HPV vaccine was approved after 33,000 people participated in clinical trials. Longitudinal studies (studies in which data is collected over time, documenting evidence over the long-term) were never completed. Again for emphasis, this vaccine was released to the public and subsidized by the government before any longitudinal studies were completed. In fact, long-term data is being collected currently, from your daughters, who are essentially participants in the experiment. The experiment, as I have labelled it, is now in its eighth year. Which is pretty short-term in the life of a vaccination study.

 

2. Reports put out by the vaccine producers claim that no significant safety concerns have been raised. So I have to ask, what is their definition of “significant”? Here is what I found (click underlined links to read articles throughout this post):  Some girls do report the expected effects such as tenderness, swelling, and fever. However, “thousands of women have also reported more worrisome issues, including crippling fatigue, paralysis, blindness, or autoimmune complications, and some have even died, according to CDC and FDA data.” I would say risk of paralysis, chronic conditions, and death are pretty significant risks!

Why does the FDA not report these very significant safety concerns if they have collected this data themselves? Vaccine developer and MD, Diane M. Harper, sheds some light on the issue. “It’s critical to note that more than 70 healthy young girls have died from a neurological reaction that occurred soon after getting Gardasil,’ says Harper. (The FDA is not required to act in response to any side effect that occurs in fewer than one in 10,000 people.)” Well it seems to me that considering death as insignificant to justify the benefits of this vaccine, is similar to labelling deaths as “collateral damage” to justify war.

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3. In order to develop real urgency around the HPV and cervical cancer concern, often large numbers are reported for shock value. In this case, about 1750 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in Canada, and about 470,000 world wide. This is certainly an issue deserving of our attention. However, let’s look at the real numbers from a data-driven perspective: how many of those women die from cervical cancer? What the research shows is that of the 1750 women in Canada who are diagnosed early through regular paps, the great, great majority survive treatment, and quite gracefully at that! In fact, over 90%! So when you make a decision on what you think is the greater risk, getting the vaccine versus not getting the vaccine, remember to consider the real numbers and that BOTH have reported death as a possibility.

 

4. You must also realize that it is important to ask, of those women who did die, how many died of the strains the vaccine targets, because the vaccine only targets, admittedly, 70% of the strains that cause cervical cancer. In other words, how many of them would not have even been protected had they got the vaccine (and put themselves at risk of a “significant” vaccine side effect)?

 

5. Take that a step even further. How many of those deadly cases could have been prevented if proper routes of prevention were taken? We don’t really know the answer to this, because this is not documented, but what we do know is that cervical cancer is very detectable and highly treatable with early detection. “According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer that’s caught early is about 92 percent; and when precancerous lesions are removed, a complete cure becomes a sure thing.”

In order to analyze the numbers appropriately, instead of just reacting to high numbers thrown at us by the producers of this vaccine, we should demand to know how many of these females had regular paps, which is significantly known to reduce diagnosis. Also, were they educated and guided in regards to protecting themselves when sexually active? Ask yourself about your own family, YOUR children, and consider what their actual risk may be if you guide them through first, other means of protection from HPV, and in the case of getting HPV (since condoms and sex education don’t always work), regular paps and monitoring to detect PRE-cancerous cells? What, truly, is the bigger risk and why aren’t we being given the real data to assist us in this decision?

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6. There are a great number physician’s themselves who also disagree with the administration of this vaccine and choose not to recommend it to patients or allow their own daughters to get it. In this article, entitled: Another Doctor Testifies ‘HPV Vaccine Does Not Protect Against Cancer,’ “Leading OBGYN Dr. Uzi Beller stated that if the “HPV vaccine…were proven to prevent cervical cancer, that would be something else. But it hasn’t. The US Food and Drug Administration checks for safety of the vaccine, but not for efficacy. There is no evidence that the vaccine protects against cervical cancer, only [that it] counters the virus itself. No decrease in invasive cervical cancer… in the vaccinated population has been documented so far.(emphasis added)”  “Even one of the top scientists that helped create Gardasil came forward to admit that the incidents of cervical cancer in the U.S. are already very low and, because the majority of HPV cases resolve themselves within one (70%) or two (90%) years’ time, the vaccine really will not have an effect on the cervical cancer rates either way.”

 

7. And I must make the point that the HPV vaccine is the most expensive vaccine in history, and costs close to $400 to administer one three-dose schedule! This means that if four million girls are vaccinated a year in Canada and the United States, the creators of the vaccine bring in at least $1.6 BILLION dollars each year! Merck, the company that produces Gardasil, participated in extensive lobbying of the government to get their vaccine approved. And I find it very, very suspicious that a vaccine with no long-term studies attached to it, no real proof yet in regards to how it will affect cervical cancer rates (as the young girls who received it first have yet to all grow up), and data that includes death and paralysis as potential side effects was deemed mandatory for females in the United States public school system, and is highly encouraged in Canada. Merck did a great job of securing heavy profits using splendid commercials, government support, and school-based programs to sell their product.

 The HPV Vaccine and Its Risks: A Video

I urge you to watch the video below, even if you have time to review nothing else on this topic. Parents, who were never informed, and either consented for their daughter to receive this vaccination, or were forced to vaccinate their daughter, have united together to help ensure that other parents and daughters can protect themselves from this harmful, high-risk vaccination. Take note that since the release of this video, the evidence against this vaccine only continues to mount.

 

Question life, because that is always your perogative.

Comment below to help bring attention and accountability to the vaccine producer Merck.

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For the Love of a Child: An Adoption Story

This story is incredibly beautiful, a story of love and devotion that I can never forget, and that I have not been able to get off my mind since I watched it……grab a cozy spot with someone you love, and a box of tissues – you will need it!

Share your own stories and reactions in the comments below!

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3 Climates, 1 Weekend: Sailing Simcoe

The winds, as predicted, were strong and gusty, and had the cold chill of October despite being mid-August.  The days ahead were meant to be equally fall-like, with rain, low temperatures, and cold nights. But with the rapid dwindling away of summer weekends, coupled with the kids’ disappointment at the possibility of yet another weather-dependent summer trip being cancelled…..we decided to make the trip across Lake Simcoe by sail anyway.  Besides, the wind was coming from the right direction – a north westerly.

We had already forgotten that only an hour earlier we had been arguing about whose load to carry on board was the heaviest, or that we all blamed someone other than ourselves for the temporary misplacement of the dock keys, or the sense of urgency with which we crossed the final chores off the checklist: fishing bait in cooler, wined stored safely, water tank filled, toilet emptied, and all safety gear made accessible.  We had already forgotten that we had been a sweaty, irritated mess of a family, as the waves and the water quickly transformed us into a zen-like peace, where we moved at one with the wind.

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Our Sailboat – Mast Confusion – on Lake Simcoe

Krazy Kid, who had never been seasick before in all his three summers as a miniature sailor, played games with the clouds to keep his eyes on the horizon, and his nausea at bay.  Roo played solo in the cabin, unaffected by the constant roll of the boat caused by four foot broadside waves, determined to finish his chapter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, before bugging someone to join him in a game of Crazy Eight Countdown.

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Sailing

 

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Bassam’s strength was well needed for pulling the ropes, as the wind, now at twenty knots, was shifty and the sails needed constant adjustments.  And I kept my eye on our destination ahead, not yet even in view across the vastness of a lake with no end.  The tiller revealed the force of our lake, and with its constant movement and fierce resistance, it appeared to be announcing its command of our journey.  And all the while, the wind never bowing down, as if to prove its equality in ruling our way, its presence is made known by its constant rush through the sails.  Its brush against our skin, after hours on the water, began to feel like an affectionate rub from an old, wise friend.

 

We passed by Johnson’s Beach, then Big Bay Point, then Hawkestone, and Carthew Bay along our way, but not without pointing out the obvious and taking a peak of these familiar places through the lens of our binoculars. Eventually, the shoreline on the other side of the lake showed itself, and the tower marking our destination came in and out of view as the bow of the boat bobbed up and down.  Our surrender to the powers that have carried us across our lake have made the five hour journey pass quickly.

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A part in the clouds and a window in time makes for two eager little boys who whip off their shirts, happy for the sudden sunshine and their arrival at Lagoon City beach.  The sand is still cool, but the shallow beach allows them the freedom to escape the shoreline for what feels like miles away, uninhibited by swim ropes or lifeguards, just two boys who think they are fish and are living in the moment.

 

Lagoon City beach is always the warmest on the lake, but the cold winter left the lake frozen too long and the cool summer has failed to warm it up.  It wasn’t this that invited their departure from the beach though, but the dark clouds rolling quickly in and the promise given by the distant rumbling of a storm sure to come.

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Lagoon city

Lagoon cityWe spent two nights in Lagoon City, and all the hours of daylight that fit in between.  When the weather settled to a drizzle the boys cast their rods, and when we ran out of worms we found shelter in our 23 foot Sonic, or alternately, the Lakeview Restaurant, right next to where we were tied up – a place to put our feet on steady ground or get a little bit of space from one another’s energy.

 

Restaurants are typically to be avoided on sailing adventures  – as we strive to keep close to nature and spend hours swimming in the very waters on which we travelled – but this time the Lakeview became part of our limited world and a spot we ran to while jumping between puddles in already soaked shoes, looking forward to a warm tea and a welcoming smile.  There, with the comforting smell of peppermint tea, and the friendly conversation with our server, we began to appreciate that the poor weather had successfully slowed us all down.   Between deals for card tournaments, we found ourselves immersed in the lazy lagoon scene just outside the rain-soaked windows….mesmerized by the continuous, light tap-tap of drops running down to gather in the sills and the seldom passing by of other boats that also decided to test the waters.

 

And eventually, after a brief inspection of the drenched cockpit and the waterlogged on board barbecue, we lengthened our Lakeview stay and ordered dinner, a bottle of wine, and indulged in one too many turtle cheesecakes.  The food was good – but even better was the feeling of being invited for dinner at a neighbour’s comfortable home, of sharing cheerful conversation and connection with all those whirling around us, and the relaxation in knowing we only had to carry our full stomachs to our gently rocking bed a few steps away.

The weekend was one of those where one hour runs into the other, and one day into the next, and so it happened that we were sailing the distance back to where we came from.  Today it was an eight hour journey across the lake and down the bay.  We found ourselves at one time flopping and floating and sunny and windless (seizing the moment, we jumped off the boat into the chilly water and dared one another to do the same) and at another time in the strongest of winds, heeling so much that our sails were in the water (and letting out exhilarated hoots and hollers for the speeds we were reaching).

DCIM100GOPROAs we rounded the last bend and arrived back, slowly maneuvering through the marina to settle our Sonic back in its space, we knew this was a trip without a climax, and that our laundry bag was so much heavier going off board than when it came on board – not just being weighed down by wet bathing suits and evidence of incredible wet sailing, but also by memories of rain and dark clouds, and the irony of being forced to be idle in our ever moving tent on the water.

 

We roll into the dock, and in that very moment we spot, first by our ears and then with our eyes, a Bowrider leaping the length of the bay, and we smile at one another – knowing that a weekend journey for us would only take that noisy boat about 40 minutes.   I had thought all this time we had been somewhere else, and had been focused on the making the best of a wet weekend, on exploring old territory in a new way, and in the last hours, on my eagerness to reach home.  But now, as I stared towards the distance from which we came, and watched that motorboat quickly shrink from my vision as it sped away, I realized….despite our hours on the water we had never actually left home….It was in this moment that I experienced the peak in our trip, the break in our wave…Lake Simcoe was our backyard playground, the giver of adventures, the tester of our strengths, the enforcer of the rules of unwinding, the trickster in creating illusions with the passage of distance and time, and the wise teacher of the all the gifts right here at home.

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