Monday, 31 August 2015

Preparing for the move - part 3

Tuesday - 23 days before the move
I spray-painted the drawer-pulls. I'm satisfied with the results. Boy am I glad I didn't throw them out expecting to easily replace them! It ended up costing me $12.40 instead of possibly $100 or more for 18 new drawer pulls.

I also went clothes shopping with my daughter. Some of it was for my minimalist wardrobe. Some of it was for my daughter's back to school clothes. 

Thursday - 21 days before the move 
I called to have my internet service moved. I tried to set that up before, but apparently a few days more than a month before a move is too soon. I really didn't like my customer service experience when I called today. The representative kept trying to upsell me, somewhat argued with my assessment of our internet usage, and was not very professional in the way she addressed me. So since I was considering changing providers anyway, that was the extra push I needed to switch over. Hopefully, the new service provider will be better.

So far, the customer service experience when I ordered with the new provider was most excellent and professional. I think if they wouldn't have been, I would've considered forgoing having internet at home altogether. Oh, but the thought of no home internet is somewhat alluring... We are just a 5-minute walk from a café that has free Wi-Fi... But to my daughter's delight, we'll have home internet... for now.

Friday - 20 days before the move
My mom and I spent the day in various stores pricing items for our respective new homes. Neither of us bought anything. We just wanted to see what's out there and take our time to contemplate our choices. No impulse purchases for us.

In the evening, I was feeling a little restless. I needed to get out. So I took my daughter and my mom to see the Northern Lights show on Parliament Hill. It's a really nice show! We parked at the condo and walked over. It gave us a feel for what it will be like to live downtown. My daughter's very excited about it. On the walk over to Parliament Hill, I ran into friends sitting out on a patio at a pub on my new street.

Saturday - 19 days before the move
I worked on the basement. I'm almost done. There are a few little things here and there to take care of. Boxes of items to donate. Many empty bins and baskets that I have no use for anymore. I could almost open up my own container store!

The basement items I decided to bring with us to the new place are:
  1. The tools and a few painting supplies
  2. A couple pairs of ice skates
  3. A portfolio containing my old artwork from when I was a teen (I'll probably get rid of it soon)
  4. My two mid-century dressers
  5. Two boxes of framed pictures and a couple of ukuleles (I'll sort through it once we're in the new place)
  6. A bin with two bike helmets and a life-jacket for kayaking
  7. A bag with a mattress cover and a few pillows (I haven't quite decided on my living room colours yet. Once I've figured it out, if I'm not using the pillows, they're gone!)
  8. Audio equipment (I will probably get rid of these also soon)
  9. Board games
  10. An antique Singer sewing machine
  11. A box of winter boots
Sunday - 18 days before the move 
I dropped off the basement items I wanted to donate. I then packed up my records, the items in the dining room cabinet, and my office stuff. I cleaned out the laundry room and got rid of a few random things.

Reflections
I'm having mixed feelings. Going through everything and packing stuff up for the move is causing me a little stress. I realize that I still have things to work through. Why am I keeping what I'm keeping even though I know that I won't use some (possibly many) of these items? I'm starting to reconsider some of my decisions. However, I also realize as I'm looking at it all that I really made significant progress. I really do have SO much less than what I did when I moved into this townhouse back in August 2013.

Perhaps I'll do what the Minimalists did. One of the Minimalists guys packed up all of his belongings (even though he wasn't moving) and then only unpacked what he needed over a few weeks. Three weeks later, he got rid of what was still left in the boxes. I have to pack up anyway because of the move. So I might just skip the unpacking everything at once part. I would most likely give myself more than 3 weeks though. Oh man! Imagine what little I'd be left with. It's kind of exciting to think about!


Photos taken during the Northern Lights show on Parliament Hill


Friday, 28 August 2015

Another spontaneous summer

"Get dressed, I'm coming to pick you up!" It was late. I was already in bed, texting with Dr. T and telling him how lovely it would be to go stargazing. It was a nice warm night. So he made it happen. My first instinct was to tell him no. That it was too late. That I had to go to work the next day. That we could go another time. Instead, I went with it.

I really enjoy spending time with people like Dr. T. People that just make things happen. People that get me out of my way. I've been working on becoming one of these people. And why not, right?

I was trying to figure out what's taken me so long to take action because, you know, I'm always trying to analyse things. But the thing is, it doesn't really matter why. What matters is that I'm making changes now because I want to make changes. Of course I wish I could've been like this all along, but there's nothing I can do to change the past. I can do something about the present though, so that my future past will be more interesting.

The less things I have in the way (stuff, inhibitions, expectations, false sense of responsibility to others), the more I find myself wanting to get out there and make things happen for myself. It doesn't always come easy. I get these ideas and almost immediately feel like maybe I shouldn't. Like it's too late. Or I've never done it before. Or people like me don't do things like that. Or whatever other reason. But then I think of people like my first spontaneous summer guy, like Dr. T, and other such spontaneous people I've had the pleasure of meeting and ask myself, why not? I usually can't come up with a really good answer as to why not except maybe the discomfort of feeling a little anxious about the unknown. However, as I've mentioned, most times things are not as intimidating as I expect. 

So here's to another spontaneous summer! No! Here's to creating a more spontaneous life!!

Photo taken before heading out for a boat ride with Dr. T on a very hot Wednesday evening in the same week as the stargazing evening. This boat ride was planned, and it was also a lovely time.


Monday, 24 August 2015

Preparing for the move - part 2

Sunday - 47 days before the move
I fixed one of my mid-century modern dressers giving it new life. I'm looking forward to using it in my new bedroom!

Monday - 46 days before the move
I fixed the second mid-century modern dresser. It took much longer to bring this one back to life. But now it's done and it looks great!

Wednesday - 44 days before the move
I went through my tools and hardware and got rid of many things. I'm left with a toolbox with room for more tools and a medium size storage bin for the items that don't fit in the toolbox.

Sunday - 40 days before the move
I washed the drawers for the two dressers I fixed last Sunday and Monday, and let them dry out in the sun in an attempt to rid the wood of a musty smell. I used Murphy's Oil Soap and the sun. I think it worked!

Saturday - 33 days before the move
I cleaned out the front entrance closet. I found shoes I completely forgot I owned, and I like them!

Saturday - 26 days before the move
I tried to find new pulls for the drawers of my mid-century furniture. Unfortunately, I ruined the old pulls by letting them soak in cleaner for too long. I haven't found any that would fit yet. Apparently, the standard sizes don't fit on older furniture.

Sunday - 25 days before the move
I visited with the condo landlord to give him my paint colour choices. The place is definitely not as nice looking as my current home, but I can probably make it look nice.

I think I may have come up with a less expensive and much easier solution to my drawer-pulls situation! I'll just try spray-painting them. They're discoloured because of their years and me leaving them soaking in cleaner for too long. But I have all 18 pulls for the 3 pieces of furniture. None are broken. They're just ugly now. So hopefully the spray-paint will resolve that.

I have to admit that it's a bit of a challenge not to get into the mindless consumerism trap with the move. I get excited about a new place and want to decorate it with new stuff. I really like home-decorating. However, I don't want to buy a bunch of things that I'll regret later. So I'm talking myself down from purchasing things. Do I really want this lamp? This rug? This coffee table? This chair? This table? If I get them, will I want to  pay to have them moved in the future? If not, will I want to go through the trouble of getting rid of them? Will they add value to my life? So far, I've bought a sofa-bed and a pair of blue curtains for the living room that I fell in love with as soon as I saw them.

As I've mentioned, I sold and got rid of many of our furnishings. I plan on repurposing some of my current furniture. For example, since I'll be using the mid-century modern dressers in my new bedroom, the dressers that I'm using at the moment will serve as a sort of TV console in the new place. I like that the drawers will nicely hide the remaining DVDs and video games. And since I bought a sofa-bed for the new living-room, storing the linens in the drawers will be practical.

There are some pieces of furniture I currently own and love, but I'm not sure I'll be able to use them in the new place. So I can either get rid of them now, or pay to have them moved and figure out later if I'll be using them, and how.

When all is said and done, I want to make sure that I use or love everything I own. I don't want to go back to having more than what I can use or anything I don't really enjoy. I think I may end up with some pieces of furniture that will be used only as decoration, like the mid-century tall-boy cabinet. I don't think I'll have anything to put in it, but I don't want to break up the set. I think it's beautiful. So I'll keep it, for now. See... It's a struggle for me too at times!

Friday, 21 August 2015

In the pursuit of a minimalist wardrobe

Once upon a time, when I was a young teenager, I had a music teacher who boasted about not wearing the same outfit twice in one year. Wow! That's so cool! She must have a lot of clothes, a big closet and a lot of money! I thought at that young age.

The seed was planted to someday get to a point where I could also (almost) be able to say the same. However, even then, 365 outfits seemed excessive... The fact that I pretty much struggled with my weight all my life somewhat saved me from owning that much clothes. The selection just wasn't there. Especially in the 80s and early 90s. You had to be very creative and have great clothes hunting skills to dress somewhat age-appropriate as an overweight teen back then. Things are a little easier now. But that's a whole other essay...

When you start researching minimalism online, you inevitably come across the subject of the capsule wardrobe. According to Wikipedia:
The term "capsule wardrobe" was coined by Susie Faux, owner of the West End boutique "Wardrobe", in the 1970s to refer to a collection of essential items of clothing that would not go out of fashion, and therefore could be worn for multiple seasons. The aim was to update this collection with seasonal pieces to provide something to wear for any occasion without buying many new items of clothing. Typically, Faux suggests that a woman's capsule wardrobe contain at least 2 pairs of trousers, a dress or a skirt, a jacket, a coat, a knit, two pairs of shoes and two bags".
The fascination with having a capsule wardrobe kind of started with recurring discussions I've had with my awesome friend Christy who started applying a day-of-the-week-outfit routine. Monday has an outfit. Tuesday has an outfit. Wednesday, Thursday, ... You get the picture. She started doing this years ago. A trend setter that Christy! ;)

I had tried this for a while and it was going very well. But unfortunately, I didn't keep it up... I can't really say why. Maybe it's because I didn't love the clothes that were part of the lineup... But the desire to get back to it has been growing.

If you look up this subject online, you'll find many many versions and ideas. I've read and been fascinated by stories like these ones about this woman and this man who wore one outfit for one year. I found Project 333, where you only have 33 items of clothing (including accessories, shoes and outerwear) for 3 months.

I also like the idea of the "Six Items Challenge" from Labour Behind the Label, where you select six items of clothing from your wardrobe and pledge to wear only these every day for six weeks (or any timescale you choose). This challenge is for charity. From their website:
Fast Fashion is the drive to increase profits and get products into our high street shops faster and faster, to satisfy an insatiable desire for new trends; the drive to sell more, consume more, make more, waste more. This, however, has disastrous consequences for the people who make our clothes.
The Six Items Challenge is designed to challenge our increasing reliance on fast fashion and raise vital funds which will enable Labour Behind the Label to keep fighting for the justice that garment workers deserve. 
With the move, and now that I consider myself a minimalist, I want to get this part figured out also. I miss that feeling of simplicity when I didn't question what to wear in the morning. I just grabbed what I was supposed to wear. The bonus: consuming less makes a difference in society and with our environment.

I've already made a huge dent in the clothing I own when I applied the KonMari method. But there's room for improvement. I don't know if I'll go as extreme as the one-outfit-for-a-year people. And it's not because I care what people would think about me wearing the same thing every day. I don't think people would really notice all that much or even care. It's just that I like wearing different types of clothes depending on the weather (because I live in Canada and our weather varies greatly in one year... sometimes even in one day...) and depending on my mood. But really, there are only a handful of clothes I own that I really enjoy wearing.

I think that maybe the capsule wardrobe might lead to excess since you can add pieces according to the season. I might come up with my own version, mixing ideas from these different inspirational sources.
 
I've mentioned that I want to make an inventory of all that I own. So, I'll be posting the results of this first real go at getting my minimalist wardrobe set up. I'm not sure if I'll get it done before or after the move, but it will definitely be figured out before the end of the year. I'm thinking that it will be sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, if you have a minimalist wardrobe, please inspire me and share! You can either post in the comments here, or you could send me a private message. And if it's by private message, let me know if you'd agree to me sharing your wardrobe with everyone on this little corner of the blogosphere so that you can inspire others as well.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Saturday morning at the café

On Saturday (and Sunday) morning, I went to a local café to use their free Wi-Fi. We got near to the end of our internet service allowance at home, so to make sure we didn’t go over (because there’s no way I’m paying for extra usage) I unplugged my modem. But I still needed the internet to get stuff done, like this blog post. So out to the café I went!

Remember when I talked about possibly making a freelance translation business deal? Well it went through! I’ll be collaborating with a professional writer by providing freelance translation services to his clients. He asked me to prepare a few words to post on his website to introduce myself and he asked me to prepare a translation sample to also post on the website. So I needed the internet for this as well.

I actually enjoyed working in the café. I got there very early. There were only two other people there when I arrived. I was working away when a large group of women ended up sitting right beside me. It seemed to be a sort of social business meeting. I was afraid they’d distract me because they were actually speaking somewhat loudly. But I was able to tune them out and concentrate on my work.

I had been considering buying a new laptop to use when writing away from home. I thought that my current laptop would have been inconveniently big for such a purpose. I’m glad I didn’t buy a new one. My current one worked just fine. I guess the lesson for me here is to actually test out my theories, if possible, before making a decision. Buying a new laptop would have been an unnecessary expense.

From time to time, I take a step back and look at my life as if from the outside. When I’ve done that lately, I’ve been enthralled with everything that’s been happening this year. And the year’s not even over yet! I’m taking chances and going for things I've never gone for before.

Even though I do feel some anxiety about trying new things, I’m doing it anyway and finding that the anxiety seems to be a lie I’ve been telling myself. These things haven’t been as scary as I expected them to be. Some things I had built up so much in my mind, but they turned out to be disappointingly ordinary when I finally experienced them, such as crossing the border. In all fairness, I didn’t pick the most exciting border to cross or the most exciting first trip. But I think that the fact that it was so ordinary is actually a very good thing. Now I’m willing to take another trip to a more exotic destination… like New York, New York, maybe? ;)

Life becomes way more interesting when you seek it out. And the thing is, you really don’t even have to go too far. The things that I’m most excited about actually sort of came to me. I just needed to say yes and go for it. For the freelance translation – all I did was read an email I received about a writing business from a member of a business Meet Up group. I dared to email the sender offering my services as a freelance translator, and he went for it. The downtown condo – all I did was message the man from whom I rent a parking spot near my work to ask why the payment hadn’t gone through yet and he asked if I knew of anyone interested in renting the 2-bedroom condo in the same building, so I went for it.

I feel that with pursuing minimalism and letting go of the things, the past and of my expectations for the future, I’ve opened myself up to new possibilities. Maybe I could have opened myself up to these things without minimalism, but I feel that minimalism definitely contributed to making things happen much sooner. Why? Maybe because I don’t feel as tied down by things. Maybe because I feel calmer. Maybe because I feel less overwhelmed about maintaining so much stuff. One thing I know for sure, I’m enjoying my new attitude and it’s leading to a more interesting life!


Friday, 14 August 2015

Exploration walk

During our lunch break yesterday, my awesome friend Christy and I decided to go for a walk. We had been talking about taking better care of our health. So we decided to start walking. Since I’ll be moving in the next few weeks, we decided to walk with a purpose of exploring my new neighbourhood.  

It turns out that I’ll be a nice little walk away from Ottawa’s Chinatown. That’s excellent! My daughter’s interested in Asian culture. And on Somerset Street, I saw a few little cafés, restaurants and shops we’re sure to enjoy discovering. One of the cafés was announcing some sort of comic book group where people get together for discussions and to draw. I think she’ll be interested in checking that out. She’s a pretty good artist and has real talent for manga drawings.

I must say, I’m quite excited about my upcoming move. It feels like it can’t happen soon enough! The commute to and from work has been almost unbearable lately. I know it feels that way because it’s almost over. I’m the kind of person that when I want something, I want it yesterday. I get very excited about new ideas and new plans! Although I’m very eager, I know that having to wait for certain things can help in its appreciation.

As we were walking along, I mentioned to Christy that I’m a little upset that I didn’t figure out before that I’ll probably feel more at home in the city than I’ve ever felt in the suburbs. She said that I may not have appreciated the experience as much if I’d done it before, and that all things come in due time. She’s a wise one that Christy! ;)

Even though I do realize this, I still wish I’d figured it out before. But, I can’t change the past (obviously). I can only enjoy the present and maybe dream a little about the future. And boy oh boy do I have dreams for the future! Small simple dreams though. For instance, I think we should pace ourselves and try a new café or restaurant no more than once a week. Otherwise, it might end up being an expensive and unhealthy lifestyle.

I also have plans for my Instagram account. I have a feeling that I will be filling it up with many new photos of my neighbourhood explorations. Just today, I saw things I wanted to photograph, but I didn’t. I want to do it intentionally instead. I want to go out with the specific purpose of capturing the scenery.

At the beginning of the week, I was feeling a little unsure (already) about my writing. I’ve been reading a book of writing advice by John Scalzi called You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Bring Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop. He’s quite funny! In it, he says it took him about 4 years of writing his blog before he got to a couple thousand views a day. I felt a little overwhelmed about this at first. I couldn’t imagine having 4 years or more of things to write about. Can I really sustain writing so much for so long? Do I have what it takes to be a writer? ...

Of course I realized that I don’t have to come up with 4 years’ worth of writing material now. Life will hand that to me in due time. When you’re living life, you’re constantly inspired. And as my awesome friend Christy said, if I’m starting to struggle to find things to write about, it probably means I have to up the ante in my life experiences.

Being overwhelmed and seeing the task as an all at once type of thing (like 4 years of writing as a complete package instead of essay by essay) is another tendency of mine which I’m sure is related to my wanting it yesterday personality. (How do you eat a whole elephant? One bite at a time, right?…)
 
So, after talking with Christy and going for the exploration walk yesterday, I must say that I feel much calmer about it all and very inspired! Stay tuned for more!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Letting go of some responsibility

At a very young age, I felt a big burden of responsibility. Our family had suffered a few different traumatic events by the time I was 8 years old. Events that changed us forever. I won’t get into them here. However, I can say that from that point on, I’ve always felt like it was my responsibility to make sure everyone was happy and safe. 

As a child, my nights were plagued with nightmares. In these nightmares, I saw my sister (two years my junior) suffer terrible horrific things - monster-attacks, killer-attacks, dinosaur-attacks, etc… And there was nothing I could do about it. I’d wake up in a panic in the middle of the night and go check up on her to make sure she was safe. I’d climb into bed with her so that I could protect her. My parents would wake in the morning to find us sleeping in the same bed. They’d try to get me to stay in my own bed. I had stopped, I'm sure, a while before we became teenagers. The nightmares concerning my sister, even though they were less frequent, only stopped completely when she became a mother.

As a teenager, I expected that as an adult I’d be the one who'd have to be financially responsible for my whole family. I thought I’d have to come up with a way to earn enough money to provide for all of them when they wouldn’t be able to work anymore. No one asked me to. I just felt like it was my responsibility. And I want to make it clear that I’ve never had to provide for any of them (except for my daughter of course).

So when my father passed away on October 11, 2014, it wasn’t even a question for me to ask my mother to move in. I thought that if she lived with us, it would make her feel safer and lessen her grief.

Having my mom live with us has been difficult for all of us for many reasons. Through these difficulties, I've finally accepted the fact that I actually am NOT responsible for my family’s safety and happiness. This has been one of the biggest life lessons for me so far. 

I couldn’t save my dad from COPD. His life decisions, I’m sure, are partly responsible for his disease (or at least made it worse). I can’t save my mother from her grief. She has to process it herself in her own time. I can’t make my daughter and mother get along. They have their own personalities and ideas. Sometimes, they just won’t see eye to eye. And many other things I'm not responsible for...

It's difficult to watch on as someone I care about is making a bad decision (or at least what I believe is a bad decision). Although I can accompany any of my family members on their journey, their journey is their own. I can listen. I can make suggestions. But the decisions are ultimately their own.

That’s also true when it comes to my daughter. Even though I’m responsible to raise her and teach her that her decisions have consequences – good and bad – her journey is still her own. This is a difficult balance to achieve. I want to protect her from all of the evils, but I know that if I don’t let her experience the bad consequences (within reason and with supervision) she’ll have a much more difficult time of it as an adult.

I’ve also realized that if I want to be there for them for moral support (or otherwise), I have to make sure that I’m safe and healthy. That has meant learning to say no. That’s been difficult for me. I’m still working on it. But there have been times when I said no to helping someone, or driving someone somewhere, or doing something for someone, even no to listening to someone. I needed to rest. I needed to process my own emotions. I needed to recuperate. I felt guilty at first, but I knew I had to.

I believe that every life experience can help us grow and learn if we let it. And I think that’s especially true for the harder life experiences. They can either break us, or make us stronger, wiser, softer, better.

Friday, 7 August 2015

My minimalist toolbox

When I was going through my things in the basement to prepare for my upcoming move, I realized that I had a lot of tools and hardware. When I owned my own home, it was comforting to have these things because I was potentially ready to fix anything that could break down in the house.

When I moved to the rental townhouse in Orleans, Ontario, in 2013, I didn’t question bringing over any of these things. Even though if anything was to go wrong with the townhouse I’d have to let my landlord know and he’d be responsible for fixing it. Also, minimalism wasn’t really a concept for me yet.
 
For me, this was probably the ultimate "just-in-case" category. Let's face it, things don't break down that often. And I'm handy, but I'm not always building or fixing things. I probably could've borrowed whatever I've ever needed to use from my family or friends. But I like being independent, and I kind of like tools and hardware. Maybe it's the possibility of it all...
 
Anyway, now that I’m moving into a downtown condo rental, there’s even less need for me to have all of these things. I applied the KonMari method and instead of deciding what to get rid of, I sprawled out all of my tools and hardware on a table and a few things underneath and picked what I wanted to bring with me.
 
Here’s what I started out with:



Maybe it doesn't seem like much to some people (the photo doesn't really do it justice), but it felt like quite a lot to me.
 
I recently read a post from Joel Zaslofsky's website where he talks about how he has everything in his life on spreadsheets. I've also read other minimalism blogs where people talk about making an inventory of what they own. Writing everything down can be quite the eye-opener. So I decided I wanted to do it and started off with my tools. Here’s what I ended up with:

  1. Measuring tape
  2. Flathead screwdriver
  3. Phillips screwdriver
  4. Phillips screwdriver
  5. Small double tip screwdriver
  6. Stud finder
  7. Padlock
  8. Square head screwdriver small
  9. 5-piece combination wrench set
  10. Hex key set – SAE
  11. Hex key set – metric
  12. X-Acto knife
  13. 4-piece plier set
  14. Teflon tape
  15. Electrical tape
  16. Metal spatula
  17. Carpenter glue
  18. Multi-tip screwdriver
  19. Drill bits
  20. Screw head set for the drill
  21. Detail sander
  22. Hammer
  23. Rubber mallet
  24. Furniture stripper
  25. Rubber gloves
  26. Sending paper
  27. Drill set
  28. Paintbrush - small
  29. Paintbrush - medium
  30. Paintbrush - large
  31. 4-inch roller
  32. WD-40
  33. Level
  34. Tape gun
  35. Can of spray paint
  36. Plastic putty knife
  37. Foam brush
  38. Wood stain
  39. Plastic container for paint
  40. Disposable gloves
  41. Drop cloths
  42. Paint can opener
  43. Lighter fluid
 
These may not be the best things to have in a minimalist toolbox. And 43 items is not that many. But as I was looking at it all, I thought that I'll eventually pare things down more. The wood stain I'll be using before I move on a wall decoration that my daughter made in shop class. I'll probably also rid myself of the painting accessories once I'm done painting a few pieces of furniture. I don't expect that I'll be painting anything else for a long while.

Even though I have the interchangeable multi-tip screwdriver, I kept a few single screwdrivers - the ones I usually end up using the most. For example, this flathead screwdriver has paint on it because I've used it to open paint cans, and to bang the lid shut on paint cans.


It's been with me for years and I like it. It might be my favourite tool in the toolbox.

A while ago I also went through other things that could've qualified as hardware. I got rid of my extra A/V cables and accessories and some orphaned plugs and adaptors for electronics I didn't even own anymore. Now really, what was the point in keeping those?!

So what about you? Do you think maybe you're holding on to too many things in this category? If so, KonMari it!

Monday, 3 August 2015

I've officially become an international traveller

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I finally received our first passports ever.


Now what?...

I can't use the reason (excuse) that I don't own a passport for not travelling anymore. Now if I don't travel, the only possible reasons (excuses) are financial and fear. And I guess timing. But lets not come up with more reasons...

I've never left Canada before. Now that I could, it kind of freaked me out. Not a crazy freak out, just a little anxiety. Fear of the unknown. So baby steps...

I was discussing this with Dr. T, the fishies-rescuer, over drinks telling him that the shopping reason many Canadians use for a little road trip to the United-States doesn't appeal to me. Minimalism, you know... So he suggested that I "just go for ice cream in Ogdensburg!" I never even thought of that! Well maybe because I'm not a big ice cream fan, but I understood what he meant. I got excited at the possibility. I knew my daughter would be excited about it too. Even if it was just for ice cream.

So I was checking out Ogdensburg, New York, online. According to Google Maps, it's about an 1.5-hour drive from where I currently live. That seems feasible! I saw there was a local restaurant called the Dirty Gringo. I thought it was a fun name for a restaurant and it had good online reviews. So I decided that lunch at the Dirty Gringo was our reason and our destination for our first international trip. 

Friday, my awesome friend Christy escorted me to get some American money, because, you know, I needed a bodyguard and stuff. I was walking around with $100 of American money which cost me $131.93. The exchange rate is terrible at the moment! Good thing I wasn't planning on making many purchases.

So my daughter and I left around 10:30 for Ogdensburg on a beautiful Saturday morning excited and eager for our first road trip to the U.S.. I have a terrible sense of direction and I'm a little insecure about travelling to new places. However, I managed to get all the way to Ogdensburg without using my GPS. OK, it's not the most magnificent feat, it's pretty much the 416 to the end. But still, I did it.


We get to the border crossing. My daughter is anxiously giving me advice on how to interact with the officer. "Just say we're going for a visit." "Yes honey, I know what to do." Contrary to what I was told to expect (Sue ;) ), the customs officer was very friendly. I told him we were coming over for lunch, that it was our first trip out of Canada and that we got our first passports a few weeks ago. He told me I could have come over with just my driver's license and birth certificate. He gave me food recommendations for the Dirty Gringo and sent us off with a charming smile. "We got through!!" And off we drove all giggles and smiles.

I drove along just guessing where to go. "OK, maybe it's time to take out the GPS now." We get to a red light waiting to make a right turn not sure if we could make a right turn on a red light in New York. We pull into a Walmart parking lot - good ol' familiar Walmart. We set up the GPS for the Dirty Gringo and off we go.
 

We walk into this small town dingy sort of place. It feels like we're in a movie. Dirty windows. Bad lighting. We sit down at a table assessing our surroundings. A lady and a little girl were sitting at a table quietly eating. A family walked in after us. They went up to the counter to order their food. So I went up after them.

The woman behind the counter seemed a little impatient at my ignorance about the sauce options for the enchiladas I ordered. I was trying to be friendly asking about the options. I made my choice. Apparently it was the right one. She said it was her favourite and gave me a quick little smile that faded away almost instantly. I went up to the cash to pay. I told the cashier we were from Canada and it was our first time over here. She was much friendlier than the first woman. She smiled and welcomed me. I felt comfortable to ask her about the right turns on red lights.

After lunch, my daughter asked "Now what?" I wanted to visit the quaint little town. She wasn't interested. She wanted to find a particular American store that's not as common in our area. The GPS showed us that there was one in a mall in Watertown. About 1.5 hours away from Ogdensburg. "Can we go mom? Please? Please? Pleeeease?" Well, we're already in the States... What's another little step outside of my comfort zone... "YES!" she exclaimed.

I got her three shirts that she absolutely had to have. Teenagers! :)  In all fairness though, it wasn't an excessive purchase. The new school year is coming up and she could use new clothes.

In the mall, we stopped to check out the ridiculously cute puppies in the pet shop. A man that was in there with a little boy in a stroller remarked on the fact that we spoke French too. He was from Fort-Coulonge, Quebec. We had a quick exchange in French. After leaving, I felt a little disappointed in myself for not having more of a conversation with him. I admire people who can have conversations with strangers. It's something that I want to work on. I have a tendency of giving off a "don't bother me" type of attitude when I'm out and about. Maybe it's an old defence mechanism that I haven't been able to shake off yet. You know, the "don't talk to strangers" warning parents tell their children. I know I'll get there though, because I want to.

Crossing back over to Canada was way more intimidating. The customs officer asked more questions. I don't know if it's more common to be asked more questions when you're on your way back into your country than going into a country you're visiting. My daughter remarked that Canadian security seemed more serious than American security. I must admit that after that first and only experience, I'd have to agree with her. According to Dr. T, since no one messes with the American customs officers that makes them free to be friendlier. I suppose that makes sense.

So there you have it. I've officially become an international traveller. The trip was a little anticlimactic, but I'm glad we did it. Now I feel ready to tackle something a little bigger. I've also realized that I've become much calmer about stepping out of my comfort zone. I realize that I'm smart and capable enough to handle it. Not that anything major has happened, which probably adds to my confidence. What's next? I'm not sure. A Caribbean cruise or a European trip? We shall see...