Urbex: The Little Ghost Town of Insinger, Saskatchewan

I was driving to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (say that 10 times fast) to visit some friends. As I traveled down Highway 16, about 55 km on the other side of Yorkton (from Manitoba) when a domed roof of an old Ukrainian Orthodox church peek out on the right side just over the horizon. It was fairly noticeable because as I’ve come to see, the prairie landscape is pretty flat.

Being an urbexer and not having done as much as I would have liked of it, I decided to pull over quickly and explore. As I turned, the rest of the little town Insinger appeared.

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Insinger now has a population of just 20.  

This church is called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ghost, a fitting name for a now ghost town church.

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Surprisingly it’s not brick … it’s rectangles of asphalt shingles designed to look like brick.  

It’s not that old either, it was built in 1942 when Insigner was still a town.

Some of the square blue ceiling tiles have fallen, revealing squares of brown lathe behind them.

The robins egg ceiling dome is beautiful and the ceiling is covered in gold stars

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There were plenty of other abandoned buildings to explore in this town, but, because I had a destination to get to, I wasn’t able to explore the whole town, which I would have loved to.

I have plans to go back next month as I’m traveling through again to head out on a road trip to British Columbia.

20 Years Later. Where Were You on 9/11?

It is the JFK assassination of my generation.  It’s like asking where were you when Elvis died?  An event so big that it defines a generation.  So significant and relevant that no matter what else you may forget in your lifetime, this event is forever etched in your brain.

September 11, 2001 was the day that shook the world! I was 27 years old, when on that day 19 cowardly men armed with box cutters hijacked 4 fully fuelled passenger jets and attacked freedom.  By the end of that horrific day, nearly 3000 people were dead.

It was about 9:15 a.m. I had an interview with an employment agency for a job I was interested in, downtown, about 10 minutes from home. All neatly dressed, I slid into my Honda Accord ready to rock the interview and land the job.  I turned on the radio to find some pump my self up tunes, however, the radio wasn’t playing any music.  The broadcast on my local station appeared to be describing something that was too unbelievable to be true.  I wasn’t even sure that it wasn’t some sort of hoax because it seemed all too impossible … 

Being a documentary nerd, I was all too familiar with the time a B-25 bomber flew into the Empire State Building during heavy fog in 1945. I automatically assumed this too was a tragic accident.  But how?  It was a beautiful sunny, cloudless morning in Southwestern Ontario, which is only an 8-hour drive to New York City.  When I arrived for the interview, the happenings in NYC were the talk of the office.  Then I something happened that made it clear that the first plane was not an accident, United 175 had crashed into the South Tower.  The interview was short, only about 15 minutes (it was a pre-screen).  In any event, I felt as if we were both more interested in the events unfolding not too far from us.  Once the meeting was completed, I rushed back home.  As I hit a red light, at what I now know to be 9:37 A.M., I gasped as my ears could not believe that I was hearing that another plane filled with passengers had crashed into The Pentagon.

Just a block away from home when I heard about the attack on the Pentagon, I was even more anxious to get home and turn on CNN.  I needed to see with my own two eyes what on earth was happening.   This was all too unbelievable to be true.  And, to this point, my only reference was what I had created in my mind, a picture based on radio reported events. 

My friend Miranda and her children were staying with me for a bit, at the time.  I ran into the house eager to get to the TV.  Miranda and I sat downstairs on the couch, in the basement and watched in awe as the events of that day unfolded on my 55” big screen. 

Smoke was billowing from two of the world’s tallest towers.  I felt helpless watching people who piled four and five deep into the windows, some 1,500 feet in the air. I screamed in horror as they emerged one or two at a time from a blanket of smoke and fire and jumped.  Some held hands, others went alone.  I remember thinking that the conditions must have been absolutely horrific if they felt jumping from ¼ mile up was the better option.  Many blessed themselves before their leap of faith. Some tried to make parachutes out of curtains or tablecloths. One man hopelessly tried to climb down the building – this one scars me to this day.  I have intrusive nightmares or the odd flashback of that specific fall from time to time, even 20 years later.   I don’t know what it is about that one specific incident, but it’s irreparably scarred into my psyche.  They were the only visible fatalities on a day that claimed thousands.  

9:50 A.M. Devastation.  Together, we watched in horror as the South Tower of the WTC collapsed, a mere 56 minutes after the impact of Flight 175. As I write this, I can still remember that absolute jaw dropping moment vividly.  What on God’s green earth was happening?  Within a span of just 30 minutes, WTC1 and WTC2 would implode in heaps of ash and dust as thousands ran for their lives.  The Pentagon would be struck and Flight 93 would be crashed by its hijackers in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, assumedly on its way to the US Capitol Building or the White House.  I was completely disturbed by what I was witnessing. This was a catalyst to something big.  Was this the start of WWIII?  Rumblings started to flow across the news media that this was an orchestrated terrorist attack. 

My then husband was sleeping, he’d finished working night shift 7 hours prior.  In 30 seconds flat, I ran up 2 flights of stairs to wake him from his slumber, yelling “OMG! OMG! WWIII is starting, you need to get up!?  We rushed back down to the basement and for hours upon hours watched the fallout of the deadliest terrorist attacks in world history.  My eldest was at school, I felt the need to go get her, but my husband talked me into letting her finish out her day. My youngest was only 3 years old and completely oblivious to how her world was about to change forever.  

Those who came through the windows of the towers provided the starkest, most harrowing evidence of the desperate conditions inside”   ~ New York Times, Sept. 10, 2004

2008 Visit to NYC

Years later in 2008, I took my eldest daughter to NYC.  I had it that I wanted to take both my girls to NYC to experience the magnificence of all the city has to offer with all its glitz and glamour.  And, I wanted them to understand the origins of 9/11, its implications and remember the legacies of those who lost their lives of that tragic day as well as the other lives impacted.

By the time we went to NYC in October 2008, Ground Zero, as it came to be known immediately after the September 11th attacks, 7 years had passed. Ground Zero was still a hole in the ground, and construction continued on the Freedom Tower foundations at the World Trade Center site.

Ground Zero 3

2014 Visit to NYC

The next time I visited NYC it was the Canadian Thanksgiving of October 2014.  I went with my youngest, it was her birthday.  Freedom Tower was up and ready to open the following month as One World Trade Center (it opened on November 3, 2014). The super tall structure has the same name as the North Tower of the original World Trade Center.   The new skyscraper stands on the northwest corner of the 16-acre World Trade Center site, on the site of the original 6 World Trade Center. 

We visited 9/11 MEMORIAL PLAZA as a tribute to the past and of hope for the future. The twin pools are set within the footprints of the original Twin Towers, each pool is approximately 1-acre in size. The names of every person who perished in the terror attacks of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001 are honoured in bronze around the twin Memorial pools.

Kitchener Connection

Did you know that here in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada where I live, we have a 9/11 WTC memorial near Centre in the Square at the Firefighters Memorial Park forever linking our 2 cities together?

A rusted metal beam from the WTC stands at Firefighters Memorial Park.  It’s 3.43 metres long and the very specific size is no accident.

“There was 343 firefighters killed on that day so we asked for something that was 3.43 metres” 

~ Kevin Schmalz, former chair of the Kitchener Fire Memorial Committee.

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On Travel: Churchill Good Eats

There were few staples in Churchill that I stuck to in addition to eating in, mainly because they were conveniently located close to my B&B … and they were open.  It could also be that they were the only available restaurants in Churchill (lol).  It’s a small town, things close early.  

So without further ado, let’s check out the Churchill eats.  


1 – Tundra Inn

As seen on the Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here with John Catucci, The Tundra Inn Dining Room & Pub is a favourite local and tourist hangout. 

They serve up home-cooked meals with a regional arctic twist.  It is also home to the famous Beyond The Borealis Veggie Burger made with Quinoa & Black Bean Patty, Havarti Cheese, Lemon & Coriander Mayonnaise, Avocado, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Toasted Brioche Bun, House Cut Fries – which I had. 

The other meal I had was the Spinach Dip – Cream Cheese, Spinach & Artichoke Dip Topped with Mozzarella Cheese Served with Toasted Flatbreads & Vegetable Sticks  I also added some hummus. Yum!

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Beer deals to be had, check the board behind the bar for beer specials. The deal while  was there was a bottle of Labatt Light for $4.00.

The vibe is good, laid back, just as you’d expect in a small town. It’s the perfect place to enjoy an evening after a full day of exploring Churchill’s wonders. 

Dining room on one side, pub on the other.  


2 – Seaport Hotel

Whether you’ve come to Churchill as part of a tour group or you are here by yourself, like me, the Seaport Restaurant and Coffee Shop has you covered. The restaurant is fully licensed, the dining room has a seating capacity of 72 while the coffee shop can accommodate another 36.  

The food was decent.  I ate there three times during my stay.  I had the crispy chicken burger which was good but salty, as was the chipotle type sauce for my yam fries – which were good. The second and third times I visited, I had the club sandwich.  It was actually really good.  I had yam fries again the 2nd time and then I had a poutine the third time.  

Overall the food is decent pub style food.  I wanted to try the Jack Daniels ribs but they weren’t served until after 5:00 pm, I went for a late lunch. 

The bonus to the Seaport, and the reason it’s my fave, is that they have a patio – perfect for enjoying a burger and a beer on a gorgeous, sunny Churchill day.  

While I was there, it was patio dining only due to COVID (not sure why since The Tundra Inn had dine-in eating) and I was 100% ok with that …. the weather was stellar the whole week I was there!

Note: The patio only has 4-5 tables available, so you may have to wait for a table or go elsewhere.


“Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love.”

– Giada De Laurentiis


Churchill Chinese Food

New to town as of August 2021, Churchill Chinese Food are using the kitchen at the Dancing Bear to offer delicious, authentic Chinese food to locals and tourists alike.  

They currently only offer take out, there is no dine in option.  

I ordered from here once during my visit.  I had pre-arranged a pick-up for 7:00 pm after my beluga whale kayak.  It’s not your Canadianized Chinese food, so expect more authentic dishes.  It was really good.  Definite recommend.  


Caribou Café

Dining out can get expensive, especially if you’re visiting for more than 3-4 days.  If you’re into saving money and less into ambience then, the café at the Churchill Health Centre in the Town Centre provides a budget friendly option.  

I had breakfast there, and for $5.25 I got 2 eggs, 2 toasts and 3 meats (choice of bacon or sausage). Other options such as bagels or muffins are available, as are a selection of juices and coffee.  

Prices are very reasonable!  A friend went for lunch and got a steak, homemade mashed potato and corn on the cob for $12.95!   


Related Blogs to Help Plan Your Trip to Churchill

How to Get to Churchill

Where I Stayed, Is a Must Stay

Exploring the Wonders of Churchill

Lazy Bear Café

I wasn’t able to enjoy this café, the 2 days that I went they were closed.  However from what I heard from others staying at my B&B … if you’re looking for the restaurant with the best ambiance in town, look no further than the Lazy Bear Cafe. The log-cabin style interior looks beautiful, and I’m sure the central stone fireplace makes you feel right at home. The restaurant serves Indigenous foods such as Braised Peppered Elk, Arctic Char and Manitoba Bison grace. They are also farm to table – they have their own local greenhouse.  

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(photos from the Lazy Bear Café website)

Note: the Café does not serve alcohol.

Note: It is the only place in town to get espresso.


Alternate Options

If you’re staying at a B&B or some place that has some basic amenities for you to make use of, you may want to consider buying a few things for your room or to make at your B&B.  

Set your expectations … this is a northern town, on the edge of the arctic with no road access – items are brought in my train or plane.  Prices are not going to be what you’re accustomed to.  I found that some things were wayyyyyyyy more expensive and others were more in line with what I was accustomed to paying.  For example a 24 case of Nestle water was $24.95! 

 – The Northern Store

The Northern Sore is the town’s all purpose store.  Fresh/Frozen Food.  General Merchandise. Clothing.  Electronics. Housewares and Liquor.  You get it all here.  

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While I was there, I stocked up on a loaf of rye bread $3.09, a package of lunch meat $5.49 and a Pho Instant Noodles $3.49.  I made a few sandwiches for lunch and for dinner one eve when I wasn’t feeling as hungry I had my Pho bowl.  

 – Tamarack Foods

Tamarack is a smaller local store further down on Kelsey Blvd beside Tamarack Car Rentals. They are usually open daily from 11:30 am – 6:00 pm. Prices are similar to The Northern, a few items had better prices.  

So there you have it folks, the places I ate while visiting Churchill. Overall dining prices weren’t extraordinarily more than I would pay where I live in South Western Ontario, given the cost of shipping goods up. The portion sizes were large, wear your leggings ladies. Alcoholic beverages also within reason to what I would pay where I live.

On Travel: Last Stop, Churchill – My Journey to the Far North

Churchill, Manitoba is as close to a frontier town as there is in Canada. Churchill is Manitoba’s northernmost community, and is located where the boreal forest meets the tundra, on the shores of Hudson Bay, bordering the newest Canadian territory of Nunavut.  The town sits on a narrow point of land bound by the ocean to the north and the Churchill River to the south and west. 

Second polar bear sighting

Churchill is the furthest North I’ve traveled in Canada, in fact, anywhere. Visiting this town in the far tundra north has been on my “bucket list” for ages and while I’m back here in Manitoba, renovating my house to sell, I thought “hey let’s do it … I’m here, why not?”. 

The town is known for its polar bears, beluga whales (also known as ocean canaries) and is one of the most premier places in Canada to see the Northern Lights dance in the night sky. These things and more have made Churchill the pinnacle go to place for adventure and wildlife seekers from around the globe.

In this blog series I share with you my personal experiences of life and tourism in this amazing town full of culture, flora and fauna.

Are you ready? Let’s go …….

The Basics

The town of Churchill has a year-round population of under 900. 

Churchill’s human history goes back 4,000 years, with the Inuit, Dene, and Swampy Cree all having a connection to this land and the wildlife that sustained them.

Churchill is touted as the Polar Bear Capital of the World, the Beluga Whale Capital of the World, and one of the best places to experience sub-Arctic tundra AND the Northern Lights (aurora borealis).

Polar bears come onto land every July when the Hudson Bay ice breaks up. In autumn, scores of these great white bears gather along the shores of the bay, waiting for the ice to form so they can venture back out to hunt their favourite food – ring seal. Pregnant females go inland into dens to have cubs in late November and re-emerge in mid-February, when they return to the sea ice.

The Northern Lights can be seen 300/365 days per year!

From June to September, approximately 3,000 Beluga whales visit the Churchill River basin and approximately 60,000 come into the Hudson Bay area. Not only can you go whale watching but you will also have the chance to get up close and personal to these incredibly friendly creatures.

How to Get to Churchill

Churchill is located on the edge of the Arctic. This remote Canadian town on the shores of Hudson Bay is 1,006 km north of Winnipeg.  There are no roads that lead to Churchill, you can only get there by train or plane (… planes, trains and no automobiles – insert John Candy and Steve Martin laugh here lol).

Air

Air travel to Churchill is operated by Calm Air. The small Manitoba airline has flights from Winnipeg and Thompson through Churchill and up to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. Although flights to Churchill may be more expensive than the train, they usually only take about 2.5 hours from Winnipeg. While not cost effective, it is definitely time effective.  

Train 

Many travellers opt for the scenic route, myself included.  The Winnipeg-Churchill train is the only dry land connection to the community. The 1697 km journey takes about 45 hours from Manitoba’s capital of Winnipeg (count on it being longer,  there are often delays, be flexible with your itinerary).  The train travels at low speed due to the topography the rails lay on.  

I am currently in Dauphin, Manitoba, so, I drove to Thompson, Manitoba, about a 7-hour drive.  I could have taken the train from Dauphin, but I planned on making some stops on the way back to explore and it actually takes much less time to drive than take the train. The train to Churchill, takes about 19h20 to get from Dauphin to Thompson, as is goes through parts of Saskatchewan was well. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the sleeper cabins were not available, nor was the 360˚observation dome. 

The seats are quite comfortable and recline most of the way back, there is a foot rest which goes up to level as well.  There are no assigned seats in economy class, so I was able to choose my own seat. I located quad seating with two rows facing each other (if you can’t find one already turned, you can turn them yourself) …  perfect for sleeping.

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The seats have plugs to charge your phone or laptop.  There is no available wi-fi because there isn’t any internet service along the route.  You will not have service for the trip’s entirety, until just before you arrive in Churchill.  

Each car has a filtered water fountain available at no charge. 

VIA offers some on-board services such as sandwiches, snacks, coffee (it was decent) and alcohol (a standard 12 oz can or Coors light cost me $7.00).  

It cost me $144.90 for this leg of the trip (return), I used the 33% discount offered to people of Indigenous heritage – have proof of identification when you board.  You can book your train trip to Churchill via the VIA Rail website.  

Train suggestions:

  • bring a blanket and a pillow
  • bring food – I purchased a pizza from Quiznos for the train ride up
  • bring your own drinks, if you prefer not to purchase on board
  • bring a book to read (currently reading An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield)
  • bring a few games – I brought a deck of cards, crossword puzzle and Yahtzee
  • download some podcasts to listen to or some audio books
  • download some Netflix shows

Welcome to Churchill

This small and quaint town hugs the western shore of Hudson Bay, the town lies directly in the path of the migratory route for the largest concentration of polar bears that come ashore to hunt for seals every Fall. As I mentioned, it’s the Polar Bear Capital of the World, and the town is built in the bears migration path.  When the sun goes down here the locals know to watch their backs. Tourists are advised to do the same. An alarm sounds at 10:00 p.m. promptly, each night.  Don’t be alarmed (no pun intended). No one warned me upon arrival, I was scared half to death it was a warning that there was a bear currently in town. The siren (long and loud) is a voluntary curfew as part of the Polar Bear Alert program.

Upon arrival in Churchill, after 17 hours on the train

** If travelling via train, you will arrive at the historic Churchill train station.  Walking straight out of the station, about 100 metres will bring you to Kelsey Rd – the town’s main drag. 

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** The airport is just outside of town – you can likely make arrangements with your hotel, Inn or B&B to retrieve you.  If not, there is a taxi in town – Churchill Taxi – (204) 675-2345.

** Car doors are never locked in case a passerby needs immediate protection from a polar bear and polar bear costumes are strictly prohibited for treat-or-treaters during Halloween.

What To Pack :

Summer is a beautiful time to visit Churchill, the flora is teeming with colourful blooms, the beluga whales are swimming into the Churchill River by the thousands, and the long Summer days offer plenty of daylight to view incredible wildlife. I went from August 26-August 31.  It’s just at the end of the Summer season – the belugas are getting ready to leave and the polar bears aren’t quite ready to hitch a ride on the ice quite yet (that starts the beginning of October and lasts about 6 weeks), BUT my adventure DID NOT DISAPPOINT!  I saw everything I came to see and more.

Although Churchill is considered a subarctic climate, you may be surprised to hear that it can get quite warm in the Summer.  The 5 days I was there it was 21˚C-22˚C with the sun out, it was hot.  

My list is for the Summer months, I’ve not included the basics you should pack (that’s up to you).

Boots, Socks and Jacket: In the Summer you can get by with a solid pair of running shoes or hiking boots. I arrived in Churchill on August 26, 2021 and it was 22˚C, it was GORGEOUS!  This is my favourite weather.  I was comfortable wearing my Adidas slides while out and about around town, for any distances I wore my hiking boots.  

In terms of coats, I brought my light down filled puffer coat (that I normally wear for hiking) and a lined lumberjacket so I could layer. I didn’t require either of them during the day, however it did get cooler at night, especially by the bay watching the auroras.  

Hat and Gloves: I brought a pair of mitts and a pair of thin knit gloves.  I also brought a Carhartt toque.  I only used these in the evenings watching the Northern Lights.  But you never know when the weather will turn so come prepared for anything.

A Good Camera: Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my decent Sony Alpha, I wasn’t expecting to be in Manitoba as long as I have been, and I thought of it too late to have it shipped out to me.  Even if I did, I still haven’t purchased a 300 mm lens.  So, I managed as best I could with my iPhone 8 Plus which has dual cameras and takes decent photos. 

Thankfully Angela at my B&B is a professional photographer and offers town tours if you stay that the B&B, for $99.00/pp for 2+ hours  …. WORTH every cent! I will discuss where I stayed in a separate blog.

I also Airdrop swapped with others.  

Binoculars: You could use a monocular if you prefer, you just need something that can help you see at a distance. I found these helpful to view birds and scope out polar bears.  Binoculars are also an ideal way to view the night sky. Even inexpensive models can give depth to craters on the moon, and enhance the colour and shape of stars and planets.  I picked mine up for under $20.00 at Walmart.  

Deterrents: When visiting Churchill, you should be aware that a polar bear may be encountered anywhere at any time of the year and while not expected, be prepared (like a good Scout!).  Before your trip, discuss possible plans of action for dealing with bears in a variety of circumstances and be sure everyone understands what to do. The actions of each individual either contribute to or detract from the safety of everyone else. For information on how to deal with a possible encounter read this pamphlet here, specifically created by the government of Manitoba to address visits to Churchill.  

You can consider an air-horn and/or pepper spray (which may freeze in cold weather). 

I brought a bear whistle and a bear bell, which I also picked up at Walmart. I don’t know why they’re so much more expensive online, I purchased mine in-store for $3.98.

Bug repellent and/or bug jacket, mosquito net hat:  I can’t stress this enough.  Depending on the time of year you come, you should give serious consideration to bringing one or all of these items.  I can’t even start to count the mosquito bites on my neck and ankles.  It’s also a good idea to bring some After Bite.  

Lip balm and moisturizer:  Churchill has a subarctic climate.  It’s also on the ocean.  It could be salt in the air, the days out walking as the wind swept or traveling in the van with the windows open but my skin and lips were constantly craving moisture.

Reusable travel mug or water bottle:  The tap water in Churchill is excellent. I mainly drink water, from the tap if I can – I prefer not to purchase single use disposable water bottles or any type of single use bottle for that matter.  It’s a good idea to bring one, I did and I used it daily.  Also, cases of water up there are super expensive.  I’ll write about food prices separately, but a case of Nestle water was $25.95 at Tamarack Foods.  Do your pocketbook and the environment a favour by bringing a reusable water bottle. 

Ok folks …. that takes care of how to get to Churchill and what to bring …. tune in for the next blog …. “Things I Did” … where I’ll go through all the things I did while in town (which is pretty much everything a tourist would want to do).  I’ll also provide you with the historical significance and/or backstory of each of the site as well as some photos.  

Related Blogs to Help You Plan Your Trip to Churchill

Exploring the Wonders of Churchill

Where to Eat In Churchill

Where I Stayed, Is a Must Stay

Ready to start planning your trip to CHURCHILL?

VIA Rail Train

Urbex: Exploration of an Abandoned Bowling Alley

After three quarters of a century in the Cambridge area of Waterloo Region, the pins fell for the last time at this bowling alley on May 7, 2017.  The longtime family business sold the land to a developer, who plans to build apartments.  

The developer ran into financial problems and the site has been untouched for 3+ years (the property was on the market for $4.25 million). It has sat abandoned since that time and is quite the disaster on the inside. 

We came across the site as a second location when the place we were hoping to scope out beside this was one was impenetrable – it was an old antiques/junk shop.  

Before we get into this explore, I’ll share some photos I located prior to its doors closing in 2017.

This isn’t my typical type of explore, I prefer abandoned farm houses, they tend to tell more of a story. This bowling alley has become home to those who have none and to intravenous drug users. This is by far the most derelict site I’ve explored to date.  So … I guess it does have a story after all.  

There’s only one way in and out. It’s been scavenged by scrappers looking for copper to sell for some coin.  It’s super dark inside, the only light is from the flashlight on our phones. It has a stench of wet carpet, urine and discarded rotting food.   

Toward the back corner, there’s a bed – it’s made and there’s some personal affects with it. We happened upon a gentleman who was using the space as his home. He’s had some family issues and said that no one in his family liked him much and wanted him to leave (sad). He says he does his best to to keep the place as “tidy” as he can, kicking away and throwing IV drug needles toward a pile that no one ventures into.

It is only mildly reminiscent of a bowling alley that was the at the height of its peak 10-15 years ago.  

Despite it being sooooo dark – and mostly decimated – we were able to take pics of a few items (including but not limited to) that identified it as bowling lanes:

  • League banners that once hung from the rafters
  • An old nacho machine
  • Bowling ball returns
  • Snack and Drink Bar Menu
  • The old stove – and a pot from the kitchen
  • TV Score Boards
  • The alley’s Mascot costume

Although a very different explore than my norm, it was still an interesting location. There’s history in every place we enter.

IF these walls could talk, I’m sure they’d speak to all the fun times kids had here for their birthday parties. The giddiness of first dates. Of bowling records being broken and personal bests being set. What about the tales of friendship, comradely and competition? The laughter of bowling a gutter ball or the fist pump of bowling a strike …

Urbex: The Ongoing Story of the Eccentric Pastor Lee House

*** check back often, this is a living blog and will be updated regularly with new info ***

It has been a hot minute since I’ve posted … I’ve been embroiled in a landlord/tenant matter, wherein I repossessed my home from crappy tenants and have spent the better part of the last 6 weeks renovating it – they left it in such a shambles (ugh) … I’ll post on that separately, they completely ruined the house.   

However, while I’m in here, in Dauphin, Manitoba renovating the house, getting it ready to sell, I wanted to pick up the story of the Lee’s.  If you haven’t read the blog on the oddity of the Pastor Lee House in Haldimand County, Ontario or watched the YouTube video click here (blog) and here (video), for some background of relatedness.  It’s such an interesting story, they were such an eccentric family or maybe Gordon more-so. 

While exploring their abandoned house, my urbex partner, Thomas randomly found a photo of Gordon in Dauphin, as a child.   I took it to be a sign that I needed to continue researching this family.  I mean what are the odds that in an abandoned house with tons of stuff strewn all over the place, thousands of photos and slides messed about the 2 story home, that had been abandoned for years, that he would come across a photo taken in Dauphin and take a snapshot of it?  He wasn’t aware that I had lived in Dauphin from 2015 to 2017, nor that I was heading back to town to repossess my home.  Honestly, I didn’t even know he had found the photo until he sent me his shots and videos from the explore to create the content!  Ironic?  Serendipitous?   Coincidence?  I’ll let you decide … 

Here’s what we know so far …

From visiting their home and our previous research, we know that Esther obtained her diploma from the Moody Blue Institute in Chicago. Arthur was in the military and then became a Pastor. They purchased the house in Haldimand County, Ontario, which is now abandoned.  They had 3 children.  And, at one point in/about 1943 they were either living in or visiting Dauphin, Manitoba … but why?  

That’s what I’m going to try and find out while I’m here.

Here’s what I was able to newly locate … 

This information should get us started in figuring out why the Lee’s were in Dauphin, of all places.  

In or about 1925 Esther departed for Africa as part of a missionary group, I have a newspaper lead that they were doing missionary work in Nigeria – unfortunately, the article is too small to be legible. However, I was able to confirm this by locating the Caronia‘s ship manifest, which confirms the 32 year old was a missionary, heading to Minna, Nigeria.

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I was unable to locate Arthur on the ship’s manifest or any other manifest as of yet.

Apparently Arthur and Esther married there in 1927 (I have been unable to confirm this for myself).

At some point they returned to North America.   I have yet to determine when exactly, but according to the newspaper articles below, they were at least back in the U.S. by 7 Aug 1930.

I was also able to locate on Ancestry.ca information that Arthur and Esther in fact had another son, Walter who passed away in 1938 at the age of 5 of spinal meningitis (18 Nov 1932 – 19 Apr 1938). It’s said that he passed away in Africa, this part I am unable to confirm for myself.

I understand from another blogger that throughout the 1960’s Rev. Lee worked as a Teacher in Slave Lake, Alberta and retired in 1965. However, we have it confirmed that in 1948 the Lee’s had purchased their home in Haldimand County, Ontario.  So, how does all of this fit together? I have no confirmation that he taught in Slave Lake as of yet.

I also read a blog that said that Rev. Lee was a Pastor of Baptist churches in both Manitoba and Ontario.

We also have this to go on … the  photo that Thomas found during our explore of the Pastor Lee house.  

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Before we delve into this further  … Dauphin facts:

  • Dauphin has a population of 8,457 as of the 2016 Canadian Census, with an additional 2,388 living in the surrounding Rural Municipality of Dauphin, for a total of 10,845 in the RM and City combined. Dauphin is Manitoba’s 9th largest community and serves as a hub to the province’s Parkland Region.
  • You can get anywhere in town in about 5-7 minutes, unless the train comes through. 
  • It is actually situated on the 100th meridian, for anyone who finds that as fascinating as I do.
  • It’s known as the “City of Sunshine”
  • Norwex’s Canadian Head Office is located here.
  • It’s home to Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival and Dauphin’s Countryfest, Canada’s longest-running country music festival.
  • It lies along the Vermilion River just west of Dauphin Lake, and is 323 kms northwest of Winnipeg. 
  • Dauphin is near Duck Mountain Provincial Park and Riding Mountain National Park, just west of Lake Manitoba and Dauphin Lake and south of Lake Winnipegosis.
  • The French trader and explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye named the nearby lake, Dauphin, in 1741 in honour of the heir to the French throne, the Dauphin of France (Prince of Wales)
  • The province was founded on parts of the traditional territories of the Assiniboine, Dakota, Cree, Dene, Anishinaabeg and Oji-Cree peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation. 
  • As of the 2016 census, Manitoba had 1,278,365 residents, making it the fifth most populous province or territory in Canada (I came here from Toronto, the GTA alone has 6,254,571).
  • Dauphin was incorporated as a city in 1998.

Ok, so now that you have some tidbits of info on the “city” itself, you get that it’s small and it would have been much smaller in 1943 when the photo was taken. I was unable to locate the population of Dauphin back in the 1940’s but Manitoba’s entire population was only 921,686 in 1961.

The search for the house in the photo …. 

The handwriting at the back of the photo says this … “Donald Lee in centre with girls at Mrs Chase’s (not in view) house on first street north of railroad, across street from station. Dauphin, Manitoba about 1943. Looking west towards Vermillion River”

Ok, so let’s look at this map I created … 

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Locate the relevant points that she mentions:

  • The train station (on map as Dauphin Rail Museum) 
  • Vermillion River (on map as Vermillion Park & Campground and Vermillion River)
  • 1st Street – she doesn’t specify NW, but it’s implied by her saying “north of railroad, across street from (train) station” and also by her saying “looking west towards Vermillion River”.  Plus, it’s the only 1st St., the other is 1st Ave. 
  • Based on that information, I feel the house has to be located near the star I put near the Watson Art Centre.

I live only 3 blocks from where the photo was apparently taken.  Literally …. just down 2nd Ave SW (follow arrow on map) til I hit 1st Ave SW and turn right to get to the train station, the 1st right directly in front of the train station is 1st St NW.  Vermillion Park is directly at the end of 2nd Ave SW.  So, that’s where I’m going to start my search, I’m going to try and track down this particular house.  I’m going to check out the houses in the block of 1st Ave SW and 1st Ave NW AND 2nd Ave SW and 2nd St NW (looking Westward toward the River).  I know the area well,  I feel it’s doubtful that the house still exists or perhaps it’s been modified to look differently than it did back then.   

Ok, so here are some photos I took for point of view and real life perspective.

This is the Dauphin Train Station, it was built in 1912, and was standing while the Lee’s were here in 1943.  

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Immediately in front of the train station – 1st Ave SW and 1st St NW

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Below you can see The Watson Art Centre which is directly in front of the train station, it was established in 1905 and was the old fire hall, so that building existed when the Lee’s would have been here. Photo was taken standing in front of the train station looking westward toward Vermillion River.

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I looked at the houses to see if they resembled the house in the photo OR if there was any possibility that the house could have been updated or added onto.  I paid particular attention to  the east side of 1st St NW because the photo says that the children were looking westward toward Vermillion River. However, upon further reflection it’s not immediately clear if the children or the photographer is looking west.   

This house has the most resemblance.  I initially took the photo as if the children were looking westward toward Vermillion River.

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Then I took the photo from the east side as if the photographer was looking westward toward Vermillion River.

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After side by side comparison – it does not appear to be the house in the 1943 photo even accounting for upgrades and improvements.  The window placements are off.

Now, it wouldn’t have been uncommon for prairie houses to be similar and side by side, especially if family owned – so I thought “what if it had a next door twin at some point?”  With that, I went back to double check and BINGO there’s a vacant lot where a house would have once stood immediately beside that house!  Could the house we’re looking for have stood there at one point?

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Immediately across the street from the train station is a white building which is definitely not the house in the in picture. Maybe the house was situated there prior?

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It is not stated how far down the street the house it, just that it’s north of the tracks, across the street from the station, so I was assuming relatively close to the station … however, just to be certain  I went down to the end, until I hit River Rd. and only found 1 possibility but I don’t think it’s it, it was further down than I expected it to be and it doesn’t seem to match.   

There were also 2-3 vacant plots and a new building where Ashcroft Vision Care is now and the newer built Baptist church (from the 1 that was on Main St) which was built on 1st St SW and 3rd Ave NW in 1960 (below 1st photo).

Maybe the house was on 1 of these lands?  So, that’s a dead end folks … for now.  I’ll keep digging.

The (re)search goes on and on and on …

Ok, I’m back to doing more research …. using my ancestry.ca account and doing some general Google searches to see what I can come up with.  

I was able to locate an account that has some interesting information linked to Esther herself, but encapsulates both she and Rev. Lee (the reason being is that the person who was doing the research was investigating Esther’s time at Moody Bible College).  

 I found a few newspaper clippings to be of interest: 

7 Aug 7 1930 – Albany, Misouri 

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20 Dec 1934Albany, Missouri

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20 Dec 1934 – Albany, Missouri

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Note: Albany is a city and county seat of Gentry County, Missouri, USA. The population was 1,730 at the 2010 census.  Esther was born in Gentry, Missouri. I’m guessing that Albany was her hometown, the reason being is that they consistently refer to her as “formerly Miss Esther Gladstone”, likely so those reading the newspaper would recognize her by her maiden name and come out to hear them speak.

Trying to fill in the gap …

Those newspaper clippings were still a full 9 years before the photo in Dauphin was taken … what did they do in those 9 years?  Did they return to Africa for another mission as one of the clippings  would suggest?

I decided to check to see if Dauphin had a Baptist Church back in 1943 and run on the basis that the other blogger’s notation was fact … that Rev. Lee preached in Manitoba.  I’m running into a bunch of dead ends so, no harm in trying.   I know there’s a church now on 3rd Ave NW but did one exist then?  The answer is yes it did, but it was in a different location, on Main Street.  Dauphin has had a Baptist church for that last 120 years.  

Maybe I can contact the church to see if they have a list of all the Pastors?  

Mrs. Chase, who and where are you? …

I decided to try and see if I could track down the Mrs. Chase as was documented and not in view on the back of the photo.  All I knew was that her name was Mrs. Chase.  I knew she was married because if the Mrs. and that her last name was Chase and nothing else.  I was able to find 2 male Chases with wives in the 1940 Canada Voters list for Dauphin … a Mrs. Earle Chase and a Mrs. Darwin Chase, but no addresses.   

Maybe I can hit up the land registry office?

Does anyone know anything? …. 

I have a neighbour, Amy, she’s been around town for many years – maybe she know something about Pastor Lee, Esther or of a Mrs. Chase?  Let’s ask Amy and see.  Stay tuned!

Ok, so, as of today (31 Jul 2021) that’s what I’ve been able to dig up on the Lees.  As I mentioned above, this is going to be an ongoing updated blog, so be sure to check back often.

HELP — Also, I’m open to help, if anyone knows how I can dig further into this or has any clues or tips — comment below.  

I find the story of the Lees fascinating for some reason, and I feel compelled to know more about them.

Rh- Alien Blood,Royal Blue Bloods and My Linage to King John I

Before getting into the meat of this post, it’s important to understand blood typing. Interestingly, 85% of the world’s population are Rh+ and only 15% are Rh-. Most of us don’t know our blood type (if you don’t, I strongly encourage you to find out, it’s so important, especially if you require a blood transfusion). I’ve known for many years, as it affected my pregnancies, I’m O-, I’ll explain why this is important a few paragraphs down.  

In 1937, Karl Landsteiner and Alexander Weiner discovered the Rh factor. Rh or rhesus protein is named for the rhesus monkey, which also carries the gene, and is a protein that lives on the surface of red blood cells. Their discovery thus changed the blood types from the four we knew A, B, AB, and O, to the eight we know today. They discovered the Rh protein while researching solutions for a medical mystery that killed dozens of babies each day. Their discovery led to the development of the RhoGAM® injection in 1968, which is used to prevent an immune response in mothers who are Rh-. If a pregnant woman who is Rh- does not receive RhoGAM, and is carrying an Rh-positive baby (which I was), she risks the health of future pregnancies because she has been exposed to the positive blood from her current unborn baby.  When a woman receives the RhoGAM shot, it protects her immune system from the exposure to the current baby’s Rh+ blood. If she does not receive the injection, her body will develop antibodies that could attack the positive red blood cells of babies in subsequent pregnancies.

Many months ago, I saw some posts come across my timeline proposing a theory that people with Rh- blood possess “alien DNA” since studies found that Rh- blood types do not have the key evolutionary gene from rhesus monkeys that most other humans do. This begs the question: if we evolved from monkeys, why would some people not have the rhesus monkey gene?

Looking back about 35,000 years, scientists believe that the blood type is linked to specific tribes/groups in France and northern Spain, mainly the Basque Region of France, who have the greatest incidents of this blood type at 35%.

The other day I was watching Kendall Rae’s YouTube channel (I’m addicted) and in came an episode about Rh Negative Blood Being Alien. She and her boyfriend, Josh, explained that most of the US Presidents possess Rh- blood and that it’s also a characteristic of the British Royal Family.  What’s interesting here is that all are distant cousins can be traced back a common ancestor, same for the US Presidents (except for one) – they’re all related to King John I.  As soon as I heard the name Plantagenet, I stopped the video and went back to my family tree on ancestry.ca. I had heard that name before, and then I found it in my relation to Louis VIII of France, click here to read that blog, I had just written a blog about him not too long ago.

Back in 2012 a 12 year old girl named BridgeAnne d’Avignon discovered that all U.S. presidents but for Martin van Buren are blood related. They are descendants of the same English king, John Lackland Plantagenet who is perhaps best known as Robin Hood’s enemy, and was the King who signed the Magna Carta in 1215.  Now if you’re not familiar with the Plantagenet’s, they are a dynasty that ruled England from 1154 to 1485. The dynasty was founded by Geoffrey Plantagenet (d: 1151), Count of Anjou. Approximately 190 seventeenth-century North American colonists were from the Plantagenet dynasty.  

I find this all wildly fascinating!  First the whole theory on Rh- blood, although far fetched, is quite intriguing. Then the fact that all, except for 1 US President is a descendent of King John I.  More so the whole fascination that truly boggles my mind is that I am Rh- and that I also have lineage going back to King John I (he’s my 25th great-grand uncle), which means in some way, shape or form, I’m related to the majority of the US Presidents (I’d already discovered that I am the 6th cousin 5x removed of President Abraham Lincoln).

What I find even more astounding is the connection between the Rh- factor and the lineage to this royal line (which to some degree, even if by lineage seems to be still in power).  Scientists cannot determine the root of the Rh- blood type, citing a random genetic mutation (which is possible). I do query (even in the Gaia scope) if some of humanity (myself included) are the product of an ancient and advanced alien civilization. I mean, if the theory of evolution is valid in that each and every one of us is descended from ancient primates, shouldn’t we all be Rh+?

Some speculation surrounding alien DNA is that the Sumerians believed in an ancient extra terrestrial race, the Anunnaki, who genetically engineered humans who were here at that time.  Over 6,000 years ago, the world’s first civilization was recording stories of strange celestial Gods whom they believed came from the heavens to create mankind. 

The Sumerians were highly intelligent, amongst other things, they essentially “invented” time by dividing day and night into 12-hour periods, hours into 60 minutes, and minutes into 60 seconds. If they were responsible for many of the most important innovations, inventions, and concepts of present day, why would they imagine or invent stories surrounding the Anunnaki?

Most historians leave this to mythology, the same way they do the Greek Gods. Some researchers believe the Anunnaki may have been actual beings. So it’s possible that Rh- people are direct relatives of the Anunnaki.

Do these Royals and the rest of us Rh- blood possess alien blood? Genetic mutation or alien connection?

Hmmmm ….

COVID-19: My 12 Month Trip of a Life Time Was Canceled, I Quit My Job, Sold My Car & Rented Out My Condo !

In the words of sexy hotness, Matthew McConaughey, “alright alright alright”.

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted … so I just want to bring you all up to date on the current lay of the land -> the status of my year long adventure to South East Asia, the COVID-19 pandemic and the world of social distancing.

What a crazy time we are living in at the moment! COVID-19 has turned our world into 4 walls and a ceiling.  Hundreds of thousands are infected, thousands have died and the whole world is living in a circle of physical distancing and a certain degree of fear. We’ve started hoarding hand sanitizer and toilet paper!  Some of us are following the rules established by government and others continue to act like this is not the global pandemic that it is.

I live in Canada, the province of Ontario – I live in a community in South Western Ontario called the Region of Waterloo – which is comprised of the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge and the townships of North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich.  Region of Waterloo Public Health has reported another 26 cases of COVID-19 in the region, bringing the total to 58.

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Canada is making unprecedented use of the federal Quarantine Act in a bid to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting tonight at midnight, all travellers returning to Canada are now legally required to go into self-isolation for 14 days rather than simply urged to do so.

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Emergency alert from the government sent to our phones

I’m currently held up at my youngest daughter’s house while I wait for coronavirus to become a thing of the past.  I was supposed to leave on my year long epic adventure all over South East Asia last Wednesday.  Not gonna lie, I was crushed.  I spent the better part of 12 months prepping, planning, plotting and organizing.  I had plans to travel to 12-14 different countries in 12 months — Vietnam – Phu Quoc and climbing Mount Bà Đen, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia – climbing Mount Bromo volcano (in Java) and relaxing with both of my kids in Bali.  I was going to spend the month of July in Japan and had plans to attend the Summer Olympics with my friends Linda and Mark (and their kids) – I was going to climb Mount Fuji. Northern Thailand was on my list prior to heading over the New Delhi and meeting up with my friend who is supposed to be flying over from Canada – we’re supposed to spend 4 days in New Delhi and then fly up to Nepal to climb Mount Everest Base Camp – from there I had more plans to spend time in India, head down to Sri Lanka and then I wasn’t quite sure.  I am hoping that I’m still able to do the last part of my adventure.  

I sold my car, rented out my condo, resigned from my job and put all of my worldly possessions in storage, ready to take off and live a year of a lifetime – only to have that all change 5 days before my departure date!  I was CRUSHED!   I went with it, I allowed myself to feel whatever it was I was feeling – upset, anger, fear, disappointment. I lived with it for a bit, didn’t make myself wrong about it and then I was ok.  It took 6 days.  I am able to stay with my youngest in her townhouse until the end of the month. I was able to rescind my resignation from my job and I was able to postpone my flight for a $69.00 fee and get reimbursed for my travel insurance.  

After I got complete with that,  I decided that if this was happening and it is out of my control, I’m going to come out the other side ready to set my world on fire.  I don’t have to sit here and mope.  I can do all of the things that I’ve been wanting to do – here, now.   My new favourite saying is a Buddhist saying, “Relax, everything is out of control”   

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SO ….. 

I enrolled into two courses 1) The Science of Well Being through Yale and 2) Leadership in 21st Century Organizations via the Copenhagen Business School.  If you’re looking to take some continuing education courses to further your career, your life, your well being – consider taking some courses, here’s the link to a bunch of Ivy League Schools Edx courses which are FREE!

I also decided to face one of my biggest phobias head on … finances, stocks and investments. Ask my financial planner how much the word “taxes” sends me into a downward spiral.  I never file my taxes on time, ever.  I’m decent with money, and that’s thanks to the trust and faith I put into my planner.  So, just like I’ve been tackling all of my fears head on this past year (remember when I jumped out of a plane in September? Or when I did the Polar Dip in January?).  Last November I took Phil Town’s Rule One Investing Course.  What’s Rule #1?  DON’T LOSE MONEY. The best investors in the world use this rule to invest with certainty. I learned how to not just invest in stocks, and rather invest in a wonderful business at an attractive price to generate consistent returns.

What did I do after I was so gung-ho post-course?  Nothing, I did nothing with it!  I did what I always did when something is out of my wheelhouse and frightens me, I ignored it.  Enter the novel coronavirus and event-driven investing, now is the time, markets are low, so I decided to tackle it once and for all (I mean I have nothing else to do than catch up on 5 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy – which is getting really awesome btw – I’m at Season 11 ep. 10).  I set up my brokerage account and talked to a couple of friends who invest and trade and off I went.  I’m trying to remember 2 things — 1) I don’t need to be an expert to invest like one and 2) Don’t lose money.  

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Photo by Lorenzo on Pexels.com

I’ve popped into some free concerts that musicians are hosting.  I’ve joined a Being In Communication: Time With a Landmark Forum leader call with Forum Leaders who are keeping the community connected.  I’ve had daily Facebook Messenger calls with my oldest, who lives in Vietnam, she wakes me every morning with a new song she’s learned on the ukulele, I love this!  I take extra long walks with the dog and binge watch my fave shows that I’ve long ignored.

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While we’ve been sequestered, the world continues to spin, people are living and sadly dying (this breaks my heart) and no matter, the sun comes up and the sun goes down. The earth is starting to heal itself – the canals in Venice are again running clear and there are minnows, dolphins have returned. Forrests and plants are regenerating. COVID-19 has decreased air pollution. The ozone layer is starting to repair itself. There’s an unlikely beneficiary of coronavirus: The planet.  Is this the earth’s way of dealing with what we’ve chosen to ignore?  

Many are binging pandemic like movies: Contagion, Steven Soderbergh’s strikingly realistic portrayal of the modern world scrambling to contain the fictional virus MEV-1. Outbreak, inspired in part by the AIDS epidemic.  Stephen King’s “The Stand,” Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain and Max Brooks’s World War Z, have proliferated on social media as of late. In a time of real crisis, many of us are spending our time watching fake crises.  Why?  We’re living in ONE RIGHT NOW.  I’m a documentary nerd. I prefer fact over fiction any day.  I’ve been watching documentaries on past pandemics, the plague, the Spanish Flu (which contrary to popular belief did not originate in Spain). The 1956-1958 Influenza Pandemic, the 1968 Flu Pandemic, SARS and H1N1.  What really lands for me is that as I’m researching these past pandemics, what we are living through right now, at this very moment, will form part of the future generations history.  Just as I’m watching and reading about pandemics in the last 100 years, future generations are going to be watching, reading and learning about the 2019-2020 novel coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic.  

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I tell you bizarre times …

Where in the world are you and practicing social distancing?  How are you occupying your time? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Journey Through The World of Functional Medicine Pt 3

I’ve been nursing a flu/cold since last Thursday. And, while I feel much better than I did at the onset, I leave on my 12 month adventure in 2.5 months and my health is one of the only things that matter to me at the moment.  I need to be in top health before I start this adventure of a lifetime.  This weekend my goals are fairly simple:  

1) complete this blog

2) rest and

3) binge watch Season 7 of Blacklist.

I met with Dr. Binning (functional medicine) earlier this week to go over my urine (Organic Acids Test) results. I was excited to go over these results, as this is the final piece required to determine move forward steps on my treatment – on my way to better health – mainly increased energy, not feeling so fatigued and the sense of having to nap 2x per day – like I don’t have one foot half in the grave.

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Western Medicine

In this blog, we’ll go over my results – as best as I can recall them from my appointment with Dr. Binning.  I find the way the body works – ridiculously fascinating – it’s a marvel! I’m always eager to get to my appointments so I can really get to the root cause of what’s going on with my body and better understand what I need to do to feel like the old Tina again!

Let’s begin shall we?   This gets very technical and medically – just a heads up.

This first page of my results talks about energy production – that is – how do I get energy from carbohydrates, fats and the actual energy producing cycle (citric acid cycle or krebs cycle)?

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The pattern that I have is that of someone who is losing sensitivity to insulin, so I’m not making energy from my carbohydrates anymore – the reason is that lactate has right shifted.  Whereas,  Pyruvate, which should be higher than Lactate, isn’t even showing up! How close am I to becoming diabetic?

“Medicine’s a funny business. After all, dispensing chemicals is considered mainstream and diet and nutrition is considered alternative.”
Charles F. Glassman, Brain Drain The Breakthrough That Will Change Your Life

Pyruvate feeds into your citric acid cycle which makes a lot of energy.  Lactate doesn’t feed into this cycle, it goes into something called your Cori cycle and your Cori cycle is a stress induced cycle.  It makes energy (not that much). It makes it very quickly and the net yield is actually lower than the output is, so we’re not meant to use it for a long period of time.  I’m (clearly) using it for a long period of time – I mean have you seen my life – it’s not a wonder LOL.

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B-Hydroxybutyrate  – when this molecule is present it is signalling for my cells to burn fat as fuel.  Good thing – this signal is being sent.  We have to improve this to assist my body in creating more energy.

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Now (above) we’re looking at how well my cells make energy – and what we can see is that my results are all right shifted and Fumerate doesn’t even show up!  The best way I can describe this (and how I understood it) is that if we think about this as an 8 cylinder engine in a car (because there are 8 markers)  4 of them may be misfiring (or on the verge of having problems) and 1 isn’t firing at all – it’s not even getting fuel in that cylinder.  All in all, it seems I’m lacking in amino acids, coenzyme Q10 and some minerals like magnesium and manganese.  So, we have to address these deficiencies to help improve the output of energy in my cells.

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Now, when we look here at B vitamin deficiency, the a-keto 8 — this deficit is for B1, B2, B3 and B5 – which is close enough to being low for me.  It means I need some.  The rest of them seem like they’re in decent ranges.

With methylation – this is the process by which my body can activate things – B12 is bordering on low.

IMG_4675Now we look at the brain here – neurotransmitters – not a lot of brain inflammation, and, the one marker shows a lack of amino acids.  My dopamine is right on the limit of being low.  Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that gives you more drive, makes you feel great, your get up and go, your motivation chemical.  I’m not burning through ANY – so that means I’m likely not making any – wow!  It may be that I lack tyrosine OR that I’m lacking iron, B6 – any of the co-factors that lead to the production of dopamine.  What the results show is that I’m not using any of it – and if I’m not using any of it – I probably don’t have any.  

IMG_4676Detox — upper results are pretty good which shows low exposures to chemicals and that I’m able to clear them because they’re not building up. Pyroglutamate is ok. Sulfate is pretty low which shows a low ability to make Glutathione – because I am lacking the resources (the demand is high).  It is your body’s most powerful antioxidant and it’s used to neutralize the damage created by toxins and stress.  What is creating the demand?

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Yeast/Fungal – when we look here we see 3 different things that indicate there’s an overgrowth.  What I found interesting that that everyone pushes probiotics this – probiotics that — when in fact you only NEED them when your body is deficient – any mine is NOT.  Taking probiotics would in fact create an imbalance in my body.  It’s not going to help me to take more of something I have a lot of.

The results show SIBO – (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), a (serious) condition affecting the small intestine. It occurs when bacteria that normally grow in other parts of the gut start growing in the small intestine.

AND ….

here’s an answer I have been searching for …. for YEARS … since I was diagnosed with anemia — my small intestine IS NOT not be able to absorb nutrients, causing my anemia!!!  My GP did not investigate this far – he queried as to what the root cause of my anemia was — but did not dig.  They went up the heavy menses route – which I believe was the correct route to investigate and when it yielded no results – it fell off the radar and I was left with uncontrolled, chronic anemia.  Take iron tabs – anemia improves  — stop iron tabs — anemia eventually returns.  Not to mention how hard iron tabs are on your system/intestinal tract and taking that much iron throw the rest of your levels off.  Here it is — what I have been asking for YEARS, what is causing my anemia?  SIBO – malabsorption.

On this result we also see that there is a positive – I have no invasive yeast – and there was not invasive yeast in my stool results either.  So, we need to prioritize the SIBO stat.

I’ll be meeting with Dr. Binning to go over prioritizing what I need implement.  The first thing we are introducing is Grass Fed Beef Organs (Liver, Heart, Kidney, Pancreas, Spleen) supplements – which is a more naturally sourced iron (traditional peoples, Native Americans and early ancestral healers believed that eating the organs from a healthy animal would strengthen and support the health of the corresponding organ of the individual).

I am so happy that I finally have some answers. I don’t look at these results as what’s wrong with me.  I look at them as an opportunity, an opportunity for improvement, to get my health back – to get back to me … you have NO idea how happy this makes me!

As you struggling with a chronic condition?  Are you not getting the answers your looking for?  Have you considered functional medicine?

If you’re interested in reading the first 2 blogs on my functional 
health journey, you can find them here:

https://mybetterlifeca.com/2019/12/14/my-journey-through-the-world-of-functional-medicine-pt-2/

https://mybetterlifeca.com/2019/12/01/on-health-the-world-of-functional-medicine-pt-1/

 

My Journey Through The World of Functional Medicine Pt 2

Today we venture into part deux of my journey to restoring good health. Since I last updated you, I’ve received the results of two things:

  1. the blood work that my medical doctor requested to investigate my level of fatigue i.e. I have had significant anemia in the past and he queried my thyroid function.  
  2. the results of my fecal test – my urinalysis results should be back next week.

I met with Dr. Binning earlier this week and I’ll update you on that in a moment.  

First, what I want to acknowledge first and foremost is that I genuinely believe that medical doctors all enter the profession with good intentions (to help people) and end up battling a system that doesn’t set them up for success. It’s not their fault that the system only allows for 11 minute appointments or that they only get paid for one concern so they only want to treat one concern per visit – which prevents a wholistic medicine approach.  1 issue per appointment isn’t conducive to treating someones HEALTH (in my humble, non medical opinion).  

I’m not against conventional forms of medicine – at all – I feel that there are things we absolutely need medical doctors – like acute/trauma care – that naturopathic or functional medicine cannot begin to address.  In this instance I’m addressing my non-acute, non trauma CHRONIC conditions.  

Ok, so now that I’ve addressed that, let’s delve into the results of my stool test shall we?   It feels rather personal sharing these results with you – and in doing so what I accomplishing is sharing not only the results – but also the information – because what I learned from these results essentially presents us with an opportunity – when we have information that we didn’t have previously we can create change – everything that I learn here is actually a positive (even if the results aren’t great) because that’s an opportunity for better health.

Results Of GI-MAP DNA Stool Analysis

Pathogens = none (yay!)

8 virulence factors for H Pylori = none (yay!)

Bacterial Flora:

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Most are low, one is high – indicating dysbiosis = so, there’s an imbalance in my gut.  So we want to look at can be driving that imbalance – which could be as simple as poor dietary diversity (vegetable fibre – which is odd because until last week I was vegetarian) or not enough or something can be suppressing the growth of healthy bacteria – these bugs all all live off these fibres and if they’re not getting them they can’t grow.  

Overview: insufficient levels of good bacteria and poor mucosal health – these bacteria are all there to protect us, they all serve a purpose, so important that these levels are improved — all of this leads to a healthy gut and healthy immune system.  My AKK MUCI (abbr) is just above the acceptable range.  Phyla Microbiota essentially again saying “Hello! Not bacterial enough growth!”  Is something suppressing that growth?  Is another bug coming in and screwing everything up and taking all the resources or are there really no resources to begin with?

Opportunistic Bacteria: 

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Streptococcus – remember that HUGE rash on my face that my MD diagnosed as peri-oral dermatitis and gave me an antibacterial cream and antibiotics for?  If you missed it – you can check out part 1 of this series here.  This makes a lot of sense!  This is something generally on skin and mouth – if there’s an overgrowth we need to start balancing this out.  

** I’ve left out some of the other results – which are within the normal range **

Intestinal Health:

These levels are look normal – and nothing can be further from the truth.  That’s where the benefit of knowing your patient inside and out, and basing it solely on them and not a “range” comes into play.  This I find interesting.

By way of background until last week, I ate a 95% vegetarian diet. So my steatocrit is at a 7 – the limit <15% – if someone is eating a lower fat diet – that number is high then – why would this be so elevated?  If they’re on a high fat diet that number might be ok – ideally we don’t want to see a number here – we want it as close to 0 as possible.  So what this is saying is that fat is leaking out of my digestive system, I’m not absorbing it and it’s showing up in my stool.  

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Elastase-1 – is at 261 – results show “normal” however it should be in the 400-500 range – even higher.  What this is telling us is that my pancreas isn’t making the things it should and releasing them well (insulin and digestive enzymes).  

B-gluconatodase level is at a 2042 – which indicates normal here – and this can’t be further from the truth.  When your body is exposed to toxins, even the waste of the bacteria that live within you or event the waste of the byproducts of my own metabolism (of every cell) creates waste – my body has to detoxify these things through the liver – not going to lie here – I need to revisit that Dr. Binning sent me on this — something about binding, neutralizing and that that enzyme cutting those two things from each other and frees that toxin to go back into circulation and cause more havoc.  We’ll talk more about this at my follow up appt once I get the results back from my urine test. 

Secretory IgA – 90% of your immune system exists in your gut — this # should ideally be at around 1000 – not high enough – the decrease in this number can be caused by chronic infections or chronic stress – they will just deplete this.  The anti-gliadine is at 55 showing some insensitivity to gluten.  
 
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Zonulin – marker for leaky gut — so I’m pretty close at 99.1 – definitely don’t want this number going up and higher that’s for sure!  
 
So, that’s a really great first step with Dr. Binning – I’m super happy about getting these results – because now I know where we can move forward in the betterment of my health.  We have an appt scheduled for December 27, 2019 to go over my urine results and then we can overlap all of the results to come up with a treatment plan that’ll be aimed at getting me back to good health and function.
 

Results Of Anemia and Thyroid Testing

My interim GP had requested blood work at my request last month as I had asked him to refer me because I was dragging my butt.  I have those results and my Hemoglobin and Hematocrit levels are low and my ferritin is at a 5 (which his the low end of normal reference range (5-272 — how is that even a realistic range??). My Thyroxine Free is at a 10 – and the “normal” reference range is from 9-19 – which again is at the low end of norm.  
 
 
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I have an follow up appointment scheduled with my interim GP to go over the results – he’ll likely recommend that I recommence iron tabs.  As an aside, have you ever taken iron pills?  When I was severely anemic a couple of years ago, I had to take 4 at a time and it wreaks havoc on your GI tract, if you know what I mean 😉  

As an aside, I had a brief conversation with a medical doctor I know, last week about these results, and his response was “you’re barely anemic!”.  This is what frustrates me about the medical profession at times.  That statement hit me in the gut.  I’m barely anemic?  That may well be based on these results – however, why am I dragging my arse?  Why can I hardly function?  Why can I hardly make it though a day without napping?  I know my body, I know what normal for me, I know how I’m feeling and I know where I’m struggling – I wish MDs would put more emphasis on their patients words (I know this is not true of all MDs, I’m just pointing out that this is a common theme I hear regularly throughout the course of my job as a disability claims specialist).  

 

Conclusion

I won’t be commencing anything until I get my final results back from Dr. Binning and together we come up with an appropriate plan.  My body is clearly deficient of other nutrients so I want to balance out my who body and gut biome.
 
All of these tests are starting to come together to give me a clearer picture of what’s going on in my body and why I’m feeling how I am.  
 
I can already start noticing little changes in how I feel just by eliminating gluten and dairy and reintroducing meat to my diet (organic).  Some days I don’t have the need to nap (although it is a bit of a struggle still). 
If you’re interested in reading my first blog in this series you 
can find it here:

https://mybetterlifeca.com/2019/12/01/on-health-the-world-of-functional-medicine-pt-1/

For the last post in the series, you can click here  —>

https://mybetterlifeca.com/2020/01/11/my-journey-through-the-world-of-functional-medicine-pt-3/

You Have the Life You’re Willing to Put Up With

“You have the life you’re willing to put up with”.

Think about it, what are the problems of those heinous dark shadows currently spoiling the warmth and happiness of your otherwise blissful life?

🎯 Do you hate your job?
🎯 Are you in a bad relationship?
🎯 Is there something wrong with your health?

Fine! Get a new job, end the relationship, change your diet and exercise or locate the kind of help you need. Seems simple doesn’t it?

Even when it comes to the things you seemingly had no say in, like the death of a loved one, losing your business … you have a massive say and the ways you live your life in the aftermath of those events.

If you’re not willing to take the actions to change your situation, in other words if you’re willing to put up with your situation then whether you like it or not that is the life you have chosen. Before you say … “but” or start to get your knickers in a twist let me say one more thing. By defending your circumstances as they are right now, you are actually making a case for being where you are. Give it up. No buts. You can’t afford them they’re excess baggage on a trip that requires you to travel light.


“Circumstances don’t make the man, and they only reveal him to himself.”


That’s a quote by Epictetus as Epictetus points to – the true meaning of who you are won’t be found in your circumstances but rather the way in which you respond to them. To start this new process, you must first stop another one!”

~ UnFu*k Yourself, Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life by Gary John Bishop

What’s The Connection Between INTEGRITY and LITTERING?

I spent last weekend in New York City (NYC), I was attending a leaders course in Manhattan with 350 of the eastern seaboard’s most brilliant, inspirational beings, like no kidding – this powerful group is up to big things!

While we were out and about enjoying our lunch break, we spent some time walking about Madison Square Garden, walked up to the Chelsea High-line and had a awesome chat about “getting your life” in front of The Vessel by Thomas Heatherwick.  During our strolls, however, I couldn’t help but to notice all of the refuse that littered the ground. Like, it was everywhere and I could’t help to think that all of this trash was caused by “civilized” human beings.  And, to be frank, it infuriated me.

And then I got to thinking about the different places I’ve had the pleasure of traveling and about the different cultures, the way we all live our lives.

I visited Japan 2 years ago and I tell you (if you haven’t been), it’s one of the cleanest, most organized, respectful places to visit, and live apparently.  I have two friends who live in Japan and the love it – they are both Canadian – and they both suggest we have a lot to learn about different issues of our Western societies.

This is what my friend Linda has to say – she lives in Mitaka, a suburb of Tokyo.

“Living in Tokyo Japan for over 2 years and it still surprises me that a city of over 35M is so clean with such a big focus on recycling. Similar to most residents, I often carry my recycling back home with me for proper disposal, and as a foreigner still learning the Japanese language, I have received notices from the recycling officers when my recycling doesn’t meet the proper standards. I am grateful to be living in this beautiful country”.

I don’t understand why people litter, honestly I don’t, it’s just not necessary.  And, I’m not making anyone wrong here, I’m looking more for what’s missing, rather than what’s wrong.

Could it be a lack of integrity?

So what is integrity?  The Cambridge Dictionary’s definition is:

  • in·teg·ri·ty : “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness: “he is known to be a man of integrity”

Could it be the level of integrity in which we operate in life?  Could that be out?  Of course it can be! And, what I’m really present to is that WITHOUT INTEGRITY NOTHING WORKS! Literally, nothing works!  Now, integrity is not morality nor is it ethical – they are not colapsable.

I started taking a hard look at the level of my integrity, I always viewed myself as a rather integrous person.  I always try keep my word and when I can’t keep it, I try to honour by letting the person know ASAP that I cannot keep it.  I’m never late (my philosophy is that if you’re on time, you’re late) and people have always said that they can count on me to be there.  I’ve always made that a priority in my life, then I started looking at what’s missing – where is my integrity out? And, I had to actually say to myself  “Self, admit it you have no integrity” and I was like boom – face slap!

I got real with myself, confronted myself with some real truths — for example, I am pro-environment yet I still continued to use plastic utensils and don’t use carry a reusable coffee cups = lack of integrity.  I had a terrible falling out with a friend, because I was a drunken twerp last year and took MY crap out on her and I never got complete with that.  I never called her to apologize, I sent her a quick text and then left the friendship slide, complete lack of integrity.  I had convinced myself that these things were fine, and that I was ok with it.

Everywhere I looked I came to see that I had things I needed to clean up with people in my life and what that allowed me to do was have true authentic conversations about where I was out of integrity and being really committed to cleaning up the “messes” the better I felt – like a weight had been lifted off of me.  I started by apologizing to people, by connecting with people I had lost contact with, by buying reusable bamboo cutlery and napkin and keeping them in my purse (I also gave a set to a friend of mine – and enrolled 2 other friends to start using bamboo or carrying their own metal cutler.  Another friend agreed to purchase bamboo toothbrushes).  I literally started restoring integrity with velocity.  Folks, I literally have never loved being so wrong (to be clear my actions were wrong, I wasn’t making myself wrong and holding onto it) LOL – it really was empowering to get complete with things.

And, you know what I got out of cleaning up this LACK OF INTEGRITY? I really got the impact on the other person, I really got to see what it was like over there with them. And when you really get to get what’s it’s like for someone else, it’s empowering and you start to change the way you want to behave.

“An important aspect of my word to myself is my word to others. For example, when I give my word to someone to meet them at a given time tomorrow, in effect I have also given my word to myself to be there tomorrow at the appointed time and place. Likewise with any time I give my word to others, I have also given my word to myself to be good for my word.
If I hold myself up as a person of integrity and do not honor my word to myself, it is highly unlikely that I will be able to be in integrity with others”.

~ Werner Erhard 

So, What Does Lack of Integrity Have to do With Littering?

Everything!  Integrity is what you do when no one’s watching.  It’s when you do what’s right, even when it’s difficult.  It’s in taking a stand for what you believe in. It’s throwing your trash in the litter bin.  It’s recycling your bottles, paper cups and newspapers. It’s in taking your trash home when there isn’t anywhere to properly dispose of them.  It’s in picking up the trash when you are able, tidying the public washrooms counter before leaving them and by leaving the people you talk to better than when you met them —  it’s about being an extra ordinary human being!

📷:  from last weekend in NYC

And, just like that, without even realizing it – I managed to intertwine two of the things I love and that I’m passionate about – integrity and the environment – and the ability to be fully self expressed! WOW!

What would your life look like in the space of living a life of more integrity?

How freaking powerful of a human being would you be?  

Who are you going to go clean up with right now?  

Oh, and PS:  as human beings, we’re never 100% in integrity – there’s always somewhere in our lives that integrity is out or missing. The difference is, we can always live life more integrously.

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What Does it mean to be Powerfully Single?

Hey everyone, how are you all doing today?  Thanks for reading, I really hope you’ve all been awesome and living your best lives!

I just got in not too long ago from dinner with one of my good friend’s who is home for a visit from Japan – she and her family moved there 2 years ago on a work assignment and I haven’t been able to see her since she was home last year (if you’ve been following my blog for a while,  I blogged about my visit to Japan in 2017 – to read that post, click HERE).  We had a great dinner and visit, and it was so amazing hearing everything that she and the family are up to, time really does fly and I really am learning not to take it for granted.

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Linda and I at Milestones for dinner 

No, I didn’t hop on here to talk about my catch up sesh with Linda (although it was great and def not long enough), I’m here to chat with you a bit about choosing to powerfully be single AND sometimes being lonely.  Why? Why now?  Cause I got home to my empty condo, poured myself a nice glass of pino grigio and sat down solo on the terrace and thought “hmmmm, it would have been nice if I had someone who was here when I got home to ask how seeing Linda was.  Someone to have that glass of wine on the terrace with, someone to proof read my blogs”.  

Although I know I have chosen to be unattached, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel the sting sometimes,  the sting of loneliness, of wanting someone to have dinner with, to have a glass of wine on the terrace or to just hug me hard and kiss my forehead, to say goodnight or good morning to.  I realized that I can make that powerful choice and still have it sting sometimes and that’s ok.

Why Am I choosing to be Powerfully Single and What Does That Mean?

I get that question more often then I’d like sometimes.  Choosing to be “powerfully” single means that I have made the choice/decision to elect with full power the need to not be attached to anyone.  It means that I’m being fully present to what’s important to me and being fully self expressed and that makes me feel powerful.  And by choosing to be single “powerfully” I’m not just choosing to be single, I do it on my terms and in full control of my choice.  I make the choice with integrity and in authenticity to myself, that’s the distinction in choosing powerfully.

Being aware of your current thoughts, emotions and actions helps you distinguish where you are operating from.  Once you’re aware of how you are operating you can easily choose the way you want to be.  It’s my responsibility to myself to distinguish which parts of me are working and which parts are not working.  Once I’ve done that, I can powerfully choose who/what I want to be, simple.  And, that distinction is easily applicable to all areas of my life btw, each decision I make I make sure that I choose powerfully.

Why Do I Choose To Be Single?

Simple answer:  I’m a lobster, every get that? If I’m too old, it refers to the person of whom another is meant to be with forever.  It originated due to the fact that lobsters mate for life (at least, according to Phoebe Buffet)

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Honest answer: I won’t settle, I know what I have on offer, what I feel is important in a relationship.  I don’t have fairy tale dreams of some knight in shining armour like we were taught as young girls.  I don’t need rescuing or a sugar daddy.  I’m not even looking for someone who checks off fictitious check boxes in my mind.  I’m looking for someone with whom we have chemistry, respects me, has a great sense of adventure and is faithful.  And, I know he’s out there, and I know I’ll meet him, when the time is right and the Universe has conspired to create such awesomeness.

I go out and I have fun, and, I’ve chosen intentionally not just to be with someone for the sake of being with someone … that’s easy and it’s not who I am, never has been and never will be.  I’ve had 2 serious relationships in my life – one I married and the other I was engaged to.  Some women look at me with a sense of pity, and I clap back (nicely) “hunney, I’m all good,  I don’t feel sorry for me, nor should you.  Now get on out there and worry about stuff like climate change, animal abuse or human trafficking”  

I’m not here to preach that it’s so awesome that you should all ditch the BFs or GFs or both, and join me.   I’m just suggesting that when you choose to be or not to be in any relationship, choose POWERFULLY.  

Did this resonate with you? Are you choosing powerfully?  Could you be? What would that look like for you living in that possibility?  What could you create?  

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Product Review: Freshii Juice Cleanse

It’s Monday night – I just competed my coaching call, did some work, just finished some research on a new project I’m working on …. and about 5 days ago I finished a 3 day JUICE CLEANSE …

I’ve done juice cleanses in the past, but, honestly it’s been a hot minute since I did my last one – likely about 3 years – I know, I know right?

So, while I was grabbing my Buddha Bowl (yassss, OMG Buddha bowls are AMAZING!) at Freshii I saw their advert …

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I had put it off long enough and decided to GO FOR IT!

Right there I decided between one of their 3 plans.  1 Day, 3 day or 5 day.

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Prices are in Canadian dollars 

I didn’t want to chintz out out at 1 day, 5 day seemed a bit too long for a my first attempt in 3+ years, so I went with the 3 day!

What Did My Day Look Like?

Per their recommendation I commenced each morning with a glass of warm lemon water.

Then I started my day by drinking the following drinks in order, about 2.5 hours apart.

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They also encourage you to drink 8-10 glasses of water throughout the day in addition to the Freshii juices. Herbal teas are also allowed.

If you’re hungry during your cleanse, they suggest you try to increase the amount of water are drinking throughout the day, that includes herbal teas.  But, you also need to listen to your body.  If it’s telling you to eat something reach for raw or lightly cooked fruits and veggies.  You can check out their FAQ sheet here.

Taste

To be very honest, I really enjoyed the Freshii juices. Of all the juice cleanses I’ve done, these were BY FAR the best.  I didn’t have to dread drinking them, or drink them slowly because I didn’t like the taste when it only prolonged the agony.  I enjoyed drinking them as a refreshing drink.

My faves were the

  • Charcoal Lemonade
  • Reset

Least fave

  • Recharge

Outcome

Day One:

As with any juice cleanse you will find day one the hardest, well I do anyway.  But, the more you can prepare your body for the cleanse, the easier your cleanse will be.  They suggest reducing caffeine intake and not eating processed foods.  I don’t typically eat processed foods, but I do drink coffee and mandarin green tea, and I did not prep for this SINCE my decision was spur of the moment, quite literally.

As expected, day one I had a headache, my stomach was rumbling and I was hangry!  I was able to stay true to my word and NOT eat food.  As much water as I drank, I couldn’t shake the headache and opted for an Advil and an early night’s sleep.

Day Two:

The following morning, I woke up feeling like a rockstar as I packed my juices in my free Freshii new cooler bag (see pic below) to take to work.  My hunger pangs were gone, no more headache and my stomach wasn’t aching for solid food.  Today was going to be a good day!

I took the first 5 juices to work, plus some herbal teas I had here and a large 72 oz bottle of water (reusable).  That day at work was pleasantly easy – despite the fact that one of the doctor’s we work with brought in a pack of Timbits (doh!).

 Was able to finish my juices at home but I was feeling hungry and did opt for a 1/4 of an English cucumber.

Day Three:

I was hoping day three would be a breeze when in fact I found it difficult.  Because I knew I could eat tomorrow …. I don’t remember finding it so hard to maintain my willpower – it seems to escape me more as I age.  I was super hungry this day.  But otherwise, I felt great.  I didn’t have a sweet tooth.  I wasn’t craving coffee anymore and I was drinking LOTS of water.

Overall

As far as juice cleanses go, I liked the Freshii one.  I really liked the taste of the juices, I actually grabbed two more just to drink as juice today.

I did feel that it helped me hit the reset button and super charge the nutrients going into my body.

I haven’t had any coffee since the detox,  I’m back to tea.  I haven’t had much of a sweet tooth at all actually.  It kickstarted me drinking ++ water again, which I definitely needed.

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So if you’re in the market for a juice cleanse I would definitely give Freshii a try, in my humble opinion.

Enjoy!

10 days of gratitude: day 10 – MY BIG BEAUTIFUL HEART!

IT’S DAY 10/10 and I could keep going with my list of gratitudes … but I’ll wrap the posts at 10, as promised.

Randy Travis wrote a song years ago called My Heart Cracked … some of the lyrics go:

Shattered dreams, lay everywhere
Broken promises, are all we share
I finally took, all I could take
My heart cracked, but it did not break

My heart’s been broken, twice – we’ve all have broken hearts – they suck don’t they?  But today, I’m grateful for my heartbreaks.

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Someone Like You – Adele

Each heartbreak made my heart stronger, wiser and hopefully more experienced. It gave me the wisdom to tell between loyalty and unfaithfulness, to tell the difference between a lie and a truth, and eventually between reality and expectations.

I used to listen A Little Bit Stronger by Sara Evans on repeat when I was going through it. Do you love this song too?

It doesn’t happen overnight but you
Turn around and a month’s gone by
And you realize you haven’t cried
I’m not giving you a hour or a second or another minute longer
I’m busy getting stronger

And, oh, I’m done thinking,
You could ever change
I know my heart will never be the same
But I’m telling myself I’ll be okay
Even on my weakest days,
I get a little bit stronger

But that was time ago, and I don’t wanna play the broken-hearted girl (Sasha Fierce), I’m better than that.  I have so much to offer someone and when The Universe feels it’s time for me to meet him, I will.  Until then, I’m just happy being ME and be grateful for my lessons in love.

Namaste

 T xo


10 days of gratitude: day 8 – THE SUN!

Today’s blog is going to be quick and very to the point … I woke up, felt the warm sun on my face after a long winter, I see the trees trying to bloom their first leaves …

and it hit me, I’m grateful for THAT!  I simple act of nature, and I’m grateful for that.

Can you imagine a world without the sun?

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I didn’t fully realize how much I truly love the warmth and goodness of the sun – I’m a SUMMER BABY, it’s no wonder that Summer is my favourite season.

We have the blessing of witnessing beautiful sunrises in the morning and stunning sunsets in the evening.  Be grateful for the sun, for without it food wouldn’t grow and your body wouldn’t experience its warmth.

“Regardless of Sunshine or Rain, Be Thankful for another GREAT 
day…and treat Life as the ULTIMATE Gift.... Because IT IS :)”

― Pablo

Anyone else remember this song?

So let the sun shine in
Face it with a grin
Smilers never lose
And Frowners never win
So let the sun shine in
Face it with a grin
Open up your heart and let the sun shine in

10 days of gratitude: day 7 – MY MISTAKES

…. we all make them, non intentional – oversights.

Today I focus on being grateful for my mistakes

Made perhaps via clouded judgment, your perspective of the world, opening your mouth when you should have thought beforehand or that stupid phone call or text.  WE ALL MAKE THEM AND GUESS WHAT YOU’LL MAKE MORE …

Making them isn’t the biggest part of the problem, it’s what we learn and take away from the mistake we made. I’ve met enough people who learned little from their own stupidity.  The truth is LEARNING from your mistakes is DAMN hard … how many of us have repeated the same “mistake” more than once?  I know I’m guilty of it as much as the next gal … I mean c’mon have you ever met anyone who enjoyed failing?

Learning from your mistakes does not happen automatically—it requires thinking and reflection.

Plus, remember you CANNOT avoid making mistakes – the world we live in today is ever changing … every mistake helps you grow, learn, understand. Be grateful for the wisdom that your mistakes enabled. Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable.

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10 days of gratitude: day 6 – MY BELONGINGS!

This morning I woke up, made my tea with my shiny red kettle, poured it into my large Starbucks mug, sat in my lovely sea-foam green chair in my lovely new condominium, with my MacBook Air to write this blog.  After which, I will put on my Canada Goose jacket and Ralph Lauren boots and will drive to work in my SUV.

I elaborated above intentionally … any guesses based on my intro what today’s gratitude is????

Today’s blog post is about being grateful for what I have ….  for my belongings!

My bags, my clothes, my couch, my bed, my shoes, my SUV, my FitBit — everything I own, I’m grateful for.  I’m grateful that I CAN and DO own these things. I have more than some, less than others – but I am still extremely grateful for what I have insofar as my belongings.  I’m grateful that I had the ability to purchase them or be gifted them.  I definitely cannot complain for all that I have and I am so GRATEFUL for it.

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

~ Thank U, Alanis Morissette

I am truly grateful for all of the things that I do have —  even my pots and pans, my candles, my fan and my duvet — without my pots/pans I could not cook, I could not keep cool without my fan on a hot summer’s day and I could not sleep as warmly without my comfy comforter.  ALL of these little things are important and make my life easier, and for that I am grateful.

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I love this song — so many thank yous  😍

10 days of gratitude: day 5 – MY MENTORS!

I’m 1/2 way through my 10 days of gratitude with this post!  It hasn’t been hard at all finding things to be grateful for …

Post #5 is about the people in my life who have had an impact, in ways some people have no idea that they even have.  Some people are just so amazing, that to be around them makes me better or feel better.

(coincidently this is my 100th post! – woo hoo – I’m grateful for that)

This post is about MY MENTORS … 

Some are family, others friends, a couple of teachers, and even a few bosses.  

I’m grateful for those individuals who took time out of their lives to help me and give me guidance. Who made me feel more competent, recognized my skillsets and acknowledged my value.  To those who showed me that I am loved and how to love.  To those of you taught me the value of integrity and the strength of my word.  To you fine folks who believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself – who pushed me to be bigger, better, brighter!  TO THOSE OF YOU WHO SHARED WITH ME THE CHEAT SHEET TO LIFE … my life is greater and grander because of YOU and I’m so blessed and grateful!

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Conversely, I’m also grateful for the people who came in and out of my life.  Who were there for a reason, a season, and the experience wasn’t so pleasant — this goes to the same – family, friends, teachers and bosses.  My experience with you too,  even if not through mentorship, has taught me so many valuable lessons – how to be a better friend, to be a better colleague, do be better in spite of my past with you.  The real gratefulness here for me that that I was wise enough to lose the person but not necessarily the lesson.

Not everyone in your life is meant to come and stay forever – some people come into your life at the exact moment you need them to, to show you something, to help you grow and then they move on – vice versa – sometimes people come into your LIFE so that you can show them, teach them and then you’re on your way.

 

ARE YOU UP FOR A CHALLENGE?

Identify 3 people who had a significant and positive experience on your life.

These can be coaches, mentors, professors, bosses, family members, or anyone else. Call those people and thank them for the difference they made in your life.

I did this and it felt so good, I’m still going 🙂


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A recent Facebook post by my friend Kimberley Smith

10 days of gratitude: day 4 – MY CHARACTER!

Ok, we are onto day 4 TODAY, I have so many things to be grateful for – we all do – we just have to take stock of everything little thing – things don’t always have to move mountains to be significant enough to be grateful for – in fact for me it’s quite the opposite.  I’m grateful for the little things in life.  

Today I’m grateful for my CHARACTER … and the things that make me who I am – mainly my courage, strength, determination, integrity and sticktoitiveness.

I’ve lived for 44 years on this earth and I’ve come soooo FAR! From that little, scared, shy, wallflower of a girl, I made it despite or in spite of my adversities, feelings of not fitting in, heartbreaks and pain, though disappointment and failure. I AM HERE due to my sheer strength, grit and determination, STRONGER, BETTER, BOLDER THAN EVER BEFORE, more determined than ever to be my true authentic self and to stand for myself foremost and utmost.  I  had someone truthfully say to me that they were impressed because “for all intents and purposes you should have been a statistic”.  And, I’m not gonna lie, I probably should have been – I broke the cycle of a few things in my family.  With that,  I hugged that person and said “Thank you”.  

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I found my voice and I never looked back.  I’m here, alive, motivated and raring to go. “Be grateful to whatever is giving you the will to drag yourself out of bed and face the world. Be it your motivation, your goals, your God, whatever, be grateful for the courage”.

I’m grateful for:

  • the time when I supported a friend in despair, who felt I was someone they could confide in, to tell me they were struggling.  
  • the time that smiled for a family photo when all I wanted to do was to cry, but I didn’t.
  • the strength to do my job well so that I can help people recovery from their disability and return to healthy, productive lifestyles.
  • my poor, poor heart — scared, wounded, healed, and still up for more of the same. No matter how much it bears it bounces back. 
  • my strength to face my troubles and overcome my sorrows.  
  • the the fact that I was able to become better from my past to where I am today.  

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George Harrison “Om Hare Om (Gopala Krishna)”

10 days of gratitude: day 3 – MY SITUATION!

How are we feeling today for Day 3 of our 10 days of GRATITUDE?

Today’s #3 can certainly be difficult to think of in gratitude especially when we’re down in the dumps, we’ve had our heart broken, lost a loved one or even got passed over for a job we really wanted.  #3 takes a bit of perspective and the ability to see that no matter the situation, it can always be worse, even when at the time it feels like we’re at your worse.

the 3rd things that I’m grateful for is MY SITUATION …

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This blog is serious shit, remember we’re all gonna be aye ok 🙂

If you’re reading this you are already in a better situation than the hundreds of millions of individuals who are struggling each day.

I have felt all kinds of shitty over my 44 years, I promise you – I’ve failed at life and in situations just as many times if not more than you have. I’ve been in shock, in despair. I’ve been hurt. I’ve been scared to death.  I’ve been cheated on, lied to, manipulated. I’ve been days from not being able to pay my mortgage at times.  I’ve gotten in trouble cause I can’t keep my mouth shut.  I’ve loved and lost.  I’ve been lonely.  I’ve been mad and sad.  I’ve been let go.  I almost lost my only brother and lost my dad only 6 months later.  I’ve been treated like crap when all I’ve done is loved.  I’ve been taken advantage of on so many levels (emotionally, financially) … I could keep going but you get the drift.

In the days when I literally did nothing but cry and stay in bed. When I couldn’t sleep or eat. When my heart ached so much it felt as if it was going to explode.  When I was at my worst – I STILL KNEW I was better off than most of the millions of people in this vast world, who can’t afford a roof over their head/who sleep on the streets, they can’t afford food in their bellies, to buy clothes for their babies, they cannot afford to get out of the ghetto, someone they love has just been murdered, someone is struggling with mental health and can’t get the right treatment, someone out there just received the news they’ve got 3 months to live. I was all of the things I mentioned earlier in my blog, but other folks had it worse.  What they wouldn’t have given to trade with me for a brief moment, even when I was in the depth of my despair.  So remember, your situation could ALWAYS be worse.

Your situation also serves as a blessing (in disguise).

Kelly Clarkson said it best (sing it with me – you know you want to )

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
Stand a little taller
Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone
What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter
Footsteps even lighter
Doesn’t mean I’m over ’cause you’re gone


Another song I love by Krishna Das …

10 days of gratitude: day 2 – MA FAMILLE!

Welcome to day 2 of practicing gratitude ... 

Thanks for joining me along my gratitude journey.  It always feels 
more productive for me to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys in 
this case).  There's obviously a reason counsellors will suggest 
journalling, it just feels good to get it out there!  I've been 
practicing mental gratitude for a long while now, but, I've never 
really put the things I'm truly grateful for in my life on paper.

I’m onto item #2 – my list won’t be listed in order of importance  – just as they come to me and what inspires me to write each day.

ITEM #2 IS MA FAMILLE (aka family)

FAMILY, your biggest fans and your most honest critics aren’t they?

My Parents: The only beings who could possibly love you more than to infinity and beyond. Not all parents are great, I’ll give you that, but at the bare minimum they did choose to let you live and gave you life. Some didn’t even get to be born 😦  I’m most grateful to my parents for their support and undying love. It wasn’t always easy, and sometimes it was a pure struggle – but that life gave me the strength to be solid human I am today.  Be grateful for the opportunity if you still have it – losing my dad was the hardest thing I’ve had to go through in life to date.  What I’d do for one last phone call.

My Brother: Your siblings are the best thing that could ever happen to you, with my brother some days I doubt that, and although I struggle to stand for my brother at times, I love him unconditionally.   No matter how much we bicker and argue, at the end of the day he’s always there for me and when push comes to shove he’s always on my  side.

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My Children: The ones who test you to the brink of insanity, then give you the biggest hug (or do the dishes lol) and it all just melts away.  My kids are my life.  My reasons for being.  The reasons that I woke up on days where I felt giving up.  They’re my prides, my joys, the loves of my life.  They’re everything I did right in this world (happy crying right now).  They’re the purest reflection of me, and I adore them to infinity and beyond.

My foster child, Maria in Zambia and the ones I had beforehand – my heart swells each time I receive a letter from her, on how she’s doing, and the lovely pictures I receive drawn by some little girl on the other side of the world who loves me because I donate less than a cup of coffee per day and write her letters …

My friends, the family you choose ….. the crazy nights out, the embarrassing memories, the late night phone calls, the laughs, the cries and the fact that they’ve got your back. Always grateful for those priceless relationships.  To the ones whom super I’m connected with, to the ones I don’t get to see as ofter as I’d like to, the ones I’ve lost touch with and the ones yet to come into my life.  I’m grate for them all and all of the experiences – they’ve shaped me into the person that I am today.  I’m a pretty big loner, but, I’ve got to say I have a pretty solid base surrounding me.

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LIFE IS GOOD, and BETTER SURROUNDED BY FAMILY AND FRIENDS!


Finding Swammy captures exactly how I feel about this song (love)
This song has touched my heart and I am in tears. If you read this – I send you love. No matter what you are going through – I got love for you. If life is good for you then I rejoice with you and if it’s not going so well I am with you there but also letting you know that it will get better ~ Finding Swamy

10 days of gratitude: day 1 – MY LIFE!

I’ve been trying to figure out what to write about next.  I wasn’t into researching any more on my family tree. But,  I have been spending some time determining what I wanted to do the first month of my move to SEAsia (next year – woo hoo!).

Enter INDIA, I have been wanting to spend time at an ashram for about 10 years now.  This is my chance to make it happen — fulfill a bucket list item.  I’m in the process of researching which ashrams, locations and what each one has to offer.  I’m actually sitting here listening to Om Nama Shivaya on iTunes as I write it (my fave version is by Krisha Das FYI). Om Namah Shivaya Mantra (ॐ नमः शिवाय) is perhaps among the most powerful and the most popular mantras on the earth. It’s such a powerful mantra for me that I had it tattooed on my left hip about 8 years ago.

But I mostly want to go to spend time in India for its spirituality. Although it’s a cliche, the whole ‘gaining personal enlightenment and inner peace‘ aspect IS a major draw, at least for me. I’ve always searched for that – even here … and that lead me to my blog topic for today and the next 9 days … GRATITUDE!


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and ….

the #1 thing that I’m extremely grateful for is ….  MY LIFE!

No matter how you think it is, LIFE IS truly A GIFT.

No matter how much I’ve been through in my years on earth, I still get up and am thankful that I get to live another day … to tell the people in my life how much they mean to me and to be thankful for what I have.  I don’t feel that we as a society take enough time to stop and think about what we DO HAVE.  We’re mainly a society focussed on what we don’t have, what we need next to keep up with the Jones’.

STOP and be grateful for the simple fact that you had the opportunity to wake up this morning when so many individuals don’t get a chance to make it as far as you did.

I work in disability claims, this job can be thankless in a lot of respects, but it is fulfilling when you have the chance to help someone move forward in their life and get to see how you’ve directly impacted their life trajectory.  It is also VERY HUMBLING on the daily, I deal with some members who are extremely ill – who are struggling daily with their activities of daily living, struggling with deep amounts of physical and/or emotional pain and some who know with certainty that their life expectancy on this earth has a DEFINITE TIMELINE 😦

Saturday mornin’ at the crack of sunrise
Thank the man upstairs for lettin’ me open my eyes
~ Mack 10 – Backyard Boogie

My father for example, woke up one morning 4 years ago, expecting to live a regular day, and passed away suddenly on his kitchen floor at 60 – 4 days before he was to come visit me.  Not to sound morbid, but, that is a REAL LIFE, straight to the heart example to me of how precious life really is.

Disease, poverty, famine, drought, natural disasters, accidents — ALL claim thousands of lives each year, but you were lucky. You got to live, to survive, to exist and to be able to dream yet another day!  Be grateful for your life.  It’s awesome and it’s also what you make it.  Dream BIG. Love HARD.  RUN toward your life, not away from it.  You create your life — NOW GO LIVE IT.


On Travel: Vietnam – What I Loved and Didn’t Love

I’ve been back from Vietnam for about 2 weeks now.  I have to admit it’s been tough being back – to the cold, the snow, back to working 9-5, not traveling …

Today I want to share a little about my overall experience in Vietnam.  What I loved, things I wished I had done and things that perhaps I wasn’t overly fond of.

If you’ve been following along with my blog and my journey through Vietnam, you’ll quickly remember how much I love this country.  Every one should get to Vietnam given the chance, it truly is spectacular (well I think so anyway) … I’m envious of my daughter for making this country her home.

As with any other country, Vietnam has a glowing list of fantabulous things to see and do, its natural beauty, its history, culture, kind and giving people whom I met and made my experience in Vietnam one for the record books.  But, it also has things that need to be improved upon and aren’t so glamorous, I’ll highlight some of those things in this blog.

I encourage you to go back and read my last few blog posts if you haven’t, just to catch up on the amazingness of Vietnam prior to reading this post.


🎶 Let’s Talk About Food Baby 🎶

The food 😋 was one of the absolute best parts of Vietnam, so many yummy choices, which vary from region to region.  For example, some of the foods I loved in the north (Ha Noi) weren’t necessarily available in the south (HCMC).  But, it’s great to be able to experience each region’s specialty dishes.

Eating street food in Vietnam is a rite of passage for every visitor, and I’m all about throwing myself into the local culture so I was prepared to give most foods a go. In every doorway, on every street corner, and down every alley, food is being prepared literally on the street.  Many a time I pulled up a tiny plastic stool to a tiny plastic table and ate.

Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, complementary textures, and reliance on LOTS fresh herbs and vegetables. Vietnamese cuisine is considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world and always combines fragrance, taste, and colour.

Below are just SOME of the foods I ate over my month long visit.


👍🏻  Fan Faves:

(1) Bún chả  –  served with grilled fatty pork (chả) over a plate of white rice noodle (bún) and herbs with a side dish of dipping sauce.  I ate this twice while in Vietnam.  Definitely worth trying guys! It was super good!

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Bunch in Ha Noi (not yet assembled)

(2) Bún Rieu – LOVED this, I first tried this in Ha Noi –  it was incredible.  See below for the types of Bún Rieu I wasn’t so fond of.  Freshwater crab flavours this soup which is made with rice vermicelli and topped with pounded crabmeat and deep-fried tofu.  Chilies, lime and fresh herbs add the finishing touches.

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Bún Rieu in Da Nang

(3) Bánh khọt – if you love crispy savoury pancakes, you’re going to love Vietnamese bánh khọt – it’s usually provided with lettuce, tons of herbs and dipping sauce – really good. Equally as yummy in the pancake department is bánh xèo.

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Bánh khọt, a specialty of Vũng Tàu

(4) Bun Bo Nam Bo – could be the best street food in Ha Noi – the broth at the bottom of the deep bowl is made of fish sauce, sugar, lemon and chilli and has deliciously light sweet and sour undertones. The sauce is topped with marinated beef, vegetables, noodles, onion crisps and crushed nuts.

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Ate this yummy dish in Ha Noi

5) Cơm tấm – broken rice and pork chop – very basic meal – but reliable, inexpensive and yummy.  Usually served with pickled veggies and a side soup for about 20K – about $1.15 CDN.

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A staple for me in Saigon

I could GO ON … I had sooooooo …. many amazing meals whist in Vietnam, but, I’ll limit it to my top 5 —- Honorable Mention to rau muong xao you- morning glory with garlic.

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👎🏻 Not So Fussy On:

(1) Chicken Feet – I just didn’t enjoy them at all – no meat on them.  They were crispy, like chicken wings, but with NO meat. Imagine just eating chicken skin on bone – that’s what I can best compare it to.  I didn’t hate them, but I could definitely do without them.  Don’t quite get the appeal.  Is it your thing?

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(2) Bún riêu with congealed pig’s blood – bún riêu is a truly sensational Vietnamese street food — if you forgo the blood cubes.  I realized that in different areas of Vietnam – there are differing varieties of bún riêu.  For example I DID NOT like the bún riêu in HCMC at all, I liked the one in Da Nang and loved the one in Ha Noi – all a little bit unique with their own regional touches.  But , the main thing I realized is that I did not like it at all with the congealed pig’s blood. So, now I know to always order my bún riêu “không huyết” — with no congealed pig’s blood.

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The bún riêu in HCMC that I was not fond of

(3) Mixed Rice Paper in a Bag – this wasn’t a salad – I’ve heard of Rice Paper Salad – this was more like a seasoned rice paper snack in a bag – which was essentially rice paper strips as well as chilli powder and other seasoning.  I had seen it on many vlogs and YouTube videos on Vietnamese street food, and I was disappointed.  It was hard, the texture was weird and only got soft after you chewed it for a bit – I guess I would liken it to chewing rice paper 😂.

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Did not enjoy the rice paper snack while in Cần Thơ at the Night Market

(4) Rượu rắn – Cobra Snake Wine – an alcoholic beverage produced by infusing whole snakes in rice wine or grain alcohol. The snakes, preferably venomous ones, are not usually preserved for their meat but to have their “essence” and snake venom dissolved in the liquor. The snake venom poses no threat to the drinker. It is denatured by the ethanol – its proteins are unfolded and therefore inactive and would be denatured by stomach acid anyway.  It was good just to say I’ve tried it, but I just couldn’t imagine sipping on this  – it tasted more like tequila than wine to me (and I loathe tequila).

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Tried rượu rắn during our trip to the Mekong Delta

(5) Sweet Snails with Lemongrass – oc huong hap xa – not a dish I was particularly fond of.  They say half the fun is extracting the hot cooked snails from their shells (who actually says that?) – I did not find it fun nor tasty.  I’ve had snails here in Canada  – but we cook them with lots of garlic and butter and out of the shell.  Even here, I don’t LOVE them, but I liked them less in Vietnam.  They were chewy in texture – especially the head and had little to no taste.  It was decent enough to try, but I won’t order them – thankfully, I was offered one by a girl I met who ordered an entire plate – she loves them 🤢

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Tried these at Bến Thành Market in Saigon


Things I Really Enjoyed/Liked:

PLACES TO VISIT

I can’t pick just 2 places I loved to visit — I really enjoyed every place I chose to visit for different reasons.  Some were for beauty, some for historical importance or significance, and others for simple relaxation.  There wasn’t a moment that I didn’t enjoy being in Vietnam.  The sights, the sounds, the culture, the people and the food ♥️.

For things to do I would suggest the following as they were my top places, but truly, I loved every place I went, so you can’t go wrong:

  • Hoi An – all of the silk lanterns at night were gorgeous and the ancient town is a fabulous place to visit.   See my blog on Hoi An here for more details on things to do  and see.
  • Cu Chi Tunnels – outside of HCMC – you’ll learn about its important role in the Vietnam War, the daily struggles of its inhabitants, as well as the ingenious strategies and weapons that were used. Click my blog here for more about the tunnels.
  • The War Remnants Museum – HCMC – sad and heart breaking at times, but I would 10000% going to this while you’re in Saigon – it really gives you pause for thought
  • Ha Long Bay and Ha Long City – WOW!  Spectacular views, scenic, breathtaking – I only did a day trip – but next time I go I’d like to do an overnight trip and sleep on the ship.  Click here to see more about my trip to Ha Long Bay and Ha Long City.
  • Mekong Delta – this is what I think of when I think of Vietnam – this trip was priced right 550K for 2 days, 1 night – hotel breakfast and lunch included as well as English speaking guide and A/C Bus, for more click my blog here.


COST OF LIVING

As a foreigner, the cost of living is ridiculously low for us.  The exchange rate when I was there was $1.00 CND Dollar to 17,000 VDN.

Most basic every day things are super inexpensive for us as Westerners.

Here are some approximates:

Beer was between 11K and 20K on average, depending where you purchased and the type of beer – Larue was usually the cheapest (and luckily my favourite common beer), and then 333, Saigon and Tiger.  My absolute fave was Tiger Crystal in a bottle (I could def use one of those now).

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Most street foods ranged between 10K and 70K – bánh mì was always on the low end at about 10-20K as was cơm tấm at about 15-20K

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1.5L of water was approx 10-20K, again depending on where you purchase it.

Grab taxis are super cheap compared to Canada – I think the sitting rate just to enter a taxi is now up to $3.80 where I live – in Vietnam that could literally be my whole trip (by Grab).  Taxi’s are more expensive and not always reliable for pricing.

Fresh fruit was always well priced – I picked up pineapple for 10K, jackfruit and a 1/4 watermelon both for 50K.  There are fruit cart ladies on each street corner, sometimes more than one.

Ice coffee was anywhere between 10-25K (depending where you went – chain coffee houses are more expensive).

Even hotels – my most expensive hotel on the trip was $17.00 CDN – and it was a very nice hotel.

Some days, I was living off less than $20.00 CDN and that included my hotel rate!

Below are some of the every day items that we would buy back home and their associated VDN price — remember $1.00 CND is 17K VDN!


Things I Wish Were Different:

HONKING

What I could have done without perhaps is all of the HONKING! They honk at and for everything.  Unlike us back in North American – we honk when we are trying to relay something important or semi important “hey, you’re crossing over into my lane”, “Come on man, the light is green!” or even “I’m at your house, let’s go.”

But in Vietnam they honk to signal EVERYTHING …  I’m here watch out, I’m behind you, move over, get out of my way, I said get out of my way 😜, I’m not stopping, go already, I’m turning … 

Honking is so loud and so regular in the country that people just seem to accept it, I’d be scared, in fact, of asking them not to honk … somewhere along the way, it has become habitual and a major cause of noise pollution. It can really get on your nerves when drivers keep pressing on their horns for no apparent reason.

I was fairly decent at blocking it out most days, however, the one day I was about to scream out “please, for the love of God, stop effin honking” … I mediated when I got back to the hotel and the moment passed 😂


LACK OF RULES OF THE ROAD

In certain parts of Vietnam there weren’t any traffic lights or signs – it just seemed like a free for all – some type of organized chaos that I wasn’t privy to – but somehow works, I don’t know how but it does!

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Crazy traffic in Saigon as we were heading home on our motorcycle

I’ve literally seen people drive on sidewalks rather than waiting in congestion.

The Vietnamese don’t often obey the traffic lights or signs when there are any – they seem more like suggestions than an actual legal traffic requirement.

Traffic moves in all possible directions, no matter if it’s a sidewalk, a pedestrian street, an alley obviously too narrow for a motorbike – I’ve also seen on many occasions traffic flowing in the WRONG direction – YEP – coming at you when it’s clearly a one way street!

Pedestrians:  Forget all the standard rules of crossing the street, the Vietnamese don’t seem to have the culture of respecting pedestrians. Pedestrian cross walks are rare and if they do exist, they are ignored. Crossing the street for a pedestrian is like a game of chicken each time! You learn to have faith. You start to walk and hope that the motorcycles and cars that run in both directions will avoid you. I became a pro at it very quickly – I look, I go and I watch – they will usually manoeuvre around me.

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Also, they park on the sidewalks (which is customary there).  So walking can be a pain from time to time as you’re constantly switching from road to sidewalk, back to road etc …


LITTERING

When I first arrived in Vietnam, I was struck by its beauty.  However, as I started exploring I came across a lot of litter on the ground in Ha Noi.  I thought it was initially just Ha Noi but as I explored I noticed that even in remote regions, I always came across large areas that were inexplicably strewn with trash. The litter consisted mostly of plastic bags, plastic bottles, beer cans, leftover food containers/items and plain old garbage. I didn’t get it!  The trash wasn’t piled up, awaiting collection at the side of the road; it was spread around, over large areas and in natural beauty areas such as river beds, beaches etc. Thousands of locations all over the country are now utterly ruined by trash. It’s sad, disappointing and infuriating.

These are just SOME of the pics I took – I only started taking photos of this my last few days in the country. I could have taken dozens more.

Very few people bothered to clean up after themselves – I would see people open items and then just toss the wrappers on the sidewalk. I was told by my tour guide to just put my litter in the gutter while I was in HCMC (which I absolutely did not) and a local once brought it to my attention that I had “garbage” in my back pocket – I put the wrappers there because I could not bring myself to just toss them on the ground – it just goes against everything we’re taught here in Canada and most certainly for me as an environmentalist.

I can’t even recall seeing trash bins, if there were any, they certainly weren’t prominent enough to stand out, given I was carrying my personal trash with me.  If they were more available, would people even use them?  Click here to read an article by Forbes Magazine on Vietnam’s littering epidemic.

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Taken on a river bed in the Mekong Delta

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I took this as I randomly walked down a street in Vung Tau


Things I’d Still Like to Do

  • Head to Sapa to discover the spectacular scenery of the Tonkinese Alps where Montagnard hill tribes have lived for centuries.
  • Ninh Binh is a good base for exploring quintessentially Vietnamese limestone
  • Ha Giang is a beautiful destination located in the Northwest Highlands. scenery.
  • Ban Gioc Waterfall – the most famous place in Cao Bang province, the landscape is dominated by limestone hills.
  • I hear you can opt to skip out on Halong Bay (which is touristy) and head over to Bai Tu Long instead. Located North East of Halong Bay, this area can stretch up to 100 km to the Chinese border.
  • Co To is an island located in the middle of the sea in Quang Ninh Province, a beautiful island with fine white sand and blue water
  • Nam Du is one of the islands in the Nam Du archipelagoes. It’s about 60 km from the mainland. Nam Du is beautiful, pristine and peaceful with beaches.
  • Kon Tum province of the Central Highlands has a border crossing with Laos and Cambodia, also known as the Indochina Fork.

These are just some of the MANY MANY places I’d still like to visit in Vietnam – I chose most of these places specifically because they were less touristy and would allow me to truly explore the country and all that it has to offer.


Conclusion

Overall, while Vietnam has its quirks that it’s still trying to iron out, I still very much like the country.  I’ve had nothing but positive experiences there.  I’ve heard others have mixed reviews and others nothing but negatives.  I suppose part of it can be attributed to the way you prepare for your trip and how you’ve set your expectations … and the way you choose to look at the experience.  True,  you may get scammed – then try not to put yourself in a situation where you may be – book only with reputable companies, ones that come recommended to you by others.  You may get pick pocketed – well, that can happen any where in the world, not just Vietnam.  Yes, they will try to overcharge you on items – they’re trying to make a living – do you how much they make and live on? What’s an extra 50 cents or a dollar to me in the grand scheme of things?

It’s not a country without its share of faults, but it is an emerging country trying to change its past global footprint. They are now posting anti-littering signs and I hear that police are trying to enforce non littering (that I have yet to see).

Some ex-pats and locals who are passionate about the cause gather groups and clean beaches, neighbourhoods and streets.

Certain restaurants are now committed to recycling – when I saw this at one café in Saigon, I wanted to hug the owner.

At an ex-pat green market I attended (in D2 Saigon) they were focussing on the sale of reusable items – such as water bottles (it’s not common there to use reusable water bottles as we do in most other places in the world).  They also focussed on eliminating the need for single use masks by creating cloth ones.  There were also reusable cloth coffee holders for your motorcycle.  I know this is probably hard to understand to us, but, because everyone travels by motorbike, they actually sell you your coffee and put it in a plastic bag or plastic cup carrier (single use) so people can hook it onto their bikes when they drive – more plastic waste.  EVERYTHING comes in a plastic bag.  They looked shocked when I would tell them “no bag” cause I had my Herschel knapsack with me.

Think of what changes could be made IF every person, used a reusable bag, had a cloth mask, used a reusable cloth coffee carrier and water bottle!