The Past and the Future

I treasure life’s unique experiences, especially those that come out of nowhere.

Last weekend, I had one of those experiences. I went to two parties on one weekend – one for our 96-year-old Baba and a first-year birthday party for my littlest niece. It was the past and the future all rolled into one weekend.

One of my favourite people in the world.

Baba first.

At 96, I can’t help but be amazed at the life Baba has lived.

Born in 1923.

Let’s think about THAT for a second.

To say it was a different time would be like saying the winters are a little cold in northern Saskatchewan.

Her mother and father were children of Ukrainian immigrants, simple farmers fleeing violent oppression, seeking cheap farming land in Canada. She grew up in a time where religion and community went hand-in-hand, through times when her family didn’t know if they’d have enough to eat over the winter, and in a home with no running water or Google (FYI, of the two, I think I could survive longer without water than the internet.)

She survived the Great Depression, all the sicknesses that took so many back then, and literally had to walk miles through blizzards to attend school. (And me, I complain if I have to walk to my car in the rain.)

So, imagine how the world has changed in her lifetime.

She saw how the world transformed after World War 2, from the rise of feminism, to the growth of suburbs, to the civil rights movement. She would have listened to the Beatles on the radio, watched men land on the moon on her black and white TV, and seen the ushering in of the computerized world.

For most of her life, she would have used a rotary phone, likely with an overly long spiral cord that risked strangling anyone who got in-between you and the phone. For most of her life, she would have gone to an actual store to shop, not Amazoned a blender or a book about bees. For most of her life, she would have had to rely on her memory to recall who was that actor who played that doctor on that show set during the Korean war, not simply spoken her request to the god-like Siri.

I could go on and on (and actually did, but edited this for brevity). This was a woman who not only lived through those times but refused to be confined by those times.

She never finished school, yet created architectural drawings for the church she helped build. While raising 4 children, she helped run a drive-in movie theatre (which I think is super cool). All of her life, even into her 70’s and 80’s, she organized and led her church women’s group, and worked in the kitchen cooking up legendary dinners at the Ukrainian Hall in Surrey.

She is a woman who has never slowed down, never given up, and always finds a way to contribute.

So, for her birthday, we all gathered to celebrate this amazing woman. Married at 16 to a man 8 years her senior, she had four children, who went on the have great lives and provide her with a boat-load of grandchildren who, in turn, brought forth many, many more great-grandchildren.

One of several tables full of family. Great Baba is at the head of the table.

Nearly all were able to come for her birthday. We sang, (poorly,), laughed loudly, watched a slide show of her life with her family, and cried with her as she thanked everyone for their love.

Personally, I love spending time with her, listening to her stories, hearing her history and shaking my head in wonder at someone who has been through so much, remains so positive, so productive and still so funny.

She is an inspiration.

Tomorrow, the future.

Getting It Right For The-Oldest – Epcot – Vacation Day 5

The-Oldest with the Spaceship Earth growing out of his head.

Getting it right for The-Oldest is NOT easy.

See, Disney World for The-Youngest is a no-brainer. Candy. Rides. Loud sounds. Bright lights. More candy.

But for The-Oldest, it wasn’t the way he wanted to spend eight days. For him, being away from his music was like me being away from my girlfriend at that age.

He was an amazing sport, though, and went on all the terrifying rides with his brother, even enjoying a few, but there was nothing super special about the trip until the Biergarten in Epcot.

No, he didn’t have a beer, again, but it did have an oompah-pah band.

And a buffet where he could choose what to eat. 100% his choice. No potatoes he didn’t like. No gravy that someone poured onto something that shouldn’t have gravy (like peas). No spices cooked into the pasta sauce or meat flavoured with too much flavour.

Instead, he could have a plate full of wieners if he wanted. With a side of peas kept very separate from the wieners. And buns. Lots of buns. With butter.

Plus, while he ate, he could listen to Oktoberfest music (and dance if he wanted to, but that was as likely as me wanting to sing naked in front of my high school French teacher while dancing on a red-hot grill.) The music, I have to say, was fantastic, but stopped us from talking (which was also a HUGE plus for The-Oldest.)

Now THIS was The-Oldest’s idea of fun.

There is a video here.

Literally dripping wet, we all had a great time. I ate so much food, I think I gained 40lbs before I left the restaurant. Think Mr. Creosote from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. But then, I LOVE German food. Sauces. Sauerbraten.  Spätzle. Strudel. Red cabbage. I think in a former life, I was German. Or at least starving.

Nothing like good fireworks

With darkness falling and the rain letting up, we decided to stay for the fireworks and what a great decision that was. The-Oldest had the best reason why this is the BEST fireworks in Disney World (and that will be a part of his Top 10 list coming soon), but from my perspective, nothing beats a good fireworks show.

I don’t know why. I’m like a little kid seeing a puppy for the first time. If there is a heaven, mine will be filled with fireworks. And German food.

For some reason, it didn’t rain at all as we watched the sky explode around us, as the crowd oooh’d and aaah’d, as the air filled with the smell of explosives.

A great picture of a great day!

Everything had simply come together for this evening to make his adventure amazing.

Despite the rain, we got to ride on the Test Track.

Because of the rain, we went inside to a sitdown restaurant where The-Oldest had his best experience.

With no rain, we got to enjoy an incredible fireworks show.

I couldn’t wait to see what the next day would bring, not knowing at the time that I would get to experience one of my real-life nightmares.

Unexpected Fun – Epcot – Disney World

epcot in disney world, orlando florida, the spaceship earth
Epcot in Disney World. Unexpected fun awaited

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times – the best thing about traveling is that you can never completely predict what will happen. This time, at Epcot, we had some unexpected fun.

So, our plan, with rain already spitting down on us, was to get to our Fastpass ride, the popular Test Track, (weather permitting) grab some food, and see the fireworks (weather permitting).

Unlike the other parks, Epcot was not filled with Dumbo rides or Splashy rollercoasters. It’s a showcase for pavilions from around the world. Back in Joe 1.0 life, I loved this park more than the others since it was like visiting Norway, or China or Mexico in a bottle. But The Boyz, well, I could drag them there, but it would be like giving a cat its bath.

So it would be rides, food, and fireworks. Weather permitting.

But that rain bit us in the ass right away. When we checked our Disney App, we found that the Test Track was canceled.

Doh.

However, when a Fastpass ride is canceled, Disney gives you a free Fastpass to any other ride in that park. Any ride. So we changed our plans and decided to see Soaring.

But upon entering the park, the boys had an odd reaction to the big dome, the Spaceship Earth. Like fangirls crushing on Beiber, they gaped at it in wonder. They wanted to run around it, take pictures of it, and go inside it (and do the ride.) The ride itself was a journey through time. Not a rollercoaster. Not a thing that flipped you around until you wanted to throw up. Not even a ride that got you wet.

It was information. Like a museum.

Like the little kitten who comes close to you for the first time, I didn’t want to scare them off with all sorts of Joe-information (of which I have a ton!), so we just got on the ride. It was a little worn, a little outdated, but The-Boyz loved it. Yes, they loved learning something.

What the f…?

Then, just as we got out, the rain stopped and the Test Track was back on. We ran to the ride (or rather, The-Boyz ran, and I waddled like a very pregnant woman in need of some pickles and ice cream.) We got inside, hoping the weather would hold.

And let me tell you, there is a reason this ride is so popular. Like Avatar: Flight of Passage, it has so much to do while you wait in line. In fact, it’s THE BEST ride for the line-up since you actually design your own car!

The-Boyz made something out of Sci-Fi, while The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, (a car-girl at heart), put in quality-time making it look aesthetic, making it as ‘green’ as possible, and ensuring that it would run like a bat out of hell. Pictures on Instagram here.

This monstrosity designed by The-Boyz for the Test Track ride in Epcot won? Really? It looks like something out of Tron

Such fun! Unexpected fun.

The ride itself was blazingly fast, but we all took our stats from the car and on the test track, got to see who had actually designed a better car. The-Boyz won twice, we won three times, which made The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World as happy as a lion getting to eat a tourist.

The car that won for the fastest was The-Boyz car, so they were super braggy about how well they’d done, but jeeeez, look at the thing. That race was rigged!

As soon as we got off, the rains came, hard and heavy, like a movie rain so wet that it soaked through our raingear.

Sopping wet, we chose to eat in Germany. On the spur of the moment, we decided upon the restaurant, the Biergarten. I mean, why not? German beer. A buffet with wieners. And a band!

Little did we know it would become The-Oldest’s most unexpected fun.

Why Road Trips Rock

Fabulous Vegas
Fabulous Vegas

Can you make a road trip fun? Or does fun just happen sometimes?

We had just three things to accomplish. Drive to Vegas. Stop and see the amazing Hoover Dam along the way, and see what The-Youngest called the MUST-SEE place half way to the dam.

All three things offered something new, something unexpected, something, kinda awesome.

Now, take a guess.

What would The-Youngest’s MUST-SEE place be? Uncle Jeb’s Monster Trucks, Guns and Liquor? The location of the Cars movie? A tumbleweed race-course?

No.

Dunkin Donuts.

See, they don’t have a Timmies down there. At least down in Arizona. The Americans have DD. And The-Youngest was convinced it would be the best place to find a good donut (based on his research of donuts.)

It made sense. There was a Dunkin Donuts half way to Vegas and, this time, we had no elusion that we could do the 4-hour drive without several rest stops. Plus, I wouldn’t mind a good donut as well. And something akin to a double-double.

All kinds of Ford Mustangs on the road. 2016's. 2013's like mine. Mint 1967 ones. ugly 80's mistakes. It was like they were given away free with any gun purchase.
All kinds of Ford Mustangs on the road. 2016’s. 2013’s like mine. Mint 1967 ones. Ugly 80’s mistakes. It was like they were given away free with any gun purchase.

So let me tell you about the drive. It’s a boring drive. However, cool note, there are a billion Mustangs on the road. It is, by far, the muscle car of choice. Sorry Charger. Sorry Camaro. It’s actually crazy how many there are. On the drive TO Flagstaff, I started pointing them out, but after about 20 within 30 minutes, The-Oldest begged me to stop.

It was the same on the way back. You couldn’t toss a cup of coffee out the window without hitting someone speeding by us in a ‘stang. Personally, I would have bet on some form of truck being the most popular car in this neck of the woods. Gun rack. Confederate flag. Deer antlers on the hood, But no. Young, old, short, tall, man or woman, they all seemed to choose the Mustang.

Also of note was the fact there aren’t any rest-stops like the ones we have in Canada and the Pacific North West. No place to pull over and let the children out to pee. Those places in this part of the world are called gas stations.

We never found Radiator Springs. That's more like Peach Springs on Arizona State Route 66, but we did see a lot of similar geography.
We never found Radiator Springs. That’s more like Peach Springs on Arizona State Route 66, but we did see a lot of similar geography.

Now, for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, the best part was seeing a real-life tumbleweed tumble across the highway and back into the desert. No Roadrunner this time, though. And she was excited to see a lot of the terrain depicted in Disney’s Cars, a movie she watched over 200 times with her young boys.

For The-Oldest, he was happy that we listened to classical music the entire drive. He got to explain who wrote it, why it was awesome and how he would change it to make it more awesome. He had no idea what awaited him at the Dunkin Donuts. Not a clue.

And The-Youngest was happy just to discuss the possibility of donut selection. Would there be a double chocolate donut? One with sprinkles? One with chocolate AND sprinkles? Maybe there’d be an arcade there. And wifi. And a place he could buy cheap headphones. When he grew bored of that, he tried to yank one of his loose teeth out of his head, grossing his brother and mom out.

Dunkin Donuts!
Dunkin Donuts!

At the Dunkin Donuts, The-Youngest had his dream come true. A double-chocolate donut WITH freaking sprinkles. I got to have my double-double (and the same donut as The-Youngest), while The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-world chose a healthier black coffee, and The-Oldest was satisfied with milk and Wifi.

But while he was looking intently at his phone, two girls came in. Same age as him, as near as I can tell these things, and they totally checked him out.

I wanted to jab him and point out what was happening, but that might have been embarrassing for him, so I let him be. But there was no mistaking what the girls did. They huddled close to each other, shot looks over at him, giggled, tried to catch his eye while trying to look like they weren’t interested at all, and played with their hair, smiling in his direction a lot.

The man The-Oldest will become can be seen in this picture
The man The-Oldest will become can be seen in this picture

It made me realize what a transformation The-Oldest has gone through this year. Ok, he’s still largely oblivious to girls, but he’s become quite the handsome boy. Tall and lean. Big brown eyes. Great smile. You can see it in some of the Grand Canyon pictures. You can see the man he’s becoming. (FYI – it makes The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World cry.)

Sadly, he saw nothing of the attention he received. He later explained he was too busy composing in his head, but wasn’t uninterested in hearing that girls might find him, you know, attractive.

Equally sadly, The-Youngest didn’t find his headphones and we weren’t going to let him eat 12 donuts, so for him, he was happy to get on the road, again.

I wondered as we drove off, though, a few years from now, what would The-Oldest have done? Smiled back? Simply ignored them? Gone over and talked to them about Beethoven?

Who knows? That’s the amazing part of watching these boys grow up, deal with how their world changes, how they change, and how what’s important changes.

How lucky am I to be there with them? Maybe to help them along the way. Maybe to be there to support their choices. Their decisions. Maybe to offer sage advice that will likely be completely ignored.

But for today, just being there with them, on something as simplistic as a car ride, made this adventure a thousand times better. And we hadn’t even reached the dam, yet.