Traveling Does Not Come Easy

I learnt something about myself the other day.  I really don’t enjoy flying. I’ve always tolerated it- because its kind of necessary, but there isn’t anything about it that I find enjoyable. The destination far outweighs the journey when it comes to traveling, for me.

In order for me to arrive in Vienna (at a reasonable cost), I took a flight from Vancouver to Montreal (relatively painless), a flight from Montreal to Brussels (horrendous), and a flight from Brussels to Vienna (ok once we got off the ground).

Before I started this journey, I was overcome by a real sense of dread.  I don’t usually feel this way, when I’m traveling – but this had me sit up and take notice. The dread came true soon after we left Montreal.  Now I have taken some rough flights (turbulent) before. After all, I have flown Bearskin Airlines from Winnipeg to Brandon back in the 90s (the one time I kissed the ground, when the plane landed) – but Bearskin had nothing on this Air Canada flight.  For starters, it was turbulent from the start.  Not one, but 2 people collapsed, one of whom fell on top of me, when he was walking back to his seat (turns out he just miscalculated how much he had to drink – and hasn’t that happened to all of us at one time or another?)  But at the time, it was a bit scary, and we were all concerned. However just laughed it off, when he came to.  As for the woman who collapsed, it was a serious panic attack that caused her ailment.  I can’t report on what happened, except to report that she recovered, and was fine a while after her attack.  For a routine flight, there was a lot of excitement. And then as we approached Brussels it was so windy, that the descent made me never want to fly again.  Never have I been so sick on a flight from being jostled around by the elements. Honestly its a tribute to the flight crew that we made it in one piece. Once we landed, I had made up my mind to live in Brussels forever – as I was determined to never get on another plane again. From here on in, I will stick to traveling by rail or by sea.

Here lies the problem, I know no one in Brussels.  and other than the Musée Hergé, I haven’t seen much of the city. I am not quite wily enough to enter into a new city and set up camp immediately, without any contacts or planning, and I’m fairly certain that you can’t camp out with Tintin and Hergé (at least not long term, but it would be fantastic if you could).  So I decided to take a chance and take one more flight to Vienna.

And after sitting on the runway for 90 minutes due to excessive winds – a fairly unremarkable flight with Austrian airlines happened.  I do love that the women on the flight crew, where head to toe red – even their tights are red.

So now I am in Vienna, a bit jet lagged – but my friend is taking great care of me. We did a bit of exploring and I got to experience my first viennese coffee and apple strudel at Cafe Demel -which was incredible. And while I think there are reasons for places like Stabucks, a little ambiance goes a long way, when it comes to having a coffee experience.

I got a chance to say a bit of a “how do you do” to this fellow (through the glass).


Doesn’t he look interesting and delicious?

This leg of the journey ended well- Im happy to be here. The dread is still with me – but now its changed its form a bit, and is about returning to Canada.


Something Always Goes Wrong


When I travel, I prepare a lot. I make lists, I check them 10 times, I pack, and then repack, and then reassess what I actually need, and then repack about 3 more times.  I take a carry on and a purse only.  It doesn’t matter for how long I plan on being away.  I will only take one bag (non-checked). Unless of course, I decide to play concerts around the world – and then Im hooped.  But for now, one bag only.

It doesn’t matter how well I prepare though, something always goes wrong.  I once moved 3 provinces away, and packed my plane tickets in my moving boxes, which were sent ahead of me flying out.  I have dropped my passport along with the rest of my ID on a flight to a friend’s wedding – with no identification to get back home.  I have lost luggage (technically not my fault) – and I usually spend  2 hrs or more in customs being interrogated for what, I have no idea why.  But it happens just about every time I fly internationally. And every time I have checked a bag.

Today, my replacement credit card came in the mail.  Yippee!  Except I can’t remember the pin number, and the credit card company will send it to me in 10 days time, via the post.  Arghh!  I take my card to the bank – but they won’t assign me a new pin. I have another card- but I never use it. Will only use in emergencies – like if my brother’s head falls off – and I have to bribe someone to donate their head as a replacement.  Then I would consider using this card.

Ah budget traveling.  Its going to be fun!

*The photo really has nothing to do with this post – except that I am going to Vienna and really want to ride the ferris wheel.  Photo source  – Laraine Batemen via flickr


Counting Down


I don’t travel enough to have the packing situation down. I’m a one carry-on bag kind of girl. if you have ever traveled with me, you know that I have issues when it comes to checking luggage, customs always gets involved, and its a nightmare.  I blame the fact that my last name is Bzowy. So I bypass the problem entirely, and only pack what fits into a Filson duffle bag.  I basically look like I am a construction worker (I’m fairly sure this stuff is made from carhartt work pants), but it meets the requirements of a carry on bag, and I can pack enough stuff for 2 weeks abroad.  Also, I don’t think this bag will ever wear out.  So Im happy.  No need to be stylish – if its going in an overhead compartment anyway.

I just wish I had a cat to tell me what to pack for 2 weeks away.  Im trying to pare things down. I’d like to leave a little room in my bag to bring home some trinkets – so far that isn’t happening.

What do you always pack, but never use?  I could use some ideas on what to unpack.

*Kiki’s Delivery Service image from Pinterest.

Post-it Psychology


I am really hard on myself. I would say that I am my worst critic -though not my most imaginative one (saving that story for another day). I didn’t even know how bad I was to myself until some people I didn’t know well, pointed it out to me. So I decided to do something about it. I started taking notes about what I liked about myself, what I wanted to change, and what things I could live with. It’s been a considerable journey – I filled up a fairly large notebook with my findings.

Once the notebook was filled, I kind of forgot everything I put in there – so I started condensing the notes and writing the good stuff onto post-it notes. Then glued them to where I would see them. You know that I already have a thing about lipstick mantras – if you don’t know, I write mantras and words of wisdom in lipstick on mirrors. Sometimes they stay up for months at a time, sometimes they last for about 10 minutes.  They serve the purpose of a quick reminder to check my attitude. But the post it notes – they are reminders that I’m fairly awesome, or need a little work to get to awesome depending on where the note is located.  For instance the note in the bathroom reminds me to compliment my nose – because  someone once told me my nose was globular – and Ive kept that with me, and now I’m a tad insecure about it. But enough about my nose.

On my music stand is a reminder of how far I have come in a year.  It has a date on it only. Next to it is another note that tells me I can accomplish whatever I want as long as I go slow.  And behind my chair, plastered to the wall is another post-it that says “communist”. Its not about my political leanings. Rather, its to remind me of time when I was a fierce performer, and that I could steamroll any challenge that came my way.  It’s there to tell me that I am on my way back.

I have post-its in every room.  I change them according to what I need to hear. They are not to do lists (those are for the phone),  They are simply a nudge to remind myself that I am pretty great – and that it takes a little work to be come truly excellent.

Do you do anything like this to give your mental health a boost, or a kick in the pants – depending on what you need in the moment?

*Photo by Andreanna Moya Photography via Flickr

I Have a Dream

I have a dream.

I want a place where I can congregate with superhero wannabes.
I’d have a red phone encased in glass.
A place where we can learn from history and how we can make ourselves better because we learn from those examples and stories.
A place where we investigate how penguins communicate with giraffes – and we try to copy those methods, and develop our own communication systems.

I have a dream.

I dream of a time where dress-up goes back to being important, because it helps us figure out who we are – and who we want to be.
I want to explore what its like to be a dragon and a princess, I want to dance with a horse.

I have a dream.

I want stories to influence music, and music to influence culture (it already does – but i want more of it). And I want to participate in bringing those stories and songs forward.
I want bookshelves lined with stories – and ghosts of people reading.

I have a dream of letting children and adults do some musical exploring. I want everyone who walks in to learn an instrument of their choice, explore their own voice – and when I say so, I want them to put their choice away and pick up something different that is found 3 paces to their left. And explore a new world, so when they come back to what they know, they view it with brand new ears, and see colours they hadn’t noticed before.

I have a dream of owning a space where we can be free to make a mess.  Where life can be chaotic.  Because when life is chaotic we feel limited in how we can solve problems -but in reality this chaos frees us, and our solutions are unlimited – we just have to think a bit differently in order to unlock those possibilities. It all starts as chaos but it ends up as music.

This is my dream. And maybe one day this space will be mine.


*Photo taken through the window – in a dark room, which stood explain the weird reflections. This space used to be a Home Hardware – but I think it would be a great Studio de Chaos.  A place where games are played, camps are held, stories are told, experiments happen.  A place where I (and others like me) could be happy.

Who Needs Sleep? 15 Things You Can Do Instead


I have bouts of insomnia throughout the year – but January is when my insomnia game is the strongest.  I don’t know if its the pressure of starting a new year off right, or what. But when January comes around, my circadian rhythms decide to pack a bag and go on vacation.  Over the years I have come up with a way to deal.  It doesn’t involve tossing or turning, or laying in bed waiting for sleep to come, or even watching netflix documentaries.

Here is my list of 15 things you can do to stop stressing about your lack of sleep and have some fun.

  1. Get some crayons, paper, and maybe a colouring book or two. Go to town. Colouring is a great way to relax and destress – and it engages your brain just enough to help you forget the stuff that is actually keeping you up at night.
  2. If you aren’t a classical musician, I would suggest listening to some music written before the romantic period. If you are a musician – may I suggest listening to ambient music written by Brian Eno (or someone similar), Music for Airports is my go to work for nights when I can’t sleep.  And if I’m still awake, I listen to Keith Jarret’s The Koln Concert. Here is  a snippet of him talking about some of the problems that came before the recording. *Not so fun fact- Keith Jarrett has lived with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – and so he knows insomnia.  Why not commiserate together.
  3. Make art. Try to make art without using any electronics – the light that comes from that equipment is not your friend. Find other means.
  4. Clean. Get up and sweep floors, wash dishes, scrub your bathtub, make your bed.
  5. Write mantras in lipstick on all of your mirrors. Use sports quotes – In the past I have used quotes from Wayne Gretzky (but you will need a big mirror – he is wordy), words of wisdom from grandfathers work well, as do bon mots spewed by members of the Algonquin Round Table. This morning I wrote a bunch of hideous lipstick mantras about how failure makes you great – and that its healthy to fail – and then I cleaned my mirrors. Wiping out words about failure made me feel powerful – which is something we don’t often feel-when we can’t sleep. And fear of failure could also be the reason why you are still awake at 3am.  *side note – only use lipstick that is so hideous looking that you can’t believe you ever bought it.
  6. Resign yourself to the fact that sleep isn’t going to happen for you. Get up and start your day.
  7. My favourite insomnia activity (best done in the spring and summer) is to go outside with your camera every hour on the hour, and take photos of your street – notice how the light changes, if the cars have moved, wave to your neighbours, capture the trees blowing in the wind, or the crows digging for worms.
  8. Do some yoga. Im new to yoga – but am finding a lot of peace and enjoyment out of sun salutations. A couple of these will totally wake you up – and you will be ready for some coffee.
  9. Call a far away friend.  Just call someone that is several time zones ahead of you. Don’t interrupt someone else’s sleep – that’s a bit rude.
  10. Read a book. May I suggest opening an actual book made of paper – remember screens are bad.  I read 110 books last year, mostly during hours I should have been sleeping. You can find what I read here. Try reading the book backwards – read the last word first and make your way to the front of the book. This will help tire your brain – and you may find yourself back in bed sooner than you think. Hat Tip to Casper for this.
  11. For me, simple math is hard. And when you are in the throes of Chronic Fatigue – doctors will often ask you to start at 100 and count backwards by subtracting by 7.  Try doing these exercises – if you are anything like me, you will give up and fall asleep long before you get the final answer (its 2).  Its way better than counting sheep.
  12. If its safe to do so, go for a walk. A little bit of fresh air and exercise might be just what your body needs. I usually walk just before 5 am, head to Starbucks (because thats the closest place that is open) and walk for about an hour or so- but only if I am restless.  I won’t go earlier than that because when streets are too quiet, I find it a bit too scary to stray far from my home.
  13. Organize a closet. There is a strange clarity that comes at 2am that you don’t get during the rest of the day. Its an optimal time to do a clothing purge. Be quiet though, if there is someone else is sleeping in your bedroom.  Best practice would be to weed out a closet in a room where no one is sleeping.
  14. Make coffee, cinnamon rolls, and bacon. It’s a gentler way to wake up the other person/people in your house, if you are feeling a bit lonely and want someone to talk to. Chances are they would appreciate this method a lot more, than being pestered to wake up by being poked and nagged.
  15. Practice. Surely you have something going on that needs to be worked on. For me its guitar. But for you in might be a keynote you are preparing, or math problems, or getting ready for baseball season. Whatever you are passionate about find a way to work on your craft.  If you can practice full out – great! If you are sharing your space, find a way to practice quietly.

What do you do when you can’t sleep? Do you have an insomnia regime?  I know that the usual form is to do something to get you back to sleep. That rarely works for me – so I find ways to distract myself. But I would love to hear your tricks. Please share.

Being Mentally Strong


This post is based on Amy Morin’s book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.
Let me preface this by saying, I have not read her book (yet), but I have read her summary post about it about 900 times in the past year – and I have some thoughts regarding my own journey  struggle to becoming mentally strong.

When I first came across this list, it was almost a year ago, and I had just re-injured my elbow so severely, that I couldn’t imagine playing guitar again. More than that, my doctors, and teachers/coaches didn’t think I would ever play guitar again.  If you know me at all, you know that there isn’t a whole lot in life that I love more than being a musician. It’s pretty much the reason for my existence.  So not only was I dealing with that stuff – but after years of teaching, I was unhappy with what had been happening in my studio, and had decided to take a break. I was in an unhappy place. I had isolated myself from a community that I loved, and I didn’t see a way to come back to it.

Of the 13 things that mentally strong people don’t do according to Amy Morin, I can tell you that I was doing all of them. These things are:

  1. They don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves.
  2. They don’t give away their power.
  3. They don’t shy away from change.
  4. They don’t waste energy on things they can’t control.
  5. They don’t worry about pleasing everyone.
  6. They don’t fear taking calculated risks.
  7. They don’t dwell on the past.
  8. They don’t make the same mistakes over and over again.
  9. They don’t resent other people’s success.
  10. They don’t give up after the first failure.
  11. They don’t fear alone time.
  12. They don’t feel the world owes them anything.
  13. They don’t expect immediate results.

When I first read these- my initial reaction was “Fuck you Amy Morin!”.  I didn’t think that any of my problems at the time had anything to do with me – or at least weren’t my fault. I wanted a quick fix, and I didn’t think I should have to do the work.  I was pretty much the most spoiled brat on the planet when it came to viewing my situation.  I viewed myself as a victim, in the worst way possible. While I have definitely grown this past year, and made some great strides in my guitar playing and the way I see the world (and myself in it), I am still struggling with some of these things. Continue reading