Tough Times Don‚Äôt Last, Tough People Do ūüí™ūüŹĽ

I actually wrote this 2 years ago but didn’t post cause I wanted to respect my brother’s privacy. ¬†But, all I’m really trying to do is show how strong he is. ¬†This is a tribute to his grit and will power. ¬†
We‚Äôve all had a time in our lives that are beyond difficult to cope. When you wonder when you’re going to become the butterfly cause being the caterpillar sucks. ¬†When you wonder which day you become the pigeon, cause you’re sick of being the statue. ¬†
With Darryl @ dad’s camp in 2013

This particular journey began on May 27, 2014 – my brother‚Äôs cell came up on my call display, not once but 4 times, in a row. ¬†I wasn‚Äôt able to take it, ¬†I let it go to voice mail I‚Äôd call him back once I finished my work call. ¬†As if by some weird force, I felt compelled to check Facebook (not¬†something I would normally do while on a work call, since I‚Äôm not that multi-talented to be checking online and carry an important conversation) and there it was …¬†a message from a family member telling me to call my mom, there was an emergency with Darryl. ¬†I immediately called my brother‚Äôs cell back – no answer. ¬†

I called a total of 4 times. Maybe there was a voice mail? ¬†‚ÄúTina, it‚Äôs mom, I‚Äôm at the hospital with your brother, he‚Äôs been rushed in for emergency surgery, I don‚Äôt know what exactly, but there was a problem with his heart, it doesn‚Äôt look good – if you want to say good bye to your brother you need to come home now‚ÄĚ. ¬†I‚Äôm sorry, WHAT? ¬†Did she just say that my brother was most¬†likely going to die? ¬†In complete and utter shock, I crumbled against the¬†wall. ¬†

An aortic dissection,¬†a serious condition in which the inner layer of the aorta tears. Blood surges through the tear, causing the inner and middle layers of the aorta to separate, an aortic dissection is often fatal and is relatively uncommon, occurring most frequently in men in their 60s and 70s. How? My brother was only¬†2 days post celebrating his 37th birthday a far cry from 60-70! ¬†It’s the same thing that both John Ritter and Alan Thicke passed away from.
By the time I showed up (I lived in Toronto and my family were in Kitchener), he had been in surgery nearly 2 hours already.  On my way out the door, I called my dad to let him know that he needed to make his way down.  I mean how do you tell your father that he needs to drive all of the way from Quebec and try not scare him that his only son may not be alive when he got there?
‚ÄúThe¬†family of Darryl Richards?‚ÄĚ Dr. Ash (shout out to Dr. Ash, an amazing¬†thoracic cardiac surgeon at St. Mary‚Äôs General) says. ¬†In all honesty, hearing that brought me back to a Grey‚Äôs Anatomy episode when you‚Äôre about to get bad news. ¬†He shocks us and says¬†
‚Äú he‚Äôs made it, I don‚Äôt know how but he‚Äôs made it. ¬†Most people don‚Äôt make it to the hospital or make it off the table. ¬†He‚Äôs in a coma, on life support and in critical condition, ¬†but he‚Äôs alive and he‚Äôs made it this far. ¬†The next 24-48 hours are critical‚ÄĚ. ¬†
The tubes, all I remember are the copious amounts of tubes going into and out of his body.  Heart monitors, intubation tubes, chest tubes, catheters and the repetitious pace of the ventilation machine keeping him alive and breathing for him in interval.  
It felt surreal, the whole immediate family around his¬†hospital bed and hoping for the best outcome. ¬†Would he come out well from the coma? ¬†Would he have complications? ¬†Would he have renal failure? ¬†Would he stroke out? ¬†So many things! ¬†I‚Äôve seen my dad cry twice in my whole life. ¬†The third was seeing my brother in this condition, I knew he‚Äôd do anything to change places with him. ¬†My mom, obviously, was equally as distraught. ¬†I‚Äôll take a moment to mention that my mom saved my brother‚Äôs life. ¬†Those maternal instincts are a real thing! ¬†My brother had called her in the morning saying that he wasn‚Äôt feeling well. ¬†After describing his symptoms, my mom told him to rush to the hospital – typical man,¬†‚ÄúI‚Äôll be ok, I‚Äôll sleep it off‚ÄĚ, he ended up going to the hospital after my mom said she‚Äôd meet him there and he‚Äôd better be there or else lol. ¬†After that, things played out in fast-forward. ¬†He was rushed in, assessed and they called for a thoracic cardiac surgeon. ¬†Darryl tells me his last memories before waking up 4 days later was being told that his odds for survival were not in his favour, a priest was¬†administering his last rights and my mom in hysterics, then as the anesthesia kicked it, hearing the sound of the saw. ¬†
Things were really hard on all of us at this time, but things were particularly hard for my mom, I think. ¬†She seemed to spend the majority of her time between two hospitals – caring for her son and for her ailing dad, in palliative care from cancer. ¬†My dad and I would go up to the hospital in the mornings to check in on Darryl … on how he’d faired the night, his vitals, and when when they anticipated bringing him out of the¬†induced coma. ¬†Without getting too much into the specifics of next days where he realized after 4 days that he had made it and he was alive – they brought him out of the induced coma, and slowly started getting him to sit upright, then take a step or two and then talk … after about 1 week he was transferred out of cardiac ICU and into the cardiac recovery ward.
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June 15 2014 – Our Mending Face

While Darryl remained in hospital, I returned to Toronto to get back to work and cared for Nash (Darryl’s dog and best bud). ¬†Dad built a gate so he could have a big backyard to play in. ¬†Dad also spent a lot of time with Darryl, in Kitchener, during his recovery. ¬†He was his friend, his confidant, he would work Darryl through some of his post-op anxieties/fears (I mean, I’d be having anxiety too if I almost died!), he was his very own support and I get the sense that dad was really significant in how well Darryl pulled through this.

Your know how they say things happen for a reason? ¬†I‚Äôm a believer in the power¬†positive¬†thinking, in serendipity, but sometimes even I just can’t make sense and I don‚Äôt particularly get why things happen.
My grampa passed away in July, my mom mourned the passing of her dad and my heart bled for my gramma who lost her husband of 60 years. ¬†She hadn’t known anyone else, they stood the test of time.
Darryl, never married and has no biological children, but, he does have Nash.  Nash is his best buddy, his best friend and for all intents and purposes his son.  A brindle Olde English Bulldogge, a loving, loyal companion.  Nash was initially my dog, however, as a puppy he was showing signs of dominance and growing up in a house run by three women, he definitely needed some male influence Рso Darryl and I made a temporary trade.  He took Nash and I took his cat, Layla (who just passed away  couple of weeks ago Рsee below for a pic of this super cutie).  That temporary trade has lasted 9 years.  Nash got sick in July, really sick,  He  had contracted leptospirosis and went into renal failure
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection.  It spreads throughout the entire body, reproducing in the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, eyes, and reproductive system. Soon after initial infection, fever and bacterial infection of the blood develop. Infection of the liver or kidneys can be fatal for animals if the infection progresses, causing severe damage to these organs. The Leptospira spirochete bacteria is zoonotic, meaning that it can be transmitted to humans and other animals.
Nash – 2015

Now,¬†¬†if you love your pets, as we do, you¬†know you, that they’re not just an animal but a member of your family. ¬†Their lives matter just as much as anyone else’s. ¬†Darryl is now only 2 months post-near dying himself, he now having to deal with potentially losing his best bud, his amigo, his Nash – was crazy!

Daily we had to take Nash from the animal hospital to the vet for overnight stays and then due to mounting vet bills they suggested that we take him home at nights. ¬†Oh sure! ¬†No problem! ¬†Don’t mind if we do! ¬†Every night for about a week, we had to cart Nash home from the vet (where he was rec’g treatment) home, in the back of my SUV, hooked to IVs and catheters and dead weight cause he was so weak. ¬†Not to mention, Darryl couldn’t lift, he had chest full of healing staples from his large incision. ¬†I didn’t realize how strong you can get when you run on pure adrenaline . ¬†But I did, I got Nashy in and out of the back of the truck for as long as I had to, to save his life and ultimately that of my brother’s. ¬†Did I mention, that Darryl had renal failure and had a compromised immune system and was susceptible to infection – remember Lepto is zoonotic¬†and is transmittable to humans. ¬†Yes, to make matters worse, he had to be¬†hyper-vigilant around Nash. ¬†I know he would’ve had really hard time recovering if Nash would have died. ¬†He was his companion, he walked with Darryl during his recovery, he brought him calmness and most of all snuggles ūüôŹūüŹĽ.¬† To the tune of about $7k Nash survived the lepto scare.
2014: ¬†Emma teaching her Papa to use the new tablet I had just bought for him. ¬†Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Over the course of September and October things slowly calmed and returned to a more normal pace (or whatever our new normal was by this point). ¬†The kids went back to school, we celebrated Thanksgiving, birthdays and we made plans for Christmas. ¬†Dad had retired about half a year earlier and usually worked over the Christmas holidays, this year he didn’t have to, so for the first time in about 30 years, we were going to get to spend Christmas with our ol’ man and step-mom in Quebec. ¬†I always called my dad ol’ man, I don’t know why – I just did, he didn’t seem to mind it. ¬†Things were finally on even keel and for a long time in a while, we had something positive to look forward to.
Dad had been helping me finish my basement over the course of the year. ¬†For having aScreen Shot 2017-09-24 at 9.53.18 PM very strong hate on for Toronto, he was spending weeks on end there with us. ¬†I really enjoyed the time I got to spend with him, but, it wasn’t for the conversation – my dad is a man of few words (unless he has a few wiggly pops, then you can’t shut him up lol). ¬†Life can get busy for stupid reasons and living in different provinces it can be hard to spend as much time as you want with people. ¬†Dad’s a simple, salt of the earth, no stress, kinda guy. ¬†6 shirts, 2 pair of shoes, 3 pair of jeans and a few plaid/lumber jackets. And a ball cap, I rarely saw him without a cap on his noggin. ¬†Dad was very skilled, ¬†I always called him McGiver, he could fix anything. ¬†Give him two wires and four toilet paper rolls, some floss and a battery and somehow he’d get your engine to turn over (ok, not really with that example, but it serves to show that he ¬†was skilled).
Dad was coming down to help me finish the last few things in the basement, this would
be it, then we’d be done! ¬†Yay! And it looked great! ¬†And I was excited to spend more time with him, plus Emma missed her homie. ¬†My cell phone is ringing, it’s “Dad & Linda calling”. ¬†But, I’m on the phone for work and I couldn’t take the call. ¬†I assumed dad was calling to confirm the time his bus was pulling into Yorkdale Mall on Friday, it was Tuesday.
10 minutes later, Darryl calls – “that’s weird” I think to myself “why the heck are they calling so close together”? ¬†I texted Darryl “On the phone, call you in 5”. ¬†“No now” is his response. ¬†I get that same deep, sickening pit in the bottom of my stomach.
“Are you sitting down?” ¬†He doesn’t even have to say the words and I know what he’s gonna say next … “dad’s gone Tina”. ¬†As I did only but 5 months earlier, I crumpled to the floor and cried in hysterics. ¬†How the hell could this be happening? ¬†Anger shot straight at God (then asking for His love). ¬†I’m crying now, as I write this, I still think it’s not fair. ¬†He had just retired, he had just started living his life, we were getting to spend more time with him then ever, we had Christmas plans … and he was only 60! ¬†That morning, he got up to live his life and died on his kitchen floor … how was that even fair?

The rain’s gonna fall on us all
Your heart’s gonna break sometimes
But there’s no way around it, life’s full of mountains
You’re gonna have to climb
But there ain’t no crime in crying
You just gotta keep on trying
So remember, no matter what you’re going through
Tough times don’t last …

Tough people do – Brett Kissell

I try to take something positive out of something negative. ¬†But in those months following dad’s passing, I couldn’t. ¬†I still can’t. ¬†There’s nothing positive about someone being taken from you way too soon when there are so many horrible, pathetic people in the world and someone who did nothing but contribute to society and was a solid individual’s was snuffed out. ¬†When my father passed and my family struggled, I was more lost than I had ever been in my entire life.
Losing a loved one is a painful reminder that life is way. too. short! ¬†Dad would want nothing more than for us to be happy ‚ÄĒ not the watered-down, half smile, day-to-day getting by content happy, but truly happy.¬†I realize that my dad will never truly be gone. He is still here with me in spirit. ¬†Now, instead of mourning his loss, I celebrate his life. ¬†I miss him, I’ll always miss him and I think about him every single day. ¬†I use this as motivation, as a reminder, to live my best life and that we can still make him proud from up there – that he wants us to live big. ¬†I know he sees us, I know he hears us …. see blog titled “Messages from Beyond: How My Dad Connects With¬†Me”.
I post this on the 3 year anniversary of my dad’s passing (Nov 18th). ¬†Love and miss you ol’ man – til we meet again on Heaven’s highest hill xo
PS: ¬†I’m not strong, my brother is ūüíô. ¬†To go¬†through what he did in such a short period of time and come out the other end is¬†inspiring. Love ya’ bro xo
T xo

~ Life is short, love hard and love lots  ~ Tina (moi)

Tough Times Don’t Last – Tough People Do – Brett Kissell



no dress rehearsal this is our life: the passing of canadian legend – Gord Downie ūüė≠

‘We Are Less As A Country Without Gord Downie In It’ – Prime Minister Trudeau

I had to wait a few days to write this, I just watched the documentary Long Time Running two days ago … so I needed to collect my thoughts and emotions before I got to it.

I want the WORLD to get to know Canada’s musical secret – the man for whom an entire country mourned, for whom our Prime Minister publicly shed tears¬†before caucus on Parliament Hill – a patriot who loved and sang about our great land – Gord Downie.

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I am not going to lie – like most people I know and most Canadians across our vast country I cried when I found out Gord had succumbed to his illness¬†on October 17, 2017. He put on such a brave front during the band’s final tour – Man Machine Poem – deciding to thank their fans after having undergone an extensive lobectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. ¬† I was on my way to Philadelphia and was listening to Q107 (a Toronto rock station) and the DJ says “Q107 remembers Gord Downie” at the same time my youngest texts me saying “Gord Downie died”. ¬†Ugh, say it ain’t so – I mean we all knew it was coming but hoped it wouldn’t be so soon. ¬†Most of the way to Philly we listed to their tunes.

“First thing we’d climb a tree and maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday casting a golden light 
No dress rehearsal, this is our life‚ÄĚ – Ahead By a Century

The first time I heard The Hip I was in grade 11 – someone was playing¬†their¬†Up to Here album. This album produced four singles, “Blow at High Dough”, “New Orleans Is Sinking”, “Boots or Hearts” and “38 Years Old”. ¬†It was summer, we loved going to the beach or driving around in the car blaring our Hip tapes (yes tapes, I am that old). ¬†That’s what their music means to me – it’s summers by the beach or at the cabin with cold pint belting out Courage or At the Hundredth Meridian. ¬†My old Infiniti QX4 was even called Cordy – after their song Cordelia. ¬†

I’ve never really understood why they weren’t bigger outside of Canada than they were. ¬†But, here at home, in Canada, we got it – we knew they were our greatest treasure – they’re in our DNA – ¬†so uniquely Canadian.

They’re my #1 fave band, even in front of U2 and The Killers! ¬† I’ve seen them 3 times – At The¬†Ovation Music Festival in Stratford in 2006.¬†¬†The Fully Completely tour in Kitchener in 2015 and in Winnipeg last year during their “farewell’ tour – Man Machine Poem.

I was in complete shock when I found out that he had such a huge choice to make. ‚ÄúWhat would you prefer: living without being able to speak, or have new memories, but have more time with your family,¬†or should we limit things and ultimately give you less time on Earth, but have higher quality?‚ÄĚ He chose a full temporal lobectomy, which gave him a best case scenario of five years of survival.

He knew he had limited time left on this earth and instead of feeling sorry for himself, or spending all of his last minutes on earth with his dear family and friends, he chose to be the voice of our First Nations people and to go on one final tour to say thanks to a nation whose adored them since 1985. ¬†I have to be honest, facing the ¬†same situation and given the same choice, I’m not sure I would have made the same decision in his shoes. ¬†But, as a nation – we’re sure damn glad he did. ¬†Not only did he do that – he did ¬†an entire solo album called The Secret Path and an accompanying animated film/and graphic novel about the long-suppressed mistreatment of Indigenous children and families by the residential school system here in Canada. ¬†About Charlie¬†Wenjack, a 12 year old¬†Anishinaabe boy from the Marten Falls First Nation¬†who died of exposure on October 22, 1966 while escaping from¬†the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ont. ¬†He was trying to return¬†to the family he was taken from over 600 kms away. ¬†This was the¬†final album he released during his lifetime.

Let’s swear that we will
Get with the times,
In a current health to stay
Let’s get friendship right
Get life day-to-day – It’s a Good Life if you Don’t Weaken

The final¬†show in Kingston, Ont was a¬†poignant farewell for the hometown heroes. So many people wanted to thank him that CBC decided to air a live broadcast called¬†‚ÄúThe Tragically Hip: A National Celebration‚ÄĚ it¬†drew an average of 4.04 million viewers. ¬†I¬†can’t remember another time in history where a concert was aired live – well maybe except Elvis’ Aloha from Hawaii. ¬†But, that’s how much The Hip means to us. ¬†

Kingston has a pretty small venue and tickets sold out in minutes.  I debated heading up to Kingston (about 2 hours away) to join the 20+ thousand other Canadians celebrating outside the Rogers K-Rock Centre.  Thousands of venues all across the land aired the concert LIVE (movie theatres, concert halls, pubs, public parks on big screens) and many of us were partying at home signing along.  I decided to stay in Toronto and go to the Danforth Music Hall to rock with about 1,500 other Hip fans.  It was quite the night Рnot one that I will soon forget.  

I challenged myself to narrow down my top 10 Hip songs – I wasn’t successful – I could only do 15 and even that was tough.

(in no particular order)

  1. Wheat Kings
  2. At the Hundreth Meridian
  3. It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken
  4. Dire Wolf
  5. Long Time Running
  6. Courage (For Hugh MacLennan)
  7. 50 Mission Cap
  8. Ahead By a Century
  9. Grace, Too
  10. Scared
  11. Pigeon Camera
  12. Poets
  13. In a World Possessed by the Human Mind
  14. Gift Shop
  15. Bobcaygeon

RIP “Gordy Baby”, we will miss you terribly – but we’ll always have your music ūüéľ

If you’re at all feeling weepy – don’t listen to the part of the At The Hundredth Meridian where Gord sings If they bury me some place I don’t want to be, You’ll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously Away from the swollen city breeze, garbage bag trees Whispers of disease and the acts of enormity And lower me slowly and sadly and properly Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy”

So, I’m curious – what are your top 5 Tragically Hip songs? I’d love to hear (ok 10 if you must) lol.


T xo

Published on Jun 16, 2009

Music video by The Tragically Hip performing Bobcaygeon. (C) 1998 Universal Music Canada


On Travel: Philly, The City of Brotherly Love

ūüé∂¬†In West Philadelphia not born nor raised, in Kdub is where I spent most of my days¬†ūüé∂¬†— which is why I decided to take my next ¬†trip to Philly. ¬†I love to travel, I love history – all kinds of history and Philadelphia is steeped deep in American history.

The primary reason for our trip to Philly was to attend Team Neve Quits Patriot Tour, featuring Marcus Luttrell, Retired Navy SEAL and author of ‚ÄėLone Survivor‚Äô, Taya Kyle, author of ‚ÄėAmerican Wife‚Äô and widow of Chris Kyle, David Goggins, Ultra-Marathoner and Retired Navy SEAL and Chad Fleming, Retired Army Ranger.

Since we only had one full day of being tourists/sight seeing – we decided on the¬†Philadelphia Sightseeing Hop On/Hop Off City Tour¬†aboard an English double-decker bus, which was wonderfully convenient – you don’t have to worry about getting there, parking and you can pick from any one of 28 stops across sixteen-miles – choose your ideal visitation spot and they will deliver you to the doorstep (or close to it). ¬†The loop takes about 1.5 hours if you stay on for the whole loop, the tour guides were full of facts and funnies =¬†Live Expert Local Guide Commentary. ¬†We purchased these through Groupon for only $22.00 USD per ticket (reg price is $32.00 USD) – so keep an eye out on this site if you plan on booking. ¬†

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Had we had more time we would have done more Рbut given the time we had we chose: to exit at Eastern State Penitentiary, The Rocky Steps/Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Masonic Temple and Independence Hall.  Having had more time I would likely have added: Christ Church Burial Ground (where Benjamin Franklin is buried), Chinatown and Museum of the American Revolution. 

Below I’ll highlight some of the stops

Eastern State Penitentiary


Eastern State opened more than 180 years ago, it changed the world. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world‚Äôs first true ‚Äúpenitentiary,‚ÄĚ a prison designed to inspire penitence in the hearts of prisoners. The building itself was an architectural wonder; it had running water and central heat before the White House, and attracted visitors from around the globe. ¬†

In 1842 Charles Dickens visited the United States to see Niagara Falls and the Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP). Of ESP he wrote “the System is rigid, strict and hopeless solitary confinement, and I believe it, in its effects, to be cruel and wrong….”. ¬†In my blog titled “Kingston Penitentiary: Canada‚Äôs Alcatraz ‚Äď MY¬†TOUR”¬†you’ll see that Dickens also visited Kingston Penn in Ontario, Canada, the same year (likely the same trip to North America) and wrote¬†in his¬†American Notes for General Circulation, ‚ÄúThere is an admirable jail here, well and wisely governed, and excellently regulated, in every respect.‚ÄĚ He went on: ‚ÄúHere at Kingston is a penitentiary, intelligently and humanely run.¬†Likely because KP was built under the Auburn system – which took a completely different approach than the Pennsylvania system. ¬†While¬†it too incorporates Quaker ideals of reformation ‚ÄĒ humane conditions from bedding to health care, strict routines, and religious contemplation – prisoners are together, side by side, during work, meals, and prayer but return to solitary cells at night. ¬†Auburn introduced the tier system, different levels of cells built above one another, in which convicts are housed according to their offense category ‚ÄĒ first timers vs. repeaters, murderers vs. thieves, and so forth. Inmates wear uniforms of different colours, depending on their classification. The work regimen produces income that the Pennsylvania system could not generate, and this system is by far more cost effective and practical. Inmates are less likely to go mad, and it is easier to feed everyone in a group.

ESP held both women and men until 1923 when female prisoners moved to the new  prison at Muncy. 

Until 1924 inmates ate each of their meals, alone in their cells.  For the first time in January inmates were allowed for the first time to eat as a group in dining halls.

For 8 months during 1929 – 1930 –¬†Chicago gangster Al Capone made Eastern State Penitentiary his home. I read in an¬†article in the¬†Philadelphia Public Ledger, August 20, 1929 this his cell is described as ¬†“The whole room was suffused in the glow of a desk lamp which stood on a polished desk …. On the once-grim walls of the penal chamber hung tasteful paintings, and the strains of a waltz were being emitted by a powerful cabinet radio receiver of handsome design and fine finish…”¬†

Capone was imprisoned when he stopped in Philadelphia while traveling from Atlantic City back to his home in Chicago in May of 1929. He was arrested outside a movie theater for carrying a concealed, unlicensed .38 caliber revolver. The Philadelphia courts were tough and handed Capone the maximum sentence: one year in prison. Although the courts tried to make an example of the bootlegger, the officials at ESP were very  generous to him and allowed the comforts not typically granted to inmates, including fine furniture, oriental rugs, oil paintings and a fancy radio. He liked to listen to waltzes in his cell. 

Now, I nerd out just by viewing a cool exhibit, but hearing one of your favorite actors describe it while you’re there is super cool nerd exciting! ¬†Steve Buscemi¬†is the voice of the audio ESP audio tour ¬†– ¬†turns out¬†Buscemi himself volunteered to help the museum while scouting a movie at Eastern State more than a decade ago. The audio tour states that perhaps Capone‚Äôs arrest was all too convenient as it came at a time of escalating mob violence in Chicago, he was accused of hiding in prison intentionally. Capone denied all his life that he came to Philadelphia to hide.¬†

Other fun facts:

1970 January –¬†Eastern State Penitentiary closes.

1996 Eastern State’s arched cellblocks and central rotunda are transformed into a mental institution in the movie 12 Monkeys, with Bruce Willis and in 1998 is portrayed as a Southeast Asian prison in the movie Return to Paradise.

Rocky Steps/Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Rocky Steps are the 72 stone steps to the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. ¬†Pretty much everyone knows the Rocky movies, they’re a part of pop culture and a huge part of my childhood. ¬†The steps¬†made their appearance in¬†all of the Rockies except for Rocky IV, which is my¬†personal favourite. ¬†Many tourists visit the steps to recreate the scene themselves – I however did not – I walked up them, slowly ūüėā

‚ÄúEvery champion was once a contender who refused to give up.‚ÄĚ – Rocky Balboa

Eat your heart out Rocky Balboa, I walked up then in 10 minutes.

Fun fact:  Sly was actually injured when filming this movie, he only ran up the first 10 steps; a body double ran up the rest.

Stallone commissioned¬†a bronze statue of Rocky.¬†¬†The statue was initially at the of steps for the filming of Rocky III, ¬†but was ultimately relocated at the bottom of the steps. I look bad in the pic, so I’m opting to not post it.

The Masonic Temple

I’ve always been fascinated by the Freemasons – I’ve watched so many documentaries on their origins and their society of brethren.

6 of those who signed the Declaration of Independence were Masons.  US Presidents who were or are Freemasons: George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Gerald Ford.

Other notables include: Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, Mozart, Winston Churchill, J. Edgar Hoover, Jesse Jackson, John Elway,¬†Benedict Arnold, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Scottie Pippen, Michael Richards, Shaquille O’Neal, Paul Revere, Cy Young, John Wayne, Richard Pryor, Clarke Gable, Don Rickles, Harry Houdini and Buzz Aldrin ¬†— to name a few.

Masonic symbolism is abundant all over Washington D.C.  If you look at the layout of Washington DC you will see many Masonic references.

The Masonic Temple in Philadelphia was constructed in 1873. Tours are offered a few times a day, ¬†so they have to be scheduled. ¬†We weren’t aware of that and arrived an hour early, since we were tight for time, we toured the Library and Museum on our own (cost $7.00 USD). ¬†The museum houses thousands of books and cool artifacts relating to the history of the Fraternity and the founding of the USA.¬†The Museum‚Äôs collection consists of more than¬†30,000 items.

Brother George Washington’s Masonic Apron

Along the whole double decker bus ride, you have the opportunity to take in the historic sites of Philly without getting off, as well as hear some colour commentary from the tour guides such as their favourite places in town to grab a cheesesteak and other places to check out while you’re in town.¬†

I’m a health nut, but when I eat, I go hard. I’m a Buffalo wing magnet, a sandwich fanatic, a cheesesteak guy. But I’ll only get a cheesesteak in Philadelphia. No one else does it right – Kevin Hart

Independence Hall 

This is the start/stop point of the city tour.  Both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed in this historic building. We wanted to see The Liberty Bell before ending our day tour, but, there was a line up, and a security line to go through so unfortunately we had to opt out as we had to be at our VIP event for The Patriot Tour for 5:00 p.m. at the Kimmel Centre.


2017 Patriot Tour

The event we made the 9 hour trek to Philly for was The 2017 Patriot Tour ¬†– which features retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of ‚ÄėLone Survivor‚Äô, the NY Times Bestseller, which recounts the heroic sacrifices of fellow SEAL Team members assigned to Operation Redwings in which Luttrell was the only survivor, Taya Kyle, author of ‚ÄėAmerican Wife‚Äô¬†and wife of the late U.S. Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle, retired U.S. Army Capt. Chad Fleming and retired Navy SEAL and ultra-marathon runner David Goggins.¬†

Beforehand, we were able to have a quick meet and greet with the speakers – it was great to meet them in person and shake their hands. ¬†Taya and I talked shoes/boots quickly and even Chad loved my Steve Madden Tsunami rain boots. ¬†I’ll have to find the pic where I’m shaking Marcus’ hand and Chad and Taya are pointing at my boots. ¬†We were also given signed copies of Lone Survivor and American Wife.

These humans were the most inspirational folks I’ve heard speak in a long time. ¬†Talk about sheer grit, determination and sticktuitiveness. ¬†These amazing people share their experiences with the crowd while also taking the time to recognize military personnel in attendance as well as the first responders – everyone in attendance stood in applause – this made my eyes swell up a bit. ¬†

They each had something poignant to say.  

IMG_0325.jpgTaya Kyle shared that her faith in God got her through Chris being murdered. She recounted the story of how they met Рwhich was very true to the movie script of American Sniper.  She jokes about the day they met in the bar and that yes, Chris did in fact hold her hair back while she vomitted.  About how she works to keep his memory alive, how humble he was that it made him feel awkward that he was referred to as The Legend.  

IMG_0324.jpgChad Fleming shared the story of how he lost his leg (transtibial amputation of his left leg) in combat and had¬†undergone 23 surgeries! ¬†I was in awe that once fit, he CHOSE to re-deploy¬†five¬†times, each time going right back into the fight. He spoke of how he was one of the few amputees who have been able to redeploy into combat as an amputee. ¬†If that isn’t strength of character then I don’t know what is!

David Goggins – the word quit does not exist in this guy’s vocabulary. ¬†I was astonished by IMG_0338.jpghis resilience and sheer grit to make it happen. ¬†He told of how he was 297 lbs and needed to lose 100 lbs in a month to be able to join. ¬†He did it. ¬†He had to redo BUD/S training THREE TIMES! I can’t imaging doing it once, more or less going through hell week 3 whole times! ¬†He told of having signed up for a 100 mile race in 24 hours, having only ran once for training – by mile (I want to say 75, shoot I forget) – his body was so exhausted he sat down to take a rest and his body gave out – he couldn’t go any further – his feet hurt so much that he couldn’t even get up from his blue chair to go to the washroom (he doo dooed himself). ¬†Not wanting to give up on his dream – he taped his feet, got up and ran the remaining miles to successfully complete the race!¬† In 2013, Goggins broke the Guinness World Record for most number of pull-ups in a 24-hour period by completing 4,030 pull-ups in 17 hours.¬†

And lastly, the man of the hour – Marcus Luttrell – I am sure this man needs no introduction. ¬†We all know his story from the movie Lone Survivor. ¬†Watching the movie was good, but, seeing the REAL man behind the story in person and speak personally of¬†¬†Operation Red Wings and the mission to kill or capture Ahmad Shah (aka Mohammad Ismail), a Taliban leader responsible for killings in eastern Afghanistan and the Hindu-Kush mountains. The SEAL team was made up of Luttrell, Michael Murphy, Danny Dietz and Matthew Axelson. ¬†I won’t get too deep, I’m sure you’ve all watched the Hollywood movie, in which Marcus is played by Mark Walhberg, and if you haven’t – go. watch. it now.


In short: a group of goat herders stumbled upon the SEALs, and the four SEALs immediately took control of the situation and discussed what to do with the herders. Murph suggested that they should be released. Luttrell believed they immediately betrayed the team‚Äôs location to local Taliban forces and within an hour, the SEALs were engaged in an intense gun battle – which he describes as being 3 hours in duration in real life as opposed to 40 mins or so in the movie. The rest of the SEAL team members were killed. ¬†He told of how some scenes in the Hollywood version differed from real life events – in actuality Matt Axelson was not shot in the back of the head – he was shot in the face and his jaw was hanging from his face. Marcus was the “Lone Survivor”.¬†Badly wounded (his back, leg and nose were broken and he was shot a few times), he managed to walk and crawl seven miles to evade capture – he tells that he kept his goals short – he would take a stone draw a line in the sand and crawl to it, if he made it, he’d keep on going. Most of the time he recounted these events, he looked down and to the right – like he was reliving it right there at that moment with us. ¬†He was eventually found by a few villagers. ¬†For days Mohammed Gulab and the other villagers protected Luttrell from the militants‚ÄĒeven in the face death threats. They alerted the Americans of his presence, and American forces finally rescued him six days after the gun battle. ¬†Another misnomer from the movie was that the rescue occurred during the day, but in actuality it was at night.¬†Following his physical recovery from Operation Red Wings, Luttrell returned and completed one more tour before being medically retired.


Overall, Philly is a pretty neat city, I wish we had more time to explore, lots of historic things I would have liked to have had the time to fit in i.e. explore Penn’s Landing, enjoy fine dining aboard the Moshulu, tour the¬†Cruiser¬†Olympia¬†and done a boat cruise up the Delaware. ¬†

Of note for those considering visiting – parking is atrocious – I am not kidding – the streets are full 24/7 – good luck finding street parking anywhere – unless you stalk someone going to their vehicle. ¬†It’s beyond jammed – both sides of the tiny narrow streets – I would HATE to be a homeowner and have to do this each night when I get home from work. ¬†Also in the area we stayed in – there weren’t a lot of public parking options and if there were – they were all full. ¬†Our first night – we arrived at about 8:45 PM and we had to park all the way at the University of Pennsylvania parking garage and take a taxi to our Airbnb! (FYI – taxi number is 215-666-6666)

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Make very sure you read the street parking signs if you are lucky enough to nab a spot Рmost are 2 hour max parking without a permit Рfrom what we were able to find Рyou cannot purchase time selected permits Рwe can do this back home in Toronto by simply going on line Рentering your plate # and your credit card info and printing off a parking permit for the time you need.  

I now 100% completely understand why the A&E show Parkings Wars was a hit – holy snickerdoodles!

Have any of you been to the City of Brotherly Love?  What was your favourite place?


T xo 

Philly’s Prince – The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air


Your Perception is Your Reality

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog called Wisdom Warrior: My Journey Toward Authenticy wherein I talked about perception, about reframing your mindset.¬†“Perspective is a powerful thing isn‚Äôt it? When you can reframe an experience, you can often change what happens as a result”. ¬†

Have you ever wondered about how you perceive yourself vs. how others perceive you?How you view yourself as being a certain way, but, someone else can see you as the total opposite?

I’ve heard it said that perception is reality, but is it? ¬†Perception may be your reality but is it FACTUAL reality?

Reality is an absolute.  But perception is different from reality, in that everyone has their own perception of the world or situations. Everyone thinks their perception is reality. But in fact, your perception is your perception.  BUT, perception really is everything!

‚ÄúEverything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Douglas Adams

Ok, that was confusing right? ¬†But true, I think. ¬†I have no formal experience in philosophy or psychology, ¬†I’ve just been making some observations as of late because of how someone chose to view me, which I feel is quite different than I am or how I view myself.

This person accused me of being ¬†“selfish”. ¬†Me selfish? ¬†Am I selfish? ¬†I don’t feel that I am … I help whenever possible. ¬†It hurt to hear this, when I feel that I really do try my best to be everything to everyone. ¬†Ok, to be honest – I may do it begrudgingly from time to time but I still do it when push comes to shove. ¬†I usually try to have everyone’s back.

So, I started thinking of the things that I’ve done to “HELP”, to justify this person’s words to me – it hurt to think that someone thought of me like this …

  • I’ve helped by lending ++++ money, ¬†to the point that I am literarily out thousands of $ with no hope of getting some of it back.
  • I’ve carried the financial burden when my then fianc√© was unemployed for a long stretch.
  • I’ve helped my children and family out in sticky situations by co-signing on lease agreements OR lending them my credit card to purchase things (they pay be back, but the point is, I help them cause they don’t have their own cards).
  • I’ve helped my brother through some health issues.
  • I’ve let people stay with us while they were having family issues.
  • I’ve watched peoples dogs when they needed me to.
  • If my friends need anything I help, when possible.
  • I help out colleagues at work with their files, or when management asks to assist on a project etc.
  • I adopted a rescue dog from the shelter.
  • I adopted a sponsor child in Kenya.

I don’t see myself as selfish – but this individual does … so, who’s right and who’s wrong? ¬†Which is factual? ¬†I think based on the facts, I’m not generally a selfish person – but then why does this person? ¬†Is this person’s view of the world tarnished? ¬†Are they projecting that on me?

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The lens through which we view the world, alters our REALITY.  It is ourselves who supply the perceptions and build our beliefs with them. We often don’t realize how our perceptions cloud reality, because they seem like one and the same.

So, I did a bit of digging on perception = projection and found that there was some validity to what I was assuming –¬†you‚Äôre not so much perceiving the external world as you are projecting¬†what you carry inside out onto the world around you. The world is a reflection of your inner thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs. In other words, the outer world is a reflection of what‚Äôs going on inside (Five Basic Assumptions: Perception Is Projection¬†posted on July 17, 2012). B-I-N-G-O!!

‚ÄúChange the way you look at things and the things you look at change.‚ÄĚ

So, I’m not a selfish individual after all. ¬†Maybe this individual is simply projecting the perception of his inner world onto me. ¬†But, it also helped me to realize that we are only seeing the world through our own individual perceptions because that’s all we’re ever really able to do – when there’s a constant reminder that all I’m doing is perceiving the world my way, not the real way, just my way, then I can have empathy for others – there’s a gap between perception and reality (paraphrased from¬†Mind the Gap Between Perception and Reality | Sean Tiffee | TEDxLSCTomball).

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Has anyone else had any experience with others perception of you?


T xo

Mind the Gap Between Perception and Reality | Sean Tiffee

Can we ever know what’s real? Communication scholar Sean Tiffee examines the relationship between perception and reality and questions the intersection between the two. In this talk, he advises us not to mind the gap, but to mine the gap and become a more loving and empathic person.

Opting on Adopting: Our Rescue Dog Ellie

Did you know that each year at least 600,000 dogs are euthanized in Canada,  simply because too many pets come into shelters and too few people consider adoption when looking for a pet?

I decided to write this blog as I sat here watching a bit of TV and looked over at Ellie, my 3 year old Great Shepherd (Great Dane/German Shepherd cross). She was rescued 2 years ago from Parkland Humane Society Parkland Humane Society.

Being new to town and a semi-empty nester, I had some free time on my hands and decided that I wanted to volunteer some to the shelter. ¬†I went in to dog-walk one Fall afternoon, much like today. ¬†All of the dogs were excited to see me, running up to me, wagging their tails and jumping up vying for my attention. ¬†But, there was this one dog, in the corner – alone and cowering a bit. ¬†I asked a volunteer who that dog was and why she wasn’t coming up to me as all of the other dogs were. ¬†She explained that that dog was skittish, shy and it took a lot to get her to warm up to you. ¬†She was afraid of men in particular and had been there for almost 7 months. ¬†It was right then and there I decided to adopt THAT ONE – Ellie. ¬†Of course I did! ¬†I seem to be a sucker for the runt of the litter, the project or the one that runs away from me as opposed to runs to me.

Every day for 1 whole month, we went to the shelter and walked Ellie, we tried to get to know her. ¬†I won’t lie – in the beginning it was a chore just to get her to come to me so I could put her on the leash. ¬†But I was persistent … eventually she started recognizing us when we came to the gate and rather than run away – sat and stayed put – she didn’t run up to us, but she didn’t run away – PROGRESS! ¬†¬†We kept the walks to the same location and took the same route so that it was familiar to her and eventually she loosened up. ¬†She loved going to Vermillion Park – splashing in the river and walking down the trails.

The day it came to pick her up from the shelter to take her to her new home she wouldn’t even get into the back of the SUV, we literally had to pick up this 100 lbs beast and put her in. ¬†What had I gotten myself into? ¬†We bought her a kuranda bed because that’s what she used at the shelter and wanted things to be familiar for her, we got her the same toys IMG_0997.jpgshe had there, a cute Burberry print collar and the cutest paw print bowls to make her feel welcomed. ¬†She repaid me the next day by running away from me during our VERY FIRST morning walk! ¬†OMG, I lost my dog the first day I owned her – what kind of owner am I? ¬†I can remember it so clearly, we were coming around the corner to our house and she stopped dead in her tracks – she backed up and pulled – like it was in slo mo I can see her struggling to get out of her collar. ¬†Once she realized she was free she bolted. ¬†I hopped in the SUV and drove around looking for her calling her name – wait – she’d just run away from me – why would I think that she’d run back to me? ¬†I called the shelter to let them know – they were wonderful and reassured me that this wasn’t the first time that newly adopted dog ran away from its home. ¬†I was afraid she’d get hit by a car or worse, a train. ¬†As we continued our search for Ellie, the shelter called – she had run back to the shelter – her home, according to her ūüėĘ.

She was abused by her previous owner for apparently attacking a chicken as a puppy (she lived on a farm), I was told the whole litter was surrendered and Ellie was the last one there because she was far too shy and too big. ¬†She was very reluctant around men, even more so with men with ball caps. ¬†She’d been at the shelter nearly 7 months when were adopted her. ¬†She didn’t do typical dog like things like play fetch or chew on sticks.

Fast forward 2 years – NO REGRETS, NONE! ¬†She’s the sweetest, most gentle, docile dog and she keeps getting better every day. ¬†She’s much more relaxed but is still skittish around certain people. ¬†She still gets scared if you’re carrying something that even remotely resembles a stick. ¬†But, she obeys commands, I can walk her downtown at night time without a leash and she stays right beside me. ¬†She now loves chewing on sticks and she’s mimicked other dogs by playing fetch. ¬†She’s brought so much joy to our lives … I know for a matter of fact, that had we not taken the chance with Ellie- she’d either still be at the shelter or have been euthanized – her odds of being adopted weren’t as good as some more outgoing, small dogs.

If you’re considering adopting a dog in the near future – consider adopting a rescue dog for the following reasons:

  1. You’ll save a life – see stats above!
  2. You’ll get a great dog – most folks surrender their puppies because of family situations – a new baby, a divorce, a move – not because there’s anything wrong with the animal.
  3. It’s less expensive – when I bought my first dog, I had to pay to have him neutered and vaccinated etc, these fees are¬†included in the adoption fee – in Dauphin you pay less for large breed dogs
  4. You save other dogs Р the more dogs who are adopted out of the shelter and into loving homes Рthe more room there is for incoming dogs Рyou are giving more animals a second chance
  5. Because you’ll change a homeless dog’s whole world! ¬†



On Travel: My Japanese Experience

„Āď„āď„Āę„Ā°„ĀĮ - Kon'nichiwa

Welcome to my first blog exclusively on travel. ¬†I love traveling, I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to Mexico (4x), Cuba, Dominican Republic (5x), Aruba, Las Vegas (4x), NYC (2x), Vancouver Island and many other places – but I’ve yet to have been overseas. ¬†So this was a first!

Life can be so complicated at times can’t it? ¬†My life in particular has been nutty as of late … ¬†but at the spur of the moment, I made a decision – we all have choices and decisions to make each day of our lives¬†in the betterment of ourselves, our lives, our spirituality and for our own personal growth. ¬†So, I decided last minute to go and visit my friends Linda and Mark in Japan! They had moved there just 3 months ago for Mark’s work project with Honda.

It was late night, I texted Linda¬†“Hi! How are you? ¬†Saw your pics! ¬†Looks like you guys are having a good vacay with Mark. ¬†I have a few more wks before I have to go back to work. ¬†Up for some company maybe?”¬†Linda and I have been friends since high school at St. Mary’s –¬†initially an all catholic girls high school and then went co-ed in grade 10. ¬†I loved being part of their “porto” group – I was accepted at as a quasi-porto (right Dill?). ¬†The memories of being in high school — of sleeping over at her house and waking up to her mom and tias making Portuguese food (some of my faves – Riss√≥is and¬†col verde) – that’s where my love of Portuguese food started – thank you Rosa! ¬†We lost touch for a number of years mostly because our lives took us in different directions. ¬†I had a baby at 19 and while I cared for her, most of my friends were out and about living average 19 year old lives (which is completely understandable). ¬†We reconnected a few years ago and have been tight since … probably more than ever. ¬†In any event, Linda and Mark said yes and their kids were excited to see me (and I them).

Day 1:

Travel Day
– I flew coach from Pearson International (Toronto) to Narita, which is the furthest airport from 21192631_10155474725600168_1545996121699494346_nTokyo centre, so, if you’re traveling into and/or are staying right in Tokyo, you may want to fly into a closer airport (flying into Narita was the cheapest option for me at $1080.00). ¬†However if not, taking the train into Tokyo Station is very easy ¬†– I managed it solo (you can also take a bus which takes longer than the 53 mins by train). ¬†Most people at the stations speak English. The flight was 12h55 mins, and thankfully the flight wasn’t sold out – so I asked the flight attendant for a row without anyone in it and was able to sprawl out – but I didn’t sleep – I’m not the best of sleepers on flights. ¬†It was smooth and uneventful, hardly any turbulence at all. ¬†The time seemed to fly by (no pun intended) and the next thing I knew I was at Narita on the Narita Express (Nex) to Tokyo Station to meet up with Mark¬†ūüôĆūüŹĽ¬†ūüôĆūüŹĽ¬†– this is gonna be quite an experience!

Mark met me on my platform and we hopped on the train to Masashi-Sakai to their IMG_1382.jpghouse. ¬†They live in Mitaka Osawa, a suburb of Tokyo. I was pretty pumped to see Linda and the kids – these kids are the cutest things I’ve ever seen (other than my own of course). Their house was bigger and more modern than I had expected for Tokyo to be honest. ¬† A 2016¬†United Nations¬†estimate puts the total population Greater Tokyo Area at 38,000,000.¬†It covers an area of approximately 13,500¬†km¬≤. It’s the second largest single metropolitan area in the world, only behind New York City. ¬†So as you can imagine land is limited and at a premium. ¬†Homes are typically small and inside space is tight – their house had an ingenious toilet/sink combo to maximize space (this¬†Japanese toilet only dispenses water in its attached sink when the toilet gets flushed. ¬†You wash your hands and that water goes into the tank to be reused and flushed – brilliant!). They have storage in the floors and in the pulldown attics. What surprised me compared to most typical homes I saw is that they had green space in their yard (i.e. they actually had a side yard with grass).


Day 2:

Mount Fuji (Fujisan)¬†– Jet lag is pretty rough! I’ve never experienced hard core jet lag before, prior to this the biggest time difference was only 3 hours. ¬†My travel day commenced at 7:30 EST and went to bed 2:00 AM Japan time – so I was awake for an insane for 30 hours STRAIGHT! ¬†Unfortunately, my body wanted to wake up after only 4 hours of rest, so, while everyone else – including the kids, were still sleeping – I got up and ate an entire plate of rice and shrimp lol. ¬†When the kids got up we walked up to McDonald’s (yes, McDonald’s!) for a Filet o’ Fish – so sadly I suppose that was my actual first Japanese experience. ¬†What can I say, my body was telling me it was still nighttime – and yes, you can get Filet o’ Fish on the breakfast menu there and yes, ¬†I am aware I’m one of the very few who actually eat them ūüôĄ.

For my first full day in Japan, we decided to hit up Mount Fuji!¬†Mount Fuji is a distinctive feature of the¬†geography of Japan. ¬†Fuji-san is the highest¬†mountain¬†in¬†Japan¬†at 12,389¬†ft.¬†It’s an active volcano which last erupted in abt 1707/08. ¬†She lies about 100 kms south-west of¬†Tokyo. ¬†It was added to the¬†World Heritage List¬†as a Cultural Site on June 22, 2013.¬†According to¬†UNESCO, Mount Fuji has “inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries”.

We went up to the 5th station, which is at 2,305 metres. Check-in at the base of Fuji called for sunny skies, but it was not so. ¬†The weather on Fuji-san is volatile and changes by the minute. ¬†It can be clear one minute and the clouds can roll in the other minute totally obscuring your view. ¬†The weather Gods were not with us this day, we never saw the summit ūüėʬ†. ¬†It was only 8 degrees celsius.

We took the scenic route home and drove through the mountain ranges and some of the¬†The Fuji Five Lakes at the northern base of¬†Mount Fuji¬†at about 1000 meters above sea level. ¬†We stopped at Lake Yamanaka¬†(ŚĪĪšł≠śĻĖ) to take in the sunset and breathtaking views of Mr. Fuji, even though she was still partially obstructed by cloud cover.

Day 3: 

Shopping Day – Today was a shopping kind of day. We went to GU – this clothing chain is part of the Uniqlo¬†brand – but cheaper – you‚Äôll often see both stores side by side. ¬†Not much for me there and a little too fashion forward and frumpy for my liking (it would def. be more for the younger generation). We also went to Uniqlo outside of Musashi-Sakai Station since I hadn’t even been to the one in Toronto. ¬† I ended up finding a fab end of season dress for only¬†ÔŅ•995!

Later that day, I was introduced to Tonkatsu for lunch. It’s a Japanese dish which consists of a breaded,¬†deep-fried¬†pork cutlet and is often served with shredded cabbage, rice and miso soup. Super yummy!


I accompanied Linda in picking up some groceries at Ito-Yokado. I wanted experience what a Japanese grocery chain looked like, the different food selections and the similarities. ¬†What I found interesting was that¬†Seven-Eleven Japan is held by the¬†Seven & I Holdings Co.¬†We all know 7-11 as our local convenient corner stores, what I did not know is that¬†7-11 is part¬†Japanese and they have FULL grocery stores in Japan. ¬†They also own the Denny’s restaurants as well.


Afterward we went shopping at an awesome second hand store (most of which was¬†% name brand items). ¬†The store had the worst of names “Hard Off”. ¬† At first I thought it was because those who shopped there may have been “hard off” but when I saw a store called Book Off I was thoroughly confused. ¬†Anyway, despite the horrible name I managed to pick up a Burberry scarf & Ralph Lauren pencil skirt as well as a Yukata (a casual summer kimono) and obi for the upcoming Fall Festival later in the week in Shinjuku.

Day 4:  

Shinjuku Р What a great day for a completely unplanned one! Linda and I spent the day exploring near Shinjuku Station.  We went to Shinjuku Goyen National Garden, a gorgeous garden space in the middle of this bustling city.  The garden, which is 58.3 hectares, blends three distinct styles: a French Formal, English Landscape and Japanese traditional. A traditional Japanese tea house can be found within the gardens.  We visited Kyu Goryotei (also referred to as the Taiwan Pavilion) which was built on the occasion of the wedding of the Showa Emperor.

Afterward decided to go to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building where we went up to the 45th floor north observatory and took in the landscape city views. ¬†Of note, this government building is currently on “high alert” due to the ballistic missiles being launched over Japan and into the Sea of Japan by Kim Jong-un, North Korean Leader who seems to be begging for war¬†. ¬†Despite that, we enjoyed a drink¬†ūü•É¬†and had some good chats.

Lucas and I went for a bike ride in the International Christian College grounds, where I got to ride a traditional Japanese bike. ¬† I have to say, Tokyo has much more green space than I ever thought it would. ¬†Knowing I’m a fan of curried foods, Linda made an excellent dinner of Japanese curry¬†. ¬†Japanese curry is a lot less spicy than Indian curry and is fairly sweet in comparison.

Day 5:

KichijŇćji¬†¬†– Rainy day today¬†‚ėĒÔłŹ. We went into¬†KichijŇćji,¬†a fashionable neighbourhood in Mitaka City in the western suburbs of Tokyo. ¬†It is almost always at the top of surveys of the most desirable places to live in Tokyo. ¬†We checked out where the¬†festival we are going to this weekend is going to be held, shopped a bit, ¬†had lunch at Crown House (a North American locale) and of course had a couple of yummy¬†ūüė謆sangrias¬†. ¬†Cheers to friendship !

Day 6:

SensŇć-ji Temple: My first week here in Japan with the Middlestedt’s is nearly done. Today Linda and I went to Asakusa to visit SensŇć-ji (śĶÖŤćČŚĮļ), the oldest Buddhist Temple in Japan. It is one of¬†Tokyo’s most colorful and popular temples. ¬†The legend is that in the year¬†628, two brothers fished a statue of¬†Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, SensŇć-ji¬†was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon. The¬†temple¬†was completed in 645, making it¬†Tokyo’s oldest temple.

We walked around town taking in the mixture of huge tourist spots and the normalcy of everyday life there. Even though it rained, it didn’t put a damper on this most spectacular of days.


Day 7:

Harujuku:¬†We went down the famous IÁęĻšłčťÄö„āä Takeshita-dŇćri in Harujuku. ¬†We were in search of some Harujuku girls and saw maybe only 2. For lunch I tried a Japanese version of a cheeseburger¬†ūüćĒ¬†combo. ¬†The meat was good but didn’t taste like typical North American burger/beef, it tasted like it had spice to it and almost tasted pork like – but was good, it felt lighter. ¬†The fries tasted very much like home, the combo came with a side of fried chicken and a cheese powder, which I assume was for the fries – it tasted like Kraft Dinner powder. The Pepsi was Pepsi Nex which I found to be super sweet – do we even have this back home?

Fish Pedicure: We scooted over to Shinjuku by subway so that Lucas and I could have a fish pedicure¬†ūüźü¬†aka Dr. Fish. ¬†I was excited to try this as I had heard so much about it. ¬†We¬†soaked our feet in tanks of hungry Garra rufa fish. ¬†The small, toothless fish gently ate the dead skin and left the healthy skin untouched. ¬†For 1050 Yen, it was worth the experience – but if you’re wanting an actual pedicure – pay for the real thing.

Day 8:

Awesome day:  This was a super awesome jam packed day. We started our day off at the Kichijoji Aki Matsuri (Autumn Festival), which was taking place on September 9 & 10 2017.  I was excited to fully partake and immerse myself into the Japanese culture and along with Linda and Sofia wore a traditional Japanese Yukata.  The main event is the procession of mikoshi, the ornate palanquins which transport the kami on their journeys through the shopping streets of Kichijoji.  In addition to the mikoshi from Musashino Hachimangu, ten others from the district, each with its own team, join in the festivities. Each team has its own unique rhythm and chant. Teams of mikoshi bearers suit up in traditional costume and prepare to march. Bearers take turns carrying the weight of the mikoshi.

Next stop: ¬†Odaiba/ Tokyo Bay –¬†¬†We took the Yurikamome¬†rapid transit train across the Rainbow Bridge to¬†Odaiba¬†(„Ā䌏įŚ†ī) – which is a large¬†island¬†in¬†Tokyo Bay. ¬†Odaiba is ¬†a mixture of¬†major commercial, residential and leisure – it would be fabulous to be able to live in this area, there’s so much going on! We walked along the beach, dipped our feet in the bay, and watched the gorgeous sunset over Tokyo Bay.

They also have a replica of the Statue of Liberty which I found to be odd, given that while we were in Shinjuku Goyen I saw a replica of the Empire State Building and that the Rainbow Bridge bore a striking resemblance to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco, USA. ¬†Having been to the Statue of Liberty in NYC, this paled in comparison – actually there is no comparison, but, I had a bit more of an appreciation once I understood the reason for it. ¬†The French Statue of Liberty from the¬†√éle aux Cygnes¬†came to¬†Odaiba¬†from April 1998 to May 1999 in commemoration of “The French year in Japan”, because of its popularity, in 2000 a replica of the French Statue of Liberty was erected at the same place.

Staying in Odaiba, we dined at the Aqua City shopping centre (literally there are so many restaurants in all prices ranges in this centre to choose from). ¬†We were looking for an izakaya (a type of informal Japanese¬†gastropub)¬†but we couldn’t find one nearby so we changed our pallets minds and decided to¬†enjoyed the most mouth watering¬†Indian dinner at Mumbai restaurant overlooking Tokyo Bay. ¬†The butter chicken I had was sweeter than I’m accustomed to, but paired nicely with garlic naan, and a glass of sparkling white wine.


From there we headed to Shibuya (right in the heart of Tokyo) to check out the night life, 21371203_10155505770880168_3869120914787479968_n-1the night lights and of course the Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble. ¬†Located¬†in front of the¬†Shibuya Station¬†HachikŇć exit and rumoured to be the busiest intersection in the world (definitely in Japan), Shibuya Crossing, is just as the name eludes to – a giant scramble to get across the intersection before every light change.¬†Hundreds of people ‚Äď and at peak times I’m sure to be over 1000 people ‚Äď cross at a time, coming from all directions!

Day 9:

Sumo!: ¬†Today was all about the sumo wrestling¬†ūü§ľ‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹ,¬†1000%. What an amazing experience! ¬†Sumo Wrestling is the national sport of Japan and compared with most sports in the world today, sumo originated a heck of a long time ago, about 1,500 years.¬†The rules are simple: the wrestler who first exits the ring or touches the ground with any part of his body besides the soles of his feet loses.¬†A contest usually lasts only a few seconds. ¬†I found it shocking that there are no weight restrictions or classes in sumo, meaning that wrestlers can easily find themselves matched off against someone many times their size.

We attended¬†Kokugikan, the sumo stadium in the¬†Ryogoku¬†district, where tournaments are held. ¬†We attended the 1st day of this particular Fall tournament, each tournament lasts for 15 days. ¬†After a few chŇęhais and high balls¬†Mark and I decided to wager on a few bouts. ¬†Having no knowledge of these Gods of their sport or their records we chose simply based on their pre-match ritual, size and the colour of their mawashi (loin cloth). ¬†I lost 26-15 ūüė•.

Day 10:  

Relaxation day, spent some time watching some docs and Gilmore Girls. Felt a cold coming on, nooooooooo!!!!

Day 11:

Is it ever hard to calm your mind, especially when you feel your getting sick!?!?!  On the morning of my departure from the most respectful, quiet and kind culture, Linda and I spent the morning being trained by a traditional Japanese Monk on the art of Zazen meditation.  Zen meditation is a very simple method of meditation, where the correct posture is imperative, most of our session focussed mainly on the importance of posture.  Zazen is practiced sitting on a zafu (a thick and round cushion). The purpose of this cushion is to elevate the hips, thus forcing the knees to be firmly rooted to the floor Рthis is very important. This way, your Zazen will be a lot more stable and comfortable.

Zazen is like water in a glass. Leave the water to sit quietly and soon the dirt will sink down.– Taisen Deshimaru

In Zen, the eyes are kept open during meditation. This prevents the you from daydreaming or becoming drowsy, this was a change for me as I have always mediated with my eyes closed.  Your hands are held in the Hokkaijoin (circle with fingers and thumbs barely touching). There are two reasons for this hand position, the Monk explained.  First, the shape of the hands harmonizes our minds. Secondly, if your mind starts to wonder elsewhere else, the shape of this oval becomes distorted and you can correct yourself (realign your posture and your mind).  The bell wrung 3x and we commenced zazen, after 14 mins zasen meditation was completed. Typically is lasts 40 mins, but since we were beginners and we required a tutorial Рhe recommended 14 mins to start.  To do this in a traditional Buddhist temple was a memory of a lifetime.

After my most enjoyable, peaceful morning of meditation – I was off to Shinjuku to catch my Nex train back to Narita airport to commence my 12 hour journey back to Canada.

On departure from Narita, I did however, catch a gorgeous sunset view of Mount Fuji ….


A most heartfelt thank you to my gracious hosts Linda and Mark (and the kids) for opening your home and your hearts to me during this most unreal experience! ¬†I look forward to returning next year …. I’m already thinking of next places to visit on my return — Nagano, Hiroshima, Okinawa, Nagasaki???

Have any of you been to Japan? ¬†Where are some places you’d recommend for my next journey?

„Āĺ„ĀüŤŅĎ„ĀĄ„ĀÜ„Ā°„Āę„Āäšľö„ĀĄ„Āó„Āĺ„Āó„āá„ĀÜ - Mata chikaiuchini o ai shimashou

(see you soon)

T xo



Styx – Mr. Roboto (Relaid Audio)

Wisdom Warrior: My Journey Toward Authenticity

I consider myself more of a spiritual person than a religious one. I meditate, chant and listen to Hindi mantras/vedas, started to re-practice Yoga, believe in Om Namah Shivaya (ŗ•ź ŗ§®ŗ§ģŗ§É ŗ§∂ŗ§Ņŗ§Ķŗ§ĺŗ§Į) which literally translates to ‚ÄúI honour the divinity that dwells within me, I bow to Shiva, my true identity‚ÄĚ – I believe in it so much so that I had it tattooed on my left hip as a constant reminder to myself to be genuine and true to my authentic self.¬† I believe in the ‚ÄúUniverse‚ÄĚ as much as I believe in God.¬†I pray, and attend church on occasion (I was baptized Roman Catholic).¬† I believe in doing what calms and heals the soul.¬† I am one that believes in the power of positive thinking, the law of attraction, and in serendipity.¬† BUT, I am also a person who believes that things don‚Äôt fall into your lap and that you are the creator of your own destiny – you can shape your life by being cognizant of certain factors, understanding your blueprint and that it is necessary to reshape your mindset.

I have another tattoo – on my right ribcage – a quatrain from a poem by Edgar Guest called Myself. ¬†I love this poem because he talks about wanting to be his authentic self. ¬†About looking in the mirror and liking who he sees and that his conscience is clear when he lays his head down at night. ¬†I’ve bolded the portion that is tattooed on my ribs.


I have to live with myself and so
I want to be fit for myself to know.
I want to be able as days go by,
always to look myself straight in the eye;
I don’t want to stand with the setting sun
and hate myself for the things I have done.
I don’t want to keep on a closet shelf
a lot of secrets about myself
and fool myself as I come and go
into thinking no one else will ever know
the kind of person I really am,
I don’t want to dress up myself in sham.
I want to go out with my head erect
I want to deserve all men’s respect;
but here in the struggle for fame and wealth
I want to be able to like myself.
I don’t want to look at myself and know that
I am bluster and bluff and empty show.
I never can hide myself from me;
I see what others may never see;
I know what others may never know, 
I never can fool myself and so, 
whatever happens I want to be 
self respecting and conscience free.

I have yet another tattoo on the nape of my neck, that simply says “Let me be myself” with a red rose. I chose the red rose because it¬†is an unmistakable expression of love (self love).¬†This is actually a sentence from a song called “Let Me Be Myself” by one of my favourite bands, 3 Doors Down.

The lyrics go ….

I guess I just got lost
Being someone else.
I tried to kill the pain,
But nothing ever helped.
I left myself behind,
Somewhere along the way
Hoping to come back around
To find myself someday
Lately I’m so tired of waiting for you
To say that it’s OK.
Tell me please
Would you one time just let me be myself
So I can shine
With my own light.
Let me be myself.
Would you let me be myself?


I’ve had this tattoo for about 5/6 years now – spiritually this song to me is simply saying – LET. ME. BE. ME. ¬†This tattoo was part of a big personal growth journey into authenticity for me. ¬†It was also my subtle way of telling a certain few (they have no idea who they are) – that I got lost but am no longer.

I have yet another tattoo on the other side of my ribs which simply states AMBITION Рno explanation required Р a desire and determination to achieve success.

My point in explaining most of my tattoos is to share with you my personal journey – I try to talk the talk and walk the walk (I’m not perfect at it and I falter from time to time, but as is said life’s a journey not a destination). ¬†I’m a walking billboard for personal positivity.

I have three top WISDOM WARRIORS as I call them, to whom I listen every day, whose words inspire, motivate and encourage me to be greater, better, stronger and a truer more authentic version of myself.  These three (in alphabetical order) are:

  1. Tony Robbins
  2. Robin Sharma
  3. Eric Thomas

Robin Sharma

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 8.37.10 PM4 years ago, I had the immense pleasure of seeing the first of my idols speak at a Canadian National conference I attended in Edmonton.¬† Robin Sharma is most well known for his international best selling book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.¬† Robin’s runaway bestseller The Leader Who Had No Title was the #1 Business book on¬† But, the book that got me started and hooked on this leadership guru and personal mastery was his book DISCOVER¬†YOUR DESTINY WITH THE MONK WHO SOLD HIS FERRARI – THE 7 STAGES OF SELF-AWAKENING, a pathway to self-awakening that will help you to live your greatest life and claim the happiness, prosperity and inner peace that you deserve. This book is my go to book – it is highlighted, dog eared and has tear marks all over it – I read and re-read certain passages over and over again to keep reminding myself to live a life that is successful to ME and not as defined by anyone else.¬† It is a must read and should be added to your personal development library.

Here are a few of my favourite quotes from that book … it was hard to narrow them down to just these few:

-You are far greater than you have ever dreamed of being. And no matter what you are experiencing in your life right now, trust that all is good and unfolding in your best interests. It may not look pretty, but it is exactly what you need to learn for you to grow into the person you have been destined to become. Everything occurring in your life has been perfectly orchestrated to inspire your maximal evolution as a human being and bring you into your true power. Learn from life and allow it to take you where you are meant to go‚ÄĒit has your highest interests in mind

– We have morphed into people who behave selfishly, fearfully and hurtfully. This behaviour is not a reflection of our essential nature but is, instead, a reflection of the wounds we have suffered as we have left the innocence to which we were born and traveled along the journey of our days. Only people in pain can do painful things. Only people who have been hurt can hurt others. Only people with closed hearts are able to act in less than loving ways.

РOften, your lessons will not come easily. Suffering has always been a vehicle for deep spiritual growth. Those who have endured great suffering are generally the ones who evolve into great beings. 

РBut we grow most from our greatest challenges. I’ve realized that these experiences were sent to help me clean up my act and me to move through my weakness. Life’s biggest hurts are, in truth, glorious opportunities for personal growth, positive transformation and reclaiming the authentic power you’ve lost as you left the perfection of infancy and walked into the world. Embrace them for the gifts they are.

Here is  free link to Discovery Your Destiny PDF

And a link to his audio Book:¬† The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari –¬†

Tony Robbins

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 8.40.28 PMThis past Wednesday (August 9 2017) I was able to cross yet another item off of my bucket list.  For 3.5 hours I listened, absorbed and tried my best to retain every nugget of wisdom that Tony Robbins’ threw at us Р his incredible energy and monumental life/coaching skills.  It was most certainly a dream come true and one of the most inspirational, motivating experiences of my life.

If there are any of you who have not yet heard of this larger than life man, let me fill you in a wee bit Рhis work has touched the lives of top people such as Aerosmith, Green Day, Usher, Pitbull, Andre Agassi and President Clinton to name a few. Billionaire business leaders seek his advice as well; casino magnate Steve Wynn and founder Marc Benioff are among those who call on him for coaching.

His shortest seminars are typically 50 hours in duration, but, in a small fraction of that time, he was able to transcend his most important life coaching skills to understanding our own personal mastery.

He makes no secret that he had a rough childhood.  This resonated with me.

“If my mom had been the mother I thought I wanted, I wouldn’t be as driven; I wouldn’t be as hungry,” he said. “I wouldn’t have suffered, so I probably wouldn’t have cared about other people’s suffering as much as I do. And it made me obsessed with wanting to understand people and help create change.”

FullSizeRender 3


The essence of his 3.5 hours with the 15,000 of us focussed on the core decisions we make at each point in our lives, how we choose to view them and what we do about them Р see pic of hand (lol РI forgot my notepad).

1) What are we choosing to FOCUS on?

2) What MEANING are we assigning to it?

3) And now that you know that, what are you going to DO about it?

Instead of trying to put my own spin on this and totally ruining what he is trying to convey I’m going to borrow this from Tony’s site (Tony, please don’t be mad) because I feel it is that important …

“Is this the end of something wonderful or the beginning of something unpleasant? Are you being punished for your failure or rewarded for your success? The minute you decide to focus on something, you assign it a meaning and infuse it with feeling. How you define an event produces emotion and determines your inner feeling state going forward. The meaning you assign to any event, interaction or outcome defines the emotional tone of your experience and the feelings you generate throughout your life. Meaning equals emotion and emotion equals life. The meaning you give your experiences will always change how you feel ‚ÄĒ and the emotion you feel always becomes the quality of your life. Our memories are actually anchors to feeling states, images, sounds and sensations ‚ÄĒ all of these aspects rely on the meaning we give to them” –¬†Tony Robbins

Get it? ¬†Perspective is a powerful thing isn’t it? When you can reframe an experience, you can often change what happens as a result.

Eric Thomas

Last but certainly not least on my list is Eric Thomas (a.k.a ET). ¬†He is a¬†preacher and motivational speaker – this guy definitely has a different and unique way to inspire and connect with his HIGH energy messages! His voice is strong, loud and passionate!¬† It resonates so that you can‚Äôt help but believe that what he says is fact!¬† Go get what you want – period!¬† No excuses! ¬† One of his most known quotes is¬†‚ÄúWhen you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you‚Äėll be successful.‚ÄĚ ¬†ET is the epitome of hustle, drive, determination, and success.

Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 1.00.16 AMScreen Shot 2017-08-12 at 1.01.50 AM

To wrap up these three spiritual bucketlist items – I am making plans seeing ET in Washington, DC on September 2 2017. ¬†Hopefully I can make that work ūü§ěūüŹĽ

Check out -> NO EXCUSES РMotivational Video РEric Thomas РMUST WATCH Р

To end, let me ask you this – are your patterns helping or harming you?


T xo

Alanis Morissette – Thank U (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

Kingston Penitentiary: Canada’s Alcatraz – MY TOUR

Tours through Kingston Penitentiary offer a unique opportunity to go behind the walls of Canada’s oldest and most notorious maximum security prison. Its doors closed in 2013. And now offers guided tours which provide an up-close look at this historical building which predates Canadian confederation.

The first time we went to Kingston in 2013, the Pen was still operating as a maximum security prison.


After some 182 years, I finally got to take a semi-private tour of the formidable Kingston Penitentiary, once home to some of Canada’s worst criminals.

Canada’s Penitentiary Museum

I decided to tour Canada’s Penitentiary Museum located directly across from Kingston Pen. ¬†I was happy that I did as the museum¬†explains the history of Kingston Penitentiary and other correctional centres using displays that incorporate artifacts, photographs, equipment, and replicas. The museum also houses most of the institution’s historical records as well as those of other Canadian penitentiaries, and provides the only penitentiary research service in Canada.

The museum is located in “Cedarhedge”, the former Warden’s residence of Kingston Penitentiary that was constructed between 1870 and 1873.

“The box” — the notorious upright coffin in which inmates were sealed for hours at a time as punishment. ¬†Imagine being confined to this coffin like form of punishment for up to 9 hours?

Below are typical “shivs” or “shanks” which are frequently found in prisons. ¬†These items are illegally manufactured¬†by¬†inmates using materials found in trade shops. ¬†I am not going to lie, I was a bit impressed with their ingenuity.


Shivs and Shanks collected from Millhaven Maximum Security over a 4 year period!

Corporal Punishment


I hate to say it, but this was a creatively brilliant escape.

Mugshot chair from Stoneybrook Institution in Winnipeg, MB.  Mug Shots were first introduced in 1906.  Inmates would place the back of their heads again the round ball.  This was necessary for a usable photo to be taken, given it took longer in those days as the camera exposure was quite long.

Kingston Penitentiary

Kingston Penitentiary (known as KP or Kingston Pen) is a former maximum security prison located in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, between King Street West and Lake Ontario.

For nearly 180 years, Canada’s most vicious called Kingston Penitentiary home.

There were killers, thieves, rapists and drug dealers, and headline-grabbing names, such as The Scarborough Rapist and murderer Paul Bernardo, former colonel Russell Williams, Clifford Olson, the child-killing ‚ÄúBeast of British Columbia”, Wayne Boden:¬†The ‚ÄúVampire Rapist‚ÄĚ, Tim Buck:¬†The general secretary of the Communist Party of Canada was convicted of Communist agitation in 1931.¬†Edwin Boyd:¬†The Toronto bank robber and folk hero was jailed in the 1950s. His story inspired the 2011 movie ‚ÄúCitizen Gangster.‚ÄĚ ¬†Thousands served here. The youngest? An 8-year-old 19th-century bread thief.

KP was constructed in 1833‚Äď34. ¬†It opened its doors on June 1, 1835¬†‚ÄĒ 32 years before Canadian Confederation, as the “Provincial Penitentiary of the Province of Upper Canada”, it was one of the oldest prisons in continuous use in the world at the time of its closure in 2013. ¬†It didn’t become known as Kingston Penitentiary, or KP, until after Confederation in 1867.

The penitentiary’s carved stone walls and neoclassical-inspired design. ¬†It’s design was heavily influenced by the system in place in Auburn New York at a the time.

Six inmates were accepted when the penitentiary was initially opened. When the first convicts arrived from Toronto in 1835 to serve their time, the new prison was not yet open for business; the inmates had to be held at the county jail for five days.

The original rules for inmates stated that inmates “must not exchange a word with one another under any pretence whatever” and “must not exchange looks, wink, laugh, nod or gesticulate to each other,” with violators receiving the lash. ¬†They were literally not allowed to talk all day. ¬†It was thought that if they were silent and had time to think of their wrongdoings they would recover and would not reorient once they were released. ¬†This just did the opposite, it drove the inmates mad!

Our young guide, shepherds us through the gutted prison. At nearly every turn, a retired guard tells us stories from the facility’s past.

We pass by Private Family Visitation Units: a small row of semi-detached cottages (conjugals) with yards where model prisoners could have barbecues with their kids and catch up with their lovers.


Nearby, there’s a sewer grate where guards would dump confiscated homebrew.

In 1859 ‚Äď 1861 the centre dome was added connecting all four cell ranges. ¬†The facility consisted of a single, large limestone cellblock containing 154 cells in 5 tiers and some outbuildings.

Guard house under main dome connecting the four cellblock buildings

Below, Vern Thibodeau, a former corrections officer (guard) at KP takes part in our tour telling us about centre block and the infamous “bell” that directed each of the inmates movements throughout the day. ¬†They apparently HATED that bell and it was the first thing to be destroyed during the 1971 riot.

Vern tells us about the three prison riots. The worst, which occurred in 1971, saw six guards held hostage and two inmate deaths over four harrowing days. Several parts of the prison were so badly damaged in the riot that they never reopened as a cell block.

Mail boxes¬†ūüﶬ†in the centre block, so they could mail money home, request counselling, ask for school supplies, request a hair cut or file a grievance

We moved onto Range 2G1 (they call cell blocks ranges).  This was a general population wing.  There were two levels to each range and 1 guard area in each section.

The cells originally ONLY measured 29 inches wide by 8 ft deep!  Imagine that, not even the width of a standard sized stove!  The cells remained the same small size until the first major renovations between 1895 and 1906.  Most of the cells have been stripped, but several inmates left their belongings when there were transferred to Millhaven.

The HOLE – solitary confinement – the prison‚Äôs dissociation unit.¬† This is where the they housed inmates for their own protection against the general population or to keep them away from from other inmates because they are deemed dangerous. ¬†The cells in the unit were larger and private. And unlike normal cells, they had windows and air conditioning, because they were confined to their cells 23 hours per day, only allowed yard use for 1 hour. ¬†Their ‘yard’ is not with the general pop yard, they have a very small concrete only area located inside their range. ¬†In case you’re curious, Paul Bernardo’s cell was #4 – I don’t think any Canadian is surprised that he’s in solitary confinement for his own protection.


General population yard Рsouth guard tower in the far left corner.  At the back right, there is a basketball area/nets.  They did have access to weights, but they were eventually removed due to safety concerns.


This is also where¬†Tyrone “Ty” escaped KP. ¬†Conn was 32 years old, serving a 47-year prison sentence at maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary when he staged a spectacular escape on May 7, 1999.

His cunning, patience and ingenuity, coupled with a series of stunning security failures, made the breakout from the Bighouse possible. Conn was the first prisoner to make it over the wall of Kingston Pen in 41 years. He scampered over the east wall sometime between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., strapping and grappling hook he fashioned from a piece of steel rebar.

He made a dummy to act as himself. The crude apparatus was constructed the night before the escape. A shoebox served as torso and paper towel rolls served as an arm and leg.

There was no head.

The limbs and torso were wrapped in towels and hockey pads were placed at the joints.

The dummy was dressed in a T-shirt and track pants. It was positioned in his bunk so that seen from outside the cell, part of the torso and a bent knee and elbow were visible.

The head of the ‚Äėperson‚Äô on the bunk wasn‚Äôt visible because Conn began using a headboard on his bed several weeks earlier. A guard passing his cell could not see his head.

For weeks, Conn began lying on his bunk in the same position that the dummy would later assume.

The nearest guard tower (the one in this photo at the back of the Yard), a squat observation post at the southeast corner of the prison, had been empty since 11 p.m. the night before. Had a guard been on duty, he or she likely would have had a clear view of the escape in progress, and, armed with a rifle, would have been equipped to stop it. The tower had been unstaffed on the overnight shift for several years, a victim of management budget cuts, despite the protests of prison staff.

After the escape, prison managers reinstated 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week staffing of four perimeter watch towers at Kingston Pen.

Conn’s escape also was successful because two inmate accomplices on his cellblock spent the evening of May 6 moving a dummy in and out of his cell bunk before regular head counts. At the time, Conn was hidden in a canvas shop, assembling his escape gear. The dummy wasn’t discovered until after 7 a.m., when a search of the prison was ordered after a staff member arriving for work noticed the canvas strapping dangling from the outside of the east wall.

Ty Conn‚Äôs breakout was embarrassing for senior Corrections officials, who deserved much of the blame for fostering a culture at Kingston Pen that made the escape possible, front-line staff say. The internal inquiry into Conn‚Äôs escape and the resulting report documents dozens of security failures at the prison. Many prison workers insist that the final report was a whitewash, meant to protect prison managers and senior Corrections staff. It chronicles the genius of Conn‚Äôs escape plot. It does not address one lingering question ‚Äď who helped him? Police who investigated the escape are nearly certain that an accomplice in a car was waiting outside the prison in a nearby neighbourhood to spirit Conn quickly out of Kingston. That person has never been identified.

‚ÄúIt appears that he ran toward Alwington Place, ripped open an envelope and spread cayenne pepper to throw off the dogs,‚ÄĚ Labrash says.

The car may have been parked in the Alwington neighbourhood just east of the prison or perhaps as far east as the Tett complex, adjacent to the prison service’s regional headquarters.

Labrash says there was evidence that Conn ran east along the waterfront to his rendezvous.

The Regional Treatment Centre (RCT) was an independently run facility providing in-house mental health and services to the Ontario regional population.

Work Shop Building – there was a mattress area, a carpentry shop, a fabrication area, tailoring, shoemaking and a metal shop/blacksmithing and right up the stairs – a school. Inmates were paid $5.00 per day to go to school. Which was a relatively high wage. The max an inmate could earn was $6.90 a day. They were able to use his money for canteen items. The higher wage than other work ships was to promote education upon release.

Inside the prison, other men worked in various trades.


What the Dickens?

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 2.17.12 AM.pngCharles Dickens visited Kingston and the penitentiary in 1842, and wrote in his¬†American Notes for General Circulation, ‚ÄúThere is an admirable jail here, well and wisely governed, and excellently regulated, in every respect.‚ÄĚ He went on: ‚ÄúHere at Kingston is a penitentiary, intelligently and humanely run.‚ÄĚ Apparently he wasn‚Äôt privy to the brutal conditions prisoners actually endured then. Eight-year-old Antoine Beauche, for instance, was lashed 47 times in nine months for breaking in-house rules that included staring, laughing, whistling, giggling and idling.

Heamingway Visits KP

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 2.21.06 AM.pngOn September 11, 1923, on his first day as a reporter with the¬†Toronto Daily Star¬†(now the¬†Toronto Star), 24-year-old Ernest Hemingway was sent to KP to cover a dramatic jailbreak that occurred the day before. His¬†2,6000-word report¬†detailed the daring escape of five inmates, including burglar Norman ‚ÄúRed‚ÄĚ Ryan. ¬†Ryan was caught almost a year later while picking up his mail in Minneapolis. He was sent back to Kingston to face 30 lashings and life in prison.

KP Closes Its Doors

Citing aging infrastructure and rising maintenance costs, the federal Government closed KP’s doors in 2013 after 178 years. ¬†Inmates were transferred to Millhaven Maximum Security down the way in¬†Bath, Ontario. ¬†



T xo


The Tragically Hip – Wheat Kings

Monster Hunt: My Search for the Manipogo Monster

Cryptozoology: ¬†noun:¬†¬†cryp¬∑to¬∑zo¬∑ol¬∑o¬∑gy¬†¬†\ňĆkrip-t…ô-zŇć-ňą√§-l…ô-jńď, -z…ô-ňąw√§-\

A pseudoscience. The study of and search for animals and especially legendary animals usually in order to evaluate the possibility of their existence

I’ve always been intrigued with folkloric creatures like Loch Ness, Sasquatch, Chupacabra,¬†Abominable Snowman, Kraken, Sea Serpents, The Mothman, Thunderbirds and Jersey Devil, just to name a few.

Today I am an acting cryptozoologist! ¬†I’ve watched show, after documentary, after movie on these interestingly mythical creatures. ¬†It’s safe to say that I have more than a passing interest in these folkloric, mystical, unusual and surreal beings.

We live in an ideal location Рnestled between the Riding Mountains and the Duck Mountains.  We are also surrounded by plenty of lakes, most notably Lakes Manitoba, Winnipeg and Winnipegosis.

Screen Shot 2017-06-24 at 6.47.41 PM

Loch Ness isn’t the only lake with a reputation for a Monster. In North America many large, deep, cold water lakes have stories about sea monsters. These lakes were formed over ten thousand years ago, during the last ice age.

In Canadian folklore, Manipogo is the lake monster said to live in Lake Manitoba.

Today, in search of this elusive sea creature I decided to head out to Manipogo Provincial Park (aptly named after the sea creature).

Lake Manitoba¬†is Canada’s thirteenth largest¬†lake¬†(4,624¬†km2) and the world’s 33rd largest freshwater lake. There is also a Lake Winnipegosis sea monster called Winnepogo, thought possibly to be the same creature as the lakes are connected. Manipogo is said to travel through inner-channel rivers between lakes Winnipeg, Winnipegosis and Manitoba.

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One of the most well-known sightings of Manipogo dates back to August of 1962.  Two sport fishermen: Dick Vincent of KCND Television (now Global) and his television colleague, John Konefell, spotted a serpent-like creature about 300 metres from their boat.

It was around 4:00 P.M. when the two men began heading back to their camp, suddenly they came along a thin animal, its body bobbing up and down as it advanced. Vincent grabbed his camera and took three pictures of it. ¬†They watched for about 5 minutes¬†before¬†the creature dove back down below the surface.¬†They¬†were able to take a blurred photograph (see photo above). In subsequent years, Vincent denied that he saw Manipogo, and claimed to have just seen “something in the lake”.

Since the late 1800s, people have claimed to see the creature, but no conclusive evidence of the monster’s existence has ever been found.  The local native population has legends of serpent-like creatures in Lake Manitoba dating back hundreds of years.

Today I explore the lake,¬†maybe I can finally prove the legend of Manipogo, Lake Manitoba‚Äôs serpentine sea monster! ¬†*I don’t actually expect to see a creature*


And I’m off – on my way to Manipogo Provincial Park in Toutes Aides, Manitoba – distance 101 kms, 1h 10 mins away.



I’ve arrived! ¬†Let the monster searching begin … I’m coming for you Mani!


The Stats

ÔŅĹ Classification: Lake Monster
ÔŅĹ Size: Reports indicate between 12 – 50 feet in length
ÔŅĹ Weight: Unknown
ÔŅĹ Diet: Unknown
ÔŅĹ Location: Lake Manitoba, however similar reports have come from near by lakes
ÔŅĹ Movement: Swimming
ÔŅĹ Environment: Glacier Lake

General Description

According to research we’re looking for a creature¬†that fits this general description (I’ve culminated descriptions of the documented sightings):

  • Muddy coloured creature that has¬†many humpsScreen Shot 2017-06-08 at 12.53.58 AM
  • Has a sheep-like head
  • Anywhere from 12 feet to 50 feet long
  • On its head has a single horn, its head is small and flat – looks very much like a dinosaur.
  • Giant serpent-like creature;¬†large creature like a serpent or giant snake;¬†reptile-like beast

Not to be confused with:

  • A floating log
  • A large surgeon
  • A wave
  • Boat wake

The Search

Since the majority of Manipogo sightings happen around Toutes Aides, the Manitoba government decided to name the area’s provincial park after the mythical beast.  The park sits on the far north-western shore of Lake Manitoba, close to where the lake almost meets Lake Winnipegosis.  I explored the lake, in the hopes that I may have been able to confirm the legend of Manipogo.


Northwest shore of Lake Manitoba



I had no such luck on my search for Manipogo today, perhaps next time? ¬†I guess for now, the only sighting I’m going to see is of this artist rendering …

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 6.06.53 PM
Sketch by Louis Bretecher, who saw the creature in the 50’s when he was about 18.

Although there are believers who have no doubt in their minds that something lives in the depths of Lake Manitoba. Skeptics like to remind us that these lakes are known for large sturgeon which can grow up to 2.5 metres, weigh over 140 kg and can live for over 150 years (average life span is 50 to 80 years).


T xo

Fast forward to 31:08 for Manipogo Story

Creepy Canada S02.E04 –¬†Frank Slide Rocks Newman Wine Vaults Trowbridge Falls Charlotte County Court House Manipogo Monster Hopkins Dining Parlour

Published on Sep 25, 2012

Recipe: ‘Shake’ Off That Summer Heat: EASY Homemade Vanilla Coffee Protein Shake

This iced coffee recipe is super easy to make and is loaded up with protein, so you’re getting your caffeine boost and protein all in one. My version uses vanilla-flavored protein powder and has a fairly strong coffee flavour.

Gather Your Ingredients

(makes 1 serving)

  • 1 cup of ice
  • 1 cup chilled strong-brewed coffee (using the¬†cold-brew method, or simply prepare a strong cup of coffee ahead of time and refrigerate)
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used Almond Milk)


Product Information 

Creamy French Vanilla Isagenix Isalean Shake: Low-glycemic shake with energy-fueling carbohydrates, good fats, vitamins and minerals, and 24 grams of high-quality protein.

  • Superior branched-chain amino acid profile
  • Active enzymes to help ease digestion
  • Essential trace minerals
  • Natural ingredients with no artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners
  • No trans fat

Isagenix Premium Blend Coffee:  Infused with Minerals, Green Tea Extract & Coconut Oil.  Slow roasted.  Fairly traded.  100% Arabica Coffee.  Green tea extract, coconut oil and minerals are added to improve both the quality and flavour. The green tea complements the coffee’s natural antioxidant powers, while trace minerals offset acidity and the coconut oil adds a pleasant, buttery finish.


Simply combine all ingredients in a blender (I used a  Nutri Bullet) for about 30-40 seconds or until all ingredients are blended.

If a thicker consistency is desired, simply add more ice.

Serve immediately.