Dear Old Dad

I don’t have any memories of my Dad without grey hair.

He’s 47 years my senior, and to be quite honest – I’ve always considered him to be an “old man”. And for as long as I can remember, he’s been a stay-at-home Dad. He’s always been there when I needed someone; actually, when anyone needed someone.

Dad was the reason I made it to school safely, up until about grade 5 when I decided I was old enough to cross the street by myself and count on the company of my friends to ensure I got to school on time. Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of his peanut butter + butter sandwiches put together on squishy, whole wheat bread and the more brown than yellow banana he would pack for my lunches, Dad woke up every morning and made sure I didn’t starve through the day for all of elementary school. When I was sick – he’d come pick me up. When I forgot my homework, my gym clothes, etc. – he would make his way to the school as quickly as possible, with “Casper” the family dog in tow. When it was time to go home, he was standing outside the school doors waiting for me… and we’d walk home sharing stories about our day.

When I needed him, he was there. But it wasn’t always just for me.

Dad was sometimes at school as often as I was. He’d volunteer to supervise class field trips – and made sure to always engage with fellow classmates about the best parts of the trip. When we visited old mines, the planetarium, and the local heritage village – he’d immerse himself with fascination and get just as excited as all the kids about new information to learn. When my friends and I were simply stuck in class on a regular school day, Dad would volunteer his time to stop by for a few hours and help struggling kids improve their reading skills. And if there was ever a moment when he wanted to help out and wasn’t balancing on a pint-sized chair while helping students who were fighting their way through their required reading, you’d likely find him in the computer room tinkering away and teaching others how to use them efficiently.

Mr. Thomson (or Mr. T to some people) has always been one to offer a helping hand, but more importantly – a bit of encouragement. He’s always there for assistance or advice, but he’ll never take the load off your shoulders or give you the answers. He’s the type of guy to teach you a lesson, to help you learn, to make sure you get something out of the experience – rather than giving you an easy way out.

Actually, it’s always been about the experience with Dad. Playing outside or playing with manually propelled toys always trumped slouching on the sofa watching any TV show. Reading a book always beat out spending hours getting sucked into a video game – unless you were playing Zelda, and you let Dad play just as much or more than you got to play yourself. He taught me the importance of appreciating a simpler life, not getting wrapped up in the idea of “keeping up with the Jones'”, and living a life without worrying about judgement from others.

Because – and it’s really sunk in more as an adult than ever before – none of that stuff matters.

To Dad, having the latest, greatest, whatever was cool – wasn’t important. He knew that it was absolutely possible to smile, laugh, and enjoy yourself with crayons, a piece of paper, a pencil, and whatever other knick-knacks you could find lying around the house to incorporate into some sort of make-believe adventure; there wasn’t a need for luxurious things that cost more money than our family could afford. Dad taught me that having fancy, expensive clothing or something new on a regular basis didn’t define, change, or impact who I was as a person. And although I didn’t believe him for the longest time, he would always imply that my life and who I really was in it was perfect, without bells and whistles to dress it up.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Dad – it’s that you don’t need more than a shirt, a pair of pants, an extra pair of underwear, a good book, and staples like milk, cheese, a loaf of bread and deli meat in your fridge to get by for a lot of your days.

Life truly can be just that simple, really. He’s living proof.

My father has been a significant influence to who I am today. Over the last 30 years, we’ve drifted back and forth, bumped heads, and misunderstood each other on so many occasions, but he’s definitely impacted the way I see the world and how I’ve chosen to be.

Though he may not know it, he helped fuel my passion for writing. He’s the reason I’ve fallen in love with the smell of books and why I wish I read more often than I do. My confidence to face the public with no makeup, my attempts to be frugal, my willingness to be kind and help others as much as I can is all because of my Dad – and everything he taught me. I spend my life trying not to worry about things, because Dad’s never been the type to do so. I try not to over complicate things (although I’m not very good at it) because… Dad wouldn’t do that either. And I try to learn as much as I can, because that’s what Dad likes to do.

There’s been many moments when I’ve debated which parent I’m more familiar to, but the truth really is that I’m a solid half from both of them. And while it’s without a doubt that I’m my mum’s little girl, but there’s no question that I’m Dad’s baby girl too – his lil’ Miss Pennifer for always, no matter how old I am.

I can honestly look in the mirror and see who I am, because of who my father is.

He’s the man with the grey hair and the big heart, who’s taught me to enjoy life in such simplicity. He’s always home, and always there when I need him.

And that’s exactly why I love him, and am so happy to call him my Dad.

Hot (or Not) Lips

On my fridge, there’s a Post-It note:

“Life’s too short to settle for Sriracha Steve.”

It’s a reminder to not settle for anything other than the best – which includes a dude who knows how to kiss.

No one likes a bad kisser.

I was set up with Sriracha Steve by mutual friends who told me he was a good guy with solid potential to be a good match for me. He was smart, educated, and had an established career. My friends showed me pictures before I met Steve in person and he seemed noticeably easy on the eyes and in good shape. I found out that we had personal similarities and shared interests in fitness, outdoor adventures and travelling. I was definitely curious to find out if we could fall madly in love and be together forever… or at least find lust.

We spent a Saturday evening with mutual friends, laughing through several rounds of Cards of Humanity while indulging in wine and good food. Shortly before midnight, just after playing a good ol’ game of Truth or Dare, Steve and I found ourselves alone together, sharing the same loveseat – obviously the perfect time for him to pounce and suck my face off.

The thought of kissing Steve had crossed my mind once or twice, but I was taking my time to feel out the situation still (and at the very least, required a little more wine as liquid courage first). When SR leaped from his side of the loveseat and tackled me with his lips – I wasn’t ready.

I was not ready for those lips and that kiss.

The kiss was aggressive and discontinuous, and his saliva trickled down my cheek. To make matters worse, Steve was breathing hot air into my mouth like a fervent dragon. While playing Truth or Dare, he had been challenged to eat a tablespoon of Sriracha sauce; his sloppy kisses were leaving an unpleasantly stale taste of hot sauce on my tongue.

Honestly, I hadn’t yet been completely sold on SS, but I had been open to giving him the rest of that evening and perhaps another date to make a solid impression – until that kiss. The Sriracha sauce turned a simply bad kiss into a gross and very awful kiss. I couldn’t leave that house fast enough; even though he insisted that I stay longer and possibly even spend the night. I drove home feeling violated and disgusting.

I was left wondering: How are people so bad at this simple skill?

My first real kiss (full on make-out: tongue and saliva exchanged) happened in grade 8, on the sidewalk near my house, with my first high school boyfriend. We both had braces and before we shared that special moment together, I was overwhelmed with fear that the horror stories of interlocking wires would come true.

Our braces didn’t get in the way and we managed to keep the spit off our faces. The kiss was enjoyable enough that we kissed every day for weeks until we found new high school crushes to practice kissing with.

Were we both just naturally born, talented make-out artists?

I will not deny that 12-year-old-Me used to have a poster of Nick Carter taped to the wall next to my bed. I would give it a quick, simple kiss before I tucked myself under the covers for the night (I’m not the only girl that did this, right?!). But, I will honestly admit that I’ve never gone so far as to practice open mouth kissing with my hand, pillow, mirror, stuffed animals, life-size dolls, etc.

In recent conversation with a friend about the art of kissing and how so many men I’ve met have yet to master it, he offered up this advice: “Press lips softly together, enjoy how that feels, repeat.”

I couldn’t agree more; kissing is as easy as those steps. In those moments where sparks start flying, go ahead and turn the intensity up, with wandering hands.

But there’s no need for bashing your teeth against mine (this smile cost $10,000 and 7 years of braces, brackets, and retainers) or violent wrestling with our tongues. Keep your saliva to yourself, and settle down on the lip biting. There’s also no need to draw blood; delicate nibbles are playful and enough of a tease to keep me wanting more…

One good kiss is enough to keep coming me back for more, and then some.

If all you have to offer is sloppy lips and sloppy seconds of Sriracha?

I’ll pass.

*photo credit: HD Wallpapers

Cuba, Page 5

Travelling is such a special experience; especially when you’re disconnected from internet and cellphone reception and you’re able to detach from the global drama that usually infiltrates your life.

When you’re in a different country and submerged into exotic culture, you’d be a fool to not completely engage in the moments unfolding right in front of you and all around you.

This is especially so in Cuba.

For most of the day, rainbows of Chevrolet Impalas, old Ford convertibles and pickup trucks, Buicks, Renaults, and the tiniest Fiats from the 1950’s roll down busy streets and crowded alleyways. Some people might consider missing mirrors and door handles, patches of rust and clunky demeanour as  a reason to send these cars to the junkyard , but once you’re exposed to the nostalgia carried in the tattered leather seats and chipped interiors, you realize that the flaws are reasons to keep these vintage vehicles around. Over the years, these cars have built up character on their travels, and approximately 70 years later, they’re just craving some well-deserved TLC.

From the minute I sink my butt into an ancient bucket seat, it feels like time actually rewinds multiple decades. With my shades on and a camera around my neck, I lean through the rolled down window, watching as we pass all sorts of dining tables set up on outdoor patios and under windowless hut-like structures. As we make our way down the street, I notice groups of tourists merrily strolling down the sidewalk or gathered around tables loaded with green, glass bottles of Crystal beer. While the tourists laugh and travel in herds, the locals stroll at a slightly slower pace and watch as the eyes of everyone from another country and continent light up in awe of new culture, while smiling and excitedly commenting about the colours, smells, and sights of Cuba around them.

And that’s one of the best things about Cuba – it’s a country that truly thrives on visitors from all over the world, so you’re bound to meet someone from somewhere else and make new friends you might never forget. You’ll meet them while waiting for another daiquiri at one of the most crowded establishments. Or maybe you’ll be the only two tables in one of the mostly highly recommended restaurants, and share delicious conversations about love, spirituality, and life. It’s not uncommon to bump into other tourists at your casa, along the street, in the local market buying souvenirs. You’ll definitely find new friends along the beach, basking under a palm tree or wading together in crisp, cool water while the sun sets. And maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll find someone at the local bar who’s game for an adventure.

After 8 days of dodging slick puddles and watching my step through the streets of Havana and Trinidad, I finally settled down poolside with herds of other tourists at one of Varadero’s many all-inclusive resorts. I can’t tell you that there’s much to look forward to in terms of excellence, but you’re welcome to as many free-pour beverages as you want while you bask in the sunshine by the pool, and there’s really not much to complain about beyond that.

The last day of our trip before we had to pack up and find our way back to the airport just happened to be my birthday and I spent the day with sand, sunshine and decent amounts of rum. As the night began to fall,  I celebrated with a cruise in a retro convertible alongside a handsome new friend. There more mojitos, the cheesiest and somehow most romantic kiss to the tune of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” and a dip in the ocean…  appropriately “dressed” in my birthday suit. As my birthday transitioned into the next day, I continued to kick off a new decade of my life with good conversation and a Cuban cigar, while the sun rose in front of us.

Travelling – it’s the best way to meet some of the world’s most interesting people and put an exotic twist on life’s simplest pleasures. On top of that, it’s an opportunity to evolve, grow, and return home as a slightly better version of yourself.

And if you’re looking for somewhere with flare, and opportunity for a good story, Cuba is definitely a destination that won’t disappoint.