Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.

Holidays are most definitely over.

We got back on Friday, but still maintained "vacation mode" until Monday. I did not even turn on my computer until Sunday night, being hesitant to break my "fast"--I had been quite enjoying it. Plus, I was in the middle of a really interesting book I started at my in-laws called The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. (The same guys who wrote the controversial The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, from which Dan Brown drew a lot of his material when writing The Da Vinci Code.) Even then [Sunday night], all I did was check my personal e-mail, figuring that it was not really like working, and I could put off the business stuff for one more day till I was officially "back."

I'm glad I did. The next day, upon opening up the "work" Inbox, there were several distasteful messages in there. Apparently, my listings are not completely compliant with eBay's listings policy, which is not such a stressful thing in itself, despite the fact that I now have somewhere around 112 active listings to correct. :-þ However, someone (likely the blighter that reported me in the first place) sent me a rather snippy e-mail about it. Has no one heard of civility, or giving the benefit of the doubt? Yikes! It was an honest mistake! At any rate, I have never been one to take it well when a) I realize that, through my own negligence, I have broken my word, regardless of what my intentions were, and b) someone tells me off for something I was unaware of my guilt in using the meanest way possible, instead of just bringing something gently to my attention. Both are irksome. What's even more irksome is that I also need to get my taxes done this week, as well as correcting all these listings!

Needless to say, my stress levels were through the roof yesterday. Today is not much better.

Oh, and did I mention that Jason and I went to see a natural health practitioner who does Photo Comparative Blood Analysis on Friday before we left Red Deer, and one of the (many) things that became apparent from my blood sample is that I run most of my day on adrenaline? Wheeeee! (So, Colleen, you might not want a bottle of my Patented Energy Oil after all--unless you like getting chased by a bear all day, too.) STRESS! No matter how often I try to simplify my life, it always seems to get complicated again.

Anyhoo, I'll probably go more into the Blood Analysis in a later post, but for now, I'll include the highlights of our trip. (By the way, I thought of at least three or four fantastic blog posts on my trip, which will now be reduced to two-line paragraphs, if I remember them at all. That's what happens with no internet access--great thoughts are lost. Pen and paper, you say? Pfffft!)

The farther south we went, the colder it got. When we found out that the forecast for Red Deer area was -20C for the day after we arrived, not to warm up much for the next several after that, and it was going to be almost balmy here in comparison, we gave our heads a little shake. Then we shook them back, because we weren't going down for the weather! As one last-ditch attempt to assert his hold over the area, Old Man Winter actually dropped a fairly significant amount of snow on us mid-way through our trip--but it was mostly gone within 36 hours. Here's a pretty view out my dad's window of the winter spring wonderland.

I eventually did get hit by that cold the rest of the family had, but fortunately not so hard as the rest of them. As a little souvenir, we left a specimen of the virus behind for my brother Logan to sample. Kind of us, wasn't it?

My brother has been living at Dad's temporarily since the end of January, having returned home from a six-year stint in the States briefly until he can get the paperwork in order to become a world traveler. (Trying hard not to be jealous.) To my shame, I never once visited him at his own pad in Washington, although we all made it to California together one Christmas. However, after this week, I don't feel so bad--he transformed my old bedroom into his own private bachelor pad, or as he and Dad affectionately call it, the "AV Room." This was where Jason and I ended up sleeping, actually, right on the futon, surrounded by a setup that I'm sure Jason shed a few jealous tears over. (Kidding, honey.) There was a wall screen and projector combo, an X-Box, a Playstation 2E, DVD player, and two full racks of movies and video games. Before you think my brother has not enough to do with his time and money, let me say this in his defence: many of those games, and I'm sure at least a few of the movies, have gone unwatched and unplayed until his current sabbatical, due to the fact that a computer programmer apparently never gets any time off. Not completely true, but the last thing (and Jason can attest to this) that a computer guy wants to do in his time off is spend more time in front of the computer!

Anyway, all this to say that we got to sleep in the equivalent of a kind of Zen-like movie theatre for a few days. (Logan has a few Asian decorating influences going. That's where I got the "zen" from. It does seem a bit at odds with the still-pink walls, but I won't mention that. Oops. Guess I did anyway! :-D) So on our second night there, whilst the male adults in the house were fooling around with poker chips and the devil's game (KIDDING!), I went downstairs and watched Happy Feet on the big screen, knitting madly on the sweater for my sister-in-law Angela that I did not quite get finished before we came home. :-( (I know it doesn't look like much here, but trust me, it's much more impressive when it's six feet wide, and you're watching it from your brother's own bed.)

I also discovered that I've got what it takes to be a Guitar Hero. (All my colluj ej-u-muh-cation is paying off! Hee-HEE!)

We got to see a fair bit of extended family on the trip, but not nearly as many friends as I would have liked to. However, with us all feeling a bit "under the weather" (especially since the "weather" was big fluffy flakes the size of rabbit pelts), it was probably best that we spent most of the week, hanging with our families, and making some great memories. Mid-way through the week we moved our base camp to Jason's parents. It didn't really matter which house we were at--our boys loved playing outside in the mud, muck, wet, snow, whatever. (I thought I had packed enough clothes to only do laundry one time during the week. I was wrong.) However, they did get an especial kick out of playing on Grandpa and Grandma Winters' trampoline.

Jason and I did, too. (Of course, no one took any pictures of me!)



I came to a realization on this trip: I don't miss Sylvan Lake. Oh, I miss our families there, and our friends, too--tons! Mega-tons, even! But, as I drove by the new development where a pretty field and farmhouse used to be, and the new mall, and wandered aimlessly around another renovated mall trying to find the store that I know used to be right there!, and almost got run into by an impatient driver at a yellow light as I was turning left, and felt the sure and steady increase in tempo of my heartbeat in my chest to match the frenetic pace of the people around me, I knew I didn't miss Sylvan or Red Deer anymore. Sure, it's nice to have all that easy access to shopping--but I'll be quite content to "save up" for those trips to the City we make a few times a year, from now on.

We arrived in Peace River on our return trip at 10:45 on a Friday night, and had to drive right down one of the two main streets of downtown Peace River to get to our little subdivision on the hill. Although we knew there would be a few half-tons huddled around the entrances to the two pubs on the other street, the one we were on--the busiest one in town in the daylight hours--had not a soul to be seen. Oops, except for the few vehicles in front of the theatre, waiting for their owners to take them home after a late-show indulgence.

And we sighed. Aaaagh, it was good to be back.

Jude and Ang making "funny faces."

A long-time favourite spring-time activity in our house--playing in the creek created by spring run-off. The tradition has now, apparently been handed down to the next generation.

Jabin almost, but not quite letting go while walking between Daddy and Papa.