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Reading and writing have literally saved my life on an occasion or two. I was fortunate that my Mom encouraged both…except when she would catch me with a flashlight in my little space under the covers in the middle of the night.

I have always been an avid reader and often escaped into a story or two, or three, or…you get the idea…when things got ugly in my real world. Always, in search of a safe space.

Writing became more important to me in those first years after my Mom passed. I slept little for fear of the nightmares that became my reality whenever I laid my head down. Luckily, a remarkable teacher became very attuned to my struggling and suggested I write about these things. I feared my horrors would become public knowledge, but he offered to accept my writing as his assignments. He would make corrections, add comments and grade them. He gave me space and promised to never make me read them aloud in class. Everyone should have at least one teacher like him. Writing about those dark things released me from the power they held over me. In later years (much later) I would find that same release (good and bad) by writing in my own space on my blog. Unfortunately, #wordpress in their infinite wisdom and like every other social media program changed their writing platform beyond my recognition again! It feels heavy and cumbersome and very awkward to navigate. So, during this past year, when pretty much everyone  on the planet is struggling to stay sane, (thank you COVID) every time I try to write something, it becomes a huge ordeal — so there hasn’t been a lot of writing. Kudos to my comrades who have turned this time into a cornucopia of literary creativity! I know a lot of you left this platform in favour of another space. Don’t worry, people will follow.

Not writing, however, leaves me time to read.  A lot of time.

Books…like magic, can transport you through time both backward and forward. You can visit any space in the world. And out of this world. Fantasies become reality. And you can learn anything from a book. Books are like family and best friends. They’re always there for you. I love this list of reading benefits of reading that showed up on Facebook recently.

The worst thing about reading a book is finishing a book. I have always dreamed of having a home library that’s the biggest space in the house, packed to the brim so that you had to slide back and forth on a ladder to retrieve the next offering. That never happened. (Probably for the best as I can’t even climb a ladder now.)

This Never Happened

However, the first time He-Who and I downsized from a house to a condo the reality of our book collection was overwhelming. Yes, He-Who is a reader/writer too. We were forced to cull the books. He-Who’s entire Stephen King collection went to one of his grandchildren. Others were shared, donated and passed on. Each one was a heartache to say goodbye to. Three moves and three downsizings later has left us with very few actual physical books in our household. Judging from the number of boxes of books I just packed (no I am not getting rid of them. I am just negotiating for space) our definitions of “few” may not align. We have been confined to quarters for over a year now and any illusion of having more space is welcome.

I have always been one of those people who thinks books need to be held, smelled, felt and you absolutely had to be able to turn the pages. That has not changed. A few years back we decided to try a Kindle. It was handy when a book was too bulky to bring along. It also beat the heck out of reading magazines that were six years out of date and covered in germs in a waiting room. We both still prefer a “real” book, but with space and shopping restrictions our Kindles have become our best friends. Reading has definitely prevented any phone calls to lawyers or coroners…so far. Really, all we need is a little more space.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back, I don’t know how it happened. How is it possible I almost missed the Pandemic? I keep looking at my calendar and there in big bold letters on Friday, March 13th, 2020, I wrote “Quarantine begins”.

It seemed appropriate that this should be the day the world shuts down. Someone from the U.S. asked me the date Canada shut down. I looked it up and told him that I had it recorded as Friday, March 13th. Over the past week there’s been a lot of coverage about the one year anniversary of the Pandemic. The first mention I saw was on a friend’s timeline. That Wednesday, March 11 was the day. I questioned her on it but got no response. Then, every day, people were mentioning the 11th as being the day.

Now, you should know that for as long as I can remember, I’ve kept a 16 month “Engagement Calendar”. I’m a bit “obsessive” about it. Tests, Dr. Appointments, Birthdays, Anniversaries, etc. are all in there. Every year, I would buy a new one at the end of August and painstakingly copy info from one to the other. I have kept them all.

March tends to be a bit of a challenge for me. There are a dozen family birthdays in March. It is also the anniversary of my Mom’s death, my Grandmother’s death, my Dad’s death, as well as various Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and my Nephew. If something was going to happen, it would usually happen in March. Oh. Did I mention that mid March we also lose an hour of sleep? Can we just get rid of this Daylight Saving time thingy? It seems we pretty much all agree at this point, it’s well past its sell date.

The one thing that keeps me together in March is St. Patrick’s Day and plans are made for wardrobe and locations well in advance.

I don’t remember anything of note on Wednesday, March 11th, 2020. Thursday March 12, I put in a very long day at work so that I could take Friday off to prepare for St. Patrick’s Day. On Friday, March 13, He-Who and I went out for a nice breakfast. We took our time reading the paper and enjoying our food. Then, we headed to Costco to pick up prescriptions. We got within a block of the place but couldn’t get any closer. We thought there had been an accident and tried to re-route and come in a different way. There was nothing but long lines trying to get to the Costco parking lot for as far as the eye could see. I told He-Who I could wait until the next day and we headed home trying to figure out what was going on. Well, it didn’t take long once we got home and turned on the TV. By Sunday I was phoning the head office at Costco telling them they had better figure out a way for people to get their prescriptions without waiting hours outside and in. I said, “I am an overweight, asthmatic, senior with cancer.” I figured I had every one of the high risk boxes ticked. They took my number and He-Who and I went out to forage for supplies anywhere we could. They actually called me back and told me they figured something out and that we could go in the out door and someone would take us right back to the pharmacy. That was a relief!

Then I realized I had no Bailey’s, Guinness or Jamieson in the house and everything was closed. (As time went on, the liquor and beer stores became essential services, but not at the beginning.) St. Patrick’s Day was officially cancelled! Heck, they even made it illegal to “Kiss the Blarney Stone”. March turned into April, April into May, and so it went. Every holiday & celebration was cancelled. Borders were closed. Rules and regulations changed daily and it was hard to keep up.

Its a year later and I am still trying to figure out what the hell happened! I looked on line and the only big announcement I found regarding March 11th was from the World Health Organization.

“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”

They went on to say they hoped each country would act accordingly. Some did. Some didn’t. It was definitely a learn-as-you-go-scenario. I’m not really sure if we’re being graded on a curve just how we would do.

But…I know these things for sure. St. Patrick’s Day will always be March 17th. He-Who has promised to bring home corned beef and cabbage. (He-Who isn’t a sure thing because he won’t buy it too far in advance due to meat and veggies are perishable. And who knows? The vendors might be out of stock by the time he gets there. I’ll let you know.) Most importantly this time I’ve got Bailey’s and Guinness on hand.

It’s easy to “fall down the rabbit hole”. I tend to do it a lot more than I would like to admit. What else have we got to do right now? It’s Jan 3, 2021. We here in Ontario are in full lock-down again/still. Right now the rabbit hole is a welcome distraction from my usual excuses of not wanting to clean anymore. According to dictionary.com

“In the phrase falling down the rabbit hole, a rabbit hole is a metaphor for something that transports someone into a wonderfully (or troublingly) surreal state or situation. On the internet, a rabbit hole frequently refers to an extremely engrossing and time-consuming topic.”

In this case, it is the latter. This morning my son-in-law posted a clip titled “A Munchkin Welcome – The Wizard Of Oz” on his wife’s Facebook page. She responded, “The lollipop guild, really?!!! You just HAD to include that!” I laughed to myself and then posted this comment, “I use to drink with one of the higher ups in Munchkin land”. Apparently I had never shared this info with her before and she was surprised. I explained that we all use to hang out at a Mexican bar/restaurant in Niagara Falls, New York. So I googled the “the mayor of munchkinland”.

That rabbit hole opened wide and swallowed me whole! First let me say the gentleman we are talking about was not “the Mayor”, however, his role in the film had affectionately earned him the title in Buffalo, New York and the surrounding area. The first thing that popped up was an image that I recognized immediately. I recognized it because I had taken the photo many years ago. I assumed (yes, I know what they say) that I had written about him either here or on Facebook at some point. When I clicked on the photo it went to a story by someone I didn’t know in a group on Facebook called The Real “Old Falls Street” People. A fellow named Max Eddy had written a very nice piece on Tommy and Betty Cottonaro on June 17th, 2017. I was not a member of the group. On further inspection of the photo I realized it was not my original photo. It was a picture of my photo that lives in my hard-covered, scrap-booked photo album, with all the trimmings. Did you see that rabbit hole open up wide right there?

This is the photo that led me down the rabbit hole. Tommy & Betty Cottonaro at La Casa Cardenas in Niagara Falls, NY. With Sergio Cardenas in between them and Sergio’s Mom in the background.

I joined the group so I could comment on the photo and told Max Eddy that I was curious as to how he came by the photo. His response was,  “I forget exactly where I found it. Probably a Google or Yahoo search. Tommy & Betty Cottonaro were very good friends of my family.” Dare I say, “curiouser and curiouser”. Sergio and Tommy probably both had a copy of the photo but neither of them would have had access to the scrapbook this photo of a photo came from.

I googled every thing I could think of and the only version of this photo to come up was the one mentioned above. So began the search for where I could have posted it. I went back on facebook and twitter to when I first started using the apps but there was no post. I went through all of my blog posts and none included this photo. At this point I told He-Who. Now, He-Who is big on the whole conspiracy theory way of life so he jumped in that rabbit hole with me feet first. The next step was to go through all my digital files of photos. Every photo (thousands) I ever took with my phone prior to June 2017. Nothing. I went through thousands of digital files of photos from my camera prior to June 2017. Nothing. At this point He-Who hollered from the living room that he had found Sergio on Facebook. The rabbit hole took a detour for a bit.

Now this was making me crazy and there were no little pills to make me bigger or smaller to take the edge off. The only other thing I could think of was that I had scanned the page to get the photo. I have done that before when I needed a picture of something I had already glued to a page. Apparently, I have done this a lot because the folder labelled “Michelle’s scans” had hundreds of photos in it. Again, no joy. In the folder labelled simply “scans” there were but 79 photos. And there it was, scanned on March 4, 2014 was the page from the album.

OK. But how on earth did that end up getting on the internet? Then it occurred to me to do a google “image” search. Of course that Facebook page came up but one other entry also popped up. I still have no idea how Eddy found it but I do know how it got on the internet. Believe it or not it was part of a comment on someone else’s blog.

Mike Allegra has a blog called Hey, Look! A Writer Fellow that I have been following since 2011. He has written children’s books that my nieces and nephews love. Over the years we have chatted on-line frequently. He often runs contests on his blog to win his drawings or doodles. I always enter and am the proud owner of a few of them. In March of 2014 he had a contest to win one of his doodles. All you had to do was leave an “Interesting Tidbit” about yourself in the comments section. This is how it went…

SILKPURSEPRODUCTIONS

I have had drinks with “The Mayor of Munchkin Land” and his wife on several occasions.

  1. HEYLOOKAWRITERFELLOW Now this is, I think, the DEFINITION of an Interesting Tidbit! Two names in the hat for you! But I need more detail! Please, oh, please elaborate.
    1. SILKPURSEPRODUCTIONS It’s funny, I hadn’t thought about it in years and your post had me thinking about things I could share that would be OK for the young one pulling the name out of the hat. I have a picture here somewhere. I will look for it to show you.
    2. HEYLOOKAWRITERFELLOW Cool! Looking forward to it!
    3. SILKPURSEPRODUCTIONS Here is the picture I found.

  1. It is the Mayor of MunchkinLand – he was from Buffalo, New York – and his wife. The owner of the bar was Sergio Cardenas. That is his head in the middle and his Mom is standing behind. The bar was called La Casa Cardenas in Niagara Falls New York. The things that happened there will have to remain classified.
    1. HEYLOOKAWRITERFELLOW This is great! I met one of the last remaining Munchkins a few years ago at a giant antique and collectibles show in Atlantic City. I have no idea why he was there. He was a living antique, perhaps?
    2. SILKPURSEPRODUCTIONS The photo was taken somewhere between 1993 & 1998. Tommy has since passed. The bar has closed down and I lost track of my friend Sergio. Social media was not yet a tool to keep in touch.
    3. SILKPURSEPRODUCTIONS In trying to remember more, I was doing some digging and guess what?
      This is dated Sat. Feb. 10, 2001. In this morning’s Niagara Gazette I got a shock when I read the obituary page. I read that Thomas J. Cottonaro, 86 years old, of Ashland Avenue,
      Niagara Falls, NY, died Wednesday, February 7, in Niagara Falls Memorial
      Medical Center after a year-long illness. Who was Tommy Cottonaro? He was our very special Munchkin and was known around here as the Mayor of MunchkinLand. Why? Well, because he had been a film actor and was one of the Munchkins in the original 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. Actually he was the “bearded man of the Munchkins. He was the last surviving Munchkin of the Wizard of Oz.” So all those years I drank with the man, no one ever set me straight that he was not actually the “Mayor”. He was the “bearded one”. All I remember is that both he and his wife were wonderful people. They were fun, funny and gracious.

As you can see, this whole conversation including the picture took place in the comment section of someone else’s blog. How on earth did Eddy find it there three years later? I think I will have to leave this rabbit hole for another day. Now all I have to do is pull He-Who out of it!

Really? In what universe does it feel like Christmas? As the pandemic rages on it laughs in our faces every time we even think about getting the Christmas Spirit. And, for my Jewish family & friends Hanukkah isn’t fairing any better. I just read a headline that said, “Parts of Ontario are literally colder than Antarctica today”, and whispers of “Polar Vortex” are popping up on the Weather Network. So, yeah, baby it’s cold outside! It definitely makes it hard to warm the cockles of your heart. I think it’s safe to say that people are struggling to have “Happy Holidays”.

I confess I had joined the masses, wallowing in despair over being deprived of the company of people who wouldn’t bother with me any other time of year and really just happened to be at the same event. Then there’s the usual nervous breakdown from trying to navigate the crowded shopping malls for that perfect gift that won’t be perfect no matter what, while trying not to get knocked on my butt by some bruiser with his head in his phone. Oh yes. Fond memories. “Had” is the key word in this tale. But things turned around rather quickly a few days ago when my sister sent me a photo. This simple photo got me out of bed (at around four in the afternoon — I wasn’t kidding about the wallowing part) and put a smile on my face that will carry me through the Holidays.

Thirty-six years ago we were blessed to meet the first female child born in our family in quite some time. We were all excited about all the “girly” things this would mean. Hinda was born in June, which gave us about six months to negotiate our way through her first Hanukkah and Christmas. I felt it was really important for me to learn, understand and respect the Jewish traditions this new bundle of joy would be raised with. At the same time, she would be learning about our Christmas traditions. I was determined that her first Christmas gift from me would be something she would want to have forever and perhaps pass down to her daughter. (I know, He-Who often wonders how I come up with this stuff.) It took me almost the whole six months — and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, as I struggled on an antique sewing machine I had inherited — to complete the task. This was the final result.

The doll was bigger than Hinda at the time. It had fingers, toes, dimples, a bum and even a belly button which I made sure every one knew about (by constantly undressing her). Her eyes were embroidered. She had bloomers, socks, booties, a dress and an apron. All hand made by me. I was so proud of it and couldn’t wait to give it to her. This is the only picture I have of the event.

She really didn’t seem all that impressed, did she? (Don’t even ask about that hat I’m wearing!) It had been years since I thought of that doll. Then, at the end of this past August, I received a picture from Hinda that brought me to tears (of joy).

Apparently, Hinda’s daughter Klara found the doll at Bubbie’s house. She put a seatbelt on her in the car and took her home to read her stories. Last I heard she was being called “Matilda”.

Although that picture made me so very happy, it was not the one that turned things around for me. I had made a living as a photographer for 20+ years then transitioned into television production. I should know by now that one photograph does not tell the whole story. The one that does tell the story captures the perfect moment better than the rest. This is what my sister sent me.

Joy! Pure joy! Hinda gave me the reaction I longed for that Christmas, and this was my reaction to Hinda! I don’t think I have ever seen me look happier. To me, as technically awkward as this photo might be, it’s the perfect photo because it captures the true Christmas spirit. I smile every time I look at it. Thank you to my sister Lu for sending me this. It feels like Christmas.

I hope all of you can find a way to capture that joy this Holiday Season, whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah (or a special time that I’m less familiar with). Happy Holidays!

Mirror, Mirror

Usually people post reflective offerings closer to the end of the year. That week between Christmas and the New Year seems to be the appropriate time for a look in the proverbial mirror. Yeah, well, I can’t wait that long.

Looking in the mirror these days is more than a bit scary. On so many levels I don’t recognize that person looking back. This year has brought out the worst in a lot of people and I confess I’ve not been unscathed. Yesterday, my current reality was smacked in the face when this showed up in my news feed:

The first thought in my mind was not kind. I didn’t say it out loud but I was stunned by the harsh reaction in my head. My thoughts weren’t that nasty when the sperm donor who impregnated his mother fell ill. It really upset me that I went to such a dark place so quickly.

I have not been mute in my disgust for 45, but I have tried to keep it civilized. This has required a lot of filtering from my brain to my mouth/fingers. Recently, I was having a discussion on line with someone I have known for a very long time who’s support of that vile being has shocked me. I was accused of being a meme. I’m not sure which upset me more, their support of the dumpster fire or the insinuation that I was unable to be that prolific. I may or may not have seen this as a meme but I did not intentionally steal it. It probably just seemed like a quote that best said what I felt. This is my “meme” version of it.

It turns out I’m neither as needy as I thought nor am I that desperate for “friends” anymore. I realized that I would never change the minds of the friends, colleagues and family members guzzling 45’s Kool-Aid, not to mention the haters, conspiracy theorists and “Rona” doubters. All that took me about seven months. Sitting at the computer turning purple and biting my tongue was not working. I learned to use the “unfriend” & “unfollow” options of my social media. It wasn’t easy but I only like purple for my hair.

One of the biggest surprises actually happened right here in the 900 square feet of living space we tentatively call “home”. I vividly remember realizing that my birthday & St. Patrick’s Day plans had just been terminated by the government. He-Who had not gone back to work yet and my work had just been “temporarily” postponed. We were in lock down. With each other. Alone. All by ourselves. If you had told me that eight months later neither lawyers or coroners had been called to our location I wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are, still surviving.

There’s going to be trouble my friends.

Right here in my condo! 

Overlooking the Humber Arboretum.

That’s trouble, with a capitol “T” and that rhymes with ME!

OK, that is enough of my lame attempt to be clever with “The Music Man“. I’m definitely not Randy Rainbow.

The fact remains there is going to be some trouble, right here where I live, for me. I know you may find it hard to believe but, I use to be quite prudish when it came to language. It’s true, as they say, “Butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth.”

The “F” word was not in my personal vocabulary until I was well into my 20s and I wouldn’t even tolerate the “C” word  being uttered anywhere near me. As I got older my language became a little more colourful and I became a little less judgemental. I had a couple of friends who used the “F” word as a noun, adjective, and verb in their daily speech. Over time you don’t really even hear it any more and become desensitized. By the time I was into my 50s I had learned a lot of words in between the “F” word and the “C” word. As life continued and I spent more time in difficult situations and a lot of time in really bad traffic 

I became quite proficient in using all those words. Seldom was the air in my car not blue (sometimes even purple) from my outbursts. Now, in 2020, I am just a crazy lady with a foul mouth and purple hair.

   

He-Who and I have been together upwards of 20 years. When we first got together I was still not fluent in foul language. He was pretty good at it. With my ^frail sensibilities^ still intact I let him know that speaking like that was offensive and that I would not tolerate it. Adaptability is not his strongest trait but he put his best foot forward and as the years went by the cuss words came less often. I should maybe clarify, I heard them less often. When he’s with his peers I can only assume boys will be boys and he can keep up. 

Unfortunately, also as the years have gone by, so has He-Who’s hearing. He holds multitudes of Rock concerts when he was younger accountable for his loss of hearing. We have spent a great deal of time having conversation where his only line is “What?”

and I just repeat the same thing over and over until he finally gets it. My voice gets louder with each repeat. My enunciation becomes clearer and (sadly) my patience gets thinner. There is often a whole string of those colourful words perfectly enunciated under my breath just out of earshot for He-Who. He says, “What?”

and I say, “Nothing.” Now, I can go through the whole day enunciating the heck out of every foul word in the foul word dictionary. I don’t even think about it anymore. I just go off on a tangent and he is blissfully unaware of my skills. Until now. 

He-Who is getting a hearing aid. He thinks it is unfair that I have to constantly repeat myself and shout everything I say. Of course, I am very happy for him. He won’t have to ask me what someone on the TV said. He will be able to have real conversations with his grandchildren that he can actually hear. I think it will be wonderful for him. I can also see some of the benefits for me. What terrifies me is that he is now going to hear everything I say. Everything! Wait until he finds out he is married to a foul mouthed shrew!

There’s going to be trouble.

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The Music Man

Have you played the new drinking game I invented? It’s very simple. You take a shot every time you hear someone use the word, “unprecedented”. My fear is that we would all be under the table before noon.

Here in Canada, on top of the all-day news coverage, we also have a daily briefing from our Prime Minister (Justin Trudeau) at 11 am – questions from the media included.Prime Minister Addresses Canada

Our Premiere of Ontario (Doug Ford) gives us his take at 1:30 pm, again with questions from the media included.

Doug FordI’m sure somewhere in Las Vegas there are bookmakers giving odds on which press conference uses the word the most. If they aren’t, they certainly should be. There’s money to be made here.

As politicians, both of these men have a fairly good grasp on the English language (please note: this is not a statement I could make about 45. He has no grasp on any language. He-Who says it’s because his tiny hands don’t allow him to have a grasp on that or reality). Trudeau tends to come off a bit more refined while Ford is a little rough around the edges, but they both have a pretty good command of their dialect. Both men also probably have professional speech writers available and they listen! Not to be outdone, I mentioned the press above because almost every single question put to these men includes that word. These pundits are supposed to be professional journalists and reporters. They should be extremely well-trained on the use of words. Don’t any of these people know what a synonym is? Has no one ever given them a Thesaurus for Christmas? 

For the record, here is the definition of the word “unprecedented” from the Cambridge English Dictionary…

…never having happened or existed in the past.

Now here are some synonyms for that same word:

 …unparalleled, unequaled, unmatched, unrivaled, without parallel, without equal, extraordinary, uncommon, out of the ordinary, unusual, outstanding, striking, exceptional, prodigious, abnormal, singular, remarkable, unique, anomalous, atypical, untypical, freakish.

Due to the fact that all our briefings are tri-lingual, we English-speaking citizens are pretty familiar with the French translation, sans précédent, and the American Sign Language (ASL) translation. 

Unprecedented.  I have come to loath this word. It has lost any impact it ever had on me. In fact, it now seems to be the antonym of itself:  familiar, hackneyed, old, tired, warmed-over. All I ask is that you use your words. All of them!

Now, I am going to get ready for today’s briefings.

drinking game

Let’s face facts. We all know that the main source and influence of my tales is He-Who. He is my inspiration and an endless wealth of often amusing events. He is not always appreciative of the fact that I share some of these moments with the public. I am, however, from the school of Anne Lamott and sometimes, I have the courage to follow her words:

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better”

That being said, my last day at the office was Thursday, March 12, 2020. I have been with He-Who 24/7 since then with one exception. That was when he risked his life to plummet 30 floors in a confined space along with whoever else got on the elevator. He-Who’s mission was to pick up our mail and retrieve a package from the concierge. Now, I expect to reside in this 800 sq. ft. box alone with He-Who for the duration. The question is, just how much do I want to piss him off? Will I be adding to the accumulating evidence of his frequent accusation, “That’s elder abuse!” (he is 10 years older than me so he is my elder). Oh, what the hell. I’m bored.

To be honest, on this, our 42nd day of enforced togetherness I am surprised the neighbours haven’t had to call the cops. We have gotten into some kind of awkward rhythm with reading, Facebook, Netflix, puzzles, meals, laundry, and the 11:00 am and 1:00 pm briefings from the Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of Ontario. And naps. We steal a few zzz’s every chance we get. Oh. Did you notice that cleaning isn’t on that list? After the first week of cleaning and disinfecting, my housekeeping style has degraded somewhat. It can now best be described as, “there appears to have been a struggle!” (I stole that line from the internet but it best suits the situation.) As each day passed, I became more apprehensive about the lack of conflict, or complaining. Then it happened. About two weeks in. He said it so quietly, I almost didn’t catch it.

“I am having French Fry withdrawals.”

There it was. After two weeks of home-cooked meals, my He-Who was feeling the loss of his beloved junk food staple from his most important food group. Hamburgers, French Fries, Hot Dogs and Pizza are absolutely what this man is made of if you follow the, “you are what you eat” adage. The restaurants were all closed and Fresh Cut Fries  are not something you can get at a drive through. You may recall that He-Who is an expert on French Fries as I shared here. He spent the rest of the day calling and searching on line every Fresh Cut Fry truck he knew of. One of his favourites is in Oshawa (about 75k from where we live) and he couldn’t find any way to contact them. The lead Photographer that I work with, Kate, lives in Oshawa and is familiar with the truck. I sent her a quick message and she jumped in her car, drove there and was back with the message within minutes. “The truck is open!” I was dumbfounded! I saw the light come back into He-Who’s eyes as I shared the news, but was quick to snuff it out by letting him know that we were not going that far for French Fries. “They’ll be closed by the time we get there.” He was like a puppy with such big, sad eyes. If he had a tail it would have been between his legs. I couldn’t take it. While he sulked, sighed and whimpered, I got busy in the kitchen making supper. Yes, folks. I made him fresh cut fries. 

Fresh Cut Fries by Michelle

Oh, what a happy, happy He-Who he was!

About a week later, we had arranged to drive to Belleville, ON to make a trunk delivery to my sister Pat. The plan was to pull up into her driveway, open the trunk so she could get her stuff out and deposit some things she had for us. It was a lovely day for a drive and we were able to have a social distancing visit. Of course the high point of the excursion for He-Who, was that the chip wagon was half-way between us and her. I gave Kate a call and we had a social-distancing visit in the parking lot while He-Who joined the social-distancing queue for French Fries.

He-Who’s hero Kate & her family at the French Fry truck

Last week, I got a Facebook message from The Fry’s The Limit, the chip wagon in Thornton, ON ( 85 k from us). They were letting us know that they planned to open up on Saturday. Yes. We went for a drive on Saturday and ate way too many French Fries. It looks like we just may survive this time together without any casualties. 

So, what’s your story?

It is St. Patrick’s Day 2020!

Those of you who know me know that statement is usually followed by a lot of hoopla and celebration. I take the wearin’ of the green very seriously and like to start out with the perfect Irish outfit usually including hats, glasses, socks and my very own personalized Official Irish National Lacrosse Team jersey.

My day starts with Irish music and an Irish coffee or just a coffee with more than a wee bit of Bailey’s Irish Cream in it. I confess that part has already happened. Most of my nieces and nephews send me pics of their wee ones dressed appropriately. They know the rules.

This year I even dressed my houseguest that will not leave.

The rest of the day is seeking out Irish Dancers, Corned Beef & Cabbage and a proper Guinness. This year is slim pickings for any kind of celebration. All the St. Patrick’s Day Parades have been cancelled including the one in Ireland. In fact, for the first time in history there is a ban on kissing the Blarney Stone and pubs all over Ireland have voluntarily closed their doors.

Today I have been amusing myself with this.

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It gives me a little joy in this otherwise very bleak day.

Let’s just say I definitely prefer Guinness to Corona at this point.

That being said and with nothing new to share I am reposting from several years ago …

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“The Gift Of Blarney”

There is no other time of year when it is easier to find a party than St. Patrick’s day. People will be wearin’ the green, adorned by four-leaf clovers and they’ll be drinking green beer. Let’s face it. St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, is the one day when everyone can claim to be Irish. The thing is, like the majority of the “Irish for a day” folk, most of what we know surrounding St. Patrick’s Day is…well, BLARNEY!

Everyone Is Irish

The Irish are truly great story weavers. They really do have the gift of blarney. According to Wikipedia the word blarney has come to mean “clever, flattering, or coaxing talk”. If you have every dated an Irish lad you know this to be fact.
As children we are told of the hero of the piece driving the snakes from Ireland. In fact, in religious lore the snake represented evil (you know that whole snake offering the apple to Adam thing). St. Patrick, having devoted his life to converting the pagans to Christians was considered to have driven “evil” out of Ireland.

Probably the biggest misconception of all is that…dare I say it…that Patrick was Irish. In reality, he was not.
In the Monday, March 12, 1995, Toronto Star, Travel Editor Mitchell Smith explained:

“It is not widely known that “Saint Patrick” was Roman not Irish and his real name was Sucat. Somewhere around 405 AD Sucat, as a lad, was taken prisoner and then sold into slavery in Ulster. For 6 years the Christian slave Sucat worked as a sheep herder. When he escaped he returned to Britain. Later he went to France where he eventually became a priest. At this point Sucat became Patrick and in his Confessio claimed he had a dream of Irish voices begging him to return. When he set sail to return to Ireland he was headed for the area he had been kept a slave, however as they say, with the luck of the Irish he was blown off course and then captured by some local peasants. He wasted no time in converting his pagan Irish captors to Christianity, starting with their leader.”

The 4 leaf clover is not, I repeat, not a shamrock.
Of course the most obvious difference is that the 4 leaf clover has, wait for it…4 leaves. The shamrock has 3.  Although clover is most often found in nature with three leaves, rare four-leaf clovers do exist. Finding one is thought to bring someone extreme luck. The folklore surrounding four-leaf clovers is that each leaf of a four-leaf clover represents something different: first is hope; the second is faith; the third is love; and the fourth is happiness.
Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock with its three leaves  to visually illustrate the concept of the Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) when trying to convert pagans to Christianity.

4 leaf vs shamrock

If ever anything apart from the shamrock is associated with Ireland and the Irish it must be Guinness, the national drink. With its famous black body and soft creamy head, it is an icon of Ireland and its people — strong, smooth unhurried and extremely palatable. And no self-respecting Irish person would ever drink green beer.

Speaking of dying things green…I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when someone came up with the idea to dye the Chicago River green. I know there has to be a a tale of blarney behind that one. Don’t get me wrong. My favourite colour is green but I would have to draw the line on this one.

Chicago River Dyed Green

As for the wearing of the green, many simply believe it referred to wearing a shamrock, but an American tradition of pinching those not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day was started in the 1700s in Boston, Massachusetts. It really has nothing to do with Ireland or St. Patrick. They thought if you wore green, it made you invisible to the Leprechauns, which was good because they would pinch anyone they could see. So the pinching is to warn and remind you about the Leprechauns.
OK, don’t get me started on these little guys…

Leprechauns

One of my favourite parts of St. Patrick’s Day (apart from all of the above) is getting to see the wee Irish dancers. When I was much younger I longed to join them with their wonderful bouncing curls. It was quite the blow when I found out that even their curls were just another part of the blarney.

Wee Irish Dancers

My apologies for the poor quality but I was well into the Guinness by then.

The absolute best stories are always based in some truth. The more you weave fact with fiction the better the chances your audience will not be able to tell the difference. The Irish are truly great story weavers. The masters of the tall tale. They really do have the gift of blarney. Much like most of us bloggers.

May your glass

be ever full.

May the roof over your

head be always strong.

And may you be

in heaven half an hour 

Before the Devil knows

you’re dead.

Slainte

It has taken me awhile to calm down. This seems to be my normal state of mind these days. Not calm. When I get like this I always think it is best I wait until the calm returns. He-Who thinks this is wise also as he is fearful of my wrath when I am “not calm”.

We all have pet peeves. I probably have a few more than most. Recently one of mine got off its leash and became less a pet and a little more feral. I’m talking about that person who get’s in the express lane for “8 items or less” with a full cart of stuff.

First let me say, this was not Walmart. It was Fortino’s, one of the higher priced grocery stores in the GTA. I had picked up my cousin David from the airport and I stopped there for a quick bite to eat and to pick up some crackers. I love my cousin and there are few people in the world that I think more highly of. He’s a very active 70+ but was a bit peckish coming off the plane. I left him eating his sandwich at a table while I ran into the shopping part to pick up my crackers. When I got in line at the express checkout to pay there was a woman and a young boy in front of me. I couldn’t see what they already had on the belt as she was blocking the view while she continued to empty her cart. She leaned over, said something to the boy and then ran off for some forgotten item as the boy continued to stack items on the belt. I watched the boy and thought what a poor job she was doing in teaching him to count. She returned and sent the boy off to fetch something for himself. The cashier began to ring her up and bag her items. The boy returned and added to the pile. At this point I am beyond fatigued, my 4 boxes of crackers felt like they weighed 4 tons and I just wanted to go home to bed. The cashier looked at me and asked me if I would like any bags. I was a bit startled as I was still holding my crackers and the belt was still full. I explained that those items were “still” the same order that she had been ringing up and did not belong to me. The woman turned to me full faced, and spat out, “It is NOT STILL the same order. I am picking up some things for someone who has cancer.”  [In other words, she is a saint and because she was picking up something for someone who has cancer she could break the protocol and pay for her 27 things at the same time she paid for the cancer patient’s 16 things.]  It got very still. There was no air. I could feel the heat from my early morning treatment glowing off my face. I started vibrating. I looked her straight in the eyes and saw what she must have seen reflected there.

Purple hulk

Please note the purple hair. That’s me.

I said, “You picked the wrong person to play the cancer card with, Lady”.

She bowed her head, fumbled with her payment, grabbed the boy by the coat and backed a way in a rather expeditious manner…for someone her age. As I watched her go I saw out of the corner of my eye David standing there watching. I turned to the cashier and apologized to her for my behaviour as the tears started running down my face. I couldn’t stop shaking and I explained to her that in my heart of hearts I don’t believe that any cancer patient would want someone doing something on their behalf to make a fellow cancer patient uncomfortable. The poor cashier didn’t know what to say. I apologized again. She apologized. It was very Canadian.

I was so embarrassed to turn around and face my David. We walked to the car in silence. When I got behind the wheel I was still shaking and I apologized to him. David has always been there for me and helped me through my last bout with cancer 27 years ago, but has never mentioned it once, then or now. He just said, “I find it best to try to stay calm in these situations but quite honestly I don’t know how you cope as well as you do.” He wasn’t embarrassed or disappointed in me. He simply understood. I love that guy!

You see, cancer is pretty prevalent in my family. My Mom died at 42 from breast cancer when I was 12 years old. I had breast cancer when I was 35. My older sister had it about 10 years later and then again, 2 years ago.  We have aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and fathers who have had, currently have, or passed away, from cancer.  I honestly can’t ever remember any of us using the “cancer card” to hurt or inconvenience someone else. My niece, Hinda, said it best when a friend commented on how she was handling the news of her mother’s cancer. “We do cancer well in this family”.  Unless, of course you turn into a raging hulk.

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