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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

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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

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Family Secrets

Every family has secrets. They may not admit it but they do.

My family just happens to have more than most. That happens when you have a large family. A family that is “blended” from different parents and adoption can have some stories. Add in-laws and the secrets can get way out of control.

My birth was one of the bigger ones. Yes, I was an illegitimate child. According to “legend” my grandmother tried to pass me off as a neighbour’s kid that my Mom was babysitting. Let me just say my Mother was a great baby sitter. Don’t ask me about my grandmother.

Perhaps the longest kept secret (at least for me) was who my biological father was. I found out when I was in my early 20s and actually met him just before my 27th birthday.

Of course we have had our share of drug users and abusers. I believe every family does.

Unfortunately, we’ve also had family members  behind bars.

Pat in jail

No this one is not real. In this case we were exploring an old jail in Cobourg, ON that has been turned into a restaurant.

Yes, all of these were some of the worse kept secrets in history. There is one secret, though, that has been kept secret until just recently. It’s absolutely, hands down the best kept secret in all of my family.

Ralph’s Plum Jam. As a matter of fact when I started this post in 2014 I turned to He-Who and said, “I need that recipe for your brother’s jam to finish this post.” He looked at me with a blank stare.

He-Who: “What recipe? I don’t have the recipe. He doesn’t give it to anyone.”

Me: “You told me last week he finally gave in and gave it to Keri-Lynn (He-Who’s daughter)”.

He-Who: “That did not happen.”

I will not burden you with the rest of that conversation. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.  Four years later I still do not have the recipe, Ralph has moved away from his plum trees and we are always on the search for plum jam.

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We all have one of “those” relatives that are hard to explain. For me, it’s this guy. Captain America.

Even though Bruce is referred to as “My Brother-In-Law From Hell”, full disclosure, I love this man. Frequently, however, our opinions are galaxies apart. Infinite galaxies. But over the years we have found ways to work around our differences without involving any death stars. Sparring, tucking, rolling…you get the idea. That all changed over the past year. You see, my Brother-In-Law…bare with me…this is so hard…*weeping*…supports #45. In a BIG way!

OK. There. I said it. Just yesterday I was talking to Barrie Doyle , a former professor (now friend), at one of his book signings. We were talking about how this particular difference of opinion has divided long-time friends and even family members. It has brought out the worst in everyone. I was determined not to to let this happen between Bruce and I. Soooo…this is how our conversations go whenever politics rears its ugly head:

Him: He’s great!

Me: I love you Bruce.

Him: Did you see whatever very, very amazing thing he did that day?

Me: I love you Bruce.

Him: He’s making everything better!

Me: I love you Bruce.

This will go on until he either gives up and leaves the room, or I leave the room, or my sister comes into the room, gives us both “the eye” and asks what’s going on, at which point we both leave the room. My latest visit  south of the border put me in a very awkward spot. Bruce was doing something to my vehicle (no, he wasn’t cutting the brake lines) as he keeps the thing going for me. Then he took it for a spin, but within the length of two houses, turned around and put it back in the driveway. He immediately told me “there is no way you can drive that car.” It was unsafe. The back wheel was about to fall off. This resulted in me driving with Bruce in his truck to get parts for my car. I was trapped in the front seat for the duration.

Later, when I started to tell He-Who about my being a captive audience, He-Who started to laugh uncontrollably. He didn’t stop all night. Every time he looked at me he started to laugh again. He knew exactly what had happened — Bruce started singing #45’s praises as soon as my seatbelt clicked. I was like a deer caught in headlights. Now, this man was taking me to get parts for my car. Then he would take those parts and fix my car (no matter how long it took) so I could drive back home, safely. There was no way I was going to berate his hero. So I bit my tongue. I bit the inside of my mouth. I recited to myself, “I love you Bruce. I love you Bruce”…the whole way. When we got back he had a big grin on his face and I looked like Munch’s The Scream. My sister took one look at me and did a double facepalm. 

Here’s the thing. This man who makes me crazy with his politics is also kind, big hearted, generous, brave, hard working and… my family. That’s not to say that he’s a saint. He’s made his share of blunders. He’s also the first person to offer a helping hand. He would give you the shirt off his back and offer to have it cleaned first. As I said, over the years, he’s kept more than one of my vehicles on the road. He works hard at whatever he takes on. Some of his construction jobs have had him working in sweltering heat or frigid ice. He’s worked at heights that he admits terrify him. Not too long ago he had to conquer both his fear of heights and “big ass” spiders while working on the Grand Island Bridge.

Off the job he’s the first to volunteer when someone needs a nail hammered, a screw turned, or a shower plumbed. He’s a good husband to my baby sister

and a good father to her children. Raising them as his own and putting up with a lot that only a father could understand. He has kept his family safe and sound. When someone needs him, he’s there, usually before he is asked. And one of the things he does better than anyone, is making this little one feel like a real life Princess.

Not the one on the left. The little one on the right is his Princess.

He is her Prince Charming, her hero, her Papa. He calls her his Best Buddy.

All of his grandchildren know that he will never let them down. He will listen to them and embrace them with a hug that you know is genuine. I can vouch for that hug. He greets me with one of those hugs and says good bye with one of those hugs. Every time!  It makes you feel loved and cared for. One of his favourite things is to be the first person to wish me a Happy Birthday. On that day every year, long before the sun is up, the phone will ring and I am treated to his rendition of “Happy Birthday”. He is a man of many talents and quite the mystery, I might add. Perhaps a little more like James Bond than Captain America.

Although I refuse to agree with his politics, I can’t bring myself to hold them against him. Unless, of course, I get trapped in a car alone with him again.

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There are a lot of things that come to mind when you talk “Canadian”. I mean truly Canadian.  The beer, Hudson’s Bay Company, peameal bacon, butter tarts and one of my personal favourites…this little ditty.

The list is endless. Of course there are some things we’d rather not take credit for. Justin Bieber comes to mind. But one thing that most Canadians (not me) love to brag about, is their “Timmies”. Yes, we even have a pet name for it.

Image from Facebook captioned “You can’t get any more Canadian than this”.

Tim Horton’s, named for the now deceased, original owner and long time defenceman for the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team. Ahh. Hockey. Another Canadian point of pride.

Image from Pinterest under Canadian images.

Tim Horton’s is the company that coined the phrase, “double-double”.  In my humble opinion, the reason double-double became so popular is because two sugars and two creams is the only way you can drink what they call coffee. (I can actually feel the hate mail being directed at me right now.) Every time I see a lineup at a Timmies kiosk or drive-through, I shake my head. For the record, I am not one of those fancy, shmancy $10 coffee drinkers either. I drink my coffee like my Scotch—straight up. No milk. No sugar. Just coffee! Quite frankly, one of the best cups of coffee also happens to be one of the least expensive. At McDonald’s. I have spent my share of time in a Tim Horton’s but you won’t catch me lining up for it.

Lately, Timmies has been in the news for their reaction to a recent Ontario minimum wage hike. It wasn’t pretty. Some franchise owners cut hours and benefits of their employees, which led to boycotts and protests. All in all, it has been a pretty messy couple of weeks for Tim Horton’s. It’s a mess that reminded me of a post I started and never finished and this seems as good a time as any.

First of all, I’m not even sure how “Canadian” Tim Horton’s is anymore. I’m not a business expert, but Tim Horton’s is owned by a Canadian company, Restaurant Brands International, a company created to merge with an American company, Burger King. However, Restaurant Brands International is majority-owned by a Brazilian investment company, 3G Capital.  Doesn’t that make it Brazilian? (You’d think they would have better coffee.)

So what’s my problem with Tim Horton’s anyway, other than bad coffee and not really being Canadian? This mess is my problem right here.

There’s a Tim Horton’s at the top of the road that leads to Lake Ontario, the boardwalk, trails and Frenchman’s Bay where I used to walk every day. There is a trail all the way down that road and in each of those areas…of Tim Horton’s debris.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize that the real culprits in this mess are the lazy humans that can’t walk a few steps to the garbage receptacle they probably just passed. I mean that literally. The city takes very good care of this area. There are garbage containers everywhere and they are emptied out constantly throughout the day by conscientious workers who actually take pride in the area. When I say a few steps away this is what I’m talking about…

just a few steps away.

Oddly, there is no McDonald’s, Wendy’s, corner store or any other kind of debris displayed along the same journey.

My big idea at the time, was for Tim Horton’s to hire students to just walk around all day and pick up Tim Horton’s debris. Each Timmies should be responsible for a certain radius around their shop. It would show community support, a concern for the planet and provide kids with jobs. How could they go wrong? All it would take is minimum wage…oh, yeah. That’s a problem.

Somehow, I don’t think this was the legacy Tim Horton thought he would be leaving behind.

 

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Ten years ago I made myself a promise. It was a “milestone” year for me and it was going to be my year. For several years, for various reasons, I had spent most of my non-working time taking care of other people. Then came what I refer to as the “Year of Dying”. Seven people in my life died that year, starting the first week in January and ending with a bang (literally) with two perishing in a car crash. Then, 10 years ago I woke up and realized I didn’t have to run anywhere or do anything for anyone else. So I declared it to be MY Year. You know what? It was! I celebrated my milestone birthday in Maui. It was an amazing trip planned perfectly, by He-Who. He really out did himself…and come on…Maui! I also spent time in Florida, Las Vegas and New York doing things I wanted to do. Career-wise there were two promotions with pay raises and some extra perks. I started taking care of myself and by the end of the year I was half the size I started out and as fit as a fiddle. Seriously, it was my favourite year.

s-l225

Another milestone birthday is looming in front of me and somehow I feel the stars are lining up for this to once again be MY Year. It was hard not to believe it was going to be a great year when I woke up to a beautiful sunny day January 1st and was able to walk down to the lake without four layers of clothing and no snow or ice to navigate.

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2017 is the year of the Fire Rooster and I was born in a Rooster year. The Fire Rooster is “a sign of rising, of awakening to life and of triumph. This promises to be a year of great achievements.” Yep, my year!

year-of-the-rooster

The Pantone Color Institute has announced “Greenery” as the colour of the year. Everyone knows my favourite colour is green. “A refreshing and revitalizing shade, Greenery is symbolic of new beginnings. It’s a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature’s greens revive, restore and renew. Illustrative of flourishing foliage and the lushness of the great outdoors, the fortifying attributes of Greenery signals consumers to take a deep breath, oxygenate and reinvigorate.” Oh, yeah, my year!

pantone-color-of-the-year-2017-greenery-15-0343-leaves-2732x2048-1200x900

Somehow I managed to get through Christmas and end up with a zero balance on my credit card for the New Year! How’s that for starting out right?

My hair is about a foot and a half shorter than last year and I got a crazy new hair do that I absolutely love!

14369895_1249564465102374_1311844355530986787_n-1

Like this but with bangs and my purple only really shows well in sunlight. Oh, and with a much older face.

A lot of that weight I lost 10 years ago has managed to find its way back home so I have even provided myself with  new project for the year…free of charge.

My New Year’s lottery ticket won me $25!

lottery-ticket

My missing earring showed up like magic and that stubborn stain finally disappeared off the carpet. And then, this showed up on my Facebook feed…

women-destined-to-kick-ass

See my name? Right there. I circled it for you. In greenery.

I’m telling you, this year is looking pretty good!

 

 

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Banjo Boy

A year has passed. Maybe a little more. I think I can talk about it now…in a calm and reasonable manner. Last year, just before my birthday, HeWho asked me what I wanted for my birthday. Being a woman of a certain age and us being a couple with limited funds, my response was that I really didn’t need anything and that I didn’t think it was necessary that we exchange gifts anymore. My response was accepted valiantly with no argument and he returned his focus to his computer. Our desks are in extremely close proximity to each other. I work from home so I am pretty much on my computer what seems like 24-7 (at least my clients think so). I knew that he was spending an inordinate amount of time on his computer — something, I have to say, I am not comfortable with. I find it disconcerting when he is right there all the time. In fairness, he was doing nothing to disturb me from working. He wears headphones or earbuds to keep the sound to a minimum but occasionally it bleeds out into my ear space. What I heard was banjo music! That should have been my first clue.

1475772_471779199593050_267287835_n

It really didn’t concern me. He had just shipped his banjo out to Kelowna, BC for his grandson Tristan.

Tristan

Tristan

Silly me. You see, HeWho is a lover of music and musical instruments. We have quite a collection of exotic musical instruments on display ranging from a Tamböa to a Djembé. There is even a Didgeridoo. None of them get played, although occasionally they get played with. Stringed instruments, however, seem to be his first love. Several years ago I gave him a Liberty Resonator guitar for Christmas. It was a thing of beauty. He gave it to his grandson, Eric, in Niagara Falls last year.

12948419_1707247022873382_95124298_o

Eric

Shortly after shipping the banjo out west to  Tristan in, he started hanging out at the local music store. I didn’t pay much attention as it was my busy time of year, work-wise. As long as he was amusing himself, I didn’t have to. I’m not sure when he actually brought the new guitar into the house. It was snuck in and discovered by me later. Once it was out in the open and he could discuss it there came the little hints. “It really isn’t what I wanted.” “It’s not a very good one.” “I don’t really like it.” Within a week the guitar was returned and replaced with a more expensive model. Fine. (Yes, that is the “fine” that only we women can issue and know that really, it is not fine.)  Now, did I mention how much time was being spent on the computer/internet? It got extremely intense for a while. I was getting really annoyed. Supper would go cold before he would come to the table. It would take him forever to get to something I asked him to do. I confess my patience was wearing thin. Then one day he played a video he wanted me to see.

At the time, it was one of those “That’s nice, dear”, moments and I went back to work. Every day, mention was made of the banjo in the video and stories were told. Every day he would have to remind me, “You know, I showed you the video”. The penny finally dropped…about an hour before the UPS guy showed up at the door.

NEW GUITAR

Oh, yeah. He bought it. The rest of the day went kind of like this…

“Just because I said I didn’t want anything for my birthday didn’t mean that you were supposed to buy yourself something!”

“You just spent a small fortune shipping the banjo you already had out west!”

“Why didn’t you just keep the one you had?”

It went on and on but even I can’t remember the full rant of my rage.  It was weeks before I even found out how much it cost. Of course, once he had it, we also had to get a special case for it. We drove to Aurora to Rickard Banjos to pick up a case. This was probably the first time I actually looked at the new banjo. Dang! It was beautiful. All of the luthiers made a fuss over it. They are really great guys and their work is amazing. But there was no way I was going to confess to HeWho how beautiful I thought his banjo was or how much I enjoyed the visit to Rickard Banjos. After all, I only went so he wouldn’t buy anything else.

The following week I thought HeWho was feeling sorry for me because I had broken my toe the night before. He wanted to take me into Toronto for a “concert”. The concert turned out to be two guys set up in a really tiny music store playing…you guessed it…banjos. I sat on a really uncomfortable, rickety stool for a couple of hours with my foot throbbing. After it was over I found out that one of the guys was the person who HeWho was signing up for lessons with. And therein lies the rub. You see, HeWho doesn’t actually play. He loves the banjo, the music and the backroom stories the players have to share. He just doesn’t play.

Copy of 2015-12-30 10.09.56

 

Our road trip this winter took us to a rest stop in Virginia. As I got out of the vehicle I heard the banjo music playing and saw the sign. I said, “It looks like we’ve stumbled upon your people.” He grinned from ear to ear.

A year has passed and I am still waiting to hear some banjo music from my Banjo Boy.

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