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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.

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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.

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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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First, let me say right now…if you’re reading this because you think it’s about basketball, move along. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not sure why I even know that “March Madness” has something to do with basketball.

Token Basket Ball Image

Token Basket Ball Image

March can get a little crazy. When it comes to weather, one might even say it is bi-polar. One day you’re getting emergency winter storm warnings, with “polar” temperatures and record snowfalls. The next day the sun is shining and you are tempted to walk about in your shorts. Let’s face it, we are Canadians — there was a lot of shorts-wearing going on.

Canadians in shorts

If your sanity relies on sending your kids off to school every morning, you may be walking a thin line right now.  There were “Snow Days” with the kids home from school, then “March Break” let them off for an entire week! If you made it through the break and are breathing a sigh of relief that you all survived…think again. It’s a short week. Good Friday gives them another day off: lots of time to sort out Easter outfits, Easter dinner and hiding eggs…right?

Easter Bunny Pancakes

If the weather didn’t confuse you, there is always the calamity that goes with changing our clocks to Daylight Saving Time. Some people will always be confused. Try to remember we “Spring” forward and “Fall” back. That’s right. We lost an hour of precious sleep on the 14th.

Spring Forward

HeWho went out west for a couple of weeks to visit his daughter and grandkids. That meant I could have a “girls weekend”. There is only one rule about girls weekend. We don’t talk about girls weekend…sort of like Vegas. It’s a whole special kind of crazy!

The one day of the year that you are officially allowed to be as whacky as you want is March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. The “Wearin’ of the Green” can make for some strange outfits, some I may or may not have worn myself. It’s acceptable behaviour. No one will lock you up.

Wearing of the green

I may or may not be related to these people and they may or may not be wearing stuff that belongs to me.

You can pretty much find anything and everything coloured green…your food, your drinks, buildings and even bodies of water.

Niagara Falls goes green

Niagara Falls…Slowly it turned…green.

There is one day in March when I actually wake up a year older than when I went to bed. That sucks, but I celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day so I can go nuts and nobody notices. Well, they might actually notice that I am one that walks that thin line. You see I received a “Stress Reliever” for my birthday.

 

Stress Paul

“Stress Paul”

It’s a stress ball called “Stress Paul”. In case you can’t read it, here is what it says:
• Don’t get stressed…Take it out on Paul
• When you’re feeling stressed, punish Paul to keep your sanity.
• When the pressure is too much to handle, squeeze Paul

Best present ever! STRESS PAUL! How perfect is that.  For those of you who don’t know…this is the only time I will mention it…after that he goes back to being incognito…HeWho’s real name is Paul. I repeat, best present ever! STRESS PAUL! How perfect is that.

Did I mention we also officially welcomed the March Equinox whose dual identity is called “spring”, on Sunday, March 20th, 2016? Yes, spring has definitely sprung and I might have a screw loose.

Minion Screwloose

There is one thing that has really put me over the edge and that is THIS March MADNESS…

REAL MARCH MADNESSEnough said!

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Life can be puzzling. I know mine certainly has been. Puzzles have always been a part of my life. So many kinds! He-Who loves to do the Crosswords and I have always enjoyed a good Jumbo Sudoku. These days, however, they frustrate me more than anything but I have to keep doing them for therapy.

SudokuThere were always Jigsaw Puzzles under the Christmas tree when I was a child. I can’t really tell you whose name appeared on the gift tag, but once opened, it became community property. In our home, we had a card table that would go up when the puzzle beckoned to be put together. Then, all the pieces would be dumped on the table. Someone would start turning them right side up, one at a time, and moving them to an edge of the table. Someone else would join in and start assembling the straight edges of the puzzle. Then, someone else, hovering and watching, would see a piece that fit, lean in, pick it up and place it into the picture. Before you knew it, we would all be sitting around and filling in the blanks. Many hours were spent this way with my sisters when I was a child — passing around the box cover to get a good look at what we were creating. At times there was no conversation, just concentration. Other times there would be giggling and laughing and stories shared. I’d forgotten about that. The puzzles stopped after my Mom passed and we were separated at various times and places.

As a young adult living on my own without a lot of disposable income, puzzles came back into my life. One caught my eye and it wasn’t long before I had the card table set up and was sorting out the pieces. After that, seldom would you enter my apartment without a puzzle at some stage of creation, welcoming you. Often, people who came by would end up sitting with me, coffee in hand (OK, more likely Scotch… depending on the time of day) catching up with each other while working on the puzzle.

house puzzleThere were a couple of issues with my jigsaw…shall we say, “habit”. I couldn’t stand to take them apart after they were done. I would find a board and glue the pieces down so that they’d stay put. Sometimes I’d have them framed and give them to someone to “proudly” (my word, not theirs) display in their home. Eventually I discovered plaquing. A nice coat of decoupage and then off to the plaquing place I would go. It would be mounted, sealed with a plastic coating and it was ready to be hung. I’m not sure if habit is the right word, perhaps addiction or obsession is more like it. One particular cold, snowy day, I came home early in the afternoon because of a blizzard. I remember walking into my apartment, glad for the warmth. From where I stood an illusive puzzle piece caught my eye. My thick gloves flew off as I walked over to the table. I triumphantly placed the piece where it belonged. Several hours later, I heard the phone ringing from somewhere far away. It was insistent and getting louder. It was my phone. As I walked to answer it in the kitchen (no cells back then), I noticed the storm must have gotten worse, it was so dark out. My friend said, “I just wanted to check that you made it home safely before I went to bed.” I was surprised she was going to bed so early in the day. Except she wasn’t. It was well into the night. I had been standing for hours, working on that puzzle. I hadn’t taken off my winter coat, boots, hat or scarf. I hadn’t sat down, drank, ate or even had a pee for crying out loud!

Most of the time I tend to think and work as if I am piecing together a puzzle. In the edit suite at the TV station it was always about piecing together a story. When I am writing I often have a beginning and an ending but need to make the stuff in the middle fit together. Once, I set up a puzzle in the lunch room at the TV station. It was a welcome distraction for everyone. We were having trouble making something work on the studio floor and with tension mounting and personalities flaring, a lunch break was called. After a bit of teamwork on the puzzle we returned and things just fell into place.

Put together by Staff and Crew at CTS TV.

Put together by Staff and Crew at CTS TV.

Over the years I tried to find more challenging puzzles. I tried a black and white one of a vampire and his prey. My nephew ended up with that one. Next I tried a round one. No corners. No problem. Then I got into mosaics. The first one I did was fun. It was a huge Mickey Mouse. The image was actually made up of thousands of little tiny cells from the original Disney animations and it hung on our wall for years.

Mickey Blog

The second…and last mosaic I did was the hardest. Not because of its level of  difficulty, but because of the emotional impact it had on me. It was of the New York City Skyline prior to 9/11. This photomosaic was designed by Robert Silvers and created from thousands of miniature photographs of people lost in 9/11. I cried for every one of the 1,026 pieces of that puzzle and saw those faces in my sleep for some time. It was plaqued and hangs in my brother-in-law’s home in Lewiston, New York.

Twin Towers pieces blog

Somewhere along the line, my older sister came to visit. When she saw I was working on a puzzle she went to it and started working. I was shocked. I said, “I didn’t know you liked to do puzzles.” She was quite surprised. “Of course I do. We all do. There was always one on the go when we were kids.” How could I have forgotten that? It was the closest I’d felt to family in a long time.

Michelle Puzzle

The puzzle pieces of my life haven’t always fit together perfectly. Quite frankly, there will always be pieces missing. But every once in a while, I find a piece and fill in another section. When I was 27, I met my birth father and three sisters I hadn’t known. More pieces that I wasn’t sure how to make fit.  A couple of years ago I moved back to Niagara Falls for a few months. I was able to spend time with old friends and family that still lived in the area. It was also an opportunity to spend some time with one of my “newer” sisters. The only thing she has ever asked me to do turned out to be one of my most cherished gifts. She wanted me to get to know her daughter Jane, who was only 10 at the time. I had no clue what to do. I’ve spent tons of time with nieces and nephews that I have known from the time they were born. I’ve baby sat, we’ve had adventures and special times. I love them all. All of a sudden I am looking at my sister thinking, “How can I do this without a history?” As usual I was skint and couldn’t take Jane places or buy her things. But I wanted to know this beautiful child as much as her mom wanted me to.

I showed up on their doorstep with…wait for it…a jig-saw puzzle in hand and nervous as hell. In all honesty, I think her father wasn’t too impressed and thought I might be missing a few “pieces” myself. Over the next few months we put puzzles together and really got to know each other. Jane’s piece fits perfectly in my heart and I will always be grateful that I was given the opportunity to know her. We even found a portable case for puzzles. Now we can keep one on the go for whenever I visit and it can easily be put away until the next time.

Puzzling Jane

I’m thinking that it’s time to start a new puzzle — at home. There are a few people around I’d like to get to know a little better. Yes, life can be quite the puzzle.

 

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It seems like it was just my last post I was complaining about February never ending and all of a sudden it’s September. Oh, wait…that was my last post. Shame on me. I won’t insult you with a long list of excuses. I’m pretty sure we have all been there done that. It just seems that I have become quite consistent in abandoning my writing. Truth be told I don’t abandon it entirely. I do continue to write. It’s just that I write for other people.  Most of my day is spent in front of the computer writing blog posts, web content, brochures and social media posts for clients. Much like the cobbler’s children not having any shoes, my personal blog tends to be the last thing that gets written.

Some of you may recall a couple of my posts about the area I live. Picking Pickering and Living Next Door To William H. Macey tell you about a couple of my favourite places in the Durham Region. There is, however, so much more. Most of my clients are all over Canada and the US, but I have one, The Stacee-Free Team from Mincom New Choice Realty Ltd., who is local. There is no one in the Durham Region who knows more about their community than these people and they make it their business to be the go-to people about it. Their blog is called “Discovering Durham” and that’s exactly what I get to do for them. Since my last post I have gone to a Maple Syrup Festival, witnessed people Floating Their Fanny Down The Ganny, participated in a Run To Remember, celebrated at a Pow Wow, laughed my butt off at people using a Marshmallow for a Golf Ball and wrote about a family that has made Tree Top Zip Lining a family affair. Granted, I usually end up burnt to a crisp, dehydrated and sore but I have a blast gathering what I need to write about this stuff.

On a personal note, I broke a couple of toes and lost a dear cousin and a lovely sister. None of which I felt like writing about. I also had quite a few visitors this summer. My always whining about no one coming to visit kind of backfired on me this year and I almost installed a revolving door. Truth be told, I loved every minute of it. As you may have gathered, there is no lack of places to go and things to do when company is here. There are beaches and trails to explore, butter tarts to sample and race horses to bet on, but the number one place everyone wants to go is “Primitive Designs“. It’s not easy describing this place. From the second you drive in every one of your senses goes into overdrive. They tell us,

“Our 8000 square foot gallery (as well as numerous outdoor tents), can occupy your time for hours! Our marketplace atmosphere, complete with music from around the globe, takes you on a journey from Bali, Thailand, & Nepal, to Morocco, India, & Vietnam! Everything in the gallery is hand-made, and the company owners handpick every item. In fact it’s rated #1 on Trip Advisor amongst Canada’s Top Roadside Attractions.”

It can be overwhelming, especially when this is one of the first things you see.

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This guy is over 20 feet high, 40 feet long and made entirely out of recycled motor vehicle parts. If a T-Rex doesn’t do it for you…how do you feel about giant robots?

3

Keep in mind we haven’t yet ventured inside. This place is a feast of colour, textures and things made out of other things you would never have imagined.

outside horse

outside tiki hut

outside welcome

Ok, I’ll put you out of your misery. Let’s go inside.

inside 1

inside 2

Let’s face it. There is no way I can show you everything. I’ve been there several times and still haven’t seen everything. You can’t just look at what’s in front of you. You have to look up and down and all around. Here’s a sampling.

 

A recent news story has proclaimed Primitive Designs definitely a selfie-worthy stop.

Believe it or not I saw Theresa Caputo (The Long Island Medium) here locally, attended “The Queen’s Plate” (picture Kentucky Derby but Canadian) and drove to Connecticut for a few days, where I fell in love with Mystick ( of Julie Roberts’ Mystic Pizza fame). I guess you could say I have managed to keep myself occupied.

So, how was your summer?

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It’s almost over. The end is near.
I am not predicting armageddon or the rapture. I’m talking about February. That’s right, the shortest month of the year is finally coming to an end. How is it, then, that February can feel like the longest month I have ever had to endure?

You may think that I am being a bit of a Drama Queen here but I am not alone on this one. In fact, here in Canada a few years back it was decided that there should be a long weekend somewhere in the middle of February. I say “somewhere”, because just like February gets confused about how many days it should have (28 or 29), Canadians can’t figure out which Monday should be a Holiday. Most provinces, including my own (Ontario), take the third Monday off. Others take the second Monday. Now, for my American friends, this meant that my February Holiday fell on your Presidents Day. Happy Birthday Mr. Washington. Our Holiday is called Family Day. I kid you not. Someone who was probably suffering from cabin fever and the winter blues combined, thought it would be a good idea to guilt people into spending time together as a family and give them a day to do it. I have always resented this Holiday. I don’t have kids and have always considered it as yet another slap in the face for being barren. I’m not alone in this one either folks. There are a lot of people out there that are childless and single. Speaking of single, guess what else happened on this long weekend? Think about it…you’re almost there…yep, you’ve got it. Valentine’s Day was on the Saturday.

bitch slap cupid

Talk about adding insult to injury. Seriously, I know people who just wanted to stay in bed all weekend with a pillow over their head. Fortunately, I have He-Who and we had a lovely evening out listening to Frank Sinatra Jr. (he said it was the longest two hours of his life but that’s another story). Quite frankly, I don’t know why a family, any family for that matter, has to be given a Holiday to spend time with each other and why any couple needs the pressure of a specific day to be “romantic”.  I think the writing was on the wall for this long weekend when it started on Friday the 13th. Unless you are this guy, that’s not the luckiest day.

Freddy Krueger

Photo: 7Themes.com

It didn’t stop there. Saturday, February 14th was International Book Giving Day and it also happened to be Hockey Day In Canada. As a people we Canadians tend to take our hockey pretty seriously (except in this house) but can you imagine some of the conversations between couples about how to spend Valentine’s Day when there were hockey games playing back to back to back all day long?

halifax.ca/hockeyday

Photo: halifax.ca/hockeyday

Sunday, February 15th was the 50th Anniversary of our Canadian Flag. That’s right 50 years ago we said good bye to the Union Jack and welcomed home the Maple Leaf Forever. 

Union Jack Maple Leaf

Tuesday, February 17th…Pancake Tuesday. OK, so it’s really called Shrove Tuesday and if you are Christian it is the last day before the long fast for lent. It doesn’t matter if you are Christian or not, if pancakes are being served Canadian’s will be there and they’ll bring the maple syrup. It’s a tradition!  This is also the day that kicks off most Winter Carnivals, our version of Mardi Gras.

Maple Syrup

Wednesday, February 18th is Ash Wednesday. Not being a Catholic, I can remember as a little kid telling all my little Catholic friends that they had dirt on their foreheads.

Ash Wednesday

Thursday, February 19th. Happy Ewe Year!!! It’s the year of the sheep. Everyone celebrates Chinese New Year, usually by overeating at a buffet and figuring out what animal they are in the Chinese horoscopes.

Chinese New Year

I ate so much I couldn’t focus!

On Friday, February 20th you can celebrate Yukon Heritage Day. You get a day off work and you can join in on the annual winter celebration known as the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous.

Are you exhausted yet? I haven’t even mentioned that we started out on February 1st with Superbowl Sunday (congratulations to the New England Patriots)  followed by February 2nd, Groundhog Day. If I were a groundhog I would never come out. If you happen to be Jewish you may also have celebrated Tu B’Shevat which is known as the “New Year for Trees”, on February 4th. Have I mentioned that the entire month of February is Black History Month?

Black History Month

Photo: thelegacyposter.com

Now let’s talk about the iceberg in the room. Quite literally. Almost daily, for the entire month of February we have woken up and gone to sleep under extreme cold weather alerts and record breaking below normal temperatures.  Blinding snow, gale force winds and bitter cold have been never ending. I know we are Canadian and supposed to be used to this weather, but enough is enough!

Hoar Frost

I like the name of this. We have all been Winter’s whore this year.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am that this is not a leap year. I don’t think I would make it through another day of February. Now excuse me, I have to go find something pink to wear because today is National Pink Shirt Day.

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What’s on your desktop? I want to see the craziest thing you have on your desktop. No, no, no, no! Not what you have sitting on the top of your desk. I want to see what you have on your computer desktop.  You know. The place were we save things because:

1) We want to be able to find it.

2) We need to remember it.

3) We know we will use it someday.

4) We have to show insert name here this.

5) All of the above and few more I can’t think of right now.

Computers are one of the tools of almost every trade.  I would be hard pressed to mention someone I know that does not have a computer and that doesn’t use it for work. Wherever I go, people are always complaining about their computers. “I don’t know what’s wrong with it! It’s so slow. I can’t get it to do anything I need it to do.” I usually get roped into “having a look”. On goes the computer and almost every time this is the type of thing I see.

Messy DesktopOften it’s even worse! I usually gasp and say something profound, like “Holy crap, that’s a mess. You should really clean up your desk top”. This is usually met with blank stares and me trying to explain that it’s possible to store these useless valuable files elsewhere. I confess, I’m not totally innocent when it comes to storing files on my desktop. Occasionally, I have to go at it with a certain amount of ruthless abandon to clean it up.

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. My television and apparently  He-Who’s mind have been taken over by the annual display of men in tights groping and tackling each other in public. This is the perfect day to clean up my desktop. So here we go…

Nicholas Cash Day 1This is Nicholas Cash on the day he was born, January 7, 2015. Could there be a cuter newborn picture? (The answer is an undeniable, “no”)  Even if this was a democracy (it isn’t) and we were voting (we’re not), this one is a keeper.

small calendar

This was a calendar I was using in an effort to keep track of our walking and a couple of other things I always lose track of. All you need to know is the green represents the days I walked and the purple are the days He-Who joined me. It’s a sad record of good intentions gone bad. Delete.

Old safe

I’m pretty sure I sent this photo of an old safe to Amy over at The Bumble Files to use for something. I don’t need it any more. Delete.

Negative Lampshade

I was a Professional Photographer for 20 years. I have negatives. Boxes and boxes of negatives. I thought I would give this a try. But, we all know, I will never give this a try. Delete.

Triple Face Palm

The triple facepalm. There has to be a place I can use this one. There has to be several places I can use this. (Perhaps we should start with on the picture itself. Notice how they spell completely?) I’m keeping this one.

Groot

Groot! I am Groot! This was put together to cheer up a friend who, like me, is a fan of Groot. I’m not sure I can delete Groot.

scale

This one served its purpose. I can get rid of it. If only I could get rid of the one that makes me cry. Sigh…

Marilyn in NiagaraThere isn’t a person alive that was born in Niagara Falls that doesn’t have at least one picture of Marilyn in our home town. I’ll file this one.

MARILYN MONROE Quote

This must have been intended to go with the picture above. Still a good idea, so I will file them together.

In case of emergency

Seriously, whoever thought of this should be rich. Everyone should have one of these. It might stay front and centre on my desktop.

Peacock

Why would I save a picture of a peacock? Delete.

Brass Door Knobs

For some reason this piece of information fascinated me. I used it for one of my Real Estate clients so I can delete it now.

Hobbies Knitting

Come on! This one should be obvious. This post about my obsessive knitting and this post about the Knitting Diet made me an easy target for someone to send me this. Thanks to all of you who sent it to me. I will be keeping one copy of it.

Bee Symbol

I made Christmas cards one year using this story and some adorable cartoon bees all dressed up in winter apparel. I have no idea why it still resides on my desktop. Delete.

slide01

Speaking of having no idea, who is this and where is this? I don’t have a clue. It is a mystery. Delete.

Johnny Depp

I’m also afraid of Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Liam Neeson. I am still testing this theory.

James Cameron in Niagara Falls

James Cameron (far left) grew up in the Niagara Region.  They throw a parade when he comes home and everyone digs out the old photos. Consider this one filed.

Ellee

This is Nicholas’s big sister Ellee. Apparently she likes football. I’m not sure how that happened but she is a die hard Buffalo Bills fan. There are other family pictures. Quite a few in fact. They can all be filed.

There are some that are quite handy like these that help with measuring

Measurement Explanations copy

And this one that I made up to figure out how to watch old VHS tapes on the system we have.

Directions to use VCR

There is a list of every book Andrew Greeley wrote that I compiled when he passed away in 2013. He was an outspoken Roman Catholic priest, sociologist, best-selling author and longtime Chicago newspaper columnist who was a favourite of both He-Who and myself.

This is my favourite Irish Proverb. It will be kept. At least until St. Patrick’s Day when it just might appear here again.

Irish Proverb

There are more files and even some folders but you must get on with your lives and hopefully the tidying up of your desktop. I believe you can tell a lot about a person by what they keep on their desktop. I’m not sure what mine says about me. Don’t judge me, at least until you show me yours.

 

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Did you make a New Year’s Resolution this year? So, how’s that going for you? Mine seemed simple enough. I resolved to catch up on all the blog posts I was unable to read last year. It was a bigger commitment than I thought. I’ve been picking away at them, but yesterday I sat down to see what it would actually take to fulfill this resolution.  I stopped counting at 325. That’s 325 blog posts I had either missed or set aside for later. These has accumulated between late October and the end of December. Needless to say, I had to get rid of the evidence but I decided to not let that happen again this year.

How many of you resolved to lose weight? [show of hands please] How many of you have made this resolution before? How many of you make this same resolution every year? [I notice that most of the hands are still in the air]. Take it from a chronic “dieter” you may be fighting a losing battle. Literally. In my case, it’s more like a war.

At a very young age I was given the impression I was fat. I look back now at the very few pictures I have as a child and see that I was not. I was a big kid. Compared to my adorable baby sister I was much bigger. I was taller and had a larger framework as is often common with Ukrainian genes.  Since we did not share the same father, there was a variance in our genetic makeup.

kids

My maternal grandmother played the biggest part in my negative body image. “Nana” despised me. I was the bastard child that she could not accept. In fact, she used to tell people that I was the neighbour’s child that my Mother was babysitting. I was often the battle ground for arguments between her and my mom. I was 12 when my Mom passed. One birthday after that Nana came and offered to take me shopping for something nice to wear. She took me downtown on a Saturday morning where everyone shopped in those days. I saw lots of my friends out with their mothers and was quite proud that Nana finally seemed to be coming around to liking me. I even bragged about her taking me shopping. Then she marched me into the maternity store and proceeded to tell the clerk that I was too fat to shop in a regular store. She died about a year later but the damage was done by then. I would spend the rest of my life “knowing” I was fat.

It seems the rest of my life has been one diet after another. I can’t even remember them all. There was the Cabbage Soup Diet, Jenny Craig, The South Beach Diet, The Canyon Ranch Diet, The 17 Day Diet, The High Fibre Diet…those are just the books I can see on my shelf right now. The one I remember losing the most on was the Atkins Diet − high fat, low carbs. My family started force feeding me after someone asked if I was ill because they could count my ribs. Funny, I didn’t see it. I look at pictures now and I wasn’t fat at all as a teenager.

Diet STRIP TEMPLATE 2

In my twenties and thirties I went up and down the scale. I’d gain some but could always get it off with one of those diets and exercise. I wasn’t athletic but I always worked out. I went to the gym. I walked and I cycled. When I was 35 I had my run-in with breast cancer. That was called the “Chemo Diet”. If it stayed down, I ate it. A year later I totalled my car. I suffered a back injury that wasn’t treated properly and left me with several years of recuperation from three separate back surgeries. When I stopped being able to walk, I lost control of my weight. And I spent a lot of time in bed or sitting. I ate whatever was in front of me and it would be some time before I regained control again. My forties were spent going from gaining weight to morbidly obese. When I turned 50 I weighed twice as much as I should have. Fifty is one of those numbers that makes you evaluate your life much more than any number on the scale. I made a conscious decision that I wanted to live and therefore had to lose weight. I was desperate. Here in Canada we have all kinds of diet clinics. One of the most renowned is the Dr. Bernstein Clinic. It is expensive, it is strict and it involves injections. Oh, and it works. At least it works as long as you can continue to go there. I literally lost half of myself in a relatively short period of time. By the time my birthday rolled around again I was back in charge. Later that year I was “downsized” in my job as well. I was devastated but kept things going. We tightened our belts and that included stopping the clinic. A year went by and then another. I kept the weight off.

Diet STRIP TEMPLATE

Then another year. And another. I started to gain weight. By the time we started a business, lost the business and our home, I was well on my way and soon rejoined the morbidly obese.

This past year I had to do something. We started simple. Walking at the mall in the morning. When my sister Pat visited she walked with us and I remember telling her that I had to lose some weight just so I could actually do something to get in shape. The next time she visited she had a plan. Literally.  She had found something for me that she thought I could and would do, that was neither a crazy diet or unhealthy. In fact, it’s a very healthy eating plan and involves taking vitamins and a lot of other common sense things that I know to be true but hadn’t been practising. Between that and The Knitting Diet I have lost 65lbs and am feeling better and healthier. I am trying to find the balance that will keep me healthy and alive and not feel deprived.

I’m not sure what kind of damage I have done to my system over the years with all this “dieting”. I do know that the fact the word “die” is contained in “diet” has always grated on me. Now we have young girls in the family, 12-16 year olds who seem to be struggling with their body image. I fear for them. They are beautiful and healthy and I want them to stay that way. They receive only positive re-enforcement from me. I will not allow anything else when I am around.

Once the damage is done, it is done.

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Wait. What? It’s a few days before Christmas. This may not be the best time to talk about dieting. Maybe we should leave the diet talk until the New Year.

I suppose I could talk to you about Christmases gone by. I do have one picture of me sitting on Santa’s knee and Christmas is on Thursday this year so I could combine it with TBT (Throw Back Thursday).

Michelle & Santa Circa 1965ish

Michelle & Santa Circa 1965ish

There is no indication as to when this was taken but I think it was around 1965, give or take a year. Apparently I dressed like I was in some kind of prison program. It was when Santas wore more makeup than a working girl on New Years Eve. Other than that, I think we can all agree I was absolutely adorable. Right?

Or, perhaps I could tell you about what’s happening behind my house. And, with pictures being worth a thousand words, here are a few that should save me several thousand. So when you tally it up, this will be a novella!

Christmas Lights

Christmas Light2 copy

Christmas Light3

Christmas Light4

Christmas Light5 copy

Christmas Light6In case you missed it, that one shot somewhere in the middle includes Santa and some steel drum players…actually playing the drums for all to hear.

The CP Holiday Train is still one of my favourite Christmas activities but you are probably tired of hearing about it.

CP Holiday Train

 

Let’s see. There is the weather. Remember last year at this time? Most of the people in my neck of the woods were headed into the Polar Vortex and sitting in cold houses with no electricity.

Ice Storm 2013

Ice Storm 2013 – 30,000 Remain Without Power In Toronto

I get cold just thinking about it. We were lucky. Our power came back on Christmas Eve day.  Others? Well, not so much. There were people without power for weeks! Not to mention the homeless people who were out there in that insanely cold weather. Which brings me back to the knitting diet.

It bothered me a lot that I was warm and watching reports of people who were not. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Here’s the thing — yes there is always a thing, isn’t there? Those crazy neighbours with all the lights? They collect food and donations for the food bank from everyone, including the bus tours whose riders come to look at the exhibition. Then there’s the Holiday Train, which goes across the country entertaining families and collecting donations of food and cash for the local community food banks. So, when I tackled my latest weight loss program, I decided to do something that might benefit someone else. Now, my talents are limited but my vices are bountiful. “Where am I going with this,” you ask. Well, probably my biggest vice, addiction, or what ever you want to call it is TV. I am a hard core TV watcher. The only time I watch less TV is when I am making TV…something I haven’t done for a while. See if you can follow along. TV watching is conducive to snacking — snacking on junk food. Popcorn and potato chips are my main companions when I’m indulging in a little binge watching. So what could I possibly do to keep myself occupied while succumbing to my addiction which I have no intention of stopping? Knitting became the answer. It’s impossible to eat chips or popcorn while knitting. Sure, I suppose you could do it, but the wool would become greasy and the popcorn fuzzy. Yech! I’m not a very good knitter but I can knit one, pearl two and I finally learned to cast off. So I knit a scarf! Then, I knit another one. Around scarf five or six, He-Who noticed.

He-Who: What are you doing?

Me: Knitting.

He-Who: Yeah, but what are you knitting and for who?

Me: Scarves. It’s all I know how to do.

He-Who: Who’s going to wear all those scarves?

Me: Cold, homeless people. I’m going to keep knitting until next winter and then give them away to people who might need them.

And thus, my friends, the Knitting Diet© was conceived. My habit of watching way too much TV never waned but I continued to knit through the summer and into the fall. Before too long, the cost of wool became an issue. Well, to be honest it was an issue from the start. But other people chipped in and bought wool for me to work with. I learned to watch for sales and cashed in on the coupons at my local craft store. Here are some of the scarves I made over the past several months.

SCARVES

A sampling of the scarves

We packaged them up and a Chaplain friend of ours is seeing that they get to people who will really need them this winter.

packaged scarves

 

The knitting has officially begun for next year.

I know someone is going to ask if the diet worked. Yes! Yes it did. I actually lost about 65 lbs. this year and the knitting definitely contributed to that total. There were other measures taken but I think we can leave that for the New Year.

Merry Christmas Every One

Stay Warm 

Logo pig bookends Christmas

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Have you ever had a really bad day? Maybe you’ve had more than one.

He-Who’s grandkids use these two phrases frequently, “Best day ever!” and “Worst day ever!” I’m happy to say that the first one is the one most often heard.

There are times when I think most of my days are really bad days.  The movie, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day isn’t doing much better. I wasn’t able to find a favourable review. That is really saying something considering Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner are the “names” attached to the movie.  It is based on the beloved book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day written by Judith Viorst and delightfully  illustrated by Ray Cruz.  With multiple awards and a considerable loyal following for more than 40 years, let’s just say the book faired much better than the movie. I’ve always thought the book was somehow about me.

Let’s pick a random day from this year. I’m going with Thursday June 12th, 2014. Please note the very next day was Friday the 13th. I did not pick Friday the 13th because one would expect a THNGVBD (Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) on Friday the  13th and truth be told, mine wasn’t too bad.  I work from home most days but occasionally will freelance on site for a client. When you work from home, most of the time you tend to let your wardrobe get a little thin. Speaking of thin, I’ve lost some weight this year and didn’t realize that it could be a problem until I was dressing to work in a client’s office the morning of June 12th. As a rule, the fact that everything I had to wear was too big would be cause for celebration. Unfortunately, I had to find something I could wear. Immediately! By the time I got to the office I had done a pretty good job of convincing myself that I had put together an outfit that would do for the day. I was busy and soon forgot about my baggy appearance. I forgot —  until I heard a very loud tearing noise as I scooched through a doorway that was semi-blocked. The fabric of my baggy pants had caught on the door frame and ripped as I passed through. Upon inspection, the general consensus was that my top was long enough to cover up the damage and no one would be any wiser. That was…until I sat down. That was when the tear expanded and I ended up with what was once the seat of my pants flapping like a trap door below my cover-up line.

Bottomless Pants

Unintentional Bottomless Pants

It has often been said that I have a good sense of humour and as such, was happy to provide my co-workers with their laugh for the day. Obviously there was some emergency shopping that needed to be done so I called He-Who to come and rescue me. He offered to bring me a change of clothing. Now I ask you, how is that the solution to such an embarrassing situation? If ever I deserved to buy a piece of clothing it was right then.  Once He-Who showed up, he finally agreed to take me to the store I requested. That is, once he stopped laughing enough that he could drive. While I was shopping, he sat patiently in the car (patiently for him…he only called me once from the car) while I chose replacement pants.

It was agreed that we would stop for supper on our way home. There was a Mexican place He-Who wanted to try. I would have agreed to anything just so I wouldn’t have to go home and cook.  As we pulled into the plaza where the restaurant was located, we got tangled up in a parking mess. There was parking on both sides of the lot and cars were trolling up and down the middle aisle trying to find a spot. We sat in the same place for some time, trapped between cars. While watching the mess I noticed a gentleman exit one of the businesses and walk towards our car. He then went around the back end of our car and got into his vehicle that was parked on the opposite side. As I watched him I realized that he had started his car and put it in reverse. We were trapped in between two cars and had nowhere to go! It seemed like a good idea to point out that we were about to get hit to my man at the wheel. I screamed, “He-Who, HE-WHO, HE-WHO!“, (ok, ok, I used his real name). As the guy hit the gas and came towards our driver’s side door, He-Who leaned on the horn.  The guy didn’t stop until our vehicle stopped him. I have no idea how this guy did not notice us as he detoured around our car to get to his, but in the end most of the damage was done to his vehicle by our side mirror.

BLURRED PLATE2

This vehicle T-Boned us in reverse.

We finally made it into the restaurant. It was really busy and smelled delicious. We were very hungry. We got crammed into a corner table for two that had an extra chair stuck on the outside. I had my favourite purse with me so rather than put it on the floor I sat it in the spare chair. In my former life I was known to spend some money on my accessories…especially purses.  When my life changed, these treasures were lovingly put away to preserve their exceedingly expensive qualities. Feeling less than professionally dressed that morning, what with my baggy clothes and all, I had decided to let my Matt & Nat bag see the light of day. Yes, I was using it as my security blanket. He-Who ordered a massive dish that arrived before mine and was well into it by the time I heard my sizzling fajitas arriving at the table. It was sputtering and the steam was wafting towards me. The waitress leaned over the chair to place it in front of me. Except that it didn’t make it. No. It slid off the cast iron pan and landed inside my bag. INSIDE MY BAG!

Purse mess

Just picture that slimy dish inside my purse

Of course the waitress apologized profusely as she tried to clean up the mess and the owner bought us desert. I spent most of my time taking each thing out of my purse including my cell, wallet and keys and wiping them off. For the record, He-Who never once stopped eating.

I always stop at three. Once I’ve had three “mishaps” in one day it is officially a bad day and I stop counting. I just wish I could say it was my “worse day ever”.

 

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“Always be yourself. Unless you can be Khaleesi. Then be Khaleesi.”

Last night was the season finale of Game of Thrones. I’m happy to say that my current favourite characters are still alive. I would say alive and well but we’re talking about Game of Thrones here. It’s really hard to tell if anyone is well. Fans of the show fall into two categories: those who have read the books and those who have not.  My household falls into both categories. I have not read the books, so every time there is a massacre, or a character I am invested in dies, I am sitting there with my mouth open. He-Who, on the other hand, has read the books and knows better than to become invested in any of the characters. Just before the first head-chopping incident of a main character, He-Who casually mentioned this was going to happen. I didn’t believe him. I was wrong. He was right. This will be the one and only time you will see this in writing He-Who, so savour the moment. He-Who is no longer allowed to tell me anything. I rather enjoy the not knowing. In fact, I have already witnessed one of the most perfect moments in television history, as far as I am concerned. It was made that much better because I didn’t see it coming. I wished for it. I demanded it. I watched every frame hoping upon hope that some day it would happen. And then it did. Jofferey was killed. I honestly don’t think I have ever cheered louder in my life. Don’t judge.

There are many reasons I have become enamoured with Game of Thrones. The never ending surprise deaths are just one. (That just sounds horrible.) The writing is wonderful. The acting is stellar, and come on, Peter Dinklage (The King Slapper) is brilliant!

Peter Dinklage • Tyrion Lannister

Peter Dinklage • Tyrion Lannister

Although Dinklage claims the whole thing is shot in “Jersey”, truth be told it is filmed in my favourite place I’ve never been: Ireland. Seriously, check out that link. It goes directly to the “Seven Kingdoms”.

Welcome to "The Game of Thrones"...I mean Ireland

Welcome to “The Game of Thrones”…I mean Ireland

Then of course there is this guy. Sigh…

Jason-Momoa-Khal Drogo

Jason Momoa • Khal Drogo

But he is gone now.

Drogo-Dany-khal-drogo

sigh…

There are dragons! Yes, dragons. Who doesn’t  love dragons? We have watched them since they were just wee eggs. We saw them emerge from their shells. We saw them take their first steps, make their first flight and spit their first flames. Khaleesi is the “Mother of Dragons”. Sometimes, however, I think everything she knows about dragons comes from the animated How to Train Your Dragon, but she is one of the strongest characters in “Game of Thrones”. I root for Khaleesi every episode. (And so does He-Who.) Khaleesi is a terrific role model for women. I would say she is a terrific role model for girls but the reality is, there should be no young girls watching this program. As much as I enjoy it, it is not meant for children. My niece Jane loves dragons. I love telling her about Khaleesi and her dragons, but leave out the other bits.  So, to sum it up, I love Game of Thrones, Ireland, dragons, Khaleesi and of course my niece. She may not be able to watch Khaleesi…but I can help her…be Khaleesi.

Jane as Khaleesi

My Niece Jane as Khaleesi

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