A visit from St. Dymphna- Blogmas 24

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and all through the hospital,

Not a creature was stirring, not even an animal,

The bedsheets were hung from the ceiling with care,

With hopes that Saint Dymphna soon would be there,

The patients were all locked down snug in their beds,

While visions of dead people danced in their heads.

And the nurses in their scrubs and the doctors in their coats,

Had just gotten ready to get the fuck out,

When up on the roof there arose such a clatter,

Security rushed out to see what was the matter,

Away to the buzz door they rose in a flash,

The patients were ready to get into a clash,

The exit door lights lit the linoleum floor all aglow,

Hints of red shone down on the patients below,

When what to their wondering eyes should appear,

But Saint Dymphnas and her confessor Gereburnus dear,

With two trusted servants and the King’s only fool,

Fleeing from her father’s evil, big, long and hard tool,

More quickly than a cheetah, along Saint Dymphnas came,

She whistled, sang and called the patients by name,

They gathered around her and formed a neat row,

Their strength to resist temptation did grow,

She meticulously tended to each patient’s need,

Showed love, empathy and compassion, indeed,

She did not leave until each patient was helped,

And she laughed out loud in spite of herself,

And when each patient had had their needs met,

She took the bedsheets and created a large safety net,

Only then did she turn to see her father with dread,

And with his sword, Damon cut off her sweet head.

The patients now cured were all filled with sorrow,

Knowing today would unfold to Christmas  tomorrow,

Their suffering took on a holy new strife,

For them, Saint Dymphnas gave up her life, 

In the mental hospital, the patients will all be alright,

And so they call out, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”


Saint Dymphnas is the patron saint of the nervous, emotionally disturbed, mentally ill and those with neurological disorders.  She is also the patron saint of psychiatrists, neurologists and psychologists. 

Dymphnas was born in Ireland in the 7th century. Her father, Damon, was a pagan and her mother was Christian. Dymphnas also became Christian. When her mother died, her father was overcome with grief and vowed only to remarry if he found a woman who compared in beauty with his dead wife.

His grief led him to become mentally unstable and his daughter was resembling his dead wife more and more each day. He vowed he would marry her. Dymphnas fled to Geel in present-day Belgium with the help of a priest, Gereburnus, two servants and a fool.

When she arrived in Geel, legend has it that she built and ran a hospice for the sick and the poor. However, her father was able to track her location using the money trail. (Pretty fucked-up, without computers, right?) Anyway, King Damon had his soldiers kill the priest who helped her escape. And when he found his 15 year old daughter who refused to marry or go back with her father, Damon cut off her head with his sword. Saint Dymphnas is also the patron saint for victims of incest.

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The Advent Calendar from Hell- Blogmas 20

Blogmas is starting to feel like the Advent Calendar from hell. I’ve been trying to write something everyday since December 1. I’ve been told by some wonderful bloggers I’ve met through this process of starting a blog that it’s okay to fail at Blogmas. But I’m stubborn. I want to do this. So here’s another fucking blogmas post, number 20.

I’ve been doing a lot of errands and running around trying to get things ready for Christmas and helping my grandfather-in-law write and send Christmas cards. He’s 91 and still knows so many people. TOO many people. After writing addresses on the envelopes of 44 cards, licking the seals (didn’t die like Susan from Seinfeld thankfully, but tasted yucky) and putting all the stamps on, it ended up being about 8 hours of work. As we went through my grandfather-in-law’s address book, I would say a name and he would debate whether they should get a card. And at 91, a lot of his friends had died, which is sad. Does it make me a bad person that for each friend who he said was dead, I wanted to do a dance of joy because it meant we could skip the whole greeting card part?

I also went with my bestie Sam (the Blog Broad) to do some shopping tonight and we saw this:

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Would love to know the story behind how these jeans got there. Ever see random pieces of clothing, especially undergarments, and wonder how the heck they got there? For anyone looking for a writing prompt, here it is. Be creative. How/why are these pants here? Why not put them IN the garbage if they didn’t want them? Why hang them on the side? Dang… we should have checked the pockets for money.

I finished some of the baskets I was working on and I thought I’d show you the finished product. Original article can be found by clicking HERE.

And finally, I saw a car today that I wish I had gotten a photo of. It was your typical SUV that is really just a sportier mini-van with the family stickers on the back [Eye Roll]. And on the roof of their truck, they had constructed a reindeer out of wire and souped it up with Christmas lights. I followed them with the intention of taking a photo but then couldn’t find my phone. Then I realized when I got home that it was in my pocket THE WHOLE TIME! Mother-humper!

But here are some other tacky things I saw.

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Stupid inflatable lighted Christmas lawn garbage. Very disturbing for young children in the day when Santa disintegrates or as in this picture, apparently Santa must have drank too much or fell off the roof. Maybe Frosty pushed him down. Another writing prompt! GO!
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Another stupid Christmas thing. Like I don’t have enough to decorate that I’m going to decorate my fucking car? Fuck you, corporations and greedy capitalists. You don’t steal enough of my money by selling me crap I don’t need? Now you’re going to get me to decorate my fucking car! I don’t even CLEAN my car! Fuckedy Fuck! FUCK!

That’s it for Blogmas 20. Happy 12/20 everyone. Why isn’t 12/20 a thing? Maybe we should make it a thing? 12/20? Jays? Anyone?

5 more posts.

 

 

The Adventures of an Ass- Blogmas 19

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Today I’m starting a new regular feature for my blog. I will be exploring new places around the Maritimes in Canada and Northeastern Maine, U.S.A.. I will be taking my ass to these places and sharing some of the beautiful gems that can be found in the North Atlantic region. Yesterday, my friend Donna and I took my ass across the border to a little town in Northeastern Maine called Eastport. It’s very close to Calais- pronounced like those hard bumps that form from working with your hands or walking too much, “callus.” Although, I enjoy pronouncing it the French way, “Cal-ay” because it sounds more sophisticated. From Calais, you take the Coastal route 1 along the Atlantic coast heading south to Perry.  And just after you come to Perry, there will be a turn on the left for Route 190 which will take you to Eastport. It is 27 miles from Calais and will take about 35 minutes to get there.

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My ass at St. Croix Island

Along the way, you’ll find many cute little parks and rest stops. We stopped at Saint Croix Island National Park which is designated an International Historic Site as well. If you’re familiar at all with the Europeans arrival in North America, you may be aware that in 1604 Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts and Samuel Champlain came with a small group of French men to what is now modern-day New Brunswick and Maine to settle and trade with the First Nations people. They chose to settle on Saint Croix island in the middle of the Saint Croix river because the position would allow them to trade with the Aboriginal peoples on both sides of the river. Champlain left the group to map the coast of “Acadie” which would later be known as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. What the French settlers didn’t realize was how harsh the winter would become due to the influx of Arctic air from the north.  The men were not prepared for the severity of the winter weather conditions. The ice in the river froze creating ice floes too small and dangerous to cross. Isolated from the mainland with no access to fresh water, food or wood, the men began to die from scurvy. Of the 79 men, 35 died and just over 20 were near it by June of 1605 when Champlain returned. Because it is the first known settlement by European people in the Maritimes and Maine, and because of what happened to the people, it is considered to be a place of historical importance. It was closed because it’s winter yesterday, and all of the interpretative displays and monuments were covered up. But there is a beautiful view of the St. Croix River and of St. Croix Island.

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A view of my ass and the St. Croix River

 

After enjoying the view, (and not much else) at the St. Croix National Park, we continued straight for Eastport. Once you turn onto Route 190, you cross two causeways to reach Eastport. That’s because it’s on an island attached to the mainland through causeways. Eastport is on Moose Island, but to get to Moose Island you first have to drive over Carlow Island, also attached by a causeway. It is a scenic drive of ocean views most of the way to the little town of Eastport. When we finally arrived in the little town, I said to my friend Donna, “Doesn’t this remind

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Water Street in Cabot Cove…er…I mean, Eastport

you of Cabot Cove?” I kept expecting to see Jessica Fletcher come cycling around the corner any moment. I apologize to those of you who may be too young to understand the references here; it’s from a television series, Murder She Wrote. Jessica Fletcher was a murder-mystery writer who lived in the fictional town of Cabot Cove in Maine. Every week someone got murdered and it just so happened that the police were always incompetent. Luckily, Jessica Fletcher would always weasel her way into the investigation and help solve the case. Surely, Cabot Cove in Maine must have had the highest murder rate per capita in the world.

 

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“Whacko” diner

We arrived in Eastpoint around lunch-time (Atlantic time) so we ate at the WaCo Diner. Not as in Waco, Texas. As in “whacko.” I didn’t really see anyone who looked like a whacko in the diner. Probably the only whacko in town that day was me. Imagine it- I carried my donkey head on a stick all over that little town and took photos. And no one seemed to take a second look! The WaCo Diner had a beautiful view of the water and we  sat right next to the window. It is your typical diner with reasonably priced food and excellent service. We didn’t have to ask for our drinks to be refilled, the waitress brought us fresh drinks as soon as our mugs were empty. Donna had a coffee, so I wasn’t so much surprised at her refill. But I had a hot chocolate with whip cream on top and she also brought me a fresh one with the whip cream as well! They had all day breakfast so Donna had the special (steak, eggs, homefries, and toast) and I had the “Eastport Scramble” which went straight to my ass. My literal ass, not my figurative one. Actually, maybe it is my figurative one? It is my figure, after all. In any case, it was delicious and well worth the cost.

 

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S.L. Wadsworth and my ass

After we ate we walked around downtown Eastport and explored the shops on Water Street. There wasn’t much open. We discovered that all the shops in Eastport are closed on Sunday and that only about half of the shops in Eastport are opened on Mondays. Tuesday-Saturday all the shops are open. However, it seems the local pub is only open Wednesdays-Saturdays. Of course, we did visit in December. They may have different hours in the summer. The first little store we went into was S.L. Wadsworth & Son. I guess it is the oldest ship chandlery in America; that’s what it says on their business card. I don’t even know what a ship chandlery is, but it seemed to me that they sold a lot of the kinds of things you might find at a Canadian Tire in Canada but on a mini-mini-MINI-scale.  The part my ass was drawn to

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This fisher creeped us out. It seemed like he was watching us. He’s scarier than Paul Bunyan in Bangor. I would hate for this guy to come to life like the statue in It. He’s armed with a giant fish!

was the gift shop area. Most of the items were nautically themed or ocean related. And if you are a pirate, this is the store for you! It must have the largest selection of pirate gear that I’ve ever seen. Aye, Aye, matey! If you’re having trouble finding it, look for the fisherman statue. It’s right across the street.

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Port O’ Call and my ass

 

The next shop we visited was called Port O’ Call. I really enjoyed this store. It was full of unique gifts and trinkets and even clothes items. You can even go to their website and order some of the neat items in their shop. I’m going to feature a few of the things I thought were interesting but I know that many of you may find some neat finds by browsing their online gift shop. Almost immediately after we walked into the store, I was drawn to the Scramble Squares puzzle display. Anyone who solves the puzzle in less than 5 minutes wins a puzzle of their choice. I love puzzles. So I was game. (Get it. I was “game.” I kill me.) I started at it as my friend Donna browsed through the rest of the shop. I was probably there for 30-40

 

minutes, lost in a spell of trying to solve the puzzle and determined to do it before realizing my 5 minutes was long up. I only realized it because Donna had finished browsing through the entire shop before I had even went past the puzzle display. I ended up buying two of the puzzles, one with hummingbirds for my mother and one with puffins for my grandmother-in-law. Then finally, I browsed through the rest of the store and was drawn to were these necklaces with round pictures on them. I’m not even sure what the pictures are made of. For some reason, they made me think of Jenny Lawson‘s taxidermied raccoon, Rory and her taxidermied mouse, Hamlet. I’m not sure if the animals on these necklaces were dead, but for some reason, they remind me of her dead stuffed animals.

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Hamlet and Rory???

Because it seemed the rest of the shops were closed on Water Street, we crossed over from Port O’Call and into the Moose Island Bakery. We were still full from our lunch over at the Whacko Diner (spelled WaCo), so we just viewed the treats and didn’t indulge. The bakery is open year-round and is locally owned and operated. The lady at the counter explained that her sister owns the bakery and if we wanted anything ordered special for Christmas that they are taking pre-orders. Of course, for Donna and I that wasn’t really helpful information since Donna will be spending the holidays in New Brunswick and I will soon be returning to Halifax, Nova Scotia to spend time with my family. Next time we visit, we will be sure to save some room in our tummies for some of the bakery treats at the Moose Island Bakery.

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Just an ass hangin’ out in an Art Gallery

Finally, we looped back up to where we had parked and stopped in to The Commons Eastport. We both adored this art gallery, but what I was surprised to learn when I was referring to the brochure to write about our adventure is it is a “destination gallery.” Above the gallery, there are rental condos for short or extended stays. The gallery is open year-round and features artists from Maine, the Maritimes and the Passamaquoddy Nation at Sipayik Point. The lady at the gallery was very friendly and knowledgeable about all of the artists, and there were also Christmas ornaments created by many of the artists. Gallery photos:

 

I discovered the work of Bonnie Stewart while at the gallery (above and below). She is a local artist who uses small objects found in nature like pine cones, shells, sea rocks and the like to create intricate works of art. I absolutely love them. I can’t imagine the amount of time and thought that must go into creating each one of these unique pieces of art.

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I think I like this one best of the three Bonnie Stewart pieces I viewed. I like how she added the sea glass and sand dollar and the pops of blue and green colors.
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A fish out of Heinz tomato juice… and my apologies to the artist, for I can’t remember your name! (I blame my ass for forgetting to bring a notebook.)

It is a delightful shop and the inclusion of artists from both Maine and the Maritimes highlights the close relationship that exists between the two regions. We are connected by the land and the sea and often rely and assist each other in times of need. I remember in Nova Scotia when we were hit by category 2 Hurricane Juan in 2003 that the power corporation in Maine sent up workers to help restore power. And, of course, every year, Nova Scotia sends a Christmas Tree to the city of Boston in Massachusetts as a thank you for the help they sent after the Halifax explosion on December 6, 1917. It was the largest human-made explosion prior to World War II. Two ships collided in the harbour, one carrying explosives. It was an accident, but it leveled much of the city. The Maritimes has always had a deep connection with the New England states. Well, maybe not during the American Revolution or the War of 1812, but other than that, we were pretty tight.

I think a great day was had by us all, and I want to thank the people of Eastport for being so accommodating and welcoming to me and my ass. Not everyone wants to put up with an ass, but the wonderful, kind, and friendly people of Eastport were happy to do so. I think when you can go to a place carrying a donkey head on a stick and people don’t judge, that you’ve found a safe place to stay awhile. If you ever get a chance, I encourage you to take a detour off the beaten path and check out Eastport, Maine. Tell them you heard about it from Ocean Hayward’s ass.

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My ass had a wonderful trip to Eastport! Highly recommended by and for asses everywhere!

 

 

Bathrooms: A privilege or a right? (Blogmas 18)

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219vjoThe bathroom. We all go. Its main purpose should be for #1 and #2, although many other activities may happen in a bathroom. (I’m thinking preening, washing up, and the like- get your mind out of the gutter; although yes, sometimes sex in bathrooms happens.) Arguably, the bathroom is the most important space in any home or public area. Because when you gotta go, you gotta go! Know what I’m sayin’, dawg? Lately, I’ve been thinking about all the fuss over the use of public bathrooms and a rant has been brewing.

219v59In the US, there are states actually passing legislation around who can use public bathrooms. Although it seems odd, let’s not forget that at one point, the US had segregated bathrooms in some states for Black and White people. Now the debate has turn to transgender people and which bathrooms they are allowed to use. Some states are requiring people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their sex. There’s actually been cases where transgender people using the bathroom have been stopped and told they aren’t allowed in the bathroom, or harassed. Maybe this is because I am Canadian, but I can’t even IMAGINE how someone has the audacity to go up to someone and say, “Excuse me, I notice that you used the men’s room, but you aren’t really a man. You are a woman, so you have to use the women’s bathroom.” First of all, how do you know that the “woman” isn’t just a really feminine looking man? How do you know?  How are they even going to enforce such laws? Are they going to hire the genital police to guard the doors to public bathrooms? “Pull down your pants, we need to be sure that your parts match the stick-person sign.” “Hey, the sign lady has a dress on, and you’re wearing pants, so you go to the men’s room.”

219vc3Furthermore, why do we even need to assign bathrooms by gender and/or sex? Especially in those one-room bathrooms. Men and women use the same bathrooms in our homes, so why do public washrooms have to be genderized? When I go to the gas station, and I’m on the road a lot, I’m going to whichever bathroom is open. I have used the “Men’s” room too many times to count. Why would I wait in a line behind a bunch of ladies (many of whom are going to spend at least 5 minutes in there grooming after doing their business) when I can skip across the hall into the empty men’s room? I wouldn’t and I don’t. Yes, I usually have to put the toilet seat down, but that’s just a minor inconvenience and I always use toilet paper to protect my hand from man germs. And, yes, I’ve surprised many men waiting to use the “Men’s” room when a somewhat attractive blonde chick comes busting out the door instead of the man they were expecting to see, but I don’t care. When you gotta go, you gotta go!

219vplIn Canada, there has also been controversy for people with illnesses such as Crohn’s, colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), incontinence and the like who are often denied access to so called “public bathrooms.” In Saskatchewan in 2016, an elderly man using a walker who was on the verge of peeing in his pants asked to use the bathroom at a gas station and was denied access by employees. In fact, the ability for people with disabilities to access “public” bathrooms is so limited that Crohn’s and Colitis Canada has a campaign called, “Go here”  which recruits private businesses to keep their bathrooms, uh, well, open for business. In addition, people can download an app on their smart-phone to find businesses where they can do their business and a card to show that says, “I am a Crohns, Colitis, IB sufferer and I need to go to the washroom.” Can you imagine? As if it’s not bad enough to have an illness that causes frequent bouts of explosive diarrhea, but in order to use a so-called “public” bathroom, you have to show a stranger a card that basically tells them that you are about to have explosive diarrhea!

219vfbAgain, I do a lot of road trips, and I’m lucky to say that businesses have never harassed me about using their bathroom. I always just duck into a gas station, fast food joint, or a Best Buy in order to relieve myself. But there have been some places of note where finding a bathroom was a problem. These are generally the tourist attraction towns, like St. Andrews, New Brunswick, the Halifax waterfront in Nova Scotia and Freeport, Maine. I understand that the businesses in these high traffic areas don’t want the general public freeloading in their toilets, but at the same time, when you gotta go, you gotta go! My favorite line is when I go into a particular place, for example, a tourist bureau in small-town Maine, it may have been called Freeport or something like that, and when I ask to use their “restroom” (as Americans seem to call it, although to equate what goes on in there with “resting” seems a little odd to me) the response is, “We don’t have a restroom.” I call bullshit on that! My next question is naturally, “then where do you go to the bathroom?” And generally the response is that the bathroom is for employees only. As someone who worked a stint in a tourist industry where we had access using a key to a small port-a-potty that was for employees only, if someone ever came in with the pee dance or that strained/worried look of, “I have a poker,” I always gave them the key. It’s called empathy. We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

Transgender people and people with disabilities and I would argue many seniors as well (anyone with toileting challenges, really) are facing discrimination regarding the right to use the bathroom. And it should be a right, but it is a right that we seem to be treating like a privilege. It’s about time we acknowledged the most basic human quality we all have in common: we all use the bathroom. Everybody pees. Everybody poops. There’s no denying it; so how about we stop denying people the ability to get their business done and to get it done with dignity. No laws are needed here; just basic human compassion and empathy.

OH

 

A Christmas Dinner Party with Newfies- Blogmas 17

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Last night, I went to my friend Donna’s for a dinner party. She has a cute little home about a half hour south from where we are staying and an hour north of the Maine and New Brunswick border. Donna is a “Newfie.” A Newfie is an affectionate term for those who originate from “the rock” or Newfoundland, Canada. Newfies are often the butt of many a joke in Canada. They have a distinct dialect of English, very similar to those from Northern England.

Newfies are known for their hospitality and kindness. Traditionally, Newfoundland was a “have-not” province, meaning a lot of the population lived in poverty. That was before they discovered the natural gas off their coast, which was great for them right up until the price of oil started tanking. (Get it… the price of oil tanked.) My friend Donna and her family, who all live in New Brunswick now, grew up not having much, but they also learned to share what it is that they have. She always jokes that her dinner parties may not have the most fancy of dishes, but that everyone is fed and has a great time. I would argue with her on the first point, but the last two points are right on. Donna is an amazing hostess.

Her dinners start at 5pm sharp and she generally tries to maintain a schedule of bringing out a new course every hour. The first course is always the appetizers.

Everything is laid out buffet style, so people can pick and choose what to eat based on their preferences. Donna tries to accommodate everyone’s individual food needs. I particularly enjoyed the Caesar salad in a pita bowl. The dressing seeps into the bowl and you can eat the bowl when you’re done. Or if you’re gluten free, you can just throw the pita bowl into the compost.

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Main course

Then it’s onto the main course. Fresh homemade sour dough bread, shrimp risotto, spaghetti, pasta sauce with ground beef and moose-meat sausages, turkey, turkey gravy and steamed carrots and yellow and white potatoes. Again, guests choose what they want to eat in order to accommodate their palates. Moose-meat? Absolutely delicious. Moose-meat made into sausages? Absolutely to die for. In fact, if I hadn’t been told there was moose-meat in the pasta sauce, I’d have been none the wiser. It doesn’t taste gamey at all like deer meat tends to taste. Although, I did learn from another guest that if you know how to prepare deer meat that it will not taste gamey at all.

After the main course, we took a longer break before the deserts were laid out and Donna had prepared a special kind of Yankee Swap for everyone. I’d always wondered the origin of the term “Yankee Swap” and apparently it dates back to the American Civil War when the Confederates and the Yankees would trade prisoners in what was supposed to be some sort of fun game. How it got adapted into a Christmas tradition is unknown. In case you’ve never heard of a “Yankee Swap,” traditionally, how it works is a dollar amount is set for gifts, and each person attending your Christmas party brings one gift, wrapped, without a tag on it. When each guest arrives, they place their untagged gift under the tree. Then, each guest draws for a number, based on the number of gifts that are

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Donna’s gifts were all bought by her and each gift had a number that corresponded with the numbers on our lanyards.

brought. When a person’s number is drawn, they pick a gift under the tree, open it, and show it to everyone else. After the first gift is opened, each subsequent guest to choose a gift has the option to trade gifts with anyone who has already opened a gift. So the later the number you drew is on the list, the better your odds of being able to choose whatever gift you prefer. It is a really fun secret Santa kind of game, where guests can interact with each other. Making the gifts funny makes the game even more fun.

My friend Donna varied her Yankee Swap a bit though. Instead of asking us all to buy a gift to bring to the party, she bought all the gifts. As each guest entered the party, we were all given a homemade lanyard with a Christmas tag on it. On the tag, was a number.

Donna had bought all kinds of neat little gifts. She said she allots $5 for gifts and spends the whole year before her annual Christmas dinner party looking for sales. She tries to get a mix of funny gifts and nice gifts. The gift I really wanted was a duck wine holder!

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This mallard duck is a real lush. Don’t invite him to the party!
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Travel Pilsner Glass

I was number 3 so I picked up a pottery plate first, but someone else wanted my plate and I ended up with a necklace from Avon instead, of which I do not have a photo. My hubby, C, had number 16, so we picked up a travel Pilsner glass. The camouflage is perfect for hiding that beer you’re drinking in public. Or for those days you feel like going for a hike in the woods and you want to hide that refreshing beer you brought along. It also works for when you go camping at those “dry” prohibition campgrounds. Also, if you’re out hunting, you certainly don’t want the deer to steal your beer! Hunting with guns and guzzling brew-skis is now perfectly safe now that your Pilsner travel glass will blend in with your environment. (We will definitely be re-gifting this to my dad!)

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Desert table

Finally, we had our last course of the evening and my favorite. Desert and coffee/tea. Donna always has multiple deserts to choose from and I can’t help but try them all. Homemade cookies, vanilla cake with red and green frosting, carrot cake and chocolate fudge cake. And yes, I tried all four! My husband had to roll me to the car. We haven’t even got to the real nitty gritty of the Christmas eating season and I know I have put on at least 10 pounds since September. Gazing at all of the photos of wonderful homemade food at Donna’s, I think I gained another 10 pounds just from the memories of last evening!

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When we left Donna’s, her vacuum cleaner was in full force taking care of any morsels that found their way onto the floor.

 

Hand lotion makes a great gift- Blogmas #16

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December 16, 1996. It is a day that is etched in my brain forever. It was just nine sleeps before Christmas and we got a call early that morning around 6am. My parents and I got up out of bed and got into our car and rushed to the nursing home where my grandmother had been staying for the last few months. She was 86 at the time. In the two years before she passed her health had deteriorated. She had osteoporosis and had broken her hip when she rolled over in bed. Born in 1908, when she had found herself confined to a wheelchair, she refused to leave the house. For her, it was shaming to be seen anywhere in public in that wheelchair. My cousin, Laura, lived with her and cared for her, but by the fall of 1996, it became too difficult. My grandmother had also been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had also put a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) in place, probably because of the depression from being in the wheelchair or the depression from being in the nursing home or both. The call we received that morning was from the nursing home to let us know we had to get there quickly; my grandmother was close to the end. If we wanted to be with her in her last moments, we didn’t have any moments to spare.

sunny winter morning_InPixioI remember it was a cold but sunny morning. The sky had that pink glow as the sun was rising. It was hard to believe that something so terrible could happen on such a beautiful December morning. My dad is someone who always follows the rules. For example, most Canadians, when they do cross-border shopping in the U.S., lie about how much they bought when they come back into Canada. Not my dad. No, my dad is always honest and he would dutifully report how much we spent and then we would dutifully pay the duties on what we spent. And he never speeds. Never. But on this morning, my dad sped. It didn’t matter. When we arrived, my grandmother had already left us. I remember my cousins, Laura and Liz, sisters who were more like her daughters since she raised them being there. It was the first time I had ever seen a dead person. I was 22 at the time. Immediately, when I saw my grandmother, I realized it wasn’t her anymore. Yes, it looked like her. But the person I grew up loving more than anyone was no longer there. My cousin, Liz, who was hugging her body and crying didn’t seem to understand that she wasn’t hugging my grandmother anymore. She was hugging the home where her soul had lived, but her soul had moved on.

mini tree_InPixioChristmas is always hard when it’s the first Christmas you celebrate after someone you love has died. But it’s even worse when the person dies just before the Christmas holidays. Not only do you have to do all the usual Christmas stupidity, but you also have to prepare for a funeral. I remember in the weeks leading up to Christmas, my cousin Liz insisting we celebrate Christmas with my grandmother since we knew she wasn’t expected to live past Christmas. My grandmother, who was a no-nonsense, practical lady, often found my cousin, Liz, to be ridiculous, even though she loved her like a daughter. Liz brought in a little tree and decorated it and put up garland and lights all around the room and all of the family was told to bring gifts for this early Christmas. My mom and I both racked our brains; what do you get someone who is dying for Christmas? And I knew my grandmother well enough to know that she was going to roll her eyes at this whole “Christmas” before Christmas fiasco. My mother and I settled on a bottle of Clinique hand lotion for the gift, because we knew my grandmother’s hands got dry from the air in her room. And we also figured, whatever we got, we would end up getting back after anyway. When we finally came to the day of my grandmother’s special Christmas, she, surprisingly, didn’t grumble or roll her eyes as much at my cousin Liz’s antics as she usually did. I think she knew that the early Christmas celebration wasn’t for her. It was for Liz. It was something Liz had to do to deal with the pain of losing the woman who had raised her from the age of two.

graveyard_InPixioEvery year on December 16, I think about my grandmother and that first Christmas without her. She was the matriarch; I think most women are in their families. It is the mothers and grandmothers who are the glue that hold families together. The last time I saw all ten of my aunts and uncles together who were left at the time my grammy died was at her funeral. My grandmother was buried next to her three children who had passed away before she did. When you have twelve aunts and uncles and fifty-three cousins, it is difficult to maintain close ties with them all. When my grandmother was alive, she was the reason that family who had moved to Ontario would return home at least once a year to visit. After she died, our family fell apart. I rarely saw my aunts and uncles and cousins anymore and our Christmas tradition of going to my grandmother’s for Christmas dinner and spending the afternoon working on puzzles and playing cards ended.

My grandmother died 21 years ago today. Ironically, she always said as she was nearing the time of her death, that she wasn’t afraid of death. She said she was ready at any time. Her only stipulation was that her death couldn’t be at Christmas because she didn’t want to ruin Christmas for her family. That was the kind of woman she was. No-nonsense and practical, and someone you didn’t want to cross. She’d hold you to account. I like to think that when she got to the other side that she tore a strip off of God’s decision to take her at Christmas! So today, I ask you to be thankful for your family and friends, and to enjoy every moment you have with them in the days leading up to Christmas. Hug your loved ones just a little bit tighter and remember that every moment you have with them is precious. Finally, if someone you know is dying at Christmas, hand lotion makes a great gift.

Image sources:

Graveyard. Free Stock Photos. <http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/9185> December 16, 2017.

Hand cream. Px Here. <https://pxhere.com/en/photo/634760> December 16, 2017.

Mini-tree. Flickr. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/daveynin/8251311244> December 16, 2017.

Winter morning. Max Pixel. <http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Frozen-Season-Morning-Cold-Sun-Ice-Winter-Road-1881442> December 16, 2017.

 

“I knew you wouldn’t like it.” Blogmas 15

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216api‘Tis the season for another exciting Blogmas post. It’s a busy time of the year. People shopping, shopping and shopping. Those who say online shopping is killing the mall haven’t spent any time trying to navigate the malls during the Christmas season. The mall parking lots are full now and it won’t get any better any time soon. Finding a parking spot at the mall is like winning the lottery during the Christmas season. And if the spot is near the entrance, it’s like a glorious early gift from Santa. Santa, I’m sure, has no problem finding parking. He just lands the sleigh on the mall roof, and he’s good to go.

216akfI’ve got almost all of my shopping wrapped up now. Literally. As soon as I get home with a present, I wrap it. No luck for any snoopers in my home. Maybe it’s because of one of my good friends in middle school. She went snooping and found an Esprit shirt her mom had bought her for Christmas.  Then she wore it to school before Christmas with the tag still on it. Then she put it back where she found it. I would never have been so lucky to get away with such a thing. I would have spilled food on it for certain. I did snoop one year, but realized that it wasn’t any fun on Christmas when you already know what your gifts are. Then you also have to be an amazing actress. The only upside to snooping is if you open a gift that is totally not you. It’s easier to hide your disappointment when you already know a gift you hate is coming.

216as6My mom is the worst for picking out gifts that I don’t like. I’ve realized over the years that I have to be very careful when I go shopping with her. What she tends to do is pick something up, and ask me what I think of it. Now what I used to think when she did that was, “What do you think of this for me?” But after receiving items that she asked me what I thought of over the years, I now know that “What do you think of this?” actually means “What do you think of this because I’m going to buy this for you for Christmas.”  So now when mom asks me, “What do you think of this?”, my first question to her is, “For you or for me?”

216a9rOne of the worst gifts I got from my mom was the year I asked for a plain white bath robe. What I got was a bath robe with sunglasses and lipsticks sewn on. I may have mentioned this before? But the best part was my reaction when I opened the gift. I couldn’t hide my disappointment. It looked like a plain bathrobe at first, but then I pulled it up out of the box, my face fell. My mom says and I quote: “I knew you weren’t going to like it.” She knew I wasn’t going to like it. But she got it anyway.
I love my mom and she tries so hard to make Christmas special for us all. In fact, she goes overboard every year, even now that my brother and I are well into our 30s and 40s. She braves those mall parking lots every year with arthritis in her legs, hobbling sadly around trying to find gifts that she knows we’re not going to like. She’s Santa with a wheelchair parking pass, and a list she only half reads. Instead of a red suit, she has red hair, but only because she dyes it. But she’s my Santa and I love her dearly. I can’t wait to see what things she knew I wouldn’t like this year!

A Christmas Card from Bexa: Blogmas 14

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The beautiful home-made card that arrived all the way from Brighton, England from Bexa

When I got home yesterday, there was a beautiful envelope waiting for me. It came all the way from England from a blogger I’ve met, Bexa. Inside was a gorgeous homemade card with some of the neatest printing I have ever seen in my life. Bexa’s blog is amazing. Her site is designed so well, and you can tell she is a very creative and kind soul. The main reason I found Bexa is that I was looking for Twitter accounts that re-post blogs. She had wrote a post asking everyone to send her their blog post for her Sunday reading. So I sent mine and we kind of started a bit of a blogging friendship. Please take a look at Bexa’s blog: http://hellobexa.com. She has great tips for people just starting out with blogging.

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Cute custom-made sticker inside the card

Looking at the card, I started thinking about the reaction I got to my “Merry Fucking Christmas” post too. I started to feel so thankful for the amazing people I have met through blogging, their kindness and their encouragement. There are so many people I have discovered through WordPress and Twitter who are such talented writers; people from all over the world, from different cultures and different religions. I love it! If the rest of the world could be as accepting and open and loving to each other as the bloggers I’ve met, we would never worry about nuclear war, famine, genocide or any other horrible things that people do to each other for no good reason ever again!

Through reading the blogs of others, I learn about other people’s lives and struggles and come to realize that we aren’t that alone after all. It’s awe inspiring how people connect through writing. I guess as an English teacher I shouldn’t really be that surprised, but blogging is quite different from reading a text that has been published. The main difference is that when I read text from a book, I can’t directly comment to the writer of the piece. With blogs, you can give immediate feedback, ask the writer questions, and interact with the writer of a piece. It is quite a remarkable thing.

 

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I loved the message inside as well as the added touch of the piece of paper inside reminding me to “Always wear your invisible crown.” Aww…. I love Christmas and Blogmas again!

Although I enjoy the interaction that blogging brings, I genuinely hope that books and paper texts will not be completely phased out. I can’t think of a better smell than the smell of opening that first crisp page in a brand new book. I love to just sink my nose into the middle and take long deep breaths. Aw…. the smell of words!  Some day maybe the  words of the bloggers I have met will be in the printed form with the aroma of “new book.” I sure hope so.

Thank you to all my followers and fellow bloggers for being such a wonderful and supportive community. As a thank you, I’m going to highlight a blog site I regularly visit to share with readers of this blog. Today’s is Bexa’s (obviously) and you can find her most recent work here: https://hellobexa.com/life/the-top-20-christmas-films-of-all-time/

A special thank you to Bexa for the beautiful Christmas card.

 

If you would like to make a card like the one Bexa sent to me, follow this link: https://hellobexa.com/blogging/how-to-make-washi-tape-christmas-cards/

Happy Blogmas 14!

O.H.

I’m Following You! [Blogmas 13]

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not stalkingI’ve been following you. I’ve been following you for a while, but you may not have noticed me. It’s not like I’ve been purposely tagging behind you like an undercover police officer or a creepy stalker. I’ve been following you on Twitter.

Twitter, where all of a sudden you can have interactions with your BFFs Mindy Khaling and Melissa McCarthy. Okay, they are my BFFs, maybe not yours. Of course, they have no idea that we have a relationship. My bestie, Mindy has 11 million followers and “Missy” (as only I can call Melissa McCarthy because of how tight we are, you know) has 939 000 followers, but Mindy follows a mere 811 people and “Missy” follows a measly 121 people. Fuck you, Mindy Khaling and Melissa McCarthy! I thought we were friends forever, but it turns out, I’m just a pathetic celebrity stalker.

Of course, these are famous actresses/writers who used their talents and, in one case, their untalented cousin to achieve success before the up-rise of blogging. Any of us [me] who have tried sending off manuscripts without a social media presence realize quickly that no publisher will touch you unless you have already established a following on social media. That would be why our other BFF, Jenny Lawson, better known as The Bloggess, has 477 000 Twitter followers but follows a whopping 42 000 people. It is still less than the number who follows her, I know, but the ratio is still much higher than with Mindy and Melissa. I’m no mathematician (trust me, I’m not) but I’m pretty certain about the math. I’m about 20% certain. (That’s a lot, right?)

followingOriginally when I started blogging, I said to my friend Sam, the Blog Broad, that I didn’t need social media because “if your writing is good enough, people will connect with it and follow it.” Um… I couldn’t have been more wrong unless I was Fox News. And now here I am, a Twitter Newbie. I joined, “tweeted” and still no real following formed. I said to Sam, “It’s not working.” And Sam said, “that’s because you have to follow people in order for them to follow you.” And so I did. I just started going on people’s followers lists and clicking follow on all of the names there- I thought to myself, I’ll just do that everyday. I’ll have soooo many followers in no time. Then someone will notice my brilliance and I’ll be able to spend my time being paid for creative pursuits. Now, I don’t know if anyone else has done what I did to try to build followers, but if you do try it, a pop-up from Twitter will appear. Now, I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was something like, “Because you’re a insane, creepy, stalker person, we are suspending your ability to follow people for 48 hours,” or something to that effect. SOOoooo… I stopped doing that.

J Lo_InPixio
“Ass Ass” was just a big bare J Lo ass. Maybe it was J Lo’s ass?

Instead, I just started following people at random but just not as many. And then I learned another important lesson. You should actually read up on the people you’re following and take a look at what they’ve been tweeting before you start following them. It was when my Twitter feed showed a picture of a big ass. Now I know my profile picture on WordPress is of an ass too, but my ass is a donkey. This pic was of an ass ass. It was just a big, huge, J-Lo-esque ass. And in the self-description box, it said, “I’m kind of an ass.” I thought, hmmmm, that’s kind of funny; they must be being ironic like me and my donkey ass, but doing it with an ass ass. So I didn’t unfollow the person with the ass pic right away. I didn’t unfollow until I realized what all the person’s tweets were about, and I don’t want to be crass, so I’m going to use the technical terms. “Ass Ass,” as I’ll call her, used dirty words, but the words in her tweets featured semen, anal intercourse, breasts, and meeting places. So basically, I think I may have started following a ho. She’s either a ho or a slut. And that’s okay, I don’t judge. (Well, I try not to.) But I just didn’t want to be propositioned like that. I’m somewhat happily married. (Hey, don’t judge, no one is “happily” married- no one is happy ALL THE FUCKING TIME!) Of course, my hubby, C, probably would have wanted us to find Ass Ass and say what’s up. But I’m not into that. And so I unfollowed Ass Ass and I started just following people who posted things I thought were funny or thoughtful or who tweeted pics and videos of cute animals, and of course, those sites that retweet posts by bloggers.

When I really think about it, randomly following people on Twitter is like randomly following the car in front of you to find out where they’re going. It’s not likely to be anywhere you’re interested in going, so why would you do that? (Although my friends and I did do that once in high school just for fun. But we were in high school. We did a lot more stupid stuff than just that.) I totally connected when I came across this tweet on my twitter feed: “It’s amazing the amount of people who follow just to get a follow back, then if I don’t follow back they unfollow me. I won’t follow people for the sake of it, but follow people I genuinely want to connect with.” dASHing through the snow  ❄️ @FTLOBOOKS (Click on link to see her blog.)20171211_174331.jpg

I found out the hard way that you should only follow people who seem to be people you could connect with. At the same time, sometimes you have to go on that “first date”: follow the person and see what kinds of things they post before you figure out that they weren’t the one for you. It’s okay to unfollow. Maybe they weren’t, “the One.” But if you don’t first follow, you’ll never know. lurking memeFor those fellow bloggers out there, who have me as a Twitter follower, don’t worry. I’m not going to be dumping anyone on purpose, unless you start tweeting weird, perverted, sexual tweets that make me feel uncomfortable. And if you do unfollow me because I’m not what you expected, please do so, by all means. We’re all on this same journey to become leaders, not followers, anyway. Well, aren’t we?

#following you

@Ocean.Hayward

All pictures are my own unless the source information is listed below. Yes, even the ones of Mindy and Missy. I told you we are BFFs on Twitter. [In my best Napoleon Dynamite voice] “GAWD!”

Fatal Attraction Meme. Pinterest. <https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/47428602298479681/?lp=true> December 11, 2017.

“I’m following you” mem. Image Flip. <https://imgflip.com/meme/Zombie-Overly-Attached-Girlfriend?sort=latest&page=3> December 11, 2017.

“I’m not stalking you” Meme. Quick Meme. <http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3tpn3t> December 11, 2017.

Jennifer Lopez pic. IGN. <http://www.ign.com//threads/j-los-ass-is-overrated.454203957/> December 11, 2017.

Office Space Meme. Pinterest. <https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/47428602298479681/?lp=true> December 11, 2017.

 

 

Merry Fucking Christmas [Parental Advisory- Language that may be offensive to some.]- Blogmas 12

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Okay, so my Blogmas post today is a rant.

I’ve been posting my Blogmas entries to a lot of different blogger sites that do retweeting. You see, I’m hoping maybe, just maybe, I could make a go with this writing thing. Seeing as how I’m very soon to be without a paycheque, I need to find another source of income. (Just a heads up, this post is going to be all over the place!) You see I’ve been on sick leave from my regular job of teaching because “I’m fucked up in the head,” right. Funny side story- when I wrote “I’m fucked up in the head” right, I was thinking of the lyric to the Limp Bizkit song, “Nookie” and for years I’ve been singing along to that song with “I’m fucked up in the head, right” but in looking up the lyric to give credit where it’s due, I discovered the lyric is actually, “fucked up in the head, not.” Huh.

Well, there’s no “not” in being fucked up for me- I have Conversion Disorder, Somatic Symptom Disorder and ADHD. And now, to top it all off, my paid sick leave is about to run out and because teachers get paid for the 195 days in the school year (September to June) and they start our pay year as of August 1, I have been overpaid.

merry
Image from Amazon. They are not paying me to feature this product, but hey, Amazon, feel free!

Which means when my paid days run out, I have to pay back $1000. I get it, I owe it. I’m not saying I don’t, but it’s stressful knowing I have to come up with that money somehow when I’m about to go on Long-term disability benefits and that’s ONLY if I’m approved! So yeah, Merry Fucking Christmas! Thank you, brain chemicals, neurotransmitters and brain wiring stuff! (I warned you, this would be a rant.)

 

Okay, so back to Blogmas and how I’ve been retweeting my blogs and all of that. So as I’m going onto these Blogging Twitter Groups, I’m also reading blogs that have been posted. And I am getting so sick of Blogmas!!! Blech-mas more like. (Maybe I’m just bitter because I’m about to have Broke-mas.) Every post is pretty similar. “Great gift ideas under $20” and a list of products that can be bought online, for example. I can’t help but wonder, did these bloggers even try out these products? If I have to look at one more Blogmas about make-up, hair, decorations and gifts and where to buy them, I’m going to stab someone in the throat, anyone, whoever is closest (probably my husband or his grandfather!)* My goodness! I don’t mean to be grinchy (that’s right, I turned Grinch into an adjective) but I’m starting to get sick of Blogmas!

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See sources at the end of this post for the blog site this photo came from. The Blogger, Laura, had a very cool idea of writing a comment on other people’s blogs for Blogmas.

The blogs I enjoy the most are the ones that come from an authentic place. The writers are “keeping it real.” Now that said, and I imagine a lot of these bloggers who are writing about all these wonderful products, are probably getting paid by companies. I’m not going to lie: I would do it to if it meant money in my pocket. Shout out: “Hey Companies, pick me! I will write wonderful things about your crappy products because I am about to be poor!” Well, poorer. Not that I’m poor poor, I’m just terrible at managing money.

Anyway, my next few Blogmases are going to be a lot less Christmas-y because I don’t want to stab anyone.** And I think I’ll even skip the retweeting on those Blog Retweet sites so I don’t have to see them. I just need a Blogmas break for a few days. Thanks for reading my rant and sorry if I offended anyone.

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All I can scratch together is two Canadian nickels. [photo is my own]
P.S. Can you spare a dime?

*I won’t really stab anyone in the throat. I have conversion disorder, remember, so instead I’ll keep my anger and negative emotions in, and then have facial twitches, contortions and seizure-like shaking.

**Again, I must reiterate: I’m not really going to stab anyone. I’ll just twitch, contort, and shake like Linda Blair in The Exorcist (original 1973 version) minus the head spin.

Sources:

Laura. Blogmas, Well, Sort of Pic. “Blogmas 2016.” Constantly Curious. <\http://constantlycurious.co.uk/2016/12/blogmas-2016/> December 9, 2017.

Merry Fucking Christmas Bauble. Amazon. <https://www.amazon.co.uk/Santa-Balls-Fucking-Christmas-Bauble/dp/B00G450LBI> December 9, 2017.