It’s Father’s Day – Like It or Not


by Roxanne Tellier

In North America, Father’s Day was first celebrated in Spokane, Washington in 1910, when a young Arkansan woman named Sonora Smart Dobb organized a day of praise for people like her own father, a single parent and Civil War veteran, who raised six children. It would have remained a local issue, and faded away in time, except that Dobb, after a twenty year break, decided to revisit the idea of the celebration, and to up the volume by promoting the Day at a national level.

In the 1930s, with the help of the Father’s Day Council founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers, she and her supporters pumped up the commercial volume, and, by the mid-1980’s, had made Father’s Day into a Second Christmas for the men’s gift-oriented industries.
creative-fathers-day-gifts

Cue the cascade of cutesy Father’s Day gifts … ties, funky t shirts, things for the car and/or garage, and a slew of macho oriented bumpf. Not much chocolate, though, I have noticed. You never really find a “Day after Father’s Day Half Price CHOCOLATE”  sale, do you?

I’m not a big fan of the patriarchy. Wasn’t keen on growing up under it, really hated the ‘glass ceiling‘ and the way that women have to work two or three times as hard as a guy to get a seat at the table where men naturally choose to sit at it’s head, as though it is their due by birth. Never liked the preponderance of males in every position of power from the local cops to the clergy and prime ministers or presidents. Never liked men making decisions that would affect my day to day life, my voting rights, or my sex life. Just never liked it.

 

 

 

I spent nearly a year in an orphanage when I was five, so that my mum and sister could recover from a very difficult childbirth they’d endured. Although my parents would come and visit me when they could, a five year old is a walking hot bed of childhood diseases, so I was kept away from my sister, who was quite fragile.

Having actual parents, while living in an orphanage filled with kids who had no parents, made me the one eyed child in the land of the blind; I knew that I was incredibly lucky to actually have parents, even if my whole ‘family’ thing was currently on hold.

Not all parents are created equal. While I know that there are a lot of people out there who had good fathers, and lots of guys who believe that they themselves are good fathers, there’s also a lot of guys that didn’t do so good at the father game, for any number of reasons. Some times there are cultural issues at play – some families keep kids away from their fathers until the kids are old enough to interact semi-responsibly. Some fathers may struggle with how best to relate to their kids, because they themselves had a less than adequate father/child relationship. Some dads walk away from their responsibilities, maybe because they are unable to cope, or maybe because they don’t know how fast life – and youth – speeds by. And then there are those who can’t imagine taking responsibility for their part in the child’s birth and childhood.

 

Cleaver familyHow do we define a good father? No one seems to know exactly what constitutes the ideal dad. Sometimes we think we know what qualities we would have liked to have in a father, and some people actually did get a dad that really did fulfill our stated and unstated needs. It takes all kinds, and there are all kinds of dads.

I have mixed feelings about Father’s Day. Unlike a lot of my friends, I didn’t get the Leave It To Beaver family lifestyle of the 50s. I’m glad for those of my friends who have fond memories of their dads .. but I’m not one of those people.

 

 

Every Father’s Day I smile and nod when people write about warm, loving interactions with their dads or dad figures. That was just not my experience. And the funny thing about those people who grew up having dads whom they admired or adored is how difficult it is for them to comprehend that a lot of other kids didn’t get that kind of attention, and can’t relate to the connection other fathers and kids enjoyed. Some kids lost their dad very early, to death, divorce, or disinterest. Some kids received no attention, or, worse, received the wrong kinds of attention, the kind that landed them in psychotherapy for decades.

So there are some people who are feeling a little testy today, who will be staying off social media, and avoiding the ‘highlight reels’ that a lot of people will be sharing of their childhood memories. Some might be dreading a visit to a dad who didn’t quite cut it when it came to parenting. And, whether their dads were not so good or not so bad, there will be many, many others wishing that their dads were alive so that they could share one more moment with them.

mark twain on fathersOn Father’s Day, pretty much everyone will put a happy face on their upbringing, whether or not they had a good relationship with their dads. But a lot of time, they’re not being honest, to themselves or to others. Pretending that things are fine when they most definitely are not can make people feel like they are alone, and can even make them feel like they are bad people for not having had a good dad.

Truth is, all of us on this planet – whether we are fathers or grown up kids – are human, fallible, needy, and imperfect. Whatever you are feeling today, there are many feeling the exact same way.

So – Bless them all, bless them all. Bless the good dads, the not so good dads, the happy dads and the sad dads. Bless the dads who lifted up their kids, high enough to touch the moon, and the ones who might as well have been ON the moon themselves.

Happy Father’s Day, Dads. Enjoy your day.

 

Montreal, Cemeteries, and Donovans


by Roxanne Tellier

My family has a tiny burial plot on Mount Royal, in the Cotes de Neiges cemetery, and that’s where the bones and ashes of my ancestors have been interred for over a hundred years.

It’s been two months since my aunt’s passing. The clan will gather this week to bring her ashes home.

Patricia Donovan, daughter of Freda (James) Donovan and Denis Patrick Donovan, the last of her generation, died March 29, 2019 in Ottawa. Born in Montreal, Patricia lived most of her life there. She enjoyed travel, and worked for a time in Washington, D.C. She moved to Toronto and cared for her mother until her mother’s passing. 

aunts and uncles 1970 001

Patricia was a writer, painter, and sculptor who pondered life’s big questions.
Auntie Pat had fifteen nieces and nephews and enjoyed a unique relationship with each of them. She is survived by the clan, and will be missed by them.”

My family has always had an easy relationship with death; when I was young, my mother would often take my sister and I to the mountain for a picnic in the graveyard. We’d loll on the well tended grass while we ate lunch, and then wander around the tombstones and mausoleums, looking for famous names.

Michael Donovan A shamrock_in_the_snowI believe that my cousin Michael Leo Donovan, a man who loves the city of Montreal with a fervour I’ve never seen excelled, wrote a book about one of the cemetery’s denizens, the statesman Thomas D’Arcy McGee, after repeatedly seeing his tomb on family visits.

darcy mcgeeIn 1867 he became a Father of Confederation. It was said that if Sir John A. MacDonald of Ontario and Sir George Etienne Cartier of Quebec were the architects of Canada. D’Arcy McGee was its prophet. He was murdered on April 6, 1868, in Ottawa, while returning home after a session of the House.” (A Shamrock in the Snow, 1996)

Other well known Canadians resting in peace at this, and the neighbouring cemetery, include the Reverend William Squire, the first person buried in Mount Royal Cemetery, who died of cholera in 1852, after performing a religious sick visit to a local merchant; Thomas Lee Hackett, a young Irishman shot during a fight between the Catholic and Protestant Irish on July 12, 1877, the day that the Orangeman had chosen to parade on the streets of Montreal; and Sir Arthur William Currie, Commander of Canadian Troops during World War I, and Principal of McGill University from 1920-1933, whose death in 1933 drew a funeral procession with a crowd estimated at 20,000 people, consisting of politicians, diplomats, military bands and hundreds of veterans. The Cross of Sacrifice, a military monument, marks his grave.

Here you will also find David Thompson, surveyor and explorer, who died very poor with no grave marker. The grave languished for seventy years, until, in 1926, the Canadian Historical Association erected a monument to him with the epitaph, “To the memory of the greatest of geographers who for 34 years explored and mapped the main travel routes between the St Lawrence and the Pacific.”

joe beef tavernMontreal’s revered Joe Beef has a place of honour. “His real Irish name was Charles McKieman. He owned the famous “Joe Beef’s Canteen,” located near the port. His 3-storey building held a tavern, a restaurant with free food for the homeless, a dorm of 100 beds and a basement full of strange menagerie. He died in 1889 aged 54. His six sons and his wife organized a very impressive funeral for him. Every office in the business district closed for the afternoon, and there were representatives of workers from all classes in the procession.”

Several more souls were added to the site in 1912, when six victims of the Titanic‘s sinking were buried there, including Charles Melville Hays, once the president of the Grand Trunk Railway. (A further five lie in the Notre Dame de Neiges Cemetery, and one in the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery. Montreal was, sadly, well represented in the tragedy.)

laurier palace fireThere is also a section dedicated to some of the 76 small children who died in the Laurier Palace Theatre fire in 1927, an event so horrific to Montrealers that a law was summarily passed forbidding the entry of children under 16 to any theatre or cinema screenings. That law remained in effect until 1961

Calixa Lavallée, the man who, in 1880 wrote our national anthem, “Oh Canada,” was born in Verchères, Quebec in 1842, but enlisted as a musician with the 4th Rhode Island Infantry at the outbreak of the American Civil War. He died a respected composer and conductor in 1891, from tubercular laryngitis, in Boston, Massachusetts, where he was buried until 1933, when his body was brought to Montreal for reburial.

More recent interments include Celine Dion‘s husband, René Angélil; journalist and politician, Nick Auf der Maur; Gratien Gelinas, actor; hockey players Doug Harvey and Maurice ‘The Rocket’ Richard; Pierre Laporte, politician, who was murdered by the FLQ in 1970; Robert Bourassa, 22nd premier of Quebec; and Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau, who truly made the city world class, by organizing Expo 67, along with playing host to the 1976 Olympic Games, and giving it an amazing Metro service.

Small wonder the place is considered one of the most haunted spots in Montreal. Often described as a “City of the Dead overlooking a City of the Living“, ghostly spirits are believed to roam the grounds after sundown.

Not to be forgotten, other mortal remains lie outside the cemetery boundaries. Most famously, the tomb of Simon McTavish is located in the dark forest above Peel Street. The angry Scottish fur baron died unexpectedly in 1804 while overseeing the construction of a magnificent castle on the slopes. Stories of his ghost tobogganing down Mount Royal in his own coffin terrified Montrealers during the 1800s. To make people forget, city officials demolished his abandoned castle and used the rubble to literally bury his mausoleum. Archaeological work a few years ago disturbed his tomb and now rumour has it he is haunting Mount Royal again.”

The silhouette of a warrior woman with storm clouds in the background.But the most common ghost spotted on the mountain where First Nation peoples were also known to bury their dead is that of an Algonquin warrior.

I’ll keep an eye open for that lonely fellow when I’m there.

I always look forward to visiting Montreal, the city of my youth. These are the grounds I stomped, my neighbourhoods, my restaurants, my mountain, my Canada Life Weather Beacon, first lit up in 1956, that let the city know what weather was on the way. It is and ever will be the city of my heart, no matter where I roam.

I miss my city, but it is inevitably, my family ties that pull me back when I have been too long gone. You can’t stay away from Donovans for very long.

Oh, ‘céad mile fáilte’ they’ll greet you down at Donovan’s
As cheery as the springtime, as Irish as the conovan
The wish of my heart is if ever I had anyone
That ev’ry luck that lightens life …. may light upon the Donovans”

the uncles 001Growing up, I think I always took my family a little for granted. Maybe I just assumed that all families were graced with so much talent, in so many fields. We grew up with my uncle Dennis , co-creator and writer of The Beachcombers; my uncle Leo, whose majestic land and seascapes graced our homes; my uncle John, who was possessed not only of great writing skill, but also of a deep, radio friendly baritone speaking and singing voice; my aunt Pat, a writer, painter, and woman of enormous intelligence; and my own mother, who was a superb dancer, writer, and editor.

cousins 001With that sort of heritage, it is almost a forgone conclusion that the 15 children they brought into the world also possessed many talents, not only in the arts, but in social and computing skills. We just never thought that we wouldn’t be able to do whatever we wanted to do with our lives.

daisy circusMany of us write. I mentioned Michael, above, but there’s also Kieran, the poet and singer-songwriter; and Rita, who has won multiple awards for her nine books, short stories and essays.

Michael also wrote and produced a fine video series on the origin of Montreal street names, now available on youtube. (And yes, those are his kids getting in on the act as Ms Kayleigh and Complete Stranger. )

 

 

dianne donovan beat divasWe all sing. Dianne toured with a Harry James tribute for years before settling down in Austin, Texas with her husband, where she also hosts Classical Austin on KMFA radio, produces a weekly vocal jazz show, “Voices in Jazz” for CKUA Radio in Edmonton, and has a new CD release, “A Musing,” featuring mostly original compositions. She also teaches a cooking class with her jazz trio, The Beat Divas. (dianne donovan beat divas.jpg)

aileen paintingSome of us draw, sculpt and paint. My cousin Aileen took her dad’s painting skill and crafted it into a long career as a well known animal portraitist during her years living in the North West Territories with the Inuit peoples. She now focuses mainly on past life regressions for both pets and people.

I could literally go on and on, listing the accomplishments of this talented group. I’m extremely proud of my family, with good reason.

cousins 003And I’ll get to see some, though not all of them, this week. While the occasion is solemn, visits to my city and my family are never terribly formal for more than a few minutes. We are a group that cannot be repressed for long – laughter, good humour, and our love for each other guarantees a boisterous reunion.

The passing of the last of our parent’s generation seems so final, and yet there’s a part of me that can’t believe that my cousins and I – even as we develop deeper ‘laugh lines’ and grey hair – will ever really age enough to become the ‘grumps’ of the family.

cousins 002I’ll bring that up with the clan at the wake next week, and see if anyone’s pencilled in a date for when we can get to the ‘growing up‘ part of life. With any luck, we can keep putting it off forever.

So far, so good.

 

 

Closing The Circle


by Roxanne Tellier

Sometimes grief will steal the words right out of you. All morning I have struggled with how I could possibly explain how devastating and final it feels to know that my aunt Pat is gone.

Patricia Donovan, December 2015For too long, I kept putting off a visit to Ottawa to see her in her nursing home. She’d been such an integral part of my early life, and yet – there was always a reason, some excuse, why I couldn’t jump on a bus or a train or a plane, and spend a few hours in her company.

She would have been 95 this December 14. That was one of the many things we had in common, our December birthdays. She was the first to gift me turquoise jewelry, our shared birthstone. Theresa, Pat , Roxanne and Jodi

Of all the people, places and things that have made me “me,” it was her guidance, especially in literature, that informed the person that I continue, daily, to become. When we lived in Alberta, it was her annual gifts of classic children’s literature that I most appreciated on Christmas morning. I would gobble up the works of A.A. Milne and Noel Streatfield. I would revel in the never-ending adventures of Edith Nesbit‘s plucky children, ignoring the snows of an Albertan winter, dreaming of the Five Children and It, and wishing that I could be one of the talented – yet never vain – Fossil sisters. Through the books she sent, I played in the Thousand Acre Woods with Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet, and the ever depressed Eeyore. Those books taught me to dream, and to know that there was so much more world than just what I could see around me at this moment in time.

I always admired her exquisite taste in all things, be it jewelry, clothing, or art – she had an innate flair and sensibility that made her every surroundings special. Her talents were many – she could write poetry, fiction, or non-fiction with equal flair and ease. She painted as well, usually monochromatic and faintly geometric figures. There was one painting – a symphony in shades of blue – that she told me she’d created in an homage to the novel, Don Quixote. I would stare at it for hours.

But she could not sing – oh my lawdy, lawdy, she could not sing, and yet she did .. often, and enthusiastically! Sadly, in a family as musical as ours, she was the only one completely unblessed with a musical ‘ear.’ She loved music, even as she murdered it in it’s cradle of song.

auntie pat young 001In her youth, she’d worked as an executive secretary in several companies, with her longest and final stint being with British Petroleum. At one point in the sixties, she worked in Washington, DC, where a chance invitation to a party got her hauled in before the FBI, to explain why she had briefly visited a home where there were posters of Che and Lenin on the walls.

But by the time we’d returned to Montreal from Alberta, my aunt was living with my grandmother. From then on, and wherever we landed, in Park Ex, NDG, or Westmount, we always lived very close to my aunt and gram. For a very long time we actually lived in adjoining buildings, with second floor balconies that were literally a stone’s throw from each other.

When I moved to Toronto in 1976, my family weren’t far behind me, and soon, first my sister, then my mother, and finally, my aunt and grandmother, had all taken up residence in two buildings in the Yonge/Eglinton area, literally across the parking lot from each other. There was comfort in the proximity.

In 1986, my sister died, and in 1992, my grandmother went into the hospital, for the last time, in the last week of March. She’d had heart issues for decades. But she hung in, as was her style, right up until April 1st. Such a joker, my gram … it was like she wanted to have one last laugh with us, and pass on April Fools Day, at the age of 95. My mother died eight days later.

And now my aunt is gone, on Friday, March 29.

There is the feeling of a circle closing in my aunt dying almost exactly 27 years after her mother and sister. They had always done everything together, as much as they possibly could, and she must have been very lonely. living nearly another thirty years without them. I know how lonely I have been, without my mum and sister, and despite having had the love and support of husbands, children and grandchildren. There are some rifts of the heart that can never be mended.

Gram and her five kids 001Patricia Donovan was very much loved by her family, and the many nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and great-nephews that knew her. She gave so much to us, and I would like to think that we gave back a little bit of what she needed in return.

You know, you get to be a certain age, and it’s harder to cry, harder to justify the tears when you rationally knew that death was always to be expected at some point. And so on Friday night, I hid in my bedroom and watched the film, Christopher Robin, the recent follow up to the films about Winnie the Pooh .. and I remembered. And I wept.

There was so much more to my aunt than these few stories, but I have lost my words. In late spring or early summer we will gather in Montreal to inter Pat’s ashes, and then, I think, this very talkative family will share our memories, and laugh at the crazy antics of this passionate, talented, wonderful family.

My cousin Rita was the family’s bridge to Pat, visiting her, keeping her up on the family’s adventures, and keeping us informed on her health. Rita was the one who notified us of my aunt’s decline, and then death. In her email, she included a few photos, and this poem. I hope you will enjoy it.

FALL ON ME

Pale pink petals
Dropping from a tree
Fall on me
Fall on me

A minute ago
You were the tree
And now you’re
Part of me

From your branches
Showering tree
Rain on me
Rain on me

A week ago
You wouldn’t let go
And now you rain
On me

Pale pink petals
Waiting on the tree
Fall all over
Me.

Patricia Donovan

Pat early 80s Broadway apt 001Patricia Donovan   (1924-2019)

 

The Long Road From Normal


desktop computing 90sA long, long time ago, I used to play chess. Not very well, to be honest; I was probably a better backgammon player if anything. Or maybe I wasn’t all that great at either.

But here’s the thing .. I’ve played neither of those games in… gotta be nearly three decades. First, it was computers … when I fell under their spell, that was it for spare time. I was enthralled, seduced by DOS and data bases. I tend to get pretty intense when I dive into a new interest.

And then I got into politics – headfirst and totally submerged. It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been following politics seriously for about the last six years, but, you see .. I didn’t really need to before that. Things were ticking along pretty well – we didn’t get too far forward, but we also didn’t fall too far behind. Business as usual, really. And I was busy.

But then there was Harper. Oh, he’d been around for a while before he really started getting up my nose, but there came a point when I realized that his political trajectory was going to take Canada to places that most of those I consider friends and family, really didn’t want him to visit.

As things heated up towards the 2015 federal election, there were more and more issues in which Harper’s ultra-conservative bent seemed contrary to real growth for Canadians. Austerity measures in Canada worked against future prosperity, and his government’s penchant for secrecy and overreach of government powers of surveillance, especially in the drafting of Bill C51, felt way too much like a Big Brother usurpation of civil liberties.

Harper represented an old guard that was terrified of losing power, and determined to hold on, by force if necessary. Trudeau seemed a breath of fresh air, a loosening of your grandfather’s prohibitive rules, and a step into a better Canada.

And then along came Trump, and the world was never the same again. And probably will never be the same again, in my lifetime.

Now, the weird thing is, I knew, right away, from the day Trump swept down that escalator with Melanoma, like Boris and Natasha, that he was going to be the worst, most disturbing, and most damaging person, to ever happen to America.

trump melania escalatorFor a while I had recapped his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, and so this cast of characters were mildly familiar to me. This crew of misfit toys believed that they were the equivalent of American royalty, and displayed the same sort of quasi lèse majesté /insanity so often found from that mix of inbreeding and narcissism. The Trump family were petty tyrants – and they hadn’t even begun to tyrant.

Once inaugurated, I knew he and his family of damaged goods were going to rape America, pillage it’s treasures, and then burn it to the ground, before salting the earth, to prevent further generations from bringing it back to life.

chosen by god to make fun of trumpBut as bad as I thought he might be – he’s worse.

For at least the first year of Trump’s tenure, myself and a very large crop of ‘resisters’ lived on high alert, watching an administration filled with the worst appointees in history, picked solely for their ability to bring down every supporting pillar of democracy and justice, set to the destruction of America in as short a time as possible.

And, oh my .. wasn’t there a lot to see!

Amy Siskind‘s The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year, compiled a list of actions taken by the Trump regime that posed a threat to our democratic norms. Under the headline “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember,” Siskind’s Weekly List began as a project she shared with friends, but soon went viral. (Amazon)

resist mugDr Stuart Shapiro, a teacher of macroenomics at Rutgers Bloustein School of Public Policy, kept a diary of his own Facebook comments, titled, Not Normal: A Progressive’s Diary of the Year After Trump’s Election

In it, he chronicled his reactions to the incidents, tweets and policy proposals instigated by the new administration in it’s first year. His palpable exhaustion as the nation lurched from surprise to surprise, and outrage to outrage is a helpful reminder that no other presidency in recorded history ever dominated the news cycles as thoroughly and unceasingly as this one has.

And then there was my favourite guilty pleasure … The Resistance by Keith Olbermann

Truthfully, within a year of Trump’s reign, the general definition of ‘normal’ was no more – crushed under the weight of executive orders and a display of greed, arrogance, and corruption so vivid and intense that it often threatened to blind me.

mr corruption

Oh, sure, the Old Guard flailed about, and those bipartisan lawmakers remaining managed to get the Robert Mueller investigation into play, but the Republican party stood firm that their Dear Leader and his demented whims were how those once United States would now be run.

Every time Trump or any of his minions were caught for wrong doing, they immediately cried victim. But really, it is Jane and Joe American and their kids who have paid the price for this poor presidential pick.

Most of the time, I don’t really blame Jane and Joe for falling under the spell of a politician. When you’re trying to raise a family and make a living, a lot gets put aside, to be dealt with sometime later .. maybe after the kids go to bed. It’s all part of a life cycle; someone’s gotta be keeping those home centres and toy companies in business. I can totally understand why the average person – say from 30 to 50 years of age – absorbs no more than the loudest or most eye-catching information that goes on around them.

It just becomes really difficult to keep on giving the Trump Cult that benefit of a doubt as the evidence piles up against their idol and his feet of clay, and still, his approval numbers stay in the mid 40s. These days, the nation is just too damn tired and jumpy to even raise much of a fuss when Trump sets fire to another couple of million dollars on a  weekend getaway, or increases the debt ceiling by another trillion dollars or so.

Most of us following the Trump debacle had just assumed that the Mueller Report would be wrapped up, by now, and that Trump’s crimes would be exposed, and another can of presidents opened in time for dinner.

But nope … apparently there’s still a lot more rabbit hole to fall down.

There is hope, though. This week has turned out to be one of the wildest chapters in the book of Donald’s really terrible, horrible, no good, weeks. As the current White House resident met for a second time with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, desperately trying to shake off some of the stink of that fake ‘national emergency’ he’d declared just before taking a long vacation weekend, former personal lawyer and broken nosed ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen testified publicly about the Trump Foundation’s many quasi legal and often very illegal business workarounds while calling Trump a “a racist,” “a con man,” and “a cheat” before Congress, right as the New York Times released a new report detailing how Jared Kushner‘s security clearance had come about .. and it wasn’t nearly as secure as either the Donald or the daughter of POTUS had promised. Nope .. not at all.

Oh yes, a very bad week indeed.

Kim Jung Un got Trump to buy him dinner, give him a place on the world stage, enable Kim’s propaganda, choose Russia/North Korea‘s words over America’s own intel, excuse horrific and ongoing human rights violations, and walk away from taking the blame for Otto Warmbier’s brutal beating death, in a country where nothing is done without Kim’s explicit permission.

In exchange, the North Korean dictator produced a “White Paper on Human Rights Violations in the U.S. in 2017,.” where the tiny tyrant accused the Trump Administration of being a billionaires’ club, that harbors a “policy of racism” while exacerbating social inequalities and denying freedom of the press and health coverage to citizens.”

trump kim big envelopeOh me oh my and ouchy! Something tells me that the days of sweet, sweet love letters in giant envelopes arriving at the White House from his loving Kim are far behind us now …

I also suspect that a lot of that ‘locker room talk’ in the 2 hour 20 minute CPAC rally rant had much to do with the POTUS feeling increasingly cornered. It’s not surprising the mask would begin to fall off, and a little bit of the crude ‘pussy grabber‘ re-emerge. Thankfully, this time, only an American flag was molested.

Strange days indeed, mama. Or, as Daniel Dale tweeted, “Folks, these are the rantings of a sundowning old man whose brains are leaking out of his ears live on stage.

Can someone please point me the way back to ‘Normal’?

 

Surviving A Blue Christmas


by Roxanne Tellier

Man, I cannot stand Elvis‘ song, “Blue Christmas.” And I’ll bet you have a couple of holiday tunes you could gladly live without for the rest of your life … enough’s enough on the “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” amirite?

And no … we’re not discussing the ‘controversy’ over “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” No, we are not.

But.

But seriously … it’s that time of year, when people can get a little – or a lot – down about what seems to be an incessant and annoying full frontal campaign insisting that we all be ‘merry and bright’ and ‘ho ho ho’ ourselves into stupors.

A surfeit of merriment. Bah humbug. What to do, what to do, when you just feel blue?

csarn salons
That was the question being asked at a recent seminar I attended, that was hosted by the good people of C-SARN (Canadian Senior Artists’ Resource Network – find more info at csarn.ca.)

Facilitated by Matt Eldridge, from the Artists’ Health Centre, the session included curated info on dealing with holiday stress, and included much lively input from the attendees.

We touched briefly on the very real problem of Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD.) SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the change of seasons. Symptoms of SAD include fatigue, lethargy, anxiety, weight gain and sleep disorders. About 2-3% of the general population of Ontario have SAD and another 15% have a less severe experience. It is believed that SAD is caused by changes in the level of exposure to sunlight. At this point, the main treatment for SAD is light therapy.

Seasonal-Affective-Disorder-SAD

There are special light therapy lamps, designed to mimic spring and summer light levels, that can really help relieve some of the depression of SAD, but the lamps are quite expensive.

However, help is on the way if you live in Toronto! Several branches of the Toronto Public Library now have light therapy lamps available in-library on a first-come, first served basis, as a way to treat the “winter blues.

All you need to do is sit, read or work about 2 feet away from a lamp for 20-30 minutes, without looking directly into the lamp, but allowing the light to shine on your face. It may be hard to believe, but that’s all it can take to really help.

You can give it a try at the Agincourt, Brentwood, Don Mills, Fairview, Humber Bay, Malvern, Maria A Shchuka, Parkdale or Parliament branches, or on the 5th floor and basement Toronto Star Newspaper Room of the Toronto Reference Library.

So that’s SAD dealt with – but what if you are just generally bummed out by the holiday season?

Me, I hate the ‘heaviness’ of winter … the weighty coats, the accumulation of hats, earmuffs, scarves and mitts, and the big, sturdy, non-slip boots that contrive to make me feel like a Clydesdale negotiating a steep slope. I can literally feel myself getting shorter as I assume the mantle of wintry clothing. Literally. I will probably have lost another inch in height by January.

Some determinedly, doggedly, cheery people love to tell you that “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” My mission is to hunt those people down, and skin them for their magic coats.

But until I find them, I’m going to have to deal with not enjoying anything about surviving the coldest months of the year in Canada.

Perhaps it is time to embrace the Scandinavian concept of hygge (pronounced hooga.) This is a word that Danes use to express a mental strategy for coping with the winter months, describing an emotional coziness and togetherness. It is a time they spend indoors with friends and family, embracing the colder season as wholeheartedly as they do the summer months, and seeing both extremes as opportunities to cultivate the different sides of themselves.

danish hyggeHey … as long as it doesn’t include sports … I’ve never liked sports, either to play or to watch, so that leaves me out of a lot of the typical Canadian leisure time diversions and debates. About the most I can handle in terms of physical exertion in the winter is a lope to the nearest Tim Hortons for a toasty cup of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and a cinnamon dusting. I simply lack a sports gene, and find it unlikely I’ll develop one during my ‘golden years.’

winter wildlifeWhat I can always find time to do, though, is to spend a few hours with friends, to share a meal and indulge in lively discussions. Or to walk in a park, where some of our wild critters, who don’t migrate or hibernate, can benefit from a gift of the appropriate seed, treat, or suet.

I’m not a religious person, but I sometimes like to enter a house of worship, to partake, for a moment, of the peace that comes from the gathering of those who enjoy a committed faith.

Some people take great joy in volunteering, and of helping others by giving a little bit of their time or largesse to benefit those who have less than ourselves. Others look forward to participating in regular or seasonal religious ceremonies.

christmas eyebrowsI’m more of an indoor person, and can find tons of ways to amuse myself, whether it’s on the internet, or in communing with my pets. I love to search out old holiday songs, programs, and stories from other times and other countries, and to admire or laugh at how our sense of fashion has morphed over time.

Couple of things to avoid – if you are not feeling particularly cheery, go easy on the physical stressors: sugar, caffeine, alcohol and empty carbohydrates will just make you feel more jangled, and pack on the pounds. Be vigilant about eating properly, and taking the meds and supplements that keep you ticking along smoothly. Also, try not to spend a lot of time on social media; many friends and acquaintances like to take the season as an opportunity to put up their annual “highlight” reels … no, neither they nor their kids look that good all year round, and the dog is rented. Nuff said.

try something new SeussYou might be able to turn around some of your blues by making a small attitude adjustment; nobody’s perfect, but we all get a chance every new day to tweak what we’ve got. Why not try looking at your holiday challenges with an eye to a more realistic expectation of how your sister in law will behave after her third glass of wine? Is it possible that even Drunk Uncle will be a little easier to take if you practice a bit of radical acceptance of his all too human foibles? Some people just can’t help people-ing.

And the next time someone invites you to an event, or a meal, why not try saying an enthusiastic YES! to a new experience? The worse that can happen is that you spend a few hours discovering that you like or dislike this new person or food or thing.

Conversely, if you’ve spent most of your adult life hating one of your holiday traditions – this may be the year you finally say a resounding NO! to doing it any more. Walk away from petty squabbles, refuse to eat foods that you dislike, and don’t invite trolls to be part of your celebrations. While the holidays are a time of giving, they shouldn’t also be a time of unending and painful sacrifice in the pursuit of someone else’s happiness.

Everyone experiences the holidays and winter differently, but there are some tried and true ways to increase your own enjoyment of the season. Indulge your senses with the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and tactile sensations that fill you with pleasure.

10-tips-for-enjoying-a-long-winter-indoorsIf you are keen on Christmas carols, fill your home with the sound! Put on your favourite play list while you tidy up your environment and enjoy the scent of seasonal candles, fruits and foliage. Open up your curtains and throw a little light on the situation. indulge yourself with a special treat, because you deserve it.

Be gentle with yourself, and let your inner dialogue express the same tenderness to yourself that you’d show towards someone you love or care about, who’s dealing with a tough time. You are just as deserving.

Above all … pace yourself! This demanding round of lunches, dinners and soirees will soon fade and become last year’s memories, but we Canadians will still have a further three or four months of cold, snow, and ice to deal with. It’s gonna take a toll on you. So try to have enough fun with your loved ones during the holidays to make yourself, if not more tolerant, than at least a little more accepting of our country’s wintry gifts.

And however you spend this holiday season, I wish you the best and most joyous one ever!

happy holidays to all

 

Exit the Idiot Whisperer


Ever have, oh, I don’t know… about 6 or 700 of ‘those days,’ where you start to wonder if it’s actually possible that you just might have woken up on another, identical, but much stupider, planet?

thanks god none of you peole are realI have spent far too many hours attempting to reason with those who adamantly refuse to see logic or sense. The sad truth is that they are happy in their interpretation of the world. And I suppose I should be happy that they are happy. It’s all working out for them.

In the past .. well, up to about a week ago .. I would have spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to change someone’s mind. But the thing is, I’m not getting any younger, and the kind of gymnastics needed to argue with a firmly committed Trump cultist is something that no longer feels like fun.

It’s more akin to wrestling a pig. The pig likes it, but I just wind up feeling dirty.

10 commandments of logicThe few diehard Trumpists that get through my anti-Trump wall tend to be friends of friends. Again, in the past, I might have opted to be gracious, rather than potentially offend someone. Now, I’m more inclined to block the one, and unfriend the other. Tiptoeing around crazy people just feels too much like work, and baby.. I’m retired.

I’m tired of being the Idiot Whisperer. I quit. Research your own damn questions yourself. Use your Google fingers to do what every other inquiring mind has to do .. look it up. Find a decent source, and if what you’re reading actually agrees TOO much with what you personally feel about a subject, check with Snopes to ensure that you’re not buying into a hoax.

How hard can that be, people? Don’t repeat stuff that’s stupid. If you are unsure if it’s true, look for another source before you pass on that article, that meme, or that obituary. And if the only reason that you’re gonna forward something is because you know it’s going to rile up people – don’t share it. Life’s hard enough without people going out of their way to be ornery.

face tat failAnd for those people who might be job hunting, it’s best to keep in mind that those checking out your resume will probably also have a gander at what you share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, along with checking your references. You might want to go easy on the kind of uploads that get a person sent repeatedly to Facebook Jail. What you’re saying and sharing online is a pretty good measurement of how you’ll conduct yourself offline, on a social level, whether for business or pleasure. Social media is not the place to let it all ‘hang out,’ or to boast that you fooled that personnel interviewer by temporarily concealing your skin head and rad tats.

Here’s another thing we all have to stop doing ….. taking the bait of every professional AND non-professional journalist that hosts a webpage. Most stories, even those that are put up by highly reputable sources, still fall within the realm of ‘entertainment.’ It’s all about the clicks.

Yes, we agree with the 97% of climate change scientists who assure us that what we’re seeing is real. Yes, we agree with the majority of psychologists pointing out Trump’s massive mental issues and how difficult it is to deal with his deficiencies. Yes, his choices for important roles in his administration are tearing the fabric of America apart, and it may never be able to be repaired …

BUT…

Have any of our complaints and demands for change been heard or acted upon in a timely manner? Yes, Whitaker is likely an illegal, unconstitutional appointment to the role of United States Attorney General, but have any of our heated debates or stern warnings on the subject got him fired from the gig?

No, they have not. The U.S. is essentially an autocracy where things happen as decided by the autocrats, and no matter how cogent our carefully thought out arguments may sound, or of how angry we may become, our words and emotions have about as much chance of making a dent as a Nerf bat.

And our ruminations are about as important to the world as those of the Thirty Helens Who Agree on Coleslaw.

So, you may as well let a lot of those clickbait articles, and columns asking rhetorical questions, to just sail on by. The last thing any of us needs is to have a stroke over the very idea that raking up the over one million square feet of California forest would have prevented all that destruction.  (Spoiler alert: It wouldn’t have.)

Better to spend that time answering questions that may help you to figure out what historical figure you were in a past life, and if it’s true that you are a fire horse in Chinese astrology. .

Remember when going on Facebook used to be fun, and we’d connect with old friends and relatives and share cat videos and terrible jokes?

Yeah .. that all changed ’round about 2015. Now it’s more like negotiating an armistice or surviving a Civil War. No thanks, Zuckerberg. Most of us have one foot out the door, and we’re taking our advertising dollars with us when we find our next social media platform.

Now, I am not saying that I am going to turn over a new leaf, stop commenting and forwarding political columns and memes, and devote myself to some new hobby, like fly fishing. Far from it. I will definitely continue to attempt to make some sense of the political machinations exhibited daily, from both sides of the border. Someone has to keep an eye on these bastards.

novelty tea cut toiletI’m just saying that not all of us have to be on guard, all of the time. The holiday season is nearing, and a lot of the people whom we care about, really don’t care about politics. In fact, they would prefer it if your holiday gift to them this year would be a promise to not discuss politics at the dinner table. They’d rather have that than pretty much any of the novelty gifts you’ve been thinking of getting them this year … even more than that tea cup you thought would be a hoot.

I’m just saying that it might be time for us to do what the mass media and social media refuse to do – take a few days mental and physical break from the constant bombardment of stupidity, greed, corruption, whipped up paranoia, and hysteria that has become our daily diet.

idiot whispererI’m just saying that maybe it’s time to deny oxygen to the people and things that can’t survive without our steady attention. Maybe letting ‘the cheese stand alone,’ bereft of the attentiveness and arguments that are used to make him appear relevant, will help some of his most stalwart supporters to see what most of us already know – that the trump presidency and administration is a gasbag of noxious farts meant to keep us all looking in the other direction, so that the pickpockets can fleece us without our noticing.

Or maybe I really did wake up on an identical, but much stupider, planet. It’s as good a theory as any other out there.

 

Hold Your Loved Ones Close


Easter was magic when I was a little girl. My mum was a writer, so we would wake to a trail of poetic clues that would lead us to where the Bunny had hidden his goodies. As kids, any creature that left goodies, be it Santa, the Easter Bunny, or a Leprechaun, was all good in our books.

I will never forget the year that my godmother sent me a chocolate bunny that was as tall as I was! We ate chocolate until we were bursting, and then my mother had me take the leftover candy to share with my friends.

Trump as Easter BunnyIt was a simpler time. But I guess everyone likes free stuff, even if you know in your heart that you’re gonna have to pay for it in the long run.

I paid my Catholic dues as a child and teen, singing in the choir. “He is risen!” we chorused, as the dark days of Lent and deprivation came to an end, and the little snowdrops popped their heads up thru the last of the winter’s snow.

It’s been years since I’ve thought much about Easter. The kids grew up and moved away, and took the grandkids with them. Neither Shawn nor I are religious, and I got out of the habit of making big, fancy Sunday dinners decades ago. Not much point, with the family scattered to the four winds.

This year, however, we have had to acknowledge Easter. Shawn will be spending Easter with our daughter, son-in-law and seven year old granddaughter, along with his many siblings and relatives, all of whom do indeed celebrate the holiday, whether with chocolate or prayer, or a little or a lot of both.

Shawn’s youngest sister died suddenly on Tuesday, and he has traveled to Windsor to be a pall bearer at her funeral, while I am home, holding the fort, and herding the cats. She was just 46 years old.

Both of Shawn’s parents married several times, so he actually has a total of eleven brothers and sisters, though not all of them are related by birth. We don’t see them as often as we’d like, but we try to keep in touch via social media.

Alison Counihan LeeAlison was a lovely girl. Twenty years younger than Shawn, she had a positive, happy spirit that endeared her to all whom she met. When I think of her, I always picture her in the middle of a hearty laugh. Physically, she reminded me of the country artist Wynona, as she had a similar look and charm.

For the last decade, she’d worked with Value Village, managing the teams that open new stores in other countries, and was well loved by the employees she directed.  She was engaged, and was to have been married in a few months.

Twenty plus years ago, Alison and I spent a lot of time together. I’d often travel to Windsor to visit with Shawn’s dad, Asa, and the family, and spend some quality time with ‘the girls,’ all of whom were blessed with quick wits, good humour, a love of a good time, and mad dance skills. It was worth the long bus ride just to hang with Alison, Jackie, Mary, and Debbie. They were Shawn’s sisters, but they became my family and friends.

Asa died, and his frequent requests that I visit ended. In time, we just drifted apart. Everyone got busy, and had complicated personal and business lives, and after a few years, our interaction waned, finally tapering off to the occasional comment on social media. And I’m not very proud that I allowed those relationships to slip away through inattention.

love the peopleLife can get away from us. We’re always so busy, and then one day, there’s a phone call, or a knock on the door, and our opportunity to spend time with a loved one is gone forever.

Easter is as good a time as any to remember to hold our loved ones a little tighter, while we still can.

Alison taught me – or at least tried to teach me – how to dance to Janet and Michael Jackson‘s big dance hits in the nineties. I was hopelessly two left footed, but I would give it my best shot, and she’d try not to fall over laughing at my efforts.

She had such a big happy laugh.

Whenever I hear this song, I’m always reminded me of her.

Rest in peace, Alison. You are loved.