Surprise!


There was a power outage earlier this week. It was a day when I was actually a little ahead of the morning … I’d eaten, dressed, and was nearly ready to drag on my winter boots, when everything abruptly winked out.

cat speedbumpsWinter’s dark at the best of times, and the sun was barely out. I could make out the shapes of the furniture, but overall, I was just hoping that the cats weren’t lurking in the hallway, waiting to trip me up.

While I waited for the power to come back on. I was pleasantly self-satisfied for having prepared for the morning the night before. I had printed out some course work, checked that I had everything I needed for the next day stashed safely in my purse, and had my transit fare ready in my coat pocket. I was good to go.

surpriseThat’s when I started to think about how most things that happen in our life – for good or ill –  are surprises, that come without warning. You can prepare … you can anticipate … but some things are still a surprise.

We know that our lives will have speed bumps to navigate – that’s just part of the human condition. No one gets from cradle to grave without encountering difficulties. Our characters both define and reveal how we react to those complications.

And it’s always a surprise. That unplanned pregnancy; the school you went to over the school you didn’t; the job you took for the summer that changed the course of your life –  to mash up Bowie and Lennon, we never know what ch-ch-ch-changes are in store for the life that happens while we are busy making other plans.

Surprises are supposed to be fun, but not all are. Our whole world can change in the blink of an eye, a fall on the stairs, or the turn of a shapely leg. There’s virtue in steering the arc of our lives, but it’s the unforeseen that often compels its trajectory.

ready for my closeupI’m one of those unfortunates that tries to be prepared for every eventuality. That is why my purse weighs 400 lbs. I never travel light; even a trip to the corner store finds me with hair and makeup for a cast of thousands at the ready.

And yet – I’ve been known to misplace my purse. And then the whole facade crumbles. I am lost in a world where nothing makes sense, because I feel out of control.

We live in a world where the winner is judged by the amount of goods and services he/she accumulates, which is why so many of us find ourselves coming to the end of a good run with far too much detritus. Little by little, I’m trying to shed my need to so closely control the ‘what ifs’ of the day. I’m paring down the things I keep and carry ‘just in case!’ in favour of a lighter mental load.

trust fallBut it’s tricky. And it takes a faith in the future that many lose as they travel through life. If enough events that you perceive as good have lined your path, you will feel differently than someone who has encountered a lot of disappointing moments. It’s like a trust fall .. where you’re neither trusting nor trustworthy.

When I was living in the wilds of Scarberia, and carless, every trip to the grocery store was fraught with a desperation more often seen in someone preparing for a hurricane or nuclear war. I was obsessed with having enough food in the pantry, fridge and freezer to survive to the next shopping trip.

Now I live two blocks from two massive supermarkets, and know that I can get whatever I need, with very little effort. I’m working on the ‘just in time’ model, that businesses rely on to increase efficiency and decrease waste. You buy stuff when you need it, use it, then buy more as you need more. Except cat food. One should always have a surplus of tins and bags of cat food, because … cats.

But I’m still loaded up with a lot of junk that I can’t seem to release without worrying that I’ll need the item ‘one of these days.’ I’m working on it .. but I do still have a box of Furbys from the Christmas of 1998 that I couldn’t unload on eBay.

I’m not fixing to die anytime soon, but nor are most of us, and some of us won’t make the end of this year. It’s just the way it is. Pretending that we’ll always have these fragile lives in our control is what makes our leaving so frustrating to our loved ones.

swedish death cleaningThe latest big thing in organizing philosophies is the darkly named Swedish Death Cleanse. It’s the process of cleaning house before you kick the bucket, rather than leaving the job to your loved ones.

If you’ve ever had to close up a loved one’s home, you know how difficult it is to sort through the gold and the dross, while mourning and trying to lead your own life. Whether you are an aging baby boomer or just bummed with our current reality, it’s a trendy way of dealing with our hoards.

No matter how much we invested in antiques and heirlooms, the reality is that these items are worth less and less as our generation and our parents’ dies off. Our kids probably want smaller, lighter furniture for their nomadic lifestyles. I’m also gonna guess that neither of my daughters is going to want my collection of cassette tapes from the 70s and 80s. hoarders paradise

I’ve put a solid dent in the collection of holiday wrap I’ve dragged around for years, but it still gave me a pang to see how many people were recycling full rolls of wrap after this Christmas. Can’t help it. Grew up thrifty.

But I have to get real, living in a much smaller space than before, and I would prefer my kids remember me as thoughtful and tidy, rather than a packrat.

Besides, sorting and donating some of my better ‘stuff’ makes me feel not only generous, but in control of what I’m letting go.

I’m also feeling a relief and lightness in clearing away the boxes. In a small space, it’s easy to feel like the walls are closing in. Ditching the stash opens up your living space.

womens world living roomI didn’t feel the walls closing in when they were lined with books, but just having chotchkies lying around does me in. I’m actually getting to the point where I feel a little creeped out when I see pictures of a typically overstuffed living space. It feels fussy and frilly, and not in a good way.

The Swedish word dostadning is a hybrid of the words for death and cleaning. The idea may creep you out, but what it really is, is a way to formalize what matters to you, and what you want to hand down to your heirs. Keep the things you love. Trash, recycle, donate or gift what you don’t.

face meltingPrioritize the preservation of sentimental and family objects like old letters and photographs, but also keep a well-labelled  ‘throw-away box’ for things that you can’t part with yet, but would like to keep away from prying eyes, like your collection of sex toys. Tape a note to the top of the box warning that opening the box will sentence the opener to death by face melting.

life is what happens LennonLife is full of surprises; some good, some bad, but all unexpected. That’s what makes those unexpected moments a surprise.

It’s great to be prepared, and it’s great to live in the moment, but even the most happy-go-lucky person lives happier when their lives are tidy and lack stress.  It’s human nature to want the smoothest ride possible on our journey through life. Sometimes we just need to do a little vehicle maintenance to ensure the ride is both exhilarating and fulfilling.

 

 

Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep


keep calm and gobble onHappy Thanksgiving weekend! Hopefully most of us will be lucky enough to be gathered together at some point with friends and family to share the bounty of the harvest – or at least the goodies we’ve bought from our local grocers — and that most precious of commodities …. our time.

It’s crazy how fast the days and years go by. That’s not an ‘old people’ thing anymore; even kids in grade school find it hard to accommodate all of the information and entertainment they need to constantly absorb in order to successfully process their world. Those of us with much to remember don’t stand a chance, post-retirement, of guessing the day with much accuracy. (Helpful hint: Write everything down!)

Although I’m not a religious person, I consider myself blessed. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, and a husband, family, and friends that love me. I also have a keen awareness that I am more fortunate than a great many people, who often lack the things that a lot of us take for granted.

While I do try to do what I can to help others, this weekend I’m grateful to be enjoying the hospitality of two lovely friends, who asked us to share their respective feasts.

toronto-skyline-nightOn Saturday night, we joined long time friend and writer Ira Band for dinner at the Island Yacht Club, on Mugg’s Island. It was a beautiful night, with weather more like August’s than October’s. Earlier this summer, the island was horrendously flooded, but is now back to being it’s luxuriously landscaped self. After a delicious Thanksgiving buffet, we alternated between enjoying the fireplace inside, and the view of the Toronto skyline from the comfy lounges outside. A perfect evening!

Today, we’ll be joining fellow scribe/photographer/Energizer Bunny Pat Blythe for her amazing festive spread. That woman can cook most people under the table, and still sparkle as the hostess with the mostest. We will enjoy the company of friends, and Pat’s famous pies, and who could ask for anything more!

i-came-in-like-a-butterballMonday will be Bring On The Fat Pants Day and let it all hang out. I can live with that.

But let’s talk about Canadian Thanksgiving. I like when we celebrate the holiday. Let the Americans have theirs on the fourth Thursday of November; ours is just better positioned. We’ve got Halloween at the end of the month, which acts as a speed bump before we get on the tilt-a-whirl that is the countdown to Christmas, and that’s just fine by me.

So why aren’t our holidays celebrated simultaneously, you ask? It’s all about history.

According to wiki, “the first Canadian Thanksgiving is often traced back to 1578 and the explorer Martin Frobisher. Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean, held his Thanksgiving celebration not for harvest but in thanks for surviving the long journey from England through the perils of storms and icebergs. On his third and final voyage to the far north, Frobisher held a formal ceremony ifrobisher-thanksgivingn Frobisher Bay in Baffin Island (present-day Nunavut) to give thanks to God and in a service ministered by the preacher Robert Wolfall they celebrated Communion.”

Over the years, succeeding waves of immigrants brought their own harvest traditions and delicacies to Canada, and we gratefully blended those new foods and tastes into what we now call Canadian cuisine.

And of course, we cannot forget how new Italian/Canadians brought their own tradition of the Spaghetti Harvest to our great land.

What we think of today as a traditional Thanksgiving feast owes a lot to what American film and TV has idealized as the proper fare… the groaning board that begins with pickles, olives, and hot dinner rolls (Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are a favourite for me) and carries on with mashed potatoes , roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing and giblet gravy, all but the preliminaries to the guest of honour, the roast turkey.

And when you’ve had your fill, and have moved your belt buckle over a notch, lo and behold, the desserts arrive – pumpkin or cherry or raspberry pie, carrot cake, ice cream …. Ahhh … yep, sounds like Thanksgiving at Pat’s!

I’m happy to have a day designated for giving thanks. We’re an entitled bunch of gits, and having to stop and actually think about what’s good in our lives is rare; we’re far more likely to be complaining about what we don’t have. This is a day – or a long weekend – on which Canadians can all agree that they are blessed to live in a country which, because of or in spite of current leadership, allows us freedom in so many ways.

thanksgiving-gratitudeI try to have an “attitude of gratitude” as the platitude goes. No matter what life brings, I try to remember that there are people on this planet who would kill to be in my shoes. Which is not to say that I don’t occasionally complain, but I do value what I have, and I thank those who make my life better, just by their presence and love.

 

“When we neglect to require our children to say `thank you’ when someone gives them a gift or does something for them, we raise ungrateful children who are highly unlikely to be content. Without gratitude, happiness is rare. With gratitude, the odds for happiness go up dramatically. The more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for.” Zig Ziglar

grateful-for-everythingSo, what are you grateful for in your life? I’m grateful for my husband, my children and grandchildren, and my family and friends, who continue to love me despite my many, many quirks and odd behaviour. I’m grateful for the food in our pantry and the roof over our heads. I’m grateful that I’m getting older, because the alternative sucks. I’m grateful that I get to write this column every Sunday, and some of you actually read it and even discuss ideas with me, whether you agree or disagree with my points. I’m grateful that I’ve never lived in a country ravaged by war or pestilence or famine, and probably never will.

Little girl asleep in bed.I’m grateful when I lay my head down on the pillow at night, and know that the odds are good I’ll be waking up in the morning to another day filled with possibilities. I’m grateful for every bit of my life so far, and the wonders that still await my discovery. For as long as I am on this planet, I want to be cognizant of the beauty that is all around me, and never take for granted the gift that is existence.

Even when the going gets rough and it seems like there’s nowhere to go but down, it’s best to consider the good you have in your life, and be thankful. That small shift in thinking can put things into perspective.

Never underestimate how important it is to have people in your life who are kind and loving and thoughtful. When all else fades away, love and kindness are the greatest gifts you can give or receive.

There’s a reason why this song has over 52 million hits … the simple lyrics, and the joyful delivery remind us of the things that are most important in our lives.

Have a wonderfilled Thanksgiving weekend, everyone, however you choose to celebrate.

 

 

Of Time and Tides


not ready for growingupNext week, I’ll be heading to British Columbia to visit my daughter, granddaughters, family and friends. My husband gifted me the fare; he knows I’ve been aching to see the girls. I’ll be there for my daughter’s birthday, and to reacquaint myself with my granddaughters, who are teetering on the brink of their teenage years, at ages 11 and 13. My daughter will have her hands full for the next decade with these two little minxes.

I, on the other hand, have ‘grandmother privilege.‘ I get to see them when they’re on their best behaviour, and to leave the room for a nap or to visit friends when they’re acting up. Life is good!

For years I was unable to travel. A weird combination of finances and bureaucracy kept me from obtaining the necessary identification to board a train or plane. My clever friend, Barbette Kensington, steered me through the morass of paperwork, and now … I am a genuine, legally viable, traveling person!

So I’m looking forward to this trip, for many reasons, and despite my insane fear of flying. It’s a joy and a privilege to be able to travel, and one that I’ve not been able to do in over 16 years.

Getting older is a privilege as well, although many of us hate to think about it. As our loved ones, idols and contemporaries succumb to time, it starts to seem like the world we once knew is fading away, leaving us adrift in an altered space.

Coming to grips with aging looks a lot like getting thru the stages of grief. You’re gonna have to go through denial, anger, bargaining and depression before you finally come to acceptance.

I have my own theory on how we deal with getting older; I think I read it somewhere, but it’s mine now. Basically, there’s three stages.

In the first stage, you feel pretty much like you always did. You still want to do all of the things you used to do, and for the most part, you are able to socialize, travel, and maintain your hobbies with maybe a little more resting time needed than before. But you’re still a you that you recognize, and if you’ve got a few bucks, you can finally relax and enjoy life.

In the second stage, something goes wrong, either physically or mentally. Maybe you break a hip, or have a stroke. Now you’re wishing you had gotten in that trip to Peru before your lungs decided high altitudes were no longer an option. You get a little angry that your social calendar looks barer than it used to, and you might start to tell people that you’re “not as young as you used to be,” in order to get out of doing any sort of strenuous movement … like walking up the stairs.

do not regret growing olderIn the third stage, you can’t do very much at all, and there isn’t much you look forward to anymore. That’s the last bit of the human journey, and probably the least anticipated.

Aging is inevitable, and few would prefer the alternative. Ready or not, at some time in your late fifties or early sixties, you will realize that you’re nearing, or in, that first stage, and that you have no idea when exactly the second stage will kick in.

We live in wonderful times. While we can’t turn back the clock, we can be grateful that medical science now allows an array of options for dealing with aging bodies. Hip surgeries and knee replacements are commonplace. Who knows what miracles will be available as we age and need a few more drastic nips and tucks?

laser surgery. jpgWe simply can’t anticipate what the future will hold, for good or ill. As a kid, I never dreamed that there would someday be a surgery available to correct vision … I had just assumed that I’d eventually lose my sight entirely, as both of my grandmothers had. Thanks to lasers, I had two decades of perfect vision. One of these days, I’ll have more laser surgery, and that will correct the effects of aging as well.

It would be great if there were big advances in cancer treatments. Cancer is a cruel bitch, and she’s taken away too many of my loved ones. Last fall, I had to finally admit that it was time to stop smoking, and I quit cold turkey. I’ll be dealing with the damage that I did to myself from here on in, and keeping my fingers crossed that I escape the Big C.

Took me too long to realize that you only need to change a few letters to go from ‘excuse’ to ‘exercise.’ A regular exercise program makes me feel a lot less stressed. Maybe the aquafit will also help me lose a few pounds. Couldn’t hurt. For sure it’s refocusing my attention on how good it feels to be able to stretch without pain.

The first stage of aging can be a bit of a shock – it’s almost as though our bodies are betraying us. After years of doing pretty much whatever was asked of them, our bodies have gone mutinous, and are demanding that we treat them with more care.

There’s several reasons for these changes, but they are all inevitable, so you may as well get used to them.

” Two biological phenomena appear related to the aging process:

• Accumulation of waste products in the cells
• Loss of elasticity of the connective body tissue

These changes, sometimes called nongenetic, occur at the cellular level. They have a direct bearing upon many declines we experience in our physical and sensory capabilities.

Many bodily changes take place over the entire lifespan— some beginning with birth. They are part of a relentless, post-maturational phenomenon called senescence (biological aging).

Senescence results in a decrease in the physical capacity of an individual, accompanied by an increase in a person’s vulnerability. As a result, any product or environment may become less friendly and less supportive for some people while adequately providing support for others.

Most of the changes that characterize senescence occur slowly. As they occur, individuals adapt to them. For example, people with arthritis may select utensils with larger and softer handles to ease the pain and enhance their grip.”

http://www.transgenerational.org/aging/aging-process.htm)

While the changes are inevitable, how we deal with them is up to us. Denying the realities of aging only leads to a more rapid decline, and if we try to force ourselves to perform at the same level, mentally or physically, as we did in our prime, we’re doomed to failure, and to setting up a negative feedback loop that tells us that it’s no use to even try for what improvement we can rationally expect.

What we really crave is a happy aging experience, and that’s easier to get to when we aim for smaller goals, with less dramatic gains, but gains that are progressive and ongoing. In a positive feedback loop of self-reinforcing and self- energizing behaviours, we can find the sweet spot of feeling comfortable at any age.

those who love deeply never grow old. jpgThere’s got to be joy in our lives. That’s what really motivates us, and leads us to the healthy actions and interactions that make getting up every morning something to anticipate rather than dread.

We need ‘fresh air and friendly faces,’ people that we care about and people who care about us. We need to love and be loved, and to hold dear those whom we treasure for the good impact they’ve had in our lives.

We need to appreciate where we’ve been, and what we’ve done, while embracing new experiences that stretch our abilities. And sometimes we need to get on an airplane even when we’re terrified of flying.

There’s no sense in denying your ‘golden years;’ there’s only the reality of how you’ll choose to live them. My choice is to make the rest of my life, the best of my life.

mark twain on travel

 

Mourning Gizmo


I first wrote this column four years ago today … still missing the little geezer … some pups take your heart with them when they go …

………………………………

I freely admit that I am a crazy pet person. I love animals, respect them, honour them, and hope I understand a little of what they are unable to tell me in words. Their eyes, their little furry faces, their body language; these are the ways we humans commune with animals.

Our sweet friend, Gizmo, lost his battle with heart failure this week. A little dog, with a heart so big, his passing continues to impact on all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance.

Gizmo 2012My half Siamese cat is really having trouble mourning the loss of her pet dog. We all had to say goodbye to Gizmo on Tuesday, but Jade, for some reason, had the hardest time of us all. She sat near him, even before we went for that final appointment, staring at him, seeming to beg him to rally, one more time … Jade has never known a life without Gizmo. He was her dog. She was devastated.

After we returned from the vet, with that empty pet carrycase, Jade wound herself around my ankles, and kept close to me, demanding an explanation for the lack of ‘dog’ in her house. I cooked liver for her, a special treat. I opened a fresh tin of tuna and put it in her bowl. But nothing would assuage her pain.

I made a cup of coffee, and headed outside. She followed me, talking to me in that strange Siamese language, demanding to know … where was her friend?  And all I had was the scent of the vet’s office on my clothing; I had no comfort for her.

She found a perch in the back yard, and stayed there, for hours. Shawn and I both went out, and talked to her, trying to get her to come in, but she was inconsolable. She was sad, angry, frustrated, and possibly even more bereft than Shawn and I. She’d never known a day without that crazy dog in her life. Suddenly, for all of his interruptions into her life, he was gone. And she was not happy

People tend to fall into two camps; the ones that believe that animals have feelings, souls and interior lives, and those who think that pets are just a convenient way to pass the time, impress friends, and to show their children the “miracle of birth.”

To my mind, they are companions, in a life that will have ups and downs, but will always end with you and that pet, furry or otherwise, going nose to nose and shoulder to shoulder.  My pets know me, and love me. We communicate, even if it’s not in a way that others can understand. They share my joys, my sadness’s, and are always just a few inches away from me when I need them. Have you many friends about whom you could say the same? I’ve never thought that any sacrifices we’ve made for these wonderful creatures is too much … it’s always been such a win/win situation.

Cat-Holding-HandsWhen we take on an animal, we do so, hopefully, with a clear picture that we will not only love them when they’re cute and cuddly, but also through the awkward teens, through their middle age paunch, and slow descent into old age. It’s a lot like taking on another human being. Sadly, many pet owners don’t feel that way; they coo over the baby and toddler animal, but can’t abide the inevitable decline. Pets age so very much faster than we do, and we, as a species that venerates youth and abhors the spectre of age, have to face our own mortality, when we look into the grey beard of that sweetie pet that has now transitioned, sooner than we expected, into an older dog or cat.

We took on a dog, many years ago, that enriched out lives to the point that we could open our hearts to other needy creatures. All of my pets have been rescued from situations that were not kind to them. There are so many animals that need to be loved and respected, so many creatures that were taken on as an amusement, and later shucked aside like an old boot, like a toy that’s lost it’s charm. I can’t, in my heart, condone anyone who takes on a pet as an ornament to be displayed only until it loses its gloss. Pets and humans, if lucky, inevitably settle into the golden years, bearing the scars and stretch marks of time, lovable only to those who shared the living, or those who can see past the years, into the heart within.

Like humans, cats and dogs are born adorable, ready and eager to love and be loved by those who’ve chosen to take care of them. The horror is that so many people make a full stop in their minds when the pets become older, less cute, and a burden.

Eventually, I had to bring Jade in to the house. Although she didn’t want to come in, I’m a lot bigger than her, and I could pick her up, and put her in front of a dish of tuna. She wasn’t happy, but I knew that she had to eat, to find the strength inside her. Her mourning will go on, I’m sure, but I don’t want her to fade away while she misses her dog; I want her to understand that I’d never hurt her, never do anything to her that would harm her in her life, but that I, as the person who can see when the time has come to end her pain, will have the wisdom, and the compassion, to do so in the kindest way possible.

But tonight, all that Jade knows is that her dog is gone. She can still smell the scent of the vet on my clothing, and she can’t forgive us for taking away her friend. All I can hope for is that she, like we must do for ourselves, will eventually forgive us for ending the life of a loveable dog who only ever candlelightwanted to love us, protect us, and bring joy to our lives. Because that’s really what it’s all about. When you bring a pet into your life, you make a pact – and breaking that pact for any reason other than compassion, empathy, and love is a sick abdication of your humanity.

 

 

first published July 14/2013 at https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/roxanne-tellier-mourning-gizmo/

Hackers, Bobby Curtola, and The Monkees


(first published on Bob Segarini’s  “Don’t Believe A Word I Say” blog. “)

Got an urgent email this morning, informing me that 427 million MySpace passwords had been stolen, and were being offered for sale on an online hacker forum by Russian CyberHackmyspace and TomerPeace.’ I was shocked. People still use MySpace?

At any rate, it seems this hacker also got into LinkedIn and Tumblr and word has it that InstaGram is next on their list of targets.

If you’ve got accounts on any of those sites, you’re asked to log on and change your password tout suite. Even if your account is old, and you believe what you’ve left there to be obsolete, you could still land in trouble if someone uses your account to do something illegal. Kind of like when you don’t report your wallet stolen, and the thief uses your ID after being busted for trying to rob a bank – always wise to let the authorities know ahead of time.

*****

From everything I’ve read this week since the passing of Bobby Curtola, one thing is abundantly clear –  – this was a man who loved life, music, and his fans.

Hearing of his death last week came as a real shock. I was just a kid the first time I heard his early recordings, but in the last few years, I came to know him as a lovely, funny and flirtatious man. French women always find kindred bobby curtola 60ssouls in flirtatious Italian men.

But I suspect he was born the sort of fellow that loves women. He may not have written his early hits, but the songs always presented Bobby as a hopeless romantic, who yearned for the girl “three rows over,” or begged a fortune teller to tell him where and when he’d meet his special love. “Will we meet on a busy corner? Will she know that I’m the one?

Bobby Curtola touches heartOr maybe he was just a guy that fell in love with music early,  as a kid in Thunder Bay (formerly  Port Arthur, ON) through his  successes in the Canadian west, and his conquering of Las Vegas, and never stopped feeling that joy.

Susan Jacks (The Poppy Family) remembers, “When I was in high school, just before becoming a regular on the national Canadian teen TV show, Music Hop/Let’s Go, I was totally in teenage love with Bobby Curtola. He was a pioneer in the Canadian music industry. Years later I would meet him and learn what a good person he was…we’ve been friends here on Facebook for quite a while as well. Sadly, this wonderful man passed away today at the age of 73. This is a tough one for me… We’ll miss you, Bobby.“

Although he was showered with awards throughout his career, beginning with winning the Best Male Singer award from RPM Magazine in 1965, through becoming a Member of the Order of Canada in 1997, and his induction to CHIN Radio’s Italian Walk of Fame in 2011, he remained a man of the people. Our first Canadian teen idol, the Bieber of his day, had no truck with tattoos and silly stunts, but rather preferred to work with dignity, establishing the first coast-to-coast touring circuit in Canada, lobbying for Canadian content rules for radio and TV, hosting telethons in Canada and the U.S., and raising money for charities and organizations around the world,

Bobby Curtola forever.pngHad he moved to the States, like Ottawa’s Paul Anka, he might have made an even bigger splash, maybe even been recognized by the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, which has yet to do so. But I don’t think any amount of fame would have spoiled Bobby Curtola. He was a good man, sometimes naïve, sometimes following his heart rather than the money, but always giving it his all.

He could never resist jumping on stage and sharing his love of music with friends. In one of his last performances, he hijacks Sam Taylor and the East End Love at the Peppery Cat, May 7, 2016.

I’m gonna miss him. My last memory will be of laughing (and flirting) with him this past May, when we connected at Canadian Music Week, where he was hanging out with friends at the Cashbox Canada booth. When he was dragged away by his chums – off to shake a few more hands, to have yet more fun wherever he found himself –  he kept blowing me kisses as he left …  I can’t think of a lovelier way to remember Bobby Curtola than to think of him exuberantly blowing kisses  to those lucky enough to have crossed his path.

*****

monkees 50th anniversary tourI fully intend to continue my lifelong obsession with The Monkees by writing about their new, 50th anniversary release, Good Times!  and upcoming tour. However I’ll need an entire column to talk about this record breaking album that’s burning up the charts, chock filled with songs written by the likes of Rivers Cuomo, Ben Gibbard, Noel Gallagher , Paul Weller, Andy Partridge and more …  for now … feast your ears on this tune …

And here’s a nifty little song that’s become an earworm for me …  “Davy Gets The Girl.” The Minus 5’s Scott McCaughey has been a fan of The Monkees since the age of 11. A few years ago, Scott gathered his like-minded Minus 5 cohorts for their latest album, Of Monkees And Men, crafting a song for each member as well as one for Boyce & Hart, the duo that wrote and produced many classic Monkees tracks.

Oh yes … there will be more Monkee repartee to come … but for now, get outside and grab yourself some of that good summer weather Toronto’s been enjoying, and make your own Good Times!

 

 

You And Me Against The World


I wrote this column three years ago … tomorrow, it will be 24 years since Mary Theresa Donovan left me the lone survivor of my crazy little nuclear family.

I’ve done a little editing, and added and removed some pictures.

mum Star win 1984 02I wish I could say that time heals all wounds. I know from experience that time softens the corners, but losing those you loved changes you, makes you different. A little more appreciative, perhaps, of those that remain, but always, always, vulnerable to those things that remind you of your loss. Some silly memories will make you smile; others will fill your eyes with tears.

I could, and probably should, write a book about her life, with it’s ups and downs, and the gallant courage she always showed. I am grateful for having had her as my mother.

******

It’s been 24 years since I lost my mum, and still there are days when I think, “Oh, I must tell Mum! She’d get such a kick out of hearing about that!” Then I remember that she’s gone, and it hurts all over again.

But I am lucky. I had a terrific mother, who was funny and smart and strong and she loved me, despite my failings. Even when I was at my most hateful, a rebel without a clue, Mum encouraged theresa, pat, roxanne and jodime and found the good in my mutinous soul.

My mother was just always there, usually chasing after me.  I wasn’t a clingy kid. You’d more likely find me way up at the top of a tree, or posing beside the mannequins on a revolving display stand, than hanging off her skirt. I was the kind of kid that kiddy leashes were made for; darting madly into crowds, racing towards excitement. I wasn’t a brat – that would not have been tolerated – but I wasn’t easy.

My sister Jodi and I got into scrapes all the time. Once, we thought it would be lovely to bring home lilacs for Mum. So we helped ourselves to armfuls of the flowers, oblivious to the fact that they belonged to a private school. When the caretaker spotted us and started yelling, we ran, with the flowers leaving a trail of petals behind us, up the street and up the stairs of our apartment building. Thrusting the shredded lilacs into my mum’s arms I said, “Hide us! He’s coming!”

How she kept a straight face when the caretaker arrived, having followed the trail right to our door, I’ll never know. As he ranted and raved about the desecration of the school’s trees, she calmly told him that her girls couldn’t have done it; they’d been home and in their rooms all night. Of course, we were scolded later, but also warned that, if we were going to pursue a life of crime, it might be an idea to hide our getaway route a little better.

Jodi developedjodi2 juvenile diabetes at 12. Always frail, she now became angry at the world. Heading into her teenage years with the stigma of twice daily injections and a restricted diet, she seethed with rage, flailing out at the rest of us for being healthy. My mum was a tower of strength, keeping her in line with love and laughter.  Jodi and I thrived on Mum’s ability to put a funny spin on even the worst tragedies. Our humor was dark at times, but there was always laughter, and always music.

I left Montreal in 1976, and within a year, both Jodi and Mum joined me in Toronto. For a while, we all lived in the same apartment building at 100 Roehampton, just floors apart, and when my Grandmother and Aunt Pat moved to Toronto as well, they took an apartment in the building behind ours. Our strength came not just from laughter, but from proximity.

When I was singing full time, Mum couldn’t have been more supportive. She wouldn’t let me lift a finger in the house, lest I break a nail, or be too tired to perform that night. She lived through the joy and heartbreak of my first two marriages, the birth of my daughter Cara, and later, Cara’s son Carter, and never passed judgment on the way I chose to live my life.

4 gens at weddingAfter suffering a double stroke that left her partially paralyzed, she fought to re-learn how to walk, and eventually was able to triumphantly show me her first baby steps. When my sister died, Mum and I were devastated, and it was only through sharing each other’s strength that we were able to carry on. And still we laughed, and joked, sometimes through our tears.

My friends adored my mother, and loved to spend time with her. We’d have regular Rummoli nights, where she’d display her cutthroat gambling techniques, wiping out her opponents and winning all the pennies we used as chips. Mum drew people to her, and her friends spanned all age groups. No one was immune to her charms.

Mum adored Christmas. She would transform our humble home into a winter wonderland, with her collection of heirloom and newfound ornaments. She’d make sure anyone who dropped by was treated to a holiday they would never 4generationsforget, and always had a few small presents tucked away so that no one was empty handed when the gifts were unwrapped. After her stroke, she was unable to decorate with her previous flair, but we compromised with a tiny artificial tree and a selection of her favorite foods to enjoy on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day, she would spend with Aunt Pat and Gram.(Me, Gram, Mum, Cara in front)

My grandmother, bless her, died on April Fools day, in 1992, and my mother finally gave up her own struggle 8 days later. I had just come home from bartending, about 3 a.m., when two policemen arrived at the door. Apparently they had been given the wrong phone number, and had been unable to reach me earlier. They told me that mum had had another stroke, and a heart attack, and was in critical condition. I cabbed it to Sunnybrooke. She was on the operating table, but they let me in for a moment to see her. As I stroked her hair, and assured her that I was there, she murmured, “don’t let them bring me back, I can’t face it again.”

As horrible as that was to hear, I understood. Going through rehab had nearly broken her spirit, and even those tiny steps relearnt had strained her. I told the doctors what she had said, but they were adamant that she was too young and would be strong enough to make it through.

I was brought to a waiting room, where I pulled out the book I had in my purse. Ironically, it was an Ashleigh Brilliant book of funny sayings and drawings, called “I May Not Be Totally pat, theresa and freda 2Perfect, But Parts of Me Are Excellent.” I had bought it for Mum, but I paged through it, to relieve the tension, and find a laugh as I tried to send healing thoughts to her.

Although the door and windows were closed, I suddenly felt a soft breeze against my cheek. Tears rolled down my face, but I smiled, and said, “Bye, Mum.” A few moments later, a doctor entered the room to tell me that she had died, but I already knew that she was gone. She was only 64 years old.

les belles damesA lot of odd things happened in the days following her death. Music boxes would start to play; strange, mystical items would suddenly appear.  My aunts told me of dreams they had had about her, laughing and dancing, a young carefree girl once again. I knew she was somehow letting me know that all was well, and that I mustn’t let my grief consume me. She was wise and wonderful that way. (Aunt Anne, Mum, Aunt Pat and Gram)

All these years later, I still miss her. Despite being a mother and grandmother myself, I will always be Terry’s little girl in my heart. And I too will always remember her laughing and dancing. Her indomitable spirit gave me the strength and courage to reach for the stars, for even if I failed, she’d always be there to help me up again. And that’s really all a child can ask for in a mother.

 

= RT =

(first published Mother’s Day, 2013)  https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/roxanne-tellier-you-and-me-against-the-world/)

Christmas and Snowbound in the Treasured Past


My mum embodied the Spirit of Christmas. She loved everything about the holiday, and she made every one of my childhood Christmas’ as merry and bright as she could.

She’d grown up in the depression – she knew Christmas wasn’t about money. When times were tough, she’d tell us it would be a “Hoodoo McFiggin” year – that meant the only presents would be things she had to buy us anyway, just to keep us clothed and fed – underwear, socks, boots. Presents were lGrinch xmas means a little moreovely, but some years, presents could wait. Christmas was about gathering with family, and sharing what we did have, and what we had to spare was love.

She just had so damn much joy and childlike belief in the season that it all came naturally through her to us … the breathless lead up that began months before, when she’d start asking my sister and I what we were going to ask to receive from Santa, and the admonition that we must be very sure of what we’d tell the Big Man when the day came … this was serious business! We were to name only one important item we really, really wanted. If there were other gifts, they would be of Santa’s choosing. We’d spend hours arguing over what toys were best, what we really wanted, and we’d change our minds a zillion times before our visit to Santa’s Kingdom.

cindy lou whoNor were the needs of others to be forgotten. We’d be given a small amount of money, and a list of those we needed to delight with thoughtful gifts. It’s extraordinary how far $5.00 could go back in the sixties. We would have been mortified to not have a gift to give to any of the family who had brought a gift for us. Some years would find us digging through our own stash of precious things, in order to find something we could wrap quickly and present to an unexpected guest.

In the run up to the Day itself, we’d drag out the boxes of carefully packaged ornaments that Mum had collected through the years. She’d linger over the battered aluminum stars made from pie plates, reminding me that she and I had made those together, one year when I was very young, and recovering from the mumps. She’d carefully unwrap the fragile glass ornaments she’d had since she and dad first married, each colourful globe a warm memory. soap bubble ornamentAnd she’d always linger over a set of orbs, some round, some tear-shaped, so transparent they reflected rainbows, so precious and delicate, “they’re like soap bubbles , Roxanne! Aren’t they beautiful?!”   

We had to have a real tree. She felt there was no point in having a tree if it didn’t come with that delicious smell, and the scratchy feel of pine needles under foot. The tree would find a place of honour in the dining room, and strict instructions about its care and watering were delivered. After the tree was set into the metal holder, she’d draw a bright red and sparkly cloth gently around the base, and then add puffs of ‘angel hair’ to make the tree look like it was floating on a cloud.

xmas tree old timeyShe’d drape the tree’s branches with long strands of tiny glass beads, the beads a little more worn every year, but shining nonetheless. The box of tinsel was precious too; after Christmas we’d gather as many of the used strands as we could and save them for the following year. We had two special toppers for the tree – one, a paper plate collage of an angel adorned with cotton batting that I’d made in first grade, the other , a plastic doll dressed as an angel, it’s halo tipped jauntily to the left, a scratch of pen ink faintly visible on it’s cheek.

Christmas songs would be playing on the little record player, and we’d all sing along as we decorated. Jodi and I liked to make up new and naughty words to some of the classics, just to make mum laugh, before she’d chide us to “Behave! Santa hears and sees everything you do!”

Once the tree was up and decorated, we went into a two week hiatus, where the other 50 weeks of naughtiness were replaced by determined niceness. We’d wait brearankin bass productionsthlessly for the Christmas specials to appear on the TV; without video or DVD, you had to be home to see “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” or one of the other animated delights, most of which seemed to be Rankin Bass productions.

As my sister and I got older, we began to appreciate more adult offerings; Jodi loved “It’s A Wonderful Life.” My favorite was “Holiday Inn,” with the moment I waited for being when the heroine posed in silhouette against a giant red paper heart, before dancing through it … and breaking poor old Bing Crosby’s heart.

 

 

And of course no Christmas was complete without the scary, but ultimately uplifting, black and white classic … Alastair Sim in “A Christmas Carol.” God bless us, everyone!christmas-carol-1951

There was also one special box that contained nothing but photos, recipes, newspaper clippings, song lyrics, and a few very treasured books. Our favourite to read and to have read to us was Erwin L. Hess’ Christmas and Snowbound in the Treasured Past,” a large full coloured collection of holiday poems, stories, artwork and photos, from 1961.

xmas and snowbound n the treasured past

We remember our best Christmas.  A flashback appears and this favourite Christmas plays on a very special screen in a picture of color, and we see the scenes we remember so well.  Immediately our story we’ll begin to tell…It snowed early that year.  In those days the holiday spirit was in the air with the first fall of snow.  Sleigh bells jingled and that meant Christmas was near!” 

We loved that book; it epitomized an ideal Christmas, one that we’d never had, nor likely ever would. But it held a promise, so much so that the phrase, “Christmas and snowbound in the treasured past” became our family code for how we imagined paradise to be.

First_Snow Jay MaiselWere winters colder then? Not always … one memorable Montreal Christmas Eve, the family toddled off to church in summer dresses and sandals, only to emerge into a starlit night made brighter by soft, fat flakes of snow gently falling onto the sidewalks. But that was an aberration; most Christmas Eves were ‘see your breath’ cold, brightened by our new knit hats and mittens that Gram had made to keep us warm.

Cold, colder and coldest was more often the weather on Christmas day. During my teen years, the habit was to gather at one of the uncles’ house to carve the roast beast. The best parties were at Uncle John’s big house in Chambly, as there was plenty of room for the kids to play, and even a special room where we could have our own holiday meal, manners and decorum cast aside, while the adults ate, smoked, clinked glasses and laughed about adult matters. We felt a little sorry for them – they didn’t even get to watch TV while they ate!  50s kids watcing tv

No matter where the party was held, in time the celebrations would wind down, and we’d gather our outdoor clothing, say goodbye to the umpteen cousins, and kiss all the ‘grumps,’ (grown ups) before piling into the car for the long ride home, across snowy roads and an ice-laced Pont Cartier, and then along Sherbrooke Street for miles, our bellies full and heads nodding, and inevitably slipping into sleep just before the car drew into the driveway. If we were small enough, we’d even get carried to our beds, where our new pjs and slippers awaited us.

It was a very different time, and, as with every generation that comes along, we were creating our own version of what Christmas should look and feel like. My mother’s memories were precious, but no more precious than the one’s she created for my sister and me.

Times change, and families are usually smaller than they used to be, and often times, a great deal more complicated. The name we give to that wonderful time of year when we get together to eat and sing and laugh and pray may be Christmas, or Hanukkah, Kwanza, Ramadan, or even Festivus. Heck, call it “Christmahanakwanzika“ if you want to.

What we call the holiday doesn’t matter – what matters is that we take the time to find that small, still place in our hearts, where peace and goodwill live. We gather with our families and friends to join our hearts and hands, to share what we have, and to give thanks that we … together … made it through another year, and are ready to enter another year, whatever it may bring … together.

coexist xmas

 

 

Hoodoo McFiggin’s Christmas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZm0WoTl1wU

 

(first published Dec, 2015: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/roxanne-tellier-christmas-and-snowbound-in-the-treasured-past/)