Putting the social in social distancing

inspirational message

For many of us, social media has been a haven these past weeks. It has allowed us to stay connected, share fears, laughter, stories and uplift one another.

Here are some of my favourite posts from friends and strangers that have brought little rays of sunshine into my day. Thanks in advance to everyone for letting me share your photos and messages–I used first names only to protect your privacy, but you know who you are!

Two dogs looking at a bed

This photo from my friend Trish with the caption, “Is there any room in that bed? That’s actually our bed—you should be at work.”

The wonderful music videos artists and everyday people are posting to share their talents and creativity. Here is my favourite: a couple at their piano singing a parody of Simon and Garfunkel’s Homeward Bound. Thanks to my friends Leslie and Jill for sharing.

#socialdistancingpickuplines on Twitter:

  • From Will Ferrell @itsWillyFarell: “You can’t spell quarantine without “u r a q t”
  • “Like the last roll of toilet paper, I’d roll with you any day”
  • “You smell so good, is that Purell you’re wearing?”
  • “Looking for your Prince Charmin? I’ve got a six pack”

A quote from my friend Kellie who has been posting #100daysofgratitude on Facebook:

“i thank You God for most this amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”

E.E. Cummings

This post from my friend Mark who always makes me laugh.

 

 

 

The daily video jokes my friend Jill is sharing on Facebook from her “Great Big Book of Jokes”.

Photos posted by my friend Cathy of inspirational chalk messages on the sidewalk, seen on her morning walk.

sidewalk message "party at my house when this is over"

And finally, these beautiful words of hope, shared by a fellow hockey Mom on TeamSnap posted above.

This week’s #HappyAct is to put the social in social distancing. Keep them coming everyone. Let’s continue to brighten our days.

The week the world stood still

My thoughts this week have turned to Anne Frank. For two years, Anne lived in hiding in a small attic with five other people in a secret annex at her father Otto’s work to escape Nazi persecution during the second world war. She was discovered by the Nazis in 1944 and died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in February 1945 from exhaustion.

All Anne had to occupy her days and her mind was a diary.

For many of us, the world stopped turning this week, save for the insidious march of an invisible enemy moving stealthily through our midst.

It has been horrific to watch the images from Italy.

Overflowing hospital wards, newspapers with pages and pages of obituaries, and lonely lines of hearses outside cemeteries as mourners remain in isolation in their homes.

We are all anxious, scared, uncertain.

And yet.

In the midst of all this chaos, there have been moments of unparalleled compassion, humanity, and sacrifice.

The Italian tenor who serenaded his neighbours from the safety of his balcony in self-isolation.

Neighbours helping neighbours.

Big corporations doing the right thing, looking after their employees as best they can and donating money, food, and rejigging production models to manufacture much needed medical supplies.

A group of kids performing a front porch concert for their elderly neighbour.

And the heroes on the front lines, health care workers coming out of retirement, working long hours in grim conditions and jeopardizing their own health to take care of the sick.

History has challenged us before. It will challenge us again. If the worst most of us have to face in the coming weeks ahead is boredom and uncertainty in self-isolation, we should count ourselves blessed.

Stay well.

Ed. Note. If you haven’t heard of an app called Nextdoor, download it now. It connects people in neighbourhoods and is full of people offering to help higher-risk individuals in their community right now with whatever they need in self-isolation.

 

No stupid rules–help Steve the cat

 

Steve the cat who was fired by Canada Post

Just before Christmas, a friend of a mine who lived in the tiny hamlet of Newburgh shared a story on Facebook about a cat named Steve.

For the past two years, Steve made a daily trek to visit the staff at the Newburgh Post Office. The staff adopted him as their mascot, and soon he became a fixture in the building, greeting customers and overseeing the daily handling of the mail.

Canada Post got wind of the story, fired Steve without cause and banned him from the building saying cats were not allowed at Canada Post.

Poor Steve didn’t know this, and every day, he reported to work, sitting outside the building crying and meowing to be allowed inside.

The employees and customers in Newburgh took a stand saying this was a stupid rule, and created a petition on change.org demanding Canada Post that Steve be reinstated and allowed back in the building.

As of this morning, the petition had 9,563 signatures in a hamlet of 500 people. The latest update from February 2 says Canada Post is standing firm and not allowing Steve in the building.

If there’s one mantra I’ve tried to live by and teach my kids, it’s “no stupid rules”. Here were some of the comments on the petition from people in the community:

“I live in Sydenham, Ontario and we have an LCBO cat! Chloe is an excellent customer service representative and I think every small town business should have one. It makes the business more community orientated and friendly.”

“I know steve, great cat, loving, caring, he deserves to be allowed entrance anytime he wants. He’s our mascot of the post office and we’re proud to have him!”

“Let the cat back in Canada Post. Fire the person who made the foolish decision.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to sign the petition to help Steve the cat, and don’t let stupid rules get in the way of what’s good and right in this world.

The loonie advent

Daughters with Salvation Army hampers
Grace and Clare at last year’s Salvation Army Hamper packing.

The holidays are a joyous time, but it’s at this time of the year the plight of people less fortunate than me weighs on my heart.

I took Friday off with the girls to do some Black Friday shopping. As we were driving down Princess Street in Kingston, the girls said, “Mom, look at that poor man sitting outside that store. He’s homeless.”

Then Grace told me about a challenge they were doing at their school. Instead of getting chocolate advent calendars, they were going to donate a loonie or twonie a day to a homeless person.

I said what a wonderful idea and promised to do it too.

This week’s #HappyAct is to do something to help others this holiday season. Two great organizations that have a number of holiday volunteer opportunities and programs are United Way and Salvation Army. We’ve packed hampers for the Salvation Army for the past six years. It is always the highlight of the holiday season for us as a family and a workplace. A few years ago, I also shared this very special advent calendar for the holidays, a Kindness Calendar. To read more about homelessness and how United Way is working wonders to address it, see this blog post. Enjoy the spirit of the season.

Where everybody knows your name

Pilot House Kingston

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

After work on Friday night, Clare and I stumbled across the street from my work to catch a quick bite to eat at the Pilot House before her evening volleyball tournament downtown.

It had been another long brutal week at work. I was cold, tired and hungry and knew we wouldn’t be getting home until late, and up early the next morning for more volleyball and hockey.

As soon as we walked into the bar, the stress of a long week started to melt away like the cheezy melt on the menu as the hum of laughter and conversation, and the warm, cozy atmosphere of the bar washed over us.

The Pilot House is your quintessential neighbourhood bar. Regulars perch on stools or mill about, slapping each other on the back as they share jokes and stories from the day. The beer flows freely, and the smell of fish and chips and vinegar permeates the air.
If they have menus, I’ve never seen one. The menu, which most of us know by heart anyway, is written in chalk on a blackboard. The only reason you look at it is to see what the day’s specials are.

In marine navigation, a pilot refers to anyone who steers a ship, and the little pub is awash in photos and memorabilia from the days when off-duty pilots of ships would meet there. In the old days, the building housed maps and charts for navigation. The pilots would take the charts and report for duty on their ship on the waterfront down the street.

It was the perfect tonic after a long week.

This week’s #HappyAct is to visit your local watering hole and enjoy a pint and cozy atmosphere to escape a cold winter’s night.

What’s your favourite local watering hole? Leave a comment!

Pilot House signClare at the stained glass door to the bar

Trivial pursuits

Ryerson alumni at trivia night

Are you smarter than a Ryerson grad? If you’re a university alumni living in the Kingston area, come out Monday night and find out.

For the past four years, my Ryerson alumni group has been running an alumni challenge trivia night at our home pub, Tir Nan Og. Each year the event has grown. At first it was just Ryerson versus Queen’s (boo…) but now McGill and Royal Military College participate, and others are welcome too.

I suck at trivia but my friend and fellow Ryerson alum Michael Onesi, who works for Queen’s by the way (traitor) is our ace in the hole. He’s actually won HQ Trivia three times. He is a trivia god.

Trivia is as Canadian as butter tarts, hockey and double doubles at Tim Hortons. One of the greatest trivia games of all time, Trivial Pursuit was created by two Canadians, a photo editor for the Montreal Gazette and a sports editor for The Canadian Press. And of course Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy is Canadian!

 

To get you in the spirit, see if you can answer these trivia questions about trivia:

 

  1. Which big company turned down the rights to Trivial Pursuit (and are probably kicking themselves to this day?)
  2. How much did the friends sell the rights of the game to Parker Brothers for in 1988?
    a) $10 million
    b) $40 million
    c) $80 million
  3. What were the shapes of the pieces in Trivial Pursuit?
  4. What is the singular form of the word trivia?
  5. Why is trivia sometimes associated with scandal?
  6. Who holds the record for most wins on the show Jeopardy?
  7. How many wins in a row did he have?
  8. If you’ve competed on Jeopardy before, what other game show are you ineligible for?

In the trivial pursuit spirit yet? This week’s #HappyAct is to join your local pub’s trivia night, or come out to ours. The action goes down at 7. See you there!

  

Trivia about trivia answers:

1. Virgin Group

2 c)   $80 million

3) Triangles or cheese wedges

4) Trivium

5) In the 1950s, trivia became popular on American television, but it was discovered the producers of shows like the $64,000 Question and Twenty One were feeding the answers to contestants. This became known as the Quiz Show Scandals

6) Ken Jennings

7) 74 consecutive wins

8) Wheel of Fortune because they are sister shows

 

 

 

Harvest the grape

Me in the vineyard

Yesterday, my friend Annie from Montreal and I spent the most amazing day picking grapes as part of a community harvest at Scheuermann Vineyard in Westport.

The owners Allison and Francois couldn’t have picked a more perfect day. As the first rays of the sun crested the hills over the rows of their picturesque vineyard, carload after carload arrived to help with the harvest.

Overlooking the vineyard

We first rolled up black netting that had been protecting the vines from birds, clipping it to the metal wires so snow wouldn’t build up in the months ahead. Then it was time to start the harvest.

The French have a word for harvesting grapes: la vendage. It has such a wonderful sound to it, and rolls off the tongue as sweetly as the delicious juice of the grapes we snipped from vines.

Dog in vineyard

 

We picked Vidal, a beautiful, light green grape. When picking grapes, you work in pairs facing each other through the vines. The buddy system ensures that no grapes are missed and left on the vine. The term picking grapes isn’t quite accurate either. You snip the stems from the vines.

Harvesting grapes can be back breaking work so each person sits on a stool. You “pick” with your partner, placing the large bunches of grapes in bins, working down the rows from post to post.

Woman with stool
The owners Mom, Francine won the prize for most innovative stool–tied to her bum!

The fruit was magnificent, large green bunches hanging off the vines—Francois later told us it was one of their best years yet.

bin of grapes

The day was spectacular. We took a short break to drink coffee from mason jars and have some homemade cookies, then it was back to the vines. By early afternoon, as our mouths were starting to get parched, they delivered cold beer and homemade pizza to us in the fields.

Pickers leaving the field
Francois’ son photo bombed this picture of us leaving the fields at end of the day

We worked hard, but it was so worth it. By 4:15 all the Vidal had been picked. It was time to celebrate.

We ran into our friends Tim and Susie and had a great day and dinner with them

Our gracious hosts uncorked Vidal and Cabernet Franc, which we sipped in big Adirondack chairs overlooking Wolfe Lake. Then dinner was served, a delicious harvest meal of garlic potatoes, cauliflower, roasted carrots and beef, topped off with the piece de resistance, homemade apple pie and pumpkin bread pudding with caramel sauce that bubbled on the pot in front of the open fire.

Destemming machine
Scraping all the stems away from the destemming machine

We dined al fresco as Francois and his hard working crew poured container after container of grapes into the destemmer (which removes the stems), then into the press to extract the juice.

Bins of grapes being emptied into pressers
Emptying the grapes into the presser

We picked 10 tons of grapes, about enough to make 10,000 bottles of wine. I was in heaven.

Bottle of wine

This week’s #HappyAct is to join a community harvest. Vive la vendage. And special thanks to my camera shy amie Annie for making the trip and being my picking partner for the day. Same time next year–a la prochaine!