Ode to the stinky bulb

garlic

There’s a big stink in my little town and we’re proud of it. That’s because my neck of the woods is fast becoming known as the garlic capital of eastern Ontario.

Every year, the Verona Lion’s Club hosts a garlic festival on the Saturday of the Labour Day weekend. This year it’s a “farmer’s market” on a much smaller scale due to COVID, but it will still be a reeking good time.

I love garlic. I love it in everything: pasta sauce, salad dressings, roasted vegetables and potatoes. You name it, it’s usually better with garlic. Plus the medicinal benefits of garlic are legendary.

Google the health benefits of garlic, and you get a list as long as your arm: it prevents hypertension, heart disease, some cancers, it helps scars heal faster and fights bacterial and parasitic infections, it’s known for warding off the common cold and the list goes on and on. You can even apply it topically for skin conditions like eczema and athlete’s foot or on a splinter.

One thing I didn’t know was that garlic is also considered a powerful aphrodisiac. It contains allicin, which apparently increases the blood flow to the sexual organs making it the sexy bulb (if you can get past the stinkiness of your partner).

I’m not a doctor, but I remember working as a summer student for the City of Mississauga forestry department. I spent the entire sizzling hot summer sandwiched in our crew cab between two older Ukrainian guys, Peter and John who literally reeked of garlic. They were the strongest, healthiest dudes I ever met.

Garlic is also one of the easiest plants to grow and critters tend to leave it alone—a bonus in the country. You plant it in October, and harvest it in the summer. Once the scapes (the green curly part on the end) starts to curl, you cut them off so all the energy goes into the bulb. I make garlic scape pesto with my scapes which is yummy as a base for pizza or on pasta or burgers. It’s delish.

This week’s #HappyAct is to join me in paying tribute to the stinky bulb. My garlic was puny this year, so I will definitely be stocking up on some new varieties to plant at this year’s garlic festival.

The four most important words you can say

View up the lake

I was standing on my dock today, watching the sun sparkle on the water on yet another glorious summer day, and all I could think was “How lucky am I?”

How lucky am I to be able to wander up my driveway on a jet black night, gaze at the stars and milky way, and watch meteors stream across the sky?

How lucky am I to have a family who loves me and makes me laugh and who I still want to spend time with more than anyone else in the world?

How lucky am I to be healthy and happy in a world where at every turn, there is a constant reminder we should never take our health for granted?

How lucky am I to have never enough, but enough, money for my wants and needs?

How lucky am I to have a spouse and partner who deserves his crown as the President Choice of Husbands?

How lucky am I to have friends and neighbours who look out for each other and know the value of community?

How lucky am I to watch the grin on my first-born’s face as she lands a five-pound bass after it dances across the water?

Some people say, just be lucky you’re alive. But being alive doesn’t make you lucky or happy.

I have had my share of loss, grief, pain, fear, doubt, and uncertainty.

But how lucky am I?

Note: There’s still time to catch the Perseid meteor shower. The Perseids peak every August as the earth passes through the debris of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. They are supposed to be even more spectacular this year. Last night didn’t disappoint. I saw three meteors, one fireball that spanned the entire sky. We found 11 p.m. to midnight to be the best viewing time. Look to the northern part of the sky near the big dipper. For more on star gazing, see my post gaze at the stars.

If I were Oprah Winfrey–my commencement speech to the graduating class of 2020–The Next Act

Clare at her Grade 8 graduation

My two beautiful daughters graduated this past week, one from high school, one from elementary school. There were no dances, no proms, no gatherings of proud parents watching graduates parade across a stage in gown and cap. There was a 15-minute interval where they picked up their diplomas and awards and had their picture taken with one or two family members, and then that was it.

My heart goes out to all of these kids, and I couldn’t help thinking, if I was some big celebrity who was asked to deliver a commencement address to the graduating class of 2020, what would I say?

Here would be my Oprah speech:

The Next Act

It wasn’t supposed to end this way.

I know this isn’t the graduation you dreamed of.

You should have been dancing. Hugging. Celebrating with your classmates. Dreaming and looking ahead with excitement and anticipation to the next act in your life.

But you are not the first class to graduate in uncertain times. There have been those before you who have graduated in times of war and economic downturn.

Graduation is by design, a time of uncertainty and change. But we acknowledge this year is different.

in addition to the natural uncertainty of the questions every graduate faces, college or university, work or travel, you have the pressing uncertainties of a world in flux and change.

#BlackLivesMatter. Climate change. Coronavirus.

You will forever be known as the graduating class of COVID-19.

We are so sorry this happened to you.

It shouldn’t have ended this way, but know how proud we are of you and how confident we are that you will come through this stronger, smarter and more resilient.

Although you may not see this now, you have been given a unique graduation gift.

A gift of time to reflect on your goals, dreams, purpose and future.

A gift of clarity of what matters most, human kindness and acceptance, our natural world, and the importance of family and human connection.

These past few months have given you an education no institution ever could.

So what will be your next act?

Whatever it may be, know there is a difference between “purpose” and “a purpose”.

Purpose is sometimes portrayed as one all-consuming passion. You may not all be Greta Thunbergs, but you can find a purpose in everything you do.

Being a good friend. A good student. A good worker. A good mother or father. Someone who cares and gets involved in their community.

Purpose is not a single act.

Finally, be kind to one another. Seek what brings us together as humans, and eschew those that divide and remember you belong to each other. Do better than our generation has done.

Above all, whatever your next act in life, make it a purposeful and happy one.

And if I really was Oprah, “you win a mask, and you win a mask and you win a mask…”

Two girls graduating

Be like Bill Murray

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd photo

If you’re like the rest of the world right now, you’re desperately looking for the next great show to watch on Netflix.

If that’s the case, add The Bill Murray stories to your viewing list. Dave and I watched it last week, and it’s a funny, entertaining and enlightening chronicle of a man who has embraced the idea of living in the moment and spreading joy to people he meets.

An alum of Saturday Night Live and Second City, Bill Murray is a legend for his comedy and long list of film credits from Ghostbusters to Meatballs to meatier roles like Lost in Translation. But his real legendary status stems from his random encounters with normal people, which has “earned him nothing short of godlike admiration from people around the world.”

The documentary shows him doing dishes at a London house party, playing football in the park with a bunch of university students and serving up drinks at a bar in Austin Texas. People love him, not because he is a celebrity, but because he becomes one of them.

We had our own Bill Murray story in our little neck of the woods a couple of years ago. It was a Saturday night, and our local pizza joint, The Pizza Place in Harrowsmith was rocking. In walks Dan Aykroyd with Bill Murray (the Aykroyds have a family cottage in our area and Dan is a regular around here). The guys took pictures with the locals, and it made it into the local paper.

Sure, maybe only celebrities can crash a wedding or walk into a house party uninvited and be welcomed with open arms. But we can all be a little bit more like Bill Murray and go with the flow, take an interest in others and make the most of the moment you’re in with the people around you.

The circle of life

Elton John lyric The Circle of Life

My neighbour Kim has been supplying us with fresh eggs since she’s been working from home due to COVID-19.

My other neighbour Charlene gave birth to a beautiful healthy girl, Angeline Grace on Tuesday.

With the fresh eggs Kim gave me, we made homemade banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, quiche and stew for the budding family next door.

There is a circle to all things in life.

Sometimes we don’t understand the circles that seem to swirl out of our control, but their sphere is eternal.

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