The Book Of Thank You ~ Post Three: Thank You Mrs. Carter


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The year was 1971.

Mrs. Carter was my 7th grade home room school teacher.

She was grandmotherly both in nature and appearance and was always neatly dressed in a sweater and skirt. She wore gold rimmed glasses and spoke with a British accent.

Mrs. Carter introduced me the concept that reading could be fun. She was also the first person that I can remember who ever read to me.

Looking back, it’s been hard to for me to remember the first book that she read to us. If I had to make a guess, I’d say the book was THE MOUSE THAT ROARED.

It was read to us in small doses as class time permitted. Sometimes we got to listen to her read for five minutes. Sometimes we got a full half hour.

We all enjoyed listening to her lovely British cadence. I was struck by the confident manner she showed to us as she read. She seemed to actually enjoy reading aloud in front of others.

I wondered if I would ever be able to read a story to someone else.

My first introductions to reading aloud in front of others was in school and always tinged in awkwardness and embarrassment, I’m sure we all remember that uncomfortable feeling.

When I was six years old, my Father would make me read him a story from my German book of Grimm fairy tales. Then, the purpose of reading was all about practising my German and had little to do with sharing joy.

The first books that I remember reading in their entirety on my own were the TRIXIE BELDEN mystery series when I was nine years old. After that I read CHERRY AMES, STUDENT NURSE and then the NANCY DREW mysteries. I was twelve years old by the time I finished them.

As my children were growing up I tried to make it a point to read to my daughters from time to time. I read them the CHRONICALS OF NARNIA and the HARRY POTTER series. My impression of Hagrid was very well received.

Then there was the time that I was reading a particularly touching Christmas novel THE TIMEPIECE by Richard Paul Evans to my youngest daughter. While I was overcome with teary emotion, my daughter handed me one tissue after another as I wept inconsolably while reading the final chapter.

Good times.

Indeed, the joy of sharing a book with someone else can be a very good thing.

Thank you Mrs. Carter.


The Book Of Thank You ~ Post Two: Thank You Miss Jane


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There are hundreds of podcast covering lots of different subjects such as music, religion, history, etiquette, television, entertainment, etc. etc.

By the way, a podcast is a radio show of shorts, except it is not delivered via a radio signal but rather downloaded from the internet onto your smartphone.

It’s always a good night when I can listen to a podcast and be introduced to new subject matter that I may not have heard of otherwise.

About two weeks ago I started listening to THE MINIMALISTS podcast.

If you’ve never heard of them, the minimalists advocate downsizing possessions in search of a more meaningful life.

I was immediately eager to find out how I could downsize as I am finding it hard to get rid of things that I have been accumulating for decades.

For whatever reasons, I have never given much thought as to what I would eventually do with all the stuff I had been accumulating. In my ignorance I just kept collecting more and more stuff. More books, more mugs, more records, more wool, more knitting needles.

More rubber ducks.

No word of a lie.

Case in point:

Now, I work with the lovely lady who I call Miss Jane.

She is very smart and an excellent conversationalist. We talk about history, religion, art, steampunk jewelry. Her necklaces have always fascinated me. They’re more like totems which usually have a cultural or religious significance.

From early on in our friendship one of the many things that I adored about Miss Jane is that she is as adept at discussing one of my favourite subjects, civil war history, as she is drawing portraits or designing fabrics.

Four years ago, she presented me with a small plastic shopping bag.

I peeked and looked inside.

To my surprise, I pulled out a General Stonewall Jackson Doll in it’s original packaging as if it had never been opened. General Stonewall Jackson was a confederate General during the American civil war.

She told me that it had been given to her as a gift.

The doll looked like it has the same measurements and attributes as a Ken doll, like in Barbie and Ken.

Miss Jane told me she was in the process of decluttering her home.

In all the years that she’s owned the doll, she never found any use for it.

Of course, I thought to myself.

Who would?

She offered it to me as a gift and asked if I would take it off of her hands.

I said yes and then thanked her for her kindness.

A few minutes later, as I watched her walk away, a question came to mind.

That question was…

“What am I going to do with a Stonewall Jackson Barbie doll?”

It was at that moment that I knew it was time to start thinking about downsizing my collections, or at least to stop collecting stuff.

That is why I would like to thank dear Miss Jane.

Without your kind gift, I may have never had that long overdue epiphany.

For that I am grateful…

And by the way…

If anyone is interested in acquiring a General Stonewall Jackson doll,

…please let me know.



The Book Of Thank You ~ Post One



Three days ago while in the car with my husband, we pulled up to a local corner store. As he got out of the car I asked him to pick me up a package of postage stamps.

“I’ve been meaning to write out a few thank you notes,” I told him as he got out of the car.

Being the good husband that he is, a few moments later he was handing me a ten-pack of postage stamps.

Now three days later, the stamps are still laying unused on my coffee table.

As I was getting ready for work tonight I stared at those stamps and thought about the thank you notes I never wrote. Then my thoughts went to all the unwritten thank you notes that I’ve gathered in my life.

I have no doubt that I will eventually get some of those thank you notes written.

But unfortunately they never get written soon enough…

Or often enough…

There is a quote by John Burroughs that I like to repeat to myself from time to time.

It goes:

The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.

I’m currently compiling some long overdue thank you notes to family and friends.

As you will see in the days and weeks ahead…

I have a great deal to be thankful for.

My Daily Distraction ~ Post 198: Carpe Beanum: Seize The Coffee


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Carpe Beanum… Seize The Coffee!

Some memories never fade.

It was just this morning as I was making the coffee when I remembered back to the times when my husband and I brought our young children to Toronto to visit their great grandparents.

During our visits with my Grandparents, came the time when we had our inevitable “Kaffeeklatch,” which is the Gernan equivalent for British “Tea Time.”

That was when Oma and I would busy ourselves in her kitchen. She would prepare her signature dessert, fried Ochsenaugen, which are quite similar to our well known Canadian Timbits.

Then, she would always designate me to make the coffee.

Now, thirty years later I can still hear my Grandmother, or Oma as we called her, instructing me in German with a firm, yet loving tone of voice to:

“Mach es eine gute caffee!”

Which in English means:

“Make it a good coffee!”

This morning, as I dipped the measuring spoon into the awaiting ground coffee beans I could feel that memory ever so gently guiding my hand to scoop up just the right amount…

… Plus a little bit more!

After taking three sips of the resulting perfect cup of coffee, I knew I had indeed made…

“Eine gute caffee.”

I am fully confident that I will always have the ability to do so.

And for this, as I savour the morning coffee down to the final few sips…

…I find myself most grateful.

My.Daily.Distraction ~ Post 197: Saying “YES” To The Toilet Paper Wedding Dress


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In an attempt to gain a deeper insight of what bridal shower games are available for my daughter’s upcoming bridal shower other than the…

‘Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Game…’

I took the liberty of asking a coworker what her favorite bridal shower game was.

If you’ll remember from my previous post the…

‘Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Game…’

…was the bride-to-be’s personal choice for favourite shower game that she wanted to see included in the festivities.

My coworker’s answer to the question I had put to her was:

“I really like the one where you have to put on pantyhose with oven mitts.”

“Could you repeat that please,” I asked her, hoping that I had heard her wrong.

She repeated it for me, and sadly, yes…

…I had heard her correctly the first time.

I was horrified.

Can you imagine a roomful of women who are already impeccably dressed up for a bridal shower and then asking them to participate in a game by putting on a pair of pantyhose while wearing oven mitts.

I couldn’t.

It was just to painful for me to think about.

Seeing the look on my face, my coworker tried to soften her suggestion by laughingly adding:

“It’s a hoot.”

Only if you enjoy watching women go into contortions, I thought to myself.

My luck, someone would probably put their back out.

I resolved not to ask anymore opinions on shower games.

It was just too dangerous.

The following Sunday, I found myself at a local dollar store picking up odds and ends for the shower.

This included the 36 rolls of toilet paper for the favoured shower game. Thirty guests were invited, and they were to be broken up into groups of thee. That would make three rolls per group plus a few extra rolls for good measure.

In an attempt to make the game a little more interesting I decided to purchase a few additional items to help guests add their own personal touches as they construct their versions of the perfect toilet paper wedding dress:

Scotch tape
Duct tape
Crepe paper
Plastic shower curtains

There, I thought to myself as I watched the cashier bag it up…

I found myself beginning to look forward to the utter madness of the upcoming bridal shower games.

Bring it on.

Photo taken by Holly Gonçalves

My.Daily.Distraction ~ Post 196: “The Day The Earth Smiled”


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Where were you on July 19, 2013 at approximately 4:30 p.m. EST?

The reason I ask you this, is because that this the exact date when Carolyn Porco, leader of the imaging science team on the Cassini mission, asked the entire Earth’s population to stop what they were doing and go outside to smile as the unmanned spacecraft Cassini took their picture.

Cassini, at that time was in orbit around Saturn.

This picture became known as…

“The Day The Earth Smiled.”

This photo, which you see above, shows our Earth as the brightest star visible, just right to the centre of the photo.

The following is part of a discussion that Carolyn Porco had during the radio program “The Infinite Monkey Cage,” an irreverent BBC science program hosted by Professor Brian Cox and Robin Ince.

It occurred to Carolyn Porco as she was planning Cassini’s photo shoot of the Earth that:

“Wouldn’t it be great, instead of taking a picture, and then two weeks later telling the people of the world…

‘Hey world, we took your picture two weeks ago…’

…Why don’t we tell the people of the world ahead of time, that in two weeks, or maybe a month’s time that your picture is going to be taken from a billion miles away from the orbit of Saturn.

We should invite them to go out and appreciate the moment that the picture is being taken.”

Upon hearing this, I immediately began to think back as to where I would have been on July 19, 2013 which would have been a Friday.

Chances are, I was in bed, sleeping off my night shift.

It was a busy and awkward time for us as we were in the midst of painting, and waiting for the long overdue delivery of some new living room furniture.

I’d like to think that had I known about Cassini’s photo shoot, I would have set the alarm so that I could venture out into my front yard and thereby participated in Cassini’s picture of Earth.

Since I am not able to share a personal account of this occasion, I’m very happy to tell you that one person who was aware of the Cassini drive-by picture taking was Sam.

After the event, Sam wrote to the Cassini Space Mission headquarters and shared his experiences.

Sam wrote:

“Phoebe, age 10 and I got the telescope out on the patio. Under a beautiful, clear Southern British sky we gazed out upon Saturn, revelling in the fact that a space aircraft was looking back on us.

She asked lots of questions about Saturn, and at the appointed time, I raised a glass of fine red wine, she, a glass of fizzy pop. We said said cheers to Saturn, to Cassini, to each other, and then we smiled and waved and cheered and took photos of ourselves both beaming.

It was perfect.”

What a happy occasion that must have been for Sam and Phoebe.

Carolyn Porco reports that many people wrote in and shared their experiences.

Some climbed mountains in an effort to get a wee bit closer to the camera. Some interrupted their meals, to go outside and contemplate their place in the cosmos as Cassini took their snapshot.

I have no doubt that this, personally would have been a stellar occasion for my Parents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins had we been blessed with the same opportunity.

We all loved that sort of thing.

I’m sure that family members who read this would agree with me that had we been able to celebrate this together in typical fashion…

There would have been food…

There would have been singing…

There would have been prayer…

… And above all, there would have been unmitigated joy.

One can only wonder if Oma (Grandmother) would have removed her glasses, as she always did, when her picture was being taken.

How much cheer that very thought brings me.

For more information…

A You Tube video of raw footage from Cassini can be found here:

To hear this podcast, download the episode THE INFINITE MONKEY CAGE U.S.A. TOUR: SAN FRANCISCO which can be found here:

Many thanks to the BBC, Professor Brian Cox, Robin Ince, ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ and Carolyn Porco for an incredible episode.

~ ~ ~ ~

My.Daily.Distraction ~ Post 195: Fifty Shades Of Candy


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The first thing that I noticed as we walked into the room where Jen had booked the shower were the beautiful tables covered in linen. People were milling about setting tables and preparing the buffet.

That’s when it hit me…

This is really happening.

A bridal shower for my baby girl.

It was a moment.

Then it was time to get to work.

The first things that we unpacked were the boxes and bags of candy that we had been stockpiling for over a month.

I was so looking forward to having a candy bar at Aria’s shower.

It was at my niece’s baby shower that I was first introduced to the concept of a “Candy Bar,” which really captured my imagination.

How glorious it was to have been given a small sack and then to fill it with white chocolate bark, jelly beans, sugared pretzel sticks and a cake pop.

Jen agreed to make the cake pops, and I had resolved to hunt down all the jelly beans, chocolates, ju-jubes, toffee, and lollipops, and let us not forget the bomboniere, or more commonly known as candy coated almonds.

Almost as much fun as hunting down the candy was stalking the store shelves for decorative containers to display our tasty treats. Our favourites were the retro clear glass jars, just like the ones I remember as as a child when I visited the five and dime store.

Jen and Chantel, one of the bridesmaids had volunteered their Victorian cup and saucers sets for added decor.

I can’t believe the fun we had in setting it up.

Even more astounding, is the fact that virtually all the candies arrived at the shower intact and unmolested.

Except of course for a bag of strawberry jujubes that I had commandeered during a weak moment while watching Turkish travel documentaries with Richard Ayoade.

As Jen and I were finally placing the finishing touches to the candy bar, we both stepped back and took in the vision before us.

Willy Wonka would have been proud.

My.Daily.Distraction ~ Post 194: Spring Shower


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The date we had set for Aria’s bridal shower was June 14.

My oldest daughter Jennifer volunteered to throw the shower.

She booked the hall, arranged the luncheon and picked out the door prizes.

Aria would fly in from Winnipeg for two weeks. This would give her time to finalize her wedding plans and attend her bridal shower.

I had booked off two weeks from work as well. One week before the shower and the week after the shower. One week to prepare, and the following week to recover.

Coincidentally, June 14 date set for the shower was also my parents wedding anniversary.

And that did not exactly end well.

Maybe this is why I found myself so nervous about Aria’s bridal shower.

I really had nothing to fear.

Actually, I did have something to fear.

Aria’s bachelorette party was being held on June 13, the night before her bridal shower.

You would be scared too.

In spite of Aria’s profuse promises that she would still be among the living and hangover free, I still had my doubts.

Then with only days to go before the shower, Aria told me that her bachelorette party had been moved from one night before the shower to two nights before the shower.

Good news indeed.

When Jennifer asked Aria if there was anything that she wanted to see included in the shower, she responded that she wanted the…

“Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Game.”

To be honest, I didn’t much like the sounds of that.

Upon asking for details, I was told that the ladies are split up into groups and given reams of toilet paper. Their job is then to dress a member of their group in a wedding dress fashioned from..

You guessed it…

Toilet paper.

After the allotted time is up, a Fashion show is then held where models show off their toilet paper wedding dresses.

The bride-to-be then picks the winner.

This game struck me as messy, wasteful, and a recipe for disaster.

Both my daughters did their best to calm my fears.


Trying to put it out of my mind, I scoured the Internet for a few games of my own.

I successfully managed to find four games that I thought would do nicely, mostly quizzes on wedding-lore and famous couples. After printing off thirty sets on the computer, I collated and stapled them.


On the day of the shower, I had no idea what to expect.

By 9:00 a.m., we had packed the car with at least a dozen boxes and bags containing all the fixings for throwing a bridal shower: candy, gifts, cake pops, tape, scissors, games, flowers, and forty rolls of toilet paper.

Jen and I had two hours to set up before the guests would begin to arrive.

Seeing as we had lots of stuff to put together, my thoughts as we pulled out of the driveway were:

Will we be ready in time for the guests?

We had so much to do!

This one’s going to be close.

My.Daily.Distraction ~ Post 193: ***Woo-Hoo***


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Yesterday was “New Washing Machine Day” at our house.

Our three year old washing machine broke down ten days ago.

My husband figured that the problem was the wiring for the lid lock .

A visit to our local appliance centre was in order. He ordered the replacement wiring which cost $100.00. We were told it should arrive in a week. They had none in stock because this was a common problem, and this part virtually flew off the shelves.

A week later after the new wiring arrived Frank installed it.

No luck.

I was not surprised.

To be honest, I never much liked that washing machine anyway.

Three years ago, I was compelled to get the new HE energy efficient model.

There was no agitator.

The instruction manual explained that I was to distribute the clothes evenly around the outside of the drum and leave the centre of the machine free of laundry so that the machine would “swirl” my clothes clean.

Like I haven’t heard that one before…

From the first day I brought it home I knew there would be trouble.

It began with the lid lock.

Once I pressed the start button after making my selections on the washing machine panel, the lid lock slammed into place with a huge metallic clang as it immediately placed the laundry into lockdown mode.

My washing machine literally locked me out as it went through all of it’s cycles.

There was no way I could get back into that machine without a fight.

For example, if I happen to find a sock that had dropped and I wanted to include it with the load, I would try to open the lid.

“No dice,” my washing machine would reply.

“Please,” I would say.

My washing machine told me that they’d think about it.

“Check back with me in five minutes,” it said as it sat there…

…And did nothing!

After five minutes, the machine decided to disengage the lid lock.

After inserting the renegade sock, I would re-start the machine.

After the lid lock slammed into place, there would be a soft buzz.

I was told that this was sound of the sensor as it determined how much laundry was in the tub.

Why was it sensing for load level when I had clearly pushed the heavy load button?

And another soft buzz followed.

The machine was obviously in no hurry.

I was not amused.

At least five minutes passed before I could hear the sound of water running into the drum of the washing machine

It took approximately one hour for the machine to do the load, start to finish before I heard the buzzer announcing that the laundry was now complete.

However, it took another five whole minutes, during which the washing machine held my laundry hostage, before it finally disengaged the lid lock and finally released the clean clothes into my custody.

I felt no remorse whatsoever last weekend as my husband and I made the trip to our local appliance store and picked out a new washing machine.

It arrived today.

Imagine my joy as I commenced the initial load by closing the lid of this new washing machine with no clang of the lid lock being engaged.

What I did hear was the immediate sound of running water as it began it’s wash cycle.

There was no more five minute wait for the load sensor’s approval.

From this day forward, the only thing getting agitated would be the laundry…

…and not my nerves.


My.Daily.Distraction ~ Post 192: From Peer To Maternity


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There is a movie that came out in the 1960s which became a bit of a cult classic.

The movie is called…

“Where Were You When The Lights Went Out.”

It stars Doris Day, Patrick O’Neal and Robert Morse.

WIKI describes the movie as being set in “New York City during the infamous northeast blackout of 1965 in which 25 million people scattered throughout seven states lost electricity for several hours.”

Popular urban myth has it, that nine months later there was baby boom in affected states.

Well, here’s another true story. Consider it a variation on a theme.

This recollection came to me last week, on the occasion of my youngest daughter’s 30th birthday.

It was July 24, 1985, the day after my daughter Aria was born. From my hospital room I could hear the nurses making a big commotion at the nurse’s station.

I went out to the hallway to see what was going on.

Across the big white board that hung over the nurse’s station, someone had scrawled in big red letters:

“Doctors we need more beds. Send your patients home.”

“What’s up,” I asked the nurse sitting behind the desk.

She answered:

“For the past week, we’ve been delivering an average of ten babies a day, and for this hospital… that’s a lot of babies.”

I took a good look around…

Until that moment, I had not noticed how busy this hospital floor was. I guess I’d been a little preoccupied.

Then, I became curious.

“Interesting,” I said to the nurse. “Do we know why there are so many babies?”

The nurse paused and smiled, savouring the secret.

“Tell me,” I insisted.

“Actually, a bunch of us were talking about this during break. That’s when someone started counting back nine months.”


“Do you remember what was going on nine months ago?” she asked looking up at me.

“No,” I said truthfully. “Tell me, what was going on nine months ago?”

“The G.M. strike.”

She was of course, right.

Harry Antonides reported on this strike via by writing:

36,500 employees of General Motors of Canada went on a 12-day strike in October. Just a few weeks earlier, 350,000 American GM workers had settled for a ‘new contract without a strike. The Canadian strike, which forced the layoff of 40,000 U.S. auto workers, was on the surface all about dollars and cents expressed in direct wages and benefits.

Back in the day, my home town of St. Catharines use to be a big G.M. town, employing thousands.

As I pondered this revelation, I returned to back to my hospital room, which I shared with another new mother, who coincidentally, worked at General Motors.

So, there you have it, a small piece of St. Catharines and the Canadian Auto Worker’s Union history.

If it were ever made into a movie I’ve got the perfect title.

It should be called…

“Labours Of Love.”

*Ba-dum ching*