The White Cottage

MY DAYS IN RETIREMENT


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Eating Humble Pie But Still Feeling Good

SO !!  After my email to Cafe´ Amore´ expressing my disappointment in our Valentine’s Day lunch, I received a response a day later. I really wasn’t looking for any response, but a nice gentleman sent me an email explaining the Dinner Menu being used on special occasions instead of the Lunch Menu. He also apologized for my burnt Lasagne, which was very nice.

It appears I had jumped to a few conclusions – or assumptions – and I was soon made aware that I had to dismount from that high horse of mine. I decided to post the response from Cafe´ Amore´ – even though I didn’t make a copy of my original email (that was done directly from the restaurant’s web site), but there is a small synopsis of how our evening went on my previous posting. I’m also posting my reply and duly apologizing for certain assumptions made. After all, fair is fair.

Email from Cafe´ Amore´:

Thank you for your email and your thoughts regarding Valentine’s Day.

I am sorry your lasagne was dry, it is usually quite delicious and moist. I apologize for that.

We do run our dinner menu all day on three occasions each year. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and New Year’s Eve.

We do this for several reasons. First, these are the three busiest days of the year and there is a lot of preparation to do in the kitchen to ensure there is enough food ready. We don’t have time to prepare food specifically for lunch and then again for dinner while  trying to switch the kitchen over from lunch service mode to dinner service mode. We therefore focus on one meal service for the entire day and execute that all day long.

Second is the demand from customers who want to order from the dinner menu on special occasions. For example, this Valentine’s Day there was a party of 25 who were coming at lunch and wanted to order dinner.  It was a special day they wanted to celebrate together. Then there are others who want to have an early dinner to avoid the crowds that occur on special occasions, so they come for dinner at lunch.

We always inform people who are making reservations of the menu offered, just we did with you.

The meatball pasta your husband enjoyed is the same price and portion at lunch as it is at dinner. The large salads offered at lunch are exactly the same at dinner. There is no price difference. For lighter fare a bowl of soup and small side salad can be ordered if that is all someone really wants to eat. There are several lighter choices on the dinner menu as well.

Our intention is not to be greedy but rather to do what we can to service the demands of the day and the requests of our guests.

If you would provide me with a mailing address I can send you out some coupons to use another day to make up for the dry lasagne. I know you didn’t ask for anything but I would like to send them to you.

Thanks again for your comments.

Allan

My Reply:

Dear Allan:

Thank you so much for your response. It seems I’ve made certain assumptions regarding your Restaurant and am now eating humble pie. I was taking out previous frustrations from another restaurant that charges “Holiday” prices on at least 10 occasions and during the month of December. I should never have clumped other establishments into the same group.

I apologize if I implied your establishment was being greedy, and assumed your Dinner Menu was used more often than the 3 occasions you stated. I broke my only golden rule – “never assume”. It’s also quite apparent I’m making certain assumptions about other customers – again, my assumptions were wrong and just re-affirmed my golden rule.

I turned 68 years old 12 days prior to Valentine’s Day – so may we please chalk this whole affair up to me having a “Senior Moment” – which appears to be quite frequent for me these days.

I really did have burnt edges around my Lasagne and was a tad disappointed. I’m a “meat and potatoes” kind of gal, so when I order a pasta dish, Lasagne is my favourite. I’m going to chalk this little matter up to a busy day for your Chef and leave matters at that.

As for the coupons – I appreciate your offer, but it’s truly not warranted. As we live in Ridgeway, we only dine out at a restaurants in St. Catharines on special occasions. The coupons, I’m afraid would therefore would be wasted. We will, however, revisit Cafe Amore again in the future.

A  little anecdote:- When Cafe Amore first opened on Lake Street, we lived on Green Maple in St. Catharines. By way of coincidence our phone number was 688-1794 and the restaurant’s the same, except for the last number. We were astonished at how many reservation calls we had to re-direct. Our curiosity was finally piqued and we went for dinner just to see what all the fuss was about. We soon found out why you moved to a larger establishment. Congratulations.

Again, thank you for your response and much success in the future.

Yours truly,

******************************

I don’t regret my email to this restaurant only because I felt a need to let them know that I did, in fact, have a disappointing meal. Restaurants, as well as other commercial establishments should always be informed when there is no customer satisfaction. We’re paying for those goods and services and we at least deserve a good bang for our buck. When you’re wrong, your wrong and you should admit it or at least own up to your mistakes. I’ve also argued that anyone who “Assumes will somehow regret it or certainly be wrong in most cases. I just proved my theory right, and I deserved to be corrected.

As for an update on my disappointments with The Mandarin (Niagara Falls). I did receive a reply, only looking for further information. The response was from the powers that be higher up the food chain and I gave them my answers as honestly as I could. I never criticized the restaurant’s staff, cleanliness or service. My main concern was the downfall of the food, which I truly hope somehow, somewhere and by someone will return to its former tasty, delicious self. The Mandarin opened up a location in Niagara Falls because of public demand and I, for one, hope the public continues to get meals it deserves. I really do not want to loose a good restaurant that serves oriental food at its best.

To date, no response. But I’m not looking for one. I’m hoping to return sometime in the future for a great meal.

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Please, Santa, Leave Me In Peace!

It’s that time of year again, oh goody!!

Not to be humbuggery about it, I use to absolutely love Christmas and the holidays, but as I’ve gotten older it’s become more of a chore and just another same-old-same-old day.

Coming from a family of 7, naturally, my memories are of Christmas mornings getting out of bed before the crack of dawn, opening up stockings filled with little things to do as we anxiously await Dad and Mom to get up, finish his morning coffee (always seemed like an eternity) and then opening our gifts so fast Mom and Dad had a hard time watching all of us at once to see our reactions. Paper was strewn everywhere, as each girl always received a doll and dear brother some sort of truck or tractor. We would each receive a new pair of pajamas and slippers, plus some piece of clothing that Mom thought was necessary. Our grandmother, too, would help out at times by sewing a dress or skirt for us girls for school. Believe it or not, as Grandmothers go, she was pretty damn good and if I recall correctly there was never anything I wore of hers that was bad.

After the frivolity in the living room, we kids were given time to settle in and play with our toys while Mom was busy cooking our turkey supper. There were so many mornings later in life, as the family grew, that we could always smell that bird cooking as we lay in our beds. God, it was enough to drive you crazy all morning and all afternoon. We’re talking a bloody big bird for those times!! In our very early years, we would always go to Grandma’s for supper, along with all of our Aunts, Uncles and cousins from far away – Toronto, London and North Bay.

My Christmas memories are all good until now. As the grandkids grew up and now have jobs or are in college, there’s not a lot we can get them. We have no idea anymore what they may be into or what their interests are, as we don’t see them on a regular basis. Birthdays are even beginning to fade away. We almost have to make appointments if we want to see them at all. I suppose that’s something in life grandparents just have to get use to.

For as many years, Nat’s daughters have told us not to buy them anything, but to concentrate our efforts on their children. As Nat and I have never really wanted for anything either, and as money is always tight for the girls, we’ve told them not to reciprocate, and I kind of think they’re both grateful for that. It saves them money and doing something nice once a year for their Dad (she says sarcastically!). Selfishness is easier to do than being nice and caring about others beyond the 4 walls of their homes.

So as things stand now, we go to Laura’s home Christmas Eve to deliver our money envelopes, have a visit, eat pizza with her and her two children, along with Susan, Tom and their two girls. After everyone leaves, Laura and her kids will open their presents from each other, before the kids head off to their father’s place to celebrate Christmas morning with him and his girlfriend and her family. My side of the family have a Christmas Eve get-together with lots of goody dessert items and exchange any gifts from the Aunts to their nieces and nephews. I guess I’m not missing much except an extra little family time (something I can never get enough of). Nat and I will then drive home, shake our heads as to what is going on in his daughters’ lives and say to each other “what on earth are they thinking” , watch a little TV and then head off to bed. We both feel as if we were invited to listen to their personal troubles, financial woes or what reality show is the hit of the month.

Christmas morning we get up, get dressed, have breakfast (Nat his cereal and me, my pills). We’ll sit until it’s time for us to drive to Susan’s Christmas morning – she always tells us what time to arrive. We’ll watch Susan as she’s scrambling about the house cleaning up from their bacon-on-a-bun breakfast and the girls show us what Santa brought them. Another time where everyone is saying “look what fun we’re having and you’re not!”. We’ll chit chat back and forth and then toddle off home to sit for another hour or two after lunch and then make our contributing dish for my side’s family dinner (mashed potatoes) later that evening. This is the only part of Christmas that I’m now enjoying – a get to-gether and a great meal with my sisters. (Dear brother lives too far away).

Being a grandparent, at least for me, is just bloody boring. I get no fun time with my granddaughters, they’ve got their own lives now and have nothing in common with this old gal. I accept that, but I’m entitled to feel the way I do – I’m not an “old fart” in my mind and would love to do more things with the kids, but I know that’s never going to happen. Yes, I could go shopping with some of them, but that involves schedule planning like you wouldn’t believe. They’re working hours are ungodly as they’re working every second of the day to earn money for college tuition. Plus one granddaughter has a life/boyfriend/house of her own now. Even I understand that one!!

I wake up each day in December dreading what’s to come. I can’t be bothered anymore as no one can be bothered with Nat and I. None of the family will come over to our house – no time, no time, no time! None of us exchange gifts anymore, despite the fact I would love to buy something for them no matter what. The grandkids only want money. The step-daughters can’t be bothered and one son-in-law just wants to stay home and watch football.

It’s also that time of year, even though I’m taking pills for my depression, that I still get depressed. It started last night. Nat and I had a bit of a discussion about me wanting an iPod Touch. He couldn’t understand, as I already had an iPad Mini (with battery starting to go). He told me to just order a new iPad Minfor myself for Christmas. Whooo Hoooo – where’s the fun in that? No surprises here!! It’s just not the same, is it?? I’m a firm believer that everyone loves an unexpected surprise now and again. We all know that Christmas is the perfect time for surprises and family. Naturally, I took our little discussion to bed and the old mind started to light up with every little thing I was regretting, missed or couldn’t have.

I fight my annual Christmas depression as best I can – I pop an extra pill – and try to get on with the month as if it was just another one in the year. I know Nat feels excluded too, from his girls sometimes around this time of year but understands there is nothing we can do about it.

So, Santa, if you could just leave me in peace, I’d be a happy camper. Let me sleep in on December 25th as if it were just another day in time. Gee, what am I saying, I can sleep in, ’cause it’s just another day. Christmas pasts are gone forever never to return. So grow up, old girl, get on with your life and tell Santa he can bugger off!!


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Agawa Canyon Train Tour – If Only We Could Have Flown!

The months of August and September, for us, were busy. A Memorial Ceremony, a renewal of wedding vows, a BBQ to celebrate 50 years of marriage, a family wedding, double birthday celebration, hair, manicure and other appointments and getting ready for a trip to Sault Ste. Marie for the Agawa Canyon Train Tour. All of which made our summer exciting and yet fleeting. The last event, of course, was our mini-holiday which allowed us to get away for a few days and yet, somehow, was so tiring, it took us at least another four days to recover. Not my idea of a relaxing holiday.

(As an aside – all pictures taken on this trip will be found on Page Title “Agawa Canyon Train Tour”)

We began our trip by rising early Sunday morning and hitting the road by 8:00 am. I had packed a couple of chicken sandwiches for lunch (which we’ve done in the past) along with a cooler of drinks and a few healthy (yes, I said ‘healthy’) snacks for what was going to be at least an 8 hour drive north. The drive north to Parry Sound was the usual hustle and bustle of driving around Toronto towards Barrie with its collage of small, medium and large commercial and industrial buildings, roadways and road works. I should have enjoyed them at the time. Once we reached Parry Sound, we found a Tim Horton’s and a small take-away restaurant where we stopped for lunch. We unpacked our chicken sandwiches, ordered french fries and a couple of drinks and ate lunch in a quiet, unobtrusive spot inside which would also give Nat time to stretch his legs before getting ready for the next leg of the trip.

With Parry Sound behind us, the scenery became quite apparent – rocks, trees, rocks, trees, more rocks, more trees, with maybe (just maybe) a small farm noticeable in the distance. We were driving through parts of the Canadian Shield and I offered to relieve Nat from his driving boredom, but he seemed to be doing just fine. So I sat back and listened to an audiobook on my iPad. At this point I became very thankful I had loaded a couple of books for just such an occasion. At least this was relieving my brain from thoughts of jumping out of the car and walking home. The boredom was now setting in, and setting in good.

As we approached Bruce Mines, we stopped for a leg stretching and with our usual aplomb began discussions and disagreements about the GPS. Nat gets a bit impatient, as do I, and we don’t always understand all of the details and icons on the GPS screen. The GPS was not recognizing some of the northern roads and Nat was getting a bit worrisome,  but as we finally approached Sault Ste. Marie his relief began to show. It also helped that I was holding a physical map of Ontario to prove to him that things were good.

We arrived at our hotel – the Quattro Hotel & Conference Centre – around 5:30 pm, tired and bored. We unpacked our things and headed down the road to the Swiss Chalet for soup and salad, as our hunger had abated and we only wanted something to fill the void for the night. Once our meal was done, we headed back to the hotel and jumped into bed by 8:30 PM. We were in for another early rise to catch the train and hopefully have a great day!

Still a bit tired, Nat and I were dressed and down for our free breakfast (scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, toast, cereal, etc.) with what seemed to be everyone else on the same tour. Getting to the Train Station was easy enough, but discovering we were in the third of over twenty cars, there was a bit of a walk down the tracks before we could board and get settled in our seats. We left the station at 8:00 am and the tour soon began with announcements (dining car, smoking and a small history lesson of Algoma Steel) but once we were well on our way to Agawa Canyon National Park, we were flooded with geographical and historical lessons on how this portion of Canada was formed and how the Agawa Canyon Train Tour began. Above the seats in strategic points hung television sets where passengers could watch as videos displayed what was being narrated. After each little lesson, the screens would display the railway tracks as seen by the Engineers. I will admit, that part was neat to see, and everyone could anticipate what was about to pass by our windows. Speaking of windows, each one had been spruced and polished so any picture taking from such windows would be crystal clear – a nice and intuitive gesture.

Within the initial hours of the train ride, each passenger was enthralled as we passed by interior crystal blue lakes hidden by an entourage of rocks and trees, rattled over an ancient wooden trestle bridge (eventually replaced by steel) and through narrow rock and tree passageways where overgrown bushes would sweep the sides of each rail car. Finally arriving at the Canyon after four hours of rickety rail riding all passengers disembarked as we stretched our backs and legs once our feet touched the ground. We were soon surrounded by greenery and natural beauty only Northern Canada could show off. Along with an ancient rail car standing at the end of a small wooden walkway, a cute cottage-style building disguising the washrooms, there were park benches located in and out of sun shiny spots, under trees and along a small flowing river lined with more foliage and rock formations.

As it was now noon hour, Nat and I were hungry, so we took the time to head back to the dining car, have a bite to eat inside (rather than order a boxed lunch for an outdoor picnic), and we would then disembark ourselves for some touring. We were a little surprised once it was announced that in order to see anything special you would have to take a 20 or 45 minute walk to that particular area. Nat was willing to walk to one of the higher points – Beaver Falls -for some scenic shots (the larger one, Bridal Falls, was too far afield for either one of us),  while I stayed put walking around the park taking pictures of what I felt was a representation of the area. We soon met up in time for the train to be boarded for the journey home.

The trip home was totally exhausting and boring. At first you’re still a little lively, but as time soon passes, the seats became uncomfortable for Nat’s back, and with no pillows neither one of us could really put our heads back and have a small snooze. Some other passengers had somehow arranged their heads and bodies in contortions to achieve a wee snooze, but it was apparent they were going to regret it later. At least, for now, they were relieving their boredom. At one point, I slipped off my runners and put my feet on the seat facing me (Nat and I had managed to grab a 4-seat grouping) as Nat tried his best to get comfy himself. The four hour trip home soon took its toll as Nat was now standing in our little vestibule area trying to stretch his back for relief. We were both now feeling as if we had been onboard for several days and this trip was never going to end.

Finally, arriving back at the Station around 5:30 pm, Nat and i took a quick peak in the Station’s tiny little gift shop now filled with practically every passenger looking at T-Shirts and knick knacks. I was looking for a lapel or stick pin for my collection, but alas none were to be found. As we pushed our ways towards the exit, I ended up purchasing a small coin-sized “Agawa Canyon/Agawa Train” souvenir and we took a deep breath as we walked outdoors. With no thoughts about supper, we walked to WalMart right across from the Station, grabbed a small salad, some ham slices and, along, with a treat or two, this would be more than sufficient to see us through the evening. We were both too tired to even think about a heavy meal, and these small items would do the trick as we could sit and eat in peace and comfort in the hotel room. After our little meal we settled in to watch the news and knowing we could now sleep in with a free day to ourselves on Tuesday before the drive home.

Tuesday morning arrived and after breakfast, we drove back to WalMart which was part of  The Station Mall to have a walk-about before deciding what to do the rest of the day. Neither of us were keen to go the the Casino (noisy and expensive) nor the Bush Plane Museum (a bit nerdy for even me) nor any of the other sites we were given tickets to as part of our “package tour”. While walking around the Mall, which was really nice, by the way, with even a huge TanJay/Alia store, the two of us decided to just stay put in our hotel room and rest up for that long, lonesome drive home. We would, however, take the time out for a really nice meal at a recommended restaurant – North 82 Steak & Grill House. The meal was wonderful – my steak and Nat’s steak & seafood dish – the service very good and after a good night’s sleep, we were all packed and ready to hit the road again. The two of us were now both very anxious to get home.

We had both decided to drive home through the United States – heading directly south through the State of Michigan and then east to Ontario and home. We followed the GPS instructions implicitly but as we were arriving further towards home, we were directed to take some pretty back roads and going through small villages and waterfront resorts we’d not seen before. The GPS was taking us the “shortest” way rather than the “fastest” way home, which we found out were two different things. Being on the road for over 7 hours now, bored and really, really tired, we would have preferred to go the “fastest” way home – taking us along the QEW with higher mileage. We were now driving the “shortest” way home but with lower mileage and a lot of stop lights and signs, etc. Despite the fact this was the “shortest” route, it would take us 9-1/2 hours to complete!

The Agawa Canyon Train tour was one of those trips neither one of us had taken. My parents had done so with a couple of my siblings, while I was living and working in Alberta, and I truly realize how fortunate I was for not taking this particular trip at that time – nearly 40 years ago when the drive would have been even longer and the train trip even more so when young children are involved. One sister claims no memory of this trip and I understand why now! I’m sure I’ll forget it myself one day. Nat and I don’t regret taking this tour but we both agree we’ll never do it again. We can, however, brag that we’ve seen a part of Northern Ontario that I’m sure many Canadians have not. Well, maybe that’s not exactly a bragging bit!!


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Stepmothers – If You’re Not One, You Don’t Get It!

Not much has changed since my last posting. Nat is still in mega-pain sometimes. He’s able to relax a wee bit in the evenings but the mornings are still a killer. He can’t even get his own socks on and has to wait for the pain to subside before he can. I’m now seeing the complete and total frustration in his face, plus we both fully understand how chronic pain can wear one’s health and welfare to the bare bone – emotionally and physically. He wants to bang his fists on a wall, but he knows in his heart that will only create more pain – so he continues to suffer.

With all of this going on, we received an email from his youngest daughter. Five years ago, Nat had to co-sign for her so that she could qualify for a mortgage on a townhome after she separated from her husband. Knowing what I know about co-signing, I was furious and concerned, as our own little home would be on the line should anything extremely dire happen if she missed enough payments. Plus it was the fact that she had to telephone her father to get our permission, and couldn’t talk to us in person to discuss all the pros and cons, along with other living arrangements. Nat completed the deal but it took me some time to get over the whole scenario. I can get very emotional when it comes to jeopardizing our lifestyle that we’ve worked over 20 years to achieve.

The email began in a somewhat defensive mode – explaining her possible job loss, no longer receiving the Child Tax Credit (her son has now turned 18) and now her daughter was going through a medical struggle with the new puppy she had adopted. She had worded it in such a way that I took offense – how I had seen the new puppy on Facebook but never commented on him. She then began to explain that it was now time to renew her mortgage and that her Father’s signature was still required. If we were to have the mortgage put in her own name it would cost over $800.00 for the bank to do the title search and transfer the Mortgage into her name alone. Naturally, she didn’t have the money – we didn’t have the money – and so her Father accompanied her to the Bank to complete the renewal for another five years and at a much lower interest rate, which was to her financial benefit.

As it turns out, I now have no qualms about my hubby co-signing, but as I took offense to the Facebook remark, I had to reply to her email. I did this, however, without telling her Father, which came back to bite me and open up a huge can of worms. I will admit, however, that even hubby could see where I would have been offended. In my email, I explained how her father was still in mega pain, that she’s not the only one with problems and that I only go peek in on Facebook in order to see what the grandchildren are up to – otherwise we’d never know a thing!! I further explained that I no longer make “comments” because I find it tedious and time consuming, and that I have a huge aversion to Facebook completely. I find it’s no ones’ business what I’m up to and even if it was, I don’t do anything that’s exciting enough to tell. I feel too many people are now using it to post silly videos, emotional sayings, etc. and at my age I have no time or patience for such stuff.

When hubby and daughter arrived at the bank she asked her Dad if he knew about my email. He told her no, he knew nothing at all, and when she told him she was going to reply, he asked “You’re not going to cause trouble, are you?”. When hubby returned home, he asked me about the email and I showed it to him, asking at the same time if he found anything offensive in it, and that I was just replying to a remark that I took offense too. He could see my point. It was at this stage of the game that he finally admitted that his daughter has (and had in the past) confided in him about some of the things that he and I were neglecting to do regarding his two daughters. Suddenly a very emotional discussion took place. After 20 years of marriage he finally confided in me that he tends to keep secrets or personal concerns to himself, that he doesn’t want to cause trouble, and that he feels he should be the peace keeper between us all. I explained that there are times he has to confide in me, tell me what is happening so I don’t walk into a situation blind and dumb, and just for the sake of clearing the air. I’m now understanding why my beloved husband can sit for long periods of time thinking about everything. I’m now wondering how much more over the years he’s kept from me – but I’ll admit that is now water under the bridge and I’m willing to forget it.

During our tumultuous discussions we received a reply from his daughter to my email and she had taken a few of my answers the wrong way, and had even implied that her father lied to her, that he did, in fact, know about my first email. She also implied that somehow her father and I were keeping things from her or that we didn’t fully understand what she was going through. Hubby and I knew it was now time to give our side of the story.

I began to compose an email (sometimes in anger, which I later deleted) and along with hubby’s memory reminded his daughter about her former mother-in-law being the dominate character in the lives of her grandchildren, that we were never asked to baby-sit or take part in her children’s lives because of the mother-in-law, – that I was also going through kidney dialysis and an eventual kidney transplant during the years her children were young and her father was taking care of me during those extremely trying times – that she had an opportunity to take a ring that belonged to her birth mother but never took it,  and that I gave it to her daughter (my step-granddaughter) on her 19th birthday explaining why I never had a chance to tell her that I was her “step grandmother” (that was blurted out by her sister’s husband when her daughter was pre-school age). We also went on to explain about special occasions – Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. – how their families want to start their own traditions – that they’re always busy – that they want to spend time alone or with their children – and that since her separation we’ve been unsure and in the dark as to how to react. She’s never once spoke to her Father about exactly why she separated and what had happened – only that she “didn’t love him anymore”. This was one thing that broke her Father’s heart, that he was never confided in about the whole affair. I must confess that I also explained to this daughter how my transplant medications have affected me over the years with the side-effects and my emotional ups and downs with depression – matters of which she’s never asked me about personally. I also reminded her how she’s never once asked me directly how I’m doing, or about any of my side the family. That this whole affair can work both ways. In her defense her father explained to me how she’s never been able to open up to people face-to-face, that she doesn’t like confrontation (duh, who does?), wherein I replied she’s over 50 and it was about time she tried!

Between hubby and I, we tried to also make amends – that we would try and have everyone over for dinner more often – that we would certainly see what more we could do over the holidays – and we expressed our regrets about not seeing her children more often. Try as we might this was going to be a tough one – we weren’t too sure how this daughter would react to our response, and as it happens, to date we’ve heard nothing. So we sit and wait to see who is going to break the ice. I’m willing to guess it’s going to be her father and I.

As the week has progressed hubby and I have been more relaxed with each other. I’m hoping that he now understands that he has to talk to me, that things build up so much over the years they can explode in your face – which, in fact, happened. As a result our whole weekend was exhausting, emotionally draining and depressing for everyone involved. I will admit, now the genie is out of the bottle after 20 years and it feels good to hopefully now have open and truthful conversations and/or discussions in the future about anything that may happen between ourselves and our families.

It goes without saying that after an emotional Saturday, hubby and I went down to Green Acres Restaurant for supper, had a good helping of fish ‘n chips (and forgetting about any dietary or possible diabetes restrictions). We then went to the new Outlet Mall in Niagara-On-The-Lake on Sunday for a nice walk around and to look for some new track pants for hubby. We got lucky and found at least one pair that was reasonably priced and as a bonus, I found two fabulous shirts/blouses that I love from Van Heusen. As any sane girl/woman will tell you, buying new clothes always soothes the savage soul. Trust me, mine needed soothing!!


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Seriously! That’s All You’ve Got?

The dreary days of winter are slowly melting away. I swear Nat and I have watched every droplet of fallen snow disappear with each passing day!! On other days it feels as if we’re waiting for the sky to fall!! Nat’s degenerative disc has been so bad of late that even the prescribed pain killers don’t fully help. We’ve both become couch potatoes literally and physically. We’ll venture out for required groceries or an important errand, but that pretty much sums up our days. We sit, we stare, we talk, we eat – we sit again, we stare again, we eat again, we watch TV, we go to bed. The whole scenario begins again the next day, and so on. For the sake of my sanity, I’ll drive down to Niagara Square to get out for some (wait for it!) – quiet time!!!! I don’t know how Nat can do it – sit so long in one spot and just think about things. I’ve tried too, but begin to get very antsy. So, I’ll bake or do something just to move around. Even the old iPad Mini is getting a good workout as I’m playing every game I can.

After finally getting in to see his Doc, he was prescribed a morphine based pain killer and if he took 2 at a time, he became dopey, dizzy and nauseated. He returned to his Doctor again and was then prescribed an additional pain killer to go along with or accompany the first one. He’s now began a regime of taking the lesser of the two evils for as long as he can and then the more powerful one at night time. He’s also had an X-ray that doesn’t really reveal a whole lot more than we already knew, and has an MRI appointment in May. Don’t even get me started on how long it takes to get an MRI in Canada!!!!!!

On half decent days, Nat’s made brave efforts to manage certain chores around the house – clearing the heavy snow fall from the roof and Solar Panels, clear the pathways and driveway and even keeping the bird feeder full. The Cardinals this year have been extremely plentiful – over 12 on most given days will sit in the trees and flitter back and forth between their perches and the bird feeder. Big, bright red and puffy chests stand out against the snow-covered trees like a postcard. They’re gorgeous to watch. If Nat didn’t at least get these things done, we’d both be completely snowed-in for the winter, and he suffers for it in the evenings.

For want of something to do one day – and desperate to talk to anyone!!! – Nat and I drove down to the little record shop in Stevensville (“Nomad”) on a hunch that he might take a few of our old record albums we had left from the clear out a couple weeks back. As we walked in the door, we were both dumb-founded to see that this little shop was already bursting at the seams with records and, in fact, was informed by the owner that he’s going give away a lot for FREE this Spring. He plans to set them up in boxes, lay them along the curb side and ask people to help themselves. SO, naturally, he had no interest in our little bundle but, did in fact, told us we could join  him if we wanted. What we have isn’t worth the effort, so we’ll dump them with the rest of the electronics we can’t get rid of.

On another matter, this was the first full year for filing our HST/GST Remittance Form for the Solar Panels. The first one we filed was hardly worth the effort and, in fact, fell short of what was required. I was advised to carry-over the remainder to 2014 when I filed for the entire year. After a little bit of confusion – what’s not confusing about filing any returns to the Canada Revenue Agency – I managed to get things added up, the details filled in and even remitted the balance owing online. Remitting online is a huge convenience for us, with our Bank being further away than we’d like, especially in all this snow and ice we’ve received these past couple of months. The experience was a good brain teaser for me and hopefully I completed the form properly. I’m sure Canada Revenue will let me know in due course!!!!

In the mail one day, a letter addressed to just our house from the Ontario Ministry of Health. The letter was asking if we would participate in a medical survey when we received the call. With all of the problems, inconveniences and sometimes neglect, Nat and I have experienced, this was one opportunity I was going to leap at. When the call came a couple of weeks later, the whole process only took about 20 minutes, but was a tad disappointing. This survey only covered any events for the past year. What were the odds – any events or concerns we wanted to express had taken place prior to this past year. I swear the Ministry knew!!!! At least I had participated knowing full well that nothing will come of it, especially in the Fort Erie area where we tend to get forgotten about by any Government department or person. Like I said above, don’t get me started!!!!

Nat and I will continue to while away the hours and days until the sun begins to shine on a daily basis. At least then, we’ll be able to sit on the back deck and enjoy some fresh air. So yes, that’s all I’ve got!


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Only The Brits Can Do It Justice

After hearing about the virtues of Netflix, Nat and I decided to give it a try. The monthly subscription fee wasn’t so bad, plus we could unsubscribe at any time. As we both abhor Reality Shows that insult your intelligence we leave those to the younger generation who still have a massive amount of growing up to do. Me, myself and I also abhor graphic violence of any kind and feel such scenes are inserted for ratings and shock value. So you can understand how the viewing choices we have on cable television are restricted to a large degree.

Having said that, I will watch a few shows where some violent scenes are warranted and somewhat necessary. I just avert my eyes, cover them with both hands or run to another room when the scene is going to be lengthy and Nat tells me when it’s safe to return. It’s a long story, but trust me, after watching violence on the television screen, my sleep is always disrupted by dreams of mahem, running excessively and graphic images only Stephen King could appreciate. American TV shows can and are the worst, in my opinion.

Having always been a huge follower and lover of all things British, Scottish, Irish or Welsh, (including being married to a Scotsman), my tolerance for more aggressive shows has increased somewhat only because such scenes are done by the Brits in order to move the story line along and for actual realism – not just for shock value and ratings. My need for laughter and having a very dry sense of humour can also come out while watching some extremely dramatic or serious show. A good writer will always insert some humour in order to offset the violence and ease the stress. The Sopranos, Blue Bloods, Castle, and Chicago Fire are all good examples of American TV shows that Nat and I watch simply for the good story lines, the intelligence and humour. The Sopranos was especially intelligent, dramatic, humorous –  just bloody well written, in my opinion.

Now I find myself, along with hubby, deeply engrossed in the British TV Series MI-5 (or Spooks, as it’s known in Britain). There have been times we’ll tape one of our regular television shows just so we can continue on with MI-5as our curiosity for what happens next is insatiable. We can’t get enough. We’ve become binge watchers as much as possible. The surprises just keep coming – a favourite actor is blown up, shot or even de-commissioned and sent into oblivion at any time and you never really see it coming. I love it. Nothing is predictable and a surprising story lurks around each corner with intertwined twists and turns. I’m only sorry this series will end after 10 Seasons (or “Volumes”). I have no idea what could ever takes its place. Plus we’ve also finished and enjoyed watching – The Fall, Happy Valley, Sherlock, Broadchurch, Scott & Bailey. 

The Americans kind of have their own version in Covert Affairs, but it’s sugar coated. While there have been good story lines, it doesn’t begin to show the underbelly of an agency such as MI-5, but I continue to watch this show while working out on the treadmill. It gives me enough of a diversion from being bored at such a mundane task at hand. Plus, I confess, to now being engrossed in what’s going to happen between “Augie” and “Annie”.

Only the Brits can write good comedy. Only in Britain will you find an engrossing dramatic series despite the short seasons (with the exception of Coronation Street – who’d have thought that would go on for over 50 years back in the day!).  Even if the Americans copy (and God knows, they have) a good British series, somehow it gets ruined or looses its quality, for example:- House of Cards. Albeit, I congratulate the Americans on this one, as their version was extremely good and obviously well written (all of its Emmy’s). However, I loved the British version just a tad more. Sir Ian Richardson was (and always will be) brilliant. That man has a look in his eyes no other actor can imitate. His subtelties in mannerism and cultivated voice are eerily chilling, even when he’s being nice!! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved Kevin Spacey, and always will. I’ve loved everything he’s done and he, too, was brilliant in the American House of Cardsbut it’s a whole different world of politics in the States, along with a completely different way of life. The names of past British shows the Americans have tried to imitate escapes me – they obviously didn’t make an impact.

I’m going to miss MI-5 when it’s done, including every actor that played a role somewhere or at some time in the series. It was a shame some real cuties had to get blown up. I’m surmising they were tired of the series themselves and wanted to get on with something else in their lives.


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Nothing In Life Is Certain

It never fails, just when things are going so well, something in life brings you back to reality. This past month has seen us enduring worry, concern and fret about something we have no control over. Nat’s sister, Jenny, began to experience some excruciating pain while recovering from a fall she’d taken earlier that month. The first time she fell she was told her lower back was damaged and she’d be bedridden for a month. Several weeks into her hopeful recovery, she began to experience more pain. This additional pain was even worse, enough so, that the family had her taken to hospital to see what was going on.

After enduring several weeks of utter boredom and pain she fell again in the hospital trying to get to the bathroom. This time she also banged her head. While in hospital she was put on morphine and for some ungodly reason, no doctor came along to see or examine her for over a week. It took this second fall to get some attention and it took her youngest son and his wife to take action in hand and give the Doctors a “what for”. He’s good like that, doesn’t let anyone take advantage and hovers over his Mom incessantly. He’d already been through hell watching his lovely wife get treatment for a brain tumour and leaving no stone unturned did everything in his power to get her the best treatment in the world. He succeeded. Natalie came through with flying colours, had the tumour removed and is now in remission. She, too, naturally has a great command and understanding of the medical system in Britain.

Once Jenny had been seen by the Doctors and finally went through several MRI tests, it was at first thought that she had broken her pelvis. Nat (hubby) finally discovered what was happening when he tried to call her one week and she was nowhere to be found. When he finally called one of her sons, Michael, he was then informed of the situation. While Jenny was in hospital, Michael gave her an old cell phone he had lying around so she could continue to stay in bed but call family, if needed. Nat decided to call her one day in hospital but he could tell she was “doped” up. She was slurring her words and not remembering too many things. Nat tried to re-assure her that things would get better and that he would keep in touch.

Several weeks later once Jenny’s son, Nat, got around to scolding the Doctors for their inactivity, it was arranged for another MRI and this time they found something around her lungs. Whatever it was, they also felt that it had travelled to her abdomen. Poor Jenny didn’t see any of this coming. She was convinced it was only her back and pelvis that needed healing – nothing else. Apparently, at one point, the Doctor remarked to (young) Nat, that if Jenny hadn’t of fallen, that maybe none of this would have been detected and things could have been much worse.

Once the tumour was found, naturally, more tests were required and she’ll be having a biopsy Monday August 4th to gather more information about what kind of tumour and how to treat it, etc. Jenny, now 80 years old, has been a hard and fast smoker all of her life, as was her husband, so, naturally, Nat and I can only guess the results of the biopsy, but will hope and pray we’re wrong. She’s also a hearty woman who raised 5 children while living in a camper trailer as a young wife and mother. She’s never had life easy, has travelled a lot and has seen some really good and some really bad times. She’s also strong-willed and determined. We’re all hoping these traits are in her favour to fight off what it is that is happening in this poor woman’s body.

It’s been a struggle for Nat and myself to decide whether to travel to Britain and see Jenny right now. We both know she’ll be ecstatic to see us, especially her little brother, but it’s hard knowing exactly what the right thing is to do all around. It would be so much easier to see Jenny in person, along with the family, and be able to hear first hand as to what is going on. Our one concern would be where to stay. We know Jenny’s children would be willing to put us up, but we both don’t want to impose on the family right now while they, too, are trying to keep things on an even keel and continue on with their lives, too. From what it appears, we’ll probably wait for the biopsy results after Monday, maybe talk to (young) Nat and get his advice. This “waiting” business is for the birds, and for only the second time in my life I’m on the other side. Not the patient this time, but waiting with other family members on test results and worrying about a loved one that’s very dear to my heart. A sister-in-law I’d love to sit and chat with for hours, who understands my ups and downs being married to her brother and has re-assured me on several occasions that I’m okay, too.