Rediscovering Wonderful Flavour


I’m visiting my brother in Brockville this week. Tonight he had a craving for Chinese food. He loves buffets, but we couldn’t find one, so we wandered into The New York Restaurant. The name doesn’t conjure up images of Chinese cuisine, but we knew that we would find just that because we’d both eaten there many times while we were growing up in Brockville. It was our parents’ favourite place for dining out on special occasions, or for ordering Chow Mein Buns to take home for a Saturday night dinner.

The New York Restaurant is as classy as the name implies, with white table cloths and red and white accents. It remains as tidy and clean as I remembered it. Notice the banner that declares that it’s celebrating 89 years of being in business. Obviously it’s changed hands a few times,  being passed onto various Chinese families over the years. We arrived before 5:00 pm and had the dining room to ourselves, but take out orders were being picked up often.

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It took me only five minutes of scanning the menu before I knew just what I wanted. Special #3 consisted of one delicious dish I hadn’t had in a very long time and the other two items were just what would go with it.

When the egg rolls arrived we were surprised to see that they filled our plates. After years of eating Chinese mostly at inexpensive buffets, I’d forgotten how delicious fresh-made tasted!

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Then the main course plates arrived! Everything was hot and fragrant.

My brother doesn’t eat like he used to so he was almost full after the egg roll. He had enough to bring home to last a few meals. Mine was so delicious that I kept eating until I could hold no more. I’ll enjoy the rest for lunch tomorrow.

 

 

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Let’s Start a Productive Conversation


Before we can have a productive conversation, we have to acknowledge that both talking and listening to understand are necessary.

Today I’m doing some mind traveling.  I have a need to write about something that causes pain to my heart, and my body.

Each day, I log onto Facebook knowing that my feed is going to be loaded down with the troubling stories of things going on in the world. Someone told me that they just have happy postings on their feed, things that lift them up. It’s true. I could change my settings, block posts from news outlets and people who repost such things. I could at the very least stop reading the comments. Would that make my heart lighter and my body less tense? For me, the answer is no.

So today I’m speaking out from my heart. I’m not going to tell people they are wrong, or make accusations, or call anyone names, or call for rioting. I’m just going to explain my sadness, frustration and incredulity, and maybe offer a step toward solving at least one problem.

There are many, many things happening around the world that cause these feelings – floods, hurricanes, fires, threats of war. But the most incredible thing in the news this past week is not about these disasters or what can be done to prevent more and what can be done to help all those suffering. No. What is making the biggest headlines, and causing the biggest division among people is an event that took place a year ago. This is the one that I’m going to address now.

A black football player chose to protest the most recent (at the time)unwarranted treatment/death of some other black men, with no consequences to the perpetrators, by quietly kneeling during the opening ceremonies of the football game. Did he choose that moment because he wanted to be noticed? Yes! Did he do it to show disrespect toward the soldiers that fought for his right to free speech; to show that he hated his country? No! My understanding is that he did it in the hope of starting a conversation about the racial discrimination that was putting constant fear into the lives of his fellow man, conversation that could bring people together with a better understanding of each other. His choice of time and venue was to get the attention of many. It did. But instead of the conversation he’d hoped for, it became a conversation about patriotism, the national flag and anthem, ego and hate. This week it was brought into the foreground again in a political speech.

What I find sad, frustrating and completely incredible is the number of people who choose to believe the politician’s reasoning rather than that of the football player. There are some who think that because a black man or woman has the “privilege” of earning a good salary, they forfeit their right to freedom. Some say they are  alright with the protest, but not the time or place. There are even those who declare that “there is no racism in the United States.”

To them I ask, “How many black people have you sat down with and asked to hear their stories? How many have you really listened to, with the objective to understand? How many times have you imagined yourself in their shoes?

I’m a privileged white person, living in a community where there is little cultural diversity, but I’ve listened to some of the history of a black man who was brought to Canada from Africa and adopted by my uncle, who recognized his potential and wanted to give him a chance at a better life. He was a teenager when he arrived. He’d had a good education while in Africa, with the help of my uncle, and despite the prejudice and poor treatment by some, he managed to get a University degree and become successful in his life. His younger adopted brother, who was only five years old, had a much harder time of it.

Quite recently, I’ve heard enough of the story of the only black family who lived in our community when my children were in school, to learn that despite them being an educated, well liked, upstanding family of the community, they too often experienced the discrimination of being suspect because of the colour of their skin. I was surprised.

These stories got me paying attention! Now when I read about the fears of black people, I understand, and my heart aches.

Sure there are many black people who have fought their way through life with violence and crime; who have joined gangs just to belong. But there are just as many, or more, white people in the same situation. They should be afraid of the law.

Then there are the black families who mind their own business, have jobs, take care of their families and friends, and yet live in fear for their lives every day. They know that at any time, for any reason, they could be stopped by the police because they look like someone (black/brown skin, dread locks) who just robbed a bank in the neighbourhood they are driving through, or because they supposedly have a light out on their car, or they are driving an expensive looking car, or a neighbour told the police that a crime suspect had gone into their house. And they know that no matter how they respond, they could end up dead.

How many law-abiding white people, living in the US or Canada, live with these same fears?

Let’s start the conversation right here, right now! Tell your story; explain your fears; ask questions; listen to understand; practice respect; share this post. This is the conversation that needs to go viral!

 

 

Free Travel App Interest? Please Contact Me


Thanks to all of you who commented on my last post. The deadline for the free app contest has now passed. Some of you showed interest but did not reply to my request as to which City App you would like and whether you require an IOS (iPhone) or Android app. I also need your email address. Once I know that I will request your free app code and send it to you. Email me at judylawless6@gmail.com.

Getting Ready to Get on the Road Again


It is with both excitement and trepidation that I am counting the hours before we climb aboard our motor home for our annual journey to Arizona.The excitement is because I’m looking forward to seeing all of our good friends again and spending time in the sun. The trepidation is because of the snowy winter weather that has hit our area, and because of the unrest in the US right now. The later worries and saddens me very much.

Still, we will carry on and deal with whatever comes our way. It looks like the big snow amounts have subsided for now, so we should be good to go tomorrow afternoon or early Friday morning. The inside of the motor home was freezing cold today when we took another load of belongings to it, so I think I will forego cleaning the floors until we are out of the range of freezing temperatures. By then we will be able to dewinterize, meaning we can rinse the anti-freeze from our water lines, fill up with fresh water, and wash the pink stains from the sinks and shower.

We’re hoping to reach Indianapolis in time for my next post. Watch for it!

Seeking a Diagnosis ©2016


I wiped the fog from my glasses, and read the sign on the double glass door. “Sleep Clinic patients please wait by the door and the technician will be down to get you”.

Maybe I was a little early for my 9 p.m. appointment. I raised my wrist to check my watch, but it wasn’t there. The instructions had said “leave all jewelry except wedding bands at home.”

With my overnight bag in hand, I waited. The building cleaner came through to vacuum the doormat and we made small talk about how difficult it is to keep the mats clean in winter. Another few minutes passed. Finally a young woman in burgundy-coloured scrubs pushed open the door.

“Judith?” she asked, referring to a folder in her hands.

“That would be me.”

“Hi, I’m Amanda. Follow me and I’ll take you to the clinic. Do you prefer stairs or the elevator?”

I followed her up the stairs and down the hall.

“This will be your room,” she said, indicating a room on the left. “You can change into whatever you’re going to wear to bed and then come back out to the waiting room.”

I was there in that five-by-eight-foot examining room because my doctor and I were trying to discover the cause of my too-frequent pain and fatigue in various parts of my body. A sleep disorder that would deprive me of adequate sleep, was one possibility. A bed had been prepared, and a camera peered down at me from one corner of the ceiling. I quickly changed into my yellow Bourbon Street t-shirt and yellow cotton pajama bottoms, telling myself that the camera would not yet be turned on.

Through the open door of a room adjoining the waiting area, I saw a man being connected to a number of wires. When he emerged, he had wires protruding from his head, his face, his shirt, and others dangling from a box that hung from a lanyard around his neck.

“I feel like the robot guy,” he said, with as much of a grin as he could muster under the circumstances.

“Judith, you’re next,” Amanda said.

“I’m going to measure your head and fasten some electrodes to a number of spots so we can read your brain waves while you sleep,” said Amanda. “While I do that, Carolyn is going to attach some more to your legs and to your chest.”

The room smelled of oranges, probably the remnants of someone’s snack, and rubbing alcohol.

They had just begun positioning straps, and swabbing areas for the electrodes, when an alarm sounded somewhere and Amanda went to investigate. She came back with the news that there would be a power outage while a problem with an electrical panel was being rectified. The lights weren’t affected, but the room monitors were.

Does that mean I get to go home?

The now-familiar pain was beginning to creep into my neck and shoulders. The desire to sink into the comfort of my own bed to drift off to sleep was compelling, but no such luck. Amanda and Carolyn continued with their work, applying cool gels and other goop onto my skin and into my hair.

Good thing my hair is short!

Before long my wiring was complete, and the power was back on. Eighteen wires were plugged into the metal box that dangled from a black and red cord around my neck. A nose-piece was attached below my nose by a strap that looped over my ears and joined at the back of my head. This was to check my breathing, Carolyn informed me. A band holding a couple of other wires was around my chest and another encircled my waist.

Now I have to confess that when it comes to sleeping I’m like “The Princess and the Pea.” I can’t get to sleep if my nightclothes or sheets are bunched up or twisted, and I don’t like anything but the covers touching me while I sleep.

“Am I really supposed to sleep with all of this stuff hanging from me?” I sheepishly asked Carolyn.

“Sure,” she replied. “I’ve done it. You don’t need to worry about them. They won’t come off, and if they do I’ll go in and put them back”

That wasn’t quite what I was worrying about, but I tried to be positive.

At last I was in my bed and all plugged in. The system check was done. An infrared light was clipped and taped to the second finger on my left hand. The mattress and pillow both felt hard to my sparsely-padded body and they crackled every time I moved.

“If you need me for anything just wave that light three times and I’ll come in,” said Carolyn. “You can go to sleep now.”

Yeah, right.

In the dark and silent room I had no problem closing my eyes, but the rest of my body would simply not cooperate. I switched from my back to my right side, to my left side and back again, ever conscious of the extra, fine appendages now sharing my body. I pulled the covers up high; I threw them all off. My bent legs ached. I stretched them straight out. My nose itched. I scratched it. Something felt tight across the tops of my ears when I lay on either side. How long did that go on? It seemed like hours, but I could only guess. There was no clock in the room.

Suddenly I heard a voice and felt someone touching my hair.

“It’s only me,” Carolyn said. “You’re sweating.” She adjusted the connections on the back of my head and left.

I gave a grunt and squeezed my eyes closed again.

I didn’t know I was sweating. I guess I must have finally fallen asleep. Can I go back there?

It wasn’t to be. The tossing and turning began once again. There were times when I felt my mind drift into nothingness and I was sure I was on the brink of sleep, only to have a leg give a jerk, or another itch require attention, and I was back to the reality of my torturous sleep deprivation.

When Carolyn next came into my room to adjust my heart monitors, I was still awake.

“You’re having a hard time sleeping, aren’t you? You’ve been awake for a long time”

“That I am.”

“Well there’re still two hours to go, but if you haven’t gotten to sleep in another hour, just wave your hand and I’ll get you up and you can go home.” She didn’t tell me how I’d know that another hour had passed. A few tears trickled from the corners of my eyes and I quickly wiped them away before they flowed under the electrodes.

Finally my body and mind relaxed, and I drifted into dreamland.

“Judith, it’s time to get up.” That now familiar voice penetrated my consciousness, and my whole being protested. No, no, I just got to sleep. Let me sleep some more!

Slowly, I pulled myself up and swung my legs over the side of the bed so Carolyn could peel the tape from my face, my legs and my chest. My skin smarted with each tug.

“So what happens now? Since I didn’t sleep much, will any of this have done any good?” I asked.

“We’ll have to see what the doctor says when he reads your results. You did sleep for the last bit so that may be enough. If not, you’ll be back.”

Oh, joy.

“Once you’re dressed, come out to the desk. We have a questionnaire for you to fill out, and then you can go home.”

I picked up the clipboard and squinted through my bloodshot eyes at the questionnaire.

How long did it take you to get to sleep?

  1. How long did you sleep?
  2. How many times did you wake up?
  3. Did you feel rested when you woke up?

Are they serious?

The sun was just beginning to lighten the day when I stumbled out to my car and turned the key. I looked at the clock, 6:00 a.m. As I pulled out of the parking lot the opening words to a Four Seasons song popped into my head. Oh, what a night!

A few weeks later, I was back. This time my husband dropped me off because I was required to stay later into the next day.

“There didn’t seem to be an indication of a night time sleep disorder, but I’d like to give it another try to see if you can sleep longer,” the specialist had said. “I think you should stay for a day time test as well.”

So I appeared at the appointed time and watched while I was once again prodded and poked, and taped and wired. I brought my own pillow with me this time, and some snacks to ensure that I wouldn’t get hungry before the lights went out. Perhaps that helped stave off the pain.

As before, the wires and clips prevented me from getting much sleep. Early the next morning Carolyn was at my side.

“I’m going to take some of these wires off now.  Then you can walk around; go down the hall to the washrooms. Did you bring something to eat?”

Bleary-eyed, I walked down the hall. The scent of toast and coffee drifted out from somewhere and my stomach grumbled. Back in the waiting area, I munched on a bagel and cream cheese that I’d packed into a cooler bag the night before, and wished I could find a toaster to warm it. While I sipped my water (coffee wasn’t an option in the Sleep Clinic) and tried to read my book, the room came alive with the sounds of chatter and doors opening and closing as the night shift left and the day shift arrived.

Soon a new female voice was calling my name.

“It’s time for you to get back into bed, Judy. I need to hook you up to the sleep monitor, and then I’m going to turn out the lights. If you go to sleep within fifteen minutes, I will let you sleep for fifteen minutes. If you don’t I’ll get you up again.”

Well, I was definitely tired, the room was dark and silent, and all that remained of my clusters of wires were a few on my head and the one clipped to my finger. What else would I do? I went to sleep. Fifteen minutes later I was awakened.

“You can walk around, or read for fifteen minutes now,” the technician said. The routine for the next couple of hours was set. Each time I got a little more sleep, until I was finally told that I could go home.

I called my husband. “I’m ready to leave, but I’m going to start walking. I need some air and exercise. Watch for me along the way.”

The sun was warm on my face as I breathed in the fresh morning air.  I ran my hand through my hair and my fingers dislodged a clump of clay, and then another. When my ride appeared, I climbed into the car and flipped down the vanity mirror.

“Good grief, what a sight I must have been to those who’d passed me on the street, a weary looking woman with spikes of gray and charcoal hair stuck together with glue, and a pillow under her arm!” My husband chuckled.

I wish I could tell you that it was all worthwhile; that a cause and cure for my pain had been found. But that wasn’t the case. I was diagnosed with “possible daytime drowsiness” which meant I shouldn’t do any long distance driving, and a slightly irregular heart rate. I was given a prescription for Ritalin to control the daytime drowsiness, despite my telling him that I didn’t understand the necessity. After only three doses my heart rate went into overdrive and I refused to take any more.

My family doctor, following due diligence, then sent me to a heart specialist who, after stress tests, Doppler tests and monitors could find only a very slight, and quite common, heart irregularity. My cholesterols were exactly where they should be. Still he felt he should give me a prescription for something, which he admitted I didn’t really need.

“Will it relieve my pain?” I asked.

“No, but it might prevent you from having a heart attack or stroke in twenty years.”

Sometimes there just isn’t a magic cure. Sometimes you have to listen to your body and do what you can. I’ve figured out some triggers for my pain and have learned to avoid them. Some days I just have to give into it and take the day off, knowing that it will pass and tomorrow will be better.

Book cover2This story is one of 81 chosen through competition to be included in this Anthology of Women’s Memoirs, which was published on January 8, 2016 and was the recipient of an Honorable Mention Award from the New England Book Festival. You will find it in Reflection Pond. The books can be ordered (e-books only) on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

Through Thick and Thin ©2012 A History of the Audrey and Ernie Victor Family


In 2012 I published my second book.

Through Thick and Thin

“We don’t make much money, but we have a lot of fun.”

This was the philosophy of Ernie Victor, a well-known and loved entertainer in the area of Peterborough, Ontario, from the early 1930s until his passing in 1978.

There are many interesting stories told of people who have become famous for their amazing life accomplishments. There are many more wonderful, untold stories of people whose accomplishments seldom make headlines, but are nonetheless just as interesting and worthy of telling.

This is the story of an ordinary family born from the love of two young and perhaps naïve people who struggled through some hard times times, their love of music and a good laugh binding them together through it all.

This book was published through Lulu Publishing.
It can be ordered at Lulu.com or by contacting the author.

Haugen’s – The Place to Be ©2009


(a version of this story was published in Canadian Biker Magazine in June, 2009 under the title They Came for the Fries. They Stayed for the Bikes.) Note: This Magazine pays well, but the editor likes to do a lot of re-writing, often with grammatical errors, so I prefer my own versions. Hope you agree)

After having spent two sunny weeks without a bike, amongst the curves and hills of the popular town of Kaslo, BC, it was refreshing to at last be on our Venture once more, taking advantage of what was apparently one of the few clear evenings that central Ontario had experienced since we’d left.

It began with a call from Mike at 4:00 pm.  “Can you meet us at the Bell parking lot at 4:30?  It looks like we’re going to be done work early.”

After exchanging our shorts and sandals for jeans and boots, and making a quick call to Keith to see if he was up for the ride, Jim (Victor) and I were on our way. It took a little longer than anticipated to get everyone gathered, but by five there were eight bikes heading out the 115 from Peterborough towards Port Perry. Our destination was the weekly Bike Cruise-in held at Haugen’s Chicken & Ribs Barbeque Restaurant, a seventy-five kilometre trip from Peterborough.

Besides our Yamaha Venture, our party included Brian and Carol on Vulcans, Tom on a Harley Fat Boy, Randy on a Honda 750, Keith on his Honda ST 1300, Mike on a Honda 13TX 1300 and Glenn on a 1500 Kawasaki Mean Streak.

The sun was warm and the air was clear. We left Hwy 115, and followed the grey ribbon of highway 7A up long hills and down through lush valleys, past corn fields and rows of freshly mowed hay, through the little communities of Cavan, Bethany, Nestleton and into the Town of Port Perry. Three kilometres west of there we turned south at the traffic lights onto Hwy 12 and road into the Hamlet of Manchester. Soon the familiar sites and sounds of a Motorcycle Cruise-in greeted us. The smell of barbecued meat and homemade strawberry pie accosted our senses as we pulled into the parking lot. The paved parking areas were already full.  We picked up our free door prize tickets at the gate, and continued over the bridge to the grassy excess parking spot, next to a corn field.

Haugen’s has been around since 1953 and over the years has become popular with thousands of families and travelers. Fourteen years ago the current owners started welcoming area car buffs to a Classic Car Cruise-in on Wednesday nights throughout the summer. Seven years later they expanded that invitation to motorcycle enthusiasts, creating the Thursday Night Motorcycle Cruise-in. With about 1000 bikes attending weekly, Haugen’s has become the place to be on Thursday Nights.

On January 7, 2006 Haugen’s was presented with the Max Award in the category of “Motorcycle Event” at the North American International Motorcycle Supershow in Toronto.

After filling our growling stomachs with some of the specialties at the restaurant, while watching the empty parking spaces gradually fill, we went out to do the tour.

Although Harleys were in abundance, a large variety of other bike makes and classes were represented. Near the front door, four shiny new Boss Hosses with their V8 car engines were attracting a large crowd, the owners more than pleased to rev the engines to demonstrate the roar from the pipes. There were vintage Triumphs, Hondas and BMWs.

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We checked out the details of some unique custom work, such as the copper coloured chopper with brown tooled-leather seat, bronzed fenders and accessories, and exposed primary belt drive; and the custom-made bright yellow trike with a leading link front end and a chrome combination of crash bar/floor boards; and the low-to-the-ground customized Suzuki with a single swing-arm, and chromed connecting rods used for mirror arms, brake peddle, shift lever and kick stand.

The sun reflecting off the profusion of glistening chrome was sometimes blinding, and we looked in amazement at the variety of graphics and pin striping. One Shadow could have been an advertisement for a popular biking magazine, owned by a proud “Canadian Biker” displaying red maple leaves air brushed onto the white tank and fenders.

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There was a new green Ural with sidecar that one person passing by mistook for a restored vintage bike.

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“Wow, this is amazing,” exclaimed Carol when I caught up with her an hour later. “I’ve never been to anything like this before.”  She explained that she was a new rider, having ridden for just three months, and she hadn’t been to any kind of a motorcycle gathering before. I think she’s hooked.

Two young girls approached us to ask if we’d purchase 50/50 tickets and we obliged.  The proceeds are donated to the local Big Brothers and Big Sisters Organizations.

Each year, on the first Thursday of September Haugen’s runs a Motorcycle Rider Appreciation Cruise-in that has become known as “The Big One”. For this they bring in a live band and a number of vendors.  The attendance count for last year and this was 1350 bikes, but that didn’t break the record set on September 7, 2006 when there were 1522 bikes, and $1000 was raised for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of North Durham.

We connected with several bikers who until then had been only names-without-faces that we’d gotten to know through online exchanges. Great food, great friends, great bikes, great weather – what more could a biker ask for? No wonder it’s the “place to be.”

This quote from Haugen’s website (www.haugensbbq.com) sums it up:

Here’s what you need to know about our Motorcycle cruise in: All bikes are welcome, it’s free and it starts at 5pm on Thursday nights. Besides all the amazing bikes to see and like minded people to exchange stories with, there is music to be enjoyed and door prizes to be won.