July 17th – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


In the mornings of the two days that we went to see the eye doctor, I’d wakened up with a bit of a scratchy, sore throat and I was tired, so I wondered if I needed to postpone the appointments, but I was pretty sure that it was due to my allergies and extreme heat. By the time we had to leave for Peterborough, I was feeling just fine so I answered the questions at the doctor’s office honestly. But, by Thursday evening my throat was really sore and my ears were blocked. Again, under normal circumstances, I would have gone with the allergies diagnosis, but I began to worry about the slight chance that it could be COVID and I felt very concerned about having been to the Optometrist office the day before.

On Friday morning, after breakfast and allergy pills and using the netti pot, my throat was back to normal. In fact, I felt better than I had for weeks! Still I felt that I should go to the local clinic for a COVID test just to be sure. It was in the next town over from us. The info we found online wasn’t up-to-date so it took a couple of tries to find it, only to discover that it wasn’t open on Fridays! I’d have to wait until Monday, or drive further to find another clinic. It would have been nice to not worry over the weekend, but I knew I wouldn’t get the results before the next week anyway. So we kept pretty much to ourselves all weekend, going out only for an evening walk around our rural block. We don’t usually meet up with anyone we know to stop and chat. When we did see friends who were standing in line at the ice-cream shop, I kept my distance while they chatted. I’d forgotten to take a mask with me. That night my throat got really sore again. I was so disappointed.

The weather cooled down some. I slept better and regained my energy. I had no more sore throat after that. I kept doing the Self-Assessment on the phone App. I never did have any fever. By Monday I was confident that it wasn’t COVID, but I made appointments for both Jim and me to get tested anyway, to relieve everyone’s mind. We had to wait until Tuesday.

The Clinic visit was a horrible experience. I was called in first. Jim filled out the questionnaire while he waited in the car. I was expected to fill it out while also answering the verbal questions that were being fired at me from the technician! I have no idea if I filled in the written pages with all the correct answers! He finished his questions and then waited impatiently, holding a very long stick in his hand, for me to finish my form.

“Take off your mask. I’m going to put this way up your nose. Don’t cough and don’t pull away,” he said. And there it was, pushing further and further through my right nostril until tears rolled down my cheeks. I resisted the urge to pull back by holding my breath. Even after it was removed, the pain lingered. Outside, the slight breeze entering my nose increased the discomfort. I wish I had a picture of that!

“We’ll send you the results in two to three days, or you can go online to get them,” the other, female, worker said to me as she handed me a page of information. She was very pleasant.

Jim had his turn. He didn’t have to fill our questions at the same time as answering verbal questions, but he did have to endure the same pain. He was unable to resist pulling back and the fellow held his head!

I can’t imagine President Trump and his staff going through that every single day!

On Wednesday we drove to Cobourg to look at storage sheds for our new bikes, which should arrive within a month. On Thursday we went back to order one and all the materials needed to build the floor. I stayed in the car and Jim, of course, wore a mask and used hand sanitizer. We had no way of bringing it all home, but one of our neighbours offered to pick them up with a trailer when they will be going that way on Monday. We know what we’ll be doing next week to fill in some time! Assembling.

This morning, we went online to get our test results – NEGATIVE!

July 10, 2020 – Mind Travelling during COVID-19


Last week I started a post this way:

Some days I feel like we’re just treading water, living on hold. I’d really like to get back to doing some sort of travelling. It’s still not safe to venture too far away from home, but there are things we could enjoy within our own province. Maybe we could possibly fly to BC to visit my family. But now that the airlines have decided to fill their planes again, I’m not comfortable with that.

Then my muse disappeared. With no travel, I had nothing more to write.

This week we had a few things on our calendar. Monday we were again hosting our weekly Ukulele Jam on our lawn. Well, we thought we were.  We got all set up under the trees and waited. No one showed up! We did a bit of practicing ourselves and some of our neighbours came out to chat.

On Wednesday, we thought, Jim was to have a care conference by phone with his brother’s support nurse (Andrew) at the Long term Care Facility where he lives. It was supposed to be at 10:00 a.m. At 11:00, when Jim hadn’t heard from him yet, he called the home. They had to track Andrew down and would have him call back. We left here at 12:00 p.m. headed for our appointments with our Eye Doctor in Peterborough. We got about half way there when Jim’s phone rang. It was a call from the Nursing Home. The appointment with Andrew was scheduled for Thursday, not Wednesday!

We carried on to Peterborough. Because there were all new rules of conduct, due to COVID-19, timing was crucial, so we’d left home early enough to allow for the  possibilities of road construction delays, as is the norm every summer. We arrived at the Clinic parking lot a half hour before my appointment, so we waited in the car, with the windows down, capturing any little breeze that drifted in. We were on a week of extremely hot and dry weather.

Five minutes before my appointed time, as instructed, I put on my facemask and entered the building. I rang the bell on the office door and waited for someone to come out. When she did, she looked at her clipboard and said, “Iris?”

“No, I’m Judy,” I replied.

She looked through her papers and said she’d be right back. When she came out again she told me that the mask I was wearing (which has a filtered vent on it) wasn’t allowed because it “let’s air out.” She said she’d have to check with the doctor, but she had been told no vents. I explained that there was  a filter. She said she had one she could give me if they didn’t allow mine.

Vented Mask

I shrugged and said, “Okay.” She couldn’t see my smile behind my mask.

Another woman came along while I waited and she was asked questions and then ushered into the office. I wondered why, since I was there at exactly my time slot. I texted Jim to tell him that I’d be longer, and that he wouldn’t be able to use his vented mask either.

My turn came to answer all of the questions. I put on the mask that I was given and tucked my own into my pocket. After using hand sanitizer on the way through the door that was being held open for me (we were told not to touch anything, including the door knobs) I was instructed to sit in the rolling chair located near the station where eye glasses are checked. I’d just sat down when someone else rang the door buzzer. The young woman went to answer it and then came back saying, “I must have the wrong Judy.” She got the file and said to me, “You’re Judy Green, right?”

“No,” I said, “I’m Judy Lawless.” She looked perplexed. Apparently the woman at the door was also a Judy.

The technician heard the conversation and looked at the daily list of patients. “We don’t have a Judy Lawless on today’s list,” she said.

“What?” I asked. “I talked to someone on Monday, confirming my appointment, and she sent me the emails. Do you have Jim Victor on there?”

“No.” She checked the next day’s schedule. “Your appointments are for tomorrow. Dr. Shields isn’t even in today!”

I was stunned. “Okay,” I sighed and got up and headed toward the door. She ran past me and said, “Wait, I’ll open the door for you.” I waited, then dropped the mask into the waste basket that I noticed by the door as I headed out to tell Jim my saga. He checked his phone calendar and sure enough there sat the two appointments for the day, but they were both for Thursday! I don’t know why I had it in my head that they all were to be on Wednesday.

We were to meet a friend at Costco parking lot to pick up something from him. I texted and he asked if the original time would still work. I said sure. Jim had just asked if I thought we should buy the e-bikes that we’d looked at a couple of weeks ago. I’d given up on them because he didn’t seem that interested, so I was happy that he’d changed his mind. We stopped at the store and ordered them. They don’t come cheap, but I think when they arrive in August the weather will have cooled down enough for us to get out on our local trails at least.

When all was done and we were driving home, I replayed the appointment mix ups in my head, and realized that we both should have thought to check the eye appointments when we learned the conference call was not that day. And, I think I was a little rude with the women in the office. And I could have saved the mask for later use. I blame it on the lack of sleep and the high heat. My brain felt frazzled. I hope that’s all it was!

Fortunately, I was able to return the next day and apologize, and I was relieved to learn that my eye issues haven’t gotten any worse, and neither have Jim’s.

May 24th – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


Another month is quickly slipping by. It’s been a better month for sure. Mothers’ day brought great comfort, with phone calls or chats with all of my children, and gifts from my step-children left at the door, with a distancing visit.

The box of paints, brushes and a canvas were meant to prompt me to try something new. I took that challenge and found an online Paint Workshop that was suggested. I didn’t join it live because the time wasn’t convenient, but I did it on my own time the next day. It turned out that was good, because I struggled at first with mixing enough paint to do big sections, in different shades of blue, but I persevered. Unlike using watercolours (which I’d tried many years ago) my mistakes could be painted over and corrected. Well, most of them, until I ran out of the very important white paint required for mixing. Then I had to improvise. The two-hour class took me most of the day to finish this one painting. But, in the end I felt  good to have completed it, and it didn’t look too bad for an amateur. I enjoyed the challenge and hope to get some more canvas to try another one, sometime.

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Another gift was a jar of sourdough starter. It brought back memories of the delicious and light sourdough muffins that I used to make. The recipe made big batches and, because the starter had to be divided up with some to feed a new starter and the rest to be used in baking, once a week (actually it seems to me it was more often) my freezer was full of frozen muffins of a variety of flavours. My son told me years later how he used to often sneak down to the freezer to grab one or two and eat them frozen. I didn’t even notice the missing ones. I had to wait a week until it was time to feed the starter before I could use some of it, but I kept those muffins in mind.

I had several days when baking was my outlet, creating another (better) lemon meringue pie and chocolate/peanut butter squares one day.

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Another day I recruited Jim to help me make a big batch of perogies, one of my favourite quick from the freezer meals, but that I’d never made myself before. They were a lot of work, and took a long time, but we worked well together.

 

When the day came to feed the sourdough I was having a major pain day, which usually causes some brain fade. That day was no exception. For one thing, the new way of measuring ingredients is by weight instead of volume. Fortunately we have a scale that we used for weighing packages when doing product shipping for our online businesses, but I had to learn the trick for adding multiply ingredients. Then I put the water in before the flour, which made mixing more difficult. I doubted that it was going to work, but the next day I saw that it had.

I made a batch of muffins, not the recipe I used to use. Seems I didn’t keep it, never expecting to be doing volume or sourdough baking again. They might have turned out good if I hadn’t been trying to do something else in the kitchen while they were baking. I somehow tuned out the sound of the timer and they got way over baked. Not burned, but rather dry. Disappointing.

Oh well, the sun came out the next day and the temperature climbed.

We had a few ukulele players over to our lawn to play some tunes one day, keeping our distance and staying no more than an hour. We limited the invitation to only five of us in total. It was a welcome change.

One Friday evening we ordered take out Fish and Chips from one of our local restaurants, a restaurant that had been closed completely for two months and just recently started doing order-ahead take outs. We invited another couple who lives in the building to join us at the twelve-foot table in the Common Room, each of us with our own orders, using our own plates and utensils, sitting at opposite ends of the table. It was nice to chat and get caught up, something we hadn’t been able to do since we’d been gone for six months.

I bought vegetable seeds and planted one of the three planter boxes that our Condo Board acquired so we could have a little community garden.

I’ve gotten used to grocery shopping. It seems to be the new normal for me now. More people are wearing masks, and so far there has been no news of CORONA-19 outbreaks in our small tri-town community. I have to admit that that might not necessarily be a good thing, only because it becomes too easy to forget that we still have to be diligent with our social distancing and mask wearing. I was shocked when, one day after I was introduced to the woman who agreed to rent us parking space for the motorhome, without thinking I reached out to shake her hand — and she reciprocated! That weighed on my mind for a long time. I sanitized my hands as soon as I got back into the car; I hoped that she did too. I didn’t sleep well that night, after that incident and after hearing the latest COVID case statistics. The curve was rising, or at least no longer falling in many places in Canada and around the world. I had another major pain day.

We sat in our car by a nearby beach and watched and listened to the peacefulness.

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This morning I woke up feeling optimistic and planning things I wanted to accomplish. It was to be another sunny day. But the first thing I saw when I opened my iPad was a message from someone who cares, warning me that “take out” food is dangerous unless we’d cooked it again at home for ten minutes at at  least 80 degrees. He’d seen Jim’s Facebook post about our sharing with neighbours. Then I opened a news app and saw huge crowds of people on beaches enjoying Memorial Day  in the US, and I thought “they are never going to get out of this virus if they continue like this.” When I opened an app with Canadian news I saw the same thing happening in a park in Toronto! There goes my optimism and respect for my fellow human beings.

At least the sun is still shining, today.

And the flowers are blooming in the beds.

And a mother robin has decided to build her nest in a corner of the building, on the ledge of our bedroom window! How beautiful is that?

PLEASE STAY SAFE! AND KEEP YOUR LOVED ONES SAFE TOO!

Something New is Coming and It Could Change Our World for the Better -The Green New Deal


Have you heard?  No, I’m not campaigning for the Green Party.  They did not initiate this!

A growing number of people are becoming aware of, and fearful, of the rapidly progressing climate crisis. Calls have gone out in the US and Canada for an initiative called the Green New Deal, defined as a comprehensive shift in our economy and government policy to simultaneously address the climate crisis, economic inequality, and the sweeping economic changes that come with automation and Artificial Intelligence. It’s also a call for inclusiveness. It’s been recognized that the only way we’re going to get through this crisis is together, as in non-partisan.

I heard about this a few weeks ago and, being one of those people who understand that there is a real crisis, I signed up to become involved. Last evening Jim and I drove to a small community a half hour south of us, to the first of several Town Hall Meetings being held throughout our area. As I mentioned, it was held in a small rural town, in a small town hall so I didn’t know what to expect. Would very many people show up? We were a little late arriving, but so were others. By the time the meeting got started, there were forty-five people filling all of the available tables and chairs!

There were some politicians there – the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of the Township; the Green Party Candidate for our federal riding,  Jeff  Wheeldon; and the Liberal Candidate for our riding, Kim Ludd (also our current MP) – but none of them were there to campaign. They all were interested in the same thing, to find ways to solve these crises together.

After a Welcome and introductions from the two women who organized it, we were all given a challenge to write down as many things we’d like to see happen to save our country’s environment and general well-being, and create another list of things that we wouldn’t want to see happen as a result of some of the possible efforts. After discussion among us, grouped by table, one person from each group presented a summary of what we agreed were the most important points. It was amazing to hear all of the suggestions. Many had similar ideas, but there were others who had really done a lot of thinking. In fact there were representatives from a chapter of another movement that I hadn’t heard about before, The Blue Dot Movement, who came up with some excellent and in- depth necessities to fight this crisis.

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Summary from Lists (in no particular order) 

  • Reduce/eventually ban single-use plastics (did you know that most dark coloured plastic bottles, such as those used for laundry detergents and rinses are not often recyclable?)
  • Development of more efficient electric vehicles, and wider provision of charging stations for them
  • Banning all dangerous chemicals used in pesticides and weed killers, such as Round-up
  • Encourage composting by providing municipal pick-up
  • EDUCATE about the need for changes and how to make them, through schools, adult workshops, etc.
  • Work toward the end of fossil fuel use, and replace with sustainable energy sources
  • Retraining for those workers whose jobs would be eliminated
  • Reforestation – bring back annual tree-planting days in schools
  • Create more (electric) public transportation
  • Fight for the Carbon Pricing and Tap and Trade legislation to remain in place
  • Fight for clean-energy strategies
  • Stop the continued decline of our natural plant species
  • Create community gardens, and buy locally

On the other list it was agreed that any of these changes needs to be accomplished without causing personal hardships to the public because of job layoffs or unaffordability.

Two Best Quotes of the Night 

  • There is no limit to what we can accomplish (together) if we don’t care about being the “winner”
  • You can’t have a good economy without a good environment

What I Came Away With 

  • It’s time that we started focusing on the first of the Three R’s, REDUCE. Recycling hasn’t been enough for a very long time, but it was the easiest.
  • There are plenty of like-minded people out there with many options for making reducing less stressful
  • We need to talk about the issue; we need to listen to others; we absolutely need to LEARN.
  • If we work together to accomplish these goals, we will All be WINNERS!

Let’s get involved to save our planet for our children and grandchildren! Let me know what you think is important and how you plan to make changes.

New Adventures to Spice-up Our Annual Journey to Arizona


We’re off again! That summer sure slipped by!

We must be slowing down in our old age. Despite dropping some things off at the motor home several times on our way by during the last couple of weeks, it still took us the better part of three days to load everything else that we (thought?) we needed once we had it parked outside the Condo building. By the time we were finally on the road at 11:30 on Monday morning, I think we were already tired. The rainy weather didn’t help to lift our spirits, and it turned out to be not a good day.

The driver side windshield wiper wasn’t hitting where it should, so when we reached Cobourg, twenty-five kilometers down the road, Jim felt he needed to purchase a new blade and install it. We were barely out on the highway again when I heard a thump and looked back to see the fridge door swinging open! That had happened once on our way home in the spring, but it was on a very bumpy road and it was forgotten about. Unlike the dual refrigerators meant for RVs, our newer house model didn’t come with any sort of locking system other than the suction seal. I managed to find some pieces of Velcro and secure it. An hour or so later, Jim was in need of coffee so we made a quick stop and got going in earnest.

A couple of hours later found us in the middle of rush-hour traffic going through Toronto, when traffic suddenly slowed to a stop and Jim had to brake very hard. The cars ahead of us loomed closer and closer. I saw Jim downshift and, fortunately, was able to make a quick lane-change to the left. Whew. He told me once it was over that the brakes had gone soft after the initial push. The rest of the way through the traffic he drove much more slowly and kept his hand on the gear shift, downshifting at the first sign of a traffic stop. It was already 4:15. We stopped to get brake fluid and that seemed to help a little.

There was no way we would make it to the US border before dark then, so we called Jim’s cousin, Marjorie and her husband Dave,  who had accommodated us on our way last year, and asked if we could once again park in their driveway. Of course we could. We stopped to pick up sandwiches. We arrived at Glencoe at 7:00 pm, just as the sun was setting.

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The rain had stopped somewhere along the way, but we hadn’t really noticed. It was a beautiful sunset, but then the temperature tumbled. We had a visit with Marjorie and Dave and then crawled into our cold bed. Jim discovered he’d forgotten the extension cord that he uses for his CPAP, so had to improvise. Last year, if the batteries were well charged before we went to bed, the inverter would keep them running for the night. But, of course, that wasn’t to be that night. Jim had to get up twice to turn on the generator. It was a long and stressful night.

In the morning, Dave made some calls and found a mechanic who could get us in to diagnose and fix the brake problem right away. After breakfast we said our thanks and goodbyes. When we got to the shop we had to wait for them to finish up another job before they could look at ours. The diagnosis was a blown brake line! It could have been worse. They set to work replacing it. Because the other one showed some signs of rust they recommended that be replaced too. Lunch time came and they took their break. We sat in the motor home reading. We had only snack food to eat without any electricity to even heat a bowl of soup. At 2:30 the job was done and it cost much less than we’d expected. At last, some good news.

An hour and a half later we were rocking with the waves of Lake St. Clair, on the little Walpole Ferry to Michigan.

 

Upon arrival, because we couldn’t fit through the scanner, we were told we’d have to wait in the office while they did a manual search. Hunger was making me fidgety and the one male officer was watching me. Maybe he thought I was nervous about something, but we had nothing to hide and we were soon on our way. I couldn’t help but notice the picture of a very stern-looking President Trump staring down upon us while we waited.

We stopped at the first place that we saw that served food – Hungry Howie’s. It was take-out only so we ordered a pizza and ate it in the motor home. We would have loved to just crawl into bed and stay there for the night, but we drove on for another hour then stopped for gas, picked up a couple of things at Walmart and hunkered down for the night. Our propane tank was empty by then, so we had to haul out one of our portable ones and hook it up so we’d have heat.

Day Three Brings Relief

We were up at six the next morning and waiting at the door for Bob Evan’s to open a half hour later. A big breakfast of Eggs Benedict got us off to a good start to the day. And except for a detour around Detroit that cost us some extra time, it was a very good day. We were in Ohio before noon and stopped for an early lunch at the Cracker Barrel. We were in Kentucky by 3:00 and looking forward to staying in our first Campground with propane, electricity and water. We hadn’t had a shower since we’d left home. But Oak Creek Camping was full, as were a couple of others in the area. We thought we would be stuck at the nearby Flying J truck stop. Then, a very nice man named Larry offered to let us connect to his electricity if we wanted to dry-camp at the empty space next to him. The office agreed. We could also get propane at the Flying J, and showers, and dinner! It worked out well after all.

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Why I Don’t Like Flying Anymore


I don’t think I’m the only one who finds air travel to be more stressful than it used to be. Although some things are much simpler now if you are technology savvy, like purchasing your ticket online, checking in using an App and having your Boarding Pass sent to your smart phone or tablet, the rules as to what you can and can’t take in your carry-on bag seem to differ at each airport, and with different passengers. I find myself holding my breath as I go through inspection, wondering if there will be something I’ve missed that could raise an alarm.

I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence, but Kelowna International Airport, the one I fly into and sometimes out of when I go to visit Kaslo, has been the only one where I feel like I’m being targeted. In the past ten or twelve years that I’ve been making that trip I’ve been chosen for a pat-down twice. That didn’t bother me much. But this last trip really raised my heart rate.

For all these years I’ve been aware of the size limit on any types of liquids that we can transport in our carry-on bags, and I’ve complied. I remember seeing staff offering us plastic bags for such liquids, but I didn’t know that they were mandatory. I understood that the liquids had to be seen through the scanner, but I had mine all carefully labelled and placed in the plastic enclosures of the travel/cosmetic bag and I was never questioned. Usually I’ve had the bag rolled up, inside my carry-on, and no one ever asked to see it; but this time, because my carry-on was a little too deep on my last trip and was difficult to fit into the plane’s overhead bins, I laid the bag out flat across everything else inside. I also had another small bag with clear plastic inside pouches, into which I placed all the little items that I usually put into the bigger pocket of that bag.Was that the difference?

Cosmetic Bag

Cosmetic Bag

 

When I went through Security in Toronto, the scanner found something they weren’t sure about it and my case was opened. The inspector looked through my travel/cosmetic bag and found, in the larger, non-plastic pocket, my tube of Facial Cleanser. This was the one item that I’d forgotten to check for the size. It was an ounce too large. The Inspector was nice about it. She determined that it wasn’t quite full and allowed me to take it this time, but warned me that I wouldn’t be allowed to take it in my carry-on again. “You can take it in your checked baggage though.” I thanked her and said “I don’t have any checked baggage.” No mention was made of any of the other little bottles and tubes that were in the bag.

So when I was getting ready for my return trip, out of Kelowna, I went to a dollar store and bought a few little plastic jars. I squeezed all of my Facial Cleanser into two of them, and labelled them. Then I notice that a tube of hand cream (which I think I’d had in my “personal” bag before) was also a little too large, so I squeezed what remained of it into the third jar.

I checked the website and surmised that the reason for the plastic bags (which they don’t offer unsolicited anymore) was so that any bottles and tubes could be seen with the scanner. OK.  I spread my travel/cosmetic bag out in the top of my carry-on again, this time with the inside showing and I thought I’d be good.

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At security my carry-on was immediately pulled aside as soon as it went through the scanner. I thought that maybe it couldn’t recognize the pottery tumbler that my daughter had given me, wrapped up in a pair of shorts.

Pottery Tumbler

Pottery Tumbler

“No,” the Inspector said. “There’s something liquid.”

She pulled out my travel kit and, interestingly, opened the pocket where the too-large tube had been when I left Toronto. It wasn’t there of course, but she told me that all my “liquids” had to be put into the little plastic bag that she provided.

“Obviously they aren’t all going to fit, so you have two options. You can go back out and check this bag (for $25) or pick out what you want to keep and I’ll pack what I can into the bag.”

I’m a senior, living on a basic Government Pension that wouldn’t pay my basic living expenses if I had to do it alone, but I do try to pay for my personal expenses, including an annual trip to see my family. My budget is limited. I shop around and plan my trip upon seat-sales. Since extra charges have been added for baggage, early seat selection and anything to eat other than crackers, chips or cookies, I avoid those to save money. I’d already forgotten to bring the packed lunch my friend had prepared for me,  so I knew it was going to cost me $10.00 to buy a sandwich on the plane. I wasn’t about to dish out another $25 to check my bag.

I picked out the items that were of the most value and she put them into the bag. Then she filled it up with all of the little sample tubes of things that I really didn’t care about, including a nearly empty tube of toothpaste. I had to give up a bottle of body lotion, the hand lotion that I’d carefully squeezed into the small jar, and nothing else of any significance. I realized later that one bottle left behind was already empty and I could have kept it for another time!

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It was a good thing that I gotten to the airport very early. I wasn’t happy.

I was even more annoyed when my seat companions on the plane arrived. As soon as she sat down, the woman pulled a little cosmetic bag from her over-sized purse and took out a tube of sanitizer to wipe down their trays. The bag was crammed with all sorts of makeup items. Why was SHE allowed to carry them on without being in a plastic bag?

I wonder, do I have a record now? Can I expect this every time I fly from now on? Does it have anything to do with my last name – Lawless? Ha, ha.

When they came by to ask if we wanted anything to eat, I had to ask what the options were and the plane was so noisy, I couldn’t hear the response. She seemed annoyed.

“It’s listed in the menu.”

“I don’t have a menu.” The woman next to me looked and she didn’t have one either. She told the hostess that I couldn’t hear her.

“Fiesta chicken wrap..”

“I’ll take that.”

By that time I was so flustered that I handed her a debit card instead of a credit card. She handed it back. Once everyone was served she came back and handed me a menu. “I know you don’t need it now for a meal, but maybe you might want a snack or something later.” Thanks.

 

Memoir Monday – The Beginning of Online Dating


In three days I’ll be back in British Columbia visiting with friends and family. It won’t be the complicated and exhausting trip that I took last year because I’m not trying to visit everyone in one trip this time. I’ll spend most of it with my daughter and grandchildren. I may or may not have anything new to write about while there, but I will try to do my Memoir Mondays, by sharing some of the memories of the various stages of my life, as I have written them over the years, in no particular order.

At one time I thought I’d write a book about online dating. The following is the first chapter, written more than fifteen years ago. I’d be grateful for your feedback, good or bad.

The Online Dating Trap (One Woman’s Perspective)

A few years ago, with a need to fill a void left by the passing of my life partner, I stepped out of my comfort zone and joined the game of online dating.  I tentatively posted my profile on one of the sites and began reading those of others.

It was a few weeks before I got even a bite, but once things began to move it turned into one hell of an emotional roller coaster ride.

 I soon found it to be an addictive pastime that brought with it the desperate urge to turn on the computer to check e-mail messages the minute I walked through the door, no matter how tired I was or how stressful a day it’d been.  Sometimes this brought relief to the stress; other times it increased it to dangerous levels.

 Chapter 1


Gerard

Gerard was the first one to respond to my posting.  He sounded very excited in his first e-mail, expressing how interesting I sounded and how much we had in common.  We started exchanging a few e-mails, and then tried the chat online, but it wasn’t working very well.  Finally, I just gave him my phone number and he called me.  We chatted for nearly an hour about travel and hiking and outdoor activities, all things that we both enjoyed.  We did indeed sound very compatible, so we arranged to meet for coffee in a couple of days. In the meantime, we exchanged more e-mails.

He revealed that he was retired from a position in Human Resources.  He had moved from the bigger city about four years ago.  He’d been divorced for two years.  He had no children and had no desire to have any at this point in his life.

When the time came for our meeting, I was feeling nervous, but confident.  I believed I had a lot to offer the right person.  I entered the coffee shop and looked around the area, but could see no one that matched Gerard’s description.  Rather than sit at a table, I figured I’d be easier to spot if I were standing, so I got into line to buy an Icedcap.  Then I saw a tall, slim man in faded blue jeans heading in my direction and scanning the crowd.  I stepped out of line and approached him.

“Gerard?”

“Yes. Judy?”  He extended his hand.  “Nice to finally meet you”

I was impressed.  Although he had described himself as “no movie star”, he really was quite attractive despite his thinning grey hair and beard.  He had beautiful blue yes that looked straight into mine.

We picked up our coffee and found a quiet table to begin our attempt to get to know each other.

Another hour passed.  Being rather shy with new people I tend to do more listening and observing.  I let Gerard do most of the talking.  He had lots of questions.

“Do you like to read?” he asked.

“Yes I do,” I replied, “but I haven’t had time to do much for quite awhile except for the motivational books I’ve had to read for my sales job.  I’d like to start reading for pleasure again though.”

Although I was an avid reader, I could think of neither titles nor authors of books I had enjoyed reading before my life had become so hectic. He suggested an author that he enjoyed and I thanked him.  I tried to make a mental note of it.

Do you like wine?” said Gerard.

It amazed me how many people were wine drinkers.  For years I’d sipped at various types that were handed to me, just to be sociable, but unless it was a very sweet brew, (which it usually wasn’t) I didn’t really care much for it.  I decided this time to be honest. “No, I don’t really like it.  I don’t care for beer at all either.  I don’t drink much, but if I do, I prefer a mixed drink”

“Oh.  I make my own wine. I enjoy spending my evening sitting with a good book and sipping a good glass of wine.”

Damn!  “That’s ok.  I don’t mind if other people drink, just as long as you don’t drink too much.  You don’t do you?”  I stammered.  I quickly explained that I’d once dated someone who made his own wine and drank so much of it that I suspected he was an alcoholic, then I gave myself another mental kick.

At times he caught me off guard, unable to give a quick answer, which he seemed to expect, but being a romantic optimist, I wasn’t too concerned. I thought that once we’d gotten past this first awkward meeting, we’d spend more relaxed time together when we’d naturally discover more details about each other.   I was a little disappointed when he suddenly said he had to leave to get back to painting his house. He didn’t suggest another meeting, but said we’d do some more e-mailing. Still, I went home smiling.

But it was a few days before he agreed to meet again, this time for a walk in a park.  Another hour spent chatting.  Again he had more questions.

“I like to go on long hikes.  Have you done much hiking?”

I had already told him during our first phone conversation about my experiences hiking for two days while in Thailand, so I didn’t want to repeat myself.

“Yes, I was a Girl Guide leader for 10 years and led the girls on many nature hikes,” I replied.

“But you didn’t take them on day long hikes, did you?  That’s my kind of hiking,” he countered.

We climbed up a grassy knoll and he suddenly stopped and pointed to the ground.

“What’s that?” he asked.  Before I realized what it was he was pointing to and could recall the name of the wild flower, he’d already answered his own question.  “It’s Chickweed.”

We passed a cultural building and in the window hung a large Dream Catcher. He asked me what it was. I was happy to explain it to him, although I was surprised that he wouldn’t have known. Was that another test?

At the time I didn’t notice it, but in retrospect I saw that he seemed to be testing me and trying to find fault.  He was even a little sarcastic.  The next day he sent me an e-mail saying that he didn’t think we were compatible, that I didn’t share his interests.  When I questioned him about that he complained that I didn’t like wine, I didn’t read much, I didn’t like opera (I’d answered that question by saying I  hadn’t had the opportunity to go to an Opera, but was open to new experiences), I didn’t like to hike or canoe. Except for the wine, none of it was true. It became apparent that he had “interviewed” me the way he would someone applying for a job. He’d expected certain answers to his questions.  When I didn’t answer quickly or fully enough, I lost points!

I was devastated.  It was a real blow to my ego because never before had I been so bluntly rejected. I knew he was wrong about me, but still it took me a few days to start believing it again.  Dating had certainly changed a lot in the past five years and this online dating thing was a whole new ball game.

An Albanian Family’s Journey to Freedom


As you might have guessed, one of the things happening that has caused me many tears is the treatment of the immigrant children arriving in the United States. I’m not going to get into the politics of this, but yesterday it made me remember a story that I’d written eight years ago about a local family’s journey as immigrants to Canada. I wrote it for submission to a magazine that had previously published my immigrant stories, but the editor felt this one wasn’t what he wanted. I’ve never found another fit for it, so I thought I’d share it with my readers here. This is a longer version. Let me know what you think.

An Albanian Family’s Journey to Freedom

On a cold Saturday morning in January the little restaurant is full except for a few vacant seats at the lunch bar. We wait just a few minutes while a woman occupying one of the booths prepares to leave, rather like waiting for a parking spot at the bank, watching for signs that one will become open soon.  We are greeted with the warm welcome by Remzi as if we were part of the family.

 “Good morning.  How are you today?’ he asks with his heavy accent.  By the time we’ve sat down he’s out from behind the bar and standing at our table.  “Two coffees to start?” he asks. 

His wife, Fejzie, passes by on her way to serve plates of the house special.  She smiles too. “How are you today?”

 I sip my coffee and listen to the conversations around us.   It’s as if we’re all seated at the table in a big family home.  Conversations are shared with everyone.  Fejzie & Remzi quip with their customers as if with their children. They remember everyone who has been there before. 

“Did you bring me picture of torch?” says Remzi as he places our plates before us.  At first we don’t catch what he’s saying. Then we remember that the last time we’d been in was the day the Olympic torch was leaving town.  We’d taken some pictures and had shown them to him on the camera screen when we’d gone in for breakfast after the event.  “I want to see the real pictures, not on camera.” We promise that we will print some up for him.

Remzi greets a newcomer at the end of the bar.  Did you know that Pete died? He asks her.  “Who’s Pete?”  “The old man who used to come in and sit right there,” he replies.  “He dropped dead on Wednesday.”

The place is small, maybe a dozen full-sized booths along the wall and one small one.  The tables are arborite, the seats fake leather.  A half dozen round stools, chrome with brown vinyl seats line the white arborite lunch bar, behind which is the grill, toaster, sinks, etc., all within view.  A cook works at the grill and Fejzie & Remzi make toast, pour coffee and tell him the orders.  There is a group too large for a booth.  Fejzie brings out a folding chair from the back and they put it at the end of the table.  Orders are taken with personal questions.  No one is offended.

East City Coffee Shop at end of the day

East City Coffee Shop at end of the day

Fejzie and Remzi run the East City Coffee Shop now, although it’s owned by Fejzie and her son Alban. Soup and sandwiches are available, but the specialty is the All Day Breakfast, which begins at 7 am and ends at 3 pm, when the doors are closed. They work hard, but their roots began in a very different world, one much harder. They both grew up in Albania during the Communist era. When asked about their previous lives in Albania, Fejzie dries her hands on her smudged apron and says, “I could write book! People would be surprised.”

Remzi Sina was born in November of 1945. On February 6th, 1950 Fejzie Talo was born. Before communism took control of Albania, both families were wealthy landowners, but under the Communist Party leader, Enver Hoxha, the rich and powerful in the country were considered enemies of the state. They were stripped of their land, bullied and in many cases beaten or thrown into jail. When Remzi was just six months old, his father was imprisoned and his family was moved into a government controlled house.

Fejzie’s fate was more traumatic.

On September 2nd   1950, soon after he’d been beaten nearly to death, her grandpa, with her father (John Talo) and two uncles, fled the country with the intention of joining western forces to return and overthrow the communist government. Three days after their flight, the police arrived at the door of their home. Seven- month- old Fejzie, her mother Fise, and her grandmother were loaded onto the back of a truck and taken to a concentration camp many miles from their home in Korce. They were crowded into what amounted to a bunk house shared with many other detainees.  Pasta, water and occasionally a few beans were rationed to young and old alike. There wasn’t even any milk for the baby. . Often they got no drinking water because the pro-Communists were given as much as they wanted first, and it was often wasted as wash water.

“If there was any left behind, we got it,” said Fejzie.

Meals were prepared at one central cooking area. At night they huddled together in their allotted one and a half metres square wooden bed.

“Three times a day the police have to check me, my mom and my grandma to see if we’re all there,” Fejzie tells me in her broken English. “There were so many people there.”

The government took all of their land, and possessions. They weren’t permitted to go anywhere without a stamp.  Fejzie says she doesn’t remember much before she was about two or three years old so relies on her mother’s stories up to that time.

Fejzie’s earliest memory was when she was a toddler.

“I remember very good. I go a little bit outside the camp and police see me and throw bomb and I escaped bomb, honest to God!”

Each day Fejzie’s mom tramped through fields to get wood for the police. The rest of her time was spent taking care of her young daughter, and nursing her own ill mother with what resources she could find. Grandma survived. Many others died.

They lived in these concentration camp conditions from 1950 to 1955. Fejzie thinks that her younger uncle, who had been sent to jail for seven years, was better off.

“After five years, things got a little bit better. You were allowed to work to make living, but still under police surveillance. Permission was needed to go outside the work area, which was small. You had to tell police ‘I’m going to see doctor, or wherever’.”

In 1957 they were moved into a small house with one bedroom and a kitchen, no longer in a concentration camp, but they still were not free. They still lined up for their rations of some foods and water, but things such as bread could be bought in a store. Government soldiers watched every move of any anti-communists. If they went to buy bread and it was perceived that they looked at it in a strange way, they were questioned as to why. Food was still rationed, and they had to line up for food, milk and water.  They were allowed 10 eggs/week per family, whether a family of 3 or 10 people.

After another ten years they were allowed a little bit more freedom of movement, but restrictions still applied to them. Fejzie loved school but was allowed only to complete grade seven. No one was allowed to go to high school. When boys turned nineteen, they had to spend two years in the army. An exception was made for anti-Communist families; they had to work the land on the government farms, using only a shovel.

In the meantime, when Remzi’s dad was released from jail after many years, his family moved to an area near the capital city of Tiranë. Theirs was not as bad a situation as Fejzie’s family, but high school was still not an option. After public school Remzi worked as a construction labourer. More people were working for the government and people were more educated. However, their movements were still restricted and permission had to be sought days in advance if they wanted to make a trip out of the area. Pro-Communists and anti-Communists were not permitted to associate.

There was no romantic courting for Fejzie and Remzi. They first met on the day they were married, on August 13th, 1972. Typically their marriage was arranged by their families, who’d lived in the same area before Communism separated them.

After they married, Remzi continued to work as a construction labourer. Fejzie was overjoyed to finally be able to return to school at night. She earned a diploma in agriculture.

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Fejzie and Remzi Remembering Their Past

For the next 18 years she worked on a government farm. They lived on government owned land in a ramshackle house that had neither wiring nor indoor plumbing. It was there that their two boys, Alban and Gerti were born.

Her mother and grandmother lived with her younger uncle, after he got out of jail and had a family. Fejzie remembers that when her Grandma died, it was a tradition to have a last dinner, with good meat, for people to say goodbye, but the government would not allow them any meat. Fejzie’s mother went to live with Fejzie and Remzi after her mother died.

The boys went to elementary school, but, being descendants of affluent families, they weren’t permitted to pursue academic education. They could, however, attend trade school. Alban became a tool-and-die machinist and started working at age sixteen.

During these years, the four men who’d escaped Albania had spent five years in a Greek refugee camp before the UN stepped up to help disperse people. Their hopes of returning to Albania were dashed, so they chose to come to Canada. Together they opened a restaurant in Toronto, but eventually bought The Tops Motel/Restaurant in Peterborough. In time, two brothers each opened their own coffee shops, leaving John with Tops until he sold it in 1978.

In 1990, when the grip of Communism was loosening in Albania, the Sina family were able to obtain visas to Hungary. It happened that John Talo (Fejzie’s dad) was in Hungary at the time, to renew his visa, and he somehow learned of his family’s whereabouts. He helped them start the process to bring them to Canada.  It was easy for Fejzie’s mother to get a visa because she and John were still married, but it was harder for Fejzie and her family. While in Hungary they spent five weeks making daily visits to the Canadian Embassy before they were granted visas to Canada. They arrived in Canada with John on September 2, 1990. After 40 years the family was reunited. Once in Canada they could go to Oshawa to apply for permanent visas. They all lived with John in his house. Life was much better; however, new challenges awaited them.

Gerti and Alban were both enrolled in Grade 9 at the local high school, but Alban found it frustrating not knowing the language and being older than his classmates. He quit after just six months and began working as a dishwasher at the Carousel Restaurant. With his hard work and keenness to learn, he was soon doing the cooking.

Because of the language barrier, finding work was more difficult for their parents. Remzi found construction work in the spring. He knew no English.

“I work on scaffold and Foreman said ‘Go down there and take shovel.’  I go, not take shovel, I take pick,” he recalls with a laugh.

In September Fejzie began working as a housekeeper at The Tops Motel, by then under new ownership. Her years as a housekeeper there and later at The Best Western Hotel didn’t help her much with learning English since she had little contact with other people. A decade later she and Remzi got their start in the restaurant business, when they went to work at The Piccadilly Restaurant as dishwashers.

Gerti finished high school and went to work at Jim’s Pizzeria. Both he and Alban dreamed of one day owning their own restaurant. With that in mind, Gerti later enrolled at Fleming College in Business Administration, but when Alban and Fejzie bought the restaurant on Hunter Street in East City, Gerti gave up on college to join the family business.

“My mom, me, Remzi, Alban and Gerti became Canadian Citizens in 1994,” says Fejzie.

In 2001 Remzi, Fejzie and their two sons, Alban and Gerti bought their own house.

The boys ultimately followed their dreams and opened their European-style restaurant, Gerti’s, in 2005. Alban joined him as the cook, and Fejzie took over East City Coffee Shop. Remzi left The Piccadilly to help her. Immersed in the language of their patrons, they were soon conversing well in English.

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Fejzie and Remzi, happy to be Canadians

Despite their occasional grumbling about being still a long way from retirement, there is always a twinkle in their eyes and a smile on their faces. They are thankful that they were able to come to Canada.

“For Albanians who go to other countries like Greece, Italy, anywhere in Europe, it’s hard to make a living because they won’t give citizenship and they can’t travel to other countries with Albanian passport.”

The last time we stopped into East City Coffee Shop, we were disappointed to find that Remzi and Fejzie were no longer working there. We were concerned until Alban told us that they were retired and caring for Fejzie’s mother. We’re happy for them, but the Coffee Shop just isn’t the same without them.

Memoir Monday – A Story About Online Dating


While looking through some of my early writing, trying to find something for Memoir Monday, I found this short piece that I thought you might like. I have many more about this topic I could share, if there is enough interest.

Smart, Smarting, Smarter

A few years ago, with a need to fill a void left by the passing of my life partner, I stepped out of my comfort zone and joined the game of online dating.  It’s an addictive pastime that brings with it the desperate urge to turn on the computer to check e-mail messages the minute you walk through the door, no matter how tired you are or how stressful a day it’s been.

On one such day, a month or so after my initiation, I received a message from “Wayne”, in Sarnia.  I lived in Kingston at the time, a four or five-hour drive away.  The geographical distance between us gave me a moment’s hesitation, but being a curious sort who’d rather not close a door without first investigating what’s behind it, I responded.  He asked me to add him to my messaging contact list, and I obliged. From then on, every time I logged onto my computer, there was Wayne, looking for me!  If I wasn’t online, he sent me e-mail.  For a full week, fingers flew across the keyboards several times a day in an exchange of lengthy chats and e-mails.  Excitement began to build.  We compared all of our likes and dislikes, our visions and desires for a future relationship, our personal values. I wasn’t ready to throw caution to the wind just yet, but if he was being truthful, there seemed to be emerging a strong foundation for further development.  He revealed that he’d been married twice before and shared his story of how both wives had taken advantage of his generous nature.  I sympathized with him, but also recognized a possible red flag.  He was quick to dismiss my concerns about the geographical distance between us.  Distance could be overcome and worth the effort if it meant finding your soul mate; we could meet in Toronto since he was there twice a month on business; he could meet me at the bus station if I didn’t want to drive.  By the end of the week Wayne was certain that he was ready to meet me, and the sooner the better it seemed.  I was convinced to give it a try.  We talked about possible dates.

Then the penny dropped.

Wayne’s profile included a picture; mine did not.  Although I’ve been told that I’m an attractive woman, I’m not very photogenic. I had already discovered that sharing my not-very-flattering images too early could bring the “dating” to an abrupt end.   However, Wayne kept urging me to send him a picture, since I knew what he looked like while he had only my written description. I finally gave in.   Not happy with any photos in my file, I chose one randomly, attached it to an   e-mail, and hit SEND.  Almost immediately I had a stinging response.

“Thanks for the picture.  Unfortunately it didn’t give me that I want to meet her kind of feeling.  Good luck in your search”.

Ouch!

This ouch would have sent me spiraling into depression and self-doubt a few months ago, but now, after shaking off the shock, I chuckled to myself and added him to my growing list of “jerks”. If I’d judged him solely on his photo, I never would have responded to his first message.

I was finally beginning to see how fickle some men could be.  Obviously I was better off without this one and I was thankful that I hadn’t wasted a trip to Toronto.

Memoir Monday – Traveling with New Technology


These days flying paperless is as common to me as taking my own shopping bags to the grocery story. I now have many electronic devices that I can use, but it wasn’t that long ago that I did it for the first time. This is what I wrote about this adventure in 2012.

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Traveling with New Technology

I’ve made the trip from Toronto to Vancouver many times, but this time was different. This time I was determined to go “paperless” by using my newly acquired iPad to get me through the gate.

At the self-check-in kiosk, a quick scan of the code displayed on the iPad screen produced my printed baggage ticket. I needed no paper boarding pass. At the baggage counter the code was scanned from the iPad again, and I was given my boarding gate number. Boarding would start at 11:00, I was told.

I flashed my iPad Boarding Pass at the first stop on the way into the security area. The young man’s surprise was evident. “Look at you!” he said. I smiled, thinking “not bad for a grey-haired lady.”

At the security desk I handed over the iPad once more, but the technology was as new to the man receiving it as it was to me. We both held our breath and sighed in unison when the scan took.

I removed my shoes as requested, and walked through the scanner with no problem – so far so good. Now what gate was that? I retrieved my belongings, and quickly skimmed the overhead monitor until I saw a flight to Vancouver, leaving from Gate C26. Without confirming the flight number (I’d had only a few hours’ sleep and my brain often lets me down when I’m tired), I found a seat at Gate C26, the last one to the left. At 10:45 I made a final pit stop and sat back down to wait for the boarding call. On the board behind the desk I could see the flight to Vancouver listed. I squinted. It looked like flight 475, but I was too far away to make out the time. I looked at my Boarding Pass once more. When, at 11:10 I’d heard no mention made of the Vancouver flight, I figured a closer look at the board was warranted. “Flight 475 to Vancouver leaving at 1:00,” it read. What?! Suddenly my sleepy brain sprang to life. This wasn’t my flight!

A more careful check of my Boarding Pass revealed that my flight number was 465! I was at the wrong gate! I rushed to the monitor and saw that I was to be at C27, but where was that? The only thing that I could see beyond Gate C26 was a Tim Horton’s. Logic told me that C27 had to be past C26, so I started speed-walking in that direction, my over-night bag bouncing on its wheels behind me.

“Last call for boarding of flight 465 to Vancouver at gate C27,” blasted over the air. I ran, still not seeing my gate.

Finally, there appeared before me a large sign and arrow “C27.” Panic and embarrassment were replaced by relief when I rounded the corner and saw some other stragglers approaching the gate. I wasn’t the last to board.

I admit that if I had really been iPad savvy, I would have made a mental note of the gate number on my electronic Boarding Pass, before putting my iPad away, or looked more closely at the monitor. As for traveling with new technology, it’s amazing! Like anything new, it just takes practice.