A toast

I heard on the radio today that our provincial liquor board is encouraging a ‘dry’ February for charity and that sparked, for me at least, a number of questions. Now I’m not so naïve that I don’t see the obvious. When Covid shut down most businesses our liquor stores were lined up out the door, and let’s face it, liquor stores never seem to suffer. They do not need to put merchandise on sale, nor do they really need to advertise. People drink, period. And when the going gets tough, they drink more. We drink to remember, we drink to forget, we drink to celebrate, we drink to grieve…when don’t we drink?

The question this move does bring to mind however, is why they are promoting a dry month when it will fully impact their bottom line. Clearly not a ‘business’ decision, at least not one designed to make money. So what’s the motivation here? Is it government pressure, or pressure from the conscience of society (a modern day temperance movement?)  It made me think. Are we drinking too much?

Society is stressed, no question, has been for decades. And for many, the outlet for stress is through alcohol. Compound general stress with a global pandemic and you have a seriously troubled people. So how do we cope?


Alcohol is readily available and it’s cheap (compared to most drugs) and, it’s widely accepted in most social circles. A drink can mellow you, take the edge off a bad day, temper a bad mood, relax you, and for many it makes them more social, more outgoing. That’s a pretty tempting list of attributes in favour of drinking. The challenge with that is, when have you gone too far? Are those few drinks every day really helping our psyche or is it just blocking out reality? Is drinking a couple of drinks every day too much?

The isolation of Covid means we can’t go anywhere, so no need for a designated driver and therefore no need to watch what you drink. And since we can’t have a social life we are all resorting to staying at home, cooking a nice meal, and enjoying a drink,,,,,or two……or more. Could Covid be creating (or bringing to light?) a society of functioning (or not functioning) alcoholics? It’s so easy to lose sight of your limits.

Now I’m not saying everyone should abstain for the duration of Covid but I do think we need to be aware of the pitfalls of regular drinking. An aperitif before dinner, a glass of wine with dinner, a brandy after dinner, and since you can’t go anywhere or see anyone, make it two. It easy to see how it all starts to add up. Once Covid has been cleared and society resumes its’ previous pace, will we return to our former habits? I doubt it, because the die has been cast and habits are hard to break.

I suppose we all have our vices, and I’m not going to defend those who consistently go too far, because we don’t need a world of raging drunks. But nor will I defend those who fight for a society of Teetolatism because there are many who enjoy the benefits of alcohol in moderation, and for the want of a few, they should not be punished. There’s nothing like a glass of wine with a lovely meal or a cocktail with friends. I suppose liquor, like any other temptation, serves its’ purpose. The strong will manage responsibly and overcome, and the weak will simply succumb. For many the real question in this initiative is can we go dry, even temporarily? It may be surprising to see how dependent we’ve already become so all the more reason to make the effort, if only to prove that we can.

I’ll be very interested in any stats around this ‘dry’ February initiative (course why they picked February is beyond me….a more bleak and dreary month you couldn’t find. In fact, February will drive you to drink!)

Ya gotta laugh!

It’s funny, the things that make us laugh and the things that make us cry. Funnier still is the line between the two, because that is even finer.

I live half a country away from my family. My mother, who is 90, is in long term care. She doesn’t know us. In fact, she doesn’t know who she is or where she is, that’s how far gone dementia has taken her. My father, also 90, is of sound mind, very sound mind. He lives independently in a seniors apartment complex. My sister manages their care, and has for some years after I moved away.

We talk regularly, about our children, the weather, our parents, although that subject is often filled with emotion. It’s hard to watch your parents age, harder still to watch them become ‘dependent’ on us when we spent a lifetime dependent on them. So suffice it to say our conversations about family can be sad.

Yesterday my sister and I spoke, as we do weekly. Our father required minor surgery these past few days and given his age, we were understandably concerned. As it turned out he is fine. Surgery went well and he is recovering but until we got this news we were, naturally, worried.

During this time my sister expressed concerns around my mothers care. The nursing home have advised she can no longer walk (she already lost her speech) and they need to arrange for a wheelchair. No problem, we are prepared for such costs. We were surprised however, to find out wheelchairs are always custom made. Who knew? Apparently there’s a whole process around obtaining a wheelchair and a hierarchy of approvals that would rival political office.

After all is said and done her wheelchair could well take 6-8  months to obtain. In the interim she’s using a ‘loaner’. Now, given her age, we wondered if it wasn’t more practical to simply keep the ‘loaner’, after all, if she manages in it for more than half a year by the time her custom chair arrives, how bad can it be? Oddly enough, they also advise she needs running shoes, with good rubber tread. Ok, now they just said she can’t walk. Why on earth would she need running shoes, especially with good tread? Where’s she going to run? No matter. My sister approved the cost of the wheelchair and bought the shoes. Who are we to argue? We had a good laugh over the absurdity of it all and then turned to other matters, primarily the ‘what if’s’. We’ve never encountered a death in our immediate family (Hard to believe, I know)

We started talking about what would happen if our mother should pass during Covid and my sister, the only local contact, questioned how things would proceed. I mean, I guess my mothers body would be sent to a morgue? Then I expect we’d be contacted about which funeral home to go to? Then we stressed over the funeral….how would that happen? My mother is to be cremated, we know that, but my sister wondered how we’d get the ashes and manage a burial. Then, out of nowhere, she said out loud, “I wonder if they do curbside pickup?”….and I lost it!

Then we both lost it (shows you what stress can do) and we laughed,,,,and we laughed,,,,and we laughed. (Ok, I even took the phone into the bathroom so I could pee I was laughing so hard) And then, quite out of nowhere we cried. Just goes to show you how fine the line is between joy and sadness. I realized then, many things.

Life is full of upheavals. Some are grand. Some not so much. But the true emotion of a situation will come at you out of nowhere. If you had told me a joke about curbside pick up for human remains I would have been shocked at the insensitivity but here I was enjoying that very joke, not at the expense of my mother, rather, at the relief of my soul. I guess our stresses build up, unnoticeably, and they release when least expected.

We still stress over losing our parents, and the ‘how’ of it during a global pandemic remains an issue, but we still talk about it, and yes, sometimes we joke about it, because our souls need the outlet. It’s been a long road, not always easy, and when the going gets tough, we’ll be there for them, together. Until then, we do what we need to keep sane, and happy. So sometimes we laugh…..because we know that eventually we will cry,…. and life is all about balance.

My Legacy

I was thinking recently about everything we actually get in life and how that list is often in contradiction with the list of what we want to get in life. More importantly to note, is how the list differs from its’ creation in our youth, to the amended list we create in maturity. (Notice how I expertly dodge the phrase ‘old age’?) Now at the risk of sounding greedy I, like any normal person, want material things. Who doesn’t? Everybody wants the nice home, car, financial security – who aspires to drive a heap, live in a hovel, and spend their lives robbing Peter to pay Paul? What I mean here by ‘what we want’ is the stuff that really matters, the stuff that tugs at our heart-strings, the stuff that makes us laugh out loud, the stuff that makes us proud, and ultimately, the stuff that makes us feel like we’ve made it.

We want to be surrounded by a loving and prolific family. (the not-so-loving family, and we all have that, we can do without) We want good health. We want security, safety, and creature comforts. We even want the little perks (ok, I do) and when we realize, later in life, that we’re not going to get them…..well, it stinks….because we feel we’ve been ripped off. (ok, I do)

I was a good girl. I didn’t cause my parents any grief. I’ve been a good wife, partner and parent, and for the most part, I’ve been a pretty good friend, albeit my circle is small by my choosing. (I really don’t like a lot of people) What I didn’t get a lot of in life, is breaks. Nothing came easily and some things never came at all, and I know from experience others had an easier go of it. Some would say this is the path I chose but let’s face it, I’d have to be stupid to ‘choose’ struggle. So, I’ve decided to modify the final analysis of my accomplishments .

When I die (are you listening family, friends?) I want to be celebrated for all the things I did,,,,,and even the ones I didn’t, and all the neat stuff I meant to give you (it wasn’t my fault I didn’t have the means) because my intention was there. I want you to go through my belongings with optimism. I love colour so remember me as a snappy dresser, not as a garish one. Value my very favourite treasures, like my purses, (just pretend each is an expensive sports car) Divide up my table linens because I love nothing more than a beautifully set table awaiting guests (ok, I have a lot of those) and pretend they are placed in the house I left you (but didn’t because I couldn’t afford to) Copy my best recipes and give them to friends,,,,as gifts,,,,because they are.

Make sure there’s LIVELY music at my funeral, none of that morose church crap that calls us all sinners (then asks for our generosity in the collection plate) and I want flowers, lots and lots of flowers,,,,so many you’re tripping over them. Because anyone who knows me knows I love fresh flowers (they should also know I bought most of my own) and most importantly I want laughter. Reminisce about all the smart things I did, (granted the list could be short here) and all the stupid things I did, and remember how much I laughed, cause it was (is) a lot.

I don’t have a lot in life, not the material things anyway, but I do have a lot ‘of’ life. I can’t drive it, or spend it (On the bright side I also don’t have to clean it) but it’s all made by me, and that is what I share with you. That is what I will leave to you. (sorry, it is non-refundable and has no cash value)  That will be my legacy.

To all the girls I’ve loved before

I cannot stress enough the importance of my friends, especially the female ones because without them life would be very mundane. The men in my life are wonderful too, and very necessary (who else would BBQ or bash the bugs?) but my girlfriends are my lifeline.

While out walking yesterday, I suddenly thought of a woman, Vera, with whom I’d worked back in 1979. She would’ve been in her fifties then, I was 19, and despite the age difference we had so very much in common (hard to imagine, I know) Warm and wonderful memories came flooding back. She was fun and funny, the best boss I ever had, and she could relate to anyone. It’s been about 35 years since I’ve seen her so to have her appear in my minds-eye now is puzzling. When I got home I googled her and saw an obituary advising she’d passed last fall in her mid-nineties and despite my sorrow for the world at losing such a kind soul, I was comforted by my memories of her. Her acceptance of everyone, her zest for life, and her ready laugh was infectious.

Another ‘senior’ who often returns to my thoughts is my Godmother, who also passed in her nineties some 8 years ago. She was kind and gentle, and as a child I adored her. She had a hard life but always managed to celebrate anothers success without jealousy or envy, and despite the hardship and sadness that seemed a part of her daily life, she always managed a smile upon greeting another. She accepted her lot in life begrudging no one, and celebrated the few joys fate granted her with complete gratitude. Her selflessness was admirable.

How lucky am I to have known such wonderful people? And the beauty of it all is that I still have a wealth of wonderful women in my life. Not a week goes by where I don’t make plans to do something with one of my girls. I hike with one, shop with another, play cards with some, and with others I just chat, or eat, or have coffee/wine, because being with them in any way is wonderful.

And those I cannot see regularly (due to proximity) I stay in touch with by phone, text, or email (thank heaven for technology) and my connection to each is often very different. Some make me laugh (my husband knows when I’m on the phone with my sister because it’s 40 minutes of laughter interrupted only by pee breaks), some make me think (I do try to limit my time with these people….makes my head hurt) and others enlighten me.

I wonder if these women know the impact they’ve had on my life, and still do. At some point they forged a bond with me and I hope I bring to them what they bring to me, a sense of belonging, kinship, camaraderie, and fun. Now I won’t discount the value of the men in my life because they too add value, but time with them always comes with expectation. We are together for a reason and once that reason is fulfilled we go in separate directions until the next need arises, usually household or family related. (Don’t misunderstand me, I adore my husband. He cracks me up like only my sister can, and we have fun…but let’s face it, men are work. They need to be fed and cared for, not unlike a hamster. Women on the other hand, make no demands on other women…it’s just fun) With women there is no expectation. We get together just because we want to.

When I reflect on my wealth of friends I love them all, women, men, even the pets I’ve come to love because each has brought me laughter and tears and joy and comfort and support. Life is nothing without friends.

To all the girls I’ve loved before (ok, shameless pilfering from the Willie Nelson song!)……..and still do…….always will. The little ones, middle ones, the oldies, the newbies…..all make it so great.

Here’s to the sisterhood and may there never be a world without women!

More than ever before we welcome the New Year

Well we certainly are seeing out the year much differently than we could’ve imagined, and I suspect all are happy to ring 2020 out.

As I wade through the tinsel and wrap, munching on turkey scraps and gravy (I have a firm resolve to stick to a diet starting in the new year so I’m getting all the left overs in tonight) I can’t help but marvel at the events of this past year. A global pandemic literally changed our world, and while too many lives were lost, I know it could’ve robbed us of so much more. (the glass is still half full, always)

As a society we managed to band together, by staying apart, to preserve each other’s safety. And despite retail closures and limited gatherings, we still managed to find the joy of the season. Hope really is the last to die, and our fellow man really is capable of unconditional love.

That the events of this past year are unprecedented, at least in my lifetime, is an understatement – the last time our world was rocked to this extent was during our parents and grand-parents generation, in1939 with the onset of the 2nd world war. Did they learn anything, other than fear, pain, and loss?  Have we?

I have to say, yes, because I’m nothing if not an optimist. They survived a devastating world war and emerged stronger,,,,, surely we will? We have all witnessed first-hand what mankind is capable of with respect to sacrifice, fear, and suffering in the throes of the Coronavirus. It may not have decimated towns and villages as quickly as bombs and tanks, but loss of life is still loss of life and no less a loss.

I think, like most of us, I learned that what’s really important in life is life. I’ve learned that simple really is best, and that less is more. (I’ve also learned that cranberry sauce isn’t bad on a bagel, in a pinch)  It’s not about the stuff, rather more about the stuffing, and this pandemic has profiled the very ‘stuff’ we are made of, good and bad.

I wonder how this experience will change our habits going forward. Will we forgo the lavish holiday parties and expensive gifts when this is over? (It’s not like we weren’t prone to excess)  Will we exercise more consideration of our fellow man? At the very least I’d like to think we have learned patience, and humility, and acceptance, and kindness, because human life is just that, life, and life doesn’t discriminate…..so why would we? Just like Scrooge, we should all make a commitment to live each day as though it were Christmas, even in tough times. Let’s hope 2021 brings better things for us all.

                       Love – Peace – Hope……for a better world.