Look Out For the Rats

Shannon Kernaghan Look-Out-for-the-Rats-400 Look Out For the Rats Belongings Childhood Comedy Family Fun Gifts Humor Lifestyle Memories parents Pets and Animals

I discovered a few rats downtown, and last weekend I brought three of them home with me. They’re not real rats (or married people who pocket their wedding rings when going for a drink after work), but art rats.

A nearby gallery recently held a one-year anniversary and celebrated by selling donated art to raise money for the artist-run shows.

The gallery showcased a roomful of rodent-themed pieces designed from paint, ceramics, wire and needlepoint.

I’m not overly welcoming towards rats, unless they’re the cartoon or stuffed animal variety. But I do like to support our determined artists.

It takes exceptional people to bare themselves for public critique. And it takes courage to enter a creative field when there’s no guarantee of gain or glory. But try they must.

Besides, how many rat sculptures can you create and give to your mother before she stops accepting deliveries? Good thing we have our galleries.

It’s an indisputable fact – artists create because they must.

Why such admiration? Because I’m a left-brain thinker and can’t draw a convincing stick figure. I don’t even have a consistent signature when signing my name to the back of my ID and credit cards. 

My first artistic foray most likely involved Popsicle sticks, gold glitter and glue that ended up everywhere except the target. Years later, my high school dalliance with textiles resulted in a crooked gingham apron that only a mother – the same one with rat ornaments lining her curio cabinet – could love.

I appreciate those who pilot a potter’s wheel or wield a welding rod. For that reason, I’ll continue to collect and cherish their creations.

Will I end up with a Banksy Girl with Balloon piece that sold for $1.4 million even though it was partially shredded at auction? Who cares. I buy art because I like it.

For our wedding, my sister gave us a sculpted piece, a weird little monster named Theobold who wears a turtleneck and holds a cup in his gnarly monster grip. I’m happy to say that the marriage has fared the storms of time better than Theobold.

Although I try to be careful, poor Theobold has been broken on four or five occasions. Last summer he fell off a ledge while I read in a chair several feet away.

Luckily, I’ve retained good gluing skills from kindergarten. As for any financial appreciation over the years, Theobold has too many missing pieces to ever increase in value, but I’ll never say good-bye to him.

Please, no one send me a Rodin sculpture for my next birthday – if my monster is jumping off his ledge, just imagine the trouble The Thinker will get into.

Hang on . . . now my new clay rats are starting to eye me with suspicion. Better buy more glue.

Audio story backing track
Mind and Eye Journey
by
Emily Sprague

Faux Families in Your Neighborhood

Shannon Kernaghan clapboard-400 Faux Families in Your Neighborhood Adventure Belongings Career Challenge Culture Family Humor Lifestyle Parties Real Estate Relationship Sales

You have to admire a city that makes a living out of creating fantasy. I’m referring to Los Angeles – home to movie stars, Rodeo Drive, Universal Studios and a whole lot of hype.

There’s a new thrill for those who cruise through show homes to look for decorating tips or fresh digs. Dig this headline: “L.A. realtor uses actors to sell new homes, family dog not included.”

One development features a model house with a “faux” family where perspective buyers open the door to find a barefoot man in his 30s who shouts “Hello!” from the kitchen and offers juice to the shoppers’ children.

His friendly faux wife hands out cookies hot from the oven. On the counter is a birthday cake with candles and on the mantle are birthday cards.

Let’s get the kids in on this production: two adolescents invite shoppers to see their professionally decorated rooms.

These paid actors are hired to show how life could be for you and yours. Simply add a real family to this Betty Crocker mix.

My friend, a realtor for decades, has seen and heard it all and she learned early about the protocol for holding open houses.

First, you show up with your Open House sandwich board. If you’re smart, you arrive ahead of time to make sure the homeowners have shoveled the walk and emptied the dirty diaper pail. Sometimes you get stuck doing these doo-ties.

“This is intimate stuff,” the agent said. “It’s impossible to enter a home and not feel personal, especially when someone is sitting on the couch wrapped in a towel after their shower and the family dog is relieving itself against your car tire.”

Next came the tough love: “Take a hike, people,” she’d yell. “Buyers will be knocking on your door any moment now.” That gave her two advertised hours to do her job and find a keen buyer.

That’s the open house in theory. In reality, her day might take another turn.

One of those wrong turns was when she held her first open house. She described the adorable homeowners, a couple in their early 100s who were anxious to downsize.

But my agent friend soon realized they weren’t going anywhere. They planted their large arthritic selves in the small living room and waited. They were going to “help” her make a sale.

They created zero L.A. ambience, unless buyers wanted to picture themselves as elderly and slow moving. Sensible shoes a prerequisite.

After a quick tour of the house, one man with an accent started to pull on his boots to leave.

“Can I answer any more questions for you?” my agent friend asked.

“No thanks, I’m looking for a home with a separate dining room.”

“Where he comes from they eat on dirt floors,” called out Mr. Helpful Homeowner, “and now he wants a dining room?”

Much like that full diaper pail, her new-agent smell was turning sour.

As for L.A., the best offshoot from this show home innovation is that emerging actors can land temporary jobs and stretch their skills.

And this gives “dinner theatre” an entirely new spin. Sure, the audiences are smaller and there’s a whole lot of scene repetition around the kitchen table, but it’s a gig.

And . . . action!

Audio backing track
“Licklee”
by
The Vandals

Luggage Matters

Shannon Kernaghan Luggage-Matters-400-e1550426795349 Luggage Matters Adventure Belongings Challenge Family Fun Humor Lifestyle Love Memoir Relationship Risk Travel

While touring Italy with my sister and a busload of keen tourists one spring, I noticed how small problems have the potential to hamper a trip. Take colds and flus. The moment I heard the first sneeze or hack of an ailing traveler, I became germ phobic, refusing to stand or sit near anyone who looked the slightest bit peaked.

I bathed myself with anti-bacterial hand cleaner at every opportunity.  Who had time to get sick and miss a moment of fabulous countryside,  famous art or delicious Italian cuisine?

As for other small problems, factor in a lost piece of luggage.

I thanked my non-superstitious stars when I saw my suitcase spit from the carousel within minutes of arriving in Rome.

To me, this was a veritable feat of engineering, considering I started my journey in Calgary, changed planes in Toronto, boarded another in Frankfurt and finally arrived at my Italian destination.

Despite the jitneys I rode and the terminals I changed in various airports, there it was – my beautiful suitcase – bumping its way along the conveyor belt. I breathed a sigh of relief. Who am I kidding, it was a gusty “Yoo hoo!” and a fist raised in victory.

On these package tours, guests are allowed to bring only one suitcase. In other words, my underwear, toiletries and comfy pillow were all riding on my bag’s prompt arrival. And since we stayed at six different hotels, it’d be no easy task for missing luggage to catch up to an owner.

I’m quick to steal titles from movies today, so call it The Incredible Journey because my loyal suitcase went the distance and met me on schedule, both of us unscathed.

No-show luggage tormented one passenger on the tour. Her partner’s luggage appeared, but her own suitcase stayed in the US, revolving aimlessly in a mystery carousel for several days. Speaking of mysteries,  it’s strange how her stylish green plaid case – one that matched her partner’s – could be left behind. Maybe the baggage handler didn’t like the color; maybe the bag was too stylish for its own good.

The other question is how it took me 20 hours to journey to Italy, but that green suitcase needed a whopping four days. Poor little luggage – it missed everything from Siena to Florence. It deserves a do-over.

If your luggage defines you, then I’m an inexpensive black number with Hello Kitty pink duct tape holding the works together.

There’s a reason I travel like a pauper with my Club Monde (perhaps a take-off on Club Monaco, to make it sound exotic). I read a warning that the more expensive your case, the greater the chance of having it stolen or pilfered. In other words, your Louis Vuitton bag undoubtedly contains a better haul than my nondescript scuffed and taped clunker.

Who’d waste their time ransacking my cheap case? If any thieves covet a $12 alarm clock or a travel pillow, then I’m their bag. But if they’re looking for pricey electronics or designer fashions, they’d be wise to  move along to the next suitcase, something with a better label.

If I learned anything from my Italian excursion, it’s that European travel separates the women from the girls. After all, multiple plane  changes  and an equal number of time zones is no picnic. Plus, schedules are guaranteed to include a mad dash for your plane in one airport  followed by a six-hour stopover in the next.

That said, the travel rewards are huge and the money well spent. Just leave your expensive luggage at home, where it’ll make a fashionable door stop.

Audio story music “Waterfall”
by
Aakask Ganghi

Winning Loser? Avoid Las Vegas

Shannon Kernaghan Shannon-at-the-slots-400 Winning Loser? Avoid Las Vegas Belongings Challenge Lifestyle Relationship Travel

I suffer from an anatomical shortfall: I was born without the lucky bone. Like the inert patient in the game Operation, I’m stuck with a wish bone.

What’s as bad as your own failure with gambling? A partner with similar lousy luck. Our track record is upheld with every draw we enter. Prizes and dreams aside, we support lotteries and believe we’re contributing to our local and extended communities.

Then again, the temptation of winning a show home (professionally decorated and furnished), a vehicle (who’d turn down a Porsche Boxter or motorhome?) and a vacation (from Las Vegas to Australia) makes our stab at philanthropy that much easier. With more than a thousand chances to win each time Paul and I purchase a ticket, losers like us can appreciate these favorable odds.

Correction: we HAVE won in previous draws. Was it any of the above-mentioned homes, vehicles or trips? Nope.

Were we drawn for a drone or party barge, to name a few of the toys my husband and I could enjoy? Nope.

We missed out on more goodies, like the karaoke machine guaranteed to spice up a lifeless party. And with my commitment to coffee, I’d clap my hands with caffeinated glee over the high-tech espresso maker we might have won.

Instead, we won two-way radios. We already own a pair and they sit idle, along with other corroding items in a box of gadgets that seemed like a good idea at the time. Four walkie-talkies for two people living in a small space is overkill.

Another prize we won is a pair of binoculars. At least we can stay connected to the BIG winners. If I wanted to, I could take my binoculars and park outside the show home. From there, I could watch the new owners have fun in their professionally decorated living room. Someone in the same lucky family probably won the karaoke machine so they might be partying right now.

I’ll be able to update Paul through one of our four two-way radios, providing he stays within close range.

“Paul! Get your car keys, we’re going out!”

Wait a minute. Can you spell r-e-s-t-r-a-i-n-i-n-g order?

After a heavy dose of sour grapes contemplation, maybe we ARE lucky. After all, if we won the weekend in Las Vegas, I know us: we’d skip into the casinos, convinced that Lady Luck is finally on our side. Then we’d lose buckets at the blackjack tables and slot machines.

On the plane ride home, we’d sit silent and sullen, calculating how we lost more in gambling than the trip was worth, and how we were so bedazzled by blinking VLTs that we forgot to buy any souvenirs.

“Did we eat in the last three days?” I’d ask.

According to the last calculation, I figure we’ll come out ahead in the next contest . . . providing we don’t win anything!

Phew. I think our luck’s finally turning around.

Audio story music track
“Savannah”
by ELPHNT

Stop Cluttering My Mind

Shannon Kernaghan Clutter-400 Stop Cluttering My Mind Belongings Challenge Culture Friendship Humor Lifestyle Relationship

There’s a lot of chatter about clutter. The subject is explored on talk shows and dissected in “how-to avoid it” articles.

When I spent the day helping a friend unpack at her new home, she told me she needs to hold a yard sale.

“Now? Why didn’t you do that BEFORE you moved instead of dragging everything to your new place?”

Too busy, she said.

I know what she means because I’m the antithesis of a clutter expert. The only advice I’ll give is to NOT take my advice.

When my husband and I decided to leave the west coast, we purchased boxes, spent days wrapping and packing, and hired movers to put everything in storage for two years.

Throughout those two years, we paid storage fees and insurance. When it was time to settle in Alberta, we once again paid movers to reconnect us with our belongings. After days spent unpacking, I was awash in a sea of cardboard – cutting, folding and hauling the works to the recycling depot.

Then what did we do? We gave away a third of those belongings!

“I don’t need this,” my husband said again and again, tossing the ski poles, thermos and tent-in-a-truck contraption into the give-away pile.

“Honey, why didn’t we do this BEFORE we moved?”

Too busy, he said.

But then he went overboard. Forget clutter cleaning – he was on a minimalist mission and started to purge. If there were two of anything, one had to go.

“Um, those are book ends . . . we do SO need both!” I whined and grabbed one from the pile.

Worse, when he realized we had two blenders, he gave away the cool-looking silver one and kept the stained harvest gold relic that neither of us remembered buying.

On countless occasions I heard myself shriek: “You’re giving away your fishing rods and all your gear? Everything’s like new! And your binoculars? Again, like new!”

“I have another pair I like better,” he argued. “And I’ll probably never use any of the gear.”

“You might.”

“Nah. Out it goes.”

I’d created a clutter-free monster! (I should have unpacked on my own and put him on cardboard duties.)

He does deserve credit for his philanthropy in finding new homes for his belongings because some items went to appreciative new neighbors and others headed to charity.

But then he’d toss out an expensive or useful object and I’d squeal in a high-pitched voice: “With what we’ve wasted on moving and storage for two years, we could have spent a month in Hawaii!”

If I had to leave for any length of time during the culling process, I’d point out my precious gewgaws and give him loving instructions: “Touch any of this pile, and you die. Got it?”

If I were a dog, I’d have territorially peed around my pile.

Once everything was tidy and in its place, and once the fresh sheets were on the assembled bed . . . I still wanted most of that stuff back. Being a minimalist wasn’t high on my list of aspirations.

Wait. I’m no better than the rest with their talk shows and how-to articles. It’s not enough that you might be dealing with your own clutter, but now I’ve made you hear my own rant in the process.

Mea culpa, and happy uncluttering. But don’t touch my stuff!

Find Shannon’s books on  AmazonShannon Kernaghan Street-Billboard-600-4book Stop Cluttering My Mind Belongings Challenge Culture Friendship Humor Lifestyle Relationship

Audio story music
“Repeater”
by ELPHNT