‘Smoke Genie’ Grants Two Wishes

Shannon Kernaghan Legal-weed_Kraven-Cache_400 ‘Smoke Genie’ Grants Two Wishes Challenge Challenges Culture Health Lifestyle Memories Recreation Weed

 

It’s the late 1990s and I’m seated in a restaurant with two people. Before we’ve even ordered our meal, one says to me, “I hope you don’t mind if we smoke.” The other person smiles and reaches for her own cigarette pack.

By the time the appetizers arrive, my eyes are burning and my nose is plugged. I know that in less than an hour I’ll have a full-blown headache.

Now, if the two people were my friends, they’d be considerate enough to go outside, or I’d be brave enough to ask them not to smoke at the table. Since both are my employers, I say nothing. If only, I think, I live long enough to see smoking banned in restaurants.

To my surprise and delight, my wish is granted in the 2000s. Between the Smoke-Free Environment Act and the Tobacco Act, I don’t have to suffer the wrath of other people’s second hand smoke in a myriad public places. No more gasping over my glass of wine or arriving home in clothes that reek.

My wishing didn’t stop at cigarette smoke. Let’s be blunt: I’m not old enough to claim hippie status. Yet I am old enough to know that I’d be laughed out of a Pink Floyd-infused party with the prediction that pot will be legal in Canada by 2018.

No matter how clairvoyant (or high) the prognosticator, legalized marijuana was a dream until recently. It’s not that I smoke – see above allergies – it’s that I’m appalled at how people have been arrested for possession of a few joints.

If a criminal record isn’t enough, this black mark prevented people from crossing borders. They had no choice besides pony up money to apply for a legal pardon and be patient as the process takes years. If only, I think again, I live long enough to see pot decriminalized.

Again my wish is granted! But . . . is legal weed good or bad news for our communities?  I’ve read reams of logical argument and support. If I make one prediction, it’s that the jury will be out for a long while. Toggling the benefits of creating new opportunities in the marijuana market and the challenges of figuring out how to monitor drivers who toke (merely two of the issues), these early days will be interesting.

Until then, I’m happy to enjoy a smoke-free meal in public and to know that recreational pot smokers won’t be demonized and criminalized.

Thank you, Smoke Genie.

This Valentine’s Day, Oh Poo!

Shannon Kernaghan valentines-oh-poo This Valentine’s Day, Oh Poo! Adventure Challenge Culture Dating Humor Lifestyle Memories Relationship Sex

 

If you trace the origins of Valentine’s Day, you won’t find a pretty picture. One legend claims that a Roman priest named Valentine was executed on February 14, 269 AD, for marrying couples against the advice of Emperor Claudius II. He figured single men were more enthusiastic about fighting his battles than family men. Somehow this grim tale resulted in heart-shaped cards, chocolates, red roses and candlelit dinners on February 14.

Humans are hopeless romantics, considering all the quaint love-infused traditions. Many I heard as a child. For example, if you twist the stem of an apple, you can predict the last name of your future love interest. Each rotation represents one letter of the alphabet. My search for sweethearts was restricted because the apple stems generally broke off at the letter D or E. I wonder how many eligible Xangs, Youngs and Zedenkas I overlooked in my quest for romance.

Another example features birds: if a robin flies over your head on Valentine’s Day, you’ll marry a sailor. Finding a sailor in my prairie city was no simple feat. If sailor was a misprint for tailor or wholesaler, my chances might have improved. The maddening catch with traditions is that they’re tough to apply universally.

Continuing with the legend, if a sparrow flies overhead, you’ll marry a poor man but you’ll be happy. Based on personal experience, poor men are always plentiful, no matter where you live. So are sparrows. Erect a birdhouse in your backyard and see what stakes a claim first, yellow canaries or sparrows.

But if a goldfinch flies overhead on Valentine’s Day, you’ll marry a millionaire. The legend doesn’t expand on whether you’ll be happy with your millionaire. Apparently hooking up with one is reward enough. Since I don’t know what a goldfinch looks like, that sweet bird of opportunity might have flown past without my knowledge.

Now, let’s say you’ve met Mr. or Ms. Right and you’re ready to start a family. How many children will you have? Go back to that dubious apple, the one missing its stem. Cut it in half and count the seeds. If nothing else, I know why we’re statistically producing 2½ children in each household. All of this apple-dividing is giving us fractional kids.

Despite the strange legends, Valentine’s Day holds a special place in my heart and funny bone. It was February and I was staying in a hotel for a work project in Prince Albert, Sask. Waiting next to me at the elevator was a cute young man. When the door opened, we walked in together and pressed our floor numbers. Simultaneously, we glanced down at fresh dog doo in the corner.

“Did you do that?” he asked.

“No, I’d remember that.” He eventually convinced me to go out with him. And the rest is history.

I wonder if there’s a romantic legend about discovering your sweetheart over dog poop.  If not, I should start one. It worked for me because a few years later I said, “I doo!”

My Resolution? Avoid Clichés Like the Plague

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It’s now or never. There’s no better time than the present to make a New Year’s resolution. This will take nerves of steel but for my 2018 pledge, I resolve to cut back on my use of clichés, those tired expressions worn thin through the years.

I don’t know how many clichés I utter because I can’t see the forest for the trees. But it’s a pain in the neck to give up what’s familiar, like throwing out a pair of comfy old shoes. Speaking of footwear, if the shoe fits, I’m talking to you. You’re in the service industry, the ones bringing home the bacon who tell me to “have a nice day.” News flash: your advice falls on deaf ears since I’m determined to have a nice day, even if it kills me.

Don’t get all bent out of shape because I’m equally guilty of using platitudes. “You too, have a good one,” I answer, as if I really give a hoot.

Starting in 2018, let’s all get with the program. Just once I’d like to hear, “Thanks for buying something. Your purchase guarantees my job for another shift.” To that bit of honesty I’ll reply, “You’re a breath of fresh air. That’s why they pay you the big bucks.”

Now I have two resolutions for 2018: avoid clichés like the plague AND be more honest with people. We don’t have to see eye to eye across the board, as long as we’re on the same page. For example, I’ll welcome a serving person who answers, “How am I today? I’m up to my neck in alligators!”

“Then take a load off and fill me in,” I’ll say. “I’m all ears, but make it snappy. I’ve got people to see and places to . . . uh-oh, there I go again.” These New Year’s promises are murder, tougher than teaching old dogs new tricks.

The next time you hand me my purchase and tell me to have a nice day, give me a little wink. That’ll be our secret code, which means you’d rather be home watching HBO. While you’re standing there, give me two winks if anything is about to go on sale. I know, I can’t buy happiness and I should save for a rainy day, but a penny saved is a penny earned, no matter how I slice it.

Happy New Year!

Bad Santa

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What’s the worst gift you ever received? Is it hard for everyone to open a bad Christmas gift and pretend to be excited? I’ll never win an Oscar for acting because the moment I unwrap a bad gift, my facial features alter. As I try to smile, a smirk tugs down the corners of my mouth. My pleasant “Oh, how lovely!” sounds hollow and now everyone in the room is watching!

What defines a bad gift? You tell me. When I was in my twenties, my mother-in-law gave me big beige underwear (‘old-lady panties’ according to my husband) three Christmases in a row. Each year it was the same thing; after Xmas I’d trade in the 6-pack for something sexy.

After years of nervous anticipation during tense moments around the tree, I’ve devised a few logical suggestions to sail us through the giving and receiving:

1) Avoid buying the ‘practical’ gift. An ear and nose hair trimmer is the ideal choice for Uncle Louie, but he didn’t know he had a hair issue until you came along;

2) If you’re bold/foolish/uncaring enough to pawn off a previous bad gift, remove all evidence. My friend received a present from her aunt, a glass punch bowl with 12 cups. When she broke down the box for recycling, she discovered a gift tag addressed TO the aunt from someone else. FYI my friend doesn’t have a dozen friends to share punch, so this gift was both recycled and kind of sad;

3) Before the dreaded day, I mean Christmas, do some practicing: “Thank you, how kind, it’s just what I always wanted” in front of the bathroom mirror. Do you look sincere? If you can’t fool yourself, you won’t fool your holiday crowd;

4) Reserve comment UNTIL you’ve unwrapped the inside tissue. Just because there’s a picture of a can opener on the box doesn’t mean there’s a can opener inside. It could be a diamond tennis bracelet and here you’ve already gone and gasped, “How wonderful, I really need a can opener!” Chances are, if you already own two can openers, it’ll be a third;

5) Apply a generous coating of lip balm before the festivities begin. When your mouth dries at the sight of a poorly knit sweater in a shade of orange not found on nature’s palette, the extra lubrication will prevent your lips from sticking to your teeth;

6) At the first sight of a bad gift, visualize a favorite day at the beach. If that doesn’t make you smile when you open the gift certificate for an hour of electrolysis, nothing will. (Now you know how Uncle Louie feels);

7) And finally, suggest that next Christmas be gift-free for adults. Why put ourselves through this stress year after year? Wait a minute . . .  who says I haven’t given MY share of bad gifts? My mother had a suspiciously cheerful voice when she opened my childhood creations of melted crayon-covered jars and Popsicle stick pen holders. So much glitter . . . the horror.

Forget the angst of receiving bad gifts. Now I’m too paranoid to shop. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Stop Confusing Your Pumpkins

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I can’t understand the rationale behind applying special Halloween make-up and then dunking your head in a tub of communal water, all for the prize of grabbing an apple. I need more incentive.

When I was a kid, apples were not my friend on Halloween. People who handed out chocolate bars? Now those were folks forever etched in my heart. The larger the bar, the more respect they wielded in the neighborhood.

Besides apples shunned by us sugar-loving kids, pumpkins are also given a bad rap on October 31. Sure, they’re respected over Thanksgiving when they sacrifice their lives for our pumpkin pies, but come Halloween we develop short memories. Instead of revering them, we cut, scoop and hack away, defacing pumpkins into leering jack-o’-lanterns. Then, we let them shrivel to unrecognizable pulps before tossing them into a compost bin or the next trash pick-up. Talk about ‘dissing an innocent gourd.

Know who else gets a bad rap? Teenagers. The rumor that floated through school at Halloween was the same every year: “Look out for those AWFUL teenagers! As soon as they spot you walking with a full bag, they’ll steal your candy!”

Sure, teenagers are notorious for egging windows and trimming trees with toilet tissue, but not all of them are evil. During one childhood Halloween, I almost made it home after a fruitful trick-or-treating mission. After saying goodbye to my friends, I looked over my shoulder for those awful teenagers. I was a mere six doors from home when the unthinkable happened: my bag of treats – weighed down by apples – tore and spilled my candy onto the street! Horrified, I ran home crying.

Before I could explain the tear-choked tragedy to my mother, our doorbell rang.

“Gee, that’s a grown-up looking trick-or-treater,” Mom said after peering through the window. She opened the door to one of those awful teenagers. He’d taken off his jacket and gathered my candy. Since he watched me run home, he followed.

My mom whispered that I should give him a reward for his kindness, so I surrendered several of my most-coveted chocolate bars.

From then, I wasn’t frightened by teenagers on Halloween. Instead, I’ve developed a fear of dentists because in addition to collecting candy, I garnered a few cavities that year.

If you’re still brave enough (read: crazy) to bob for apples at your Halloween party, insist on going first. The last contestants in line have a tough time breaking through the oil slick of grease paint on the water’s surface. And don’t invite me unless you plan to bob for something good, like diamonds or a plane ticket to Honolulu. For that I’ll smudge my make-up.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN to teenagers everywhere. I’m thrilled if you’re reading my post. That means you’re not out egging our car.

You Throw Salt, I’ll Knock on Wood

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Friday the 13th is one unlucky day for women. A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry revealed that women have a higher than 60% risk of dying in traffic accidents on Friday the 13th compared with other Fridays. For men, bless their less superstitious stars, Friday the 13th is just another day, with a mere 2% risk of not making it past midnight.

If you have an irrational fear of Friday the 13th, add this title to your playlist: paraskevidekatriaphobia. A milder condition is triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13. If you suffer from both, throw a few grains of salt over your left shoulder. Next, crawl back into bed, on the right side if you’re SUPER superstitious.

I wonder if there’s a condition for fear of long and unpronounceable fears. If so, I’ve got dibs on that one.

Friday the 13th doesn’t make me anxious, although I understand the obsession. All of the focus spent worrying about events that could happen and attempts that might fail is distracting. Take my quirks: I can bash out work on the computer when left alone. But if anyone watches over my shoulder, I start to think about the keys and suddenly I make mistakes and forget how to type.

Same goes for playing piano. I spent years tickling the plastics in the privacy of my family home. Since I performed in only a handful of compulsory recitals, no one besides my piano teacher watched me play. And the old dear, in her early hundreds, regularly dozed off mid-song, so her attention didn’t count for much.

The problem resurfaced every June, that traumatic month when I took my Royal Conservatory of Music exam. Before this intimidating stranger, I had mere minutes to showcase a year’s worth of practicing and memorizing.

While waiting to hear my name called, my hands shook uncontrollably. When it was time to take my place at the bench, the keys looked foreign. I’d stare but middle C evaded me. When did I learn how to play piano? . . . Mommy!

I’d begin a song, race through a few bars to hurry the suffering, and then forget what notes came next. My song book would be retrieved and I’d lose points. Those countless hours spent memorizing music flew out the window faster than a Kardashian marriage.

To bolster my nerve, I should have brought along a lucky charm, like those athletes convinced they need their lucky underwear or let their beards grow. (Note to self: no more facial depilation before my next exam, which should be an eye exam so I can find those pesky whiskers.)

My present-day certainty? In an age of dwindling forests, it’s becoming harder to knock on wood for luck. Polymer laminates will never offer the same protective thrill.

Maybe Friday the 13th is unlucky for women because we spend too much time worrying about being unlucky. Calling all women: let’s ignore the calendar and stop being superstitious. But just in case I’m wrong, keep the salt shaker handy. And don’t break any mirrors.

What’s YOUR common or crazy superstition?

    My Bikini Drove Me to the Gym

Shannon Kernaghan Bikin-babe-pool-side-800-e1499891769101     My Bikini Drove Me to the Gym Bikini Challenge Culture Fashion Health Humor Lifestyle Relationship Tropical

 

I finally did it – I joined a gym. Years had passed since my last exercise regime, so it was time to quit stalling. My husband didn’t encourage me to join, neither did my friends. It was my bikini that did the talking, prompting me to run, not walk, to the nearest gym.

When I originally bought that itsy bitsy bikini, I was lean and confident enough to forego the matching cover-up. Now, I’d wrap myself in a quilt before wearing those revealing strips of Lycra in public. I don’t especially want to wear a bikini, nor do I have a place to wear one with regularity. But the word “option” is key.

The chant “fit the bikini, wear the bikini,” drifts through my brain while perspiring to an hour of aerobics, or fast-walking to floor 38 of the Stairmaster. This mantra calms me after scary reflections in the mirror, because I’m not sure if my eraser-pink face is the signal of a good workout or an imminent stroke.

Fortunately, fitness centers have changed through the years. My previous gym had instruments of torture from the Inquisition. One device consisted of a vibrating belt that I’d loop around my hips. If it did tone me, I never found out how or where. I was too busy reading the caution sign tacked above the noisy motor. Bold red lettering warned users not to operate the machine for longer than five minutes OR RISK INJURY.

Overzealous, I purchased a lifetime membership. Turns out “lifetime” referred not to my life, but to that of the gym. The gym was in worse shape than me because within a year, the doors closed and all I had for keepsakes was my laminated membership card and a troubling rash, no doubt from that vibrating belt.

As for my new gym, I love it – the staff, the equipment and every enthusiastic member. During my first aerobics session, I forgot my glasses and tried to follow the trainer, struggling to hear her instructions over loud music. In the wall of mirrors, I glimpsed a woman who wore the same baggy pants. I admired how she kept up with my pace . . . until realizing that woman was me!

After my inaugural workout, I returned home both motivated and famished. While standing at the kitchen counter, I ate a brick of cheese along with fistfuls of salty crackers and a big chocolate minty thing I really didn’t like. It was either that or frozen waffles and syrup to kill my sugar craving.

Sure, there’s a challenge ahead, but who knows. My future might include a hot and sunny location where I’ll be wearing nothing more than a teeny bikini as strut down a sandy beach.

Hey, it’s a lovely dream. Just get rid of all the mirrors first.

 

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Cracked Bottoms & Missing Heads

Shannon Kernaghan Shannon-and-the-jar Cracked Bottoms & Missing Heads Culture Food Humor Lifestyle Relationship Travel

 

You’ve heard this before: one person’s junk is another’s treasure. I’d hoped to find some serious pickings when Paul and I traveled to an advertised swap meet. I thought swap meet equated garage sale or flea market, where everything from antiques to pickled beets would line the tables and booths.

Not at this swap meet. Grinning people carried tire rims, bumper parts and steering wheels through the parking lot. We decided to bail on the quest since our car has all the parts it deserves and besides, we were in search of different treasure.

Our quest began after a move, when we discovered that the lid to a clown-shaped cookie jar had vanished. The jar had been a wedding gift to his parents, and Paul has fond memories of sneaking cookies while his family watched TV in the living room. The lid was broken and re-glued a few times, yet that didn’t lesson the emotional value.

Obsessed with finding a replacement lid, he e-mailed every cookie jar club on the internet. He discovered a match-making site that does nothing but catalogue people seeking cookie jar parts. It’s a virtual dating site for lovelorn jars! I never knew there were so many bottomless heads and headless bottoms across the globe.

Since no matching lid turned up, my cousin suggested Paul foray into the magical land of eBay. That’s where Paul found success, and not simply once. Within a month, he had four duplicates of his cookie jar shipped from four states. Each one up for auction was in better condition than the previous, which is why Paul couldn’t resist bidding.

Between the exchange rate on the US dollar and the expense of shipping, we could have bought ourselves a new piece of furniture. Or hired a couple of real clowns who’d make cute balloon animals for us while we clapped and cheered.

“Now we can have a clown jar in every room,” Paul said with enthusiasm. Yippee. At least they’re painted in different color combinations.

When I told my cousin about our replacements, he laughed and said, “The problem is that you’re still stuck with a headless torso. It just doesn’t feel right, knowing there’s a clown head at large. That’s the stuff of nightmares.” Thanks for reminding me.

Oh well, maybe we’ll decide to move again. There’s always the chance that a certain box marked COOKIE JARS – FRAGILE might go missing.

Send in the clowns.

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Slow Down & Smell the Borscht

Shannon Kernaghan Borscht-for-Post-400 Slow Down & Smell the Borscht Culture Food Humor Lifestyle Parties Relationship Travel

 

My friend  gave me a book entitled In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré. The author investigates the phenomenon of slow living – slow food, cooking, traveling, napping and sex. Honoré writes that going slow is a way to be more efficient in the unavoidably fast parts of your life.

Sure, I love speed – fast Internet, fast replies and fast planes to name a few. Speed helps me accomplish the obligations in my life while leaving free time to enjoy the areas I prefer. Like napping. (Assume I’d say sex? Never realized I had a speed issue.)

Last summer my husband and I celebrated Canada Day by taking a slow trek through Alberta. We headed for the Ukrainian Pysanka Festival in Vegreville, Alberta, where we saw the World Famous Pysanka – a gigantic Easter egg.

Not only did we plan to enjoy the festival’s rich heritage and food, but we also wanted to take township and range roads for part of the journey.

We cruised over gravel terrain because we wanted it all and we wanted it slow. Let fast traffic take the highways, we reasoned. Instead, we traveled at 25 mph, took pictures of moose and deer grazing along quiet roads, and literally stopped to smell the Alberta wild roses.

When you spot more wildlife than people, you know you’re taking the slow road. My husband pulled over to photograph an abandoned schoolhouse at the edge of a field. An impressive spear of lightning zigzagged behind him and he started to race towards our truck. Fast.

“What a baby!” I called out. “That lightning is miles away.” And then he pointed.

Two wolf-sized dogs tore towards him from the other end of the road. Since my back was turned, I hadn’t seen them appear. No barking, they were serious. And by the way they bared their teeth and raised their hackles, they weren’t greeting him with open paws.

When it comes to running from snapping jaws, fast is advisable. We hopped into our truck and slammed the doors.

At the Vegreville festival, we ate wonderful Ukrainian cooking and listened to live polka music. Then we bought loaves of bread baked – slow – in clay ovens. Our treasure d’jour was the ice cream pail of beet borscht we purchased to take home.

Once home, we dipped into our borscht supply non-stop.

“Slow down, pace yourself,” my husband said when I gestured towards the soup pot with my ladle. “I can’t handle more than one bowl an hour.”

When it comes to slowing down, I’m not perfect but I try. Neither is the author of In Praise of Slow. I read that he got a speeding ticket while researching his book.

*Jonesing for holopchi and perogies? Check out this year’s July 7-9 Pysanka Festival in Vegreville, AB.

 

 

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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!

 

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