On Remembering You

Shannon Kernaghan bat-and-coffin-400 On Remembering You Adventure Challenges Death Family Friendship Fun Lifestyle Love Memoir Pets and Animals Relationship Travel

Call me weird, but sometimes I check the obituaries of cities where I’ve lived. I don’t have a morbid obsession with death. On the contrary, I’m more concerned with who’s still alive.

What fascinates me about obituaries is how lives are encapsulated and celebrated in mere paragraphs. Some folks are remembered for their song and dance, or their curling and Tai Chi. Others are recollected as feisty and humorous, or generous and patient. 

One woman had an interesting 89 years. Her tribute began, “Departed this world, looking glamorous as usual.” How’s this for an active life: she was passionately interested in wildlife conservation and international travel; she went on 13 safaris and two bat expeditions in Africa; and she was part of a field research team with the Royal Ontario Museum that discovered a new species of bat in Cameroon. She even had a bat named after her.

I’m not done: she sky-dived twice in her mid-70s; survived a plane crash en route to touring Antarctica; was a loving mother and lived a fiercely independent life, touching the lives of many throughout the world with her joie de vivre and courage.

The final words from her family? Bon voyage. Wow, if I deserved a third of her tribute, my life would feel well spent.

I am touched by the importance of pets in obituaries, which shows a kindness that transcends any list of accomplishments or academic degrees.

And food is often a focal point. Both men and women are celebrated for their sweet and sour pork buttons, their teenie-weenie sandwiches or their famous fudge cakes.

These small but poignant details allow me a peek into their aromatic kitchens and into their lives.

Some obituaries are historical, describing how parents struggled to raise a family during the Great Depression, with children recalling times so grim that furniture had to be broken up for firewood. One obituary revealed how the family went on to prosper in large part due to a mother’s relentless determination.

Who needs medals and certificates of merit when you have praise from people who truly love you?

Others tell a story in few words, such as this woman’s: “Dedicated to family, her character was her own and built on many passions such as the love of fast cars, fast horses, fast dogs and, of course, hollering Bingo!”  I would have liked this woman.

The most important aspect of an obituary? Remembering our loved ones, in whatever meaningful form that takes.

Have I written my own? Nah. I’m too busy living my life. The best news from today’s obituaries? I didn’t find my name!

Go out and live a little. For that matter, live a lot!

Audio song
“All For”
by Ralph Real

My Resolution? Avoid Clichés Like the Plague

Shannon Kernaghan Cliches-400-3 My Resolution? Avoid Clichés Like the Plague Culture Drinking Friendship Humor Lifestyle Memoir New Years Parties Relationship

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!

Backing track in the audio story is
“Where Am I?”
by Text Me Records 

Stop Confusing Your Pumpkins

Shannon Kernaghan Stop-Confusing-Your-Pumpkin-451 Stop Confusing Your Pumpkins Childhood Culture Family Food Friendship Humor Parties Risk

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.

Audio backing track
“Old Salooner Blues”
by Midnite North

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

Push-Up Bra under a Spruce Goose

Shannon Kernaghan Shannon-flying-with-Howard Push-Up Bra under a Spruce Goose Friendship Lifestyle Relationship Travel

Missions. We all have them. Some of us are driven to distraction by them.

Howard Hughes is a perfect example of a man with missions. When you inherit your father’s tool company and become a millionaire at age 18, those missions go from dreams to done deals.

One of his missions was to become a movie mogul, where he enjoyed the perks of dating Hollywood stars. He was also known for inventing the first push-up bra, specially designed to lift and separate the frontal assets of Jane Russell in The Outlaw.

Movie mogul and “star support” aside, his mission during the Second World War was to create a plane that could transport troops to Britain. Since allied shipping in the Atlantic Ocean was suffering heavy losses to U-boats, an aircraft was needed to safely cross the ocean.

Although Hughes wanted to build such an aircraft, there were wartime restrictions on metals. Hughes wasn’t deterred – he owned the Hughes Aircraft company.

To skirt the metal issue, he invented a laminated wood product called Duramold that was both light-weight and strong.

His wooden plane – nicknamed the Spruce Goose – took five years and millions of dollars to complete. Finally, it lifted off from the waters of Long Beach in 1947 to make its one-minute flight for one mile. Period. We’re not talking a great return on investment.

The last ignominious scoop on Hughes was that he holed up on the top floor of a hotel. There, he bottled and saved his urine, and supposedly let his toenails grow long enough to curl under his feet until the end of his fascinating life.

Paul had his own mission: to find that Spruce Goose. A Google search pinpointed our mission to the Evergreen Aviation museum in McMinnville, Oregon. Forty-eight hours later, we hit the road.

We envisioned a scenic tour of Washington and Oregon. Instead, we were trapped on the I-5, white-knuckling our way through non-stop merging traffic. We almost rear-ended a semi-trailer that slammed on its brakes and smoked its tires.

And while the I-5 was a direct route, it was a rootin tootin rough and rutted ride. We bumped along for hours. Paul said, “I used to be a boob man . . . until I grew my own.”

“Huh?” I looked over and immediately understood. “Sorry for your jiggle, but there’s always the push-up bra.”

We arrived in McMinnville to a wonderful museum filled with planes and memorabilia, in addition to the Spruce Goose. Better yet, all of the docents were retired military people who’d flown the makes of planes within this sprawling museum.

Except for the Spruce Goose. No one could lay claim to that behemoth. It was enormous and towered over everything. Inside the aircraft, I was in the belly of a whale.

After we toured and then did our damage in the gift store, we needed re-fueling. At the café, mere feet from the Spruce Goose, I slurped my bowl of soup. There I was, within cracker-throwing distance of a plane that put Hughes on the map. It also put him in front of a US senate committee for wasting so much government money.

While the Hughes missions are over, the lust for an open road never leaves Paul.

“What’s that, honey?” I say. “We have a new mission to plan? Sure, but first take off your shoes? I wanna quick peek at your toenails.”

Find Shannon’s books on Amazon

Shannon Kernaghan Street-Billboard-600-4book Push-Up Bra under a Spruce Goose Friendship Lifestyle Relationship Travel

Audio story music track
“We Never Lose”
by Saidbysed