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

Shannon Kernaghan Cliches400 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!

Stop Confusing Your Pumpkins

Shannon Kernaghan halloween_17-400 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.

You Throw Salt, I’ll Knock on Wood

Shannon Kernaghan skull-e1507756491922 You Throw Salt, I’ll Knock on Wood Culture Humor Memories Relationship Risk

 

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?

Copy That, Crispy Chicken Lady

Shannon Kernaghan blog-truck-driver-sep23-e1506294202863 Copy That, Crispy Chicken Lady Dating Drinking Food Humor Lifestyle Parties Sex Sex and Food Travel

 

Once upon a dance floor I partied late into the night, and I garnered the occasional nickname. Sometimes I was called Peaches, and for a brief period I was Sweet Thing or Honey Bunny. One guy called me Foxy Lady, which may or may not have been a compliment. Did he mean I was sly?

Except for those pet names given to me by males in search of a fruit salad, I didn’t have many lifelong labels. Why? Because the name Shannon doesn’t rhyme with anything besides Cannon, or sound interesting when shortened.

“Hey Shan, over here,” my friend would shout above the crowd. But I didn’t enjoy the abbreviation. Made me sound like a cleaning agent. “Try Shan for your pans to get the grease out!”

My husband Paul had a few of his own while growing up. When he introduced me to a group of old camping buddies, they immediately called him Pig Pen. I never asked why; I didn’t want to hear any dirty details.

I always figured I’d share my life with a dude called Brain (smart) or Duke (rich) or Moose (athletic), not Pig Pen. At least Paul had cleaned up by the time we met.

Now my nicknames have nothing to do with fruit or sweetness levels, proven when I walked into one of my favorite restaurants and took a seat. I wore sunglasses and a ball cap pulled low on my face, but that wasn’t enough camouflage.

“Hey, it’s the Crispy Chicken Lady!” called out the serving person. Crispy Chicken Lady – my new nickname. Great. I’m not sweet and fruity anymore, and gone is any sexual spin. I’m a daily special comprised of poultry and hot oil.

While I’m not one to give people a nickname, Paul refers to everyone he works with by a tag – from Boom Box (loud), Coconut (bald), Bullet-Proof (flies under the radar and avoids trouble), Titanium (beats me) to Top Shelf (self-named; the best brands of booze at the top of a bartender’s shelf).

What am I saying? I do have a nickname. My husband started calling me 2-J, my CB radio handle for when I have my “ears on.” The meaning? Won’t say, but at least it’s spicier than CCL (Crispy Chicken Lady).

“Pig Pen,” I called out last weekend, “come and move your pile of clothes and magazines. I can’t see the floor!”

A-ha! Pig Pen, the light just went on. Smarty Pants finally gets it.

Wait a second . . . poultry? . . . hot oil? . . . maybe I AM still hot, if I reach a little.

Where’s my cell? With all this talk of food, I need to order something. CCL over and out.

Catch the Wave!

Shannon Kernaghan Surf-bug400 Catch the Wave! Adventure Humor Lifestyle Travel

 

I like ladybugs as much as the next person. Finding one inside your home is said to be a sign of good luck. But I like a few of them, not a virtual infestation. Last fall, several dozen enjoyed free room and board in one of my bedrooms, all of them snoozing in the corners of my ceiling.

I’m not being fair about the free board part since my ladybugs didn’t eat a thing. That’s not to imply there’s nothing snack-worthy because I can fed a small nation with what falls off the kitchen counters.

With help from the Internet, I discovered these cute little Volkswagen-shaped insects are fascinating critters. The North Carolina College of Agriculture states that ladybugs, or Multicolored Asian Ladybeetles, were imported into the United States from Asia in the late 1970s. Since they feed on over 50 species of aphids, they’re a good bug to have around. I only WISH they ate human food. My kitchen floor would be much cleaner.

Ladybeetles – a rather emasculating title for the males – congregate twice a year, in spring and in fall when they gather to find shelter from the cold. In their native Asia, they’re drawn to light-colored limestone, which is why they choose my sunny west-facing room.

I’m no gardener, but I do appreciate the benefits of ladybugs in a vegetable and flower bed. Want to store your ladybugs for the winter and release them into your gardens and window boxes next spring? The N.C. College recommends that you make a bag out of cheesecloth, about the size of a half-gallon milk jug. Toss in some dried grass or wood chips.

After collecting the ladybugs with the edge of a funnel, gently drop them into the cheesecloth bag. Refrigerate, but don’t freeze or you’ll end up with Bugscicles. From now until spring, take them out of the fridge once or twice a month and let them warm up for a few hours. They’re hardy enough to withstand temperature fluctuations in nature although shouldn’t be left out too long as they’ll burn off their fat reserves and die.

When warmed and starting to crawl, mist them with a bit of water. To prevent chilling, make sure they’re dry before returning them to the fridge. I suggest using a monogrammed guest towel for best results.

When spring arrives, let them warm up again. Place the bag of bugs in your recliner and download a move, something like A Bug’s Life or Antz, before releasing them into your garden where they’ll make quick work of aphids and other pests.

For this year’s visit, I’ll launch an Airbnb for them, specifically an Airbug. Guests this quiet and low-maintenance, I want back year after year.

By the way, if you actually follow my recipe for preserving your bugs, I figure you’ve got too much free time. How about coming over and cleaning my kitchen floor!

Super Bug? Meet Super Traveler

Shannon Kernaghan blog-travelling-suitcase2 Super Bug? Meet Super Traveler Adventure Bikini Challenge Humor Travel Tropical

 

When I started traveling in my teens, half of my luggage contained beauty products – bulky hot rollers, make-up by the bucket and a spectrum of nail polishes. My suitcase needed layers of duct tape to keep the works from springing open on the carousel. “Spontaneous travel” was not a phrase in my vocabulary.

After those teen years, my total luggage weight decreased. Eventually I could skip onto planes with nothing more than a carry-on bag and a light heart. Considering my destinations were generally warm, the basic wardrobe of shorts, T-shirts and bikinis required minimal packing. After all, most toiletries and more clothing can be purchased on arrival.

Something remarkable occurred at an untraceable juncture. I transformed into a Travel Superhero! Maybe I’d skimmed too many online horror stories about unprepared travelers. Suddenly I was never far from my bulging purse and prepared for any contingency, including airport delays and minor medical ailments.

Where I once journeyed with a toothbrush, now I carry a Ziploc bag of cough drops, antacids and pre-moistened wipes, to name a few. These emergency supplies give me a heightened sense of security.

I’m not done. I also drag along a six-pack of sunblock with SPFs in the triple digits. And don’t forget the mini sewing kit. You never know. Buttons could pop and hems could fall with abandon. I’ll be there, no longer with my spectrum of alluring nail polishes from my youth, but with my rainbow of threads. Move over Spiderman, Super Traveler is on this journey!

I’ve swapped my hot rollers for bandages and alcohol swabs. Instead of a big make-up mirror taking space in my carry-on, I bring spare socks and undies in case my luggage goes missing. There’s always room for a few granola bars and juice boxes. Someone in my orbit might suffer from low blood sugar. I’ve become the Superwoman of All Possibilities.

In the airport, if my husband Paul mentions he’s leaving to find a washroom, I whisper, “Want anything from my special baggy?” I tilt my head down and raise my eyebrows, willing him in.

“What?” and he looks at me as if I’m trying to sell him contraband.
“You know, a toilet seat protector? Wet wipes?” I stop listing my wares as soon as he rolls his eyes and shakes his head. “I’m here if you change your mind,” I call out while he walks away.

On our last trip, I had plenty of satisfaction. After our first night of celebrating, Paul needed aspirin from too many cocktails and then a bandage for his cut finger. If that wasn’t pleasure enough, he asked if I’d brought a sewing kit because he found a tear in his favorite shorts.

I couldn’t stop grinning and repeating, “See? You laugh at my stuff, but now you’re sure sounding sweet.”

It was only when he asked for the camera so he could take pictures of the ocean from our balcony that my know-it-all bliss ended.

“Camera? I thought you brought it!” I’d managed to bring the entire contents of our medicine cabinet, yet forgot to pack the camera.

“Honey? What about some nice calamine lotion?” I said. “Um, you’re turning a little red in the face.”

Can You Hear Me Now?

Shannon Kernaghan Honey-Dew-list-400 Can You Hear Me Now? Humor Lifestyle Memories Relationship

 

Listening is an under-rated art form. There’s a wise saying that people should listen twice as much as they talk, considering they have two ears for every mouth. When I read the report that men listen with only half their brain, my husband’s confidence improved.

“See? Paul said, pointing to an online article. “It’s not my fault, that’s the way I’m hardwired. Now when you call me a half-brain, it won’t be such an insult.”

The man has a point. I’ve been doing a non-clinical study for years and agree with the findings. Take the subject of errands. If I ask Paul to pick up a few groceries, he looks like a proud warrior when he returns with two of the four items I requested.

“Didn’t you buy coffee beans? I told you we were out and now won’t have any for breakfast tomorrow! What’s all this other stuff?” and I rummage through the bag.

“I never heard you say coffee. I got a Rolling Stone and BBQ chips.” Surprise: I don’t need B-B-Q chips, yet I do love my morning coffee.

I never confuse the topic of listening with that of memory. When it comes to memory, Paul has a great set of temporal lobes. He’ll recall something I mentioned at a party in 2006 where I commented on a woman’s pretty purple dress. From one remark, he’ll forever believe I adore purple dresses, and he’ll point out every one we walk past in store windows. Since the seed is firmly rooted, why bother arguing?

I’ve made another discovery through years of unscientific study: what men don’t hear, they invent. While on holidays, Paul led me into a restaurant that specializes in ramen soup. He ordered me a bowl and watched me eat while I commented on the soup’s poor quality and expensive price.

“Yeah, but at least we found a place that serves ramen,” he said. “I know how much you love it.”

“I do? Since when?”

“Since we used to eat it in Vancouver. Remember that noodle place on Robson Street? We’d always sit at the window.” He wasn’t giving up.

“Yeah, I liked the restaurant, but when did I say I loved the soup?” At some mystical juncture, Paul decided that I loved ramen. Case closed. At least he tries, even if he’s correct only half of the time.

Sometimes I wish that I could listen with only half a brain. Think how bearable it would be when the radio plays the same song six times on the hour. Or when the neighbor’s dog barks before I’m ready to get up in the morning. Or when I’m seated next to a screaming baby on a plane. There are countless advantages.

Why do I have to listen at all?  Maybe I’ll request a pack of ear plugs on Paul’s next grocery run. At this rate I’ll have a 50/50 chance of getting them.

A Simple Life? Good Luck with That!

Shannon Kernaghan Simple-Life-400 A Simple Life? Good Luck with That! Deception Fashion Health Humor Lifestyle Risk

 

I choose a simple, uncomplicated life. The proof is in my medicine cabinet. That is, you won’t find much in the way of treasure. But you will find a bottle of skin lotion. Whether or not the promise of fewer wrinkles and younger looking skin will come true, I smear my face morning and night with this fragrance-free potion.

Recently, I decided to bump up my anti-aging regime by purchasing night cream from the same line, to firm my skin while I sleep. Unless there’s concrete as a base, I’m unconvinced that anything pink and slippery is tough enough to do the trick. But then as well as being simple, I’m hopeful.

What impressed me was the plastic applicator. For the $15 bottle I’d finished, my fingers were sufficient; for the $30 jar, suddenly I need a tiny tool.

The moment I applied the cream, my eyes started to burn. What was I thinking?  This version wasn’t fragrance-free and yet I slathered myself without a care. Sadly, my skin didn’t hear the message of hopefulness. Instead, it revolted. My nose plugged and within minutes, I had the rumblings of a headache. Face washing didn’t help. The goop obviously contains those advertised fast-absorbing properties.

The only chance to rectify my loss (and rationalize a wasted purchase) was with a quick and polite HOLD THE PERFUME note to the manufacturer. I wanted them to know that their faithful consumer questions the need for so much fragrance, and because of it, I can’t use their product.

Within two weeks I received a letter with a reference number: “We are concerned about your recent experience and will share your suggestions with our Product Development and Marketing Team.”

Then a check arrived for $30. That was nice; someone was responding to my three-paragraph gripe, even though I didn’t ask for a refund or include my receipt.

A week letter, another letter arrived and this time from an office in Ohio. They wanted me to fill out an Eye Incident Report on a Product Safety Surveillance form.

Incident? Surveillance?

The questionnaire’s tone was serious: how did the incident happen? Which eye was involved? What treatment was given? Was the eye rinsed and for how long? The form was so lengthy that my wrinkles were getting wrinkles and I was afraid to send it back. What’s next, a team of lawyers at my door? A news crew with mics extended?

Forget spreading fake news. Now I’m more selective about sharing a simple suggestion.

Next steps? I’m about to cross my fingers and throw salt over my shoulder for luck. I don’t want to risk hurting myself. Imagine the paperwork.

When Wooden Vultures Rule

Shannon Kernaghan Birthday-cake-400 When Wooden Vultures Rule Childhood Family Humor Memories Parties

 

Summer is a time to enjoy Farmer’s Markets, water sports and local festivals. It’s also a chance to celebrate an activity synonymous with fun – setting up your lawn ornaments.

While walking past a yard recently, I stopped and stared at wooden tulips, Little Bow Peep (her sheep hadn’t yet gone AWOL) and a menagerie of metal and stone critters:  a rooster, seagull, butterfly, cat, gopher and vulture. That’s right, a vulture. There was no mistaking that bald head and hunched neck. Who knew that carrion-eating birds are considered decorative? Perhaps it’s there to control the wooden gopher population.

The yard was cute and colorful, although I didn’t linger in case I was confused with a burglar casing the joint. I was in no mood to run from the plaster-cast hounds, had they been released.

Why my interest? I’m not from a family who owned garden gnomes enacting scenes of bucolic tranquility. Perhaps my mom saw steel rod construction as too much of a physical threat to her children. Even without obstacles, I managed to snap my collarbone, sprain an ankle and land on a board after climbing our fence. Luckily my nose broke that fall.

For summer threats, we already had plenty with an aboveground pool and rows of deadly raspberry bushes. Not deadly in the eating, but deadly in the thorns when you crashed your bike into them.

And there were the croquet hoops, the few always missed when packing up the game. One step through those nearly invisible wires and you found yourself close up and personal with the ground.

These are only a dusting of the hazards within the property line; I haven’t touched on our TV antenna anchored next to the house. Mom, did you know there’s a clear view of the entire city from the top of that tower?

I’m sure my mom figured there were easier ways for her kids to face injury. No need to sabotage them with majestic plaster deer and concrete toadstools when she could pull out the “big guns” once a year.

Her secret weapon? The birthday cake baked with coins and buttons. Back then, only the most devoted mothers bothered with this festive touch. Today, expect a visit from  Social Services if you empty the hardware drawer into your child’s cake mix. Oh . . . so THAT’S why I chew my food slowly.

As for celebrating your garden gnomes this coming winter, I’m sure there’s no law against it. But why bother? No one will see them under the snowdrifts. Wait a second . . . there’s always plastic Santa and his reindeer to pull down from the garage rafters.

Turns out lawn ornaments are fun year-round. Bring it on, Jack Frost . . . but don’t rush. I’m not ready to say good-bye to the wooden vulture.