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.

    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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Shannon Kernaghan Street-Billboard-600-4book     My Bikini Drove Me to the Gym Bikini Challenge Culture Fashion Health Humor Lifestyle Relationship Tropical

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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Bear Facts on Bikinis

Shannon Kernaghan Bare-Facts-on-Bikinis-8-e1497811785676 Bear Facts on Bikinis Culture Humor Lifestyle Risk Travel

 

Some believe that life imitates art. For me, life imitates news. I read a piece on the myriad of distractions that drivers face on today’s roads.

Any number of activities, both inside the vehicle and out, can cause a distraction. Some may be difficult to predict or control, such as an event along the roadside or a loose object moving inside the car.

I once watched a woman wearing a string bikini and strappy high heels ride her bicycle down Edmonton’s busy Whyte Avenue. If based on the number of rubbernecking cars that crawled dead slow to get a better gander, she was a definite distraction.

Unpredictability is key. Take your screaming baby in the back seat, or the bear that appeared before my father while heading home from the lake. Had Dad been texting or multitasking, there could have been a fatality. Actually there was – the poor bear – but it was either collide with Smoky or get creamed by the fast-moving stream of Sunday traffic behind us.

Another word of advice: if you’re a bear, please don’t lounge on the highway at dusk. If you need a ride, stick out your paw on the side of the road. Or consider a Commuter Pass with Greyhound.

Sure, some distractions you can’t anticipate, but there are others that drivers choose. It’s these choices that leave me clenching my jaw, everything from selecting music, interacting with passengers, making or receiving phone calls to studying the GPS.

To find an article on distracted driving was apropos. I’d just arrived home after witnessing a parade of distracted drivers while stopped at a red light with my husband.

Turning vehicles had the right of way, which gave me time to watch as they maneuvered the turn. None was doing the dreaded texting or phoning, although one man laughed uproariously, with his head thrown back and his eyes pinched shut. The next dude turned his car but stared at something over his shoulder.

Vehicle number three’s driver fought with a food wrapper and the woman following adjusted her scarf in the mirror. The final man to make the light was looking down and digging at something in his lap.

Very few traveling the roads today have lives so vital that they can’t pull over and park for a few minutes. Can’t they at least wait for a red light before eating that drippy fajita or mining their lap for gold? No wonder there are accidents!

Imagine an idyllic world where people simply drive the highways without distraction, eyes front and hands at ten and two on the wheel? That’s the artwork I want to create for my living room, with emphasis on “living.” And I’ll remember to sketch in the poor bear who gave his/her life – along with our car’s front end – so we could enjoy a beach day.

Ten-4, rubber ducky.

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Don’t Sniff It on Father’s Day

Shannon Kernaghan Fathers-Day-scent-2017 Don't Sniff It on Father's Day Family Humor Pets and Animals Relationship

 

My father’s primary loves were his family, his pets and his television store, in varying order. No doubt that love toggled, depending on which source offered the most pleasure, the least annoyance.

Although I was less appreciative as a teenager, now I cherish the Saturdays and summers I worked by his side in “the shop.” There, I had a front-row seat to watch him operate in his favorite his territory.

His sense of humor was wry, often edging on rude. Since he was impossible to insult, he assumed everybody had the same thick skin. His guileless smile and kind heart enabled him to get away with more than the average proprietor.

I blanched when I heard him greet a customer: “Mrs. Finegold, what happened? You got so fat! Did you leave any food for the rest of us?”

“Such a kidder,” the woman said, laughing and hugging him. I don’t think he was kidding.

He was also a fan of practical jokes, whether on the playing or receiving end. One night my parents went for dinner with another couple. Outside the restaurant, someone had been sick on the sidewalk.

“Doesn’t say much for the food here,” Dad said as he gallantly scooped up the mess with his white silk scarf.

“Leon, what are you doing?” his friend gasped. “Not your nice scarf!” Dad eventually ‘fessed up to his prank: he’d brought along his own novelty store rubber vomit.

Trust was another strength my dad possessed. He’d hand over big-ticket items based on a handshake. Only once did a customer give him a bad check. After repeated and patient attempts to settle the bill, Dad drove to the customer’s home and took back his new TV. Solved! Um, he might have climbed through an unlocked rear window to retrieve it, but why sully this sweet tale with borderline B&E.

That same trust went for payment plans. Customers could have their new TV if they verbally promised to make regular payments. He accepted a few dollars each month until the bill was paid.

These scenarios were ordinary events during my childhood and teens. As an adult, I have a renewed admiration for my father’s view of humanity. A person’s age, culture, gender and income was irrelevant; my dad had respect for everyone. By the time he retired, he’d sold TVs to several generations of customers. I never grew weary of hearing their praise for him through the years.

Besides humans, he treasured animals. When my mother phoned our nearby pet store to find a remedy for our pet turtle’s filmy shell, the store owner said, “And by the way, Donna, your skunk’s ready.”

“That’s funny, I thought you just said skunk.”

“I did, the one your husband ordered? Flower has been de-scented and can come home now.”

“Over my dead body!” Mom said and quickly hung up the phone. Who surprises his wife with a skunk? We’d already sheltered and rescued a plethora of critters under our suburban roof, from dogs and cats, chickens and pigeons, to rabbits and rodents.

This weekend, do something special to celebrate your father. But don’t surprise him with a skunk. Brunch and a new gag gift should do the trick.

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