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

Dating? Learn How to Use Chopsticks

Shannon Kernaghan chopstick-final-400 Dating? Learn How to Use Chopsticks Adventure Challenges Dating Food Fun Humor Lifestyle Love Parties Relationship Risk Sex Sex and Food

Why can’t dating come with instructions? By instructions, I don’t mean a how-to book. There are enough texts on the subject, all trumpeting slick advice on how to meet, marry and mate.

The moment you stand in a bar and pertly balance your Chocolate Martini, you’ll forget the reams of advice.

Taking a deep breath, you’ll wonder, Am I supposed to approach the guy or wait for him to make the first move?

Next, the confusion will be, Do I look at him invitingly or ignore him? Dammit, I’ve read so much advice that I can’t remember if I’m supposed to yin or yang!

Now step away from the Self-Help section and relax. What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. Instead, concentrate on making the most of the gifts you already own, such as your wry sense of humor, your patience and your take-no-prisoners method of deadheading the delphiniums.

Everyone has strengths and those strengths will be attractive to the right person.

In my world, finding a partner should be as uncomplicated as the instructions on a chopsticks wrapper, sealed for your sanitary protection:

LEARN HOW TO USE YOUR CHOPSTICKS.

Ignore the written instructions and go directly to the illustration of a hand and a set of chopsticks, a Kama Sutra for the utensil-challenged.

TUCK UNDER THUMB AND HOLD FIRMLY.

It’s tough to meet a quality partner and then parlay those fun dates into a long-term relationship because people have skyscraper-high expectations.

When a journalist interviewed a 21-year-old university student, he admitted to measuring all the women he meets to actor Angelina Jolie. Good luck with that.

ADD SECOND CHOPSTICK, HOLD IT AS YOU HOLD A PENCIL.

I prefer my day, like dating, to unfold with simplicity. For example, I recently watched a documentary on ghostly hauntings and poltergeists.

The narrator explained how these frisky ghouls are known for their disruptive behavior, all to grab the attention of us earthly beings. I watched film footage of plates rattling and crashing to the ground.  

If I’m ever graced by poltergeists, I’ll quickly set out some ground rules . . . make that ghoul rules.

“Listen up, you vaporous squatters,” I’ll shout into the ether. “If you plan to float around my property, at least make yourselves useful. See those dirty dishes in the sink? Wash and dry them, and carefully put them away. There will be no crashing or breaking. Got it, Casper? Good!”

I’ll be a tough taskmaster with my poltergeists, the same way I’d be with any new partner. I don’t have time to ghoul around.

HOLD FIRST CHOPSTICK IN ORIGINAL POSITION, MOVE THE SECOND ONE UP AND DOWN. NOW YOU CAN PICK UP ANYTHING.

Did I say chopsticks were uncomplicated? Not according to the stained front of every shirt I own.

Like chopsticks, I wish more people came sealed for my sanitary protection.

And as for finding the right person? Throw away the instructions, baby. It’s as easy as picking up that last grain of rice in the bowl.

Audio version music
“Jamlet”
by Coolzey

Hands Off The Pooch!

Shannon Kernaghan Hands-off-my-pooch-400 Hands Off The Pooch! Challenge Childhood children Comedy Culture Family Fun Health Humor Lifestyle Love Memoir parents Relationship Sex

My husband has begun an annoying habit while we relax in bed: he plays with my stomach as if it’s bread dough.

“Stop it!” I yell and slap at his pawing hand. ”This isn’t Silly Putty!”

Although I’ve never been pregnant, I can empathize when people reach out to rub a woman’s  rotund stomach. Those people envision a beautiful growing baby and are drawn to it, the same way they’re attracted to a puppy or kitten.

Conversely, those pregnant women see a groping hand reaching towards them and they’ve never felt so territorial.

Men must endure similar attention. I’m referring to men who’ve shaved their heads to a downy fuzz.

My hand trembles with desire to sweep my palm across all that fuzz. Now it’s tough to concentrate on what the guy is saying. Downy. Alluring. Must touch.  

There’s nothing sexual about it. If anything, my psyche is probably reconnecting with my youth where I played with my Ken doll, the kind with the peach-fuzz head. Sure, Barbie had great golden locks, but Ken’s head was something special.

Let’s shelve my downy head hang-up and get back to pregnant women. Lately great emphasis is placed on the prenatal experience. Parents don’t simply talk to their unborn babies but also read to them and play selected music.

Embryologists say that the ear is the first organ to develop, that it becomes functional after only eighteen weeks and baby listens actively from twenty-four weeks on.Speaking, reading and singing to a baby before birth is said to enhance its ability to distinguish sounds after birth. Some scientists believe that babies understand what’s being said around them.

I find that hard to believe. If babies understand from an early age, why is it such a struggle to toilet train them or teach them why they can’t throw Daddy’s keys into the toilet? For keys, they have no problem with the flush.

If you have extra time in your busy day, why not buy a device that allows you to hear, record and e-mail your unborn baby’s heartbeat and hiccups.

Here’s one ad I found online: “Listen to these sounds with the baby’s father, siblings or friends. You will also hear the nutrients passing through the placenta.”

I wouldn’t be too keen to share sounds from my placenta; once that child is born, we’ll be treated to enough sounds. My device of choice would be ear plugs.

My own mother was busy with four children before I arrived. Little concern went towards my in utero experience. I’m thankful enough that Mom didn’t smoke, slam shooters or play with hallucinogens while she was pregnant.

As for my non-pregnant pooch, I’ve created a new rule in our household: I’ll let my sweetheart squeeze my belly if he shaves his head and lets me stroke his fuzz. Now that’ll be a Friday night tale to tell the non-kids. 

audio song The Nexxus Riddum
by
Konrad Old Money

Luggage Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audio story music “Waterfall”
by
Aakask Ganghi

Milk-Bone in Your Pocket

Shannon Kernaghan Milk-Bone-in-Your-Pocket-500 Milk-Bone in Your Pocket Challenge Dating Family Fun Gifts Humor Lifestyle Love Relationship

Since I welcome any opportunity to tease my partner, Valentine’s Day provides yet another opportunity.

I’ll be gentle. I’ve been with the guy for half my life, which translates into a heaping helping of dog years. For that, he deserves a medal, not a hard time.

Speaking of dogs, if he were a canine he’d be a mixed breed: amorous like a Chihuahua, clever like a Border Collie, and regal as a Beagle. Those are his words, not mine. While reading an online personality profile, I asked Paul what three dogs he considered himself. And for the record, “amorous” isn’t the actual word he used but I’ve done a titch of editing.

I’d throw in a tough breed for Paul, such as a Bull Mastiff or Siberian Husky because my husband is no lap dog. Nor is he easily riled.

A perfect example was when I opened a letter from his doctor’s office, describing a simple test he’s scheduled to undergo. I read it aloud while we ate fajitas in a restaurant.

Although the letter referred to “minimal discomfort,” I changed the wording to “substantial discomfort.” Pause . . . no reaction. I decided to roll up my sleeves.

“If further tests are required,” the letter continued, “you may need a tiny wire placed through the skin, about the size of an immunization needle.” Of course I changed that phrase to “a two-inch incision, requiring several stitches.”

Again, no reaction. I bit my lip to keep from giggling and watched as he casually dipped into his salsa. “Honey, doesn’t that worry you? An incision? Stitches?”

He shook his head and shrugged. “Oh well, whatever.”

Like I said, he’s one tough Husky. I grow faint when tweezing my eyebrows. If I ever show up at your party with a uni-brow, you’ll know why.

People put a lot of pressure on Valentine’s Day, determined to exchange the perfect gift and sentimental card that expresses their love. Same goes for the scrutiny placed on marriage.

Marriage can be overrated, especially when people don’t respect the promises they jointly make. Actions speak louder than signatures on any old marriage certificate, no matter how much dust has built up over the years.
I’m a firm believer that love is demonstrated by how couples share their lives. It’s the day-to-day challenges they conquer and the effort they make to protect each other.

During an occasional trying moment, I hear Paul mutter: “I shoulda taken a wrong turn on the way to the church.”

“No way,” I quickly reply. “Who’d be here to brag about you, you big stud. Now go eat your kibble.”

Either I still love him, or I really need to get a dog. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.

Audio music “Blue Creek Trail”
by
Dan Lebowitz