Winning Loser? Avoid Las Vegas

Shannon Kernaghan Shannon-at-the-slots-400 Winning Loser? Avoid Las Vegas Belongings Challenge Lifestyle Relationship Travel

I suffer from an anatomical shortfall: I was born without the lucky bone. Like the inert patient in the game Operation, I’m stuck with a wish bone.

What’s as bad as your own failure with gambling? A partner with similar lousy luck. Our track record is upheld with every draw we enter. Prizes and dreams aside, we support lotteries and believe we’re contributing to our local and extended communities.

Then again, the temptation of winning a show home (professionally decorated and furnished), a vehicle (who’d turn down a Porsche Boxter or motorhome?) and a vacation (from Las Vegas to Australia) makes our stab at philanthropy that much easier. With more than a thousand chances to win each time Paul and I purchase a ticket, losers like us can appreciate these favorable odds.

Correction: we HAVE won in previous draws. Was it any of the above-mentioned homes, vehicles or trips? Nope.

Were we drawn for a drone or party barge, to name a few of the toys my husband and I could enjoy? Nope.

We missed out on more goodies, like the karaoke machine guaranteed to spice up a lifeless party. And with my commitment to coffee, I’d clap my hands with caffeinated glee over the high-tech espresso maker we might have won.

Instead, we won two-way radios. We already own a pair and they sit idle, along with other corroding items in a box of gadgets that seemed like a good idea at the time. Four walkie-talkies for two people living in a small space is overkill.

Another prize we won is a pair of binoculars. At least we can stay connected to the BIG winners. If I wanted to, I could take my binoculars and park outside the show home. From there, I could watch the new owners have fun in their professionally decorated living room. Someone in the same lucky family probably won the karaoke machine so they might be partying right now.

I’ll be able to update Paul through one of our four two-way radios, providing he stays within close range.

“Paul! Get your car keys, we’re going out!”

Wait a minute. Can you spell r-e-s-t-r-a-i-n-i-n-g order?

After a heavy dose of sour grapes contemplation, maybe we ARE lucky. After all, if we won the weekend in Las Vegas, I know us: we’d skip into the casinos, convinced that Lady Luck is finally on our side. Then we’d lose buckets at the blackjack tables and slot machines.

On the plane ride home, we’d sit silent and sullen, calculating how we lost more in gambling than the trip was worth, and how we were so bedazzled by blinking VLTs that we forgot to buy any souvenirs.

“Did we eat in the last three days?” I’d ask.

According to the last calculation, I figure we’ll come out ahead in the next contest . . . providing we don’t win anything!

Phew. I think our luck’s finally turning around.

Audio story music track
“Savannah”
by ELPHNT

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.

Enjoy a Kindle book for $2.99

Shannon Kernaghan Street-Billboard-600-4book Cracked Bottoms & Missing Heads Culture Food Humor Lifestyle Relationship Travel

 

Audio story music track
“Elevator”
by Fascinating Earthbound Objects

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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Audio story music track
“Jazz in Paris”
by Media Rights Productions

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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Audio story music track
“Jaw Harp You Can Dance To”
by Doug Maxwell

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.”

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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

Hear Me Flush

Shannon Kernaghan Hear-me-Flush Hear Me Flush RV Travel

There are days when I crave a simple life, one that features a scenic stroll or laughing with my favorite people over wine and food.

Since I’m not a paragliding, jet skiing, bungee jumping thrill seeker, my cravings are easily satisfied.

The above definition works when I’m on my own. Add a drop of partner to the mix and my life can go from simple to frenzied. Paul’s “big picture” also includes simplicity although adding toys to the tableaux can create challenges.

Toys, like chocolate chips in cookie dough, are enhancers. These enhancers will give you a cheery endorphin high, or painful cavities and a headache, if you’re allergic to cocoa.

Same goes when you decide to buy an RV.

Don’t assume I’m not a team player. I lusted for a trailer as much as Paul did, and together we spent months weighing the pros and cons of various sizes and designs. Did I say months? Let’s just say RV salespeople stopped returning our calls or making eye contact in the showroom.

We finally found one that pushed all the right buttons, even had an adorable miniature bathroom with a tub and shower combo. There’s no rule that I have to be dirty while camping. It’s bad enough – with my oversized bib overalls – that I resemble SpongeBob SquarePants. If nothing else, I want to smell fresh.

Envision us camped alongside a babbling brook, enjoying nature, reveling in the great outdoors . . .

Pause on the great outdoors. We picked up the trailer at 4 pm on a Thursday and within hours had suffered our first damage. That adorable bathroom was soaked from hail that smashed the rooftop vent and took out part of the ceiling fan.

That means we’re hail-christened, right? We’ll never have to worry about hail again.

Pause on the hail. After setting up the awning and unfolding our lawn chairs at our first camp site, those innocent-looking clouds dumped not only rain but more lashing hail. It hammered the kitchen roof vent and sounded like Jiffy Pop. I waited for that vent to join the broken one above my adorable toilet.

“Are we having fun yet?” I called out.

The hail stopped long enough for us to start a camp fire. Then another onslaught of rain followed.

This time Paul was prepared with a tarp to cover our fire. Now envision us hunched under that tarp, each holding up a corner and gasping for air next to the smoky fire.

Through fits of coughing I called out, “Is this the fun part?”

Between hail and rain, I had a quick lesson in gray and black water, brake controls and leveling blocks. Ask me anything about hitches, water pumps and propane bottles.

I also learned that Whiskey Jacks steal food from your plate when your back is turned, and squirrels will bite the fingers and toes of those who feed them. Plus, birds only poop on clean clothes and towels, never dirty laundry.

But was I having fun? Damn straight. I loved it and didn’t want to leave when our supplies dwindled. After five days it was either go home or start eyeing the squirrels’ nuts.

While discovering ash smudges in unmentionable creases, I suddenly realized I’m an official RV Woman. Hear me roar.

Turns out I fulfilled my simple wish – strolls in the scenic woods and meals with one of my favourite people.

Now that I’m an RV Woman, I’m ready for a few more drops of action added to the cookie dough. Bring on the chocolate chips. And hear me flush my adorable toilet.

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Audio story music
“Sunday Stroll”
by Huma Huma

Great Escape, Skimpy Dress Code 

Shannon Kernaghan bare-butt-cook-e1493311398574 Great Escape, Skimpy Dress Code  Humor Memories Relationship Sex Sex and Food Travel

A few years ago I read how a chimpanzee named Judy escaped from her cage at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas. She had her chance when a keeper left the door of her sleeping quarters open. Judy’s flight to freedom wasn’t all that dramatic, considering she did little more than raid the zoo’s kitchen cupboards.

But she disappointed me during her few sweet moments of liberty. Instead of hightailing it for the open road, she picked up a toilet brush and cleaned the bowl. Then she wrung out a sponge and wiped down the front of her keeper’s fridge. Turns out Judy had been a house pet before the zoo acquired her in 1988, so scenes of housekeeping must have been the norm. If I’m ever caged and have the chance to escape, sure, I might grab a handful of cookies en route to the front door, but I won’t hang around to finish any domestic duties.

I equate travel to escaping the self-made cages of everyday life. When traveling, I’m forced to leave my comfort zones, those familiar places that feel safe yet don’t offer much variety. When my trip is over and I’m back to the usual schedules and humdrum routines, at least I can enjoy the videos I’ve taken, the photos I’ve snapped.

My husband’s favorite shot from a road trip isn’t captured on an SD card but chiseled in his memory. The image he savors is from Arizona. The location is nothing as impressive as the red rocks of Sedona or the golf courses of Scottsdale.

Instead, it’s one where he waits for me in a grocery store parking lot. We’ve stopped at a little town and I’ve run in to pick up some snacks before we park our trailer for the night. When I exit the store he watches me grin as I walk across the lot towards our truck. I grin because the check-out line is mercifully short and the beverages are pleasingly cold.

He grins at the sight of my new cowboy hat and boots, tight jeans, and the 12-pack of Miller Lite I carry under each arm. I also carry a few bags of snacks. My husband won’t recall the snacks. Not when a woman featuring tight jeans and 24 cans of cold beer is bearing down on him.

As I spot his happy expression, what goes through my mind is, “Travel is really healthy for a relationship.”

Turns out my husband is thinking the same thing, in his own male format: “Shannon should forget to wear her bra more often!” There it was. We were on slightly different sides of the psychological fence, yet we were both happy. For him, all it took was a dusty parking lot and the sight of me holding beer. And the no-bra factor.

I have my own favorite snapshot, make that two, from the photo album. The first is one of my husband standing in the desert between two gnarly cacti.  He’s also wearing his new cowboy hat and boots. A few props are added to the arsenal – a frying pan he wields above his head like a weapon and a green chef’s apron. The next picture shows him in the identical pose, except I’ve walked around to the back of the cacti to take a rear shot.

Did I mention my husband wasn’t wearing anything besides his hat, boots and apron?

Unlike Judy the chimp who was returned to her cage after a dose of sedatives, I don’t need caging or sedatives for an excuse to avoid housework. Testimony is the inside of our microwave. It resembles an execution-style crime scene. And when I reached for the TV remote from our bed’s headboard last night, my hand came away gray with dust.

I wonder what Judy’s doing this weekend. Our place could use a good cleaning. I’ll even throw in some lite beer and snacks.

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Audio story music
“Search and Rescue”
by Dan Lebowitz