The Book Of Thank You ~ Post 7: The Canadian National Exhibition


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The month of August always brings thoughts of a family tradition started by my Father in 1966.

That is when we would make our annual visit to the Canadian National Exhibition, or more commonly known to the people of Toronto as the C.N.E.

On the last day of school in late June, every child would be given a free children’s pass to this annual event.

Father was never one to let something free pass him by.

Set in the middle of downtown Toronto and bordering on Lake Ontario, the C.N.E. covers 192 acres of ground filled with a stadium, bandshell, coliseum, midway, fountains, picnic areas and much more.

Using Toronto’s public transportation, Father and I always went on the first Saturday after the grand opening. This usually coincided with the annual grand Scottish Tattoo parades where the sounds of bagpipes could be heard at every turn.

My Father didn’t care for bagpipes, and I remember how he would cover his ears and whisk me off to a quieter venue, a building perhaps, one of the many which would showcase countries from around the world, cars, or home shows.

The food building was a grand concourse featuring kiosks of cuisine from all over the world. I was partial to the corn dogs, while Father always contented himself with a cardboard bowl of spaghetti which cost only twenty-five cents.

Throughout the course of the day we collected free magazines, brochures, samples and souvenirs. By the time we left at the end of the day we would usually have three full bags of treasure to take home. I carried one while Father carried two.

I was allowed to purchase one souvenir of choice which was usually a punching ball, or an invisible dog leash.

The last time that I went to the C.N.E. with my Father was in the early 1990’s.

We brought my two young daughters to share the experience with us.

What I remember the most about that day was when we went to the bandshell where their was a rock and roll revival being held hosted by Bowser from the group SHA-NA-NA. We found a patch of grass to stand and watch. While the Platters were on stage singing their hit UNDER THE BOARDWALK, my daughters and I twirled and danced to the music.

Those were very happy moments.

In 1969, while my Father was away on business, my Grandparents took me for my annual pilgrimage to the C.N.E.

All these years later, it’s hard for me to decide which memories of that day are dearest to me.

Is it the memories of going on the Ferris wheel with my Grandmother?

She handled my rocking the carriage very well. I could be a handful at times.

Shortly after that, as I took another turn on the Ferris wheel alone, she won me an orange stuffed teddy bear. To this day, I think she paid off the carnie just so that she could see the joy on my face as she presented me with a new toy. I named the bear Godfrey.

We were very fortunate that day as our visit to the C.N.E. coincided with the visit of Canada’s current Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who was there for a cinematic premiere at the Queen Elizabeth building.

My Grandmother and I stood less than ten feet from him as he stood for photographs and welcoming speeches.

At one point, he turned his head left, looked at me and smiled. I smiled back.

Now, my Grandmother has always been of the opinion that the Prime Minister was smiling at her and not me.

Indeed, every time that we found ourselves together in the following thirty-five years we would lovingly spar  with each other over this:

“Trudeau was laughing at me…” she’s say.

“No, he was laughing at me…” I’d respond.

Then we would end the discussion by laughing at ourselves.

One of the last times that I visited the C.N.E. Was in 2005, seven months after my Father had passed away. I brought my two daughters and a good friend.

We made new memories as we walked our way through trapeze artists, upside down rides, tall cups of lemonade, tall ships, log flumes, ice cream, all behind the beautiful backdrop of the Toronto skyline.

It was good to be reacquainted with one of my childhood joys and be able to set aside my lingering grief.

Thank you C.N.E. for those new memories.

May there be many more.




The Book Of Thank You ~ Post Six: Thank You Wicked Witch Of The West


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The first time that I ever felt real fear in my life was when I was four years old. I was watching the movie THE WIZARD OF OZ based on the book by L. Frank Baum. Everything was good until the part of the movie when the Wicked Witch of the West started throwing fireballs at everybody.

First lesson learned from the Wicked Witch of the West:

Don’t play with fire.

I ran into my parents bedroom and stayed there until I knew all was well again in the land of Oz, which was only about five minutes or so.

Second lesson learned from the Wicked Witch of the West:

Fear is only temporary.

Then there was the scene where the Witch has Dorothy locked in her castle. The Witch then shows Dorothy an hourglass and threatens her by saying that when all the sand has run dry, her life will be over.

Third lesson learned from the Wicked Witch of the West:

Time is precious.

Now fast forward to the scene in the movie where Dorothy has just thrown water onto the Witch and she is dissipating into nothingness leaving only her pointy black hat and clothes.

Fourth lesson learned from the Wicked Witch of the West:

If you treat people badly, you will suffer the consequences.

When I learned that Gregory Maguire had written the book WICKED, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST, I immediately purchased a copy.

As I read the forward, the author wrote that he wanted the book to be a study on the nature of good and evil. He invited us to ask ourselves as we read the book: By what criteria do we distinguish a good person from a bad one?

Then I went on to read all about the Wicked Witch of the West’s life and realized that I had badly misjudged her.

What had been perceived as an evil hag was in truth a very misunderstood soul.

Now, whenever I watch the movie WIZARD OF OZ it’s a totally different experience.

Fifth lesson learned from the Wicked Witch of the West:

Be careful when judging people without knowing all the facts.

Thank you Wicked Witch of the West for all the lessons. In return, you can count on me to always come to your defence.

I’ve got your back, my pretty…



The Book Of Thank You ~ Post Five: Thank You Uncle Martin


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A long time ago on a planet far, far away, there came from the planet Mars…

…a Martian.

One day this Martian was flying in his spaceship just above our Earth when things started to go wrong. The next thing he knew was that he had crashed his spaceship into our planet.

Coming quickly to the martian’s aid was a very nice man called Tim O’Hara who worked in a newspaper office.

They become friends.

Before long Tim O’Hara invited Uncle Martin to come and stay with him until he could repair his spaceship which had taken up residence in Tim’s garage.

It was then up to Tim then to come up with a cover story. He told his neighbours and friends that his Uncle Martin had come to stay with him.

That, my dear readers sums up the first episode of what was my first favourite television show which came out in 1963.

This show was called MY FAVOURITE MARTIAN.

I was only six years old.

By way of television, he was one of my after school babysitters at 4:30 every day until my parents arrived home from work.

Uncle Martin had a friendly demeanour, a kind face and a wonderful smile. When he wanted, he could even make antennae rise up from the top of his head which allowed him to become invisible.

Uncle Martin got Tim into all sorts of trouble with his neighbours, his boss and his girlfriends.

Sadly however, Uncle Martin never seemed to be able to fix his ship or get back to Mars.

Eventually, the series ended, and I doubted I would ever see Uncle Martin again.

Then sometime during the 1980’s a new television series AMAZING STORIES by Steven Spielberg premiered on television.

How quickly I rediscovered my six year old glee when I glimpsed him during the opening credits.

Not long after that he became an infrequent visitor on STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION and STAR TREK VOYAGER series. He played BOOTHBY, a kind and wizened groundskeeper at Starfleet Academy in San Francisco.

When DVDs where at their height of popularity, I was finally able to purchase the first season of MY FAVOURITE MARTIAN. I was a little nervous when I first sat down to watch it as I wondered if I would find it old, cheesy and filled with dated humour.

My worry quickly turned to wonder as I once again fell under my old Uncle Martin’s spell. The show was as fresh and funny as I had remembered it.

In reality, Uncle Martin was played by Ray Walston who had a long string of successful roles in both television and movies. Tim O’Hara was played by Bill Bixby who later went on to star in the television series THE INCREDIBLE HULK.

In 1999 MY FAVOURITE MARTIAN, the movie was released starring Jeff Daniels as Tim O’Hara and Christopher Lloyd as the Martian.

Perhaps you’ve seen it.

My own Uncle Martin even made a cameo appearance as he revived his role at the end of the movie. I’m sure that I levitated out of my movie theatre seat.

Although the actor Ray Walston passed away January 2001 from lupus, my fond memories of Uncle Martin will be with me always.

For that, I am grateful.

Thank you my dear Uncle Martin.




The Book Of Thank You ~ Post Four: Thank You Mr. Driving Instructor


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When my husband and I were first married in 1977, our first car was a Pontiac Astra.

This car had a standard transmission.

From time to time my husband Frank, would try to teach me the fundamentals of how to drive a standard vehicle. For whatever reason, I could never get the car to go forwards. I could only make it go backwards.

All these years later, that still mystifies me.

Shortly after I started working at the post office in 1988, it became apparent that a second family car would be needed. My husband had set his sights on purchasing an economic vehicle which came with a standard transmission.

I needed to immediately learn how to drive this vehicle.

It was decided that the best course of action was to get some professional help and hire a driving instructor to teach me how to drive a car with a standard transmission.

I, of course had my doubts. It was now over ten years that I had been trying to understand how to get the car to roll forward while in first gear. The problem was that I could not understand how one instinctively knew when it was appropriate to step on the gas while easing up on the clutch.

It just didn’t make sense to me.

Enter Mr. Driving Instructor who in the end was successful in getting me moving from a full stop while in first gear. Even better, I was able to go from first gear into second.

Through his skillful tutelage I finally saw the proverbial light.

How did he do it?


All he had to say were two words.

Those two words were:

“Friction point.”

It was in that moment when I first heard those two words that I fully understood the importance of clear and concise language.

Thirty minutes later, after driving a few laps around some local city blocks I exited the driving instructor’s car and thanked him.

In the next several days, after arriving home from my night shift at 4:00 a.m. I would practise my new skills by circling the pre-dawn city streets over and over until I could change gears without even thinking about it.

That was 28 years ago.

That was my first lesson on the importance of well chosen words. Those two words superseded the thousands and thousands of words I had to listen to over the past ten years until I finally and clearly could understand how to drive a standard transmission.

Ever since then, whenever I am trying to explain something to someone as a mother, union representative, health and safety advocate, or friend, I am always confident that my listener will be able to understand anything that I am trying to convey, as long as I choose the right words.

The fewer words the better.

Now twenty-eight years later, if it were possible, there are two words of my own that I would like to say to to my well spoken driving instructor.

Those two words would be:

“Thank you.”


The Book Of Thank You ~ Post Three: Thank You Mrs. Carter


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The year was 1971.

Mrs. Carter was my 7th grade home room school teacher.

She was grandmotherly both in nature and appearance and was always neatly dressed in a sweater and skirt. She wore gold rimmed glasses and spoke with a British accent.

Mrs. Carter introduced me the concept that reading could be fun. She was also the first person that I can remember who ever read to me.

Looking back, it’s been hard to for me to remember the first book that she read to us. If I had to make a guess, I’d say the book was THE MOUSE THAT ROARED.

It was read to us in small doses as class time permitted. Sometimes we got to listen to her read for five minutes. Sometimes we got a full half hour.

We all enjoyed listening to her lovely British cadence. I was struck by the confident manner she showed to us as she read. She seemed to actually enjoy reading aloud in front of others.

I wondered if I would ever be able to read a story to someone else.

My first introductions to reading aloud in front of others was in school and always tinged in awkwardness and embarrassment, I’m sure we all remember that uncomfortable feeling.

When I was six years old, my Father would make me read him a story from my German book of Grimm fairy tales. Then, the purpose of reading was all about practising my German and had little to do with sharing joy.

The first books that I remember reading in their entirety on my own were the TRIXIE BELDEN mystery series when I was nine years old. After that I read CHERRY AMES, STUDENT NURSE and then the NANCY DREW mysteries. I was twelve years old by the time I finished them.

As my children were growing up I tried to make it a point to read to my daughters from time to time. I read them the CHRONICALS OF NARNIA and the HARRY POTTER series. My impression of Hagrid was very well received.

Then there was the time that I was reading a particularly touching Christmas novel THE TIMEPIECE by Richard Paul Evans to my youngest daughter. While I was overcome with teary emotion, my daughter handed me one tissue after another as I wept inconsolably while reading the final chapter.

Good times.

Indeed, the joy of sharing a book with someone else can be a very good thing.

Thank you Mrs. Carter.


The Book Of Thank You ~ Post Two: Thank You Miss Jane


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There are hundreds of podcast covering lots of different subjects such as music, religion, history, etiquette, television, entertainment, etc. etc.

By the way, a podcast is a radio show of shorts, except it is not delivered via a radio signal but rather downloaded from the internet onto your smartphone.

It’s always a good night when I can listen to a podcast and be introduced to new subject matter that I may not have heard of otherwise.

About two weeks ago I started listening to THE MINIMALISTS podcast.

If you’ve never heard of them, the minimalists advocate downsizing possessions in search of a more meaningful life.

I was immediately eager to find out how I could downsize as I am finding it hard to get rid of things that I have been accumulating for decades.

For whatever reasons, I have never given much thought as to what I would eventually do with all the stuff I had been accumulating. In my ignorance I just kept collecting more and more stuff. More books, more mugs, more records, more wool, more knitting needles.

More rubber ducks.

No word of a lie.

Case in point:

Now, I work with the lovely lady who I call Miss Jane.

She is very smart and an excellent conversationalist. We talk about history, religion, art, steampunk jewelry. Her necklaces have always fascinated me. They’re more like totems which usually have a cultural or religious significance.

From early on in our friendship one of the many things that I adored about Miss Jane is that she is as adept at discussing one of my favourite subjects, civil war history, as she is drawing portraits or designing fabrics.

Four years ago, she presented me with a small plastic shopping bag.

I peeked and looked inside.

To my surprise, I pulled out a General Stonewall Jackson Doll in it’s original packaging as if it had never been opened. General Stonewall Jackson was a confederate General during the American civil war.

She told me that it had been given to her as a gift.

The doll looked like it has the same measurements and attributes as a Ken doll, like in Barbie and Ken.

Miss Jane told me she was in the process of decluttering her home.

In all the years that she’s owned the doll, she never found any use for it.

Of course, I thought to myself.

Who would?

She offered it to me as a gift and asked if I would take it off of her hands.

I said yes and then thanked her for her kindness.

A few minutes later, as I watched her walk away, a question came to mind.

That question was…

“What am I going to do with a Stonewall Jackson Barbie doll?”

It was at that moment that I knew it was time to start thinking about downsizing my collections, or at least to stop collecting stuff.

That is why I would like to thank dear Miss Jane.

Without your kind gift, I may have never had that long overdue epiphany.

For that I am grateful…

And by the way…

If anyone is interested in acquiring a General Stonewall Jackson doll,

…please let me know.



The Book Of Thank You ~ Post One



Three days ago while in the car with my husband, we pulled up to a local corner store. As he got out of the car I asked him to pick me up a package of postage stamps.

“I’ve been meaning to write out a few thank you notes,” I told him as he got out of the car.

Being the good husband that he is, a few moments later he was handing me a ten-pack of postage stamps.

Now three days later, the stamps are still laying unused on my coffee table.

As I was getting ready for work tonight I stared at those stamps and thought about the thank you notes I never wrote. Then my thoughts went to all the unwritten thank you notes that I’ve gathered in my life.

I have no doubt that I will eventually get some of those thank you notes written.

But unfortunately they never get written soon enough…

Or often enough…

There is a quote by John Burroughs that I like to repeat to myself from time to time.

It goes:

The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.

I’m currently compiling some long overdue thank you notes to family and friends.

As you will see in the days and weeks ahead…

I have a great deal to be thankful for.

My Daily Distraction ~ Post 198: Carpe Beanum: Seize The Coffee


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Carpe Beanum… Seize The Coffee!

Some memories never fade.

It was just this morning as I was making the coffee when I remembered back to the times when my husband and I brought our young children to Toronto to visit their great grandparents.

During our visits with my Grandparents, came the time when we had our inevitable “Kaffeeklatch,” which is the Gernan equivalent for British “Tea Time.”

That was when Oma and I would busy ourselves in her kitchen. She would prepare her signature dessert, fried Ochsenaugen, which are quite similar to our well known Canadian Timbits.

Then, she would always designate me to make the coffee.

Now, thirty years later I can still hear my Grandmother, or Oma as we called her, instructing me in German with a firm, yet loving tone of voice to:

“Mach es eine gute caffee!”

Which in English means:

“Make it a good coffee!”

This morning, as I dipped the measuring spoon into the awaiting ground coffee beans I could feel that memory ever so gently guiding my hand to scoop up just the right amount…

… Plus a little bit more!

After taking three sips of the resulting perfect cup of coffee, I knew I had indeed made…

“Eine gute caffee.”

I am fully confident that I will always have the ability to do so.

And for this, as I savour the morning coffee down to the final few sips…

…I find myself most grateful.

My.Daily.Distraction ~ Post 197: Saying “YES” To The Toilet Paper Wedding Dress


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In an attempt to gain a deeper insight of what bridal shower games are available for my daughter’s upcoming bridal shower other than the…

‘Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Game…’

I took the liberty of asking a coworker what her favorite bridal shower game was.

If you’ll remember from my previous post the…

‘Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Game…’

…was the bride-to-be’s personal choice for favourite shower game that she wanted to see included in the festivities.

My coworker’s answer to the question I had put to her was:

“I really like the one where you have to put on pantyhose with oven mitts.”

“Could you repeat that please,” I asked her, hoping that I had heard her wrong.

She repeated it for me, and sadly, yes…

…I had heard her correctly the first time.

I was horrified.

Can you imagine a roomful of women who are already impeccably dressed up for a bridal shower and then asking them to participate in a game by putting on a pair of pantyhose while wearing oven mitts.

I couldn’t.

It was just to painful for me to think about.

Seeing the look on my face, my coworker tried to soften her suggestion by laughingly adding:

“It’s a hoot.”

Only if you enjoy watching women go into contortions, I thought to myself.

My luck, someone would probably put their back out.

I resolved not to ask anymore opinions on shower games.

It was just too dangerous.

The following Sunday, I found myself at a local dollar store picking up odds and ends for the shower.

This included the 36 rolls of toilet paper for the favoured shower game. Thirty guests were invited, and they were to be broken up into groups of thee. That would make three rolls per group plus a few extra rolls for good measure.

In an attempt to make the game a little more interesting I decided to purchase a few additional items to help guests add their own personal touches as they construct their versions of the perfect toilet paper wedding dress:

Scotch tape
Duct tape
Crepe paper
Plastic shower curtains

There, I thought to myself as I watched the cashier bag it up…

I found myself beginning to look forward to the utter madness of the upcoming bridal shower games.

Bring it on.

Photo taken by Holly Gonçalves

My.Daily.Distraction ~ Post 196: “The Day The Earth Smiled”


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Where were you on July 19, 2013 at approximately 4:30 p.m. EST?

The reason I ask you this, is because that this the exact date when Carolyn Porco, leader of the imaging science team on the Cassini mission, asked the entire Earth’s population to stop what they were doing and go outside to smile as the unmanned spacecraft Cassini took their picture.

Cassini, at that time was in orbit around Saturn.

This picture became known as…

“The Day The Earth Smiled.”

This photo, which you see above, shows our Earth as the brightest star visible, just right to the centre of the photo.

The following is part of a discussion that Carolyn Porco had during the radio program “The Infinite Monkey Cage,” an irreverent BBC science program hosted by Professor Brian Cox and Robin Ince.

It occurred to Carolyn Porco as she was planning Cassini’s photo shoot of the Earth that:

“Wouldn’t it be great, instead of taking a picture, and then two weeks later telling the people of the world…

‘Hey world, we took your picture two weeks ago…’

…Why don’t we tell the people of the world ahead of time, that in two weeks, or maybe a month’s time that your picture is going to be taken from a billion miles away from the orbit of Saturn.

We should invite them to go out and appreciate the moment that the picture is being taken.”

Upon hearing this, I immediately began to think back as to where I would have been on July 19, 2013 which would have been a Friday.

Chances are, I was in bed, sleeping off my night shift.

It was a busy and awkward time for us as we were in the midst of painting, and waiting for the long overdue delivery of some new living room furniture.

I’d like to think that had I known about Cassini’s photo shoot, I would have set the alarm so that I could venture out into my front yard and thereby participated in Cassini’s picture of Earth.

Since I am not able to share a personal account of this occasion, I’m very happy to tell you that one person who was aware of the Cassini drive-by picture taking was Sam.

After the event, Sam wrote to the Cassini Space Mission headquarters and shared his experiences.

Sam wrote:

“Phoebe, age 10 and I got the telescope out on the patio. Under a beautiful, clear Southern British sky we gazed out upon Saturn, revelling in the fact that a space aircraft was looking back on us.

She asked lots of questions about Saturn, and at the appointed time, I raised a glass of fine red wine, she, a glass of fizzy pop. We said said cheers to Saturn, to Cassini, to each other, and then we smiled and waved and cheered and took photos of ourselves both beaming.

It was perfect.”

What a happy occasion that must have been for Sam and Phoebe.

Carolyn Porco reports that many people wrote in and shared their experiences.

Some climbed mountains in an effort to get a wee bit closer to the camera. Some interrupted their meals, to go outside and contemplate their place in the cosmos as Cassini took their snapshot.

I have no doubt that this, personally would have been a stellar occasion for my Parents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins had we been blessed with the same opportunity.

We all loved that sort of thing.

I’m sure that family members who read this would agree with me that had we been able to celebrate this together in typical fashion…

There would have been food…

There would have been singing…

There would have been prayer…

… And above all, there would have been unmitigated joy.

One can only wonder if Oma (Grandmother) would have removed her glasses, as she always did, when her picture was being taken.

How much cheer that very thought brings me.

For more information…

A You Tube video of raw footage from Cassini can be found here:

To hear this podcast, download the episode THE INFINITE MONKEY CAGE U.S.A. TOUR: SAN FRANCISCO which can be found here:

Many thanks to the BBC, Professor Brian Cox, Robin Ince, ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ and Carolyn Porco for an incredible episode.

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