Tag Archives: Belleville

Memories of Loyalist College – September, 1982 – October, 1983

*Note: This is a special blog post written in honour of what would have been my graduating class’ (I didn’t graduate) 30-Year Reunion, which I am unable to attend.

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who decided she wanted to be a Broadcast Journalist. This was due, in part, to a much older ex-boyfriend who had done exactly that, and partly to an admiration for female journalists of the day such as Barbara Frum, Hana Gartner, Adrienne Clarkson and (*whispering) Pamela Wallin.

The application process was fairly straightforward: fill out the college application, and send it along with an audition tape (there may have also been an essay, but I’m not sure) and the application fee. I was lucky that my parents lived near Loyalist College…I was spared the whole student loan nightmare that many of my fellow students were subjected to (surviving on Kraft Dinner…aaack!). I was accepted, and started the course with about 19 other students in September of 1982.

At 21, I was one of the oldest students in our class. I felt infinitely more mature than the mostly 18 and 19-year-olds in the rest of the group! I remember feeling sorry for the kids who had come from the Maritimes…they were so far away from their families!

bj_lounge1_lg

Me and some of my Broadcast Journalism classmates…that’s me in the bib front blouse…

Within the first month, I had (unwillingly) earned a nickname: “Wendy Shoots, She Scores”. This was courtesy of our journalism prof, Phil R., who thought it was hilarious…he also teased Lisa M. mercilessly about being from Dingwall, Nova Scotia! I took a lot of flak from other students for my homemade tape recorder case…it didn’t occur to me when I made it that putting “Wendy B.J.” on the side in big letters might be a bad idea.

Classes that year were a bit of a blur (although I did go to them)…I remember the soporific quality of Len A.’s Broadcast Journalism and the Law class, and struggling to pronounce Russian names in Ken B.’s Foreign Language Pronunciation class. I was happy to get an exemption from Typing…I passed the test with flying colours…the test machine was a far sight better than the 1940’s Underwood I had learned on at home!

The school had its own radio station, which was staffed by the Broadcast Journalism and Radio Broadcasting classes. There were more than a few pranks played: one time, a fictitious story about The Flintstones was inserted into an unsuspecting newscaster’s copy. There was at least one instance of news copy being set on fire while the news was being read on the air (glad that wasn’t me!).

I was always nervous doing radio news…somehow, seeing the mike in front of me was intimidating! I always did well on airchecks though…my voice was naturally low, which I supposed made it easier for me than some of the other girls!

One of my favourite things was producing radio documentaries…I spent hours in the studio editing tape with a razor blade! I still have some of them somewhere…

The heart of our school life was the Radio Lounge…all the fun happened there! That was where my classmate, Steve S., got his nickname: he was playfighting with his cousin, Kent Mo. one day. One of the Broadcast Journalism students, Brad S., hollered: “Look…it’s “Chunk” Norris!” From that day forward, no one ever called Steve by his real name again.

Chunk was the oldest in our class at 26…he was one of the few students who had a car: a Mercury Comet, which became known as “The Chunkmobile.” A bunch of us used to bum a ride back into Belleville after school with Chunk…I was the only girl, and often ended up sitting on someone’s lap (I’m sure my mother would have been upset to know that I was usually not wearing a seatbelt!). Later on, the Chunkmobile became “The Vomit Comet” on account of the powerful smell that erupted one day and never went away, even though Chunk made his best effort to get rid of it…

Another fun part of Loyalist College for me was the “Pubs”: I loved music, and saw many acts live that I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to: Lee Aaron, Matt Minglewood, Murray McLaughlan, etc. I was probably one of the few students who didn’t go to Pub just to drink…

I spent a lot of time hanging out with the folks from the Radio Broadcasting classes…they seemed to be closer than my own classmates, and had way more fun! I went to several parties at various students’ apartments…I remember at least one Toga Party, Tequila Sunrises (didn’t drink them…just watched them being made and consumed), and dancing to Stray Cats rockabilly. There was the M*A*S*H* party on John St. where I started dating my (now ex) husband, Radio guy, Kent M. (we were introduced by Radio girl, Becky W., at an earlier gathering at the Doc’s Hotel).

One party stands out…it was the one and only time I was ever drunk in my life: this one was at Broadcast Journalism guys, Ed L. and Greg V.’s apartment on Front Street. Ed and Greg were two of my “Chunkmobile” buddies…the day of the party, I got dropped off with them at their apartment since I lived in the country and didn’t want to have to get my mom to drive me back into town for the party later. I planned to just “hang out” until the party started…Kent had to work that night, so he would come and join me after his shift was over at 11 p.m. We got to the apartment around 4. I remember somebody asking me if I wanted a drink. “Do you have any rye?” I asked. They did, but no ginger ale, which is what I usually mixed it with. Greg had gotten a large root beer at McDonald’s on the way home, and still had a lot left…he offered me the rest to mix with the rye. Stupidly, I agreed.

It was about 8 p.m. when I started feeling really sick…I spent the next three hours in and out of the bathroom. When Kent arrived, I was ready to get out of there. We had to walk several blocks to the rooming house where he lived…some of the sidewalks were under construction…my arms and legs were not cooperating at all! We went to Kent’s room, where I lay on his bed as the room spun around, and wished for either death or my mom to come…she came at midnight to take me home. Lesson learned…I never got drunk again!

Beside the Doc’s Hotel, we also liked to go to Dolan’s, and Copperfield’s. Songs like Laura Branigan‘s Gloria, Men at Work‘s Who Can It Be Now?, Alan Parsons Project‘s Eye in the Sky, and J. Geils Band‘s Freeze-Frame all remind me of that time.

When summer came, I went off to Ottawa for six weeks and did my internship at CFRA Radio. It was there that I got the first inkling that perhaps I didn’t have the personality to be a journalist…I was a basket case nearly every night…I was wrapped up in all the stories I’d had to cover…a lot of them were upsetting! I did get to see Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their visit to Canada though…I was told by my News Director to get some tape of the Princess’ walkabout. I was having difficulty controlling my boom mike in the wind…Diana was saved from a possible concussion by a burly RCMP officer swatting my mike away from her head! Needless to say, I didn’t get my tape!

The second year of our course was mainly television. I loved doing the newscasts! However, dragging heavy video equipment around to get stories was not my cup of tea, especially when it was very likely you could arrive at a venue with a completely dead battery pack! Editing videotape electronically was not my forté either…

In October of 1983, Kent got a job offer from a new radio station in St. John’s, Newfoundland: CKIX-FM…I was sure I couldn’t live without him, so I quit school and moved to the Rock (we were married less than a year later, and have two daughters together).

I’m grateful that I went to Loyalist College…it was the first time that I ever felt I “belonged” to a group…I was very much a loner in high school! I made many wonderful lifelong friends (including my future husband), and the skills I learned in our course came in handy later on in my writing/non-profit communcations careers. If it weren’t for Loyalist College, I would probably not be living in the Maritimes, my adopted home of the last 30+ years!

Have a wonderful reunion…wish I was there to see you all!

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Filed under friends, memories, music, self-discovery

Yes, We Have No Wine, and Other Random Things…

Welcome to another chapter in my oh-so-exciting existence! We’ve got lots to cover…the transitions will be abrupt, so please keep a firm hold on your tea, lest it spill as we careen around corners!

1. Monday morning was sunny…I hated to have to work, but came into the bookstore anyway…I had three boxes of books to photograph, and 90 pages of our database to print off!  Hope was off school that day, so she came into town with me and helped take the pictures (it’s much easier for a 12-year-old to get up and down off the floor than it is for me!).  Anna and Brianna went to the mall…Anna used the money I gave her for jeans to buy shorts (because apparently 47 pairs aren’t enough!).  Brianna got some nail polish which is the perfect colour for my toes…maybe she’ll let me borrow it!

Anna and Brianna goofing around with the webcam last fall...

2. My friend, Dale, surprised me by dropping into the bookstore…I first met him in 1980 when we worked in two neighbouring stores in the Quinte Mall in Belleville, Ontario (I worked in a camera store, and he worked in the record store next door). I used to go into the record store and buy all kinds of albums (that was before I had kids to spend my money for me!). The following year, my boss decided to move his store to another strip mall in town, and Dale and I lost touch. Fast forward to the early 2000’s: I was receiving correspondence about an upcoming reunion of some of my buddies from Loyalist College, and saw a familiar name on the e-mail list. I e-mailed the guy and asked “Are you the same Dale who used to work in the record store?” Sure enough…turns out Dale went to Loyalist about the same time I did, and used to hang out with the radio guys I knew! We were reunited at the reunion, and have been in touch ever since…coincidentally, Dale now lives in Moncton, New Brunswick, which is only a little over an hour’s drive from where I live now. We chatted for quite a while, and then Dale left to get to a business meeting, promising to return soon to add to his “classics” collection.  We’re planning to meet up with some more friends from school this fall at the Gregg Allman show at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Fredericton in September.  I’m looking forward to seeing them all!

3. When we got home in the afternoon, Hope checked her e-mail, and excitedly called me over to the computer.  “Look at this, Mom!”  There was an e-mail from the Marketing Coordinator for Market Square…on the weekend, Hope and Gabrielle had sent her a clip of them singing “O Canada” and had asked if they could sing the national anthem at the Canada Day celebrations on July 1st.  The reply said that she would like to have the girls sing, and would be in touch soon to arrange the details!  Hope called Gabrielle right away to tell her the good news!  We were really proud of her for taking the chance to do something like that!

Gabrielle and Hope singing at a Talent Show last fall...photo by Jim

4. Monday night (after writing my Easter blog post), I remembered that Tuesday was our long-awaited book club meeting…we hadn’t gotten together since bidding our friend, Selina, “Adieu” in December when she moved to Winnipeg. We usually bring food of some sort for book club. Our book was “Secret Daughter” by Shilpi Somaya Gowder, which is set mainly in India.  What I know about East Indian food would fit neatly on the head of a pin (and I don’t eat much spicy food), so I Googled a local store where I might find something to bring to the meeting.  Upon reaching the website, I was confronted with the name of the product, a photo, and the price…no description whatsoever.  Back to Google…Nanak Gajar Halwa: “carrot fudge”? That sounds disgusting!  Nanak Rasmalai: “Soft Cheese Patty in thickened milk and sugar sauce”.  My lactose-intolerant stomach actually did a somersault after reading that!  I decided to go with something a little safer…I had a bag of Ganong Chocolate Marshmallow Eggs I’d bought on the weekend…everybody likes chocolate in our book club (and these are made in St. Stephen, New Brunswick)!

5. Tuesday morning was rainy, but at least I didn’t have a lot of work waiting for me at the store when I got there…I took the opportunity to catch up on the 40-50 blog posts I hadn’t had a chance to read over the long weekend!  It took me a long time, but there weren’t many customers wandering in to disturb me, so I was able to get it done!  I bought a Meditteranean Chicken Salad from Sagratti’s in the City Market for supper, and brought it back to the store to eat (I picked out the black olives…yuck!).   I hoped the family would save me some of Jim’s famous Turkey Soup…

Jim's soup and homemade biscuits...yummy!

6. I was the first to arrive at our Succulent Bookworms meeting (as usual – I don’t like to be late!).  I chatted with our hostess, and one of her three cats soon curled up on my lap, where it stayed for the rest of the night (if only I hadn’t been wearing black…oh well…that’s why they invented lint brushes!).  My friend called to me from the kitchen and offered me a drink, apologizing that she didn’t have any wine on hand, but that one of the other girls would probably bring some.  I declined…book club is the only time I get to indulge in red wine…I would wait until it arrived!  When she came back, she extended a ceramic plate towards me with little brown things on it.  “Oooooh…what’s this?” I squealed, thinking these must be some of those unidentifiable Indian delicacies I’d seen on that website.

“They’re the marshmallow eggs that you brought!” she prompted.  “Don’t you remember?”

I’m sure I turned about three shades of red before muttering, “Oh, yeah…” (damn peri-menopausal mushbrain!).  The chocolates looked a lot classier on that plate than they did in the compostable bag they came in!

The other girls trickled in over the next hour-and-a-half…nobody brought wine, but we did have a nice selection of food to choose from by the time everyone arrived!  There were two kinds of naan bread with mango chutney and guram masala for dipping, some pita chips with yogurt dip, some mini caramel muffins, and some decadent squares which were purely Western but awesome anyway!  We had some delicious mango juice to drink, which I’m planning to seek out next time I’m at Costco!  The hostess’ 3-year-old daughter demonstrated some of her ballet moves for us before her dad took her up to bed (he was mumbling something about getting her away from us before we corrupted her…another Bookworm man thinks we’re “witches”)…

We chatted about the book for a while (everybody liked it – excellent choice for a book club read), and then got off on our usual tangent…that was the first Worms meeting I’d ever attended where no one was drinking!  It was weird, but good…I can’t wait for the next meeting!

I was happy to get home to bed soon after 10:30…it had been a long day…

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Filed under blogging, books, food, friends, satire

Facebook Ads That Made Me Go “Hmmm”…Spring Edition

Last fall, I wrote a post about the ads that show up in the sidebar on Facebook while I’m trying to concentrate on my extremely crucial games of Scrabble, Lexulous, Wordscraper, Bejewelled Blitz, Hexagonized, Jeopardy, and Bomboozle…the marketers are still after me!

For goodness sake...keep your voice down! Someone might hear you!

The ad said:  “1 Tip for Wrinkles

Dermatologists don’t want you knowing this $5 wrinkle secret.”

My response:

Dear Wrinkle Guy:

I already know how to get wrinkles!  I got mine the natural way: from my children (and there were those years of picking fruit and vegetables in full sun with no sunscreen).  I didn’t pay money for them (the wrinkles or my children!).  Maybe Oprah can afford $5 for her wrinkles, but I can’t!  Besides, she’s steered me wrong before…I bought Ursula Hegi’s Stones from the River because it was one of Oprah’s Book Club picks…it was so depressing, I was tempted to call Dr. Phil!  What were we talking about again?

That doll's creepy...let's just leave her hidden, shall we?

The ad said: “New Hidden Object Game

Play the new addicting hidden object game on Facebook!”

My response:

Dear Game Pimps:

I am already hopelessly addicted to seven of your games (see 1st paragraph of this post), which I play when I’m not reading/commenting on one of the more than 50 blogs that I follow, or writing my own blog.  I’m not quite sleeping at the keyboard yet, but that’s coming soon!  Besides, I spend a good deal of my real life looking for “hidden objects”: books that somebody’s ordered in our bookstore, Jim’s keys, teenagers’ homework, cellphones, iPod earbuds, the jeans with the diagonal pocket on the left hip, shoes, cheerleading Spankies, etc.  Thanks but no thanks!

She looks awfully happy about her profession...

The ad said: “$84/hr At Home Jobs

Can you type? Get paid $84/hr working from home.  Requirements: Computer”

My response:

Dear Mr. Scammer:

I can think of very few jobs where one can make $84 working at home…none of them require a computer or typing ability, and at least a couple of them are illegal.  I suspect that my body type would be unsuitable for the type of employment you have in mind…I also hate having my picture taken!  Find another sucker!

Kobo is for dodos...

The ad said: “Reading from your iPad?

Click here to get 20% off eBook Coupon!  Kobo has more than 2 millions of FREE eBooks and low-priced bestsellers.  get yours now!”

My response:

Dear Dodo Kobo:

I do not own an iPad, or a smart phone.  I do not Tweet, and I’m the world’s slowest texter.  When I read, I read books with paper pages…they are rarely bestsellers (unless they were bestsellers of the 1860s!).  If your last “sentence” is an example of the material available in your eBooks, I hereby offer my services as an editor.  I can help you reel in more live ones convince more people to buy your product!  I’ll use the money you pay me to buy real books!

Funcheez...really?

The ad said: “Try NEW Funcheez

Let your imagination go wild with NEW Black Diamond Funcheez Marbelicious Moons and Planets.”

My response:

Dear Black Diamond:

Even though I have a sentimental fondness for your brand of cheese since it’s made in Belleville, Ontario, where I went to high school, I feel compelled to comment on your latest marketing idea.  You’ve mispelled “cheese”, and “fun” and “cheese” should be two words.  Moons and planets?  I hope you didn’t make a “Pluto”!  When I grew up, the only cheese “shapes” we had were fresh curd purchased direct from the cheese factory on a Sunday drive…yummy!  The Black Diamond cheese I buy for my family comes in rectangles…I buy the 500-gram one (which used to be 700 grams but is getting smaller all the time!).  By the way, we’re running low…how about sending me some coupons?

Advertisers…you can’t fool this old fool!

  

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Filed under rants, satire

I’m Not a Ghost, But Yesterday I Played One in Real Life…

This isn't me...I'm a lot taller! (photo from daddytypes.com)

Have you ever had one of those days when you wonder if you’re invisible, a mere figment of someone else’s overactive imagination?  That was my day yesterday…all day!

It all started in the morning, after I arrived at the bookstore and sat down at my computer.  As per my routine, I updated our store’s Facebook page with a “Today in History” fact and a book relevant to it, and added a daily quote about books.  Then I opened my Hotmail.  Since it was Monday, there were lots of new blog posts to comment on…

I opened the first one, read it, typed my comment and posted it.  Everything was going swimmingly until I reached the fourth new post.  I read the post, chuckled heartily, wrote a pithy reply and hit the “Post Comment” button, making sure to tick the box so I would receive notification of further comments.  The page refreshed, and my clever comment had disappeared into the vast realm of cyberspace, never to be seen again!  After a few choice words (none of which were nice), I reconstructed my response as best I could, and attempted to repost.  ARRGGH!  Gone!  I thought, “Maybe it’s my computer.”  I rebooted, and reopened all my windows.  Version #3 of my formerly hilarious comment was a mere shadow of its earlier incarnations, which I suppose doesn’t really matter, because it vanished too!  I gave up on that one…I was sure that person’s blog had technical difficulties.

I opened the next new post in my e-mail.  Another brilliant post!  I congratulated the writer on his wit and writing skill, and sent my compliments hurtling once again into Never Never Land!  I tried once more (are you familiar with Einstein‘s definition of insanity: doing something over and over and expecting different results?).  Remembering one of the tag lines from The IT Crowd, “Have you tried turning it off and on?”, I not only rebooted, but flipped the router off and on as well.  That should do it!

With my Hotmail window reopened, I clicked on another new post.  This one was about blogrolls, a topic dear to my heart.  I offered my input in a couple of paragraphs, and confidently “posted” my comment.  NOT!  I looked around and briefly considered sticking my head in the oven, but our microwave was far too small…Instead, I sent an urgent-sounding e-mail to WordPress Support:

Subject: My Comments are Invisible!

I made comments on other people’s blogs (multiple times).  I saw: NOTHING!!! (one time when I was smart enough to copy and paste a comment before I sent it, I got a notification that it was a duplicate comment…still nothing showed up!).  I expected my comments to be visible!
I have cleared my cache and rebooted my computer (twice).
Help please!!!
 
Wendy

A little while later, I got a nice e-mail from a “happiness engineer” at WordPress apologizing for the “inconvenience” (at that point I’d been trying to post comments for more than an hour!) and advising me to send details to Akismet (the spamcatcher).  “They’ll be able to sort you out.”  I really hoped that somebody could…and maybe they could fix my problem with commenting while they were at it!  I sent a similar e-mail to Akismet, explaining my difficulties and imploring them to do everything in their power to remedy them!  I continued to read new posts, but knew that commenting on them at this point would probably be useless…I also wrote this post so that my friends would know that I wasn’t ignoring them on purpose.  I contacted a couple of the bloggers via Facebook, one of whom told me that my comments had ended up in her spam bucket.

In the afternoon, we had some of our regular customers come into the bookstore: a couple of book dealers from Fredericton accompanied by a friend who was a book collector.  The collector inquired about books by Mika Publishing (which happens to be located in Belleville, Ontario near where I grew up).  I checked our database, and found we had a Mika book about Lunenburgh, and asked Dad to locate it in its box with the other Loyalist-related material.  I went into the other room with one of the book dealers to find something for him.  Dad came back with the book and asked me what he should do with it.  “Show it to the guy who asked about Mika books!” I replied.

“Why…is it Mika?” Dad asked.

“Yes!” I answered, barely concealing my annoyance.  Is this thing on?  After Dad left the room, the dealer I was talking to burst out laughing…

“I wouldn’t have believed that if I hadn’t heard it for myself!” he said.

“Multiply that by 9 hours a day for 11 years,” I answered.  “And he lives with me too!  It’s a wonder I still have my sanity.”

Jim came and picked up Anna and I, and we headed for home.  Hope had an appointment at the after hours clinic for 6:15, and we would have to hurry if we wanted to eat before we left again!

We bolted some Sloppy Joes and fries, and arrived early at the office.  The doctor wrote a prescription for Hope.  We took it to the drugstore and dropped it off…the woman at the counter told us it would be ready in about twenty minutes.  To kill time, we went to the dollar store and looked for things that Hope and Brianna needed for school projects.  We amassed quite a pile of stuff between the three of us, and took it to the checkout (there was no one there).  Eventually a clerk came from the back and called to us from the other counter, “I can help you over here!”

“I was afraid of that!” I answered while smiling through gritted teeth, as I tried to scoop up our 57 items to move them.

“Oh, I can help you with that,” she said, cheerfully.  We paid for our purchases and went back to the drugstore.  There were six people in line at the prescription counter…Hope and I took our place at the back of the line.  The customer who was holding up the line had a prescription that her insurance company wasn’t covering the full cost of, and she couldn’t seem to grasp the fact that she needed to ask her doctor to call them.  We’d been in line more than ten minutes when one of the pharmacists came out and asked if anyone had any questions or if we were all picking up prescriptions.  No one had any questions.

The pharmacist asked, “Who’s next?” and a lady who’d been standing off to my left (not in line) piped up.

“I’m just here to pick up my prescription.”

I thought, “That’s what we’re all here for, Lady…that’s why we’re in this line.”

She continued, “I was here before…I just came back!”  Guess who got served before I did!  I had Hope pinch me to make sure I really existed…

When we got home, I went to my computer and opened my e-mail.  Still no response from Akismet, but I decided to give commenting another shot.  I picked a blog I’d already tried to comment on, and typed a message about commenting earlier, explaining that the comment had probably gone into the spam.  I crossed my fingers and toes as my mouse hovered over the “Post Comment” button.  I clicked it.  SUCCESS!  Hooray! 

Apparently, I’m not a ghost after all!

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Filed under blogging, books, family, rants, satire, shopping

Mom’s Incredible Spirit…

This past weekend, while others were dealing with the tragic memory of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, I was thinking about my mom’s death on Sept. 11, 2007…this will not be a sad post, but a celebration of my mom’s life while she was here with us…

Mom will be remembered for many things, but I most appreciate her teaching me independence.  She left her home in Ohio to move 500 miles away to Southern Ontario, Canada…we had no family or friends in Canada at the time, but we moved anyway.  This was a huge step for Mom, who dropped out of university after a year because she was homesick (the campus was less than 100 miles from her home).  I think she often regretted doing that.  We continued travelling back to Ohio twice a year for many years after moving to Canada, despite what must have been very stressful trips for her and my dad.  “How much longer?” my brother and I would whine from the back seat.  In addition to lots of food to eat on the trip, she always packed little wrapped gifts for Jeff and I to open every few hours…nothing expensive, but something that would take our minds off the boredom of being in a car for 12 hours (my dad was/is a slow driver).  Many years later, I would move 2000 miles from home to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Mom, a year or two before moving to Canada...believe it or not, she was almost 30 in this photo!

Mom had dabbled with art before we moved (one of my favourite pieces is a pen and ink drawing of my great-grandmother), but she became a lot more serious about art after our arrival in Ontario.  She began taking night school courses in photography and filmmaking at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario.  She started using acrylic paints instead of oils, and experimented with abstract work.  It wasn’t long before Mom began hosting art shows of her work, one of which included a multimedia live show which went awry one night (https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/pianos-projectors-pop-up-toasters-and-pigs/).  She got a job as the graphic artist/photographer for the Hastings County Board of Education, which Mom enjoyed for ten years before being forced to give it up due to illness (I worked as her assistant for a couple of years part-time while I was in high school). 

Music was always important to Mom.  Her dad played the organ, and she had played clarinet and saxophone in her high school band.  When she was in university, she was a music major.   She was very proud of having “perfect pitch.”  Mom played piano by ear (with two hands!), and she could sing.  Her first love was classical music: Vivaldi, Debussy, etc.  In the 70’s, she discovered Simon and Garfunkel, the Carpenters, and Roberta Flack.  She loved Roberta’s voice: “Killing Me Softly” was one of her favourites.  I used to think my mom’s music was too mellow, but folk is almost all I listen to now!   Mom also loved to dance, and would often do so in our living room with the stereo playing.  

My mom liked to bake chocolate chip cookies…I always admired her confidence in doing it without a recipe…she never measured anything, just eyeballed the ingredients.  We wolfed them down three at a time!  Cooking was not her favourite thing…she had a tendency to put the heat too high because she didn’t like to wait for things to cook!  Mom wasn’t very adventurous with trying new recipes either…she’d stick to tried-and-true recipes. 

We had a garden for the first few years we lived in Ontario…Mom would stay up late at night blanching vegetables to put into our big chest freezer.  I remember bags and bags of green beans (kind of like my freezer now!). 

Our house that we bought when we moved to Canada was old, and covered in something ugly called Insul-Brick.  Later, wood siding was installed, which needed painting every few years.  It was my mom who got out on a ladder and painted our two-storey house!  She also did excellent carpentry work, undertaking home renovations and building a large set of bookshelves for the living room by herself.  Mom had her own tools, and she wasn’t afraid to use them!  If my dad took something apart, it was often Mom who put it back together.

Mom always loved small things…her favourite style of photography was anything that involved using a macro lens.  I think that’s where I got my love of bugs!  She had dollhouse furniture from her childhood, and her great-aunt’s bell collection (which she added to).  In later years, she collected small wooden boxes and Sherman costume jewellery.

Mom lived very frugally for all the years she was married to my dad – she could squeeze a nickel until it bled (Dad was often unemployed, and it would fall on her shoulders to feed our family of four)!  When we were small, Mom used to sew a lot of her own clothes, and ours (she never knew how to knit or crochet though).  After I moved out of the house, she used the closet in my old bedroom to store things she bought on sale: shampoo, toilet paper, deoderant, paper plates, toothpaste, soap, etc.  She never wanted to run out of anything, and it made her happy to get a bargain.  To this day, I always buy at least two of anything on sale (she used to buy 4 or 5!). 

We got a dog when I was in my early teens (we had an outdoor tomcat too).  Even though Mom wasn’t really a dog person, she came to love our chihuahua mix, Pixie.  The dog was pregnant when we got her, and gave birth to four pups soon afterward…mom helped pull each pup out…Pixie’s beau had been a much bigger dog than she was, and the pups were huge!  Mom was adamant that all the puppies would be given away, and they were.  One night, Pixie led my mom on a merry chase in her nightgown through the suburbs in Bellefontaine, Ohio on a visit to my grandparents’ house.  Mom didn’t want to wake up the neighbours by yelling, so she just ran after the dog until she caught her!   Many years later, Pixie had to be put down…Mom never got another dog.

One of the things we used to tease Mom about was her coordination (or lack of it!).  Her many mishaps included: hitting a solitary apple tree in the middle of a field on a toboggan; falling out of bed and breaking her nose; and tripping and sliding into the grocery store on her stomach (she tripped over the wheelchair ramp).  Mom regularly broke her toes jamming them into things around the house.  My daughter, Anna, and I inherited Mom’s klutziness… 

One thing I didn’t inherit was Mom’s self-consciousness when it came to aging.  She always looked younger than she was, and was proud of that.  She took great pains to always have her hair done and her “face” on, even after she got sick.  Mom never liked people to see her without makeup. 

Mom had an amazing memory.  Before she died, she wrote the story of her growing-up years in a book, illustrated with family photos.  It is truly incredible what she remembered, and a gift to have her story in printed form.

Mom always encouraged my brother and I in everything we tried (and we tried a lot of stuff!).  She came to the shows we put on in our back yard, and didn’t try to talk us out of whatever crazy scheme we’d come up with!  When I left home at 17, she let me go, and took me back after it didn’t work out!  She talked me through relationship problems…I could tell her anything without embarrassment!  Mom was never stingy with advice…she would give it to you (often unsolicited).

Mom loved her grandchildren too…she had four (all girls).  I’ll always remember her teaching my kids the “Pat-A-Cake” rhyme when they were little.  They called her “Gramma” (which is what my granddaughter calls me now).  I wish she’d been able to meet her great-granddaughter…she would have loved Elise!

My mom and Kaylee...late '80's...

As much as I love and miss my mom, her passing was the best thing for her…Mom lived the last 23 years of her life in constant pain.  Today, I picture her dancing pain-free in heaven, and watching over all of us…I imagine she’s happy that I’ve finally found Jim, who loves me and makes me feel truly special (I wish he could have met her too)!  If it wasn’t for Mom, I wouldn’t be the confident woman I am today…thank you, Mom, for all you did for me!  I love you, and will always remember you…  

Mom in one of her last photos...

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Sounds That Soothe My Soul…Part 2

So, my friend and I went to Toronto to see Genesis on their promotional tour of “Abacab” in the summer of 1981 – luckily, my best friend and her boyfriend lived in TO, and were able to meet us and guide us through the massive transit system to our destination at Exhibition Place.  I remember the concert ticket price being $30…a fortune at that time (I was making $3.00/hour at the camera shop).  The only things I really remember about that concert was the crowd (40,000 strong), the noise, and seeing how tiny Phil Collins looked from the nosebleed seats!

Genesis "Abacab" Album Cover...

I was still keeping the record store busy – in addition to Genesis, I was heavily into Fleetwood Mac, Bryan Adams, Chicago, Hall and Oates, Dan Fogelberg, the Steve Miller Band, and Olivia Newton John.  I dabbled in R & B – the Pointer Sisters, the Commodores, the Jacksons, and Stevie Wonder.  I bought Rick Springfield’s album because he was cute, and I liked “Jesse’s Girl.”  A boyfriend introduced me to Steve Winwood’s music – whenever I hear “While You See A Chance,” I always think of him.

When I went back in school in 1982, my musical tastes expanded further.  My Broadcast Journalism class used to party with the Radio Broadcasting kids – they played all the best music at their shindigs!  While continuing my love affair with the Police (“Roxanne” never fails to take me back to my college days), I discovered rockabilly with the Stray Cats!  I love dancing to rockabilly music!  Men at Work from Australia was a favourite, as well as the J. Geils Band, and Joan Jett.  I remember one of the radio guys being enamoured with the Clash, and one of my classmates, who loved everything Devo.  I saw Murray McLaughlan for the first time at a Loyalist College “Pub”, and Maritimer Matt Minglewood too (my boyfriend spent most of that pub in the washroom – he had eaten some bad hamburger for supper!).  Local Belleville acts played as well: Lee Aaron, and Bentwood Rocker.

Stray Cats Record Cover...

In late 1983, my boyfriend (later husband, later ex) got a job at a brand new country radio station in St. John’s, Newfoundland – I really didn’t enjoy country music at the time, but I soon got to like what was called “New Country.”  We moved to Moncton, New Brunswick in 1984, where he was music director for another country station.  One of the perks of being in radio is getting free tickets: the first concert we saw in Moncton was Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.  What a show that was!  In the 12 years we lived there, we also saw Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Alabama (twice), the Rankin Family (Anna, who was two at the time, slept through their concert!), Prairie Oyster, Michelle Wright, Terri Clark, Randy Travis, Clint Black, Jason McCoy, Paul Brandt, George Fox, Dwight Yoakam, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson, and Reba McEntire.  We got to go backstage and meet several of the performers:  everyone was really nice!

Kent, Reba and I - ca. 1985

My husband would also bring music home from work – since he worked in radio, we never had the radio on when he was home.  I would listen to tapes or albums instead.   One CD he brought home was John Hiatt – I absolutely love him!  Another one I still play is a tribute to Neil Young – his songs being played by various Canadian bands.  I discovered some amazing Canadian musicians who I probably wouldn’t have run into, like Cassandra Vasik and Jim Witter.  By attending events such as the East Coast Music Awards, I started being exposed to many of the very talented regional acts in the Maritimes: Melanie Doane, Rob Thomas, Ron Hynes, Barachois, and Gordie Sampson. 

After my marriage broke up, I moved to Saint John in 1997.  A friend turned me on to CBC Radio One, which played a lot of Maritime artists: Modabo, Hot Toddy, Madrigal, Charlie A’Court, John Campbelljohn (excellent steel guitar player), Rawlins Cross, Vetch, and Isaac and Blewett.  We saw Isaac and Blewett at the Saint John Arts Centre one time.  They performed on folding chairs set up on a small riser (about 6 inches tall).  During the break, Jim Blewett’s chair leg slipped off the riser, and he sunk to the floor (he wasn’t hurt).  Upon Tim’s return from the lobby, Jim related the story of his misfortune:  “I fell off my chair, man…” (Jim really talks like that!).  Tim’s deadpan response was, “Guitar okay?”

The Boys from Hot Toddy and Isaac and Blewett...

The Saint John Jazz and Blues Festival introduced me to many of the above artists, and other greats such as Matt Andersen (I thought his head would bounce right off his shoulders!), J.P. LeBlanc (one amazing guitar-playing kid!) and Fred Eaglesmith.  At home, I used to put a CD in my kids’ ghetto blaster in the kitchen, and rock out while I did my Sunday cooking/chores!

About five years ago, I started to get into folk/roots music – my boyfriend at the time was a big fan of the ’60’s: Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, etc.  Since then, I continue to listen to my old favourites, while adding new ones: the Be Good Tanyas, Meg Hutchinson, Joel Plaskett, Michael Kaeshammer, Howie Beck, and the Deep Dark Woods, to name a few (thank you Rich Terfry and CBC Radio 2).

My Favourite Be Good Tanyas Album...

Jim and I have revisited our seventies roots twice in the last couple of months at tribute concerts: one of Supertramp, and one of Queen, Jim’s favourite band of all time!  It was fun to see him singing along with all the songs…

Last Saturday night, Jim and I attended a Rose Cousins/David Myles concert at the Imperial Theatre.  Both are very talented and personable singer/songwriters.  It’s obvious that they love what they do.  I realized that I really haven’t taken enough time to enjoy music in the last couple of years – I have been too busy with “busyness” (and being bombarded by our teenagers’ “music” – Lady Gaga and her ilk!).  I have resolved to make time for music in my life again…I need it!

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Filed under friends, memories, music, self-discovery