...and no one's getting fat except Mama Cass

Wednesday

One sunny afternoon in 1995, while driving around with my BFF, Rob, we picked up some sandwiches from a local deli and was on the way to deliver them to the hospital, when out of the blue, I had to ask…”Rob, Do you think Mama Cass died after choking on a ham sandwich?”

“I thought it was a chicken leg.” Rob answered.

We pulled over.

Suddenly, we were both struck with the absurdity of the question. How would he know? The correct answer would be purely speculation on both of our parts but I felt strongly that the question had to be asked. After all, the rumour had been circulating for years and I felt a need to put it to rest.

After composing ourselves, Rob and I continued on our errand.

The Mamas and the Papas had always been one of my all-time favorite groups from the mid to late sixties. Comprised of “Mama” Cass Elliott, Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty and John Phillips. The songs that I will always hold close to my heart include ‘Monday, Monday’, ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’, ‘I Call Your Name’ and ‘Words of Love’ to name but a few. I get all misty-eyed just thinking of them.
As we made our way to the hospital, I blurted...

“And another thing … where does that skinny Michelle Phillips get off singing, “And no one's getting fat except Mama Cass”? (referring to the lyrics of their hit song "Creeque Alley") I mean, c’mon – give her a break. Even if Cass agreed to the lyrics, a true friend would refuse to sing them.”
“Bitch.” Rob responded.

We pulled over again.

Why I was fixating on Mama Cass is beyond me but I think I had a valid point. Color me overly-sensitive but just because Mama Cass was overweight, it didn’t give the band any reason to capitalize on her girth by ridiculing her forever with a catchy tune. Adding insult to injury, it is said that she died alone in a hotel room in London after choking on room service. Would that have been reported by the tabloids if Mama Cass was a petite size 8? I don’t think so.

The fact of the matter is that Cass Elliott sadly died of a heart attack at the age of 33.

My BFF, Rob died a few months later, at the same age. But that is another story.

The Gardener

Thursday


The human mind never fails to amaze me and frequently leaves me awestruck.

One hot summer in Dallas, I cared for an elderly man who had suffered a stroke while in his garden. It was estimated that he had been outdoors for three days in 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38C – for my Canadian and International readers). He arrived in the ER hyperthermic, neurologically impaired, sunburned and strangely enough - soaking wet. I mean that his clothes were dripping wet, even his shoes. When his condition was stabilized, I went out to find a disheveled and confused wife with a man who introduced himself as their neighbour. Taking them to his bedside, the neighbour asked to have a word with me… "outside the room"...

Explaining to me that my patient’s wife had Alzheimer’s Disease and was cared for at home by her husband, the neighbour said that he noticed her watering plants in the garden. This was an unusual sight as her husband normally took care of that sort of thing. He became concerned as he had not seen her husband in days so the neighbour decided to stop by. He found his neighbour ‘watering’ her husband.

The human mind never fails to amaze me and frequently leaves me awestruck
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Terry Young 1952-2009

Monday

One year ago today my big brother, Terry died. His final gift to us, was letting us ‘in’ on his decision so that we could be with him at the end.

I can’t say we didn’t see it coming. Years of diabetes, kidney failure, dialysis, subsequent infections, a couple of strokes and near blindness was a whole lot more than I could have handled as well as he did. So, when he called to tell me that he had stopped dialysis, we both knew what that would mean. It was painful for all of us to face the certain reality that lay ahead but Terry was brave and made only one request ”to be comfortable” – and he was.
He may have had a heart of gold but he was the first to admit that he was no angel and back in the day, life was ‘all or nothing.’ When he worked, he worked hard. When he played, he played hard. When he loved, he loved hard. Almost all of Terry’s ‘hard’ ways came to a screeching halt with his illnesses. He wasn’t able to work hard anymore and he couldn’t play hard any more but he was able to love as strongly as he always had.

Terry maintained old friendships and cultivated new ones despite the fact that he was alone, ill and sequestered in his apartment, unable to drive. After his 4th marriage ended, (did I mention he loved hard?) he chose to live in Moncton, New Brunswick. “It’s where my doctors are.” he explained when we asked “Why Moncton?” Good reason.


Our sister, Bobbie stepped up and found him an apartment and helped create a plan enlisting our cousins, Karen and Kirk, should he need help. In typical ‘Terry’ fashion, he fell in love with them and their children immediately. Within a few short years, Terry’s friends included the apartment complex staff, his neighbors, his housekeeper, his ‘personal’ cab driver, nurses, doctors and ancillary hospital staff.
We were surprised and happy to see how social he had become and it was comforting to know that if he had not let us ‘in’ on his decision, he would not have been alone.

Her Name Was Lola ...She was a Grandma

Thursday

It’s taken several months for me to warm up to the idea that ‘technically’ I am going to be a ‘Grandma’ in March. In anticipation of the blessed event, I decided early on that the thought of being referred to a “Grandma” was just not going to work for me. When asked by my stepson and his lovely wife what I would like to be called, I chose “Lola”. My husband’s first choice was “Long Distance”, then “Frank” but eventually settled on whatever the little one wanted to call him. What a pushover.

A gift from the expectant parents

Why Lola? I’m not quite sure. To me, the name sounds youthful and sexy. So I’m over fifty. No big whup. I understand that fifty is the new thirty and who cares what I really look like … it’s all about what I think I look like. Anyway, I would much rather have a 'tween' holler “Hey, Lola” at me in the mall, rather than “Hey, Granny”.

But when it all comes down to it – I’m thinking that little Annslee (It’s a Girl!) will find the name for me that fits her just fine.

The Quebec Carnival - Part Quatre

Monday

The Ice Hotel

The ‘inside’ temperature was maintained at 23F-26F at all times. The floors were covered with clean, white powdery snow and all the furnishings were made of ice.
The Ice Chapel holds regularly scheduled Sunday services and the ice-benches are covered in fur. For winter weddings, the staff change the 'everyday' fur for white animal fur ...
A ‘discotheque’ and bar where drinks are served in blocks of ice that have been bored-out in the center to accommodate your cocktail, served by bartenders dressed in parkas.

The guest rooms are beautiful. Ice-beds are covered in fur and you recieve a standard-issue sub-zero sleeping bag upon check-in. No bathroom, sink or mirror kind of takes the romance out of it but ...

The dramatic lighting is a sight to behold.

The Quebec Carnival - Part Trois

Friday

Armed with our ski-wear and my determination, we boarded our train to Quebec City. The train guy told us it would be "40 degrees below" in Quebec City. Ha! A little cold weather wasn't going to scare me off!

I had reserved a (surprise) romantic horse drawn carriage ride upon our arrival to the incredibly beautiful and historic walled city of Quebec but was soon dissappointed to learn that "it is too cold for the horses, Madam". No problem.

Venturing out on foot with only a 'walking tour' map of Quebec City was probably not my best decision but hey, hindsight is 20/20. After about 2 miles into our frigid trek, we came upon a lovely French restaurant with a roaring fireplace ...and no one spoke English! Now that's what I'm talkin' about! A different culture! A different language! My frozen husband was more impressed with the fire.


In the following days, we found The Quebec Carnival to be well organized with plenty to do. The giant snowman mascot "Bonhomme" was everywhere, outdoor ice skating shows, dog sled racing, ice sculptures, an outdoor theatre, tobagganing, zip lines, music and dancing were just some of the attractions but what kept us going was their signature drink - "Caribou". A mixture of wine, sugar and brandy, you could get it anywhere and it was always served hot.
EVERYBODY ventured out in this weather!

A Little History... The Quebec Carnival in Quebec City, “Carnaval’ in Rio de Janeiro and ‘Mardi Gras’ in New Orleans are based upon indulging yourself silly prior to Lent, a period of Catholic sacrifice and repentance that leads up to Easter. Many Catholics will ‘give up something for Lent’ as an exercise in self-sacrifice. For my friend JoBeth, it has always been tortilla chips, others swear off alcohol or chocolate. The point is…you should ‘give up’ something you will really miss for about forty days.
Today, these celebrations are a really good excuse for a winter party.

The Quebec Carnival - Part Deux

Wednesday


We arrived in Montreal on January 24th, 2007.

Enchanted by the cobblestone, gas lantern lit streets and centuries old architecture I could care less about the bone-chilling cold.

Mr. Something? – not so much...

We stayed in the heart of Vieux-Montreal at a lovely little place called Auberge de Passants de San Soucy. Somewhat intimidated about trying to speak lousy French, I was thrilled when the cabbie spoke perfect English. The ‘Auberge’ is a relatively unknown converted stable, circa 1650-ish. No elevators..."all part of the charm", I thought.

As my sweet husband carried our bags up three flights of a narrow, creaking, spiral staircase...

Our room was just what I would have imagined – lace curtains with windows that opened out onto the quaint street below. The character just seeped from the stone walls and I didn’t find it difficult to imagine what Montreal could have been like back in the day.

Mr. Something was less impressed with me opening the windows in –30C. 

That evening my we dress appropriately before heading out on the town. Ski bibs, thermal underwear and neck gators were packed. A little overkill but Mr. Something insisted. I caved - all in the name of "keeping the peace". I'm glad I did.


For the remainder of our trip to Quebec, we may have looked like masked 'Michelin Men' but we wouldn't have had it any other way.

The Quebec Carnival - Part Une

Monday

I have always been a sucker for a good festival even though I am the first to say that many don’t amount to much…same old cotton candy, local bands, artwork and performance artists but some are exceptional. Take the annual Quebec Carnival in Quebec City, Canada for instance. OK, so it’s a little chilly up there in February - what's the equivalent of -40 degrees Celsius anyway? Believe me, at that temperature - it’s moot point.

Knowing that my hot-blooded, native Texan husband would not share my enthusiasm about a near-arctic ‘vacation’, I nixed the idea of pumping him up with visions of ice sculptures, great cuisine, French-Canadian culture and dog-racing. Instead, I reached down into my imaginary bag of “Things-I-Want-To-Accomplish-in-My-Life” cards and pulled out the one that said…”The Quebec Carnival.” He relented.

Woo Hoo! I was so excited. Let the planning begin…

Dallas to Montreal... stay in a quaint little boutique hotel in Old Montreal for a couple of nights, then off to Quebec City via train for The Quebec Carnival! I could hardly contain myself. I tried to recruit other friends to join us (and you know who you are) but for some reason, they were just not interested.

Anyway, during the planning stages of our trip, I came across yet another reason to go…Quebec City had a real ICE HOTEL!!! I had seen one once on The Travel Channel and thought it would be cool to stay in one. A little pricey, a night in The Ice Hotel would be worth it as this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! I called Doug at work to share my great find – I could tell by his tone that he was apathetic. “Do me a favor” he said, “Look into it a little more, before you book us.” Fair enough.

I soon learned that you are expected to sleep in a sub-zero sleeping bag, upon an ice-bed covered in fur when staying at The Ice Hotel. The kicker is that none of the rooms had bathrooms as ice-toilets and sinks would be problematic. So… if you had to get up in the middle of the frosty night to use the facilities, you would have to schlepp down the snow covered hallways to the heated bathroom trailer where upon I would probably just wind up spending the night.

The good news was that The Ice Hotel offered tours daily and that would be just fine with me.

Paranoid in South America

Anticipating travel to South America was both exciting and scary. Admittedly, reports of muggings, kidnappings and police corruption go...