Sunday, August 24, 2008

A night on the town

This past week, Shelby, our account manager at Roger's Media invited us to join her in the Roger's box at the Roger's Centre to watch the Toronto Blue Jays take on the New York Yankees. As part of our night on the town we were also treated to a room at the Windsor Arms Hotel. I don't think I've ever stayed at The Windsor Arms before, but I do have fond memories of meals enjoyed in the Three Small Rooms many years ago, before the hotel's major renovation that saw the addition of condominiums and the closing of this Toronto culinary treasure. Everything about this hotel is first class, especially the service - impeccable. The only thing missing were other guests. The place seemed rather empty. Newly renovated rooms are beautifully decorated and equipped with state of the art electronic TV and audio equipment, so much so that I couldn't figure out how to operate it. The only fault I found is more a general observation than a criticism - I found it nearly impossible to read anything due to my aging eyes, due to low lighting and small print. The Jays didn't disappoint. Everything you could imagine is provided for you in the Roger's box from hot dogs to sushi and a chocolate covered ice cream bar to top it off. Baseball can be a little slow but this game was well played with an exciting 2-1 win by the Jays. My hat really goes off to Shelby, our hostess for the evening. She is a consummate and professional sales executive who has mastered the art of building client loyalty with exemplary customer service and a focus on strengthening personal relationships. I love being sold by a pro!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Memories, like the corners of my mind . . .

This past weekend my mother and I set out for the Quinn family reunion in Virgil, a tiny town just outside Niagara-on-the-Lake. Quinn was my paternal grandmother's maiden name. As we approached the crowd gathered under a stand of trees I scanned for familiar faces, somehow hoping that I'd see people who either looked like me, or looked like my father or my grandmother. Before too long, I spotted Tom Quinn's wide grin as his wife Joanne made her way towards us with open arms. One after another I was introduced to this relative and that relative and given a few clues as to how we were related. It could just have well been Greek as none of it was taking hold in my brain or making any sense. At some point someone passed me a photo album of pictures from previous picnics, where I came across the picture shown above. That's my grandma in the middle, my sister Cindy to Grandma's left, me on Grandma's right, and my brother John and my father Carl in the background. Most everyone I talked to had very fond memories of my Grandma - she was a real sweetheart. I loved visiting her in Niagara Falls. She drove us around in her powder blue Valiant with push button gear shift. Her skin and her hair was so soft. She was a strong and disciplined women. Whenever she'd come to visit us, she would give us each a dollar. I once tried to refuse, and she scolding me - telling me that you should never turn down money. Now, back to the picnic. I asked Viva, the hostess of this auspicious event if I might be able to borrow a pad of paper and a pen. I then made a little chart listing my Grandma's siblings. I then went back to people who I'd been introduced to and located them on the chart. As I made my rounds my brain was starting to acknowledge that I had been here before, although I really had no memory of the event shown in the picture. Bit by bit though, things started to fall into place. One memory would jog another and before I knew it I actually started to have vague recollections of being at the site of the picnic years ago as a child when it was an active farm visiting my rural cousins. The human memory is really quite amazing. It seems as though little bits of information are stored here and there and unless required, they stay out of the way for the most part. It is only when they are stimulated by social interaction and activated by the senses that they fall back into place. In any case, this whole exercise prompted me to sit down at my PC for 3 or 4 hours on Sunday to input what I had learned about my family into a fantastic tool that I found at This web site lets you input what you know and then invite other family members to contribute what they can. I'm not sure I've figured out why family history is so intriguing to me (and I'm not alone - lots of people are into this), perhaps it helps one to establish one's place in the world and to feel connected. I only wish I'd been more attentive when I was younger and when some of the people who contributed their DNA to my existence were still available to consult with. Take the time now to get to know your family. You never know when they'll be taken from you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

True Confessions: I'm a drug addict

In our society, we tend to associate negative stereotypes with the term drug addiction. We spend millions of dollars to try to control drug addiction, and yet, with the other hand our governments collect millions of dollars taxing drugs like tobacco and alcohol. The fact of the matter is, many of us are "drug addicts", albeit being addicted to "good" drugs is looked upon more favourably, despite the fact that our "dealers" often engage in questionable tactics. Once every three months, I make my trip to the drug store to get my fix of Nexium, a drug that helps to control acid reflux (heartburn). Yesterday on the news I caught a story about how Nexium, and other drugs in it's class can lead to brittle bones, especially in older people - a group that Gray Power Insurance tells me I'm about to join. The cost of Nexium, relative to the cost of the inconvenience of heartburn seems like a deal, but relative to other over the counter medications is quite hefty. This lead me to search the web about the cost of prescription drugs - a cost that many Canadians are immune to, thanks to company funded drug plans, and government funded health care. I came across this article in the New Yorker. Nexium is one of the cheaper prescription drugs that are chronically prescribed. I could rant and rant about the cost of trying to control so called illicit drug use, but I have a meeting to go to. My heartburn has returned.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Some time back, I'd say close to six years ago now, my friend David was asked by his sister Mary and her husband Val if he would be the godfather to their new born daughter Isabella. David eagerly accepted this honour, before he fully understood exactly what this entailed, that is according to the Santa Barbara based Catholic priest who was going to baptize Isabella. David would be required to provide a note from his parish priest attesting to the fact that he was a good, practicing Catholic. Up until this point, we had only a casual knowledge of our parish priest through the occasional marriage or baptism we'd attended at St. Mary's in Grafton. To meet the requirements of the Santa Barbara pastor, David arranged a meeting with Father Hood (pictured above with David and Mother Hood - some say he looks a little like Elton John), at which time it was agreed that the requisite letter would be provided on the condition that David start attending mass on a regular basis. As it turned out, this was the beginning of a long and enjoyable association not only with Father Hood, but also with his Mother - yes, you guessed it - Mother Hood. Having started out as an Anglican priest, and converting to Catholicism midway through his career, Father Hood gives an engaging homily, always treating his flock to an interesting, quite often colourful account of the history of the church in the context of the life of Jesus Christ. My mother, our friend Marg, David and I have also enjoyed Father Hood's company many times over dinner and a movie. This came about after Father Hood preached about his love for culture, at which point Marg thought to invite him to join our movie club. Over the years, Father has become a good friend and a spiritual inspiration. Today was Father Hood's last day in Grafton. Last year a friend and I organized a letter writing campaign to try to convince the Bishop not to move Father Hood, given his mother's fragile health, and given our attachment to him. None-the-less, our Bishop believes its a good thing to move his priests around, so starting next Sunday, Father Hood will take over the Cobourg Parish of St. Micheal's and Father Henry will take over Grafton. Better Cobourg than Coboconc, according to Father Hood (an urbanite at heart), who was terrified of being exiled to the far reaches of the diocese. Through Father Hood we have also come to know several parishioners, most of whom are wonderful people.  There's an ever changing cast of characters in the adult choir, a hoard of altar boys and choir girls, the ladies of the CWL and the men of the Knights of Columbus. During his 12 year tenure in Grafton, Father Hood welcomed a diverse group of people to this small church for worship, and he accomplished a great deal. We will miss Father Hood and we'll miss Mother Hood, but it's comforting to know that they're only 15 minutes away in Cobourg. Adios amigos!