Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Autographed Picture

I’ve never really been a seeker of autographs. Okay, there was that period in the 1970’s when everyone seemed to have the little books and we collected each other’s signatures and we also signed each other’s yearbooks but that isn’t the kind of autographs I’m referring to. I mean the celebrity autographs.

I did have a few autographs from musicians of my younger days – but I have no idea where they are now. I collected them at various concerts I attended.

My most treasured autograph is a framed picture of Mel Blanc and many of the Looney Toon characters that I picked up at a celebrity auction back in the mid 1980’s. A local high school was raising money for their drama club.

But, today, I want to tell you about another treasured autograph that a friend got for me.

The exact date of this is hidden somewhere in my memory bank, but to the best of my ability, I believe that this happened in 1991. I was living in a building in north Winnipeg and had suffered my detached retina just a few months earlier (November 1990). In late summer of 1990, I had started getting to know one of my neighbours - John. We weren’t romantically involved, but we enjoyed spending time together, listening to music and chatting the night away. It didn’t take long for us to discover that we both enjoyed “The Young & The Restless” (Y&R). He had spent several months travelling in Asia and Indonesia, so wasn’t really up to date on storylines so I brought him up to speed. If he wasn’t working that day, we would watch the show together.

Y&R often sends various cast out to promote the show and many of the cast also do a lot of charity work, so if you are lucky, you may just find yourself in a city with a visiting soap star! That was the case for us in 1991.

The Grande Dame of Genoa City herself – Katherine Chancellor - who is so amazingly portrayed by Jeanne Cooper - was coming to Winnipeg for a local charity event. I think it was for the Winnipeg Humane Society, but she was also scheduled to make a mall appearance at the mall in our neighbourhood. There would be a question and answer session with the audience and you could get autographs after.

I was just getting used to my new limitations with being legally blind and I hate being in crowds, so I never really thought about going. I knew it would be very stressful for me. John had to work part of the day but wasn’t sure if he could make it or not, so I never really thought much more about it.

Unbeknownst to me, John made it to the mall a few minutes before the event was to start. He was standing at the back of a large crowd looking around to see if he knew anyone when he spotted someone he recognized standing off to the side - out of view of the main audience. He walked over and introduced himself to none other than Jeanne Cooper herself!!

They chatted for several minutes before she was introduced to the audience. John later told me how gracious and down to earth she was. Among other things, they had talked about traveling and he had briefly told her about his trip to Indonesia. I believe she had told him about a family member also traveling in that part of the world.

He stuck around for the Q&A session, then got in line to get an autographed poster. There were several to chose from – a couple of Jeanne or one of Jeanne and Jess Walton (who portrays Jill Abbott). They were already autographed by Jeanne (and Jess for the one with both) but you could get it personalized for an additional small fee.

Due to time limitations and the size of the crowd, there was a limit of one per person for the personalized posters. Well, John - being John - wanted two posters autographed. He paid for the posters and was giving the names he wanted the posters autographed for, to the person who was assisting Ms. Cooper. He was trying to explain to the person in charge that he wanted one for a close friend who loved the show but couldn’t be there because they were dealing with a major health issue. The person in charge wasn’t having any excuses and insisted that it was one per person – no exceptions.

Jeanne, who was busy signing autographs, overheard the conversation and saw that it was John who wanted the extra poster. She looked at the person in charge and said that John was a friend of hers and that if he wanted two personalized posters then he will get two personalized posters! John thanked her and gave her my name for one of the posters.

A short time later, John was at my door and started telling me about his afternoon. As he got to the part about the autograph, he pulled the rolled up poster out of his backpack and gave it to me.

To say I was shocked was an understatement! I wasn’t shocked at how John had handled the whole thing as he has this quality of making friends quickly, but I was surprised that he had gone that extra step to get mine personalized!

I must admit though that I wasn’t exactly thrilled that he had gotten me the one that also included Jess Walton as ... well ... let’s see, how do I put this politely? Jill can be a "bit difficult" and really hadn’t been that nice to my heroine Kay! John assured me, that since I had only been watching the show for about 4 years at that point, that I would come to love Jill as well. Well, he was partly right! I really do respect the actress – Jess Walton - as she is a marvellous talent and Jill can be quite loveable, but I have to admit that there are still times I want to throttle her!

My personally autographed poster is framed and still hangs in my apartment! Every time I look at it, it makes me smile and think of John and how he did something so kind and wonderful for me at a time when I wasn’t feeling very good about what was happening with my sight and my life. I wish I could have gone with John that day and met Jeanne myself but I have the next best thing – a personally autographed poster!

I took a picture of it the other day and uploaded it to the PC, so that I could post it here. Using a photo editing program, I blurred my name to protect my privacy – but I swear that my name is under there!

Jeanne Cooper is almost 82 now and still going strong on Y&R! Her character, Katherine Chancellor, has been through a LOT of ups and downs and countless adventures since she first aired in the fall of 1973, but Ms. Cooper truly is the class act that she appears to be both on and off camera.

Thanks for being such an inspiration Jeanne - and thanks for the autograph!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's Never Too Late For Love

A friend of mine shared a story with me the other day. An acquaintance had just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. When asked how they celebrated, she said that her husband had taken her out for a hamburger!

Now that may not sound like much of a celebration, but she was all excited about it! My friend didn’t get a chance to ask what was so exciting about a burger or even where her husband had taken her, but my guess is that it was a remembrance of a first date or something along those lines. Very sweet actually!

It always amazes me how the seemingly little things are the things that hold the most memories and sentiment in a relationship. The things that you want to celebrate and share over and over.

My dad always carried a roll of butter rum life savers in his pocket when he was dating my mom. He often had a little bag of cashews as well! She loved that and still talks about that even though dad has been gone for almost seven years. They were together 59 years and 5 months. He would often pick flowers from the garden or even wildflowers and bring them into the house as if he were courting her all over again. She’d say; “Oh, my boyfriend brought me flowers!”

Whatever the little traditions are, it is a part of what keeps the relationship alive. Those things ... that when they happen ... can trigger memories of what made the relationship spark. It can even rekindle a fading relationship.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be with someone that long. In some ways I can't imagine it ... and yet at the same time, I envy long relationships. The security in knowing that there is someone standing there with you through the good and bad ... supporting and loving each other through it all. Even with all of your foibles, faults and flaws!

This isn’t easy for me to admit, but as much as I love my privacy and cherish my Independence, I do have regrets of spending so much of my life alone. There is no point in playing the "should've, could've, would've" game as I can't change the past, but I do wish I had taken more chances with love and relationships. Over the years, I swore up down left right and center to anyone who would listen that I'd never marry! But I've come to realize that was to protect myself from being hurt. I was too afraid to truly give my heart and take that risk of finding real love or possible rejection. I was scared that I would not be good enough or even fail.

In the last few years, I have certainly grown stronger and more self assured. Okay, I still have doubts - but not as many as I used to have!

I have also learned to never say never!

Luckily, love is not limited to the young. Deep and lasting love can come at any age and most definitely not always in the form we had imagined or expected it.

As we age, we tend to carry more baggage. The baggage may include: exes and former in-laws; kids; grandkids; habits; quirks; interests; health issues or any number of other things. That isn’t necessarily all bad. The tricky part can be finding out if the baggage we carry, is compatible and can we really live with, and accept the parts that aren’t as compatible.

Most of my friends are a great inspiration in the relationship department. Despite a few divorced friends, several others are in relationships of twenty to forty years. Some of my pals have found their love’s in more recent years. Two of them found their loves in their 40's. Two widows found second loves in their 50's and 70's. Many years ago, a friends aunt, whom I had met a few times, fell in love and got married for the first time in her early sixties! I hear of more mature love stories all the time.

However, one of the most inspiring tales of love, is a gal pal of mine who is getting married for the first time in a couple of months! She spent a good part of her life looking for love but was never able to connect with the right guy, then finally decided she was okay with being single and never marrying. Long story short, she was pretty much content with her life for several years and then the love of her life entered the picture several months ago and can’t wait to spend the rest of his life with her!

She keeps telling me to never stop dreaming. That I shouldn’t be afraid to risk loving or being loved! If it could happen to her it can happen to anyone – as long as you allow your heart to be open!

She is right of course.

So, even at fifty-two and change, there just might be hope for me yet! Maybe there is a guy out there that is just crazy enough to want someone like me in his life! A challenge, I know - but it would be nice to share life’s journey with someone - creating memories and growing old together.

I’m not going to hit the bar scene or join any dating services as that just isn’t my style. What I am going to do, is continue living my life - but be more open to the possibility that love could come my way. I believe in fate and destiny. If I am meant to be with someone, then somehow that will happen when the time is right.

No rose coloured glasses here or blinders on as I know the odds are against me at my age, but who knows what tomorrow may bring!

Mr. Right could be closer than I know.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lemon Cloud Pie

A few months ago, I was looking for a light dessert to serve for a gathering that I was hosting. I came across a recipe in Taste Of Home for a “Refreshing Lemon Pie” that sounded fairly good but I thought I could make it even better!

The original used a Graham crumb crust, but I really like lemon and chocolate together so chose to make an Oreo crumb crust. I was also concerned that the filling wouldn’t be thick enough to really set well, so I added ½ package of cream cheese. Also the original did not use any light or calorie reduced products so I switched to light where I could.

Well, my guests thought it was wonderful! I’ve made it twice now and it gets rave reviews for being light and very lemony. This recipe is so quick and simpe. It is the perfect dessert for any summer of festive gathering! I was debating what to call this new creation and a friend suggested “Lemon Cloud Pie” Sounds delicious to me!!

Lemon Cloud Pie

• 1 ¼ cup Oreo/chocolate cookie crumbs
• ¼ cup margarine, melted
• 125g/4 oz light cream cheese, softened to room temp
• 1 can 300ml/10.5oz. light sweetened condensed milk
• 2 fresh lemons – medium size (or enough to make: 2 - 3 tablespoons freshly grated lemon peel and 1/2 cup lemon juice)
• 2 to 3 drops yellow food coloring, optional
• 1 500ml/2cups light frozen whipped topping, thawed


Combine crumbs and melted margarine in a small bowl. Press gently onto the bottom and up sides of a 9” pie plate – reserving about 2 Tablespoons crumb mixture for topping. Refrigerate pie crust while preparing filling.

Wash and dry the lemons, then grate the peel. Set the peel aside. Then juice the lemons and strain to remove any seeds. If necessary, top up the lemon juice to the ½ cup with bottled lemon juice.

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the sweetened condensed milk and blend till smooth. Add the lemon juice, grated peel and about 3 drops of yellow food colouring; mix until smooth. The mixture will begin to thicken. Fold in whipped topping. Spoon into crust. Garnish with reserved crumb mixture.

Cover lightly with saran and refrigerate for at least 3 hours of overnight before serving.

Yield: 6-8 servings. Refrigerate leftovers.

-When you empty the can of sweetened condensed milk, there always seems to be some milk left in the can, so I took the strained lemon juice and poured it into the can. With a spoon or a scraper, stir along the bottom and edges to get the excess milk out. Then pour the juice and milk mixture in with the rest of the ingredients.
- Before putting saran over the finished dessert, I strategically place about six toothpicks around the edges, leaving about ½ inch sticking up out of the dessert. This way the saran does not ruin the look of the top of the dessert when you go to serve it. Just remember to pull out ALL of the toothpicks before serving!



Sunday, July 4, 2010

Will Someone PLEASE Stop Ringing The Bells!!

Last Sunday, I wrote about what Canada Day was like in my neighbourhood. I thought it only fair that I update that post and tell you how this year’s celebration went. To put it into perspective, I have to start June 29. The day was fairly normal and I was looking forward to a decent night’s sleep – presumably the last I would get until after the annual street fest. It had been a busy day and by evening I was in need of some shut eye so I went to bed about 10:15 and fell asleep not too long after. I slept rather soundly until about 3:30 or so in the morning. I was startled awake by the sound of a loud screaming match somewhere outside. I couldn’t tell exactly where it was coming from – only that it was to the west of me and that if stopped and started several times over the next 20 minutes or so. I wasn’t about to go out and investigate and without knowing a specific address, there was not a lot of point in me calling the police.

As I lay in my bed, trying to go back to sleep, I heard bells chiming the quarter hour. I will note here, that I had heard these church bells in the past but never during the night. There are several churches in the neighbourhood, but they generally only ring the bells before and after services. One of the churches, had recently begun chiming the quarter hour and playing a stroke for each hour at the top of the hour but it had only been during daylight hours. How odd to hear them in the night. I’m not a heavy sleeper but presumably, I had been in a deep enough sleep prior to the argument that I did not awaken. I tried to go back to sleep but the bells kept me awake. I heard them at 3:45, 4:00, 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, 5:00 and 5:15. Somehow, I managed to drift off after that but only till about 6:15 when I was once again - wide awake.

So much for sleep! I got up, did my stretches, ate breakfast, showered and got ready to go grocery shopping. I didn’t need much for groceries and there were a few items on sale at the local Safeway, so I walked over a little before 8AM. I knew that several of the churches were fairly close to the Safeway so thought I would have a better idea of where the bells were coming from when they rang at 8:00. I couldn’t tell for sure which church it was, but they were MUCH louder by the Safeway than my block. The bells continued to ring through the day and into the early evening of June 30.

I would love to have had a nap Wednesday afternoon but it was a very busy day and I had a lot to accomplish so there really wasn’t time. I had to hope for the best - that I would get some sleep that night, despite the street party.

The streets were closed off starting at 6:00PM and the party was on not too long after. As usual, the sounds of the stages and the people on the street was loud and annoying but it started to settle down by about midnight so I decided to try and get some sleep.

Well, once again my sleep was rudely interrupted – again by bells, but these were much closer. These were the ones from the bell tower that was built at the end of my street back in the 1990’s.
I have to back up a bit here to give a little info on this bell tower. It was built as part of a renewal and beautification project for the area. The tower would feature bells to chime the quarter hour, mark the hour with chimes and then play a short piece of bell music. At the base of the tower there was a small waterfall/fountain. Almost from the start, the fountain leaked and was eventually turned off completely. The bells hadn’t faired a lot better. There were endless problems with the timers and some of the notes didn’t even play or played the wrong notes. I remember one Sunday morning, the bells started at 10AM as usual but wouldn’t quit until someone finally managed to turn them off about 2 hours later!

I never liked the bells from the start. It is not that I am opposed to bells, it is just that this is a very densely populated neighbourhood and the tower is located right at a very busy intersection. The bells are not of the greatest quality and frankly they are loud, harsh and a bit shrill.
Imagine, if you will, that you are visually impaired and are reliant on the sounds around you to safely navigate the area. You are trying to discern - by sound - if it is safe to cross the street or are attempting to cross the street or waiting at the bus stop, by the tower, trying to hear the bus driver yell out his bus route number to you – all while the bells are ringing nearby! It is extremely disorienting to say the least. I called the local BIZ to voice concerns and complaints several times in those first years, but the head of the BIZ at that time thought they were marvellous and just what the area needed. He could have cared less that some residents didn’t like them or that it could possibly endanger the lives of the visually impaired.

After a few years and countless repairs the bells were more or less silenced. They were used for a few special occasions but thankfully that was rare.

So, I'm sure you can imagine, my horror to awake to the sound of those dreaded bells at 2:07 Thursday morning as they chimed the hour to be 11:00!!

Are you kidding me??

The bells continued to ring the quarter hour the rest of the night! They chimed the four note quarter hour at 2:22 and the eight note half hour (missing one note) at 2:37. They chimed the twelve note three quarter hour (missing two notes) at 2:52 and the sixteen note top of the hour (missing three notes) at 3:07 – all while being three hours and seven minutes behind the actual time. Of course, the bells seemed even louder in the silence of the night!

I was never really able to fall asleep again after that - other than for about 10 minutes at a time. Finally, just before 5AM, I called the non emergency police line to put in a noise complaint. I told them what had been happening but the woman I spoke with said she really wasn’t sure who to call. I explained that I had tried to call the BIZ the day before about another bell problem from one of the churches but was unable to find a phone number. She promised to talk to her supervisor and see if they could find a way to stop it. I thanked her, hung up, took two Tylenol for my splitting headache and attempted to sleep. I finally gave up any hope of sleep when the fire alarm in our building went off at 7:00!! The alarm rang for several minutes and several trucks pulled up out front. I think there may have been a small incident, but it wasn’t enough to evacuate the building which is made of cinder blocks and therefore fires do not spread easily. The last truck left about 30 minutes later.

By that time, I was wide awake and the tower bells were still ringing, so I stayed up, did my workout and had breakfast. I heard the bells at 8:22 but had the TV volume up during my workout so didn’t hear them at 8:37.

Wonder of wonders – there was no ringing at 9:07! Someone had finally turned them off. I crawled back into bed about 9:30 and drifted off to sleep till noon! I probably would have slept longer but the traditional Canada Day cannon salute from the nearby Legislature grounds woke me – that and the church bells!

The Canada Day celebration started to wind down about 11:30 or so Thursday night. There were still revellers in the streets, but the noise was lessened by the sound of my fans trying to cool my warm apartment. I drifted off to sleep a little after midnight. Of course, it wouldn’t have been a normal Canada Day without some morons setting off a few fireworks at about 2:30 or so but other than that it was a pretty decent night and I was able to sleep fairly well till about 7AM when I normally wake up.

I had survived another local festival – but next year it is on a weekend so will likely be a three day affair. Whoopee!!

By the way, late Canada Day afternoon, I finally found a phone number for the local BIZ and will be contacting them as well as my city councillor to put in a noise complaint. Actually, I think I’ll just send them a link to this post.