Blind Tastings – It’s Not Always About Food. It’s About Comfort

Just a thought prompted by a conversation I had with a lovely friend a few days ago…

A restaurant can be so much more than a place to eat a favourite dish, or grab a few drinks with friends. It can be a sanctuary, a refuge, a source of warmth.

Three and a half years ago, my husband Dave was very ill in hospital with heart and kidney failure. Everyone, except he, knew he would’t make it this time. And every day, I was there, for five months. And every evening, tired, drained, I would stop by one of my Yaletown haunts to grab a little something to eat before I went home to the cats and get ready to do it all over again the next day.

I had three favourites – Hapa Izakaya, where I could satisfy my nigiri fix when I felt the need to eat extra healthy; Cactus Club, where I could sit in one of their cosy little booths in the back and silently cry and no one would notice; and Society, where the staff treated me so kindly, they would stealthily take my dinner off my bill and I’d only pay for my wine. They all gave me solace when I needed it most – and I never really thanked them, or acknowledged their kindness. I regret that.

I remember one night so vividly. It had been one of those hard days, when nothing went right, nothing was good and everything looked grim. I was so tired, so sad, that all I wanted to do was grab a bite and go home. I slipped into Hapa, was greeted warmly, and ordered a light meal. It didn’t take me long to notice that the young man sitting beside me was ordering some interesting dishes.

Naturally, I thought he must have been a food writer (I know a few!). But when I asked him, he laughed and said no. He just knew the chef and was a kind of guinea pig. Then he asked me if I lived in the area and if this was one of my local places. So, I told him that this was one of my go-to places on the way home.

He was still well into his meal when I finished, so I said good night and called for my bill. And he laid his hand on mine, and told me to go home. He was taking care of the bill.

I almost fell to the ground in gratitude. And I hugged him, in tears. I’ve never forgotten.

Why is this memory so strong this week? Because I’ve again been blessed with kindness from a variety of people, and again, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.

I think we forget sometimes how fantastic humans can be to each other.

Let’s not forget.

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Nothing but Good – On Random Acts of Kindness

For most of this month, my very good friend Marc Smith has been engaging himself and a number of like-minded organizations and individuals in what he calls his #30DaysofKindness – the latest round of his 30DayAdventures. So far, Marc and friends have brought cookies and cheer to seniors, given away warm toques and socks to needy people on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, handed out flowers to brighten up many commuters’ days, encouraged literacy among youth through book drives and writing tools, and so much more. This inspiring exercise in kindness is happening till mid-December, so feel free to visit Marc’s site, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook if you want to learn more.

I’ve  known Marc for several years now, and I know about his kind heart and giving nature first-hand. In December 2010, Marc was part of an amazing team of people who helped to organize a fund-raiser for my late husband Dave and me when he was desperately ill in the hospital. It was an event that touched me and my entire family and will always be one of my most treasured memories.

That experience, and Marc’s wonderful work came back to me this past Thanksgiving, when a horrible day was turned around by several acts of kindness from not only friends, but total strangers.

When I left you at the end of the last post, I was stranded in a wheelchair at LAX, having just been informed by the very nice airport police that my stolen  purse and all its contents had not been found. I was at the mercy of a negligent wheelchair attendant who wanted nothing else but to go home on a Thanksgiving afternoon. I was devastated, scared and shaken. It was a Very Bad Day.

But suddenly, happily, things began to turn around.

A very kind attendant did relieve my surly guy, who apparently did go home. She then got her supervisor involved. Her name was Diane, she was an angel, and she ROCKED. She first apologized for her employee’s attitude and neglect. She had me meet with her boss, a lovely man, who also apologized profusely and sincerely. She let me use her cell phone so I could do the best and most expedient thing I could think of. I tweeted my predicament.

But the random act that I’ll most remember from Diane was the fact that she reached into her purse, and handed me $10. I KNEW she didn’t have that much money. I knew it was a big sacrifice on her part.  I cried as I took the money and thanked her. And I hugged her tightly when she dropped me off at my departure gate and told her I’d never forget her.

In the meantime, and through that flight to SFO, my tweet had gotten the attention of friends and acquaintances, who offered help and moral support. My dear friends Lorraine and IdaRose sprang into action. Lorraine managed to cancel bank and credit cards, while IdaRose and her husband Neil arranged a cab (actually a white limo!) to pick me up at the airport to take me to their annual Thanksgiving feast. I was wined and dined and hugged many times that evening by a crowd of very supportive people, got to hang out with the family pe, and even had a night at a nearby hotel paid for so I could rest and recover from the day. I was so very lucky.

And after the initial shock and mourning for my possessions in that bag, I again remembered Marc, and what he and others were doing for their community. For people.

THAT is what I was thankful for on Thanksgiving – the reminder that things are just things, life has its scary moments and hard times, but it’s people, in person and online, those in hugging distance, and those who offer them from afar, that make life worthwhile. Thanks Marc.

Thanks Diane, for making me feel I mattered when all I felt was lost. Thanks, Lorraine, IdaRose, and Neil, for being there when I needed you the most. Thanks, Dick and Barbara, for always giving me a place to call home. Thanks everyone, from the bottom of my heart.  I won’t forget your love and support.

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I Remember…

On this Remembrance Day, I am remembering my uncle, who never got to see his many nieces and nephews, and never got to have kids of his own. My mother misses him to this day. He died so close to the end of the war…

Thank you, Uncle John. Thank you to all those brave and wonderful men and women who fought and never came home. Thank you to those who served and are serving still. And than you to all the families and friends who love and have loved all these good and honourable people. We must never forget.

O’DONNELL, Lance Sergeant, JOHN JOSEPH, D/26811, 22nd Armd. Regt., Canadian Grenadier Guards, R.C.A.C. 26 February 1945. Age 23. Son of Frank and Ann O’Donnell, of Montreal, Province of Quebec. Grave Ref. XXII. A. 9. GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, Netherlands

I’m also remembering my grandfather Frank, who died on November 11, 1969. He was my best friend. I love him still.

Who are you remembering today?


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Photo Friday: Lest We Forget

I decided this morning to head down to the Remembrance Day ceremony in Vancouver’s Victory Square to honour the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much in fighting for freedom and peace and against tyranny. I also wanted to capture the moment, if I could.

It moved me to tears to see thousands of people, young and old, in attendance. I loved to see young couples holding each other close. And the faces of some of the very few veterans left – well, there are no words. Just thanks, with a full heart.

Here’s my slide show. I’ll always remember today.

On Luck and Fate and Guardian Angels

I have said more than once online and off that I am so very lucky. I’m afraid I sound like a broken record sometimes. But it’s true. Despite all that’s happened over the past several years, I consider myself fortunate.

I’ve got my health, I live in a wonderful city, I have the most supportive community of family and friends I could hope for – and my passion for photography has opened new doors to endless possibilities.

Well, this past week, I got even luckier. And it all started with the awesome Amber naslund, who posted an opportunity in her Brass Tack Thinking blog that I couldn’t pass up – the chance to attend BlogWorld and New Media Expo in Los Angeles in November.

That post sent a lightening bolt through me. My first impulse was to sit down and tell her why I’d love the chance to go to BlogWorld after missing it last year. The day before I was to leave, my husband Dave collapsed at home and began what would be almost five long months in hospital before he died in March. I wrote it all out, then deleted it, then wrote it again. And hesitated again. Was I being too selfish? Too impulsive? Did it really matter?

So many of the people who commented had such great reasons for wanting to go to BlogWorld. They had plans, objectives. I just wanted to make my dream happen. So I sat and agonized for a while longer.

Then I said, “What the hell.” and hit Send. And forgot about it.

And then, an unbelievable turn of events. Out of the blue, a gentleman contacted me and said that he had read my comment on Amber’s blog and wanted me to come to BlogWorld as his guest. I said yes, after demanding proof that this was all legit, which it was. We had a long chat over the phone last weekend, and I discovered that he was all too familiar with heart disease and the slow decline of someone afflicted with a heart attack. We both choked up during the call, and it made his offer all the more special to me.

So, I’m going. I’m looking forward to some fabulous presentations, to hugs and conversations, to experiencing LA for the first time, and hopefully, some unforgettable BWE parties! And I plan to write about the experience on all my social media channels and take all the pics I can. And, especially, to share some time with the man who has made this all happen. I consider him to be a true Guardian Angel, and I can’t thank him enough.

After all, his name is Dave🙂