THE SOAPBOX BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

February 24, 2020

With the Holidays just around the corner, a tradition of mine and many other people is to take time out to reflect on the past year and to not only practice gratitude, but to learn whatever lesson may have presented itself during the past 12 months.

This year I noticed something a little different in that it has taken me almost three years to understand how grateful I am about a moment in time on February 28, 2017. My daughter Lauren and I were in the midst of preparing for a trip abroad to visit my niece Alyssa and her boyfriend (now fiancé) Matt, and there were a million and one things to get done before our March 2 departure. Being the publisher of The Journal meant I had to make sure everything was in place before leaving, meaning one task was to remind my Dad Joe that he may be contacted by the staff should an emergency arise at work during my absence. He had been the former publisher for many years and would therefore know what to do.

So on that last day in February, I gave Dad a c...

December 12, 2019

PHOTO COURTESY UNSPLASH

The aches and pains have subsided, the dizziness has gone away, and I’ve had two nights of pretty good sleep, all thanks to a double dose of vaccines I received late last week.

After a good friend came down with a nasty case of shingles, she urged us all to get ourselves vaccinated in order to avoid going through the horrible pain and discomfort she’d been enduring for weeks. It was enough to light the proverbial fire under me – I booked the appointment for my second Shingrix shot six months after receiving the first one. To add insult to the side effects, I paid for it out of my own pocket. To add more insult, I got the Shingrix even though I had already paid for the Zostavax a couple of years ago. It was only this year I was told that particular vaccine strain wasn’t terribly effective. And while I was at it last Thursday, I opted to get the Prevnar 13 vaccine against pneumococcal pneumonia in the other arm, just for fun.

Most of us who are either Boomers or Gene...

November 14, 2019

PHOTO COURTESY SHUTTERSTOCK

At this writing, we’ve just commemorated another Remembrance Day ceremony and though the snow is swirling down quite beautifully, I’m just not ready to hear Christmas carols. In fact if I had my druthers, Ruldolph, Frosty, and their ilk would be silenced until somewhere around December 15 which, I’ve been told, is an unpopular opinion in some circles.

There’s something fundamentally wrong to see the colours red, green, silver and gold so prominently displayed in the month of October while we’re still celebrating orange, black, skulls and bats. That’s what observances are – a chance to pay homage and most celebrations respect their allotted timeframe. The day after Halloween, most of the decorations are taken down and my kids flock to the grocery store to buy discount chocolate in bulk.

Within the first week of November, the poppies go on sale in honour of Remembrance Day and we sport them proudly on our lapels, their delicate nature serving as a reminder of the...

November 7, 2019

PHOTO COURTESY UNSPLASH

As of press date, I sincerely hope every reader has had their electric power restored and that any damages incurred during last week’s wild wind storm were minor with no expensive frozen food losses. Though we got through it relatively unscathed with power out for only a day, at this writing my brother in the Eastern Townships is on Day 5 of having no electricity, getting by with a woodstove, a generator, and a sheer sense of stubbornness.

Though I thought it was an unnecessary purchase at the time, our own generator was a godsend Friday night as the sump pump failed and water began to accumulate in the basement. Nothing says family bonding like holding a flashlight under your chin while you and the kids desperately try and sweep water back into the sump pit after finally getting the pump hooked up to the generator that we were finally able to get going after finally locating the gasoline jerry can somewhere in the back of the garage. Lessons learnt for the next t...

October 31, 2019

PHOTO COURTESY UNSPLASH

As if there wasn’t enough sugar to go around this time of year, my childhood memories of Halloween always include a big box of fancy pastries. In recognition of my dad’s birthday on October 31, his coworkers would celebrate with him and there were always leftovers. Seemed fair – we’d meet up after trick-or-treating to partake in the mille-feuilles and profiteroles while he’d peruse whatever haul we’d brought in from our door-to-door neighbourhood trek.

Ask anyone their birthdate and they’re likely to tell you how it’s significant in other ways, besides just being the day they came into the world. I share my birthday with Wolfgang Mozart (no, no the same year), and Lewis Carroll. My husband’s birthday can’t pass without a mention that it’s also the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Well, it’s mentioned quietly.

I adopted my Jack Russell on what happened to be my brother’s birthday so even though it’s not her official date of birth, it’s become the de f...

October 24, 2019

“The first one changes your life; the second one really screws it up,” is something a co-worker told me after the birth of my eldest son. She had no words of wisdom to offer about the third who ended up being a funny sweetheart and just quirky enough to throw off the perfect momentum and rhythm of a family of four.

I obviously have a painfully short memory as I recently adopted a third dog after succumbing to the charms of a photo sent into the paper by the Animatch dog adoption organization.

“Oh, my heart,” I answered the foster mom.

“I know,” she responded.

“No way,” said my husband later that evening as I described the small Chihuahua whose owner had recently passed away. ‘Sadie’ has a bizarre affliction in that her mouth hangs permanently open, leading her to have an expression of perpetual awe.

“She’s only 10 pounds,” I reasoned. “You won’t even notice her.”

I was wrong.

I’ve come to the conclusion that every dog gets the same amount of personality but big dogs are better able to fit it...

October 3, 2019

PHOTO COURTESY WIKIPEDIA

There’s something in the air… maybe it’s the knowledge that the federal election is loudly approaching coupled with the fact that approximately half a million people – 200,000 more than expected – took part in last Friday’s Climate Change march in Montreal.

Either way, it’s an invitation for the fringe-dwelling conspiracy theorists to put down their crayons and try and espouse their paranoid views through local media outlets. I have a ‘special’ folder for these types of emails.

Now I won’t use their names but will share some of the ideologies expressed if for no other reason that we can better understand evolution and cognitive dissidence.

Greta Thunberg has started a movement that, for whatever reason, makes some people uncomfortable enough to allege she’s a manufactured puppet speaking for climate change alarmists who are seeking financial and political control. Uh-huh.

The internet abounds with memes mercilessly targeting this young climate activist and the fact...

September 19, 2019

Years of traipsing around various events with three little boys in tow has taught hubby and I a thing or two about how to mitigate the high price tag associated with feeding a family of five while away from the house. Not easy but doable if you’re prepared to be a little creative.

Of course, bringing your own sandwiches along is a no-brainer until you encounter the amusement park attendee who tells you outside food isn’t allowed inside the park and you’ll have to rent a locker to check your cooler. At which point you say, “No problem,” check in an empty cooler and hide your picnic lunch in the diaper bag. No teenager making minimum wage at an amusement park is gonna go above and beyond his or her pay scale to earn points from a disengaged manager whose mandate it is to sell overpriced pizza and soda.

On the requisite Canadian pilgrimage to Niagara Falls about 15 years ago, we stayed at a hotel that offered a breakfast buffet. Now, these good people just didn’t understand who they were de...

September 5, 2019

Our kids are expected to do well in school, to get good grades, participate, be kind to one another, etc. It’s all part of the master plan whose seed is implanted in kindergarten and fed throughout elementary and most of high school. By the time they make it to college, some kids may have grasped the notion of critical thinking and the fact that some, if not much, of what they learned in school was either outdated, biased, open to interpretation, or – in some cases – just plain wrong.

Seeing three kids through the public school system has given hubby and I a combined total of roughly 36 years’ experience in trying to comprehend the logic of some school board decisions.

We’ve butted heads over policy decisions that saw school libraries close, unilingual Anglophones teaching French immersion, and disruptive transfers of existing students to lesser populated – but geographically further – schools.

We’ve seen top-heavy administration and scandal-plagued shenanigans at the board level.

And to a...

August 23, 2019

PHOTO COURTESY UNSPLASH

There was an undeniable smell of vinegar when I started my car the other day. Figuring my husband had been fiddling with the engine or something, I ignored it. Only when I asked him about it later did I discover he had no idea what I was talking about.

A quick search on The Google indicated I likely had mould build-up in my car’s ducts due to having the air-conditioning continually on full blast to combat the cloying sticky mass of ooze that’s been our summer thus far leading to condensation on the coils. Or something. The Google also suggested it could be remedied with a can of vent and duct cleaner leading to the awareness that there’s one more thing in my life I never realized needed cleaning.

I’m pretty good at most household cleaning things. I can get virtually any laundry stain out and have found multiple household items that can be tossed either into the washing machine or the dishwasher. I even regularly clean the home air conditioner vents.

But ignorance is...

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