It’s a small world, and I love you all.

Today, I want to say “thank you” for stopping by to read my blog… not just for stopping by right now, when you’re reading this, but for every day that you come here. Thank you to all of you.

Yesterday, I dug deeper into my stats, just out of curiosity: where in the world are you reading from these days?

The list of countries is humbling. (Note: I can only see countries. I don’t have a sophisticated stat counter that breaks it down to regions and provinces and states and cities and what have you.)

My first post appeared in this blog at the end of 2012. By the end of 2014, you, as a group, represented 96 different countries. By the end of 2015, you represented 106 countries. I can’t say how many countries you represented by the end of 2016 because WordPress didn’t produce annual blog summaries for that year (if they did, I didn’t receive one), but I’m guessing the number would’ve been higher yet… because now, mid-way through 2017, my statistic report says that you’ve come here from 150 different countries. And this kind of blows my mind. Some of you visit from countries that didn’t even exist when I was born.

So if you’re reading this… thank you, wherever you may be in the world. Ideally, I’d say “thank you” in all of your languages; instead, I’m sending serious gratitude vibes to you in your specific countries.

I want to give an appreciative shout-out to you in…

(the countries as WordPress arranged them – in the order of most viewers on down):

United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, Germany, Norway, Brazil, Singapore, Spain, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, India, Indonesia, Italy, Sweden, Japan, Philippines, Austria, China, Ireland, Thailand, Taiwan, Finland, Mexico, Russia, Hong Kong SAR China, Switzerland, European Union, Portugal, South Korea, Belgium, Poland, South Africa, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Romania, Denmark, Chile, Argentina, Turkey, Isreal, Greece, United Arab Emirates, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Columbia, Sri Lanka, Croatia, Peru, Ukraine, Serbia, Qatar, Bulgaria, Egypt, Ghana, Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco, Slovenia, Lithuania, Jordan, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Estonia, Tanzania, Bermuda, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama, Luxembourg, Bangladesh, Algeria, Kuwait, Iceland, Nigeria, Slovakia, Dominican Republic, Cyprus, Iraq, Latvia, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mauritius, Brunei, Kenya, Macedonia, Jamaica, Honduras, Guam, Oman, El Salvador, Bahrain, Georgia, Bahamas, Réunion, Azerbaijan, Laos, Albania, Malta, U.S. Virgin Islands, Myanmar (Burma), Belarus, Ethiopia, Angola, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Guadeloupe, Uganda, Curaçao, Paraguay, Maldives, Mongolia, Åland Islands, Jersey, Syria, Nepal, Moldova, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Fiji, Mozambique, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Isle of Man, Uruguay, Liechtenstein, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Faroe Islands, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Martinique, Bhutan, Papua New Guinea, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Grenada, Aruba, New Caledonia, Cayman Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Guernsey, Siint Maarten, French Polynesia, and Montenegro.

Again, thank you. Your reading here means the world to me.

Here’s a relic from my childhood:

 

The Ginn World Atlas (California State Department of Education, Sacramento, 1967)

 

This atlas was intended for children. It could be called “My First Atlas” – ! It was published the year before I was born, and it was indeed my first atlas. The same atlas for a child today would look different, because our world is different.

When you think about it, our world is small. It’s amazing to me that now, in the digital age, we’re connected in a way that can be quantified (our energetic connection notwithstanding). We can see the extent of our connection, and that’s nothing short of awesome. It reminds us, for one thing, that we’re diverse and the same all at once. That whatever we’re in, we’re in it together.

Gratitude is a universal feeling, and my gratitude is bigger than I can express. It’s bigger than this small and fragile world.

Every morning, when I wake up, I reflect on all that I’m thankful to have, and that includes all of you who take the time to come here.

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Scrabble, Callaghan edition. (+ a favorite vintage commercial!)

Callaghan and I started playing Scrabble last week. Have you ever played Scrabble with an English as a Second Language (ESL) person?

It’s been fun! It’s been interesting and instructive, and it’s a great way for a non-native speaker to learn how to spell words in whatever version of Scrabble you’re playing. (I would love to have a French version.)

For instance, Callaghan’s first move was “ew,” which, according to Merriam-Webster’s (MW) Scrabble dictionary, isn’t playable. “Maybe because it’s an exclamation,” I speculated. He replied that “ew” is NOT an exclamation. It’s a female sheep. See? Now he knows how to spell “ewe.”

Then I put down “pantie,” which he challenged on the grounds that it ends with a ‘y’. MW said that both spellings were correct.

MW’s Scrabble dictionary is a great resource. We pulled it up on Callaghan’s phone so he could have it at his fingertips. He didn’t like that “pantie” came up on the page when he opened it from his bookmark, but that was easily fixed. He deleted the bookmark, entered a new word in the search field, and re-bookmarked it.

Now his dictionary opens up with “igottaewe.”

“Because I learned that a female sheep is a ‘ewe’,” he said, knowing that I was going to ask. “It’s generic.”

Of course!

We decided that we’ll disregard the challenge rule; we’ll both be able to consult our MW Scrabble dictionaries while playing.

The last time we played was Sunday, and he won.

 

The game I lost!

 

On a completely different awesome note, I was thrilled when a reader found this commercial and sent it to me a few days ago. Some of you may remember that I’d been looking for that one Charleston Chew commercial from the 70’s. Thanks to Dirk, here it is!

 

 

Callaghan thinks it’s hilarious, too… even more than I do, in fact. Because he’s French.

 

English Language Colloquial Expressions 101.

Nothing says “I hate my brain” quite like trying to explain English language colloquialisms to a non-native-English-speaking person. I suck at it, anyway.

You could probably spend your whole life learning a second language if you’re after facility with all of its informal expressions. Callaghan made his latest joyful discovery the other day when he wanted to know what’s meant when someone finishes a sentence with, “if I do say so myself,” because, of course, there’s no translation for that phrase in French.

The first time he asked about it – I don’t remember what we were talking about – he cut me off mid-sentence.

“But YOU did it, so why did you say ‘if I do say so myself’?”

I had to stop and think about it, which I’ve never had to do, like, ever.

Expressions can’t be nailed down because there’s usually no logic in such statements, right? After a few false starts, I finally said something to the effect of: “You say ‘if I do say so myself’ in a self-congratulatory context, like when you’re giving yourself credit for something, but you want to be humble about it. It shows that you’re aware that you’re congratulating yourself. A more literal way to put it would be, ‘…if I may be so bold as to display pride in (whatever I did)’.”

By then, I felt like I was babbling, but I forged on to offer an example: “Not a bad job for my first time building an IKEA executive desk, if I do say so myself.”

I felt that this should suffice, but then Callaghan demanded finer-tuned clarification. I was unable to oblige due to the sensation of my brain being beaten with a pointy stick, pointy end first.

“I can’t think of how to explain it better,” I said. “You’ll hear it the next time I say it naturally in conversation.”

Since then, he’s been practicing the phrase with great zeal, inserting it where he sees fit:

“That’s a beautiful-looking moon, if I do say so myself!”

“Very funny.”

“Hahaha!”

I have a lot of patience, I thought. If I do say so myself.

Another time, he proclaimed, “Nice is the most heinous city in the world, if I do say so myself.”

Whereupon I was like,

 

Consult an online English-language resource.

Consult an online English-language resource.

 

Later, he assured me that he was just joking when he said “if I do say so myself” about the moon. He said he said it on purpose, to be funny.

Then he told me that he’d had the hardest time learning the whole “Did not!” / “Did too!” argument little kids get into in the backseat of the car while their exasperated parents sitting in the front try to make the road trip a fun time.

“‘Did not / Did too’ made absolutely no sense to me,” he said. “There’s nothing like that in French.”

I was glad I wasn’t involved in that one.

Because “resolution” without the “re” is SOLUTION.

Like many people, when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I’ve been an on-and-off cynic most of my adult life. My birthday falls five days before New Year’s Day, though, so at some point, I finally thought, Why not turn my personal one-year-older goals into resolutions? Because what are birthdays if not opportunities for introspection and decision-making to move forward with new or refreshed goals, right? Or something like that (says my inner self-help guru to myself).

“Resolution” minus the “re” is “solution,” after all… and that stands out to me. I’m a fan of solutions.

As it turns out, I do well participating in the ritual of making New Year’s resolutions. It’s glorified goal-setting that could be undertaken on any random day, sure, but January 1 is as good a day as any, fanfare or no. If we don’t have the motivation to commit to a goal on any other day of the year, at least there’s that day!

“Goals” is a popular word right now, but I want to talk plainly about how there’s a difference between wanting to achieve goals and needing to achieve them. Resolutions, in my opinion, are goals that we need to achieve; we make them in order to reignite the mechanisms we have for growth, self-improvement, joie de vivre… whatever it is that we’re lacking, in whatever way it needs to manifest. Ultimate goals are things like contentment and productivity. Contentment and productivity are good. People who are content and productive are good for society, good for us all.

You might receive advice that’s actually detracting, usually coming from the hearts of well-intentioned loved ones. There’s the old “…but you have to WANT to do it,” which I think is psychobabble for “You have to feel that doing xyz is going to result in personal gratification, or it’s not worth the effort.” I don’t believe this. Some of my greater achievements in life resulted from goals that I needed to pursue, but I absolutely didn’t want to pursue them.

Quitting smoking, for instance. I smoked between the ages of 15 and 23. I only smoked for eight years, but addiction is addiction no matter how long you’ve had it.

I absolutely did not WANT to quit smoking. I loved smoking. Whenever I’d think about quitting, all I WANTED my next cigarette. When I finally committed to breaking the habit, I still didn’t want to. I did it because I knew that I needed to.

Quitting was every bit as excruciating as I thought it would be.

I quit cold turkey, and I never smoked another cigarette. That was 24 years ago. (I think I was successful in part because I suffered through the process without the aid of chemical replacements. This was pre-nicotine patch. There was nicotine gum, but I wasn’t attracted to that strategy.) Suffering for that victory, that solution to the problem of my compromised health, made me value my success even more. If at any point in my smoking cessation journey someone uttered those condescending words in my general direction – “You just have to WANT to quit!” – I would have had to bite my tongue REALLY HARD. I know why I’m quitting. It’s a decision that I made. I don’t need you to tell me that if I just WANT to quit, I’ll effortlessly break my addiction overnight and ride off on a unicorn into a field of flowers and happy little bunnies.

Overcoming addiction of any kind is never easy, no matter if someone WANTS to do it or not.

But I digress. My point is, make a resolution, for the New Year or on any other day. Think of it as going after a solution. Focus on seizing something that will change your life for the better if you capture it. You’re not just making a change (passive connotation). You’re taking action (aggressive connotation). So be aggressive in tackling your resolution. Be a New Year’s resolution badass. Go for it.

Another thing people commonly say: “Do it for yourself. If you do it for someone else, you won’t succeed.” Again, I disagree. I mean, I don’t think this is always the case.

Last year, my main New Year’s resolution was to go cruelty-free… for Ronnie James, my feline fur-child. As Callaghan and I tried desperately to save his life, I told the Wrah-Wrah that I’d make every effort to avoid purchasing and using personal care products and cosmetics made by companies who engage in animal cruelty practices. (Granted, this wasn’t difficult, as I’d already been boycotting a couple of big-name brands for years to avoid contributing to their human rights violations. Boycotting companies that test on animals wasn’t a far stretch from that.)

I did it for Ronnie James. He died five months into the year, but I’m still doing it. For him. For all animals, but first and foremost for him. And doing it for him has kept me motivated to stick to my resolution more than I would were I just “doing it for myself.” In a strange sense I can’t really explain, the act of consciously and continuously striving to remove myself from the cycle of animal suffering at human hands keeps Ronnie James alive.

This strategy of goal-planning works for me, anyway. Everyone is different, but it might work for you, too. It would be worth trying! Dedicate your resolution to someone who deeply matters to you. Make them a promise you won’t want to break, and you might find that it’s easier to stick to your efforts.

This brings me to Resolutionary Road, 2016! I have more than one resolution. Here’s my list:

1). Get more sleep on a regular basis.

2). Improve my French (conversation).

3). Commit to strength-training.

Getting more sleep was my secondary resolution in 2015. Since I failed completely, it’s at the top of my 2016 list. I really, really need to get more sleep. Here, again, is the difference between wants and needs: I don’t WANT to get more sleep. I WANT the opposite… I want more hours in the day. I want to stay up until 3:00am, because for some reason, I’m often possessed by a rush of creative energy at around 11:00pm every night, and I’m afraid that if I don’t utilize it, I’ll squander it. But more sleep is an absolute necessity for my health, so this year, I’m going to try to shut everything down at 10:00pm so I can be in bed by 10:30pm. I get up at 5:30am on weekdays, so this would give me seven hours of sleep IF I fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow. (Which never happens. But nearly seven hours of sleep would be a great improvement over the four-five hours I typically get.)

I dedicate this resolution to Mom, who always worries that I don’t sleep enough. I don’t want her to worry about me for any reason, because worrying is detrimental to her health.

For my second resolution, improving my French conversation, I simply need to speak more French. I have a bad habit of answering Callaghan in English when he speaks to me in French. The divide between my comprehension level and speaking level is now so great that it’s ridiculous! I have no excuses. I just need to speak it more; that’s the only way I’m going to improve.

I dedicate this resolution to Callaghan, obviously!

As for strength-training, I need to make that a regular part of my workout routine. I’m not weak, but I would feel better in a stronger body. Doing pull-ups in my home office doorway every once in a while isn’t sufficient, and shadow-boxing with dumbbells isn’t cutting it, either. We have heavier dumbbells, so I need to start using them.

I dedicate this resolution to Ming, my best friend who died suddenly in 2003. Ming was one of my Tae Kwan Do instructors, and as friends, we developed a brother-sister bond that made him a member of my family. Ming was an extremely talented martial arts athlete, and his work ethic in the do-jang inspires me to this day. Improving my strength so I can be a better martial artist is my tribute to him.

 

Ming and me, 1996

Ming and me, 1996

 

Happy Resolutioning, if you do it!

Good-Bye, Chili Pete!

Callaghan finally changed his name on Facebook. His old Facebook name had been an inside joke between us, but the joke didn’t translate well in French (I’ve written about this before… people in France thought that his name was “Chili Farts”), and he’d wavered between keeping it and changing it because on the one hand, he liked it despite the confusion on the Gallic side, and on the other hand, who wants to be called Chili Farts?

He finally decided to change his name after conversing with one of his cousins in France. He ended the phone call and shuffled into the kitchen looking mildly perturbed.

“Once again,” he said, sighing and laughing at the same time.

“What?”

“Ambre just asked me why my name on Facebook is ‘Chili Pète’,” he said. “I told her that it’s not ‘Chili Pète.’ It’s ‘Chili Pete’.”

Ambre is his cousin’s daughter. Their family had visited with us for a few days in August. And language is an interesting thing. “Pète” and “Pete” are spelled the same, but that little accent above the first ‘e’ makes the critical difference between a bodily function and a boy’s name.

I’m guilty of omitting the accents in my French writing online because I’ve yet to memorize the alt codes for the different ones, and I’m too rushed to look them up. (I know, I know!) In such cases, the French usually visualize the accents where they should be, since they know the word, itself.

Because that’s what people naturally do when they recognize a word, but it’s missing its accent. They assume the accent.

The French don’t readily associate “Pete” with a name, though, being that it’s short for “Peter” – their counterpart to “Peter” is “Pierre” – but they recognize the word. So when they see it, they visualize its accent: “Pète.”

“The French all pronounce it like that,” he said. “Chili Pète.”

And so he changed it. I changed mine, too, since my fake Facebook name made a matched set with “Chili Pete.” We decided on a new set of inside-joke fake Facebook names with equal (if not better) amusement value.

 

Meet Jack Chirac.

 

The moral of this story is that when your social media audience of friends and family encompasses groups of people who speak different languages, interesting things can happen. Stuff gets lost in translation. Your French-speaking friends will mispronounce your name and you won’t even realize it because you’re bilingual with dual citizenship and you’ve spent years in the States, so “Pete” is self-explanatory to you. It’s all fun and games until the hundredth person asks you why your name is “Chili Farts.”

Nenette – Nounours’ 4th of July kitty

We suddenly have a little girl kitty. To put it more precisely, Nounours suddenly has a new little sister.

We knew we’d eventually have to adopt another cat for Nounours, but if the deciding criteria was going to be me being emotionally ready, I couldn’t see it happening, ever. Losing Ronnie James left an open wound with tattered edges in my heart, and the idea of putting something there seemed excruciating.

But on the other hand, it’s been upsetting to see Nounours so distraught. Nounours would seem okay one minute, then desolate the next. He’d start crying, and we’d rush into the bedroom to discover him rubbing his head on Ronnie James’ urn. Or, on the occasions I’d leave Ronnie James’ urn up on his favorite barstool in the bedroom, Nounours’ yowling-crying would summon us to find him standing on the bed, mournfully facing the urn as if it were an unreachable island barely visible across a vast sea. We’d set the urn back on the foot of the bed, and Nounours would snuggle up to it, quieting down immediately.

We didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know how to help Nounours. It got to a point where we started talking more seriously about adopting another sibling for him. I was starting to realize that my own reticence wasn’t fair to Nounours, who had never been an only cat. He was lonely and missing his Wrah-Wrah as much as I was.

Things happened quickly from there.

Saturday morning, the 4th of July, we had the conversation again as we headed to the gym, Callaghan and I. “I’d definitely want to get a girl,” I said, echoing sentiments I’d previously expressed. I thought that a girl kitty would feel less like a Ronnie James replacement; moreover, it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring a strange Tomcat into Nounours’ territory. Callaghan agreed.

So we knew we wanted a girl. We also knew that we wanted her to be a full-grown adult, but one who was younger than 10-year-old Nounours. Nounours has a generous maternal streak, and we thought that allowing him to indulge it would help him to feel less lonely. It seemed that a slightly younger kitty would be a good fit for lovable, cozy Nounours and his penchant for cuddling. “Five at the youngest,” I thought out loud. “Maybe five or six….” Callaghan thought this would be ideal, as well.

But again, we shelved the conversation without making a decision. We got to the gym and went to Body Combat.

Not two hours later, we found ourselves peering into a clear Plexiglas case at PetSmart, where we’d stopped to get more treats for Nounours. Inside the case was a little girl whose tag read that she was six years old. (But she was so small!) Her tag also told us that she’s an Abyssinian/Manx mix. The Abyssinian part explained her beautiful, dark-golden ticked coat. The Manx part explained her lack of a tail.

She looked so sweet and sad. As we held her gaze, her waves of loneliness cut through the Plexiglas to touch us. We learned that she’d belonged to family who’d “run into hard times.” They were being evicted, so they surrendered her to the shelter. She’d been at the shelter for over a month.

When we left PetSmart, my heart had been replaced with a ball of mixed emotions, which I promptly expressed on Facebook. Some of my friends – you know who you are! – were so encouraging and supportive and wonderful, commenting and texting me. The conundrum was that (in accordance with policy) the adoption folks wouldn’t hold her for us for even half a day, even if we paid the fee; if we wanted to adopt her, we had to make the decision and do it tout de suite. It would have to happen quickly, lest someone else swoop in and adopt her!

We went back.

We changed her name. It was funny how we arrived at it: I suggested “Nenette” – we both wanted a French name – and Callaghan replied with, “My Godmother’s name was Nenette!” I hadn’t known that. (Also, we found out later when talking to Maman, Callaghan’s Mom, that “Nenette” had been slang for “chick” in France back in the 60’s and 70’s.) We both loved the name, and it suited the little girl. Nounours et Nenette. We purchased a nametag and fed it to the engraving machine at the front of the store before leaving.

 

She already knows her new name.

She already knows her new name.

 

At home later that evening, we sat in the living room and watched as Nenette explored her new forever home.

Here’s one of the first pics I took of her:

 

Part-Abyssinian, part Manx, Nenette has no tail (a characteristic of the latter).

Part-Abyssinian, part Manx, Nenette has no tail (a characteristic of the latter).

 

Sometimes, the way she moves her head reminds me, comically, of a velociraptor à la Jurassic World, and I want to call her “Blue,” my favorite (kick-ass female) character in that movie. Other times, her shy expression reminds me of Princess Diana, and I want to call her “Lady Di.”

 

Nenette on the small round ottoman in the bedroom (7/6/2015)

Nenette on the small round ottoman in the bedroom (7/6/2015)

 

Her shy expressions remind me so much of Princess Diana!

Her shy expressions remind me so much of Princess Diana!

 

As I post this, Nenette has only been here for about 60 hours, so she’s still getting acclimated to her new home and to the three of us. Nounours started showing interest in her within 24 hours, but his tentative approaches drew soft hissing. Nenette will need some time to develop trust and confidence. We suspect that she’d been either neglected or otherwise mistreated in her past situation(s).

 

Nenette has the uniform, ticked coat of the Abyssinian, with velvety soft fur.

Nenette has the uniform, ticked coat of the Abyssinian, with velvety soft fur.

 

She’s as much an Abyssinian/Manx mix in her personality as she is in her appearance. She’s talkative, but her conversational voice is soft and extremely feminine, and I do mean girly-girl-level feminine, with her quiet mewing and trilling sounds. At the other end of the spectrum, we never heard a cat yowl as loudly as she did in the carrier coming home from the shelter! It was funny to think that such a sound could come from this tiny, adorable little being. This kitty has quite the vocal range. She loves the scratch pads we have all over the house, even though she’d been declawed (to our horror). We’ve also observed that she’s intelligent, inquisitive and playful… and she’s quite skittish. When people come over, she disappears beneath furniture whether the visitors ring the doorbell or not. But overall, she seems to be adapting quickly.

 

We thought this pink heart tag said "Nenette" even before we engraved it, so it was the obvious choice.

We thought this pink heart tag said “Nenette” even before we engraved it, so it was the obvious choice.

 

As of yesterday, she and Nounours have been on nose-touching terms. Those brief touches are a magical balm for Nounours, as he seems to be more at peace now than before we adopted Nenette. We’re looking forward to the day we find him nurturing her!

I wanted to capture an image of Nounours and Nenette together, but it’s too soon for such an opportunity. Last night, when I went into the bedroom to take a picture of Nounours by himself, I found him like this, as usual:

 

Nounours still missing his Wrah-Wrah dearly.

Nounours still missing his Wrah-Wrah dearly.

 

Wrah-Wrah will always be with us, and I like to think that Nenette understands that she has two big brothers to adore her. We love her, too. Nenette has been a blessing for us all. The only promise we can make to her is that she’ll be unconditionally loved for the rest of her life.

Lost in Translation: L’Etat des Restos de Montréal.

Have you ever experienced an amusing “lost in translation” moment?

Let me preface mine with the assertion that I’m NOT making fun of Callaghan’s French accent. Honestly, I don’t even notice his accent most of the time, especially since some of our French friends’ accents are so thick that Callaghan’s is comparatively nonexistent (to my ears, at least). But there are times, usually when we’re with other people, when I realize that, yes, he does have an accent. Someone might ask him to repeat something, for instance, or something he says might be misinterpreted. This was the case when we went to my friend’s wedding last month.

We were sitting at a table with a few of my co-workers, as the bride was a friend from work. Callaghan wasn’t the only one with a foreign accent… we also had accents from Australia, Germany, and Ethiopia at our table. Such is the beauty of the States, right? So anyway, as conversation flowed lightly along, Callaghan mentioned that he’d heard about a new law up in Montréal. (It’s not uncommon for Montréal to come up in conversations with work friends, since our department maintains a strong historical, collaborative relationship with our Director’s former unit up there. It’s like our sister unit.)

“Apparently, in Montréal, they passed a law,” Callaghan told us. “Now it is illegal for a terrace to be across the street from a restaurant.”

Maybe it was the abruptness of his announcement that threw us off, along with the strangeness of the news and the quirkiness of his English as a Second Language syntax thrown into the mix… or maybe it was his pronunciation. Probably, it was a combination of all of the above that resulted in momentary confusion. On my part, while I thought I understood what he’d said, I was hesitant to believe it. Others at the table either didn’t hear him, didn’t understand him, or couldn’t grasp what he’d said. What ensued was a bombardment of demands for a repeat of the statement. We all needed clarification.

“Terraces can’t be across the street from restaurants in Montréal anymore,” Callaghan said.

There was a pause, and then, at the same time someone exclaimed, “I thought he said ‘terrorist’!” another person blurted, “WHAT? Montréal passed a law making it illegal for TERRORISTS to be across the street from a restaurant?”

Cue hilarity.

“No more terrorists across the street from restaurants in Montréal!!” exclaimed Callaghan. The rest of us were cracking up along with him.

“Calling all terrorists! You can no longer be across the street from a restaurant!” One guy boomed to an imaginary crowd of terrorists clamoring to get across the street from a restaurant in Montréal.

We couldn’t stop laughing, none of us, including me, and that was a blessing.

Because the date was May 16, and my beloved Wrah-Wrah hadn’t even been gone for 48 hours. When Callaghan and I walked into that wedding an hour earlier, I was in the worst possible place mentally and emotionally, utterly devastated and absolutely not in the mood to go anywhere or see anyone… but I wasn’t about to miss my friend’s wedding. She and I had been talking excitedly about her big day for a year, and there was no way I was going to fail to show up!

To complicate things further, Wrah-Wrah’s ashes had been brought to our door as we were getting ready for the wedding, so minutes before leaving, I was standing in the middle of the living room with his little urn held close to my heart, thinking, How am I going to get through a social event right now?

The answer was in the question. It was the social event that got me through the rest of the day, and that absurd and perversely funny “lost in translation” episode was a big part of it. I found myself reflecting on the keen truth of the cliché that laughter is the best medicine. A few moments of bubbling mirth that evening had granted me a much-needed respite from emotional pain, if only fleetingly.

It was also a blessing to be able to sideline my grief while focusing on the celebration of someone else’s pivotal life event, and sharing the experience with a fun group of people helped tremendously. I mean, it’s impossible to not smile and laugh while holding hands with others and running through the room during the Mexican wedding dance, let me tell you! Mexican weddings are good fun, and it was just a joy to see my friend looking so radiant and happy.

And what of that strange new law in Montréal? It turns out that Callaghan wasn’t remembering it correctly, anyway… the crux of the law is actually the space on the sidewalk between the terrace and the street, which Montréal says should be a meter and a half to allow for wheelchair passage. We had a case of a telephone game mix-up merging with linguistic misinterpretations! And that’s how you get from wheelchair sidewalk access to “no terrorists allowed in front of restaurants in Montréal.” Human communications can be a riot when there’s a glitch in the lines.

Speaking of terraces, Callaghan (being French) refers to our back patio as a terrace (la terrasse); the other day, we rearranged our small signage collection out there and hung our handy zombie warning sign prominently in the center of the main wall (with a nod to my zombie experience last week):

 

It should say, "TERRASSE INTERDITE AUX ZOMBIES" (NO ZOMBIES ALLOWED ON THE TERRACE)

It should say, “TERRASSE INTERDITE AUX ZOMBIES” (NO ZOMBIES ALLOWED ON THE TERRACE)

 

Like this:

 

To match the "NO DOGS ALLOWED ON THE GRASS" sign beneath it.

To match the “NO DOGS ALLOWED ON THE GRASS” sign beneath it.

 

I’ve always enjoyed this sign, but I have a whole new appreciation for it now.