I am still feeling a little despondent after the sudden death  of my hubby. Some friends of Pickle Lily fame, also on their own who are featured in “Why Me? -a memoir “planned a four day trip to Chicago. They insisted that I go. I refused at first but at the insistence of family and friends I consented. I am glad that I did. Pickled Lilies-Helena, Candy and myself  { Ellen } were joined by a friend Eden whose husband urged her to  join us. We took a taxi to the airport Friday morning October 17 after being bid farewell by the Lily with the broken bone and Eden’s husband.

After getting through the muddle of printing boarding passes, we lined up for customs. Our purses passed through without incidence except for Candy’s. Her nail clippers that she wasn’t even aware were in her purse were confiscated. We passed through the scanner without incidence except for Candy. She beeped and beeped and beeped some more. Our friend has guts. When she was asked to remove her bracelet she politely declined explaining that she wouldn’t be able to get it on again. They acquiesced to her wishes and waved her on. We had a mediocre breakfast at the airport. I accidentally drank Helena’s tea. I thought it was a bad cup of coffee.

After a very short flight we landed in Chicago. We checked into our well chosen accommodation, the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Waker street, an extremely majestic centrally located hotel with a magnificent view of the Chicago River and some of the buildings of architectural fame that Chicago is known for. Candy and Eden shared a room and Helena and I bunked in together. Two rooms were not available on the same floor. Perhaps because we are seniors or perhaps because we are cute and personable {and modest} they upgraded our two rooms so at least we would be in the same tower.

The day started out sunny. We didn’t want to waste time or the nice weather so we headed out before unpacking. We walked towards the pier and descended down three steep metal flights of stairs to the Chicago River. We purchased tickets for the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise due to depart at 3:30. We had time for lunch so we trudged up the stairs and walked a few  blocks–actually it was a few more than a few blocks to Lou Mainatis Pizzeria that boasts it serves the best Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. Those of us not Gluten intolerant ordered deep dish pizza and I had a salad.

We walked back to the boat. It was getting cold and the clouds were getting darker. Once again we descended the three flights of stairs. Rain was in the air and it eventually started to sprinkle and it was windy. The inclement damp weather didn’t dampen our spirits and we loved the narrative and cruise run by volunteers from the Architectural Foundation. We learned a lot about Chicago that was founded in 1837 and soon became the transportation hub for the nation.. The Chicago fire of 1871 started on a farm and caused massive devastation. In the years following this disaster many of the  worlds skyscrapers were designed and built in Chicago. The new and historic buildings blend and complement each other to form a unique Chicago collage.       Originally the river flowed into Lake Michigan, polluting the lake from sewage from the river. This was a problem because the lake was the source of drinking water for Chicago. In 1900 the flow of the river was reversed. This was accomplished by creating a canal deeper than the river. Gravity pulled the water into it and ultimately into  the Mississippi River thus reversing the natural flow and keeping the lake water pure.

A historic event took place on  the day of our tour. A barge had sunk, partially obstructing traffic on the river. a solution was being sought on how to remove the barge. Constant renovations and new  construction takes place daily along the shores. However any industrial or fishy smells is masked by the delicious aroma of chocolate emanating from a chocolate facility on the river manufacturing chocolate to sell to chocolate factories.

At the conclusion of the boat tour four bundled up and wet bedraggled ladies trudged up once again the three flights of stairs to street level. We were huffing and puffing and had to lean against the wall to catch our breath. We watched the others climb up. Nobody was breathless. They were much younger than us. This was a sobering moment. We were not as agile as we once were. We were getting old. To console ourselves and still savouring the the chocolate aroma coming from the river, we went back to the hotel, had a hot chocolate and played a few hands of bridge.

Dinner that evening was in the Harvest room of the hotel. It was Friday night . We ordered Chicken soup that the restaurant is known for and every bit as good as Grandma used to make. We slept so well that night and subsequent nights that nobody knew if anybody snored.

Saturday we decided to have breakfast at a Corner Bakery, a highly recommended restaurant chain specializing in breakfast and lunch. On our way we were surprised that our way was blocked because of  a street closure between 9:30 and 10:00 due to a helicopter lift. It was an interesting sight to see the helicopter  hover in the air, and descend  to pick up heavy concrete blocks to be lifted to the rooftop of a building undergoing renovations. Chicago police were present to help direct traffic. Breakfast was definitely worth the wait. Candy and Helena saved the table while Eden and I went to the counter to order. I guess they didn’t trust me to order because they told Eden what they wanted. She ordered the wrong thing for them. They didn’t tell her until much later. I think they thought they would seek revenge by messing up her order the next day.

We walked after breakfast and marvelled at the sight of the buildings, from a different perspective than we had seen from the boat. The landscaping outside the buildings and boulevards were magnificent to behold. The vibrant coloured  fall flowers and foliage were meticulously maintained. Then there was the street art–sculptures and paintings by famous artisans; Caulder, Picasso, Chagall. Outside the Board of Trade building were two sculptures. One represented  the harvest and agricultural side of Chicago and the other the industrial and business side. Eden noticed that the industrial sculpture was situated right next to a MacDonalds. Coincidence?

We became aware that this weekend  was OPEN HOUSE CHICAGO sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. This was the weekend to get free behind the scenes access to 150 buildings across the city. What to Do ? Where to Go? We noticed we were outside the visitor centre and decided to go in. The guide was most helpful . She directed us to two Tiffany glass ceilings housed in the building on higher floors. Some people were lying on the floor taking pictures with their cameras and phones. We knew we couldn’t do this because we would never get up. A young woman accompanied by her mother offered to take a picture of the four of us. We handed her four cell phones. Later in the day, while we were sitting and eating dinner , two ladies came up to our table and said “Would you like your Picture taken? “ it was our photographer and her mother. We had a chuckle.

We left  the visitor centre and we continued on our self directed tour. We meandered into the Willis Tower, formally the Sears tower. It was a two hour wait in line to visit the sky deck and sky deck ledges –Glass balconies with glass floors 103 stories up . We  didn’t wait. I was kind of glad. I don’t think I would have gone out to the glass ledge. Glass can break. Instead we we took an elevator to the 66th floor and walked up a flight of stairs to the 67th floor. Our ears popped. We were afforded a beautiful view of the new shore line. The Metropolitan club is housed here. We would have had a drink but the bar was closed. Instead we sat at the bar and toasted each other and took touristy pictures. The interiors of the buildings are just as impressive as their exteriors. We visited the Federal Reseve Bank and Union Station which looked like Toronto Union station. Candy beeped her way through security at most of the stops.

That night we dined at Eataly, a fun place to shop and dine.We walked back to the hotel over the bridge and admired the Trump tower at night and other lit up buildings.

The next day after breakfast we parted ways. Candy and Eden hopped on a train and took a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s house and the exterior of other houses that he had designed. Even though it is rumoured that he wasn’t a very nice person , his work was remarkable. They loved their day, both the tours and the roundtrip train ride. Next time I am in Chicago that will be one of the first things that I do.

Helena and I chose a less structured day.Toronto has Moose. Chicago has Horses .Each beautifully decorated and painted life size horse is in memory of a Chicago policeman who was murdered in the line of duty. Eventually each  horse is  auctioned off. We walked to Navy Pier. It is in the process of renovation and promises to be quite magnificent when complete. Next stop was Miracle Mile. I purchased a pair of boots and Helena bought a magnificent sweater. We used Macy discount cards that we had conveniently received in the mail just prior to coming to this great city. We were enthralled with Macy’s ceiling – the largest Tiffany mosaic glass dome ceiling of its kind in the world. All the stores we were in had magnificent interiors,  even Walmart.

We left miracle Mile late afternoon to return to the Hyatt Regency to meet the other half of our group and  to ready ourselves for that evenings activity. Eden had arranged a dinner and Second City package recommended by her son. We dinned at Perennial Virant -a gourmet restaurant in the  truest sense of the word. We walked over to the Second City theatre and laughed like a Chicagoan.

The day of departure arrived all too soon We checked out and left our luggage with the bellboy. We ate a quick breakfast, visited Millennium park, admired the outdoor theatre, saw the Bean and took photos of ourselves reflected in the Bean. Next stop was the Chicago Institute of Art. We participated in a guided tour featuring five pieces of modern art that related in some way  to the sense of touch. The remaining time we spent there was viewing impressionist art.

Our last stop before picking up our luggage and taking a taxi to the airport was to the Ralph Lauren restaurant situated in the Ralph Lauren store. It was a worthwhile stop. The food was well prepared and plentiful and they sure didn’t skimp on the alcohol in their alcoholic beverages.The dining room resembled an elegant English library. The highlight of our meal was a creme brûlée which we shared.

At the airport before our flight we spent the time searching in pockets and purses for missing things like keys, boarding passes ,gloves etc. These items were all eventually found only to be lost again in a different pocket or hiding at the bottom of one’s  purse.

In Toronto we went through customs and had to fill out a questionnaire. One of the questions was “Have you originally visited an Ebola stricken centre?” Eden mistakenly checked yes instead of no. Luckily she caught and corrupted her mistake and wasn’t thrown into quarantine.

It was a wonderful trip . We all fell in love with Chicago.


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Healthcare Facility, medical billing collection Agency, D and me

Last March my husband and I were in Florida. D visited an emergency room for a non life threatening medical issue. Incidentally he received excellent care. When his treatment was finished and it came time to settle financially with the hospital, a self pay package was chosen. Although we did have out of country insurance our deductible was very large and the paper work for  both us  and the hospital would be formidable. We paid the hospital directly and we were given a statement that indicated we had paid and that there was  a zero balance.

A few weeks later we returned to Toronto Canada, and unfortunately a few weeks after that  D passed away from a sudden  coronary event. In the weeks and months that followed I was dealing with my grief and the unbelievable amount of paper work associated with getting things in order. I barely took note of the bill that came from a medical collection agency Saying D owed just under $500 for the  medical treatment he received. After the second bill arrived I couldn’t ignore it any longer and I called the agency. I gave them the information from the hospital statement I had and they said they would check into it. Two weeks later another bill arrived in the mail. Again I called the agency. This time I spoke to a polite young man who assured me he would contact the hospital and get back to me in a couple of days. He didn’t. Instead another notification arrived stating the balance was my responsibility and to please remit payment in full. These words were highlighted in yellow. An accountant friend of mine told me that it was important to resolve the matter–if not I could get a bad credit rating and my credit cards could be cancelled. What to Do?

I phoned again to the collection agency and spoke to yet another person. Again I told my tale of woe and again they said they would check. I decided not to wait for them to check once again and instead I phoned the hospital.I spoke to a woman at the accounts office. I gave the particulars and she checked and said she had the same information that I had. She said she would send me another copy. I said I didn’t want another copy , but would she please  just confirm that their records  showed we had paid and that there  was a nil balance.She said she couldn’t do that and repeated she would send me  a duplicate statement. I must have started yelling because she hung up on me.I called back and this time a man answered He confirmed that the account was paid in full. I asked if he could call the medical billing company and give them that information. He said “What billing company? “ I gave him the name and he said that he never heard of them. He asked me who hired them. I said that it certainly was not me. He suggested it might be a scam or possibly fraud.

I phoned the collection agency for the umpteenth time and shared the conversation that had transpired between me and the hospital. The employee got quite defensive and said it was the hospital that hired them. She told me to wait on the line.I waited and waited until finally the phone went dead. I called back.The lady gave me heck for not waiting on the line. She said she was calling the head office of the hospital. She put me on the conference call and finally it was confirmed to the  agency that there was no balance owing on the account.  I didn’t get any apologies  but when I asked  if this meant there would be no more bills, she said that is right. We will see.

I would be interested to hear if any other bloggers experienced anything like this. Now that I have written this blog ,I feel like a weight  has been lifted off of my shoulders  and that my blood pressure which probably went sky high from stress has dropped back to normal.

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“ A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES”  is a recently released movie directed by Scott Frank, based on a novel by Lawrence Black. The movie stars Liam Neeson playing the role of Matt Scudder, an unlicensed  private detective who was once an ex cop and an alcoholic. He is hired by a drug lord to hunt down the perpetrators of his wife’s kidnapping and subsequent murder.

I am a fan of Liam Neeson. I was not disappointed in his acting. I thought  that all the characters played their roles well, including a young actor portraying a street child who has aspirations to be a detective and who bonds with the hero.

However despite having written the above, I can not recommend this movie. Watching a violent, grisly movie portraying blood and dismemberment of  women is not my idea of spending an enjoyable evening with friends. My companions felt the same way. Some were very incensed and felt the movie was degrading to women. Not a movie for ladies.

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The lazy days of summer have come to an end



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Nighttime Arrival At The Cottage


     I am at the cottage. I arrived at an unusual time for me. I motored with my daughter and son in law who live at the cottage. They were in Toronto for back to back meetings which they thought would end early evening. The meetings ended just before eleven. Not so, so bad. At night, especially on a Thursday there is usually light traffic and the weather was clear. We thought we would  make good time and arrive at our country abode around 12:30. This was not to be. I guess people were trying to get a head start on the long weekend, and traffic was heavy. Highway 400 was under major construction. Suddenly overhead signs appeared stating all lanes were closed. Whats an automobile to do?. Where could it go? It couldn’t turn around and unless it could sprout wings it couldn’t fly. We decided not to abandon the car. and sat in bumper to bumper traffic just inching along. Finally at Bradford a policeman directed vehicles off of the highway and back on again after a short detour through the town. We still can’t understand why on the eve of one of the busiest weekends of the year that they would decide to undertake such major construction.

By the time we reached Barrie, we were starving and stopped at an all night Sobies to stock up on snacks. The one lone cashier must have been lonely because she initiated conversation with us and we talked for a long time with this interresting grandmother. Her daughter had a baby at 16. Her mother insisted she finish high school while the family helped raise the child. The daughter not only finished high school but became a registered nurse and a mother to two more children with the same original partner. Her mother is very proud of her daughter. Her only regret  is that the daughter refuses to get married stating that times are different now, than when her mother was young. That it is.

When we arrived at our destination we stopped to admire the stars before going inside. The air was nippy and fall was definitely in the air. Once inside we were greeted by dogs and one sleepy daughter who awoke when we arrived. I fell asleep at 4:00 A. M. and slept until noon.  I slept through the commotion of young grandchildren waking and clamouring  for breakfast . I slept through the tantalizing  odours of a gourmet breakfast preparation by a daughter and son in law. I slept through the barking and roughhousing of the three grand dogs. I slept through the departure of family members going on a day excursion. I even slept later than my 19 year old grandson. I must be  getting younger. The last time I slept in to noon was when I was 16. 

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It has been  just over 3 months since D. left me. The hardest part for me is coming to terms with the fact that I am no longer a part of a We and that I am only a Me. I often say we are going to do this or we are going to do that. Then I remember . I correct myself and tears spring into my eyes. For numerous years we were a couple–we were a We. We did things together , we raised four children together– we weren’t always on the same wave length on child rearing , but I have to admit our offspring turned out pretty good.  We spoiled our grandchildren together. We laughed, I cried -he didn’t he wasn’t a crier I am. We argued, we shared a similar mischievous, somewhat perverted sense of humour and we faced the ups and downs of life together.

I miss that guy. Oh, how I miss that guy. When I see a senior couple walking hand in hand or talking and laughing together–It hurts . Oh how it hurts. I am not an envious person by nature. I am happy for them and for their happiness, but wish I could still have that happiness . When I am included in social get-togethers with our married friends, I am appreciative of the inclusion, and I try hard  not to feel like a fifth wheel. It isn’t easy even though they do their utmost to put me at ease.

The paper work has been exhausting. A simple name change request for a billing from a utility company can take forever. If I attempt to do it on the phone, I am put on hold for the next available operator. Sometimes I am disconnected. Sometimes they say they will phone back. They never do. Sometimes I am told  they cannot do anything until I  fax or mail the death certificate and documents to them showing that I am the executor of the estate. Sometimes I am told that they can’t do a change over the phone and I should go online to their website. Often when I do go on line their site is no longer available.

The  paper work is coming near the end. That is good and that is bad. Now that I have a little more time, there is more time to think and more time to cry.  When something reminds me of D. I still burst into tears. It doesn’t matter where I am. I still don’t have the patience to read. I used to cook. I don’t cook any more although I keep buying food for the fridge and freezer. I throw out a lot of food . What a waste. I am determined to change my ways. Some days I feel like my head is ready to explode. I have fog brain and can’t think. Stress is bad, and so is sadness.

A few word of advise. Keep things simple . Multiple gas cards, credit cards etc. are not necessary. Both partners in a marriage or relationship should know the financial goings on — how bills are paid and from where. Communicate with each other and most important enjoy and love each other and treat each day as this might be the last day of your life as you know it.


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Missing marriage licence needed after death of spouse

In Ontario, Canada before one is eligible to collect Canadian Pension benefits after the death of a spouse-one must fill out an application and submit the death certificate of the deceased as well as the marriage licence to the government. My dear D. passed away near the beginning of May,  just shy of our celebrating fifty years of marriage. Over those nearly fifty years many things got misplaced or lost. It didn’t help that a few years previous we had downsized from a house to a condo. Our marriage certificate was one of those things that couldn’t be found. I didn’t realize it couldn’t be found until I started to look for it.I looked high and low and low and high–in cupboards, and drawers and shelves, and in D’s office that I had closed and relocated to our living room, and in our locker room and in box’s stashed from sight under our bed. But alas, to no avail.  It had simply disappeared.

Finally my accountant { a family friend} advised that I should apply for a copy of the  document. This proved to be a lengthy time consuming process and one that involved, after contacting the correct government division, filling out a long application and paying a fee for this service. Once the application was received it took 15 business days to process which translated into a little over there weeks. Finally at last it arrived. It was mailed back to the government  and I breathed a sigh of relief . Ah- at last one more thing I could cross off  my list of multiple tasks to be done after the loss of a family member.

That afternoon I was in D’s den or man cave, looking for a spot to store some memorabilia that I had brought home from his office. I opened a cupboard. There were some books and a smallish  plastic storage container labeled business papers that I had not bothered to open.I  don’t know why, but I decided to open it that afternoon. There nestled among some ancient bank statements was the elusive marriage licence. “Why- Me ?”  I am still waiting to see if I will receive any benefits. I now plan to put our original marriage licence in a safe and accessible place to trigger cherished memories of our fifty years together.


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