Tuesday, October 13, 2020

‘Twas a long weekend devoid of fanfare or fantastic stories. Our “massive” family gathering involved my mother coming over so we could order Swiss Chalet’s festive special, only to dine on leftover sausage pizza because it took three and a half hours for the delivery to arrive. I wish that were a typo. We were not lacking stuff to do, of course – the calendar will always see to that. And as we roll into yet another week of weirdness at the mercy of a year that always seems to go for the throat, we reflect on all this fun:

Thanksgiving

We all know that American Thanksgiving is a centuries-old story of Europeans sitting down for a delightful feast with the Native Americans they’d wind up totally getting along with for the ensuing few hundred years. And we also know that Canadian Thanksgiving dates back only 63 years, and is seen as our non-religious, purely secular way of giving thanks for all the kick-ass things and people (and pets) we have going on in our lives right now.

But check out the original proclamation, issued by Governor General Vincent Massey back in 1957: “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” So no, this was not conceived as a purely secular holiday. How’s that for some weird Canadian trivia?

Our Thanksgivings have been predictably tame since the kids moved out. We aren’t big turkey eaters so we tend to gloss over that aspect and spend the day doing yard work and maybe taking a moment to contemplate all we’re thankful for. Yesterday was no exception. We were thankful it was a statutory holiday (it’s not in Atlantic Canada), and that we could relax and spend it together. We dove into those Swiss Chalet meals a day late, so we came close to the traditional dinner.

Close enough. It’s been a weird year. I think we can all collectively be glad it’s almost over.

National Kick Butt Day

Apparently this celebration has been going on since 2004, and somehow it hasn’t yet found its way onto commercial mainstream calendars yet. How could that be? Well, I have a theory…

My source for this day consists of a page featuring a stock photo of a guy making a triumphant fist while sitting at an office computer, suggesting he was ‘kicking butt’ in re-calibrating a database or de-fragrancing a spreadsheet or something. The page proceeds to tell us that this is a day when we are supposed to face down those hurdles in our lives and kick butt. So, it’s exactly what you’d think it is.

It occurred to me that these generic “go team” celebrations should probably be skipped moving forward. We have indulged in dozens of them this year, and we no longer have to stretch to the most repetitive and esoteric realms of suggested celebration to hit our target this year. But we found a way to make this applicable. Jodie had a test to take for her schooling. I told her she should either kick butt on the test, or I’d literally kick her in the butt. That way, no matter what happens we’d have this celebration covered. She kicked butt on the test. I had to take out my rage the old fashioned way, with video games and quiet seething.

It was a beautiful celebration.

National Vermont Day

Yes, we have been slipping on our National State Days, and it pains me to think there may be a couple of states we don’t get to visit on our culinary voyage around the United States. I tried to secure a certain bottled soda from North Carolina, but the one place in town that sold it hasn’t had it in stock for years. I tried to put together something for Rhode Island, but I may just put on a few Family Guy episodes for that one, since it’s tough to find good clams here right now. But Vermont? Vermont loves its maple syrup, and that’s something that’s easy to celebrate.

The Green Mountain State – inaccurately named, since if you removed all the trees and grass, the mountains would be rock-coloured, just like everywhere else – used to be a part of New France. This was when the French had high hopes they’d secure a good chunk of this continent for themselves. During the Revolutionary War, after the British had seized the land and while the Americans were trying to seize it for themselves, the Independent Vermont Republic was founded. They wound up abolishing slavery before any other state thought to do so. They also produced the first black university graduate, Alexander Twilight, in 1823. He became the first black state legislator, and the only one to serve in such a role before the Civil War. Neat.

Vermont, while at the bottom of the list for GDP among American states and territories, was also the first state to give a thumbs-up to same-sex civil unions back in 2000. That even beats out Canada. They also adopted greenhouse gas emissions controls in 2006, before most any other state. I mean, it’s not perfect – we should mention that many of its legislative policies in the early 20th century were based on eugenics, including a law that prohibited those “unfit” to marry. But overall it sounds like a great state, one I would absolutely love to visit. I’d also love to try its maple syrup. It’ll probably taste the same over blueberry pancakes, but that’s an experiment I’d be down for trying.

As for cool people to come from Vermont? Here’s the list: there’s Henry David Lee, creator of Lee Jeans (which we just learned last week still exists!), from somewhere unknown in Vermont, Sam Lloyd (the guy who played Ted on Scrubs, and who tragically passed away earlier this year) from Springfield, Elisha “Mr. Elevator” Otis, born in Halifax, Ernest Thompson, author of On Golden Pond, from Bellows Falls, Neko Case from Alexandria, and a whole heap of people I’ve either never heard of, or are Ted Bundy, who doesn’t deserve to be considered one of Vermont’s best accomplishments.

It’s a pretty state, whose flora was scored by Henry Mancini and whose air was cast from the winds of potential. Can’t wait to see it in person.

National Online Bank Day

Again, with no need to stretch to achieve our goal of more than 2,000 celebrations this year, we didn’t need to do this. First of all, it’s a celebration we’re supposed to honour on the second Monday in October, which is also a holiday every single year in both Canada and the US. So I guess it makes sense that we can still do our banking on this holiday, and that’s kind of cool I suppose. But who’s thinking of banking stuff on a day off?

We popped into our app and checked our balance yesterday. It wasn’t much to dance and party about, but then I’ve still got a broken foot so dancing is best avoided for me anyway. We online banked though. Mission accomplished.

Freethought Day / Freethought Month

The Salem Witch Trials effectively wrapped up on this date some gazillion years ago (to be honest, I feel like 2019 was a gazillion years ago at this point), and to commemorate that, this day was created. It’s a day for secularists to point to the absurdity of those trials and say hey, if we based our societal directives on common sense and logic, and not the belief that people (mostly women) were channeling crazy magic that offends our religious sensibilities, maybe we’d be a bit better off.

In California, where this movement appears to be at its strongest, it’s a day for atheists to demonstrate to their theist neighbours that they are also tuned into family, community, and all that togetherness and do-goodery that gets described as “the Christian thing to do” by those who have forgotten stuff like the Salem Witch Trials. They often have big events and gatherings (obviously not this year), and induct people into the some sort of Freethinkers Hall of Fame. Inductees include Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, George Orwell, Frank Zappa and Katharine Hepburn.

As a true disinterested atheist I don’t tend to indulge in any big event surrounding my lack of belief. I’m not a big atheism spokesperson, mainly because I’m not a there-is-no-God type of atheist, I’m more the type who doesn’t really believe there is one, but who is pretty sure that if there is, He/She will be okay with me simply living my life on my own, and trying to be a half-decent person.

But yesterday was the day to indulge in such discussions, and to explore the type of faith that focuses inward. I did some reading on the Freethought movement, and even reference On Golden Pond, Katharine Hepburn’s last Oscar-winning role, in today’s article. So I’d say I’ve done my part.

International Moment of Frustration Scream Day

A big ol’ thanks to Thomas and Ruth Roy for procuring yet another great idea for a deeply weird celebration. Apparently at 12:00 noon, Greenwich Mean Time, people walk outside and scream in frustration for 30 solid seconds, basking in the glorious endorphin rush that no doubt follows such a primal and visceral act. Unfortunately, 12:00 GMT would have been 3:00am Sunday night, and my scream of frustration would have been drowned out by the intense white noise of three dogs snoring on our bed.

I also didn’t feel that stepping into my backyard at any point yesterday and letting loose with a loud, sustained shriek was a good idea. I have neighbours, and some of them are considerate enough to have raced over to see what was wrong. I don’t need to put them through that. So I screamed in my house, channeling my frustration at my foot specifically, and its slow healing process that keeps me stuck in this cast and not able to walk my dogs. That frustration is real.

And it tied in gloriously with Thanksgiving, because I was deeply thankful that I could cross off another celebration with one concentrated yell.

National No Bra Day / Breast Cancer Awareness Month

We actually jumped the gun a bit on this one. It’s a celebration for today, but we jumped on it on the more logical day. Jodie didn’t have to leave the house yesterday, so ‘no bra’ was absolutely an option for her. Also for me, though I hardly ever leave the house now. Talk about tying yet another event into Thanksgiving, because I’m really grateful for that little ingredient in my life right now.

Actually, this day is meant to bring awareness to breast cancer, which is probably one of the best-known cancers out there. We’ve all seen the runs, the pink ribbons, and heard the story of Christina Applegate’s battle with the disease. We’ve also likely all known someone who was afflicted by it – in fact, if you only know one person who has dealt with breast cancer, you’re doing better than us.

But as much as we’re all aware of breast cancer, the ‘awareness’ aspect of this is still necessary. Women need reminders that being aware isn’t enough – regular mammograms and lump-checks are essential. Breast cancer is one of the most beatable cancers out there, but if you don’t get proactive to find it, you’ll be stacking the odds against your survival. And how shitty will you feel if you perish to a disease you could have potentially nabbed early just by taking care of yourself?

It may be often beatable, but breast cancer is no joke, and it’s no passive foe. Jodie did a self-check yesterday (I offered to help, but that was wisely rejected), and she assured me that she is on schedule with her regular check-ups. Wear a bra or don’t – but save those bra residents from their greatest enemy.

It turns out my listing of ‘today’ events yesterday actually encapsulated a lot of events that were supposed to take place today. Confused? You won’t be when you see all the fun stuff waiting for us on a Tuesday:

  • International Face Your Fears Day. Today my fears involve not snacking enough. Anyone believe that?
  • National M&M Day. Now we’re talking. I’ll conquer my fears with this.
  • Headspace Day. A day for taking care of one’s mental health. Since that’s a running theme this month, we might dive in.
  • Silly Sayings Day. You know what they say…
  • National Train Your Brain Day. My brain is always being trained for whatever it may encounter.
  • National Yorkshire Pudding Day. Doesn’t matter that I was a day off for this. I’m not baking it.
  • Treat Yo’Self Day. I’ll still wish I was out shopping with Tom Haverford and Donna for this one.
  • International Day for Failure. Today we get to fail. At long last.
  • International Suit Up Day. Wear a suit? On a work day? I hardly ever wear pants!

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