Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Summer days and green beans...

 August 10, 2022

Yesterday, after nearly two weeks of ick, the humidity finally broke here, thank goodness. Monday, late afternoon, it teemed outside briefly turning our street into a river. But instead of making things cooler, they just got exponentially more humid—to the point that David couldn’t really sit out on the porch for long, because it was too hard for him to breathe. It even rained again while he was out there. Our porch has a roof over it and we’ve been known to sit out in a torrential downpour, provided the wind doesn’t blow the wet onto us. So we tend to indulge ourselves, except on days that are so thick, the oxygen seems to hide.

Then, yesterday morning, it was cooler. David went out first thing in his shorts, and then came back into the house to put long pants and socks on. He said after the extreme heat of the last week or so, the 68 degrees Fahrenheit that felt like 70 was too cool for just sitting around in.

We had a good weekend, and on Sunday hosted David’s friend who came down from up north, to visit not only us, but others in the general area that he knows. He’d grown up in this part of the province and still has ties here. He and his son came for supper, and our daughter graciously grilled steaks and shrimps and foil wrapped potatoes. When the feast was done, all had happy tummies.

Because it was such a hot day on Sunday, we only had one item that we cooked in the house, and that was the fresh corn we got from our usual source, a farm about three miles north of town. And since we only let the vegetable dance in the boiling water for a very few minutes, the house didn’t get overly heated.

I do love summer, and I like “usual” hot days – into the eighties or nineties. Of course, lately the thermometer reaches much higher. Still, it really is the humidity that does one in. It causes difficulties in breathing for some, and swollen feet in others. About the only good thing I can say about this heat is that if I begin to feel too warm here inside my central-air-conditioned home, I can step outside, out the back door or the front, for just a few minutes. And when I come inside again, ahh, the cool is once again noticeable!

Our gardens, full of beans (green and yellow) and tomatoes, are doing very well. There are some large tomatoes growing, and they will be ripening soon. I don’t think there’s anything better than a tomato that you pluck from your own garden about two minutes before consuming it. I like both a toasted tomato sandwich, and one on bread with lettuce and salad dressing.

As with every growing season, we constantly observe and review and make notes for improvement for the next season. This year’s list of “adjustments” includes one thing my daughter has been promoting for a couple of years, and one born out of necessity this year. And why in regard to that latter item this year was so different, I have no idea.

In the spring, daughter is going to take all the dirt out of the gardens in order to replace it with new—once her daddy deepens those boxes. That is something that’s necessary, because it’s dirt in a box, and has no way to refresh itself. And it does need to be deeper, because plants grow so well they begin to topple. But this’s year’s near calamity?

You may recall that David loves to provide seeds and nuts for the wild critters. The squirrels and chipmunks surely know where to come for a feast. So, this spring when the chippies saw David planting the bean seeds in our box gardens, why, they just thought he was making mealtime fun for them!

The result was that he had to replant about half of the quantity of the beans and had to settle for climbing bean plants when there were no more bush bean seeds to be had anywhere. Once the beans were up and began to grow, the chippies left them alone. And no, he did not provide anyplace for those climbing beans to climb except into each other, and, of course, into the tomatoes.

So, the two-part resolution for next year:  tomatoes in their gardens, and the beans in theirs, with deeper gardens and fresh soil. And do not plant the seeds until he’s successfully fabricated a temporary mesh “top” to protect those seeds yet allow plenty of sun and rain for the growing process to begin.

And I have written all that down because we’re older now and tend to forget these kinds of things, no matter how important they seem in the moment.




Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Recalling a day at the beach...

 August 3, 2022

Last week, our daughter took her grandchildren to the very same beach that, when I was a child, my father took us.

It’s a beach on the south-western shore of Lake Ontario, and from what I can tell—from Jenny’s descriptions of what it was as like—it certainly has changed since the last time I saw it, which would have been at least thirty years ago.

In its heyday, the beach was more than just sand that ended at the water’s edge. There were concession stands, where one could purchase French fries, footlong hotdogs, cold drinks and the inevitable souvenirs, including beach toys. There was a small amusement park, with about a half-dozen rides, and those rides were geared for the under ten crowd. I recall from my childhood a busy place with lots of people and traffic. Since I would have been only about seven or so the last time Dad took us there, I’m pretty sure there were other attractions that I wouldn’t have noticed at the time.

We usually went to a beach about twice a year. Once to Lake Ontario, and once to a park that was on the shores of Lake Erie. The latter was for a picnic hosted by the company my father worked for, Studebaker-Packard, a picnic that took place at Crystal Beach.

I barely recall the times at Crystal Beach, but oh the memories I have of our days at Lake Ontario! The water is colder at this lake than it is at Lake Erie—something that really surprised our daughter. I never thought to warn her, but it’s always the case, because Lake Ontario is a whole lot deeper than Lake Erie.

Now, as then, the beach and the parking are free. Back then, there were five of us. We never had much money to spare, so my parents would make a proper picnic lunch, with a little something extra. There would be lots of sandwiches, not just PBJ or bologna or egg salad, but sometimes salmon salad, and they were the best sandwiches ever. As well, dad would pack his Coleman stove, and would have brought all he needed to make pan-fried potatoes—the something extra.

My mother once told me that the aroma of those potatoes cooking in bacon fat made everyone around us drool. I remember that my parents would bring a big thermos of ice-cold lemonade, or Freshie (another brand name for Kool-Aid) for us to drink, but sometimes we’d be treated to soda, purchased at one of the stands.

In those days, you didn’t burn in the sun as easily as you do now. We didn’t have “sunscreen”, so much as we had “suntan” lotion. We’d slather it on and hope not to get too badly sunburned, and even after several hours in the sun, we usually weren’t. At the end of the day, before the sun set, we would do something else at the beach that surprised my own kids years later when I told them about it: we’d wash up. Yes, you took a bar of soap into the lake and washed. It wasn’t just us, either, because as you looked up and down the beach you saw many people indulging in this—and some folks even had shampoo in the water too.

That, my friends is the down side of what they call the good old days. And yes, indeed, I am at this moment most definitely rolling my eyes thinking about it. I was just a child, but one would have thought that science would have progressed far enough in the early 1960s to say “don’t do that”.

By the way, my daughter informed me, as I read her this, that not this time, but the time before when she went to the that beach, she saw a couple of families with soap in the water.  So, science has progressed, but I guess not everyone got the memo.

I’m not particularly bothered by the fact that I seem to be at that part of getting older when I’m recalling how things were, “back in my day”. Actually, just the opposite is the case. I suppose the longer one lives, the more experiences and memories one has in the brain. It’s hard to find them when you’re just looking around for them. But hear of something that could be considered a clue, and sometimes, those sweet moments just pop back right up to the surface. I think that’s one of those unwritten bonuses one gets for getting older.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.




Wednesday, July 27, 2022

A prime decision...

 July 27, 2022

One of the things I’ve been most grateful for in recent times is that I don’t seem to have much trouble keeping busy.

I have my writing, of course, and this encompasses fiction, as well as these essays. I have my routines, which is a more of a foundational factor, in way. You see, I have discovered that I possess one major flaw. There are likely more, but I will cite this one: I have just enough discipline to have a routine but not enough to manage without one.

Therefore, when I can, which fortunately is most of the time, I follow my script. Each day is set to begin with time spent on my devotionals. Then, I indulge myself in two or three games, to “kick start my brain”. One of these is wordle. Then I sit down, put butt in chair and fingers on keyboard (aka BICFOK) and begin to write. I have until about noon hour before certain planned interruptions begin. I fit a few household chores in between noon and one, and, of course, I have a bite to eat. Legs go up for about two hours once those chores are done. And then I begin my supper preparations. Sometimes, if the muse is tugging at me, I get in a bit more writing. At the very end of my day, that is when I tend to visit YouTube. I try very hard not to do it until the end of my day, because I know how undisciplined I am and therefore, how easy it truly is for me to fall down a rabbit hole or six. Best to find those rabbit holes when my creativity has shut off for the night.

Lately, I enjoy those “tweet collections” about a myriad of topics, most of them claiming to be hilarious. By the time I turn to YouTube, I’m at the point in my day when I would welcome a little bit of hilarious. Not too many of those collections have a lot of laughter inducing words, in my opinion, but I do hit upon just enough—and they’re always a surprise, so I really appreciate them.

Aside from surprising a bark of laughter out of me, some of these tweets also make me think. One thread that I took in recently was under the heading “Learning something new about your s/o as you work from home.” The concept is exactly that: tweets inspired by the “working from home” experience had by many during the pandemic. In a hundred and forty-four characters, these nuggets depict moments observed by one partner about the other that truly were, for them, revelatory.

In this vein, I can attest that my husband and I were way ahead of the curve. We not only “been there, done that”, we designed the tee shirt.

Reading some of those tweets took me back to those uncertain days leading up to my husband’s retirement at the end of November of 2017. This happened maybe a couple of years prior to the day he was looking forward to, but that I, in a way, was dreading. Up until he retired, you see, I’d had my house to myself every day, Monday to Friday, and for the previous fifteen years. There was a part of me that resented the fact I would no longer have that. But I did, of course, get over myself. Eventually. When the reality proved not to be quite as bad as I’d dreaded.

However, leading up to the time about which I was reminiscing, my husband had his own desk in my office. We flirted, briefly, with the possibility of our working side-by-side in this dedicated space, from the moment of his retirement to, well, eternity. Especially when he realized that his COPD wouldn’t afford him the ability to pursue the hobby he’d been planning on: restoring steam-era farm equipment.

He decided instead to explore another passion, and that was writing.

And then, came that long, unexpected Christmas break. He had a three-week stint of staying home for an extended holiday and if I recall, the weather didn’t lend itself to outings. We were in this office, the two of us, together, for many, many, many days.

That unplanned time together—call it a dry-run on his retirement or a sign from God—showed us what the future would really be like if we stayed the course we were on.

When David finally went back to work after that break, he had a new project to work on in his off time: he needed to set himself up a desk with his computer in a corner of the living room. A space that would be his where he could do whatever he wanted to do, in all the privacy any author—or budding author—could reasonably ask for. No, his space does not have doors. Mine didn’t either, at the time. That was another project, some two years later, when we were getting ready for our daughter and her dogs to move in with us. By then, he truly appreciated the concept of solitude.

We’ve made a lot of decisions, together, over the last half-century. And I can honestly tell you, the decision about having separate working spaces is one that we both continue to consider as prime.




Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Fifty years and counting...

 July 20, 2022

Last Thursday, David and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.

It really doesn’t seem possible that so many years have passed—and it also bends belief that, among all of our then close friends who married just before and just after us, we alone remain together.

To celebrate the landmark our girls, Jennifer, and Sonja hosted a lunch for us on Saturday. There were twenty-nine of us, spread out, and we were the only party in that part of the restaurant. It was a very nice afternoon, seeing some folks I hadn’t seen in years. Jennifer created an under three-minute video with pictures she found in our family “archives”, which was such a sweet thing for her to have done. And watching that video, I smiled and had tears—and realized that my daughter today looks like me in my thirties. That poor woman!

Now, you all know that I write romance. I’ve often commented, and I stand by the statement that being a writer isn’t what I do, it’s who I am. My first attempt at writing appeared in the form of a television episode for my favorite TV series—Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. That series that came out in 1964, when I was 10, and inspired a couple of firsts for me: the first time I sat down to write something; and the first of only a couple of times I sent a fan letter. In response to the latter, I received back a package with a letter, and some signed photos (of Richard Basehart and David Hedison, be still my little adolescent heart) and some pictures of the submarine, “Seaview”.

The only thing that stayed with me from that time in my life was the writing. I honestly had no idea at the time why I felt this great, pressing need to create stories and write them down. It wasn’t until much later I discovered that my dad had been a writer. Only a few examples of his work, poems and a couple of short stories—all written before the death of his own father when he turned 17—have survived his transition from student into a young man who had to quit school to support his mother.

When our own father died in 1963, there were many who thought my mother should have given a similar fate to my brother who was 18 at the time, and a senior in high school. My mother refused. She said that her husband would never have condoned such a thing. So my brother stayed in high school, and then went on to Teacher’s College, in those days a one year program. Then he spent the next several summers getting first his B.A. and then his Master’s degree in education. That decision of my mother’s resulted in my brother living a very good life as an adult.

But I digress.

I think there was a part of me that needed to write as a form of world-building. That was truest during my darkest years as a young adult, trying to cope with small children and a husband who was an alcoholic. Fortunately, after our eleventh anniversary, David came to the point of understanding he had a problem and did something about it. He has been sober ever since—39 years sober—and that one fact is the main reason we’re still together.

Why I have tended, as I’ve gotten older, to write romance is the same reason I never read or watch horror and am careful about what I do read and watch: I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

When I was just a bit younger, I used to joke that if I wanted tense drama and tragedy, tears and weeping and wailing, why, I would just write an autobiography. Looking back, I understand that while given as a dark-comedic line, and while not as well explained as I might have liked, there’s a strong thread of truth there.

Life is hard. Shit happens. And the best way to cope with both of those hard facts is to adopt as uplifting a mood and attitude as possible. Romance does that. It showcases the best we can be. In  my stories the good guys always win.

I know I present my heroes and heroines engaged in lovey-dovey relationships; but I never represent romance—real romance—as being all rainbows and unicorns. Relationships take work, whether they’re between a husband and wife, parents and kids, or friends. But it is work that is very rewarding and, I believe, work we were created to do.

Life isn’t, as that old familiar ditty would have it, “but a dream.” Well, unless you mean a nightmare which for some, it can be. But life is what we have while we’re here. It’s the only game in town, and if we want it to mean something, and if we want to survive it with our sanity in tact…. well, that really is a decision, isn’t it? In fact, I would say, it is the decision.

I’ve spent the last 17 years of my life using what I’d learned during the first 51 to write stories that, as one reader told me more than once, “hug the reader’s heart”.

Life really is what you make it, and I am determined to make mine, and my readers’, as fulfilling as possible.





Wednesday, July 13, 2022

When the morning routine is fractured....

 July 13, 2022

This past Friday was certainly an interesting day here in my neck of the woods. One of Canada’s three major telecommunications companies, Roger’s Communications, had what we’ll call an “oopsie”. And what an oopsie it was.

I awoke, as I often to do, to dog barking. I knew David was already up, so I was able, before my eyes had even fully opened, to guess that he might be outside on the porch with whichever dogs would have gone with him—and those that were left inside were barking.

It's sad, but true, that the first thing I do when I get out of bed—after the bathroom, of course, is to make a cup of coffee. But this particular morning, I didn’t go directly to my Keurig. I decided instead to head to the porch and frown at my husband.

You see, when I get up ahead of him, which is most of the time, I make a solid effort to keep the dogs quiet, or at least try to, so that he can sleep until he’s done. I was feeling pouty last Friday morning because I knew, when I was awakened that I hadn’t been done sleeping yet. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if the day doesn’t start off good, there’s not much hope of it getting better until bedtime.

I opened the front door and looked at him in full pout.  He appeared not to notice my pout. He said, “Good morning. Your daughter left you a note on your keyboard.”

Well, that was different. I grumbled my way to my office, and found her note, which read: “Good morning. Roger’s is down Nation wide. So you are left back in the dark ages. Love you.” (I later discovered that she had left the note on the coffee maker, because we both go there first thing.)

She wasn’t kidding. There was no cable television. No cell phones. No internet. And therefore no available information on what had happened and when we might expect it to be fixed.

That was what bothered me the most—the lack of information. Asking the proverbial question, “What’s Happening?” and getting no response. I asked David to bring the “clock radio” out of the bedroom. Now, to be clear, we haven’t used it as an alarm clock—and therefore as a radio—since hubby retired. I shouldn’t have been surprised that, having not behaved as a radio since the end of 2017 it had somehow forgotten how to do that little thing.

David played with it for a bit, and then, music! “It was on sleep mode, for some reason”, he said. Well, I looked at it and realized no….it hadn’t been on sleep mode before, but it was now. This was confirmed when and hour later the music stopped. It only worked on sleep mode, initiated by a little button which you press in the hopes of going to sleep before the music shuts off.

I eventually found a station where the DJ eventually said, “an update for those of you wanting one on the Rogers’ situation. They are making progress, but they have no idea what happened, nor any estimation as to when it will be fixed.” Yes, that in fact a non-update kind of update. I don’t blame the DJ of course for the update that was no update at all. I blame Rogers.

My daughter stopped in at about ten to let us know that there was a lot of upset going around in the community since folks who were Rogers subscribers wouldn’t be able to reach emergency services, and some hospitals were stopped up because they couldn’t discharge those patients scheduled to go home Friday as there was no way to reach those who would be waiting to come and get them, or to receive them.

And just to make sure disruption affected as many people as possible, debit card transactions didn’t work for the most part, either. You could use your credit card at those terminals, apparently, but not your debit cards.

David and I spent some time on Friday, each of us writing, and then we did some reading. We didn’t get frustrated. We just both of us figured out that if the problem was Canada-wide, well, it likely wouldn’t be fixed anytime soon. We had a similar upset last year, I believe, but it wasn’t quite as bad then as now. But that didn’t matter. We were patient. We adjusted. It was a quiet day, in a way. No noise from my cell phone at all, and David claimed the “silence” outside as he walked the dogs was somehow deeper and richer.

The cell phones were working for the most part by Saturday morning. So was the internet, although a few links were not. But the television wasn’t working properly until Sunday morning. And then, just to remind us how lucky we had been, it acted up all of Monday night, too.

And I suppose, that while I didn’t feel stressed going with no television on either Friday or Saturday, I must really have been. Early Sunday morning, we went out to get our groceries. We came home, put them away, and then went into the living room, turned on the TV, and tuned in to our usual “talking heads”, programs that we record so that we can fast forward through the commercials. And there they were! Our familiar broadcasters of all things news and politics. We were “in touch” at last!

We both were dozing off within minutes. Apparently, it wasn’t the information I lacked during the outage that stressed me—that stressed us both.  No, it was the lack of just the right droning voices to accompany our little afternoon catnaps.

Thank goodness, life is back to normal.




Wednesday, July 6, 2022

A few tears, and greenery...

 July 6, 2022

Yesterday I spent some quiet time reflecting on the significance of the day—this one day of every year that had rolled around once more. July 5th, when I was a child, was my mother’s birthday. It never bothered her when I went out into her flower beds and picked her a small bouquet and presented it to her. She aways thanked me for the gift. Mother died at the too-young age of 57 in 1976. And then, the year after she passed, my second child, my son Anthony, was born on that same day.

If they were both alive today, they would be 103 and 45, respectively.

It’s impossible for me to think of Anthony as being 45. Because he died far too soon, he is forever frozen, in my mind’s eye, as a twenty-nine-year-old man. No, that’s not exactly true. In my recollection, he remains a teenager, because I understand that his journey to maturity and wisdom got stuck in a teenaged mentality.

I loved him with all my heart, and I still weep for him occasionally. But I was not and am not blind to his flaws. And I do believe it was a flaw within him. For some reason there was a connection in his mental processes that simply didn’t work.  

It is a human trait that tries to make sense of something that on its face appears senseless. We are always asking why things happen the way they do, but we often never know the answer.

I really don’t dwell overmuch on the losses I’ve experienced in my life. I know I’m not the only one who has lost loved ones. And while I still have been unable to know the answer to “why”, or to make sense of the situation, I have understood that I can give some meaning to these losses. They have made me more empathic. Knowing what it is to love and lose means I can relate to others who grieve. And I do believe that having experienced tragedy means I can show more humanity in my work. That’s something, at least.

Our daughter went out yesterday and purchased a few more plants to go in the front flower beds. She chose a few petunias, and some more coleus. I had, just a couple of months ago, believed that in the middle of June we would go out, my husband and I, to pick a few flowers to put in our front porch “window boxes”. We have several of those, and I was thinking about what I would like to have on display this year.

Now, my husband is a frugal soul. In the interests of total transparency, I need to tell you that “frugal” is his word. Mine, which he doesn’t deny but also does not prefer, is cheap. Yes, my husband has actually built up a bit of a reputation among family and friends for this, shall we say, interesting quality.

We here in Canada have a five-cent coin. We call it a nickel—so called because back in 1922, all silver was removed from the coin and it became pure nickel. The head of the coin is, of course, our Queen. The tail of the coin is a beaver. And I can recall one of David’s former coworkers saying he “squeezes his nickels so tightly the beaver screams”.

David’s response to that dig? “Damn right!” Friends, my husband is as proud of being frugal as he is of being a redneck. And most of the time, that’s okay. I have no real complaints of this quality and in fact, it makes it easier when we have to tighten our belts. Which we are doing now along with everyone else, but that is a topic for another essay.

And knowing all this, of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised a few weeks ago, on Father’s Day. Our oldest son and his wife dropped in, and it was a very nice visit. We had a few “boxes” of green beans left on the back yard table, beans David had grown from seed, and he convinced our son to take a couple to put into his own yard.

And as they were leaving, I went out onto the porch to wave good-bye, I noticed that our window boxes were hanging on the porch, and with greenery in them! And then I really looked at them.

Yes, those boxes held greenery. As in, green beans. Growing on my porch. And yes, I get it, and I really can’t complain, so I didn’t. Exactly. What I did, was I clarified that what I was seeing was real. “Green beans? On the front porch? In hanging boxes?”

“Yup. Now we don’t have to spend good money buying more flowers.”

Well, he’s got me there. But we’ll see how this all pans out. The bean plants are only a few inches high at this point, and of course, don’t yet have anything heavy growing on them to harvest.

We’ll see how those boxes hold up as a base, and how those bean plants fare in them, when they do.






Wednesday, June 29, 2022

A truly joyous occasion....

 June 29, 2022

Well, that was a very fast month. Tomorrow is the last day of June already, and the next day is Canada Day! We’ve had a few days, here and there, that I could have sworn were much better suited to mid-August than June. But who am I to judge? Mother Nature will give us what she will, and she certainly has no regard for my opinion on the matter. And she would point out that those days were very close to being summer days—officially, that is.

I’ve had two very heartfelt outings this month and I count that fact as a blessing. I know I can’t spend my whole life staying home. And to be clear, it’s not the attending of these functions that I mind so much. It’s the preparation for doing so, most especially these days, the mental preparation. I am stepping out on faith, but I cannot deny that to do so means overcoming a wee bit (well, maybe a wee bit more than a wee bit) of anxiety to do so.

Yes, I’ve taken two initial doses of Moderna’s Covid vaccine, as well as a first and then, near the end of May, a second booster. Yes, if they announce in November/December or anytime that I should get another one, you can bet I’ll be rolling up my sleeve and getting in line. And yes, I absolutely do believe in the science. I understand that the purpose of the vaccine is to protect against severe illness and death, not to prevent getting the virus at all. Which is why I am a wee bit more than a wee bit anxious going out to gatherings of more than a small handful of people. I understand that I can get the virus; I need to keep my faith that if I do, I will not suffer a severe case of it.

We attended our grandson’s wedding last Friday, and it was a truly joyous occasion for us both. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We were honored to sit in the front row, and to accompany the wedding party and the parents of the celebrants to the photo venue.

Through the course of the evening, it was wonderful to have impressed upon us anew just what a good sport and wise man is our grandson. You see, our new granddaughter is a Newfoundlander by birth, and her father, a  man who was born on “the rock”, saw to it his new son-in-law was “screeched in”. Some of you may know what that is. The rest of you really should see the play, “Come From Away”. (This play was live captured in honor of the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 and is available on Apple +).

After the meal came the first dance, and how lovely the newlyweds looked together, and how very happy! And I was again honored when, after the groom’s dance with his mother, the DJ called for other mothers and sons to take to the floor, and my son collected me for a dance.

I can’t boogie, but I managed a halfway decent slow two-step.

We humans love weddings because they are a beginning, and beginnings bring hope, don’t they? And weddings have been with us since Biblical times, so there’s that sense of continuity that we all need. And we especially need that in times that otherwise are tumultuous.

I used my walker at the wedding—for the walking from parking lot to chapel, from chapel to photo venue, then back to the dining room where the reception was being held. Yes, I didn’t try to rush, I walked a bit slower than I had on that first spin I took it out for. The wedding and reception and the photo venue were all at one basic location, which was amazing, but it was a very spread-out space. And the meal? Absolutely five-star cuisine. There was also an open bar, and who the heck does that anymore?

All in all, we had a wonderful time. Since it was a busy and yes exhausting day—I had gotten my hair done for the first time in about three years that morning—how very fortunate for us that we have absolutely nothing on our agendas for the next day. Nor the day after that.

We might be able to move and function by Canada Day.

To my Canadian friends, have a Happy Canada Day. And to my American friends, I hope you have a Happy Fourth of July, or Happy Independence Day, how ever you prefer to call it.