Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dad's Service and Eulogy

Dad's service was at the Legion today, and everyone did a great job. The Minister of St. David's United, the church of my childhood, prepared a wonderful service, the Legion produced a colour guard that nearly unmanned me when they began depositing their poppies next to Dad's ashes and saluting his picture. Fenya sang Bonny Wood Green, and our own minister's husband, Glen, sang Danny Boy, both of which prompted no small amount of eye sweat.

I took the eulogy, and I have to tell you, as someone who likes to write, this was the greatest struggle with words I have ever faced. How much is too much? How how much is enough? How long is a piece of rope?

And even after it was written, the delivery was murderous; so many of Dad's friends, family and colleagues in attendance, many of them still obviously bereft, and the man was a gifted public speaker and elected official to boot. To say nothing of the fact that I can't even watch Spock's funeral at the end of Wrath of Khan without welling up...

In the end, it seems to have gone pretty well, and I got quite a few compliments on it, which made me very grateful. It was pretty hard sledding for the last two paragraphs or so, and my quavering delivery elicited a couple of tears from surprising quarters, but I made it through to the end, and I think Dad would have been happy. Here is the text, apologies for the formatting.

We are here today to commemorate the life of my father, Maurice Arthur Fitzpatrick. Dad’s life took him to a lot of places, from the family farm in Piney,Manitoba where he grew up, to the ports and cities of the world he visited while in the military; from the control towers of airports all across the nation, to the mayor’s seat of this very city; but when it came time for that life to end, it did so here in Leduc, in the place that he called home longer than any other.

Mum and Dad came back from BC early this year because Mum had finally reached a point where it was just not practical for her to look after Dad any more, and we had to make other arrangements. The hospital where he passed was just supposed to be a waystation on the way to something better, which, who knows, maybe it was in the end. Now that the shocking suddenness has had a chance to ebb, it’s a bit easier to strip away the selfishness of wanting him to never leave, and to recognize his peaceful passing as a blessing.

In many ways, Dad’s sudden passing is the culmination to a series of goodbyes some of us have been saying for several years. I’ve had to sadly explain to my daughters that the Poppy they knew, still a warm and loving and pleasant man, was not the father that their Auntie Tara and I grew up with. I’ve sometimes felt angry that they never got to personally experience his tremendous vocabulary, his incisive and decisive thinking, or his brilliant wit. I’ve sometimes wondered if it isn’t crueler to make a family say a number of smaller goodbyes, a lukewarm farewell done on some inhuman installment plan.

But then I think, better a long goodbye than none. Dad’s condition took a lot of him away from us, but it left us his company, it left us his laugh and it left us his smile. His debilitation never got to the point where he couldn’t recognize his family, never progressed to where he spent his days angry or frustrated. At the time of his passing, he was being treated with dignity and care, and when I asked Mum how he was doing, she said, “He’ll be fine, all the nurses are falling in love with him. Well, how could you not?”

How indeed.

The truth is though, that the details of his passing are of very little importance compared to the manner in which he lived his life, and that is what we are here tocelebrate today.

Dad joined the armed forces at age 17, spending 5 years in the Air Force and another 5 in the Navy. It’s sometimes hard to reconcile the peaceful man Dad waswith the hard charging young fellow who revelled in a Saturday night donnybrook. Maybe he did it because he was not permitted to fight in the Korean conflict due to his status as a trainer, but he turned those roughhouse adventures with ‘Torchy’ Smith into a warning for me, fully aware of how lucky he was that none of those scrapes ended tragically.

After his time in the Navy, Dad entered Air Traffic Services, where he spent the next 27 years working in a variety of places, as well as meeting his wife, Helen. I’ve known for years that they met at a bowling alley in St. John’s, and I’ve heard Dad talk about Mum bowling in the nude, but didn’t find out what that meant until yesterday, when she explained that since the blouse she wore that day wasn’ttucked in, it left quite a bit exposed on her follow through, which she didn’t notice. Apparently Dad did.

They were married in 1966, and I followed in 1967. More moves followed and Tara was born in 1970 in St. John, New Brunswick.  We moved from Moncton toRiverglade and eventually Leduc in 1974, where apparently Dad heard me asking some of my new friends in first grade what a home town was, because I didn’t know. True to form, he stopped accepting transfers after that.

Once the roots were placed down, they didn’t take long to set. Before too long he was Treasurer of Leduc Minor Baseball, which led him into the town Parks and Recreation committee, and eventually onto town and city council. His focus remained on municipal politics despite numerous invitations by various political parties to run for provincial or federal seats, but the machinations and gamesmanship of party politics left him cold. After several terms on council, he began looking at the mayor’s seat, and on his second attempt in 1989, he won it, and sat two terms as mayor. Not bad for a Manitoba farmboy who got a D in Civics class.

Dad retired from Air Traffic Control earlier than he’d anticipated after a notable canine-bicycle altercation laid him up with fairly significant injuries. He enjoyed being able to dedicate more time to serving as Mayor, but after failing to gain a third term, he drifted reluctantly into retirement, which is a pretty difficult prospect for a man with no hobbies. He remained active with other groups like the Legion though.

Eventually he and Mum sold their town house, bought a motor home in 2004 and took to the road, spending two years in Newfoundland, the province where they had met, before returning to the west, and dividing the year between summers in Leduc and winters in BC near Oliver and Osoyoos.

When you look at all the groups Dad was affiliated with over the course of his life, it’s quite a list: Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Air Traffic Controllers Association, Toastmasters, Rotary, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Royal Canadian Legion and more. Many of these he served in an executive or leadership position, and with some, he was just happy to be a member and to help in any way he could. Because of this, when I think of my Dad, not just as my father, but as a man, the first thing I think of is service.

Dad was committed to making things better than when he found them, whether you are talking about an organization or the community he lived in. He was a great believer in compromise, and an unparalleled consensus builder. Because he was interested in practically everything, he could talk to practically everyone: welders, police officers, school teachers, administrators, and that’s just in the block we lived on in Willow Park! Lawyers, farmers, MLA’s, contractors, laborers, engineers,these are all people you need to bridge gaps to in civic politics on a day to day basis, and he excelled at it, because he believed in talking across to people, not down or up to them.

My good friend Mike recalled how while in high school, his long hair and denim jacket and general demeanour often prompted a certain response from the parentsof his friends, but never from Dad. He said, he always asked sincere questions and, it seemed to me, treated me fairly based on those responses.”

In terms of bridging gaps, Dad did some of his best work at home, often straddling the chasm between his teenaged offspring and his wife. Tara recalls how he would opt out of the livelier discussions she might have with Mum, like a human Switzerland, right up until she crossed a certain line, and he would then step in with a firm, “That’s enough.” Likewise, he could also advocate for Tara and I if things started to get disproportionate. No recriminations, just the sincere assurance that things would not be allowed to go any farther. While everyone else might be running around responding to slights real or imagined, Dad was the rock that we all rested on, never letting us forget that we all loved one another.

In terms of building communities, he worked hard to build one at home, despite the demands on his time between doing shift work and serving on multiple boards and committees. Even when he was at his busiest, and I once asked to make an appointment to see him, there was always time for family. The loving home he was the head of, his relationship with Mum, the lessons he imparted to Tara and I, these examples have set the pattern as to how I want to raise my own family: inrespect, laughter, and love.

Some of my fondest memories as a child, and Tara’s too, are of visiting Dad’s family in Manitoba during the summer. His siblings were always a loving and funny bunch, who enjoyed taking the mickey out of each other, and any opportunity to see our cousins was always great. These little reunions helped us to define what a family is, and what it should be. I know they all wish they could behere today, but I look forward to seeing them this summer, for what would have been Dad’s 80th birthday.

Like most people, Dad was full of contradictions, the best example of which would probably be his love of music. Dad loved listening to music, whether it was a country ballad or the jigs and reels of the East coast, and the fact that he could not carry a tune in a basket and had no discernible sense of rhythm could not stop him from belting out some of his favorite lyrics (or at least what he believed them to be) while driving or working in the kitchen, no matter how much Tara and I asked him not to. We used to joke about hooking magnets up to his right leg and putting on a Don Messer fiddle record in order to generate copious amounts of electricity.

Watching a big, strong, man like Dad cringe when Mum pulled out the Nu-Skin to treat a cut was another contradictory treat. How could a man who gave so much blood over the years be intimidated by the sting of a liquid bandage? He’d still face up to it though; he just made his displeasure a matter of public record.

This is not to say he wasn’t brave; he displayed courage in ways both big and small, like when two men cut into the movie line we had been waiting in for over two hours. He marched up to the box office, told them in no uncertain terms that this was not acceptable, and sent them to the end of the line, to the sound of applause, all while I was thinking, “I don’t want to be Batman, I don’t want to be Batman.”

Dad displayed tremendous strength over the years, both physical and moral, but it is his compassion that most endeared him to me. When visiting a kennel with Tara and Mum, he was given a little dog to hold which had been terribly abused, andwas due to be put down the next day. The moment he held her against his chest, she stopped shaking, and he asked, “How much would it cost to give this little one a second chance?” $10 later, this tiny mutt had a home and lived with Mum and Dad for 14 more years, a pretty good second chance.

Another contradiction was the way he used language. As a public speaker, Dad was always doing the vocabulary quiz in Reader’s Digest magazine, and reading Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations to look for the best way of getting his point across, and he was not averse to using the occasional “five-dollar word”. That said, he was also a sailor, and could curse like one if the situation demanded it. I remember the swear jar we had in the kitchen, and how Tara and I would chide him to pay up when he let loose with a vulgar expression. One day he had the blackest expression on his face as he related a tale of his workday to mum, and referred to oneindividual as having canine ancestry on his mother’s side. We overheard him, Tara and I, and needled him to pay up the required dime. He looked darkly at us, removed a $5 bill from his billfold, and quietly but firmly told us, “Leave the room. “But Dad…” we whined. “LEAVE THE ROOM!” he roared. So we did.

But even after all that, Tara and I never heard him use a certain carnal verb beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet until well into our teens, and it was not directed at us in either instance. Mind you, our response was exactly the same: we left the room in a swift and orderly fashion.

No one who knew Dad can remember him without recalling his sense of humour. Even in his later years, he could surprise you with an unexpected zinger, or a clever wordplay. And just as he held nothing back in his life, he held nothing back in his laughter, whether a sly snort, gleeful titter, or the belly laugh that couldinfect a room of almost any size, his laugh carried a joie de vivre like no other I have ever known.

His playful nature extended to games like cribbage and pool, and as recently as a year ago, he won eight games in succession, but he enjoyed the playing just as much as the winning, and the camaraderie as much as the playing. Dad delighted in simple pleasures; keep your Dom Perignon and your Tiramisu, a glass of lagerand Peanut Buster Parfait would be his preference. One of my favourite memories of Dad was watching him clean out the dregs of a blueberry pie plate that he and I had demolished due to our inability to get the ice cream to pie ratio correct, then picking it up and licking it clean, because hey, waste not, want not.

Despite his great qualities and litany of accomplishments, Dad was never arrogant, never displayed pride or hubris, and was always willing to take off his suit jacket and pick up a shovel when it was required. He cared far more for getting the job done, and done right, than for receiving credit for it. When one of my employers listed their desired leadership qualities as Honestly, Courage, and Humility, it took me a while to realize that my father not only embodied those values, but that he possessed them in abundance.

As a Christian, I don’t believe death is necessarily the end, but like my father, myunease with simple, comforting answers means that I have a hard time picturing him sitting on a cloud somewhere, strumming a harp and eating cream cheese. While I have faith I will someday, somehow, encounter his spirit again, I don’t think I will have to wait until that “great gettin’ up mornin’” to do so. A friend of mine, when he heard the news, told me, “even though I don't know much aboutyour dad, I know he raised a loving family who have gone on to raise their own loving family, and like ripples in a pond, the effect of his life will touch people for generations to come.”

Dad’s spirit touched a lot of people over the course of his life, and you only need to look around this room to see that this is true. Here are people from all different walks of life, various origins, ages, creeds and affiliations. Maurice Fitzpatrick has affected all of us, some discretely and others profoundly, but he’s taught us all the value of service, of loyalty, of principle, of friendship, of laughter, and mostimportantly, of love. I see his spirit reflected in the faces of my family, and those of his friends and associates, and in the eyes of everyone assembled here today, and I want to thank you for that.

Thank you for remembering a man whose principal motivation was looking after other people, beginning with his family but including his community and his country, and just about anyone fortunate enough to have crossed his path. The spirit of my father lives on in everyone who takes the time to think beyond themselves.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dad's Obituary

It's a hard thing, cramming 8 decades of a marvelous life into a certain number of column inches, but an obituary was needed, and here is what we ended up with; it appeared in the Edmonton Journal today.  It is also viewable at the Journal's website, and they have a guest book where condolences can be left.  The text of the obituary appears below, with a couple of minor corrections.

Maurice Arthur Fitzpatrick (August 17 1932- May 17 2012)
Maurice Fitzpatrick passed away suddenly while sleeping at Leduc General Hospital on Thursday, May 17, 2012; just three months shy of his 80th birthday.  He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Helen, his daughter Tara, son Stephen (Audrey), and two grandchildren, Fenya and Glorianna.

Born and raised in southern Manitoba, Maurice was the eldest of seven siblings: Ena, Harold(d), Agnes (d),Dennis(d), Gary(d), and Wendell. Maurice left the family farm at age 17 for the armed forces, spending 5 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force and another 5 in the Navy, including time proudly spent on Canada's last aircraft carrier, HMCS Bonaventure.  His interest in aviation led him to a career in air traffic control where he spent the next 27 years, settling in Leduc in 1974.

Maurice was committed to serving the community in which he lived, beginning as Treasurer of Leduc Minor Baseball and moving on to the town Parks and Recreation Committee prior to serving as town councillor for several terms and finally as mayor of Leduc from 1989-1995. He used his civic experience as well as his status as a Toastmaster and registered parliamentarian to assist in chairing large meetings, such as those of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

As a former serviceman, he was also heavily involved in the Royal Canadian Legion for many years, serving in a variety of offices including President of Leduc Branch #108.

In retirement, he and Helen took to the road in an RV, and travelled to Newfoundland before returning to the west and dividing their time between the BC interior and Leduc.

Maurice will be remembered as a loving husband and father,proud grandfather, loyal friend,and a compassionate man who was passionate about service to others.

A memorial service will be held at the Leduc Legion on Tuesday May 22nd at 3:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, his family suggests donations be made in his name to Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive during this difficult time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Maurice Fitzpatrick: 1932 - 2012

My sister called me at work just after lunch yesterday, tearfully telling me, "Dad's gone."

He went to the hospital in Leduc two weeks ago, because of a foot and leg injury that was taking too long to heal, and because of my mother's acceptance that his progressive dementia meant she simply could not look after him on her own any longer.  Dad was on a list so we could make some manner of living arrangements for him, and the hospital was not really supposed to be anything more than a waystation, a stopover before moving on to a potentially difficult next stage of his life, but one we are all committed to making as easy as possible for both him and Mum.

Tara and I have been very vocal in our support of Mum's decision, because we know it was not an easy one to make, and of her fear that it might look like she was abandoning him, and we assured her that this was not the case.

I was worried that her frustration in the situation might somehow manifest itself at anger at Dad, that she might somehow blame him for putting her into this terrible situation, but I needn't have worried.  When I asked her how he was making out at the hospital the day after he was admitted, she said, "I'm sure he'll be fine, all the nurses on the floor are falling in love with him.  Well, how could you not?"

Audrey and the girls and I got two visits in with him before he passed, thank God.  One about three weeks ago at Tara's house, where he thrilled Fenya by remembering her name without prompting, and expressed interested to hear that a church meeting I had been at that day used Bourinot's Rules of Order instead of Robert's.  The second was after he was hospitalized, where it was painful to watch him struggle for words due to his aphasia, but when Tara joined us and we could converse around him more than with him, his delight in being with his family was apparent.

We aren't sure what caused Dad's sudden passing, but he was not responsive to Mum when she visited him earlier this week, and was sleeping much of the day. She left after 10:00 yesterday morning so he could be taken for an x-ray, and the nurse called her right around noon, to say, "I'm sorry Helen, he's gone."

Mum could only say, "No."

But it was so.

Even on my frantic drive down the highway to Leduc from work, I found myself wondering if perhaps it was a misunderstanding, if maybe he had wandered off, but there was a small cold spot in my stomach that told me this was it, the day I had dreaded since I was ten years old and the father of some friends of mine died of a heart attack had finally come to pass, and my father was gone.

Twenty minutes later, I stood in his hospital room where he lay on his back, mouth slightly agape, looking for all the world like he was napping on the couch like he would on Sunday afternoons when I was a child; I stood there, listening for a snore I knew wouldn't come, but I waited for it anyway, until that part of me relented.

I held his hand for a moment, knowing there would be no warmth, but still surprised at the lack of it.  I squeezed his shoulder as he had mine so many times as a boy, and I wished him peace and Godspeed wherever his spirit may go.

Mum and Tara and I collected his clothing and few personal effects, and Mum told the nurses which funeral home to contact, then went to Tara's house to begin calling the friends and relatives and sharing the unfortunate news.  A handful of people came by to express their regrets and share their condolences, and after a couple of hours, there were as many laughs as there were tears, as we recalled Dad's life in all its glorious absurdity, all its significant trivia.

Conflicting emotions struggle within me, and I try to sift the selfish from the unselfish to no avail, as if I am trying to pull apart two wrestling pythons only to discover they are actually a single snake with two heads.  Yesterday was simultaneously the worst day of my life, but Dad's passing could have been so much worse.  We all die, the only thing that changes is how. A rapid deterioration in a hospital, in a town he called home for thirty-odd years, with close contact from his wife and children and grandchildren and friends and the knowledge that he was loved is a far better way to leave this world than many are provided, and I am grateful for that.

But I loved my dad, a lot, the way he loved us, and I am going to miss him fiercely, and for the rest of my life,

Rest in peace, father.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Earth's Mightiest Movie: The Avengers Review

As part of our G&G VII Festivities this past weekend, I got to see The Avengers with my basement brethren, and on my birthday, no less! Obviously when an unaccredited and unaffiliated individual starts throwing around superlatives like “Best ____ Ever”, the subjective nature of such opinions render any Blue Ribbon status moot.  But I am going to do it anyways. 

Joss Whedon’s The Avengers is the best superhero movie ever.

This is not simply because he successfully capped the most anticipated film in genre history, and even left room to build and grow for the now inevitable sequels.

It’s not because he (and story co-writer Zak Penn) has done the impossible and created a single story that does justice to the four characters who have already appeared as the title characters in five prior films, as well as a decent number of supporting characters, and treated all of them with obvious respect and compassion.  Especially Captain America, who I had previously expressed concern about.

It’s not because he has crafted a two hour and twenty minute film that feels at least half an hour shorter than that.

The Avengers is the best superhero movie ever because it mixes an outrageous amount of spectacle with a solid story, brilliant dialogue and fantastic acting, and Whedon makes it look easy.  It perfectly blends what I want most from a movie as an adult, and what I enjoy most about movies as someone opposed to most of the conventional aspects of maturity.

Some recent lists (like this one at io9), place Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight in the number one spot, with The Avengers a close second, and I can respect and appreciate that.  It is a great film, maybe even a better movie than The Avengers, with great writing and fantastic performances, and a story which is never propelled by stupidity.  But even though it deals with a lot of themes familiar to comic book readers, like secret identities and the tension between justice and law, it is not a great superhero movie so much as it is a great movie that happens to feature a superhero.  (Don’t even bother trying to tell me that Batman is not a superhero; he’s in the Justice League, he wears a cape, and he fights creeps who do have superpowers, so he gets a pass.)

The Avengers trumps TDK as a superhero movie because of single factor: it is supremely comic-booky.

The Dark Knight is such a great story that you could re-do it with a different cast of characters and still have a very good film; the characters are outlandish, but the spectacle is of a human scale, and terrifyingly believable.  Replace Batman with an undercover vigilante and the tale would still hold together fairly well, although the melodramatics would be sorely missed in a more pedestrian re-telling.  The use of darkness, both metaphorical and literal, makes for a dull palette onscreen, all the better to contrast both the Joker's pallid visage and the flames he leaves in his wake.  The Dark Knight is more about not succumbing to terror and dread, not about rising to greatness.

The Avengers is brighter, without being lurid; gloriously indulging itself in the primary hues of its four-color heritage.  Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and especially Captain America all look like they have stepped right out of a comic panel and onto the screen.

It is bolder, bringing nuances to characters like The Hulk, who, thanks to a long running tv show, probably has the biggest pop-cultural footprint of any of the characters, but who can still be surprising, it turns out.

It is bigger, featuring a brilliant ensemble cast, a gathering of  comic characters which is both legendary and iconic.  The threat our heroes face is not just to their city or even their country, but to the entire world.

It is not a perfect film; a Joss Whedon drinking game could leave fans completely debilitated by the time the end credits roll around: An invading army of otherworldly inhumans?  Got it.  A portal for them to attack through?  Check.  The horror of mind control, an invasive betrayal of both one's comrades and values?  Right here.  Glib quips in the face of impossible odds? Absolutely.  I should mention though, that not all of these are necessarily bad things, especially in the hands of one so skilled in their proper usage.

All of these larger-than-life characters have their foibles trotted out over the first half of the movie, from Captain America's disconnectedness and Tony Stark's hubris through to Thor's arrogance and The Hulk's powerful helpfulness.  

The most surprising thing for me was just how good the writing and acting were in this film.  There was a time when people would criticize overemphasized or ham-fisted acting as behaving ‘like a comic book villain’, but Tom Hiddleston does such a great turn as the antagonistic centerpiece, Loki, that if we can get a couple more films like this or TDK, people will simply have to stop saying that.  I seriously hope Marvel Studios push for a supporting actor nod for him when Oscar season rolls around.  He gets an exchange with Scarlet Johannsen's Black Widow that reminded me of nothing so much as Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter, without feeling derivative.  Mark Ruffalo's turn as Dr. Bruce Banner, The Hulk's alter ego, rolls from the comic to the tragic without missing a beat, another Whedon hallmark.

A lot of people will treat summer movies, especially comic book adaptations, as a guilty pleasure, saying they just want to turn off their brains and enjoy the spectacle.  You don't have to choose; The Avengers is a movie that deals with cosmic concepts in an earthly fashion, and it is a movie for grown ups that kids can enjoy just as much, or maybe the other way around.  It sets the bar remarkably high for future comic book movies, and I don't know if it will be possible to surpass it in terms of both quality and enjoyment.

But I can't wait to see them try.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

G Minus 2 And Counting

Having spent a frantic amount of time painting an entirely new army for Gaming & Guinness VI last year, I've been extremely slack in the run up to G&G VII, which effectively kicks off Wednesday night. I haven't added a single model to my Valhallans, Pete is taking care of the hosting duties, Island Mike and Rob are taking care of the swag, and Scott is providing the scenery for this year's Apocalypse 40K battle. I've procured and painted a Battletech boxed set and set up the needed sheets, and will help Pete with a bit of prep Wednesday afternoon, but compared to past years my yoke is light.

Still, when I started assembling the assorted models, games, dice, and Rock Band equipment, it makes for a daunting amount of cargo:


I'm very much looking forward to this convocation of friends, this opportunity to do as much nothing as possible and to revel in it, to share some laughs, and to recreate the shinier moments of our younger years.


And, yes, there will no doubt be some beers involved as well...


Friday, May 4, 2012

Omelette It Be

There's quite a few things I like about my current job, but one of my favorites is the compressed work week; by working a little longer every day, I am given every second Friday off. Strangely, I didn't avail myself of this perk as soon as I was eligible to, but after our office moved from downtown Edmonton to the outskirts, I had to give up taking the bus, and I saw the Compressed Day Off as an easy way to cut my commuting fuel costs by ten percent.

It also makes it easier for me to do banking, buy groceries, return bottles and other tasks that draw larger crowds on the weekend. Today, I am prepping for a dinner party, so there is both cleaning and running about to be done, but having a quiet house to myself and some flexibility in my timetable meant I could bypass my go-to breakfast of toast and cereal and make myself an omelette.

I had been about to fry up an egg or two when I realized it requires only marginally more effort to produce an omelette, and when I also recalled that I had bought a smoked blue cheese (cheekily named 'Moody Blue') on my last Costco run, my course was set.

If you've never made your own omelette, I highly recommend giving it a go, provided you have a proper pan. Mostly this is about size: not too big, not too small, but being non-stick is also critical. In my case, Audrey's folks gave me a perfectly sized pre-seasoned cast iron pan a few years back which has proven indispensable for not only omelettes but also green onion cakes, pappadums, single grilled cheese sandwiches, and other small scale fry-ups.

You can barely call it a recipe: 3 eggs, 3 tablespoons milk, salt and pepper to taste, plus whatever you stuff it with. Stay away from soft cheeses, but you can drape a piece of Brie across the top of a finished omelette if you like. I usually sprinkle in some crumbled bacon from the jar we keep on hand for salads and such, but I've made a couple of creative ones based on leftovers, like slices of grilled steak paired with horseradish infused white cheddar.

The great leap forward for my omelettes came when I watched a chef at The Muddy Duck brunch in Mississauga lift the side of a half finished one and let the uncooked liquid on top roll around to the hot surface underneath. I had previously tried doing this after the fold, with disastrous results, and had heard others talk about baking them in the oven to prevent runny bits, but once you get the timing down, this lift and twist is the ideal solution.

As much as I enjoy blue cheese (and it should be mentioned that I am the only one in the household who does), its crumbly nature makes it a chore to work with, so I am not sure I would do this again. It also lacks the delightful gooeyness of cheddar or Monterey jack that adds so much to the texture. The sharpness of this smoked blue was also a bit of a jolt to the morning palate, but not unpleasantly or insurmountably so. All in all, a worthy breakfast experiment and a good way to start a busy day!