Time flies while we count on our fingers the mornings we have left. I have beetles in my living room. They zigzag along the window sills and it makes me wonder if they’ve spent winter inside my house. Each time I try to touch a pretty shell with my finger, the creature flutters and lands a little distance away, often changing direction. Do I have enough fingers to count them? Do I care enough to stop myself from sucking them up with the vacuum?
7:58 a.m. at the coffee shop
Behind the counter, I recognize the young girl who told me the other morning that she felt like she was in a thousand pieces. I had to look up expression on my iPad to understand what she meant. The second day after Easter Sunday, the poor girl had to take apart each unsold chocolate rabbit, hen, frog, monkey and egg. She had to destroy the chocolate figurines, rip off the bunnies’ ears and pull out the frogs’ oversized eyes and put their broken carcasses into the chocolate recycling bin. Such carnage would easily traumatize a young teenager just barely out of childhood.
Guylaine G. from Sept-Îles (a city located on the north shore of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, in the northern region of Quebec) tells me that meeting me in person is on her bucket list. I dream of seeing these islands, which I can count on my 10 fingers. Google introduces me to the local venues and events: the Fortier & Frères fish shop; G.W.D. cruises that offers brunch at sea; the St. Lawrence Gulf Society; the “Festi-GrÎles de la Côte-Nord” (an annual BBQ competitions, with local beer tastings and concerts); the Gallix botanical gardens; and the Book Fair, which recently happened in April. I got a glimpse of Sept-Îles with just a few clicks of my keyboard. Now my fingers are counting the days until I can visit.
Last Sunday, a curious patron at the coffee shop asked me what is the most precious thing I have. I quickly replied: my fingers! My 10 fingers, the ones constantly typing away on the keyboard that transmit to the world almost all of my thoughts.
My two thumbs are the strongest and most helpful. They know how to grip, unscrew, turn and squeeze anything I want.
My two index fingers look like arrows. They are very helpful to point someone in the right direction. I remember when I was very small, Mom would slap my left index finger whenever she saw me scratching my nose with it…
The biggest one in the middle of both my hands is called the middle finger. Like so many men, it believes it’s the most important because it’s taller than the others. I mostly use it to prepare the soil for spring planting and to spread the washable gouache as I attempt to rival Picasso.
The one that comes before the smallest of them all is called the ring finger. For the longest time, I wondered why it had such a strange name, until someone slipped a gold ring on it. My ex-husband wore his wedding band for about 45 minutes; just long enough for our wedding ceremony to be over. When we walked out of church, he took it off his finger and handed it to me. He told me I was the only one who was married. I kept the ring. I still have it, attached with mine in an old jewellry box. The gold makes them worth something, I suppose. Come to think of it, I should sell them and buy myself a new pair of glasses the first chance I get. Hurrah!
In French, the smallest finger has the longest name: auriculaire. A proper-sounding name composed of 11 letters. Because its French name is a bit difficult to remember, we affectionately call it le petit doigt (“the little finger”), just like in English. It’s the only one capable of relieving an itch in the ear canal. It happens to me a lot, especially when I’m completely absorbed in a TV show.
Imagine for a moment that a savage monster chops off our 10 fingers. What would we do? Our hands would become fingerless mittens. Small shovels that are only good enough to push a load or collect a few raindrops. A major handicap for all those who write instead of speak.
Let’s give thanks for our fingers, for they are as precious as the apple of our eyes.
❤ 👐 ❤
I finally did it! I finally went to Place des Arts in Montreal. Seeing an opera for the first time had been on my bucket list for ever, and I’m eager to tell you about this surreal and sublime evening this morning as I sit here and write.
I got there early, around 5:30 p.m. It was nice outside, so I went for a walk in the area for nearly an hour before entering Puccini’s kingdom, where an expert host was talking about the opera that was about to take place before our eyes.
I was already smitten. I knew the storyline. I thought I’d forgotten the music for Cio-Cio-San, the young geisha, but I recognized the famous musical melodies from Madama Butterfly when the host played a few strains for us.
As a young woman, before suffering the psychological blows of a horrible husband, I adored the human voice. Pavarotti was my hero, and he was often accompanied by Plácido Domingo and José Carreras. The power of their voices transported me. I was, at the time, a young thinker with bold dreams of rewriting the world’s history. And yet it’s that very sea of possibilities that carried me into narrow streams, forcing me to swim against the current towards my true self. I was 15, the same age as Puccini’s young geisha, and even back then I loved the human voice. I knew that this voice was a hidden treasure, a volcanic eruption able to soften the most terrible sorrows. And I would eventually use that voice to come back to life.
Thirteen long years wasted in a bad marriage had deprived me of books, music and divine voices. But I wrote a new story for myself. Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti. I escaped and found my life again. In 1980, I was free as a bird. I was 33 and Andrea Bocelli was 22. He sang like a god and I wanted to marry him. I felt this urgency to make up for lost time, but like Mom used to say: “It’s no use crying over spilled milk.” Most importantly, I had to go back to work to feed my children. And I did, for more than 30 years, with the an authoritative baritone voice.
So there I was, seated in the first row, right in front of the orchestra. The curtain, a huge Japanese screen, opened. We are in Nagasaki and then Goro. The town’s matchmaker is giving the American Lieutenant a tour of his new house. He introduces him to Suzuki, his future wife’s new maid. The American Consul is present and warns Pinkerton against his union to Cio-Cio-San, a young 15-year-old geisha, who is beaming with happiness at the thought of the forthcoming nuptials.
After the wedding ceremony, the bride’s uncle disowns her because Cio-Cio-San, lovingly nicknamed Madama Butterfly by her handsome American Lieutenant, has converted to her husband’s religion. The newlyweds then withdraw and sing a long love duet. Shortly after, Pinkerton returns to the United States. Three years go by and Butterfly is still without any word from him. In her heart, she is convinced he will come back to her. She even goes as far as to reject the advances of a wealthy prince whom she meets.
As Cio-Cio-San patiently awaits her Lieutenant’s return, the American Consul learns that Pinkerton has remarried and he must announce the news to Butterfly. She doesn’t believe him, however, and continues to wait in vain. She announces that if it were true, she would end her life.
She continues to wait for the return of her long lost love while filling her home with flowers and hope. One day, she learns that Pinkerton is returning… with his new American wife. When he arrives, Madama Butterfly lives the last moments of her life. She places her young son in the care of the new American wife and performs hara-kiri in front of the American Lieutenant.
I cried my soul out during the opera, and all my heavy memories dissolved in Madama Butterfly’s tears. I’m extremely grateful to the extraordinary Lebanese-Canadian soprano, Joyce El-Khoury, who interpreted Madama Butterfly, for her uplifting experience.
I have been wanting to write this letter to myself for a long time and I’ve been procrastinating. I systematically put it off until a tomorrow that never comes. What could I say or learn about myself that I don’t already know?
“So many things,” would reply the friend who suggested this exercise a while ago. Am I too afraid to dive into the depths of my mind? Or, worse, to venture into my half-empty heart? Who am I? What am I really? “Powerful,” would say that same friend, a yoga teacher. “Powerful and diligent.”
It’s true that I was once at the pinnacle of my field. I created something new; a restaurant concept that was unheard of at the time. I learned how to earn my keep. I surrounded myself with competent and important people. I was never afraid of asserting my ways in a world dominated by men, and I never hesitated to give my opinion when I knew what I was talking about.
Why would I write a letter to myself? Glory and compliments don’t come easily to me. Am I putting it off because I may be worried to find myself on a stormy ocean? I prefer writing to others; to those who are kind enough to read my letters. I write to them to expel the deluge of words raining down in my head.
“The list of self-criticism that cuts us down is long, dear Cora. Try to write this letter as if it were addressed to somebody else,” my friend suggests. “Imagine that you are sending a letter to a close friend who needs advice and wants to be comforted. Call her Corina. Try to convince Corina to soften the way she sees herself.”
— “Fine. I will write the letter,” I say.
I have known you all my life and you are my best friend. You are brilliant and talented. I remember your youth very well. You were audacious and creative, always the first one to find solutions to the preoccupations of a young woman.
I spent enough time with your family to know that the love between your parents was scarce. You suffered cruelly from a lack of love yourself. Your heart likely hardened as a result. Your calamitous wedding gave you three amazing children, and they allowed your heart to know the feeling of unconditional love. As a single mother, you had to work very hard to succeed, but you earned a living that surpassed your needs. Don’t ever forget that.
Your 13 years of imprisoned marriage to a mean man bruised your heart and you concluded that your heart must be defective. No one would ever be able to find their way inside.
Dearest Corina, I have known you forever and I understand. You did suffer from a lack of love, but rest assured that your heart works fine. And it returned to life during the pandemic. The universe has not forgotten you. It has offered you a tremendous gift by offering you the chance to realize your young girl’s dream to write. Today, writing allows you to connect with thousands of readers who no doubt love you.
You have everything you need, dear Corina, to be a wonderful person. Count your blessings. You are kind, generous, inventive and caring towards others, with a gift for words.
You are the person I love the most in this world, dear Corina. We are the best of friends, allies and sisters of all women on this planet. Brunettes, blondes, old, young, fair-skinned or dark; regardless of the names on our birth certificates, our hearts are all alike. They suffer, they throb, they cry and they explode with happiness when they recognize themselves in the mirror. That’s me! My heart goes boom, boom as I stare at my own reflection in the window at the coffee shop. It is I, Cora, who just recognized myself for who I am. My friend the yoga teacher was right.
You should try it! Write a letter to yourself, dear readers. Address it to yourself or an imaginary friend. Pour your heart out and cry a little between the lines, allow the excess grief to overflow into the margins; unfurl the bruising parchment and cut open the wound, if you must. This is all about healing our hearts.
P.S. I love each and every one of you, dear readers! If any of you wish to write your own letter and have it read by a caring heart, I invite you to mail them to me and I will read every one of them, I promise. Use a pseudonym like I did if you prefer. Send your letter, addressed as follows, to the company’s head office:
Letter for Madame Cora
16 rue Sicard, Local 50
Surely you remember Isabel P., the young lady who interviewed me a few weeks ago as part of a project to feature a well-known figure from the restaurant industry. Well, she appreciated the sincerity of my answers and was curious to dig a little deeper into my life. I agreed, dear readers, out of affection for you. I’m curious to see what these new questions are, so let’s go.
— “Which three words best define you?”
— “Vitality, creativity and courage. It sounds like I am tooting my own horn, but these qualities literally saved my life.”
— “What do you do to relax?”
— “I listen to classical music, mostly baroque, I string beads to create bracelets, I draw faces, I knit, I write haikus and I practice making a variety of jams. I am rarely immobile, except at night, when I’m glued to the couch watching addictive TV series.
— “Name a flaw you have finally mastered.”
— “With time, and especially once I let go of my work-related responsibilities, I am not as headstrong as I used to be. I do miss having power though. I am just an advisor at the company, which is now in the hands of the children. Often I simply sit there, chomping at the bit.”
— “What was the most beautiful day of your life?”
— “It will happen when a grandiose bird will deliver my remains at heaven’s door. My eyes will open, my heart will start beating again and a new life will open its door to me.”
— “Will you write your biography?”
— “No, not as such. I am dispensing a little of my life each Sunday, as memories resurface or by acting on an unexpected inspiration. Writing every day makes my heart lighter and keeps me in love with life.”
— “Do you have a spiritual guide?”
— “I like to believe that all of Heaven’s saints keep a close eye on me and protect and guide me when necessary. I do believe in the infinite kindness of a force greater than us.”
— “You have written close to 200 Sunday letters. Aren’t you tired of it yet? Do you look forward to moving onto something else?”
— “I love writing these letters! I consider them to be my “morning pages,” something writer Julia Cameron popularized in her book THE ARTIST’S WAY, published in 1992.”
Julia Cameron recommends writing three pages each morning in order to release your inner artist. These pages help to build strong writing habits. They amplify your creativity and writing skills. They help you focus each morning and teach you how to draw from your subconscious. These morning pages strengthen your self-confidence and allow you to free each day the emotions you often keep pushed down.
I wrote these “morning pages” for a long time and, by some miracle, they became the Sunday letters. I am very happy about that, and I have no intention of stopping.
— “Not many women of your generation took the reins of their destiny like you did. How did you do it?”
— “It’s a long story, but the short version is, I had the courage to leave the family home with my three young kids in tow. I was shattered, but with the love of my kids, I rebuilt myself. It would take a few Sunday letters to explain all of it in detail, but it will come, I am certain of it.”
Hope is the biggest gift we can receive on this Mother’s Day Sunday.
Go out, turn your face towards the sky, a bird will bring you hope and an angel will place it in your heart. With bright eyes, you’ll speak words filled with optimism.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL OF YOU!
Cora Breakfast and Lunch is proud to announce that the brand is now a valued partner of Canadian airline WestJet. The onboard breakfast meal, served in Premium cabin on morning flights, is now provided by Cora. It is a satisfying mark of confidence in our brand, the Canadian breakfast pioneer!
WestJet has been offering Cora breakfasts on the majority of its flights lasting 2½ hours or more since June 26. The in-flight dishes are inspired by classic Cora favourites: Smoked turkey eggs Ben et Dictine, a Vegetable skillet and a Spinach and aged cheddar omelette with turkey sausage.
Passengers in WestJet’s Premium cabin are able to savour Cora breakfasts, making it a delicious opportunity for Cora to offer a taste of its menu to a different segment of the population.
Cora Breakfast and Lunch, Canada’s breakfast leader, is proud to announce the opening of a new Cora restaurant in Western Canada. This time, it's the city of North Vancouver that the most recent Cora sun has risen.
Pioneering founder Cora Tsouflidou was on location for the Grand Opening. It is when she performs the traditional Egg-Cracking Ceremony, during which the first symbolic omelette in the restaurant is made.
The new location is part of a nationwide expansion of the Cora network, making it the 10th restaurant in British Columbia for the largest sit-down breakfast chain in Canada.
With more than 130 operating restaurants, Cora Breakfast and Lunch continues to offer morning gastronomy dedicated to breakfast: quality food and service in a warm family atmosphere.
The year 2019 has been one of expansion for the Cora Franchise Group, Canada’s breakfast leader. The company’s iconic sun proudly shines in the country’s largest cities!
Two other restaurants opened their doors in March. As for many Cora franchisees, it’s a family adventure for several of Cora’s newest members. The new location in the St. Vital neighbourhood of Winnipeg is managed by real-life partners who decided to open their own franchise, charmed by the Cora restaurant experience, the colourful menus and spectacular plates garnished with fresh fruit.
The most recent opening is located in Regina, the second location for the city. Having successfully established his first Cora restaurant in 2018, the franchisee expanded his operations to include a second location, which began welcoming guests on March 18.
The two new franchises are part of the Quebec company’s national expansion plan. With 130 restaurants currently in operation, Cora serves morning gastronomy dedicated to breakfast, as it pursues its mission of offering quality food and service in a warm, family atmosphere.
Cora Breakfast and Lunch, Canada’s breakfast leader, is proud to announce the opening of two new Cora restaurants in Western Canada. Alberta welcomed a new Cora sun located downtown Edmonton while British Columbia celebrated the arrival of the restaurant in Surrey.
Pioneering founder Cora Tsouflidou was on location for both Grand Openings, joined by local owner-franchisees to welcome dignitaries, lifestyle influencers and guests for a true celebration: the traditional Egg-Cracking Ceremony, during which the first symbolic omelette in the restaurant is made.
The new locations are part of a nationwide expansion of the Cora network, making it the 9th restaurant in British Columbia for the largest sit-down breakfast chain in Canada, and the 18th restaurant in Alberta.
Madame Cora originated the concept in 1987 when, as a single mother of three in need of a career, she bought a small abandoned diner on Côte-Vertu Boulevard in Montreal’s St-Laurent area, focusing solely on breakfast (egg dishes, fresh fruit, cheese, cereal, omelettes, crêpes and French toast). The restaurant quickly became the talk of the town, often with lineups at the door. Madame Cora’s astute entrepreneurial instincts told her that this was a concept that could be franchised.
With 130 operating restaurants, Cora Breakfast and Lunch continues to offer morning gastronomy dedicated to breakfast: quality food and service in a warm family atmosphere.